The Usul Club
It didn't take me long to convince myself that moving to Neopia Central was the worst idea ever.
My owner, Rii, had moved us here nearly seven months ago from Tyrannia, where I'd lived ever since I was born. She wanted an opportunity for my three brothers and me to experience the hustle and bustle of big city life and branch out of our comfort zones. However, as a Tyrannian Usul, I felt much more comfortable being surrounded by Neopets that were just like me.
My brothers had no problem meeting new friends. Like Rii, they loved being out and about and loved to socialize. I, however, was much shyer and preferred staying inside our Neohome, playing quietly with my Usuki dolls. I couldn't help but be jealous, though, when my brothers and Rii would tell stories of the fun times they'd have while out and about the town. I secretly yearned to make friends of my very own, but I didn't know how.
However, things changed one day when I went out shopping with Rii and my brother, Jepablu. We were heading to Usuki Land so I could finally buy a Hula Girl Usuki after saving up my Neopoints from doing chores. I wasted no time, either: I ran straight to the shelf and pulled the first Hula Girl I could see. I hugged her close to me, almost as if I thought she'd slip away if I didn't.
"Lloeina, you sure do love those Usuki dolls," Rii laughed, patting my head.
I held her up and examined her closely.
"I think I'm going to name her Sunshine!" I announced proudly as I carried her over to the register.
Before I had a chance to pull my Neopoints out, Jepablu quickly hopped in front of me, shoving a piece of paper in my face.
"Check it out, Lloeina! They have an Usul Club here in Neopia Central! I think you should go!"
I grabbed the piece of paper from his paws.
"Usul Club. For all Usuls of Neopia Central. Come and make new friends and have lots of fun with your fellow Usuls," I read out loud. I rolled my eyes and tossed the paper to the side. "That doesn't really sound like fun."
Rii picked up the flyer from the floor, quickly scanning the flyer herself.
"Actually, Lloeina, this sounds like a really good idea! It says they meet every Thursday at this Neohome address." Rii turned to the shopkeeper. "Do you know anything about this? Lloeina here has been having trouble making new friends ever since we moved here."
The shopkeeper smiled. "Oh yes! It was started by one of my longtime customers, Sheila, and her Usul, Kayla, about two years ago. They host meetings at their Neohome. I think there's about five or six Usuls in the club right now. I know for a fact they're looking for more members, so I would check it out!"
Rii grinned. "Lloeina, this sounds like a perfect opportunity for you!"
I hesitated. "Can Jepablu come with me? I don't want to go by myself."
Jepablu chuckled. "I'm an Orange Blumaroo! I'm not quite what they're looking for, Lloeina."
"I know what you mean. Maybe we should start a Blumaroo club!" the shopkeeper, who herself was a blue Blumaroo, chimed in. "But really, I would go and check it out. There's no harm in trying!"
Rii smiled, folding up the flyer and sticking it in her pocket. "Sounds great!"
Sure enough, that Thursday morning we marched straight to the Usul Club first thing. Luckily for us, it was only a few blocks away from our Neohome.
I followed behind Rii as she quickly paced through the neighborhood, finding our way there. Finally, she stopped in front of what appeared to be a huge mansion.
"Here it is. This is house number five-thirty, right?" Rii asked, glancing up from the flyer.
I stood in silence, staring in awe at the beautiful home that stood before me. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before in my life.
"Oh wow, what a lovely Neohome!" Rii exclaimed. "Let's go knock on the door!"
Rii marched up to the door. I, however, stayed behind, frozen in fear.
"Lloeina! Are you coming? Let's go!" Rii shouted.
I sighed, heading slowly for the door just as a young blonde woman answered it.
"Hello! You must be Sheila! I'm Rii and this is Lloeina. She's here for the Usul Club meeting." Rii stuck out her hand.
Sheila returned the shake. "Well, it's very nice to meet you Rii and Lloeina. You must've seen our flyer posted in Usuki Land?"
Rii smiled. "Yes! We just moved here a few months ago. Lloeina has been looking for some friends and we thought this would be a great place to start."
Sheila stepped aside, revealing behind her an elegantly decorated living room. "Well, come on in, Lloeina. The others will be so excited to know we have a new member! Their meetings are right around the corner in our play room."
I hesitated, standing frozen from my nervousness.
"Go on, Lloeina. I'll be back in a couple of hours," Rii whispered.
Rii gave me a small nudge, and I stepped inside. Sheila and Rii waved their goodbyes, and I was alone.
