Malin held her owner Cali's hand as they walked through Neopia Central. Today was Malin's birthday, and Cali had promised to do whatever she wanted. Malin was having a perfect day.
They had left their Neohome early. After visiting the Angelpi at the Petpet Shop, Malin had tried on clothes all morning at the NC Mall. After buying a Twinkling Pink Tiara, Cali led her to Hubert's Hot Dogs for a quick lunch. It was about noon now. Malin was still full of energy. Cali had informed her that there was more to be done at their Neohome, and Malin was trying to imagine what could make this day better.
Maybe Cali had planned a party! Or maybe there would be mountains of rare gifts! Or maybe even something from the Hidden Tower! Cali saw each thought form in Malin's head, because her eyes got bigger and bigger with each new theory, and her pace quickened. By now, she was practically dragging Cali through Neopia Central's wide paths. Then she stopped.
The Rainbow Pool. Malin stared longingly at the pets in the Pool. Two young Unis were painting each other with rainbow brushes. An Usul was brushing the tips of her ears with her Faerie paint brush. An Aisha was stroking her fur with a Baby paint brush. Three young neopets climbed out of the Pool, each sparkling gold, to hug their owners. Malin watched them, then stared down at her drab green color. Cali knew her Acara longed to be painted. Now, Malin wasn't greedy. She loved Cali, and never asked to be painted, but Cali could tell. Each time they passed the Rainbow Pool, Malin was mesmerized. She hopefully waited for Boochi to come, and neared tears when she saw her friend Madi's owner receive a Fountain Faerie quest. Cali hated to see Malin sad. She pulled her along the path to their Neohome. Malin was quiet for a while, but soon regained her happy mood.
They walked up the path to their home. Cali instructed Malin to wait in the living room. She returned minutes later with three boxes. One was very large, one was a bit smaller, and one was a semi-long rectangular box. Each was wrapped with beautiful silver paper and tied with a pink bow. Malin reached for the rectangular box.
"Why don't you open this one first?" Cali offered, pushing the medium-sized box closer to her Acara.
Malin shrugged and took the box. She carefully undid the paper and re-folded it into a perfect square before beginning to undo the box. After pulling away packing paper, she removed a Fyora Music Box. She wound it up and closed her eyes happily. She smiled and set the music box carefully on the coffee table.
"This one next." Cali handed Malin the large box.
Malin carefully unwrapped it as she had the first gift. She pulled the paper away to see Fyora Print Bean Bag!
"This would be perfect for my room!" Malin noted. She had forgotten about the rectangular box, which Cali had hidden under the couch cushion.
"Here's one more!" Cali pulled a large box from behind the couch. This box was not wrapped. Holes were cut in the top and sides. Malin eagerly removed the cover. A little Angelpuss popped its head out!
"Oh, thank you for these great gifts!" Malin cried, hugging her new petpet close. She couldn't imagine more, when Cali checked her watch.
"It's about time to leave," she noted. She headed for the door, and gestured for Malin to follow. Malin picked up her Angelpuss and ran after her owner.
A bit of a journey later, the two arrived in Maraqua. Cali led her pet to Kelp. Malin had never been to Maraqua before, let alone Kelp! After confirming their reservations with the host, a young Peophin waitress took their order. Malin ordered a Spicy Radish Salad and a Triple Chocolate shell. Cali ordered a Thornberry Brew. Malin suspected that Cali was trying to save money. She looked down at her plate and felt guilty for her expensive order. She planned to pretend to be full, and bring her chocolate shell home after the meal. Maybe Cali could sell it.
"So, how's your birthday been?" Cali asked, after finishing her cocktail.
"Fantabulous!" Malin exclaimed.
"Good, because I have one more surprise," Cali said as she pulled the rectangular box out of her purse. She handed the box to Malin. The Acara closed her eyes. She reached into the box with one paw. She felt around. Her hand grasped around a thick wooden handle. A paint brush! A paint brush! A paint brush! Malin yanked the brush out of the box! Was it Faerie? Or Rainbow? Or maybe Island or Plushie or Starry? Malin opened her eyes excitedly! The paint brush around which her hand was grasped was a... cloud paint brush. Malin stared. She thought the first greedy thought that had ever had entered her head: Cloud paint brushes are really cheap.
She stared at the paint brush. Malin was aware of the deflation of Cloud paint brushes. For the first time ever, she wanted more. She felt that she deserved more. And there was another first here, too. Cali couldn't tell.
Malin began to scarf down her Triple Chocolate Shell.
"Don't you want to go to the Rainbow Pool?" Cali asked.
"O... kay," Malin hesitantly agreed. She walked at a sluggish pace. They arrived at the Pool. Malin waded into the water. She wiped herself down with the paint brush, not savoring the moment as she imagined. She emerged to find Cali waiting.
