“Okay, Glim, take this to the bank while your brother and I go to the market.”
Today was the day. I had finally proven that I was responsible enough to go deposit our neopoints. Saturn and my mom were sweaty from earning them all. She handed me the bag, keeping a little to buy food.
I had never handled money before. There was a first for everything. I was going to try a chocolate, or a smoothie, or a doughnut for the first time when my mom brought it back like she promised she would. My mom worked really hard to give us what we wanted.
She would always tell us she wanted to give us the world. “When we get some real money, we can get a huge house, and we can make you really strong and smart, and maybe, if we work at it, we can get you two painted!” She would smile at the thought as she put omelettes onto our plates.
Then there were some days that we would hear of some random event granting people rare items or piles of money. “Some people have all the luck,” Saturn would grunt, licking his Kougra paws indignantly. But Mom would smile and pat our heads. “We don’t need luck, huh Glim?” she would ask. And I would grin back, believing all she said was true.
Neopia Central is a really busy place. It’s not my fault I got tossed around a bit here and there, maybe into the auction house...
Mom never looked at me like the people in here did, their noses turned up and wrinkled, their faces full of pity, distaste, and— I couldn’t believe it— fear. Maybe I was a little scuffed up, but I didn’t look too different from them, did I?
That thought was pushed out of my mind when I saw the things inside of the auction house. I doubt that Mom had ever seen the things in here! Big stars of gold, bottles with colorful, glowing things moving around inside, pieces of mysterious maps... Even those pieces of paper you had to scratch to win a prize, the ones Mom forbade me to spend money on, as well as carnival games and lottery tickets. It was a wondrous place. So loud and crowded, but so wonderful. Beautiful items on display, sought after by dignified-looking Neopians who called out a bid of a few million neopoints, as if it were nothing. And then another person would bid even more! It was like another world. I could never imagine Mom, with her apron and pile of omelettes in here.
And paintbrushes! Beautiful, glowing paintbrushes! Ones with wings, ones with beautiful designs, others dripping drops of snow or pure gold. Even one that didn’t seem to be there. I saw the end of the auction for the paintbrush of my dreams. It was put into the hands of a blue Kacheek with a monocle, who I suspected only had it to show how rich he was. I had always fantasized about being painted Maraquan.
It was here that I saw it. A display of pale rocks, all in a line, each one with a strange pattern. A nice looking Zafara caught me looking at the merchandise about to be auctioned off. “Hello, little Gelert,” she greeted me.
I nodded in response, mesmerized by these simple rocks. One of the stones caught my eye. This one had an X and a little circle on top.
“Do you like that one?” the Zafara asked, eyeing my money. I put it behind my back and nodded.
“That’s called a codestone. You can take up to the Island to pay for training! It’s cool, huh?” she asked.
I nodded, my eyes widening.
She gave it to me to hold. I gasped as it shook in my hands.
“Amazing!” I said.
She nodded. “This auction is about to close, but for you I’ll make an exception. Would you like to place a bid?”
I nodded without thinking and passed her the bag. She peeked in and began to count.
She frowned. “Hey, kid, this isn’t enough. Come back when you have enough money!”
I was pulled out of my trance by her screeching. Her tone was way different than before. She tossed the bag at me, so hard some of the coins flew out onto the floor, where they quickly disappeared under the feet of so many people. She snatched the stone out of my hand and turned away in disgust.
I watched as that pretty rock was put into the hands of, again, that monocle-clad Kacheek!
I sighed, and began out the door to the bank, my original destination. The things in here would never be mine.
When I walked outside, I noticed a figure to the side of the building. “Little Gelert!” I heard. “Little Gelert!”
I turned. A Poogle with a fedora was beckoning.
Mom and I returned to our humble neohome a few hours later, groceries in our arms. She put them down and called out. “Glim! We’re home! Glim?”
I frowned. It wasn’t easy to hide in the small space we owned, especially since all we had was a coffee table, a couple itchy beds and a poster from a Twisted Roses concert, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when Mom told me we were going to see a show with booming music and thousands of others.
“Where could he be, Saturn?” Mom wondered, bending down so she could look under the coffee table. I rolled my eyes. She was so scatterbrained sometimes.
