Rejection: Natalia's Story
"No way! I can't believe this..." A waterfall of tears rolled down Natalia's cheeks. "Impossible! You’re getting rid of me!" The young blue Ixi was close to falling to the floor. Her knees weakened and her face grew red and hot, and felt as if it would explode.
"Now Natalia, don't think of it like that! This will be an adventure for you! Out on your own, able to explore all of Neopia as you please with no one there to tell you what you can and can't do!"
This was just making things worse. Natalia collapsed to the floor and sobbed more and more.
"Couldn't you at least take me to the pound instead of leaving me in the street!" But she knew this was impossible. When her owner, a brown-haired boy named Jimmy, had announced he was quitting Neopets, he gave all his neopoints to his friends with not a single one left. He didn't have the money to take her to the pound, her or her four brothers. Max, the second eldest next to her, Homer, and LJ, the youngest. They had not had the news broken to them yet.
"Now, Natalia! You know full well I can't do that! Now, I want you to go to your room, pack your things, and get out of here!"
He hated her, she just then realized as she heard him say that with such impact it bored straight to her soul. As she saw his eyes, cold as ice, glaring at her. Then her own eyes turned cold. She marched up to her room and packed her things, first a Yellow Kougra Plushie that Homer had given her for Christmas one year, then a picture of her family, from which she took some scissors and cut Jimmy out. She packed all her things in a small cloth bag, a birthday present from Max, and threw herself out of her second-floor window. She hit the ground hard, but she didn't care. She had no reason to care; no one cared about her, so she cared about no one, and she walked through the cold, dark, lonely streets of Neopia Central.
Then she thought of something out loud. "I have nothing," she said quietly to herself. "Nothing... No home. No food. No friends. No money... Nothing."
"Who say ya'll got nothin'?" came a voice from behind her.
She demanded without turning around, "Who are you?"
"Lonely travla' name's Bill. What's ya'll's name?"
"You don't care. No one cares." She still didn't turn.
Bill chuckled. "Ya'll got a perty good point there," he said, "Ain't no body carin for me either."
At this point, Natalia turned. She saw Bill was a Lupe. His fur was a light gray, almost white, and his eyes were sky blue. Bill's fur was raggedy in some places, and in others matted down. Natalia became more inviting to the stranger. She wasn't alone. She wasn't the only neopet nobody cared for.
"Now what's all this bout' ya'll havin' nothin'? Why, ya'll gots your health, that's somethin', ain't it?" Bill said.
"Well, I suppose."
"And ya'll got'cha youth, unlike me!" Bill chuckled again.
Natalia laughed. "Well, I guess you're right, I guess I do have something. But health and youth won't give me a home. They won't get me a warm bed. They won't get me food and shelter."
"Now maybe not," Bill said, "but they somethin, so ya ain't got nothin', ya got somethin'! And they ain't all ya'll got."
"Really? What else is there?"
"Why? Ya'll got me, we' in this together now, and ain't nothin' gonna break us 'part!"
And then Natalia knew, that no matter how far you are from home, no matter how hopeless things seem, out there somewhere, somebody cares. You just have to find him.
"Now, I don't believe I evuh got ya'll's name. So, what'll it be?"
"Well, Natalia, I think we better get somethin' to eat 'fore we starve, what bout' ya'll?"
"That sounds great, Bill, a little country, but great!"
Bill laughed. "Well, Natalia! Ya'll got yerself a good sense a' humor! That's 'nother thing ya'll got!"
Bill took Natalia to an area she'd never seen before. "Now, since ya' fur's still all nice an' neat, i'ma sayin ya'll got kicked out bout... two days ago?"
"Actually, it was about an hour ago."
"Makes sense," he said. "Dumb humans, always thinkin' they can just up-an-abandon' their pets like that. It's a shame, it's a shame." Bill walked further and Natalia realized where they were. They were at the Neopia Central food shop.
"Bill, you have money?"
"Nah, what gave ya'll that idea?" he said.
"Well, you were going to the food store, and we need money to buy food, so..."
"Who say we were gonna buy food?"