"Here, let me show you the way," Sheila piped in cheerfully, grabbing my paw and leading me down a corridor. "Kayla and the rest of the club are going to be so happy to have you."
We stopped in the doorway to a large room, covered in various Usuki toys and posters of different famous Usuls throughout Neopian history.
A row of fold-out chairs seated three Usuls: two Faerie Usuls and a Water Usul. In the front and center of the room was a Usuki Usul who stood on top of a platform, with a Maractite Usul standing beneath her. Behind her was a small Green Usul, who brushed her long, flowing purple hair.
"Kayla, sweetheart, we have a new member for your Usul Club!" Sheila exclaimed excitedly.
The Usuls in the room all turned their heads at once. Not a single one of them said a word.
"This is Lloeina. She just moved here from Tyrannia."
The room remained silent. The Usuki Usul tried her best not to grimace.
Sheila clapped her hands together. "Well, I'm going to leave you guys to it. Have fun!"
Sheila gently closed the door behind her. The Usuki Usul stepped off the platform and held out her paw.
"Hi Lloeina. I'm Kayla. It's nice to meet you," Kayla muttered half-heartedly.
I shook her paw silently.
She pointed to the Usuls sitting in the chairs. "The two Faerie Usul twins are Kori and Tori. The Water Usul is Lily. The Maractite Usul is Miranda, and she's my best friend, as well as the other leader of the club. You can take a seat next to Kori there."
"Who's the Green Usul?" I asked quietly.
Kayla sighed. "Oh, that's Addie. She's new."
Addie smiled. "It's nice to meet you, Lloeina."
"You too." I sauntered slowly to my seat. Kayla returned to her platform, and Addie resumed brushing her hair.
Kayla cleared her throat. "Okay, everybody this is Lloeina. She's new. Now, Lloeina, in order to be a part of the club, you have to prove that you can be one of us."
"What does that mean?" I asked shyly.
"It just means you have to show us that you can be one of us. We don't just let anybody be friends with us. But if you stick with us, you'll be guaranteed to always have lots of friends."
Friends. Hearing the word made my heart flutter with joy. I wanted nothing more than to have lots of friends!
"Well... what do I have to do?" I replied.
Kayla pointed to a messy clutter of Usuki dolls on the floor beside her. "Start by cleaning up the Usuki dolls we were playing with earlier."
I obliged, standing and moving towards the mess.
"Make sure you organize them in alphabetical order. Their names are written on their backs," Kayla added.
I looked down and examined the mess. There seemed to be hundreds of dolls spread all over the place, as well as some play sets and various clothing items.
I silently began cleaning as Kayla continued speaking.
"Today we are going to vote on what color we think Addie should paint herself. What do you guys think?"
Addie stepped aside from Kayla. "I thought we decided I was going to be Fire?"
Miranda turned to Addie, folding her arms. "Kayla doesn't think Fire is a good color, after all. It's not expensive enough."
"You know me, I like expensive. Obviously!" Kayla added in. "So, what color?"
Kori raised her paw. "I think she should paint herself Royal."
I paused, losing track of my cleaning progress as I listened into their conversation.
"Royal. That's a pretty color. Do we all agree?"
The other Usuls nodded.
"Lloeina?" Kayla asked, catching me by surprise.
"Oh. Yeah. Royal is a good color," I chided.
Kayla rolled her eyes. "You aren't part of the group yet, so you don't get a vote. What I was trying to tell you is that you need to get back to cleaning. You're just sitting there."
I blushed, feeling embarrassment burn inside of me. "Oh, sorry." I resumed cleaning, keeping my eyes peeled to the floor.
"Kayla, a Royal Paint Brush is way more expensive than a Fire Paint Brush. It's going to take me a lot longer to save my Neopoints for a Royal Paint Brush!" Addie pleaded.
"Addie, do you want to be one of us or not?"
"Right, sorry." Addie resumed her brushing.
"Okay, onto the next order of business," Kayla continued, seemingly unaware of the tears forming in Addie's eyes.
I had barely managed to finish cleaning and sorting the Usuki dolls just as the meeting came to a close a couple of hours later. They had discussed a wide variety of topics, from their favorite bands to the Altador Cup team they would root for next year, as well as the possibility of taking a trip to Maraqua to eat at Kelp. Their conversations seemed so fun, lively, and exciting. I wanted to be a part of it so badly.
"Okay everybody, next week we're going to do makeovers, so bring all of your clothing and beauty supplies!" Kayla exclaimed, ending the meeting.
The Usuls exited the room, chattering excitedly amongst themselves. Well, except for Addie, who trailed behind by herself.
