Battle Quills... ready! Circulation: 142,874,434 Issue: 200 | 22nd day of Swimming, Y7
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Superficial: Part Two

by shelleylow


The front iron gate opened onto a sandy courtyard with a wide grassy field at one side and a concrete path leading up to the school itself. Pets of all shapes, sizes and colours were darting about all over the place, laughing and playing. Some of them gathered in corners, alone or in pairs, looking bashful. There were some pets I had never seen in the flesh before, and I gazed about me with eagerness. There was so much to do, so much to see, so many new friends to make.

      I could barely contain my excitement. "This is going to be the best fun ever," I whinnied happily, rearing up and pirouetting on my hind legs so that my mane with its yellow ribbons whipped about my face. Suddenly I felt one of my wings connect with something. Hard.

      Whirling around, I saw a rather small, timid-looking yellow Kacheek lying sprawled in the dust, with a rather surprised expression on her face. I realized I'd accidentally knocked her over with my wing.

      "Oh gosh, I'm so sorry!" I blurted out, embarrassed at having been so careless. "Are you quite alright?" I took hold of her shoulders with my forehooves to ease her to her feet.

      But at my touch, the Kacheek broke away with a jolt as if I had burned her, and gazed at me, the look on her face altering from bemusement to terror. Astounded at this change, I could do nothing but stand there stupidly, staring at her in bewilderment.

      "Hey, you! Uni! Leave her alone!"

      Startled, I turned towards the voice. Two pets were running towards me, one a long, gangly red Lenny, and the other a wiry blue Gelert. Both had decidedly angry expressions on their faces. I backed away nervously.

      "I...I didn't mean any harm, really I didn' was an accident, honest...she was just...I was..." I trailed off foolishly, watching as the Kacheek darted behind the two newcomers with a squeak.

      "Bullying my sister, Uni?" asked the Gelert, her voice dripping with contempt. "Just because she's not as pretty as you, or as rich, or painted, that just means you can push her in the dirt as you want to, doesn't it?"

      My tongue finally came unstuck from the roof of my mouth. "Hey, just a second," I began, feeling very confused. "That's-"

      "Oh, that's exactly what it is." The Gelert wagged a blue paw in my face. "I know your type, Uni! Snobby, rich, painted pets that think they're better than everyone else. I hear about them all the time. Well, if you think you've got the right to push us around, Uni, just 'coz we're not painted, then you've got another think coming!"

      "Quite right, Sekya," the Lenny agreed, nodding his feathered head emphatically, and giving me a frigid glare. "You'd better stay away from Mari in future."

      All three then turned their backs on Satisha and me and walked off.

      "What was that all about?" Satisha asked, a quizzical expression on her face.

      I shook my head. I still wasn't too sure what had happened myself. "I don't suppose it matters much. C'mon, let's go look around some more."


      As the bell rang shrilly, we first-years were soon rounded up by the teachers and duly divided into our separate classes. Satisha and I were overjoyed to find ourselves in the same one. But my heart sank somewhat when I looked around the room and saw the three pets of that very morning seated at the other end of the room. I looked away before they could notice me. Perhaps they already had.

      I turned to Satisha to point them out, but found her talking to the pet on the other side of her, a silver Zafara. I felt a short twinge of jealousy for a split second. Satisha and I had always just had each other. But then, I thought to myself, I wanted to come to Neoschool to make new friends. Satisha had too. I would just have to make a friend of my own, now. Surely Satisha wouldn't desert me.

      There was a rather small white Usul sitting on my other side, twisting her long silky tail nervously in her paws. I smiled at her as warmly as I could.

      "Hey. You alright?"

      She looked at me out of large, anxious eyes. "It's scary here. Everyone's so big and loud and frightening, and no one will want to make friends with me..." Her voice quivered as it trailed off.

      "Now, that's not true." I extended a hoof. "See? Here, look. You've got one friend already."

      The Usul looked at me incredulously, her large eyes becoming even larger, until she realized what I meant. Smiling a little shyly, she took my proffered hoof in her tiny paw.

      "My name's SugarFlower," she almost whispered, but the tremble in her voice had more or less disappeared. "But do call me Sugar."