"You mean we're going to steal food!"
"Nah! Nah! We gonna work fer some food!"
Natalia had never heard of this concept before. "Work for food? How?"
"We go in an' ask the shop owner if he be needin' anythin' done. Then when he say yes, we say we do it fer some food. Get it?"
"Yes, but what if he doesn't need anything done?"
"Natalia, this be a shop; shop owners always be needin' somethin' done."
So the pair strode into the shop. They passed aisle upon aisle of delicious food that made Natalia's mouth water. She'd only been gone about an hour and a half, but it felt like weeks since she'd eaten. Finally they came upon a small counter with a yellow Chia in a white chef hat behind it. Bill walked up to him and said, "Es'cuse me sir, ya'll be needin' anythin' done round' yer shop?"
The Chia turned around and said, "Well, I do have some chores that need to be done. Restocking, cleaning, that sort of thing. Why?"
"We could do it for you," Natalia said, "if you could perhaps spare some hungry, cold, homeless neopets some food?" Natalia made her eyes go really puffy like she was about to cry. She had mastered this trick when LJ had continually tried to take over the destructo match two game. She'd puff up her eyes and say, 'but it's my turn,' and then LJ would back off.
"Well, I suppose so," the shopkeeper said. "Okay, just take these canned peas and put them with the rest of the canned peas on the shelf, and when you're done with that, take this broom and sweep the floor."
Natalia laid her small cloth bag on the ground and took the things, then she picked up the bag, made her eyes grow puffy and said to the shopkeeper, "Will you put this behind the counter before me so no one will steal it?" The shopkeeper obliged and the bag was safely hidden away.
Bill said, "Wunnerful work, Natalia. Now, les get on them chores." Natalia stocked the shelves while Bill swept the floor. The dust from the floor made Bill sneeze and some of the stuff Natalia had to stack was so heavy her arms felt like they would fall off.
When the tasks were finished the shopkeeper said, "Well done, you two. Here's the food you asked for." He handed them three cloth sacks, two containing food, the other being the one Natalia had brought with her.
"Thank ya'll fer the food," Bill said as he turned around and walked out the door.
"Thank you for the service!" the shopkeeper yelled back.
Bill and Natalia walked along the street for a while longer when Bill said, "Say, Natalia, what's in that cloth bag of yours?"
Natalia fished around in the bag and pulled out the photograph. "This is a picture of my family; this is my brother Max." She pointed to a red Ixi at the left of the picture. "And this is my brother Homer." She pointed to a green Ixi a little smaller than the first at the right of the picture. "And this is my brother LJ." Then she pointed to the smallest Ixi who was at the bottom of the picture.
"Who was in the spot ya'll cut out?"
"My former owner, Jimmy. He hates me. He quit Neopets and gave all his money to his friends so that he couldn't send me to the pound where at least I’d have a roof over my head and a place to sleep and..." She broke into tears. She couldn't help herself; she lay down on the cold street sobbing like she was still in pre-school.
Then Bill came up and put a firm paw on her shoulder, "There there, everythin's gonna be alright. Put all dat 'hind ya'll now. It’s gonna be ok." And Natalie believed him, she put the picture back in the cloth bag, and the two friends traveled off into the distance together and they knew. Somebody cares; maybe not your owner, maybe not your friends, maybe not your teacher, maybe not your siblings. Even if it's just a stranger with a strong country accent and matted down fur. Somebody cares.
"Say, what else is in that bag of yers?"
Natalia pulled out the Yellow Kougra Plushie, then realized something she didn't notice when she packed it. There was a note tucked in the plushie's collar. She took the note out, unfolded it, and read.
I am sorry I had to let you go. I hope you know why, and hope you understand that I still love you, and wish you the best while you travel alone out there.
Your loving former-owner,
Natalia cried at that moment. She felt horrible that she'd cut Jimmy's picture out of the photograph. She knew he was right; she knew he was sorry. And she knew he still loved her. But there was one thing he was wrong about. She wasn't alone. She had Bill, a random, country-talking, matted fur Lupe off the street. And the best friend she ever had.
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