The New Kids
Feather Dust watched from across the table as Capricorn dumped a pile of heavy brochures onto the dining table.
“What are these?” asked Tsukasa, a rainbow Peophin, as she slid one towards her with her hoof.
“Leaflets and brochures for the Sandy Oaks School,” she replied, placing her hands on her hips in her typical fashion. “It’s the best school in Neopia Central, apparently.”
Blitz, a baby Gelert, looked confused. “School?” he gasped through a mouthful of Gelert day cereal. Feather Dust cringed when she saw the mashed up food in her little brother’s mouth... gross...
“Yes, Blitz, school,” said Capricorn very slowly. “You didn’t think that just because we now live in Neopia Central that you wouldn’t have to go to school, did you?” Blitz shrugged and went back to chewing.
“So, what’s Sandy Oaks like?” asked Hennagell, a checkered Gelert who was the oldest Neopet in the family. Capricorn smiled. At least somebody was taking interest.
“It’s amazing!” she answered as if the place was like Faerieland. “They have their own swimming pool, football field and Neovision in every room! Just take a look at the pamphlets.” She looked at Blitz. “All of you.”
Feather Dust was a gold Uni and the idea of school sounded quite exciting. She recalled all of the Neovision shows where on the first day, the main character finds her best friends, and they all remain that way for the rest of their lives. Feather Dust often daydreamed about having sleepovers and midnight feasts with all of the other Unis at Sandy Oaks.
Suddenly, she snapped back to reality, when she realised that she was the only one who hadn’t finished their cereal. She quickly shoved the remaining spoonfuls into her mouth and grabbed a brochure, before speeding off to her room. Like all of the Neopets in her family, she stood on two legs (except of course, Tsukasa, who lacked legs and floated a few inches above the ground instead.)
She slumped down onto her Pink Castle Bed and opened the book, her eyes scanning across the words that were written there. Sandy Oaks is one of the most highly academic schools in all of Neopia Central. It provides a safe, clean learning environment where every Neopet, no matter how big or small, can reach their full potential...
As she continued through, she saw pictures of the amazing pool (it had to be the size of a soccer pitch!) and the school gym where Neopets were running about the place with their friends, smiles on their faces. It sure did look like an amazing school. It even had a frozen yoghurt machine in the cafeteria!
Feather Dust slammed the book closed and walked to the living room. Hennagell looked fascinated by the meditation club, and Tsukasa was staring at the pool with a look of awe in her eyes. Even Blitz, who was completely anti-neoschool, was having a good time reading about the sports facilities.
“So, has everyone had a good chance to read about the school?” asked Capricorn when she walked in. Everyone nodded.
“I love this school!” cried Tsukasa, “I could spend all lunch time swimming!”
“They have a frozen yoghurt machine!” exclaimed Feather Dust.
“Okay, calm down, everyone!” said Capricorn. “It’s great that you all love the school. I neomailed the school and they said there’s four places available if you want to go.”
“YES!” everyone cried at once. Feather Dust had a feeling that this would be a perfect first day...
On Monday of the next week, Feather Dust woke up with a smile on her face. She glanced over at her calendar and almost jumped out of the bed with joy. In big pink letters of her handwriting it said START SCHOOL.
She got up and got dressed and put on her lucky Uni shoe necklace (maybe it would give her good luck). She tied her mane into a ponytail and smiled at herself in the mirror. She was all ready to go.
She ran downstairs to find four, shiny new backpacks waiting on the table, all in assorted colours. Feather Dust grabbed the pink one, as it was her favourite colour. Blitz took the green, Hennagell the blue and Tsukasa the lilac.
“Are you all ready?” asked Capricorn to all of her pets. Feather Dust looked at all of them. Everyone looked completely psyched to be going to school! They all nodded eagerly, before Capricorn kissed them all on the forehead and sent them out the door.
“Now,” she continued, “I have a little surprise for you all...” They turned the corner outside their house to see four brand new bikes with big red ribbons tied around the handlebars. Each one had a large label which read their names.
“Surprise!” exclaimed Capricorn. Everyone ran to the same coloured bike as their backpack was, finding that each one had a different added extra. Blitz’s had a bell which rang loudly (even though everyone knew he would be driving everyone mental with it all day), Tsukasa’s had a drinks holder, Hennagell’s had a hook that he could attach a trailer to and Feather Dust’s had a pretty white basket with charms attached to it.
When they all arrived at Neoschool, Feather Dust didn’t think that she’d ever seen so many different Neopets. They parked their bikes in the rack and walked up to the gate. There was a big green sign arched over them which read SANDY OAKS NEOSCHOOL. The four pets all held paws and hooves as they entered.
