When You Wish Upon A Star
Dedicated to the sister of my heart, Huntress, who loves the stars just as much as I do. Thanks, H ;)
Gladys the red Usul was lying on her back on the rolling green hill of Meridell; the tallest one she could find. Her sapphire eyes gazed up at the starry skies, the stars reflecting themselves in her large irises.
Stars were Gladys’ passion, because she compared her life to the beautiful stars above. Her dreams and hopes were like those stars—something that she would always be reaching for, and something she would never really reach; though she couldn’t stop trying.
Stars were beautiful, but she hated them and loved them at the same time. Star-gazing seemed flawed without someone to share it with; someone to share the beauty with. What was the point of hunting for constellations when there was no one to exalt in your victory? No one to laugh with you, and no one to cheer you on?
Gladys spotted a star far above, twinkling unnaturally bright in the dark night sky. She called these stars “wishing stars” because they were unconnected to any of the Altadorian constellations.
“Star light, star bright,” Gladys chanted softly, “first star I see tonight... I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight...” Her sapphire eyes gazed hopefully up at the beautiful star; it looked as if it were waiting for her wish. Gladys took a deep breath and said:
“Please, star, I need a friend...”
She closed her eyes, squeezed her paws together, and hoped her wish to come true.
Then, as an afterthought, she tacked something else on, hoping it wasn’t too late.
“Star, if it isn’t too much trouble, could my friend also love stars?”
The little star twinkled back, as if it were winking. ‘Wish granted,’ the star seemed to say. But it was probably just wishful thinking, eh?
* * *
“Gladys, dear, pay attention! If I got a Neopoint for every time I caught you reading Usukicon underneath your desk, I’d be a millionaire!”
Gladys bolted in her seat, quickly shoving her Usukicon Fashion Magazine in her desk. Snickers broke out among Gladys’ classroom, and she flushed red, sinking lower in her seat.
She stole a quick glance back down at the Usukicon magazine she had been reading; there were three Usuls on the cover—one was just like her—and they were playing with the most fashionable Usuki dolls.
“As I was saying,” Ms. Naen continued, giving her evil eye to Gladys, “I am assigning you all a project, due in one week. You will partner up and your owners will need to arrange a sleepover...”
At the words ‘partner up’, everyone in the room cheered—apart from Gladys. She didn’t have any friends; you were either with *Felicity*, or you had your own small clique.
Felicity—or Fee, as she was called in her clique—was the most popular Neopet in the entire school. She was a Faerie Krawk; glamorous, beautiful, and rich. It seemed that if you were glamorous, beautiful, and rich, you instantly became popular. Felicity's clique were made up of five other Neopets; Gladys hated all of them, except maybe for Diana. Diana was a pretty Royal Uni, and one of Felicity’s clique, but she was nice, too. She never failed to return Gladys’s hopeful “hello”s whenever she saw her in the hallway.
‘Compared to Felicity, I’m trash,’ Gladys thought gloomily. ‘Besides, who’d want to sleep over at my house?’
Gladys was so busy thinking; she hadn’t realized that Ms. Naen had not finished telling them what the project was going to be about.
“Because of the recently discovered Altador, we are going to do an assignment on finding constellations. Yes, this is the reason why I’ll need you to sleep over at your partner’s house, because as I hope you know, stars come out at night; you may borrow a school telescope if your owner has not participated in the Altador plot...” Ms. Naen continued, droning on and on about the rules and the requirements. Finally, she said: “Before you all choose your partners, take out a sheet of paper and write your name on it!”
Gladys ripped a paper from her Usukicon magazine—it had a picture of the latest vanity closet on it—and she scribbled ‘Gladys’ with an old Water Faerie pencil. Who would she choose to be her partner? Who would offer? The last time they had done group-work, Gladys had been stuck by herself, after being practically humiliated in the class.
Ms. Naen withdrew a red velvet sack, grinning sheepishly, and the entire class groaned—they would draw lots to see who they were working with! But for Gladys, she felt a flare of hope. This way, she wouldn’t be forced to endure the humiliation of forcing someone to work with her.
After all the papers had been collected, Ms. Naen passed the bag around. Gladys felt her heart thump louder and louder until she thought she could hear it pounding; when the bag reached her, she closed her eyes and muttered: “Oh, star, my wishing star, please grant my wish...”
She thought that maybe if she drew Diana’s name, she could become friends with the kind Royal Uni. And maybe even get Felicity’s approval... almost dizzy with anticipation, Gladys plunged her paw into the bag, squeezing her eyes shut.
“Hurry up!” a voice hissed, and Gladys felt the bag being ripped out of her paws. She glanced down at the slip of paper; her eyes widened, and she could have sworn that her heart had skipped three beats in a row.
Scrawled in a beautiful cursive with a glittery purple pen, the name had a fancy “F”, a “y” with an incredibly long, elegant tail, and an “i” with a heart dotting it.
Gladys stared at the paper, her claws almost tearing it apart. On one paw, she was working with the glamorous and popular Felicity; she would be the envy of everyone! On the other, she knew that Felicity would never treat her as an equal, or approve of her. But this meant that she got to go to Felicity’s house! Her mansion!
