Happily Ever After?: Part Four
“Nikole, I don’t know what you were thinking! How could you just throw away a paint job like that? It’s going to cost me a fortune to repaint you!”
Niki had never seen her owner that angry before. Shocked, she cowered under his mad stare. “I just wanted... I just wanted to visit my old home. I can’t do that dressed like royalty. It’s not me.” She glanced down at her red fur. “This is me. This is who I want to be. The old Niki.”
James had walked in the door promptly as Niki was leaving. She had a small bag slung over one shoulder, and the note had been secured to James’s desk, where he was sure to see it.
James glared at her. “Nikole... I can’t be seen with an average pet. Did you know I was going to enter you in this week’s Beauty Contest? I can’t have a pet that’s willing to throw away an expensive paint job.”
And that was it.
* * *
“‘If you could learn one new thing, what would it be?’” Lynnette read off of a small card. Her friend Rosemary had given her a box of “how to break the ice” cards that morning. Right after picking them up, Lynn had taken a trip down to the Neopian Pound, where she adopted a red Zafara.
Niki pondered the question. “I think I’d like to learn how to cook. In my last house, we had servants who cooked for us, so I never got to learn.” Painfully, she thought of Whitney, who she hadn’t gotten to say goodbye to. The pink Pteri had come to be a very good friend of hers – her only friend, in fact. James had rarely let her leave the mansion, so she’d never gotten the chance to make friends outside her home or Neoschool.
James had decided to take her to the pound after the “stunt” she had pulled. He’d been having a bad day, and his stocks weren’t doing well, so he definitely wasn’t happy to find that Niki had thrown away her royal paint job. He wanted a “perfect” pet, and Niki wasn’t that, nor did she want to be. She was tired of living the rich life.
“I can teach you how to cook,” Lynn said, beaming at her. “I love cooking. I grow fresh vegetables in my garden every year. In fact, it’s almost planting season. I need to remember to buy some seeds next time I go into town.”
Niki’s stay at the pound had been much shorter than before. After only a few hours, Lynn had come along and adopted her.
“Really? I would love that! I used to work at the local farm in Meridell, so I know how to harvest all different types of vegetables. Especially potatoes.”
Lynn smiled and flipped to the next card. “Oh, we’ve already done this one. I guess that’s all of them.” She shrugged. “Well, I’ll start working on dinner. How about you go up to your room and get settled in? Everything you need should be up there. There’s paper and stamps, too, if you want to send any neomails. I can give you directions to the post office if you need it.”
“Thanks.” Niki gave her one last smile before dismissing herself to the small bedroom.
Once alone, she flopped down on the bed and cried. Why is all this happening to me? she wondered through her tears. I’ve never seen James so mad before. I can’t believe he dumped me in the pound over a silly paint brush! I thought families are supposed to love you, no matter what mistakes you make.
Close to an hour later, Niki pulled herself together. This is my new life. I need to accept it. After all, it’s more of what I wanted, isn’t it? Nice and simple. No fancy paint brushes. No beauty contests.
She began to construct a lengthy letter to Whitney. Part of it read,
I’m still in shock over what happened. I wish you were here with me now, so we could talk it over together. I’ve only known you for a few months, but you’ve become the best friend I ever had, and that means a lot to me.
My new owner, Lynn, lives in a small cottage on the opposite side of Neopia Central from James’s mansion. Everything is the exact opposite here. At the mansion, everything is hard and cold and spotless. There was no yard or anything. In Lynn’s cottage, everything is warm and welcoming and cozy, and she has a cute little yard with a lovely garden. I think I fit much better here, and Lynn hasn’t said a word about fancying me up!
She said that she’s been saving her neopoints, and she has enough to buy me a nice petpet. The best part? I get to choose! I definitely won’t miss Frosty, the Snowbunny James bought me. Frosty didn’t like me one bit; my fingers still hurt from all that nipping he did!
Oh, and you’ll never believe this! Before James adopted me, I met a green Lupe in the pound named Charlee. She left before I did. Well, guess what! She’s my new next door neighbor! Can you believe that?
The letter went on to describe the vegetable garden they were planning, and how Niki now lived closer to the Neoschool, which would make for a shorter walk each day. At the end she made sure to write down her new address. The neomail concluded,
Perhaps we’ll be able to see each other on one of your days off next week? You could come to the cottage for some tea, or we could meet in the Marketplace and visit a few shops. Let me know when you can.
