Difficulties: Part Six
I found out that with the simple flick of my strong tail, I was propelled forward by several feet. Why, this is easy, I realized. I guess it wasn’t necessary to read all of those “learning to swim” books. It comes naturally for Flotsams!
I still couldn’t believe I was a Flotsam. And a camouflage one, no less! Only minutes ago, my owner Elisabeth and my friend Kasey had left Mystery Island. Sadly, I had watched the ferry leave, heading back to Neopia Central. I wanted to swim after it, but I was afraid of getting lost in the middle of the ocean. That definitely would not be a good way to start my new life underwater.
Full of excitement, I swam north of Mystery Island, following the directions I had been given by one of the locals on the island. I swam for about forty minutes before I could see the gleaming underwater lights of Maraqua. I paused, clutching the small leather bag that hung on a string around my neck. Elisa had given it to me, and it held enough neopoints in it to last me my first few days in Maraqua.
I kicked up my speed and raced into the city. At first, I stared around, dazed. It was even more amazing than I had imagined! Slowly, I swam past the shops, observing each of them carefully. I recognized the Kelp restaurant right away, and decided to save up my money to eat there one night. I came across a collector’s shell shop, and decided to go in. It reminded me of Leilani the red Peophin, my old friend from the pound.
But it wasn’t Leilani in the shop, it was a Maraquan Aisha sitting behind the front desk. She looked up and smiled at me when I swam in. I noticed that on the desk there was a plastic sign that said, “Looking for a job? We’re looking to hire!”
I pointed to the sign. “What type of employee are you looking for?” I asked. “A shopkeeper?” I was used to working in Elisa’s shop, and I thought I was a pretty good shopkeeper. Surely selling a few shells every day wouldn’t be too hard.
The Aisha chuckled, and bubbles floated up from her mouth. “Oh, no,” she said. “That’s my job. I own this shop. I’m looking for a collector. You know, someone who goes out every few days and brings back a few bagfuls of shells to restock the shop with. We pay well, especially for rarer shells.”
I considered this. “Can I bring in shells just a few times a week?” I asked. “You know, sort of as a part-time employee? My owner is going to come and visit me once or twice a week on Mystery Island, and during those times I’m sure I could find a bunch of nice shells by the beach.”
The Aisha looked at me thoughtfully. “I suppose,” she said. “But shells aren’t only found on beaches. They’re all over Maraqua. I’d suggest looking around some of the coral reefs just outside the city.”
After a few more minutes of discussion, I left. Well, I congratulated myself, I’ve gotten my first job! Now, where shall I look first? I’ll also need to find a place to stay before it gets dark... I suppose I should do that first. I don’t want to be wandering around Maraqua in the dark. What if I met up with a hungry Jetsam? I shivered.
I swam to the outskirts of Maraqua, where there were large caverns surrounded by a huge coral reef. I peeked into a bunch of the caves (some were already being lived in), until I finally found one I liked. Coral was growing up through the bottom, and some pretty fish swam around. There was even a natural bed of sea sponge! Now, this was definitely the perfect place for me.
* * *
I picked up another shiny purple cowry shell, sighing. This had to be the twentieth I’d found so far – and the only kind I’d found so far! As I swam over the reef, something orange caught my eye. At last! I dove down and gently picked up the tangerine trumpet with my fin. I knew these sold for much more than the cowries. I turned it over in my flippers, thinking it would probably make a great necklace.
After finding a bunch of green clams, I was tired of searching in that area. I took the full bag of cheap shells back to my cave for safekeeping and grabbed a new sack. I was determined to collect only valuable shells in this one.
I swam along the reef for half an hour, heading north towards Tyrannia. I found a spot that seemed to be undiscovered by shell hunters, and it was filled with colorful shells. Blue ones, purple ones, orange ones, even rainbow-colored ones! I filled my sack, sure that I had gotten a good batch, and swam back to my cave excitedly.
The next morning, I woke up and rolled over in my bed. It was nice and soft. I yawned, stretched, collected my two bags, and swam off to the shop.
The Aisha, whose name was Brenna, seemed pleased to see me. “Good timing,” she commented. “I’m nearly out of stock. The shop’s been full of customers this morning.”
I showed her what I had, and she pointed to a few of them excitedly. “These are my favorite! Oh, and customers love these. They make great decorations in homes. And these ones are great for jewelry, since they’re so small.” She added up all of the shells (I decided to keep the tangerine trumpet and make a necklace for Elisa with it) and paid me a nicely-sized bundle of neopoints.
I swam home as quickly as I could and wrote a letter to Elisabeth. It hadn’t taken me long to figure out how to send Neomails underwater. You simply needed to find a messenger. I hired a rather feisty Arkmite, and promised him two hundred neopoints for him to deliver the message to Mystery Island, where it would be sent from (the Post Office always had a Neopet stationed on the beach, for those underwater who wished to write), and bring me back the reply.
I sat down on the edge of my bed and patiently waited for a reply. I knew that Elisa would respond right away. She couldn’t stand unread messages or late repliers. Sure enough, the Arkmite came swimming back to me within the next two hours. The trip was quite long for a little petpet, and he was panting and out of breath. I handed him the coins, and he swam off.
Then I opened the message, and I realized why it had taken him so long. Elisa had a lot to tell me!
It is so good to hear from you; you don’t even know! I’ve been dying to send you a message, but I wanted to wait until you were settled in. I’m so glad you found a nice place to stay! I can’t believe it’s been almost a week already. I wish I could see your cave. I can just imagine the colorful coral reefs and the tall tops of the caverns.
So you’re good on neopoints, then? I’m so relieved you found a job! It would have been hard for you living off little bits of what I could bring you every week. That reminds me. A few days ago, I visited the pound. You can’t imagine how lonely I’ve been without you!
I’m pleased to say that you are now a big sister, Lela. I’ve adopted an adorable little yellow Kacheek. Her name is Kylie. She’s a little shy, but she can’t wait to meet her new sister! I promised her we’d come to Mystery Island this weekend to visit you. The first ferry arrives at seven o’clock on Saturday morning. We’ll meet you at the beach above Geraptiku – the same place where we dropped you off.
See you soon! Love,
Elisabeth & Kylie
I smiled when I read the letter. I was a big sister again! It made me think of my sisters Kate and Annabelle. Had they ever received my message, or did Jessica read it first and throw it away without telling them? The thought made my heart ache, and I decided to write them again.
The Arkmite had long since swam off, and it took me nearly fifteen minutes to find a petpet willing to swim to Mystery Island during twilight hours. A Nupie agreed to deliver it, and swam around my cavern excitedly while it waited for me to finish writing the short note.
Dear Kate and Annabelle,
I wrote you a while back, but I never received a reply. I hope you haven’t forgotten about me. I just wanted to tell you that I’m now a Flotsam, living in Maraqua. Isn’t that exciting? It’s what I’ve always wanted to do! I hope that maybe sometime you can come and visit me... I would really like that.
Sincerely, your sister,
To be continued...