On Thursday it rained.
And the rain created a shimmering curtain between Drew’s house and Andra’s house, and as the brown Lupe pressed his nose against the windowpane it was like watching the world in the hazy quality of a dream, and he let out a heavy sigh and rested his head on his hand.
The distance between Drew and Andra’s houses was not far, but the distance between the two Neopets had been growing slowly but surely every day, and the Lupe was missing his friend as he stared out the window through the downpour. The white Xweetok was only a short walk away, but Drew knew that even if he were to go outside, hurry down the sidewalk with his umbrella in hand, run up Andra’s front steps, and knock on the front door, his friend would not answer. She wanted her privacy, and he respected that, but Drew often wished that his friend could somehow return to the way she had once been: a small white faerie princess secret-agent adventurer, who shared in Drew’s travels from Big Tree to Slide Mountain to Bench Fort and every other place in the park.
But the rain outside only reminded Drew of Andra’s watery eyes as she told him that she was going through a tough time, and the tears that she had shed when she told him that she didn’t want to see him as he stood on her front steps, and the puddle he had stared into on the sidewalk that reflected his confused, sad features after she shut the door.
So it was with a heavy heart that Drew remained sitting on the cushion beneath the broad window, his eyes drifting from the bricks of Andra’s house to the bricks of the sidewalk that led down to the park, his nose fogging up the glass, and his eyes drooping as he descended into a fitful slumber...
“We’ve reached the fortress,” whispered Agent Nura as she pressed her small white body against the wall. “There seems to be only one way in, through the main gate.”
“But the steps will be guarded!” whispered Agent Gorlad. “We’ll be in plain sight! There must be another way into the castle.”
Agent Nura furrowed her brow in thought, her eyes scanning the tall, fortified walls. “I’ve got it,” she said, hurrying to the corner of the castle and poking her head around to check for guards. “We can climb up the waste chute.”
Agent Gorlad came up behind her and peered around the corner. A small hole in the sheer stone wall provided the only alternative entrance to the main gate, but the Lupe’s fears were not quite allayed. “They pour garbage down there!” he warned. “It’s steep and slippery; how will we be able to climb it?”
“We have to,” replied Agent Nura, her jaw set. “Follow me.” The two spies slid silently through the darkness, sneaking through the shadows toward the dark hole.
Agent Nura took one last glance around before jumping into the chute. “Come on,” she said, her voice echoing slightly. “We don’t have much time.” Agent Gorlad followed her carefully into the sloping tube, his paws slipping on the curved sides of the tunnel.
The two climbed in silence, the weight of their mission bearing down upon them as they fought their way up the waste chute, occasionally slipping but consistently crawling forward, inching closer to the dangerous depths of the castle.
A few strange taps sounded from the outside. Agent Nura stopped crawling, and her partner perked his ears to listen. The faint sound slowly increased, and soon both pets could hear a loud drumming echoing above them. Agent Nura let out a heavy sigh. “Phooey,” she said. “It’s raining.”
She loosened her grip on the curved walls and slid backwards, bumping into the Lupe. After a few uncomfortable seconds, the two Neopets slid down out of the tunnel and landed on a bed of damp woodchips. “This stinks,” said Drew, brushing himself off.
“Yeah,” said Andra. The tiny white Xweetok jumped up. “Bye, I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that, she hurried away from the playground, leaving Drew to sit alone as the water formed a river down the big yellow slide and splashed into the woodchips...
On Friday it was clear.
And Drew woke up with a feeling of hope as the sun streamed through the broad window, and he hurried to the street corner to buy the latest issue of the Neopian Times, and the park was looking greener than ever after the previous day’s storm as Drew sat down on the bench to read.
“Hey.” Drew looked up from the paper. Andra had taken a seat next to him on the bench and was smiling.
“Hey.” The white Xweetok’s eyes were lined and seemed tired, but Andra looked happy to see him and that made Drew happy too. “Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Yes, very nice,” laughed Andra, staring out across the park. “I miss these kinds of days.”
“Miss them?” repeated Drew, putting down his paper. “How can you miss them if we’re having one today?” He laughed.
“I don’t know,” said Andra. She glanced down at her feet. “I guess I mean, I’m going to miss them. You know... when they’re gone...”
“It’s gone! The crown is gone!” cried Princess Vinyara, bursting out of her chamber.
“I knew it!” replied Duke Lawste, jumping up from his seat furiously. “We should never have trusted that peasant...”
“And now he’s escaped with the royal crown!” said Princess Vinyara, sinking into a cushioned chair. “All is lost!”
“Not if we know where he’s gone,” said Duke Lawste, pacing the room. The Lupe stroked his long mustache as he reviewed the situation. “He came under the guise of a poor peasant selling his wares, did he not?”
