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The Skunk and the Teacher


by elvish_one_of_magic

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Also by zen_reina

“Hey, Smelldwena!” heckled a nearby red Lupe, “I heard you stank so much, your family coated the house in dung to cover the funk!” The schoolyard roared with laughter.

     “Yeah,” chimed a green Mynci, “and I heard that on your first day of school, you killed the kid behind you- from your smell!” At this the cries became louder, harsher, and ultimately, more scarring.

    Sel was a Skunk Zafara but it was one of the last things she wanted to be. She was constantly teased for being a skunk. Even her sisters, Kra and Upsti, made fun of her. At least they were normal. Kra was a red Zafara, and her twin Upsti, a Blue. All three lived with their Grandmother Gijan who Sel admired more than anyone in the world.

    Gijan was a Faerie Zafara. Every day Sel looked at her Grandmother’s glowing features and felt a spark of pride rise up in her belly- she had descended from such a magnificent creature. It was the only pride she had.

    Sel was very bright but she was always too afraid to even raise her hand in class in fear of more abuse from her peers. Most of her teachers overlooked this reluctance to participate, and instead extolled her for her test grades. But not Ms. Larken.

    Ms. Larken was Sel’s favorite teacher. She taught writing, which was also Sel’s favorite subject. Sel enjoyed Ms. Larken so much because she encouraged her to use the gift she had for writing in class. Ms. Larken was the one teacher who really cared how much Sel was hurt by the painful words of her classmates, and she intended on stopping it.

    ***

    Sel was walking home from Neoschool one afternoon with her sisters far ahead so not to be seen with ‘Smelldwena’ as Sel was so callously named. Sel heard a familiar sound of light claws and turned to see a graceful Blue Eyrie- Ms. Larken- right behind her.

     “Sel!” she called, out of breath, “You left your paper on Faerie Folk on my desk.”

    Sel was perplexed, she never wrote a paper on Faerie Folk. “But Ms. Larken, I never-”

    Ms. Larken interrupted her, “Yes, you did. With all the work you do you must have forgotten. Here, let me just give you this.” She slipped a smooth piece of paper into Sel’s dark paw. She came closer and whispered, “Read it over, it was quite the fascinating piece of literature.” Then, before Sel could say another word, Ms. Larken had vanished.

     “Strange, that one is…” Sel mumbled. Eager, yet confused, Sel examined the parchment in her hand. Written in Ms. Larken’s lacy black writing was a letter:

    Dear Sel,

    I stumbled upon an ad. In great detail it describes a contest, for writing! And the prize? A dip in the Rainbow Pool. I know how much you are teased for your colour and you don’t deserve that. This way, you can be whatever colour you want! Won’t that be grand? Enclosed are details on the contest. You need to get it in by the 17th day of the Month of Hunting. Good luck Sel.

    Sincerely,

    Ms. Larken

    Sel re-read the letter many times before the shock passed. Her? A colour other than Skunk? This truly was a dream come true.

    Sel read the contest information carefully and etched each word in her mind. She could only imagine how different her life would be as a different colour, any colour.

    From that moment on, every second of Sel’s time was devoted to writing, eating, sleeping or school. The catcalls of bullies in the courtyard troubled her not. When she had started writing, it was only the 3rd of the Month of Awakening and those three months were short, but she enjoyed them.

    It seemed now that it didn’t matter that others called her cruel names or looked at her funny; it mattered that she write this paper, write it with all her heart.

    The days she worked on her writing turned from days, to weeks, and soon it was the 15th day of the Month of Hunting and Sel was confident that this was the best piece of writing she’d ever written. With a self-assured air Sel walked to school that day and handed her paper into Ms. Larken before the morning bell rang. Ms. Larken read the first paragraph and started to tear up and then ushered Sel away to class.

    For the next month or so that came and went, Sel noticed she didn’t much pay attention to the names that were being thrown at her. ‘Smelldwena’ was a care of the past, and she was living in the present. Daily, Sel noticed herself more eager to raise her hand (much to her teacher Ms. Larken’s delight) and more self confident at school in general. But Sel didn’t really change until the 4th day of the Month of Relaxing.

     “Sel, dear,” Ms. Larken called after the bell dismissing the students to lunch rang, “Would you stay? We need to talk.” Sel gladly obliged; ever since she’d heard about the contest Sel felt her relationship with Ms. Larken grew stronger with each passing day.

     “Yes?” Sel asked.

    Ms. Larken’s face was warm and kindly, “Sel, this morning I received a letter, it is from the Writing Contest.”

    Sel became nervous, “And?”

