“What is it?” Cassie asked.
The Green Ixi looked down at the purple ball of fur on the floor. It rolled over and looked up at its new sister, fixing its bottomless black eyes on her.
“It’s a Baby Kacheek,” her owner said. Amy leaned past Cassie to take the pet in her arms. Cassie watched, her eyes narrowing.
“Her name is Kaley,” Amy said. “I just got her today.” She held out her arms for Cassie to look at the pet. “What do you think?”
Cassie looked at her sister for a while. She couldn’t deny that the Kacheek was cute. She had a large head for such a small body, but that seemed to make the Baby pet even more adorable. Cassie moved closer to the squirming Kacheek, but didn’t touch her. Finally she turned away.
“She’s all right,” she said. The Ixi made for the stairs near the front door, and had almost reached them when she heard her owner call her name.
“Cassie!” Amy said. She placed Kaley on the ground, and the Kacheek rolled over a few times before righting herself. “I need you to take your sister to the bank. I’m going to go play games, and we need some food. Take out about a thousand neopoints and buy bread.”
“But, Mom,” Cassie said. “Don’t we need to get ready for my party?”
“What party?” Amy said blankly.
“For my birthday. I’m turning four this Saturday.”
A sudden look of realization crossed Amy’s face. She put a hand to her forehead and ran it over her dark brown hair. “Oh, of course. We’ll talk about it at dinner. Take care of your sister for right now.”
Before Cassie could protest, Amy was out the door. Kaley looked sadly in her new owner’s direction, and began to cry. Small tears rolled down her cheeks. Suddenly the Kacheek didn’t look as cute, and her cries began to give Cassie a headache.
The Ixi placed a hand tenderly on her sister’s shoulder.
“Kaley...” she said, her voice trailing away. She didn’t know what to do. She sat down cross-legged next to her sister. She tried to pick the Kacheek up, and held her sister awkwardly between her hooves. Kaley squirmed and eventually found her way out of Cassie’s arms. She lay down on the green carpet in the foyer. Her cries grew louder.
Cassie’s head was now pounding. She looked around for something – anything. Her eye caught something shiny on the coffee table, and she reached for it. It was a Neopoint.
“Look,” Cassie said to her sister. She unclenched Kaley’s fist and placed the coin in it. “This is one Neopoint.”
Kaley stopped crying for a moment, and turned the coin over in her paws.
“One hundred,” she said.
“One hundred Neopoints,” she said, and cooed.
“How did you learn what a hundred was?” Cassie said. “You’re pretty smart, but that’s not a hundred. It’s just one.”
“One hundred,” Kaley repeated.
Cassie didn’t try to argue with her sister. The crying had stopped, and that was all she could ask for.
Cassie led her sister into the Neopian Bank. The grandeur of the bank – its shining lobby floors and tall columns – never failed to affect Cassie. She looked down at her sister, who was equally admiring everything in awe.
Cassie and Kaley made their way to the nearest bank official, a Brown Kyrii standing behind a marble desk.
“How can I help you?” he asked. He was wearing glasses, and he lowered them to see the pets.
Cassie had to stand on her tiptoes to see over the top of the desk. “I would like to withdraw a thousand neopoints from my owner’s account,” she said.
“And what is her name?” the Kyrii asked. He turned around and began to rifle through papers in a drawer.
“Amy. We live in Neopia Central.”
“And the amount?”
“A hundred thousand,” said a small voice.
The Kyrii stopped sifting through the papers.
“I thought you said – ”
Cassie looked in surprise at her sister. Kaley smiled, obviously enjoying the attention.
“Kaley,” Cassie hissed. “Don’t say that! You’re going to get us in real trouble.”
“You know,” the Kyrii said. He’d now turned around and was leaning over the desk. He pushed his glasses further down his nose. “If you don’t take this seriously, I will refuse to give you your money. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” Cassie said. She felt Kaley tugging on her leg, but tried to maintain eye contact with the Kyrii. Finally he turned away and came back with a tied brown bag. He pushed it across the desk. Cassie willed her sister to say nothing else, and walked quickly out of the bank before she had the chance.
“She’s just so much to handle.”
“And how old is she?”
“I’m not sure. A day, maybe. Mom created and painted her yesterday.”
Cassie rolled over on her friend’s Beauty Bed. Julia always invited the Ixi over after school, and Cassie was especially glad of that today. The Cloud Acara patted her friend’s shoulder.
“You’ll be fine,” Julia said. “Just give it some time.”
“And I told you about the hundred thing, right?”
“Yes, the bank story.”
“Well, that’s not all. I almost bought two hundred loaves of bread from the Bakery today! The shopkeeper kicked me out.”
There was a pause for a second. Julia looked up suddenly from her book.
“Isn’t your party in two days?” she said.
“Oh, that’s another thing,” Cassie said. “I don’t even know if I’m having one, because my owner is so busy with Kaley. She even forgot about it until I reminded her.”
Cassie whimpered and buried her head in Julia’s pillow, just as Julia’s brother Jaraiya walked in the door. Without a word, the Pirate Poogle jumped on the bed and began to wrestle with Julia. She fought with him until he gave up and walked away.
“Sorry about that,” Julia said, righting herself. “My family is strange sometimes.”
Cassie smiled half-heartedly. “Believe me, it’s a break from mine.”
Julia picked up her book again and flipped through the pages. Cassie tried to concentrate on her magazine, but found herself remembering her own noisy, messy family back home. She groaned at the thought.
“Mom, I’m home!” Cassie called. The Ixi let the door slam, and dropped her bag by the front door. “Mom?” she said again.
