The young, green Usul sat on her Wooden Bed, flipping slowly
throughout her leather-bound storybook. The pages were old and yellowed, torn
in some corners and ink slightly smudged every few paragraphs. The appearance
of the book was enough to tell that it had been read constantly, as also was the
fact that the Usul had her nose buried in it more often than not.
“Hannah,” the Usul’s mother said from the doorway,
staring harshly at her daughter, “have you done your homework yet?”
The Usul, Hannah, briefly glanced up from her reading.
“Some of it,” she replied blankly.
Hannah’s mother, Cecelia, clicked her tongue disapprovingly.
“For Fyora’s sake, how many times have I told you to complete it before
reading? Your teacher has already threatened various times to hold you back
a grade, Hannah!”
“I’m sorry, Mom… I’ll do my homework now.” Hannah
sighed, slipping a bookmark into the book and gently shutting it. She then leapt
to her paws and padded quickly over to the desk in the bottom left corner of
her room, where her half-completed homework sat.
She hastily picked up her Blue Draik Pencil and started
scribbling down the answers to the math problems on this particular sheet.
Cecelia watched from the doorway, her arms firmly
crossed, a harsh expression across her face. Hannah had been driving her nuts
lately; she was always poring over that pathetic story, rereading it ceaselessly
as if there was no tomorrow.
After about five minutes of observing, though, Cecelia
said, “When you’re done, come into the kitchen to eat your supper. And please,
Hannah, leave your book behind.”
“Okay,” Hannah murmured.
Cecelia sighed, brushed a bit of fur out of her eyes,
and then strode briskly toward the kitchen to finish preparing dinner.
When she was sure her mother was gone, Hannah quickly
sped up on the math problems. She did not bother to erase if she knew the answer
was wrong, or if the numbers were sloppy; where would math get her in life,
anyway? The Usul didn’t want to be a Neoschool teacher, or somebody who used
numbers to solve everything. She wanted to be an explorer, just like the Kacheek
in her book.
Hannah sighed dreamily, thinking of all the adventures
the Kacheek, John, had gone on. The pencil dropped from her paws, and she leaned
back in her chair. Her brain had configured its own little image of John, and
it was not at all like the story had explained.
In text, he was described to be a scrawny yellow Kacheek
with a love of dangerous situations. He allegedly had a faithful petpet companion
– a Puppyblew to be specific – who accompanied him everywhere. The pet explored
all lands of Neopia, but his favorite was Krawk Island.
Krawk Island. The words sent excited tingles up Hannah’s
spine. How wonderful it sounded there! So much better than her boring Neopian
Central home. There were boatloads of fearsome pirates, a restaurant with delicious
food, a training academy, and so much more!
Hannah smiled, visions of how she imagined the land
to look flooding her mind. One day, she vowed to herself, I will go
there and discover all of the secrets it possesses! Pleased with herself,
she leaned back even farther, which caused her chair to go toppling over.
Hannah landed with a large thud, and the sound of
a possible injury sent Cecelia rushing over to her daughter’s room.
“Hannah, are you alright?” she exclaimed, her voice
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Hannah muttered in response. Trembling,
she dusted off her navy blue skirt and staggered back to her paws.
“What happened?” Cecelia inquired.
“I leaned back a little too far.” Hannah grinned awkwardly
at her mother, and pushed her chair back into the upright position.
“You gave me quite a scare there, darling. You must
be more careful, or you’re going to send me into an early grave, Hannah. There’s
too many accidents, with you, darling! You have to be more aware! I can’t be
frightened to leave you alone for 5 minutes!”
“I will be more careful, Mom. I just get a little
dazed out sometimes, okay?”
The Usul mother changed the subject. “Have you finished
your homework now?” she asked.
“Almost,” Hannah replied. This was a lie; her homework
was far from done.
“Good, because dinner is almost ready, and you’re
not eating it until you can prove to me that all your worksheets are finished.”
With that, Cecelia walked away.
Hannah plopped back into the chair and quickly scribbled
down made up answers for the rest of the math. For social studies, she made
up a fictitious year for when Mystery Island was founded, and merely guessed
about why Tyrannia is often referred to as ‘a land of the primitive’.
Within 10 minutes, everything was done, and not feeling
at all guilty for having false answers for nearly half her work, Hannah stood
up. She was about to snatch her book from her bed when her mother’s words ordering
her not to take it to supper replayed in her mind.
Oh well, Hannah thought, shrugging, I’ll
pretend I forgot what she said.
So Hannah scooped the thick storybook into her arms
and trotted out of her room. Soon, the Usul arrived in the kitchen.
Her father, Henry, was sitting at the table, reading
the Neopian Times. Across from him was her older brother, Sam, who had recently
entered his teens. Cecelia was standing near the oven, tapping her paw impatiently
on the floor. Hannah could tell she was waiting for whatever was cooking to
be ready for consumption.
Hugging her book tightly against her chest, Hannah
plopped down into the empty seat beside Sam. He was wearing his hair, like most
other male Usuls, down, rather than upright like the girls. He had recently,
without Cecelia and Henry’s permission, self-shaved his paws to make them look
‘cool’. Hannah thought they looked repulsive.
“Hi,” Hannah greeted, no expression in her tone.
Cecelia replied before anybody else could. “Hannah,
please set the table,” she instructed, not taking the time to look at her daughter
and discover the book. If she had done this, she would’ve ordered the girl to
put it away, and told Sam to set the table instead.
