Worst Day Ever
"Have you ever had a day that you wish you could do over, again?"
The silver Lupe's brow furrowed and he shook his head.
"Well, let me tell you how much I wish that I could do this day over, again," Brandi began.
Everything started out just fine. The orange Aisha leapt out of bed and changed into her favorite tunic. Then, with Abacuc, her Nedler, beside her, she raced out the door. Breakfast was ready, she could smell it! She entered the kitchen, a wide smile on her face; it faltered when she realized that the kitchen was empty.
Where were Brandi's parents? The twins? A plate of waffles was set on the table, with a glass of chocolate milk beside it. Brandi sat at the table and began to eat. Then, her eyes widened in surprise.
Brandi's parents had been adventurous in their meal making that morning. She could taste mushrooms and bacon in her waffles. It was a pleasant surprise, even if she wasn't a Plumpy. Still, the silence in the kitchen felt odd.
The Aisha was used to her family eating with her. Finished, she took her late, fork and cup to the sink. Not being her day to do dishes, she dashed out of the kitchen, heading for the front door. Abacuc dashed past her, flashing her a challenging look. Brandi laughed and accepted the challenge, racing after her Petpet.
Abacuc turned left and Brandi followed him. A wild chase followed. Finally, the Nedler dashed underneath the couch. He waved his tentacles at his owner, teasing her. Brandi grinned and then stood up.
"Forget it, Abacuc. I'm not begging you to come out. I'll just wait you out. I have all the time in-," Brandi said slowly, getting cut off as Abacuc dashed from underneath the couch and leapt into her arms.
That's when things went wrong. The force of Abacuc leaping into her arms sent Brandi falling back. To her very great surprise, she fell against a cool, hard surface that gave under their weight. She winced as her head hit the wall and then she froze in shock as she heard a loud crash. She sat up quickly to see a full length mirror that she had never seen before, shattered on the floor.
"Oh no," Brandi gasped, heart in her throat.
That's when Nisha, Brandi's mother, entered the room. Brandi looked at her mother, eyes wide. Nisha's face was one of complete shock. She looked at her youngest child, annoyance crossing her features.
"Come here at once, Firebrand," Nisha said coolly.
Brandi gulped and obeyed, careful not to step on the broken glass. She stood in front of her mother, ears drooped, hardly able to meet her gaze.
"What happened?" Nisha asked, voice still ice cold.
"Abacuc and I were playing-," Brand began.
"In the house?"
"You know you're not supposed to. You broke the rules."
"I know. It's just we've done it before and-"
"This wasn't the first time? Well, that does it. If you didn't know it by now, you're in big trouble."
"What? No! Not today. It's my birthday!"
"Happy birthday. You're grounded."
What? Brandi hardly heard the rest of her mother's words. She had never been grounded before in her life! She felt the ground beneath her feet shift. Now it was happening on her twelfth birthday.
Nisha was staring at sternly at Brandi. Brandi realized that her mother was waiting for something.
"I'm sorry," Brandi whispered before running to her bedroom and closing the door.
The Aisha girl immediately felt better. She shrugged her shoulders, trying to forget the disappointment she had seen in her mother's blue eyes. She hadn't even been able to explain that it was an accident! She couldn't believe this had happened on her birthday of all days. She sat on the edge of her bed, flexing her hands as she often did when she was alone with her thoughts.
This was not the way Brandi had wanted her birthday to go. She had plans to visit her best friend, Adino. Adino! Oh no! Now what was she going to do?
Brandi's gaze swept slowly over her bedroom as she thought. A wave of defiance washed over her quite suddenly. It was her birthday, for Fyora's sake! She wasn't going to stay in her bedroom the entire day! She was leaving and not coming back, of that she was certain.
Brandi knew that she would get into even more trouble by taking this course of action. She felt a twinge of apprehension but she shoved it away. She opened her bedroom door and listened intently. All was silent. She was a bit shocked by this.
No one else was home. Where had they all gone? Brandi furrowed her brow but didn't waste time thinking about it. She slipped out of the house and entered the labyrinth. Having played many tracking games with wild young Lupes, she knew well how to lose anyone who tried to follow her.
Brandi was soon on the outskirts of the marketplace. She window shopped for a short time but soon tired of that. Being alone didn't suit her. It felt weird to have no one to talk to. She had no idea where her family was.
