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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 29th day of Gathering, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 122 > Short Stories > A Gift from the Heart

A Gift from the Heart

by fostic_popcorn

Footsteps crunched through the snow-laden sidewalk, leaving large tracks behind a scowling Faerie Ixi. "If there's anything I hate, it's Christmas shopping," Hojimitsu muttered through clenched teeth.

     Beside him, Skylarr23, a lean and mean Darigan Kougra, growled at Hoji, his arms full of boxes and knickknacks. "I don't see what you're complaining about," he snapped. "I'm the one carrying all these ridiculous presents!"

     "Look at it this way," Nicole, a baby Ixi, offered. "This is the only time of the year us Neopets get to give gifts to show our appreciation to our owners! I mean, we're always taking them for granted, right?"

     Kraeska, a roly-poly Tomato Chia, rolled his eyes. "Nicole! Get with the program! No one cares about that anymore! It's a simple fact that owners are here to serve us, not to be admired!"

     The four Neopets were passing through the main roads of Neopian Marketplace, each looking out for Christmas gifts to give to their owners. After drifting through shop after shop, Hojimitsu was ready to collapse.

     "Can we just go home already?" he whined, ever the antisocial villain.

     Pressing her nose up to the glass case of another shop, Nicole exclaimed, "Look! There's the perfect gift for Katty! Cheese!"

     Hoji just groaned and covered his eyes with his hooves. It was going to be a long day.

****************

A few twists and turns down the road the four pets were standing on, four owners were chatting amiably, wrapped up warmly in the cold and each bearing large shopping bags that altogether seemed too pink and fluorescent.

     "Fossy! Fossy! Fossy!" Rissa, owner of Kraeska, yelled. "Come look at this pressie I chose!"

     "Rissa, you're talking to a rock. I'm over here." A mound of coats and scarves appeared to shift.

     "Whoa. What's with all the winter coats?" Rissa asked.

     "I don't like the cold," FoS, or what we must assume Mt. Winter Clothes was, said shortly.

     "Whatever." Rissa held up a large smelly brown object and squealed excitedly. "What do you think of this pressie?"

     FoS chose to stare at Rissa unbelievingly. "Rissa, that's a Pile of Dung."

     "I know," Rissa said happily. "Isn't that great?"

     FoS just sighed wearily. "I don't think Kraeska will be exactly overjoyed to find a Pile of Dung as his Christmas present. Here, how about this beautiful ribbon? You think Kraeska will like that?" FoS quickly, or as quickly as she could manage to move, steered Rissa away from the shop with the Dung and towards another one.

     Brieanna, owner of the arrogant Skylarr, just stared hypnotized at the items in one shop. "I just can't choose," she sighed and flopped down onto a bench.

     "Christmas shopping isn't exactly my favorite activity either," grumbled Katty. "I always get the same thing every year! cheese!"

     FoS eyed Katty. "I thought you liked cheese," she said accusingly.

     Katty just looked at her feet, embarrassed. "Well, yeah, but even cheese gets repetitive after a couple years of eating it every single day," she mumbled.

     "All I can say is, our pets better be grateful," Brieanna left the threat hanging in the air and then stalked off to go find a different shop.

****************

"Hoji! Are you sure FoS and our owners won't be coming back anytime soon?" Skylarr hissed. The foursome were all cooped up in Hoji's Neohome, wrapping up their gifts while their owners were out.

     "100% positive," Hoji answered. "FoS and everyone else are out playing Bilge Dice, and you know how they get once they start. They just can't stop screaming at that Pirate Krawk."

     "Come on, you guys," Kraeska scowled and neatly cut through a long ribbon. He appeared to be wrapping a Snotbunny with rolls of toilet paper and ribbon. "We want to get as much gift-wrapping done as possible!"

     Nicole had finished with her present in a new record of five minutes. Wrapping the same present every year usually had that effect on people.

     Hoji fumbled around with the wrapping paper, apparently unaware of the audible snickers of his pals. "I got FoS the perfect present this year," he beamed. "I know she likes to read a lot, so I got her this!" He held up a large book that read Nimmo Anger Management.

     "Yeah, well my present is better than yours," Skylarr boasted. He held up his gift proudly for everyone to see.

     "Um, Skylarr, that's a Rock you painted a huge red X on," Nicole pointed out.

     "It's supposed to be a codestone," Skylarr said defensively. "And anyway, who'll notice? The Training Master barely glances at your payments as long as they're round!"

     Nicole just shook her head, and stuck to watching Hoji uselessly trying to glue on a pink bow to his gift.

     Suddenly, the sounds of human voices and footsteps alerted the four pets. "They're back!" Kraeska shrilled, and leaped into action. Scooping up the loose wrapping paper and ribbons, he shoved them under the sofa while Nicole, Hoji, and Skylarr jumped towards the presents and ran helter-skelter up the staircase and into Hoji's bedroom. Diving under the bed, they hid their presents into the darkest cranny and stayed as still as they could.

     "Hey Kraeska! We're home! So, where's Hoji and the rest?" Hoji heard FoS ask downstairs.

     "Uh, um, er, they're upstairs, uh, playing Kacheek Seek," Kraeska stuttered.

