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Don't Judge a Book by its Cover


by kiaxxl

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     "A re you sure about this, Cornelia?” Shara sighed, looking across at her sister as they walked down the dark, damp corridor.

     “I’m sure! I’ve got a good feeling about today, I know it!” Cornelia said with determination, eyes focused on the door ahead of them.

     The dingy, slightly wet corridor they were walking down lead to the infamous Secret Laboratory, run by a dubious scientist who could change the attributes of any pet. Shara had finally saved up enough money to buy a secret map to the location of the lab and all of her siblings had volunteered to go under the strange effects of the ray. After watching her older sister Shara transform into a lovely Faerie Wocky, Cornelia begged to visit the lab every day to change her plain green coat into something more spectacular.

     Today however was perhaps not the best day to visit.

     “I already told you, what if you get zapped into something you don’t like for the first day of your new school tomorrow? We won’t be able to visit the laboratory until you return home” Shara reminded her, worried.

     “That’s why I need to visit today! I don’t want to be just another Green Uni that blends into the crowd, the new girl that everyone forgets. I want to be something exciting for a good first impression!” Cornelia exclaimed, looking at her sisters beautiful pink coat and yellow wings in admiration.

     “Well, if you’re sure… but don’t blame me if anything goes wrong” Shara sighed, pushing open the rusty old door to the laboratory room.

     “Trust me sis, nothing will go wrong.”

     -------

     “I CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL LIKE THIIIISS!”

     “…I did warn you.”

     Shara sighed and rubbed the shoulders of her crying younger sister, face currently buried into her bed as tears rolled down her face. The younger Uni had been sobbing for hours ever since they came back to the laboratory, where she had in fact changed from her plain green coat to something more…interesting.

     “I don’t WANT to be a Darigan! This ugly hair, these nasty red eyes... no one will want to sit next to me!” she continued to cry, looking at her chipped hooves and scruffy blue fur in dismay.

     “You’re going to have to make the most of it. Maybe you can show your classmates that being Darigan isn’t that bad?” Shara suggested, wiping away a tear on her sister’s matted face.

     “That’s assuming they even talk to me…”

     “Well, I’ll tell you what. We’ll go to the laboratory every day after this as usual and I’ll save up some Neopoints in the meantime. If a month goes by and you’re still something you don’t like, we can pick out a Paint Brush we can afford together for your birthday” Shara said, a smile on her face.

     “Thanks Shara…” Cornelia sniffed, eyes still downcast.

     The door to Cornelia’s room suddenly opened as the face of a White Kougra popped into sight.

     “Hey, I just got back from- WHOA! Is that Cornelia!?”

     Cornelia began crying again as Shara sent an angry glare towards her other sister.

     “Yes Cenay it is. Thank you for your tact regarding your sister’s new look” she huffed.

     Cenay winced as Cornelia groaned into her bedsheets, completely dreading the first day of school tomorrow morning as a Darigan Uni.

     ----------

     “Got all your books and stationary?”

     “Yes…”

     “And your lunch I made you?”

     “Yes…”

     Shara sighed, looking down as her miserable sister. Her tail was dropping, head downcast and eyes still bright red from her new colour.

     “Well, good luck sis. Even if you frighten people a little at first, I’m sure your personality will show them you’re perfect friend material!”

     “Sure…” Cornelia replied softly, not believing a word. She accepted a hug from Shara before heading out the door and trotting down the road, trying to walk as slowly as possible.

     She didn’t feel like flying – her wings were big, leathery and uncomfortable. And her hair was already messy and scraggy enough without the wind running through it. So she walked along the road to her new school, each step filling her with fear. She rounded a corner and the sight of the shiny school building in the distance made her feel sick. Taking a deep breath, she walked towards the front yard and hoped to avoid any attention on the way to her first class.

     She was being stared at.

     A Red Shoyru looked scared as she walked past him. An Orange Yurble gasped and tried to hide behind a tree as she approached the front doors. Two Acaras stared and giggled as she approached the doors, her head lower than ever at the stares. Making her way through the corridor to her first class, she desperately tried to ignore the stares, comments and laughter behind her.

     The problem with having her head so low was that she couldn’t see anything in front of her.

     “Oof!”

     She smacked into something, falling onto the hallway floor. She raised her head, gasping in horror as she realized she had collided with another student.

     “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-“

     “Watch where you’re going, loser!” the other student hissed, a Pink Xweetok with an irritated expression.

     Cornelia stuttered another apology, face going red.

     “Do those gross eyes of yours even work? Ugh” the Xweetok sniffed, getting off the floor and giving Cornelia a nasty glare before walking away.

     Cornelia’s eyes started to tear up at the sounds of whispers and a few giggles in the hallway. She slowly pulled herself up off the floor, trying not to cry as she finally arrived at Room 3-A where her first class would be held.

