There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 113,598,787 Issue: 227 | 10th day of Awakening, Y8
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Why Do We Need Valentines Gifts, Anyway?


by nut862

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Paper heart cutouts and red and pink trimmings decorated the walls of the school building in an effort to get students into the mood of the coming holiday. Little pets thought of ways to create fancy cards for their best friends, while older students wondered about what to give the special ones they knew. Valentine's Day was less than two weeks away.

     Several minutes before the school bell rang, three pets entered their classroom, early as usual. Nieve, a Starry Lupe dressed smartly in a crisp blouse and skirt, eyed the pink and red decorations stuck to the walls of the room. "Valentine's Day already? Seems like just yesterday everything was purple and green for Jhudora Day," she remarked.

     "Actually, I think it was yesterday," said Danus, leaning against his desk. "I remember doing a quest for her on her day."

     His friend, Hentor, emitted a mock gasp. "You did a quest for Jhudora? And survived?" He pretended to check the green Lupe for bruises. "Funny, you don't look like you got zapped. What did she do to you, then?"

     Nieve rolled her eyes. "I'm sure Danus can take care of himself, even against a Dark Faerie."

     "That's right," Danus said, with a mock glare at the yellow Ogrin. The Lupe shrugged. "Anyway, I never liked Valentine's Day much myself."

     Nieve looked surprised and almost disappointed. "Why not?"

     "It's too commercialized these days. Places like the Chocolate Factory and Garden Shop start advertising their luscious brown chocolates and giant roses a month in advance. As if anyone's going to buy a Valentine's Day present that early," the green Lupe scoffed.

     "Yeah, I'd eat the chocolate long before I had a chance to give it to anyone," Hentor said.

     "And the roses would wilt by the time Valentine's Day came around," Danus added.

     "Not if you planted them," the Ogrin said.

     "Under my care, they'd wilt." Danus chuckled.

     "They might," Hentor conceded.

     Nieve uttered a brief laugh. "Wilted roses and bitten chocolate wouldn't make much of a Valentine's Day gift. I expect you'd do better than that if you ever gave someone a present."

     The bell rang then, and the Starry Lupe hurried off to find her seat. Hentor threw a meaningful glance at Danus, which, as he didn't know the meaning, confused the green Lupe. "What?" he mouthed.

     The Ogrin raised his eyebrows at him.

     Still not understanding, Danus chose to ignore his friend and opened his schoolbook. Hentor immediately poked him.

     "Don't do that," Danus hissed. "What is it?"

     Hentor launched into a series of wild gestures, waving his hooves in the air as a peculiar way of trying to convey a message. It wasn't working.

     "Danus, Hentor," the teacher said with a frown. "Please sit still and pay attention to the lesson."

     Danus threw his friend a look of frustration, conceived of both his inability to understand the Ogrin's attempts at communication and the fact that his antics had earned them both a reprimand, and bent over his book.

     Watching from the back row, Nieve wondered if she should be thankful that she didn't sit next to her two friends for the sake of her good grades. Her eyes strayed briefly to the pink hearts floating on the white walls, but she soon focused her attention on the teacher once again.

      * * * * *

     "Listen, Danus, you've got a big decision to make," Hentor said to the Lupe he sat across from at the school lunch table.

     Danus raised his eyebrows. "This is the first I heard of it. What decision?"

     "The one I told you about in class, of course!"

     "You mean when you were acting all weird? I didn't have a clue what you were trying to do."

     "I had to tell you somehow, without attracting attention," Hentor said.

     "You can always pass a note, you know."

     The Ogrin waved his hoof in dismissal. "Anyway, the point is that you need to decide what you're going to give Nieve for Valentine's Day."

     Danus looked mildly surprised. "That's not really a big decision. Besides, I already said I don't like Valentine's Day."

     Hentor stared at his friend in disbelief. "You're not going to get her anything?"

     "That's right."

     "You can't do that!" Hentor exclaimed. "Did you hear how she was talking earlier? She clearly wants you to give her a Valentine's present! Think how disappointed she'll be if you don't! She'll never let you forget the day that you forgot to buy her a gift! She'll shun you for it forever!"

