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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 24th day of Swimming, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 103 > Short Stories > Cactus Flowers

Cactus Flowers

by ladyariel32

I promised to myself that as long as the cactus flowers still floated in the garden, I would never lose hope. Lila was bound to return to her normal self and everything would be as if nothing had ever gone wrong. It wasn't a lost cause. All I needed was a little patience and I happen to have a lot of that.

     Lila and I had been best friends for a long time. We met the usual way: our owners visiting each other's NeoHomes and bringing us along with them. It wasn't long before the two of us became friends and soon enough, best friends. We did what best friends usually do: sleepovers, playing, munching on chocolate and cookies, and a whole lot of gabbing and talking. We shared so many secrets… secrets that I would probably never reveal to anyone else, including Ginny (my owner). I trusted her with all my heart and I was sure that she did, too.

     My name is Cassandra, by the way, and I'm a blue Tuskaninny. I've always desired to be a painted pet. I want to be a Plushie Tuskaninny, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, Ginny just never had enough Neopoints. Oh, don't get me wrong. She's not poor or something like that. The problem with Ginny is that she doesn't know how to manage her NP's properly. She wastes them away on pointless, useless things. This story isn't about her backfiring moneymaking schemes or her shopping excursions, though.

     It's about Lila, the crowd, and myself. Lila is a green Blumaroo with an upbeat, happy-go-lucky nature. Both of us were never accepted into the "cool and popular crowd" at our neighborhood mainly because our species were not on the Top 10 List. Said crowd is composed of a painted Kacheek, Gelert, Kougra, and Shoyru who ruled over the less fortunate pets (yours truly, included). I envy all of them. Imagine, being popular and rich at the same time. The neopet I am jealous of the most is a Faerie Kacheek named Lana.

     "Look at her," I said wistfully to Lila one day as Lana and her friends passed by (blissfully ignoring us). "She is so beautiful and sophisticated. Don't you just wish we could be part of the crowd?"

     Lila snorted disgustedly. "You WANT to be one of them? Cass, they are superficial and selfish. I, for one, am contented as my green self. If getting painted turns you into someone who doesn't care about things that really matter, then, I'm better of staying this way."

     "Oh, I'm sure I won't turn into a snob after getting painted," I told her innocently. "All I meant was, it sure would be nice to be popular and painted, at the same time. Lana has everything I ever wanted and more." I sighed.

     "Stop talking like that, CASs," Lila replied gently. "Come on, let's go and eat some chocolate."

     That's another fantastic trait of Lila's. She doesn't care about silly, shallow things like getting painted or morphing into a Kacheek. She probably never even dreamed of eating tropical breeze at the Golden Dubloon. I don't think she'd even care.

     It was about two weeks ago when Lila came bursting into my room with a brown paper bag in one paw.

     "Look what I've got!" she exclaimed breathlessly. A giddy smile was on her face.

     Curious, I reached for the bag and put my paw in. I pulled out a tiny packet of seeds. Written in fancy, loopy scrawl was the name: Floating Cactus Flower. I looked at Lila quizzically.

     "Uh… what's this?" I asked in a perplexed tone.

     Lila took the packet from my paw. "I thought it was high time for us to try our paws in gardening. We could plant these in your garden, if you want."

     "What and how, exactly, are we going to plant?" I asked uneasily.

     "A floating cactus flower, of course," Lila said cheerfully. "It's easy. All we have to do is dig a hole in the soil, bury some seeds, water them once (and never again), and after a few days… TADAH… a few prickly shrubs will hover in the air a few inches above the soil!"

     "How do you know that's going to work?" I queried sceptically.

     "Hello!" she drawled in reply. "It says so, right here." Lila pointed at the packet.

     I looked closely and saw, in much smaller handwriting than the one on the label, a list of instructions.

     Lila tugged at my paws. "Come on, let's plant the seeds now!"

     The idea of owning a floating cactus flower suddenly appealed to me. Almost immediately, I could feel excitement welling up inside me. The two of us chose a spot where the sunlight was abundant.

     "A cactus must have a large share of sunlight," Lila told me.

     Together, we dug up the soil with our paws and dropped two seeds inside.

     "One for you and one for me," I said warmly.

     We smiled at each other as Lila sprinkled a tiny amount of water over the buried seeds. Each passing day, Lila and I would check on the seeds to see if they had grown. I hardly had time to think about how to get hold of a Plushie Paint Brush or how I could be as popular as Lana. My thoughts were all on the cactus flower seeds.

