Outcasts: Part Four
The sleepover had turned out to be a success. The pair of friends had spent many long hours discussing their separate lives, and Jesmin was soon one hundred percent recovered from the traumatic day at school. Cindy, her owner, passed by the room far beyond bedtime, her bleary eyes pleased.
Daffodil Evensong spent at least three hours recounting her experiences as a Royal among Royals. Jesmin learned that Jarav, who was staying in a separate guest room, was not in fact her cousin, but her attendant and bodyguard who had been sent to accompany Daffodil. This explained the formal style of speech he always used.
Jesmin had stared wide-eyed as the Kyrii remembered extravagant balls, exotic foods and clothing, the taxing challenge of getting dressed in the morning. The Xweetok had a laugh as she recalled how basic the beautiful dresses were in her suitcase, and compared them to the large flowing gowns Daffodil had described that were used to attend parties. The difference spanned a good six pounds of cloth.
The Xweetok had held Daffodil in rapture as she also told the story of her life. The simple issues and concerns of everyday life were just a gripping to the Kyrii as the refined court life had been to Jesmin. Tales of searching for the right Petpet and never finding one, of digging up rocks and saplings searching for treasure, of typing relentlessly to complete last-minute essays – all were fascinating to Daffodil.
The Kyrii decided it was time to uncover the truth. After a short pause in a long conversation, she asked softly, “Jesmin, why would Darthan wish to cause you grief? He verbally abused you with such brutality, I don’t understand why. You meant no harm, but he certainly hurt you deeply.”
Jesmin sighed. It had been only a matter of time. “Do you really want to know? Can you keep a secret?”
Daffodil nodded, her gaze fixated on her friend.
“It’s not a happy story...”
Still she nodded, determined to learn the cause of such an event.
“Well, it all began last year, in my first semester of freshman year. It was some day in the month of Collecting, I think. You do need to know this - I wasn’t always painted Cloud. I used to be Blue, just a basic Blue. But according to my owner, and everyone else at school, I was gorgeous. Beyond gorgeous, I was stunningly beautiful, although I never really tried to see it in myself. I left that chore to everyone else – I was satisfied with myself, my personality, and I didn’t strive to become ‘better’ than my current, content state of being, simply for the purpose of improved appearance.”
Daffodil drank in every word, mentally burning the words into the back of her subconscious. This tale contained a very important lesson, she knew.
“As the days passed, nothing really changed. I did my homework, ate the school lunches, and ignored the constant inquiries about why I didn’t paint myself something other than a Basic Color. It was during some inconsequential lunchtime that Darthan first made his approach to me. He had maintained a group of, should I say, followers. It was then that he asked me to join them.
I was completely floored. Me, a Basic pet? Why in the world did he want me? When I relayed this question to him, he responded by saying that my outer beauty, although Basic, had no equal in the entire school. I finally began to understand – Darthan was not just an egotistical monarch of the public school society, he only considered beautiful or well-painted pets to be worthy of his presence.”
Daffodil was stunned that she could empathize with Jesmin. Her own parents had shown the same lack of interest in everyday things.
“I was offended that he had no interest to get to know me personally. I told him off, and in doing so, made myself an outcast.
I only truly became an exile once my owner painted me Cloud. Cindy’s shop had sold a rare item at the time, so she had a couple thousand neopoints to burn. She bought me the cheapest Cloud Paint Brush she could find, and took me straightaway to the Rainbow Pool. It was not for the pale fur that I was painted – it was for the brown eyes, which Cindy agreed would become far more striking against the new color.
The popular kids had seen this as some sort of betrayal, and Darthan has continued to torment me for my decision until this day. Today, this became evident – the popular kids want you to join them, Daffa. They want you badly.”
Daffodil was amazed. Jesmin fell silent, and an epiphany seemed to occur in her mind.
“Daffodil, maybe you do belong with them, or at least not with me.” The Xweetok hung her head, as if in defeat.
The statement rocked Daffodil to her very core. “What could you possibly mean by that?!?” she exclaimed.
“I mean that I don’t want my status as a social pariah to drag you down so early on in your new life, Daffa,” Jesmin responded calmly. “You left your parents, your home, your life – and for what? To become a piece of chewed gum stuck to the pavement and downtrodden nearly every day, like I already am? You don’t deserve that, Daffa. I won’t let you cripple yourself in such a way.”
