Effistella the Perfect
I was born on the streets of Neopia Central. For the first few years of my life, I stole what food I needed, starved more often than not, and did what I could to avoid the pound. No one looked twice at me, a hungry, dirty Usul with small eyes and a skill for hiding.
I was never named, never having had an owner, but developed a moniker after a few months of being shouted at by shopkeepers desperate to stop me from thieving. "Off!" they'd yell at me. In my uneducated and infantile state, I assumed that it was my name. When asked, by Chia police suspicious of my loitering or other street rats, I said I was called Off or Eff. Eff sounded more feminine, more civilized, so I used it more often.
So I subsisted. I'm not sure how I came into being- my guess is that my original owner created me and then abandoned me. Either way, I was alone.
One day, it was raining especially hard and I had just been thrown out of Pizzaroo. I had been trying to convince the shop owner that since it was unlikely anyone would want to buy his slice of revolting looking yam-lime pizza, he might as well just give it to me. My attempt failed and I was kicked out.
I wandered around for a while. Other, well-fed neopets walked under umbrellas with their owners, smiling and laughing. I sulked underneath the awning of the Second-Hand Shoppe. I felt more at home there. The owners and pets who frequented this store looked a little hungrier and their clothes were thread-bare.
Still, it was raining and no one wanted to go shopping. I watched a blonde boy and his three identical Ixis leave with a bag of dung. I wondered why they had gone shopping only to pick that up. I wondered if they were as desperate as I was.
A few moments passed before the next customer came. It was an owner, without a pet. She was tall, with long dark hair and round glasses. She didn't have an umbrella and her black dress was soaked through. Through the window, I watched her look around for a while. She inspected every mossy rock and smug bug spray as if she were making an important purchase, not picking up richer people's junk. She left empty-handed.
As she was leaving, her eye reached mine. She stopped and turned to me.
"Where's your owner?" the girl asked. I wasn't sure how to answer. What if she took me to the pound? I'd met more than one well-meaning human who thought they were doing me a service by trying to drag me in. I always managed to escape, though.
"I don't have one," I said, heart-pounding. I liked the look of this girl and against my better judgment, told the truth. The girl's blue eyes softened. She suddenly looked very cold and alone.
"I don't have any pets yet. I've just moved here. I have a house in the central... Would you like to stay with me?" she asked.
I wasn't sure what to say. I had been raised to steal and shy away from favors, so the idea of going home with a strange human terrified me, no matter how much I found myself liking her. Still, I hadn't eaten in a day and was soaked to the bone.
Just go with her. If she's crazy, you can run. You always do, I thought.
I nodded. The girl laughed a little and motioned for me to follow her. Shaking from fear, I did. We walked away from the shops to the back corner of Neopia Central until we arrived at a small house. While the neighbors sported colorful gardens, dirt and some nasty looking rocks enveloped this house.
I felt more at home knowing the girl wasn't rich and followed her inside.
The interior wasn't furnished at all. There was a rug, a small bed, and a basket filled with old issues of the Neopian Times. The girl fell miserably onto the rug and lay there for a moment, dripping rain water onto the floor.
She cracked open and eye, saw me, and smiled.
"I 'pose I owe you an explanation. I'm Dorothea-Sansa. I just moved here. I have next to nothing but I want a pet to care for. I'm going to be rich one day, mark my words. If you stay with me, things will be rough for a while and then! Watch, in a few weeks, you'll be eating jelly every night and going to concerts and I will paint you whatever your little Usul heart desires."
I was taken aback. It was quite a speech from such a thin, wavering sort of person. I had a million and one doubts, but I was hungry and wanted more than anything to eat anything, crawl into a corner of this blessedly warm house, and sleep. I had reached rock bottom.
"Do you have a name?" Dorothea-Sansa asked.
"They call me Eff," I said. Dorothea-Sansa scoffed.
"Who is 'they?'" She asked.
"People. I never had an owner to name me," I said. I felt my eyes welling up with tears. It was all very overwhelming. I tried to suck them up, determined that she wouldn't notice.
