Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 151,901,457 Issue: 213 | 20th day of Collecting, Y7
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Family Feud: Part One

by alkuna_


Sarah the blue Kacheek smiled in admiration at her latest triumph. Dangling from her paw was a necklace of pure white seashells, collected over the course of an entire month from the shores of her Mystery Island home. Each shell had been carefully threaded and they clinked and rattled softly together. This would look very pretty with her shell earrings.

     "Geez. What a weirdo." Sarah looked up to see a Mainlander walk out of the Haiku Kougra's grass hut shaking his head. "That Haiku doesn't even make sense."

     Sarah smiled slightly, feeling a pang of sympathy for the slightly eccentric but generally kind green Kougra. Her eyes flicked up to the hut, then down to the shell necklace in her paw.

     Almost without thought, Sarah walked over to the hut and knocked on the driftwood door. At the sound of paw steps approaching the door, she was abruptly overcome with a wave of intense shyness. Quickly she put the necklace down on the doorstep and bolted, ducking behind a tall bush.

     The door opened with a creak and she peeked through the branches and watched the Kougra step outside. He looked around, a puzzled expression coming to his face when he found no one waiting. He started to go back inside when he caught sight of the necklace at his feet.

     The Haiku Kougra smiled warmly and picked up the gift, noting how each shell was pure white and the same size as its neighbor. He looked around slowly, but didn't seem to see Sarah peeking through the branches. Finally he lifted the necklace up and made a show of putting it on. It slipped past his ears and settled around his neck perfectly, rattling rhythmically as it settled into place. Then he silently went inside.

     Sarah smiled, feeling an odd sort of pleasure at seeing her month-long project around the Kougra's neck. A tiny part of her exclaimed, 'But it took a whole month to make that!' But a bigger part of her insisted, 'He likes it, that's what's important.'

     Quietly she turned away and made her way back home. Free time was over. Now she had to get ready for a family get-together. She sighed wearily; these get-togethers were hardly pleasant and she always viewed them with a combination of dread and resignation.

     Some family she had; they didn't give a Miamouse's tail about her feelings or what she had to say, it seemed. And she wasn't alone either. Her cousins Daylar and Jerla had the same complaint; and at family meetings, the only "family" they ever really socialized with was each other.

     Social time at the meeting tonight was almost physically painful, and mealtime was just the same. Silently, she sat, picking at her food and listening to the chatter going on around her as family conversed with everyone else but her. She was sitting next to Daylar, who was chatting with his uncle.

     "Well, it seems that the Robot Petpet Repair shop that I've been working for the past six months has gone belly up. We showed up at work and were all handed our last paychecks, saying goodbye, good luck and good riddance. Do you know if they have any spots open on the-"

     "Here Daylar, try some of these," Kaycee, his step-grandmother interrupted loudly, pushing a bowl of food items at his dinner plate.

     Daylar scowled, as he did whenever she ran over the top of him, which was often, "… No thank you…" he finally grumbled; after half muttering, half trying not to blurt out an angry retort.

     "Are you sure?" she insisted, now standing and bringing another bowl of food items to the table and hanging over him like a Lupe eyeing a chocolate Chia.

     "I'm sure… just trying to talk…" Daylar managed, still holding on to his temper. This was only the sixth or seventh time she had done something similar to him tonight.

     When Kaycee wandered back to the counter to slice the turkey dinner waiting there, Daylar made a very fine imitation of an angry Lupe's growl and muttered, "How rude," to Sarah, who nodded mutely, before he turned back to his uncle again, "Anyway… do you know if they have any spot available in the Robot Petpet Shop on the Virtupets Space Station? I really need a job so I can afford to buy my sister a really special birthday present she's been hinting at…"

     "So Sarah," her grandfather encouraged her from her other side, "How's Neoschool? Got any Exams coming up?"

     "Well… actually no. We do have a project in art, but it's easy. I just have-" Sarah started. Her voice had gotten softer over the years, not because her voice changed, but because she had given up trying to be heard or listened to.

     "Oh tsk!" Kaycee cut Sarah off in mid-sentence as usual. "Schools are too easy. They don't challenge the mind or skills of the pet."

     "Well I-" Sarah tried again but was again run over verbally.

     "I mean really," Kaycee said, still loudly enough to drown Sarah out, "If the projects are so easy they're obviously not TEACHING anything, are they?"

     "Excuse me-" Sarah tried once last time, feeling a spark of anger swelling inside her.

     "EXCUSE ME, child, but I was talking before you so RUDELY interrupted me!" Kaycee half shouted. "That's VERY RUDE,young lady, and I will NOT tolerate it in this house!"

     Her now browbeaten emotions shattering, Sarah slammed her fork down on her half finished plate of food, "Excuse me…" she managed, then stormed out of the house and slammed the door behind her.

     There was a moment of absolute silence at the table.

     "Well can you believe how rude she was being tonight?" Kaycee demanded of the table.

     Mutters of agreement came from around the table, the other adults having been too busy talking to each other to have noticed the reality of what had gone on.

