Winter Borovan Bonding
Tiny flurries of snow fell gently around the quaint neighborhood, blanketing the roof and the various lawn decorations. All was quiet outside; every Neopet was indoors warming up either alone or with friends. Almost everyone had a cup of borovan in their paws and was bundled up in warm clothing.
Everyone, except for a lone yellow Moehog at the end of the street. He was sitting against the streetlight, arms crossed to keep himself warm, but all he had was a single scarf wrapped around his neck. He had been sitting there for hours; a blanket of snow had settled on his two tusks. Every now and then the Moehog would shake his tusks to remove the increasing weight of snow, but again the snow would begin to collect. His warm breath billowed out in a sigh.
So far, every Neopet had ignored him. He had no Neohome to go to, no friends to hang out with, and no warm cup of borovan. Neopets both young and old had passed him to go to the party at the Neohome across the street, which belonged to somewhat-rich Neopian family of three. Young children walking by with their parents would stare at the Moehog, but they were quickly pulled away by their parents.
He wanted so desperately to join the other Neopets at the party—those walking by were either headed to the home across the street or headed to their another party at the other end of the neighborhood. He knew he could walk across the street and join the party since it was sort of an open invitation to the locals, but he decided against it. He could not bear to see the disapproving glares of the other Neopets. He felt more at place under the streetlight and in the snow where he was ignored. Besides, they had probably run out of borovan anyway.
Warm, yellow light shone through the windows of the Neohome, casting geometrical shapes on the snow. Chatter provided constant noise and gentle laughter resounded through the halls. Neopets of all species gathered around the living room and dining room, snacking on warm slices of pizza and conversing around the large, blazing fireplace. Above the fireplace hung several green and red stockings whose tops were brimming with stocking stuffers and goodies. The smell of freshly brewed borovan was so strong that even the isolated Moehog outside caught its scent.
In the home, the host of the party, a young male skunk Kyrii, spoke with a group of other Neopets. The Neopets shared stories and engaged in light gossip and banter, while the Kyrii told witty jokes and entertained the guests. Every so often, he would joke with a spotted Lupe, who took the joking quite easily and even matched the Kyrii's jokes with his own teasing.
"And that's how Ryder made a fool of himself at the Halloween party two years ago." The skunk Kyrii laughed and threw an arm around the Lupe. "Even Edna the Witch was laughing at him from her tower!"
The spotted Lupe sighed, but shook his head and laughed off his embarrassment. "That was two years ago, Shaun! Will you let that go?"
"Alright, alright. Only because it's time to open the presents, brother." Shaun chuckled and made his way to the large fir tree, where presents and gifts of all shapes, sizes, and colours were stacked at the bottom. "Give me a hand, will you, Ryder?" Shaun called behind his back to his brother.
Ryder had been busy staring out the window across the street at the Moehog, but he quickly snapped out it and turned to help with the gifts. The Lupe helped check the name tags on the presents and handed them out to the proper recipients. "Emily? This one's got your name on it," he called, and a Red Cybunny hopped over and took it with a smile.
"Rufus, Erik, Carrie, Tammy, these are yours," Shaun said, walking around the room carefully and skillfully balancing presents. More names were called, and more presents were handed out. Within minutes, all of the guests were either sitting on the wide sofa or sitting on the floor opening their presents.
"Here, Shaun. This one's from me." Ryder handed a small, green box to his brother with a smile.
"Aww, my little brother actually cares! Haha, I'm only kidding. Thanks, Ry." Shaun took the present and hugged his brother. The Kyrii bent over and picked up a somewhat larger box and handed it to Ryder. "This is for you. Hope you like it."
Ryder opened the present up and pulled out its contents: an expensive looking orange scarf, a large, thick brown overcoat, and a hooded tan cape. "Wow," Ryder said in astonishment. "How did you know?" A smile quickly illuminated his face, but he couldn't help but think about the yellow Moehog who was probably freezing outside and didn't have a present. He pushed it out of his mind and hugged his brother. "Open yours!"
"You don't have to tell me twice!" Shaun pulled the ribbon at the top of his present and took the lid off, placing it where it fit underneath the box. He rustled in the wrapping tissue and pulled out a sturdy gold-coloured ceramic mug. Shaun smirked and noticed that there was more inside of the mug. He stuck his paw into the cup, and in his paw returned several items—a golden pocket watch; two spoons, one of which was intricately designed with gears and cogs, the other had the images of the Defenders of Neopia on it; and several peppermint sticks. Shaun's eyes glistened in fascination—something that seemed rare in the skunk Kyrii.