"So, how do you feel?"
"Okay, I guess. Um, thanks..."
Cali knew something was wrong. She felt terrible. She was one of those really nice owners who would do anything for her pet. She hated to see her unhappy, and was sensing some unhappiness.
"Is something wrong?"
"I invited Madi over. You two can go to Roo Island or something."
"Thanks," Malin replied dryly.
"Here's some money." Cali carefully counted 1,000 neopoints and dropped them into Malin's coin pouch.
They arrived at their neohome to find Madi and her owner, Nikki, waiting. Nikki gave Madi some neopoints, too.
"Have fun!" Cali called as the two friends ran off to Roo Island.
"Is something wrong, Malin?" Madi asked.
"Cali painted me Cloud," Malin mumbled.
"So?" the Faerie Pteri replied. "I thought you wanted to be painted?"
"I did. But I thought Cali could spring for a nice paint brush."
"Malin, you're acting very greedy!" Madi was shocked by her friend's behavior.
"No I'm not!" Malin defended herself. "I'm never greedy!" Secretly, she worried that her friend was right. She quickly dismissed her guilt. "Look," she pointed to the giant Blumaroo head, "we're here."
The friends rode the Merry-Go-Round a few times, then gave themselves a self-tour around the neighborhoods. They were ready to leave when they saw a beautiful Merry-Go-Round Uni statue in a shop. They just had to have it!
"Let's pool our money," Madi suggested, "and we should have enough for the statue."
They pooled together their money, Madi's 950 and Malin's 950. They only had 1,900.
"We don't have enough!" Madi cried.
"I know!" Malin exclaimed, "I've gone to the bank hundreds of times with Cali! I'll bet I can get some from her account!"
They raced to the bank. It took them only another ten minutes to get there.
"Hello," Madi panted to the Skeith.
"Good evening," he replied.
"We'd like to withdraw 1,000 neopoints from my account," Malin announced. "My owner's name is Cali, I think she came in the other night."
"Ah, yes, very kind woman, came in very early this morning, made quite a withdrawal."
"How much did she withdraw?" Madi asked.
"Oh, roughly around 70,000 neopoints."
"Can we ple-e-ease just have that 1,000 neopoints?" Malin asked, a bit impatiently.
"I'm afraid there's none left in your account. As I previously mentioned, she made quite a withdrawal."
The friends exchanged glances. No money left?
The friends left the bank in disappointment. How could there be no money in Cali's account?
"What would she spend 70,000 neopoints on?" Malin asked.
"Oh... something," Madi replied. She knew very well what Cali had spent it on. Secretly, Malin knew, too.
They arrived at Malin's and Cali's Neohome a few minutes later. The two owners were talking.
"Cali, would you like to come to the Hidden Tower with me? I just got my first million!" Nikki exclaimed excitedly.
"Sorry, I don't have any money," Cali replied sadly.
"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that."
"It was worth it, though, I gave my little pet some joy... or at least, I hoped that I would... or I thought I did?"
"She should be glad to have an owner as caring as you."
"I suppose." Cali sighed. "I just wish I knew what she wanted. I thought that by giving her a paint brush, she would be overjoyed."
"What do you mean?"
"She's been so... quiet, sad... she doesn't seem happy. I was hoping to get her a Faerie brush or a Baby brush, but Cloud is the best I could afford."
Malin felt terrible. Her stomach hurt. She wanted to cry. She ran to her room.
Cali and Nikki turned. They had only seen Malin run to her room.
"Madi, why don't we go now? Thanks for inviting us over, Cali!" Madi flew above Nikki's head as the two walked (or flew) down the path to the street.
Malin looked around her room. There was a Fyora bed, Fyora Vanity table, Fyora desk, her new Fyora bean bag, an Ultranova rug, and an Ultranova lamp. Her tiny Angelpuss sat on her bed and played happily. Wow. Cali WAS a great owner. What had caused Malin's greediness? She loved Cali. She'd never been disappointed in Cali's efforts towards her happiness. Cali had struggled and saved, and drained her bank account, just so Malin could be painted. She ran down the stairs.
"Hmm?" Cali mumbled. She was busy calculating the number of games she'd have to play to get Malin a Baby paint brush.
"I really love my new color. I'm sorry I was so greedy."
"Oh," Cali hugged her, "that's okay. I know you had your heart set on a rarer brush. Maybe in a few years, we'll pick one out together!"
"That'd be great!"
"So, do you want to go somewhere for lunch?"
The two agreed to go to Pizzaroo. After enjoying a delicious lunch, they took a walk through Neopia Central. They passed the Rainbow Pool after a while. Malin glanced at it. She saw some pets painting themselves Baby, some painting themselves Faerie, some Grey, some Pirate. But she held her head high, and kept walking. She hugged her Angelpuss close. She didn't even stop.