A Better Life: Part Two
The next few days were spent learning about her new friends and classmates. Dee was introduced to the green Korbat she had seen at the back and she found him to be quite the barrel of laughs. His name was Barhen, but apparently, and she hadn’t heard anyone use it yet, he also went by the name Brian.
The red Gelert she had seen by the window was indeed Ayrton’s twin sister. Her name was Dorothy, but everyone just called her Dot. She was nice and a little timid, but Dee liked her anyway. They had shaken hands pleasantly and given each other warm, friendly smiles.
Dee was also introduced to the sad looking Kougra she had seen earlier. Her name was Elizabeth, and from what Dee was told, she was very intelligent. As the days went on, Dee started to learn that Elizabeth was constantly being picked on by her younger brother, who also went to school with them. The young Kacheek had taken it upon herself to glare at the boy she had discovered was named Tom, at every opportunity she got. She felt a sense of satisfaction that her dark red eyes seemed to creep him out and he started to tone down the teasing, if only by a little.
Soon the class got word that they, and a few other classes in the school, were going on a field trip. As the teacher, now known to Dee as Ms. Platew, read out the names of the other classes that were coming, she saw Elizabeth’s face fall. Tom’s class would be joining them on their expedition to the Giant Omelette. She watched as the girl shrank slightly into her chair.
That day after class, Dee wandered calmly out into the dry grass and dusty ground that was their school yard. A warm breeze blew through the sparse trees and sent a cloud of dust into Dee’s sensitive eyes. Quickly blinking away irritated tears, Dee spotted Elizabeth standing in the Yooyuball field the school often used for gym classes.
Dee knew that that was a common place to find the girl, as she often refrained from going home right away. She was that desperate to stay away from her brother. As Dee contemplated approaching her, she heard footsteps coming up from behind. As she turned slightly, they revealed themselves to belong to Dot, whom Dee had quickly become close friends with.
The two gave each other knowing looks before marching boldly out toward their friend, something that was considerably uncharacteristic for the timid Gelert. When they reached her, Dee placed her paw reassuringly on Elizabeth’s arm, while Dot stood by as the silent observer.
“You know we’ll be there,” she said, marvelling at how much more confident she had become since coming to this school. “He won’t get away with anything. Besides, everything he says isn’t true, and you have many friends who can back you up on that.”
Elizabeth turned slightly to look at the mutant beside her. A kind, though admittedly pointy smile greeted her, and she returned the gesture. “I know,” she said, reassuring her concerned friend. “It still hurts, though. People really shouldn’t say things like that.”
Dee understood perfectly well, as she had often been teased for her grotesquely shaped head. Still, she had to try to help. “Just try not to let it get to you,” she said, and with that, she turned to Dot and left the red Kougra standing in the field, contemplating her rude brother and her friend’s kind words.
“Kevin!” Dee came running into the neohome, screaming at the top of her lungs. Jim fell, startled, from the top of a chair and scampered down the hall to get away from his boisterous owner. “Kevin, guess what!”
Dee slid happily into the kitchen were Kevin glanced up from his copy of the Neopian Times. He opened his mouth, but before he could utter any words, Dee cut in excitedly. “We’re going on a field trip to learn about the Giant Omelette this week!” She placed a paper in front of her owner that he was obviously supposed to sign. “Please sign it; I’m sure it’ll be fun.”
Kevin quickly scanned the paper before picking up an Earth Faerie pen that Dee had handed him. Soon, the paper was signed and Dee was bouncing happily on the balls of her feet. “I don’t know how you find the Giant Omelette so exciting, but I’m not going to argue with you being happy.” Dee smiled at his words, but didn’t say anything. “Now go do your homework.”
Dee skipped down the hall to her room where Jim had curled up on her bed. He glared at her angrily as if daring her to disturb him again, but Dee ignored him and tossed her bag next to her desk. She quickly climbed into her chair and pulled out a battered notebook that she had decorated with pink glitter and construction paper. She opened it, picked up a pencil, and began to write:
I’m going on a field trip with my class. I feel accepted by my friends, and I even feel as if I truly fit in...
Before Dee stood a tall Tyrannian Skeith. He waved his arm in the direction of the towering omelette that was the focus of everyone’s attention. “Omelette big,” he stated proudly. “Omelette start many many year ago.”
