The Green-Eyed Monster
The day had started like any other. Bella had gotten up, eaten a hearty breakfast (a bacon and broccoli omelette, her favorite), and gone for a quick jog through the forest. And then her world had fallen apart.
Bella had ended her morning run by a river, liking the feel of the wet spray on her sweaty fur. She’d still been catching her breath when a red Lutari sprang from the water, soaking her. “Hey!” Bella had cried, more from surprise than anger.
The Lutari giggled. “Sorry—oh, Bella, is that you?”
Bella had squinted, wiping water out of her eyes. Her annoyance dissipated instantly when she recognized the scarlet neopet—it was Laney, one of her closest friends. Laney had been on vacation in the Lost Desert for the past two weeks, and Bella hadn’t even known she was back. “I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you,” she said, giving the Lutari a hug. “How was your trip?”
“Oh, fantastic,” Laney had said, her voice a touch too casual. Bella raised an eyebrow; she knew when her friend was keeping a secret. “Okay, it was more than fantastic,” she admitted, grinning. “I got a Kepru!”
Bella had staggered back, literally rendered speechless by this announcement. Neither she nor Laney had ever had a petpet before, and thusly, they’d spent many an hour fantasizing about their dream choices. Laney had always wanted a Tasu, whereas Bella’d wished for the pet her friend now owned—a tiny, adorable Kepru.
“I know!” Laney had cried, mistaking her friend’s silence for awe. “Isn’t it great? She’s so little, but I’ve already taught her a ton of tricks! You’ll love her. I named her Mittens, because she has the sweetest little paws....”
Bella, who had been choking on her own fury, hadn’t been able to stand it a moment longer. She’d garbled an excuse and ran home, immediately bursting into tears. Mittens, as she’d often confessed to Laney, was her favorite moniker for a petpet. But now Laney had stolen it, just like she’d stolen the Kepru. “Mean, mean, mean!” the Xweetok had sobbed.
Now, three hours later, Bella’s tears had dried. However, her attitude towards Laney was chiller than ever. She was still in disbelief that her friend would betray her so; surely, she thought, if she’d purchased a Tasu, Laney would’ve been upset. Nevertheless, Bella didn’t want to be mean, and when the Lutari showed up on her doorstep that afternoon, she pasted on a smile and let her inside.
“You left in such a hurry this morning that I didn’t even get to ask you to come see her!” Laney pouted, setting down a small carrier. “So instead, I brought her to you!”
“Fantastic,” muttered Bella. When Laney caught her eye, she cleared her throat and elaborated, “That, um, I get to see her so soon!”
“I know!” said Laney, leaning down and unzipping the carrier. “Mittens!” she cooed, and a moment later, the most adorable petpet Bella had ever seen raced into her living room. He was, like most Keprus, a salmon color, with huge ears and an adorable, wagging tail. Excitedly, Mittens began racing around the room, faster and faster, before collapsing on a sunny patch of the floor. Laney looked on fondly, reminding Bella of a doting mother.
Beginning to feel irked, she said hesitantly, “Um, Laney, I’m just curious, but why didn’t you get a Tasu? Wasn’t that the kind you wanted?”
“The Tasu isn’t from the Lost Desert, though.” Laney looked at her quizzically. “Are you okay? You look a little weird.”
“And... and why Mittens? For a name? Only two of her paws are white,” Bella continued, hating the strangled, angry timbre of her voice.
Laney’s eyes narrowed, and she strode over to Mittens, scooping him up. When she turned around, her face was even redder than usual, as if her anger was manifesting itself on her fur. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?” she said quietly. “I should’ve known.”
“Yes, you should have!” cried Bella. “I wanted a Kepru! I wanted to use the name Mittens! You stole them!”
Laney rolled her eyes. “Bella, you don’t have the monopoly on petpets. Lots of people have them.” She softened, giving Bella a hesitant smile. “Look, if you want, we can, like, co-own her. You can play with her whenever.”
“It’s—it’s not the same!” Bella blustered, unable to put what she was feeling into words. It wasn’t, she realized, that Laney had bought a Kepru; it was that Laney had bought her Kepru, right down to the frosted paws and adorable yap. “It’s the principle of the thing.”
