Gina and the New Girl: Part Four
Kaitlyn was yellow. Not a star, not a sparkle in sight. A basic, ordinary, completely not-special Ruki. Say what?
“Kaite!” I gasped. “What did you do?!”
“Ow...” she moaned. I helped her to get up before asking her again.
“Kaitlyn, what happened to your dream color?”
“Well,” she replied, sheepishly shuffling her feet. “I was thinking about what you said in the lunchroom a couple weeks ago--” Oh gosh, no. “--and I think you’re right that it isn’t fair for me to be painted and for you not to. I’m not even a year old, but you’ve been in Neopia since you were a toddler and haven’t reached your goal. So it isn’t really fair at all. I see that now, and I am so, so sorry, Gina. Friends?”
I stared at her in awe. “W-What...?” I said shakily. Oh man, this was bad. Not only did I make Kaite’s achieved goal vanish in a puff of yellow-colored smoke, but NOW how could I apologize? I really needed the wait off my shoulders and my life back to normal. I needed my friends back. Lani, Smiley, and Aeriel would not be pleased with me at all. Things would get a lot worse - “Killjoy!” “You’re just jealous!” “Some friend!” - I could see it now, and it was not a lovely sight.
“Kaite,” I said, trying in vain to hide my anguish. “Why did you listen to anything I said? I was stupid and jealous and really, really wrong, and now your owner’s Neopoints are wasted and your dream color is history! Kaitlyn, I...”
Before I knew how or why I was doing it, I turned and ran to the janitor’s closet to nibble at my lunch and soak myself in tears. The Amazing Gina had once again succeeded in failing!
I worked all day after Neoschool and on the weekends, too, in the Games Room and at the General Store. I also worked for a couple of days giving the Kadoaties at the Kadoatery their bowls of water while they waited for people to bring them food... but I quit that job after I could hear the ringing of their howls in my ears all the next days.
Progress was pretty slow, I have to admit. Getting 10,000 Neopoints in nearly a week was a new record for me, but puny compared to the goal I desperately needed to achieve. I told no one what I was doing.
At Neoschool, Kaitlyn began attending in regular clothes instead of her fashion disaster outfit of that hideous long overcoat, scarf, and hat. Pets pointed, pets stared, pets gossiped about why a pet with such a privilege as to be painted would go back to being normal. Kaite didn’t say a thing; she kept her head down as she walked and didn’t make eye contact. I knew I had to get to my goal, and fast, so this could end once and for all, this awful fiasco I’d started.
At last, one month - thirty-one of the longest days of my life - later, I came home with a cardboard box tucked under my arm. The tissue paper inside crinkled as I moved. I carefully smuggled it into my backpack and slept better that night.
The next day was my birthday. Patricia made me some special steak and eggs for breakfast. She was becoming a much better cook, and I happily ate every bite. Not a bit of doubt or guilt was in me that morning.
I beamed with pride as I walked the halls of my school. I looked at my peers’ disgusted looks, blaming me STILL for the events and slight mystery concerning Kaitlyn and the paint brush. I guess interesting events happened so rarely that it was hard to let go of. I ignored them, anyways. I knew I was going to make things right; that was enough for me.
History and math class took ages to finish. It seemed like my teachers would never stop talking! It was hard to believe they took the same amount of time as any other day, but at 11:49 exactly, I was free. Most pets headed to their lockers for their lunch money or lunch boxes, but I had mine in my backpack. I hadn’t dared to leave it in someplace as unsafe as my locker.
I looked around for Kaitlyn as I walked to the cafeteria. I really wanted to catch her before then. Aha! There she was. My face fell as I watched her walk, five feet from anybody, like I’d been doing for a while now.
“Kaite!” I called. “Kaitlyn!”
She looked up and saw me. Her eyes lit up and she waved excitedly at me. I beckoned her over to where I stood near an empty classroom door. We went inside; it was much the same scene as exactly a month ago when she had painted herself a basic color.
“Gina,” she said. “I have something for you!”
I watched, confused, as she pulled out a rectangular package encased in bright wrapping paper from her backpack. “Happy birthday, Gina!”
She’d remembered? After all I’d done to her?