She glanced sidelong at Espion, who was, at the moment, taking a sip from a large water bottle had had brought with him. Dee had quickly discovered that Espion, being Maraquan, was easily dehydrated by the warm, dry, Tyrannian air. He could never be found without water in his hand and was always refilling a bottle of the stuff between classes. One time he had even fainted during gym class when a substitute teacher had refused to give him a water break.
The Draik glanced at her and they shared an amused smile. The Skeith wasn’t telling them anything they didn’t already know, but somehow they enjoyed listening to his broken speech all the same. “Want to look at the paintbrush hall?” he mouthed at her.
Dee looked wide-eyed at him and leaned over. “We’re not allowed to leave the group,” she whispered, shocked at his mischievous suggestion.
Espion gave an incredulous look around at the remaining neopets in the group. As Dee looked around, she noticed that many of the students had wandered off unnoticed, although some of the teachers were beginning to glance curiously at the obviously smaller class. “Come on, this is boring. You can’t honestly be learning something here.”
Dee took another cautious look around, and turned back to Espion. She nodded and looking at Dot, who was standing behind her and mouthed, “You wanna come?” Dot shook her head pleasantly, probably actually enjoying the tour given by the Skeith.
Espion shrugged and took Dee by the hand. The two of them quickly slipped behind a large rock as the group wandered closer to the omelette. Soon they were alone and they wandered out from behind the rock.
The paintbrush hall that they were visiting sat on the other side of the omelette. It was easily accessible, but not a part of the tour. Dee had never been inside before, so the suggestion had indeed intrigued her.
The two stepped inside the shady building. It was actually one of the few Tyrannian attractions with anything resembling a roof, even if it was no more than a slab of rock sitting on sturdy rock pillars. Inside were paintings of all the species of Tyrannian neopet known to Neopia.
Other students had apparently taken it upon themselves to visit this attraction as the two friends soon spotted Ayrton, Elizabeth, and Barhen looking at a Tyrannian Usul. Ayrton was the first to notice them and quickly waved them over.
“You two left my sister behind?” he joked as they approached. “Shame on you.”
Dee shrugged and smiled. “She didn’t want to come.”
The group spent some time looking at pictures and laughing with each other. Soon Dot showed up, claiming to have felt lonely without her friends, and joined in the fun shyly.
Lunch time was fast approaching and the group was making plans on how to slip back unnoticed when none other than Elizabeth’s brother, Tom, should show up to ruin their good mood. Two mean looking Grarrls flanked his sides and he looked angrily at Elizabeth. “Shouldn’t you be off learning or something?” he asked rudely.
Elizabeth glared at him but said nothing.
“I can’t see where you got the courage to wander off like this. You’re too much of a teacher’s pet.” The younger boy was earning angry looks from his sister's friends but paid them no head. “Really, I don’t see why they let such a freak like you come on this trip anyway.”
At the word freak, Dee snapped. She could see years of hurt in her friend’s eyes threatening to spill over. Quickly she placed herself between Elizabeth and Tom, giving Tom her most hate-filled look yet. “Who exactly are you calling a freak?” she growled.
Tom backed off slightly, clearly startled by Dee’s reaction. “Well, I wasn’t talking to you,” he snapped. Then looking Dee over again, he continued, “But maybe I should have been.”
Espion stepped up behind Dee, attempting to look threatening. The boy ignored him.
“Really, mutants like you should be locking in a cage somewhere.” He laughed. “We could sell tickets to see you.”
Dee growled angrily and lunged at him, sending him sprawling onto the dusty ground. Quicker than she could react, one of the Grarrls that had been beside him tossed her to the floor in defence of his “friend”. There was a shocked silence and Dee looked up, noticing that everyone was looking at her. Looking at her head.
Her hat had fallen off.
She barely recognised as Dot knelt beside her asking if she was okay. The fight that then ensued was ignored as Tom called out taunts to her and Espion leapt at him in a rage. All Dee could think about was her hat, her fear, her friends. They wouldn’t like her anymore. She wouldn’t be accepted.
On impulse, she pushed Dot away and grabbed her hat. Before anyone knew what was happening, she had started running. She left the hall behind and ran desperately into the hot, open fields of the Tyrannian plateau where she would be alone. Where she wouldn’t be taunted.
Soon she found herself lost and panting, standing who knew how far away from the others. It was just as well, she figured. They didn’t like her anymore.
She sat down against the single tree in the area and let a tear roll down her dry cheek.
“Miss Platew!” Barhen barrelled through the crowd of students getting ready for lunch. Behind him came his friends, all looking worried. “Miss Platew, we lost Dee!”
