A Neositting Adventure
I watched as my kids went off to school. It was their second school year in Mystery Island, and they were excited. They vanished from view as they turned left and I felt a sudden pang in my stomach. I wiped a tear from my eye, surprised that I felt so sad. But after all, my Acaberry and Streakly were in 4th grade now. They were growing up. And Slevende, why, next year she'd be off to middle school! I poured myself a cup of Borovan and sat down to drink it and read the Times.
But I was distracted. The house next door was a ways away, but I could still see it and its yard. They had four baby neopets: a rambunctious, tomboyish little girl Ixi named Aeon, a sweet, slightly shy little girl Usul named Anli, an adventurous, daring little boy Lupe named Traer, and an imaginative, smart little boy Gelert named Nirom. I had babysat them a couple of times and I really liked them. Their owner, an energetic girl named Tami, was a pretty good friend of mine. We grabbed Borovan together once a week or so.
I set down my Borovan and the Neopian Times, and I walked over to Tami's house. Tami was watching her kids from inside. Aeon was high up in a tree and Traer was playing with a toy sword. Anli was dancing in a play dress too big for her with her Magical Hair Usuki at her side, half playing a pretend game with Nirom, half just dancing. When Aeon spotted me, she jumped down off her branch and landed on the ground, scraping her knee. I gasped. She didn't seem to mind, though, and came running up to me.
"Chethnut!" she yelled loudly, tackling me in a bear hug.
"Oof!" I said, pulling myself back up. "Hi, Aeon."
"Come see my sowd," she said, dragging me over to a pile of toys and pulling out a toy sword.
"It's nice," I said.
At that moment, Traer ran over with his sword.
"See MY sowd, Chestnut!" he yelled, waving his sword in my face and then play sword fighting with Aeon.
Anli scuttled forward in her long, billowy dress and smiled at me.
"Thee my Uthuki,"she said, holding up the doll. "And my dreth. I'm the Princeth of Mewidell and Niwom thays that my mommy is dethyeptif."
"You mean deceptive?" I asked, amused that Nirom knew the word.
"Yeth," she said. "She pwetends to be nith and pwetty but she'th really mean and bad and hates me."
Nirom tumbled forward.
"I'm her wizard and I pwotect her fwom her mommy," he said proudly, holding up a tall stick that I guessed was supposed to be his staff.
Tami walked out, tucking a strand of her dark brown hair, darker than mine, behind her headband again. Her hair was shorter than mine but she still kept it in a headband.
"Hey, Chestnut," she said, smiling.
"Hi," I said. "I was wanting to see some baby neopets... It's been so long since my Acaberry was toddling around with a bib on."
"I'm sure I'll miss it, too," she said, scooping up Anli, who snuggled into her mom's shoulder. "Next year Traer will be pre-neoschool age!"
I smiled at Traer. He wiggled happily, sword still in his paw.
"Slevende will be at middle school," I said with a sigh.
Tami asked me in for Borovan and I gladly accepted. We sat down together with our mugs and watched the kids in the yard.
"I really do miss this," I said as I watched Anli dance with her yellow Bruce plushie.
Tami sipped her Borovan thoughtfully, then set her mug down.
"You know, Chestnut, I'm thinking about a day job as a teacher in the pre-neoschool," she said. "I'd like the neopoints and the experience with the school, because I want to know some things about how it works before I send Traer there. You know I'm not sure about sending him to pre-neoschool. But I would need someone to take care of my kids from 10:00 to 2:00 every day. Would you like to take it on? I could pay you."
"I don't need any money for it," I said. "What are friends for? Go ahead and take the job. I'll take care of your kids."
And so it started.
The next day I went over to Tami's house and collected her kids up.
"You come over here and do whatever you like," Tami reminded me. "You can sit them here or at your house or anywhere in between. I left some information on the fridge in case you've forgotten it, but you've babysitted them before. If Anli starts to cry for me tuck her up in bed with her pink fleece blanket and give her some warm milk. She should settle down. Nap time's from 1:00 to 1:30. All set?"
"Yep," I said.
Tami hugged her pets goodbye and began to leave. Anli whimpered. Tami turned back.
