As Simple As Hot Cocoa
I took a deep breath, stepping into the Create a Pet center for the first time. You see, I am, as some would call, a n00b. This was my sixth day in Neopia, but I didn't want to get a pet until I had a neohome and steady pay.
I stepped up to the front desk. A yellow Wocky peered at me from a large stack of papers.
"Would you like to create a pet today?" he asked me, no emotion in his face. I nodded eagerly, excited to finally have a pet to call my own! "Follow me," he said dryly, leading me back into a large room filled with hundreds of eggs. "What species?" he asked. I thought for a moment, remembering all the pets I had seen.
"A Kacheek," I replied happily.
"Very well... Color?"
"Ok," he responded as he reached for a light blue egg with a pink mark on it. "Here." I grabbed for the egg, extra careful not to drop it. "Now, keep it warm and it should hatch in a few hours." With that, he lead me back to the desk to fill out some paper work. I thanked him and happily left for my neohome in Winding Wood Drive.
I opened the font door of my home and carefully walked into a clean room with a large oak bed and oak wardrobe. "This is your room," I whispered to the egg. I slowly set the blue egg on the bed and covered it with blankets. "I promise to love you forever.... Nicole..." I smiled, then drifted off to sleep, the egg wrapped in my arms.
I woke up, sounds of cracking in my ear. I sat up quickly, remembering the egg I had taken home with me. I watched in amazement as the hard shell broke open, leaving behind a small blue Kacheek with small red freckles and the biggest black eyes I had ever seen.
"Hi..." it whispered.
"Hey," I replied, still in shock, my eyes never leaving hers. Nicole looked at me and smiled, the warmest smile I had ever received, I burst into tears as I held her blue furry body in my arms. "I love you!" I said through happy sobs.
"I love you too," she replied softly, "Mommy."
Four months later
"Nicky!" I shouted from the kitchen. "Breakfast!" As quick as a Xweetok on sugar, Nicole ran from her room to the kitchen, her blue tail swinging behind her.
"Morning, Mommy!" she shouted, giving me a tight hug. She sat down at the table and patiently awaited her pancakes.
"Mommy, can Anna come over this afternoon?" Nicky asked, her big black eyes filled with plead.
"Of course!" I answered. Anna was Nicky's best friend, a yellow Acara that she met at the book store a few months ago. "Also, I need to go shopping for some... things..."' I mumbled.
"Can Anna come with us?" she asked.
"Actually, I was planning on going on my own," I replied nervously. Nicky had never been left home alone before, so this would be a new experience for the both of us.
"Oh."' Nicky looked at me curiously. "I promise to behave!" I gave Nicky a small smile and hugged her.
"You remember the rules?" I questioned her.
"Yes," she stated proudly.
"Ok, be safe, and finish your breakfast! Don't answer the door for anyone you don't know, don't leave the house, etc." I kissed her on the cheek and slowly walked out of our home, more scared for my precious Nicky than ever.
I opened the door to my neohome, bags hanging from my arms and a large smile on my face. Walking into the living room, I saw Anna and Nicky playing with plushies on the floor.
"Hi, Mom!" Nicky looked up at me and smiled.
"Hey, sweetie. Hi, Anna."
"Hello, Ms. Holidays," Anna greeted me shyly.
I nodded to them, then gestured Nicky into the kitchen. Nicky stood up reluctantly and followed me into the kitchen, her face full of confusion. "Something wrong, Momma?" she asked quietly. I looked at her and laughed, which gave Nicky a look of relief.
"No, Honey, actually, I got you something," I said, pulling out a small brown scarf, just her size.
"A scarf? For me?!" she asked happily.
"Of course! It's getting cold out; besides, I never bought you any type of clothing before, and because my pay is getting bigger, I decided to get you this lovely scarf." Nicky gave me a quick hug, then wrapped the scarf around her neck. I must say, it looked absolutely adorable on her! She smiled, then ran back into the living room, showing her new prized possession to Anna. From the kitchen, I could hear both the girls in awe. Feeling rather pleased with myself, I started unloading the other groceries, thinking of what else to get my wonderful baby girl. And then it hit me.
"Why are we building another room in the house, Mommy?" Nicky questioned me. Her tail swished side to side with curiosity.
"Well," I tried to come up with a good answer, not wanting to spoil the big surprise, "it's a... a guest room!"
