Also by grapesourhorse
She wanted to feel pretty. The pink Cybunny peered at her brown eyes in the mirror, opening them as wide as possible in an attempt to make them look more noticeable. Carefully, she examined her pink-tipped nose and delicate black whiskers, smiling a little wistfully. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of the calendar that hung next to her door. She shuddered as she spotted the thick red ink that outlined a date that was less than a week away -- “Cass’ Birthday Party”. There were so many things to do, so many things left to prepare, and she hadn’t even thought about what she would wear to her best friend’s party!
"Time to find a dress," she decided. She pulled on a woolen scarf, checked herself once more in the mirror, and then dashed off to enlist her friend's help in finding a dress.
“Cass!” Larissa shouted, banging on her best friend’s door. After a few moments, it was flung open to reveal Cass - a Faerie Xweetok and Larissa’s friend since kindergarten.
“Larissa!” Cass exclaimed, her sea-green eyes brightening. As Larissa looked at them, she couldn’t help but suppress a little sigh - Cass was so beautiful, what with her gauzy wings and teal-colored mane. She was by no means jealous of Cass’ faerie coat, but she sometimes wished she had beautiful aspects as well.
“Can you come dress shopping with me?” Larissa inquired, looking at her friend pleadingly. “I haven’t even started looking and I have nothing to wear to your party!”
“Always the procrastinator,” Cass grinned, already half way out the door. “The party’s in less than a week, silly!”
“Tell me about it,” the Cybunny moaned, but there was a smile at the edges of her mouth as well. The journey to the Clothing Store in Neopia Central was made swift by the friendly banter of two lifelong friends, and they soon found themselves outside the gleaming chrome walls of the store.
“Here we are!” the Xweetok exclaimed, her eyes flashing with excitement.
Larissa tried to smile, but she felt a few twinges of worry. Would she find something suitable for Cass’s party? She had never had a good experience while dress shopping.
“Oh, don’t give me that ‘my Warf is dead’ face,” Cass laughed, throwing an arm around her friend and hugging her close. “You’re going to find a beautiful dress, and you’re going to look magnificent!”
Larissa smiled and, holding her head up high, she entered the shop... and there it was.
It was a silken, sparkling dress, the most breathtaking cyan color that ever existed. It was soft as a whisper and looked as delicate as a pair of faerie wings, with velvet trimmings and scallops of lace. It was remarkable in its beautiful, luminous simplicity.
“Ah, yes,” came a sudden voice from behind the pair, and Larissa turned to meet the eyes of a bespectacled, blue Lutari. “That dress seems to be the hot commodity of the season - it’s faerie made, you know - it floated down straight from the clouds of Faerieland’s Imperial Design Studio, brought in by Fyora’s tailors themselves.”
“It’s beautiful,” Larissa murmured reverently, stroking the cerulean fabric with awe.
“You have to try it on,” Cass agreed.
“It’s the only one left, too,” the Lutari saleswoman continued, smiling. “Faerie-made gowns are so delicate, so exquisite, and so unique, that Fyora only permits five of each design to make it down to Neopia. These gowns are normally worn for imperial balls and royal masquerades - not for everyday Neopia wear.”
“Well, she has to try it,” Cass said firmly, grabbing the dress and ushering her friend to the dressing rooms. Larissa, who seemed to be in some sort of trance, snapped to attention long enough to change, replacing her jeans and T-shirt with the expensive, hand-loomed silk.
"It really is a beautiful dress, "she thought to herself, admiring the faerie workmanship. She had never seen anything quite so lovely before - but then again, faerie artisans could create any matter of beautiful things.
The cool silk of the dress fell over her head, embracing her with its striking material. As soon as she zipped up the wonderful creation, Larissa knew that she was in the presence of a magical dress. Holding her breath, she turned slowly to survey herself in the mirror.
And she gasped.
She could hardly recognize herself. As she twirled, the dress seemed to bring out all her best features. It settled over her frame with delicious and cool sophistication, making her seem slimmer and more grown-up. It brought out the bright luster of her curls and transformed her normally plain brown eyes into a bright, chocolate color. It made her fur looked plush and soft, and her limbs willowy and lean.
“Are you ready yet?” Cass called, sounding impatient and eager all at once. Grinning from ear-to-ear Larissa stepped out of the curtains of the dressing room and gave a mock bow.
“You look beautiful,” Cass whispered, a paw flying to cover her mouth. Larissa had always been a pretty Cybunny, but this dress... it seemed to bring out all her best features, permeate her form with a glorifying beauty.
Larissa’s coffee-colored eyes sparkled with happiness, and she gave another twirl of delight. “Isn’t it the most wonderful dress you’ve ever seen?” she cried.
“You need it,” Cass agreed, grinning as she recovered from the shock. “How much is it?”
“Oh... oops,” Larissa said grimly, her face falling. A faerie-made masquerade gown, one of only five in existence - it would surely cost thousands upon thousands of Neopoints. “Probably too much,” the Cybunny continued, the smile leaving her flushed, rosy face. Her owner had just spent all her Neopoints to paint Larissa pink - they were more or less broke.