Feather Dust felt a feeling, but it wasn’t the one she was expecting to have. Some Neopets turned and stared at them, while others just giggled and whispered. Feather Dust, however bad the feeling was, shook it off and continued into the playground.
It has to get better, she thought. The brochures showed how good it was! Everyone was happy!
Suddenly, a large Tonu came out of one of the buildings, holding a register. She had a big flowery dress on and a large daisy tucked in her mane. She looked around the playground, then back to her clipboard before rushing over to the Hunter family.
“You must be the Hunters!” she exclaimed cheerfully, “My name is Mrs. Ping and I am one of the teachers at Sandy Oaks. You must be...” Then she called Tsukasa – Hennagell, Hennagell – Blitz, Blitz – Feather Dust and Feather Dust – Tsukasa. The pets quickly corrected her and she laughed.
“Oh!” she gasped. “Me and my names! Honestly! Well, I will be teaching... Blitz! That’s you, little Gelert.” Blitz nodded. He looked happy to have such a nice teacher. “You will be in the lower class, as you are a baby Neopet. The rest of you will be called in a bit later.” She smiled and walked away. Hennagell congratulated Blitz on having a nice teacher and he grinned.
A few minutes later, the bell rang and some teachers came out onto the playground, shouting different class names. Feather Dust waved goodbye to her siblings as she approached the teacher who had called her name. She was a tall, pink Ogrin with a piercing face.
“Are you Feather Dust Hunter?” she asked coldly. The Uni nodded in reply.
Feather Dust wasn’t sure if this was real or not, or if this teacher was being mean because it was a trick. But she did as she was told and went inside the classroom. The rest of the Neopets came flooding in and immediately took their usual seats. There was no specific place to sit, but it seemed like a plan had already been created. She just stood at the front of the class until the teacher came in.
“Now, Feather Dust,” she said loudly, so that everyone in the class stared at her, “my name is Mrs. Strong. Tell me where you used to live.” Feather Dust felt frozen. Twenty one pairs of eyeballs were staring back at her, just waiting for an answer.
“Err... er...” she stammered.
“Spit it out, girl!” Mrs. Strong snapped.
“Meridell!” she burst out. “I used to live in Meridell.” Mrs. Strong gave a quick ‘hmmpph’ before ordering Feather Dust to sit down. Most of the Neopets in the class gave her a look as if to say ‘don’t you even think about sitting next to us!’ A group of Unis who Feather Dust saw in the brochure gave her the most dirty look ever. It wasn’t the welcome that she imagined at all.
Eventually, Feather Dust found a seat next to two other Neopets, one was an orange Kougra and the other was a royal girl Usul. They smiled warmly at her, and it felt so good to finally receive kindness from somebody.
“Now,” said Mrs. Strong, “I want you to write down in your folders the answer to this equation.” She scratched a math sum onto the blackboard in squeaky white chalk: 4x+4=18=2x. Feather Dust stared at it blankly. She had never been good at math, but her old teacher had always helped her. She didn’t know what to think would happen if she asked Mrs. Strong.
After ten minutes of being surrounded by scribbling pens, Feather Dust tried not to make eye contact with Mrs. Strong on the fear that she would pick her to answer it. Apparently it made no difference.
“Feather Dust, what answer did you get?” asked Mrs. Strong, folding her arms and looking directly at the Uni. Feather Dust clutched her faerie pen in her hoof and stared at the blank sheet of paper. The two Neopets whom she was sitting with looked at her sympathetically, and the rest of the class just started to giggle.
“I’m waiting, Miss Hunter,” the teacher repeated, tapping the meter ruler repeatedly on her desk. It felt like torture.
“I-I don’t know...” murmured Feather Dust finally. She looked down at her knees and felt like she was going to cry.
“I didn’t think so,” said Mrs. Strong, “Did they not teach you math in Meridell? Or are you just stupid?” Feather Dust’s eyes began to stream with tears. She hated school, and she never wanted to come back.
At lunchtime, all of the class went out on the playground to join the rest of the school. Feather Dust went and sat on her own. Surely her siblings would be out soon as well. They would make her feel better. She was right – Tsukasa was floating out of the building at that instant.
“Tsukasa!” called Feather Dust. The Peophin waved in return, but didn’t come over. Feather Dust saw why. A group of other Peophins of all different shapes and colours came out behind her, all of them wearing the matching school sports jerseys, including Tsukasa. They were laughing and joking and were definitely friends.
