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What's in a Name?


by madidogs88

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I held tight to Candy's wing as we approached the metal entrance. She trembled slightly but kept her chin up, a determined gleam in her eyes.

     This week had been tough. Stat decreases and back-to-back gender changes had taken their toll on Candy, leaving her weak and disoriented. I wouldn't blame her if she never wanted to come back, wanted to just wait while I saved up for a paint brush or a morphing potion. But she refused to lose hope. She was determined to visit the lab every day until she was satisfied with her appearance. Candy was brave; that I couldn't deny.

     The Lab Ray Scientist, an aging and maniacal Scorchio, grinned madly when we entered. He beckoned to Candy and she stepped forward onto the platform. Above her loomed the Ray: silent, powerful, menacing. Candy stood straight and tall, the only weakness visible in the quivering of her long, knobby legs. I offered her the most reassuring smile I could muster, though to be honest I was just as terrified. Everything about the lab gave me the chills, from the deranged look of the Scientist to the scorch marks on the platform. But I didn't let my fear show. No, I would be brave, for Candy.

     "Hee hee hee!" the Scientist cackled, pulling the big red lever with disturbing enthusiasm. I shielded my eyes as the blinding light shot out of the ray, engulfing Candy. I blinked rapidly as the light dimmed.

     At first I thought my eyes must have been playing tricks on me. I blinked again. And again. And again. After countless blinks, I knew I was not mistaken.

     Candy was an Eventide Lenny.

     We both came to this realization at the same time. Squealing, Candy flung herself into my arms. I laughed gleefully, swinging her around. This was more than I had ever hoped for, more than I had dreamed of. Eventide was such a new color; practically no pet was painted as such. Wonderful parents would come running to adopt my little foster girl now, I just knew it! Candy was finally going to find her forever home!

     We wasted no time in travelling to the Neoboards, a huge building where Neopians could visit to chat, discuss events, or advertise. Candy and I headed straight for the Pound Chat room, or PC for short. The attendant, dressed in a Dr. Death costume, told us our booth number and handed me a blank poster to write our booth title on. I thanked the attendant and the two of us entered the room.

     As usual, the place was packed. Owners and their pets pushed through the crowd or stood by their booths, shouting to make themselves heard over the din. Fragments of advertisements reached my ears.

     "Well-named Werelupe up for trade! Looking at-"

     "Seeking UCs, offering-"

     "-for my Draik!"

     "-pounding this pet if-"

     Candy inched closer to me, glancing around her nervously. We had been to the PC together a handful of times, but the ruthless advertising never ceased to intimidate her. Truthfully, it still frightened me at times, and I'd spent a good deal of time maneuvering from booth to booth, as well as running my own.

     I leaned over to Candy and offered, "If you want, we could go home and come back again later, maybe at a less busy time."

     "No." Candy shook her head. "I want to do this now. My new family could be out there, and I don't want to miss finding them because I'm a little scared of the crowd. I can do this."

     I nodded, proud of my brave girl. I took hold of her wing so that we wouldn't get separated, then we pushed into the crowd.

     Our booth was right in the middle of the large room, surrounded on all sides. I groaned inwardly. Hardly any potential owners dared to venture this far into the PC. Only hard-core traders and desperate Beauty Contest entrants frequented here. But maybe a few potentials would build up the nerve to visit us, once word spread of an Eventide Lenny up for adoption.

     I wrote our title in big, clear letters: Eventide Lenny UFA!! {I vote! I critique!}

     The last two parts were to reel in those who might help me advertise in exchange for a beauty contest vote or an application critique. And who knew, some of them may even decide to apply for Candy. Satisfied with the banner, I hung it up securely and settled down with Candy to wait.

     Our first visitor arrived almost immediately. Candy perked up hopefully.

     "Hi, spare a vote for an underappreciated Kougra?" The words spilled out of the girl's mouth without thought, for they had no doubt been repeated hundreds of times. Before I could say anything, she thrust a clipboard with a portrait of a Grey Kougra at me, offering a pen.

     Sighing, I signed my name on the line, even though the picture was rather poorly drawn. If I wanted to get any attention at my booth, I had to take whatever I could get.