"The watch is Moltaran," started Ryder, wrapping his new scarf around his neck, "and same with the gear spoon. The Defenders of Neopia spoon is a collectible. The peppermint sticks were homemade with the help of our friends here. The mug," Ryder paused with a grin, "Well, actually, I bought the mug from one of the shops nearby, but it went well with the watch and spoon." He crossed his arms and beamed at his brother; he was obviously pleased with the gifts he had given his older brother.
Shaun responded by pulling Ryder into a large Bearog-hug. "Thanks, Ry." They laughed and joked and joined the others who were also marveling over their gifts. "Now, who's ready for some more freshly-brewed, piping hot borovan? I want to use the awesome gifts Ryder gave me!"
Everyone responded by cheering joyously and leaping up from their spots to grab their mugs. While Shaun and the others were busy pining after the borovan, Ryder slipped out the front door and walked across the street. The Moehog hadn't even noticed the Lupe dash across the street and walk towards him.
"Hey." Ryder smiled at the Moehog. "You must be cold. Here," He crouched down and handed the brown overcoat to the stranger gently. The Moehog stared in disbelief and started shaking his head. The snow fell from his tusks furiously; he was astonished by the kindness of someone whom he had never met before.
Back inside the house, Shaun was pouring hot borovan into the other guests' mugs. "I think that's everyone," he said, putting down the giant pitcher on the counter. He was just about to fetch his new golden mug when he realized that his brother was missing.
Shaun searched the house for Ryder, but his brother was nowhere to be found. He was in the process of asking Emily when he looked out the window behind the Cybunny and saw his brother with the yellow Moehog, who had hesitantly put on Ryder's new overcoat. "Oh," Shaun said, "that's what he was so worried about earlier."
Emily was still talking to Shaun when he left the room and headed out the front door. Shaun sprinted across the street to where his brother and the strange Moehog were. "There you are," he said, pausing to catch his breath. "The borovan's ready. I decided to wait for you so I could use my new gifts, but you vanished." The Kyrii saw the coat on the Moehog and was a little offended that his brother wasn't the one wearing the gift, but he quickly understood that the Moehog clearly needed it more.
Ryder arose and helped the Moehog up, who was now wearing his overcoat. The stranger stood there awkwardly; he was still surprised that these Neopets whom he had no association with were treating him so kindly. "Hey, Shaun," Ryder started, "how much borovan do we have left?"
"Plenty. Why?" Shaun replied, but he knew the answer just as he asked the question. Ryder placed an arm around the Moehog and began to walk back towards the house. Shaun followed with uncertainty, his paws shoved in his pockets.
When the trio first entered the house, they were greeted with confused looks directed towards the new guest, but quickly shrugged it off and waved to the boys. The Moehog was shocked—this was not what he was expecting. The warmth of the hearth instantly reached the trio, and a smile found its way onto the Moehog's face.
"Make yourself at home," Ryder said with a smile. The two brothers headed towards the kitchen and signaled for their new guest to follow. The yellow Moehog shyly walked behind them, taking in his new surroundings.
"Aww, man," Ryder sighed while searching through the cabinets, "We don't have any more mugs!" Defeated, the spotted Lupe frowned and closed the cabinets.
Shaun admired his brother's kindness and was saddened when Ryder was troubled by the lack of cups. It was then that he knew what to do. "We're not out of cups." Shaun went back to his gifts and brought back the gold-coloured mug. He filled the mug with borovan and handed it to the Moehog. "Here," Shaun said. "This should warm those hooves of yours."
Both Ryder's face and the Moehog's face lit up with joy. "Thanks." The Moehog carefully took the mug and drank from it.
"Now, c'mon you two. Let's join the others." Shaun had filled his old mug with borovan and led the two to the other guests hanging around the fireplace. The new guest was greeted warmly and sat down in the center of the sofa.
"So," Shaun started, settling down into the couch beside the Moehog. "What's your name? What's your story? Telling us is fair trade." He teased the Moehog, whose face turned red in turn but appreciated how Shaun was treating him like one of the others.
"My name is Nick. Nicholas, actually. But everyone calls me Nick." The Moehog began to tell his story and all the guests were attentive. The night was soon filled again with chatter, laughter, and giving, but this time with an additional Neopet.
And every year after that fateful winter, Nick the Moehog no longer stayed out in the snow, but rather inside at the annual party with everyone else.