A Rainbow Behind Dark Clouds: Part Two
Illusen Day came and went, followed by the unexpected but welcome Greenery Festival and the much-anticipated Chomby Carnival.
As time passed and the Month of Running gradually drew to a close, Amy was getting more and more excited over the fact that in a matter of days she’d be adopting her dream pet. Charmy, on the other hand... to say she was nervous would be an extreme understatement. Slowly but surely her fear of her or her siblings being traded or adopted was consuming her whole life...
All was quiet spare the howling of the strong winds outside. Fat, gleaming snowflakes like diamonds against the washed-out sky floated down to the earth. A blizzard was expected a little later in the day. Charmy and Bandit had been alone for the past few slow hours – Bandit settled in his favourite armchair, completely absorbed in one of his favourite novels as usual, his large Mazzew curled in his lap, and Charmy wandering aimlessly around the house, taking off and re-applying her make-up countless times. The silence made her restless and bored. It took some time for her owner and Sakura to return, from what was supposed to be a short trip to Neopia Central but had turned into a mass-shopping spree. She flung the door open and announced her return flamboyantly.
“We’re back!” Amy yelled, struggling with armfuls of fat paper bags.
“And this stuff weighs a ton,” Sakura moaned from behind her, staggering into the hallway and dumping the bags she was carrying.
“No, carry those to the kitchen, Sakura,” Amy said.
With an exaggerated groan, Sakura picked up the bags and dragged them into the living room towards the kitchen. Charmy watched her owner.
“Did you remember to restock your shop?” she asked with a dull tone.
“Yep!” Amy replied happily. “And emptied the till, and did the food shop, and even bought you that black lipstick you wanted.”
Charmy watched as Amy rustled around in a paper bag and brought out a stick of midnight-black lipstick wrapped up by the shop where she’d bought it. Charmy paused before smiling and accepting the gift, then bounding to her bedroom to try it on. Charmy was very in to make-up and fashion, and was currently going through a faze where black was her favourite colour to wear. She fondly called it ‘simplistic and chic’.
In the kitchen, Amy was busily unpacking the food shopping with the help of Sakura. Amy stood by the cupboards, waiting for Sakura to pass her the items from the paper bags that were stacked up on the kitchen table. Sakura was usually never helpful and hated chores, but for the catch for her was that while Amy’s back was turned to fill the checkered cupboards and refrigerator, Sakura would grab any candy from the bags and hide it behind her back for stealing to her room later. When the bags were empty, Sakura quickly raced to her room with fistfuls of candies and lollypops. Charmy swaggered into the room just as her sniggering sister ran out, pushing past her. Amy went to the table to throw out the leftover empty bags and stared inside them.
“That’s odd, I could’ve sworn I bought loads of candy...” she muttered.
Thinking of Sakura and realising the trick she must’ve played, Charmy laughed to herself. Amy looked up and saw her blue Kacheek had changed her entire outfit to fit her new lipstick. She now wore a black fedora at a jaunty angle and an expensive and elegant gold necklace. Her lips were carefully painted a shocking black and her eyes were framed by smoky eye shadow. It was a drastic change from her usual pink hair bow and handbag and sparkly earrings and made Charmy look extremely sophisticated.
“Hey, you look great!” Amy smiled.
Charmy struck a pose and took off her hat. She was confident and relaxed for the first time since Amy had announced the coming of the new family member. The Kacheek sat at the kitchen table and smoothed an imaginary crease in the checkered tablecloth – which matched the cupboards and chairs.
“What clothes will you buy for the Gelert you’re adopting?” she asked, sitting up in her seat, posture perfect as always.
Amy, who was washing her hands in the sink, paused and gazed out of the window.
“Gee, I didn’t think about that,” she said about the noise of the trickling tap. She soaped her hands thoughtfully. “Hey, I bought azzle coffee; you want some?”
Charmy nodded. “I’ll help decide.”
“Help decide what? Which coffee you drink?”
Charmy rolled her eyes. “No. I meant I’ll help you decide what clothes to buy the Gelert.”
At this point, Bandit walked in with a book under his furry, muscular arm. He sat at the table and laid the novel open before him.
