Don't Judge a Book (or a Cybunny) By Its Cover
In honor of Mutant Day, and especially for all of the mutants out there who have hearts of gold.
Hanna could hardly contain her excitement. The mutant Cybunny hopped in her seat. Normally neoschool was her favorite part of the day—she got to see all her friends, and she loved learning. Today was different, though. Today she squirmed in her seat, and whispered with her friends, and in math class, she said that one plus one was eleven. She was preparing to dash out to recess, but Ms. Amund said, “Hanna, please stay for a moment.” Hanna flushed hotly and went to the teacher’s desk.
“Hanna,” said the teacher, “you are normally one of my best pupils, but today you can’t seem to pay attention. Is there a reason?”
“I’m sorry,” Hanna said. “It’s just that...” She looked sadly down at her skull-embellished ruff of black fur. “Well, I don’t like being a mutant. I was painted that by my old owner. He didn’t understand me at all.” She paused, blinking back tears. “But, anyway, as soon as Jessica adopted me, she promised that as soon as she had enough neopoints, she would paint me royal. And this morning she told me she had enough!”
Ms. Amund smiled. “I understand, Hanna. Since you obviously can’t concentrate, why don’t I let you go now, and send your homework with Marybelle?”
Hanna was overjoyed. “Thank you so much, Ms. Amund!” she exclaimed, and hugged her teacher. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Try to recognize me!” she called over her shoulder.
Hanna thought about her two owners as she hurried home. Josh had been her first owner, and he was awful. He didn’t understand her at all, and even though he played games all day earning neopoints, he didn’t spend a single one on food for her. The daily gruel at the Pound had seemed like royal fare.
Jessica, though, was perfect. She understood Hanna better than anyone. She bought Hanna earrings, girly pink clothes, and let her have dessert every night. But best of all, as soon as she realized Hanna wasn’t happy as a mutant, she promised to paint Hanna whatever she wanted. She’d been poor, but she earned neopoints steadily. Because she didn’t have time to spend on Hanna’s daily needs, she’d taken Hanna to the Neolodge. Hanna had a great room, and Jessica had paid a little extra so Hanna could go to the spa and the restaurant. Jessica also came to play with her every day. But now she was coming home, and she would be the most beautiful royal Cybunny of them all!
“Hanna, why are you early?” asked her owner when Hanna rushed through the door.
“Ms. Amund let me leave at recess. She’s going to have Marybelle bring my homework. I can’t wait to show her! Where’s the brush?” she asked rapidly.
Hanna’s owner grinned and showed her the lovely brush on its red velvet cushion. The two walked eagerly to the Rainbow Pool. Jessica was almost as excited as her pet.
Then Hanna spotted a short Kyrii, painted Royal. He was quite handsome. Then she realized he was talking to a Tyrannian Bori and a Ghost Draik.
"Really, Blade," the Draik was saying, "I can't imagine why you would—“
Suddenly, the Kyrii saw her out of the corner of his eye, turned around, and swept her a ridiculously low bow. "I wish you wouldn't—" the Draik began.
"Relax, Angela," he told her. Then, to Hanna, he said, "Good morning, Princess."
"You call that a princess?" the Bori asked incredulously. When Blade glared at him, he said, "Erm, her. And I like you—"–this to Hanna—"you just... don't look like a princess."
"I know," Hanna said darkly.
"But you are," Blade insisted. “I should think I would know a princess when I saw one.”
"What about you?" she asked boldly. "You may look like a prince, but you certainly aren't."
"Clever girl. You're right, I'm not a prince."
"Were you painted against your will?"
"No, I chose this," Blade said. “I used to be Darigan.” Angela rolled her eyes.
"Why would you choose to be painted royal?" Hanna was bursting with curiosity.
"Because if I looked the way I am, people would choose to be or not be my friend just because of how I look. Those aren't true friends. Crusher and Angela here are some of the ones who like me because of who I am, not who I look like I am," Blade explained. "These are true friends."
Hanna thought about this. “How could you tell about me?”
“Easy,” said Blade. “Everything about you told me. The way you walk, the look on your face—"
“You don’t like princesses, though. So why did you talk to me?”
“I—” Blade actually stammered. “I like princesses just fine.”
“Well, in that case, I guess I’ll be seeing you,” Hanna said mischievously.
Blade’s eyes sparkled. “Later, Princess.”
Hanna walked slowly back to her owner. "Jessica?" she said hesitantly.
"Yes? Are you ready to be painted now?"
Hanna paused. "No," she admitted.
"Why not?" Jessica asked. She didn’t seem upset.
Hanna told her about her conversation with Blade. "I want to stay how I am," she said quietly.
Jessica hugged her and said, "That's very mature of you. I'm proud. And I want you to be happy." She paused. "What do you want to do with the paint brush?"
"Let's leave it at the Money Tree," Hanna said. "We don't need anything else, and someone out there must want it more than I do."
So they stopped at the Money Tree on the way home, and then got ice cream to celebrate Hanna's decision. Shortly after they got home, a pink Uni rang the doorbell.
“I’ll get it,” Hanna called. “Hi, Marybelle!”
Marybelle just stared. She dropped the stack of books she was holding. “Hanna?” she asked hesitantly.
“Yes, It’s me,” the Cybunny replied.
“Did—did Jessica not have enough for the paint brush?”
“Yes, of course she did.”
Hanna smiled and picked up the books. “It’s a long story. Come inside and I’ll tell you.”
When Hanna had finished her story, Marybelle said, “But that was just some guy you met on the street. You don’t have to be like him.”
“I know,” Hanna said, “but I think he’s right.”
“Well, it’s your choice,” said Marybelle. “And Hanna, I want you to know, I don’t care what you look like. You’ll always be my best friend.”
“Thanks,” Hanna replied, and she smiled so dazzlingly that Marybelle wondered how she could ever have thought that mutants were ugly.
The next day at school, as Ms. Amund was taking role call. “Hanna?” she said, looking around the room.
“Surprise,” Hanna said quietly, grinning at her teacher.
Ms. Amund was flabbergasted. “Hanna, why?”
“My real friends don’t care what I look like. And I like being mutant.” She smiled again, and her smile made her look prettier even than Lorelei—Royal Gelert and class belle.
Ms. Amund smiled, too, and as she went on with attendance, Hanna saw a pair of eyes widen, and an astounded grin flash across the face of a short Royal Kyrii on the other side of the window that peeped into the next classroom. Hanna winked, and then, stroking one mottled grey ear, turned back to the front of the room.