Faith, Hope, and Christmas Kougras
Her eyes were the iciest blue, of snowflakes and icicles, but they remained ever jubilant. Her cheeks were round and plump, rosy and red, jolly and joyful. Her hair was as light as blonde can be – a cascade of curls that tumbled down her back and sprang about her whenever she moved. Her gait was lively, quick, and bouncy. She radiated happiness, joy, and nostalgia – she could turn even Jhudora’s frown upside down. She was the face of Christmas.
I sighed every time she bobbed past my window, a smile on her rosy cheeks and a twinkle in her clear blue eyes.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have an owner like her?” I cooed, glancing over at my roommate, Ace.
She glanced out the window as the girl turned down onto the next street. Ace shrugged.
“Not really,” she replied.
Ace isn’t exactly into “sugar, spice, and everything nice” – if she were a painted pet she’d probably be Darigan or something like that. I love her anyways, even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye. She was all I had.
I continued to stare out the window as the girl disappeared down Rainbow Lane and I could no longer see her curls dancing behind her.
The speaker clicked on: “ATTENTION, ALL NEOPETS – REPORT TO YOUR DORMITORIES IMMEDIATELY. IT IS PAST CURFEW. ANY NEOPET SEEN WANDERING IDLY IN THE HALLWAYS WILL BE REPORTED TO DR. DEATH.”
Ace muttered something under her breath before climbing into her too-small cot. I remained at the windowsill, watching the stars sparkle in the radiant sky above.
“C’mon, Desiree, get in bed before they come check on us. Fyora knows what’ll happen if they find out you’re awake,” Ace grumbled.
“In a minute,” I replied, not removing my eyes from the starry sky above me.
I heard Ace mutter, “Suit yourself,” before turning over in bed and drifting off to sleep.
I sighed again and my breath turned the windowpane opaque. I used my paw to draw a heart in the moisture. I suddenly remembered a little poem my mother taught me before she disappeared...
“Starlight, Star bright –
First star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might
To have this wish I wish tonight.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and clasped my paws together.
“I wish she could be my owner.” The words slipped out of my mouth and added to the breath on the window.
Smiling to myself, I climbed off the windowsill and crawled into bed. The wish was on the windowpane, in the stars, and hopefully, in my future.
Plop. Shuddering with disgust, I carried my tray of sludge to the table Ace was sitting at. She was carefully picking at her food with her usual angry sneer on her face.
“Ick,” I mumbled in greeting.
Ace gave me one of her “half-smiles” – probably the closest to a grin she’s ever mustered.
Throughout breakfast we picked through our muck, chatting about the other neopets in this miserable pound and those silly pink Unis that pranced around everywhere, apologizing for Dr. Death’s cruelty and explaining how they apparently could do nothing to help.
My nose crinkled up from the rancid stench of the casserole on my plate as I spooned another bite into my mouth and gazed out the window...
It was her!
“OMIGOSH, ACE!!!” I squealed, causing Ace’s tray to slide across the table and land on the floor.
Hearing the commotion, one of Dr. Death’s workers, a formidable Shadow Tonu, marched over to our table, his fur bristling with anger.
“How many times have I told you hooligans to stop fooling around?! That’s good food you’re wasting. You’re staying after mealtime to clean this entire room, do you understand?” he bellowed.
Without waiting for an answer, the Tonu pulled out a whistle and blew on it fiercely, causing everyone in the cafeteria to jump fearfully out of their seats and stand at attention.
“Head to your next session, you unwanted pests!” he cried, making his whistle shriek numerous times until everyone had cleared the room.
“Thanks a lot, Desiree,” Ace sneered, although I could detect a hint of playfulness in her tone.
“Sorry!” I replied with a small giggle.
Silence fell among us as we continued to swab the floors, which were absolutely filthy – but what did I expect... this was the pound for crying out loud.
Finally, I explained, “The reason for my spastic outburst was because I saw her come inside the building... I might actually have a shot at being adopted by the best owner EVER!”
Ace rolled her eyes.
“I don’t think so, Dez, considering she-”
“This is going to be so GREAT! She has to pick me; I’m sure she will! When she sees me she’ll-”
“DEZ!” my roommate cried, gripping my shoulders with her razor-sharp claws to get my attention. “I think I know more about that girl than you do.”
The Bori removed her claws from my shoulders and continued to mop the permanently stained floor.
Although she’s moody and sarcastic, Ace is one of the most perceptive neopets I know. She knows pretty much everything about everyone, whether it be the mailman who comes every Monday, the chubby Kacheek across the hall from our room, or even Dr. Death himself.
“Tell me, tell me, tell-”
“Calm down!” Ace muttered; glancing around to make sure no one heard my cheering. She continued to swipe the floor and replied, “I see her walking past the pound all the time. She has three neopets, I think, but they’re all painted Christmas.”
My heart sank. “R-really? Only Christmas?” My voice came out squeaky. I hoped Ace couldn’t see the disappointment written on my face.
“Yeah,” Ace whispered, gazing at me with surprisingly sympathetic eyes.
Sighing, I began to mop the floor again, tears gathering in my eyes. If she only owned Christmas pets, why would she want a pet from the pound? Why would she spend her time on an ugly, abandoned pest when she had her beautifully painted children at home?
“Wait...” Ace said abruptly a few minutes later. “I have an idea!”
“No idea’s gonna work,” I groaned, sinking into a nearby chair. “Why would she want the ugliest and wimpiest yellow Skeith in all of Neopia?”
“Just listen!” the Bori hissed urgently. “We’ll paint you Christmas.”
Ace looked at me smugly, as if this was the best, most foolproof plan in all of Neopia and I should have been worshiping at her feet.
