Ten Minutes Until Sundown
Darren sighed miserably. The Krawk examined himself in the mirror.
"What will my friends think?" he thought sadly. "Pink. Wings. Girly! Everyone will make fun of me..."
Taking a final look at himself in the mirror, Darren grabbed his backpack and headed down the stairs for breakfast.
“Good morning, Darry,” his mother said, cheerfully.
“’Morning, Mom,” he said, taking a seat at the table. Also seated at the small breakfast table were Darren’s three sisters, April, Callie, and Courtney. Darren’s mother had adopted April before she created Darren. April was a pink Shoyru. She was a bookworm, as Darren called her; she always had her nose in a book. She was quiet, independent, and a straight A student.
Callie was a different story entirely. She was a blue Kougra. Loud, outgoing, and talkative. Unlike her older sister, Callie struggled in school.
Courtney was the youngest. She was a baby Bori who talked gibberish and had a hobby of throwing items at Darren.
Darren’s mom passed him a glass of orange juice. “Oh, Darry, I just love your new color!” his mother exclaimed, clasping her hands together. Darren blushed.
“Thanks, Mom,” he lied, “me too.”
For the past few months, Darren had been saying how bored he was with his normal green color. He had been hoping his mother would pick him up a cool, boyish paintbrush. Something like Ghost, Tyrannian, Darigan. Something to make his friends jealous. Something totally opposite of faerie.
“Mooooooom,” Callie whined, “when are you going to get me a paintbrush?”
“Soon, Callie. You just have to make up your mind first.”
“I’m getting closer. It’s only between royal, island, checkered, pink, cloud, desert, and plushie.”
Their mother rolled her eyes.
Darren gulped down the juice, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and walked out the door. The moment Darren stepped outside, he felt his face go red.
"This is going to be the worse day ever," he thought bitterly.
“Nice color, Darren!” a yellow Skeith shouted at him. Then he burst out laughing with his friends.
Darren’s face flushed. He took a seat in the back of the room. His grammar teacher, Mrs. Owens, walked into the room, a thick stack of papers in her hand. The students who had turned their heads to tease Darren immediately turned their bodies so they faced the front of the room.
“Good morning, class. Please put your homework on your desk. I will check it as I hand back your tests,” Mrs. Owens announced, grabbing a clipboard from her desk. Students clicked open binders and fumbled papers as the teacher began walking around the room. Darren sighed. Once again, he had failed to complete his assignment. Mrs. Owens finally made her way towards the Krawk’s desk.
“And where is your assignment, Darren?” She raised her eyebrow curiously. Darren knew his usual excuses wouldn’t work this time. ‘My sister colored all over it’, ‘The wind blew it away’, ‘I left it in the Neolodge.’
“I... I forgot about it. I’m sorry, Mrs. Owens,” he said, nervously.
“Darren, what is going on?” she said, bending down to meet his level. “You keeping making up excuses, and it just is not working.”
Darren stared at his desk.
She continued acerbically, “This is out of hand! I may have to call your owner if you do not start acting appropriately! And acting appropriately in my class means completing assignments on time.”
“Good.” Her tone softened. The red Pteri who was Mrs. Owen started to walk back to the front of the room. “By the way, I love your new color!”
A few kids snickered, and Darren sank deep down into his seat.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” the teacher said, coming back to his desk. “I forgot your test.” Mrs. Owens placed a white sheet of paper upside-down on Darren’s desk. Slowly flipping it over, Darren saw a big F written in bold, red ink.
As the day continued, things did not get better. Darren was walking to his next class when a blue Techo stopped him. “Hey, Darren,” he said simply.
Darren had seen the Techo before in the halls, but never really knew his name.
“Hello...” Darren replied uneasily. For all he knew, the Techo was just another pet ready to taunt him.
The blue Techo opened his mouth to say something, but a purple Kougra interrupted him. “Hey, Darren!” he shouted. “Nice new color!” Then he burst out laughing, causing a few others passing by to stifle a laugh.
This time, Darren didn’t blush. He had gotten used to all the pets teasing him.
The Techo turned his head and glared at the Kougra, who had already turned around and was strutting off to his next class.
