Amlin and Stick, Part 2
Also by np_faeries
Momma and Daddy stared at Amlin. "What happened?" they both said at once, staring at the new pet Amlin had in her lap.
"There was a Faerie..."
Momma and Daddy glanced at each other, and then back at Amlin.
Amlin shrugged. "There was a bright flash of light and then..." Amlin gestured at the Plushie Blumaroo in her lap. "Stick!"
The Plushie Blumaroo looked up at Amlin, and gently touched his nose against Amlin's nose, making her giggle.
"I can keep him, right?" Amlin asked.
Momma sighed. "I suppose that's the only thing to do."
"Momma, can I invite my friends over to meet Stick?"
"What did you have in mind, Honey?"
Amlin thought about this question. Did she want to throw a big party and invite everyone? It could be princess-themed, she thought. Like a royal ball, and Stick could have a receiving line where all the eligible maidens had to attend wearing beautiful dresses and glass slippers.... Amlin shook her head to clear it. This wasn't a movie; it was real life! Amlin cut off her fantasy. Finally, she decided the best thing would probably be a small event, just a few new faces. If Stick handled it well, then they could do a big party next.
"Maybe just Retti?"
"Of course." Momma smiled. "Retti is always welcome. What would you girls like?"
"Um... chokato cream sandwiches?"
At this, Momma raised her eyebrow. "Haven't you had enough chokato cream sandwiches for the time being, Amlin? Besides," Momma reasoned, "Retti might like more variety in an afternoon."
Amlin wrinkled her brow in concentration. What did Retti like?
"Iced tea?" Amlin asked timidly.
"Iced tea and chokato cream sandwiches!" Momma threw up her hands in consternation. "Amlin, honestly! Do you ever think about anything else?"
"But I like iced tea," Amlin insisted.
Momma put her hand to her chin. "How about high tea?" Momma finally said.
"Well, there'll be different types of tea..."
"Iced tea?" Amlin interrupted eagerly.
"Yes, iced tea can be one of them," Momma said patiently. "And then there are finger foods like kiwi and cucumber sandwiches, scones, maybe some fresh fruit."
"Can we have chokato cream sandwiches?" Amlin asked wistfully.
"How about I make a chokato-flavored sweet cream for the scones?" Momma countered.
"I guess that's okay." Amlin nodded resolutely.
The morning of the high tea, Momma made two types of freshly baked scones: blueberry and cinnamon sugar. She also whipped up a chocolate fudge dipping sauce, as well as the chokato sweet cream she had promised. Little kiwi and cucumber sandwiches sat ready on a plate with their crusts cut off and sliced into bite-sized rectangles.
"Everything looks so fancy," Amlin breathed, gazing with wide eyes at the treats on the counter. "When I grow up, I want to cook like you, Momma."
"Thank you, Baby," Momma said, beaming. She swiped at the counter with a rag, wiping up some stray flour. "Is everything else ready?"
Amlin had set up her little round tea table in the kitchen with a clean tablecloth laid out. On top of the tablecloth were plates and silverware, cups with saucers, and napkins she had tried to fold into the shape of tulips, though they had turned out more like lumps.
"I think so," Amlin said, surveying her work.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang.
"It's Retti!" Amlin shouted, bounding off with ShoopShoop and Stick close behind.
Amlin reached the door and was about to turn the handle, but she paused and looked back. Momma was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, wiping her hands dry on a clean towel. She nodded to Amlin, smiling. Amlin smiled back and grabbed the door handle. As the door swung open, ShoopShoop and Stick crowded around Amlin's legs trying to get a better look at the girl who stood on the front step.
Retti was a girl exactly Amlin's age. She had laughing eyes and a big smile. Her hair was short and black, held back with a new, green headband bought just for the occasion. But nobody noticed her headband. Instead, they were all staring at the Neopet she held in her arms.
"What's that?" Amlin whispered, her eyes as big as the saucers she had set the tea table with.
"He's new," Retti shrugged. Leaning around Amlin, she smiled at the other two Neopets. "Hi, Shoopy! You're looking particularly green today."
ShoopShoop fluttered his baby wings shyly in greeting.
"You got a new Neopet too?" Retti asked, shifting her pet to one hip and pointing at Stick with her free arm.
"Oh! Yeah," Amlin said, snapping out of her surprise, "this is Stick."
"This," Retti said, tilting her head towards her pet, "is Snulg."
"He's, um... big," Amlin tried.
"Yes," Retti agreed.
Amlin invited Retti and Snulg in, shooing ShoopShoop and Stick away from the doorway. And then the whole part headed into the kitchen.
