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Beauty is Only Fur-Deep


by imagiknight

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"Hey, Jessica, wait up!" I struggled to keep up with the Faerie Uni's quick stride. "D'you want to hang out after school? Maybe you could come to my house or I could go to yours? Or we can just meet somewhere. Like the smoothie shop or something. Whatever works best for you!" My voice was high-pitched with hope.

      Jessica skidded to a stop, her diamond-studded hoof-pads screeching horribly on the sidewalk. She whirled around to face me. "I think I'm busy, Elisabeth," she said quietly.

      I stopped following her and watched her flounce off, admiring the way she walked. I sighed. I loved the way she said my name! Instead of making it sound plain and old-fashioned, she made it cool and hip.

      Suddenly it hit me that she had turned down my invitation. I sighed, this time from frustration. It never failed. Every time I suggested meeting after school, she was always mysteriously "busy."

      So why did I think so highly of Jessica if she never seemed to notice me? In fact, she even appeared embarrassed to be seen with me!

      Well, for one thing, she was good at everything. She was a great cheerleader. She was a straight-A student. Her good looks made her the most popular girl in Neoschool. You could even go as far as to call her the queen! She was funny, too. Intelligent? Check. Pretty? Check. Funny? Check. Every quality you could possibly want in a friend - all there. Never mind the fact that she was a bit of a snob.

      And me? I was this boring, ordinary, ugly Blue Elephante.

      I felt a hand on my shoulder. "At it again, Lizzie?" a voice laughed.

      I turned. Shy, quiet, optimistic Gwen stood behind me. Gwen was happy with whatever life threw at her, and would never dream of chasing after someone from another social class. She was my exact opposite. Needless to say, Gwen was my best friend.

      I smiled sadly. "Turned down again," I said.

      "You okay?" she asked.

      "Yes," I lied.

      She looked deep in my eyes. "No, you're not."

     You could put on the happiest face in the world and true friends would still know if something was wrong.

      "Don't worry, Lizzie. I don't see what's so great about her," Gwen continued, frowning. "But if following her makes you happy, then go ahead."

      I grinned. "Thanks, Gwen. I think the bell's about to ring. Let's go."

     ***

      A blast of cold air hit me as I pulled open the refrigerator door.

      "Lizzie, don't eat anything now, dinner's almost ready," my owner, Nicole, said, raising a knife in the air to dice a carrot.

      I pushed the door shut. "Nikki," I said slowly. "Why is there a dictionary in the fridge?"

      She stared at me blankly. "Well, why not? It seemed to me like a good place to put it."

      I shook my head. I watched her dump a can of Neocola onto a slice of chocolate cake. My face twisted in disgust, and Nikki looked at me. "Just making dessert," she said cheerfully. She tossed the empty can over her shoulder, missing the trashcan by a mile. The can clanged on the linoleum floor. Nikki put the cake in the freezer and grabbed a huge bowl of an unidentifiable mixture from the fridge, which she grandly placed on the dining room table.

      "Dinner is served!" she cried.

      I stared at the lump she had dumped on my plate. "No thanks. I'm on a diet," I said, partly because it was the truth, partly because I really wanted to avoid eating the poison.

      "But Lizzie, you're not fat! You're a typical Elephante. And you're beautiful!" Nikki exclaimed.

      Typical owners. Always complimenting you on your looks. You could look like Dr. Sloth and your owner would still claim you were the most handsome Neopet on Neopia.

      "I'm not really that hungry anyway." I scraped my chair back and climbed the flight of stairs to my sanctuary.

      My room was the only normal place in the house. It made me seem like a regular Neopet. Posters of all the faeries were plastered on the sky-blue walls. Clothes lay in heaps in the corner. Twisted Roses CDs were strewn across the floor.

      I actually would have preferred white walls instead of blue, posters of Chemistry for Beginners, a clean space instead of a messy one, and Jazzmosis souvenirs instead of Twisted Roses. But I had bought all this stuff in preparation for someone popular to visit.

