A True Friend
The rain fell down hard in Neopia Central, drenching everything and everyone. The stores were closed, and the storekeepers had gone home for the day, leaving closed signs hanging in the empty windows. The pitter-patter of the rain fell steadily, providing a constant rhythm for those unfortunate enough to be outside.
The streetlights buzzed, glowing with light. They were the only things lit up on the dreary day. It was only evening, though with the lack of sun it seemed as though it was nighttime.
The air was humid, and it was warm out; the rain was chilling, however. The touch of one raindrop brought a shiver to your bones. But, most Neopians were inside their homes, cuddling under blankets and telling stories to one another. The little ones were laughing quietly at jokes told by their siblings, unaware of the rain outside. They were the lucky ones. They had a home. They were loved.
Outside, a shadowed mass lay, sheltered by the awning of the bank. Upon looking close enough, you could almost make out the figure of a sleeping Lupe, wearing a tattered potato sack. In proper light, the Lupe was almost green. In youth, the neopet had been a vibrant green, though with age and lack of hygiene, his fur had become shaggy, and grey with dirt.
Next to the Lupe, in a second sack, lay a guitar. It was the Lupe’s most prized possession; the apple of his eye. Upon removing the sack, a wooden acoustic guitar could be found. It was untouched by dirt and scratches, much unlike the Lupe, himself. Every morning, at sunrise, the Lupe would rise. He would take out his guitar, sling the worn leather strap over his shoulder, and walk over to the roots of the Money Tree. Each morning, he would sit on the same root just large enough for himself.
He would look around for the green Skeith manning the morning bank shift. The Lupe would raise his head, and give a wave. The Skeith, used to the routine, would smile a rare smile, reserved for the Lupe, and shout out a Good Morning!
The Lupe would signal to the Skeith to come closer. Although he didn’t need a signal to know to talk, the Skeith liked the routine to stay the routine; that’s the way he was – always following the rules.
And so, the Skeith would come closer. The two would talk for a few minutes, until the other shopkeepers began to arrive. Then, the Skeith would run off, feigning disinterest in the poor Lupe. For, if his boss knew that he was friendly with a mere beggar – a street player – the Skeith would be fired immediately.
The rest of the day the Skeith would sit, working his job, but secretly counting down the minutes until morning would come. Counting down the minutes until he would see the Lupe again...
One thousand, three hundred twenty four...
One thousand, four...
Seven hundred forty seven...
Back from his memories, and wide awake, the Lupe awoke. Sunlight burst through his closed eyelids, and he blinked a few times to sharpen his view.
He yawned, and gently lifted the potato sack-covered guitar next to him. He removed its case, and slung it over his shoulder.
The Lupe wandered over towards the Money Tree. He inhaled deeply, savoring the fresh scent that Neopia Central got after it had just rained. His muddy feet splashed in the puddles along the cobblestone road, as he wandered over towards his spot by the Money Tree. He sat, and took out his guitar. Then, before the Lupe’s eyes, the sun began to rise.
Slowly, the world around him went from a soft, compassionate navy blue to a bright mix of orange, yellow, and pink. It was these sights that inspired him. These experiences that made him love what he did.
The Lupe pulled out his guitar, and began to play. He played what started as a slow, sad song, just like the rain, drenching everyone and everything the night before, and ended as a livelier tune, representing the morning after.
Those who were out at such an early hour, stopped to listen. A few dropped spare neopoints into the potato sack by the Lupe’s feet, while others just slowed their pace while walking by, and let themselves disappear into the music.
One educated young musician waited until the Lupe was at the end of a song.
Who was that by, Mister? Powell? Hort? he asked.
The Lupe looked down at the young boy.
That was by me, he answered. Everything I play is by me.
And with that, the Lupe began a new song, leaving the young neopet in awe.
The pink slowly faded out of the sky, leaving it powder blue. The Skeith came by,
And the two of them repeated their daily routine. Then, the Skeith went away, leaving the Lupe alone. He looked over towards the petpet shop, and the storekeeper unlocking the door.
Suddenly, the Lupe’s playing faltered. Somehow, the sight of the storekeeper, surrounded by petpets, brought on memories of his past. But, as soon as he recognized that they were there, they had disappeared as quickly as they came.
It grew later on in the day, but still the Lupe sat by the tree, his eyes closed, his body rocking to the pulse.
He opened his eyelids at the sound of his stomach growling, and was startled to find a bag of 5,000 neopoints at his feet! In front of him, a young Kiko stood, holding a doglefox tightly to his body, a tear dropping onto the petpet’s head.
Mister, he told the Lupe, Play more! I love your music.