“So uh... This is what I wanted to talk to you about,” the Techo said, turning back to Darren.
“Ugh!” cried Darren, throwing his hands up into the air. “I don’t need anyone else to make fun of me, okay? I’ve had enough of this!”
“I know, but Darren--”
“Look, I know I am now a faerie Krawk, but it's not like I wanted to be one. My owner painted me this horrible color!”
“I understand that. I’m not coming here to--”
“Please, just leave,” said Darren, tears forming in his eyes. “Please.”
The Techo gave him a half smile, nodded, and quietly walked away.
Darren leaned against some lockers, rubbing his eyes
When Darren arrived home that night, he was immediately bombarded with questions by his mother. “How was school, Darry?” she asked him, taking his backpack for him and setting it on the sofa.
“Fine,” he lied.
“Did the other students like your new color?” his mother asked.
“Yes, they liked it just fine.” Not a total lie. They liked to make fun of it.
“Oh, that’s great!” she exclaimed, giving Darren a hug.
Darren groaned and took his place at the dinner table.
“Moooooom, please tell Darren to stop staring at me!” cried Callie. The blue Kougra wrinkled her nose.
“I did not do anything,” protested Darren, stabbing at his jelly with a fork.
“You two, please behave!” said their mother, giving each of them a glare. Callie sank lower in her seat.
Courtney shouted, then swiped her plate off of her highchair. She laughed as her rainbow melt pizza flopped upside-down on the floor.
Their mother quickly left the table to go get paper towels, April coming along to help.
Callie stuck her tongue out at Darren.
Darren rolled his eyes. “Ouch!” he suddenly cried. The baby Bori laughed and tossed another neo cracker at his head.
"What a wonderful day," thought Darren.
The next day at neoschool was even rougher. By now, the whole school knew of Darren’s new faerie color. Most of his friends wouldn’t say much to him, and his classmates were still laughing. One of Darren’s friends, Morrie, was waiting for him by his locker that morning.
“Hey. You doin’ okay?” Morrie asked, stepping aside for Darren to enter his locker combination.
Darren looked at the red Shoyru and blinked. “Not really.”
“Don’t worry, they will forget about it next week, I’m sure.”
“Morrie,” Darren said, stuffing his backpack into his locker, “how can they possibly forget about it? Every time someone sees me in this girly color, they are going to laugh.”
“Well, think of it this way,” said Morrie as he and Darren began to walk to their science class. “Now, everyone will know your name. And... hey! Maybe some pets will admire you for actually being painted a girly color. There are very few boys who would allow their owners to paint them faerie.”
“You are making me feel so much better,” Darren said sarcastically.
The red Shoyru smiled and took his seat in the front of the science classroom. Darren dragged his feet as he walked to the middle row of desks and took his seat.
Mr. Noaks, a blue Tonu, stood up from behind his desk and instructed to read chapter two of their textbooks.
Someone tapped Darren’s shoulder from behind. Darren didn’t turn around.
Another tap. Darren shrugged his shoulders and leaned forward.
“Hey!” a female’s voice whispered in his ear. “I just wanted to say, I really like your new color. For real.”
Darren sighed angrily and opened his textbook.
“I’m not joking,” the voice said. “Really. It makes you... unique.”
The faerie Krawk continued to pretend he was not listening.
“Did my brother Randy talk to you? A blue Techo?” the pet behind him asked.
Finally, Darren turned around to face her. Sitting behind him was a blue Zafara. She smiled at him.
“Are you,” said Darren, “making fun of me like everyone else? Or do you really mean it?”
“I really, really, really mean it.”
Darren smiled. For some reason, he trusted her. Or maybe, he wanted to trust her. He wasn’t sure.
Darren began to turn around. “Wait!” the blue Zafara whispered loudly. “You didn’t answer my question. Did my brother Randy talk to you?”
Darren recalled the blue Techo from yesterday. “Yes... sort of. He tried to.”
She nodded. “My name is Star, by the way.”
“I know,” Star said, putting her gaze down to her science textbook. Darren stared at her, thinking. Star’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Um... you can turn around now.”