“No,” Jesmin stated firmly. “Tomorrow, Daffa, when Darthan returns for you (as he surely will), you will accept his offer. Either that, or go join some other clique. There is no changing my mind in this, so don’t bother trying, Daffa.”
With that, Jesmin flicked off the light switch and settled into her bed, effectively ending the conversation. Daffodil sat in silence, struggling to control her raging thoughts. When the act of controlling her tired brain became too much, she too settled under her guest bed covers.
Before her consciousness faded, Daffodil thought she heard a faint sound, crying, coming from Jesmin’s side of the room.
The morning passed by in a mood of general uneasiness. Breakfast was no exception.
Daffodil was very introspective as she ate her omelette, a sad expression constantly worn. Jesmin was unresponsive, the blank appearance of the internally conflicted from the previous day had returned. Jarav kept his gaze riveted on Daffodil and Jesmin, unnerved by their sudden depression.
Cindy waved goodbye to the trio of pets, a concerned look on her face as they boarded the Eyrie Cab and set off for school.
No one said a word throughout the entire trip.
Upon arrival, the school bell rang in all its monotone glory. The classes passed by in a blur, and Jesmin failed to truly notice anything of particular importance.
In her world, only one thing mattered – today, her one and only friend for two whole years was leaving her. The thought was so unbearable, she felt like screaming out loud, projecting her pain to the world that would not notice it. The phrase ‘Daffodil is leaving’ kept repeating in her mind like the pulsing throb of a stubborn headache.
Daffodil is leaving, Daffodil is leaving, Daffodil is leaving...
The bell rang, interrupting her anguish. A jolt raced through her fur as she realized that it was the lunch bell.
NO! Not yet! I’m not ready... she moaned in her head. But it was useless. The time had come, and her friend would soon be gone.
Seeing nothing, the Xweetok mechanically walked to the center pavilion, where she would meet with Daffodil for the last time. Her gaze traveled to the short concrete wall, where the Royal Kyrii stood waiting. The pair hugged, and Jesmin went to sit on the wall.
Darthan did not keep them waiting. He strode around the corner with a flourish, still surrounded by the popular pets that behaved almost like a second limb to him.
“I have returned,” he stated haughtily, awaiting some sort of negative response. When he received none, he grinned. “What, no distrust? No booing or hissing? Good.”
He turned to Daffodil. “I assume Jesmin has relayed as much information to you about how evil and dreadful we popular kids are, didn’t she? I wouldn’t expect less. Well, I’ve come to tell you that you are wrong. We can be welcoming. So what do you say? Would you like to join the In-Crowd?”
Jesmin held her head in her paws. Daffodil is leaving, Daffodil is leaving...
Daffodil stood as straight and tall as she possibly could, at least an inch or two higher than Darthan’s height. “Only if Jesmin can come with me.”
The response astonished them all. The popular kids began to mutter amongst themselves, and some were struck dumb. Jesmin sat bolt upright from her dejected wallowing and fixed a look at Daffodil that said ‘What do you think you’re doing?!’
“Are you crazy? Of course not!” Darthan exclaimed. “She doesn’t belong with us.”
Daffodil’s eyes turned cold as frozen steel. “Then I don’t belong with you either.”
Darthan growled, and was about to retort when Daffa cut him off, a habit she had developed over the previous day.
“You filthy scum,” she snarled, “You’re not worth the gum under my shoe. Why would I want to join you and your herd of... of lemmings? You offer nothing but hurt and shallow, conceited ignorance.”
Darthan was furious. “You’re a coward! You have your weak little Gelert protect you, is that it? You are such a hypocrite! You-”
A stinging slap cut his sentence short, followed by a swift kick in the shin. The Draik toppled, and Daffodil stood over him. “See, I can take care of myself,” she hissed in his ear before walking away.
Jesmin was standing, and shocked tears of happiness dripped down her face. She rushed to embrace her one true friend in the world, and Daffodil hugged her back.
Jarav interrupted the hug with a cough, and smiled to Daffodil. “You know, milady, we are all now outcast as well.”
Daffodil narrowed her eyes at him. Had Jarav been eavesdropping? A guilty look played in his eyes.
“Who cares,” she replied, “so long as we are outcasts together?”