Sepia was one of the only pets on her street that was not painted Faerie. This made sense; the blue Ixi lived on Water Faerie Way in Faerieland, and nearly all of her neighbors were glamorous winged Faeries who flaunted their beautiful features so constantly that it made Sepia sick. The Ixi didn’t just want to be painted to fit in or be beautiful; most of all, it was because she wanted to fly. Sepia dreamed of flitting from cloud to cloud on a glorious afternoon, feeling the fresh air on her cheeks, and dancing in the wind.
Sadly, Sepia was very poor. She had to work all day at the Employment Agency just to earn enough money to buy food each day. Sepia owned a small, neat house and few possessions. Her only item of value was a beautiful glass heart that she had owned her entire life. It was small but heavy, blown delicately out of red glass, and shaped perfectly. It stood next to her window so that the sunlight illuminated it. Sepia’s heart was her prized possession.
The heart was the only thing Sepia had not sold in her quest for a Faerie paint brush. Everything else—her books, most of her furniture, any spare trinkets—had been auctioned off. The blue Ixi worked extra hours at the Employment Agency to raise money. Slowly but surely, she was getting closer to her goal.
Gloria was Sepia’s only friend who, like her, was unpainted. Gloria was a blue Cybunny who lived a few blocks away from Sepia, and she shared the same ceaseless desire for a Faerie paint brush. Unlike Sepia, however, Gloria was not a very hard worker. Her income relied solely on the Wheel of Excitement and the Poogle Races. Sepia regarded Gloria’s participation in the Poogle Races with a degree of suspicion; Gloria would bet on the winning Poogle almost every time. However, Gloria was the best friend Sepia had, and they would spend time together whenever they could.
Sepia’s daily routine was monotonous. She would rise early in the morning, greeted by the rays of the sun shining on the lovely red heart. The Ixi would rush off to the Employment Agency, where she would have to sit behind a desk and assign senseless jobs to the eager Neopets who flooded the building. Sepia would work frantically throughout the morning, eating her meals right there at her tiny desk. She often worked the evening or night shifts as well. Then, when the last light was turned off and the last job seeker had departed, she would walk wearily home and crawl into bed, watched over by the peaceful heart. Her weekly paycheck would pay for everything she needed, which wasn’t much. Anything left over went into a jar on her counter top. Whenever a jar was filled with neopoints, Sepia emptied it into a large wooden chest hidden safely under her bed. Progress was slow, but certainly noticeable. The only thing that kept Sepia going through the day was the knowledge of how happy she would be when it all was over.
Weeks passed, and then months as more and more jars were filled. Gloria’s progress was not quite as consistent; some days the Cybunny would be seen walking home with a large bag of neopoints. Other days, she would be seen with nothing but a look of disappointment. Gloria often pestered Sepia about working so hard; the Ixi scarcely had time to meet her friend once a week. But Sepia stuck to her plan, and it worked.
One day, as Sepia emptied a hard-earned jar of coins into the chest beneath her bed, she noticed that it was getting quite full. Painstakingly, the Ixi counted every coin and realized that she had finally saved up enough for a Faerie paint brush. She flopped to the floor, scarcely able to believe that after all those months, her hard work had paid off. Sepia carefully counted out the exact amount and put it back in the chest, which she pushed carefully back into its place beneath her bed. It was late, and the Ixi crawled under the covers, not believing that she would be able to wait until morning. She fell asleep with dreams of flying and dancing in the air, and although the Ixi didn’t notice it, her heart on the windowsill was glowing.
The next morning, Sepia rose early and dragged the chest out from under her bed. It was very heavy, but something like that certainly wasn’t going to stop her. With strength she had never known before, the Ixi lifted the wooden chest and stumbled out the door. After a few steps, Sepia realized that it would be difficult to carry such a heavy object all the way to the shops, so she changed course for the bank to get a check. As she passed Gloria’s house, the Cybunny burst through the door, demanding to know the meaning of her friend’s journey. When Sepia told her that she was on her way to buy a Faerie paint brush, Gloria nearly fainted. The Cybunny insisted on helping her friend carry the chest; together, they managed to walk all the way to the bank, where Sepia was relieved to get rid of the excess weight.
