Plushie Eaters: Part Three
"Get up, Penelope!" Penelope opened her eyes groggily as
she was shaken awake. She looked up and saw Pearl leaning over her. "Happy birthday,
Penelope! Get up and get dressed. I've got a surprise for you!"
Pearl smiled when she saw the empty food tray
and whisked it down the stairs with her toward the kitchen.
Penelope allowed herself to smile as she got
ready for the day. Pearl never let her down on her birthday. She always planned
something fun and exciting. After putting on her nice purple overalls, Penelope
thudded down the stairs and into the kitchen.
"Good morning! I made your favorite."
"Strawberry nova waffles?!" squealed Penelope,
sliding into her chair.
"You bet." Pearl set the plate of strawberry
waffle goodness in front of Penelope. "Eat up. We've got places to go and things
to do today."
"Where? What?" Penelope asked excitedly, her
mouth already half full of waffles.
Pearl just winked and left the room.
"Oh boy!" Penelope bounced up and down. She
had just seen the boat that she knew would take them to Roo Island. It was a
beautiful day for a boat ride, the sea was shimmering under the radiant late
morning sun. As soon as they reached the shore, she scrambled down the ramp
and onto the boat. "It's my birthday," she told the boatman matter-of-factly,
grinning from ear to ear.
The boatman, a trusty old Eyrie dressed in a
brown waterproof jacket and whose feathers were constantly ruffled from the
sea winds, smiled at Penelope. "Well, happy birthday, little one," he bellowed
in a good-natured tone. "Enjoy the boat ride and your time at Roo Island." He
continued to help the other, less nimble boat riders down the ramp and onto
Pearl only smiled and looked out to the island,
making last-minute notes in her head.
As soon as the boat docked, Penelope jumped
off and raced toward the merry-go-round. When she got there, she saw a familiar
face. "Lauren!" She raced toward the Faerie Blumaroo and tackled her with a
"Hey, Penelope! Happy birthday!" Lauren said
in her quiet voice, hugging her friend back.
"How are my plushies?" Penelope whispered, so
soft that Lauren could just barely hear.
"They're fine," Lauren whispered back. "Thank
you for sending them to visit me. Will you be taking them home today?"
"I can't yet." Penelope offered no more explanation
on the subject, but just jumped on the merry-go-round, picking her favorite
Blue Uni. Lauren followed.
"Penelope." Penelope saw Pearl for an instant
as she passed her. She hopped off the merry-go-round. She was starting to feel
sick anyway. Fifteen minutes of circles was all she could take at a time. More
spinning than that and she was afraid her waffles would come up in a big gooey
mess of brown and red. After she caught her balance, she ran over to where Pearl
"The rest of your guests will be here in about
half an hour. The boatman was nice enough to offer to send them this way. I'm
going to take him up on that offer. I'll be right back."
Penelope nodded. As Pearl made her way to the
shore of Roo Island, Penelope turned back to Lauren, who was still on the merry-go-round.
"Wanna play hide-and-seek for a while?" she yelled as Lauren passed.
"Sure!" Laura waited patiently for the merry-go-round
to stop and stepped off cautiously. "I'll count first. But since there's only
two of us, if I don't find you in ten minutes, you win. Come back in ten minutes
if I haven't found you." She turned around and leaned against a tree, covering
her eyes with her arms. "One…two…three…"
Penelope started for the Dice-A-Roo headquarters.
There were so many people there! She'd never been there by herself, but she
was no fool. She made sure she kept an eye on the merry-go-round while she looked
for a hiding place.
She finally saw a large potted plant and was
heading toward it when a large Grey Lupe bumped her, causing her to fall over.
He either didn't notice or was too depressed to care because he never acknowledged
When Penelope got back up, a little scuffed
and teary-eyed, the crowd had closed around her and she could no longer see
the merry-go-round. Panicked, she began to wander around, hoping to find the
outside of the crowd. All she could see all around her were legs. She spent
what seemed like hours wandering around the crowd of neopets waiting to play
Dice-A-Roo. Her legs and feet ached from walking around continuously and her
heart was pounding almost out of her chest with fear. Her eyes were wide and
brimming with tears. No one paid attention to her; they were too busy with their
own conversations to notice a small Zafara lost in the crowd.