     Slightly put-out, Danus replied, "Oh, come on, she's not that shallow."

     "Well, what's it going to hurt for you to buy her something?"

     "First, I don't have money to spend on things like that, and second, I don't want to be just another guy who gets a pack of impersonal chocolates because it's Valentine's Day."

     "So give her a card. They're cheap."

     "Then I'd be just another guy who gets a cheap card because it's Valentine's Day."

     "You can be really insensitive sometimes, you know." Hentor paused, thinking. His eyes lit up and a smile spread across his face as an idea flashed into his mind. "Tell you what, you don't have to do anything. I'll take care of the whole deal. I'll buy presents for her and all that. Then on Valentine's Day, you pick up the stuff I got and give it all to Nieve. She'll think you picked it all out for her and will be overcome with admiration for you. And you won't have to do anything," he repeated.

     Danus looked at him skeptically. "I don't know… it sounds kind of sneaky."

     "You said you didn't want to buy gifts yourself. Besides, I want to do it! It'll make Valentine's Day a lot more interesting for me." The Ogrin was clearly excited at the prospect of helping Danus win--or buy--Nieve's appreciation.

     "Look…" Danus began, intending to tell his friend that this wasn't right.

     Before he could finish, Hentor yelped, "She's coming!" He reached across the table and clapped his hoof over Danus's mouth. He whispered quickly to the Lupe, "Remember, you don't have to do anything! See me on Valentine's Day. And above all, don't tell Nieve what's going on!"

     "Mmph," Danus mumbled, trying to shake the hoof away from his mouth.

     Hentor straightened up and looked brightly at the Starry Lupe who was now standing by their table, eyeing Hentor with his arm stretched across the table to block Danus's voice from escaping his lips. "Hey, Nieve! What'd you get for lunch? We weren't talking about anything important while you were gone. Certainly nothing involving you."

     Nieve rolled her eyes as she sat down. "Whatever you said had better make me look good."

     "It did, in a way," Hentor said, considering.

     "Ahn yo' te'ing me na' 'oo te' 'er?" Danus mumbled.

     "Sorry, I didn't understand you," Hentor said, keeping his hoof over the Lupe's mouth.

     Nieve sighed. "Will you please let him talk now?"

     "Oh. Sure."

     "Thank you," Danus said, glaring at Hentor.

     Nieve took a bite of her sandwich, trying to ignore the broad grins and meaningful winks that Hentor was giving to a slightly irritated Danus. The Ogrin annoyed her at times; she surely wouldn't put up with him if he wasn't Danus's friend. "So, um, Hentor, are you doing anything for Valentine's Day?"

     "Oh, no, of course not, what makes you ask?" Hentor said loudly. He nudged Danus, who gave Nieve an embarrassed look. The Starry Lupe pretended not to notice. Danus shook his head. This arrangement just didn't feel right.

      * * * * *

     The morning of the day when Cupid was said to make his rounds arrived too quickly, it seemed. The first thing Danus thought of when he woke up was Hentor's plan. He heaved a sigh at the realization that they were going to go through with it. Danus supposed it was nice of the Ogrin to offer to buy gifts for the Lupe to present to Nieve, but all the same he wished his friend had just left the subject of Valentine's Day alone. "I'll dread seeing what he bought for me to give her," the Lupe muttered, imagining scores of candies and valentine cards waiting at Hentor's house. Supposing that he'd better find out what his friend was planning for that day as soon as he could, he threw on some old clothes and headed outside.

     When Danus reached the Ogrin's residence, Hentor opened the door and ushered him inside with a wide smile. "Everything's all set," he told the Lupe. "The presents are ready and waiting, and Nieve is coming over in ten minutes."

     Danus stopped in surprise. "What? She's coming here? In ten minutes?"

     "Yes, that's what I just told you."

     "Why?"

     "So you can give her the presents. Of course, I didn't tell her that when I invited her." Hentor eyed the Lupe. "Hmm, I would've worn a nice suit if I were you. Those jeans and stained T-shirt take away from the Valentine's Day atmosphere."

