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Help at Kelp

by jen4ever4ree


Hazel sat alone in a corner seat of Kelp.

     Kelp was obviously a very exquisite restaurant. Hazel looked around. A baby grand piano played smooth jazz music, playing soft Jazzmosis songs, which were to play later in the evening. The walls were clear ocean blue, shimmering slightly. It looked like walls of watery jelly. Orbs of dim, pale green light shone from every table.

     The restaurant was very full and Hazel felt very out of place.

     She sniffed, glancing around warily. Everyone was dressed in their finest clothes. A haughty royal Zafara smelling very heavily of lavendar perfume passed Hazel, tutting at her. A refined looking desert Cybunny sitting nearby gave Hazel a dirty look, lifting up her nose. Her expression clearly read, 'You should NOT belong here'.

     She was very surprised when a Maraquan Draik drifted towards her. He was dressed in a very simple navy vest, but he had a regal air to him. He was obviously an important figure.

     Hazel looked uncomfortably down at herself.

     She was a royal Acara. She would have fit in perfectly in Kelp, if it were not for the fact that her dress was shabby, torn, and muddy, her cape was ripped and dripping wet, the clasp broken, and her hat had gone missing. As well, her hair was disheveled and she felt slightly sick, probably with neoflu.

     She and her parents had just had an enormous argument. It had been terrible. Hazel would have thought she'd be used to it by now; she and her parents fought so often. It was always because of the same reason - Hazel just did not like royalty.

     She was part of a royal family. Her parents were Duke and Duchess Granola. Royalty always seems so pleasant, but in all honesty ... it is not. At least, not for Hazel.

     Hazel sighed. She was sick of having to sit straight all the time, being constantly watched, having to listen to every command, having to squeeze into too-tight dresses, making sure never to spill her food, making sure always to be polite, always to say please and thank you, never to mention the cursed Lord Darigan or anything gruesome like that filth Sloth - 'Doctor Sloth, as if he actually became a doctor!' her mother had said once. But Hazel had not wanted to follow any of those rules. She didn't want to be a mindless clone, meant to follow her elders and keep traditions. She wanted to be different, to be comfortable. She wanted to be herself.

     She remembered their argument. It had started quite normally.

     "Hazel, darling, do you have your weekly letter to Uncle Hagan?" Hazel's mother had said promptly, sitting down in a hard armchair.

     "Yes, it's right here."

     "Good, darling. I'll have you send it to Artie," her father said grandly.

     "Artie? What happened to Rubenna?" Hazel had demanded. Rubenna was her best friend - most probably her only friend. The other royal maidens of Brightvale all disliked Hazel, but Rubenna was kind and knew how to have a good time. She was always there for Hazel and she was always cheerful, with her brilliant smile and floppy ears.

     "We had to let her go, the silly servant. She's been doing things to your mind," Duchess Granola said in what was supposed to be a very gentle voice.

     "No, she hasn't!"

     "Hazel, do not raise your voice, child," came Duke Granola's stiff reply.

     "How has Rubenna been ... doing things to my mind? I'm perfectly healthy!"

     "You spend too much time with that little servant Blumaroo. She's made you listen to horrid music, hasn't she?" Duchess Granola said.

     "But I like that music," Hazel protested, eyes glistening.

     "Nonsense, nonsense," Duke Granola said. "It's horrible music. It's so loud and scratchy."

     "Are you insulting my taste in music, father?" she asked acidly.

     "Not insulting. And it isn't your taste, it is Rubenna, and Rubenna has awful taste ..."

     "Rubenna was the best person in our mansion!"

     Duke Granola grunted, blinking his beady eyes rapidly. "What is so good about a mere servant?"

     "She isn't just a servant, father? Can't you see? Royalty does not make you better. Rubenna has a true heart - she's kind, she's a hard worker, she's a brilliant friend."

     Duchess Granola's mouth made a straight line. "You'd be much better friends with that darling Carmilla, Hazel dear."

