Cotton Candy Clouds
A slim, Royal Boy Gelert, fumbled with a ring of keys in one hand, while balancing a paper bag of groceries in the other. After a few moments of struggling, he managed to open the door into his small, and untidy, apartment. An annoyed sigh escaped his lips.
“Elodius!” He called out, his voice bouncing off the walls. He set the paper bag down in the kitchen. “Elodius!!!”
“Sweet Fyora,” the young Gelert heard a voice mumble beyond the kitchen. “I thought I’d have more time to tidy up before you got back home.”
A Halloween Gelert leaned against the kitchen doorway. He pushed his dark, messy hair out of his face and tried to smooth it down into place.
“You really just woke up, didn’t you?”
“Etzie, I’m sorry, I really meant to –“
The upset Gelert interrupted the other with a wave of his hand, and began putting the groceries away. “It’s fine, I’ll just clean the apartment myself.”
“I can help out, you know, it’s not as big a deal as you’re making it out to be.”
“No, I don’t want you to help because I don’t really want to see you right now.”
“Jeeze, Etzie, you’re really blowing this out of proportion.”
Etzie slammed the cupboard door shut. “No, I’m really not. We split rent for this place down the middle and you do nothing but sit in your room all day or laze around on the couch and eat pizza, which, of course you don’t clean up.”
Elodius started to argue back, but was interrupted by a knock on the door. Etzie slapped a palm to his face.
“Great!” He exclaimed. Now Tomse and Tira are going to see our apartment while it’s a total wreck. This is so embarrassing.”
Elodius rolled his eyes. “They really won’t care, Etzie. You care too much what others thing.”
Etzie shot Elodius a venomous glance as he went to open the door. Elodius felt a twinge in his heart. He felt awful for sleeping in so late and not cleaning the apartment like Etzie asked. He knew very well how worked up his roommate got about keeping their living space clean and presentable to others, but he just didn’t see things the same way.
Etzie opened the door and warmly welcomed Tomse the Spotted Kougra, and Tira the Shadow Kacheek, into their apartment. Etzie was trying his best to distract their friends from the messy state of their apartment, which amused Elodius. The dark Gelert greeted his friends and they all sat down on the couches.
“I’m so excited to hang out with you guys!” Tira exclaimed while twisting a strand of her silver and scarlet hair around her fingers.
“Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this all week!” Tomse agreed, his playful smile lighting up the room. The four friends had this outing planned a few weeks in advanced. Etzie had been way more excited leading up to it than Elodius had, but Elodius couldn’t help but wonder if their little argument just moments before had ruined the whole night for Etzie. Elodius sighed. His mind was already swarming with ideas on how to make the night enjoyable for his best friend.
The four friends set out on their walk to down town Neopia Central, where they’d get dinner at a nice restaurant, and then take a stroll through the Deep Catacombs to admire the art. Etzie had picked the restaurant, and Elodius had decided on going through the art center.
The walk to the restaurant had been tense. Tira and Tomse could feel the tension between the two friends. Tira spent most of her time conversing with Etzie, while Tomse and Elodius spent the majority of their time talking with each other.
By the time the food had arrived, all conversation had fallen silent. Tira’s fingers had found their way into her hair, twisting and turning the strands. Tomse ate chewed his food thoughtfully, while Etzie avoided Elodius’ gaze.
Finally, Tira set her silverware down, swallowed her food, and sat up in her chair.
“What’s going on with you two?” She asked bluntly. “I’ve felt a tension in the air the moment Tomse and I walked into your apartment.”
“Nothing’s wrong.” Etzie said with a roll of his eyes.
“Clearly something is wrong.” Tomse said, furrowing his eyebrows.
“I forgot to clean the apartment today before you guys came over is really the only issue.” Elodius replied. “Which I understand why Etzie is upset, but I really do think he is over reacting here.”
Etzie turned his attention towards Elodius suddenly. “That’s the only issue? I’m over reacting? Really, Elodius?”
Tira’s eyes widened. “Okay, you guys, let’s not get heated right now –“
“Elodius,” Etzie began, “Ever since you moved into my apartment with me, you’ve been mooching off me the entire time. You never clean, you never go shopping, you laze around in your room all day doing nothing, and quite f rankly you’ve been a huge burden on me.”
Elodius met Etzie’s gaze but said nothing.
“I thought it would be fantastic living with my best friend.” Etzie continued on. “But I honestly now think it was a horrible decision to let you live with me and I wish you’d just find somewhere else to live and leave.”
Elodius stood up quickly, knocking his chair over, and turned to leave the restaurant. Tomse got up and went after him, while Tira put her face in her hands.
“I think this really could have been handled better, Etzie.” Tira said after a few moments.
“I don’t care.”
“Have you ever talked to him about this before?”
“Not seriously. I’ve mentioned it before, or yelled at him for not doing something I asked him to do, but we’ve never sat down and discussed it.”
Tira bit her lip. “So can you see how this might be out of the blue for Elodius? I don’t think he knew how upset you were over this, or how strongly you felt about it.”