"Everything will be okay," she said softly, stroking the distraught little Usul's head. "I have a job I have to go to, and Chestnut is going to watch you for a few hours while I'm away. The money I earn from the job is going to help buy you toys and maybe a petpet sometime, okay?"
Anli nodded bravely. Her mom gave her a final squeeze, and then headed away. Nirom watched her walk away and then turned to me.
"I wanna thee your house, Chestnut!" he said.
"Yeah!" agreed Aeon.
"Okay," I said, taking them over.
After I showed them the house, they all wanted different things. Nirom wanted to play a complex imaginary game, Anli wanted to have a tea party, Aeon wanted me to take them on a fast wagon ride on their red wagon, and Traer wanted to play-fight. I decided to combine them all into a comfortable compromise.
"Here's the deal," I said. "Nirom, we can play an imaginary game, as long as we have a tea party for Anli in it, a fast wagon ride for Aeon, and a play-fight for Traer. Is that good?"
"Yeth," they all said.
So soon we were all wrapped up in Nirom's game. He was a very smart little guy, and he incorporated the three things into it pretty well. The wagon ride was everybody's favorite part. In the pretend game, it was a wild mine cart in Kreludor, which we were escaping from the evil villain, Traer, on. Unfortunately, the villain caught on to the back of the wagon and swung in. After hurtling along at a safe-but-exciting speed, the mine cart "crashed" and everybody tumbled out onto the soft sunny grass, which was actually the rocky floor of a cave at the end of a mine in Kreludor, according to Nirom. Then everybody grabbed a play sword (surprisingly, Anli was a pretty good sport about it and only grumbled a little before grabbing her pink sword) and had a play battle, which Nirom made seem very dramatic with his vivid imagination. Then, after surviving the villain's attack and feeding him a "potion" (really milk) that made him turn good, we all had a tea party with lukewarm water with dashes of weak tea that I'd made, skim milk for cream, and a little lemon flavoring, which Anli liked. And that was when the trouble started.
"I wanna go on ano'er wagon ride!" Aeon announced when she'd had enough of the tea party, throwing her plastic tea cup, which still had a mouthful of tea in it, up in the air, and not catching it, spilling the tea on the grass.
I picked her teacup up.
"Well, we'll do one more, okay?" I said, cleaning up the tea party and packing it into the little basket I'd fortunately thought to bring out.
Anli suddenly began to bawl. I whipped around. She was sitting there, rocking back and forth, crying, and the big purple bow that adorned her tail was pulled apart so that it was just a ribbon. Traer was playing with Nirom a ways away, so I figured they weren't causing her cries. Aeon, however, had her teeth set and a determined, stubborn look on her face. I went over and scooped Anli up, rocking her back and forth on my shoulder before she calmed down.
"Now, what's wrong, sweetie?" I asked her after she calmed down.
"Aeon PULLED MY BOW! She dared me to climb that twee!" she gulped, trying to restrain her tears, pointing at the tree near to us. It wasn't very large, but I'm sure it would have seemed so to her. "And I said no, and she said I was a sithy! So I thaid I wasn't, and then she PULLED MY BOW!!"
Anli bawled the last words and starting to cry loud, wet cries into my shoulder.
"Hush, hush," I said. "It's alright."
I set her gently down on the soft green grass and tied her bow around her tail, fluffing it up a little extra for her.
"You needn't let Aeon get to you," I said. "You can just ignore her when she teases you."
Anli gulped again and nodded. I turned to Aeon, who was running away.
"Aeon, get back here," I said in a firm voice.
She didn't seem to want to, though. She continued running. I wasn't going to run after her, that was what she wanted me to do.
"Aeon, if you don't get back here right now, there will be no wagon ride for you, because you will be sitting in your cot," I said firmly, with a warning tone mixed in. It had been a while since my pets were little, but I remembered how to handle these situations—Streakly had possessed an unruly streak (he still did somewhat, but I'd managed to narrow it and so he didn't get into too much trouble now), and he had more often than not been able to persuade Slevende into doing what he wanted, while Acaberry was very good at throwing violent temper-tantrums, so I'd had my hands full.
