A Sister's Dream
Lacy knew the instant Melanie had returned from the Training School with Mom and Dad before the front door had even opened.
Maybe it was sisterly instinct, or maybe it was Mel's voice ringing with joy. Her ears twitched, and she jumped from her bed, hurrying from her bedroom and down the stairs to the front hall. Dad, a Brown Xweetok, and Mom, a Blue Pteri, were smiling proudly at their daughter.
"Hi Mom, Dad! Mel, how was training?" Lacy grinned as her sister met her gaze.
Melanie was older than Lacy by two minutes. They were twins – two Blue Xweetoks, inseparable and indistinguishable since the first moment. They had the same sky-blue eyes, the same finely tapered tails, the same round ears. Everything was the same – except their bone structure.
Lacy was smaller, while Mel quickly built strong bones and muscles. She had begun training for the Battledome at a young age, while Lacy observed from the sidelines. Lacy had slim, light bones that stopped her from participating in rough sports – everyone always said it was a shame, for she was quick and agile. If she had been a Pteri like Mom, maybe she could have entered flying contests like Mom used to do! Maybe her parents could spend time and money on courses for her, too. But Mel was the one with the skills, so she sat and watched.
Lacy didn't mind; at least, that's what she told herself.
With a squeal, Mel ran towards her and picked her up in a hug, spinning around. "Lacy, guess what! Master Ryshu said I've reached the rank of a Grand Master – finally!" Happiness for Mel radiated around the room, a warm glow.
"Oh, my Fyora," Lacy gasped. It was getting hard to breathe. She wiggled, Mel's grip a little too tight for her liking.
"Melanie!" Mom reprimanded sternly, stepping forward. "Be careful with your sister."
"Oh," Mel said, quickly releasing the smaller Xweetok. "Sorry," she said sheepishly, ruffling Lacy's hair.
She coughed and shrugged. "It's alright, Mel," she said brightly. "Good for you, though! Soon you'll be the greatest Battledome star there ever was. And I'll always be there at every single battle, cheering you on!"
Mel blushed, her eyes shining. "I hope so, Lacy. That would make me really happy."
Lacy smiled at her older sister, admiration clear in her eyes. She could never be happy if Mel wasn't – to be Mel's source of joy was her biggest wish, she thought to herself.
Months passed, and Melanie's trophy collection grew until their parents had cleared out the office, turning it into a trophy room. Occasionally, Lacy would pass by and be distracted by the glittering gold, silver and bronzes. When this happened, she was careful not to be caught staring – she knew her family felt awkward whenever Lacy talked about the impossibility of her battling or winning such trophies.
She heard a door slam down the hall. Heart pounding, the tiny Xweetok hurried on her way.
One day at dinner, Mel brought up the subject of paintbrushes.
"Mom, Dad," Mel began, "I've been thinking. So many of the other girls at the Battledome have been painted. It makes them look tougher, more experienced – and it shows off their wealth of wins. I was - "
"How does it show off their wins?" Dad asked, chewing on some bread sticks.
"Because," she said as if it were obvious, "the more wins you have, the bigger your prize pool is. If you want to show everyone that you're to be taken seriously in the arena, you paint yourself a pricey colour to flaunt your wealth. Shades are really big this season."
Lacy perked up. "But what if someone's earned their neopoints some other way? Like, through the stocks, or playing games?"
Mel grinned, shrugging. "Then they're rich, but they'll be beat easily. Unless they have real talent, of course."
Mom nodded thoughtfully. "Well, honey, if you can raise half of the price, then we'll get you painted!"
"Thank-you, thank-you!" She grinned, bouncing up and down. "Lacy, you have to come with me to the Rainbow Pool; we're going to pick the best colour, okay?"
Lacy smiled, already imagining what colours Mel would look good in.
Melanie was up for a fight soon, her opponent a Tyrannian Jetsam.
Lacy sat in the stands around the arena, her parents on either side of her. They weren't talking to her, though, but bragging to other spectators about their oldest child's skills. Lacy bit her lip, quickly tiring of hearing Mel's achievements over and over.
Mel was now painted White. It seemed the perfect colour – sweet and innocent, but with a glimmering hint of a fierce fighter. It allowed Mel to make friends, for she still seemed approachable – and Fyora, she had many friends! – but in the arena, it gave her an air of confidence.
As Lacy waited for Mel to appear, she began thinking about her own coat. Of course she loved the brown fur and her shiny blue mane and collar. She tugged at her hair, imagining going for a dip in the Rainbow Pool. Or she could get a morphing potion! What colour would suit her best?
