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Superficial: Part One


by shelleylow

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I remember that day well. The crisp liveliness of the chill-touched air, the sun like a diamond hanging among the clouds and glancing golden off my horn, the breeze threading red-gold-orange leaves through my mane. They kind of mussed and ruffled it up a bit, pulled strands out of the yellow ribbons that Rilla, the maid, had helped me plait into it that morning. But for today, at least, I didn't care. The young autumn day seemed charged with nothing short of brightness and promise, and my mouth flowed unbidden into a wide smile.

      It was the first day of Neoschool.

      Rilla bent her blonde head and looked down at me with her usual cool half-smile. "Well then, Miss Maybellene. Let's get going."

      I set off at her side, out of the tall silver gate of our NeoHome and down the street at a jaunty trot, my head held high. My pink bag, full of the new stationery and notebooks that Mother had bought for me in town the day before, bounced on my back between my wings. It was almost the same colour as my coat, and I couldn't help glancing back now and then to gaze at it proudly, looking all clean and new in the sunshine. Excitement flooded my insides in a warm glow that made me tingle from nose to tail, and my hooves seemed to float above the pavement.

      I couldn't wait to get to Neoschool. Meeting other pets, making new friends, learning new things.. it would be such an adventure! I didn't know any other pets besides my best friend Satisha. Mother wasn't around the house much, but she never took me with her when she went. I hardly saw her. Even though she always made sure Rilla, the other maids and the cook saw to my meals, and when she did come back she always smiled at me and gave me a present of some kind, a toy or a delicacy from some distant place. I couldn't really say that she was unkind to me. But when I was younger I remember I'd oftentimes sit in the alcove in my room with my nose pressed to the windowpane, gazing out at the pets and people passing by on the streets, feeling a strange ache in my belly... but for what I couldn't put my hoof on.

      Anyway. It was a beautiful morning, and I was about to enter a new chapter of my life. Nothing could dampen my spirits at a time like this.

      A squat, brick-built building crouched behind an iron fence soon greeted us through an avenue of bright trees. As we neared it I saw the words Neopia Central Neoschool wrought into the gate in curly letters. I was entranced.

      "May!"

      A cheerful, beloved voice hailed me. I whipped around delightedly to see the familiar form of my best friend scampering toward me through the carpet of golden leaves, her thick, tawny Wocky fur almost blending with them.

      Overjoyed, I sprang at her, vaguely noting that Rilla had nodded her head slightly behind me, and was making her way back home. We rolled into a brilliant heap of vermillion, giggling madly in a haze of euphoria.

      Satisha gazed at me, her eyes twinkling mischievously. "Just like old times, huh?"

      I had met Satisha in the autumn of the year before. The times that Mother was at home, she sometimes had people visit her, and they'd sit in a room and talk using words I didn't always understand and held no real interest for me. So I didn't think much of it when the doorbell rang one day and I saw the figure of a tall stranger-lady wearing a wide-brimmed hat stroll in through the front doors. But then something moved under the lady's arm, something golden-brown and furry. I perked up with curiosity. Mother's friends had never brought other Neopets before.

      Mother came in then, and the two greeted each other. Then Mother and the stranger-lady turned to me.

      "Maybellene, this is Satisha. She's just about your age, and she's here to play with you this afternoon. Show her around the house, and take good care of her for Miss Destineau here."

      The stranger-lady smiled, and opened her arms.

      A creature, which I knew to be a Wocky from my picture books, gazed at me with wide grey-brown eyes for a second. The next I knew, she was in front of me, twitching her fluffy tail excitedly to and fro. Her rich tawny coat was dappled with round black spots. She grinned, displaying sharp white teeth.

      I found myself smiling back at her. From that day forth, we had been nothing short of close.

      Mother might have told me to take good care of Satisha, but I often felt that she was the one taking care of me, teaching me things. Before she came I had never viewed the garden as anything more than an ornament to the house, something pretty to be admired but not touched. Satisha enjoyed herself looking at my books, and playing with my toys and my sweet little Faellie, Crumpet, in my room that afternoon, but after a while she said, abruptly, "Can't we go and play in the garden?"

