Reggie had just gotten there and he already wanted to go home. He hadn’t wanted to come to Meridell in the first place but Mother had insisted. So here the orange Gelert was. It seemed he was the only unenthusiastic one. His younger sister Lucy was ecstatic.
Uncle Vance, Aunt Louise and cousin Ellie were all thrilled to have them. Much to Reggie’s disgust, he received three hugs from his family in greeting.
“Ellie has finished her chores so she’s free to spend the day with you two, showing you around,” Uncle Vance said.
Ellie, a rainbow Gelert, could hardly stay still in her excitement. “What do you guys want to do first? Visit the Turmaculus? Illusen? Or see the castle?”
“Sometime during the summer, we’ll all take a day to visit Brightvale,” Aunt Louise put in.
How about no to all, Reggie thought with a roll of his eyes and a bored sigh.
Lucy, however, was ready for all of it. “I want to see the farm!”
“OK! You’re going to love it!” Ellie said, leading the way.
Reggie trudged behind the girls. They saw the various crops growing. The orange Gelert had never walked so much in his life. Yet, Ellie and Lucy were still raring to go.
The tour only ended when the triangle called them back for supper. Reggie was relieved. He got to sit down and the food was really good! Though, he would hardly admit that. Aunt Louise smiled as she watched her teenaged nephew clear his plate; his words weren’t necessary.
They all went to bed early since Uncle Vance, Aunt Louise and Ellie, being the country folk that they were, rose with the sun. Ellie and Lucy would be sharing a room for the summer while Reggie had the guest room. He didn’t know about the girls but he could only lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. It was too quiet and it was so dark. Reggie tossed and turned, thumping his pillow until he finally fell asleep.
The crow of Wibreth had Reggie jolting upright in alarm and he ended up falling out of bed. Much to his embarrassment, Lucy threw open his door and Ellie stood behind her. His sister ran up to him and tugged impatiently on his hand.
“Come on, Reggie! You’re going to miss out on breakfast. Aunt Louise let me gather the eggs by myself!” Lucy exclaimed, clearly pleased at her accomplishment.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming,” Reggie huffed, letting his baby sister drag him.
Breakfast was eggs and pancakes with a cold glass of milk. Ellie and Lucy were excitedly discussing what they would do that summer.
“I know a great swimming spot we can check out,” Ellie was saying.
“No! Lucy doesn’t know how to swim,” Reggie said, furrowing his brow at his cousin.
“Don’t worry. I can teach her.”
“Yeah!” Lucy exclaimed.
“Though, we’ll visit some of the main sites today.”
With no other option but to tag along, Reggie went with Ellie and Lucy. They had to walk like a million miles (more like one and a half) which the orange Gelert did not look forward to.
“There’s no way Lucy could make it that far,” Reggie protested.
“I can too!” Lucy piped up.
“We’ll make it,” Ellie said firmly, seeing right through Reggie’s excuse.
Meridell Castle soon loomed into view. They were soon joined by others, farmers mostly but also a few tourists. There was a steady stream of traffic into and out of the castle. Reggie passed right by a guard and got an up close look at his sword. The orange Gelert had never seen a weapon before.
The three Gelerts took a tour of the castle, receiving some interesting facts and history along with it. The castle was old and imposing, even from a distance. With his new knowledge, Reggie felt this even more strongly. He felt the walls almost bear down on him. He was more than relieved when they were once more out in the open.
They visited the Turmaculus next.
“Why is everything bigger in Meridell?” Reggie asked.
“More room to grow in is what Dad says,” Ellie responded.
The Turmaculus was big…and boring.
“So, he’s big but all he does is sleep,” Reggie said, waving a hand at the slumbering giant.
“Not everything in Neopia is created solely for entertainment,” Ellie pointed out.
“Whatever,” Reggie muttered with a roll of his eyes.
Ignoring her cousin’s attitude, Ellie led them to the Symol Hole.