She cracked a small smile at the thought. It would be nice to be a painted pet, too. And maybe then she wouldn't be overlooked – like now, as everyone's gaze instantly flew over her and locked onto Mel.
"Next contestants! Melanie, the White Xweetok and Anthony, the Tyrannian Jetsam!" a voice came from the speakers situated around the arena. Lacy straightened up, her attention no longer on paintbrushes and morphing potions but once again on her older sister.
As Mel won, her parents sprang to their feet, clapping wildly. Lacy stood more slowly, smiling for her sister. But the enthusiasm was gone from her gaze.
Lacy had begun working at the Library. Her parents had told her of a job opportunity in Faerieland, and Lacy was glad she had looked into it. Working with books all day took her mind off her growing jealousy.
Sometimes it felt as if Mel had betrayed her, but Lacy tried not to think that way. Mel was simply going after her dream – she couldn't hold a grudge against Mel for such a silly reason.
As she sorted through a stack of returned books, she thought, What's my dream? With a start, she realized she didn't know. Tears welled in her eyes, and she tried to blink them away, not wanting to cry at work.
"Lacy?" The Library Faerie appeared behind her.
Lacy quickly rubbed at her eyes with a paw before turning to her boss. "Mm?"
"Congratulations," the tall brunette Faerie smiled, "I've just been informed that you're number one employee at the Library!"
Her jaw dropped. She blinked once, twice, her excitement catching in her throat. "Are you – Really? Oh, Fyora! Thank-you," Lacy finally managed to say, her cheeks glowing with pride.
"Silly girl," the Faerie giggled, "thank yourself! It's your speedy work and dedication that earned you this."
She smiled to herself, unable to wait until she could tell her family the good news!
After work, Lacy raced home in her best time yet. She threw the door open, glancing around to see if anybody was home.
"Hello? I have amazing news!" she called out, hardly able to contain her joy.
"So do we," Mom said, flying from the second level, her wings a blur. She landed beside Lacy, tucking in her wings, and smiled. Dad joined them from the living room.
"Okay, you go first," Lacy said, wondering what their news could be.
"Ta-da!" Mel's voice rang out, and Lacy glanced over her shoulder – to see that her twin was painted Magma.
"What – what is this?" Lacy stuttered, surprise taking over.
"Dad figured out our Magma Pool time, so they took me to get painted!"
"Oh." Lacy hesitated. But you were already painted.
"There's more, too," Mel said gleefully, but Lacy shook her head. I don't want to hear anymore about you, Melanie.
"No, it's okay. Keep it a surprise," she said aloud. Mel jerked back, and she thought that maybe she'd been too mean. But Mel looked so tough and fierce painted Magma, Lacy didn't think it even mattered. Apparently, she thought, hurting each other doesn't mean anything anymore.
"Are you sure?" Mom asked. Lacy nodded. "Well then, what's your news?"
"Oh, it's just something that happened at work today. It's nothing, really," she brushed it off with a shrug. After Mel's new paint job, Lacy doubted her rank as number one employee was important. "I'm going to go for a run, if that's all there is," she said instead.
Dad studied her carefully, before nodding. "Be back before supper," he said with a small smile.
"Tessa, can I speak with you for a second?" Lacy heard Dad ask Mom as she turned and opened the front door.
"Wait, Lacy." Mel followed her outside. She shut the door behind her, her new skin shifting between black and red and back again. It burned Lacy's eyes just looking at it. "Are you okay?"
Lacy blinked. "Yeah, I'm fine," she said. "Look, congrats on your new paint job, Mel. Guess White wasn't good enough for a Battledome star like you, mm?"
Mel looked shocked. "Are you angry?"
Lacy laughed roughly. "That's one way of putting it, I suppose. But it shouldn't bother me, right? I'm just the weak, younger sister and you're the amazing, older one, the favourite. Stupid, really, to think we could be equals at all." Her tone was biting, cold.
"Is that what you think?" Mel said in a low voice.
"I don't know what to think anymore," she responded. "I've always followed your dream, but where's my dream? I've always been by your side, making sure you're happy, but when will it be my turn? What if I wanted to be painted Magma?!" Lacy screeched, a sob strangling her throat. She coughed, shaking her head.
"Do – do you want to be painted Magma?" Mel asked, stepping forward with one paw outstretched. She ignored it, afraid of being burned. "We can – we can go to Moltara, visit the guard at the pool, I'm sure he'd let me change back so you can . . . Or we can wait till next week – "
"No." Lacy shook her head. "I don't want to be painted Magma."
"Then what – ?"
"I don't know. All I know is that the Faeries at the Library treat me more like family than you do."