     "If you'd told me she was coming, maybe I'd have dressed in something different," Danus said, glancing down at his worn clothing self-consciously. This now seemed very much like a bad idea. "What are the gifts I'm supposed to give her?"

     "Just a minute." Hentor left the room, and returned with a giftwrapped box in his hooves. The wrapping paper was covered with pink hearts, and there was a large red ribbon on top. On closer inspection, the red ribbon appeared to be hiding a cluster of air holes punched in the top of the box. "Tada! Here's gift number one."

     "Gift number one? What is it?" Danus asked, shaking the box. Something inside the box shook back. Somewhat nervous, the Lupe asked, "Hey, Hentor, is something alive in here?"

     "Of course; it's a Petpet!" Hentor declared. "Nieve doesn't have a Petpet, so I thought the best gift she could get this Valentine's Day would be a faithful companion she'll adore forever."

     "Isn't that supposed to be my role?"

     Hentor stared at him. "You want to be fed canned food and taken on walks?" He scratched his head. "I guess it does sound kind of appealing. After all, you'd get to chase Symols. If that's really how you feel, I've got a spare leash and collar that you could…"

     "Never mind," Danus said quickly. Eyeing the box uneasily, he asked, "So what kind of Petpet is it?"

     With great pride, Hentor declared, "It's a Slorg."

     Danus blinked. "A Slorg?"

     "Yes." Hentor grinned.

     "A Slorg. Not a cuddly Faellie or Kadoatie, but a Slorg."

     "Yup."

     "Why a Slorg, of all things?"

     "Furry Petpets are overrated."

     Danus stared at the box. "You want me to give Nieve a Slorg for Valentine's Day," he said incredulously.

     "What, do you have something against Slorgs? I always did say those poor things didn't deserve their bad reputation."

     "Nieve is a girl, Hentor. Girls are notorious for not liking things like Spyders and Slorgs."

     Hentor frowned. "You think so? Let's see!" He stuck his head out the window and yelled to an Aisha walking down the street, "Hey, what do you think of Slorgs?"

     The Aisha shuddered. "They're the most disgusting things ever to crawl the earth!" she replied. "Ugh, I can't stand the thought of them!"

     Danus glared at Hentor. The Ogrin paid no attention and directed another shout at a passing Kiko. "Excuse me, but do you like Slorgs?"

     The Kiko turned to look at the Ogrin leaning out of the window, revealing that she was carrying a Slorg in her fins. "I love Slorgs!" she exclaimed. "They're the most wonderful Petpets ever! I don't know what I'd do without my darling Slorg." She smiled fondly at her Petpet.

     Hentor closed the window and turned to the Lupe. "See, girls do like Slorgs. One out of two isn't bad."

     Danus shook his head. "I don't think Nieve likes Slorgs."

     "Do you know she doesn't?"

     "Well, I've never really asked her, but…"

     "Then you can't know! You've got at least a fifty-fifty chance it'll work out." Hentor grinned. Cocking an ear, he added, "And here she is now."

     The doorbell was ringing. Hentor trotted off happily to answer it, while the Lupe stood waiting uncertainly with the giftwrapped box in his paws. He nervously smoothed the ribbon over the air holes, wondering how he could get out of this. If only he'd stopped Hentor's plan earlier…

     "Nice to see you here, Danus," the Starry Lupe's voice reached his ears. Her gaze immediately fell on the box he was carrying. Nieve's eyes lit up with interest and a bit of hope. "What's that?"

     Danus considered telling her that it was for his mother, but Hentor destroyed any hope he had of carrying out that idea by whispering very loudly, "Now! Give it to her!"

     "Is it for me?" Nieve's eyes flickered brightly, and a smile spread across her face.

     "Um…" Danus stammered, desperately searching for an excuse not to give her the Slorg. She looked so pleasant and happy, standing there with her hands clasped over her blue pleated skirt and a look of innocence on her face. Surely it would be wrong to crush her hopes of receiving a wonderful present, but would it be worse to do so by refusing to give her the gift or by allowing her to discover that beneath the pink wrapping was a horrid creature of slime?

