Clumsy Claudia and the Great Negg Hunt: Part Four
Also written by autbum
Shock hit Claudia like tidal wave, and she staggered under its impact. She still couldn’t believe that the egg was gone! She pounded again on Helen’s door.
“Huh?” Helen asked groggily, her voice muffled through her pillow.
“The egg is gone! Someone must have stolen it!” Claudia paced around frantically, positively hysterical.
“You just had a nightmare, darling. Go back to sleep,” called Helen.
“NO! I’m serious! The egg is gone!” Claudia screamed, tired of not being believed. Everything felt hopeless; her heart seemed to sink and surrender into her gut, which was already writhing like a Cobrall pit.
Zombie-like, Helen rose sleepily from her bed and came to the door. She saw Claudia in hysterics and knelt down to her level. “Okay, calmly now, explain to me what happened,” she said kindly but firmly, putting her hand on Claudia’s shoulder in reassurance.
“I was sleeping, and I heard this loud noise. The light was off, but I saw a broken window, and...” Claudia paused. She didn’t want to explain that she had seen Jenna. Despite everything, Claudia still nursed a tiny ember of hope that one day, she and Jenna would be friends. She was embarrassed that Jenna hated her so much that she would break into her home and steal her sibling! Besides, it was simply too much to explain—and she’d have to explain that she lied earlier about the cracked Negg. “That’s all I saw. When I looked at my dresser, the egg was gone,” Claudia faltered lamely.
Helen regarded her critically; something in the tone of Claudia’s voice made her think she was hiding something. All the same, she gave Claudia a quick but tight hug.
“It’s okay, honey. We can handle this. First, search the whole house for it, just in case we misplaced it and your window broke on accident. If we can’t find it, we’ll just go straight to the Defenders of Neopia to help us look for it,” said Helen. Her face was calm and determined; she was the pillar of strength that Claudia so desperately needed. Grateful, Claudia enveloped her in a strong hug.
After an intense search, nothing was found. They had turned their whole house inside out. Couch cushions were scattered haphazardly around the room. Tables were overturned. Books were torn from their shelves carelessly. Claudia searched even more furiously by the minute. It struck Claudia how similar this was to the earlier Hunt, but the feeling in the pit of her stomach was resoundingly different. She was devastated. Their home was in tatters, yet still there was no sign of the Blue Draik Egg. By now, Claudia was red-faced and felt like she was filled up with water just waiting to burst. Helen had even lost her calm façade; now she too was panicking.
Reluctantly, the sun rose. Time had seemed to stop the moment that Claudia’s Blue Draik Egg went missing. Helen tried half-heartedly to get Claudia to eat some breakfast, but Claudia adamantly refused; she had no appetite.
“All right, I’m going to the DoN,” said Helen finally. “Don’t worry, honey. I’m sure they’ll be able to find it. The DoN will help,” she said, trying to reassure Claudia, but she didn’t sound completely convinced. The soft glimmer of hope that shone in Claudia and Helen for the past day had left.
“I have to go out and look too. I can’t just sit here!” Claudia wailed and sobbed into her hands.
“I know, honey, I know. Go ahead and look around; it’ll keep your mind off of things. Just be safe. If you need me, I’ll be at the DoN headquarters,” offered Helen. The two hugged again before they left the house, which had felt increasingly more empty by the minute, and walked in different directions.
“Hurry up, you two!” snapped Jenna. She led Nick and Spike into their secret cave—where it was they weren’t quite sure; they only knew that no one ever seemed to go there— to hide the egg. Stalagmites and stalactites loomed and lurked ominously in the cave, which was quite stuffy and uncomfortable. A pool of unidentified green liquid bubbled on their left. “Put it there, on top of that straw table.”
Dimwittedly, Spike and Nick obliged. They stopped lugging around the heavy egg and set it on top of the hay-covered table. Both looked at her dumbly.
“Now what?” enquired Nick. “Are we just supposed to sit here with it?” He snorted derisively.
“Unless you want to go turn us in, yes!” barked Jenna. She tried to keep a calm exterior, but she was sweating profusely. She grew exponentially more nervous as the minutes wore on. “We’ve got to hide out for a few days. After that, we can pretend that we found it all along and we’ll be th—”
Exactly what Jenna was about to say will never be known, for at that exact moment a nauseatingly loud crack shook the walls of the cave. Each of them looked at the other fearfully; none of them knew what had made that sound. With heavy-laden and guilty consciences, each of them feared the worst, their mind running wild with possibilities.
“LOOK!” Spike shouted, pointing with a trembling finger at the Blue Draik Egg. It hummed and quaked loudly, seemingly possessed. Terror clouded their minds and their ability to think rationally; the fight or flight instinct took control.
“RUN!” Jenna shouted, her voice echoing through the cave boomingly. All three of them tripped and stumbled over themselves trying to get out of the cave first. As Jenna tore out of the cave, she ran directly into the pet she would least like to see: Claudia.