     "Excuse me," Daylar growled, and got up, leaving the table and walking outside after his cousin.

     "Me too," Jerla said acidly, and she followed her brother in pursuit of their younger cousin.

     Daylar found Sarah in her usual place; the house was built on a hill screened by a high, wild bush. In the younger days, the cousins escaped here and hollowed out and shaped the branches to form a kind of bushy cave facing away from the house and giving them a view of their small, hilly town. Now Sarah sat in the dirt, her head buried in her arms, crying softly.

     Daylar awkwardly put his arm around his little cousin, only ten days younger than he was, and gave her a gentle shake, pulling her into a huggle. "Hey you… c'mon, that old wrinkled Korbat ain't worth wastin' any of your tears over, got that?"

     "Hey Sarah," Jerla said gently, sitting down on her other side and rubbing her back soothingly. Jerla was several years older than the two younger cousins, and alternated between being too proper to bond easily with, and being a loudmouthed, opinionated Kacheek who could be counted on to take your side and be laughed and talked with any time.

     "How can they not notice?! They always take her side!" Sarah exploded finally, sniffling and accepting Daylar's offered box of Neopkins.

     "I wish I knew," growled Daylar. "If I hadn't been taught that family-wide arguments at a family gathering would get me in deep dung heaps, I would have exploded long ago. This is why I don't like Kaycee. She weaseled her way in to the family, treats half the family like garbage and butters up the other half for support."

     "Mom went out one Christmas and bought Kaycee a gift that cost her almost ten thousand Neopoints," Jarla said quietly, "Do you know what Kaycee gave Mom? A couple of sand bottles from the Tombola Booby Prize that she had pulled out of a dusty closet somewhere! We sold it for a total of twenty Neopoints in our shop."

     "They don't defend me when that old bat runs me over… and they ruined my birthday…" Sarah said miserably, wiping her eyes with a Neopkin.

     "WHAT?!" exploded her cousins together; they had missed the birthday due to a case of Neoflu and hadn't wanted to give it to everyone else there.

     "Remember our family tradition? The Birthday Person picks the restaurant for dinner?" Sarah asked wearily.

     The others nodded. Until now, they had thought that rule had been unbreakable. The birthday person chose. That was it. That was the rule. No negotiations.

     "HA!" Sarah said bitterly, "I was planning on dinner at the Golden Dubloon. Do you know they have something called the "Fruitopia Extravaganza"? It's a bowl two feet deep filled beyond the brim with a fruit salad composed of every delectable fruit known to Neopia, extra specially made for Pets who are having birthday parties. It's so huge that it feeds families of up to ten. Anyway… I told mom I wanted to go there. They have a discount for family groups so the price was cheap for very good food. Do you know what they overrode me with? Marrow's. That cheap Tyrannian place that uses chunks of meat that are poorly cooked, not seasoned, tough, all that. When I asked why, they told me that Kaycee said they were having some sort of special on steaks where everyone could have a steak for cheap. So we were going there instead, and no arguing accepted. My mom lectured me for ten minutes when I complained. The one I got was mostly fat, the meat there was available was greasy and made my tummy upset for hours, plus I was still very hungry… It didn't matter that it was my birthday. Kaycee had said we should go to Marrows so we did… When the waitress asked if we wanted dessert, they all said no, drowning out my yes for a milkshake, which is supposedly the only good thing they have. So I didn't get dessert either. I ate a mere omelette to fill up that night."

     Her cousins fell silent, processing that injustice.

     "An omelette dinner…? On your birthday?" Daylar said softly, still trying to grasp the idea.


     Daylar bowed his head, his lip slowly curling into an angry snarl on his cousin's behalf.

     "You know, Sarah…" Jarla broke in gently, "You don't have to come to family meetings."

     "*sniff* What?" Sarah looked up.

     Jarla looked Sarah in the eyes, "You don't have to come. Family meetings obviously aren't doing you any good. You get insulted, yelled at and hurt. Arguing your case doesn't help, obviously. Limit your appearance to major holidays and that's it. There's no point otherwise."

     "But what about you two?" Sarah asked, looking from one cousin to the other.

     Daylar's eyebrow twitched dangerously, "One day Kaycee will push it too far. I'll blow up and we'll have a royal row at the meeting. It's prolly better if you ain't there to witness the end of the world argument in that household anyway."

     "And I'll join in. Trust me kiddo, when the two of us present our cases, there will be nothing left out. We will make it a fight and a vicious one at that. Then Kaycee will get what's coming to her. You on the other hand…" Jarla's face softened and she squeezed Sarah's shoulder, "You're the soft one. You're the good Kacheek, and the less they link you to that fight, the better off you'll be. Hang out with your friends or something on the nights when family meetings happen. Do something you'll enjoy instead."

     "C'mon," Daylar grunted, getting to his feet and dusting the dirt off of himself, "I'll take ya home. You have no reason to stay here any more tonight."

To be continued...

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