     Upon entering the room, her heart dropped – in the second row was the Pink Xweetok from earlier, giving her a hateful look. Her friends sitting around her stared and pointed, giggling as Cornelia made her up way up to the teacher with a sinking feeling. Her teacher Ms. Vee welcomed her to the class and informed her about the term ahead, but Cornelia was barely listening. She mumbled a few words when she was asked to introduce herself, desperately looking for an empty space to sit away from the Pink Xweetok and her group giving her unfriendly glances.

     “I believe there’s a spare seat next to Seth at the back, Cornelia” Ms. Vee informed her, pointing towards the very back row of the room.

     Cornelia winced; furthest away in a shadowed corner was a Mutant Xweetok giving her a bored stare. His yellow eyes were unblinking and eerily bright, which took some attention away from his horribly large teeth. She shuddered, walking slowly towards the back of the room and trying to ignore the gaze of the other student.

     “Excuse me…” she murmured, sitting next to him carefully and slowly putting her school books onto the desk in front of her.

     “Whatever” he grumbled, finally looking away from her.

     She could barely pay attention to a single thing Ms. Vee was writing on the blackboard – she couldn’t ignore the presence next to her. Why did she have to be placed next to the scariest kid in the classroom?! She flinched at the sound of him chewing on his bottom lip, the sight of his awfully big teeth making her tense up. When the bell finally rang, she slumped down onto her desk in relief. She tried to get up quickly, only to stop in her tracks – the nasty girls at the front of the room were still hanging around the exit to the room, chatting away. Sighing, she sat back down at her desk and waited for them to move.

     “Can you move outta the way?”

     She jolted out of her seat, staring as Seth nudged her again in the side to move.

      She whimpered and pulled her chair back in, trying to move out of his way as much as possible. He rolled his eyes, pushing past her desk and out of the room. The Pink Xweetok made a snide comment as he went by, her friends giggling and staring. Finally, they left the room, leaving Cornelia to finally get up her desk. She wobbled as she stood up, her heavier wings nearly knocking her off balance as she made her way out of the classroom.

     She turned into the lunch hall, her stomach dropping as she realized she had nowhere to sit. The hall was filled with laughter and chatter, big groups of Neopets all playing together. There was no way she was going to walk up to a random table to join in - everyone already had their friend groups, and she was the new kid who nobody liked.

     Sighing to herself again, she picked a table far away from everyone else and moodily took her lunch out. Shara had made her favorite type of sandwiches packed with care, but they tasted like ash as she sat alone with no one to talk with. She gazed across the lunch hall, spying Seth the Xweetok sitting by himself in a dusty corner, nibbling on something that looked awfully smelly even from where she was seated. She shuddered – it was no surprise no one was sitting next to him.

     After an extremely boring lunch hour where she tried to entertain herself while ignoring the happy chatter of those around her, she was almost happy to hear the lunch bell ring. She felt less happy when she remembered who she would be sitting next to. She slowly made her way back to the school room, flinching under the stares of the mean girls in the front row. One of them whispered ‘freak’ as she walked past their desk and she had to stop herself from crying then and there, instead taking a dejected seat next to horrible Seth.

     She was already behind on the classwork considering she’d barely been listening at the start of the day, and every movement from Seth had her tensing in her chair. The day could not get any worse.

     Finally, the last bell rang and she was free to go home. She felt less excited about the fact when she remembered she had a whole week ahead of her unless the laboratory changed her into something nicer. She watched the first few rows of her classmates slowly leave, daydreaming about a better coat. Maybe the week wouldn’t be awful! She could be changed into something beautiful this very afternoon and shock everyone tomorrow, no longer a hideous color with bright red eyes or messy fur.

     “So what happened to you, huh?”

     Cornelia jolted at the low voice to her left. Seth, his horrible yellow eyes sparkling with amusement, had asked her a question.

     “What… happened to me?” she whispered, confused.

     “You fell into the Rainbow Pool by accident when someone was using a Paint Brush? Morphing Potion gone wrong?” he snickered, giving her a mocking lock.

     She blushed, lowering her scruffy head.

     “That’s none of your business…” she muttered, embarrassed at the other boy judging her.

     “Ooh, lemme guess – you took a trip to that secret lab people talk about?”

     She sighed and nodded slowly, trying to block out his laughter.

     “Figures! What were you before, Pink? You seem bratty enough to be Pink” he said meanly, lips curved into a cruel smile.

     “Excuse you! How dare you judge me?” she shot back, feeling self-conscious.

     “How dare I? That’s rich from someone who treated me like I had Sneezles the whole day. You think you’re so much better than me, that I’m scary and dangerous even though we’re exactly the same” he spat out, smile gone.

     She froze, shocked.

     “I know for a fact that if you had a nicer coat, you’d be with the mean girls at the front making fun of me and calling me ugly every day. But you’re not. You’re stuck with me as one of the freaks at the back, Corny” he hissed, glaring at her.

     She felt horrified – was he right? Would she be sitting with the awful girls at the front, making fun of everyone else if she had been zapped Faerie like her sister? Alarmed at the knowledge that he was probably right, she opened her mouth to apologize – but he brushed past her and out of the room without a backwards glance.