Darren’s face turned more pink than the color of his scales as he whipped around and read chapter two of his textbook, trying to act like nothing had just happened.
That afternoon after school, Darren had stopped home to tell his mother he was going to take a very long walk. She reluctantly agreed to let him go by himself. Before Darren left, he had sneaked up to his room and took a dark green cloak. When he got outside, he wrapped it around his body, covering his wings and most of his purple-pink skin. It was a hot afternoon, too hot to be wearing a hooded cloak. Sighing, Darren began to walk towards the smoothie shop. He passed many neohomes. Most of the homes he passed had pets playing in the front yard.
When Darren entered the bazaar, he began to pass other pets on the sidewalk. Many neopets were out walking today, so it was hard to maneuver through the thick crowd. By late afternoon Darren had reached his destination: the smoothie shop. The shopkeeper, a red Tuskaninny, greeted him as he entered the small shop.
“Welcome! What would you like?” the Tuskaninny said. Surprisingly, the quaint shop was empty except for Darren.
Darren cast his gaze to the menu board that dangled over the front counter.
“I’ll have a mega original kiwi smoothie, I suppose,” Darren said, pulling out a small bag of neopoints.”
“Great choice.” The shopkeeper winked. “Three hundred neopoints, please.”
Darren handed him the bag. The shopkeeper went around the counter and opened a door to the left. A blast of cold air entered the room.
“Here you are. Have a nice day,” said the shopkeeper, handing Darren his smoothie.
Darren thanked the Tuskaninny, then exited the small shop. As he walked down the sidewalk and sipped his smoothie, Darren glanced at the sun, which was hanging low in the sky. The air had started to cool, but he was still warm with his cloak on.
“Ten minutes!” a familiar voice shouted. “Ten minutes until sundown!”
Darren turned. There stood Star on top of a tree stump, her hands cupped around her mouth. “Ten minutes! Who wants to watch? Ten minutes until sundown!”
Darren twisted back around, hurrying away. He wasn’t in the mood to talk, and hoped Star wouldn’t recognize him.
“Hey, mister!” Darren took a breath and turned around. Star was approaching him.
“Excuse me sir, but did you know there is ten minutes left until sundown?”
Darren nodded, and tried to turn away, but Star grabbed his shoulder and turned him back around. “Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”
Darren flipped off the hood of his cloak so Star could see his face. “Oh! It’s you, Darren.”
Star smiled. “Darren, would you like to watch the sundown with me? There are only ten minutes left.”
Darren glanced at the sky. The sun was almost out of sight, and the clouds were multiple colors. Hues of pink, orange and yellow, and farther from the sun the clouds were blue and purple.
“Sure...” he answered uncertainly.
“Excellent!” The way Star clasped her hands together reminded Darren of his mother. “Come sit down by me and Randy.”
Darren took a seat in the grass. Randy the blue Techo was on his left, and Star the blue Zafara was on his right.
“Has anyone else decided to join us?” Star asked her brother.
“Nope.” Randy sighed.
“Why do you want pets to watch the sundown with you?” asked Darren.
Star stared at him. “Randy, will you go sit over there this time?” asked Star, pointing by a tree.
A look of concern crossed Randy’s face. He looked at Darren, then at his sister.
“Sure.” When Randy sat down out of earshot, Star began to talk.
“Don’t you think sunsets are just beautiful?” Star asked Darren.
Darren paused. “Well, I’m not sure. I’ve never really watched one.”
Star gasped. “Well, then for sure you have to watch this one! I can tell, it's going to be wonderful!”
Darren smiled. He loved how Star got so excited over everything.
“Darren,” Star asked innocently, “why are you wearing that cloak?”
Darren snorted. “Why do you think?”
Star crossed her arms. “I really do not understand why you let all the other pets get to you. You know, if you just ignore them, and learn to joke about it, they’ll go away. Besides, you should be lucky you are painted. And an expensive color at that.”
Darren cried out in anger, rising to his feet. Star grabbed his arm and attempted to pull him back down.
