Let’s flash back to around six months ago, to Windridge Acres, a tiny, boring town in the middle of rural nothingness. Picture big farm houses and a few new suburban homes developing, old folks shuffling around the streets with sacks of potatoes, pretending that they have something even slightly important to do. In the morning, the sun hits the town cornfield at a strange angle and everyone says it looks beautiful, but it actually just looks like a plain old sunlit cornfield. Have you ever seen a flash of lightning on the beach? I haven’t, but it’s probably much more amazing than anything around here. So I look through my window every morning, wondering how I can possibly care about the stupid cornfield when somewhere, there’s a breathtaking beauty waiting for me.
This is life in Windridge Acres. Around here, I’m known as Christy Changesong, the obnoxious little skunk Ixi. In school, I’m a smart aleck. At home, I’m a smart aleck. To my best friend, though, I’m as calm and patient as can be. Her name is Whitney Whitewater, and she’s a white Gelert. I don’t remember how we became friends, but I think we bonded over having stupid last names. She’ll be in the story later; otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned her.
As you may have guessed after the enthralling description of my town, I live in a farmhouse. It’s a big, empty wooden building with three miserable Ixis living in it, also known as the Changesong family. My parents are both scientists. You want to know what they do for a living? They study dirt.
Chad Changesong, my pompous father, is a disco Ixi, which contradicts his not so groovy personality. He talks for hours nonstop about his great research, but he’s a dirtologist so it can’t be that important. Actually, I think the correct term is geologist, but no one cares. Cheryl Changesong, a purple Ixi, is another story. She isn’t arrogant like my dad, but twice as annoying. As my mother, she finds it necessary to humiliate me whenever possible, even in naming me: Do we really all have to have names that begin with ‘Ch’?
But anyway, I’d better start telling the story before you feel like I’m just complaining to you. I’m pretty sure it begins on a sunny afternoon, with me walking home from school. Actually, I just lied to you. I can’t even remember what the weather was like. Why does anyone even mention weather in their stories? It’s never relevant to the plot, except when ‘ominous clouds’ approach and the author thinks he or she is clever for foreshadowing something bad. But that trick is used in literally every story ever written, including this one.
I’m sidetracking again; I tend to go a bit off topic. I also can’t figure out whether to write this story in present tense or past tense, but I think I’ll stick with present tense if that works for you. It’s just weird because the events in this story have already happened, but I’m speaking of them as if they’re happening this instant. Am I not supposed to be talking about this?
Right, the story. It’s been an average day; I’m finished with detention, walking down the cobblestone road to my farmhouse. The cornfield is next to me, and it isn’t beautiful. There’s also a mutant Shoyru selling farm crops on my other side, and boy, he isn’t beautiful either. I finally reach my home and I can almost taste the dirt in the air.
“Christy, is that you?” Cheryl calls from upstairs.
“Who else would it be? Chad’s always home and it’s not like you have any friends,” I say, laughing. I switch between calling my parents ‘Mom and Dad’ and ‘Cheryl and Chad.’ I haven’t decided which I prefer yet, although they’ve made it pretty clear that it’s disrespectful to call your parents by their first names. You should try it sometime.
The purple Ixi marches down the steps, and the room magically smells like soil and intrusive mothers. “What’s gotten into you, Christy?” she asks, obviously furious with me again, just like yesterday and the day before. I say something mean to her every day, but it always changes, so at least I’m creative. “You have no right to speak to your own mother like that. How would you feel if your child said that you have no friends?”
“It’s not like you don’t know that you have no friends. I wouldn’t lie to you, Cheryl,” I lie. “Besides, my kids wouldn’t tell me that I have no friends, because I have Whitney. You, on the other hand, have an old disco Ixi with a passion for mud. I don’t know what’s worse, the disco or the mud.”
“What’s all the fuss about?” Chad says as he enters the kitchen, dirt stains on his hooves.
“Speak of the devil!” I say with perfect timing.
Cheryl sighs, her purple fur momentarily looking as if it’s ready to fall out in exasperation. “Christy, just go to your room.”
“Fine by me. At least my room isn’t mucky like you two.”
My parents don’t even know how to respond, so I win once again. They exchange tired looks as I walk up the creaky wooden staircase to my room, which isn’t very large but has a window with a spectacular view of the Windridge Acres cornfield. Sometimes when I wake up, I have this weird hope that the cornfield will be up in flames or infested with Buzzers, because then it would at least be slightly interesting. My bed, opposite from the window, hasn’t been made since last year. Homework assignments that were due last week are lying untouched on my desk. I shrug, and throw them out the window. I used to do my homework, but lately all it does is make me feel like I’m a little Pawkeet stuck in a cage, with my wings pressed up against me. Air is slowly escaping my lungs, each math problem making it harder for me to breathe. I don’t want to feel cramped. I’d rather feel strong like the Buzzers do when they infest cornfields.