The Lupe looked at him softly. He nodded in appreciation, and began to play once again. The boy and his doglefox stayed in his mind, however. Somehow, the love and affection the Kiko had shown his petpet seemed close to him... It seemed like something dear to his past that had been washed away like rain, as he grew older.
After a refreshing meal with the Kiko’s donation, the Lupe went into the bank to deposit the remaining neopoints. He handed the points over to the Skeith, who then took him to his vault.
The two of them took this as an excuse to chat. The Skeith told the Lupe about the strange customers that day, and the Lupe told the Skeith about his encounter with the Kiko and his doglefox.
The Skeith had to go back, eventually, however. And he did just so.
The Lupe went back to his stump, but took a break, setting down his guitar. He just simply sat, and watched what was going on around him.
A few Usuls were huddled around the usuki store, envying the newest addition that was far too expensive for their allowances.
Over at the bakery, a few adults were sitting outside, enjoying an afternoon snack.
But, the next store was always the Lupe’s favorite to watch - the petpet store. He looked in, and watched the pets walk in, and come out again with a new companion. He longed to be one of them, but his measly playing and hoping for donations would not help him accomplish that anytime soon.
As a jelly Blumaroo stepped out of the door with an angelpuss, however, a small doglefox puppy leapt out and bounded down the road. The shopkeeper stepped out, angry, and began to scream for it to come back. The doglefox kept running, however, straight towards the astonished Lupe.
He ran up, and immediately began licking the Lupe, showing affection at first sight, as some call it. The Lupe, however, knew at the bottom of his heavy heart that he could never afford the petpet.
He picked the doglefox up, and as he was bringing it back to the petpet store owner, he remembered.
He was a young Lupe cub, and having just been adopted, he was given a small doglefox, just like the one he was holding now. But, years later, as time went on, and the Lupe’s owner got poorer and poorer, one day the owner had to face that they couldn’t go on in the same unwealthy state for much longer.
My baby, she said, I know how much you love your doglefox, but we must sell him. I’m sorry...
And, with tears running down his face, the Lupe reluctantly gave up the petpet. Having been removed, the doglefox started howling, and that just made the Lupe’s eyes stream tears harder, and larger.
The Lupe remembered memories with his petpet – like the small patch of fur on the doglefox that had been turned pink at the Rainbow Pool, from a splash of painted water. It were memories like these that made getting over the loss even harder than it already was.
Again, like his former self, the Lupe reluctantly gave up the petpet. This time, though, the doglefox merely whimpered, and looked the Lupe directly in the eye. And, as crazy as it sounded to him, the Lupe was sure that it was his childhood pet.
The Lupe turned away before his heart desired this petpet completely, and decided that he should get some rest.
And so he did.
* * *
The next day, the Lupe woke up and grabbed his guitar to wait for the sun. He ambled over to the Money Tree and waited, warming up with a few scales and arpeggios. Only a few people, owners and pets alike, were up at this hour. Most of them went about their business, ignoring the green Lupe as if he wasn’t even there. The first person to come by was the green Skeith.
Good morning, old friend, he greeted the Lupe, a wide smile planted on his chubby face.
Good morning, the Lupe responded, equally as happy.
The two discussed everything that crossed their mind – from the new part-time worker at the bank, to the doglefox incident. The Lupe told the Skeith about the petpet, and how much it reminded him of his old one. The Skeith nodded sympathetically at how much they cost, as opposed how much the Lupe made per day. He did not dare try to tell the Lupe to get a better job, though. The one time he had tried to convince his friend of trying for a high-paying job, as opposed to playing the guitar, the Lupe had become furious.
He loved his job, as little income as it made, and he would not want to stop playing guitar for any job in the world. The Skeith had backed off, and sure enough had learned his lesson.
Soon, however, the clock struck seven, and the Skeith hurried off, as though he had never stopped in the first place. The Lupe played his song.
* * *
The Lupe slept under the Money Tree, beneath a blanket of stars. In the morning, he awoke not to his own body’s system, but to something wet on him. It couldn’t have been dew, for it was on top of him, and it wasn’t raining, as it was only targeting his leg fur.
The green Lupe blinked, and woke up, to investigate the wetness, and was astonished by what he found. There, by his feet, was the doglefox!
He looked around, but there was nobody to be found. Taking the petpet in his arms, he wondered if it would be right to take it. What if it had run away, and happened to come after him?
But, then he knew. No, it had not been by chance. Upon looking at the doglefox, you would see that it was tied to a branch with a light and dark blue striped tie – a part of the bank’s uniform.
The petpet was a gift. A gift from a true friend.