Swirling masses of islandic leaves drenched the sky in color, falling like raindrops to the sandy shore below. The air was hot, sticky, and humid, as always, despite it being New Year’s Eve. Palms swayed in the tropical winds. Waves lapped at the beach. Weewoos and other odd assortments of petpets cried from somewhere in the lush, green jungle. All was serene. It was almost too much for the tiny, sunburnt white Lupe to take.
She sat on a worn blue beach towel, sunglasses resting on top of her head, a bottle of water lying at her feet. An irritated looking Christmas Gruslen beside her played with a seashell, flicking the tropical bugs away from his body with his fluffy snow-white tail. He batted away a blood-sucking mozito with his paw, and wearily looked at his owner, as if to say ‘I’m bored’.
The white Lupe understood him, nodding once in his direction, and turning to face northwest, where she’d still be right now, if her owner hadn’t decided he wanted a change of scenery. She missed Terror Mountain’s snow-tipped peaks, the way small, crystalline snowflakes would fall from out of nowhere and land on her nose. She even missed the crowds of Neopets lined up around her house, awaiting their turn to receive a gift at the Advent Calendar. Bella sighed. If only she could be back home, snuggled up inside her toasty log cabin, sipping a mug of hot cocoa by the fire...
Bellanni was small, rather petite, actually, with incredibly short fur, trimmed almost down to her skin. The constant, sweltering heat of Mystery Island was enough for her to decide to cut off her long, shimmery white fur, and change her wardrobe from boots and parkas to lightweight shorts and bathing suits. It’s six days after Christmas, she thought to herself bitterly. It shouldn’t be swimming weather in December!
The Lupe rose to her feet and pulled her beach bag over her shoulder, hastily stuffing the towel and water bottle inside. “C’mon, Mint. Let’s go inside. It’s too hot.” Mint obediently sprang from his nest in the sand to follow her.
Bella’s house was just like any ordinary shack on Mystery Island. It was a one story, dome shaped house with a grass roof and two round windows placed next to the door. A pathetic looking wreath drooped from the front door, and Bella tsk-ed. “Poor thing,” she mumbled, “It’s too humid for you, isn’t it?” She leaned heavily into the door and pushed it open.
Her older brother sat in a heap of presents beneath the palm tree that served as their Christmas tree, neatly stacking the few strings of lights and ornaments that the sickly little thing could hold. He glanced up as she shut the door. “What’s wrong, kiddo?”
Bella leaned against the wall and rubbed her forehead. “I miss our old house,” she muttered.
Tremur taped one of the cardboard boxes shut. “Hey, so do I. But there’s nothing we can do about it. Let’s just enjoy what we’ve got and hope next Christmas is better. Maybe next year we could save up enough neopoints to take a long vacation back up to Happy Valley,” he said thoughtfully, “Just you and me and Mint and maybe Su. Nobody else likes the cold. We could rent some skis and go skiing, or go ice fishing. We’ll find a way to do it.” He smiled warmly at her.
Bella grinned back at the Tuskaninny. It was hard to be mad when Tremur was around. She knew he liked Mystery Island much better than Happy Valley, and beamed at how thoughtful he was to think of her over himself. “Okay. I can wait a year,” she said half-heartedly. She sank to the floor and grabbed an ornament, carefully wrapping it in newspaper and setting it in the box. Mint picked another up and set it in her paw, and she did the same with it.
“Cheer up, Bellanni. It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s the start of a whole new year. Everything’s gonna be fine.”
“I hope you’re right,” she whispered under her breath, and played with the tufts of hair on Mint’s fluffy white head.
“Okay, everyone! Come on! Hurry! It’s almost midnight!” Su cried, her Christmas Kougra hat clutched in one hand, the other trying to attach a festive silver party hat to her head. Her blue eyes scanned the living room. Bellanni looked half asleep as she fingered the string of New Year’s beads around her neck. Su shook her head and bounded up to her sister, who looked up at her with weary eyes.
“Whadya want, Su?” Bella asked with little enthusiasm.
Su grabbed her wrist and pulled her off the couch. “It’s almost midnight. The fireworks are going to start in a couple minutes, so you better get out there! We found a perfect spot on the beach. I--”
“Su,” Bella interrupted, shrugging her off, “Su, don’t you hate it here? You’re painted Christmas. You should like the cold.”
Su grimaced. She knew how much moving to Mystery Island had hurt Bella inside, and she knew how tender she felt right now. “I liked Happy Valley. I just like it here better. I don’t like freezing weather and drippy snow and wind. It’s nice here. Nice and peaceful.” She patted the Lupe awkwardly, but Bella ducked and threw open the font door, storming down the steps and across the winding little pathway leading to the beach.
“Just don’t come crawling to me when I leave you all and go back to Happy Valley!” Bella shouted angrily.
The Kougra stared blankly at the retreating figure for a moment before dashing through the house again, looking for any hiding siblings sulking around inside the house still.
Mint yawned and stretched out on his belly, clawing the sand lazily. His green Gruslen eyes glowed in the half moon, surveying Bella’s large family clustered together at the water’s edge, looking expectantly at the sky for hopes of fireworks. All of their faces were plastered with huge smiles, and they only took their eyes off the horizon to glance at their watches. All except Bella.
The Gruslen yawned again and looked at his owner. He always knew what Bella was feeling. After years of studying her closely, he’d come to recognize her moods. Like, for instance, now. He could see how sad she felt inside, how the way she toyed with handfuls of sand and looked grimly at her brothers and sisters made her seem depressed. He considered going to curl up in her lap, but nearly fainted as the loudest of her siblings screeched, “ONE MINUTE!!!”
Bella looked at her watch nevertheless. Her family looked overly joyous, like a balloon filled with happy gas about to explode. She thought they looked quite stupid, actually. Her two oldest brothers waded out to their knees and waved their arms maniacally, splashing around and acting giddy. Her sisters giggled and clung to each other tightly as the countdown began. They all seemed happy. And, looking at the first spark of fireworks filling the sky, Bella finally began to understand why.
It didn’t matter that they were all thousands of miles away from home. It didn’t matter that Christmas hadn’t been done the traditional way. It didn’t matter that the pure white snow had been replaced with salty grainy sand. All that mattered was that she was here with her family, who cared for her and loved her no matter what.
A small tear escaped the corner of her eye, but she let it fall down her face and mix into the warm sand. My New Year’s resolution is... I won’t let my selfish wants come between me and my family. I won’t split us apart. As long as they want to live here, so will I.
And for the first time since Bella had stepped onto Mystery Island’s sandy shore, she felt happy. She closed her eyes and smiled, clapping slowly along to the rhythm of her family’s.
Happy New Year! -throws confetti-