Me and I
For pandora and the One and Only Zeke :)
The light is a vacant white as it peeps through the shutters, scattering itself around the room like damp tissues. I’ve been up for an hour, though, and I’ve stared myself hollow. Mom says it isn’t healthy on me to dwell on things like this but everything is so evident. How can I not?
I slide off the bed with a noticeable creak, stumbling in front of my body length mirror, grimacing at the Reflection Yuri. I pinch a bit of my yellow Elephante belly, thinking moodily about my appearance. If only I was a little prettier... I know Elephantes aren’t the most graceful looking Neopians, but I feel like I’m worse than the rest. Huh, graceful! Wouldn’t that be nice!
“Yuri!” Mom is as frazzled as a tired Pteri when I make my appearance at the bottom of the steps, thrusting my bowl of oatmeal into my hands, grumbling. I poke my hand in the sepia mush, my frown deepening when I realize it’s already cold.
“Yuri, did you forget to set your alarm clock again?” Mom is in a rush, holding a wailing Danny, my baby Kougra brother, in her left arm and trying to slide on a coat with the other. “You know I can’t wait around for long! I have work to do...”
She continues on, buzzing endlessly and finding things while I locate my place at the table. I nod every now and then, stirring the mushy food in sluggish eddies, only managing a spoonful or two before I slink off to pour the rest of it in the trash. Mom doesn’t notice, yabbering on to nobody in particular and I run up to my room to change into school clothes.
Reflection Yuri watches me with a smirk from the mirror, shaking her head when I hold up each shirt and sweater and pair of pants and skirt and-
“Enough! Nothing looks good on you, okay? It’s all the same.” Reflection Yuri is extra malicious today and I nod sadly, agreeing with my exasperated reflection. But even even sadder is the fact that the Yuri in the mirror is no more pretty than the Yuri in real life. I brush my black hair quickly and tie it into pigtails, shouting back at Mom when she screeches for me to move faster again.
Reflection Yuri points at the makeup table, though, and I force myself to quickly put on eyeshadow and mascara and eyeliner and blush and foundation and whatever else I can get my hands on before Mom calls louder then ever. I paint myself barely recognizable but I have to do this. I have to be pretty. I have to fit in. I have to be loved. Reflection Yuri is always telling me that this is the only way.
When I look at them, I feel so plain. The Floating Girls, that is, the typical Perfectly Perfect Perfections that float around on the highest, golden platform here at school. Tiffany and Melody and... oh... I feel like a little spyder watching them from a dark, dank corner. If only I could be like them. If only...
Distracted, I gather my books from my locker, gazing as they walk by in their cloud of prettiness. One of the books slide out, then, onto my foot and I wince.
Hurriedly, I slide it back into the locker, glimpsing my face in the locker mirror.
Reflection Yuri rolls her eyes, shaking her trunk. “Don’t stare, Yuri. You can be perfect if you work your imperfections.”
“But what if I can’t get rid of all of my imperfections?”
Reflection Yuri laughs as I close the locker door and I look away, unfocused again, enough to bump into a short pink Shoyru. We both stumble back and fall onto the tiled floor, books and papers flying everywhere.
We say it in unison and I blink.
“It was my fault!”
We stare at each other for a bit before he laughs, getting on his knees to pick up everything around us. I can’t help but gawk at him strangely; a pink Shoyru? Who’s a boy? The thought makes me want to laugh, which I do, but he thinks for a different reason.
“Sorry, we hit each other pretty hard, huh?” His voice has a funny lilt.
I stumble across the floor on my clumsy feet, almost kneeing my trunk as I try to stand up again. The boy hands me one of my books and I nod quickly, embarrassed that the hallway is slowly emptying and I’m stuck with a weirdo.
He repeats himself, smiling and patient, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand. “What class do you have next?”
I look up and see Reflection Yuri in the shining surface of the principal’s glass door. Her eyes are wide and she’s looking at the boy with revulsion. She shakes her head at me, mouthing at me to not associate with strange boys before class. “Your social status is low enough already, you know,” she says. I nod, looking at him nervously before answering.
“Just Neopian history... I should go-”
“I’ll accompany you!” He grins, pushing me along. “I’m new here and that’s my next class too.”
