A Poem of Friendship
Also by goosher
How could she have let this happen? Should she not have stood up for her rights as a proud Neopet? Why hadn’t she crusaded to stop this injustice? But it was too late now. Tina the Cybunny had moved.
It was fairly lonely, Tina noticed, as she walked down Neopia Central’s Main Street. No one was here but the shopkeepers, and they were still setting up. As she strolled underneath the generous boughs of the Money Tree, a small gift plopped down beside her. A pouch containing 250 Neopoints rested at her feet. She smiled warmly at the Tree, the dawn filtering through the branches and splattering her with light.
Another theme was here, Tina realized, but it was subtler. A few pink hearts, scattered along the plaza, told her the truth: Valentine’s Day would be soon. And so would come the sappy cards, boxes of chocolates, roses, and another year for Tina without a Valentine. As she turned the corner leading to her new school, her holiday troubles were put out of the Cybunny’s mind.
Nobody was here. The entire schoolyard was deserted, so she hurriedly checked the school clock, hoping she wasn’t late. The clock read 6:35 NST. She wasn’t very late. She was very early. She settled down and read until students started trickling like a stream towards the school. She hated being new.
“Not again!” thought the Ogrin as he raced down an alleyway of Neopia Central. He was going to be late again. But that was nothing new for Veelen, the Ogrin was used to being late. And then to make matters worse, he was stopped.
“Hello, hello,” whispered the wind. The sound echoed in the small, tight alley. Veelen came to a halt. Turning his head quickly, scanning the whole alleyway. Suddenly, a few ghosts popped out of the walls. “Our boss, the Money Tree, needs some more neopoints. He just gave the last few out a few minutes ago.” The ghosts attacked him and sent him to crashing to the ground. “Thanks,” said the ghosts flying quickly towards the tree, bouncing the neopoints they stole up and down in their hands.
“Why me?!” sobbed Veelen, slowly getting up.
In the distance, a clock chimed seven times, telling the city it was now seven in the morning. He was late. He left the alleyway and walked down Neopia Central’s Main Street, giving up all hope of running. He wondered how when the city was so beautiful decorated with Valentine items he could be so sad. As he walked past the Money Tree, it smiled at him but all Veelen could do was let out another sob. When he finally approached the school, it was deserted, yet he could hear sounds from the inside. The now dirty, sad Ogrin gathered his stuff and went to class. “Another day...” he mumbled.
Tina spied the small red Ogrin walk by her early in the morning. She was instantly intrigued. Was he so sad that he did not notice her? Or perhaps he was simply aloof, not caring about greeting his classmates. As the Ogrin turned the corner, Tina heard two raspy voices whispering near her.
“We got him good, didn’t we, dearie?” Tina turned and saw herself staring into the face of a Money Tree ghost. His ragged flesh contrasted the haunted joy sparking in his eyes.
“Yeah,” he continued, as Tina stood stock-still, held by fear. “We tooks all of his’s money, we lefts not cents for hims to save.” The ghost grinned maniacally, and Tina did what any sensible Neopet could do: turned and ran away.
Tina spied the Ogrin sitting under a tree. His tears had subsided but an air of depression was around him. She noticed he was writing down something, and she hid as he looked around before reciting.
“The symbols, rosy, like a flower/ Hearts kept tighter than a tower/ Only my young heart is sour/ The only one around without power.”
Tina was touched. This Ogrin, instead of keeping his feelings bottled up, had released them in verse. One last thought crossed her mind: She had to meet him.
Veelen felt something staring at him and then he heard it, a small sound, like something escaping from a bush. He turned around and he saw her running away, he saw a pure white Cybunny with small amounts of pink around the neck. “Who is she?” He never noticed her before and he knew that with her beauty, he would have noticed her. “She must be new.” Veelen smiled for the first time that day. But then she turned around and she looked at him square in the eyes. Veelen got up and ran. “She must think I’m stupid or something now,” he thought to himself.