"Eff isn't a real name. It's a nickname. I'll give you a real name like... like..." Dorothea-Sansa closed her eyes as if asleep. A few seconds later she smiled.
"Your full name will be Effistella. It's perfectly beautiful, which is fitting, because you're rather perfect yourself."
That night Dorothea-Sansa, who requested I call her Dodo to save "precious seconds," as she said, ordered me Pizzaroo. She may have been poor, but she wasn't destitute, as I realized when she handed me a steaming slice of megapepper pizza. She handed the delivery Lupe real neopoints and tipped him too. I felt rich.
I fell asleep on the rug soon after but Dodo stayed up late into the night, reading and rereading old issues of the Neopian Times.
When I woke up, there was a Tigersquash swirly cake waiting for me. I downed it hungrily.
"Well, Effistella," said Dodo as soon as I'd finished eating. She was wearing a different black dress and her dark hair was pulled back into a pony-tail. "The first order of business is to get furniture. My back can't take many more nights of sleeping on the floor."
I nodded. Simply living indoors was a luxury to me. A bed was too much to imagine.
"As my pet," Dodo continued, "You will get the best of everything. I suggest you take a walk through town today. Look inside the shops and pick out what you like. One day, it will be yours." She seemed so confident that I felt confident.
"Are you good at games?" I asked. I knew that owners played games, which were the major source of income for most families.
Dodo laughed. "Oh no. I'm awful and I don't plan on improving. I'm going to earn my fortune by writing."
I didn't want to show how disappointed I was. I had many street rat friends whose owners had tried to live on writing, only to lose everything. I knew that even in the best of times, a writer could only hope to pull in a few thousand a week. Still, it was an occupation and it provided my dinner and breakfast.
"Will you be working today?" I asked.
"I work every day. Why don't you walk around, Effistella, and pick out what you'd like when we're rich?" Dodo said.
I was so unsure of how to handle such a proposition that I walked right back to the Second-Hand Shoppe. A paintbrush had been donated and a mob was trying to grab it. I supposed that that period of my life, grabbing and stealing, was over. It felt sad. I had an owner. I had a name.
I walked past the Rainbow Pool where an ecstatic Uni was being painted Zombie while his proud owner watched. The crowd cheered at the transformation. Feeling depressed, I walked to the General Store.
A well-known secret amongst homeless pets was that the owner of the General Store, a kindly Kacheek, was fond of those in need and would sometimes give out free food. Sure enough, I left with a carton of Kau Kau milk. I downed it quickly.
Hanging around the back of the store were some of my tougher friends. Vent, an angry looking blue Mynci and Fly, a dangerously thin Xweetok, were sharing a piece of omelet they had found on the side of the road.
I waved in greeting.
"Where were you last night?" Fly asked. "We was all scared you'd be taken."
"I was," I said softly. Vent's eyes bugged out of his head.
"Was you okay?" he asked. For all his furious bravado, Vent was a good guy.
I shrugged. "I found an owner."
Fly dropped her handful of omelet.
"NO," she whispered, horrified.
"Yes," I said.
"Who?" asked Vent.
"Dorothea-Sansa," I replied. "She's a nice girl."
I walked away while they stared.
I returned home feeling tired and miserable. I wasn't sure I was ready for my life to change so drastically. Being homeless was awful, but it was comfortable and I didn't know what waited in store for me with Dodo.
I opened the door, prepared to sleep for the next twenty hours when a soft mewing startled me. Dodo was standing inside, holding a squealing Angelpuss out.
"For you!" she said. I stared, shocked. Looking around I could tell the house was on its way to being furnished. A blue bed was set up in the corner with a chair next to it. A banana honey gormball sandwich lay on the floor for me to eat.
"I named her Elinor, which is a perfectly beautiful name. I thought you needed something to keep you company while I scrounge up the money to send you to school," Dodo blathered on, unaware of my shock.
I smiled. It was perfect.