     “And, they… well…” Ms. Larken burst into tears. The only other time Sel had seen her beloved teacher like this was the morning she’d handed Ms. Larken her contest entry. Ms. Larken gave a delicate sniff of her nose and then continued, “Sel, you did it, you won first prize!”

    Arrows of astonishment struck Sel’s heart. “W-what?” she blurted out.

    Ms. Larken only nodded her knowing nod.

    All these emotions that Sel had never felt before burst out. Joy, its jovial dance filled her, pride- not the normal tinge or spark, but a roaring fire erupted inside her, and on top of all that, glorious triumph rang out from within her.

    But she paused, slightly perturbed. She realized it was not the fact that she’d no longer be a skunk that excited her, but instead the feeling of recognition for all her hard effort.

    Ms. Larken saw the sudden change in Sel’s face. “What is it?”

     “I can’t really explain it. But I need to think, may I be excused for a bit?”

     “Take the whole day off,” she responded. “You certainly deserve it.”

    Graciously, Sel gathered her belongings and made her way back to her home. When she arrived she saw her grandmother reclining in her favorite red chair in the living room.

     “What are you doing home, Selly?” she asked, using Sel’s pet-name that her grandmother had given her.

     “My teacher dismissed me. But never mind that, I’ve got great news!” Sel exclaimed.

     “Great news? Well, let’s hear it, dear.”

     “Grandmother, I won that writing contest I’ve been telling you so much about. I won first prize. And guess what I won? Guess!”

     “Well now, I don’t know, it may be what you’ve got scribbled all over that brand-new Yellow Star Notebook I just bought you.” Her grandmother winked.

    Sel hung her head. “Sorry, Grandmother.” She held out the notebook to her.

    Gijan carefully put on her spectacles and surveyed the notebook. “I see nothing but the words ‘Rainbow Fountain’ scribbled on here. I’ll take a guess; do you get to go into the Rainbow Fountain?”

    Sel smiled; she realized now that Grandmother was fooling with her. “Yes, Grandmother. I go in three days.”

     “Well then, you better start picking a colour,” she advised.

    At this Sel’s face turned sour. “What’s wrong, Selly?” Gijan asked.

     “I’m just worried about the colour is all.”

     “Oh, how so?”

     “I don’t know, I guess it’s silly but I don’t know if I want to change.”

    Gijan’s face twisted into faux shock, as if she’d known that all along. “Really?”

    Sel nodded.

    “You just go in your room and think, alright? I’ll be in in a bit to check up on you.”

    Sel trotted into her room and jumped face-down onto her Zen Bed. She tossed and turned, trying to sort everything out. But alas, it was all in vain, and she soon fell asleep out of frustration.

    When Sel awoke it was morning and she still had nothing. But over the next couple days, she noticed something she never had before. Ms. Larken, looking at pictures of painted Neopets, or flicking hatefully at the occasional sapphire feather. Sel thought that once you became an adult, and had enough Neopoints that you would surely be painted, but maybe Ms. Larken never had the opportunity. Observing all this, Sel obtained a wonderful idea and smiled inwardly at her cleverness.

    On the day that Sel’s prize was to be awarded, Sel, Ms. Larken, Gijan, and a grey Ixi named Mr. Having (who was from the contest) assembled around the Rainbow Fountain in Faerieland, along with a crowd of onlookers. Everyone looked expectantly at Sel who blushed slightly. After a moment’s hesitation Sel whispered something in Mr. Having’s ear. He nodded monotonously, letting Sel do what she came to do.

    She walked over to Ms. Larken and looked her straight in the eye. Then, she turned to everyone and cleared her throat. “When I entered this contest, all I cared about was the prize. But I realized something; the prize never really mattered. It was the people in my life, and finding myself through them and the writing that was my real reward. But the one thing that can damage that prize is when one of those special people in my life, is unhappy. Ms. Larken, I want to give my material prize to you, for being such the wonderful teacher and person that you were, and still are.”

    The whole crowd peered over at Ms. Larken and all she could do was accept with a silent smile. Eagerly, she made her way over to the fountain. “What colour do you desire?” asked the now animate Rainbow Faerie.

    Looking over her shoulder at Sel, Ms. Larken declared, “It is Sel’s choice.”

    Sel knew it before Ms. Larken said a word. “Because she was like a Queen, fairly and carefully guiding her people, I think it would be an insult to give her any less than Royal.”

     “So mote it be!” proclaimed the faerie and with that Ms. Larken transformed into a Royal Eyrie, regal in plum feathers and emerald gown.

     “Thank you,” Ms. Larken whispered, her voice cracking.

     “Think nothing of it,” Sel responded with a wry smile. “It is I who should thank you.”

The End

 
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