“Help?” he said, then lowered his voice to a murmur so Amy didn’t hear. “I thought you didn’t like the idea of adopting?”
Charmy shrugged without looking at her brother. Bandit frowned, his eyebrows knitting together. He was confused – but glad at the same time. Perhaps his sister would accept her new brother after all? Amy stopped and stood up straight.
“I did buy candy, definitely...” she said to herself. “Wait a minute... SAKURA!”
She ran out of the kitchen and moments later Bandit and Charmy heard excited shrieks of ‘no, it’s my candy now!’ from their youngest sibling. Bandit took Amy’s absence as a chance to confront his sister.
“What’s going on, Charmy?” he asked. “Just a week ago you were terrified about Amy adopting. Now you’re so calm about it that you’re actually offering to help him settle in?”
Charmy took a breath and prepared to speak but was interrupted by Sakura’s squealing. Amy marched the Kyrii back into the kitchen, play fighting with her. Sakura’s mouth and hands were crammed with sweets.
“Put the leftover candy in the cupboard!” Amy barked, struggling to maintain authority and giggling as she wrestled with her pet. “I’m telling you!”
She wriggled out of Amy’s grasp and raced to the living room. Laughing, her owner chased her on and off the sofas. Charmy and Bandit leaned towards each other once more.
“Look,” Charmy said. “Amy clearly wants to adopt this Gelert, perhaps more than anything. It’ll make her happy. Then perhaps... the whole family will be happy.”
Bandit sat back. “And that’s what you’ve been worried about all along,” he concluded. “The state of our family.”
Charmy nodded briskly and looked away. Bandit stared at his sister and smiled. To most people, she seemed shallow for her love of material possessions and appearances – but in truth, you couldn’t wish for a more caring sister.
So due to the fact Charmy had agreed to pick out clothes for her new brother, the entire family ventured out to Neopia Central the very next day. It was a glorious spring morning, the best weather they had had since the previous summer had ended and the cold autumn weather set in. The sun shone strong through the odd passing cloud, but otherwise the bright blue sky was clear and undisturbed, and a cooling breeze kept the temperature tepid. As they neared the Money Tree, they all stopped to look around. Sakura marvelled at pets being painted at the Rainbow Pool, emerging from its glittering waters re-painted expensive and rare colours. Ever-perceptive Bandit shot a glance at his favourite shop, the bookshop, and noticed a brand-new blue building next door.
“Is that a new shop?” he wondered aloud, pointing with a fat paw.
His family looked up and followed Bandit’s gaze.
“Cool, let’s go see!” cried Amy, racing forward.
She was closely followed by Sakura, who wanted to race, then Bandit and Charmy, who moaned about getting her good shoes scuffed. They skidded to a halt in front of the new store, Sakura gloating because Amy had let her win their little race.
“It’s a general store,” Bandit noticed. “Are we going in?”
They clambered over the newly swept porch and pushed their way into the store. A bell tinkled overhead as they opened the door, and a yellow Kacheek shopkeeper looked up from the Neopian Times he was reading from behind the wooden counter.
“Welcome to the Ever Stocked General Store!” said the Kacheek through a moustache.
“Ever stocked?” Bandit asked, as his family set about looking around.
“Yes!” replied the shopkeeper. “Your days of waiting for the shops to restock are over – here at the Ever Stocked General store, we offer a wide range of items, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week!”
Bandit nodded, struggling not to raise an eyebrow. That little speech was obviously rehearsed and the Kacheek said it in a way that suggested he had already repeated it more than several times today.
It was a small, rather quaint shop with a selection of very common and very cheap items. Sakura and Charmy began complaining about the low quality and variety of the stock, but Amy seemed strangely happy and started picking up cartons of Kau Kau Farm milk and a loaf of bread.
“This is great!” She beamed.
“Is it?” Sakura said sarcastically.
“Yeah,” Amy snapped back. “Didn’t you hear – it’s ‘ever stocked’! If we ever run low on the bare necessities again, I can pick them up here cheaply any time!”
