Surviving Summer Break
If this were a perfect world, you would have butter on your toast, or, as your younger siblings would probably prefer, bugs. However, this is not a perfect world. This is your world, and the only butter in sight is a stick that was left out after your owner restocked it last night. Wisely, you decide not to eat it.
Today is the first Saturday of your owner’s summer break. It is, you suppose, common knowledge that the majority of school-aged Neopians, in the hot summer months, have this sudden and inexplicable rush of time. Your owner chooses to spend her vacations chatting or earning money. Woe betide you if she decides to go restocking in the shops; you are her favourite companion.
You grudgingly change out of your comfortable but scruffy pajamas into an outfit considerably less scruffy and proportionately less comfortable. Your owner appears, bright-eyed as an Usul up a tree. She seems to have much more energy than usual these days, too, which you have often asked her about. A typical conversation goes like this:
“Xiiyu, if something called Neoschool existed, you would understand how I felt.”
“There is a Neoschool,” you remind her, gently. “It’s called the ‘Neopian Book Store.’”
Her answer to this is predictable. “I’m not spending money to train you in a useless statistic, like intelligence.”
You consider asking her why she goes to school in the first place if intelligence is so “useless” but you decide against it.
Your sister, Yooe, appears at the top of the stairs as you are preparing to leave. Her chubby Cybunny form casts a long shadow. She is, was, and presumably always will be the family laboratory pet. Therefore, she is allowed by your owner to spend her days recuperating from the “horrible pain” of the lab zaps. You suspect this is exaggerated and would try it for yourself, except you are entirely too fond of your Grey colour. You were zapped this colour while you were still a baby, and have no memory of it.
Yooe gives you a pitying and taunting look that never changes no matter how often her species does.
“Good luck restocking.”
You nod, reminding yourself to put toothpaste on her pillow when you get home, or better yet, that melted day-old butter.
Once you get outside, you are surprised that the rest of your owner’s stock hasn’t melted as well. Heat waves dance on top of everything like water.
“The shops will be less crowded in this heat,” your owner explains, coming up behind you. You realise that this is true. Most of the vacationing children will be relaxing at Mystery Island or talking with their friends. More to the point, most of the vacationing children aren’t foolish enough to try and snatch things from the shops when it is this hot. The adult restockers, lounging languidly in the shadows, seem to be encouraged by the heat, with the result that you and your owner miss three restocks in a row.
“I’ll be outside,” you tell your owner, discouraged, and shuffle in the stated direction, passing windows featuring rows of sticky chocolates and dripping smoothies. You know, deep down in your heart and mind, that the entire summer will progress this way, with slight variations to your (always butterless) breakfast. Some days your owner will drag you to the chat rooms to help answer people’s questions. And some days, few and far between, your owner will make forays into a place called “reality,” obviously even more fun and engaging than restocking (insert gasp here) and leave you to rest your aching bones. You know that your owner’s school is located in “reality,” as well. You wish as you had never wished before that “reality” would take up more of your owner’s time... facing this summer is too much.
Bowing your head, you begin to cry.
You remain in this attitude for some time, seeing as how everyone expects grey Neopets to cry all the time, anyway. Finally, the pounding pain in your head and eyes tells you it is time to stop sobbing, and you look up – straight into the calm amber eyes of a fire Scorchio.
After a few shocked moments, you realise where you’ve seen this Scorchio before. She is the only Neopet of an adult restocker, a friend of your owner’s. This person is in the habit of using long and complicated names for everything, including his pet. So everyone just calls her Nix.
“Missed the restock?” Nix says sympathetically.
“Yes,” you reply. “Three times in a row.”
Nix nods, but says nothing. You and your owner miss restocks all the time, and you’ve never cried about it before. Suddenly, you begin to tell the Scorchio everything about your current summer break crisis. The words, like bricks, pile out of you all in a jumble, and you lose track of your point, but keep going all the same. When you are finished, you look up to find Nix obviously very sad.
“Xiiyu, why must you insist on only thinking of yourself? Look around you.”
Obediently, you scan the area, but are unable to see anything unusual until your friend points out the massive numbers of Neopets walking, dancing, and skipping (!) past where you sit.
“Summer is Neopia’s best season,” Nix tells you. “The weather’s perfect – although a little warm – all of the fruit is in season, and the kids and their pets are out of school. They give the place new life!” You think Nix is an incurable optimist to see all of this in dusty, sweaty days, a few stunted fruit crops, and an overload of ill mannered children. (Your owner is not the least of these.) But before you can say anything, Nix pulls you to your feet. Together, you trot down the street, passing shops and fountains and groups of laughing, talking people and their pets.
“Think about it this way,” says the Scorchio. “Pretend you have a Baby Neopet, right? They’re cute and tiny, but so full of mischief! And yet they don’t mean any harm. It’s the same with everyone here. The summer holidays are meant for Neopians of a certain age to enjoy themselves as they see fit. In August and September, the streets become quiet and the chat rooms are peaceful again. Xiiyu, you have ten whole months to relax...”
Her last sentence echoes in your ears, but somehow she has disappeared, between one moment and the next. In her place is your owner, clutching two large bags of restocked goodies and waving frantically.
“Goodness, didn’t you hear me calling you?! It’s been ten minutes already!”
“I’ll carry that,” you tell her, reaching for the larger of the bags. As you head home, a rumble splits the sky, and you both look up to see dark storm clouds and the cooling shadow of rain.
The summer is as hectic and drama-packed as all those that preceded it, but eventually the weeks pass, and Neopia gradually empties. Soon, your owner has settled down to her usual school-year routine, checking on you early in the morning and late at night. Her shop lies empty, gathering dust.
And one day, in the middle of October, you wake up and there it is: fresh butter for your morning toast.
Sometimes, you think, your world can be a perfect world, summer break and all.