This made Aeon listen. She stopped walking and turned to me, but she still had that stubborn look around her mouth and jaw, and she didn't move more, just stood there, listening.
"I'm going to count to three," I said, "and when I reach three, I expect you to be back here or more than halfway here."
"1," I said slowly, "2," I added, shooting her a warning glance when she didn't move. "3."
She hadn't moved.
"Well, I told you," I said. "Come along, you're going in your cot while we have a wagon ride," I added when her stubborn scowl just deepened.
"No!" she shouted. "You're not my mummy! You can't tell me what to do!"
She tossed her head and looked away. I walked over and picked her up. She squirmed and wriggled.
"NO!" she wailed. "I'm NOT DOING WHAT YOU SAY! YOU'RE NOT MY MOMMY!"
"Aeon," I said in my best warning voice. "Do you want to stay in your cot for fifteen more minutes after we have our wagon ride, or will you stop yelling now and come to your cot quietly?"
Aeon glared at me, but she stopped yelling.
"Good," I said, then glanced over at the other kids. They were watching us. "We're going back to your house to put Aeon in her cot for a time out," I told them. "Then we can go on a wagon ride."
They nodded and luckily they followed me when we went back to their house. I set them in their playroom, telling them to be good, and then walked into Aeon and Anli's room with Aeon. It was a nice little room. They each had their own side. Anli's was all pretty, pastel colors and plushies, Usukis, and pretty little baby books all in a row—you get the picture. It was pretty, soft, and neat. Aeon's side was filled with bright, bold colors, building blocks, and toy swords—all thrown all over the place. Books lay jumbled on her bookshelf and plushies were sitting on top of them. I straightened some of the books on her shelf and put some of the blocks in their box, as well as taking some of the off the book shelf and putting them in her toy box. Aeon squirmed in my arms, and I turned to her cot. It had rumpled, wrinkled blankets, a toy sword in it, and a limp pillow. I picked up a toy sword out of her cot, setting it in her toy box, shook out the wrinkled blankets and made them up again, and then fluffed up the bright pillow. Aeon scowled, reaching for the sword, but I set her in the cot with its high bars. She punched her pillow with one hoof and then leaned on the pillow, still angry-looking.
"You can't just leave me here until my mummy gets back," she said, a trace of panic in her voice when I turned away.
"We'll be back after we're done with the wagon ride, Aeon," I said, turning back to her. "If you get bored, you can think about what might have happened if you had behaved back there when I gave you the chance."
"But I don't wanna stay here, Chesthnut! I wanna play!" she pleaded. "It's not fair. Anli and Niwom and Twaer get to play, but I don't!"
"Aeon. You heard what I said, and you knew the consequences when you disobeyed me. That's perfectly fair. Anli and Nirom and Traer weren't naughty. Do you understand?"
Aeon only scowled again, and I left, shutting the door behind me. Well, that was dealt with. But when I walked into the playroom, more trouble was awaiting. Nirom had gotten into a container of Sculpty Dough and was sticking it all over the playroom, Anli was drawing a Snorkle on herself with a black marker, and Traer was nowhere to be found. I gulped. Where could he be? But I'd locked the doors behind me when I came in the house. I knew how amazing baby neopets were at escaping. No, wherever Traer was causing trouble, it was in the house.
"Guys, stop it, you're making a mess," I scolded.
Anli sheepishly capped the marker, which I saw was washable (whew!) and Nirom scooped up the Sculpty Dough and plopped it back in the container. It took me a while to round up the extra bits of dough, and I worried about what Traer was up to. I capped the container of Sculpty Dough and picked up Anli, who was reaching for the bin of Usukis.
"Where did Traer go?" I asked Nirom.
"He didn' tell me," said Nirom cheerfully, pulling down a Green Scorchio Plushie from their plushie shelf. "He jus' left as soon as you were gone."
"No, Nirom," I said, putting the green Scorchio back. "We're not playing with plushies now; we're going to find Traer and then we're going on a wagon ride," I said firmly.
He set back the plushie and followed me out of the playroom. I shut the door to the playroom and set Anli down.
