Difficulties: Part Four
“Oh my goodness! I am so sorry!” a yellow Cybunny yelped as our heads cracked into each other. We both fell backwards, tripping in the dirt and landing in the grass. “I’m so sorry,” the Cybunny said again, quickly pulling herself off the ground. “I didn’t see you. Honest. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, and –”
“It’s okay,” I murmured, rubbing my head. Ouch! What a major headache.
“Are you alright?” the Cybunny asked, helping me stand. I stumbled a bit, but she made sure I didn’t fall again.
I steadied myself and whispered, “Yeah, I’m fine.” I was still holding my head, though. It hurt incredibly badly.
The Cybunny didn’t look convinced. “Are you sure? Oh, I feel terrible!”
“I’m okay. Really.” I was trying to convince myself just as much as I was trying to convince the other pet, but it didn’t seem to be working. “I just bumped my head, that’s all. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few minutes.”
The Cybunny bit her lip. “Here, let me walk you home. I wouldn’t want you to pass out or anything after I left. Do you live close to here?”
I managed to nod. “Just around the corner, down that street,” I said hoarsely, pointing to the next road over. “First house on the right.”
The Cybunny nodded quickly. She clutched my free arm and walked me up to Elisabeth’s small Neohome. We knocked on the door, and it immediately flew open. Elisa stood in the doorway, looking worried. It was way past dark by now.
“Lela! Oh my goodness, are you okay? What happened?” Elisa ushered us inside, sat me on the couch, and brought me an ice pack for my head.
The Cybunny introduced herself as Kasey and explained what happened. She finished with, “I am so sorry. Sometimes I get distracted and I don’t look where I’m going, and well... I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to knock her over.”
“It’s okay,” Elisa said, breathing easier now that she knew what had happened. “I’m sure Lela will feel a lot better after some food and a good night’s sleep. In fact, why don’t you stay for dinner?”
Kasey blushed. “Well, actually, I was on my way to the Soup Kitchen for dinner,” she said, looking embarrassed.
Elisa’s eyebrows shot up. I could tell she was concerned. “It’s no problem,” she said quickly. “Really. Please stay. I made onion and sliced mushroom soup, and I have hot garlic bread in the oven...”
Elisa stood there, pleading with Kasey to stay for dinner until the Cybunny finally gave in. “I need to be home in an hour and a half, though,” she said, glancing at the clock. “My owner will get mad if I’m not.”
“No problem. I’ll ladle the soup into bowls and we can eat right away.” Elisa hurried off to the kitchen to get supper ready.
Kasey turned to me. “Are you sure you’re okay? I didn’t mean to run into you or anything. I just wasn’t paying attention and, well...”
“I’m fine,” I said with a smile. “Actually, I’m feeling a lot better already. I think the smell of the soup cured me.”
Kasey smiled. “It does smell really good.”
* * *
Over dinner, we talked about Neoschool. Kasey said she’d be attending this year, and we were delighted to find that we were both the same age, so we’d be in the same class together.
I think I’ve found my first friend, I realized. What a relief! Now I’ll have someone by my side on the first day. I was dreading going alone!
“Oh!” Elisabeth gasped. “Lela, we’ll have to go buy your supplies. Neoschool starts on Monday. It’s already Friday! I can’t believe I forgot!” She looked truly distressed. “We’ll have to go tomorrow. I’m busy on Sunday.”
I looked at her curiously. “What are you doing on Sunday?” I asked.
“My friend James is going to teach me all about the basics of opening a successful shop,” Elisa announced proudly. “I figured since we’re trying to raise neopoints, we could open a shop and sell all of our unwanted items. I know I have a lot of junk lying around that I’m sure someone could find useful.”
I grinned. “What a great idea! My old owner had a shop, and she taught me and my sisters how to work in it. Maybe after school I could watch over it.”
Elisa looked relieved. “That saves us from hiring a full-time shopkeeper,” she said. “Well, that’s perfect, then. Tomorrow we’ll go shopping, and Sunday we’ll open up our very own shop. In fact, I’ll start going through all my stuff tonight.”
After dinner, we had frozen yogurt topped with almonds – organic, of course. I didn’t really like them, so I tried to casually pick them off when Elisa wasn’t looking. Kasey thanked Elisa over and over for the meal, and Elisa told her to come over whenever she wanted.
* * *
Shopping for school supplies was much more fun that I had imagined – and much more difficult. Elisa and I both woke up early, and right after breakfast we headed to the Plaza. I had trouble picking out which items I wanted. Why have this when you can have that? I’d never been on a shopping spree before – and I have a feeling Elisa doesn’t want to take me on another anytime soon.
