It's Not Easy Being Red and Green
I hated being Christmas.
My mom created me after a friend gave her a Christmas Paint Brush. I had no say in the matter—and with a name like Christmas, you can’t exactly change your mind. Sure, it’s great for one month of the year: you’re the “super new pet” and you’re “so awesome”, and random people run across the street to give you hugs and tell you how much they wish they had (or were, in a pet’s case) a Christmas Kougra.
Well, I’ll be honest with you: Bah humbug.
In the summer months anywhere but on Terror Mountain, the heat is unbearable. When I was little, my mom, my sisters and I lived in Neopia Central, and two days out of three they had to make a trip with me to the Rainbow Pool so I could jump in and cool off before I had a heat stroke. Vacationing in the Lost Desert or Mystery Island? Tch. Out of the question. I was often left behind to mind the shop when Mom would take my sisters to bargain hunt at the Island Trading Post.
Kitty and Swimmer, my two favorite sisters, often lend sympathetic ears, but Tina has always been resentful. “You’re complaining about being painted,” she’d say. I’d roll my eyes (I’m not allowed to hit a girl, even my annoying older sister) and try to ignore her. My ‘family loyalty’ often got called into question, just because I was painted a dumb color. So what. I’d rather still be blue like my sisters and be trusted than be any color. "True blue" is often more literal than owners realize.
Finally, because it was just so inconvenient to live anywhere else, we packed up the house and shop and moved to Terror Mountain. This was all well and good for me, but my mom had to work harder at the family shop to offset the higher living cost, and my sisters constantly complain about the cold.
But, we made do. “I’ll have to commute to Neopia Central on occasion, but we can pick up special Snow items on the way and make a bigger profit,” my well-meaning mother said cheerfully as we collected the last box of items we were taking with us.
"But we're not in the main shopping district anymore, so it'll come to about the same thing," Tina said. "And we'll have to offset the cost of relocating."
"Ever the optimist," Kitty muttered under her breath, and I had to fight back a laugh.
"But we also have access to new markets," Swimmer put in, attempting to pacify Tina. "Something a little different might be attractive to our loyal customers."
"And we won't have to drag Chris to the Pool every day, and you know what they say: Time is Neopoints," my mother said. It was a much-repeated line in the house of a family who made most of their money in the shop. "At least this will fix the problem of you not fitting in, Chris.”
Newsflash, Mom: Snow doesn’t just mean Christmas.
I continued to stick out like a sore thumb—most pets, like my sisters, are the usual colors and just wear their scarves and earmuffs. After the billionth “Christmas in Swimming?” joke and the trillionth baby pet asking if I was Santa, I was more than a little discouraged. I still felt guilty that I made my family move, regardless of how many times my mom told me how happy she was in the snow-covered valley.
Anyway, I wanted to at least do something to offset the cost of us moving, and my mom hadn’t been too thrilled about the idea when I suggested it. I persuaded her after several days’ worth of wheedling and convincing her—I’ll find work in the Valley that isn’t too far from home, I won’t take a job from anyone shady, I’ll come straight home after work, I’ll look both ways before crossing the street, blah blah blah. It all went in one ear and out the other, though I promised to be on my best behavior. I left the house with a huge grin on my face as I interviewed at all of the local shops.
Now, I was standing outside of Merry Outfits, the Happy Valley modeling shop for Christmas pets, after being kindly rejected. “We already have a Christmas Kougra,” they politely said, “but we’ll keep in touch just in case something falls through.”
Before Merry Outfits, I’d tried everything from the petpet store to the Slushie Shop. Even the Ice Cream Stand, an understaffed business, wouldn't hire me. Each store owner turned me away for the same reason (never mind my fantastic interviews or my qualifications from working in my mom’s shop since I was born): “We want to project that we’re good every month of the year, not just Celebrating,” they said.
I sighed dejectedly and started on my way home. I trudged past each store that rejected me, watching my feet instead of the faces in the window so I wouldn't have to see the gleeful, smiling faces of the 'normal' pets working there.
Suddenly, a strong gust of wind blew a paper into my face. I plucked the neon paper off of my face and stared at it. Advent Calendar Warehouse—Now Hiring, it read.
“Sorry, sorry!” a female voice called out. I glanced up, and a girl—to my complete surprise, another Christmas Kougra—plucked the paper from my hands. “I was stapling these flyers around, and the wind just blew it right out of my hand!”
“I-it’s okay,” I stuttered, still shocked that I had seen another Kougra in my color. She gave me an embarrassed smile.
“I’m so clumsy, I do things like this all the time,” she said, shrugging helplessly. She held out a paw. “My name’s Merry. As in, Merry Christmas.”
I shook her paw. “Chris. Merry Chris-tmas!”
She chuckled. “Oh, man. Well, I’m just glad I finally found a place besides that snooty modeling shop that actually looks for Christmas pets.”
I blinked. It simply didn't seem possible. “You mean, the Advent? I thought it was only open during Celebrating.”
She nodded. “That’s what everyone else thinks, too. Where do you think we put all the extra items that no one takes? Someone’s got to catalog them or the whole place is a mess. And Christmas pets have a certain cozy feel to them, so they make a friendly working atmosphere.” She shrugged. “That’s the theory, anyway. Still, they give me work and a great place to hang out with people who look past my color.”
I smiled, suddenly feeling proud of my color. “Say—you’re still hiring, right? I’m looking for work.”
Merry’s eyes lit up (to use an awful pun, like a Christmas tree). “Of course! Oh, it’d be great to have another Kougra there! Come on, help me pick up these flyers and we’ll talk to Boss—whose name is also Chris, but she hates it—she’s an Aisha, brown as a Brown Negg with these big antlers...”
She continued to chatter excitedly, and I grinned, half-listening as I bent to pick up a stray flyer and staple it to a nearby notice board. Maybe being Christmas wasn’t as bad as I’d thought.
Christmas_helper2005 the Christmas Kougra and his sisters are my pets. Merry is fictional (as far as I know).