Tales of Cadmium, Athena, and Saffron: The Fight - Part Two
"Athena'll be here any second," Saffron commented to no one in particular, looking extremely uncomfortable as she nibbled on her Fire Faerie Pizza. "She told me she had to stop by her locker for something before lunch." Seated between Jessica the Starry Usul and Cadmium, Saffron prayed for the floor to open up beneath her rather than having to hear one more "Ohemgee! Are you, like, totally serious?" or "That is SO (insert appropriate adjective here)."
Cadmium gave the Yellow Xweetok a dismissive nod and took a bite of her purplum and cheese sandwich (this one freshly made), listening raptly to the pointless conversation about who wore what to the wingoball game last Friday.
Finally, Saffron had had enough. So what if this made her a social outcast for the rest of their final year at Neopia Junior High! No more Miss Quiet Xweetok. "Hey, Neopia to Cadmium!" Saffron shrieked. She snapped her fingers in Cadmium's face. "Are you trying to ignore me, or have Lennies taken over your brain?"
Cadmium started, choking on her mouthful of sandwich yet managing to swallow painfully. Before she had the chance to defend herself, Athena entered the cafeteria.
The noise, close to deafening before, stopped as abruptly as if Dr. Sloth had figured out a dastardly plan to suck all the sound out of Neopia. Gradually there was whispering among tablemates, then pointing and snickering. As the Faerie Peophin wove her way among the tables, a confused look on her lavender face, Yvette leaned over. "Did ya leave yer overalls at home?" the Pirate Lupess sneered.
Athena's eyes widened as she realized what Yvette was talking about. She stormed over to Cadmium and Saffron, her face a thundercloud. "Cadmium, Saffy, who told?" Athena asked, her voice angry and injured at the same time. "Who told?" Her voice went up several octaves in annoyance, resulting in more stares and giggles.
"You're, like, making a total spectacle of yourself," Tansy, a petite Plushie Cybunny with piercing hazel eyes, admonished.
"And does it really matter who told?" Elyse spoke up, her voice full of authority. "Everyone knows that" - here her voice rose above the mocking laughter of the lunch crowd - "ATHENA DREAMS OF BEING IN 2 GALLON HATZ!" Now the whole student body was laughing - save for a select few of Athena's friends and a very sheepish-looking Cadmium.
"That was really low, Cadmium," Athena muttered, glaring at the Royal Aisha. Her head hanging, Athena wandered off to eat her lunch outside, away from the jeering Neopets.
Unnaturally thrilled at having an excuse to leave, Saffron grabbed the remains of her lunch, yanked Cadmium from her seat, and dragged her outside. The Yellow Xweetok caught sight of the Faerie Peophin sitting by herself underneath a Yellow Eesa Tree.
Upon hearing footsteps, Athena glanced up. For a second, she looked relieved to see Saffron, but her scowl quickly returned once she saw Cadmium standing there too. "Go away, Cadmium," Athena addressed her half-eaten tigersquash corn dog. Cadmium opened her mouth to speak, but Athena interjected. "Just go - back with your friends." She spat out the last word at Cadmium's hastily retreating figure, then broke down and cried.
Cadmium turned back just once to see Athena with her head in her hooves and Saffron rubbing her back. Normally, she would have run back and begged for forgiveness, but being with Elyse and her friends had given her a new attitude. Fine, if she doesn't want to talk, I WILL go back with them. Besides, she's making too much of a big deal out of this. By this time tomorrow, it'll all have blown over, Cadmium convinced herself. The Royal Aisha resolutely stiffened her back and stalked back into the cafeteria, where her "friends" waited, expectant looks on their faces.
"You didn't, like, totally apologize, did you?" Tansy questioned, her button nose slightly wrinkled at the prospect.
"No, of course not. She's totally making a mountain out of a symol hole. I mean, it'll be yesterday's gossip tomorrow!" Cadmium chuckled, a hollow sound to her own ears. It seemed to convince the others, though. The Royal Aisha sat back down and quickly took up another conversation as if nothing had happened. The little voice in her head screamed desperately at her to go back and apologize, but she squashed the voice like a moach.
"So, I'm guessing they haven't made up yet," Brett observed. Upon seeing Cadmium return to the cafeteria without Saffron or Athena, he had wolfed down the rest of his hot dog and gone outside to see what was going on. He sat on the grass beside Saffron as the two of them tried to comfort the disconsolate Faerie Peophin.