“Oh goodie. A hole,” Reggie said flatly.
“Not just any hole. A Petpet can go down it and bring back prizes!” Ellie said with a wag of her tail.
“We don’t have a Petpet. Mother says I’m too little and Reggie won’t help me,” Lucy said with a pout.
“Never mind, Lucy. I can send in Lolly,” Ellie said, referring to her rainbow Snowbunny.
“Has she ever come up with anything good?” Reggie wanted to know, looking at the little Snowbunny with perhaps an inkling of interest.
Ellie shook her head. “Not yet but it’s still fun to try.”
“Figures.” Reggie huffed and turned away.
Ellie and Lucy waited patiently, staring at the dark hole. With nothing any more captivating to look at, Reggie finally joined them. It took Lolly a moment but she soon emerged with a big, fat…
“Nothing,” Reggie huffed. “There’s a minute I’m not getting back.”
It had been immediately apparent that Reggie was not happy in Meridell. Uncle Vance, Aunt Louise and Ellie had done their best to make him happy. Even though their efforts up to this point had been unsuccessful, they refused to give up. They all loved Meridell and Ellie especially was confused by her cousin’s inability to share in that. Though, she hoped that her next idea would help her goal.
In all of the places in Meridell, Lightwater Forest was one of Ellie’s favorites. It was full of straight tall trees and a lazy river winding through. Full summer like now was cool with sunlight filtering through the bright green leaves and a beautiful breeze flowing. The rainbow Gelert believed it was the most peaceful place in Neopia. Which made sense, since it was where Illusen called home.
Ellie loved Illusen. The earth faerie was her heroine for several reasons, not least of which because they both lived in and loved Meridell. The faerie was beautiful and kind. Other than her negative feeling toward Jhudora, Illusen welcomed everyone. It was why Ellie had decided to bring her cousins to visit this great and benevolent faerie.
The three Gelerts were almost there. Lucy, of course, eagerly ran ahead. Reggie trudged along. His clear reluctance irked Ellie. Thankfully, Lucy’s excitement wasn’t easily ignored.
There was a line of Neopets waiting to begin or complete a quest for Illusen.
“Are we going on a quest for Illusen?” Lucy’s eyes were wide, long ears flicked forward and her tail whipped madly at this idea.
Ellie laughed at her young cousin’s reaction. “No, too stressful. We’re here for a visit. Illusen isn’t all about quests, you know.”
They passed the line and waited for Illusen to send the last quester on their way. Free for the moment, the earth faerie turned to greet her visitors. They settled on tree stump seats with a tree stump table between them. Even sitting on a tree stump, Reggie slumped, hands in pockets and eyes on the ground. Illusen ignored the orange Gelert as Lucy and Ellie chatted comfortably with her, drinking iced tea.
They spent about half an hour before another group of questers arrived. That’s when Ellie decided it was time they left.
“Finally!” Reggie huffed, first to rise to his feet.
This was when Illusen finally looked at Reggie and addressed the teenaged Gelert. “It is clear that you are unhappy here. May I ask why?”
Reggie had turned to walk away but paused, pursing his lips. Then, he whipped himself around, green eyes hot with temper. “You wouldn’t understand! What you really want to know is why I don’t love Meridell because you love it here, just like my cousin and my aunt and uncle. I’ve heard them talking when they think I can’t hear.”
At this revelation, Ellie flushed. She was embarrassed for a moment before she bristled. How dare her cousin say that? He had just openly admitted to eavesdropping! However, the rainbow Gelert reigned in her temper, letting Illusen handle him.
