Neopian Nursery School: Part Two
That night at supper, school was all my kids could talk about.
“The toys are so cool!” Shasta said excitedly, wriggling in his chair,
“Yeah, an' Edwin can read for real!” Danby put in, excited by the apparent skill shown by the little Yurble in glasses he'd been talking to that day.
“I never played with Usukis before!” Lucy raved. “They're so much fun, Papa, can we get some? Pleeeeeeeease!” she pleaded, batting her irresistible little oil-drop eyes at me.
I chuckled. “We'll see, Luce, maybe for your next birthday.” Turning my attention to Tyto, who had been silently prodding at the potatoes from his leftover Krawk pot and appearing sullen and uninterested, I asked, “Well, Tyto, what did you think of school today?”
He looked up at me listlessly for several seconds, then his eyes clouded over and he said, obviously upset, “I di'n't like it, I-I don't wanna go back, it's too weird, please Papa, d-don't make me go back.”
The others stopped talking and stared at me as I ran my hands through my hair; I was tired and ready to give up. “Alright, Tyto,” I said at last. “If you really don't want to go back, I won't make you, but you might get a little lonely around here without your siblings.”
Tyto relaxed and smiled. “I don't mind, so long as I'm here with you.”
That night, once I'd put my kids to bed, I could hear laughing and jeering coming from their room, and moments afterward, I heard Tyto shout, “I am not! Leave me alone, you guys!”
Sighing with exhaustion, I got out of bed and made my way down the hall. I found all four of my kids standing up and peering out at each other through the bars of their cots. “Guys, what's going on here?” I asked, rubbing my eyes sleepily.
“They're makin' fun of me. They say I'm a baby 'cause I don't wanna go to nursery school with 'em.” Tyto sniffled, clutching his blanket as he continued to glare at Shasta and Lucy across the room, periodically swinging round to stare icily at Danby.
I shook my head wearily and said a little more testily than I meant, “Look, everyone in this house who still wears nappies to bed is a baby, and you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. Danby, Shasta, Lucy, stop teasing Tyto, and Tyto, stop letting them get to you. Now all of you, go to sleep.”
Sensing that I was about to start getting cross as I had done yesterday, my kids dropped one by one back onto their mattresses and pulled their blankets up to their chins. Seeing that they were all settled, I went once round the room, depositing a kiss on each of their foreheads to show them I still loved them, then stepped into the hallway and back to my own room.
I was woken again that morning as always by the high-pitched cry that only a baby neopet can make, amplified four times. Rolling out of bed feeling like I'd only just gone to sleep, I dragged myself to their room and hoisted them one by one out of their cots as I proceeded with the morning assembly line.
I felt much better as I sat at the kitchen table that morning nursing a hot cup of mint Borovan, and watching my kids, wondering what the day would bring.
Lucy looked up from her bottle and asked, “Papa, what'cha drinking?”
I glanced at my mug and said, “It's Borovan, Luce, you probably won't like it; it's for big pets.”
But Lucy was adamant. “Can I try some?”
I chuckled. “Alright, kiddo, but don't say I didn't warn you.” I dipped my finger into my mug and held it out for her. She licked it off and her face was thoughtful for a moment, then she grimaced.
“Eeew! That's yucky! Why do you drink that stuff, Papa?”
I laughed at her expression. “I told you Luce, it's for big pets and grownups; you'll like it when you get older.”
“Papa.” Danby tugged on my sleeve, his paw sticky and covered with butter from his Faerie toast. “Papa, are we goin' back to school today?”
Wiping the butter off my sleeve with my napkin, I smiled. “If you want to, Danby; do you want to go back today?”
Danby, Shasta, and Lucy all nodded eagerly. “Yeah! We had fun there yesterday!”
I chuckled. “Well, okay then, I'm sure Miss Ellie would love to see you again.” I glanced at Tyto. “And you can stay here with me, okay, squirt?”
Tyto smiled and nodded, then turned to his red eggs on toast and stabbed them violently, sending strawberry flavoured yolk splattering all over the floor. I sighed; we really needed to get a petpet, something that could clean the floors for me after mealtimes.
As we made our way to Ellie's that morning, I smiled at the three tykes running ahead of me eagerly, so different from the clingy, frightened little things they'd been yesterday. Only Tyto refused to walk; he liked it when I carried him. It made him feel secure.
We arrived, and I was able to knock on the door properly this time, unlike yesterday when I'd had to kick the door down, and only with my left foot so as not to shake Shasta loose. Ellie opened the door and smiled, almost getting knocked over as Lucy, Shasta, and Danby dashed past her to get inside.
“Well, Adrian, looks like we're having a better day than yesterday. Will you be staying with them again?”
I shook my head. “No, they'll be alright; they were really excited to come here today.”
Ellie smiled as she glanced behind her at my kids, who had already dived into activities with their friends. “Well, bring Tyto in, and you can be on your way.”
I bit my lip uncertainly as I stepped inside. “Well, actually, Tyto's staying with me. He um, well, he had a bit of a hard time adjusting, so we figured we'd wait a while.”
Ellie sounded a little sad as she said, “Well, if you think that's best.” Turning to Tyto, she said, “We hope you can join us soon, Tyto. We'll miss you around here.”
Tyto didn't say anything; he just stared at her as he slipped his thumb into his mouth and clung to the collar of my shirt.
“Hey guys,” I called to my other three. “At least come give Daddy a kiss goodbye, huh?” Obediently they ran up and I knelt down, planting a kiss on each of their foreheads before saying, “I'm so proud of you guys. Have fun, be good, and I'll see you after naptime, okay?”