The teacher stopped abruptly in her walking as the students came to a halt in front of her. “And where exactly did you lose her? I’m fairly sure you shouldn’t have been anywhere but here.”
Barhen looked slightly ashamed but didn’t let that deter him. “I know, Miss, I’m sorry. We all are. But Dee’s missing. She ran off and I think she’s ashamed.”
Miss Platew contemplated the boy in front of her. He looked sad and worried. Behind him, she noticed the expressions of his friends. All of them were worried, but she noticed that Elizabeth looked a shade guilty and Espion looked positively murderous. “What would she have to be ashamed about, Barhen?”
Barhen opened his mouth to speak but instead Espion cut him off. “Tom shoved her, Miss. The idiot was teasing her and Elizabeth and shoved her. Her hat fell off and I think she’s embarrassed by what we saw.”
Miss Platew looked between the students and understood what had happened. Dee was a mutant Kacheek and it was well known what each and every one of them had on top of their heads. She sighed. “Alright, take me to the place she ran from and we’ll start a search party.”
Soon the teacher had arranged for the other students to return to the school and some of the Tyrannian locals had agreed to help find the lost and frightened girl.
Dee didn’t know how long she had been sitting under the hot sun, only that the world around her seemed cruel and unforgiving. She buried her face into her knees and rocked back and forth, clutching her hat in her hands. She knew she’d get sunburned; she knew she’d be dehydrated. She just didn’t care. It wasn’t like anyone else would either.
“Dee!” Espion cried, walking a tad unsteadily through the desert-like plateau. “Dee, where are you?”
He’d been searching for his friend for hours in the dry, sweltering heat and had nothing to show for it but a slight headache. He knew he should have been drinking more water, but didn’t know how long he’d be searching and didn’t want to waste time replenishing his supply.
Ayrton nudged him slightly and looked pointedly at his water bottle, obviously hinting that the Draik should take a sip. Espion sighed and slowly raised the nearly empty bottle to his lips. Before he could drink any of it, though, he spotted something to his right. It was a single tree, blowing calmly in the warm Tyrannian breeze. Under the tree was a small green blob, curled up in the shade.
“Dee!” he shouted, startling Ayrton and dashing off in the direction of the tree. His feet kicked up a cloud of dust off the hard ground, making it hard for Ayrton to see his friend, or anything for that matter.
Espion slid onto the ground next to Dee, who was curled up and taking ragged breaths through parched lips. “Dee, are you all right?”
The Kacheek opened her eyes and squinted up at Espion. She tried to say something, but only succeeded in coughing. Espion, seeing her problem, quickly brought his water bottle to her lips and allowed her to finish its contents. He turned to Ayrton. “Go get Miss Platew and tell her I found Dee.”
Ayrton, who had followed Espion to the tree, nodded his head and turned to run in the direction he knew the teacher had been searching.
Espion looked down at the girl and lifted her head onto his lap where it would most likely be more comfortable. “Really Dee,” he joked, attempting to show her that he was still happy with her. “I told you I’d help you find your way around. Then you go and get yourself lost without me.”
Dee looked at him, startled. “You still like me?” she croaked. Espion nodded his head. It was then that Dee noticed the sweat on his brow and the way he swayed ever so slightly. “You gave me the last of your water,” she stated, completely taken aback by his generous action.
Espion smiled. “You needed it more than I did,” he said matter-of-factly. “Besides, it’s what true friends do for each other.”
As Miss Platew came running up and knelt down before the dehydrated Kacheek, two words ran through Dee’s head.
Kevin walked into the neoschool, worry evident on his face. He had been informed by one of the teachers that Dee had gone missing during the field trip and had quickly started getting ready to join the search party, but apparently the message had come late and soon he was being informed that Dee had been found and was dehydrated, needing to be picked up from the school and brought home.
As soon as he walked into the office he spotted his neopet, his friend, leaning heavily against a Maraquan Draik who was drinking water like there was no tomorrow. The Kacheek seemed to be laughing at the boys actions and Kevin was pleased to see the two smile at each other.
He knelt down next to Dee and smiled. “You seem pretty happy for someone who’s gone through everything I’ve heard about.”
Dee grinned widely. “Kevin,” she said, joy clearly evident in her voice. “I’d like you to meet Espion.” She motioned to the Draik beside her and Kevin reached out a hand in greeting. Espion took it and shook it kindly. “He’s the truest friend I know.”