The first thing I spotted was a tchea eraser. It reminded me of the Lost Desert, but I had always loved tchea fruit, so I chose it. Then I changed my mind and picked a green faerie eraser. That’s when I saw the adorable Babaa erasers.
We spent two hours in the supply shop, and we came home with a pink Slorg backpack filled with items. A yellow star notebook, a set of colored pencils, some rubber bands, a collection of chalk, and much more.
When we left, Elisa was grumbling over the total cost. “I can’t believe we spent that much,” she groaned, shaking her head. “These supplies better be worth it. Make sure they last, alright? There’s no way I’m buying you new stuff if something breaks, or if that fancy pen runs out of ink.”
We went home and ate a healthy, not-so-delicious lunch of organic mushy peas and parsley juice. When Elisa wasn’t looking, I ran outside and stashed the peas under the front steps.
* * *
“Well, we’re all finished,” Elisa said, wiping her sweaty hands on her paint-stained jeans. “Now all we need is a name, then we can open.”
It was late evening, and we’d been busy all morning. First, we had visited Elisa’s friend James and his baby Gelert, Lucy, in their gigantic house on the outskirts of Neopia Central. James had given Elisabeth many tips to owning a successful shop, and she made sure to take notes.
While they talked business, Lucy had shown me around their estate and introduced me to her petpet, a white Ona named Star. She excitedly told me about how she had gotten the Ona. It made my heart ache in a bittersweet way. It’s great that Lucy has a petpet, but why can’t I have one? Because, I reminded myself, you’re going to be living underwater soon. You don’t want your petpet to be trapped in a bowl, do you? Just wait, Lela. Patience is good.
When we went home, Elisa paid for the creation of the shop, and we had to wait a few hours for it to be built. While we were waiting, we went through all of Elisa’s old things, sticking them in boxes labeled Keep and Sell. Her Sell box was overflowing.
“A name,” I murmured. I looked around at the shop inventory. Most of it consisted of clothing items that Elisa had randomly acquired. “How about some type of boutique?” I suggested. “There’s so many clothes in here.”
“A boutique! I like that,” Elisa said with a grin. “How about The Corner Boutique? After all, we live on the corner of our street.”
“The Corner Boutique,” I repeated. “It fits perfectly!”
“Great.” Elisa grinned again. Then, immediately, she dropped the happy smile. “Let’s open up tomorrow. I’m exhausted!”
We laughed and walked back into the house, where we began to work on the sign with brightly-colored markers. In Elisa’s best cursive handwriting, she wrote in large, bold letters on the big posted board, using a purple marker. The sign clearly read, THE CORNER BOUTIQUE. Then she carefully outlined them in pale pink, to give it a sort of glowing effect.
I wanted to put the sign up right away, because it looked so pretty, but Elisa wouldn’t let me. “It’s too dark outside,” she objected. “We won’t be able to see a thing and it might turn out lopsided. Just wait until tomorrow. Besides, you need to get to bed. Tomorrow is a big day, and it starts early in the morning. I don’t want to have to argue with you over getting up on time.”
* * *
The next morning was disastrous. I woke up with a terrible sore throat, and Elisabeth didn’t have any medicine for it. She thought that she had some tea bags left over from a few months ago, but she couldn’t find them. So Elisa had to run all the way to the coffee shop and quickly buy some mint tea, which had to be reheated by the time she got home.
The tea helped my throat a lot, but then Elisa didn’t have time to make me breakfast. Thankfully, we had packed my backpack the night before, so that was all set. Instead of eating Elisa’s special homemade chocolate scones, which she had promised to make me for breakfast on my first day of school, I had to eat old, sticky oatmeal.
We rushed to school, arriving just after the late bell rang. Elisa left, and I had to go to the office to get a late slip. The secretary, a petite yellow Usul, gave me the blue piece of paper and told me where my classroom was.
Groaning, I ran all the way across the school grounds. I was four minutes late to class, and when I walked in, everybody looked at me. How embarrassing! Luckily, Kasey had saved me a seat next to her, so I hastily sat down.
“Alright, class,” the teacher said, “now that we’re all here...” she eyed me “...we can start. My name is Ms. Worthington. I’m going to call roll, and when you hear your name, please say ‘present’ or ‘here’ and raise your paw so I can identify you.” The blue Kougra looked down at her list, the glasses on her nose sliding down slightly.
She called twenty-two names, and everyone was present.
To be continued...