Amy walked into the foyer, her hair a mess and Kaley in her arms. Amy’s shirt was stained with what looked like Kaley’s spit. The baby cooed in her arms, holding the Neopoint that Cassie had given her earlier.
“It’s the only thing that will calm her down,” Amy said. “She keeps looking at it and saying ‘one hundred’ over and over.”
Amy left Kaley on the floor, crying. She ran into the kitchen, from which Cassie could smell dinner cooking. She picked up her sister and walked into the bathroom with her. She placed the Kacheek in the sink, and grabbed a warm pitcher of water to run over Kaley’s fur. Kaley didn’t let Cassie take the Neopoint, and rolled it between her fingers.
Cassie looked quickly around at the door to make sure Amy wasn’t nearby. She then leaned close to Kaley.
“Kaley,” she said, and waited until her sister made eye contact with her. “You can’t do this anymore. You’re going to make us broke if you keep multiplying everything by a hundred.”
Cassie didn’t think Kaley understood. The Kacheek smiled and cooed, but turned away in the middle of Cassie’s talk.
“Cassie!” Amy called from the kitchen. “Before I forget, we’re talking Kaley to the doctor tomorrow.”
Cassie paused. She opened her mouth to say that that was the day she’d planned for preparing the party, but closed it. She picked Kaley up from the sink, and placed her sister roughly on the floor.
“Great,” she said through clenched teeth. “Now you’ve ruined my birthday.”
The doctor’s office was completely white – white examining table, white carpet, and white walls. These were adorned with various Neopets who looked completely healthy. One was of a smiling Baby Kacheek.
“See,” Cassie said to her sister, pointing at the picture, “that’s what you should be like."
Kaley’s small lips pursed into a frown.
Suddenly the door opened, and a Speckled Cybunny walked in the office.
“Hello,” she said, “I’m Doctor Kayla. How may I help you?”
Amy stood up from the plush chair she’d been sitting on.
“Thank you, Doctor,” she said. She looked pointedly at Kaley, who sat up and looked at the doctor.
“It’s just about my Kacheek. I created her a few days ago. We’ve been having a problem where she seems to be...” Amy glanced at Cassie, who nodded.
“Multiplying everything by one hundred,” Cassie finished. She saw the doctor’s confused expression and continued, “like money, or food. We were almost kicked out of the bank for withdrawing a hundred thousand Neopoints, and Sabre-X didn’t find it funny when we tried to take half of the Giant Omelette.”
The doctor nodded, but her expression remained neutral.
“I’ll need you to step out of the waiting room, while I examine Kaley here.”
Amy walked toward Cassie and placed a hand on the Ixi’s shoulder. Wordlessly, they stepped out and made their way to the front room.
Cassie and Amy turned around at the sound of a creaking door. Amy put down her magazine, and smiled at the sight of Doctor Kayla walking with Kaley beside her. The Baby Kacheek immediately crawled forward and hugged her owner.
“She seems to be fine,” the doctor said. “I did ask her to count to ten, and she multiplied all of the numbers by one hundred. It sounds like it will be a phase. A lot of Baby pets go through this.”
“And why is that?” Amy said, bouncing Kaley on her knees.
“They’re trying to be more like their color suggests,” the Cybunny responded. “More immature or babyish. It should be over with in a couple of weeks.”
“WEEKS?” Cassie said in distress. “But my birthday is tomorrow!”
Doctor Kayla shrugged helplessly, and Amy didn’t turn to look at the Ixi. Kaley whimpered and squirmed in her owner’s arms.
“Ugh,” Cassie said softly. She leaned down so that her head was level with the armrest.
Cassie’s feet burned as she raced through the hot Mystery Island sand. Her hands were clenched around a sack of Neopoints, approximately two thousand, that Kaley had tried to trade for a Bottle of Sand. Luckily she’d withdrawn the offer in time.
“This pet is more trouble than she’s worth,” Cassie said to herself. She’d spent the entire day undoing Kaley’s mistakes, and was now only returning home. The sun was setting in Mystery Island, letting the sky turn dark over the horizon. There was one more boat leaving to Neopia Central, and Cassie jumped on it as it pulled away from the dock.
“You’re a lucky pet,” a crewmember said when she stepped on. The Blue Draik took a few Neopoints from Cassie for the ride. The Ixi nodded, and made her way to the edge of the ship. She leaned over the side, watching the blue waves toss and turn.
“Happy birthday, Cassie,” she whispered.
Cassie stood outside of her Neohome, thinking of what awaited within. She thought of Kaley’s cries, her owner’s drawn face, and her own headaches. She leaned against the door with relief, and without meaning to, turned the handle. She stumbled into the front room.
The house was quiet.
Cassie looked around in surprise. The front room was positively gleaming – not one speck of dirt or spit to be seen. Cassie called out “Mom?” but no one answered.
“Kaley?” she tried. She thought she heard a small whimper, but that was all.
Cassie turned the corner and made her way into the dining room.
Cassie looked at the room in shock. All of her closest friends – including Julia and Jaraiya – were there, holding balloons. Amy stood at the front of the room, holding Kaley in her arms. All of them were smiling.
“Oh my gosh,” Cassie said. Confetti covered the room, and the balloons were her favorite colors – yellow and blue. Each of them had a ‘4’ printed on the face.
Everyone paused as Cassie took in the scene. The room was silent as she looked around, and Kaley squirmed in Amy’s arms.
“It was your sister’s idea,” Amy said finally.
Cassie reached forward to look at the Baby Kacheek, who smiled when they made eye contact.
“Happy four hundredth birthday,” she said.
Happy Issue 400 everyone!! =) All comments are welcome!