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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 24th day of Swimming, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 72 > Continuing Series > Celebration Memories: Part Two

Celebration Memories: Part Two

by scriptfox

It took a while to get used to the new routines around the house. Cooking became a sometimes thing, squeezed in around busy workmen and building materials. The advent calendar became a daily thing, and I happily stashed back Battledome items, food, candy, and even a special seasonal Jazzmosis ticket for Heilley. I was going to be well-prepared for giving on Celebration Day this year!

     The other plans that my owner had didn't start to materialise for a couple of days. It was late one morning when I managed to get Kallisari out of the house shopping. I quickly called my owner at work, and he took some time off to come over. I wound up standing at the head of the stairs, keeping a nervous eye on the front door as he did his work in MonoKeras and Kallisari's bedroom. I'd wince as each bright flash lit the hallway, but things went uneventfully.

     "Did you get it all?" I asked as he came out.

     He grinned and patted a full pocket. "Enough. This should do the trick. Now remember, make sure you get the phone when our people call about the other thing."

     "I'll try. You told them to ask for me?"

     "Yep. Okay, see you this evening."

     As it turned out, Heilley was in the house when the call came the next day and she managed to grab the phone first.

     "Hello?... No, he's not here... Who?... Oh, sure, hold on."

     I was standing beside her, trying not to seem impatient. "Is it for me?"

     "Yeah. You were expecting it?"

     I ignored her question and just took the phone. "Hello, this is blchocobo... yes... You have? Good, I'll tell him..." I looked towards Heilley. "No, not today. Better let me call you. Uh-huh, sure. Okay, will do."

     I hung up and went back into the kitchen with Heilley trailing me.

     "What was that all about?"

     "Oh, just some remodeling plans we're working on for the kitchen. I'm going to get cupboards and a counter along that back wall there. It'll almost double my available storage space!"

     Heilley managed to lose her inconvenient curiosity as she became distracted by my enthusiasm. "No kidding? Nice. But when are they going to put the ceiling back in?"

     "They aren't."

     "Huh?"

     "They aren't. They're putting extra bracing in the walls and ceiling along the sides there, then they'll take out the rest of the wall into the upstairs hall and just run a railing along that whole length there."

     Heilley's lips pursed in a silent whistle. "Gives you a big ceiling in here and lets us holler breakfast orders down to you from upstairs."

     "Yes, I guess it does," I admitted. I eyed Heilley's speculative look. "And forget any bright ideas about swinging down into the kitchen from there for a midnight snack. I don't guard anything, so just using the stairs works fine."

     Heilley rolled her eyes dramatically. "Killjoy," she muttered as she left the room.

     Despite Heilley's disappointment, the repairs proceeded along the outlines that I'd given her. The railing looked quite nice, although it took a while to get used to having the others looking down into the kitchen from upstairs.

     Our owner's plans for his other big surprise were developing as well, but the time before Celebration Day was quickly disappearing. I'd seen the drafts, and I'd managed to grab the phone first when the call came that the materials were ready. But on the Friday before Celebration Day, we heard that a big snowstorm was due in on Celebration's Eve. That left virtually no time to get things ready, and I was ready to hit the panic button. Fortunately, the before bad weather rush gave me the opportunity to easily slide Kallisari out the door again for more shopping (and lots of it, to keep her occupied), and our owner and I managed to subtly encourage Heilley into the idea of spending the day Monday at Koot's house - not that that took much!

     I spent most of the day exiled to my room, getting my own presents to everyone packaged and wrapped. It was rather disappointing. After being in on the big secret, and helping to bring it off, I was rewarded by being forced to wait to see the actual thing until everyone else got to. Still, I was willing to play along, and it did help preserve the "specialness" of the whole thing. When I came downstairs that evening, I was rather perversely pleased that nothing had noticeably changed, even though I knew what was waiting.

     Celebration Eve dawned white, and continued that way for the rest of the day. We spent the day comfortably snowed in, reading, talking a bit, and mostly staring out the window at the deepening snow. The fireplace had been lit up and provided a nice crackling heat to make things even more cozy.

