A Coy Little Koi
"Come on, guys!" a red Koi called out to his friends. "Last one there is a rotten egg!"
A multi-colored school of Koi all raced by. They were all playfully bumping into to one another, their laughter and gossip bouncing around the watery cavern. None of them noticed that there was one left behind.
The shy Spotted Koi, Uleyla, looked on wistfully, her heart heavy. She had tried a few times to speak up and be a part of the group, but she was painfully shy. She knew, in part, that it was due to her size. From an early age, she had been much larger than all of the other Koi. Most of her childhood had been filled with taunts about her size, until she eventually grew quiet and reserved. These days, most of the other Koi never paid much attention to her, and while this was better than all of the bullying she had been through, she led a rather lonely life.
Sighing, Uleyla gave up waiting for any of the group to come back for her. She had been so quiet that they hadn't even known that she was there, so why would they come looking for her? She slowly swam back to her home, her head held low. Why did she have to look like this? Why was she the one who had to be singled out, for all the wrong reasons? Long ago, she had once thought that she was even a little pretty, but clearly, her looks were a problem to others. And now, she didn't even have anything interesting to say, and she would be long forgotten.
She entered her living room as quietly as she could, so as not to disturb her parents. They, however, seemed to be fairly occupied with some Kiko family that she had never seen before. They were all a beautiful, bright white color, and they seemed to have a daughter about her age, but Uleyla knew that she could never be friends with anyone. She was a quiet freak – who would like her?
Lost in her own thoughts, she forgot to leave the room, and her family finally noticed that she was there. "Oh, darling, there you are!" her mother chirped.. "I thought you would have been out playing with your friends. No matter, now that you're here, you can meet our new neighbors."
"Hello," the youngest Kiko said, not an ounce of bashfulness present in her. "My name is Lhinn. We just moved here all the way from Kiko Lake!"
"I'm Uleyla," the shy Koi mumbled, looking at the floor. "It's nice to meet you."
The air in the room was more than a little awkward. Some polite conversation continued as Uleyla had a staring contest with her carpet. Eventually, she figured that she wouldn't be noticed or missed if she went up to her room. Lhinn, however, had been watching the whole time, and decided to follow.
Uleyla almost had a heart attack when she turned to close the door to her bedroom, only to find a perplexed Kiko right behind her. "Why did you leave so suddenly?" she asked. "Are you feeling alright?"
"I'm... I'm fine," the Koi answered, unsure of what to do now. "I'm just not very good at being social, I guess."
To Uleyla's surprise, her new Kiko neighbor laughed out loud. "Well, that's just silly!" the Kiko said. "You might be a little out of practice, but trust me, no one is bad at making friends."
"I'm not just out of practice, I'm basically retired," Uleyla sighed."Other pets don't like me. I'm not like them, really. I don't fit in, so I don't bother to talk much anymore."
"How do you not fit in?" Lhinn asked. "There are Koi all over the place here! If anyone should be concerned about standing out, it's me. And if I can do it, so can you!"
"You don't understand," the Koi sniffed. "I'm different than all of them. I'm much bigger ALL around – I'm practically a giant ball compared to all of them! They used to pick on me all the time, but now... Well, I learned to stay out of the spotlight."
"You think that YOU look like a ball?" Lhinn laughed. "Look at me! I'm literally a ball with fins and a face. But I don't let that stop me. I know who I am, and I'm proud of it. Anyone who doesn't like you based on how you look is petty and dumb."
Uleyla thought for a minute. What Lhinn was saying was sounded right, but how could life really work that way? So many of the Koi she knew growing up made fun of her. But was that really THEIR problem, and not hers? Were they the ones who were wrong this whole time?
"I guess I could give that train of thought a shot," she said, smiling at her new... friend? Did she actually make a friend?
"Good!" Lhinn said happily. "Now, what do you say to some fun outside?"
Uleyla hesitated for a second before nodding, and following the White Kiko outside. She knew that if she – or her new outgoing buddy – drew any attention to herself, she'd be miserable. But maybe, she figured, if no one knew that she existed, they wouldn't bother her anymore, and she could play peacefully with Lhinn.
The two pets laughed and played games for what seemed like hours, and Uleyla thought that she was in luck. None of the other Koi had bothered her! What a happy day it was. Her bubble was soon burst, however, when her biggest childhood bully, Xohry, swam over. Xohry was a stunning Gold Koi, and all of the neighborhood pets loved her.
"Well, well, well." Xohry smiled. "What do we have here? It looks like the Great Balloon has found a new friend! It's a shame that it had to be a bean bag chair."
The other Koi laughed as Uleyla fought back tears. Lhinn, however, wasn't put down in the slightest. "You might be pretty," the Kiko said. "But someday that's all going to fade. Your ugly attitude, however, is going to stick around for the rest of your life unless you put some serious work into not being mean."
Uleyla was stunned. Not only did someone stick up for her, but it was someone that she had just met that day. As she mumbled her thanks to the Kiko, Xohry seemed to be try and think of some witty comeback, but nothing happened. Her followers waited in silence as Xohry stumbled over her thoughts and words, attempting to put together some kind of insult that would do any damage. After a while, she just sneered and swam away.
"Lhinn, that was amazing!" the Spotted Koi laughed. "I've never seen anyone talk back to her. You're so brilliant!"
"It was nothing." Lhinn smiled. "Just the honest truth."
Uleyla never had any problems with Xohry or the other Koi after that day. In fact, she slowly gained a few more friends. Her best friend, however, would always be Lhinn, the pet that showed her how to break out of her shell, and be proud of who she was.