Alone Again on Valentine's Day
Ryta strolled the bustling streets of Neopia Central, amazed at the crowd. It was early in the morning, and she had planned on watching the sun overtake the stars, but she had forgotten about Valentine’s Day. The shopping rush to buy gifts and presents overwhelmed her, since she saw no point to the holiday. Paper hearts dangled above, hanging from shops and trees as the Neopets dashed around below them. Wind made the objects sway and twirl in almost an artistic way, but they didn’t help Ryta cheer up. The blue Hissi tried to spend every Valentine’s Day the same way, relaxed in a tree and watching the clouds pass by. Unfortunately for her, Liv had other plans in mind.
“So what do you want to do first?” the yellow Pteri asked when she found Ryta a few hours later. Liv loved to hover around Ryta when the Hissi was in this kind of mood.
“I want to find a way to escape your pestering,” Ryta joked with her friend, although they both knew there was some truth to it.
“Come on,” Liv laughed, shoving the Hissi playfully. “Let’s go do something exciting!”
Ryta couldn’t help but smile at the energetic Pteri’s words. Liv was the only one who could drag Ryta out of her solitary state and make her do anything.
“Manipulator,” the Hissi shot at Liv.
“Loner,” Liv replied with a giggle.
“Fine then,” Ryta acquiesced. “We can go somewhere.”
“Yes, of course we can.” Liv flew off toward the Bazaar, spinning in midair as Ryta dutifully followed. “Just slow down,” the Hissi called out.
“I would, if you didn’t move like you’re Slorg Racing.”
Sticking her tongue out at the insult, Ryta sped up and easily overcame her friend. “Now it’s a race!” Liv crowed. The two Neopets ran the streets of Neopia Central, never getting too far ahead before the other one caught up. The surrounding crowd jumped out of their way, smiling at the frivolity of the two friends. Finally they slowed down, breathing heavily and creating a chorus of laughter.
“I definitely won,” Liv said in between breaths.
“You wish,” Ryta replied.
“Rematch?” Liv questioned, barely able to stand from laughing at Ryta, and Ryta in the same position.
“I doubt you could get more than a few feet!” the Hissi observed.
“And what about you? You look like you just got chased by the Snowager.”
For the next few minutes they just stood there, until both of them could stand up without gasping for breath, and that was when Ryta realized that this was exactly what had happened last Valentine’s Day. Liv’s plan to cheer Ryta up always went the exact same way, and it was always today that made her like this. Valentine’s Day just wasn’t her favorite day.
“I suppose we could go get a smoothie,” Ryta suggested.
“Indeed we can,” Liv answered, trying to contain her laughter. The two friends walked along the path, trading insults like they were cards. This was how Valentine’s Day always went, a broken record scratching out the same tune over and over again. Ryta wouldn’t change a single note.
The morning turned into afternoon, and heat from the sun beat down upon Ryta’s neck. She relaxed, letting it sink into her scales as the color of the sun’s rays reminded her of the Pteri standing next to her. She would have loved to spend all day outside, listening to Liv ramble on about vents in Neopia, but it wasn’t to be. Like clockwork, the Pteri announced that she had to leave to go home. Every year, her family held a Valentine’s day party with pink punch, heart-shaped candies, and red frosted cookies. Liv invited the Hissi every year, but that was a subject Ryta wouldn’t budge on. The only thing she was more annoyed by than Valentine’s Day were the parties that accompanied it.
“I’ll see you later, then.” Liv flew off into the crowd, disappearing from sight quickly. Ryta gazed after her yellow-feathered friend, trying to figure out whether or not she was happy at the Pteri’s departure. It left her to the peace and quiet of the afternoon, but also left her alone on a holiday of togetherness. Eventually she decided to forget she had even thought about it and enjoy the sunshine.
Ryta made her way to her favorite tree. She spent so many afternoons in the gigantic oak that she could have found her way there blindfolded, much less through a crowd of late shoppers. The Neopets around started to thin out. They were going home to family and friends to prepare for tonight, or heading off to an early party, like Liv’s. In a matter of minutes, Ryta was left alone, the last person outside on Valentine’s Day.