At the market, Sepia was almost in a dream. Faerie pets surrounded her; soon, she would be as beautiful as they. Gloria chattered constantly, and Sepia could sense a hint of envy mixed in with her friend’s excitement. However, all feelings but one were swept away when Sepia saw the paint brush; that feeling was pure joy.
Sepia remembered nothing else from that afternoon. All she remembered was that when she finally parted ways with Gloria, who said she would buy tickets first thing in the morning to take them to Neopia Central, Sepia slowly walked into her home and entered her room.
There was an air of ecstasy surrounding Sepia so great that when she placed the paint brush carefully next to the heart on the windowsill, there was no mistaking the heart’s warm red glow. Sepia opened the window and let in the cool evening breeze. The Ixi had never been so happy. After living a life of unbearable monotony and work, she had finally achieved her dream.
With the heart by the window and her own heart equally radiant, Sepia lay down, closed her eyes, and drifted into sleep.
The next morning, the blue Ixi woke up to see the heart resting by itself on the windowsill as the sun streamed through the open window. Sepia sat up and stared at it. The heart was dim now, unlike the night before, but the Ixi didn’t notice. All she saw was the empty space on the windowsill beside the heart. The paint brush was gone.
All of the happiness that had been simmering inside Sepia during the night was let out in a choking sob. Frantically, she scanned her bedroom and the yard outside the window, but there was no sign of the brush. All of her hard work, countless hours of toil, was gone.
Sepia couldn’t imagine what had happened. The paint brush had been stolen, of course, but by whom? No one knew she had it; she had only bought it the day before. The only Neopet she had talked to since then was...
No. Sepia didn’t believe it at first. Gloria could not have stolen from her; Gloria was her friend. Gloria was her best friend. Who, Sepia reflected, was the only one who knew about the Faerie paint brush, the one who had been longing for one just as much as Sepia had. Still refusing to quite believe it, but growing more uncertain, the blue Ixi dashed outside and ran down toward Gloria’s house. She pounded on the door, her heart pounding. No one answered. Sepia ran to the window and looked inside. Darkness.
Maudie, Gloria’s Faerie Kacheek neighbor, saw the commotion from her garden. She approached Sepia with a smile. Hadn’t Sepia heard the news? Gloria had gotten lucky at the Wheel of Excitement and won a Faerie paint brush. She was right now on her way to Neopia Central to visit the Rainbow Fountain.
Sepia’s face darkened as Maudie returned to her flowers. Nothing in her whole entire life measured up to the feeling of bitter betrayal that Sepia felt in that one moment. Gloria had always been foolish and lazy, but never would Sepia have imagined her capable of such a terrible theft. But then, as the blue Ixi stood in the middle of Water Faerie Way, it all made sense. Gloria had never really cared. She knew that someday Sepia would work hard enough to buy a paint brush. She knew that Sepia slept with her window open on summer nights. She knew that Sepia would never dream of being stolen from. She knew that she could waste her time gambling because someone else was doing the work for her; someone who thought Gloria was her friend.
Sepia shed no tears that morning. Tears were not enough. There was nothing she could do; nothing that could express her terrible emotions. All Sepia could do was stand there, in the middle of Water Faerie Way, all by herself, a blue Ixi with not a friend in the world.
Gloria flapped her Faerie wings carelessly as she made her way down Water Faerie Way. Night had fallen, and the street was silent and empty. With a content smile, the Faerie Cybunny floated down the road until she stopped at Sepia’s house. She knocked on the door, ready to tell her friend the wonderful news about her lucky Wheel of Excitement spin.
No one answered. Gloria knocked again, louder this time, but Sepia did not come to the door. The Cybunny tried to peek in the front window, but the curtains were drawn. She tiptoed around to the back of the house, where she knew that Sepia’s window would be open. Perhaps the Ixi was asleep.
Gloria made her way to the bedroom window. She peered through the window but saw that Sepia’s bed was empty. No one was home. All that Gloria could see were thousands of pieces of red glass, shattered on the floor beneath the window.