Green eyes met green eyes, except that Illusen’s gaze was as cool and soft as fresh spring grass. “You didn’t want to come to Meridell in the first place. It isn’t home. Your friends aren’t here and all of the big plans you had together are no longer options. There are no crowds, you miss the food and the noise. You may as well be on Kreludor, you feel so…isolated here.” Illusen paused, studying Reggie quietly for a moment. The distraught Gelert had listened to the earth faerie’s soothing voice and, slowly, his anger began to fade. She still had his attention so she continued. “You are so wrapped up in your feelings that you can’t and won’t pay attention to anything else. Maybe you will never love Meridell but you could try to accept that you’ll be here for the next two months. At the very least, think of the stories you’ll be able to tell your friends when you final get home. All about how you survived without all of your modern amenities and the latest trends.”
Reggie finally looked away from Illusen. He walked away, brushing past Ellie. Lucy watched him go, sadness in her brown eyes. She loved her brother but didn’t understand why he acted the way he did. The girls said goodbye to Illusen and caught up to Reggie.
Summer continued and Reggie hadn’t changed in his attitude much. Everyone around him continued to tolerate him. It was a struggle, when the orange Gelert refused to even try. Despite this, his family continued to enjoy their summer. Lucy, especially, was thriving in the open air.
“Today’s the day!” Lucy barked happily.
It was a hot day in Meridell and Ellie had decided to take her cousins to the swimming hole. It meant that she would be teaching her youngest cousin how to swim. They were both looking forward to it. Lucy couldn’t stop talking about it. Reggie was the only damper on the day.
There was no way Reggie was going to let his little sister learn how to swim without him. It meant that he had to be forced even further out of his comfort zone. Since their arrival in Meridell, he had worn an oversized hoodie. Impractical to swim in, he was only in swim trunks. It left him feeling exposed and vulnerable but he was doing his best not to let his little sister see; she looked up to him after all.
When they arrived at the swimming hole, it was crowded with children of all ages. In Meridell everyone knew everyone. So when Ellie arrived, cheerful greetings were exchanged. She led her cousins down to the water, where it was still shallow but enough for Lucy to practice in. Reggie followed the girls in and kept an eye on his little sister.
Things were going OK. Lucy was having a blast, splashing around, floating on her back and learning how to handle her long limbs in the water. Both Ellie and Reggie were pleased with the baby Gelert’s progress. Reggie was completely focused on his sister and was surprised when someone bumped into him from behind. Losing his footing on the smooth round pebbles on the riverbed, he went under the water.
After a bit of splashing around, Reggie regained his footing. He completely forgot about his sister, mind now focused on one thing.
“Who did that?” Reggie demanded, whirling to look at the many happy faces surrounding him.
“Me,” a voice said.
It took a moment but Reggie finally found the voice. It took him so long because he realized he was looking at an invisible Neopet. He had never met an invisible Neopet before (that he knew of). He moved towards the stranger dressed in red swim trunks, he had large yellow eyes and a head full of dreadlocks. Reggie’s irritation turned to curiosity but he tried not to show it.
“Watch where you’re going, will you? I almost drowned,” Reggie barked, indignant.
“No, you didn’t,” the stranger said with a snort. “You can swim, really well, I might add. Want to play a game with me?”
Taken aback by this invitation, Reggie was unsure how to respond. He looked over his shoulder at Ellie and Lucy, still fully immersed in the lesson. Then he looked back at the stranger. “What kind of game?”
“A diving game. I’ve got these weights that whoever finds the most of wins.”
So, Reggie played the game and then a dunking game with the invisible Neopet, who he learned was an Acara named Lucius. They were only a year apart in age. After the second game, they took a break to eat sandwiches and rink some lemonade. Lucy and Ellie joined them, Lucy chattering away about her progress.
After their refuel, they all dashed back to the water. The boys tried to outdo each other with jumps and dives.
“You know I have to take your word for it, right? I mean, I can’t see most of you,” Reggie pointed out.
Lucius only laughed and they continued their water games. Having fun, the day almost passed too quickly as the evening came on and the heat of the day began to fade. Neopets began to head home. Ellie and Reggie decided to call it a day before Lucy got chilled. For the first time since he had come to Meridell, the orange Gelert felt tired and happy. He hadn’t known that was possible to feel in Meridell.
