Friendship is Like a Deck of Cards
The day had started off beautiful. The sun was shining and Pterii were singing in the trees as Jilli, a purple Kacheek, raced along the path that led from her Neohome to her friend Zena's Neohome. They had made plans that afternoon to visit the auction house in hopes of winning a birthday present for Jilli's mother.
As Jilli dashed up the steps of the small home Zena shared with her mother and father, the sky began to grow dark. “Oh no! I hope it doesn't...” Jilli did not finish her sentence because the sky had finished it for her. Fat raindrops began to fall as she knocked loudly at the front door.
“Jilli! I didn't think it was going to rain today. Looks like we'll have to play inside until the rain stops.” Zena, a green Usul, hugged her Kacheek friend. “Sorry, I know you wanted to go to the auction house.”
“It's fine. What can we do while we wait?”
“Oh! I have to show you!” With that, Zena raced into her room with Jilli trailing behind. Zena stood up on tiptoe to reach a small ornamental box. It was a beautiful box, jade green decorated with gold swirls. Zena eagerly pulled the lid off, obviously pleased with her prize.
It took Jilli all that she could not to groan loudly. Sitting in the box was a large, shiny, brand new deck of Godori cards. Zena adored Godori.
“And guess what?” Zena was nearly bouncing in excitement. “Kentari gave them to me!” Kentari was the weapons shop owner in Shenkuu, and considered by most to be the grand master of Godori. “Do you want to play?”
Jilli sighed sadly as she glanced out the window. Thunder rumbled so she sank down on the rug as Zena began to deal the cards.
Jilli was not a fan of Godori. In fact, she could not stand it. But she tried, very hard, to pretend to enjoy playing with Zena. Zena seemed to have Kentari's passion for the game. No wonder he had given her his deck!
Zena sat keeping score since she understood the rules. She always smiled at Jilli after each round, even when she beat her. “You'll win the next round, I'm sure!”
Jilli stared at the small amount of cards she had captured. She had long since given up asking Zena to explain the rules. She merely pretended to understand.
Jilli let out an inaudible groan. “Zena, you're beating my by a little over thirty points. Can we stop?” Jilli had somehow managed to get seven points. How, she did not know. Zena had thirty-eight and counting.
“No, we play to fifty, silly!”
Jilli sighed. “Sure, sorry. I forgot.”
Zena managed to bring her score up to sixty-two points in the next round and therefore she won. The two friends sneaked a glance at the window. It was still raining. “Again?” Zena asked.
Jilli shrugged. She did not want to play again but there was not much else to do. So they played.
And they played.
And they played.
After losing to Zena four times, Jilli was growing annoyed. “Zena I don't want to play. Does your mom have an umbrella we can borrow?”
“Mom took it with her to work. She figured it would rain and it did.”
Zena offered the deck of cards to Jilli. “Do you want to shuffle this time?”
“No!” Jilli was annoyed, tired of the game, and hungry. “I do not want to play anymore! You always win and I hate this game!” With that Jilli threw the entire deck in the air. For a moment the rain had come into the house in the form of multi-colored cards based on the lands of Neopia. Several fluttered around the room, some landing under the bed, one in Jilli's glass of water, and the Turdle, Zena's favorite card, wound up ripped in two.
Zena's face crumpled as she burst into tears. Jilli, still in a huff, stomped out of the house and into the rain. When she made it home, she was soaked.
“Jilli, what are you doing home early?”
Jilli glanced up at the voice. It was her father. Jilli shuffled her feet and said, “I don't want to go to Zena's anymore.”
“Why not?” Her father folded the issue of the Neopian Times he was reading and sat it on the table. “Jilli, you and Zena have been friends for a long, long time. Why would you suddenly not want to go?”
Finally Jilli felt bad about what she had done. She burst into tears and told her father everything. When she finished, she glanced up at him through her tears. He seemed to pity her.
“Jilli, just because you do not like the game Zena picked does not give you the right to throw a temper tantrum. I am sure Zena plays things with you she doesn't like. Now what do you intend to do?”
“To do?” Jilli looked up at her father, wondering what he meant.
“Are you going to apologize? Replace Zena's cards?”
Jilli's face fell and she shook her head. “I can't replace her cards, Papa. Kentari gave them to her. They meant a whole lot to Zena.”
Her father stood up and he left the room. Jilli heard him banging around in the hall closet and soon he came back with their rain slickers and boots.
“Where are we going?”
During the boat trip, Jilli was silent. There was no way she had enough money to replace Zena's cards. And she was sure Kentari was not going to just give her one of his prized decks!
Her heart sank. That was what her father had planned, to have her beg Kentari for a deck. She began to sniffle. She had disrespected her friend, a game, and the Shoyru who had introduced the game to her friend without even meeting him! She felt terrible.
During the walk to the Wonderous Weaponry shop, Jilli's feet felt like lead. Even her tail dragged behind her. She felt in her heart that this was hopeless.
Despite her feelings, she and her father waited near the door for the shop to empty. Finally Kentari, a nimble orange Shoyru, spotted them. “May I help you?” he asked.
Jilli felt her father gently nudge her in the Shoyru's direction. Twisting her skirt, Jilli stared at the floor. “Mister Kentari, I am very, very sorry.” She spoke to the floor, not to the Shoyru's face. She explained to him how she very much disliked the game of Godori, but how her best friend Zena always wanted to play. She explained how she never understood the rules and played just to please Zena.
As she reached the part in her story about throwing her friend's precious deck, a gift from the Shoyru standing in front of her, she burst into tears. Finally she looked up in the orange face of Kentari. He seemed impassive.
Ending her story, Jilli said, “Your deck meant so much to Zena. So very, very much to her! And I destroyed it. The Turdle card is ruined and it was her favorite! May I please, please, please have another one of your decks for Zena? Please? I'll never even touch it, I swear!”
Kentari was silent for a moment. And then he sighed. “I understand your sorrow little Kacheek, but no. My decks are not meant to go to anyone. Only those who truly understand and love the game.”
“But my dad would carry it! I promise!”
Kentari shook his head. “I am sorry. But no. I cannot give you one.”
Jilli left the shop with her father's arm around her shoulder. She sniffled and wiped her eyes. What was she going to do now?
And then, it hit her. She saw a pink Aisha selling boxes like the one Zena had Kentari's deck of cards in. Hurrying over to the Aisha she bought a cherry blossom colored box with black edging and headed home, ready to apologize to Zena. But first she had work to do.
The next morning Jilli headed over to Zena's Neohome, box clutched tightly in her hand. When Zena opened the door, Jilli could tell she was still upset. But Zena let her in.
“I'm sorry, Jilli,” she began, “I didn't realize you don't like Godori like I do.”
“And I'm sorry, Zena. I had no place to destroy your precious deck. I do have something for you, but it is nowhere near as wonderful as a deck from Kentari.”
Jilli handed her friend the box. Zena opened it, looking awestruck at the contents. Inside was a handmade, painstakingly drawn Godori deck.
“Jilli, you must have been up all night!”
“Most of the night,” Jilli said. “But you're my best friend and you are a really good Godori player. Every player needs their own deck.”
Zena flung her arms tightly around Jilli. “This is the most wonderful present I have ever been given. Thank you so very much!”
With that, the girls headed to Zena's room. As Zena got ready for a walk to the auction house with Jilli, they both silently decided that Zena would take time to teach Jilli more about Godori. And Jilli would not let her temper get the best of her. Hand in hand, the friends soon found themselves bidding on a Baby Blu for Jilli's mother, both vowing to never let a game come between them ever again.