"Come on," I said, walking down the carpeted hall to their airy kitchen. Traer wasn't there, though. I went back down the hall and checked his and Nirom's room. He wasn't there. But when I checked in their bathroom, a large, cheerful place, there Traer was, and in quite a mess, too. The bathtub was overflowing with hot water that was still running thick and fast from the faucet, which was on full blast.
The water was up to my ankles, drenching the bath mat and a huge towel, clearly belonging to Traer's owner and not for his use, that was lying in front of the tub. There must have been about half a bottle of bubble bath poured into the water, because bright pink bubbles and foamy pink soap suds were crowding the water and therefore the room. Bath toys were floating on the foamy water, too, and one by one slipping out of the overflowing white tub and into the room.
Traer was standing on their stool in front of the bathroom counter, looking at the mess he had created, seeming rather shocked. Aside from the water, he had totally messed up the kitchen counter and the mirror. He had apparently tried to paint a picture with tooth paste on the mirror, but only part of it had stuck, leaving a sticky mess on the mirror and the counter, as well as two, I repeat, two (how did this boy manage it?) completely empty tube of Sparkly Toothpaste. His Green Toothbrush was sticky with toothpaste and water, lying in the bottom of their sink, which was gummed up with toothpaste and filled to the brim with water. Several sopping wet paper towels were in the sink. And as for Traer, well, he was a mess. Toothpaste was stuck in his fur all over his head, and his teeth were half-brushed, with toothpaste smeared all over them. A piece of floss was stuck between his two front teeth and his paws were dripping with wet toothpaste, and it was also stuck under his claws. A damp washcloth, also covered with toothpaste, was stuck to his paw, and he was only half grabbing it.
A wild, panicky look was in his eyes before he saw me, as though things had gotten out of control very fast. Anli and Nirom were staring at it all with wide eyes, and so was I. Then I cleared my throat. Traer jumped.
"Ch—chesthnut?" he said, sounding terrified.
"Traer," I said, "how did this happen?"
"I—I don't know," he said, trying and failing to act unconcerned.
I silently pulled off my shoes, rolled up my jeans, and waded through the bubbly water to the tub. I turned off the fast stream of water. Then I went back to the doorway, scooped up Anli and Nirom each in one arm, and shut the door behind me with a louder crash than I meant to. I set Anli and Nirom down on the floor where they poked at bubbles from the bath and generally looked shocked, and went to the closer where they kept their bathroom cleaning supplies. Luckily there was a mop in there. I mopped up the water with that, and then I gave Anli and Nirom each a disposable sponge and told them they could scrub up (they liked that sort of thing). I pulled the plug on the tub, but the damage was done. Then I turned to the counter, where Traer was still motionless while Anli and Nirom scrubbed enthusiastically.
"You help me with the counter," I said.
And so the terrible process of cleaning the counter began. It involved lots of soap, lots of paper towels and sponges, and LOTS of elbow grease. Traer helped me with it. Eventually, we got the counter relatively clean, the sink unclogged, and the mirror clean, but still streaked with toothpaste residue. I sighed. This neositting thing was harder than I'd expected. I collected the baby pets and then went into Aeon's room, where she was throwing a tantrum. She screamed at me when I picked her up, but I calmed her down and we all went outside again.
Well, to make a long story short, several hours filled with many ups and downs passed by, and the Tami came back. Her little pets ran towards her when she walked in, and she struggled to hug them all at the same time.
"How was your job?" I asked her.
"It was fine," she said. "I was wondering... would you like to get paid and do this everyday? It would be a huge help."
"I'd love to!" I found myself saying. "Yeah, that would be great!"
"How were the kids?" she asked, scooping Anli up in her arms.
"They were fine," I said.
"Chethnut was great!" Aeon said happily, hugging her mom's leg.
"Is she comin' back again?" asked Anli, concerned, pulling her thumb out of her mouth.
"Yeah! She's tho much fun!" shouted Traer.
"She played pwetend with us," Nirom chimed in.
"Of course I'm coming back," I said, beaming.
I left the house a very happy neositter. Sure my pets weren't babies anymore, but I sure was going to be seeing lots of little ones that year!