Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 111,611,307 Issue: 221 | 22nd day of Celebrating, Y7
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The Best Gift

by jkling75


When I walked into the classroom that morning, it looked unusually festive. Little hand-made decorations that were made by the little preschoolers were all around, as were stickers that said "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Holidays!". Even our strict teacher looked a little festive with a sprig of fake holly in her hair. However, her attitude was still the same.

      "Falief! You are late!"

      I glanced at the clock. I was one minute late. Oh, the horror. I took a seat next to my friend, a red Kougra, Kaylia. She grinned and rolled her eyes, then made a face at the teacher behind her back.

      "Class, since it is the season of celebrating, we are going to practice a little holiday spirit. Every day, for the next month, you will give your partner a card of compliments, or a small gift. Remember, this is not a contest."

      Of course it wasn't. That's why we were all going to try and give the best, most expensive gifts. I raised my hand and said, "I want Kaylia as my partner!" Remembering how strict our teacher was of manners, I added quickly, "Please."

      "I am sorry, Falief-" yeah, right, "-but I have assigned you all partners already. You will not know who is giving you the gift, and you may not share to whom you are giving either."

      As she handed out the names of our partners, groans and yips of excitement filled the classroom. I was relieved when I pulled my name out of the hat. It was a blue Ixi named Naralie. I didn't really know her, but I knew that she was nice. As we went through spelling class, I wondered who had pulled my name.

      The next morning, I brought my card to school. I thought I might as well start out un-contest-like. I gave it to our teacher to put in Naralie's desk. It was a bought card that had cost 150 NP. It had real shells from Maraqua on it. As I walked to my desk, I wondered what expensive card or trinket awaited. But when I opened my desk, all I found was a hand-drawn card, with a list of very nice, hand-written compliments. To my displeasure, whoever had given it to me had had Mrs. Lenia write it to disguise their handwriting. I was a bit grumpy when I saw everyone else open their expensive gifts. I sighed. Perhaps this was just to not anger Mrs. Lenia. I hoped that they would soon catch on that this was a contest and he/she was losing sorely.

      But as the month wore on, it became obvious to me that my giver was not going to change. Everyday I found a small, hand-done card in my desk. He/she would always give nice, sincere, compliments, with little, happy pictures. Sure they were nice, sure they were sincere, but at the time I didn't see that. All I saw was that they weren't expensive. I was selfish and thought that my giver must not like me.

      Then, on the last day of school before Christmas break, I opened my desk and found, to my utter happiness, a small, wrapped gift. The wrapping paper looked slightly used and crumpled, but I didn't care. My giver had finally gotten me a gift! Kaylia, who had heard all about the cards and had the same perspective I had, noticed and came over. Grinning, she said, "Finally! Your giver got you a gift! Open it up and let's see what's inside!"

      But when I opened it, a cold wave of horror washed over me. I heard Kaylia whisper "Oh, dear." For when I looked inside the cardboard box, I found a Half-Eaten Berry. After a moment's pause, Kaylia said quietly, "What a horrible person."

      My conscience told me to stay silent, to not say a word, because my giver could be nearby, and maybe they hadn't meant it to be such a horrible, nasty, unthoughtful, joke. But my embarrassment and anger at getting such a horrible gift overpowered me.

      "Yeah," I said in a voice loud enough to be heard by the whole class, "what a horrible person."

      I went up to Mrs. Lenia and asked who my giver was. But she just answered in a voice cold enough to be a Snow Faerie's, "I told you at the beginning of this month, I am not going to tell you who your giver is."

      I stormed back to my seat. For the rest of that period, I was angry and confused. Why would someone give me such a horrible gift? I could not remember anyone to whom I had been really nasty, yet someone gave me a nasty gift. I was so mad that when the lunch bell rang, I went away without lunch. Kaylia didn't follow. As I stormed down the halls to my locker, I ran into a young Zafara. I didn't recognize her immediately. Then I realized that this was Holly. I didn't realize who she was at first because I didn't talk to her at all. If it were not for Mrs. Lenia's droning out the role call every morning, I wouldn't even know Holly's name. She noticed the look on my face and the cardboard box in my hands. She said, "Didn't you like the gift your giver gave you?"

     I replied back in a hard voice,

      "My stupid giver gave me a stupid, nasty, Half-Eaten Berry."

      "Oh," she quietly replied. If I hadn't been so mad I might have noticed that when she said good-bye, her head drooped and her eyes were glistening. After stashing the berry in my locker, (it was too embarrassing to be seen in the trash) I went to the bathroom. I had calmed down a little bit by now, and was starting to notice things. I heard that someone was crying in one of the stalls. I silently hopped onto the toilet in the stall next to them, so my paws wouldn't show. After a few minutes, the crying quieted, and I heard a sniff. Then the moment arrived. Whoever it was had to walk in front of my stall to go out of the bathroom. I peered into a crack in the lock. I suppressed a gasp as I saw Holly come into my view. How could she be the one crying? She always seemed to be happy. I kept watching as she turned to the cracked mirror, and said in a wavering voice,

      "Now she'll never be my friend. I'm sorry, Falief. I tried." She wiped her eyes on her arm, and went out of the bathroom. I pulled away from the door as the shock hit me. Holly must have been my giver. But she had not meant the gift to be a mean joke. She had wanted to be my friend. I saw that in my selfish anger, I had been the horrible person, not her. But why had she given me a Half-Eaten Berry? I decided that I needed to talk to the one person who could give me answers.

      I went to Mrs. Lenia's room. I sat down in one of the chairs in front of her. She looked up from her grade book and gave me a "well, what do you want" look.

      "Holly is my giver, isn't she?"

      "How did you find out?"

      "I-I heard her crying in the bathroom stall."

      Mrs. Lenia didn't say any thing.

      "Why did she give me a Half-Eaten Berry though?"

      Mrs. Lenia sighed. She then told me of how Holly's family was very poor. They barely had anything to eat, but they were so kind that they did not always go to the Soup Faerie when they were hungry, so that others would not have to wait. They barely had enough money to pay for school, but were proud of Holly for getting As and working hard. Holly had given up that berry for me, but had gone hungry herself to pay for it.

      When she had finished, I felt numb. But then an idea slowly crept into my head. I thanked Mrs. Lenia and went of to join Kaylia and tell her of my plan. But when I told her, she scoffed.

      "Give her a gift? To say that you're sorry? For what?! She was the one that gave you the horrible gift."

      "Kaylia, she's poor! She couldn't afford anything else."

      "There are plenty of free places in the world."


      Kaylia gave me a look, and from then on, I knew we weren't going to be friends anymore.

      "Thanks for the advice," I said coldly to her.

      The next morning, I went to Holly's house with the address that Mrs. Lenia had given me. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door of Holly's one-room house. She opened the door. There was a silent minute of surprise. I suddenly said, "Holly, I'm really sorry about what I said. I was selfish and mean. I got you a gift to say sorry. Which I am."

      I gave the red and gold wrapped gift to Holly. She gave me a surprised curious look and took it and opened it. Inside there was a Loveberry with the words "friends forever" written in food coloring.

      "Friends?" I asked.

      She gave the biggest smile I have ever seen. She hugged me and said,


      Holly and I grew very close. We were never seen without each other. She taught me to be a true friend, not just a popular shell. When I look back, I can see that even though the other neopets got the most expensive gifts, I got the best gift of all.

The End

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