Overboard: Part Six
The following morning, Xepen and Maya had to get up at 6:30 to help Aspen open up the store. Aspen taught the two young pets what to do that morning. They had to sweep the floors with a broom every morning and every night before closing- which Xepen thought was pointless seeing as the floor was made of hardened dirt- but she didn't protest. They were responsible for keeping the jewelry displays free of dust, as well as keeping an extra eye open for thieves. Aspen handled most of the actual sales, but Maya and Xepen would recount the neopoint drawer at the end of the day and record the day's profits.
It was a dull and unexciting job; there was hardly anything for the two girls to do most afternoons, so Aspen let them take a break during noon, when they would explore the city of Sakhmet.
"When I get back home, I think I'm going to ask Karina to buy me a petpet," Xepen said as she played with a small, energetic Anubis.
"You don't already have one?" Maya asked.
"No, I never thought I would like looking after one. It seemed like a lot of work." She shrugged.
"I guess that was before you ever had any responsibilities, right?" she replied.
"Yeah," Xepen agreed.
"We should probably head back to Aspen's Handmade Jewelry," Maya added, glancing at a clock on the wall.
"Good idea," Xepen agreed, setting down the little Anubis and following the Ixi out of the Petpet Stall.
As they passed a small building, Xepen stopped.
"I'll meet you at work actually, Maya. I have to grab some neopoints for food tonight. No use in making two trips when we're both tired tonight." she said.
The two had managed to rent a small apartment earlier that week with their combined incomes from their job at Aspen's Handmade Jewelry. It wasn't the nicest or cleanest place to live; it contained only a single bedroom, bathroom, and a tiny kitchen. It was made of crumbling sandstone, too, but it was shelter, and that was all they could ask for.
Xepen withdrew a handful of coins from the bank- barely 300- a number that used to be nothing to her, but now was highly precious. Stuffing the neopoints into her pocket, she quickly made her way back outside into the stifling heat of the Lost Desert.
As the small young Wocky briskly walked down the sand path to her low-paying job, she felt the sapphire necklace bounce against her chest, and her mind wandered to what Karina was doing at that moment.
Does she miss me? Is she looking for me? How worried is she? Unfortunately Xepen's questions remained unanswered as she entered through the tent of Aspen's Handmade Jewelry and began organizing some new bracelets and earrings Aspen had just finished painting.
* * *
Karina let out a weary sigh as she sat back in the recliner and closed her eyes. Beside her, a fire roared in a brick fireplace. The lights in the large living room were dimmed, and outside a cold, heavy rain pattered against the window. The human had attempted reading a book to pass the time, but she found she just could not focus on it.
Her mind was on her missing neopet, as it had been constantly since the incident. It had almost been two months since her Wocky had disappeared, and there was still no trace of her. Karina had hired the most expensive rescue forces neopoints could pay for, and they were all over Neopia searching for Xepen. When the Wocky hadn't been located on or around Mystery Island, Karina had even sent aquatic neopets to search the depths of the oceans to find Xepen, just in case the inevitable had happened.
Many of the girl's neofriends had advised her to give up; they said that if Xepen had survived the storm that they would have found her by now, or she would have come home. Karina knew better than to listen to them. Xepen must be out there somewhere, Karina knew. She was probably scared and miserable, perhaps staying with a poorer family until Karina came to bring her home.
Karina opened her dull eyes to stare out the window at the violent rain. It had become so quiet in the large mansion without her beloved neopet to bring life to it, and Karina had recently found herself spending her tedious days simply passing the time by, waiting to hear something from the rescue teams. Until then, she would simply have to watch the sun rise and fall, every day until every square inch of Neopia had been searched.
* * *
Months passed. Xepen and Maya worked every day, even weekends, just to make enough neopoints to feed themselves and pay for their rundown apartment. They hardly made 5,000 neopoints a week, and the rent cost 1,200 neopoints monthly. The two were sure they were being ripped off but there was no other place they could afford. Not to mention food, water, and basic hygiene; which only continued to drain them of the rest of their neopoints, leaving them with little to nothing to save.
Aspen was very kind, often buying them lunch on days the shop had lots of customers, but it was still barely enough. Xepen couldn't even afford to pay to send a neomail, and since the apartment she lived in didn't have access to a complimentary neomail system, she could not even contact her owner.
After a while the two girls managed to have a steady neopoint process going. Xepen was good at calculating how much they would have at the end of each month after their expenses and payment, and she did her best not to touch the slowly growing pile of neopoints kept under her bed that she at first had hoped would eventually be enough to buy a boat ticket to Faerieland, but now seemed like it would be lucky to even pay to neomail Karina.
"Don't touch it," Maya said without taking her eyes away from the book she'd found earlier that day as Xepen reached out to try and grab a few coins to buy some food.
