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The Trust Game


by animalnutz1993

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"Okay, class, settle down, settle down!" Miss Celeste waited patiently for Paradise's class to give her their full attention. "Welcome to Art class!" the white Lupe announced proudly. "Now, a lot of ordinary teachers like to start off the school year with a schedule planning what will happen during the year. But you know what? I'm no ordinary teacher!"

     Paradise could obviously see that this was true. Instead of desks, the room was filled with bean bags. The springy plush carpet was a smoky purple and the walls were painted light blue. Miss Celeste was barefoot and wearing torn jeans and a faded tie-dye shirt. "Celeste" was her first name; not her last. Her last name was Quertyrson and she hated it, so she insisted everyone call her Miss Celeste. Right away the yellow Acara knew she liked her Art teacher.

     "We're going to start off by getting to know each other," began Miss Celeste, "with a game called 'trust'." There were murmurs of approval around the room. Paradise loved that game! Miss Celeste smiled humorously. "I see many of you know how to play. But for those who don't, it's very simple: allow yourself to fall backward, trusting your partner behind you to catch you before you hit the ground. Before you can partner up with someone else, you need to be caught perfectly; and by that I mean that you don't put your foot out to steady yourself.

     "Try to play with each person in the room. Ready? Go!" There was a shuffle as everyone excitedly played the game of trust. After Paradise had played with a cloud Poogle Malika and Malika's twin, Medina, she spotted a student that had remained in her bean bag. It was an electric Wocky who was watching the game with a look of regret. She was nervously chewing away at one claw.

     Feeling friendly, Paradise bounced over and said cheerfully, "Hi! What's your name?"

     The Wocky blinked, surprised. After a moment she stuttered, "Uh... Azalea."

     "Uh-zail-yuh," Paradise tried it out on her tongue. She loved it. "That's pretty! My name's Paradise."

     "Hi," uttered Azalea shyly. There was a pause of slightly awkward silence if you didn't count the shrieks of laughter and chatting in the background.

     "Do you wanna play?" Paradise gestured at the others.

     "What? Oh. Uh... okay," stammered Azalea, looking obligated. Paradise went first; Azalea caught her. Then it was the Wocky's turn. At first she leaned back rather nervously. But at the exact moment Paradise caught her under her arms, she put her foot back to steady herself.

     "Try again?" asked Paradise playfully. Azalea backed off.

     "No," she said fearfully. "No, thank you. I'm sorry." Paradise grew puzzled as the strange Wocky disappeared among the students spread across the room. Was it something she said?

     She tried to talk to Azalea but the Wocky avoided her until the recess bell rang. There was shuffling around for books and backpacks scattered against one wall as Miss Celeste proclaimed, "Tomorrow we'll play again!" then began to help students find their things.

     "Astrid, your shoes are untied. Don't forget your jacket, Sakai!"

     Paradise watched Azalea slip through the door. Feeling inquisitive (and, to her guilt, a little nosy) she followed Azalea out onto the blustery playground. At first she lost sight of her in the throng of Neopets playing jumprope and Gormball, but she eventually found her. She was sitting on Broken Swing, the farthest swing from the drinking fountain, with whom one chain was a few inches shorter than the other. She was staring dejectedly at the ground.

     Paradise took the swing next to her and said, "Hi."

     Azalea glanced at her and then quickly looked back at the bark. "Hi," she mumbled.

     "Um, about the game?" Paradise asked her awkwardly. "What's the matter?"

     Azalea squeezed her hazel eyes shut and turned her head away slightly. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.

     "For what?" asked Paradise inquisitively.

     "I didn't trust you to catch me," said Azalea softly.

     "Oh," Paradise was surprised. "It's fine. Really! After all, you'd just met me."

     "You don't understand," the Wocky's eyes were now shimmering under a layer of tears. Paradise was taken aback. "I haven't trusted anyone since... "

     She trailed off. "You don't need to tell me," Paradise said quickly.

     "Yes, I do," said Azalea, but more to herself. "A few years back, I had a friend. A really close friend! I let her read my diary and she never blabbed a word of it. I remember we'd swap socks so that we could experience life, not in the other's shoes, but in their socks." Azalea smiled slightly at the memory. "Then one day, we decided to play that - game. She went first and I caught her. Then when it was my turn, she spotted the Aisha she had a crush on and... let me fall."

     By now Paradise was shocked.

     "At first it didn't seem like such a big thing," said Azalea with her eyes brimming. "Everyone makes mistakes. But the more I played it - no matter who I played the game with - I found that I would always put my foot back. One time I played it with my owner... and I couldn't even trust her! I can't trust anyone anymore!"

     Azalea brushed away her tears swiftly. "I know it's not your problem," she said bleakly. "But I had to get it out."

     "No." Paradise was slightly dazed as she recalled what Azalea had said in dismay. "No, it's fine. I would've had to get that out there, too."

     The bell rang. Azalea rose. "Well," she said, deeply embarrassed. "See you in Art class tomorrow."

     As everyone filed into their lines, Paradise just sat there for a moment. She felt so sorry for the Wocky! Able to love, but unable to trust? That's like... an empty cookie jar. If only she could show Azalea that she wanted to be her friend... then she sat up straight. She knew how.

      ~*~

     Today Miss Celeste was wearing cargo pants and a black T-shirt with a small red heart on the front. Once again, she was barefoot. Her green eyes sparkled as she saw the students before her eagerly waiting for her to give the OK to start playing the game again. But she decided to toy with them.

     She wandered over to the blackboard and doodled a heart with wings, then erased it. She aimlessly picked up the attendance clipboard and pretended to examine it. The students knew she was playing with them, and they waited impatiently, shifting in their beanbags.

     "Okay, go ahead," she said, amused. Everyone leapt out of their bean bags. Paradise did so for a different reason. She made a beeline for Azalea.

     "Azalea?" she said as she drew near. "These are for you." She held out a small box.

     Bemused, Azalea took off the lid and peered inside. There on the bottom was a pair of blue knee socks. Azalea stared at the socks, then lifted her gaze to Paradise, surprised.

     "From what you've been through, I don't think I'll be able to see life in your socks," said Paradise slowly. "But I do want to get to know you."

     Azalea picked up the socks and gazed at them. "Can I?" asked Paradise. "Can we be friends?" Suddenly Azalea broke into a wide smile. She laughed.

     "Of course!" she gushed. Paradise returned her smile. Right then, she knew she didn't need a game to know that Azalea trusted her.

The End

 
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