So Not Fair!: Part One
“Eryn, will you paint me pink?” Mintyne, a brown Xweetok, patiently asked her owner. Her owner, Eryn, was sitting on the couch, reading the newest issue of the Neopian Times. Minty had seated herself on the floor by Eryn’s feet, acting casual as she pretended to read 101 Uses for Paper.
Eryn, startled, looked away from the newspaper and glanced at her third pet. “Where in Neopia did you dream that up?” she asked, giving Minty a quizzical look and turning back to the comics. “You know I can’t afford to paint you, Mintyne. Be glad you’re painted at all. Your younger sister isn’t painted, and she’s fine with that.”
Minty let out a huff, her short patience term breaking. “But Eryn!” she wailed. “I’m tired of being brown! I’ve been brown since, like... forever!” She snapped the book shut and dropped it carelessly on the ground. She knew if her older sister, Ginny – a faerie Korbat who adored reading – found out, she’d be scolded mercilessly on how books should properly be treated.
“You haven’t been brown ‘forever’, Minty,” Eryn said calmly, skimming through the articles. Minty was about to say, “Fine, not ‘forever’, but since before you adopted me!” but Eryn spoke again before she could squeeze in any words.
“Oh, look at this,” she said suddenly, getting distracted. “An article on how to decorate your home for cheap, but make it look really nice! I’m cutting this one out and taping it to the refrigerator. Minty, will you grab me a pair of scissors?”
Sighing, Minty obeyed and brought Eryn the scissors, and her owner eagerly set to work, carefully cutting out the long article. “Please, Eryn? Can you at least pay for half? Maybe I can earn the other half for the paint brush.”
Eryn stopped, looked Minty in the eyes, and sighed. “Mintyne, how many times do I have to tell you? I can’t afford to buy you a paint brush, let alone pay for half of one. And you know that the next – which will also be the first! – paint brush I purchase will be for your little sister. Besides, you know pink paint brushes are really expensive. We just can’t afford it.”
The Xweetok grumbled. “This is so not fair!” she spat. “I’ll go earn some money by myself, then!” She jumped up, sent the book angrily flying across the room, and marched out the front door. Just as she was about to slam the door closed, she heard her owner talk again.
“Have fun,” Eryn called cheerfully, probably already forgetting about the stressful conversation. Minty rolled her eyes and walked away. “I’ll show you,” she growled.
* * *
“May I help you?” the red Usul in the grooming parlor asked as Minty approached the counter a little while later.
“Yes,” Minty answered. “I would like a job.” She smiled at the Usul. “Do you have any open spots? I want a discount on all your makeup. It’s ridiculously expensive. I don’t understand how you expect people to buy your items at such a high price!”
The Usul’s eyes turned into little slits as she glared at Minty’s outgoing rudeness. “I’m sorry,” she said icily, her face rapidly going red, “we’re not hiring at the moment. Please leave, and don’t bother coming back.”
Minty clenched her jaw. “Fine, then. Be that way.” She left the store, angry and confused. What had she done wrong? All her life, before being abandoned by her old owner and getting adopted by Eryn, Minty had been spoiled. Whatever she wanted was hers with the snap of her slim fingers. Now, her newer family couldn’t afford it.
Minty bounded into Uni’s Clothing, her second-favorite shop. The blue Uni at the front eagerly greeted her, thinking she was another normal customer. Minty admired this Uni beyond end. She was always dressed in expensive, fashionable clothing, and she looked like a famous Neovision star with her perfect hairdo and her perfect makeup.
“Can I help you with anything?” the Uni asked sweetly, slipping down her star-shaped sunglasses and looking Minty over with a trained eye. “You would look fabulous in a black jeweled collar, darling, or even a blue satin one. Do you want to try one on?”
“Actually,” Minty began, “I want a job. Do you have any openings?” She remembered how rudely the Usul in the last shop had answered her, so she tried to be a little nicer this time.
“Oh, I’m sorry, dear, but we’re all full.” The Uni gave her a sympathetic look and then asked, “Do you still want to try on those collars? I think a blue one would really bring out the color in your eyes...”
