Salmon and Tennis
Now I have to make this fast, because I just got a Neomail that I want to read.
It started around two years ago. My friend Sam, who was a Fire Kacheek, had invited me to his Neohome for the day. His dad was cooking some Salmon Steak on the grill he had in the backyard, with his sweet little Spardel, Jasmine, running around on the grass with his tennis ball.
“HA! The score’s 14 to 6!” Sam cried, flailing his Bori Tennis Set in the air. We were downstairs in his basement, in the spare room we always used to play tennis.
I laughed and served the ball. He returned it effortlessly, and I hit it back at him. It continued on and on for a while until it bounced three times on his side.
“Now it’s 14 to 7,” I declared.
He smiled. “I’m still winning, Gracie.”
“And I’m still losing. Go me!” I said sarcastically. Sam prepared to serve the ball with all his might, but his dad called us suddenly.
“SAM! GRACIE! DINNER’S READY!” he yelled from the kitchen. The dining room sounded of clinking plates and cups.
We rushed upstairs, poured some lemonade into our empty glasses, and sat down as his mom served us our salmon.
Sam and I immediately bit into our dinner. A small chorus of ‘Mmm!’ filled the air as the seasonings and tender fish made our taste buds shout out in delight. Not literally, of course; otherwise, I’d be too freaked out to even be writing this. Now, where was I? Oh yes --
“How is your salmon?” Sam asked me between mouthfuls.
“It’s really good! This is the best salmon I’ve ever eaten in my whole life,” I replied as I stabbed the steak with my silver fork. “And I’ve had a lot of it before.”
Sam’s dad sat down with us. “I’m glad you like it. It’s not a new recipe, but I’m grilling it this time instead of cooking it on the stove.”
“You should always cook it this way, Dad,” the Kacheek remarked as he finished the last of the salmon. I did the same and took a swig of my water.
Finally, the sun sank down into the horizon and it was time to leave. “I’ll see you at Neoschool!” I called cheerily as I walked home.
I smiled and continued down the sidewalk.
The next day I walked into Neoschool and rushed in to talk to Sam, who was sitting at the wooden table in the middle of the ‘commons area’. There were two other Kacheeks there, but they were painted Faerie and Spotted. I was the only Brown Lupe in my school, and still am, but let’s continue, shall we?
“SAM! I GOT A NEW SCORE AT ELIV THADE!” I yelped excitedly, jumping up and down.
He grinned. “Nice! Did you beat anyone?”
“Nope, but I got 6 points!”
He stared at me in disbelief. He’d gotten first place in that game every time he played it. “Just keep practicing,” he said slowly, “And maybe you’ll do better.”
I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. One of these days, I’ll win.”
“Well, that day definitely isn’t coming soon,” Sam quipped. I glared playfully at him, and would have retorted if the school bell hadn’t interrupted me.
I grabbed Sam by the elbow and tugged him to our classroom. “Come on,” I laughed, “You’re going to make us late!”
“Wow, you’re getting stronger every day.”
“That’s because of all the times I whip you at tennis!”
He rolled his eyes and took his seat, waiting patiently for our teacher to come into the class. I pulled out my Shimmery Notebook and opened it to a blank page. I doodled a Salmon Steak, with a speech bubble coming from a crudely-drawn Lupe. It said, ‘Looks like you’re not going up the river today!’ I smiled. I hope I get to go over to Sam’s house again, I thought. Maybe his dad will make some more salmon. I spent the rest of the school day trying to recall the taste of salmon on my tongue. That earned me a ‘GRACIE! PAY ATTENTION! IF YOU DON’T, YOUR TEST GRADE WON’T BE A PRETTY ONE!’ from the teacher.
Finally, after six hours, the bell rang, the sweet chime filling my ears. Immediately, everyone packed up their stuff and began to trudge outside to walk home.
I slipped my notebook in my Fire Faerie Backpack and began striding out of the room.
“Gracie,” the teacher demanded. “Could you come here for a moment?”
I gulped. “Yeah, sure.” I shuffled to her desk.
“Gracie, I understand you’ve been having some... trouble with your homework, and it’s showing on your tests. Would you care to explain? Or are you too busy drawing in that notebook of yours? Do I have to confiscate that one, too, like I did the others?” There was a long pause.
I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at her and stomp away. “No, ma’am.”
“Then pay attention in class, young lady. I won’t tolerate this anymore. If this continues, then you might earn suspension,” she growled. “Now you are dismissed.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said in a quiet, but mocking voice. I rolled my eyes as I sauntered outside and began my weary, lonely walk home.
I arrived at my Neohome when the sun had set. My owner, Paul, who was about fourteen then, jumped up from his armchair. “Gracie, you’re late. Is there a reason for this?”
To get things straight, I have no parents. Sam does; his mom is painted ghost and his dad purple, by the way. When I was born, my parents belonged to some random guy, who adopted me to a different owner. Paul. The selfish, grumpy, video-game-addict Paul. He hardly ever took care of me except when I was sick or hungry. Then he just dropped me off at the Neolodge or Healing Fountain with a dry ‘Bye’ and a cold stare. I was lucky if I managed to get a piece of omelette every day for a week. But now... wait, I shouldn’t tell you just yet.
Anyway, back to the story.
I glared at Paul. “The usual route was blocked, and the dumb teacher lectured me for a while.”
“The teacher? Again? I thought your intelligence level was high. You’re a stupid Neopet, you know that?”
I’d been called that before and taken it without batting an eyelash, but now... that was one too many times. My face turned red. “How would you know? You never bother to check on my intelligence level anyway! You always have your nose stuck in a video game!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.
“Maybe because you’re not worth my time!”