“Wow, thank you,” I exclaimed. “But hold on. I have something for you, too.” I revealed the package from my own backpack; it was plain compared to Kaite’s wrapped one. But I knew it was what was inside that counted.
“It isn’t my birthday,” Kaite said, puzzled.
“I want you to have this anyway,” I smiled. “Here, we’ll open the packages on three.”
We traded presents and I began the countdown. “One, two... three!”
I ripped apart the wrapping paper with my claws and prepared to open the lid of the shoebox underneath. Kaite waited for me and we flung the lids aside at the same moment. It took a moment of rooting through tissue paper before we both found our presents.
We drew them out of the seas of tissue paper and held them up. I giggled, Kaite cracked up, and soon we were both roaring with laughter. I couldn’t breathe and my sides hurt. I gulped in air and sat on the edge of one of the classroom desks. Kaite wiped a tear away from the corner of her eye.
“C’mon,” I said, my shoulders still shaking. “Let’s get to lunch.” We replaced our presents in their boxes and slipped them into our backpacks. We walked down the halls together, talking and chatting like the good old times before I’d started this whole thing.
A starry paintbrush.
I’d given Kaitlyn one.
And she’d given me one, too.
Four months later, it was hard to believe our school had had no painted pets before that year. After Kaite and I gave each other identical starry coats, our friends saw that a paint brush might not be so distant a dream after all. Lani, Smiley, and Aeriel all achieved their paint brush goals soon after my birthday, and they all look pretty good - Lani was painted striped, Smiley got his ghost paint brush, and Aeriel painted herself cloud. They weren’t the only ones with new paint jobs, though. Most of the students had been inspired by Kaitlyn and I after we told them how easy it could be to get painted if they just tried, and now pets of all sorts of coats wandered the halls of C.M. Breadmaster Neoschool. And now pets that are painted aren’t “superior” to basics at our Neoschool.
Kaite, Lani, Smiley, and Aeriel accepted my apology and we were all close friends again. Life went on as usual, but it was the most wonderful “usual”.
One day, as Kaite, Lani, and I were walking to lunch (our favorite chat time), we noticed a lot of whispering and murmuring going on.
“What’s going on, I wonder?” Lani asked, looking around. “Must be pretty big.”
Kaite and I nodded. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around. A red Bruce about an inch shorter than me stood there, wearing khaki trousers, a spiffy bowling shirt and a Usukicon Y9 attendee badge around her neck.
“Excuse me,” she said, studying her class schedule. “Could you please tell me which class I’m supposed to be in now...? I’m new - I just got here - and I’m late and I don’t know what to do...”
“Oh, here,” I said, accepting the Bruce’s schedule and reading it over. Lani and Kaite shared a look, grinning.
“Ah, here we go!” I said. “Hey, we’ve got three of the same classes! You’ve got my math class, and Lani’s language arts in the morning. Unfortunately, you missed those two classes, but you’ve got lunch now.”
“Oh,” the Bruce said, blushing. “Darn. I got lost on the way here from my Neohome, and that’s why I’m so late. But do you think... you could show me the way to the cafeteria?”
“Of course!” Kaite chimed. “Hi, I’m Kaitlyn, but you can call me Kaite.”
“I’m Lani,” Lani said, flashing her somewhat-crooked teeth.
“Gina,” I said, sticking out a paw. The Bruce shook it hesitantly.
“I’m Anna,” the Bruce said. “I’m my owner’s fourth pet, and I was just created a couple days ago, so I’m kind of clueless about this whole thing.”
“Oh, believe me,” Kaite giggled. “I’ve been there.”
We began walking to the lunchroom together. “Déjà vu!” Lani whispered to me while Kaitlyn and Anna chatted. I nodded. “No kidding!”
“Hey, Gina,” Anna asked. “There’s something I don’t understand: why do almost all the students have different patterns on their fur and skin? Like, you have a starry pattern, for instance, and Lani is purple-and-pink striped.”
“Well,” I explained. “Those are the effects of a paint brush. They’re these magical items you use to give yourself a different coat.”
“Wow,” Anna said. “They must be hard to get, huh?”
“Actually, no,” I said. “None of the students here used to be painted, except for Kaitlyn.”
“Really?” Anna asked, looking incredulously at Kaite. “Then how did they all suddenly get paint brushes?”
“See,” I began. “It happened like this...”