Suddenly, the bell rang, and Ms. Naen declared: “Get started on those projects!” before bustling out of the room.
“Do you have my name, Di?” Felicity squealed, fluttering her beautiful wings.
“No,” Diana said disappointedly, “Fleur drew my name. I’ll see you after school, Felicity.”
Clearing her throat, Gladys walked humbly over to Felicity, her eyes trained on the ground, her mind spinning. It was because of this that she immediately tripped over her tail and crashing into Felicity.
“Ew! Get this geek off of me!” the Faerie Krawk shrieked, and Gladys felt hot tears sting her eyes. She sprang to her paws, mumbling apologies and attempting to help Felicity up, but the Krawk slapped her paw away and snapped: “If you want an autograph, I’m all out!”
“I don’t want an autograph,” Gladys mumbled, not daring to brush away her tears, “I drew your name for the project...”
“What?” Felicity screeched. “That’s not possible! You can’t come to my house!” There was a note of hysteria in her voice, and Gladys felt even worse. Was it possible that Felicity hated her that much? Even if she *was* a nerd?
“It’s okay, Fee,” Diana soothed, popping out of no where. Her kind eyes were understanding, as if a secret were hidden behind the irises. “Don’t worry; I have your back.”
“I don’t need you,” Felicity snapped, “I don’t need anyone!” Turning back to Gladys and scorching her with a hot pink gaze, she growled: “I’ll walk by your home and pick you up tomorrow at three o’clock sharp; you better not be late! Bring your stuff and a telescope.”
“The great Felicity will walk to pick me up,” Gladys shot back, wiping her eyes, “what an honor.” And with those dignified parting words, she stalked off.
But people like Felicity, who always find ways to get you back, can’t be fought with words.
* * *
“Hon, do you have all your things? Your telescope and your sleeping bag? Mm, okay, just checking; have fun at Felicity’s house!”
Gladys’ owner, Addie, fussed about, examining Gladys for a last minute inspection. The Usul rolled her eyes. Fun at Felicity’s house? Impossible, except if Addie’s idea of “fun” was old-fashioned torture. Fun indeed.
“Here comes Felicity,” Addie crowed, her eyes flashing. She leaned over and whispered: “One last tip, sweetheart. People like Felicity... they’re just insecure. Show her whose boss!”
“She’s boss. No contest. She’s waaay scarier,” Gladys mumbled back.
Addie laughed and rumpled Gladys’ fur. “All right, go ahead, have fun.”
Soon, Felicity sauntered on by. As usual, she had on the most beautiful accessories; her mane was silky soft and smelt of flowers, and she had many jeweled necklaces on. There was even a diamond-studded bracelet around her tail!
“Hello, Felicity,” said Gladys quietly. She expected a cunning remark; something about the old-fashioned way Gladys was dressed, or her un-stylish clothes and sleeping bag; but Felicity just replied: “Hallo, Gladys.”
The red Usul could hardly believe her ears. The Faerie Krawk had given her a civil greeting; that itself was a miracle.
“Shall we go over to your house now?” Gladys mumbled, when she realized that she was staring.
“Yeah,” Felicity mumbled back, looking very tired all of a sudden. “Here, let me take the telescope.”
Gladys nearly dropped everything then and there. ‘Snorkles must be flying if Felicity just offered to do some manual labor,’ she thought. ‘Or maybe Symols dug holes in her brain and she can’t think anymore?’ “Yeah, thanks,” Gladys said aloud, smiling cheerily.
As the two walked along the street, Felicity kept taking deep breaths, opening her mouth, then closing it again, looking miserable. She muttered words under her breath, until Gladys was going insane with curiosity.
Finally, they had reached Felicity’s mansion; it was a giant mansion, a mammoth mansion... a mansion of a mansion!
It towered above Gladys, casting a giant shadow over her. It had gleaming white marble pillars, and steps made of marble and fringed with gold. Gargoyles stood guard before the mansion; upon further inspection, Gladys realized that the doorknob and the knocker were pure gold, rimmed with diamonds the shape of asparagus! She could smell a garden, rather than see it, in the back area.
Right when she was about to knock, Felicity yelled: “STOP!”
Startled, Gladys dropped everything and indeed stopped.
Felicity took a deep breath, balling her paws into fists. Her claws extracted, and Gladys winced, wondering if Felicity was going to rip her into decorative ribbons for her mane.
“I have a confession to make,” Felicity mumbled quietly. Gladys could feel tension in the air, and her heart was beating; or was it Felicity’s heart? The Faerie Krawk looked very nervous. “Gladys, this isn’t my house.”
“Oh,” Gladys replied, confused, “all right then... why don’t we go to your house?”
Felicity giggled nervously. “I live here...” she muttered, “but I don’t own the place. My mum is the governess for the little ones that live there... my dad’s the chef...”