Suddenly, someone called out for her. She looked to the left, and blinked in surprise. It was the Money Tree, and it was asking her to come talk to him.
“Hello,” she said , and the tree gave a long sigh of exasperation. Ryta observed warily the Valentine hearts on strings hanging from the branches above her, and hoped that the Money Tree wasn’t planning on giving her holiday spirit. Then she noticed the lack of beggars around the tree.
“Where are all the Neopets that come to you?” she asked. The Money Tree sighed again.
“No one donates on Valentine’s Day, so there’s nothing I can give away. Apparently they’d rather sell their items for neopoints. Without anything to give, I’m just an everyday tree. No one comes here. I can’t help but feel sorry for all of the poor Neopets that can’t get anything.”
“You’re alone on Valentine’s Day and you feel sorry for them?” Ryta questioned incredulously. Here was a lonely tree who had to spend a holiday alone, and he felt sorry for everyone else.
The Money Tree acted as if she hadn’t asked that question. “What about you? You’re alone too.” Searching around for something to give the Hissi in front of him, the Money Tree shook a string of hearts from its branches and draped it around Ryta’s wings. She smiled, knowing that the tree thrived off of other’s happiness. She didn’t want to tell him she disliked Valentine’s Day.
“I just like spending some days alone,” she said in reply. “Solitude is my escape from the world.”
The Money Tree thought about this for a while. “I suppose some days I would like some alone time, but I couldn’t go a whole day alone. The company of others is my paradise. Do you really spend days alone?”
“Ye-” Ryta started, but then stopped herself. No, she didn’t. Liv always showed up sometime during the day. No matter what, that yellow Pteri always spent time with Ryta every day. “No,” Ryta said to the Money Tree. “I suppose I don’t.”
The enormous tree gave a huge smile at this, and the bark around its eyes crinkled in emphasis. “I’m glad. Well, then, I’ll let you be on your way. Feel free to come and chat anytime, though. I never turn down company!”
“Thank you,” Ryta said, gesturing with the hearts around her. “I appreciate it.” The Hissi moved down the street, thinking about what the Money Tree had said. Liv was probably at the party right now, still glancing at the door every now and then hoping Ryta would come. The moon shining above her, Ryta realized how late it actually was. Stars were twinkling brightly without the sun to block them out. The Hissi almost turned to go back to Liv’s party, but kept walking in the same direction. She found her tree and climbed into it, moss giving her a comfortable limb to lean against. Ryta stared up at a gap in the leaves, watching the lights of the night sky flicker on and off.
The day had been exactly the same as last year, aside from talking with the Money Tree. She fiddled with the paper hearts around her, folding one of them in half. Settling her blue head against the tree, she closed her eyes. Alone again, just like last Valentine’s Day.
“Boo!” came a shout from below, and Ryta almost fell out of the tree. “Liv!” she exclaimed. “Don’t do that.”
The Pteri laughed, flying up into the tree and settling across from her friend. “Sorry, Ryta. I wouldn’t have let you fall.”
“I know,” Ryta answered. “I was just surprised. I didn’t expect you to be here.”
“And why not?” Liv asked, offended. “The party was getting too loud, and after five hours of noise you want some silence. By the way, what’s with the Valentine scarf?”
“Oh, this? Nothing. Just a gift from a friend.” Ryta smiled a little, thinking of the lonely Money Tree. The Hissi quickly sat up, and pulled her friend down from the tree. “Come on,” she said. “We need to be somewhere.”
The Pteri grinned at the energy of her friend. “Are we going to a party? I thought you wanted to be alone.”
“I do,” Ryta said. “But there’s nothing wrong with being alone together.”
Liv looked at her friend curiously. “What’s gotten in to you?” But Ryta didn’t reply. Not until they got to the Money Tree did she speak again, and that was to introduce them to each other. After that, she sat down and relaxed. Liv and the Money Tree talked, with Ryta chiming in every once in a while. She was alone again, but this time she was alone with friends.