“Right now, I really don’t care. He was my best friend for so long, but now I get sick of even looking at him.”
Tira shook her head. She began picking at the ends of her hair.
Meanwhile, Tomse caught up with Elodius outside of the restaurant. People milled about through the streets, bustling and hustling, while the sun was getting ready to set in a few minutes. Elodius was leaning against a nearby building, his arms crossed, and his gaze pointed toward the floor.
“So, what happened back there?” Tomse asked light-heartedly. “It seems like Etzie is pretty upset over something.”
“Yeah, it sure does.” Elodius responded, not looking at Tomse.
“Did you have any idea how upset he was?”
“No, I didn’t. I wasn’t aware of the fact that he wanted me to move out and he doesn’t want to see me anymore.”
“Elodius, I do agree that was harsh of him to say. But you have to think about where he’s coming from. It sounds to me like you haven’t been a very good housemate.”
Elodius finally met Tomse’s eyes. “Yeah, it’s true. I’m not the cleanest, or most motivated individual, but I didn’t know he was so upset over all of this.”
“You two have been best friends for as long as I can remember.” Tomse began. He pushed his playful hair out of his eyes. “So it’s hard for me to see you guys like this. Even though you two are so close, it doesn’t mean Etzie will just completely take care of you, Elodius. You have to help him out too. That’s what friends do.”
By this time, the crowds of people had dwindled down. The streets were silent and lonely. The sun had begun its descent, casting the Deep Catacombs in darkness. Etzie and Tira emerged from the restaurant. Etzie refused to look at Elodius. Tira looked desperately at Tomse.
“C’mon, guys, let’s head home.” Tomse said, ushering the two embroiled Gelerts along. Tira followed behind, her arms crossed in front of her chest.
Eventually, the four Neopets emerged from the Deep Catacombs into the fresh open air of Neopia Central. The sun still hadn’t fully set, painting the clouds and surrounding sky with beautiful oranges and pinks.
“Hey guys,” Tira shouted suddenly. “Let’s go on a nearby hill and watch the sunset!”
Etzie grumbled an inaudible reply, Elodius said nothing. Tomse narrowed his eyes, thinking about what the best course of action would be.
“Please guys? It’ll be fun! Just like the old times!”
“I agree, let’s go! We haven’t done this together in forever.” Tomse responded energetically.
“I’d really rather just head home, I have –“
“Yeah, let’s all go. C’mon, Etzie.” Elodius interrupted. Etzie looked at him coldly, the first time the two had made eye contact all night.
The group traveled to their old spot on a hill, where they used to watch sunsets together when they were younger. As they grew older, their lives went separate ways, and they did not see each other as much as they used to. These thoughts weighed heavily on Elodius.
The four Neopets sat down in the grass, admiring the sky and its colors. The sun cast vivid pastel colors all throughout the sky. Tira let a sigh of wonder escape her lips.
“It’s absolutely beautiful.” She breathed.
“The clouds remind me of cotton candy.” Etzie remarked. “The oranges and purples and pinks and blues come together so beautifully in the sky.”
No other words were spoken. The colors eventually diminished, and the clouds receded. The sky was still beautiful, but not enough for Tira and Tomse to hang around any longer. The Kougra and Kacheek bid their two friends farewell with warm hugs, and they took their leave, leaving the two bitter Gelerts by themselves. The deep colors of the sky stuck around with them.
“You used to love eating cotton candy while we watched the sunset.” Elodius murmured. “I could never stand the stuff, it was too sweet for me.”
“Yeah, you always brought those chocolate covered espresso beans to munch on.” Etzie replied quietly.
“We used to come here all the time when we were younger.” Elodius began. He paused. “I feel like I never appreciated it as much as I do right now though.”
“Those cotton candy clouds always got me.” Etzie replied. “They’re so beautiful. It was always funny to me how we called them that.”
“Why is that?”
“The clouds always filled me with wonder when they turned those colors. It’s not often the sky is filled with cotton candy clouds like it was tonight. The cotton candy I would eat never seemed to satisfy me as much as watching the cotton candy clouds in the sky.”
Etzie turned his attention to Elodius. “I’m really sorry about tonight. I shouldn’t have gotten so angry. You didn’t deserve it.”
“No, I really did deserve it.” Elodius countered. “I’ve been an awful housemate, and I really need to do better. You’ve been my best friend longer than anyone else I’ve ever known. I shouldn’t take advantage of you.”
“Yeah well, I’m a neat freak and expect too much out of you.” Etzie hugged his knees to his chest. “I know you’ve had a rough past and it still haunts you. I just never consider how or what you’re feeling. I just expect you to be totally fine and capable throughout the day.”
Elodius closed his eyes. They didn’t talk much about his past, because it’s a sensitive subject for him and he prefers not to dwell on it. But Etzie was right. Elodius had a hard time keeping up with Etzie’s demands because sometimes his bad memories would become too much, and he’d just lay in bed all day. He coped best, however, when he spent time with his best friend.
“I think we’ll be alright.” Etzie said abruptly. “The sky and its cotton candy clouds just gives me this feeling that everything will turn out for the best.”