It Ain't Easy Being Grape: Part Two
Before I could blurt out an apology, Oliver did something I had never seen him do for the whole time I knew him. He smiled. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” he asked teasingly.
I looked around, confused. “No, I don’t think so.”
“I just thought that jelly was for me. I suppose it’s not, then,” he said, feigning disappointment.
I finally understood. “Wait, so you’re not offended by it? I mean, I would have thought that giving jelly to a jelly pet was an insult. I know I get fired up straight away when someone even offers me any piece of fruit, let alone grapes. I’m strictly against fruit-eating and fruit-picking in any shape or form, you see. It’s against my beliefs,” I chattered away, oblivious to Oliver’s increasingly amused expression.
And then, Oliver hit another milestone for someone who seemed like he hardly talked or conveyed any feelings or emotions. He laughed. “You’re hilarious, Violet, thank you. I’ve been in need of comic relief ever since we moved here. You’re the first person that’s ever been nice to me in this place. And no, I’m not offended. I love jelly – it reminds me of home.”
“In that case, here you go.” I beamed, quite flattered by his comments. I handed him the plate of jelly. “Welcome to the neighborhood,” I said.
“Thanks, Violet,” he said, bending down to receive the plate of jelly. “Sorry for being a bit of a pain at school today, I’m still getting used to the surroundings, I guess.”
I nodded. “No worries, I understand.”
As I arrived home, I realized I had been skipping across the road while whistling. ‘How embarrassing,’ I thought. ‘Oliver must’ve thought I was slightly deranged or something.’ But for once, I didn’t care that much. I had a swing in my step, a sparkle in my eye – I had made a new friend. And he thought I was nice. What more could you ask for?
Entering my bedroom, I noticed Rosie was sitting at her pink vanity desk, gently brushing her fur with a short hair brush (perhaps her most valued possession). One of the ‘perks’ of having a sister meant I had to share my room. “Hi, Violet,” she said without glancing away from her reflection in the large mirror.
“Hey, Rosie, what’s the big occasion?” I asked jokingly.
“Oh, you know how I need to maintain my fur. It’s high-maintenance, and apparently 100 brushes per day makes it shinier and silkier.” She grinned. “I’m getting Ellie to enter me into the Beauty Contest next month.”
“Er... you’re not serious, are you?” I asked, shocked. “You know how I feel about the Beauty Contest, don’t you, Rosie? It’s all looks and no brains. Sure, there’s a trophy and all the glitz and glory of winning, but superficiality can only get you so far...” I was met by Rosie’s blank expression, and decided to give up. It was useless trying to explain anything other than fur and beauty products to Rosie. “Well, good luck,” I said, sighing. “You’ll probably win with all your friends voting for you.”
Rosie took this as a compliment, smiling proudly. “Thanks, I probably will. By the way, have you seen the new student? Oscar something or other.”
“Oliver, you mean,” I corrected. “Yeah, he’s actually not bad once you get to know him.” I sat down at my wooden desk beside Rosie’s – it was much smaller (and shorter), a dull brown color and had a small mirror propped on it beside a simple desk light, all at my request of course. I wasn’t as fancy as Rosie and I certainly didn’t need as much ‘maintaining’ compared to Rosie; just a quick polish of my purple exterior was adequate enough for me.
“Well, I think he’s weird,” Rosie commented bluntly while brushing her fur, “a little bit crazy maybe. I heard from my friends that he ‘actually’ thinks he’s from Jelly World, no joke,” Rosie chortled.
“Have you even talked to him?” I said, feeling anger rise up.
“No... because that would make me weird, wouldn’t it?” she answered haughtily.
“Urgh, I’ve had it, Rosie. Can’t you think about Neopians other than yourself for once? Why do you have to be so narrow-minded all the time? I can’t stand it,” I griped petulantly.
