Difficulties: Part Eight
I tucked all the necklaces I made carefully into a pouch and swam out of my cavern. It was a lovely morning: the water was warm; plenty of happy fish swam about the reefs; and lots of swimming Neopets wandered around Maraqua, eagerly exploring the underwater world.
I started humming, forgetting about how awful yesterday was. I swam joyfully into Collectable Sea Shells, where I worked part-time collecting shells. My friend Brenna, the owner of the shop, was behind her desk, as usual. She looked up and smiled at me.
“Good morning, Lela! You’re in a good mood today.” She glanced at my pouch, eager to see what I had brought for her.
“I think you’re going to like these,” I told her, trying to sound mysterious. “At least, I hope you’re going to like them!” I dumped out the pouch, revealing the eleven necklaces I had made. Each one was different – none of them were even remotely similar.
Brenna gasped. “Why – Lela, these are gorgeous! Did you make them?”
I nodded, grinning. “I collected all the shells myself, and I found leftover fishing line by the underwater fishing cave to use as string.”
Brenna smiled. “Great way to recycle,” she laughed. “Just don’t tell the customers that.”
“Don’t worry, I cleaned and sanitized all of them before I used them.” Then I heard her words go through my mind again. Customers? “Wait – does this mean you’ll sell them for me?”
“Of course I will! Customers are just going to love these. I can already see half of Maraqua swimming around, wearing your jewelry. Once word gets out, I’m sure Mystery Island will be all over them.”
I joined her in the vision. I’d be rich!
“How long does it take you to make these?” Brenna asked, fingering one with a crimson spotted shell centerpiece.
“Well, it takes a few hours to collect the right shells,” I said. “I have to make sure they’re in perfect condition – not even a tiny bit chipped. It doesn’t take very long to get the fishing line; I’m happy to clean up the litter left behind in the underwater fishing cave. And making the necklaces doesn’t take very long at all. I’d say for fifteen, a week. It took me five days to make these eleven.”
“Only fifteen a week, hm?” Brenna muttered. “That’s not very much. If you want sales to really go well, I’d say you’d need to double that. Thirty a week minimum would be best. Even that’s not very much.”
Baffled, I stared at her. “I can’t collect shells that fast!”
“What if we had someone else collect the shells? I actually just hired another shell hunter yesterday. She’s got great experience; brought four dozen shells back in just two hours. I’m expecting her to show up pretty soon.”
“That would be helpful...” I said slowly. “Then I could concentrate on making the necklaces.”
Brenna nodded. “I’ll put these on display right now. I’m sure they’ll all sell within the next few hours, if we get in our usual amount of customers. Oh! And you get seventy-five percent of the profits. Fifteen percent will go to the shop for selling the necklaces for you, and the last ten percent will go to Leilani for collecting all the shells you use.”
“Leilani?!” I gasped.
“Yes. Leilani is our new employee.” Brenna glanced out the glass front doors. “Why, here she comes now. Perfect timing, hm?”
The doors were pushed open and a pretty red Peophin swam in. She smiled politely at me, and I knew she didn’t recognize me in my Flotsam form. But I couldn’t help it. “Leilani!” I screamed, throwing my fins around her. “It’s you! It’s really you!”
When I let go, Leilani looked me in the eyes for a few long seconds before she quietly asked, “Lela?”
“Yes!” I screeched.
“Lela!” She hugged me back this time, laughing. “I can’t believe this! I’ve always wondered what happened to you... And I missed you so much! Oh, you’ll have to tell me everything!”
“And you too!” I laughed. After talking excitedly to Brenna, we left in a hurry, swimming off to my cavern for lunch.
I made us some hefty star fish sandwiches (one of my newest specialties), and we sat on the edge of the reef in my cave, eating and talking. “So tell me what happened with you,” I urged her after finishing my long explanation. She had made me go first, since I had gotten out of the pound first.
Leilani took a deep breath before she started her story. “Well, I was in the pound for another month after you were adopted. My new roommate arrived hardly an hour after you left – a cute little baby Kougra. Her name was...” She paused, as if trying to remember. Then she let out a sorry sigh before continuing. “...89237745. The poor little thing. She asked me to call her Fi, shortened from the five at the end of her name. I ended up changing the nickname a bit and calling her Fia or Fifi. I thought it fit better.”
“Aww,” I murmured sadly. Why would someone name a helpless little Kougra something unpronounceable? I had always liked my name, and right now, I was thankful for it.
The Peophin nodded in agreement. “Anyway, lots of people came to the pound, as usual. Fia didn’t want to go to one of those homes where they just adopt her because of her color, so during the days she hid behind me the best she could. I was plain-colored, so naturally, no one was interested in me and hardly gave me a second glance. Nobody saw Fia. We became pretty close, and she was like a little sister to me. After a month, a girl named Tessie came in. She told me she didn’t have any pets at home, and was looking for just a simple-colored pet to take care of. I told her about Fia, and Fifi liked her a lot. I was happy that she was getting a good home, but I was upset about being left behind... Then Tessie said, ‘Are you ready, Leilani?’ I asked her what she meant, and she said, ‘Well, I’m not going to leave you, of course. I’d like to adopt you both.’”
Leilani paused to take in a deep breath.
“I told Tessie about me having to live in water, and she gave me two options. She said she’d either save up for a morphing potion and make me a new species, or she’d let me come live in Maraqua, and she and Fia would come visit me.” She smiled. “I just got here yesterday. Tessie totally understood about me choosing to come to Maraqua, and she’s promised to come visit two or three times a week, since Fia isn’t old enough for Neoschool yet.”
“Oh, Leilani, that’s so wonderful!” I exclaimed, truly happy for her. Deep inside, though, my heart was aching. Her story was a little similar to mine. Would her owner end up leaving her for another pet, like mine did? I let out a little inward sigh, staring down at the reef.
Leilani noticed. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
I groaned and explained what happened. “You see, after I moved to Maraqua, my owner adopted a Kacheek to keep her company...”
There was a long moment of silence when I was done. “Wow,” Leilani finally said. “That stinks. I’m sorry.” Then she asked, “So what are you going to do?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused. What was I supposed to do?
“Well, are you going to keep living in Maraqua, or are you going to move back to Neopia Central and live with your family? It seems like you miss them, or are feeling left out or something.”
Surprised, I asked bluntly, “How am I supposed to move back to Neopia Central? I can’t walk on land! I’ll be a fish out of water.”
Leilani rolled her eyes. “You buy a morphing potion, of course!”
“I don’t have enough money for one. They’re expensive.”
“Why are you making this so difficult, Lela? Your owner morphed you into a Flotsam, didn’t she? I’m sure she could save up again to morph you into something else, so you could live with them.”
“W-well,” I stuttered, “what would I be morphed into?”
Leilani shrugged. “Whatever you want, I guess. If you want to become something expensive, like a Cybunny, you’ll have to wait a long time for her to save up. If you’re more eager to get back to Neopia Central, then you could buy a Green Uni Morphing Potion. I’ve heard that they’re the cheapest potions you can find.”
I bit my lip. “I can’t really imagine myself as a Uni,” I admitted. “And what would it be like living with Elisabeth and Kylie? When I lived there, it was just the two of us. And I liked it that way. But with Kylie around, everything will be different.”
“That’s true,” Leilani agreed. “But you’ve got to follow your heart, Lela.”
To be continued...