It was too risky to look for Adino so, besides Abacuc, who couldn't talk back to her, the orange Aisha was alone. At a loss as to what to do, Brandi took a seat on a nearby bench, Abacuc sitting on her lap, his tentacles wrapped comfortingly around her hand. She sat there for a moment, head down, shoulders hunched.
Brandi looked up to see an electric Lutari looking back at her, concern in her shocking blue eyes. An electric Krawk Petpet also studied her closely.
"I ran away from home," Brandi said slowly.
The Aisha had of course been taught that she shouldn't talk to strangers. However, this new defiant Brandi didn't give a fig for anything her parents had taught her. Besides that, Abacuc was OK, wiggling his tentacles in the direction of the strangers in a typical Nedler greeting.
"Oh? Why did you decide to do that?" the Lutari asked.
"I got grounded," Brandi said.
"That doesn't sound too-"
"It's my birthday today."
"The first time I've ever been grounded before in my life and it has to be today."
"This is not the way you wanted your birthday to be, now is it?"
"Not even close!"
There was a brief lull in the conversation. Brandi leaned back against the bench, arms crossed over her chest. The Lutari shifted her gaze. They watched the crowds pass by in silence.
"Are you going to leave your family forever?" the Lutari asked after a thoughtful pause.
"I never thought about that," Brandi said, eyes wide.
"Do you still love them?"
Brandi nodded her head without hesitation.
"Of course. They're your family. I believe that, even on your worst day ever, you should remember your loved ones and why you love them. Then remind yourself that your worst day ever won't last forever but your love for your family and friends will."
With those words, the Lutari rose to her feet. Her Krawk Petpet stood beside her.
The Lutari looked over at Brandi with a smile. "I hope that helped."
"It does. Thank you," Brandi said.
The Lutari and Krawk Petpet left then and Brandi watched them leave, gaze thoughtful. She sat there for some time and then she slowly rose to her feet. She had gotten hungry, again. She made her way out of the marketplace and to the main shops.
"What do you want to eat for lunch, Abacuc?...How about pizza?" Brandi asked her Nedler.
Abacuc purred agreement at this idea. The two friends proceeded to the Plaza and Pizzaroo. Being lunchtime, it was rather crowded. As they waited in line, it suddenly hit Brandi. She was in a loud crowd but she had never felt so alone.
Everyone else had their family or friends with them. Brandi only had Abacuc. She tried not to think about it but she couldn't escape it. The line, at least, moved swiftly.
"Hello, I'd like 1/3 Spicy Taco Pizza and a Pizza Protein Block," Brandi said.
The second item the Aisha had ordered was actually a space food. She always kept in mind that her beloved Petpet was from outer space. Whenever possible, he should eat space food. There was a brief pause as the green Blumaroo gave her a slightly puzzled look.
"My sincerest apologies, bambina, I make pizza, not protein blocks," the Pizzaroo Shopkeeper said.
"Oh, OK. Then I'll just have the pizza," Brandi said.
Spicy Taco Pizza in tow, Brandi made her way out of Pizzaroo. She looked down at her Nedler.
"I tried, Abacuc. There just isn't a market for space food in Neopia," Brandi said with a shrug.
Abacuc made a clicking sound that Brandi took to mean, "It's OK."
"Don't worry! I'm not giving up! Let's go get something to drink, huh?"
With Abacuc beside her, they made their way to the Bazaar, then to the Fresh Smoothies Shop. The crowd wasn't as bad there, for which Brandi was grateful. She gave another crack at ordering space food.
"I'd like a Banana Split Smoothie and a Galactic Protein Shake," Brandi said.
The red Tuskaninny frowned and then slowly shook his head, "Banana Split Smoothie, I can do, protein shake, yeah. Galactic Protein Shake is beyond me."
"Then just the Banana Split Smoothie is fine."
Brandi sighed mentally as she left the shop. Now to find a place to eat. It didn't take long to find a grassy area with some nice shade. She wouldn't have minded climbing the tree to stay shielded from anyone that passed by but she couldn't haul her lunch up there with her. She settled for leaning her back against the firm tree trunk.
The Aisha offered her Nedler a slice of her pizza. He only looked at it, tentacles curling back.
"Oh, Abacuc! I know it's not something you love but you have to eat something. Neopia mustn't be like space. Do you miss living up there," Brandi asked, casting her blue gaze upwards.