Rosie glanced at me defensively, shocked at my sudden remark, but quickly regained her composure. “What? You’re not exactly the Soup Kitchen Faerie either, Violet. You’re the one that’s always telling me how important it is to know how to defend yourself and not let your guard down. And now you’re angry at me for doing exactly what you used to do all of a sudden!” she protested.
I hesitated. She was right. I taught her to be like this. Never let your guard down because you don’t know what will happen. The only things you can rely on are physical strength and a good vocabulary – those are your weapons. Whether or not Rosie took any of that on board was another thing, but that’s what I tried my best to teach her. That was my philosophy. Until now, that is.
“I’ve changed,” I said plainly, “I guess I’ve changed.” I smiled, starting to believe what I was saying. “Maybe not everyone is out there to make fun of you.”
“Good morning!” I said chirpily to Oliver, who was already sitting at his student desk. I was early to class for once and was feeling unusually cheerful.
He grinned, “It is, isn’t it. By the way, thanks again for the jelly. It was delicious.”
“Don’t thank me,” I replied as I climbed onto my desk chair. Miss Willard once offered me a wooden stool to give me a lift to my seat each morning, but I flatly refused. ‘I don’t need help from anyone but myself,’ I said to her. “Thank my owner, Ellie. She was the one with the idea about giving it to you,” I said as I finally sat on the chair.
“Ah, I see,” said Oliver. “Well, all the same, it’s great having a friend who lives in the neighborhood.”
My heart felt like it skipped a beat. Oliver called me his ‘friend.’ I was ecstatic, and tried to savor the moment.
Oliver laughed. “You look all starry-eyed all of a sudden. What did I say?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really...” I said sheepishly. “I don’t think anyone has ever really called me their friend before. Silly, huh?”
“Really?” Oliver asked in sheer disbelief. “But you have such a great personality. I mean, you’re smart, kind and have a great sense of humor. What more could you ask for in a good friend?”
“You really think that?” I asked. “Wow, I guess I really am changing. It’s just that I used to be so defensive, you know? For example, if someone came up to me, the first thing on my mind would be how to perform a karate chop on them.”
Oliver nodded knowingly, “I think I know what you mean. I was exactly the same before I came here. I was scared people would tease me or laugh at me because of whom I was and where I came from. Now, I don’t really care what people think. I’ve decided not to wallow around in self-pity.” He beamed, “I’m a jelly Chomby whether you like it or not!” he exclaimed.
It was as if I had a newsflash in my mind. All my life I had disliked being a Grape Chia. I hated being called ‘cute’ and ‘little’ – that’s why I resorted to vigorous training and my communication skills all the time. But that was like a shield to all my insecurities. I never actually accepted that I was a Grape Chia, that I wasn’t going to sprout taller than my younger Baby Kacheek sister, that some Neopians couldn’t accept me for who I was. All this time I had been trying to change myself, to scare them away and in turn, I isolated myself. I prevented myself from developing friendships with others.
“Come on, you try, it’s very liberating!” Oliver urged.
“I’m a Grape Chia whether you like it or not!” I said, laughingly. “You’re right, I do feel liberated.” I felt like we were going to be the best of friends.
“Violet! Someone’s at the door asking for you, sweetie!” Ellie called from downstairs. I placed my book down, a manual on ‘how to be a great friend.’ There was no harm in getting a bit of insight from others.
As I made my way downstairs, I wondered who it could be. I never got any visitors. The only visitors that came to our home were either the daily delivery of the Neopian Times or Rosie’s friends coming over. Once I arrived at the door, I was met by a pleasant surprise.
“Hey Oliver! I was just about to go over to your place to ask if you wanted to play Yooyuball this weekend. I signed up on the team at school today and-” There was something odd about Oliver that forced me to stop. Instead of seeing a smiling, jovial Oliver that I had become accustomed to, Oliver was hunched over, staring at his feet glumly.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, becoming concerned. “You look miserable.”
Oliver looked up at me. “Violet, there’s something I need to tell you,” he said, pausing. “I’m moving. I’m going to Mystery Island with my owner.”
To be continued...