     The girl chirped a quick thank you, then disappeared into the crowd, calling, "Eventide Lenny up for adoption at booth number 88!"

     I shook my head. She hadn't even acknowledged Candy. I noticed my girl with her head bowed and quickly comforted her.

     "Don't worry, Candy, they won't all be like that," I reassured her, gently stroking the feathers on her head. She offered me a small smile.

     The next fifteen minutes were much the same. BC advertisers arrived with their spam and left once I'd signed my vote. Most were better than the first girl, wishing me good luck or complimenting Candy's new look. But none showed any true interest in applying.

     Finally, a boy meandered up to our booth without the clipboard that signified a BC entrant. His eyes lit up when he spotted Candy.

     "Hello, my name is Maddie. May I help you?" I greeted, feeling hope rise in my chest.

     "Your Lenny, she's gorgeous! I'd love to adopt her!" He smiled at the two of us. Then he asked Candy, "What's your name?"

     "Candy," she told him eagerly.

     "That's your full name?" he asked, doubt tingeing his voice.

     "Er, no," Candy admitted. "My given name is candy__cane_08, but everybody just calls me Candy."

     The boy's face fell when he heard the underscores and numbers. He mumbled a "never mind" and fled the booth faster than a racing Alabriss.

     Candy just stared after him, shocked. All interest had been lost because she wasn't "well-named" by PC terms. I had suspected we would have a few of these occurrences, but it still hurt nonetheless.

     The session went on, bringing more BC entrants, a few applicants seeking critiques, and most disappointingly, more potential owners who left upon hearing Candy's full name. With each one of these rejections, the hope and courage that had once filled Candy drained out, leaving her on the brink of tears. Those tears came after one particularly cruel rejection.

     "What's her name?" the girl had asked me, gazing in admiration at Candy's midnight blue and blazing orange feathers.

     "Candy__cane_08," I had replied, mentally crossing my fingers.

     "Oh, I see. Well, perhaps if she had a better name I would've applied. Oh well!" the girl giggled airily, as if this was all a big joke. She floated off, still laughing over Candy's name.

     I turned away, disgusted, to find that Candy had disappeared. Worried, I looked around the area, finally spotting her sitting in a corner between two booths. Her head was buried in her wings, and I knew she had finally reached her limit.

     Abandoning our booth, I walked over and kneeled down in front of her. She looked up, her beautiful face stained with tears.

     "Why do they hate me?" she blurted out, the hurt clear in her voice.

     "Oh, sweetheart, they don't hate you," I soothed, taking her into my arms. She cried into my shoulder, and my heart nearly broke.

     "Then why doesn't anyone want to adopt me?" she sobbed. "Why do they only care about my name?"

     I paused, knowing that the words I had to say must be said just right.

     "They just don't see what you and I do," I finally said. Candy pulled back from my hug to look up at me.

     "What do you mean?" she asked, her eyes still glistening with tears.

     I cupped Candy's head in my ands and replied, "They allow themselves to be blinded by your name, and in doing so, they don't ever get the chance to see your beauty, your confidence, your way of making every day a little brighter just by smiling..." I trailed off, though I could've gone on for hours. Candy just barely smiled, and I continued enthusiastically, "See! My day is better already."

     Now Candy giggled, a wonderful sound that penetrated the clamor of the PC.

     "Is that really true?" she asked, her hope beginning to return.

     "Yes," I replied confidently. "And you know what? I feel bad for all those people."

     "What? Why?" she asked, confused.

     "Because, in their blindness, they won't ever know what an amazing pet you are. But it's their loss, right?"

     "Right," Candy agreed, grinning.

     "Then are you ready to go back out there and find your forever home?" I asked. Candy nodded.

     Smiling, I stood up and offered my hand. Candy took it and I helped her to her feet. Together, we walked back to our booth with high spirits. Even though there were bound to be more shallow rejections, we both knew that they mattered not. Instead we focused on the hope that somewhere out there, the perfect family was waiting to find us so that Candy could finally go home.

The End

Based on a true story! Candy is still looking for her forever home. A link to the details can be found on my lookup. :)

 
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