The word echoed through the air like the crack of a whip in dead silence. Mia looked at her owner, her bright eyes standing out against her cloud fur. “But... why?” she demanded with an intense desperation in her warbling voice.
“Sweetheart, it's just a color! You will look adorable with those big sappy eyes and rich Grey fur.”
Mia thought differently. The Wocky pleaded with her owner. Why did this have to be her new color? She recalled a certain conversation with Lily about color.
“To show class, we are going to paint you an extravagant color, not just plain cloud.”
Rage blossomed in Mia. Class?! What about depression? She was already sinking into the grey mood just thinking about it. She was a happy, cheerful, pet. She lived a great life! So... just take it a way with one swift move of the paintbrush?
Mia sat on her bed gloomily. The clock ticked at an unusually fast pace. Her heart raced. Yes... Today was it. The grand paint brush day. Lily would be returning from the trading post any minute now.
Twiddling her thumbs, Mia looked into the mirror. This might be the last time she would ever see her cloud face. The lovely blue would soon fade away, the cloud would descend into darkness.
The door creaked open.
It was time.
As they walked to the Rainbow Pool, Lily had a huge smile on her face. People looked over their shoulders, noticing the classy paintbrush in her hand. The royal pets and their owners even looked at them once! But all this socialization was not enough to lift Mia's spirits. No, although Mia's exterior was as bright as the sky above them, her heart was already grey.
They arrived at the pool. Lily made a jerky motion with her head for Mia to get in. Trembling, the Wocky obeyed. The cool waves lapped up against her paws.
Out of the corner of her eye, Mia noticed a Bruce joyfully bounding to the pool, her owner close behind with a purple paintbrush in hand. How she wished she could be painted a happy color! She would even take snobby royal over lifelong depression! But this was it. The time had come.
Lily, beaming, lifted the paintbrush. It seemed as if everything was in slow motion. As the cool brush touched her fur, Mia restrained a yelp. It was an odd sensation... like getting out of cold water to face the bitter wind.
Before the last stroke had taken place, Mia smiled in spite of herself. Just to get one last smile in.
One last smile.
* * *
Lily strutted down the street, Mia close behind. Her head sagged, her back slouched, and the familiar twinkle in her eyes vanished. As the neohome door opened, Mia looked in. It all seemed so gloomy now. What had changed? Something had, that was for sure. Mia sighed and walked into her room.
Lily looked at her pet. She was so... pathetic! Maybe she was wrong. Maybe this wasn't just a color. Shaking herself from the frightening thought of her being wrong, Lily went back to her study.
Mia gaped at her room. Wasn't it... blue before? To match the lovely color spread over her coat? Now a dull gray greeted her.
As the grey Wocky looked in awe at her new room, Lily strode in. She grinned. “Don't you just love it, darling? I painted it-” Lily paused sheepishly- “I had someone paint it for you. It matches your fur again! And the furniture, just lovely. And...” Her voice trailed off.
Mia walked to the bed. She poked it with her paw, sensitively inspecting every part of the room. Nothing seemed to have its old cheer to it.
Suddenly, she heard a small noise. Her eyes scanned the room. The culprit was the Jazzmosis speaker in the corner of the room. As Lily walked out, ranting about how all the parties' attendees would love the room, Mia slid to the corner of the room.
Her head bobbed slowly to the melody of the alto saxophone. Her sagging ears were listening intently. Perhaps this grey room wouldn't be so bad after all.
* * *
“Pumpkin, wake up! Time to head off to school!” Mia groggily opened her eyes. What a terrible dream. Awful, in fact. She had felt this horrible feeling, like all the joy just went down in the toilet. Flush! Suddenly, she felt it again. Yes, that dream was, indeed, reality. And now she had to face her reality of school.
Groaning, Mia plodded over to her wardrobe. Jeans. Black T-Shirt. What happened to her neon attire? No matter. Neon seemed so... misfit to her anyways.