“Christy.” Recognizing the whisper, I move over to the window and help the white Gelert into my room. She immediately hops onto my bed and rolls around in the covers.
“What are you doing here? You know my parents don’t let me have friends over on school nights,” I say through my teeth.
Whitney laughs loudly. “You’re barely risking anything. My parents haven’t even realized I’ve snuck out yet,” she says, and I can’t help but smile at her boldness. Whitney is the one pet that I trust, since I really can’t care less about what my parents think and all of the other pets in school classify me as the stupid skunk girl. I’m not stupid, though. They’re stupid.
“I’d give anything for parents like yours. Mine never leave me alone.”
Whitney grins, but something about her looks slightly bothered. “Yeah, well anyway, let’s see what’s in your refrigerator,” she says, trotting over to the door.
“Hold up,” I say. “I need to go check if the coast is clear. Chad might be digging a hole in the kitchen, you never know.” We both snort. I creep down the stairs, looking like a clumsy burglar. Completely ignoring what I said to her, Whitney follows and even moves ahead of me. Luckily, the kitchen’s empty. A minute later, so is the fridge.
“What’s that?” Whitney asks, eyeing a necklace hanging on the wall, right next to a framed Changesong family tree. She stuffs a strawberry into her mouth and continues to look at the necklace as if it were something she could steal from a mall.
“Some necklace that Cheryl’s mom gave her when she was little–” At that moment, I spot my mother outside, heading for the back door.
“That’s a nice necklace,” Whitney says, but I’m not listening. Technically, if I’m not listening to her, then how did I hear her say that? I can’t remember. I wish I paid more attention sometimes.
“Quick, get out!” I hiss.
Whitney bolts out the front door, not even waving goodbye to me. I figure she’s in a hurry. Moments later, my mom is in the kitchen, tracking in mud from outside.
“Was someone in here?” the purple Ixi asks, brushing herself off.
“No, Mom,” I say, trying to avoid a conflict: One argument a day suffices.
“Oh, all right. Listen, I’m sorry about earlier, but you need to cut me some slack–”
Cheryl looks satisfied with my simple response, and takes a seat at the kitchen table next to me. Oh brother, I already know she’s about to start up some useless conversation. “You’re just like my mother, you know that?” she says, nudging me with her hoof. I feel like jumping into an active volcano.
“And how is that?” I can’t help my curiosity.
“You’re sassy. You remind me so much of her that sometimes I feel like she lives on through you.”
“That’s great,” I say, rolling my eyes.
“She gave me that necklace when I was your age,” she continues, pointing to the same necklace that Whitney fancied earlier. She gets up, takes it off of its hook, and places it on the table for me to get a closer look. As far as I can tell, it’s just a small blue jewel attached to a thin golden chain. “Now it’s your turn to keep it.”
“Okay.” My mother picks the necklace up and puts it around my neck, smiling at me. I can see the pride in her facial expression, and it freaks me out. I don’t feel comfortable around her. I don’t trust her like I trust Whitney.
“Christy, there’s something your father and I have been meaning to tell you... We haven’t caught you in any good moods lately, though, so there hasn’t been a right time,” Cheryl says, nudging me with her hoof once more.
“Stop that,” I snap.
The purple Ixi stares at me sadly for a brief moment, which is interrupted by my father’s grand muddy entrance into the kitchen. From the awkward silence and an obvious look from Cheryl, he knows that it’s time to tell me the secret. I slump in my chair.
“Christy,” Chad says, taking a seat next to my mother. “Our work in Windridge Acres is finished.”
“What work?” I laugh.
“Important work,” he says sternly. “But now that we’re done, we’re going to be transferred. To the Lost Desert.”
“We’re moving?” I ask.
“The sand dunes in the Lost Desert are eroding at an unusually rapid rate, so they’re sending us over there to figure that out,” my mother explains, as if I understand a thing she’s saying.
“This isn’t fair! What about Whitney?”
“I know, it’s rough. But at least you have two months left to spend with her, and you’ll always have memories,” my father says. Great, now I feel better. I already have memories, and I can assure you, they don’t come close to the real thing.
I shoot him a disgusting look. “Two whole months,” I grumble. “Thanks for the heads up, guys.”
Between pathetic conversations with my parents about the move and getting in trouble with Whitney, two months have passed far more quickly than I hoped. I’m walking down the hallway with Whitney, realizing that this is one of my final moments spent at Windridge Acres High School. Yesterday was my last detention, for never turning in my Chemistry worksheets. They’re somewhere in the cornfield.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving tomorrow,” Whitney says. “I’m not going to have anyone to go to detention with.”