      I looked at her, uncomprehending.

      "The garden. You have such a lovely garden, I saw it when Mother was bringing me up the path to your house. Don't you ever play there?"

      "Well... no. I couldn't think what to do there."

      "Oh, then I'll have to show you! It's the only thing that keeps me happy when Mother's away, being out in the garden, in the sun and the fresh air. It's wonderful! Let's go there now. It's beautiful weather out. We could bring Crumpet, too, if you'd like."

      I couldn't think what we could do in the garden that could possibly be any fun, but I was curious. And so we made our way down the marble staircases and ventured out into the sunshine of a brisk autumn day.

      Satisha was ecstatic. She dashed joyously here and there over the grass, kicking up fiery leaves of every shade. Crumpet, yapping madly, sped off in her wake. Feeling somewhat bemused and silly, I cantered after them, more to humour my guest than anything else. But then, strangely, I started to enjoy these new sensations. The touch of wind rushing through the long hair of my mane and tail, the thudding of my hooves on the soft earth, the scent of crushed grass. I felt somehow more alive. So when Satisha, with a yowl of pure exuberance, plunged headlong into a swept-up pile of yellow-orange-red, I followed her without question. Leaves sprayed up around us, and I felt my whinnying laughter break from my throat and join with Satisha's happy squeals and Crumpet's shrill barks. She batted me with a paw, I lashed out with a fore hoof, and away we went again through the whirl of bright colour.

      An angry shout from behind us. Looking up, we saw the gardener, in his green overalls and black rubber boots, heading towards us, scowling unpleasantly. Satisha snatched up Crumpet, still barking, and we beat a hasty retreat to crouch hidden behind a clump of Furrns, giggling madly. The gardener, grumbling, produced a rake and began to sweep up the mess we had so unceremoniously caused. Satisha's eyes were sparkling, and I felt weak, both from the unaccustomed exercise and from the sheer laughter. I had never done anything quite like that before.

      That day we had made our furtive way back to my room, giggling all the time with the sheer fun of it all, so by the time Miss Destineau came for Satisha we were ready and waiting innocently enough. Miss Destineau noted with approval the rapport between us, and arrangements were made that Satisha should come to see me every week. Both of us thrilled at the prospect.

      Through these visits, I soon learned that the garden held a myriad of wonders, wonders that Satisha was all too eager to show me. The garden was our secret playground, for Satisha had told me that Miss Destineau didn't altogether approve of her "running around outdoors like a hooligan," so she was restricted to only sneaking out there when her Mother was out. Satisha was very fond of Miss Destineau, but the garden had been something she had refused to give up. Apparently she had been brought to make friends with me in the hope that I might be able to "tame" her.

      "And," Satisha had said as she told me, an impish grin on her golden-furred face, "it was me who 'untamed' you in the end!"

      And so as winter came we raced and leapt in the soft snow instead of fallen leaves, danced through curtains of softly-falling flakes. When spring rolled around, melting our magical white wonderland, we reveled in the freshness of new life, probing for tiny beetles under the riotous constellations of flowers. Satisha even discovered a Beekadoodle's nest in a blossom-covered bough, which she pointed out to me excitedly. In summer we sipped at iced Juppie tea while we drowsed in a lazy golden haze under the Heart Fruit Trees, watching the Beekadoodles flitting away and back to feed their demanding chicks. Sometimes Satisha brought her own Petpet, a Miamouse named Squeakles, who joined in our romps with much gusto for such a tiny creature. She was obviously experienced in the art of enjoying the great outdoors.

      The garden had become a whole other world to me, and when I was left alone at home I sometimes went for quiet walks there, unseen in case Mother forbade me from the garden. But it wasn't much fun without Satisha.

      Now autumn had returned once more. I had to admit that without her, the prospect of Neoschool would have been somewhat frightening. I turned to her now in excitement. "This is going to be a real adventure, Sati. I can't wait to see what it'll be like."

      The Wocky grinned. "Well, we'd better get inside then."

To be continued...

 
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