“He obviously isn’t here. That slowpoke is probably still at the bank. Give him some time, Mom,” I insisted.
Mom fidgeted uncomfortably. “Really, how long does it take to go to the bank and back?”
I shrugged. “Maybe that Skarl scared him off the first couple of times he walked in.” Mom still wasn’t convinced. “Don’t worry,” I said. “He’ll be fine!”
I was about to turn away from the Poogle, when I saw that he was holding one of the pretty stones!
“Mister, where did you get that?” I ran over.
“From the auction house, little Gelert. But I just saw you now, and was overcome with compassion. You may have it, for only all that you have in that pitiful bag of neopoints you’ve got there.”
There was a pang of uneasiness in the middle of my glee. Mom had worked hard for this! It wasn’t pitiful, was it? It wasn’t even my money to spend, and it wasn’t like I needed to train that hard...
“Come now, little Gelert,” the Poogle started. “You aren’t really considering rejecting my generous offer? Really, this is a steal! I’m giving it to you for half of what it’s worth!”
I looked at the neopoints in my paws. I didn’t need to use the stone. I could give it to Saturn! He always wanted to do better in the Battledome, even better than he did now. He would be as proud of me for getting it as I was proud of him for being so strong.
And Mom! Maybe she could even sell it, and if it was worth as much as this guy said it was, she would be so happy. I imagined her reaction as I showed her the valuable stone. She would clap her hands and smile.
I handed the Poogle the bag. This was for those two. I would take it home and they would love me.
“Thank you, little Gelert. Now, I’ll be on my way. Take care of that, boy!” he called as he walked away, sniggering a bit suspiciously. But that didn’t matter now. I had this mystical stone in my hands.
“I am REALLY worried about your brother, Saturn!”
I groaned. “MOM. It’s been ten minutes since we’ve gotten home! Please just give him some time!”
She flitted around the room some more. She had already set up a plate of cookies for him to eat. “It’s getting late! What if he’s lost? What if he’s crying for me right now? Oh, Saturn!”
I flipped through my book some more. The Kougra’s Paw. I had heard that books disappeared after you finish them, so I’d been savoring it for a long time. I didn’t need to ask Mom for anything she didn’t need to buy me. “Chill. Glim’s responsible and knows the way back. There’s no need to worry, I’m telling you!”
There was a few beautiful minutes of silence when she had sat down beside me, exhausted from all that worrying. I began to wonder if she was accepting that her baby was growing up.
“But what if—”
“YOU KNOW WHAT, MOM?” I shouted, slamming my book closed. “Let’s go look for him. Right now.”
I regretted it immediately. “Oh, I’m so glad you said that!” she said, gasping in relief. She went off, and I slapped my hand to my face, listening her rummage through the safety deposit box.
She brought out a couple flashlights, a butterfly net, thick gloves, rope...
“And a coat for you,” she said, handing it to me, “just in case it gets too chilly.”
I clenched it in my fist. “You’ve got to be kidding—”
But she was already out the door. “I’m coming, Glimmy!” she called, waving her flashlight around.
I was walking home with a silly grin on my face when I saw a friend of mine, a Lupe with a thing for mischief and lemon fish pops. “What’ve you got there, Glim?” he asked. I handed it to him proudly.
He frowned as he looked it over, turning it in his hands. “Isn’t it cool?” I asked. He shrugged. I couldn’t believe it. How couldn’t he think it was the most amazing thing?
“It looks like just any other rock you could pick up off the ground,” he said. I grabbed it from him. “That’s impossible!” I said, looking for the design. Where was it?
“Well, if you’re starting a rock collection, you could go up to Kreludor or something and...”
“I’m not starting a rock collection! Aw, man! Oh my gosh, my mom’s gonna kill me!” I said, putting my head in my hands. “I spent all the money she gave me on it!”
He scratched his head in thought. “I don’t think it’s that bad. If you just go back and explain to her what happened...”
“No! I can never, ever tell her! I can never look at her again, I can never see her again! She’ll be so mad!” I threw the useless stone to the ground. “She spent hours getting all of that money!” The images in my mind of visits to Kelp and getting painted all disappeared, melting into images of Mom screaming at me for being so stupid.
