Money: Part Three
I wake up on the last morning of the swapped week. Seven days ago I confronted Rivenice. She’d never spent a single Neopoint on me, not one, ever. Even when I got sick, she just took me to the Healing Springs every day for a month until we got a good spell. I said that she’d never loved me. Rivenice, somehow, thought she was helping me, making me a nice person by never giving me anything. And so, for six days, Khelyer and I have traded our lives. For six days, six wonderful days, I have been given everything I could possibly dream of. I have been painted. I have furniture in my room. I have new clothes that actually fit. I have eaten something that isn’t omelette and jelly. I have been living in a perfect dream, and the amazing part is that it’s actually reality! My reality. But then sadness tinges my dream.
It’s my sister who really lives like this, not me. For all of my life she has been treated like this. Groomed and polished and brushed and fed and loved. We’ve only traded for a short time, for a limited time. Today is going to be the day when I have to give it back to her. Tomorrow I will wake up and the new clothes will be gone, whisked away to get a refund. That refund will probably buy something for Khelyer. It won’t buy anything for me, since after today never again will Neopoints be spent on me. I know they won’t. Because Rivenice thinks it ‘makes me better’, it ‘makes me a nicer person, a good person’. I think that for eight years I have never known a touch of motherly love, never had one thing spent on me, and it makes me bitter.
The morning is ruined. I can’t get rid of these black thoughts; I can’t even pay them to leave! I swing my legs over the edge of the bed, which is so massive that only my feet are now unsupported. With several large bounces I make it to the side and climb off. I drop down to the carpet and press my face into the thick richness of it, savouring the softness and the warmth it gives. I stand and make to walk out, but the carpet threads are so long they have managed to tangle around my feet. I trip and fall. Grumbling, I untangle my toes from the carpet, thinking ironically to myself that it won’t be here tomorrow.
Downstairs, breakfast is waiting for me, but I don’t have any appetite. The rich food has added heaps of weight to me. My figure is gone. But when I’m back on nothing but omelette three meals a day, I’m sure I will lose the excess fat and go back to being thin as a stick, like I was before. I chew on a corner of a Faerie Omelette. A thought pops up and I quickly crush it, but not fast enough. This omelette tastes the same as the free kind. Why am I thinking that at a time like this? It can’t possibly taste the same. Sure, it’s got eggs and stuff in it, but this cost five thousand NP. Free omelette is, well, free. The expensive stuff has to taste better, and I convince myself it does. I search for the unique flavours but all I can find is egg taste. I put the omelette back and shove the breakfast away. My stomach has been really unsettled these last few days. All the sugar and calories and richness of the food don’t agree with it. Ah well, it’s not like I’ll ever have any ever again.
Rivenice looks concerned for me and offers me something plainer. I refuse her and walk away from the table. As Khelyer comes in, I turn back. She’s sitting down now and eating her own breakfast. I’m shocked to the bone. Fifty thousand Neopoints of delicious, wonderful food is sitting next to her and she goes for plain, free omelette! If it’s so wonderful, whispers a little voice in the back of my head, why isn’t she eating that instead? Why aren’t you eating it? I crush the voice, as I crushed the one before that said free omelette and expensive omelette taste the same.
As I walk upstairs again, I stumble. The tight, stylish dress won’t let me stretch enough to reach the next step, and my wings are immobilized. I jump up the stairs, wishing for something freer, loser. Khelyer’s old clothes were always too large, but somehow comfortable. They didn’t restrict me, and the looseness was lovely and cool in summer. I shake these thoughts from my head. How can I want cheap, free things when I am in the last day of my perfect dream?
But somehow there’s nothing I want to do. I don’t want to go to a concert, as I did yesterday and the day before. I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to do anything that would cost money, I realize suddenly. It still feels alien to me, still feels somehow wrong.
“Hey, Kally,” says Khelyer, coming in.
“Oh Khelyer, could you clean my room out?” I ask, without thinking. “It’s getting really dirty in there. I’ll even buy you a slushie.”
“I’m not your slave, Kalinin,” she gasps, looking disgusted and upset. “Don’t think that just because you have money means you can order everyone around.” She shuffles out, leaving me stunned and shocked. I’ve become used to the idea that power goes with money. With money I can do everything, have everything. But it seems it has its limits after all.
I think back to the song I heard six days ago. The song by Yes Boy Ice Cream that was playing on the Neovision. I didn’t really notice it then, but now I think of the lyrics. 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! ‘Your life is my own’, but here I am living Khelyer’s! ‘Your life is what you make of it’, but mine has always been controlled by Rivenice not giving me money! But as I think further, money isn’t everything. Money wouldn’t make Khelyer clean my room.
Money is just money, just little bits of metal and paper. I pull a five-hundred Neopoint note from my pocket and look at it. It has so much power! This thing could buy food, clothes, almost anything, so long as it was cheap. But bigger notes, five-hundred-thousand-Neopoint notes maybe, could buy anything.
But the omelettes were the same. The free omelette and the expensive omelette were no different. And this twenty thousand Neopoint dress is still just clothes, just the same as Khelyer’s hand-me-downs. Nothing really has changed. I still live, I still eat, I still relax, I still play. I feel sick from all the rich food. I just ordered my sister to clean up after me! Maybe Rivenice was right. Maybe not having money did make me better, and as soon as I got any, I instantly changed. I no longer look at things and thing of how beautiful they are, I simply think if I can afford it or not. I don’t look at people and say, ‘Oh, I’d love to look like them!’ I’m figuring out the cost of their outfits. This money has ruined me, has changed me. I’m different now, I’m someone else. I don’t value anything anymore. I don’t look at the Money Tree and see how happy the people there are, how much it helps them. I simply scorn it, because in my pocket is more money than the Money Tree will ever give out.
How can this have happened so fast? Everything seemed to change in a whirlwind, spinning the old Kalinin away and replacing her with this new one, this rich snob. I try and think back to the first day I had money. When I was handing it out to people because I could, just for the smiles on their faces. I know it felt like pure sunlight, like actual happiness, just looking at them. I try to recapture the memory but I can’t. It’s gone. I can no longer feel happy because I made others happy. It doesn’t matter anymore.
I’m standing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at myself. I’m wearing Khelyer’s old clothes again. The ugly, rough, old, free ones. The loose, comfortable, functional ones. The Faerie Toothbrush, which at first I loved, has been replaced by another one. Sure, the Faerie one was beautiful, but the attached wings really hurt my hands, and the bristles weren’t soft on my teeth. The one on the edge of the sink now is one of Khelyer’s old ones. Her hands have worn down the handle, giving me a perfect handgrip. The bristles are used, making them gentle and soft. There’s a new tube, or rather an old tube of toothpaste next to the toothbrush. The one I’ve been using for a week, the expensive one, was disgusting. Sure, it may ‘whiten your teeth and give you a brighter smile all day long, keeping your fresh, perfect shine!’ but it tasted revolting. I could barely keep it in my mouth while I was brushing.
I leave the bathroom and go back into my bedroom. My old bed is back, the one far more familiar to me. I’ve slept in it over such a long time that there is actually a lowered section in the middle where my weight has been. It’s far more comfortable than the expensive bed, which is gone.
I’m back in my old life again. The free one. I’ve realized it, a day before I had to, that Rivenice was right all along. She was trying to help me by not giving me money. She gave me no power, so I could never misuse it, as I already have. Just a week was all it took to change me. I was wrong. Money isn’t everything. Money is nothing.
And it doesn’t prove love. The only thing that proves love... is love.
Thanks for reading the series; I hope you've enjoyed it! Neomails are always welcome.