Fifteen Years Ago
She did not like this time of the year. It was not that temperatures had sunk lower than ever before and that half of Neopia was covered under a blanket of snow. She could deal with the cold. Up here on her cloud, she didn’t feel much of it anyway.
No, her real problem was not the weather but the date that would come up soon. Like a thunderstorm it rolled towards her, dark clouds threatening to crash once they had reached her.
Jhudora wouldn’t even have noticed if it wasn’t for the pets she hired for item quests. Why she did so was still beyond her, especially when some of them were just so happy. The cheerfulness of a young Blumaroo who hadn’t stopped talking about what he wanted to get his friend for Valentines Day had ruined her whole week.
Two more days until the dreaded date, she counted in her calendar. Wrinkling her nose even though she knew that it made her look like an old witch, Jhudora regretted that she could not just stop receiving pets for those days. She needed the items they brought to her. In fact, she was already waiting for the next pet she could order to get some food. Her supplies were running dangerously low.
Just at the moment that these thoughts passed through her head, someone knocked at the door.
Jhudora jumped up, listening to knuckles tentatively hitting oak. For a moment, it sounded vaguely familiar, like a sound from her past. As soon as the thought had come to her mind, she already dismissed it and tried to guess what kind of pet was waiting for her to open the door. A small one probably, and she would bet a hundred Neopoints that they would be either chewing on their lip or wringing their hands nervously at her sight.
She crossed the room with three grand strides and threw the door open. The abrupt movement was meant to intimidate whoever had come, to make sure they knew how grateful they should be that she allowed them to go shopping for her.
Who she found behind the door, however, was not at all who she had expected.
“Illusen,” she choked out after a moment of silence.
The earth faerie wrung her hands nervously, and Jhudora mentally awarded herself a point for having guessed correctly.
“Jhudora.” Her voice was as soft as it had always been. “Look, I... May I come inside?”
Jhudora blinked. The words registered in her mind too slowly. “Inside,” she repeated, stretching her head into all different directions. Nobody was in sight who could have seen this strange visit, so she grabbed the earth faerie by her collar and pulled her into the house.
The door slammed shut behind them.
“Sit,” Jhudora commanded, pointing at a group of two armchairs. She waited for the Earth Faerie to take place before she dropped into the empty chair.
For a moment, silence fell over the two women. Jhudora was very well aware of Illusen’s scrutinizing gaze, just as she knew that she was staring, too. The Earth Faerie had grown older. Her once so soft features had hardened, but Jhudora could not say if it had been a result of the years that had passed or if the wrinkles around her mouth had appeared after they had last seen each other.
“What do you want?”
She saw Illusen startle at the harsh tone of her voice, but did not add anything to amend it. There was no need.
“I’ve been up to Faerieland and I just thought I would drop by. To see how you’ve been. It’s been a while...” The soft voice trailed off.
Jhudora snorted. “A while? Fifteen years. So you come back after fifteen years just to ask me how I’ve been?”
“Well, I’ve been worried. The things the other Faeries told me... Besides, you didn’t even drop by.” Her defensive tone grew more and more offensive as she spoke. “You could have told me you’re okay. You know where I live. Fifteen years, and you never even sent me a neomail.”
“If I remember correctly, it was you who told me that you never wanted to hear from me again,” Jhudora replied stiffly.
“Well, yes, but...”
Jhudora folded her lips together. Illusen had started wringing her hands again. Many years ago, the Dark Faerie would have tried to make her more comfortable. Those times were long gone, and as Jhudora watched the Earth Faerie, she couldn’t help but feel satisfaction at her obvious distress.
“But?” she inquired.
“But I didn’t think you would take me so seriously. You never did before.”
“We never had argued like that before,” Jhudora shot back. “You had never betrayed me before.”
“I betrayed you?” Illusen’s hands shot to her armrests and she grabbed them tightly. “You betrayed us. You betrayed everything we stood for.”
Jhudora snorted. “Oh, don’t start that again. We stood for nothing. We had fun together, but there was nothing symbolic about our friendship.”
There, she had admitted it. The two faeries had once enjoyed the time spent together, until everything had gone wrong fifteen years ago. Exactly fifteen years ago. Two days before Valentines Day. Jhudora had not forgotten the date.
“Yes, fun we did have. But you had to destroy it with your stupid prank. The poor old Chia.” Once more, Illusen’s voice had gone soft. All anger dissipated from her pose as she spoke.
Jhudora stared at her former friend for a moment, opening and closing her mouth again, before she burst out, “Don’t tell me you’re still upset about that? It was an accident. We can’t change it anymore. There’s no need crying over spilt milk.”
Illusen didn’t answer, but Jhudora easily read the disagreement on her face. The goodie two shoes was still upset about the Chia who had been harmed by the prank gone wrong.
“Well, if you’re still that upset, then why don’t you go and tell Fyora how awful I have been? Tell her all the horrible things you know about me?” Jhudora leaned forward in her chair. “But you can’t do that, can you? Because then you would have to admit that we once met regularly. You would have to talk about the secret friendship between the two of us. That you’ve had fun with a Dark Faerie. And, worst of all, that you’ve participated in the prank and that it was your fault as well.”
With satisfaction, Jhudora watched Illusen’s expression. She had finally found the reason none of the Faeries knew about her dark activity. Illusen could easily betray her any day, but she wouldn’t do so, because then they would ask how she knew. Nobody had ever found out about the time they had spent together. In the beginning, they had kept it a secret to protect their reputation. Later, it had been the thrill, the fear of getting caught.
Jhudora still didn’t understand why the two faeries had gotten along that well. A spark of regret flitted through her at the thought of the relationship being destroyed forever.
“Maybe you should go now.” She stood up to emphasize her words.
Illusen followed her to the door.
“As you can see, I’m good and well. Nothing to worry about, and no reason to visit me anymore.”
Illusen opened her mouth as though to reply, but then closed it again. Her speechlessness gave Jhudora a certain enjoyment. She had suffered enough from Illusen’s betrayal. It felt good to know that the Earth Faerie wasn’t feeling any better.
“Bye.” The word was a mere whisper, nearly lost to Jhudora’s ears. She didn’t answer, just shut the door behind her former friend.
Hidden deep inside the Dark Faerie’s cupboard was a small package. Jhudora did not need to look at it to know that it was still there. A Valentine’s gift for a friend, the only one she had ever bought. She had wanted to give it to Illusen fifteen years ago.
That was before their friendship had broken.