"Guest room?" She tilted her head.
"Yep! That way, if we have guests, they won't have to sleep on the coach," I replied, hoping my lie wasn't obvious. She twirled the end of her brown scarf in one of her paws, and scratched her head with the other.
"Um... Oh! Can I help decorate it?" she asked me, losing her suspicion of the new random room and focusing her attention on what would be inside it.
"Um, sure thing, sweetie," I replied, giving her a fake smile. I was sick to my stomach for lying to my little Nicky, and I hoped I never had too again. But what I was doing, I hoped, would benefit this entire family.
"Welcome to the Pound, are you here to adopt?" asked a pink Uni. I nodded softly in response. She took me to large room filled with dozens of cages, all full of depressed, hungry, and ill looking pets. "Any one in particular?" she questioned.
"No, just looking, really," I said, shrugging. She smiled, then took a step back, letting me have my space to look around.
As I passed each cage, a pet looked at me with either longing or hate. I was torn. All these pets needed good homes, but I couldn't just take them all with me.
Continuing down the line of cages, I saw a thin red Lupe, leaning against the back of the cage, looking at me curiously, as if he was shopping for an owner rather then me looking for a pet.
"Hello," I said to him kindly.
"Hi, ma'am," he replied, no look of hope, yet no look of sorrow in his green eyes. Then I realized that he was the one I had to take home. I wasn't sure why. Maybe the way he was so calm, or the way he looked at me with respect, but I knew I had to have him.
"Would you like to come home with me," I asked him, reading his name tag, hope filling my chest, "Balto?" He looked at me and chuckled.
"Why would I say no?" he said, grinning. The Uni opened the cage and he stepped out, instantly hugging me as if he'd known me for years. I hugged him back, and in the end, it just felt right. I swept my hand on his cheek, looking at him lovingly. He returned the gaze and whispered, "I knew you would come for me, the perfect owner. I see it in your eyes."
I tried hard not to cry as I filled out the paper work and lead him to my neohome. It had taken two months of saving money for furniture to put in the spare bedroom, and two months of hiding the fact from Nicky she was getting a sibling. I really hoped she would love Balto as much as I did.
I stepped into the living room, Balto behind me, looking around curiously. He acted as if it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. I giggled then lead him down the hall and in front of a closed door.
"Balto," I said, pointing to the door, "this is your room." He gazed from me, to the door, then back at me, his jaw dropped open.
"I get my own room?" he asked me, amazed.
"Yep, and you can decorate it any way you want!"
"Really?!" He looked at me, wide eyed. He swung open the door to a room with nothing but a blue bed and a purple wardrobe. He flopped himself on the bed and laughed, rolling around in the covers. He then got off the bed and looked at me, still in a half laugh.
"I never got your name," he told me, happiness still showing in his eyes.
"Oh," I giggled, "my name is Autumn_Holidays, but most call me Autumn." He nodded then tilted his head, a sly smile on his face.
"Can... Can I call you.."
"Mom?" I asked, finishing his sentence. He nodded, giving me a tight hug. "Of course you can, sweetie."
"Mommy?" I whipped my head around and saw Nicky, standing in the doorway of her room, across from what was now Balto's room. Her eyes were half closed from sleep and her scarf hung around her neck crookedly.
"Oh... h-hi, sweet heart...," I started to mumble, "this is Balto." I gave her a shy smile, never even giving thought on how to explain the situation to Nicky. I was just so hyped up on getting her a sibling my common sense seemed to have left me completely.
"Oh," she said, breaking my thought, "nice to meet you, Balto. Are you friends with my mommy?" she asked him. He chuckled and scratched his head in thought.
"Sorta," he responded. "Well, actually, we're not just friends; she's my new owner, and I suppose that means you and I are siblings! Nice to meet you, Nicole," he told her, a large, warm grin on his face.
I suppose I expected Nicky to give him a warm welcoming hug, or a hand shake, or a nice to meet you too, at the least. But what happened next tore my heart in two.
"I...," She started crying, looking at me in disgust as if I had torn her favorite Shoyru plushie in half. "I-I thought you loved me... I thought I would be the only one in your heart!" By now she was sobbing, "I guess I'm not enough for you... I hate you, Mommy!" She ran back in her room, leaving a trail of tears behind.
Balto stared at Nicky's closed door, then looked at me with tear soaked eyes. "I didn't mean... I thought... I'm so sorry..." He wrapped himself in a slight hug, sorrowfully gazing at the floor.