“Will do, Mom,” Hannah replied. She stood up, put
the book onto the table, and walked over to the particular cabinet where the
forks, spoons, plates, bowls and all other things necessary for dining were
The table only took a few minutes to set, though
that was probably because Hannah didn’t take the time to set it ‘right’. She
knew that napkins were supposed to go here, and glasses there, but in her opinion,
it didn’t matter. So she set everything in a sloppy manner, and then retreated
to her seat.
Soon after, the oven dinged, indicating the cooking
food was done, and Cecelia turned toward the table. “Dinner’s ready!” she exclaimed.
“We’re having ch – Hannah!”
Sam snorted in laughter. “Hannah, mom’s told us to
eat you for dinner!” he scoffed.
Hannah glowered, her cheeks red in both embarrassment
and anger. Her brother always found some way to make her upset. But she didn’t
say anything to him, and simply said to her mother, “What?”
“You brought your book, Hannah! That’s what!”
“Did not!” Hannah yelped.
“Then explain its presence on that table?” Cecelia
glared at her daughter.
Hannah bit her lip and glanced timidly at the book.
She had thought she had put it safely in her lap after setting the table, but
she was obviously wrong. And now, with her defensive response, she knew her
mother would never believe the ‘forgot about what you said’ excuse.
“Sorry,” she murmured sheepishly.
“'Sorry' is not enough, Hannah! It would’ve been
if something like this had never happened before, but this happens every day!
You are driving me insane, Hannah! Insane!”
Hannah guiltily picked up her book. “I’ll put it
in my room,” she whispered.
“No,” Cecelia said sharply. “You go to your room,
and the book stays here with me!”
“Y-you’re not going to do anything to it… right?”
Hannah’s voice squeaked as an uneasy feeling bubbled in the pit in her stomach.
“I don’t know about that, Hannah,” her mother snapped.
Trembling in anger, she thrust her paw toward where Hannah’s room sat. “Go,”
she ordered unsympathetically.
Swallowed in shame, Hannah rose to her paws and shuffled
off to her room. She left her book on the table, not knowing if she’d ever read
Her bedroom seemed rather unwelcoming without the
presence of the book in it. It seemed strange to Hannah how such a little detail
could change the feeling of a large place. But despite how bizarre it was, it
didn’t change the way Hannah felt when she entered the bedroom and quietly shut
the door behind her.
Sighing, Hannah flopped down onto her bed and stared
dejectedly up at the ceiling. The room was dark, as Hannah had not taken the
time to flip on the light switch. The only lighting at all that the space got
was the small silver glow from the moon outside.
Hannah wiped a wisp of her brown hair out of her
eyes, and rolled over from her back to her right side. She was presented with
the faint outline of what she knew to be her bookshelf; it was tall and thin,
loaded with dozens of storybooks, some new and never read, others favorites
from when Hannah was little.
“Maybe I should find a new book,” Hannah whispered.
She thought over this idea for only a few moments, though, before completely
rejecting it. Nothing could take the place of her book.
Hannah sighed again, wondering over why she assumed
she’d never read the book she adored so much again. Her mother was angry with
a lot of things, like the disgusting gel Sam used on his fur, but that didn’t
mean it would be destroyed. Then again, Sam didn’t obsess over his gel; Hannah
did obsess over her book.
Hannah rolled over again, and was then presented
with the view of her window. It was cracked slightly open at the bottom, just
enough for the occasional breeze of cool night air to float in. Cecelia always
kept windows like that, even in the middle of the winter when there was snow
Hannah frowned, her mind listing all of her mother’s
strange habits. Oh how annoying, useless and overall dumb some were! She’d be
so much better without them and her mother! And without Sam, who enjoyed making
her feel dreadful and mocking all of her ways. Her father was okay, but he did
get irritating in many situations.
The idea hit Hannah like a bolt of lightning. She
should run away, where nobody except herself was there to instruct her! She’d
become a hermit, and live in a desolate old cave. She could be like John from
the book, and hunt pirate caves for buried treasure!
In love with her idea, Hannah hopped to her paws
and scuttled over to the window. With all her might, she yanked it just high
enough where she could squeeze through.
Hannah was about to leave that instant when she realized
she needed to be prepared. It was February, and the weather could get nasty.
Also, she needed some food, and Neopoints, and blankets in case she got too
Hannah scurried over to her dresser, opened a drawer,
and then dug out a dark purple duffel bag. It was not very big, but it was the
only suitcase she had in her room. To get a bigger one, she’d have to sneak
into her parents’ closet, which might get her caught.
Hannah tossed the duffel bag onto her bed, and started
rummaging through the rest of her drawers for necessary items.
She ended up with a heavy jacket over her long-sleeved
shirt, long pink sweat pants rather than her skirt, Wellington Boots, mittens,
a quilted blanket, some candy and snacks from her secret stash under her desk,
eight 1,000 Neopoint bills from her Snorkle bank, and many other random things.
After stuffing all of the objects she was not wearing into the duffel bag, it
was bulging, and would hardly zip. But luckily, it did in fact close, and surveying
her room one last time, Hannah scooped the bag into her arms and marched back
over to the window.
She threw the suitcase out first, and then nervously
wriggled out herself. Goodbye Mom, Dad and Sam, she thought, I’m off
to a new life.
Picking the bag back up, Hannah set off into the
blackness of the night.
To be continued...