“B-but... Skeiths can’t be painted Christmas!” I wailed, tears flooding from my eyes.
Sighing with irritation, Ace thrust her mop onto the ground and began pacing around anxiously. Finally, she declared, “How about a morphing potion? A Christmas Kougra Morphing Potion is about... 300k, I think.”
I winced. In the pound, even 1,000 neopoints seemed a lot. How would we ever pay for a morphing potion that expensive?
“How in Neopia would we get that many neopoints?”
“You know that bulletin board above the window in our hallway? It has job listings on it.”
I smiled, the glistening tears on my face beginning to dry.
“You really think we could do it?”
“Sure,” Ace shrugged, “If we work for it.”
I reached out to hug my friend, but she shrugged away, smirking. I chased her anyway and didn’t stop until I had engulfed her in a big embrace.
The next few months for Ace and I were spent at a toy factory, passing toys down one conveyor belt after another. It seems simple, but it was actually long, tedious work that made our paws numb and our backs ache.
We worked long past sunset and had to wake up two hours before the other neopets in the pound to get to work. We skipped lunch, which actually wasn’t so bad, considering the slop they served us at the pound, but our tummies still growled with hunger as we worked.
Finally, two weeks before Christmas, we managed to scrape together 100,000 neopoints. It wasn’t quite enough for the morphing potion, but Ace figured we could haggle.
We hurried down the streets to the Auction House, ready to place our bid. The auctions lasted all day... the majority of the time consisted of Ace and a menacing Techo outbidding each other over and over again. In the auction next door, a Christmas Kougra Morphing Potion was going for 500,000 neopoints. I kept my fingers crossed as Ace hollered her bids, trying to keep it below 100,000.
“90,000!” the Techo screeched.
“92,000!” Ace challenged.
“150,000!” The Techo’s eyes gleamed with pride.
Ace hesitated before bowing her head solemnly and sighing with despair.
“Going once...” the Auction Scorchio cried.
My tail drooped.
Ace cast an apologetic glance toward me and a threatening glare at the Techo.
“SOLD... to the Techo for 150,000 neopoints!”
Ace and I trudged down the streets of Neopia Central and into the hallway. My feet felt heavier than the Cyodrake’s Gaze as we shuffled up the stairs and across the hall. Ace had one paw on my shoulder – just one little touch, but it meant the world to me.
We finally made it to our room and I miserably stuffed my key in the slot and lumbered into our tiny room. The room I would probably remain in for my entire life. Ace was lucky. She was a plain red Bori, but she was pretty – even though she never admitted it.
Slouching on my bed, I wallowed in my despair and loss. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out, letting the coolness of the soil seep through my skin and the little petpetpets crawl around my claws. I wondered if the Symols in Meridell would mind if I shared their hole with them. But other petpets would keep barging in and disturbing my sadness, so I thought against it.
There was no use for my life or me anymore. When the Auction Scorchio declared that obnoxious Techo the winner, my heart plunged into the bitter depths of despair, and there was no way, no chance of it coming back.
“Desiree... look!” Ace breathed.
She was still standing by the door, holding the manila envelope in her paws. When someone was considering adopting a pet at the pound, they placed their application in the envelope hanging on the pet’s door for the pet to see.
“Who wants to adopt you? Someone rich and kind and wonderful, I’m sure,” I sobbed.
“Desi, this isn’t – ”
I sighed. “Ace, you can’t stop them from adopting you. Just... just go with your new family. I’ll be fine.”
“Dez, listen to me, I – ”
“Just... just forget about me...”
“DESIREE, LISTEN TO ME FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE!” Ace hollered.
I whirled around, expecting to see her bursting with rage, but she was... smiling...
“W-what?” I asked.
“The application is for... you.”
My heart pounded a billion times harder and faster than usual. I didn’t realize it, but I was shaking with excitement and nervousness as I slowly made my way over to Ace. I felt like I was going to throw-up... or faint... or both.
My paws gingerly took the envelope from Ace and pulled out the application...
“Ace! Ace, it’s HER! She wants to adopt me! Can you believe it?”
We squealed with excitement together, jumping up and down and ignoring the shrieks of protest from the rooms surrounding us. Tears glistened in my eyes... happy tears. Tears I was proud of.
“Way to go, Dez!” Ace cheered. A full smile was spread across her face this time.
Then Ace did something completely unexpected. She hugged me. And I didn’t even ask her to.
Snow swirled around outside the window. I smiled to myself and drew a heart in the moisture on the windowpane. Ah, the memories...
It’s been a year since Carol adopted me. That’s her name, in case you were wondering. I still can’t believe this is my second Christmas with her and my new siblings. This will be Ace’s first.
In February, an independent young girl named Misty adopted my good pal. They live in the Haunted Woods, which isn’t too far from my new home in Neopia Central, so we see each other every once in a while. It’s not the same as living in the same room and seeing each other every day, but I neomail her as often as I can and I know she’s much happier in the Haunted Woods.
Carol has three other pets – Jessabella, the Christmas Grundo; Samson, the Christmas Kyrii; and Marco, the Christmas Tuskaninny. And then there's me – Desiree, the Christmas Kougra.
Yes, I am now the pet I dreamt of being. I live with kind siblings, a cute little Polarchuck sidekick, and my new owner, who is the most amazing person I’ve ever met.
What happened to me was a miracle. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. And I couldn’t be happier. So far, I’ve decided Christmas isn’t necessarily about being painting or presents or something fancy. It’s about family. And faith. Alright, alright, and in some cases – like mine – it could be about Christmas Kougra Morphing Potions.
I hope your wishes will come true like mine.
Merry Christmas, Neopia. Merry Christmas.