Abacuc's heartfelt sigh told Brandi all she needed to know.
"I know I do."
The orange Aisha whirled to see a shadow Grundo standing a short distance away. His bright green eyes were wistful as he smiled at Brandi.
The Grundo stepped right up to the Aisha and continued, "I do miss space. I did make the choice to move to Neopia Central. I learned how to cook from Gargarox Isafuhlarg himself."
"Who?" Brandi interjected, blue eyes wide and head cocked; this stranger was very interesting, that was for sure!
"The Grundo Chef of Grundo's Café, of course. It's located on the Virtupets Space Station. Anyway, I came here to share my passion for space food with the rest of Neopia... It's just that there doesn't seem to be much of a market for it."
"I think not a lot of 'pets know about space food. If you got the word out, maybe showed off your cooking skills at places like Pizzaroo and Hubert's Hot Dogs to get that exposure, then I think space food could really get a proper following in Neopia."
"Yeah, I think you're right. Would you like space food for your Petpet... Oh, by the way, I'm Gordon."
"Yeah, that would be great, Gordon! I'm Brandi and this is Abacuc. Glad to meet ya!"
The Aisha leapt to her feet to shake the Grundo's hand. Abacuc had walked over and eagerly ran his tentacles over Gordon's boots and pants. Suddenly, a black Blurgah appeared and charged Abacuc, who backed up hastily, toppling over Gordon's boots. Brandi immediately scooped up her Petpet, both rather startled. The Blurgah snorted and stomped on hoof but didn't move from his protective stance in front of Gordon.
"I should have mentioned that Cheng is rather protective of me. It takes him a little while to warm up to others," Gordon said, putting up his hands in a helpless gesture.
Abacuc had only been surprised and he relaxed in Brandi's arms, allowing his tentacles to drape across her arm. With no harm done, Brandi smiled at Gordon and Cheng. She picked up her pizza and her smoothie and followed the shadow Grundo to a nearby... shop. Its size and rundown appearance reminded her more of a shack than a shop. Galactic Gastronomy was painted in green over the door.
"Gastronomy? What's that?" Brandi asked, looking to Gordon curiously.
Gordon smiled at the orange Aisha. "It's the art of good eating."
"Is green your favorite color, Gordon?"
'Yes, what about you, Brandi?"
"Orange, of course!"
Gordon opened the door, having to jiggle the handle a bit since it stuck. It revealed a small interior with a dingy green and white checked linoleum floor and a simple short bar with only three seats. It was hardly impressive but Gordon's face shown with pride. Brandi took a seat at the bar, setting her pizza, smoothie and Petpet on the counter.
"Make yourself comfortable. I'll be right back with space food. OK, Abacuc?" Gordon said, pushing open a swinging door to disappear into what Brandi assumed was the kitchen.
Brandi twisted in her seat and swung her legs as she waited. Gordon came back out, a circular tray in one hand, laden with space foods: Pizza Protein Block, Galactic Protein Shake and three other things that Brandi couldn't identify. Gordon set the block and shake before Abacuc. Then, they started eating. Brandi's pizza had cooled a bit but that wasn't a problem for her; the orange Aisha merely heated it back up with her fiery palms.
Before Brandi could ask, Gordon explained what the other food was: Beef Rouladen, Blue Rambus and Galactic Space Punch.
"Would you like to try some?" Gordon asked.
"Of course! I know Abacuc loves it but I've never gotten the chance," Brandi said eagerly.
Very hungry, Brandi finished off her pizza. Gordon had saved a bit of the Beef Rouladen, cut up the Blue Rambus and poured another cup of the Galactic Space Punch. The shadow Grundo sat across from the orange Aisha as she sampled his dishes. Brandi chewed thoughtfully and then swallowed quickly, gulping down some of her Banana Split Smoothie. Gordon was waiting for her to say something.
"It was a little dry and crunchy. The orange stuff on top was citrusy and the only thing I actually liked," Brandi said slowly.
"That is what Beef Rouladen is supposed to taste like. Go on, try the others," Gordon urged.
Brandi took a deep breath. She was starting to wonder why anyone liked space food. She popped a piece of the Blue Rambus in her mouth... and was surprised by the taste. She smiled at Gordon and he smiled back.
"It's got the texture of an orange but in taste its crisper, almost sour. Very different! I've never tasted anything quite like it," Brandi said.
