That day was not supposed to be any different than any other day. It was supposed to consist of Lucia the red Moehog waking up, eating breakfast, going to school, doing homework, eating dinner, and going to bed. There wasn’t supposed to be anything extra, nothing that would make this day different from all the others.
But then, he came.
It was the week before Valentine’s Day, and Lucia woke up to what was supposed to be a normal day. The first part of it wasn’t unusual; she got up and got dressed, stumbling down the stairs and into the kitchen to eat breakfast with her owner and sister. Of course, her sister was talking about all of the good friends she had, what with an actual social life, but Lucia stayed silent. And then it was time for school, so the Moehog scooped up her backpack and started out the door.
She sat down in her seat at the normal time, five minutes before the bell was set to ring, and she noticed a strange chattering going around the room. She leaned over to see what was going on, hoping that there wasn’t going to be a big project that Mr. Cross, their teacher, would assign, but upon eavesdropping on a Tuskaninny’s conversation, she found that this was not the case.
“Did you hear? There’s going to be a new kid coming in today. Lea told me he moved in next to her yesterday,” the Tuskaninny squealed. Lucia sighed, relieved that there wouldn’t be any more worked dumped upon her, and then shrugged her shoulders. A new kid, just like she had been a year ago. For a couple days they would ogle him like he was a piece of artwork on display, but soon enough he would fade away into the background, just like she had.
“Okay, everybody,” Mr. Cross, a rainbow Quiggle, called from the front of the room. Sure enough, standing next to him was a striped Gelert, smiling confidently and eyeing the class. “I heard some of you guys talking, and apparently you already know about Skyler. He’s new here; just moved in from Terror Mountain. So let’s give him a warm welcome.”
Mr. Cross didn’t have to worry about that. The whole day, everyone kept trying to talk to him. Notes were passed every which way, all addressed to the striped Gelert. Someone even wrote a song about him.
Lucia wasn’t impressed. When they were let out for recess, the other students had created a huddle around Skyler. They kept asking him questions about Terror Mountain, and he gladly answered them, his pearly white teeth shining in the afternoon sunlight.
“Excuse me, everyone. There’s still one person I haven’t said hello to yet,” he said in that charming voice of his. Lucia rolled her eyes, wondering who that lucky person would be, when she noticed that Skyler was approaching her. Struck by disbelief, the Moehog looked behind her, but there wasn’t anyone there. He actually wanted to say hi to her.
“Uh, what do you want?” Lucia asked softly, unsure of what she was supposed to say.
“You look a bit lonely. Like you need a friend. My name’s Skyler, in case you didn’t hear in class today. What’s yours?” The Gelert stuck out his hand politely, his eyes sparkling with merriment.
This was impossible. Only one thought ran through Lucia’s head: I shouldn’t trust him. But still, his countenance was sincere, his smile unwavering. She was almost sure he wasn’t acting, so she cautiously stuck out a hoof and shook his paw. “Nice to meet you, Skyler. I’m Lucia.”
“Say, Lucia, I’m having a Valentine’s Day party in a week. My owner’s supervising it, so it can’t get too out of hand. We booked an empty room at 67 Chia Close.” Lucia shook her head, half in denial. Was this really happening?
“I can’t. My owner won’t let me go out without my big sister,” she said, slightly disappointed.
“Well, I’ll invite your sister too!” he decided cheerfully. The other pets were calling his name now, and he had a fickle look on his face. “Will you and your sister come?”
“Sure,” Lucia responded, her heart jumping. “We’ll be there.”
That night, at dinner, Lucia was the first one to say anything. Conner, her owner, had put bowls of tomato soup in front of Lucia and Nicole, her big sister. Nicole was a year older than her, and a beautiful Faerie Xweetok. She had already won three beauty contests, and would be trying for a fourth the following week.
“Conner, Nicole, I have great news!” she said excitedly as Nicole scooped a spoonful of soup into her mouth.
“What, did someone talk to you today?” her big sister asked snobbishly. Conner shot her a look, but that didn’t discourage her. “Or maybe someone didn’t cringe at the sight of you.”
“No. This new kid, a Gelert named Skyler from Terror Mountain, he invited me and Nicole to a party. For Valentine’s Day. Before you say anything, Conner, he said his owner’s supervising, so things won’t get out of hand. And I’ll be going with Nicole too. Not alone.” Lucia’s cheeks flushed as Conner smiled and Nicole scowled at her. This was the first party she’d been invited to since... the one a year ago.
“But don’t you remember the last time you were invited to a party?” Nicole asked, a smirk growing bigger on her face. “They purposely gave you the wrong address, and boy, were you the laughingstock of the school.”
Lucia remembered. She had been tricked, and things were never the same for her again. While her sister grew more and more popular, Lucia was just ignored, not even dealt with. Until now.
“This is different! I’m sure of it! Skyler’s really nice, and I don’t think he would do something like that,” Lucia said in her defense, crossing her arms and putting them against her chest.
“Okay, whatever you say. I’ll go with you, just to see the look on your face when you walk into an empty building.” Nicole was finished with her soup now, so she brought it up to the sink. “Just don’t blame me when I say, ‘I told you so.’”
It was finally the day of the party. The sun was just setting as Lucia hurried into the bathroom, eager to get ready for the important event. She splashed water on her face, trying to make herself look more alive, and then began to wash her face.
Nicole was already ready, waiting at the door for Lucia. She was kind of excited, but she was also nervous. The only thing she had over her sister was popularity. Lucia was much smarter, so Nicole had to make sure her social status was always better than her sister’s. If this Skyler person actually became Lucia’s friend, Nicole would fall behind.