Without another word, Lacy turned and began running, adrenaline coursing through her veins. She left her sister standing on the front porch, but all thoughts of Mel were swept from her mind as she was carried away by the sound of the wind in her ears and the slap of her feet on the pavement.
The next week passed in a blur.
Lacy stopped going to Mel's battles, and started spending less and less time at home. She filled her days with working at the library, spending time in Faerieland and running. The speed and effort required was tiring, true, but it made her feel better and helped clear her mind.
Her parents spoke little to her, but she knew they were talking about the twins' fight behind closed doors. There was a lot of secrecy, which irritated Lacy more than it should. It was as if they were planning something big. Every so often, she would wonder what was being said – but she knew better than to try and ask.
Besides, it's probably about Melanie.
But seven days after Mel had been painted Magma, Lacy finally found out what was going on.
She had just left the Library when Mom and Dad ambushed her; Mel wasn't to be seen in the bustling crowd of Neopians, but Lacy wondered if she was nearby.
"What are you guys doing here?" she asked, eying her parents suspiciously.
"We're here to give you a gift, Lacy," Dad replied cheerfully. "We're not going to be leaving Faerieland just yet."
"Okay." Lacy tilted her head in bemusement.
Mom just laughed. "Trust me, you'll like this gift."
She thought for a fleeting moment that her parents wanted to paint her Magma, now that it was a new week – but the Magma Pool was nowhere near Faerieland. They led her out of Faerie City and to the outskirts of the enchanted land.
"Where are we – ?" but Lacy interrupted herself with a gasp.
She saw Mel. The Magma Xweetok was holding her paws, glancing around shyly. It's almost as if she's anxious about meeting me, Lacy thought. But her gaze flickered from Mel to the vast, majestic waterfall behind her. Instead of the usual crystalline blue, this water was streaked with all the different hues of the rainbow, and overjoyed pets splashed in its waters. A beautiful Faerie stood nearby, smiling at the magic taking place.
"We have a Fountain Faerie Quest?" Lacy asked in awe as her parents walked over to Mel. She followed behind slowly, stunned.
"We got the Quest the same day we figured out our Magma Pool time," Dad explained gently, bringing her closer to Mel. "But it was Mel who bought the item with her Battledome neopoints."
"You – you did this?" Lacy asked, finally looking at Mel. Mel nodded quickly, opening her mouth to speak.
Before Mel could say anything, she rushed forward and hugged her sister tightly, for once happy to be crushed in return. Tears gathered in the corner of her eyes, and when Lacy pulled back, she saw Mel was crying, too. "Thank-you," Lacy whispered, "And I'm so, so sorry for what I said before. I – I didn't mean any of it. I was just – "
"I know," Mel cut her off with a smile. "You'll always be my sister – and my best friend. You mean the world to me, and I want you to be happy – not for me, but for you. Don't ever forget that."
"I won't," Lacy promised.
The Fountain Faerie approached then. "Hello, and thank-you for finding my item, Mel." She turned to face Lacy, her face open and friendly. "And you must be Lacy! Nice to meet you. Do you know what colour you'd like to be painted?"
And suddenly, it came to her. Lacy's eyes lit up as she realized her dream. She nodded, glancing at her family gratefully, before slipping into the pool.
The magical waters swept over her as she dove under; instead of weighing her thick fur down, the liquid rainbow seemed to wrap around her like a cocoon. The magic in the pool sang a high, pure note like glass chimes, and Lacy held onto the image in her mind. She could feel her body changing, adapting to the new creature she was becoming.
She glided through the waters, emerging near her parents. The Fountain Faerie was gone, tending to another Neopian, but Mom, Dad and Mel stared at her in awe.
"Nice choice!" Mel was the first to say something as Lacy stepped out.
She grinned, shaking the water from her newly coloured body. Her coat was a creamy beige with chocolate brown markings, and the fur of her mane and tail was teal streaked with the same shade of brown. But most importantly – sprouting from her back were two delicate wings, perfectly curved. She flickered them, testing out the new muscles, and jumped into the air.
"I'm a Faerie pet," she murmured happily as she flew back and forth quickly, Dad and Mel gazing up at her with proud expressions. Mom spread her own wings and joined her in the sky.
"We are all so proud of you, Lacy – and not just for this," Mom said, "but for your job as well. You are a very talented young pet."
Lacy's heart felt like it would burst and she simply nodded, unable to form words.
Her family cared – her dream had come true.
Disclaimer: Battledome wins cannot give you neopoints! It's merely a plot point I made up. Thanks for reading! :)