The Sweetest Acara: Part One
Main characters list (in order of appearance):
Whitney’s mother and sister
(The background shows a picture of an empty and dreary Neopian street, where
roads and buildings are tiled with red bricks. A signboard reads “Neopian High
Street”. It is raining quite heavily, and the strong, raucous wind is howling.
Whitney, a miserable-looking red Acara donning tattered rags, enters from left,
with a flimsy umbrella in one hand, and a paper bag of shopping in another,
struggling to walk against the direction of the wind. She steps up to the centre
of the stage and turns to face the audience.)
Whitney: (to audience) Torrential thunderstorms, like this one, always
come on the first day of September. We Acaras are not very used to the cold
weather these showers bring, especially ones like me who still has to run errands
for their employer in these conditions. (Whitney, as if reminded of her ill
fate with her employer, sighs deeply and sadly. The showers lighten up slightly,
and she looks up to the sky wistfully, dreamily. Breaking into a quasi-poetic
song) I hold a drop of rain in my hand, and I sing of its beauty; I wish for
more forgiveness for this land, this land of cruelty.
(Whitney looks sadly down to her feet, sighing, and exits right.)
(The showers slowly stop, the sun shines through, and the street suddenly bustles
with activities. Neopets—hawkers, shopkeepers, and shoppers—strolls into the
stage in various directions. Street hawkers selling food set up their stalls
by the roadside. Shops opened, while Neopians and Neopets alike streamed in
pair by pair from all directions. Whitney strolls into the scene alone, looking
around the stalls.)
Whitney: (to audience) Aah, the warmth of the sunshine. It’s the best
thing to happen to Acaras, particularly in this time of the year. It’s a time
for us to dry our moist fur, and besides, it is only when the sun comes out
that the shops are open. (She suddenly remembers something) Oh, and before I
forget, I’m here to buy something for my employer. I had better hurry before
he reprimands me again. He always says that I tarry too much, which is not true.
Sigh, oh well. (She moves into the small crowd that had gathered on stage.)
(Enters Keegan, a blue Kougra, who is covered with mud and dirt, and has a
leg injury. Keegan, limping, approaches various Neopets, as if asking for help,
but everyone shuns away from him as if he is toxic. He looks behind his shoulders
furtively, sees that his pursuers are not around anymore, and heaves a sigh
of relief. He continues to seek help from the Neopets, but to no avail.)
(Solaine arrives. A big-sized, unabashed mutant Scorchio brute, he pushes aside
the crowds of shoppers and stomps into the scene. Behind him follows a few other
brazen Neopets, looking like they are a whole gang of hooligans. The crowd turns
to look at them.)
Solaine: (booming) Where is that Kougra? Come out now, Keegan, if you’re
a man. It’s better to step out now, before we find you, otherwise you can be
prepared to get it from us.
(Solaine and his gang crack their knuckles threateningly. Keegan, upon seeing
the arrival of the Usul, hurriedly hides behind Whitney who is standing at a
far corner near the front of the stage. The shocked Acara is quickly hushed
as Keegan puts a finger to his lips. The rest of the Neopets continue to look
around in puzzlement as to who Keegan is.)
Solaine: (gruffly and furiously, after receiving no response and finding
no trace of the Kougra) Alright, Keegan, I know you are somewhere around. But
we’ll take it you escaped this time. Don’t be too smug, though, because we’ll
be sure to find you as long as you and your brother still owe us Neopoints.
And don’t forget that you were the one who injured Gerald. (To his friends)
Let’s go, boys.
(The crowd disperses. Whitney and Keegan are the only ones left on the street.)
Whitney: (In alarm) You’re the one they’re looking for? (He nods silently
and grimly. Trying to conceal her disbelief) What did you do to offend them?
Keegan: You heard them. I owe them Neopoints, because my brother incurred
huge debts with them, and now that he’s…missing, I’ll have to pay those off
Whitney: (In a soft voice, sympathetically) Your brother’s missing?