To the Xweetok’s surprise, there was a knock at the door. Conner was doing the dishes (the two girls had eaten a small dinner), and Lucia was prepping in the bathroom, so she got up and opened the door. There was a striped Gelert standing there, an excited look on his face. His eyes were shimmering with delight, and Nicole immediately took a liking to him. “Hello,” she said in her most polite voice, “is there something I can do for you?”
“Yes. Do you know if Lucia is here?” the Gelert asked. He was wearing a collared shirt and slacks, casual party attire, and his teeth were sparkling white.
“Oh,” Nicole said, her face dropping a little. “Are you Skyler?” she asked nervously. This can’t be Lucia’s friend, she thought. He’s too good-looking and nice. There’s no way this person could not be popular. I mean, at first I thought he was some nerd, and his party would be lame, but... he can’t be. Not with that kind of personality. I really hope he blows her off.
“Yes, I’m Skyler. And are you Nicole?” he asked, managing to keep the same smile on his face the whole time.
“I am. Lucia’s busy getting ready right now, so if you need to give her anything, I can give it to her.” Nicole looked at the Gelert, or rather, scrutinized him, trying to figure out what he was all about. If he really was Lucia’s friend, she would have to change that.
“Oh. I guess I came at a bad time. Well, my owner accidentally gave me the wrong address for the party. I told her it was at 67 Chia Close. It’s really at 667 Chia Close. I’m really sorry for the confusion,” Skyler apologized. Nicole nodded, an idea dawning in her head.
“It’s really okay,” she said, reverting to the polite voice she had used at the beginning of their conversation.
“So you’ll tell her?” Skyler asked, looking past the Xweetok to see if Lucia was out of the bathroom.
“I’ll make sure to tell her,” Nicole assured him, her lips turning upward into a smile.
“You sure this is the place?” Lucia asked as they walked down Chia Close. The two of them were side by side, both holding their respective presents. Lucia wore a simple pink shirt and a white skirt, while Nicole was even less fancy in a white T-shirt and jeans.
“He came by and confirmed it: 67 Chia Close,” Nicole said, shrugging and shaking her head. A small, white house sat there, paint chipped and windows cracked. “It looks pretty empty to me. I mean, it’s kind of small to have a party in.”
“I don’t know. Maybe he made some sort of mistake,” Lucia said. It didn’t look like a place where they were having a party. “But it’s possible that it’s there. I mean, maybe it’s a small party.” The Moehog scratched her head, refusing to believe that someone as nice as Skyler would trick her like that.
“But Luce, the lights are off,” Nicole pointed out. There was indeed darkness, as the two girls could see through the window. There wasn’t any sign of life at the desolate building. Lucia would not give up hope though. She marched up the front steps and looked at the door, darkened by the moonlight. Her hooves were shaking as she knocked, sure that someone would come and open it for her.
The door opened by itself, and Nicole, who was grinning widely, followed Lucia inside. The Xweetok brushed away a hanging Spyderweb as the two of them scouted the place out. Neither of them could find any sign that anyone had lived in this place for at least twenty years.
“Come on, let’s go home. This place gives me the creeps,” Nicole said, mock fear filling up her voice.
“Fine. I just can’t believe it. No, he must have made a mistake when he told me the address, or something. I know it.”
“Face it, Lucia. He tricked you. You’ll never be popular, you’ll never be liked. There’s nothing more to it. You just have to learn to accept your nothingness and move on. And make this a lesson for the rest of your life.” Nicole walked ahead, her tail wagging left to right as her eyes danced maliciously. “Never trust someone when they say they’re your friend. It will only give you false hope.”
Lucia’s head hung as she followed her sister. Unfortunately, the Xweetok was right. She should have never trusted him; of course it would only lead to her getting hurt again. And as a soft breeze blew through the still night air, a tear fell from Lucia’s tired face.
Skyler finally caught up to Lucia at the end of school the next day. She had been avoiding him the whole day, and she hadn’t shown up to his party. As he walked briskly behind her, reaching his arm out to touch her shoulder, he wondered if it was something he’d said, or something he’d done. “Lucia. You’ve been avoiding me all day. What’s wrong?” he asked.
“You monster. I can’t believe you. Trying to be friends with me after that brutal trick last night,” she said, trying to hold in tears. “I can’t believe you. Monster!”
“What are you talking about?” Skyler asked, very confused. “You were the one who didn’t show up to my party. You do know that I changed the address of the building I was holding the party at, right?”
“Of course. You did so without telling me about it,” the Moehog said bitterly, looking down at the ground. She didn’t want to talk to Skyler. She never wanted to see the Gelert’s face again. He had already hurt her a lot, and she didn’t want to feel any more pain.
“I told your sister. She must have never gotten the message to you. Your sister, Nicole, she was the one who lied to you! Not me!” Skyler’s eyes widened as he realized the truth. His heart sped up as he walked faster, trying to keep up with Lucia’s angry strides.
“I don’t want to hear any more excuses. Stop using my sister as a scapegoat. This is all your work, and now you’re trying to drop the blame on someone else. I can’t believe I ever considered you a friend,” Lucia spat coldly, shooting Skyler the hardest and most icy glare he had ever seen. The striped Gelert stopped in his tracks.
“I... I don’t believe it. Nicole lied to you. She did. I told her.”
“Don’t even try,” Lucia said, and she started walking again. Except this time, Skyler didn’t follow. He just stood there, watching the red Moehog walk off into the distance. And he knew that he lost one of the most valuable friends he’d ever made.
“She lied,” he whispered feebly, but he knew it was already too late. Tears formed in his eyes but he tried not to cry.
With a deep sigh, Skyler walked home.