Tina smiled at him but it was an awkward smile. She couldn’t help it but she was surprised he was smiling at her. “Wait!” she called to him but he was gone. “Who are you?” she said softly to herself. She noticed he left his poem down by the tree. At the top, it said Veelen. She smiled once again. “Nice to meet you, Veelen,” she whispered to no one, but Veelen was now her closest friend, yet Tina hasn’t even met him yet. She took a sheet of paper and wrote, “My name is Tina” and laid it down on the poem. She gathered her supplies and started walking home. “Nice to meet you, Veelen,” she whispered again. She knew this move of hers would be worth it.
Veelen stared at her as she walked away. He saw she wrote something and laid it on his poem. “Wait! She read my poem!” Veelen ran back to his notebook and picked it up and shoved it into his bag. A small note fell from his notebook. He read it through multiple times even though all it read was “My name is Tina.” “Tina” he said to himself as he looked towards the sky. He noticed the Valentine decorations again. And he spoke to the sky as he said, “Tina, would you be my Valentine?” He started to run home. “I must prepare for Valentine’s Day!” he said with a grin.
The next day, class had begun and it was Tina's second day. The students had made a small fuss over Tina, her being the new girl. But soon she was settled in perfectly, though she noticed sadly that Veelen wasn’t in her class. She asked her new friend about him.
“You mean that weird kid who’s always writing poems? What do you want to know?”
Her mouth had answered, “I don’t know,” but her mind had answered, “Everything.”
The two, now curious with each other, had a chance meeting again near the end of school. As Tina made her way to her locker, introducing herself along the way, Veelen had been walking towards her, not noticing her but still lost in thought. As the two bumped elbows they looked up.
“Tina,” Veelen began.
“Veelen,” Tina started.
But then Tina’s friends had rushed her aside, and their accidental face-to-face was over. Tina heard what her friends were saying but didn’t listen. She needed to meet him.
Veelen went at home immediately after school, writing poem after poem, but scribbling the rhymes away and tossing the poems into the wastebasket. He needed the best poem he had ever written. It had to be supreme. After a few more beginnings, scribbles, and then another toss to the garbage, the Ogrin made a mental note to go to the craft store later. He would need a lot of supplies for what he had in mind.
Tina hung around after school, looking at the various clubs and trying to decide which to enroll in. She stopped as she reached the second last club: Poetry. She stepped inside, her eyes scanning the room for any sign of the Ogrin. Veelen was gone, though. She asked the Poetry Club's president about him.
"Yeah, he's enrolled in this club but not once has he ever gone to a meeting. He comes in here when no one else is here and he posts a poem or two on the wall and asks for criticisms. His poems are some of the best works I've ever seen." The president led Tina to the nearby wall showing her some of his poems.
Tina spied one poem, tacked to the wall in the dusty corner. She sidestepped a fire Krawk with a beret and read it.
“Lonely here, beneath the moon,
Lonely, nothing happenin’ soon,
Lonely, and my quill will croon,
A sonnet, with a sorrowed tune.”
Tina pulled out a quill and wrote in the criticisms box, “Nothing could ever be wrong with this poem.” As she read the other poems, the Krawk from earlier came up to her.
“Hello, the name’s Rateh,” said the Krawk in a heavy accent. “I haven’t ever seen you here before and I know everyone.” He laughed but it sounded like a cackling fire.
“Hi, my name is Tina,” said the Cybunny shyly; something didn’t feel right about this neopet.
She turned to read the other poems but Rateh grabbed her paw and held it tight. “Would you like to hang out sometime?”
“Sorry, gotta go!” she said as she squirmed out of his grasp, and she was out the door.
Rateh stared in disbelief as she left. No one has ever rejected the friendship of Rateh, the coolest neopet in school. He went over to Veelen’s poem and read the criticism that she left him. “So she would rather hang out with the freak,” he snarled. “We’ll see about that!”
As Tina walked along the path, her head lost in Veelen’s poems, she saw Veelen walking down the street, oblivious to her. He carried a bag from the craft store. The two met again, but this time they were alone in the street.
“Hello,” said Tina.
“Uh, hello,” said Veelen quickly, hiding the bag from view.