     "Yup, Danus got it just for you for Valentine's Day," Hentor told the Starry Lupe cheerfully.

     "Ooh!" Nieve sounded delighted. "It's such a big box. What could be in it?"

     Danus allowed her to take the package, and then watched miserably as she eagerly tore off the wrapping paper. The moment he'd been dreading came as Nieve pulled off the last piece covering the mouth of the box. She set the box on its side in her lap and opened out the flaps.

     Plop! A slimy green thing squirmed out of the box and began writhing among the folds of Nieve's skirt. She let out a yelp of horror at the sight of a pair of bloodshot red eyes attached to stalks and a down turned mouth melting in dripping slime, all belonging to the pathetic thing in her lap.

     Danus turned to Hentor, his eyes wide with disbelief. "A Mutant Slorg?" he howled. "Why a Mutant Slorg?"

     "Get it off of me!" Nieve shrieked, leaping up and trying to shake the Slorg off. Instead, it wormed its way up through the paths that her clothing created, leaving disgusting blobs of slime clinging to her skirt. Finding its way up her arm, the Slorg began moving towards her head. "AAAH! Get it OFF!"

     Danus darted forward, his only thought of undoing this disaster. He grabbed the Slorg and quickly dropped it back in the box, closing the flaps over it. Nieve brushed the slime off of her fur with a look of disgust. She eyed her slime-covered skirt, and then threw Danus a furious glare. "So that's your idea of a nice Valentine's Day present? Couldn't you save pranks for April Fool's Day?"

     "Nieve, it wasn't my idea," Danus said weakly.

     Hentor broke in with a loud exclamation of, "Wow! Wasn't Danus brave? He heroically stepped in and saved you from that horrible Slorg! You should thank him, Nieve!"

     The Starry Lupe shot Hentor a withering look. "I wouldn't have needed to be 'saved' from the Slorg if he hadn't given it to me in the first place!"

     "I'm really sorry," Danus mumbled.

     "You can go wash the slime off in our bathroom, Nieve," Hentor put in quickly. "Second floor, last door on the left."

     Without a word, the Starry Lupe brushed past the two pets and headed up the stairs. An angry tear made its way to the corner of her eye. She should've known better than to think that Danus would really do anything for her on Valentine's Day. He and Hentor were so immature…

     Danus watched the Lupe hurry away, crestfallen. When she was out of sight, he looked accusingly at Hentor. The Ogrin shifted uncomfortably. "Huh, I really thought she'd like it."

     "Oh, did you?" Danus said with a hint of mocking in his tone. Sometimes he really wondered about his friend's sense of reasoning.

     Hentor's usual grin returned to his face as he whipped out a small, hard giftwrapped package. "Time for present number two."

     "What is it? Chewing dung?"

     "Of course not." Hentor made a face at the suggestion. "It's a most traditional Valentine's Day gift: chocolate. Even better, it's a Chocolate Lupe Treat. She, being a Lupe, will love it. The guy at the Chocolate Factory told me that as soon as Lupes smell these treats, they can't resist. They pounce on the chocolate, attacking it like a wild predator. They lick their chops and bare their gleaming sharp teeth, and their tails wag in happiness as they devour the treat with savage glee!" Hentor grinned, pleased with his detailed description of the reaction he expected of Nieve.

     There was a brief silence. Then Danus said slowly, "Um… that doesn't sound particularly romantic."

     "So what? This chocolate will make her forget all about the Slorg incident."

     Danus conceded the point. He took the little package and waited for Nieve to return to the room. The good smell of chocolate mixed with a faint scent of Chia floated through the wrapping paper and into the green Lupe's nose. He willed himself not to eat the treat himself before Nieve came.

     Time passed, and the scent of the delicious Lupe treat began to be too much. "What's taking her so long?" Danus mumbled, fiddling with the wrapping paper and trying to prevent himself from pulling it off and gobbling up the candy.