Then, Illusen’s words came back to the teenaged Gelert. What she had said was true. He had been too wrapped up in his own feelings. Maybe Meridell wasn’t that great but it wasn’t that bad either. Perhaps he could try.
For his family, Reggie would try.
The end of summer had arrived. As Aunt Louise had suggested on that first day, they were going to take a trip to Brightvale. Over the last month, Reggie had worked on accepting things. He still missed home and his friends but his family helped. He wasn’t sure how he felt about the Brightvale trip.
“We are going to take a wagon out there. The distance can be walked but it’s a bit far for Lucy,” Uncle Vance said, smiling down at his niece.
The family piled into the open wagon. Not knowing much about Brightvale, Reggie began to ask questions. He learned all about King Hagan, their scholarly reputation and how they specialized in stained glass. It sounded boring to Reggie, who didn’t much care for school. However, he didn’t complain because he remembered hearing once that on one liked a complainer.
Almost everything was exciting to Lucy but after learning what Brightvale was all about, the wind had seemed to be let out of her sails a bit. “This is our summer vacation. We aren’t going to learn too much, are we? We aren’t getting homework, right?” Lucy’s eyes widened with alarm at this.
Aunt Louise couldn’t help but smile at this. “No, Lucy. This is just a nice visit. No homework.”
“Oh good!” Lucy sighed with relief and collapsed back to the wagon bed.
They arrived in Brightvale just in time for lunch. It was a pleasant surprise for Reggie and Lucy when they saw their mother waiting for them. The two young Gelerts rushed to hug their mother. Then, the faerie Gelert greeted her brother and his family. They found a lovely shady spot for their picnic lunch and Reggie and Lucy told their mother what they had done that summer.
“I knew you wouldn’t enjoy Brightvale like I would. So, I sent you to Uncle Vance to give you all of that freedom. You look well so I made the right choice,” Mother said.
Reggie couldn’t meet his mother’s gaze. He had not been on his best behaviour all summer. It could be said that he had been downright difficult to live with. It had only been in the last couple of weeks that he had tried. To the orange Gelert’s surprise, it seemed that Mother understood.
“Reggie, we haven’t seen each other all summer. Please look at me,” Mother said.
At this gentle command, Reggie obeyed. “I’ve missed you, Mother. I still miss home.” Reggie paused to take a deep breath. “I know that I caused trouble for Uncle Vance, Aunt Louise and Ellie. Now though, I’m trying, I really am.”
“I know, Reggie. Your uncle, aunt and I have written letters and they have told me all about how much you’ve struggled this summer. They’ve also told me about how you’ve improved. I’m proud of you.”
Reggie managed a smile, relieved that Mother understood. Wagging his whip-like tail, the teenaged Gelert hugged her, unashamed at this public display of affection. With everything out in the open now, the entire family was able to enjoy their reunion and their lunch. They discussed their plan for the rest of the day. Reggie and Lucy were still uncertain about how much they would enjoy Brightvale.
Mother showed them the art she had done over the last couple of months: landscapes, stained glass and a few portraits. As always, her children admired her work, even if they didn’t admire the place itself. They went along with her as she showed them her favorite spots including the bookstore and all of the stained glass found in Brightvale. They struggled to be enthusiastic. Thankfully, Mother understood them and kept it short.
It was a bittersweet parting but at least Mother told them they would be going home to Neopia Central soon.
“I never thought I’d be glad to be returning to Meridell. Compared to Brightvale, Meridell is exciting,” Reggie said.
Lucy giggled, agreeing with her brother for once.
“Ah, we’ll turn you both into country folk yet. You wait and see,” Ellie said, only half-joking.
‘No, not that. Anything but that!” Reggie exclaimed in horror.
Everyone else laughed at this reaction.
“The summer’s not over yet, Reggie. We’ll see about that. We’ll see,” Ellie said with a mischievous grin.