The city was under a cloud of pollution. Ugh! How horrible. The loud, noisy people just couldn't settle down. What was so exciting, anyways? Mia was disgusted.
Later, the young Wocky sat down in class. She set her materials on her desk and pulled a pencil out of the dull pencil bag. As she started to copy down the homework assignment in her saggy, grey notebook, a sneer from another classmate disturbed her.
“Nice color, Mia.” The Wocky looked up. Color? Oh yes. She was grey. She seemed used to it by now... Really, it wasn't all that foreign. “Thank you,” she stated flatly, ignoring the direct sarcasm.
The day went by. Soon enough, lunch came. Generally, it fell under the category of “liked classes.” But not today.
Mia walked up to her buddy, Michele. “Hey Michele,” she stated. Michele looked out of the corner of her eye, but remained silent. The red Kougra continued to walk away. “Michele?”
Mia was scared. Why had her friendly greeting been greeted with a stony silence? What was wrong?!
“Michele!” This cry was more of a screech.
The Kougra looked up snobbishly. “Oh... Hi Mia.” She immediately proceeded to speak with her other friends, wasting no time on the poor, grey Wocky.
Mia was dumbfounded. She stood with tears in her eyes. Shaking herself from that, she walked to her lunch table where she generally ate. Her closest friends also ate there: Shaela, the pink Kyrii, Callie, the orange Poogle, and Joy, the purple Bruce.
Mia muttered a “hello” to her friends. Shaela gasped. “You're... grey!” she exclaimed. Joy smiled in a friendly matter. Callie screeched with pleasure.
“Oh my goodness! That's the most uber cool color ever!” She giggled. Shaela looked at Mia with a certain amount of disgust. “It's different” was all she could manage to say.
Mia sat next to Callie that day.
* * *
Mia walked alone. She proceeded on to her next class, eyes glued to the floor.
She was alone in the hallway.
She was alone in class.
She was alone on her way to choir.
She was alone.
The door creaked open to choir. Pandemonium echoed from every corner, and disgust filtered through Mia. But it all melted away like cheese in a fondue pot when the music began.
The music rang through the air. It silenced the loud, hushed the talkative. All the neopets stopped in their tracks to listen. Including Mia.
The music was a joy that was so familiar, yet so distant. Why, had she not felt this only one night ago? While listening to Jazzmosis, the same feeling had overcome her. What was it? How could she describe it?
But through all the music, through every chorus and bridge, through the measures and key changes, Mia could not, would not, smile. Though the slight cheerfulness echoed through her soul, it simply wasn't enough. It was not something she could express. It wasn't even close to the happiness she had felt in her days of being cloud.
So the class went on. Mia read her music, she tried her hardest. The reward was a satisfactory feeling, but still.... no smile.
Was that smile at the Rainbow Pool really the very last one?
Mia was afraid. The music was great, but... she felt alone. But she was not alone! Shaela sat next to Mia, chatting with a different friend. Mia sighed. “Please... Can you be quiet?” Mia inquired. “I just want to sing.”
Shaela cast her a look of acid. Mia shrank back, and Shaela strutted away.
Now she was alone.
* * *
The familiar clang of the bell rang through the air. The wild class charged for the door. Mia packed up her things and headed for the door, expecting to be last. But wrong. She met someone at the doorway.
Callie, the orange Poogle, grinned at her. Her sharp teeth almost ruined the effect.
“Hey Mia, I noticed you look kind of sad. I know it might be the whole grey idea-” Callie snorted sarcastically- “But when I feel sad I just act stupid. I mean, tell corny jokes and stuff. That makes me feel happy again.”
Mia felt a strange emotion. It was different than the mild happy she felt with music.
“So let's go to class.”
The friends walked away, and Mia knew what the emotion was. It was Joy! It was knowing someone cared about her. It was the love of a strong friendship, like a bond between siblings.
So they walked away, Callie and Mia, the grey Wocky.
And Mia smiled.