“And I’ll have no one that I can actually talk to,” I add bitterly.
“How about this. Tonight, we’ll get together one last time and do something crazy, that we’ll never forget.” Whitney looks up at me with her bold smile.
“What do you have in mind?”
“I have an idea that’ll catch the attention of everyone in town.” The bell rings, and we’re both about to be late for our classes, which we probably will be. “Oh, I should get going. I’ll see you tonight.” Whitney hugs me and runs off in the other direction, leaving me in the solitude of the hallway. I guess this is how the Lost Desert will be.
On my walk home, the mutant Shoyru is selling farm crops by the cornfield as always, and I wonder if he knows he’ll never see me again. Someone like him probably doesn’t even care, especially since I made fun of him earlier in this story. He doesn’t know that, which makes me feel guilty even thinking about him.
“Are you all packed up and ready?” my father asks excitedly the instant I step inside. The annoying patterns on his disco fur almost seem to be dancing around, happy to finally leave Windridge Acres.
“Yes, Chad. I was ready last week, the first time you asked me,” I reply curtly, then trot up the creaky staircase to my room. It’s not really my room anymore, just a place to store boxes and packages waiting to be shipped off. My desk and bed have been taken apart, so I’ll be on the couch tonight. On top of one of the packages is my grandmother’s necklace, which I still haven’t paid any attention to, but my mother insists that I keep it close. The only other thing that remains in the bare room is my window, and strangely enough, I’m going to miss it. I can’t just ship off my window to a new home. I’ll never be able to look out onto that bland old cornfield again.
Later that night, a rock is thrown at that very window: Whitney’s signal for me to come outside. The staircase luckily makes no creaking noise for once as I hobble down it, and seconds later, I’m standing with the white Gelert at the edge of the cornfield. She’s wearing a black sweatshirt with a big pocket and has a box of matches in one paw.
“So what are we doing?” I ask, noticing that dark clouds are rolling across the sky. Seriously though, they are. I’m not trying to use them to foreshadow something, although I suppose they could.
Whitney lights a match mischievously. “This will be the talk of the town for years.” She approaches one of the corn stalks with the lit match.
“You’re going to burn down the cornfield?” I blurt out, suddenly feeling very uneasy. “You can’t burn down the cornfield! Everyone loves the way it looks in the morning. I mean, not like I do, but still–”
“Oh, come on, Christy,” my friend says with another one of her devilish grins. “It’s just a stupid cornfield. You’re not afraid of fire, are you?”
“No, but I don’t see the point in destroying something so...”
“Beautiful,” I say, surprised by my own words. “Why take away its beauty?”
“I recall you telling me once that you wish someone would just set it on fire so that everyone would shut up about it,” Whitney says. “I thought you would want to do this.”
“Yeah, well, I changed my mind.” I grab a corn stalk defensively. “I grew up next to this field. You can’t just torch it down.”
“Try me,” Whitney says with a laugh, not even taking me seriously. She takes out another match and ignites a corn stalk. But before the flame can spread any further, I feel a few rain drops tapping lightly on my head, and soon enough my skunk fur is drenched. Whitney can’t burn down my cornfield now.
“Let’s get out of the rain,” I mumble. The Gelert and I hurry back into my house and up to my bedroom, leaving mud tracks on the stairs.
“Look, it’s that cute necklace again,” Whitney says, picking it up and trying it on. “Can I have it?”
“It was my grandma’s,” I say, somewhat coldly, “and now it’s mine. My mom really cares about it. I don’t think she’d ever let me give it to anyone but my own daughter.”
“Since when does it matter what Cheryl thinks?” Whitney wonders, staring at me as if I’m some strange idiot that’s replaced the old Christy Changesong.
“I’m not saying that it matters!” I take a step forward and swipe the necklace off of Whitney’s neck. “Or maybe it does. I don’t know. Just don’t take it from me.”
“Fine,” Whitney says, once again ignoring my seriousness. I’m beginning to think Whitney can’t handle taking anything seriously. Absentmindedly placing the necklace back onto a box, I signal for Whitney to come to the kitchen with me. It’s not like I’m going to get in an argument with her on our last night together. She trails behind for a moment, but then catches up once she hears the squeaking noise of the fridge opening.
The night passes by quickly. We eat, laugh, and recall our best times together, which I realize, consist of detentions and wrongdoings. A strange feeling is taking over me, making me feel more and more like that cramped Pawkeet I mentioned earlier. The fact that the cornfield could be burning to a crisp right now if it weren’t for the rain sickens me a little bit.
When the time comes, I walk outside with Whitney in silence. I can barely make out the corn stalks drooping, weighed down by the pouring rain. “I don’t even know what to say.” Honestly, I don’t.