“Whatever,” Laney snapped, gently returning Mittens to his carrier and heading out the door. When she was on the last step, she turned to Bella, shaking her head. “Some friend you are.”
“Right back at you!” Bella yelled, but the quick Lutari was already halfway down the walk.
The next day, Bella awoke with a smile. Today, she thought to herself, hopping out of bed, will be a fantastic day. I’ll swim, and go to the Chocolate Factory, and talk to my friends, and— Thinking of Laney, she instantly stopped her reverie. In a rush, yesterday’s events came flooding back to her, and Bella had to blink back tears. Now that she had more perspective, she was being a horrible friend.
“What have I done?” she wondered; how could she have alienated Laney over something as silly as a petpet’s species? “I have to make it up to her,” Bella muttered, running down the stairs and into the kitchen.
Bella, as a Xweetok, was very good at certain things. Climbing tress, for example, and running. Volleyball, too, and card games like Cheat! came easily to her. Cooking, however, had never been Bella’s strong point.
She fumbled with her apron strings, trying to read her only cookbook as she tied on the white smock. “One bag of flour...” she read, wrinkling her nose. “Butter, blah, blah, blah, sugar...” Bella had decided to make cookies with berries from a Cheops plant; the strange snack was Laney’s favorite, and Bella was sure they’d win her over.
Despite her good intentions, though, the first batch burnt to a crisp. Panicked—she had enough dough for another lot, but not enough ingredients to make more dough should she fail again—Bella stationed herself directly in front of the oven, watching her cookies’ progress carefully. It was dull, and the kitchen was hot, but she felt terrible about how she’d acted. While it was somewhat inconsiderate of Laney to steal her name, it was clear that she’d done so unintentionally, and Bella planned to be the bigger person. With a jolt, she realized her snack looked completed, and she almost burned her paw in her haste to remove them from the oven.
To Bella’s amazement—she had never cooked anything even passably edible in her life—the cookies were perfect, golden brown and delicious. Packing all but one—a cookie Bella had used to taste-test—in a fancy basket, Bella headed down to Laney’s house, ready to make amends.
She knocked on the door, surprised to find that it opened under the weight of her hand. “Laney?” Bella called hesitantly, not wanting to simply barge in.
“In here!” Laney shouted, voice distant. Bella frowned; judging by her cheerful tone, she either didn’t know who it was, or she’d already forgiven her. Shrugging, the Xweetok followed the sound. To her surprise, Laney was sitting on her kitchen floor, playing with a petpet that was distinctly not Mittens. Instead, a blue Tasu frolicked on her floor, making gurgling noises.
Deciding to bypass the touchy petpet issue, Bella thrust the basket at her, eyes already brimming with regretful tears. “I’m so sorry, Laney. You were right. I was just jealous, and I acted horrible.”
A smile twitched at the corner of Laney’s mouth, and she got to her feet, eyes widening as she took in the basket’s contents. “You... baked? For me?” After giving Bella a quick hug, she bustled off into another room, calling, “I’ve got something for you, too!”
Bella frowned. It made her feel vaguely guilty to get a gift in return; the only thing she wanted from Laney was her forgiveness. Before she could say this, however, Laney had reappeared in the kitchen, holding Mittens. “Here!” she beamed, thrusting the petpet at Bella.
Bella took the small petpet into her arms; Mittens looked up at her adoringly. “I—I don’t understand,” she stammered finally, utterly confused.
“She’s for you, silly!” Laney giggled, then, seeing her friend’s face, elaborated. “I bought her for you, Bella! As a souvenir from my trip!”
“But—then—why did you pretend she was yours?” asked Bella, still perplexed.
Laney smirked. “I wanted to see the look on your face when I told you I’d totally copied you! I never meant to keep it up, but I got kind of carried away.” The Lutari made a face. “Why would I want a Kepru? Their ears look like bat wings!”
Bella just stared at her for a moment, then burst into laughter, setting Mittens on the floor beside Laney’s Tasu. Her giggles were contagious, and soon, the friends were rolling on the ground with their pets, reunited once more.