"No, sweetie, no!" I embraced him in a tight and loving full hug. "She'll come around! She's just shocked is all. Why don't you go make yourself comfortable in your new room? Come up with ideas to decorate it and I'll bring you some hot cocoa in a bit. But first I should talk to Nicky." I held a concerned gaze towards Balto; in return, he gave me a shy one.
"If there's anything I can do to help..." he started to say, trailing off in mid sentence before retiring to his room.
"No, that's okay, Balto. I'll talk to her. I'm sure once she gets to know you, you two will be inseparable," I assured him. He nodded then slipped into his new room, closing the door behind him.
Turning away from his door, I gazed over at Nicky's, then opened it slowly. I found her under the covers, crying.
She looked up at me, her eyes swollen and red.
"I thought you said you'd always love me..." she whispered. I looked at her, shocked; was she jealous of Balto? Without hesitation, I wrapped my arms around her in a tight hug.
"Nicky, I'll always love you! That doesn't mean I can't love someone else as well. Balto is special, like you, and I think he'll fit in very well with our family, don't you?"
She shrugged in response. "I guess..." she muttered.
"Please, just give him a chance, okay?" I sighed and left the room, closing the door behind me. "I hope things work out," I mumbled to myself. I sighed again, then trudged into the kitchen, wishing that problems like these could be solved with something simple, like hot cocoa.
The last few weeks went by with a blur. Balto began to get more comfortable with his new surroundings, and was trying hard to please Nicky. In his effort, Nicky simply rolled her eyes and ignored him.
One cold fall day, Nicky had Anna over to play with plushies. Balto sat in one of the chairs, reading his book in the living room, sometimes peering from the rim of his book to see what the girls were up to.
"Anna, did you see that cute Snowbunny on the Neovision? I would love to have a petpet! But Momma can't afford it, she's saving her money to decorate Balto's room," she said glumly.
"Me too! What kind of petpet would you want to get, Nicole?" Anna asked her, her head seeming to be filled with day dreams.
"Definitely a Tasu! Their cute green spots and soft white fur! Oh, how I would love to cuddle up by the fire with one!" Nicky said, pretending to pet a Tasu that was on her lap. Balto, overhearing the girls' conversation, silently walked out of the living room and into the kitchen where I was cooking dinner.
"Mom," he said, glancing over his shoulder, "may I borrow um... about 6,000 neopoints?" I gave him a strange look.
"I thought you wanted to save the neopoints to decorate you room?" I questioned him.
"I know, but trust me, this is far more important!" He gave me one of those I-Know-What-I'm-Doing looks that I couldn't resist. I eyed him curiously, then dug into my bag for the 6,000. As I handed it to him, he smiled at me warmly. Quickly wrapping me in a hug, he took off out the front door, eagerly heading towards the Neopia Central shops.
"Nicky," Balto called, knocking on her door, "I have something for you." Nicky opened her door, looking at the happy red Lupe with a paw behind his back. Nicky looked down sadly, her shoulders drooped.
"Balto... look... I'm sorry for treating you so awfully! I was just jealous of you, I guess. I've been the only pet for a while, so I wasn't really prepared for all this." She looked up into his eyes and shrugged. "Will you forgive me?"
Balto looked at her in surprise, then grinned the biggest grin and hugged Nicky with his one free hand.
"Of course I forgive you, silly! Look," he said, holding out the paw that was hidden behind his back. In it, was a sleeping baby Tasu, curled neatly in a ball. Nicky's jaw dropped and tears swelled in her eyes.
"F-for me?" she muttered, reaching out for the small petpet. Balto nodded and smiled, relief flowing through his body as Nicky embraced him in a loving hug.
"I love you, big brother," Nicky whispered.
"I love you too, lil' sis."
After that heart warming day, Balto and Nicky were almost inseparable. Nicky and I bought Balto a Ghostkerchief tie, resembling the family bond we all shared. He, like Nicky and her scarf, almost never took it off. We also found that Balto loves the Haunted Woods, so we decorated his room as scary as possible.
Even Anna became fond of Balto, she always wanted to listen to his stories of the past, and hear about his horrible days in the pound. Balto didn't mind telling her, because he knew that he would never leave this family, and that he would forever be loved by Nicky and me. For we are one, big, happy family.