Markers and Scissors
For Madie, who has always been the best with markers and scissors...
Christmas had never been filled with joy for me.
I had never had a tragic Christmas. In my case, the words normally associated with stories about ‘bad Christmases’ did not apply. I was not grumpy, not cheap, not reluctant to celebrate, or any less lonely then any other of my kind. My story was not like most of the books wandering around Neopia that talked about Christmas villains and elaborate plots.
I would have given anything to have celebrated as a Neopet or Petpet. My situation wasn’t enough for me.
I did not understand the hype about Christmas. The joy, the excitement, or the pleasure. I had only watched people unhappy. In turn, this made me unhappy.
I was just unwanted. The most unwanted gift in Neopia, now even more unwanted then a pile of dung.
I was purposeless. I was plain. I was only given to annoy whoever got me as a gift. I was either a joke Christmas gift or an insult, much like a pile of dung. But I was worth a lot less to the receiver, now that dung is wearable.
This rejection was my earliest memories of Christmas. And until this last Christmas, my only memories at all.
I call myself Abbie. There is nobody to call me that other than myself.
To put things more simply, I am a Gift Box. I am plain and off-white. I cannot speak or move myself. And in Neopia, Gift Boxes cannot hold anything worth giving. We cannot hold items.
Nobody wanted me because there isn’t a feature to let us hold anything at all.
Abbie had been placed under what seemed like thousands of other presents. They were all big, bulky, and extravagant. They were heavy and crushing her. She knew that the girl would love every single one of them, for they had all been chosen for her Christmas with great detail. And, because this was her first day in Neopia, Abbie believed she would be loved as well.
Many hours (to a young box) passed as the youthful pet sifted through all the gifts. Her smile did not change the entire time as she ripped each one open and admired what she had received. Abbie concluded that the blue Acara was well adored, and that she would surely love a box as a gift.
The Acara’s pudgy paws clung to the box and then began to slowly tear the paper surrounding Abbie. Her smile grew wider and wider as she took off the lid...
There was nothing there. Nothing sat inside of Abbie, and the Acara dropped the empty box to the floor with a horrified and rejected expression. Abbie hit the concrete and bounced, and then came to a halt much more damaged as she had started.
A tear rolled down the Acara’s face as she slumped to the floor, tossing the card she had taken one glance at. It clearly was mocking and rude, due to how the Acara reacted.
“I shouldn’t have expected more from him.”
The blue Acara tore the card into shreds and kicked Abbie into the corner in anger. More tears lined her face.
“Huge box, but nothing inside. Nothing inside, just like that jerk.”
This was Abbie’s first Christmas. This was also her first trip to the dumpster.
This time Abbie had a bow. She was shining magnificently as brilliant Christmas wrapping paper covered her. She was certain that this year someone would love her, someone would find her a good enough gift. After all, how many more times could she miraculously escape being thrown away? Abbie did not know where the people would take her if she sat in the trash can too long, and she did not want to know.
Hope was the only thing Abbie could cling to, and at this point in time she still believed there was hope behind her growing doubts.
After Abbie had been placed into the trash by the blue Acara, she had sat there in the cold for a few days until a strange red Mynci had removed her from the bin. He, however, was not there to save her day. He was smelly and had a rotten attitude. And he apparently wanted to save money by stealing all of the Acara’s forgotten boxes.
As he hauled the boxes into a wagon, he suddenly stopped as he picked Abbie up. He moved her about every which way and then suddenly placed Abbie on the floor. She was not insulted, for she did not want to go with him. But she wondered why he had taken Soggy Old Boxes but not her, had taken everything but the Gift Box.
She still did not get it.
And it was when she had been lying on the floor that the yellow Buzz had found her.
As Abbie sat next to a warm fireplace, with crackling noises and glittering lights, she contently waited for the green Kau. The Kau called Cassie was opening presents. It had been a long year after she had been at the Acara’s home, but Abbie was still optimistic. It was Christmas, after all, and Abbie decided that she would get her chance this year.
Cassie picked up the box slowly, reading the card aloud to her friends who sat around her on beanbag chairs. “To: Cassie. From: Sarah. I hope you have a MOO-ry Christmas!”
A pet next to Cassie snickered.
