A Lonely Lenny
I prop my legs up on the oak desk. Snap open a can of Neocola with my beak and drink in large gulps. Set the can down. Inspect my surroundings as if they are foreign. Stare at an ancient painting of White Kacheeks gathered around a lace edged table sipping tea and smiling elegantly hung on the west wall.
I wish I was one of them.
The sound of my mother clomping up the staircase shatters my frail concentration. She appears in the arched doorway, wearing a flowing lavender sundress. She clutches the oak pillars supporting the entrance.
"Are you ready yet, Sayre?" she inquires, and once she catches sight of me in baggy cargo pants and a bulky sweatshirt, frowns. "Why aren't you dressed yet? We have to leave in a few minutes."
My mother is a strikingly gorgeous Faerie Lenny. Her abundant blue feathers are perfectly kept and her green tail feathers trail behind her like an emerald waterfall. She walks with a razor-edged tenacity and wears her confidence like a gleaming badge.
I drain the soda and stifle a burp. "I don't want to go," I say casually.
She stares at me and her gaze burns my skin. "Sayre, please, I've already paid for these sessions," she says pleadingly. "We can't cancel now. Besides, it'll help you."
I agree that the tutor will help me academically, and I've no objections to getting some help. I struggle with literature and my reading skills have much to be desired. What I fear most is the social aspect. There are five other Neopets attending this class with me. I know not of their species or personalities. All I know is that they intimidate me so much that it makes my knees knock just thinking about them. Why? Let me tell you a little something about being socially awkward.
My greatest fear is being put in social situations. I stutter and shake uncontrollably and can't keep my cool. I sputter pointless drivel that I regret saying as soon as it leaves my beak. Stupid, I know, but I've always been this way and I have no control over it. As a result I've not a friend in the world besides my mother, who I think most of the time just humors me.
I don't move from the leather swivel chair and dent the Neocola can by squeezing it. My mother sighs and drifts across the hardwood floor over to an ivory stool with brass legs. She sits and rests a feathery wing on my shoulder.
"Sayre," she begins. "I know you're scared and I know this a new experience, but sometimes in life we have to do things we don't want to. This could open you up to new and exciting things in life. You'll make friends, and you'll be happy. That's all I ever want for you. It's hard to be happy when you've only got one person to lean on." She rises and smiles. "Now please get ready?"
I can't meet her gaze. I don't want her to see me crying. Instead I nod and hang my head.
"Try to hurry, we're going to be late," she calls as she exits.
I open my dresser drawers and choose a clean sweatshirt and sweatpants.
"Have a great day, Sayre," Mom says as she kisses my head.
I reluctantly climb the steps of the building. I take one last glance back at her. I want to cry out to her to take me back home. I want to go back to being little and innocent so I don't have to face my greatest fear. She smiles warmly and waves. I have no choice.
There's no turning back.
I step into the cool, small building. Immediately a blinding white hallway stretches out in front of me with a small stone fountain in the middle. On either side are glass windows that display clay models of Pteris and Grarrls as well as colorful abstract paintings. The floors and ceilings are spotless. Almost too perfect.
I take a careful step forward. The another. Then another. Then ano-oof! I bang my knee into the serene fountain. I howl in agony for a few seconds until I notice my voices bounces off the walls and echoes loudly. I hold my beak closed. I realize something else: I'm alone. Who knew loneliness could be so haunting?
I yelp as the piercing ring of a bell sounds. Neopets of all kinds file out of classrooms with red doors I failed to notice through my awed gawking and acute pain. I do my best to compose myself. I don't know what to do. Do I ask someone where I'm supposed to be? Can I even choke out the question without stammering? They stare at me like I have a Small Giant Squid on my head. A Striped Ogrin whispers something to her friend who giggles. Probably at me.
I'm guessing that's a no on the asking.
A heavy paw lands on my shoulder. I jump and whip around to an large Orange Kougra.
"Welcome to Neopia Central's Number One Tutoring School!" she roars excitedly. "I'm Miss Shire! You must be Sayre."
"Y-yes," I shake out. "I'm Sayre. Nice to meet you..."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Sayre!" she exclaims. Okay, this woman needs to tone it down. My eardrums are rattling.