Claudia had been meandering through the fields of Meridell, no longer looking for the egg. Instead, she was lost in melancholy thought. Her nose was scarlet and face was swollen from far too much crying. She was looking down at the ground miserably when she felt the impact of a running body collide with her own. One can imagine her mingled surprise and rage when she saw that the body was none other than Jenna’s. Speechless, she stared at Jenna.
Jenna met Claudia’s eyes blushingly before stumbling. Jenna looked at Claudia apprehensively and corrected her footing; she ran away in a blur, Spike and Nick hot on her heels.
Suddenly, it all clicked in Claudia’s head. She dashed into the cave she knew vaguely as the Draik Nest and let out a huge sigh of relief when she saw her Blue Draik Egg safe and sound—but ready to hatch! She ran over to the twitching, tremulous egg and watched raptly as it hatched. Finally, a crown of blue scales poked through a fissure in the egg; the Draik was finally born. The Draik blinked its long, curled eyelashes at Claudia curiously. Claudia decided that the Draik was definitely a girl.
“I’ll name you Destiny,” whispered Claudia softly to the Draik, whom she had wrapped up in her jacket as a make-shift blanket. Destiny cooed contentedly against Claudia’s shoulder, trustingly lured into sleep by Claudia’s warm presence. Careful not to disturb her baby sister, she walked out of the cave quietly and began the journey toward home.
At last, Claudia and Destiny were home! From down the road, Claudia saw Helen animatedly gesturing toward the broken window to the DoN and trying to explain what happened. “HELEN!” she shouted, waking up Destiny slightly. Destiny regarded her with confused, sleepy eyes. “Hush... it’s okay, go back to sleep,” whispered Claudia. Destiny yawned widely and fell back to sleep almost instantly.
“Claudia! Oh my... it’s the Draik! What happened?” shouted Helen, sprinting toward them.
“It’s a long story,” Claudia began, but one agitated look from Helen told her that she couldn’t hide the truth any longer. She spilled everything: starting from Jenna teasing her at the Hunt all the way until running into Jenna outside of the Draik Nest. When Claudia finished, Helen exhaled sharply.
“I felt like there was something you weren’t telling me. I hope that next time you’ll be able to trust me enough to tell me these important things,” said Helen, fixing Claudia with a brusque glance that she was unable to meet. “All the same, I’m so happy that you found the egg. Now, I think you have someone to introduce me to...” Helen trailed off, gesturing towards Destiny with a grin.
“Oh! This is Destiny!” Claudia exclaimed, carefully placing Destiny in Helen’s arms. The two smiled at Destiny lovingly.
“Destiny,” said Helen softly. “She’s perfect.”
“Ma’am, I’m sorry to interrupt,” the Chia Defender said politely. “But we’re going to need to take a statement and talk to the suspects’ parents.”
The family of three and the Defender walked into the house and sat down on the couch. To the captivated attention of everyone, Claudia explained everything.
Three weeks later, the sun was shining brilliantly with the radiance that only the imminent promise of summer can bring. Destiny and Claudia were walking hand in hand down the street in their neighborhood, laughing joyously and licking drips of ice cream that were running dangerously down the base of their cones, about to fall. Mid-step, Claudia stopped short.
“What’s up?” Destiny asked curiously, licking a drop of melted ice cream that was about to escape. She caught it with her tongue and smiled up at her big sister.
Claudia’s eyes were trained on Jenna, who was mowing the lawn in the sweltering heat clad in her ridiculously opulent dress, her decadent crown about to fall off her head.
“Ugh!” Jenna snarled angrily, letting go of the lawnmower and fixing her crown to sit more stably on top of her head. She caught sight of Claudia staring open-mouthed at her and waved reluctantly. “Hi...” called Jenna nervously, as if caught doing something humiliating.
“Hello,” retorted Claudia in a clipped tone. Her eyes were still fixed furiously on Jenna, who flinched and drew back from her deathly gaze. “Stolen anyone else’s sibling lately?”
“No... I’ve been punished for the past three weeks. I still have a month more to go. My owner was really angry with me when the DoN came...” Jenna finished lamely, staring at a patch of dry grass.
“Oh, that’s too bad that you can’t go anywhere, especially on such a nice day like this,” Claudia said happily, reveling in the fact that the tables were turned. “You can’t even walk the streets with a friend and enjoy the heat with a delicious, refreshing ice cream cone...” Claudia said with a genuine smile, biting into the cone with a satisfying crunch. She waved good-bye and carried on, Destiny following her, bewildered.
“Who was that?” asked Destiny.
“No one important,” answered Claudia with a smile. Destiny shrugged and the two walked on toward home. Claudia smiled luminously, basking in the simple pleasure of her sister’s company and marveling that her luck really had changed. She certainly wasn’t Clumsy Claudia anymore.