A Single White Ghostkerscarf
One afternoon, seemingly like those previous and those yet to come, I met a young male Draik. I was flying my usual after dinner route when the poor fellow flew right into me. We lost a bit of altitude as we struggle to right ourselves and distinguish scales from feathers. I landed and immediately began to inspect my tail feathers.
“I’m so sorry, Ma’am Lenny.” The Draik landed beside me, a worried look on his face.
I flicked my tail feathers, and, satisfied that there was no damage, looked up at him. “Quite all right, I’d say I will live to see another sunrise.” I chuckled, then looked the boy in the eyes. They were red around the rims. He looked away and stepped back, as if ready to take off. But he hesitated.
“Are you sure?” he asked nervously. “I mean, there’s no need to... report... this incident?”
I clapped a wing on his shoulder. “Son, no harm has been done.” I smiled. “If you promise to be more careful in the future, then, bless Fyora, there’s no need to call on the Defenders of Neopia.” I winked at him from behind my spectacles.
“Son.” The Draik repeated. “No one has called me that since...” He trailed off, eyes bathed in the glow of a memory. Then suddenly he coughed and shuffled his feet. “Well, if everything is all right, then I’ll be on my way...”
“Where are you headed?” I asked.
I smiled. “Is that a question or a statement?”
“I’m not sure of that myself, you see.” The Draik faced me, his eyes searching mine as if I might know the answer.
I gestured to a nearby rock. “Care to sit down and tell me about it?”
The poor fellow nodded and we sat down side by side on the rock. He took a deep breath and then began. “Well, Ma’am Lenny...”
“Professor will do,” I interrupted, adjusting my spectacles. “All my students call me that and you look as if you’re about their same age.”
He relaxed a bit and smiled. “My mother is also a teacher. My father is a business man. He owns a weaponry shop in Neopia. That’s where I grew up.” He looked down at his hands, which were folded in his lap. “You’re probably wondering what I’m doing out here in Neovia if my family is in Neopia, huh?”
“The thought has now crossed my mind, yes.” I joked lightly.
He didn’t look up, didn’t smile, but took a deep breath and hurried on. “Last year on my fifteenth birthday I decided I was ready to be out in the world - ready to find adventure. I wanted freedom to do as I pleased. I wanted to be my own man, not work for Father in his weaponry shop and not do my homework with my mother every night. I considered just running away, but I had no neopoints. So I decided I would ask my father for my inheritance. I am their only child, so I figured I’d take what I could get and go. I can still hear my mother pleading with my father to stop me from going, to not give me the neopoints, to do anything to make me stay home. But he didn’t. He just handed me a sack of neopoints and silently walked into his study. My mother followed me out of the house, begging me to stay. I ignored her and flew away.”
The young Draik sighed. “Where did you go?” I gently prompted.
“I went to the Deserted Fairgrounds, first. I had heard about the Scratchcards you can buy there and when I arrived, I bought one and won. I thought I was the luckiest Draik alive. Then I went to try Coconut Shy and I won that too. I started to draw a crowd and soon, I had won many friends.” He laughs harshly. “Friends.” He spits the word out. “Well, after a few weeks I had done some winning and I had done some losing, but I thought I was on top of the world. I had a group of five people who followed me where ever I went. We would go into the different shops stealing things. Then one night we almost got caught. I thought about returning home then.” He suddenly stops talking, a wistful look on his face.
“Why didn’t you?” I asked quietly.
“My so-called friends had heard of a new opening in the Lost Desert. It’s called the Wheel of Extravagance. Have you heard of it?” He sniffs.
“Oh, I’ve heard of it, for certain,” I said. “I’ve had colleagues even go to train to gain their fortune there. But all of them have ended in ruin.”
“It was the same for me. I went to the Lost Desert, taking all the neopoints I had won in the Deserted Fairgrounds and spent them to spin the wheel. In one spin I lost absolutely everything. Once my friends realized I was left neopointless, they went back home.” He hung his head. “I was left with nothing. No neopoints, no friends, no contacts... nothing. I was in a new land that was scorching hot and had nowhere to go for shelter. I slept behind Coltzan’s shrine and ate spoiled puntec fruit and burnt scarabs on a stick left behind by other Neopets more fortunate than I.”
I shuddered. “Wasn’t pleasant, I dare say.”
He laughed dryly. “Not remotely. But for almost a month I lived that way. Destitute. Ashamed. Finally, I came to my senses. Why had I left my parents? You don’t know how those thoughts have tortured me. I thought... if only they would allow me to come home...”
He began to cry, so I pulled my Ghostkerscarf from around my neck and handed it to him. “I know it’s not a handkerchief, but it’s the closes thing I have.”
He stopped crying and stared at the ghostkerscarf. He said hollowly, “I neomailed my Father to ask him if I could return home. I told him I was wrong for asking for my inheritance and that I wanted his forgiveness. I told him not to neomail me back, but that if he would allow me to come home again to tied a white ghostkerscarf in the tree outside our Neohome. I wrote that if I saw the ghostkerscarf when flying home, that I would know I was welcome and would stop in. But if there wasn’t one, then I would just fly north to Terror Mountain and get a job there... start over...”
I put my wing around his shoulder. He continued quietly, turning the ghostkerscarf over in his hand. “I’m almost home, maybe a fifteen minute flight north of Neovia.” He looked into my eyes. “Professor, do you think... could you fly there first and... look? I don’t think I can do it...”
“Why don’t we go together?” I suggested. “You can keep your eyes to the north and I will look down at your home and tell you what I see.”
The young Draik agreed. He held on to the ghostkerscarf as we flew off together. We flew in silence, until he said, “After we pass over the tree line, you will see a Neohome with a small pond in the backyard and a giant Rose Tree in the front yard. Please...” his voice cracked. “Please, look for me.”
Tears trickled off his face towards the earth. He couldn’t have seen even if he wanted to. We flew more slowly as we passed over the tree line.
“Son,” I said gently as the house came into view. “Son, I think you’d better look.”
He dried his eyes and looked down. There wasn’t a single white ghostkerscarf.
No, there were dozens. The Rose Tree was covered with white ghostkerscarves so you couldn’t even see the blooms.
And his parents stood out in the yard holding up a white bed sheet that read, “Welcome home, Son!”
For me and for that young Draik, no afternoon previous or yet to come could ever be the same.