     "Maybe, the seeds aren't getting enough sunlight," I said worriedly on the fourth day.

     "I don't think so," Lila answered me.

     "Well, maybe, they didn't get enough water the last time. Let's water them again."

     "I told you, already, didn't I? The seeds only need to be watered once and NEVER again. A cactus doesn't need a lot of water."

     "B-but…"

     "Don't worry, CASs The seeds will grow into cactus flowers soon enough."

     My best friend often told me that I didn't have anything to fret about but hey, I'm a worrywart. What was I supposed to do? Anyway, I woke up early on the sixth day and promptly ran out into the garden. I cried out gleefully. There, hanging in the air, were two floating cactus flowers!

     "Wuzzat?" a startled Ginny appeared behind me, rubbing her eyes tiredly.

     "Look, Ginny!" I shrieked and clutched her hands. "Cactus flowers!"

     Ginny stared at the two flowers and she suddenly became wide-awake. "I wonder how much we can sell them for at my shop…"

     "You wouldn't dare!" I sputtered. "These are Lila's and my flowers."

     "Oh," Ginny replied. She turned around abruptly and went back in.

     Needless to say, Lila was just as overjoyed as I was. We watched, fascinated, as the cactus flowers hovered in midair. We observed how the flowers seemed to turn toward the direction of the sunlight and how each day, its petals (or leaves?) became longer.

     "Our cactus flowers appear to be growing well," I noted, gazing fondly at them.

     Before Lila could answer, we heard the sound of Aurora's voice from afar. "Lila! I've got a surprise for you…" Her voice sounded eager and pleased. Lila and I glanced at each other.

     The Blumaroo shrugged, looking quite puzzled herself. "I'd better go."

     The mystery was solved the next day when Lila came in the morning and almost knocked the door down. "CASs, CASs! GET OUT OF THERE, WOULD YOU?"

     "All right, I'm coming," I grumbled. I pushed the door open.

     There, standing on two velvety paws, was a pink Kacheek with bright black eyes and a wide grin. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. "Lila? Is that you?"

     "OH MY GOSH! YOU SOOOOO WOULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TO ME. AURORA BOUGHT ME A KACHEEK MORPHING POTION AND A PINK PAINT BRUSH. NOW, LOOK AT ME. AREN'T I THE CUTEST NEOPET YOU HAD EVER SEEN? I'M HEADING OVER TO LANA'S PLACE AFTER WE TALK. SHE INVITED ME OVER WHEN WE MET ALONG THE STREET YESTERDAY. I FEEL SO LUCKY!"

     Lila definitely didn't sound like Lila at all. First of all… her voice was silky, breathy, and giggly. Secondly, Lila would NEVER be persuaded to morph into a Kacheek and much more, to get painted. She hated superficial things. She always said so. I could not believe it. Maybe, I had been wrong about her, all this time.

     "Well?" the pink Kacheek asked smugly, waiting for my reaction.

     That's when I did something that was very out of character. I slammed the door on her cute, pink face. I could hear an indignant cry from the other side.

     "If that's how you want it, then," my former best friend said haughtily.

     The sound of retreating pawsteps was music to my ears. I approached my bedroom window and peeked out gingerly outside. I could see Lila walking quickly toward Lana's NeoHome. Lana. The crowd. Somehow, I knew that Lila was going to be part of the crowd and that she would "blissfully ignore" little me the way Lana and the other always did.

     "Lila is no longer Lila," I told myself bitterly. "I hate her."

     But I couldn't bring myself to hate her no matter what I did. I stared unhappily at Lila-who-is-not-Lila-anymore everyday as she passed by with her "new" friends. I noticed that as she came past me, the pink Kacheek would laugh merrily and look like she was the happiest neopet in the world. Just to spite me, I bet.

     I promised to myself that as long as the cactus flowers still floated in the garden, I would never lose hope. Lila was bound to return to her normal self and everything would be as if nothing had ever gone wrong. It wasn't a lost cause. All I needed was a little patience and I happen to have a lot of that.

     "Hi!" I managed to chirp when she walked across the street. "I just wanted to tell you something…"

     She stopped and for a moment, I felt a surge of hope.

     "Do I know you?" Lila sneered coldly and walked on.

     The very next day, I visited the garden to look at the cactus flowers. For some unknown reason, they had shriveled up and died. The withered flowers no longer hovered in the air. Instead, they were lying on the soil forlornly, crushed petals and all. I felt that sinking feeling in my stomach again as a realization hit me. The cactus flowers were gone… and so was our friendship. Goodbye forever, Lila…

The End


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