“Well,” I screamed back, my voice rising loudly, “I never asked to be adopted by you! I’d rather have a Werelupe as an owner! So just leave me alone!” I marched up to my room on the brink of angry tears, filled my backpack with Neopoints and my prized possessions (A.K.A. my Usuki Pirate Wench, Shimmery Notebook, Light Faerie Pen, and Fancy Free Uni), and stomped back downstairs.
“WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?” Paul roared, grabbing the backpack’s strap.
I tugged it free violently. “ANYWHERE BUT HERE!” With that, I ran out of the door, regardless of my owner’s shouts.
I sobbed as I sprinted down the sidewalk. Why he hated me so much, I still don’t know to this day. I had plenty of friends at school, and they treated me like I was their sister. But Paul treated me like a slave or a piece of furniture – a conversation piece, or something to make him look good.
I ran all the way to Sam’s house and banged on the door with both fists. Sam’s mom opened the door and looked at me worriedly. “Gracie! What brings you here?” she gasped. “Are you ok? Why are you crying?”
I sniffed. “I’ll explain later, but can I stay here for a while? I’ll leave by midnight, I promise,” I said.
She nodded her head and led me inside. I collapsed on their red velvet couch wearily and grabbed the nearest pillow to hug as the story spilled out of my mouth. Her red eyes were brimming with tears once I finished.
“That’s horrible!” she admitted. “Why would he do such a thing to you?”
I didn’t answer, and wouldn’t have had a chance, anyway, since Sam rushed downstairs from his room. “Mom? What’s wrong?” He looked at my tear-stained face. “Oh,” he added quietly.
I summed up my story in one breath. “Can you take me to the pound, please?” I requested.
Sam’s mom nodded. “Anything for you, sweetie.”
We left the house and walked to the Neopian Pound to drop me off. I didn’t feel any regret; in fact, I even called my room ‘Home Sweet Home’ I was so happy. It was only a day later that I was called to the front for adoption.
The pink Uni led me to a small blond boy, around ten years old. “Is this the one you want?” she asked him.
The boy nodded happily and flashed me a grin. “Yup, that’s the one.”
I stared sheepishly at him as the pink Uni filled out some paperwork. “Ok, then, she’s all good to go. Thank you for adopting her!”
The boy pumped his fist in the air and then smiled at me again. “Come on, Gracie, let me show you our house.”
To my surprise, I grinned back.
Our Neohome was in Krawk Island. Well, at least we can still go to the same Neoschool. It only is a thirty minute boat ride, and I can read or jump rope every day, I thought. It was cozy-looking and warm on the outside, but the inside had many rooms, each painted a different colour. Tim, my new owner, led me to my room, which had Blue Maraqua Wall Paint and Basic Black Floor Tiles; I’ve always like darker colours, anyway. My nightstand by my bed held a Refreshing Blue Potpourri, to my relief. I slept easily in my new, light blue bed and woke up to the weekend.
As soon as I stepped into the kitchen, I was met with a cheery ‘Hello!’ from Tim and a timid ‘Hello’ from May, the Camouflage Poogle that Tim owned.
A Neomail flew in through the window. It was from Sam, saying how happy he was that I had a new owner but how sad he was that I no longer lived in Neopia Central. It also said how we’d be best friends forever, despite me moving. I still keep that letter under my bed.
The years passed, during which Sam and I kept in touch during Neoschool and through letters. Until, of course, I came to the age where I left elementary school into middle school. There were three middle schools: the elementary school which was connected to a middle school, a school in Maraqua, and one in Brightvale.
I chose to go to the one in Maraqua, since it involved scuba diving, underwater fishing, and lunch breaks on a sailboat. I would wear a long-lasting oxygen tank, goggles, and a scuba suit, too.
Sam decided to go to the one in Brightvale; he was always super smart, and the one there is for only the best of the best. He actually got in, and earned the Honor Roll every year.
We slowly grew apart from each other; I made new friends that Sam thought were too silly, and Sam made new friends that I thought were snobby. Our Neomails came occasionally, and sometimes we visited each other. But not often enough, or even at a slow rate. It was a at ‘A REALLY SLOW SLORG THAT IS SLEEPY, STIFF, AND TIED TO A POST THAT ALLOWS HIM TO MOVE AN INCH EVERY FIVE HOURS’ rate. That’s really slow, trust me.
Then, suddenly, everything stopped. I could hardly even remember what he looked like, or even what his name was. I no longer sent him letters and never greeted him at the Book Shop. I even forgot that we went to the same school together.
But on my birthday, May, Tim and I were eating cake and playing board games when our doorbell rang. “Probably a pirate trying to steal the dubloon I got from you guys,” I joked as I strode to the door. I opened it.
A familiar Fire Kacheek stood there, holding a beautiful wrapped present. “Are you Gracie?” he asked.
I stared at him for a moment, then finally looked at him with recognition. “SAM! Oh, I haven’t seen you in so long... come in!”
He entered happily and set my present on the table as I served him some chocolate cake. As he ate, we talked and laughed and had a great time, just as we would have a few years back.
“Open your present,” he suggested, “I think you’ll like it.”
Boy, did I! It was a box filled with a Meridell, Tribal Desert, and Fly Fishing Usuki, plus a Court Dancer Usuki Set. They still sit on my Usuki shelf, played with every day.
Sam joined our board games and watched a movie with us, but it was eventually time for him to go home. I led him to the dock and watched as he boarded the large ship that would sail to Neopia Central.
“Wait,” I called out before he left. He stared at me. “Your dad still cooked the best salmon I’ve ever eaten,” I blurted suddenly.
Sam cracked a smile and boarded the ship.
Let me read this Neomail...
Yup, I have to go. Oh, you’re asking why?
I’m going to Sam’s house.
He’d better be prepared, for I’ve gotten better at tennis.