     She slumped down at her desk, eyes wet. He was right. She was thinking only a few hours ago that he deserved to be sitting alone, while she herself had no friends. Why did she judge him like that when she looked exactly the same? Would she be as nasty as that Pink Xweetok if she changed into something beautiful, happy to bully the next new kid if they didn’t look normal? Dejected, she slowly walked home with the knowledge that she had been just as nasty as the color of her coat.

     “Hey, sis! How was your first day?” Shara asked, face hopeful as Cornelia pushed the door to their house open.

     “Horrible.”

     “Aww, I’m sorry Cornelia. Kids can be cruel, but we can go visit the laboratory after you’ve done any homework-“

     “I was horrible. And I’m not going this afternoon” she mumbled, pushing her way past her sister.

     She heard Shara calling her name in confusion, but instead Cornelia ignored her and flopped down on her bed feeling exhausted.

     She’d been so worried about being bullied for her appearance, only to do the same thing to Seth. Tomorrow… she was going to make things right. She wasn’t going to judge a book by its cover.

     -------

     She walked into school, determined and head held high. She could feel the stares of the other students, but she ignored them as she strode purposefully into the classroom. The whispers and giggles of the mean group at the front were ignored as she made her way over to Seth, currently giving her an unamused look.

     “Looking mighty worked up there, Corny” he drawled, raising an eyebrow.

     She took a deep breath before making eye contact with him.

     “Seth, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for judging you before I got to know you. I’m sorry that I took my anger out at my current situation at you. And I’m sorry that we started things off so badly if we’re going to be working together for the next few months” she said, every word sincere.

     Seth seemed to mull her words over, chewing his lip thoughtfully. Finally, he smiled. It was less scary than she remembered.

     “Welcome to the Freak Gang, Cornelia.”

     She smiled back, heart lightened.

     The rest of the day was so much better than the first – she had someone to work with on the class assignment and talk to during breaks. Seth was both smarter and funnier than he looked – her cheeks were hurting from laughing so much. And when the dreaded lunch bell rang, Seth waved her over to his dusty old table and they spent the hour swapping stories and jokes. At the end of the day he waved to her goodbye as she skipped happily home, ready to tell Shara about the day she’d had.

     It was incredible how much difference one single friend made.

     Finally, Cornelia started visiting the laboratory again. She was worried it would upset Seth, but he seemed fine with her daily visits. She knew that even if she turned into the most hideous combination possible, he would never judge her and it removed her fear of the place. Some days she grew stronger, other days it seemed nothing happened at all until –

     “Cornelia! You’ve changed!” Shara gasped, paws covering her mouth.

     Cornelia blinked, looking down. Her scraggy coat was smooth again, now a pleasing shade of brown. She gasped and ran over to a nearby pile of metal, seeing her bright blue eyes returned to her old color.

     “It’s not Faerie or Pastel, but-“

     “It’s wonderful!” Cornelia gushed, hugging her sister.

     Her sister was right – it wasn’t the flashiest or most impressive look for a Uni. But she didn’t want to be that anymore! She was happy being a plain Brown Uni and she skipped home with happiness as her smooth mane and tail waved along in the wind. She grinned, thinking Seth would probably have some joke about her new look tomorrow. She couldn’t wait to show him!

     -------

     She skipped off to school, a spring in her step as her long mane flowed behind her. She bit back a smile as people who had previously stared or pointed at her at the entrance to the school had taken no notice of her – she never knew how good it would feel to fly under the radar.

     She made her way towards her classroom, practically bouncing on her hooves. She opened the door, grinning at the shocked face on some of the girls in the front row as she walked past them. None of them had any whispered insults or glares today – in fact some of the less aggressive girls were eyeing her new look in appreciation. Still, she wasn’t planning on trying to start a friendship with those bullies anytime soon – she made her way towards her one loyal friend at the back of the room.

     She stopped short of her desk, confused as Seth looked away from her.

     “Seth?”

     “Hey Cornelia…” he replied, face looking uncertain.

     “You don’t like my new look?” she asked with a frown.

     “No, it’s good… a little too good…” he mumbled, downcast.

     She raised an eyebrow. Sighing, he continued.

     “Now that you look way better, there’s no reason for us to hang out anymore right? You deserve to sit with the normal kids…” he said, face heartbroken.

     Her mouth gaped open, shocked.

     “You think I’m going to dump my best friend because my coat looks nicer?” she asked in disbelief, confused at his statement.

     His eyes lit up.

     “I’m your best friend?” he asked, hope in his tone.

     “Well of COURSE!” she cheered, giggling at the relieved look on his face as he relaxed back into his seat.

     “Well, at the very least we can’t be the Freak Gang anymore with you looking so normal” he teased, grinning at her laughter.

      “How about just ‘Seth and Cornelia’?” she supplied, rolling her eyes with good humor.

     “That sounds… perfect” he replied, a genuine smile spreading across his face.

     As they started working on their latest group project together while Seth told her jokes and stories in-between every break, Cornelia wondered how she had ever found him terrifying in the first place.

      The End.

 
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