A few other neopets scurry through the hallway, trying to make it before the bell rings. He prods me on and I reluctantly jog along with him, pushing strands of my hair back into place.
Reflection Yuri sees me from a puddle of spilled soda on the floor, tsking and shaking her head. Stop it! I think. It’s not my fault that we’re going to the same class!
“Are you talking to me?”
The boy stares at me in confusion as we rush through another hall. Great, I said that out loud.
“Why were you talking to yourself?” He doesn’t say it spitefully but I act in defense anyways.
“Why are you pink?”
He laughs as if I told him some great joke and I can’t help but feel a little annoyed. “Well,” he says, “My parents painted me this a while ago. They’re a little strange, but I’ve learned not to mind... it’s only a color, right?”
I look at him unbelievingly, letting him open the door for me, the bell ringing ironically along with it.
How doesn’t it matter to him? I mean, yeah, I shouldn’t be judging a book by its cover and all that, but what about first impressions?
Reflection Yuri crosses her arms in the class’s window, staring me down with acidic eyes. The rain pours against the glass, making her hard to see, but she’s ever present.
“You really shouldn’t be talking to him.”
Reflection Yuri is growling at me and I only catch glimpses of her as I walk on the sidewalk, eyes flickering to each puddle she appears in. I weave my way through, annoyed that I have to walk home, glad I don’t have to be embarrassed by Danny if Mom were to pick me up.
I roll my eyes. “It was only once.”
“Enough to ruin what little rep you have!”
I pause now, kneading my hands together fretfully, head bobbing after a few seconds in consent with her opinion. My opinion. “I’m sorry...” I mutter, looking down. My bangs fall easily over my eyes and I pull at one of my pigtails irritably.
Reflection Yuri looks almost merciful now, and she cocks her head to the side, staring unsettlingly into my large eyes. “Hmmm... well, there’s always the Morphing Potions.” Her eyes brighten at the thought and she practically squeals, feet tromping around before she stops, staring at me in a fiercely happy way. “Why haven’t we thought of this before? Just get a Morph Potion!”
My eyes bat dully to her, brain as thick as peanut butter. “What? Why?”
She huffs, crossing her arms, shimmering slightly as my toes touch the edge of the puddle. “So you can be pretty, stupid.”
“Oh...” My eyes widen and I reel back in shock, as if the idea just fully presented itself. “Of course!” Then I stop, that happy feeling sapping away in seconds. “But how am I going to pay for it?”
Reflection Yuri looks shy for the first time, looking down at her feet. “What about the birthday money? You’ve had it for such a long time now... I mean, what else will you use it for?”
I realize I’m near the potion shop now. It wouldn’t be so hard...
Oh, great. Him again.
Reflection Yuri is practically on fire.
I turn around reluctantly, seeing the pink Shoyru again as he runs forward, splashing recklessly through puddles.
I stare blankly at him, stopping. Reflection Yuri tries to prod me on, but I stay put, watching him with silent discontent.
The Shoyru cocks his head childishly, beaming. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“You did now!” A laugh.
“Just... go away...” Reflection Yuri nods appreciatively at this, glaring at him sharply. He doesn’t move, tilting his head evermore and speaking with that same curious accented lilt.
Ignoring my last statement, he continues, “I’m Darcy.”
“Darcy?” Never heard that one before...
But then again, my name isn’t the most common either. “I’m Yuri.”
He smiles, looking up thoughtfully. “Yuuuuuriii...” He rolls the name around in his mouth like a mint, nodding solemnly. “Pretty name. It fits you.”
The comment catches me off guard and I hiccup funnily, half of it coming out as a strange trunk-sound. He laughs again, smiling brightly. Reflection Yuri taps her foot impatiently, eyes to daggers.
“I should probably get moving...”
“I’ll come with you!” He does a handstand before flopping onto the ground, amused when he splats into a puddle, spraying everything around him. Including me. I move back a few steps, looking down at him distastefully and rubbing at the darkening puddle-water that splattering polka dots over my sweater. “Where are you going, anyways?”
I grimace, reluctant to answer before saying, “I’m getting a Morphing potion.”
He sits up at this, raising his eyebrows highly, pink skin dripping. “Really? Why?” He thinks for a little bit, getting up slowly. “Is it a gift for someone?”
