Never Finish Last: Part Six
Art by renzyboy
Fenny sinks her elbows down on the lavatory. She scoops up the water running from the tap and splashes it to her face. Like Tressif from the apartment doldrums and Gunnels back at the locker room, Fenny copes with the player switch of Roo Island and Brightvale with an empty frustration. Gordo was always there for her, even after the final buzzer. Now, he simply wouldn't. He would be sitting on a different bench on a different locker room mingling with different players on a different team. He is on a different land now, and there is nothing she can do but see him on the opposite side of the field. I guess it takes some time for it to sink in, doesn't it? Fenny asks herself.
She reaches for a clean towel on the restroom counter and pats herself dry. When she lowers her towel, she gets startled by her own reflection. Having realized that it was only just her reflection, she takes a little chuckle in the bathroom. Surprise! I'm ugly!
Fenny starts to think: Things have been so hard on herself, so why was she hard on herself? She takes a deep breath and thinks about what she is going to do when she exits the restroom. The team's outside, and Tressif—ooh, Tressif. Sigh.
She lets her hand float over the door handle, hesitates, but eventually pulls the knob. She goes through the door, turns the divider—and lo and behold: save for one plate a clean table, Squeaky on a chair, and the rest of the team standing behind him, holding small white cups. On the table lies a jade green porcelain dish with a circle of white fluffy spheres, garnished with a cherry blossom.
Embarrassed from her teary Hissi fit, she wraps her hands around the cuffs of her hoodie and approaches the table with her head down in humility. The group signals her towards the chair opposite Squeaky, so she settles on it. Before she could say a word, Tressif keeps his expression mild and sincere, pushes the plate towards her and proceeds to speak.
"Fenny, I am very, very sorry if—or rather—that I offended you. I'm sorry that I made you cry. I did not intend to upset you, it's just—it's my first day. Back in Brightvale, even if I was the captain of it for six years I still couldn't master what it's like to be on a team. I upset a lot of people and possibly burned a few bridges for the sake of my ego. What I'm trying to say is that whatever happened on my team in Brightvale I hope that wouldn't happen here. I wanted to pull a good first impression from everyone. I guess that isn't much of the case now, so here's some Shenkuuvian dessert as a peace offering."
Right then and there, on her seat, Fenny melts. She cracks a tiny smile from her tiny mouth and her eyes soften. She looks at the people behind the Lupe, the newest member, wearing hopeful faces and encouraging auras that can ease any troubled heart.
"Thank you, Tressif, for the gesture, and for the dinner as a token of your gratitude." She nods her head in modesty. "Guys," she opens up, "I too am sorry for all the trouble I've caused. I think I've been unfair to you, Tressif. Just understand that I am having a hard time coping without Gordo, but I know that he's probably enjoying himself wishing us the best. I'll be alright, eventually, so don't you guys worry. Welcome to the team, 'Squeaky'."
The whole team lifts their porcelain cups and gives a big Roo Island holler. They cheer and sip their bamboo tea. Fenny gestures them to take their seats, then asks:
"What exactly is this sort of food?" She picks up a ball and squeezes it.
"Well," Tressif explains, "it's traditional mochi. Mo-chi? Moe-tsee? Maw-chee." He asks the guys and gals around the table if he pronounced it right. They nod sheepishly. "Anyways, it's some sort of sweet rice paste ball."
Fenny loosens up her rigid muscles. "This is the most expensive dessert on the menu... How'd you—"
"I figured, 'Go hard, or go home.' I guess I didn't want to go home—not just yet—so, uh, why not?"
Fenny smirks. "I meant, how did you know I was a sweet tooth?" All the other members raise their hands, and they all share a laugh.
"'Squeaky'," Fenny says after clutching a rice ball, "I accept your apology." She tosses it in her mouth, drifts off for a split second then passes the dish around the table. Everybody grabs a piece and indulges. Mmmm.
"Gordo would love some of this," Fenny tells Squeaky. "I hope you get used to this—ALL of this." Squeaky looks at the Neopets around him; all of them, who used to be competition, are now his teammates. A new family. He squeezes his mochi, a sweet, chewy dessert, and then looks at the sweet morsel in between his fingertips.
A bright beam of sunlight spreads itself on the stone walls and the tapestry of a modest castle room, and a breeze furls the curtains of its wide window. Today is a new day, and a Blue Grarrl rises from his comfortable bed, a behemoth of a bed that can chew up tinier beds, but prefers not to. The Grarrl stretches his big, burly arms to rid the knots that tied themselves while he was asleep. His light blue miniscule nightcap returns to the crevices of the Grarrl's soft blanket as he flexes the last kinks. He feels cozy inside the gigantic bed, and he feels even cozier inside the rocky capsule he calls his room. Things back at home were much, much smaller than what they have accommodating him here, so even the littlest things such as stretching without bumping a chandelier or offending one's mother give the Grarrl a little flame that flickers inside him. He looks at the uniform—a new uniform—hanging neatly on the armoire standing opposite the large bed. He lands his massive feet on the cool slate that composes the room's floor, and takes a yawn as large as he is.
He holds the uniform up around his large body. Hmm, gold and green do look good on blue, he says to himself. He feels super. Everything is new, but at the same time, it's fresh, it's special, and right now, it's happening to him.
The one thing so far that bothers him while he is staying is the weather. It's hot and happening back at home; while here it's a bit chillier and a bit breezier than what he preferred. It's still happening here, though—it's just more on reading and writing than fun and games; an enriching yet dull exchange from what he's used to. But he's content for the time being and that's what matters.
From the window a loud flapping gets closer and closer. The Grarrl scoops himself up and ties his robe together. A shadow lurks from the ray of sunshine from the window, and a Weewoo perches on the windowsill, a large package in hand—or rather, in beak. The Grarrl pinches some stale bread from a dish on his night stand, feeds the Weewoo and clutches the package. He shakes it playfully; the contents a slight gooiness from what he's deciphering. He slides his claw over the box and a Neomail envelope falls out. He swipes it with his long tail and catches it in his hand. He opens the letter, and it reads:
Dear Gordo Gunnels,
Welcome to Brightvale! I hope you are settled well in the castle. Sometimes it gets a bit cold, so take an extra blanket. Look, I know things between us aren't exactly okay, but I want you to know that the guys and gals here are doing fine. Fenny misses you very much.
I hope you take care of my buds over there; they play a mean set of ball. And since you are the newest addition to Team Brightvale, as their previous captain and the receiving end to many of their practical jokes: you do NOT want to be the Whinny in any situation. Especially since they are a tricky batch to be with. Keep on your toes, play hard, and always be yourself. Those teammates of yours may be nice, but they can and will play dirty. (Don't tell them I said this.)
Here's a little treasure from home! Clutch tells me this is your favorite.
Signed, "Squeaky" Tressif
Inside the brown paper packaging is a plastic wrapped ball. The Grarrl twists the ends like a tiny piece of candy, and the ball unwraps itself. The Grarrl sways his big head in disbelief, smiling. Inside is a Gummy Yooyu, unblemished, shiny, and all his. He gives it a good squeeze, licks his sharp teeth, then steals a teeny bite and chews the candy, contented.