Five Hundred Paper Weewoos
Luna peers down at her Aisha-hands; they are white and brittle, throbbing with river veins. Her thin, golden curls sweep over the windowpane as she waits for her owner to return. Louise promised to be on time, but, then again, Louise promises many things.
She finally pulls back from the glass, a film of powder and lipstick smearing where her face rested. She figures that that is all she is; face-paint and empty promises. Alone.
Louise always says that Neoschool is not for girls like Luna, with her fragile hands and smiles. Girls like Luna stay home and peer outside of windows, out into empty suburbia until other neopets finally make their way home from Neopia Central.
She notices how other girls her age travel in groups--sometimes she sees the one pink Uni with her Water-Faerie backpack chatting amiably with the purple Usul, or other times, the faerie Cybunny and the cloud Poogle. Sparks of jealousy dapple the corners of Luna's milk-white eyes and surge down the shallow canals of her cheeks.
It is times like these, pressed against the isolating wall of glass, that Luna realizes she is utterly alone. She barely even has Louise, who sometimes makes braids out of her blonde curls, who sometimes makes dinner, who sometimes reads her stories. Who tries to patch up the pet's loneliness with dolls and sweets. Who keeps the Aisha trapped away, convincing her of her own fragility and making her feel more like porcelain than a breathing, living being.
Luna is alone, and so she sits. Sits and stares out the window, stares at her hands, stares into the mirror that faces her on the opposite wall. She seldom wanders far from her seat, perched beside the window.
She seldom does anything at all.
But one day, it feels like faeries are in her feet and she is restless and sick and tired of sitting alone and looking at her hands. She combs the curls from her golden tresses and doesn't bother with powder and lipstick. She floats through the palace of her home with purpose in her veins and a strumming in the pit of her belly; she slips into the 'library' of her home, and before she realizes just what she is doing, the Aisha-girl is flipping through the page-winged books, letting the words curl into fairytales.
She reads of Meridellian soldiers, of faerie-princesses and Lupe-knights, of other worlds just out of Neopia Central's reach. There is a world of paper-lanterns, Shenkuu, of wings, Faerieland, of nightmares, the Haunted Woods. Luna reads about famous places and people until her brain is filled to the rim, until she finally stumbles across a small, brown, boring-looking book at the end of one of the shelves.
"Wishing Weewoo." She reads. "What a strange title."
Gingerly, she pulls back the dull cover and slips into the legend Weewoo-luck. The tale is of a young, adventurous Lupe named Hunter, who folded hundreds of Weewoos out of paper, and by the five-hundredth, he found that he had sprouted wings and was able to fulfill his dream of flying around Neopia.
She closes the little story with a fluttering in her heart and a mission in her hands.
"I'll get my wish," she murmurs, teeth sinking desperately into her lips. "I have to."
The faeries are poking at her heels as she stumbles into the study, palms slipping into the box of pale, white papers.
'This'll do,' she thinks to herself, and then she is folding, her hands possessed with memories of a young Aisha-girl and her golden-haired owner, together, folding Flouds and Weewoos and Kadoaties and all sorts of little beauties. Together. Louise and Luna.
There is a lump in her throat that quickly unravels when the first Weewoo is complete. Her fingers tremble as the perfectly white, paper-bird shimmers in the sunlight of her grasp. Gingerly, she lays the Weewoo down, and her hands find a new slip of paper.
Louise comes home sometimes but never lingers. Luna hides her paper-petpets whenever the front-door lets out the telltale, chiming creek. She has over a hundred by the time the week is over, all pretty and folded and hidden in chests. Louise would call them trash, a mess to be cleaned. She hasn't always been that way-
Luna blames the neopoints. That is one thing she has in excess; Louise is always out working, working, working, just to bring home diamonds and dolls and purses and books, but all Luna wants is company. A friend.
When Louise leaves, after half-heartedly kissing the Aisha on the forehead and getting a bite to eat, Luna starts to fold again.
"One beak, one tail, two wings," Luna murmurs, her mind in her hands. She is half-asleep but can't bring herself to stop folding. She is almost at two hundred after two weeks. Almost halfway to her dreams.