She looked around hopelessly. Blitz was playing on the huge adventure playground with his baby Neopet friends and she didn’t want to disturb him either. Hennagell was her last hope. The Gelert came out last, holding a rug under his arm and breathing in the fresh air. Feather Dust got up and ran over to him.
“Hey, Hennagell,” she said. “Do you want to come hang out? I found this great book and-”
“Oh! Sorry, Feather,” he replied. “I’ve got to go to meditation club. It’s every other day and I don’t want to be late for my first. I’m sure there’s someone else who you can hang out with.” He left and Feather Dust slumped onto the ground again, placing her head in her hooves. That was when she knew what would make her feel better.
She stood up and ran to the cafeteria, where lots of pets were bustling about to get their lunch. Feather Dust searched around for what she wanted to find – the frozen yoghurt machine! And there was no line! She rushed over to it and quickly made herself a berry topped frozen yoghurt. She grabbed a spoon and dug in.
“Are you going to pay for that?” asked one of the dinner ladies, glaring at her. Feather Dust gasped. She had completely forgotten her purse! The dinner lady was getting angrier and angrier by the second.
“I got this!” somebody suddenly said, handing a small bag of coins to the scary worker. The somebody turned around and Feather Dust realised who it was. It was the royal girl Usul who she had sat with earlier.
“Thanks, I owe you,” said Feather Dust.
“It’s okay, I’m Annabel,” she replied. “And you’re Feather Dust right? Well, it’s the least you deserve after what happened in math. You okay?” Feather Dust nodded.
“I was really excited about school today, but now I’m not so sure,” she said.
“Don’t worry,” Annabel continued. “There are plenty of great things about this school. I’ll show you around.” Feather Dust followed her out into the corridor where Feather Dust finished her yoghurt and they almost collided with the group of Unis from the class.
“Oh,” said a striped Uni, sneering down at them, “I guess Annie’s found some trash that can be thrown out. The bin’s over there.” The rest of the Unis laughed. Feather Dust was glad that she hadn’t made friends with them.
“Shut up, Clarissa,” snapped Annabel. “Feather Dust’s new and she doesn’t know this school very well.”
“She also doesn’t know how to add up very well,” Clarissa responded. Feather Dust felt as if somebody had just punched her in the stomach. The Unis left and they continued to walk around the school. Feather Dust still wasn’t being convinced of the good things about Sandy Oaks.
The last lesson was music, and it came to Feather’s attention that Mrs. Strong wasn’t of the greatest musical ability. She couldn’t sing and she definitely had no rhythm.
“Today we will be having a go at singing and improvising,” she said and the instruments were handed out by Clarissa. Feather Dust was given the triangle, Annabel was given the cymbal and the Kougra who Feather Dust had been told was called Fadey was given bongos. Not exactly the best instruments. Of course Clarissa gave herself the role as lead singer.
Mrs. Strong whipped out her conducting stick and began to... well... conduct, if that’s what you could call it. Feather Dust almost immediately had to put her hooves to her ears. Every Neopet was out of time and Feather couldn’t take it.
“Stop!” she suddenly yelled, causing silence. “This is all wrong!”
“Excuse me, Miss Hunter?” Mrs. Strong glared.
“Look, none of the music is in time and it certainly isn’t very good,” Feather Dust continued. “Do you mind if I borrow the conducting stick, Mrs. Strong?”
The Ogrin stared for a minute before saying, “Very well. This better be good, Miss Hunter, unless you want a whole month of detention.”
Feather Dust ignored her and turned to face the class.
“First, I want to mix things up a bit,” she said. “Fadey, you’re on the drum kit and Annabel, you’re on the xylophone. Clarissa, you’re on backing vocals with the rest of the Unis.”
“But Mrs. Strong!” Clarissa yelled.
“Be quiet, Clarissa!” the teacher snapped.
“Let’s get a bass line going,” Feather Dust said, pointing the stick at Fadey, who began to play a repetitive rhythm. “Now some guitar.” A Wocky began to play a tune of a very popular Neopian pop song. “And the xylophone.” Annabel began. “And when the rest of you are ready, just come in and remember to stay in rhythm.” One by one the Neopets came in until it felt like a real band was playing.
Feather Dust grinned and decided to take it upon herself to sing the lyrics. Most of the Neopets nearly stopped playing when they heard her voice, and Clarissa looked green with envy. Feather Dust had never had more fun in her life, and even Mrs. Strong was joining in clapping to the song.
At the end of the song everyone burst into applause.
“Very well done, Feather Dust,” said Mrs. Strong. “I had no idea you have such a musical talent.” Feather Dust smiled. Maybe school was alright after all.