“Actually, it’s for me.”
He laughs loudly, suddenly, and I feel myself blush blotchily again, making my forehead and cheeks pulse red. “What’s so funny?” I try to be defensive but it comes out weak.
Darcy stops, shaking his head. “You don’t need a Morphing potion. Don’t you like being an Elephante?”
Like being an Elephante?
I guess I never really thought if I myself liked being an Elephante...
“Don’t be stupid,” Reflection Yuri hisses from a shop window’s reflection, barely visible. “Of course you don’t. Uuuuugly.”
“Of course I don’t.” I mimic her in an undertone, not really meaning to say anything aloud.
Darcy tilts his head again, curious. “Why not?”
Suddenly annoyed, I push past him, going toward the potion shop’s entrance. “Because I’m not pretty.”
“I think you are.”
Reflection Yuri’s eyes bore on my neck like a malignant parasite, fingers curling. “Don’t you dare go back.”
I do so anyways, though my stomach twists itself like a wet rag in apprehension. “What did you say?”
Darcy looks uneasy for the first time since I met him, looking down nervously. “Well... you’re pretty... Elephantes can be pretty too.”
“But I’m not graceful!” The words are vomited out of my mouth before I can stop them and I sneeze again through my trunk, stumbling backwards a bit. Point proven.
Darcy laughs, going back to his former happy self. “So? That’s what makes you interesting.”
I stare for a few seconds, only registering the rain that’s begun to fall when it hits me between the eyes. Sneeze. “I... I have to go...”
The Shoyru smiles softly, nodding. “Okay. Just don’t go and do anything you’ll regret.”
Reflection Yuri’s glare pulls me by my collar towards the potions shop but I’m stunned, obeying her- I mean, my- will in a zombie-like trance.
Reflection Yuri hisses, eyes tiny slits, “Just get the potion and leave, okay?”
I nod, ignoring the jingling bells on the door handle, grabbing the first potion I get my hands on.
Faerie Lenny Morphing Potion.
The words are inscribed in neat, curly writing on an attached paper, looking calmly inviting. The contents of the bottle are bright and swirling, subdued darker tones that shine like sunny feathers. I look up from my seat on the bed, staring at my all-too-familiar reflection, thinking aloud, “I wonder if it hurts?”
“I wouldn’t worry,” says Reflection Yuri. She smiles happily, gesturing at the bottle excitedly. “I mean, Neopians do this kind of thing all the time!”
Don’t you like being an Elephante?
I scrunch my eyes shut, trying to wipe away Darcy’s words. This is what I want. This is what I want. I get up from my bed, pacing a little on my trumpy legs, trying not to stumble over scattered clothes.
“You’re not thinking of that pinkie weirdo again, right?” Reflection Yuri sighs in exasperation, rubbing her temples. “This isn’t very hard, Yuri. Just drink and get it over with. Faerie Lennies are graceful; didn’t you say you wanted to be graceful?”
I flip the bottle upside down, watching the contents collect elegantly together. This is what I want.
Then why can’t I just drink the darn thing?
...Elephantes can be pretty too...
“Oh, stop it, Yuri! Just drink it!”
Heat rushes to my fingertips and they sweat a little, making my palms feel stick as I finally uncork the bottle. This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for! Wait until Melody and Tiffany and all the others see this! Darcy will understand, won’t he?
Why does Darcy matter?
“He doesn’t,” says Reflection Yuri.
“I can’t do it...” The words spill like water and I look up into the mirror in fear, afraid of Reflection Yuri’s anger.
“You have to!” She looks horrified, tugging ferociously at her bangs, waving the reflection of the potion bottle in my face. “This is what you want!”
“Listen to me! This is what you want!” Reflection Yuri is angry, eyebrows sliding together. “This will make you better!”
The mirror shatters and it takes me a few seconds to realize that I’ve thrown the Morph Potion at it. The colorful liquid seeps into the carpet from a crack in the bottle’s casing, dripping daintily, dripping quick.
Still a little shocked, I pick my way across the field of shattered mirror to get a broom, stopping when I pass over a particularly large piece. A yellow Elephante stares back, wide eyed, slightly pale. But it’s me. It was always me.
The light in my room is scattered like rice on a wedding day.
This is what I want.