     Dark came quickly in the afternoon, what with the short days and the still thick cloud cover that was busily dropping white stuff outside. We lit a couple of lamps in the far corners of the living room, and let the yellow glow of the fireplace provide our main illumination. Then we curled up in various places around the room, staring at the tree in the corner and the presents underneath, waiting for tomorrow morning.

     Our owner spoke softly into the crackling silence. "I think it's time to tell a story of Celebrations past."

     Kallisari and MonoKeras looked up briefly from their mutual huddle, but it was Heilley who immediately perked up with the expected question. "What Celebration past?"

     "Here, Heilley. Last year at this time."

     "Oh. I wasn't here then. What happened?"

     "No, that's true. It was before you were born. I only had two pets then, and at times I wondered about one of them."

     MonoKeras grimaced and put Heilley's puzzled look at ease. "He means me."

     "Oh."

     "Yes, I had a desert Blumaroo, and MonoKeras was a Kiko."

     Kallisari's eyes popped open and she shivered. "Kiko? Was that when we first met?"

     MonoKeras nodded. "Yeah. Right around this time last year, I was jumping out of trees to hit you on the head."

     Heilley giggled. "Was that some sort of weird courtship thing?"

     "No, Heilley, just a dirty trick. I was good at those back then."

     "Hrmph. Not just back then."

     Our owner chuckled. "You kept a record of it all, too, didn't you MonoKeras."

     "Of course. You know I did."

     "Why don't we read some of your diary entries from then?"

     MonoKeras got a stubborn look. "I don't think so. That was sort of private."

     "Well, I guess I'll just have to read these myself." Our owner pulled out some eight by ten photos. "Let's see here... Celebration the 7th, Year 3..."

     "Hey! Where did you get those?"

     "These? Oh, these are pictures of your diary that I took a couple of weeks ago. I think I've got the whole month of Celebrating here..."

     MonoKeras' mouth opened and shut, but no sound came out. The girls began giggling.

     "Outflanked, MK!" Heilley laughed. "C'mon, read, read!"

     "Never mind those," MonoKeras groaned. He pulled himself off the couch. "If you're going to do that, I might as well get you the real thing." He headed upstairs and came back down with the book. "Here. Though why you want to rake this up is more than I'll ever know."

     "Perhaps, perhaps." Our owner leafed through the pages slowly and carefully as MonoKeras snuggled back into Kallisari's waiting arms. "Ah, here's the entry I was about to read. Seventh of Celebrating. 'Changed "colour" to mutant. Talk about ugly! Vicious and mean, too. Somehow, my first reaction of horror is muted by an inner gleeful joy at having something I can use to take out my frustration and anger about all this.'"

     He fell silent and Heilley's ears almost visibly stretched. "Is that it? Just... hints?"

     He nodded. "Mostly. By this time, he'd been on the lab ray for a couple of months, and he only used this as a brief indication of what was happening."

     "Boy, that sounds sort of scary. Taking out frustration and anger?"

     MonoKeras sighed. "Try being a Kiko sometime. No legs, just a round ball with a bandage and a single hair. I hated that time. Being mutant was almost the least of it."

     Our owner nodded. "But a rather nasty part, as I recall. You weren't around much anymore, you were off with other pets that you never talked about afterwards."

     MonoKeras just grunted, but his expression showed that he didn't want to talk about them now, either. Heilley was starting to look thoughtful. "But didn't you still run your detective business?"

     I spoke up before MonoKeras could. "I was running it by myself."

     "You??"

     "Yeah, he was," MonoKeras said. "Did an okay job, too - a lot better than I would have."

     Heilley eyed me with a bit of new respect. "I never knew you were a detective. What was your worst case?"

     "I..." I looked over at MonoKeras miserably and caught his minute headshake. I was relieved to see it, a sign that our mutual shameful secret could stay that way. "I'd rather not mention it. Protect the guilty, you know."

     "Oh..."

     "Celebrating the 8th, year 3," our owner continued. "I'm still shuddering over this last zap. Oh, yeah, I gained two levels from it. But I found out that no matter how mean and vicious I thought I could be--even with mutant 'powers'--it all vanished in fear and pleading before that dreaded lab ray. I groveled just as hard or even harder this morning. I even saw my owner's look of sympathy, which I never thought I would again... but it didn't prevent him from getting me zapped anyway. One of these days he's gonna pay for that, I swear, one of these days...."

