A Waffle Paradise Circulation: 174,460,927 Issue: 409 | 11th day of Gathering, Y11
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Extreme Difficulty: Part Two

by iris220_ll


"Yes!" she squeals, all smiles.

      The girl doesn't even notice that I'm whimpering. She doesn't know that I'm crying, tearing in her arms. I try to break away, but I'm weak; suddenly I resent Ari a little bit for never training me - I'm still Level 2. And that one extra Level was gained from a visit to Coltzan's Shrine, too! Suddenly, I hear growling. It sounds like Drac. But then I realize that it's Key. His grey eyes are glowing that bright, illuminating blue. I never understand why his eyes glowed blue when he was angry; first of all, they shouldn't be glowing. But blue?

      "Let go," Key hisses. I feel the girl stiffen; her arms turn to noodles, but they're wrapped tight around me. I try to pull away, to fall to the ground, to fly. But her fingers curl around my wings. Tight.

      She twirls around and attempts to bolt through the doorway - and bullets straight into the door. Kim smiles, satisfied, as I fly from her grip. She's so fast; she closed that door in the blink of an eye.

      "Don't," Kim says, kicking open the door, "mess with this family."

      The girl is angry. Upset. Her face is still that distinctive tomato-red, and her straight auburn hair seems to glow that same shade of crimson. Even her eyes look red, even though I can tell that they're supposed to be brown. She's really angry. I hate making others upset; but when they try to take me, it's just not right. Sometimes, a polite, kind trader comes to inquire about me, and they leave with a neofriend invite from Ari. Why can't all traders be like that?

      The girl hops to her feet, brushes dust off her pants, and leaves, her chin held high. Trying to leave with her dignity, as if she had any left.

      I'm still crying.

      There's shouting and a slam downstairs, and then Ari is in the room. She rushes over and hugs me tight. She's crying, too. I look up at Kim. She walks over and makes this a group hug. Key doesn't do group hugs, but I can see the pitying glint in his eyes. I don't want pity! I don't want it! I want to be normal. I want to be treated like any pet walking on the street; I wanted to be treated like a neopet. Not a trophy.

      Just once.


      I open my eyes. Which is strange; I usually have a straight night of sleep. But my stomach is rumbling. Only then do I realize that Kim, Key, and I had missed dinner. Great Fyora. I'm sure my rumbling stomach would eventually wake them up (and a sleepy Key and Kim is not a good thing) so I stood up, unlocked the door, and quietly stroll downstairs to the kitchen. I switch on the lights and listen to the hum of the fridge; I hum, too, but to a Twisted Roses song, instead. The Twisted Roses have always been my favorite band - but I like Yes Boy Ice-Cream, too, no matter how silly their name is.

      I get a Happy Negg out of the cupboard and sit at the kitchen table with a glass of Kau Kau Farm Milk. I remember that Jenna's fridge privileges had been suspended, too; it was punishment for stealing Lovely and letting me burst into tears when I begged for her back.

      Then, suddenly, she's there.

      I just look up at the doorway and Jenna's standing there. She's scowling; she's never smiled at me before. Even that first time, when she walked through the doorway, holding Ari's hand; when Mom rushed away from her to scoop her little girl (me) into her arms, hugging me and twirling me around in the air, she was frowning. Scowling. Jealous. Bitter. Hateful. And she still was.

      Her arms are crossed and she's glaring.

      Despite being a blue Kacheek, Jenna is actually very pretty. She's petite in stature, but is still about a head taller than me. Her eyes appear to be large pools of water and are always this lovely, dark sapphire shade, but I have seen them without that bitterness swallowing them up, save for that one moment when she came home from the Pound and was holding Ari's hand. Her eyes seemed joyful, gentle, but then she saw me - and that all changed.

      Her wardrobe is like mine, girly. Today she's wearing a My Sister's Skirt with a Soup Faerie Shirt and a huge pink bow tucked in her azure curls. If she could only get rid that scowl and flashed a smile, she could win countless Beauty Contest trophies. But she's scowling at me. She's always scowling at me.

      "I heard about what happened, this evening," she says. I stiffen in my seat, and my mouth is full of half-eaten negg. "It's so pathetic, you know," she hisses, "to just start crying. If she had taken me - " She pauses for a moment. I know she's doubting that anyone would try to take her. "If she had taken me," she repeats, "I would've screamed. Screamed for help. Kicked her. Punched her. Not just cry."

      "Oh," I say.


      "You know, I can help you." A smile curls over her face. It isn't a happy, loving smile. It's devious - and, in a way, cruel. "I can help you," she repeats, "be free. Of your curse. The terrible Curse of Perfection."


      I had never thought of my "beauty," or my name, as a curse. But then again, I guess it's "both a blessing and a curse," as they say. I can't believe I just realized it. Or, in a way, was helped to realize it. I finish my negg and gulp down my milk, then look at Jenna. She's still smiling. I'll admit it - I'm scared of Jenna. She's tried to not just get rid of me, but kill me. Poison me.

      "You're like a caged weewoo, all locked up," she whispers, her voice hoarse and her smile gone. "I have the key. The key to unlocking your cage and setting your free." She steps closer to where I'm sitting at the kitchen table, and I shiver. "I'm not trying to sound like a poetic sap, Violet, because I'm not. If I were a poetic sap, I'd have hundreds of Poetry Contest trophies. But I don't. What I'm saying is, that I feel sorry for you.

      She's tempting me. A caged weewoo. She has the key. The key to letting me go. But does she? Is this just another ridding attempt? I begin to tremble in my seat. Suddenly, a thought floats to mind. I'll take the key. Grab it, if I have to. If it means being freed, I'm fine with whatever she's got. I can't count all the traders and n00bs that have chased me, grabbed me, attempted to petnap me. Great Fyora, once, someone busted our window and attempted to take me away! Good thing Kim has sharp ears and is a light sleeper!

      Did I mention Jenna was jealous of that incident?

      "Okay," I find myself saying, slowly, "Where is it? Where's the key?"

      I sound like a little baby, being tempted with candy by a petnapper. That frightening smile crosses over Jenna's lips again, and she beckons me with her paw.

      "Come on," she says.

      I stand up, put the cup I was using in the cupboard, switch off the kitchen lights, and follow Jenna up the stairs. I'm walking slowly, so slow that Jenna turns around and sneers at me.

      "Come on," she hisses.

      "Come back," the hum of the fridge seems to cry, "Don't go."

      I ignore it.

      Jenna leads me to her to her bedroom. I get nervous, and feel the negg rising in my throat. I've never been in Jenna's room before; she'd never let me. She opens the door and shoves me inside, then closes the door and locks it. Every muscle in my body is tense. It's pitch black in the room, and I can't see anything. I hear Jenna breathing, and I can feel her rush past me. Two objects that sound like glass collide, and as my eyes adjust to the darkness, I can faintly see Jenna's silhouette as she stands on tip-toes, touching objects that look like bottles, standing like solemn statues on a bookshelf. I turn around and slowly approach the door.


      I crash into something hard. Feeling it, I recognize a headrest. A bed? The material crunches as I gently squeeze it. A fresh bamboo bed. As quietly as possible, I get onto the bed and move towards the door, but crash into something else. A chair, placed on top of the bed? And a coffee table... and a desk... barricades. She has barricaded the door. When has she found time to put those there?

      And more importantly, has she put them there to keep others out, or to keep me in?

To be continued...

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» Extreme Difficulty: Part One
» Extreme Difficulty

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