"Don't talk about *hic* her like she's not here." Athena managed a small smile as she looked up, her sobs having subsided. "I *hic* can't believe that, that..."
"Little twerp?" With a quizzical grin, Saffy reminded Athena of the nickname that the Royal Aisha and Faerie Peophin had given her when Elspeth had first adopted her several months before.
"No, *hic*. You were *hic* never that bad. Sh-she's a snotty two-faced brat!" Athena's fierce look was spoiled by another hiccup.
Stifling his laughter, Brett asked, "What are you going to do now?" The girls shot surprised glances at him.
"What do you mean, what am I going to do?" Athena stood up, smoothed her mane, chowed down the rest of the tigersquash corn dog, and proceeded to chew an apple. To make herself feel better, she pretended it was Cadmium's head. Take that, traitor sister, she thought as she took a particularly large, crunching bite.
Feeling as if he'd bitten off more than he could chew, the Silver Shoyru fished for the right answer. "Well, I mean, she's your best friend. You have the same owner, and you've known each other for your whole lives, and you live in the same house, for goodness' sake, and..." Brett's voice trailed off as he stood to walk back into the cafeteria.
"Unless she apologizes, I'm done with her. She betrayed my trust. Besides, she's happy with her snotty little friends now." Athena's former anguish was replaced by a rush of hot anger unlike anything the mild-mannered Peophin had ever felt before.
Athena's fury must have shown, because Saffron stuttered, "B-b-but you can't just give up on her!" Now worried, Saffron shredded the rest of Athena's tear-soaked napkin into soggy confetti.
"Oh yeah? Watch me. Besides, I have you two and Misty." The Faerie Peophin snorted. "Who needs Cadmium? That good-for-nothing, promise-breaking secret teller!" Athena spun on her tail and stalked back towards the cafeteria.
Brett gave one last attempt. "But what about the dance competition on Saturday? You promised her you'd go to that," he called desperately as he and Saffron raced to catch up with Athena before the lunch bell rang. Huffing and puffing, the two reached the doors.
Athena paused, her hoof poised on the door handle. "Well, we've seen how well Cadmium keeps promises. I'll bet she'll be so busy with her friends -" she spoke the word with as much contempt as she could muster - "that she won't even notice I'm gone." With that, Athena walked down the hallway to her locker.
Saffron and Brett exchanged anguished looks as the bell rang. Flying to his locker, Brett had to shout over the noise in the hallway now that the lunch crowd had emerged from the cafeteria. "Come over to my house after school, and we'll figure out what to do about this."
Saffron nodded, a feeling of exuberance welling up in her.
You know, Saffron, you really should feel guilty for being happy when your two best friends are fighting, her brain chided her.
Shut up, brain! I'm going over to Brett's house! Saffron screamed at her brain.
You've been there a million times before to study or eat dinner or play basketball, her brain retorted.
You're such a spoilsport, brain, the Yellow Xweetok shot back. Saffron shook her head to clear her thoughts. I was standing by my locker, having a conversation with my brain, the Yellow Xweetok mentally realized.
Yep, you were. Girl, you need to get out more, her brain quipped.
SHUT UP, BRAIN! Saffron banged her head against her locker. Seeing several Neopets stop to gawk, she gave them an embarrassed smile and turned to get her books. Her cheeks turned bright red as she mumbled to herself. "Smart, Saffy. Really smart. Be careful or they'll be talking about you instead of Athena." Instantly she felt guilty. There had to be a way to stop the rumors, and stop Athena and Cadmium's argument. And it was up to her - and Brett, she thought gleefully - to find it.
The last few minutes of class were agonizing for Cadmium. It didn't help that her final subject was math, which she found positively mind-numbing. As the teacher droned on about Acara algebra, the Royal Aisha's stomach churned - partially from excitement about going to Elyse's mansion, and partially from worry about Athena. Despite her earlier bold words to Elyse and her crew, Cadmium was having second thoughts. As she pondered what to do, the teacher - a rather overweight Yellow Yurble (actually, overweight was an understatement; he was absolutely enormous. Elyse's friend Jessica called him "Mr. Blubber" although his name was Mr. Blurble) - closed his book, interrupting the Royal Aisha's thoughts.
"Your homework tonight is page 397, problems 20 through 35. And please remember, we at Neopia Junior High do not accept work done in purple ink." Mr. Blurble glared over the top of his glasses at Yvette, Elyse's Pirate Lupess friend.
