For an easier life Circulation: 135,120,765 Issue: 267 | 22nd day of Storing, Y8
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A Lesson in Understanding


by fairy8queen

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She tore the sheets from my notebook, wadded them into a ball, and chucked them into the rubbish bin. "This is junk," she declared. "You made the Hot Dog guy seem evil, you made yourself seem deranged, and you made me out as a traitorous little brat who only cares about her own reputation!"

     I gaped at her as if she should automatically know why I made her seem like that. "You're the only one who's sane around here," I complained. "Who else am I supposed to pick on? FC would've helped me interview Hubert, Freaky would've jotted notes for me, and Princess would've stood to one side with a mirror and a tube of lipstick."

     Her eyes burned with frustration; she knew I was right. My Zafara was crazy, my Grundo obedient, and my adopted Uni was simply vain. My one confidant was Oceanblue, my blue Acara, who had been with me since my first days in Neopia. She had lived on omelettes uncomplainingly while I pinched and saved for my every want, she had helped me earn back my Neopoints when my stocks had crashed, she had consoled me every time I lost a contest, and now I'd hurt her feelings and finally crossed a line. I guess it hadn't occurred to me at the time that Oceanblue was her own being. She was my Acara, and I was her owner. We went almost everywhere together, and what I forgot she would remember for me. She felt like a part of me, and I never thought about how she would feel because I would just assume that her opinions were the same as mine. I've been told I assume too much. Perhaps it was true.

     I reached into the rubbish bin and pulled out the balled-up manuscript, smoothing it out on a chair. It had seemed like a good article at the time, and not a bit extreme. Was I that insensitive?

     She watched as I unfolded the corners and flattened out the wrinkles. The crackling of those sheets of paper must've seemed monumental to her. "Tell you what," I said, "I'll erase the worst of those parts and make it up to you with that cake in my SDB."

     She kept her eyes lowered, staring hard at the chair on which I had smoothed out the papers. "You know what would be nice, Fairy? If you actually acted like you cared." Her voice was quiet but intense, a voice that raised goosebumps and chilled me more than any scream or shout. She wrenched open the door and ran out into the rainy afternoon.

     "Oceanblue, wait!" I ran out after her. It was raining hard but she didn't care. I didn't either. "Come back!"

     "Go home, Fairy," came her voice from ahead. It was just as cold as the rain around us.

     I was halfway down the block before I realized that I hadn't closed my front door. Oh well, Oceanblue would clos- Oh yeah, that's why I was out there in the first place.

     I'd chased her to the bazaar before I lost her. It was really pouring now. The nearest building was the Defense Magic shop. I ducked inside and hoped that the shopkeeper would let me wait out the rain.

     The shop was completely empty. It had never been one of the more popular shops, and on a rainy day, even less people were willing to leave the comfort of their Neohomes to buy defense Battledome items. The Aisha shopkeeper obviously knew this and used the time to work in her account books rather than just sit there waiting for customers who would never come. The chimes hanging on the door tinkled as I entered, announcing my presence to the shopkeeper, who looked up at me without a hint of surprise that a petless human girl was standing soaked in front of her glass double doors and dripping mud and rain onto her beautiful welcome mat. "How may I help you?" she asked calmly.

     I shook my head. "P-pouring out," I spluttered, my teeth chattering, "be b-but a while."

     She nodded and went back to her work, the beads in her abacus clicking away. The only other sound was the hum of her Dark Reflectorbs sitting on a shelf behind the counter. I sat down on a bench next to the door and leaned against the wall, letting myself doze off.

     She reminded me of Allie, the green Aisha that I'd foolishly abandoned when I found that "Alien" wasn't a color you could get with a paintbrush. I heard that she had been adopted now. I remember how she had begged not to be separated with Oceanblue, and how Oceanblue had begged to let Allie stay. They had been close friends, living as sisters under one roof. Yet I still persisted in sending Allie to the pound. In all my time on Neopia, that was my greatest regret, and still is.

     I don't know how long I had slept, but when I woke, it was already dark outside. It was still raining hard. I stood up and wandered around the shop, working out the stiffness that had gathered in my legs.

     The shopkeeper had put away her account books and her abacus then disappeared into the back room of the shop. I heard the shuffling of feet and looked up as she re-entered the shop front, holding a cup of coffee in one hand and hot chocolate in the other. Seeing that I was awake, she smiled and offered me the hot chocolate. Gratefully, I took the steaming mug and sat back down, letting the sweet aroma waft up my nose. We sat like that for a while, in a companionable silence.

     I felt the need to explain my strange state, outside and umbrella-less on a night when rain poured down in buckets, forced to take shelter in the nearest shop, and without a pet to accompany me.

     "I had an argument with my pet," I said, "And she ran off."

     She sighed, not speaking for a while. "Did you know that I used to have an owner too?"

     I blinked, startled. "Did you?"

     She took a sip of her coffee. "She decided she didn't want to play Neopets anymore and left. She came back a few years later, but by then I had already taken up the job here." She smiled weakly. "She comes and visits me sometimes, with her new pets." Unsure of how to react, I said nothing. We sipped our drinks in contemplative silence.

     "Can I take that?" she asked suddenly, motioning towards my empty mug. I nodded and handed it to her. She disappeared into the back rooms again. I leaned against the wall, and fell back into sleep.

     Early in the morning, I woke up. It had stopped raining and already a few young Neopets were splashing happily in the puddles, their yellow boots now brown with mud. The shopkeeper was apparently still in the back rooms; I found a pad of paper on the counter and hastily scribbled a note of thanks, then left.

     After wandering aimlessly for a while, I found myself in the marketplace. I thought I saw Oceanblue, but a group of Chias blocked my view, and by the time they passed, she was gone. I kept walking.

     The shopkeepers on either side of the streets opened their windows and doors, shouting out their wares. Various pets hurried across the wet cobblestones, running errands for their restocking owners. A queue had formed before the Soup Kitchen, pets holding on to the hands of their newbie owners, eager for the kind faerie's warm broth. A small green Kacheek slipped in a pool of mud, a faint yelp of surprise and pain escaping his throat. As I hurried forward to help, I heard a voice behind me.

     "Looking for me?"

     I turned around. It was Oceanblue.

     She smiled. "Hey, Fairy."

     I smiled back. "Sorry, for everything."

     ***

     Something happened that night, I think. That night, I learned to understand. I realized that I was just another average Neopian, with no particular talents. I learned that I shouldn't take for granted the most wonderful Neopet I know: my Oceanblue. It's amazing what can happen in one night; just the day before I was bossing my pets around like a queen, and I still am, but better to be a loved ruler than a feared tyrant.

The End

 
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