Another finished. Place it in the paper-palace, Weewoo-castle, bird-home. Count. Over and over again. 198. 199. 200.
Luna spends most of her time dreaming and crying. She eats her follies and tears and pushes plates away in favor of paper. Two-hundred Weewoos comes and leaves, melts into three. Four. And she is breaking five-hundred, but her hands have gone slow and her mind is clouded.
"I have to do this," she whispers to herself. 458. 459. "I cannot be alone."
Louise is home today. She's offered to take Luna to the park but the Aisha has refused. She continues to fold, her owner awkwardly splayed on the couch, alone.
"I can't be alone," Luna repeats.
She doesn't see the irony she folds into the Weewoo's wing.
Louise's visits have become longer. She makes breakfast, reads bed-time stories. She lingers.
Luna, however, plasters strained smiles onto her lips and then proceeds to hole herself up in her bedroom, folding.
"496," she says one day, and it's surreal. She's so close. She wonders just what will happen when the 500th crane is folded. Will a faerie mystically appear, ask her what she wants? Will the girls from the Neoschool knock on her door and ask to be her friend? Or will the last paper-petpet turn into a real Weewoo? Louise never liked petpets, though. She said--
"Not time for Louise," Luna grunts, and then the final sheet of paper is in her hands. "It's my turn."
She makes a crease.
"One beak, one tail, two wings."
Her wish is born.
Whatever she has been expecting just doesn't happen. There are no faeries or Poogle-girls, instead, there is silence. Oh, there is the occasional knock on the door from Louise, but Luna ignores it.
She dips her head into her pillow and cries. She should have known better. The book lied. There are no such things as wishes or dreams or magic paper-petpets. There are only powdery Aisha-girls and their loneliness, their silhouette Louise's flickering in and out of their lives.
She sheds a tear for every Weewoo she's folded.
Luna wakes up not expecting much. She supposes the house will be empty. She imagines that Louise left in a hurry, perhaps putting some fruit in a bowl for Luna or maybe some cakes. She sighs, hollow, the faeries broken in her feet.
Her eyes are closed wearily when she steps into the kitchen, and when they open, and take in the sight of a thin, blonde-haired girl with a pan in her hand, Luna almost jumps ten feet in the air.
"Louise?" she sputters, shock laced in her tone. It's been over a week. Her owner shouldn't be here. "What..."
"Sit, please?" Louise asks, gently, kindly. Luna complies, perching herself in a white-wooden chair.
Her owner exhales, and turns to her after placing the pancakes into a fine china-plate. "Lulu," she begins, and Luna's ears perk; she hasn't heard her nickname in ages. "I know I've been a bad owner..."
And that's all Louise manages before the tears come from behind the backs of her eyes, and her face crumples into her hands. Luna looks stricken as she watches for a split-moment, before scrambling to reach the girl.
"Lou, Lou, Lou..." she calls, but the girl can't hear her over her tears. "Calm down. Please. You're not a bad owner."
The blonde slowly cranes her neck, turning to her neopet. She inhales, and her body rattles with a shaky, swallowed sob. "Lulu, you're too good for me."
Luna smiles, and it is almost sad. "Lou, what are you talking about?" she murmurs gently. "You are always buying me things, like books, dolls, bracelets. Always giving me stories to read." She chokes when she finishes with, "When, really, all I ever wanted was to spend time with you..."
The Aisha breaks, then, lets the tears shimmer down her cheeks in plump, translucent drops. Louise wastes no time in wrapping her arms around Luna, who burrows her glossy-wet face into her owner's neck. They are silent for a long while, owner and neopet, clinging to each other with serenity in their bones. For the first time in a long time, all is well.
And perhaps, Luna muses, the Weewoos were lucky after all.
It takes days before Luna opens her chest of Weewoo-cranes, only to find it empty. It takes moments for her and Louise to peer out the window-frame, where she once sat in her lonesome, and notice the flock of pale-white, almost paper-like Weewoos soaring through the skies of Neopia Central, circling around their home.