“Yes,” replied Princess Vinyara. “Oh, if only I hadn’t been so foolish! I just couldn’t turn down those Ptolymelon and Puntec Fruits! We allowed him to bring his cart right into the castle.”
“But that’s it!” cried Duke Lawste. “Those fruits are only available in one place: the place that our thief must have returned to!”
Princess Vinyara sprung up from her chair. “The Lost Desert!”
* * * * *
The sun beat down from the cloudless sky on the two royal Neopets as they dug in the shifting sands of the desert. An abandoned wagon lay next to them, with an angry Techo tied securely to one of the wheels. “You’ll never find it!” hissed the thief. “Your crown is lost forever!”
“I think not!” cried Duke Lawste, reaching his hand deep into the hole he had been toiling over for hours. With a triumphant smile, the Lupe withdrew his hand. The sun glinted dazzlingly off of the jewels set in the royal crown as he pulled it from its hiding place.
“Your crown, my lady,” said Drew, placing a ring of white daisies around Andra’s head. The sunlight streamed down through the trees on the two friends, happy and careless as they knelt together in the sandbox...
On Saturday it was cloudy.
And Drew hoped that Andra wasn’t feeling as gloomy as the weather, and the air was crisp as the Lupe made his way down the sidewalk to the park, and he sat down at the bench, hoping desperately that his friend would arrive.
And she did, but she walked slowly, looking around as if seeing the park for the very first time. Drew watched as the small white Xweetok drifted across the grass, her eyes dreamily taking in everything around her. He withheld his greeting until Andra at last sat down next to him. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Between close friends, words are often unnecessary. The two sat in silence for a while, Andra still looking out across the park. Drew was content only to be in her company, and they watched the trees bend in the wind as it swept in layers of heavy clouds. They were alone in the park, as they had been so many times before, and Drew felt content.
“I need...” Andra’s broken sentence hung in the air, and Drew could feel his friend struggling. “I have something to tell you.” Surprised, the Lupe waited for his friend to collect herself. “I’ve been going through a lot lately, just with me, my life, things in general...” Andra paused. “I just... I have to get myself sorted out. There are things I need to take care of, but I’ve got to handle this on my own, you know? I... I’ve got some straightening out to do.”
Drew nodded. He looked over at his friend, but she was still staring out over the park. They sat in silence for a while longer, as Drew waited for Andra to feel ready to continue. “I’m leaving,” she said flatly. “I feel like this is something I’ve just got to do. I’m at this point in my life now, and I’ve got to get out on my own... experience things... find out who I really am...”
I know who you are, thought Drew. You’re Agent Nura, and Princess Vinyara, and Pilot Emily, and Lady Helena, and Faerie Hopelight... You’re my friend...
“I’m going to miss you a lot.” Andra had turned to face Drew. Her eyes were full of concern, and the Lupe could see that they were glistening with tears.
“I’m going to miss you too,” said Drew softly, and he reached over to hold his friend’s hand. Andra turned to stare out over the park once more, and Drew did the same.
Between close friends, words are often unnecessary. As Drew looked out across the park, he knew that Andra was remembering all of the wonderful times they’d had together there. Every inch of that park had been explored; every landmark had been named. Drew felt his childhood memories return to him, first one, then another, and then all of them poured down at once like countless drops of rain, swirling together as if in a stormy sea. Drew could remember every adventure they’d had, every character they’d played, every imaginary place they’d been. And he could remember how sad he had been every time that Andra had to leave...
* * * * *
“Bye,” said Agent Nura as she left Agent Gorlad alone on the woodchips...
* * * * *
“Bye,” said Pilot Emily as she left Commander Hugo alone on the swings...
* * * * *
“Bye,” said Lady Helena as she left Sir Finley alone on the play structure...
* * * * *
“Bye,” said Princess Vinyara as she left Duke Lawste alone in the sandbox...
* * * * *
“Bye,” said Faerie Hopelight as she left Mage Harold alone beneath the tree...
* * * * *
“Bye,” said Andra as she left Drew alone on the bench. She stood up, and with one last, long look around the park, she began to walk away.
“Bye,” said Drew one last time, watching the small white Xweetok tread across the grass, down the sidewalk, and out of sight.
Dark clouds had rolled in, and Drew felt a wave of sadness rising inside of him. Andra had said that she needed some time to sort herself out. But what about me? thought Drew as a tear brimmed in his eye. What will I do when you’re gone? Who will be here to sort me out? A tear fell and landed in the grass, first one, then another, and then the sky opened up and poured down countless tears, weeping with the lonely Lupe on the bench.
And Drew knew that every raindrop was a tear shed for Andra, and he felt confused and betrayed and alone, and his fur became wet and cold and heavy: as heavy as his heavy, broken heart.