      Not likely.

      So for now it was my one escape from my family's weirdness. And I really needed a refuge.

      Nikki was not just your average sort of weird, like the Phantom Orange Shirt Guy. She was really weird, the creey-Meepit kind of weird. She was obsessed with socks. She hung them up on the wall as if they were trophies. If you looked in the oven, you'd find a gourmet Honey and Bacon Burger, bun and all. Scamanders lived in our bathtub, thanks to Nikki. Nikki even had her own secret language and would talk to herself all day long in public and people would stare at her as if she were psychotic.

      I sighed. All I wanted was to impress Jessica, for us to become friends.

      It seemed like just a dream for now.

      And indeed I fell asleep to visions of Jessica and me giggling and having a lot of fun.

     ***

      "LIZZIE! UP UP UP, RISE AND SHINE, IT'S TIME FOR SCHOOL! I WANT TO SEE YOU BRIGHT-EYED AND BUSHY-TAILED IN FIVE MINUTES!"

      I rolled out of bed, groaning angrily. I rubbed my eyes. Light streamed onto the rumpled sheets of my bed. I stumbled through the piles of magazines. I leaned against my Pink Vanity Desk and glared at the mirror. A plump Blue Elephante with mud-brown eyes, wrinkled trunk, two tiny, leathery wings and a crimson jewel on her forehead stared back. I sighed. How I envied Jessica's glossy white mane, sparkly lavender wings and her cerulean fur!

      I tried a smile. It didn't fit my mood.

      But my unhappiness cleared away when I remembered my plan, which had hit me the second I was drifting to sleep.

      I fought down the anxiety that was causing my stomach to churn. Today I would confront Jessica. And all my plan would take was a lot of courage and a lot of luck.

     ***

      "Jessica, I know where you've been going after school," I lied. My voice was more strong and powerful than I felt.

      Jessica froze. She turned around, her bright eyes wide, reflecting the soft morning light.

      This scene would be perfect with tumbleweed rolling past right now. I pushed my long ears from my eyes and continued, "You know, whenever I invite you over? You haven't been 'busy' at the doctor's or dentist's or anything like that. You've just been hanging out at the Grooming Parlour with your real friends."

      Jessica was speechless. She glanced at the crowd slowly gathering around us. It was really quite a sight, the beautiful Faerie Uni and the horrendous Blue Elephante having a face-off on the hilly courtyard. "You're such a nerd," she snorted. "You need to get a life. All you ever do is follow me!"

      The crowd cheered and whistled, and Jessica flashed her brilliant smile. I blushed red-hot. Jessica sure knew how to make someone feel bad. I groaned inwardly. I was so pathetic. I looked up to her for being able to insult someone! But it was a skill I needed to learn, and if we ever became friends she could teach me.

      "I'm going to teach this nerd a lesson," Jessica said, and I had a feeling it wasn't going to be how to stand up for yourself. She grabbed my trunk and pulled me away from the applauding crowd and into a dark alley.

      "Get down!" she hissed.

      "Why?" I said, confused.

      "You know how bad it would be for my social status if I'm seen with you?" she cried.

      I crouched.

      "You're smart," she told me with a frown. To my surprised expression, she added, "You knew I wasn't really busy."

      Inside, I rejoiced, relief washing over me. My guess had been right! Then again, it wouldn't take a genius to figure it out.

      "So will you hang out with me today?" I tried to be cool, but I couldn't keep the hope from my voice.

      Jessica sighed and shuffled her feet. "Anything to keep you from ruining my reputation. Fine, I'll go to your house," she said unwillingly.

      I swallowed, fighting to remain calm. "Okay," I said weakly, almost unable to believe my ears.

      Jessica grabbed my hands. "But I can't be seen with you," she said firmly. Then she looked down. "Ugh. Your nails are so dirty!" She dropped my hands.