“I’m going to miss you so much,” Whitney whispers. It almost sounds cheesy, especially since we’re in this stereotypical goodbye scene with rain pounding down on us.
“I’ll miss you too. Be sure and write to me, okay?” I look to the ground for a moment, watching my hooves slowly sinking in the mud.
Whitney looks me straight in the eye. “You’ll be getting a letter from me every day. I promise.” She hugs me tightly, and now it really is a cliched goodbye scene. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking: I want to get out of the rain. But this is my best friend since childhood, even if she nearly burned down my cornfield.
“See you around.” I nudge her with my hoof, leaving a little brown stain on her white fur. Looking back on it, I nudged her the exact same way my mother nudges me, and probably in the same way her mom nudged her.
Whitney smiles weakly and turns away. I stand there for a moment, watching my best friend leave me for good.
Exhausted, I retrace my muddy hoofprints back to the front door of the farmhouse, which is no longer mine. I’m alone, since without Whitney, I have no one to trust. Pushing the thought out of my mind, I collapse onto the living room couch, a soaking mess.
The next morning, I’m awoken abruptly by two red Myncis lifting up my couch. “Who are you?” I ask groggily. My fur is still a bit damp.
“Just the Moving Myncis, kid, relax,” one of them mutters. “This couch would be a lot lighter if you got off of it, you know.”
“Right. I’m moving,” I say quietly. I hop off of the couch, and although I can hear my parents loading furniture into a carriage outside, my first instinct is to take one last glance at my room. After walking up the creaky staircase for the last time, I step into my room. Everything is gone, from the boxes to my dissembled furniture; the Moving Myncis have already finished. The only thing that remains is the window, my trusty window. From the sunlight shining through it, I can already tell that the storm has subsided, so I decide to take one last look at the Windridge Acres cornfield.
What I see is not a memory that I like to revisit. Buzzers are flying everywhere, devouring the corn stalks and toppling them over. A few farmers, including the mutant Shoyru that I always pass, run in zigzags, trying to salvage what they can of the crops. Their effort is fruitless, though; the Buzzers have completely infested the field. Disgust and guilt flow through me, and I’m ashamed that I ever wished for something like this to happen. I can only watch helplessly as the corn stalks fall, one by one, until my beautiful cornfield has collapsed into ruin.
Images of Whitney’s naughty grin as she was about to burn down the field flash through my mind. The rain, I guess, only delayed its inevitable destruction. “I tried to save you,” I call out to the cornfield, but my voice is drowned out by the Buzzers and the frantic yells of farmers. Goodbye, Windridge Acres.
Let’s flash back to present time, to the Lost Desert. I live in a small cottage near the edge of the ocean, where all of the sand dunes are. I haven’t gotten a single letter from Whitney yet.
She stole the necklace from me that night, you know. When I began unpacking my things into my new room, I noticed that it was missing. For a while, I was convinced that one of the Moving Myncis had swiped it while loading my boxes into the carriage. But, after six months without hearing from Whitney, it slowly dawned on me that maybe she wasn’t such a good friend after all. I was so angry with my parents back then, for no reason at all. And you know what? They’re the ones that have always been there for me, not my friends.
I guess that now you can understand why it was so hard for me to write this story, especially in present tense. I’m different now. I’m not the Christy that snaps at her parents and throws her homework out the window. I’m no longer a Pawkeet cramped up in my cage, but I’m not flying either; my wings are a little too small. But I’m on solid ground, and that’s good enough for me. So as I’m sitting on the beach, finishing up the last few paragraphs of my pathetic, little tale, I’m glad that I can finally speak to you as the Ixi that I am today. Not the immature smart aleck that I once was.
“Christy, it’s getting dark out. Come on inside, and I’ll fix you something to eat,” my mother calls out to me from the cottage. Boy, she was furious when she found out what happened to the necklace, but there’s nothing that we can do about that now. She’s forgiven me; she knows that I had no idea that Whitney would turn her back on me and take it for herself, but I can tell that it still hurts her a lot. I’ll never have that necklace to give to my daughter.
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll be there in a second,” I call back to her, writing this as I speak.
This whole situation could have been avoided if I had only trusted my parents more than some silly excuse for a friend. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t confide in your friends. Most teenagers would rather spend more time with a friend or two than sitting around with their parents anyway. But if you’re still reading this, whoever you are, promise me one thing. Don’t treat your parents like strangers. It’s weird, but if you treat them well, they tend to return the favor.
In the distance, a flash of lightning lights up the ocean. I take it all in for a moment, the breathtaking beauty that I’ve always been waiting for. But somehow, for some strange reason, it still doesn’t compare to the Windridge Acres cornfield on a sunny morning.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat dinner.