     At last, the Starry Lupe came down the stairs. She still looked upset, and there were traces of slime on her dress. She gave Danus a cold stare.

     "He's got another present for you, Nieve!" Hentor piped up, nudging Danus forward.

     "Uh, yeah," Danus said, holding out the giftwrapped Lupe treat.

     Nieve looked at it disdainfully. "It smells like chocolate."

     "It is chocolate. It smells delicious," Danus said, trying to keep his mouth from watering.

     "Eat it yourself. I'm allergic to chocolate."

     Hentor's eyes widened. Danus could hardly hide his delight as he tore off the wrapping paper and popped the treat into his mouth. "Yum," he said blissfully as he chewed it.

     Nieve rolled her eyes. "You didn't know I was allergic to chocolate?" she asked, watching as Danus swallowed the last of the gift that she had rejected.

     "I had no idea," Hentor muttered to himself. He poked Danus, who was still reveling in the taste of the Lupe treat, and slyly handed him a bouquet of flowers. "Present number three," he whispered. "These are sure to be a hit. They're top quality black roses."

     "Presents? Oh, right," Danus said, snapping back into reality.

     "I don't know what you're thinking," Nieve said in distaste, staring at the cluster of dried stems atop which perched a sorry clump of shriveled dark petals. The "top quality black roses" were wilted into an unappealing mass of tired plants. "Is this some sort of gross joke?"

     Danus glanced down at the roses, and then threw a glare at Hentor. "Yeah, is this a joke? How old are these flowers, anyway?"

     "I found them five months ago and I was going to press them, but I forgot," the Ogrin said thoughtfully.

     "So you decided to reuse them today?" Danus looked upset.

     Nieve glanced from Danus to Hentor. "Wait a minute. Who are these gifts from?"

     Instead of answering, Hentor exclaimed, "The final gift!" He slipped a card into Danus's paw. "Give her that. She'll love the poem you wrote."

     Nieve grabbed the card before Danus could offer it to her. The front of it showed a stick figure drawing with childish uneven heart cutouts glued all over it. Opening the card, Nieve read aloud,

     "'You are a thoughtful and caring Lupe,

     Better than even the faerie of soup.

     (Though her cooking is really good too.)

     On the scale of worth in Neopia's value log,

     At one end there's dung and on the other there's you.

     You are a princess, as beautiful as if you came from a Mortog!

     From Danus'."

     "I did not write that!" Danus exclaimed, cringing at the bad poetry.

     "Danus! Of course you wrote it!" Hentor said.

     Nieve looked up from the card. "Okay," she sighed. "I figured it out. Hentor, these, er, gifts are all from you, right?"

     "Yes!" Danus said, relieved. "I had nothing to do with picking them out."

     "How did you know?" Hentor asked the Starry Lupe.

     "Because this card is written in your handwriting," Nieve said. "Rather smart of you to think I wouldn't notice that," she added facetiously. A sparkle returned to the Starry Lupe's eye, and she smiled for the first time since she'd seen the Slorg. "I'm really relieved it wasn't you who chose these gifts, Danus. If it had been, I would've had to think you were going crazy. As it is, I can plot revenge against this silly Ogrin all I like!"

     "No!" Hentor cried. "I was doing it for Danus! And I thought you'd enjoy the presents I got for you," he added meekly. "Do you really not like Slorgs?" he couldn't help asking.

     Nieve grinned. "I can't say I enjoy having one in my lap all that much."

     "Nieve," Danus said, finding the nerve to speak to her now that the fiasco was over with. Somewhat ashamed, he said, "I'm sorry this ruined your Valentine's Day. I shouldn't have let the whole thing start."

     Nieve laughed. "It didn't ruin my Valentine's Day. But for a while I thought I wasn't going to give you this." She drew a small, narrow box from her purse and handed it to Danus. His eyes widened in surprise. "Open it," Nieve said with a smile.

     "Wow, thanks," Danus said, eagerly flipping up the lid.

     A rubber Cobrall sprang out of the box. The Lupe jumped back, and Nieve burst into giggles.

     "Happy Valentine's Day, Danus."

The End

 
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