      I chuckled almost hysterically because I was so happy. I gave her my address and she told me she'd see me after school.

      Once she had disappeared around the corner, I did a little jig.

      "Lizzie! There you are!" a voice exclaimed. A Striped Xweetok stood in the entrance of the alley, a dark silhouette against the bright light behind her.

      "Gwen! You won't believe-" I cried breathlessly.

      "Do you want to come over-" she said at exactly the same time.

      We giggled. "You first," she said.

      "No, you!"

      "Oh, fine. Do you want to come over to my house after school today?" Gwen asked.

      "Sorry, Gwen, I can't. Jessica's coming over!" I said excitedly.

      "Oh... That's great..." Gwen said.

      "Yeah, I know! I'll tell you the whole story right now-"

      "The bell's ringing... We'd better get to class. Tell me tomorrow, okay?" Gwen said.

      "Oh, okay," I sighed, unable to keep the disappointment from my voice. I had really wanted to share all the details of my after-school meeting. But it would have to wait.

      So, Gwen trailing behind, we headed to the Neoschool building without another word.

     ***

      After school, I waited eagerly for Jessica, my face pressed against the window. Come on, where is she? I thought impatiently. It was a whole half-hour after school had ended. She must be trying to be fashionably late.

      Soon a strange figure walked down the street. It looked like an old, stooped human wearing a dark brown coat, black sunglasses, and a hat casting shade on his face. To my surprise, he turned in front of my house and walked up the steps. He knocked on my door in hurried thumps.

      I pulled open the door. The old man had removed his glasses, revealing azure eyes that could only belong to one person. I was standing face to face with Jessica.

      She pushed past me. "Shut the door!" she cried.

      I closed the door and my mouth, too, for I must have looked pretty dumb standing there with drool collecting in my mouth.

      "What's with the costume?" I whispered.

      "Well, you know how I said I couldn't be seen with you-" she said loudly.

     I pressed my hand to my lips. "Tell me later. Jessica, be very quiet and follow me."

      Jessica started to pout, upset at being given orders by a geek such as myself, but she quickly forgot the offense as her eyes took in the socks nailed to the walls and the pictures of my owner puffing her cheeks out and assuming all sorts of other silly postures.

      I thought that was enough weirdness my guest should suffer. Especially a guest as important as Jessica. I had no desire to run into Nikki so she could embarrass me even more.

      But as we were climbing the stairs, I heard a piercing shriek like that of a Mystery Island native and some netting dropped over my eyes. Jessica jumped but I was used to this kind of strangeness.

      From the top of the steps jumped Nikki. She had a bone in her curls and her hair was sticking up at odd angles. A fake nose ring was stuck in one of her nostrils. A grass skirt waved around her knees. In one hand she held a spear. Her brown eyes glinted with maniacal light. Nikki shrieked again.

      I slammed my hand to my forehead and groaned. Jessica would never want to come over again after meeting my owner.

      Nikki watched me glare at her, and she studied Jessica, who was wearing a frightened look. A crazy smile crept over Nikki's face. "I see you've brought a little friend over today!" Nikki said to me. Suddenly she burst into tears. "It seems like only yesterday you were wrapped up in diapers and I was feeding you some Chilled Eyeball Custard with a tiny spoon, and now you're so mature! They grow up so fast!" she added, mostly to herself.

      I hid my face in my hands. Jessica was giggling. "Nicole," I said quietly. "Can you get this net off me and let Jessica and me go up to my room."

      Nikki wiped her eyes and she beamed a smile brighter than the sun shining on the Lost Desert. "Of course! I'm sure you'll love Lizzie's room!" she said to Jessica. Nikki gave me a meaningful look.

      I furrowed my brow, confused. I shrugged, shoved past Nikki and led Jessica to the second floor.