“It’s all right,” Cass said, squeezing her best friend’s arm and giving an encouraging smile. “Whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t be too bad.”
Larissa smiled, although she felt a certain amount of apprehension as she fumbled for the price tag.
For the second time that day, she gasped.
It took a moment for her brain to comprehend what all those 0s meant - except for the fact that there were about 5 of them.
“It’s... it’s a... it’s five hundred thousand Neopoints!” Larissa squealed, her voice cracking.
Cass staggered over, eyes bulging and struggling for breath. “You’re going to want to take it off very carefully,” she whispered. “In case they have one of those ‘you break it, you buy it’ rules!”
The pink Cybunny clutched at the fabric with trembling paws. “Take... take it off?” she said, seeming to struggle for the words. “I can’t! I - Cass - it’s a magic dress! You saw me in it - these things come along once in a lifetime!”
Yet Larissa knew there was no choice in the matter. She could never afford this dress - not even if she did manage to save that many Neopoints. Her owner would have a fit over the ridiculous price-tag - and Larissa could agree. Five hundred thousand Neopoints - for a dress? Even for a magic dress, it was way beyond her price range. Before the purchase of the Pink Paint Brush, Larissa had insisted that she would be perfectly happy if only she could have pink fur - but this dress put things in perspective. She would never be happy again unless she could have it.
“Liss,” Cass began warily, “you could never afford it. Fyora could never afford it!”
Larissa felt the familiar prickling sensation behind her eyes as she slowly began to accept that her friend was right. She could never afford this dress; she should have realized it as soon as the Lutari saleswoman had said that there were only five that were available to the general Neopian population.
“Oh Liss,” Cass murmured sympathetically, pulling her friend into a hug. “There will be other dresses,” she tried.
“Yeah,” Larissa muttered.
“And you don’t even need a party dress - it’s way too fancy for anything but balls, and we won’t be going to any of those soon,” Cass attempted once more, although she knew that it was futile.
Larissa smiled sadly. “Thanks for trying, Cass.”
It had been a week since the unfortunate dress incident, and Cass was doing her best to drag her best friend out of this slump. Larissa had been moody and unresponsive for days - and Cass had just about had enough.
Larissa sighed, letting herself be bullied along through the park.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Cass said encouragingly, grunting at the effort it took to haul her friend over to a bench. “You have to admit that, Lissa!”
Larissa heaved herself onto the bench and immediately resumed her now favorite position - slumping over. The world had existed in shades of gray ever since she had found out that the dress was gone from Neopia; totally sold out. She had been coming in for days to try on that dress over and over, admiring her reflection, until she had been informed that the stock was entirely gone.
“Okay, Lissa, listen up,” Cass began authoritatively, forcing her friend to meet her eyes. “Real beauty is found on the inside.”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Larissa moaned, hitting her forehead with the palm of her hand, “don’t give me the ‘inner beauty’ spiel! It’s so cliché. And anyways --”
“You didn’t let me finish,” Cass huffed, with the huffiness that most teenage girls are so good at utilizing. “I am so not giving you the ‘inner beauty’ spiel. What I mean is - that dress... it just emphasized your looks, right? It didn’t make them pop out of nowhere!”
“What do you mean?” Larissa asked, confused.
“Well, your eyes are naturally brown,” the Xweetok explained. “The dress just deepened them to a chocolate color. And your fur is as plush and soft as a Cybunny can ask for - the dress just made it look even nicer. Putting on that dress didn’t make magically make you lose twenty pounds - it just flattered your figure. The dress helped your beauty. But your beauty was always there, you know?”
“I suppose,” the Cybunny said hesitantly, a familiar spark entering her brown eyes.
“Now,” said Cass with a flourish, “look!” Swiftly, she withdrew a parcel from behind her and extended it to her friend.
Vaguely stymied, Larissa glanced at it - and raised her brows in surprise. “A mirror?”
“A magic mirror!” Cass cried, her face breaking into a bright smile, “a magic mirror to remind you of how beautiful you are - no matter what you’re wearing. Larissa, you don’t need a dress to be beautiful - just look into the mirror!”
Deeply touched, the Cybunny gazed at her reflection. Same brown eyes, that seemed to sparkle slightly if the sunlight caught them at a certain angle. Pleasing features, plush pink fur, a pink nose. It was all there in front of her!
“See, Lissa?” Cass smiled, sounding deeply pleased with herself. “Even if you don’t have a magic dress to make you feel beautiful, you have a magic mirror to show you! It wasn’t the dress that made you beautiful - it was just you in that dress. And you’re just as beautiful without it. Just look in the mirror - mirrors don’t lie!”
Larissa felt a deep smile spread across her face, and she flung her arms around her best friend. “Oh, Cass, what would I do without you?” she exclaimed, her chocolate eyes bright with gratitude. “Thank you,” she said, and she had never meant anything more.