"But I'm so hungry! One sand pear is not enough for dinner!" Xepen protested.
"I know, but it's enough to keep you strong. You'll get home one day, but only if you keep up with the saving. It's been four months and you can't even neomail your owner. It's only going to take longer if you start spending now," Maya explained.
Xepen was silent for a moment. It had been a long time, and she was still nowhere close to getting back home. She was beginning to wonder if she would ever see Karina again at this point; it had been nearly half a year since they had last seen each other. In the back of her mind, Xepen wondered if Karina had given up on her. What if she thought Xepen was never coming back? Maybe she thought Xepen had died in the storm, and adopted another pet to fill the void...
Xepen shook the thought from her head. Karina would never replace her... would she? Xepen suddenly realized her paw was clenched tightly around her necklace, a habit she had formed whenever her owner was on her mind.
Xepen opened her fist and stared down at the sapphire resting in her palm, deep in thought. The night Karina had given this to her, she had said it was worth more than ten million neopoints. With ten million neopoints, Xepen could easily afford a ticket- first class, even- to go home immediately and Maya could even go with her! Maybe Karina would let her stay with them...
But then another thought hit her. This was all she had left of Karina, of her former life. Although she was desperate to go home, what if Karina had truly given up on her? If Xepen sold the necklace, and went home to find Karina no longer wanted her, sure, she'd be rich again, but she wouldn't have anything to remember Karina by. The necklace's worth went beyond money, and Xepen could picture Karina's disappointed face at Xepen's choice to sell a gift. Although Karina always bought her plenty of things, they were always special, and had meaning attached to them. Everything Karina had bought Xepen was meant to be treated as a gift, and Xepen wasn't sure she could bear to part with it, especially since it was all she had left.
But some things are more important, such as her and Maya's health. This lifestyle wasn't healthy, either. Xepen had grown very thin in the past several months- thinner than she was before, at least- and even Maya was weaker than when she'd lived on the pirate ship. Finally deciding that even if Karina didn't end up wanting Xepen anymore, as unlikely as it was, Xepen decided they still would need the money if they wanted to make it.
"Maya..." Xepen began quietly.
"I have a solution to our money problem, a permanent one," Xepen replied solemnly.
At this, Maya looked at the Wocky and sat up.
"You're being serious? What is it?" she asked.
Xepen held up the necklace for Maya to see.
"I know I should have thought of this before, but I kind of forgot how much it's worth, neopoint-wise. If we sold it, we could get up to ten million, possibly more. It would solve everything!" Xepen explained, though she didn't smile.
Maya's eyes widened. Her lips curved into a small smile, before vanishing at the expression on her friend's face.
"Your owner gave you that... right?" Maya responded, choosing her words carefully, as something seemed to be wrong with her friend.
"Yes, she did..." Xepen replied, sadness in her voice. "But we need the money."
Maya blinked, unsure of what to say.
"You don't look like you really want to let it go," she stated.
Xepen shook her head, attempting to act more upbeat.
"Well, it's all I have left of Karina now. If I sell it and go back, I'll lose it, but I'll see her again, and I'll have the other things she gave me that are still at home. It's just that this was a gift, and Karina always made it seem like it was wrong to ever get rid of a gift," Xepen explained.
She was silent for a moment, before continuing.
"We need the neopoints, though, more than I need to feel like she's still close to me. I'm sure there are plenty of rich Neopians here that would buy this, and I could go home immediately. It would solve everything," Xepen said, finally forming a true smile.
Maya still seemed reluctant.
"Are you sure, Xepen? I don't think we need the neopoints that badly, we can wait. I don't want you to get rid of your most prized possession just to rush home," Maya said.
Xepen let out a defeated sigh.
"I think it's our last hope, Maya. It could take months before I can even consider trying to contact Karina."
Maya still seemed unsure.
"You told me once that everything would work out in the end, but how can things just work themselves out perfectly unless we put in the effort?" Xepen demanded.
"It's a quote I heard once, and I used to live by it, because it was the only thing to keep me going. When all is said and done, you look back and realize that every end to a part of your life can be looked back on with ease, knowing it had closure, and things were not so bad once it was all over. You don't have to believe it, but I believe that one day you'll look back on these days- no matter how difficult they are- and know that everything turned out alright."
Xepen hesitated before responding, taking in what her friend had said.
"If I don't do something now, then I may never get to look back on these days, because I'll still be here, and it'll still be happening," she said after a moment.
"Do what you think is best, then," Maya answered, giving up.
Xepen managed a nod before crawling onto her bed on the opposite side of the room. She tried not to show her devastation at having to give up her only treasure in this world, but Maya could see it despite the Wocky's efforts, and she knew that she had to do something before Xepen made a choice she'd regret.
To be continued...