      I can't believe it! Jessica is actually in my house! I thought happily. This visit, if I pretended to be an ordinary Neopet and was able to win her friendship, could raise my social status by a mile!

      I opened the door. And I gasped.

      The posters of faeries were gone, replaced by Chemistry for Beginners posters. The walls were white instead of blue, still slightly wet. Seasonal Jazzmosis Figures were lined up on a new oak desk.

      My room was exactly the way I had always wanted it.

      And yet I felt miserable.

      I turned to Jessica. "I didn't do this, my owner thought it would be nice to just redo my whole room, yes, she's strange like that-"

      "What are you talking about? Your room is great!" Jessica exclaimed dreamily.

      "I agree, it's completely horrible- Wait, what?"

      "I mean... Your room is so unique! It's like you're a big Pineapple Chia in a world of Pea Chias!"

      "Are you calling me fat?" I laughed, pretending to be offended.

      "I meant you were unique... But while we're on the subject, well... Let's face it, Liz. You're not the best looking Neopet in Neopia," Jessica confided gently, patting my hand.

      My mock insulted look turned to a real one. "Don't call me Liz," I told her. Only Nikki can call me that.

      She waved her hoof. "Whatever. Anyway, Liz, tell me more about your owner!"

      I winced. "Why do you want to know about Nikki?" I asked incredulously.

      She sighed. "It must be great to have such a thoughtful owner."

      "Thoughtful? You mean crazy," I muttered.

      "I mean, Nicole even redid your whole room! My owner never pays any attention to me. It makes me feel so lonely." She paused. "Well, not really. He buys me everything I want, so I don't really care!" Jessica said brightly.

      "Mmm," I mumbled, frowning.

      "It's great that Nicole cares," Jessica said, but I saw right through her. The look on her face told me she wouldn't give a hoot if Nikki had left me to starve. "But what's with all the socks, anyway? Is she, like, crazy? Or stupid?"

      White-hot anger flared inside me. "She's not stupid," I said forcefully through gritted teeth.

      Jessica looked at me as if I was coughing up snot and backed away. "Okay, okay, chill out, Liz!"

      "Don't ever insult my owner again, Jessica."

      "Yeah. Sure. But please, call me Jessy, now that we're friends." Jessica beamed.

      A week ago I would have been thrilled that Jessica wanted to spend more time with a nerd like me. But now...

      I realized that we could never be true friends like Gwen and I were. Gwen! My best friend, whom I had not given a thought to in about two days, the one who actually cared about me. I could tell Gwen everything and she'd be able to sympathize. And she'd never make fun of anything that truly mattered to me. To think I hadn't even noticed her disappointment at being pushed aside like a bowl of maggots! I had been such a fool to ignore my best friend and turn down her invitation in exchange for Jessica's visit.

      Because Gwen was right. Jessica was just a snob. She wasn't really concerned about my feelings. She just thought I was cool. Why had I ever looked up to her? What had I ever found admirable about her? She probably even cheated on her tests! She was, and had always been, a loser in disguise.

      Isn't it ironic that, when the person you always wanted to be recognized by finally does, you realize you don't like them anymore?

      Well, that's just how life is. And I'd have to learn to take it like Gwen. When life gives you Lemwarts, make lemonade.

     ***

      Hey, Gwen. Listen, I'm really sorry about today... And my whole life, actually. I never should have paid so much attention to Jessica. You were completely correct, I am way better than Miss Snotty-Freak-Jessica. So I thought maybe we could hang out together today. My house. Please forgive me? Bye.

      I signed my name at the bottom of the page with a flourish. I looked at the golden envelope for a moment before sending it off to my friend.

      And I did a little jig.

      All Jessica's money couldn't buy my friendship! I'd make it through life perfectly with just Gwen, who meant more to me than anything on the entire planet. And who definitely meant more than any friendship with a certain spoiled, empty-headed Uni.

The End

Author's Note: Kite is back, back again! ^^ Comments appreciated!

 
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