* * *
“This is hopeless,” Minty pouted, an hour and a half later. “No one will hire me!” Sitting on a bench near the Money Tree, she had a nice view of greedy pets grabbing useless items and bags filled with small amounts of money.
She’d visited all the shops she could think of, even the collectable coin shop inside the art center. No one would hire her! She couldn’t figure out why.
As Minty watched the activity around the tree, a yellow Techo stopped a few feet away from her. He had just come out of the Petpet Shop, and he had a new Warf with him. He tugged on a thin leash tied to the Warf’s shiny little collar. “Sit, Puppy. Sit.”
The Warf, who had no idea what the command meant, just stared back at the Techo with a confused look. “Sit, Puppy,” the Techo tried again. After many tries, the exasperated pet gave up and headed for home. It gave Minty an idea.
Back at her small house, she gathered some markers and a large piece of cardboard, sticking it all in a box. Her little sister, Amiyael, a red Uni, immediately asked where she was going. After hearing the long explanation, Ami asked, “Can I come with you? It’s so boring at home. Ginny went to her friend’s house, and it’s Eryn’s Neopian Times Day.”
Their owner’s “Neopian Times Day” was always the day the newest issue of the NT came out, and she’d spend the entire day slowly reading over it. Her pets found it extremely annoying.
After a pause, Minty decided that she wouldn’t mind, as long as she would help and not stand around or do her own thing. “I can help,” Ami promised with a grin.
Eryn was in the living room, reading the short stories section of the Neopian Times. “Eryn,” Minty said, waiting for her owner to look up from the paper. “We’re going to Neopia Central. Okay?”
“Sure, girls,” Eryn replied. “Just be back in time for dinner, all right? I bought some berry-topped frozen yogurt for dessert.”
“Mmm, my favorite! We definitely will,” Ami said. “See you later!” Ami trotted ahead of Minty all the way to Neopia Central, where they parked at the bench Minty was at earlier and had seen the Techo with his Warf.
“Okay,” Minty instructed her younger sister, “set the board up against the bench – yeah, like that. I’ll write the sign.”
Ami used her hooves to hold the board up from slipping off the bench. Minty popped the lid off the fat red marker, and using her best handwriting, wrote on the cardboard, “PROFESSIONAL PETPET TRAINING. 3,000 NP.”
Ami frowned as she watched Minty write the last part. “What do you mean by ‘professional’?” she asked, scrunching up her nose and squinting her eyes at the makeshift cardboard sign.
“‘Professional’ means ‘the best’, ‘experienced’, ‘great’ – stuff like that. Don’t you know that?” Minty rolled her eyes, thinking, Duh! Doesn’t everyone know that?
“I know what it means,” Ami groaned impatiently. “I’m just saying, are you actually a ‘pro’ at training petpets? Because I’m not. I don’t even have a petpet. I’ve never had one before. And you don’t have one either, Minty.”
“Of course I’m a professional. I’m a professional at everything, Ami. Just remember that. I mean, how hard can training a petpet be, anyway?” Minty remembered the Techo’s earlier frustration, but shook it off. Maybe he had been doing it wrong, but she would do it right. She tried to further convince herself. “Besides, for your information, I used to have a petpet. He was a very special, expensive one, too.”
Ami glanced at her sister skeptically. “Whatever,” she mumbled, not bothering to ask what type of petpet the Xweetok had supposedly once owned. “I am getting paid for this, right? After all, I’m helping you.”
Minty snorted. “I never said anything about paying you,” she said. “And you never asked before. You just said you wanted to help. Volunteers don’t get paid, you know.”
The Uni frowned. “Maybe I don’t want to help, then. I want to get at least some of the profit. I’m saving up for a paint brush, too. I already have lots saved up – over 60,000 neopoints.” A huge smile spread across her face as Ami thought of her hard-earned neopoints. It had taken her months to earn all of it, and she was very proud of herself.