“I know... very funny.” Cassie rolled her eyes and then smiled, showing that this joke towards her being a Kau did not upset her. “But that’s Sarah for you. She’s the kind of Buzz that thinks this stuff is funny. Such a huge box. Wonder what’s inside.”
Cassie placed her Kau hooves on Abbie and expertly took off the shining bow and pristine paper. Abbie hoped she would not notice the damaged dents and dirt smudges from last year.
Cassie looked at the Gift Box with a slight disapproval. She had seen the dents and smudges, and clearly hoped this had just been a mistake.
She opened the box, and then began to laugh.
It was empty.
“Once again, that’s Sarah. I’m sure she’ll stop by tomorrow with my real gift. She’s done that every year.”
With that, Cassie kicked Abbie into another corner.
Abbie heard the door slam shut as Cassie threw her out.
The neglected Gift Box bounced once, twice, and then nearly came to a halt at the curb. Almost as if it had enough to bounce one last time, the box feebly reached into the air once more. Abbie soared for one last second, and then landed in the space between the road and the sidewalk.
She had been kept around Cassie’s home for a few months, and had been used to prop up various things around her house. Eventually Cassie became so disgusted with the damaged, dented, and nearly torn box that she threw her into the attic to gather dust for a few more months. Abbie propped up cobwebs now, but she still could not even hold the Spyders.
Abbie grew so disgusting over those next few months, so unlike her original pristine self, that Cassie eventually threw her next to the trash can. Abbie was to go away with all the other trash. Abbie had given up hope of ever being a gift worth giving. It had been late-fall when Abbie had found herself abandoned once more, now on the street. Yet another year was soon to pass without love and purpose, and she found that it was near Christmas once more.
Abbie sat next to the curb now. If tears could have fallen, they would have, but boxes cannot cry. Boxes cannot speak or plea for help. Abbie was alone. And, as days passed with her sitting almost in the street, she began to realize that fall was turning into winter. She knew she could not survive one more winter neglected, for her cardboard would tear in two.
The day Abbie moved was much colder than usual.
The wind had begun blowing, gently at first. But then it caught speed. After the wind came, the gray sky overwhelmed the sun, and unpredictable clouds joined the grayness. Rain began to fall and catch speed as well, and before Abbie knew it, it was pouring and she was soaking wet.
The cardboard would tear any day now. Abbie sighed in her mind and let the rain be her tears.
Without realizing it beforehand, Abbie now knew that Cassie’s street led down hill. The strong rain and wind working together, Abbie began to float on puddles down the space between street and sidewalk, moving at a snail’s pace. As time went on, the slope grew, and she began to move faster, faster...
Abbie refused to let herself be hopeful. But she found that, for the first time, she was saving herself from the trash can. She realized it must have been a strange sight to see a huge Gift Box floating down the street, but she no longer cared.
The raindrops refused to cease all night, so Abbie moved farther and farther from the prison she had fallen into, to the bottom of the street and beyond...
Aislynn stared at her owner who was happily chattering away to her relatives. Anger rose inside of the young Uni, but she hoped that her owner had not seen it. As upset and hurt as she was, Aislynn did not want her owner to think she was being too demanding.
Her owner’s name was Melanie, and she was a young teenager with dark brown hair. She had the prettiest smile Aislynn had ever seen, because few people shone as brightly as Melanie did when she smiled. Aislynn and Melanie had been owner and pet for as long as Aislynn could remember, seeing as Melanie had chosen to create her when she first entered Neopia. Melanie had been ten, and now a few years later, Aislynn felt as if she could normally trust Melanie with anything that troubled her baby Uni mind.
But this Christmas she felt betrayed. Melanie had promised a small and quiet Christmas, just the two of them as they always had. It always was Aislynn’s favourite holiday, simply because Melanie spent the most time with her then. This year Aislynn was fighting the looks of their visitors, because they clearly did not approve of the baby Uni.
Melanie had been forced to invite her relatives over, and none of them seemed to comprehend why Melanie would invest so much time in a pixelized world.
They don’t understand...
Aislynn’s eyes burned as she tried not to cry when one of Melanie’s parents made yet another rude comment that left her out of the conversation. This wasn’t Christmas. This wasn’t even a holiday. All the traditions of the past three years had been broken.
Aislynn quickly began picking at her uneaten food with a fork, trying to distract herself. She appreciated their gifts, although there were only a box full of scissors and markers for school. What she didn’t appreciate was being left out.