After dinner she would present me with whatever amazing gift she got for me, and then I would break down crying and tell her. She would take us to the pound and leave me there, Saturn shaking his head in disappointment.
I ran. “Where are you going, Glim?” the Lupe asked. I kept going, because I didn’t really have an answer to that question.
I was freezing, it was dark, and I was damp from looking for that brother of mine at the Petpet Puddle while an Usuki Usul and her pack of Warfs decided to go for a colorful swim. “Maybe he wandered off to an island...”
She knew that wasn’t the case. That kid was always good at Hide and Seek. “Have you seen this Gelert? Have you seen him? Have you? Have you seen my Gelert?” Mom had a picture of him in her hands that she pushed in people’s faces as they tried to walk by. “He’s blue and has really small paws and the cutest nose and...”
“Have you seen him?” I asked a young Xweetok. She shook her head and was lead off by her owner. “Mom, they know what he looks like, you’re holding a picture!” I called back, showing the image to a few others.
“When I get my hands on him...” I muttered.
“You’re going to hug him and tell him you love him, right?” Mom asked, in such a creepy voice I had to say yes.
I had gone as far as the Haunted Woods. I panted as I leaned against a tree.
“Who do you think you are, child?” a voice moaned. I gasped and turned. “Who said that?”
I was greeted by an awful face in the bark of the tree I was leaning against. I looked on the other side of it and saw many people were standing there, waiting for their quests from the ominous Brain Tree.
“If you have come for a quest, then get in line!” he cried, his brain shaking in a successful attempt to scare me.
“I’ve run from home!” I explained. He was silent for a moment. Then he laughed.
“Run away from home? You ridiculous pup. Go back to your mother!” He laughed at me more, some of his branches pushing me toward the crowd that had accumulated since the line hadn’t been moving. The ghosts and witches laughed at me, pushing me some more so I landed face down in the dirt.
“Have you seen this Gelert?” I heard a voice say. Oh no! There they were! I knew I should’ve run farther... I tried to run behind the Brain Tree again.
“Have you seen him?” Saturn asked the tree after pushing his way through the crowd and showing the Brain Tree my picture. He looked at it, scratching his... his chin... with a branch limb.
I closed my eyes, ready to be found out.
“Haven’t seen him around,” the Tree said.
My mom was looking scared. Maybe she had checked with the bank and discovered I had lost all her neopoints! What was I going to do? She was going to abandon me! I didn’t want to be abandoned!
“But is all this running any better?” the Tree asked. I kicked it in response.
“Oh! You mean THIS Gelert!” said the accursed Tree.
It shoved me to the front, where I was met face to face with my family. “Hi,” I said quietly, feeling about three inches tall. Mom looked at me with tears in her eyes. Saturn just looked tired... and annoyed. “Where have you...”
“I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE SAFE! Oh, Glim! I’m so happy to see you!” Mom cut off Saturn and threw her arms around me. I pushed her off and looked at the ground. I explained what happened, and watched as Saturn’s mouth fell open. Mom was silent.
“M-mom?” I asked, cringing, awaiting her wrath.
“Glim, I am so disappointed,” she began. My head, and my heart, sank lower.
“I am so disappointed that you didn’t know that I—we— will still love you no matter what you do. You are worth all those things in the auction house. You’re worth all the codestones and neopoints in the world. And more. How couldn’t you know that?” she said. Then she began to laugh, hugging me again.
Saturn looked upon our moment, arms crossed. He waited a few moments before joining in, muttering, “You dummy.”
“Such a happy moment! Now... GET OUT OF MY WOODS!” the Brain Tree groaned, shaking its branches. It pelted us with ghost Brain Tree seeds, which we tried to shield ourselves from with our arms as we ran away before noticing they went right through us.
The Neopians in line watched as the happy family held hands, walking back to Neopia Central.
“That was nice, huh, Mr. Brain Tree?” a little Ixi asked, clasping her hooves and sighing tenderly.
“Very much so,” the Tree said, sighing the same way. He broke from his trance and glared at the Ixi. “And what do YOU want?!”
Ah! Thank you for reading~~ :3