I'll Always Remember
There is a place near my Neohome where I used to go, a small clearing in the woods. There’s nothing too special about this clearing; the only reason I remember it is because of the good memories I have of spending time there.
It all started a few summers ago. One day near the beginning of the summer I was walking around Neopia Central with some of my friends after going to Pizzaroo, when one of them suggested we go to a spot in the nearby woods that I had never heard of. Behind the bookstore, a path had been cleared by other pets, and we followed it until we reached a clearing.
The very first thing I noticed about this spot in the woods was how small and cozy it seemed. There was an overwhelming sense of serenity and peace, removed from the stress of everyday life. I understood immediately why my friend suggested we go there. We were surrounded by nature, by leafy, green trees and shrubs, some of them with berries. A Beekadoodle sang beautifully above us in the trees, and a family of Greeble lounged in a small pond. Long, overgrown grass, the same color as my fur, brushed against our legs as we walked around, tangling with our paws. Pets who had been there before throughout the years had left a few crates for seating.
I knew immediately that I would like this place, but I didn’t know until later just how much it would mean to me, how much it would impact my life.
The trees were not only our shade, but our shelter. Nobody from the outside could see us because of the thick, green leaves. The grass and tree roots kept most other pets, intruders, from trying to follow the path into our spot.
For the rest of the summer, it became our place, for just the three of us. It was like our own world, a place where nobody could bother us, where we could be ourselves. We could sit there for hours and do nothing; but that was okay, since this was our place. We talked about everything: ourselves, other pets we knew, anything. We discussed old Altador Cup results and Faerie Quests, and fantasized about being Defenders of Neopia someday. We played hide-and-seek for hours on end, until the full moon shone above us, lighting our way home. Once, someone brought cards, and we played cards all day.
I learned how to fish in the clearing’s pond, with a stick for a rod and mint dental floss for a line, after learning my tail was not an acceptable rod. I never liked fishing until I did it in that clearing.
To me, the clearing was an escape from the real world. I sometimes went there by myself just to think, to gather my thoughts, or write in my journal, because nobody could find me there. Although I could still hear the bustle of Neopia Central, the clearing was so peaceful and quiet. The clearing seemed to become one of us; it was always there and it became part of my memories, one of my friends.
We carved our initials into one of the trees, and made a pact that we would be friends forever, no matter what. At the time, we truly believed we would be. What could possibly tear us apart?
But then the weather started to change. The lazy days of summer freedom were over. Neoschool started again, and the leaves began to turn orange and fall. Without the cover of the leaves, the clearing became exposed, open.
Our schedules filled with activities, homework, and new friends. The weather got colder, too cold to go to the clearing. Eventually, we stopped going altogether.
The years passed by, and the clearing left our lives gradually, just as we had left it. We were growing up and changing, trying new things, and the clearing was constant, unchanging.
As time moved on, even my friends and I grew apart. My family and I left Neopia Central and moved to Brightvale so I could study there. I made new friends and learned so much. I wrote letters to my old friends, but it wasn’t the same. It never would be. The magic of youth and that summer was gone forever. My owner often asked me if I missed my old childhood friends, but I would just smile and shake my head. I did miss them, but I missed the times I had with them in the clearing even more.
After I completed my studies, we moved back to Neopia Central, to the exact same house I grew up in. All of my old friends had left Neopia Central, and we were all leading our own lives now. One of my friends was an explorer traveling the world, currently in the Lost Desert. Another was studying battle technique with Cap’n Threelegs on Krawk Island. As for myself, I was preparing to become a teacher at the very Neoschool I went to as a child. Thinking of my old friends and my childhood made me wonder about the clearing I had left behind for so long. Was it still there? Was it still the same?
This past summer, just for old time’s sake, I went back there, to the clearing behind the bookstore. The Beekadoodle still sang beautifully in the trees, and now a Mallard family was in the pond. But it was different. The dirt path itself had become overgrown, barely visible. The crates had become entangled in the wild grass, thorns from weeds sticking out between the rotting wood planks. It seemed completely abandoned, and for a minute, I wondered if we had ever even been there. Perhaps it had all just been a dream... a wonderful, magical dream? Then I saw an old Lime Achyfi can one of us had left behind, a stray playing card caught in the weeds, and the initials carved in the tree, and all the memories returned more vividly than ever. I wondered if the clearing meant as much to my old friends, and to those who had been there before us, as it did to me.
My owner adopted a young Bori recently. Maybe I’ll show him the clearing sometime. I’ll tell him how much it meant to me, and hope someday it will mean something to him, too. I would teach him how to fish the same way I learned, with dental floss and a stick. I could help him clean the place up by pulling weeds, cleaning up trash, and maybe I’d even buy a few new crates to replace the old ones. I’ll tell him to cherish it, to take care of it, and never abandon it like I did all those years ago.
I didn’t stay for long that day, and I haven’t gone back since. Although my memories are sweet, it isn’t the same now to me, and it never will be, but I know that whenever I think back on that summer, I’ll always remember the best friends I ever had. I’ll remember the young Lupe, Aisha, and Kougra that promised to be friends forever. I’ll always remember the clearing.