As I stood up to leave, Kayla grabbed my arm and pulled me next to her.
"Hey, Lloeina," Kayla whispered. "Good job on cleaning up today. I really like you. I think you've got great potential."
"Really?" I gasped.
"Yeah, really. I think you could even replace Miranda as my best friend." Kayla snorted. "She's getting annoying anyways. But getting to be my best friend has lots of cool perks. I have lots of friends all over Neopia Central. If you hung out with me, you'd be guaranteed to be popular. You'd have tons of friends. Everybody would be majorly jealous of you."
I shrieked excitedly. If I continued to hang out with Kayla, I'd be popular! I'd finally have lots of friends, just like I'd always wanted.
"But, you aren't done with proving yourself to us yet. Next meeting, you need to bring one of your Usuki dolls to me so I can add it to my collection. Do you have a Hula Girl one? I don't have one of those yet."
I thought of the new Hula Girl I'd bought a couple of days ago, and a small knot formed in my stomach.
"How come you can't just buy your own?" I inquired.
"Everybody has to do it. It's just part of the process."
I nodded silently.
"Well, I'll see you next Thursday. Bring the doll!"
I'd felt a little disappointed that I would have to give up my brand new Hula Girl that I'd saved my Neopoints for. But I knew I had to do it. I could always buy another one, and being friends with Kayla was going to be way better.
"I'm so glad you're having fun at this club, Lloeina. I'm proud of you for branching out!" Rii exclaimed the next Thursday as I packed a bag to take back to Kayla's.
I didn't actually need to take a bag, of course. I needed a way to hide my Hula Girl doll so Rii wouldn't notice. I knew she would never approve of me giving my doll away to Kayla. But if I wanted to be part of her group, I had to.
I practically sprinted to Kayla's house that day, anxiously waiting to earn my acceptance into her group and hopefully become her new best friend.
Sheila and Rii made small talk outside as I rushed to Kayla's room. Without saying a word, I grabbed the doll from my bag and stuck it out for everybody to see.
"I brought the doll, Kayla!"
Kayla, who once again stood in the center of the room, turned her head towards me.
"What doll? Oh yeah, that doll. Just put her in that pile over there," Kayla responded nonchalantly.
I carefully placed the doll upright in the pile, then took a seat next to Tori.
"So, does this mean I'm in?" I asked excitedly.
The room fell silent. The Usuls looked back and forth between each other.
"Uh, Lloeina, there's something you need to, uh, fix," Miranda piped in.
"You need to paint yourself a different color," Kayla remarked coldly. "Tyrannian isn't a good color."
I looked down at my fur. I'd never thought of it as bad. In fact, I'd always loved the color on me.
"What's wrong with being Tyrannian?" I choked.
"Your fur is all dirty and matted," Kori pitched.
"The bone bows are really weird," Tori added.
"Plus, Tyrannian Paint Brushes are super cheap," Lily finished.
"In order to be one of us, you're going to have to be a different color... since Addie is going to be Royal, how about you do Desert?" Kayla announced.
I grimaced. Desert Paint Brushes were really expensive.
"If you want to be one of us, you're going to have to do it, Lloeina," Kayla finished. "In the meantime, reorganize the dolls, please."
I nodded wordlessly and returned to the same pile of Usuki dolls I had cleaned the week before. Kayla had already managed to make another huge mess of them.
During the meeting, I couldn't help but wonder: was the reason I had no friends because of the fact that I was painted Tyrannian? Maybe they were right. Tyrannian wasn't one of the beautiful, elegant colors. I began to feel mad at Rii for painting me this way. Why didn't she paint me Faerie or Water or any other color other than this one?
After the meeting, I ran home faster than I'd ever before, tears streaming down my face.
When I got home, I slammed the door behind me.
"Rii!" I shouted.
Rii came running out of the kitchen. "Lloeina?! Is everything okay?"
I collapsed on the floor, crying harder and harder by the minute.
"Rii, you need to paint me a different color. I need to be Desert. Or anything other than Tyrannian!" I shouted.
Rii sighed, taking a seat next to me and pulled me into a hug. "Where on Neopia is this coming from?"
I wiped a tear from my eye. "My fur is always matted and dull. The bone bows are weird. Brown isn't a pretty color, anyways."
"You've never not liked your color before. Why the sudden change of heart?" Rii inquired.
"Kayla and the other Usuls told me that if I want to be part of their group, I have to paint myself Desert. They said Tyrannian was an ugly color. I think they're right!"
