Becky was a Poogle in a hurry. She raced along the streets of Neopia Central, swivelling her head to glance at shop windows as she passed. It was Mellie’s birthday party, and she had forgotten to buy a present. The shadow Bori wasn’t a great friend of hers; in fact she barely knew her and had been surprised to receive an invitation, but she had nothing better to do and she couldn’t turn up to the party, which, incidentally, started in less than two hours, without a gift.
So far she was having no luck. Nothing she saw in her momentary glances caught her eye, and she didn’t really know Mellie well enough to be able to search for specific items. Come on, there must be something somewhere! she thought. By now she was running through the smaller, mismatched market shops. A fat drop of rain splashed onto her pink fur, but she hardly noticed it, nor the increasingly bad conditions of the road.
Suddenly, she tripped on an uneven patch of paving stone, landing heavily in a muddy puddle and painfully twisting her ankle. Groaning, she clambered slowly to her feet, only to fall back to the ground as she tried to put weight on her injured foot. By this time it was teeming down with rain and there was no one about.
“Help!” she shouted at the top of her voice. “Please, help me!”
There was no response and she waited for a couple of minutes before trying again. This time the door of a rather untidy-looking shop opened slowly and an elderly purple Ixi looked out. “Are you alright, dear?” she asked.
Becky shook her head. “I fell over and I hurt my ankle. I can’t get up.”
“Oh dear me,” said the Ixi, shaking her head. She crossed the road leaning on a walking stick, and helped the Poogle pull herself to her feet. The Ixi was surprisingly strong, and Becky was able to limp inside the shop leaning on her shoulder. The Ixi sat her down on a wooden chair beside the counter.
“Now then, let’s have a look at that ankle, shall we?” she asked gently. She ran her paws over Becky’s foot and smiled. “You’re in luck, dear. I don’t think it’s broken. You’d better wait out the rain in here, and then we’ll see if one of my neighbours can’t be persuaded to help you home. I’ll just go and make a nice pot of tea.”
The Ixi bustled out of the room and Becky was left to ponder her predicament. She would certainly miss the party now, which she didn’t really mind about, but that meant that her owner Grace would be worried about where she was. Still, she couldn’t ask the old shopkeeper to walk to the post office to send a neomail in this weather.
In a few minutes the Ixi returned, carrying a steaming pot of Earl Grey tea and a wooden box. Opening the box she produced a bandage, which she proceeded to tie expertly around Becky’s foot and lower leg. “I’m so sorry my dear, I never told you my name,” she said suddenly. “I’m Theresa.”
“I’m Becky,” the Poogle replied.
“What were you doing out here, Becky?” Theresa asked. “We don’t get many visitors down here.”
“I was looking for a present to take to a birthday party,” Becky replied. “But I’m going to miss it now.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, my dear,” Theresa said. “Is the party for a girl or boy?”
“My friend Mellie. She’s a shadow Bori.”
Theresa looked thoughtful. “I may have just the thing. Wait here for a second.” She disappeared behind a door. In a few minutes she was back, holding a small wooden box. Proudly she presented it to Becky, who took it carefully and opened it. Nestled inside was a beautiful silver bracelet, made from hundreds of thin braided wires with miniscule glass beads strung on.
“It’s beautiful!” gasped Becky.
The old Ixi smiled. “I’ve been saving it for a special customer like yourself for a long time. Would you like to buy it?”
“How much?” Becky asked, mentally counting the neopoints she had with her.
“Two thousand neopoints.”
“Only two thousand?” She had expected it to cost ten times that.
“Of course. I’m not interested in getting rich, only in making people happy. And now the rain’s stopped, my dear, let’s see how well your ankle’s doing.”
Becky found that she could stand quite well by now with only a slight limp, so she thanked and said goodbye to Theresa, and headed for Mellie’s with the box containing the bracelet. She should have just enough time.
After she had walked a little way, she stopped and looked at the bracelet again. It was even more beautiful than she remembered. Becky wished that she could have it for herself. She could stop and buy something, anything for Mellie; she still had enough money. She could even miss the party altogether, with her hurt ankle as an excuse. To the Poogle it didn’t seem fair that she should have to give up this beautiful gift to someone she hardly knew, when she herself wanted it so much.
What would Mellie do? she asked herself. She tried to convince herself that she too would keep it. The problem was that she didn’t really know very much at all about the Bori. Mellie was very quiet at school, and was more likely to be found in the library reading a book than outside talking and laughing loudly and mucking around, as Becky did. No one really knew her. She was very clever, and good, and the teachers liked her, but she didn’t have very many friends. Some pets said that this was because she was stuck up and thought herself too good for the rest of them, but thinking about it, Becky couldn’t remember her ever having acted in a stuck up way.
On the contrary, Becky found herself remembering many tiny acts Mellie had done to help people. Instantly giving up half her lunch to someone who had forgotten his, using her lunch break to make posters for an event the class was holding, even though she had known then that she wouldn’t be able to be there, giving everyone Christmas cards and getting none back and still be smiling, helping Becky understand a tricky bit of maths for a test...
And these good deeds weren’t done back to her, Becky realised guiltily. Mellie helped people so naturally that they didn’t even notice. She was labelled as stuck up for being a book lover and chronically shy, and ignored when she tried to join in.
And she would definitely have given away the bracelet.
Sighing, the pink Poogle opened the box and looked at it again. It was very beautiful, and she still desperately wanted it, but Mellie should have it. It was her birthday and she deserved it. Realising that she had been walking very slowly, she glanced at a clock displayed in a window of a shop and realised that she was going to be late, but it couldn’t be helped.
Eventually she found the right street, and hesitated outside the house. She was probably about a quarter of an hour late, but it wasn’t too bad. For the last time Becky opened the box, but this time her mind was fully made up and she was only having a last look.
Confidently she climbed the steps and rang the doorbell. It was opened almost immediately by Mellie, looking happy and excited.
“Becky!” she cried in delight. “I didn’t think you’d come!”
Becky smiled sheepishly. “Happy Birthday!”
“Thank you! Do you want to come in?”
Becky stepped inside the house. There were balloons everywhere, and a table covered with yummy-looking food was visible in the next room, but there was no noise apart from a Twisted Roses CD. “Who else is here?” she asked.
Mellie shrugged and sighed slightly. “You’re the only one. Everyone else I invited neomailed me to say that they were too busy.”
“And you don’t mind?” asked Becky, shocked. If she threw a party and no one turned up, she would be heartbroken!
“Nah, I’m used to it.” Mellie smiled. “You’re the person I most wanted to come, though. I always thought that you were really nice. Now, shall we start on the food?”
“Hang on a second,” Becky said, holding out the wooden box. “This is for you.”
She watched happily as the Bori looked inside, her eyes widening with disbelief. “Wow, it’s beautiful! I love it! Thank you so much!” Mellie slipped it onto her arm, where it looked truly stunning against her black fur.
Becky smiled. “I’m glad you like it.”
To all the "Mellies" in the world - someone out there appreciates you. :)