Of Snow and Royalty
“Mommy...” a pleading voice called. A female, Faerie-painted Bruce hopped up to her teenage owner, who was reclined in a chair, dozing. “You know I love you to bits and pieces, Mommy,” the Bruce began with big eyes.
“What do you want this time, Ally?” the girl asked, cutting off her pet.
Ally held up the official Neopets Fashion magazine and waved it in her owner’s face. “Mother, Royal is all the rage,” she said with an airy look on her clean face. “I simply cannot do without one of those paint brushes.” She stared hopefully at Heather, clutching the book to her chest, her wings fluttering slightly.
“Absolutely out of the question,” Heather said instantly without a moment’s thought, getting up and placing Ally on the cushy carpeting, then taking the magazine. “I saved up forever to get you a good home, servants, paint you Faerie, get a Faellie for a pet, and you expect me to make a Royal Paint Brush magically appear?” Ally’s Faellie hissed from the corner of the warm den.
“Tanga’s right, Mother,” Ally said haughtily, putting her wings on her hips and pouting. “You can be such a miser at times!”
“Young lady, I’ll have none of that,” Heather scolded quietly, waving her finger. “If you want to be painted so badly, then you can earn that money yourself.” With a sigh, she left the den and went to order dinner, leaving the Bruce to her thoughts.
“Oh, Tang, what am I gonna do?” Ally whined, flouncing herself with a flourish onto the couch. “I’m never going to earn enough money!” The Faellie comfortingly snuggled under Ally’s wings and made some little throaty noises. Ally stared down at her and narrowed her bright purple eyes. “Yeah, that helps a lot,” she snorted sarcastically.
“What do most Neopets do?” she muttered to herself, unconsciously twirling a fluff of her fur. She laughed. “Set up a lemonade stand at twenty-five neopoints a cup,” Ally bitterly chuckled. “But who’d want lemonade on the peak of Terror Mountain, anyway?” She flung a pillow across the room and stomped up to her study, Tanga at her wake.
“C’mon, Tang,” Ally said with a gleam in her eyes an hour later, flinging open the door to her mansion. The Bruce’s maid brought her Kougra-fur coat and fleece gloves, plus her feather hat. With a quick wave of her wing, the maid disappeared back into the house and Ally clambered down the porch and into the cold snow.
Ally set up a stand and continued chuckling to herself as she hung up a sign: Snow Pet & Petpet Paint Brushes: 200k for Pet/50k for petpet; limited offer! She grinned at the bright letters that were flaring in the dull, bleak winter climate. “Can’t find them any cheaper,” she whispered to herself, balling up some snow on a plank of wood and circling a red piece of ribbon around it, “literally cheaper.”
“Excuse me?” a deep voice asked. Ally abruptly stopped her plotting and hopped upon her small three-legged stool and clasped her wings on the wooden box. “You’re selling snow paint brushes, am I correct?” the Buzz in front of her inquired, a wad of neopoints clenched in its claws.
“That’s right!” Ally exclaimed enthusiastically with a huge grin. “Just read the sign!” She giggled and pointed upward. The Buzz looked at her skeptically, but requested a Snow Paint Brush nonetheless. Ally handed the fake paint brush to him and accepted the money, fingering it and laughing in a sort of villain-like fashion.
The Buzz slowly walked away, wondering if the Bruce before him was a little bit insane. Ally glanced up to find him gone, shrugged, and deposited the money into her Snorkle bank with a grin. “I’ll get that paint brush in no time!” she sang as she dug into the snow and made some more fake paint brushes.
“Mother dear!” Ally called, rushing into the house, the snow melting off her beak and fins by the warmth of the fire. She skipped over to Heather, who was sitting in the kitchen, sipping a warm bowl of canned soup while the servants were out shopping.
“Yes, Ally?” Heather approached warily, looking up from her novel. Ally jumped up on the table and slammed down her bulging bank in front of her owner.
“Read the bills and weep!” Ally challenged, looking smug. “I earned over a million neopoints all in one day!” Heather looked at her oddly and fingered some of the coins that had popped out of the hole on top of the Snorkle bank.
“And how did my sweet Bruce come by all these neopoints?” she asked in a mild voice, narrowing her eyes at the ecstatic Ally before her.
Ally shifted her webbed feet, becoming a little nervous, but she strained not to appear so. “I sold Snow pet and petpet paint brushes,” she said confidently, sitting down on one of the high chairs as Heather got up and put her bowl in the sink.
“And where did you get these paint brushes?” Heather continued to neb, staring hard at her Bruce. Tanga started to squeak and stared at Ally as well, her small wings fluttering.
“I... uh...” Ally hadn’t thought on that part and danger signs were reeling in her mind. “I found them!” she stuttered at last, “At the Advent Calendar! Someone left them there!”
“The Advent Calendar isn’t open until December, Ally,” Heather pointed out patiently, narrowing her eyes and tapping her fingernail against the marble kitchen table. The Bruce only bit her lip and cast her eyes downward again, muttering inaudible words. It was then that the bell rang. “We’ll discuss this later,” Heather said in a low voice, standing to answer the door.
“I want to see that Bruce!”
“This is a forgery!”
“I want my money back!”
“Just what is she trying to pull?!”
Heather’s eyes popped out of their sockets at the mob that had formed on her porch, waving snow-packed planks of wood with flaky, dirty red ribbons in her face. Their frostbitten faces glared back at her shocked one, and anger hung heavily in the air.
“ALLY!” she yelled, and the young Bruce crept forward, a little sheepish, her Faerie wings drooping considerably.
“You were selling fake Snow Paint Brushes, weren’t you?” the girl demanded, snatching a wooden brush and thrusting it in Ally’s hands. “I can’t believe you! I want you to give these people all of their money back,” she hissed, nearly boiling over with rage and humiliation.
Head hanging and shame filling her, Ally trudged back to the kitchen, retrieved the bursting Snorkle bank, and within an hour all of the deceived buyers were hiking back home, annoyed and unpleased but even.
Inside, Heather took Ally aside. “Ally,” she said hesitantly, putting her hands on the Bruce’s shoulders, “I might have been a little harsh, maybe we could work something out for your paint brush?” she suggested in a lighter tone.
“Like, I’ll save up half – rightfully! – and you’ll pay for the other half?” Ally said hopefully, perking up considerably.
“It’s a deal,” Heather said, her eyes shining and pleased as she hugged her Bruce.