Keegan: (slight pause, then nodding sadly) For months now. (Pause. Suddenly
turning angry) It must be them! They must have done something to my brother,
he couldn’t go missing just like that! (Pause) So that day, I confronted them.
Got into a fight, injured one of them. Now they’re hot on my heels. The whole
gang is spread out all over Neopia searching high and low for me. I don’t think
I can hide from them any longer. (Looks at Whitney sheepishly, and manages to
laugh at himself for rambling on) I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be saying all these
to you, just that I feel it’s all so unfair and—
Whitney: I understand.
Keegan: (slightly surprised) You do?
Whitney: (with a wry smile) You’re not the only one with a troubled
life. My employer—he’s a constant reminder that I’m not living an easy life
either. (Keegan looks interested to listen on) I’m his servant girl. Well, they
don’t call us that anymore, now that people are more civilised—or so they think—so
they call us domestic helpers. But we don’t get any better treatment. Day and
night I labour in his Neohome, cleaning up the place and sometimes even tripling
as baby-sitter and cook. There are even times when I was made to help out in
the shop, tending to customers, cleaning the shelves…I never get any breaks
during my long hours of work, not even tea breaks. All we are allowed to do
is work, work, work…(breaks off, looks as if in deep thought.)
Keegan: (looks piteously at his newfound friend, empathising with her
situation) I know what you mean. I used to be exploited this way by my previous
employer too, when I worked in a plushie-making factory. But after two weeks
I couldn’t take it anymore, so I quit.
Whitney: Good for you. I’m not so fortunate, though, I have an ailing
mother and a baby sister to support. (Looks at him, tries to smile and changes
the subject) By the way, I’m Whitney.
Keegan: I’m Keegan.
Whitney: I haven’t seen you before—you’re don’t live around the neighbourhood,
Keegan: No, I’m from a neighbouring town. I came here because I was
fleeing from those guys.
Whitney: Speaking of which…so what are your plans now? I mean, that
Keegan: His name is Solaine.
Whitney: Solaine—he’s going to keep looking for you, you heard him.
And your leg, it’s injured.
Keegan: It’s okay, Whitney. I get injured all the time play-fighting
with the other guys around my neighbourhood, this is nothing. And about them
looking for me…I’ve always been on the run, so I’m used to it. It’s alright,
Whitney: No, it’s not alright. Your wound may get infected. Tell you
what, I can lend you a small place to stay in my Neohome while you recuperate.
That way you can hide from them at the same time. (Keegan looks set to reject
her offer. Teasingly) I may be poor, but I still have a pride. If you reject
my suggestion, I’ll take it that you are looking down on this pauper girl.
Keegan: (reluctantly, but heartened that someone would finally offer
him some help) Alright then.
Whitney: Good. (Glances absentmindedly at her watch, then screams in
shock as she notes the time) Oh no! I’m late for work! Mr Ridley is going to
give me a huge thrashing for this. I need to go right now, I can’t lose another
minute…(trails off. Slight pause) but what about you? (Whitney frantically tries
to come up with a quick plan)
Keegan: I guess I better keep a low profile instead of running around
in the town, you know, and going to your workplace with you, in case Solaine
finds me. You can go to work, don’t fret about me. I’ll be fine, don’t worry.
I’m not a three-year-old kid. We will meet at the town square when you knock
off—what time will that be?
Whitney: Eight at night.
Keegan: Alright, then I’ll meet you eight at the town square, yeah?
Whitney: (worried) But where will you be in the meantime?
Keegan: (limping off) I’ll just be around, don’t worry about me, really.
Perhaps go someplace to rest this leg. (Whitney is not convinced, seeing his
limp, but decides to agree with Keegan’s plan anyway. With furrowed brows lined
with concern, she walks off to work, still unsure about how Keegan is going
to cope with an injured leg.)
(Keegan looks at her as she exits right, before he himself moves off from the
left, but not without a certain suspicious determination on his face.)