Happily ever after?
* * *
“They’re all so cute, Lynn. How can I pick just one?”
Niki and Lynn were in the Neopian Petpet Shop, admiring each of the adorable little bundles.
Lynn smiled. “I know what you mean! But we don’t want a herd of petpets destroying our house, do we?” She reached down into a cage to tickle a Spardel under the chin. The petpet basked in her attention, and its littermates clamored around, climbing and falling over each other in attempt to get their share of the spotlight.
Niki giggled at their clumsiness. She gazed around the colorful shop, watching all the happy pets and their owners choose their new family members.
Family. Niki couldn’t help but smile at the word. Did she and Lynn make up a family now? Lynn had adopted her hardly two weeks before, but they were already very close friends. The previous week, they had gone into town to purchase dozens of different seeds. Together, they planted carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnip, onions, and organic pumpkins.
Whitney, Niki’s pink Pteri best friend, had already been over to visit several times. On their second meet up, Whitney announced that James had moved to Mystery Island for good, and she now had a quiet, pleasant job at the bookshop. Niki hadn’t known it before, but Whitney had picked out all the books on the bookshelf in Niki’s old room. This new job was perfect for the Pteri, and Niki was happy for her.
Niki had also introduced Whitney to her friend Charlee, and the three of them had become inseparable.
“The Babaas are cute, aren’t they, Nik?” Lynn asked, breaking Niki’s thoughts. “They’re so soft and fluffy. Like a pillow. Or a cloud.”
Niki nodded, smiling. She was only half paying attention. A tiny whine had caught her attention. Intrigued, she quickly glanced around the shop to find the source.
Inside a big glass enclosure on the floor was a single little Warf puppy. He was the only one left; his brothers and sisters had already found homes. He gazed up at Niki with a curious expression, his face seeming to smile at her.
“Aren’t you a cutie?” Niki murmured, reaching down to pick him up. “You know...” She paused to ponder the thought. “You look a lot like I imagined Toby would look.”
Toby the Brave, a fictional petpet character in her very first story, had been a Warf. Niki cocked her head, looking at the petpet closer. “You know... I think the name Toby would fit you perfectly.”
The puppy stretched up and licked Niki’s chin, causing her to laugh out loud. “Are you agreeing with me?” She grinned and cuddled the Warf. “I think I’ll take you home.”
Lynn fell in love with Toby immediately, and they picked out all sorts of accessories for him: a comfy bed, a matching blue collar and leash, and top-quality Warf food and squeaky toys.
* * *
There was a light knock on the door, causing Toby to jump off the bed and investigate. Lynn’s voice came through the door. “Nik? Are you okay? You’ve been in here for hours.”
Niki slowly sat up from her bed. “Come in,” she called.
Lynn entered, and Toby hopped back up on the bed with Niki. She gave him a pat on the head, obviously thinking about something else. “Sorry,” she apologized to her owner. “I’ve just been feeling weird all day. I think I’m a bit homesick.”
Her owner automatically cocked her right eyebrow, which was a habit of hers. Niki smiled at the expression. “I think I just need to take a trip back to Meridell. Visit my old house, see the village pets again. I don’t want to stay there, but I think it would make me feel better.”
Lynn was silent for a minute, but then she nodded slowly. “I think I understand. You need to go back and see for yourself that it’s time to move on. Right?”
“Exactly.” Niki smiled. She still couldn’t believe how well they got along; the two were a perfect match. “Do you want to come with me?”
* * *
The reunion was a joyful one. All of the village pets were still there, and more. Rascal and Claire were ecstatic to introduce Niki to all of their new friends. And Niki was more than happy to finally be able to share the story they had been waiting so many months for.
Niki told an intriguing tale of a Neopet named Poet. She animatedly explained Poet’s woes in the Neopian Pound, and how the Zafara had been adopted by a very rich Neopian. Later, Poet the Beauty Queen had been abandoned, and re-adopted into a new home with a lovely girl called Gina. Together they built a cute little vegetable garden and met Toby the Brave, the petpet hero.
It was a wonderful story. At the end, Claire couldn’t help but pipe up. “Does it have a happy ending?” she asked eagerly, cuddling Toby the Warf in her arms. “Do they live happily ever after?”
“Yes.” Niki smiled. “They lived happily ever after.”