“Oh!” Gladys cried, as she finally realized what Felicity was saying. “But... that doesn’t make sense!” she added. “You always have the latest accessories and a wad of Neopoints in your purse... and you’re a Faerie Krawk!” If Felicity was poor, how could she have so many things?
“Diana lives here,” Felicity revealed, looking on the verge of tears. “She loans me some of her things, and some Neopoints as well, saying that it’s a gift, or an early birthday present, or something like that... Diana is my only true friend in the world!”
It was miraculous, seeing Felicity standing here in front of her, almost crying! The most popular girl on the school...
‘Her parents work for Diana’s parents!’ Gladys thought, her eyes widening. ‘No wonder Felicity always keeps Diana close at school; but Diana’s so nice, she would never tell. Oh, poor Felicity...’
“Why do you do it?” Gladys couldn’t help blurting. “Why do you act so different at school? Why are you so mean to me?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Felicity snapped, wiping her eyes with her paws, “you have to promise not tell anyone. Or I’ll... I’ll...” she trailed off, shoulders slumping, and Gladys realized that it was just an empty threat.
Felicity had appeared to have so many things; she had beauty, she had money, and she had everything Gladys had ever wanted. But did Felicity remember what it was like to be tucked in by her owner, after a long day of playing Gormball? Gladys recalled her own owner and felt a rush of compassion.
“I won’t tell anyone,” she promised, “but... why are you so different at school?”
Gladys had thought that Felicity was stuck-up, but now she had found out Felicity had nothing to brag about; so why did the Faerie Krawk put on such a mean front?
“Gladys,” Felicity said, her voice cold, as if she were a disappointed teacher. “You’re a nerd. You know what it feels like to be shunned.” She paused for a minute before realizing that she had said something offensive. “Oops! I’m sorry,” the Krawk apologized.
Gladys cringed. “That’s all right... but I think you should come clean—”
“Are you crazy?” Felicity squawked. “Have Symols dug holes in your brain? The entire school will call me a liar and a fake! You have got to be kidding me... sorry, was I being mean again?’’
The red Usul sighed and put her head against a paw. “Felicity, they’re going to find out eventually. Hey, wait a minute,” Gladys continued, “You’ve had friends over to your house before... didn’t they realize?”
“I never told them,” Felicity replied, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world, as obvious as eating asparagus with cheese. “Diana’s parents were out, and my parents were gone too—so she let me use her house and her stuff. I never got caught, and I never will!”
“Diana and I will be your friends,” Gladys said quietly, “if that means something.”
Felicity’s snout quivered, and Gladys realized with horror that she was crying again; she couldn’t stand criers. She herself didn’t have any need to cry, apart when Felicity’s taunting became too much.
“Of course that means a lot,” the Krawk sobbed, “but I can’t let people think I’m normal! I don’t want to be normal; I’m normal at home, but at school, I am Felicity the Great, popular, enviable, and beautiful!” She said this in such a haughty way that she didn’t even notice that she, once again, had said something rude.
What freaked Gladys the most was the indifferent way the Krawk said this; she didn’t seem to know right from wrong, conceited from modest.
“Felicity, being popular isn’t that important,” Gladys began. Then she felt stupid; popularity was everything! How many times had Gladys herself wished she were popular? Felicity looked as if Gladys had just told her that Kreludor had turned orange with chartreuse polka dots.
“Popularity is just when other people admire you for being beautiful and rich,” Gladys continued, “you have admirers, but they’re not your friends! True friends are better than popularity any day.” But of course, Gladys didn’t know that for sure, never having a real true friend in her life.
“I really am gorgeous, huh?” Felicity asked, perking up and flouncing her mane.
“Of course,” Gladys said patiently, “if you tell the school that you’re not really rich or live a glamorous life, they’ll stop hero-worshipping you. But Felicity, you’ll have true-blue friends and you’ll still be beautiful, of course,” she added as an afterthought. “You can’t live off Diana forever,” she said quietly.
“I know,” Felicity replied, just as quiet. “But there will always be popularity at our school. Even if I don’t become popular, Hayley will; or Lei. People will always be ‘worshipping’ other Neopians.”
“If you have to be a nobody in order to become a somebody, so be it,” Gladys said fiercely. Then, she grinned. “Hey, maybe I will become a poet!”
With wide, trusting eyes, Felicity said: “Gladys, you have a deal!”
* * *
Gladys had never dreamed that rich, popular, and beautiful Felicity would treat her like an equal. She never even thought that Felicity would say a decent word to her. And she never knew that Felicity loved stars almost as much as she did.
On top of the highest hill in Meridell, underneath the star-studded sky, Gladys and Felicity lay on their backs and gazed up at the skies, admiring the utter blackness. In this untamed wild land, the stars were the only light that shone through the dark night sky; it was as if a massive curtain had fallen down on the skies, bringing a scene to a close. They lay there, side-by-side, just gazing up at the stars, in awe; and when dawn came, its pink fingers stretching across the sky, highlighting it with gold and yellow and blue, they finally got to their paws and looked at each other, smiling.
It was only then did they realize that they hadn’t taken any notes on stars.