A Different Kind of Present
A soft sigh escaped Amber's lips, gently blending into the crackling of the fire beside her. She slowly sipped her steaming hot chocolate, the warm liquid giving her a light, joyful feeling. A warm amber glow filled the room, giving it a comfortable feeling. The Kougra's long blue tail flicked about playfully in front of her angelpuss, Allie, and the tiny petpet stared at it cautiously, occasionally flinching when it got too close.
Two other pets sat in the cozy little room. One, a red Gelert, was lazily sprawled out on the floor, snoozing. The Gelert, named Kara, was quite young - only two and a half - and gently emitted a hushed snore every now and then. The other pet, a white Aisha named Snow, was reading interviews of Gormball players in the Neopian Times.
“Haha!” he snickered. Amber gave him an inquisitive look and he explained, “It's Ursula Usul. She is SO funny!” He looked back down at the paper and went on chuckling for the next few minutes. Amber giggled at Snow. He sure cared a lot about his sports... maybe too much.
“Hey, Amber?” A blue Uni trotted into the room, flipping her perfectly groomed mane over her shoulder. “Do you want to go shopping next week? There are going to be some great sales now that the holidays are over.”
Amber grinned. “Sure, Dana!” she said cheerfully. There was such warmth in the air, such great feelings of love and family. It was hard to imagine that she had ever been so afraid of these pets...
Amber tried to blink back the tears as she watched yet another pet be taken away to a loving, giving home. The other pets in the Pound watched as well as the little usul walked away, her paw in a young girl's hand. Oh, how Amber would give anything for a home... especially before the holidays came and she was the only pet who hadn't been adopted.
The Kougra held onto her angelpuss, Allie, forcing the tears to stay put. “You're all I've got,” she murmured to the kittenish petpet. And it was true, for the moment.
“Um, I'm looking for a new pet.” Every pair of eyes in the Adoption Center flew upward to see a teenage girl standing by the desk. “One who's friendly and doesn't bite... and one who's smart, too. Sorry, I probably sound picky, don't I?” She laughed nervously.
Amber ran a paw through her fur, trying to make herself look tidy and loveable. She heard the pink Uni say, “Just go down that hall and pick any pet you like,” and then the girl's footsteps.
Oh, those were the scariest moments in the Pound - a kind, loving owner would come through and they would be under the spotlight. In only a few seconds they had to come up with the perfect plan that would get them under the nice warm roof of a Neopian owner.
The footsteps drew nearer and nearer until at last Amber was looking at a pair of beat-up sneakers. The girl's friendly face came into view as she kneeled over to study Allie and the Kougra. Amber tried to smile, but it came out as a creepy grimace and the girl began to laugh suddenly.
“I'm sorry,” Amber murmured. “Please don't laugh. Go pick out your dream pet.” She felt humiliated and the tears spilled out, onto her blanket, onto her fur, onto Allie. She had had the perfect chance to go with this nice girl and now she was stuck in the dreary old Pound.
But suddenly the girl's giggly face turned into one of care and giving. “You're perfect,” she whispered. And the next thing Amber knew, she was being taken out of the cage, her angelpuss following, and sitting in the waiting room while the girl filled out the adoption forms. Amber could hardly believe it was happening. She kept squirming and biting her nails until the girl came back out and said, “Let's go!”
On the way through the Neopian streets, the girl explained that her name was Sarah and she had been wanting to adopt a pet for a long time. “The others are excited, too,” she added with a grin.
“The... the others?” Amber stammered, glancing up at her new owner. She hadn't exactly been the most sociable girl in her old town in Terror Mountain. No one really liked her there - these pets probably wouldn't be any different.
“Yep! I've got three siblings at home for you. Kara, Snow, and Dana - you'll love them. I have your room all set up for you. Getting ready for a fourth pet took so much time and effort... not to mention neopoints!”
Amber began to shake. So tons of neopoints had been spent on her... that was not good. “Something wrong?” Sarah asked gently.
Amber looked up at her and said more than she had in the weeks she'd been in the pound. “I'm... I'm not really good with other pets. I never was. In my old town in Terror Mountain, they made fun of me. They laughed at me and pushed me down. And now you're saying that you have three other pets and you spent neopoints on me? It just... doesn't feel right.” She looked down at the snowy ground, preparing for Sarah to tell her that it was time to take her back to the pound.
But she was quickly wrapped into a hug and felt Sarah's warm puffs of breath on her fur. “Oh, it's okay,” the girl murmured. “The others are simply ecstatic, waiting for you to come home. 'When's the new kid coming home?' and 'Did you go to the Pound today?' is all I hear from them! Believe me, I know that they don't mind that I spent a couple extra neopoints on you. Now come on... let's go home. I'll race you to the end of the block!”
Amber smiled. “Th... thanks,” she whispered to no one in particular, and happily chased after Sarah, laughing all the way.
The rest of the journey home was great. They went into a small, modest, sweet-smelling house and were immediately pounced on by three other neopets. They bombarded Amber with questions and hand-made gifts, and listened to her tales of Terror Mountain in awe. Amber had fun with her new siblings; each of them was an individual and did their own thing. She couldn't have been happier.
The sound of the door opening made everyone's ears perk up. “Guys!” It was Sarah's voice. “Guys, I got a holiday bonus at my job in the National Neopian! So I got you all gifts!”
Everyone scrambled out of the living room and sat around their owner. Allie the angelpuss mewed and batted at her shopping bag. Sarah chuckled. “Golly, you'd think that none of you had had a present in your life!” Amber glanced at the floor awkwardly. “Oh, sorry honey,” Sarah said.
“You've never had a present before?” Snow asked, blinking.
“Watch your tongue!” Sarah scolded angrily. “That's not nice, Snow.”
“It's okay,” Amber said softly. “I just realized something... my old owner never gave me presents, but I have had a present before. It's a... very special gift. And I got it very recently.”
“What is it?” Dana whispered.
Amber looked up, smiling softly. “It's family.”