Exhausted, Penelope sat down on the ground and
began to cry. She had never been a loud crier and no one noticed her distress
as they stepped around her, milling with the crowd.
"Well, hello there!" Penelope was startled by
a voice that stood out from the muffled conversations of the crowd. All she
could see at eye level was a nice pair of shiny black shoes and the legs of
a pair of black trousers. She looked up and stared right into the face of a
Green Grarrl. She gasped in terror and scrambled backward. She didn't get very
far before she stumbled over herself. Hot, new tears rolled down her cheeks.
Her head was already pounding from crying so much.
"Are you lost, my dear?" the Grarrl asked in
a kindly voice. "Don't cry, we'll find your…"
"Sister," Penelope sniffled.
"Yes, we'll find your sister. Do you know where
you need to be?"
"The merry-go-round. It's my birthday. Please
don't eat me!"
The Grarrl tilted his head back and opened his
mouth, letting out a long, loud laugh.
Penelope shuddered in fear at the size and number
of his sharp teeth.
"Eat you? My dear, no offense, but I don't think
you would be a yummy snack. I much prefer strawberry nova waffles myself."
Penelope stopped crying. "Strawberry nova waffles?
Those are my favorite!"
"They are good, aren't they? Let's find your
Penelope nodded her head reluctantly. She figured
the Grarrl wouldn't eat her with so many witnesses around and if he tried to
take her away, she would kick and scream. And, if he at least got her out of
the crowd so she could see the merry-go-round, she could run away. Then when
Pearl saw the Grarrl chasing her, she would finally see how mean Grarrls were.
He picked Penelope up and put her on his shoulders.
She thought about kicking and squirming to get away, but she figured it was
better than crying by herself on the ground. "By the way, I'm Daniel." He presented
Penelope with the handkerchief from his shirt pocket.
She hesitated, but accepted the handkerchief,
groping for it through her tear-blinded eyes. "Thank you, Daniel," she sniffled.
She blew her nose in his hanky. "Um…do you want this back?"
Daniel laughed heartily. "No, my dear, you keep
Pearl stuck the hanky in the pocket of her overalls.
Unconsciously, she let her muscles relax and giggled. It was fun to be up so
A few more minutes and they were at the merry-go-round.
"Here we are." He set Penelope down as Pearl came running up, her arms wide
"Penelope!" she cried, throwing her arms around
her sister's neck. "We've been so worried! You'd been gone for almost half an
hour and no one had seen you and…" Penelope could tell she was close to crying.
"It's okay, Pearl. I was lost, but Daniel,"
she gestured to him, "helped me find you."
For the first time, Pearl noticed the Green
Grarrl standing behind Penelope. She opened her mouth as if to speak, looked
at Penelope, shut it again, and finally managed, "Thank you, Daniel."
"No problem at all, miss…?"
"Pearl," she filled in, offering him her hoof.
"No problem at all, Pearl," he said, shaking
her hoof. "Happy birthday, Penelope." He kneeled down in front of Penelope so
he was at eye level with her. "And stay out of trouble." He smiled at the two
of them and started back to the Dice-A-Roo headquarters.
Penelope waved until he disappeared into the
crowd. Pearl stood behind her, smiling. "Come on," Pearl said when Daniel had
disappeared from sight. "You're missing your own party. I bought you cake in
all your favorite colors."
They hurried to the other side of the merry-go-round
where Penelope's guests were just arriving.
"You win," said Lauren, as she came up to Penelope.
She was grinning, but her tear-streaked face revealed that she had been crying.
Immediately her expression turned serious as she remembered how anxious she
had been that she'd never see her friend again. "We were really worried about
you. I'm so glad you found your way back."
"Yeah, me too," said Penelope distantly. "Hey,
let's go sneak some cake."