"White Kacheek up for trade!"
"Well named Krawk up for trade, seeking Draiks!"
"Seeking Cybunnies! Offering Faerie pet!"
These were the sounds all around me as I made my way through the Pound Board with my Kougra, looking around for the dream pet I was searching for. I wasn't usually into trading, but I was after an Ice Cybunny, a pet that I had always wished for but could not obtain due to ice being a lab-only color. I had adopted two neopets from the pound and painted them, and was hoping to get my dream pet with one of them, while also finding them a good home.
"Allison, why don't you just make your own board? Nobody here seems to be advertising an ice Cybunny," Daliell said to me as were making our third trek around the large room.
"Because, Dal, I've already made two earlier today and received no offers. Clearly owners aren't coming to me, so I have to go to them," I explained, once again.
"Well, my paws hurt. Can we at least go get some lunch for a bit?" she asked.
"Alright," I agreed. "Can I just check out this guy's pets?" I asked, pointing to a boy waving a sheet of paper around.
She nodded, and we made our way over. On a table behind him, there was a small stack of papers with the names of his pets listed on it. I scanned the paper while he was talking to another owner. My eyes stopped on a female ice Cybunny listed in the middle, and my heart leaped. Finally, somebody had one up for trade. She had a nice name, and the owner didn't appear to be seeking anything in particular for her, aside from his listed dream pets- a royal Kougra and an island Hissi- which he would trade anyone for. I didn't have either, so I ignored these.
"For your ice Cybunny, would you take a well named pink Poogle?" I asked hopefully.
He pondered my offer for a moment, before shaking his head.
"No thanks," he said.
"What about a desert Uni?" I asked.
The boy glanced at Daliell for a moment, and then looking back at me, shook his head again.
Sighing, I turned around to head for Neopia Central for lunch, as I had promised.
"Wait!" I heard the boy call.
I turned around, and he walked towards me.
"What's your Kougra's name?" He asked.
"It's Daliell, why?" I asked, skeptical. Daliell was not up for trade, and even if she was, why would he want a basic blue Kougra?
"Daliell. What a nice name. And there're no numbers or underscores?" he asked.
I shook my head.
"Well, I like her. You might have noticed that one of my dream pets is a Royal Girl Kougra."
"Great. Since I haven't had many good offers on my Cybunny, if you want, I'll accept a Royal custom on Daliell for my ice Cybunny. What do you say?" he asked.
I suddenly felt hopeful again. I could easily afford a Royal Paint Brush! I was finally going to get my most sought-after dream pet! I knew in the back of my mind that Daliell had always wanted to be painted Plushie, but I barely remembered this as my mind was filled with the thoughts of finally receiving the pet I'd been working so hard to find for months.
I was suddenly brought to my senses by a small whimper that came from beside me. I looked down at Daliell, who was looking up at me in disbelief. I suddenly realized that I had been seriously considering trading her away. And I would've accepted it too, had I not looked into her golden eyes. They were usually sparkling with cheer and optimism, but right now they were filled with fear and betrayal. How could I be even thinking about trading her?
"Well?" the boy asked, snapping me away from Daliell's terrified eyes.
"I- no... I'm sorry; she's not up for trade," I said, turning and walking away.
I quickly made my way out of the Pound Boards, and headed for the Neopian Bazaar. As we walked, I tried to think of something to say.
"I'm so sorry, Daliell. I didn't mean to upset you- you know I'd never do something like that, don't you?" I asked.
She didn't answer right away, and I didn't blame her. She knew as well as I that I had nearly said yes- we both were lucky I had realized the mistake I was about to make beforehand.
"I thought you always said you would never get involved in that trading business," she said quietly.
"I'm not! Oh Dal, you know it's the only way to get my dream pet! I can't afford to keep buying Cybunny morphing potions to zap your sister Jeniquea until she turns ice!" I explained.
After a moment, she spoke again. "I thought I was your dream pet."
"What- you are! B-but I can always paint you! I'll get a Plushie Paint Brush one day. And I promise I will never consider trading you again. You know I never wanted to hurt you."
"Allison... don't make promises you can't keep," she replied sadly.
Shocked, I couldn't think of anything else to say after that. Daliell had never said anything so cold before, to anyone. She was always so happy, so kind, and forgiving. It only made the gravity of what I had done feel heavier.
Of course, I knew that I was the one at fault. Daliell had never been to the pound, never had had a different owner, and I had almost given her up without a thought of it.
As we approached the Bazaar, I offered to buy Daliell whatever she wanted- a hotdog, a smoothie, candy- but she refused everything, saying she wasn't hungry anymore.
The walk home seemed to take an hour, even though we lived within ten minutes of the Bazaar. As we finally reached home, Daliell seemed to be walking faster, as though she were desperate to be alone. Daliell never liked to be alone.
When we made it inside, she rushed up the stairs. My faerie Ixi, Marcia, ran into her as she was coming downstairs.
"Hi, Daliell! Where are you going?" she asked as Daliell rushed past her.
"Allison almost painted me Royal and traded me to some stranger for her dream pet," Daliell stated as she made her way around the Ixi and disappeared upstairs.
Startled by this unusual behavior, Marcia looked at me, wide-eyed. My other pets, Kelly and Tide, had heard Daliell and came into the room, looking at me expectantly.
"I- I wouldn't really have traded her, guys. Come on," I said, exhaustedly.
They clearly had believed Daliell, though, and Kelly looked shocked and angry. The Wocky shook her head at me and followed Marcia upstairs, most likely to talk with their sister.
I looked at Tide, who looked as though he'd been expecting something like this to happen.
"It's funny; I could've sworn when I was adopted into this family last year that you promised me- all of us- that you would always love us, and never become an ambitious, cruel trader. Aren't those the words you used to describe those owners? But I guess I should've known you wouldn't be able to keep that promise. It should've been obvious to me that no human comes to Neopia in search of a neopet friend, but rather a trophy. I hope you're happy that you've hurt my sisters, and me." The Halloween Kougra turned and went upstairs to join his sisters.
Regretfully, I made my way to the living room to sit and try to get my thoughts together. I had only made one mistake, right? Had I really done so much damage that it couldn't be undone? Surely I could win the trust of my pets back with some time.
There was a decorative mirror on the wall to my right, and I stared at my reflection in it. I looked the same as I always had, yet there was something wrong with my eyes. They were usually bright forest green, but they now appeared more gray and dull than ever before. My hand, which had been in my sweater pocket, felt a folded piece of paper inside. I pulled it out, and saw that it was the list of pets from the trading board earlier.
What have I become? I thought to myself.
Standing up, I crumpled up the list and tossed it into a wastebasket, vowing not to go back to the boards at least until I had my pets' trust back. I would keep my promise from now on, I knew. As long as it wasn't too late.