A Waffle Paradise Circulation: 135,120,767 Issue: 266 | 17th day of Storing, Y8
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The Hardest Goodbye


by ruff_zette

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I hopped out of bed, and onto the floor. Something felt a bit weird, a bit unusual. But I ignored it and went downstairs. Everything was normal. Dad was reading the Neopian Times, and Lilyana was eating her breakfast.

     I sat down and started eating my pancakes. I still felt a bit unsure, but I pushed the thought out of my mind.

     Lilyana rested her head on her paws. We were both blue, but everybody thought it was strange that the girl was a Gelert while I was a Peophin. I didn't think it was strange at all. But I suppose it had been that way forever so I was used to it.

     "Anything interesting in the newspaper?" I asked quietly. It didn't seem right to speak normally.

     Dad shook his head and went on reading. That was the end of the conversation. Usually we were all very talkative, but not today. Lily got up and beckoned to me, so I followed her out the front door.

     I felt the snow crunch beneath my hooves, and shivered. I had lived on Terror Mountain my whole life, but I still wasn't used to the cold. I dreamed of living on Mystery Island, in the warm jungle.

     Lily looked at me, and I thought I saw a tear glisten in her eyes."Joseph, something's wrong," she whispered. "It just doesn't feel normal. Something bad has happened. I can tell." She shook her head. "But I don't know what."

     "Me neither." I sighed.

     "Lily!" A Lupe was standing on the other side of the street. He looked a little lost, too. He gave a sad wave.

     My sister looked at me, and smiled miserably. "Bye, Joseph. I'll see you later, okay?" Then she walked slowly over to her friend, Cory. They started speaking in hurried whispers, and I knew they were discussing this feeling that seemed to be overcoming all of us.

     I, myself, set off trudging through the snow, towards my own friend, Fern's, house. Fern was a green Uni, and I saw her every day. It was quite a long walk to her house, but I didn't mind.

     I wish I had paid more attention to the feeling inside me that was screaming for me to turn around and go home. At least I would have been a bit more prepared for what awaited me at my best friend's house.

     * * * * *

     I knocked on the door and waited. I was about to knock again, when the door was opened a little bit. Fern's mother, Claire, was quite pretty, with big blue eyes and honey-coloured hair. But today she looked awful. Her skin was pale and her eyes were sunken in.

     "Um... hi," I murmured. "Is Fern home?"

     She hesitated, and then nodded sadly. "She's in bed."

     In bed? I followed her into the house and went into Fern's bedroom. The room was dimmed and it took my eyes a moment to get used to the dark. I almost wished they hadn't. As soon as I saw her I gasped and covered my mouth with my hooves.

     She looked so frail. She was lying there with her eyes closed and her mouth slightly open. She gave a little whimper and curled up into an even tighter ball. "Fern?" I whispered, tears in my eyes. "Oh, Fern!" I turned to her mother. "What's wrong with her?"

     Her mother was crying. "She has the NeoBlues. She won't get out of bed; she won't eat. There's nothing I can do!"

     I spent the rest of the day by Fern's bed. I read her stories, put on plays using her plushies as the cast and made all kinds of delicious meals for her. But nothing helped. She just lay there.

     At one point I broke into a horrible sobbing fit. It was just too much. Fern was such an active, happy pet. It wasn't right for her to be this way. "Wake up, Fern," I pleaded. "Get better, please."

     I went home for a short while in the afternoon.

     "Dad, I need to stay at Fern's house," I said, the moment I walked in the door. "She needs me to be there for her." I looked at him.

     He just nodded solemnly. He knew this was important, even though he didn't know she was sick.

     I raced up to my room and started throwing things into my bag. Books to read to her, my Peophin plushie, clothes and my toothbrush. I picked it up and ran down the stairs. "Goodbye, Dad."

     "Goodbye Joseph. I hope she gets better."

     I realised that he knew she was the source of the strange feeling this morning. I wondered if everybody knew. I did, that was for sure.

     * * * * *

     "'No, thank you,' Jhuidah said, then added with a wink, 'However, the next time you find a strange artifact in the sand, please bring it to me first!'" I closed the book and sat it gently on the floor. That was the last story I read to her before I went to sleep.

     The lounge in Fern's bedroom was serving as my bed, and I snuggled in under the blankets to escape the cold. I lay there and listened to the soft fall of the snow on the roof. I wondered how long it would be before my friend got better. Please not too long, I thought desperately. I drifted off hoping if she would be back to herself tomorrow.

     But I doubted it.

     * * * * *

     The lounge was uncomfortable to sleep on, and my back hurt in the morning. But that was the least of my worries. Fern was still sick - she actually looked even worse. I brought in a plate of pancakes and tried to make her eat them, but she just rolled over so that her back was to me.

     I sighed and took them back to the kitchen. Claire was sitting at the table and gave me a brave smile when I walked in. "I'm taking her to the hospital today, to see if they can help." She looked miserable, and I didn't blame her. I was miserable.

     "Can I come?" I asked hopefully. "I want to help Fern get better too." I wanted to be there for my friend. Her mother and I were the most important people in her life - she had told me once. We both needed to be there.