"You're supposed to be in my class." She points one claw to a door labeled 'Room 123', on the left side of the bleached hall. "Just find yourself a place to sit, the other students should be in there already."
The hallway is now empty besides a few stragglers. When I pass two Shoyrus discussing Gadgadsbogen, their conversation ceases to a halt. I pick up the pace, feeling oddly out of place. I feel hot tears welling up in my eyes but quickly blink them away.
I approach Room 123. The red paint is chipping at the bottom. The '2' on the square blue plaque is faded and almost unseen. Blending into the woodwork and letting the '1' and '3' stand out and be noticed while the '2' is simply there and unheard from.
I feel like the '2'.
My brown wing shakes as I lift it slowly. After what seems like ages I finally grasp the silver doorknob. I close my eyes tightly and turn the knob.
I need to stop running away.
The room is like the hall, white and clean. Seven wood desks sit in a precise line that spans across the whole room. Five of the seats are filled with a Red Scorchio, a Green Usul, a Pink Kau, a Blue Kiko, and a Green Techo. I take the seat in the desk farthest to the entrance. I can feel curious stares burning my flesh. Miss Shire isn't in yet, so my classmates proceed to converse with each other as if my presence abruptly interrupted their discussions.
I hang my head and sigh. I let brown feathers shield my face as a curtain. I know they're talking about me. I know what's coming. When will this end?
The shrieking bell rings once again and Miss Shire enters seconds after. The room is silent.
"We have a new student, everyone!" she cheers. "This is Sayre. She'll be joining us for class!"
I groan in despair and throw my head back. Someone save me.
More whispers are exchanged.
"Alright class, today we'll be finishing chapter 3 of Cybunny Down," Miss Shale begins.
A crumpled piece of paper bounces off the side of my head and lands on the floor. I pick it up, smooth it out, and read.
'Nice sweats, newbie.' It reads in scrawled pen.
My shoulders slump and I can't concentrate on the lesson. The Usul is giggling.
Someone help me.
When the bell finally rings, it's lunch time, but I didn't bring a lunch. I'm not hungry anyway. Embarrassment and loneliness eats away at my stomach. I sit at a table alone, isolated from my cruel classmates.
They're laughing up a storm, taking quick glances at me and laughing even harder. The Kiko is the only one not laughing. She is turned to me and gazing at me with sadness in her big eyes. I look down at my feet. The Kiko rises. Everyone stops laughing, now staring puzzled at her. She approaches me, wringing her hands.
"Don't let them get to you," she says. "They're just mean. Do you mind if I sit here?"
I nod, mouth slightly agape.
She takes the seat across from me. "I'm Manara, nice to meet you!"
I am too stunned to say anything. It is such a rare occurrence that someone deliberately speaks to me that I am at a loss for words.
Pull yourself together!
"N-nice to meet you, Manara..." I can't help but stammer. Her warm smile comforts me slightly.
"So you're Sayre? What a pretty name." She smiles even wider. "You seem nice. Do you want to be friends?"
Never in my life has someone asked me if I wanted to be friends with them. I like to think I have a mysterious air about me that repels others. It's the only rational explanation I can possibly conjure up.
Her voice brings me back to Neopia.
"I said do you want to be friends? It's okay if not, I understand-"
"Yes!" I blurt out. The conviction of my own voice frightens me. The other Neopets are still staring.
Her eyes widen. "Great! I'm sure we'll be wonderful friends."
The bell rings. As we proceed to our next class, a dreadful thought enters my mind.
"Aren't you afraid your friends won't talk to you because of me?" I say meekly.
She lifts and eyebrow. "If they're really my friends, they won't care." She shrugs.
For once, once in my fourteen years on Neopia, I finally have a friend. Someone I can lean on. Someone who cares. Someone who won't abandon me. I always thought friendship was unneeded and pointless. I thought those dark thoughts because I had never experienced the true joy of friendship. I have a friend.
"Thank you," I whisper under my breath as hot tears wet my eyes.
She turns to me. "Huh?"
"Oh, nothing," I say and my face is magically dry. "Come on, we'll be late," I say, sprinting to Room 123 as Manara follows close behind.