"Well I don't!" Rii exclaimed, hugging me tighter. "Remember what I told you? How badly I wanted to have a Tyrannian Usul because I thought they were so pretty? How adopting you was one of the best days of my life? I think your color is great."
"Well nobody else does," I spat as I folded my arms.
"Nonsense!" Rii shouted. "Do you know how many times I've had people stop me and tell me how much they loved your color?"
"Well the Usuls won't be my friend unless I change my color. I want to paint myself Desert!" I exclaimed.
"Lloeina, if they can't accept you for who you are, then they probably aren't real friends after all. But if you really want to paint yourself Desert, you are more than welcome to save the money yourself. I want you to really think about it, though. And I'm going to have a talk with Sheila the next time I see her."
I did think about it for the rest of that night. I wondered if I'd had more friends in the first place if I'd just been painted a different color in the first place. I knew that I'd gotten many compliments for my color, but after hearing what Kayla and the Usuls had to say, I wondered if they were really true. I was fully convinced that I would've had more friends if I had just been painted a different color, and I was ready to start saving for a new paint brush.
I felt a pang in my stomach when I looked in the mirror as I brushed my fur before bed. As determined as I was to change, I never imagined myself as any other color other than Tyrannian. I also thought of Rii, and how badly she wanted a Tyrannian Usul just like me, and how her friends would always compliment me. She'd always wanted me to like myself for who I am.
I quickly pushed those thoughts away. I knew I needed to change, and that was that.
"So, are you going to do it soon, Lloeina?" Kayla asked at the start of the next Usul Club meeting.
Before I had a chance to speak, the other Usuls interrupted my thoughts.
"I hope so! I can't wait to see that matted fur gone!" Tori shouted.
"Don't you want a fur color that doesn't resemble dirt?" Miranda spat. The others laughed.
"I can't believe your owner was mean enough to paint you that color in the first place," Kayla added.
Hearing them insult Rii finally made me realize that she had been right: they weren't my real friends. After all, they were sitting here bullying me, and I'd been letting myself take it!
After sitting back and listening to them continually insult me, I finally cracked.
"You know what, Kayla? Maybe I like being Tyrannian!" I shouted.
The room fell silent.
"Uh, we didn't ask for your opinion. Now get to cleaning," Kayla replied thoughtlessly.
It became more and more clear. These girls weren't friends. They were bullies!
"I'm not cleaning your messes anymore, Kayla. And I'm quitting the Usul Club!"
I stomped over to the Usuki Dolls, yanked my Hula Girl from the pile, and left, slamming the door behind me.
"I think you did the right thing by standing up to those Usuls, Lloeina," Rii cheered as she groomed my fur. "Sometimes they don't even know what they're doing is wrong until somebody finally stands up and says something. I'm very proud of you! I'm sure we'll find other opportunities for you to make friends."
"Rii! Somebody is at the door!" Jepablu shouted from the living room.
I turned to face Rii. "Did you invite somebody over?"
Rii shook her head. "Not me. Maybe Relaesia or Smiley."
I snorted, knowing my brothers' tendencies to invite guests unannounced.
To my surprise, standing at the door was Addie, clutching a Fun in the Sun Usuki.
"Addie? What are you doing here?" I asked quizzically.
"I just wanted to tell you that you were very brave for standing up to Kayla today. You were right, she's not a real friend, and I've decided I won't let her push me around, either," Addie muttered shyly.
"That's... great!" I replied. "Do you want to come in?"
Addie nodded, and the two of us moved into my living room, giggling.
"You know, I always thought your color was super pretty," Addie divulged. "I don't know what the others were talking about!"
"Thank you!" I replied, embracing the compliment. "That's very sweet of you."
Addie leaned in closer. "Do you want to know a secret? I don't even like Fire... or Royal! I always wanted to paint myself Striped. I was going to, but then Kayla decided she didn't like it and made me change my mind. But now, I think I'm going to do it!"
I smiled. "That would be great! How about we both go to the Rainbow Fountain tomorrow? I'll help you out!"
Addie grinned, the first genuine smile I'd seen from her. "That sounds great. I think we're going to be great friends, Lloeina."
And from then on, we were. I helped her paint herself Striped, and she even had enough Neopoints to buy a new petpet to go with it.
Once Sheila had found out Kayla's true intentions, she quickly put a stop to the Usul Club as it was, and Kayla soon apologized to all of us, promising to change the Usul Club to include all Usuls. I loved the idea so much that I even promised to help.
Through the rough times, I was thankful for Addie, Kayla, and the Usul Club. They'd taught me a very important lesson: always be true to yourself.