A small yellow Acara hid behind the stair railing as she peered through it, hidden in the shadows. Her big blue eyes were widened with hope and excitement as she fidgeted, waiting for her owner to come home.
Earlier that day the girl herself had been filled with energy, buzzing around the kitchen as if she were a robot and somebody had placed a million neopoints in her to keep her running. She had mentioned something about stocks, and a big increase, and had then started to murmur about ‘finally earning enough’, and ‘just in time’.
Enough for what?
That was what the Acara was dying to find out. She was hoping that it would be a paint brush, or at least the lab ray. All of her other siblings had glorious coats and beautiful petpets, and she couldn’t wait to be just like them. She didn’t want to be just ‘plain Ami’ anymore, and she wanted to be a part of society, to take part in the glamour and prestige that painted pets inherited once they shed their drab, common coloring.
What was about to happen? What would her owner paint her? Maraquan? Royal? Faerie? Oh she hoped that she would be painted Faerie! That had been her dream color ever since she had been born! To fly among the clouds, touching the orange mists as the sun said goodbye to the world... Oh, to be faerie!
She shivered with anticipation as she crouched, nearly falling over with the intensity of such movements.
The doorknob started to twist and Ami’s heart nearly stopped. She clutched the railing even tighter than she had beforehand—which was pretty impressive, in all actuality—and pressed her tiny face against the wooden rail. Her owner, Macy, had to have gotten a paint brush! She just had to have!
The girl walked in through the door, shrugging off some snow that had fallen on her coat and pulling back the hood, showing a face that was flushed, but obviously pleased and happy. Their family lived on Terror Mountain, near the Scratchcard Kiosk, and apparently it was snowing right then, which made Ami extremely happy. Maybe it would snow enough that their door would be blocked shut and they wouldn’t be able to go to school...
“Mom!” said a voice, and a desert Gelert bounded forward from the hall beneath the stairs. “You’re back! Did it go well?”
“Uh-huh!” said the girl, nodding happily. She grinned as she pulled off her coat, revealing a small brown box that she held in her hands.
“Oh, I’m so jealous!” said the Gelert. “I envy her! She’s going to be so happy tomorrow, Mom! And on Grey Day, too!”
“I know, Spaz!” agreed Macy, absolutely beaming. “I can’t wait to see her face. She’s at last going to be painted!”
Ami couldn’t sit still at all the next day. Her wish about the snow hadn’t come true, so she had to sit through all of her boring classes, and a lot of the teachers snapped at her to get her to pay attention to the lessons. She was so busy being excited, and imagining all of the possibilities of the colors she could be painting that it was hard to think of anything else for even a few seconds.
“And so, the first Grey pet was painted in honor of the Grey Faerie...”
“Hey, Ami!” whispered her best friend, a green Usul by the name of Karli. “What’s got you so excited? Did Macy finally get you that pink Slorg you’ve been wanting for, like, forever?”
“No!” the Acara said, shaking her head. “I’ll tell you...”
Her friends were definitely happy about the news that she had to spread. Most of them were already painted, but all of them were glad that she was about to be and congratulated her for her luck.
At lunch the grey pets were treated to being first in line, since it was their special day. Ami had forgotten that it was Grey Day, and it was only the fact that she’d been held back by the teacher for a lecture about paying attention that kept her from shoving ahead of them to get her own lunch.
The rest of the school day was unbearably long. The clouds had all cleared to show a brilliant blue sky, and the sun blazed on the snow in such a way that it was startlingly beautiful, and the white Unis in school were jealous of it, wishing that their coats could be as pure as it was.
Her entire family was waiting at the door of their neohome by the time Ami managed to escape from school. They were all eager to get going, and even though they all acted as if their destination was a secret, Ami knew where they were all going. She could hardly contain her glee as they stepped into the Uni carriage.
“Are you ready?” asked Macy, smiling happily as Ami stepped into the clear waters of the Rainbow Pool. The Acara giggled and nodded, finally able to achieve one of her greatest dreams. Now what was she going to hope for next? An entirely pink room all decked out in Fyora furniture? A faerie Kadoatie? “Now close your eyes. I want it to be a surprise.”
Ami obeyed, squeezing them as tight as they would go. She shuffled in place, splashing some of the water around and hearing some squeals of surprise as the liquid hit her siblings.
She knew the instant that the paint brush touched her skin. It was impossible to ignore the cool liquid, and the tingling sensation that rippled across her entire body. It was almost as if she could feel the change as it took place, the new color, the heaviness of a new weight on her head, the change of expression. She gasped as it all took place, wondering what she could possibly look like now.
“There!” said Macy, sighing with satisfaction. “It’s all done and over with. Come out now, Ami! Come and look at yourself!”
The Acara hopped out before her owner had even stopped talking. She bounded over to the girl, who was holding a small mirror in her hands, and her jaw lowered so far to the ground that many of the passing onlookers were surprised that it didn’t touch it.
Her skin was a dark grey color, and her eyes looked as if she hadn’t slept in a year. Her mouth drooped to the point where it looked as if nothing on Neopia could ever cheer her up, and her ear stalks drooped to the side unhappily. In fact, everything about the Acara seemed to be dejected.
Ami was delighted, and the best thing about it all was that she couldn’t even feel the depression that everybody claimed Grey pets were subject to.
“Do you like it?” asked Spaz, her face full of worry.
“EXTRA! EXTRA! FOPD STOCKS CRASH WITHIN MINUTES!” shouted a voice from over near the Catacombs. Macy looked disinterested for a moment, admiring the coat that she’d worked so hard to give her pet, and then complete shock and despair covered the girl.
“Oh no!” she cried, holding her hands to her face. She rushed over to the Chia holding the newspapers and peered down at the article. The big, bold letters seemed to stare at her in mockery, blaring the bad news to the very depths of her soul.
“What’s wrong?” asked Ami’s brother, a darigan Lupe called Jim.
“Oh no...” whispered Macy, tears flooding her face as she buried it in the papers. “Those stocks held all of my funds! What am I going to do now? How am I going to take care of everybody?”
Ami blinked, not knowing the torment that filled her owner’s body.
The girl looked up, looking slightly comical with the ink that had smeared onto her face due to her tears, but her expression was so sad that once you looked at her you didn’t think that it was funny at all.
“I’m sorry, guys!” she cried. “I can’t take care of you anymore!”
Ami stood behind her owner as the girl filled the paperwork at Dr. Death’s desk, wondering how her whole life could turn from being perfectly wonderful from one moment to absolutely wretched the next. Had it been the paint brush that had ruined everything? Had there been a spell on it to create something horrible so that its wearer would be miserable?
Oh, if only they’d seen the newspaper before Macy had painted her! Then she wouldn’t be in the position she was now! Then she’d be happily at home, even if she would be slightly disappointed that things had turned out the way they did.
Tears leapt down her cheeks as she allowed the cranky yellow Techo to lead her away.
This day truly had turned out to be a Grey Day after all...