     "Oh, alright," FoS, Brie, Katty, and Rissa retreated into the kitchen while upstairs Skylarr glared at Hoji amongst the dust Cybunnies.

     "'100% positive', eh?" he quoted, his eyes drilling holes into Hoji's skull.

     Hoji just squirmed and looked away from Skylarr's malevolent expression.

****************

"Kacheek Seek? That has got to be the worst lie I've ever heard," Brie snorted, leaning back in her chair in the safety of the warm kitchen.

     FoS had a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "Forget it," she responded. "We don't have time to babysit our Neopets 24/7. If they want to re-embrace their childhood, it's really up to them, hmm?"

     Katty almost fell out of her chair laughing. "Are you kidding me?" she spluttered between fits of hysteria. "Those four wouldn't be able to find their childhood with a magnifying glass!"

****************

The next day, Hoji, Nicole, Skylarr, and Kraeska met to plot in private.

     "We need somewhere safe to store our gifts until Christmas," Hoji insisted. "FoS could go snooping around anytime and find our gifts under my bed!"

     Nicole looked blank, and then suddenly hit upon an idea. "We can rent out a temporary safety deposit box under our names," she suggested. "It's just beside the Bank, so we should be cool, right?"

     "Nicole! That's a superb idea!" Hoji exclaimed and clapped the small Baby Ixi on the back. "C'mon, let's hustle and we should be able to make it in time before the SDB closes!"

****************

The afternoon before Christmas, four furtive figures sneaked through the roads, bearing presents in their arms and sneaky grins on their faces.

     "Our owners will love these," they chorused in unison, and laughed. It was hard not to get into the mood of festivity and celebrating all around.

     Suddenly, Hoji's hind hoof stepped on a large, slippery ice puddle. He went flying forward, crashing into his friends. Suddenly, the four pets became a group of tangled, screaming Neopets, sliding on a icy road with a roaring river next to them. What happened next was probably inevitable. The presents went soaring into the air, and landed with a wet sploosh into the nearby river.

     Skidding to a halt, Hoji dug his hooves sharply into the ground, staring at the river in disbelief. It quickly swallowed up any trace of the carefully-made presents, and only a loose red ribbon floated to the river bank.

     Choking back a scream, Hoji scrabbled his way towards the river, but was jerked back by Nicole, Skylarr, and Kraeska grabbing onto his body.

     "Hoji, I know what you're thinking, and it's no use," Kraeska said quietly. "What happened can't be blamed on anyone, much less you. It was a freak accident, and nothing can be done about it."

     Numb with shock, Hoji nodded mutely. Their hard work and well-meaning had just been washed away downriver like it had been nothing. He slowly got up and leaned over the river bank, fishing out the ribbon that hung entangled in a low-lying tree's bare branches.

     He turned around, his head down, and starting plodding back towards the direction of his house. Nicole started to go after him, but Kraeska stopped her. "Let him be," he said, nodding towards the direction of Hoji. "He needs time to himself."

****************

Christmas evening, eight fast friends gathered around a Christmas tree. Four were noticeably depressed.

     Nudging her Faerie Ixi, FoS said said jovially, "Alrighty then! It's time to open up the presents, what ho! We'll go first, of course!"

     FoS quickly handed Hoji a wrapped gift. Curious, he quickly tore it open. There were mingled cries of "Oh! A Red Kyrii Mirror!" "Boxing Gloves!" "MUSTARD!!!!" and "A new bib!" as his friends peeked at their presents too.

     Grinning proudly, the owners patted their pets' backs and smiled fondly.

     Then, as if on cue, Hoji looked and his friends, who looked back. He cleared his throat and spoke softly. "FoS... Brie, Rissa, and Katty... We had an unexpected accident concerning your Christmas presents. We apologize with all our hearts. I'm afraid we only have this to give you." Hoji handed the owners a thin sheet of paper.

     FoS stared at it, her finger tracing the marker outline of four smiling stick figure humans. It had been colored in hard with coloring pencils and obvious care. Below the owners, four animals, as they could only be recognized as, had been filled in with crayons and smiley faces drawn on their faces. For the background, there was the cozy corner in Hoji's Neohome with a tall Christmas tree and presents under the tree. Mistletoe decorated the furniture, or at least FoS assumed it was mistletoe. At the top, in red and green, were scrawled the words "Merry Christmas". A soggy red ribbon hung pathetically from the top right corner of the drawing. It most frankly resembled the work of a three-year-old. FoS opened her mouth desperately to say something, anything, but could only glance helplessly once more at the drawing.

     Hoji's face fell as he saw the look on his owner's face. "I... I can throw it away if you don't like it," his voice caught in his throat, and he bent his head. A crystal tear splashed onto the carpet unnoticed.

     FoS quickly threw her arms around her Faerie Ixi. "Hoji, I love it," she whispered into his ear, a tear of her own mingling with her pet's. She understood what the picture meant to Hoji and his friends, the compassion and feeling that had been put into it. "I'll even frame it up and hang it on our wall, right over the chimney. And one day, you have to tell me the full story of what happened."

     Kraeska, Rissa, Skylarr, Brie, Nicole, and Katty all broke into huge smiles. Cookies were passed around and the pets and owners alike stayed long up into the night celebrating.

     For Christmas comes every year, but moments like those come once in a lifetime.

The End

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