Money: Part Two
The sunlight filters through the curtains, barely making it past the garish threads. Any other day, I would have been angry at the sun waking me up. But not today. Today, it feels like love and life and everything I can imagine. I open my eyes and smile. I’m in my bedroom still, but it’s been transformed. The windows are covered by rich, beautiful curtains. The floor is now a thick, plush carpet instead of the nothing that was there. My bed is far softer, far larger, far more expensive than Khelyer’s leftover one I used to have. I spread my arms out, feeling the soft texture of pyjamas bought especially for me. I smile. I feel like I have everything I want.
I walk down to the bathroom and find my tube of toothpaste. I’ve always been left with Khelyer’s old tubes, the ones with so little toothpaste it’s hard to squeeze out. But not today. An expensive tube of toothpaste is sitting on the sink and I pick it up. I squeeze a long, fat line onto my brand new Faerie Toothbrush. Happily I brush away the remnants of the last night from my teeth. I feel new, reborn, like this week in which I have swapped lives with my pampered sister is the beginning of a whole new life for me.
I fly down the stairs, my wings hanging out the back of my new jumper. My jeans feel comfortable and the amazing thing is they actually fit! They seem like they were made for me. I feel like I’m walking on springs. In a way, I am – I’m wearing new, sporty, flashy runners from the Space Station, scientifically designed to provide spring and lift. It feels great, and my bouncy stride shows it. Rivenice smiles at my obvious pleasure. She places a plate full of food in front of me and for a moment I’m lost, staring at it. I can barely name half the things on it. Faerie Omelette, that costs a few thousand at least. A massive stack of Fruity Pancakes, which I know are five thousand Neopoints. I keep adding up the total amount, making guesses for the stuff I don’t know. Almost forty thousand Neopoints, on just my breakfast! For a moment I’m shocked at this horrible waste. All of this could have gone to something better. But then I’m stuffing my face, enjoying it, feeling the smooth textures slide down my throat. It’s amazing. This food has cost more than its weight in gold, almost. I envision liquid money sliding down into my stomach. I feel fantastic. For once, for the first time in my life, I am eating something that cost money.
I glance next to me and can’t suppress a smile. Khelyer is wearing one of my old shirts (which technically was hers first) and staring at her plate. On it is a single slice of Sausage Omelette. I grin wider, feeling better. Khelyer has had nothing at all spent on her breakfast, and mine could buy a house! Khelyer picks up the omelette and looks at it distastefully. Then she takes a cautious bite. Pauses. And takes another big one.
“Wow,” she mumbles through the egg and sausage. “This is great! I never imagined...” She swallows, though it’s an effort, and looks at her omelette again. “You get to eat this stuff every day?” Amazingly, she sounds envious.
“I was forced to, yeah,” I say, taking another bite of my omelette. My five thousand Neopoint omelette. “I always wanted this lot.” I wave at the near-empty plate in front of me. Khelyer waves a dismissive hand.
“Maybe, but this is great!” She shoves the last piece of omelette into her mouth and chews slowly. I shake my head. Khelyer’s crazy. It must be just the change; after eating multi-thousand Neopoint meals every day of her life, the free omelette is just something different. I push away from the table and go upstairs to my room.
Where a wrapped package is sitting on my bed.
I rush over to it and tear away the paper. A present! An actual present, all for me! Bought for me, with me in mind! Somebody spent money on me, and for no particular reason! I’ve never had birthday presents before, nothing ever for Shoyru Day or Christmas. The brown paper falls away revealing a beautiful, shining, glowing object. I turn it over slowly in my hands, being careful not to touch the large end. It’s a paintbrush.
I rush downstairs, holding it carefully and screaming with laughter. I’m so impossibly happy. A Striped Paintbrush, an actual paintbrush and it’s mine! Something that is actually mine! I laugh and shriek and dance around the living room, all the while holding it so very carefully, despite my wild antics.
“Let’s go, Kally,” says Rivenice, holding out her hand. I skip forward and take it. I hardly notice the walk, but the grass seems greener, the trees taller, the people happier as I walk down the street, carrying that magical object. I look up at my owner and see her smile. She loves me! She really loves me and I finally have proof. I look back down, back at the paintbrush in my hand. It seems to smile, to wink, to nod at me, and I nod back.
I barely notice the water as it is slopped over me by Rivenice and an attendant Faerie. The wet of the water is joined by the wet of paint as the Faerie carefully covers me with the Striped paint. The last drop she flicks onto the end of my tail. Laughing, I run forward and dive. The water is warm. I can see dull, ordinary blue floating away from me, and I can almost feel the bright, glowing pink, purple and blue shades sinking into my skin. I turn upward and kick, bursting out of the water and letting my wings take control. I soar high above everything, feeling so free, so loved.
I touch down and Rivenice hands something to me.
“Here,” she says. “Go treat yourself.” It’s a fat wallet. As I take it I can hear folded bills rubbing against each other and coins clinking gently. I gasp my thanks, stammering over it, saying it again and again. I open the wallet and remove the first coin I find. I savour the experience. It’s the first money I’ve ever touched.
The sun itself seems to emanate from that tiny red coin. It glows, it shines, it reflects the entire world. I come to life as I touch the coin. I’m powerful and I can make dreams come true. Not just my dreams, but anybody’s dreams. I rush off, shouting even more thank-yous over my shoulder. My Striped shoulder.
In the Neopian Bazaar I can hardly decide what I want. I’m flicking coins and bills left, right and centre to the poor and homeless around me. It feels good to do that; it feels right. It makes me happy to see them scurry away, wondering how to spend their bounty. I finally treat myself to lunch at Pizzaroo, which I have always wanted to do. I almost fall off my chair from the simple pleasure at actually tasting pizza. It’s wonderful, it’s like a dream. I have to pinch myself to make sure I am awake and this is happening to me. The red blemish sinks back into my skin. Striped skin. Proof, real proof, finally after years of neglect, that Rivenice loves me.
I return home and notice Khelyer in the garden. I pass her with only a cursory glance. Those clothes look horribly daggy on her – old and frayed and worn. I feel hardly related to her in my stylish high heels and tight black dress. I’m beautiful and I know it. The paints and creams smeared on my face make me feel rich and glamorous. More money spent, more proof that I am worth it. Rivenice waves at me and hands me another plate as I come in. I sit down in front of the Neovision and am allowed to choose what to watch. Instead of choosing comedies like Khelyer, I switch to the 24-hour music channel. Yes Boy Ice Cream is pounding it out on stage and I sing along loudly. I don’t know where I heard the lyrics. Probably at school. I never had any CDs.
“But hey, your life is your own, and you will never give it up, no! Your life is what you make of it, and nobody-can-change-it – HEY!” I sing along loudly, happily. Because I can. I think about going to a concert if there’s one soon. I could hear this for real! After all, it would only cost a few thousand NP. Always more where that came from. I pick something from the plate – I don’t even see what – and pop it into my mouth. Rich, heavy flavours flow out in the form of a fruity sauce. I gasp as the sour edge assaults my tongue. I swallow and take a swig from the mug that has been placed beside me since I sat down. I barely notice the wholesome, delicious, hot liquid that flows down my throat. I’m sitting in front of the Neovision, watching what I want to watch, wearing a dress that cost eight thousand Neopoints, eating food that cost twice as much, and drinking something that could buy a Codestone. What could be better? This is everything I’ve ever wanted. And I have it.
To be continued...