They nodded and smiled, and as he ran off, Shasta tossed over his shoulder, “Love you, Papa!” Hearing that made a large lump form in my throat as I blinked back the tears filming my eyes and whispered, “I love you too, little guy.”
Ellie saw my distraught face and smiled sadly, resting a hand on the arm I wasn't using to carry Tyto. “Sometimes it's harder for the parents to leave than for the kids to be left. Don't worry, Adrian, they're perfectly safe here, and like you said, you'll see them after naptime. Go on, go home and have fun with Tyto. It gets easier, I promise.”
“I promise.” Those words were still ringing in my ears as I left a few moments later, walking very slowly back to the house with Tyto still in my arms. Those were the words I'd uttered to my kids only yesterday, “You'll have fun at nursery school, I promise.” How ironic that now it was I, not my kids, who needed that reassurance. A single tear slid down my cheek and I stopped, surprised.
Tyto reached up and touched my face gently, withdrawing it with concern as he looked down at the dampness now soaking his paw. “Papa, what's wrong?” he asked, balling up his fist as if trying to hold onto my tear.
I sniffed once and drew a hand hurriedly over my face. Smiling as best I could I said, “Nothing, Tyto, Daddy's fine. C'mon, let's go home and bake Earth Faerie brownies for your siblings when they get home.”
He glanced at me, still worried, but eventually nodded. “Okay,” he said, sounding more as if he wanted to mollify me than as if he were actually excited about making brownies.
We made a huge mess in the kitchen that afternoon, melting chocolate and butter, flinging flour across the room, and unpiling every pan and rack in the cupboard until we found the faerie shaped brownie tins. Pouring the batter in carefully, we put them in to bake for twenty minutes, then set about licking the bowls, the best part of any cooking expedition. Tyto got so covered in chocolate that I practically had to bathe him in the sink to clean him off. By the time I'd washed as much chocolate off him as I could and pulled the brownies out to cool, he was very sleepy, so I carried him upstairs and lay him in his cot to let him sleep. Pulling the blanket up to his chin, I smiled as he sighed softly, rolling over and putting his thumb in his mouth.
As I stood there watching him sleep for several moments, I couldn't help but wonder where he and the rest of my kids would be in a few years, going to neoschool and doing homework, staying up late and sneaking out of the house, getting into fights that required more than a mediated apology to fix, leaving home and one day having kids of their own. I sighed as I looked down at Tyto. He looked so small, so innocent. It crushed my heart to think about his growing up and leaving, so I didn't; I shook it from my mind, and stepped deliberately out of the room, glancing at my watch as I did so; two hours til I could pick up my kids. It was going to be a long day.
Tyto slept for the entire two hours. I was on the verge of waking him so we could go pick up Lucy, Shasta, and Danby when I heard him wail; he was awake, and he wanted out.
We arrived at Ellie's fifteen minutes later, and my kids nearly bowled me over.
“Papa, guess what I did today!”
“Papa, look at the painting I did!”
“Papa, see what I can do?”
I laughed as I hugged each of them in turn; I never realised that I could miss those voices so much. Suddenly a little red figure ran up and rammed straight into Tyto, hugging him hard.
“Tyto! I missed you today! Where were you? I wanted to play, only you weren't here!”
“Dylan?” Tyto said, shocked at the greeting. “Yeah, I-I di'n't come today, I-”
“Why?” Dylan demanded. “Were ya sick? Oh well, it don't matter, just be here t'morrow, okay? I got this real cool game I wanna show ya!” With that, he ran off, leaving Tyto staring after him, trying to absorb what he'd heard.
Tyto was quiet and thoughtful as we ate our brownies that night. I could tell he was thinking hard about what Dylan had said to him, processing the risks of going over the safety of staying.
That night as I tucked him into bed he said softly, “Hey Papa, I-I think I wanna try going back to school tomorrow.”
I looked at him. “Okay, just remember, I won't be able to stay with you. Are you sure you'll be alright?” He nodded and smiled, and I sighed. “Alright then, I'll leave you with your siblings, and Miss Ellie can neomail me if anything happens.”
I brought my kids to school the next day anxious for Tyto, running all the worst possible case scenarios through my head as I knocked on the door of the school. What if he changed his mind and made a fuss as I tried to leave? What if Ellie sent me a neomail saying he'd been hurt or got sick? What if another kid picked on him? What if –
My troubled thoughts were interrupted as Ellie opened the door and invited us all inside. I kissed Shasta, Danby, and Lucy and watched them scatter among their friends then turned to Ellie. “Tyto said he'd like to try staying here with you today if that's alright, Miss Ellie,” I said, glancing down at him as he clung to the collar of my shirt.
Ellie smiled warmly. “I'm so glad to hear that, Tyto. You know, Dylan really missed you yesterday.”
I put him down gently and he took a single tentative step forward as he put his thumb in his mouth and reached behind him to clutch his tail. Crouching down to kiss him on the forehead, I asked, “Are you sure you'll be alright here, Tyto?”
Tyto took a deep breath and nodded. He mumbled, “Yeah, I'll be alright, Papa. It'll be okay.” He paused. “I promise.”
I kept it together until I stepped outside, but once out the door, my legs crumpled beneath me and I slid down the brick wall. Burying my face in my hands, I started to sob. But these weren't tears of sorrow and loneliness as they had been yesterday... they were tears of joy.