“That’s a very responsible owner-type thing to say.” Bandit smiled as he entered the aisle they were standing in. “Not like you at all, Amy.”
Amy grinned cheekily and shrugged. “I guess the adoption next month has knocked some sense into me. Hey, that’s what we’re looking for – clothes!”
She pointed to the next aisle over and let her pets into it. Charmy let out a disgusted snort. She looked at the shelves, lined with extremely basic clothes – plain shirts, plain trousers, plain skirts, plain sneakers and plain hats.
“We’re going to buy clothes from the general store? How... tacky.” She sighed.
“I guess,” Amy said.
“Although, this white shirt is just the sort of thing that would suit a rainbow Gelert,” Charmy continued thoughtfully, picking out a basic white shirt. “Bandit, try it on.”
“What?” Bandit yelped, horrified. “No!”
“It’s only trying on clothes, Bandit, calm down. Come on, put it on. You’re built like a Gelert so it’ll give us an idea on if this’ll fit or not.”
“I’ll have you know that I’m a lot different from a mere Gelert!” Bandit said. “Lupes are a lot bigger and have more muscles, we’re furrier and – ”
He never discriminated other pets and wasn’t usually so immodest, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and this was a desperate time for Bandit – but his argument was in vain and he ended up trying on a shirt that was just a tad too small for him. They left the shop having bought more than they thought they would, and continued through Neopia Central.
“I wish all shops were as cheap as that general store.” Amy sighed, rattling the change in her bag as they ambled through the Neopian Plaza.
Since she and Sakura had been shopping just the day before, there was nothing they really needed to buy, but Charmy loved to shop and was rushing from store to store, beaming and dragging a tired Bandit after her. Sakura walked slowly beside her owner, dragging her huge feet, wearing a bored expression and idly crunching her favourite hot BBQ-flavoured chips.
After she was tired of shopping, Charmy announced they were going to the Art Centre for some coffee. This was Charmy’s favourite thing to do – have a tea or coffee in Neopia’s local coffee shop – and she made sure she visited it every time she was near, no matter whom she was with. So they clambered down into the Deep Catacombs and settled in the coffee shop. They chose a table and relaxed with their drinks. Bandit gulped his house blend coffee, defending Sakura’s advances to steal the complimentary biscuits, and watched the fire that story telling was held around. Charmy sat up straight and politely sipped a lemon iced tea, and Sakura, who hated tea and coffee, munched greedily on a tigersquash twirly cake. Amy had excused herself from the shop after paying and her pets waited anxiously for her return, wondering where she’d gone. Seeing the pets on their own seemed to unnerve the shopkeeper – a yellow Shoyru with make-up piled thickly on – and she kept a close eye on them as she flapped around dishing out tea and treats. Charmy once caught her gaze and glared back, challenging the Shoyru.
Amy returned swiftly carrying a large cardboard box. Her pets stared at her questioningly, and Sakura leapt out of her seat and hassled Amy to show her what she’d bought. Amy hushed her and slowly opened the box. After a moment, a scaly Cobrall rose up from the dark depths of the cardboard. Bandit leant forward in fascination, Sakura squealed and begged to hold the petpet. It flicked its tongue in and out, smelling the air, its yellow eyes not blinking but flickering this way and that. Charmy gasped and drew back in horror, letting out a cry of disgust.
“I bought this for the rainbow Gelert when he comes!” Amy smiled. “It’s the last thing I had to do to prepare.”
Bandit looked back at his sister, who was sitting as far back in her chair as she could, and chuckled.
“You hate Cobralls, don’t you, Charmy?” He laughed.
Charmy looked like she might break into a cold sweat at any moment. She had taken off her fedora and was hiding her face behind it as if the Cobrall could attack at any time and the hat would protect her. Amy closed the box again and tucked it carefully under her arm, still smiling.
“I bought some supplies, too, want to see?”
“No way am I living with that... thing!” Charmy screeched.
The family left Neopia Central satisfied with the purchases that had been made, making a fuss over the creature that was coiled up in the box – everyone except Charmy, of course. The Cobrall was like an omen to her and once again she was negative towards the thought of a new brother.
To be continued...