      I grinned back, feeling warm. "I'm May. It's good to meet you, Sugar." And I meant it, too.

      SugarFlower peered interestedly at my Faerie-themed stationery. "I like your pencils."

      I beamed at her. "Yeah, my Mother bought them for me in Neopia Central Marketplace, aren't they cool? I love Faeries." I stole a look at her desk. "Hey, you've got all Meridell-themed stuff! Awesome."

      The small Usul's smile widened. "I like Meridell. Visited a few times with my owner, for a holiday."

      "Wow," I breathed, feeling awed. "I've never been out of Neopia Central before... What's it like there? Must be exciting to travel abroad-"

      All at once, our teacher came in, and the exuberant babble of voices in the room subsided. All around me there was the scrape of chairs and desks as pets turned around to face the front.

      I liked our teacher. She was an elderly and rather plump Kougra with a pleasant face and kind eyes behind her tiny spectacles. She welcomed us warmly and told us in glowing tones of Neoschool and all it had to offer to us, and how lucky we were to be there. I listened with rapt attention to her low, sweet voice, feeling myself warm to her with every word. Her name was Mrs. Sandestripe.

      After her welcome speech she stood back, embracing us all with her smile.

      "Well now, it's wonderful to see all of you looking so eager to start! Suppose you all tell me your names and where you come from. Who'd like to go first?"

      I raised my hoof, eagerly. Paws, hooves and wings shot into the air all around me. Mrs. Sandestripe turned her beaming smile upon me.

      "Well then, young Uni, you were first, I believe. Come up and tell us about yourself."

      Joyfully I rose and trotted to the space in front of the chalkboard, facing the rest of the class.

      "My name's Maybellene Windermere," I began, my voice starting to shake with excitement. "All my friends call me May, though, because my name's so long. My owner lives with me in a big NeoHome on Main Street, Neopia Central. She cares a lot about me and buys me presents, and I love her very much. I like playing in the garden, and Faeries, and Usukis, and I have a sweet little Faellie named Crumpet. I hope I make lots of friends here and I think I'm going to enjoy myself."

      Finishing, I looked to Mrs. Sandestripe for approval.

      She smiled at me again, and nodded. "Thanks very much, Maybellene! I'm sure I will enjoy having you with us. You seem very much like a bold go-getter to me, and I like that in a student."

      I was sure my answering grin was going to split my face apart any moment. Surely, surely Neoschool was going to be a good place!

      As I made my way back to my seat feeling thoroughly happy, I happened to pass by that blue Gelert I had encountered earlier on, Sekya, the Lenny had called her. She looked at me with cold brown eyes, and then turned and whispered to the Lenny sitting beside her.


      Those words, combined with the chilly look she gave me, sent such a wave of ice through my being that it nearly tore me apart. The golden bubble of happiness at being approved of by my teacher, of making a new friend, and of the general excitement of the day, had been pricked, and I felt its silent collapse as an almost physical pain. Barely, as if from a great distance, I heard Mrs. Sandestripe invite another eager young pet to the front of the class, and the answering scrape of chair.

      I staggered the rest of the way back to my seat in a daze. I couldn't believe anything could hit me so hard and painfully.

      Suddenly I was aware of a paw on my hoof. I looked around to see SugarFlower looking up at me.

      "How did you do that?" she inquired in her soft voice, and there was wonderment and admiration shining in her large eyes now.

      "Do what?"

      "Get up there and just talk to everyone," Sugar continued, almost inaudibly. "Like it was nothing. I would've been so afraid of all those eyes looking at me, and everyone being so quiet listening to me, and I wouldn't know what to say at all." She grinned, in the shy way she had earlier. "You must be very brave."

      I smiled back at her, feeling her esteem like a warm balm infuse my soul. "Thanks, Sugar."

      It was nice to know not everyone had seen my short speech the way Sekya - and probably her friends, too - had. Sugar had even thought I was brave. The bubble of happiness started to reform in my chest. Still smiling, I turned my attention to the young Buzz who was now flitting towards the front of the class.


      The rest of the day was comparatively uneventful. We were introduced to more teachers and taken on a tour of the school. Everything was still sparkling in newness and brilliance to my eyes, and as for Sekya and her friends, I put them out of mind as much as I could.