     "Of course you can," said her mother gently. "Now we'll just get her out of bed and we'll leave."

     This was not easy. Fern didn't want to get out of bed. Eventually, we rolled her onto a blanket, wrapped her up in it, and carried her outside. We took turns carrying her as we walked, as she was quite heavy.

     "Are you okay?" Claire asked me on my first turn. I nodded, but didn't speak. I felt that we should be quiet.

     * * * * *

     I didn't like being at the hospital. I had only been there once before, about a year ago when I had had the NeoFlu. That had been bad enough, but now I had to sit in the waiting room next to my best friend, and she looked so awful I didn't even recognise her.

     Everybody else looked sick, but no-one was that bad. She still had her eyes closed, and was breathing a little unevenly. I didn't want her to be sick. I wanted us to be building snowpets or having snowball fights or playing tips. Not be at the hospital, waiting to see a doctor to find out just how sick she was.

     A young Aisha shuffled over. "The doctor will see you now," she said sympathetically. She patted me on the shoulder, and added quietly, so that nobody else would hear, "She'll be fine, I promise."

     We walked into the room. At first I didn't see anybody, but then I caught a glimpse of amber-coloured eyes and saw a white Wocky, blending into the white background. She smiled. "Hello," she said gently. "I'm only new here, but the doctor is busy today, is that okay?"

     Claire nodded. "We just want to know how we can make her better."

     The Wocky examined Fern and ran a few tests. I sat on a chair the whole time, worrying that at any moment she might say that there was nothing we could do.

     The doctor put down her stethoscope and I bit my lip. Here came the verdict...

     "There is a cure."

     I cried out with joy. Claire would buy the cure, give it to Fern and then everything would be back to normal. It would all be okay. My friend would be better.

     Claire spoke to the Wocky. "What does she need? How do you cure the NeoBlues?"

     "All she needs is to eat a Tasty Pie. Force-feed it to her if she won't eat. You can buy them just down the road at the pharmacy. After she eats it, give her a few hours and she should be better. But don't let her get too active until it's been at least a day."

     I was over the moon. A few hours and I would have Fern back. But it was too good to last.

     The pharmacy didn't have Tasty Pies. Neither did the Shop Wizard. There wasn't a single one anywhere. Not one.

     * * * * *

     "Maybe you should go home, Joseph. I can look after her on my own for a while."

     Claire was right. I needed to sleep in my own bed, spend some time with my own family. I didn't want to go home, but I took all my things and left anyway. That was what Claire wanted.

     I didn't speak much to anyone at home. Lily hugged me and cried as soon as I walked in the door, covered in mud and snow. Dad sat at the table and looked solemnly at me. He felt for me, though, I could tell.

     * * * * *

     Lily was standing beside me on Fern's doorstep, clutching a bunch of flowers from our garden. She knew Fern quite well and wanted to see her. I knocked on the door and waited.

     Claire was crying when she opened. When she saw me, and Lily, and the flowers, she collapsed into a sobbing heap in the doorway. Please let her be okay, I pleaded. Please let everything be okay.

     "What happened?" I asked. "Where is Fern?"

     Claire looked up at me, her eyes red from crying. "Fern is... Fern is... She's..." She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. "She's at the pound."

     "NO!" I wailed. My sister pulled me into a hug, and Claire joined in. The three of us stood there crying and wishing it wasn't true.

     "I'm sorry," Claire whispered. "But she needs an owner who can make her better."

     * * * * *

     I walked down my street. Three months had passed, and with that time, Claire had adopted four pets. Perfectly healthy pets. She had hated seeing me, even though I never went to her house anymore. She felt so awful that she had moved all the way to the Lost Desert and I never saw her again.

     But I didn't miss Claire much. I missed Fern. I had searched all of Terror Mountain for her, but no-one here had adopted her. It wasn't fair. My best friend was gone, and she was never coming back.

     I didn't make a new best friend, because no-one could replace Fern, or all the fun things we had done together. Sometimes I would play with Lily and Cory, but it wasn't the same.

     Claire had taken all of Fern's toys and books to the Money Tree because she couldn't bear to be reminded of her. I wanted to be reminded of Fern. I was scared that if I didn't, I might forget her.

     I approached the house and entered through the open door. Dad was at the table as usual, with the Neopian Times and a cup of coffee. He looked up as I walked in, and nodded at the table. "That was on the doorstep. It's for you."

     It was an envelope. I picked it up and opened it. Hope rising in my chest. It was a letter.

     Dear Joseph,

     I am writing to tell you that I miss you very much. It wasn't fair that I had to go. I'm sorry that I was sick, and sorry that I never said goodbye. I came to your house, but no-one was home so I left this there for you.

     I won't be there by now, so don't bother looking for me. My new family and I left rather quickly. I have a new owner. Her name is Helen and she's very nice. I still can't call her Mum, though, because she's not. I'm not an only pet anymore, either. I have a brother, a Shoyru called Kane, and a sister called Cassidy. She's an Ixi.

     We live on Mystery Island, and it's beautiful there. All sun and sand. But it's not as good as being there with you. I miss you so much. You're still my best friend.

     Love,

     Fern

The End

 
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