     Dead silence followed this time. MonoKeras had a distant look as he recalled those days, and I could tell that they weren't pleasant memories, even now. Heilley's thoughtful look was actually starting to turn sympathetic as she began to understand some of what her "cocky older brother" had been through. Kallisari was hugging MonoKeras, a look of almost pleading on her face as she vainly tried to squeeze away the hurt inside him.

     Our owner's soft tones continued to read from the diary, a list of hurts and pains that somehow seemed to be almost his own as his voice expressed the regret and sorrow remembered. And yet, the calmness that underlay them let you understand that these were past pains, things that marked not defeat, but lessons that left you marked for life, stretched in understanding in ways that others might never fully understand.

     I hated to do it, but I knew my cue. As the others fell under the spell of our owner's voice, I slipped out of the room and into the kitchen. I stepped outside the back door for just a few seconds, and reached for the ripcord. I gave it one hard tug, and waited only long enough to hear the tarp hitting the ground before ducking back through the door. I fixed popcorn as our owner's voice drifted in from the living room.

     "Just call me freckles! I changed to purple this morning, but, no surprise, purple on a Kiko has to include orange spots. At least I don't see a monster in the mirror anymore... Lost two strength points. I think I'm gonna go back to bed and finish my crying spell... Gained two strength points back today, but I don't dare think that I turned a corner because I know it's not going to stay good... Almost got out of my daily zap, but was hauled out to it in the middle of the night. For what result? I changed colour to yellow. Goodbye, apple, hello lemon... I still can't believe I blurted out that I like being a Kiko before I got zapped. I must be losing my mind..."

     I came back in and passed out the popcorn. Kallisari actually had tears in her eyes, and MonoKeras was hugging her to comfort her now. The reading stopped while I gave everyone their popcorn, and he used the break to speak up. "I think we all got the point, sir. Why don't you skip to the end?"

     "Why not? It does end on a happy note, after all. Let's see here..."

     He began reading the last entry, and I grinned as Heilley's jaw dropped. I knew all about the story of MonoKeras eating his morphing potion because he was a Grarrl, but it was obvious that no one had told her.

     "...I'M BACK TO NORMAL AGAIN! GOOD BYE AND ROT IN BALTHAZAR'S DUNGEON YOU LAB RAY!!! I still can't believe it. I think my being female earlier this morning must still be affecting me, all I can do is look in the mirror and cry with sheer happiness." Our owner quietly closed the book and slipped it down into the chair beside him.

     "Wow. That's some story, MK."

     MonoKeras shrugged. "Just the truth. It did end, though. Everything does, eventually."

     Heilley still seemed almost in awe. "I guess so..."

     Our owner chuckled. "I think it's time we finished our eats here and turned in. Tomorrow morning is going to be busy."

     The next morning was just as promised - busy, and happy, too. Heilley danced around the room when she opened my present to her, while MonoKeras eyed his Battledome weapons with unconcealed speculation. After all the presents had been opened, our owner stood up.

     "Okay, everyone, come on upstairs. It's time to show you another present that I'm giving to all of you."

     Everyone else looked puzzled, but we all followed him upstairs and into the hall. He stopped in front of the new railing that overlooked the kitchen. "Blchocobo, would you pull that cord there?"

     "Yes, sir." I did so, and the last construction tarp fell off of the opposite wall. A chorus of gasps sounded as the morning sun shown directly through the huge stained-glass window that covered the entire section of wall that had been MonoKeras' lab. Even though I knew what to expect, I had to admit the effect was stunning. The window was split into four squares, and each of them contained an outline of one of us, done up as the default pictures for our species and colour MonoKeras was in the upper left corner, gold coat shining out of a blue background. I was in the upper right, dusky red skin contrasting with bright yellow. Kallisari was in the bottom left, blue and black form seeming to drift in a sea of green, and Heilley's perky black and white look was shown off in a light red.

     As we stood there staring at it, our owner managed to encircle us all in a hug. "Happy Celebration Day, my pets... to all four of you."

The End

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Celebration Memories: Part One

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