      Come recess, we filed into the cafeteria to have lunch. Satisha and Sugar got acquainted with each other, and in turn Satisha introduced me to Farowyn, the silver Zafara she had been talking to earlier. The four of us had lunch together, and by the end of the day I felt as if the four of us had always been friends.

      All in all, I did enjoy my first day at Neoschool, and as I bade goodbye to Farowyn, Sugar, and Satisha, met Rilla at the school gate, and floated home by her side late that afternoon in a tired, happy glow, I was bursting with things to tell Mother about. I wondered if she was home. She had been there that morning, I knew; I had said goodbye to her myself, and she had smiled at me and patted my neck under my mane.

      "You have fun today, and be good," she had said. "I'm sure you'll be a fine student. Make Mother proud."

      Surely, surely, today of all days, Mother would be there to hear me tell her everything. She had known how excited I was at starting school.

           The iron gate swung open soon after Rilla pulled at the cord dangling by it, that would in turn, I knew, trigger a bell inside the house. One of the maids would have opened it. We trotted up the path, up the steps and pushed open the heavy front door. A maid had unlocked it, and she held it open for me as I entered. Calling my thanks over my shoulder, I headed across the main hall to the elegantly curved staircase and made my way up it, my hooves clattering on the marble. I slipped almost every step in my haste.

      Finally, I turned through a few more corridors to Mother's room, and burst through the hardwood door.

           I stopped short, gazing around me, feeling the eagerness die out of me, to be replaced with disappointment. There was no one there. The bed was made, and everything had obviously been cleaned earlier on. There was no sign of Mother having been there at all.

           "She left soon after you did, Miss Maybellene."

           I spun around to face the starched white apron of Belinda, one of the maids. She looked at me impassively. "After you left for Neoschool, she went off to work. I can't say when she'll back. Your Mother is a busy woman, Miss Maybellene."

      I felt my ears fold slightly. I knew very well that Mother was busy, and that she came home at odd times. Honestly, sometimes the staff did treat me as if I didn't understand anything. Well, they were all human. Perhaps they viewed Neopets as some kind of strange, intelligent, overgrown Petpet.

      "Thanks, Belinda," I whispered tiredly. "I know. I'll just go up to my room now."

      "Would you like me to bring up your dinner for you, Miss Maybellene?"

      " thanks. I'll come down and get it myself. Just ring the bell when it's ready, I'll hear."

      Belinda nodded crisply and strode away. I couldn't help wishing that Mother would hire more Neopets as help.

      I made my own way through one of the corridors to my own room. I pushed open the white wooden door, with my name painted on it in gold, and flopped down on the soft plush carpet of the floor, feeling quite worn out.

      Crumpet, who had been lying on the window seat and pricked up his ears at the opening door, scurried happily over to me and proceeded to lick my face ecstatically.

      "Alright, alright, get off, you silly fellow," I laughed despite myself, easing myself to my feet. The Faellie leapt around me, yapping and fluttering his little wings. I climbed onto the coverlet of my four-poster bed and stared blankly at the ceiling. Crumpet jumped up beside me, curled himself into a soft golden ball against my neck and heaved a sigh of contentment. I scratched his head absently with my hoof.

      The harsh clang of the dinner bell broke through my haze of thoughts. Crumpet and I made out way downstairs to the dining room. A small hope fluttered in my heart. Perhaps today Mother might come home and have dinner with me. Perhaps even now she might be sitting at table, waiting for me.

      She wasn't.

      Only one place was set at the large mahogany table. I sighed as I climbed into my seat. Even with Crumpet gorging himself noisily on the floor beside my chair leg, the polished wood surface of the table seemed to stretch on for miles around me. I hardly tasted my food.

      After what seemed an eternity, my plate was empty. I trudged back upstairs and through the dimly lit corridors to my room again, Crumpet at my heels.

      I brushed my teeth, turned out the lights and curled up in bed. Even under my thick duvet, and with the warmth of my Faellie against my back, I felt strangely cold.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Superficial: Part One
» Superficial: Part Three
» Superficial: Part Four
» Superficial: Part Five
» Superficial: Part Six

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