"The Rambus is an interesting fruit. Depending on when and where it is grown, it tastes different," Gordon said.
Encouraged, Brandi drank the Galactic Space Punch in one gulp. She blinked and then laughed.
"Why, that's just fruit juice. Lime, lemon and-," Brandi began.
"Grape," Gordon finished.
"Overall, space food isn't so bad."
"Brandi, I just want to thank you for your idea on getting space food to the rest of Neopia."
"You're welcome. Thank you for sharing your space food with me."
Brandi stood then, picking up Abacuc. She would definitely be coming back to Galactic Gastronomy. She said goodbye to Gordon and continued on her way. She headed to the Toy Shop. It was big, bright and active.
Other children were running around and playing. While normally Brandi would have felt delighted, it was marred by her feelings about her family. She tried to enjoy herself, she really did. Passing the bath toys and puzzles, she first grabbed a skateboard. Abacuc sat on the front of the board and Brandi took off down the cluttered aisle, dodging other children and toys on the floor.
Unfortunately, she couldn't stop, only managing to turn before slamming into a puppet display at the end of the aisle. She heard the crack of breaking wood and then she was caught in the puppet strings. She struggled in a complete panic at being trapped. She only paused when a hand was pressed to her belly. She looked, wide eyed, at the red Lupess who owned the Toy Shop.
"Hold still. I'll get you free," the Lupess said gently but firmly.
"I didn't mean-," Brandi tried to apologize.
"I know you didn't mean it. Children rarely do. Things happen."
With a few quick snips of scissors, Brandi was free. The strings had cut her a bit but not too bad.
"Thank you. May I help you fix this?" Brandi asked.
The Lupess shook her head. "No, I'll have to order new supplies. Just run along."
Brandi did move off but she walked. She felt horrible for breaking the puppet display. Could her day get any worse? Abacuc, at least, hadn't been harmed in the crash. They played a game of ball with another child but stopped when Brandi couldn't catch the ball in time and it ended up on the top shelf, knocking off the items.
The items fell with a crash and clatter. Brandi covered her head with her arms and crouched until things stopped falling. She stood up and realized her playmate had run off. Oh, why wasn't anything going right? Abacuc tugged gently at her hand with his tentacles.
It didn't cheer the orange Aisha up. Next, she put on some roller blades and skated a bit. Nothing terrible happened. Gaining confidence, Brandi picked up speed. Abacuc raced beside her.
Then, it happened. One of the wheels caught on a jump rope on the floor. Brandi was sent flying through the air for the second time that day. Thankfully, she didn't slam into another display. She landed on a large red ball and scrambled to catch her balance.
The Aisha stayed still for a brief moment, her eyes closed. I give up. Brandi rose to her feet and, with Abacuc beside her, left the shop. She was at a loss as to what to do next. She had no desire to go home, yet.
She walked around the Toy Shop to lean against the wall, eyes downcast.
"Happy birthday, Brandi."
Brandi whipped her head up, eyes wide. She recognized that voice!
"Adino," Brandi cried, running to give her best friend a hug.
Only after the silver Lupe had hugged her back did Brandi let go. The silver Lupe smiled his gentle smile at her and she let out a sigh. For the first time that day, she felt like things would actually turn around.
"Brandi, I've been looking for you all day. I went to your Neohome, realized you weren't there and began tracking you. You move fast and it isn't easy to track, even a hot scent like yours, in bustling Neopia Central," Adino said.
As she listened to her best friend speak, she had cocked her head. Then, Brandi pursed her lips.
"Adino, is everything OK? I've never heard you talk so much," Brandi said slowly.
"Everything's fine. Let's go back to your Uncle Inc's and Aunt Snar's," Adino said.
"Now that was a direct order. OK, I'll go."
As much as she didn't want to be, Brandi was suspicious. She'd had a terrible day and now even her best friend wasn't acting like his normal, taciturn self. She was just tired. As they headed back and paused just outside the door, Brandi shot her friend a helpless look.
"I just want this day to be over, Adino," Brandi said.
Adino didn't respond, only opened the door.
The roar of sound washed over them as they entered. Brandi gasped, her face filled with delight.
"Oh! This is awesome! I knew something was up," Brandi cried.
Familiar faces crowded the large room. Some held a banner that said Happy Birthday, Brandi.
"Still want this day to end?" Adino murmured.
Brandi only shot her best friend a broad grin and then delved into the crowd.