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A Grey Day for An Ordinary Shoe Salesman


by mojoschweni

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Shoes are my passion. As a Tonu, I know I'm the last Neopet you'd think of being glamourous, but I put a lot of thought into my appearance, thank you very much. Some people called me persnickety, but I preferred to think of it as a gift. I'm sure that it was my knack for color-coordinating that had landed me the shoe sales job at the Uni's Clothing Shop, a job which suited me to the T. The pay was good, the work easy, and I rarely ever had to deal with any wonky customers like they did up at Customer Service. All in all, it was a fine job, albeit a bit tedious on the slow days.

      I'd been on the job a few months before I saw Her stop by for the first time. My department wasn't normally as empty as it was that day, and it was almost halfway through the shift before my first customer, a Chomby, bustled in to buy a pair of Tacky Lighted Holiday Shoes. After haggling another 200 Neopoints less than the original price, he pranced out the door. The shoes in question had been on clearance for months since Christmas – my boss would be happy they'd finally sold. Humming quietly to myself, I flipped through my magazine again, as a scrappy Baby Lenny with tattered clothes walked in without a word.

      "What can I do to help you today?" I asked politely, my customary response to any new customer. She didn't respond, and only looked at me with grey eyes that conveyed a maturity beyond her years. I started to say something else, but the words choked in my throat as She turned and headed straight for the dress shoe section. Her tail feathers were distinctly ruffled as she trudged down the aisle, and after scanning both rows She sat down on a pink ruffled stool. And waited.

      Minutes, then hours passed, and She just sat there, staring straight ahead at an empty section of the shelf where our stock had run out. There were no more customers after She arrived, and the time ticked by slowly. I sat at the counter behind the register, keeping Her in my line of sight while acting vaguely uninterested, flipping through my magazine without taking in any of the content. This strange behavior was nothing like I'd seen in a customer before, but I didn't feel like She was causing a disturbance, so I let her be.

      It was nearly time for me to lock up, and I knew I had to ask Her to leave soon. "Closing time," I said – it came out as a whisper, although I didn't mean it to. It was if my voice didn't want to interrupt the silence that had prevailed the last several hours. She looked up at me with those deep grey eyes before hopping off the stool and waddling off through the door. The cool night air swept in for only a moment before the door clicked again. Silence.

      She would come sit in the dress shoe section at the same time every day for weeks, although She never spoke a word. Our relationship became habitual – I would greet Her with a "What can I do to help you today?", and she would only leave once I announced "Closing time." It was beyond strange, but I enjoyed it in a way. Her visits were constant, on the busy days and the slow alike, and Her presence there was reassuring to me, as strange as that sounds. As each day passed, I more and more wanted to see behind those luminescent grey eyes, which pierced right through me like an old woman who had seen her fair share of the world.

      A week or two after she first stopped in, I asked my manager about that empty section of the shoe case that She was so interested in. He told me that we didn't carry them any more – hadn't for years, actually, and they'd never got around to replacing the area with another style. Somehow, I knew they were important to her, but I had no idea why. The aura of mystery surrounding her was maddening, and I yearned to learn her past, but it was as if she was mute.

      It wasn't until two or three months after Her first visit that I started to notice the molting. Her feathers began to fall out one by one, and a few had started to have a light grey coloring. It looked as if She had come down with a horrible case of some unknown Neopian disease. I was starting to get worried about Her. What if there really was something wrong? I knew that I'd feel responsible if something happened to her.

      I was still mulling things over when She didn't come in one day. It rattled me more than I had realized, knowing that she wasn't there in the corner per usual. I stayed at the shop past closing time, even, just looking out the door at the empty streets, waiting for her to come sit on her stool once again.

      Days, weeks, then months flew by, and still that little Baby Lenny was missing from her customary stool in Aisle Two. I had just said goodbye to another customer and was organizing the new fall arrivals when the door swung open and a Lenny stumbled in before falling to the ground. Torn grey feathers had replaced the soft yellow wings of months past, but that pair of gorgeous grey eyes made it unmistakable. It was Her. I swooped down to pick her up before racing to the Hospital.

      "Please, someone help!" I cried as I set Her down in the waiting room. It was deserted. "Please!" I whirled around, looking for someone, anyone. Finally Dr. Gelert, my own personal physician, came rushing in.

      "Anna! What in Neopia is wrong?"

      "Sir, it's this Lenny --" I turned to gesture at the seat behind me. My heart skipped a beat – she was gone. "No, sir, I swear she was here a moment ago! You have to help, PLEASE..."

      "It's two o'clock in the morning, dear. It was probably just a nightmare," Dr. Gelert said kindly. My eyes caught a glint of something grey lying on the seat, and in my paw I snatched up one single grey feather.

      "Look! She was here, this is proof. A Grey Lenny, please help me find her –"

      "Please, Anna, go back to bed. I'm sure this was all just a misunderstanding. It is Grey Day, after all!"

      "What? No, the Games Master Challenge started last week. Grey Day isn't for months!" I stammered in my confusion. My ears were ringing as Dr. Gelert escorted me back to my Neohome, still as confused as ever. My last reminder of Her, the grey feather, was still clutched in my hand as we walked. In the sky, dark lead-grey clouds gathered in bunches, and the air became hot and humid. As the rain began to fall, I thought I could just make out a single Grey Lenny flying off in the distance... But maybe it was just a trick of the light.

The End

 
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