It took a few minutes to get everyone settled around the tea table. The high chairs Amlin had for the pets weren't big enough for Snulg, young as he was, so he ended up on a couch cushion that they dragged in from the living room. The table was a bit high for him, but if he sat up on his hind legs, it seemed to be okay. With Snulg in place, everyone else found seats easily.
Momma came in with a pitcher in one hand and a teapot in the other. "Two types of tea, Darlings," she sang, holding them up. "What would you like, Retti? Iced black tea or hot green tea?"
Retti and Snulg both got hot tea, which Momma poured for them. Amlin and Stick both got iced tea. ShoopShoop asked for just milk.
"Shoopy, you're the same little Shoyru as always!" Retti exclaimed, laughing.
Amlin carried the plate of mini kiwi and cucumber sandwiches out to the table while Momma served a plate of scones.
Retti clapped in delight at the sight of the food. "It's all so lovely!" she cried.
The two girls served their pets, and then each other.
"Sandwich?" Amlin asked formally.
"Thank you," Retti responded while lifting her teacup daintily, pinky fully extended.
Amlin placed the tiny rectangular sandwich on Retti's plate.
"Snulg?" she offered.
The Skeith rumbled softly.
Amlin reached over to place a sandwich in front of Snulg too, quickly retracting her hand. Retti watched her friend curiously.
"You know," Retti offered, "he doesn't bite."
"Why does he... look like that?"
"Someone soaked pieces of fried gluten in transmog fluid as a joke, and put them on our lawn," Retti explained. "And Snulg eats everything; even before the transformation he did."
While she was saying this, Stick had climbed off his chair and snuck slowly around the table. Before anyone had even noticed his movements, he leapt and landed right on Snulg's spiky tail.
Stick meeped in delight.
Snulg turned his head around slowly. He lifted his tail to examine the little Blumaroo now hanging from it. Suddenly, waves of laughter rolled through his body.
"Har har har!" he chuckled, wriggling his tail back and forth. Stick continued hanging on.
Retti beamed at the two Neopets. "They're playing! I'm so glad."
Amlin sat stone still, shocked. Those tail spikes looked sharp! What was Stick thinking jumping on them like that? He could've been hurt. He could still be hurt.
"Snulg may look like an intimidating Mutant Skeith," Retti said with a smile, "but he's really very gentle, and wonderfully snuggly."
"Are you sure he wont hurt Stick?" Amlin fretted.
As if to prove a point, Stick climbed nimbly up the spikes on Snulg's back to perch on the Skeith's shoulder. He bounced up and down a few times on his tail, while Snulg looked on, bemused.
At this, everyone laughed and the tension melted away. Amlin came over to where Snulg sat and reached out a tentative hand. A few inches away, she froze and looked over at Retti. At Retti's encouraging nod, Amlin placed her hand on Snulg's foreleg, just under where Stick sat.
Amlin gasped and drew back. "He's soft!"
Retti laughed at her friend. "I know, right? I was surprised at first too; he looks so fierce." She stroked his tail lovingly. "But he's a big softie, inside and out."
"It's strange..." Amlin patted Snulg's paw softly. "Like velvet."
"The spikes are a bit like sea cucumber spines," Retti said. She pushed her finger on the tip of a tail spike to demonstrate. It deformed under the pressure, sinking down into Snulg's skin.
Amlin tried it, and then Stick was pouncing on Snulg's main head spike while ShoopShoop batted at the row of spikes along Snulg's back. Snulg sat patiently through all the new attention.
"Of course," Retti added," when he wants, he can stiffen the spikes and they become razor sharp."
Retti's words made everyone freeze in the middle of their various motions.
A slow rumble built up in the room, and Amlin looked around in confusion. And then laughter cascaded out from Snulg like rolling thunder. Amlin dissolved in nervous giggles. Retti's eyes twinkled. Stick resumed bouncing on Snulg's head spike.
Stick flopped down and hugged Snulg's head like an artist beret.
Snulg's face broke out in a ferocious-looking grin, rows of sharp teeth exposed. But even little ShoopShoop wasn't scared of the Mutant Skeith now, hugging his tail tightly.
"Amlin, you really are the best," Retti said, her eyes bright. "I'd been having the hardest time helping Snulg to make new friends. But Stick didn't let Snulg's appearance bother him at all! You're really good at teaching your Neopets to be loving and open-minded."
Amlin blushed deeply, remembering her first words upon opening the door and seeing Snulg. "I didn't... didn't do anything," she stammered.
"Well, Stick is wonderful," Retti insisted. "And little Shoopy too," she said, patting the Shoyru affectionately.
Amlin nodded. "Well Snulg is pretty spectacular himself."
Retti beamed at her friend. "You know, you never told me how you got Stick." Then, reaching over the table, Retti turned their attention back to the important things in life, while Amlin got ready to tell her the story. "Scone?"