She was thankful when the relatives stood up, ready to leave back to their human world.
“Bye!” Aislynn forced a smile and waved. She could not bear to say anything else as she held the door open. She rushed them out and then closed the portal to her front yard.
Aislynn had barely walked three steps when the doorbell rang.
Aislynn tried to keep her voice kind as she questioned the relatives who had returned once more. “Hey again. What do you want?”
Melanie’s mom smiled at Aislynn, taking Aislynn by surprise. “Well, we were just wondering if you needed this box still. We found it next to the mailbox.”
Aislynn stared at the box. It was old, flimsy, and filthy. It had dents and marks all over it, signs that it had been wandering for long. It was a Gift Box, meaning it could not hold any of her items. In most eyes, it would have been worthless and unwanted.
Aislynn, however, had an idea.
“It’s not mine,” Aislynn said slowly, trying to figure out what to say. “But I don’t think anyone else is going to claim it.” She took the box from the human’s hands and took a step back. “Thanks.”
Melanie’s mom did not question her. “Have a Merry Christmas! Make sure Melanie is out of Neopia by bedtime, okay?”
“Sure. Merry Christmas.” Aislynn shut the door once more, and placed the box on the tile.
“What’s that?” Melanie looked at the box. “And what did Mom say? I sure hope THAT isn’t your Christmas present.”
“Gift Box. Mom was making sure it wasn’t mine.” Aislynn paused at Melanie’s confused face. “But if it was a Christmas present, it sure would be a good one.”
“I’m sorry if you didn’t have the holiday you wanted. It was so unexpected, and I apologize that they were so rude...” Melanie looked at the floor, seeming to take Aislynn’s last statement as a suggestion that her parents would only give cheap stuff.
“I didn’t have the holiday I wanted. They were pretty rude.”
Melanie’s face looked even worse.
“However, I have a way they could have just saved my Christmas...”
Two princesses stood before a cardboard castle. They wore makeshift crowns of paper as they curtsied before a marker drawn window, and pretended to walk on the drawbridge. A door was the only thing different about the huge Gift Box, other than the marker. Aislynn had cut a chunk off Abbie. It was the difference of markers and scissors.
The castle was in a sorry state, due to flimsy cardboard, but yet it had otherwise been perfect cardboard. It was easy to bend, so the castle had circular towers on top.
“My crown is more magnificent than usual!” Aislynn giggled, unable to talk about a paper crown with a serious tone.
“Ahh,” Melanie said, more in character then Aislynn. “But, you see, when you become Queen tomorrow, you will receive a much shinier crown...”
“But I thought you were the queen. Queen Melanie. How will I rule over you when you are still so young and fit to be a queen?”
“It must involve a battle.”
The two smiled at each other evilly and then each ran into opposite rooms.
They came out at the same time, two pirates with brooms as swords.
“You will not rule over this kingdom!”
“You’re a pirate, remember?!”
The pirates danced around the room as they fought with their swords and cursed each other with pirate words. Their eye patches stayed in place, and they forgot that it was not all a game. They forgot all that had happened earlier.
“You will not take me treasure!” Pirate Melanie pointed at the castle, pretending it was filled with gold and silver.
“Well, it’s hard to fight when you have no head.” Pirate Aislynn pretended to chop of Pirate Melanie’s head, giggling insanely the whole time as Melanie responded.
“No fair! I was TRYING to talk like a pirate, unlike you.” Melanie crossed her arms, no longer a pirate.
The two burst out laughing, and ran into opposite rooms once more...
I was sitting in this warm and comfortable house as I listened to rain pelt the windows. I was safe, unexposed to the outdoors, and now worth more than I had expected.
That Christmas, and the days after, I learned many things.
The first thing I learned was that acceptance came the one occasion when I had been plain and not covered in wrapping paper. When I wasn’t made to look like something I was not.
The second lesson I learned was that some people have more imagination than you could ever imagine.
The third, and possibly the most important fact I realized, was that while I was a horrid sight to most, I was the best gift for someone. Despite all of my dents, scratches, and smudges of dirt, Aislynn loved me.
That Christmas I felt warmth on me. It was a content sort of warmth, accompanied with slow and relaxed breathing.
Aislynn had fallen asleep inside of me, the princess castle, with only an elephante print blanket, a pillow, and dreams of a Christmas made better.