Yvette simply leaned back in her chair, lowered her eyelids, and gave the teacher a dazzling smile. "Of course, sir. My mistake. I'll have it done in pink ink tonight." Before a blustering Mr. Blurble could say anything else, the Pirate Lupess was out of the room.
The poor Yurble was still standing in front of his desk, completely confused, as Cadmium and her classmates gathered up their books, backpacks, and notes. He looked as if it would make more sense to him if someone were to come up to him and tell him that 2 plus 2 equals 7 million, the Royal Aisha thought sarcastically. Maybe Yvette could teach me how to freak teachers out!
Normally, Cadmium would have stayed to make sure Mr. Blurble was okay; after all, the guy was about one hundred years old and his mind couldn't be fully functional. But something had happened to her normal personality when those magical words - "I thought we were friends, Cadmium" - had reached her ears. The thought of going to the house of the most popular pet in school, and maybe even being included among her group of friends, consumed the Royal Aisha. Not even thinking about Athena anymore, she marched down the hall to her locker to grab the rest of her books. To her surprise, Elyse was waiting for her there. The White Kyrii gave her a dazzling smile. The amazing thing, Cadmium realized, is that normally any white pet has teeth that look yellow. Her teeth are just as white as her fur!
Elyse interrupted Cadmium's revelation. "I Neomailed your owner - Elspeth, right? She sounds so wonderful!" Elyse placed her paw on Cadmium's arm as she said this, presumably for emphasis. "She replied and said it was fine if you came to my house. In fact, she said she was thrilled." The White Kyrii didn't even give the Royal Aisha a chance to respond; she kept on gushing about how much fun they were going to have and how "totally marvelous" it was that Cadmium could come. The two stopped by Jessica's locker, where the Starry Usul was waiting with Yvette and Tansy.
"So, you're coming with us to Elyse's house," Tansy stated. "Isn't that, like, totally awesome, girls?" The Starry Usul, Pirate Lupess, and Plushie Cybunny wrinkled their noses and laughed.
"We have, like, a totally new sister!" Jessica announced. The Starry Usul threw an arm around the Royal Aisha's shoulder. "I always said you were the right material. All you had to do was get rid of that, like, totally dorky sister of yours."
Ignoring the pang in her gut, Cadmium nodded in agreement. You're mad at that totally dorky sister, remember? She's not your friend anymore, REMEMBER? she chided herself. The quintet walked down the hall and chattered excitedly about the dance competition on Saturday. Cadmium couldn't help marveling at the admiring stares the group got as they passed pet after pet standing by their lockers. Sure, some pointed and whispered, but she was sure that was because she was the crew's newest recruit. They're probably talking about how pretty I am, the Royal Aisha thought haughtily. She gave her most glamorous smile, tossed her hair - and tripped over someone's backpack. "Eek!" she screamed.
"Are you all right?" a male voice questioned.
Strong arms reached down and helped her up. Cadmium found herself gazing into the sky-blue eyes of Edgardo the Shadow Lupe, the head of the school's wingoball team. Athena would be soooo jealous, she managed to think. The rest of her mind was caught up in the fact that the Shadow Lupe stood two feet away from her (and towered about two feet above the tiny Aisha). She probably stared at him for a full minute, mouth agape, before she found her voice. "I... I..." She blushed from embarrassment. "Thanks for helping me up. Sorry for tripping over your backpack."
"No prob. I'm just glad you're all right. I'd hate to think you'd gotten hurt by tripping over my backpack," the Shadow Lupe joked, his blue eyes sparkling mischievously. Edgardo hefted the heavy backpack over his shoulder, his arm muscles bulging. "I'll see you around."
Cadmium's green eyes followed him as he walked down the hallway. He paused for a second at the door. "Hey, what was your name again?"
The Royal Aisha's mouth opened and closed like a Koi out of water. "Um..." She looked down and took a deep breath. "Cadmium."
"It was good to meet you, Cadmium." Winking at Elyse, Yvette, Jessica, and Tansy, he turned and left.
The moment the door shut, Elyse advanced on Cadmium. "Here's the thing, friend," she purred, her voice dripping with sweetness, "I'm sure that was, like, a total complete accident. But you need to stay away from Edgardo." She lowered her voice and met the Royal Aisha's eyes. "Got it?"
Surprised, Cadmium nodded. "Of course." She hoped she had done a good job masking the disappointment in her voice. Just when I thought I had a chance to get to know him. Well, maybe I can convince her otherwise. Walking out of the school with her friends, the Royal Aisha ignored the small voice once again screaming at her to turn back - before it was too late.
To be continued...