“I liked your...” Tina began.
“I have to go,” Veelen interrupted, and raced home.
“... poems,” Tina finished, but she was again tossed into the enigma that was Veelen.
Tina had been trying to track down Veelen, but with little success. All she had managed to find out from his teachers was that his interest in art had greatly improved. It seemed he had been working on a ‘top-secret project’ for days.
Again they had met a few times before in the hall, but Veelen always left quickly. Tina settled into melancholy. Why wouldn’t he talk to her?
He decided not to talk to her. It would be a far better surprise if she didn’t suspect a thing, Veelen thought, as he sprinkled glitter and confetti together. The gift was coming long supremely, but the poem wasn’t down pat.
Crafting a perfect poem took up most of his time. He would sit alone, under the tree where he first saw her, and compose line after line, but nothing worked. It was only at midnight, after a long night writing in a bed filled with scraps of paper that he came up with something good enough. Good enough for her.
Tina was getting frustrated. Why did Veelen elude her whenever she got close to him? Instead of doubling her efforts, she gave up. It was obvious he didn’t like her. Her heart and finally been broken. And on Valentine’s Day.
Veelen was elated on Valentine’s Day. He had his project in his back pocket, and he knew that Tina would be his Valentine. But when he passed her in the yard, she frowned at him. He would have asked what was wrong, but he needed to get to the art room and put the last touches on his masterpiece
It was the afternoon; all the pets would be exchanging cards soon, and nothing made Veelen happier. He sniffed the air. Was that smoke?
Veelen turned around and saw his backpack was on fire. Three scarlet claw marks, spewing flames, were etched into the fabric. Rateh was standing next to him, grinning happily.
“Rateh!” Veelen exclaimed. “What did you do that for?” Veelen and Rateh weren’t friends, but they were on good terms. Why did he set his pack on fire?
“She’s mine!” the Krawk hissed, and it hit the Ogrin like a brick wall. Rateh wanted Tina to be his Valentine, and he had destroyed his project! He might have, would’ve fought him, but his pack was on fire!
“FIRE!” the Ogrin bellowed, and everyone screamed. The students and teachers rushed from the classroom and ran toward the field outside.
Tina was outside when she heard the holler. She saw a plume of smoke trickle, then pour out the window. She ran to the field like everyone else, but noticed Veelen wasn’t there. He was still in the school!
“My project,” cried Veelen as he dropped to his knees. Students streamed by him, running and screaming, yet all Veelen cared about was his gift for Tina inside his pack. He started ripping at his bag, hoping to get his project out safely. His hands were burned by the fire on the pack but he could not feel the pain; he wanted that gift. As soon as he got the pack open, he realized he was too late. The project was melting and the only thing that remained from the poem was a small heap of ash. “No,” he sobbed as he stared in disbelief. Soon the smoke and the heat was overpowering and he knew he had to get out. He got up and sprinted towards the doors to the outside. When he escaped, he heard something crash down behind him. He barely made it out. He was covered in smoke residue and his hands were stinging. None of that mattered, though; his gift for Tina was ruined. He slowly walked over to her.
“Veelen,” Tina asked, “what is going on?”
Veelen explained. “Tina, I made you a fantastic Valentine’s Day gift. I’ve been hiding it from you for days. It got destroyed in the fire. I really wanted you to be my Valentine, and I wanted to give you the gift so bad.”
“What was the gift?” Tina asked.
Veelen smiled. “A poem, about us. I memorized it night after night.”
“Can I hear it?”
The two were oblivious to the burning schoolhouse as Veelen recited his poem.
“Tina, you’re my closest friend,
Our friendship will never end,
Thoughts of you do fill my mind,
Will you be my Valentine?”
As soon as Veelen rhymed his question, the heavens opened up and rain poured down onto the school, extinguishing the fire. All the pets cheered madly, except for Veelen and Tina, who were too focused.
“Veelen, you’re my closest friend,
There’s no way our friendship will end,
Every day you’re on my mind,
Of course I’ll be your Valentine.”