Minty gaped at her sister. “What?” she squeaked. “How did you get so much?” She was mad for two reasons – one, that her younger sister had much more money than her; and two, the Uni obviously took pleasure in watching her jealousy.
“I earned it, of course,” Ami answered simply.
“But how?” Minty asked impatiently, putting one paw on her hip. She frowned.
“Well, I started by playing lots of games. Then I started helping in Mom’s shop every day. She gave me a half the profit of everything I sold. Plus, it’s really fun!” Ami giggled, liking the fact that she was considered a shopkeeper to some. “Now I help in there almost every day of the week.”
“That is so unfair,” Minty pouted, inwardly thinking, How could Eryn do this to me? She never offered to let me work in the shop! I didn’t even know Ami worked in there. I bet I’d be a great shopkeeper. Much better than my little sister, for sure. I’d be able to sell everything! I wish the grooming parlor or the clothes shop had hired me... then I could’ve shown Ami how great a shopkeeper I can be!
Ami shrugged. Then, slowly, she said, “You know... maybe you could help me out in the shop. We do get kind of busy sometimes, like right after Mom restocks, and it’s hard all by myself. Especially when I have too much homework from Neoschool.” There was a pause. “But you’d have to make me a promise.”
Minty had stopped pouting and turned to stare at the Uni with a single raised eyebrow. “What would that be?” she asked, shielding her nervousness.
“You have to promise me that you’ll start being nicer to people, and way less bossy.” Ami gave Minty a firm look. “Can you promise that?”
“I am not bossy!” Minty exclaimed, angry now. “Forget it. I’m going to earn the money for the paint brush myself, and I’m going to do it my way. Are you going to help me or not?”
Ami took a step back, surprised at Minty’s change of attitude. “I will, if I get some of the profit, like I said before. I’d like the money from whatever petpets I end up working with.”
“Fine!” Minty spattered, shoving the cardboard sign into the Uni’s hooves. “Find a place to put this, and hurry up. I’m going to find an umbrella. It’s boiling hot out here, and getting worse.”
Ami sighed after her adopted sister left, disappearing into the nearest shop. “Why is she so moody?” she asked out loud, talking to the air. “I just don’t understand her.” Maybe she’s missing her old owner? the Uni wondered. I know I would miss mine if I was abandoned and adopted by someone else. But doesn’t she like us? We might not be as rich as her old owner was, but Eryn is nice. Ginny was adopted, but she doesn’t act like Minty does. I don’t get it.
It was true. Ginnyla, Eryn’s first pet, had been adopted, which was why the Korbat had such an expensive color. Eryn would have never been able to afford a faerie paint brush for her. But ever since Ginny entered her life, Eryn had gained a soft spot for abandoned pets, which was how Mintyne was welcomed into their family. Ami was Eryn’s only created pet.
* * *
The food shop, Neopian Fresh Foods, was only a few yards away. Ami’s stomach grumbled. Where was Minty? She had left over fifteen minutes ago, in search of an umbrella, and she still wasn’t back. Many people had noticed the sign Ami was standing next to, and said they might be back with their petpets later.
All Ami could do was smile and nod. She didn’t know how to train a petpet, and she wasn’t so sure Minty did either. Finally, Ami made up her mind. She’d make a quick trip to the food shop and grab a snack. If she didn’t, she might faint from hunger.
Much to her dismay, the Chia chef shopkeeper didn’t have much in stock. Dirt cheese, hairy fungus salad, edible smelly gym socks – nothing sounded appealing. Ami hadn’t even heard of any of the items. People actually eat this stuff? she thought, horrified. It doesn’t even look edible!
Ami galloped as fast as she could to the Neopian Bazaar. She wanted to make sure to be back before Minty was, or else the Xweetok might get upset with her. When she arrived at the health food store, panting, she was relieved to find a large selection of food.
The Uni took an organic peach, a mixed veggie kebab, orange honey sticks, and a container of vitamin B tablets to the counter. She spent the little bit of Neopoints she had brought with her on the food, then hurried back to the spot where they had their stand set up. Minty still wasn’t back.
To be continued...