“I’m sorry, Darren. Really, I didn’t mean anything. Please sit down.” Something in Star’s voice made Darren sit back down onto the grass
“Excuse me,” Star said, standing up. “Five minutes! Five minutes! Five minutes until sundown!” she shouted. A green Cybunny hopped by, not even turning her head at Star.
Star huffed and sat down again. “I really wish more pets would watch the sunset with me and my brother.”
“I don’t understand. Why do you want pets to watch with you?”
“I told you, Darren. Sunsets are beautiful. Magical. They make you forget about everything in the world. And when the world seems to be coming a world like yours, that’s just what some people need. They need to forget everything.”
Darren paused. A soft breeze blew back the hood on his cloak. He made no attempt to push it back up. “Is that why you watch? To forget?”
“I suppose,” answered Star.
Darren looked to his left. Randy was lying on his back, his arms under his head, watching the clouds turn colors. Watching the stars pop out.
“And is that why you want others to watch? You want them to forget their troubles, too?” Darren asked.
Star smiled. “That kind of thing gives everyone a different feeling inside. It’s funny, too. Everyone’s face makes a different expression.”
“Well, sometimes their jaws drop, sometimes they blink a lot, and sometimes they just stare and I watch their eyes sparkle.
“Ha, I remember a few weeks ago, a purple Chomby had been convinced by Randy to watch the sunset with us. His eyes got so big, I thought they were about to pop out of his head! It was strange, too. He said he had never watched a sunset. Oh wait, you haven’t either, have you? I’m sorry.”
Darren grinned. “That’s okay.” The Krawk brought his gaze up to the night sky. Millions of tiny bright lights dotted the sky.
“Star...” he whispered her name.
Star turned. “Hmm?”
“How did you get your name?” Darren asked curiously.
Star gave a big smile and pointed up. Suddenly, she gasped. “Oh my!” She stood up. “Randy, come over here!” Then she turned to the street. “One minute! One minute until sundown!”
Darren’s body tensed. He hadn’t realized how excited he had become!
Randy sat on the wet grass next to Darren. “Are you ready?” he asked, excitedly.
Star rejoined Darren and Randy sitting on the grass. “Oh, I’m so excited! This is going to be amazing! Just look at the colors!”
It was true. The last of the sun’s rays poked through the clouds. Wisps of pink, orange, and yellow painted the sky.
And then, suddenly, it was gone. The sky was black. The only light was the moon and the millions of stars that acted like dim candles. And for a moment, Darren forgot everything that had happened that day. It was magical.
“Beautiful...” whispered Star.
The next day at neoschool was not any better. As Darren walked down the halls, the other pets snickered or glared at him. Darren pretended not to notice them.
When it was time for his grammar class, Darren took his usual seat in the back of the classroom. As soon as he sat, a fire Lupe turned to him. “I like your new color,” he said sarcastically. “Why didn’t you get something cool? Faerie is a girl color!” He laughed.
Star’s words buzzed into Darren’s mind.
“I really do not understand why you let all the other pets get to you. You know, if you just ignore them, and learn to joke about it, they’ll go away.”
“You’re right, Bobby,” said Darren to the fire Lupe. “What was I thinking? I should have gotten a more awesome color like yours.”
Bobby smiled proudly.
“But if you think my taste is girly and all...” Darren didn’t finish his sentence. Bobby understood.
“Yeah... well... sorry.” Bobby turned around. So did the others.
Throughout the day, Darren tried his humor trick. If someone called him insulting names, he would either look at them and shrug like he didn’t care, or he would agree with them, or laugh with them, causing the pets who were making fun of him lose interest. He was so caught up in using this trick, that he forgot to say hi to Randy and Star.
After school, Darren went home for dinner, and then decided to go back to the place were he had talked to Star the night before. He purposely left his dark green cloak behind.
As he hurried down the sidewalk, he began to get that warm, magical feeling he had gotten when he had watched his first sunset. His stomach filled with butterflies. Darren looked up to the sky and smiled to himself. Like every night, billions of stars hovered above him.
He thought, "Why haven’t I ever noticed the stars before?"
He broke out into a run. The sky had started to turn pink. The sun would be setting soon.
Once again, a familiar voice echoed through the town.
“Ten minutes! Ten minutes until sundown!”