     Hazel stood up indignantly, angry. "I won't let you say such things about my best friend. I won't let you say such things to ME! You -" she turned furiously at both parents, "- you think you are so much better than everyone, just because you have a little more money. Well, I'm not going to have any of it anymore! I'm sorry if you're ashamed by me, but this is not the life for me."

     And with that, Hazel had turned on here, her hat had fallen from atop her head, and she had stomped out the door.

     So Hazel had finally run away from home and had been so silly as to not bring anything with her except enough a small satin sack of Neopoints. She wondered if her parents had gone looking for her. Probably not - they most likely thought she had just buried herself in her room, a realm of pillows and fancy ornaments that were of no use but to look beautiful and collect dust.

     Hazel had run round Maraqua for a bit. There was something special about Maraqua that allowed all Neopets to breathe properly in it and not become the least wet by the surrounding water. It was if the water wasn't even there. But still, Hazel had felt unsafe. Rather recklessly, she had spent it entirely on getting into Kelp. She had been trying to run away from all this ... and here she was, in a fancy restaurant.

     She had only fled to Maraqua because it was the closest place she could think of from Brightvale. There was Meridell, of course, but Meridell was surrounded by royalty, mocking her from gold trimmed banners. She could have fled to the farms, where the peasants lived, but during the moment, she hadn't thought of it. Her only thought was keep moving, keep running. Run away from your problems. Cold and alone, having tripped into several mud puddles, she sought refuge at Kelp.

     It had been a bad decision, Hazel now reflected. Amid the snobby looks she got from the Neopets everywhere, she had also thrown away all her money and had hardly enough to buy anything to eat.

     The Maraquan Draik cleared his throat, "Ahem, ahem."

     Hazel blinked. She had been surprised to find the Draik standing so near; she had been completely caught up in her thoughts and problems. "Yes?" she asked, rather rudely.

     "Are you alone?" The Draik spoke very politely and calmly, which ordinarily would have angered Hazel. But something about him was spelling out his kindness.


     "Could I join you?" the Draik asked kindly.

     Hazel gazed at him with heavily-lidded eyes. "All right," Hazel said gloomily, tapping her marble table.

     The Draik held up his menu, which was seawater blue with golden designs on the cover. Large gold letters read 'Kelp, the finest restaurant in the seas'. "What would you like? I hear the crab triple-decker omelette is wonderful ..."

     "I don't think I could afford that," Hazel replied dully. She only had twenty NP left.

     "Well then, how about a right old bowl of kougra shrimp soup?"

     Hazel looked at the price. "No, I can't afford that either."

     "Well then, lass, what can you afford?"

     "A cracker."

     "We shall have to order two crackers, then." A waiter appeared all of a sudden, almost magically, and the Draik told him their order. Hazel frowned, rubbing the fur on her forehead. Two crackers was hardly anything, and the Draik surely had enough Neopoints to afford more than that.

     After he had ordered, Hazel demanded, "Who are you?"

     "Formally, I'd be Lord Finnish, I suppose. But I prefer to be addressed as Swish."

     Hazel glared at him, slightly suspicious. "I'm Hazel." Formally, she'd be Maiden Duchess Hazel Granola the second - a ridiculous and long name.

     "So, tell me about yourself," the Draik, Swish, said.

     Hazel recalled her mother telling her constantly, 'Don't talk to strangers!' She wrinkled her nose, wiggled her ears. She certainly felt like rebelling.

     So very boldly, Hazel spoke, "I like running round in my favourite old t-shirt over the fields in Brightvale, I like talking to Rubenna, who is a very charming servant friend. I like chewing bubblegum and singing loudly to Twisted Roses music. I like reading stories about Dr. Sloth and running around the Haunted Woods." She paused, trying to think up of something else. When she couldn't, she looked at the Draik, daring him to tell her off for having her own kind of fun and disgracing royalty.

     The Draik gave a lop-sided smile and said, "It sounds delightful, I must try those someday. I myself prefer the Sticks n Stones, though."

     Hazel blinked uncertainly, and then broke out into a jolly grin. A feeling arose in her heart ... the feeling of acceptance.

The End

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