Abu's Exam: Part Three
Mornings, Abu thought, should not be allowed to be so bright. There should be a law against it.
Sunlight streamed in through the gap in the curtains, pooling on Abu’s pillow. She groaned, and rolled over. The tinny beeping of her alarm clock announced that it was eight o’clock, or somewhere near it. She groaned once, and then turned over, pulling the covers tightly over her head. Just five more minutes, she told herself, and then I’ll get up. Five minutes never hurt anyone. It’s barely any time at all, after all...
She had nearly fallen asleep again when voices downstairs reminded her of the day’s mission. With a gasp, she sat up in bed, all traces of sleepiness gone. She checked her alarm clock worriedly. If she had slept for too long... Luckily, it had only been ten minutes – not too long; she was still safe.
She stood up and began to make her bed. She had slept in her clothes the night before, and so now they were wrinkled and creased. She would have to change clothes before heading downstairs.
“G’morning,” Kat sleepily greeted Xena, closing the door to her room.
“Morning,” Xena mumbled back, equally tired. Both sisters stumbled down the stairs into the kitchen.
“And then I was being chased by Dr. Sloth, and the faerie Grundo – remember, I told you about him? He was the one who was talking to the Slorgs – had a butter knife, and so I turned left, but there was a yellow Meerca with a giant pitchfork, and a mutant Ruki – oh, hi, Xena, Kat – and then I saw Terror Mountain, only it was pink, and a Weewoo was on top of it... ” Downstairs, Ki was vividly describing his dream to his older brother. Dai nodded sagely, as the blue Shoyru jumped up and down, talking animatedly. Kat rolled her eyes while Xena giggled.
In the kitchen, Sabby was just finishing some baking some Yeasty Bread. “I made it myself!” she called to her pets. “It was in a recipe book! I promise,” she added, as her pets headed wisely for the plate of store-bought omelettes. Their owner’s complete ineptitude at all culinary arts was legendary.
Five minutes after the four had begun eating, Fen walked into the kitchen. “Good morning,” she said cheerfully. Sitting down at the table, she failed to notice that the Yeasty Bread was homemade. She cut herself a large slice, and began to eat hungrily. Her four siblings watched with mild amusement as the green Poogle’s face turned even greener.
“What’s wrong?” Sabby asked as Fen rushed out the door past her. “Was it something she ate?” Kat, Ki, Dai, and Xena laughed at the human’s obvious bewilderment. Sabby looked confused, and returned to her seat at the table, muttering under her breath.
After ten minutes, Fen returned, along with Cela. “I told you it’d work, but nooooo, you didn’t believe me, and, see, after all that, I was right!” Cela reproached her sister. “Oh, good morning,” the Bori added, seeing her siblings in the kitchen for the first time.
“Morning, Cela,” Kat said, as Fen sat down again.
Xena looked at her mad scientist sister with interest. “You brewed some medicine for her?”
“Told you I could,” Cela replied proudly. “And she’s all fixed now. Except for... er...”
Fen looked up, alarmed. “What is it, Cela?”
Cela looked uncomfortable. “Well, a possible risk is that you might turn into a green Grundo and feel compelled to run away to the Space Station. But don’t worry,” she said hastily, as Fen stood up, “side effects can be canceled by omelettes.” Fen looked relieved and sat down, digging into her omelette with new gusto. “I think,” Cela added under her breath.
A new voice was heard at the table. “Hey, guys,” Abu said casually as she strode into the room and took her place at the table.
Fen choked on her omelette, Kat uttered a short exclamation, Cela nearly knocked of the table jumping up, Dai’s eyebrow’s rose, and Ki’s head jerked up. Sabby just continued to eat her bread (for some reason, her cooking never had the same effect on her as it did on her pets).
Abu raised one eyebrow, but continued to eat her breakfast.
“I suppose you’ll go back to studying again after this,” Kat said dully. She stared straight forward, as if she didn’t care.
“No, actually, I was wondering if anyone wanted to walk around Neopia Central today with me. We might even stop and buy something, or do something like that. We could also visit the Kadaotery. Perhaps.” Abu looked once at her owner to make sure that this was all right with her. Sabby nodded once.
“Can I go?” Ki asked energetically. He loved PetPets in general, and would be very excited to go to the Kadaotery.
“Sure,” Abu agreed at once. “Anyone else?”
“If Ki’s going, I’m going,” the blue Ixi sitting next to Ki announced. Abu nodded her thanks to her brother, and then looked back at the table.
“Is it just going to be Dai and Ki and me?” she asked.
“I’ll go,” Xena said, at last.
“I’ll go, too,” Cela said at once.
“OK,” Fen agreed, “let’s go.”
Finally, after a long, grudging silence, Kat added, “Fine. I’ll be coming.”
“Are you sure?” Abu asked, not leaving her sister alone. Her voice rose. “Are you sure about this, Kat? Or are my priorities messed up, do I ‘not care about my family anymore’?”
Her sisters all looked down guiltily. “I’m sorry, Abu,” Kat said at last. “I’m sorry.” The other three all made noises of acquiescence.
Abu looked down, and when she looked up at last, her eyes were over-bright. “I’m sorry, too, guys,” she said.
All four girls stared at each other for a few seconds, and then they all jumped into a group hug, each sniffling slightly. Their human owner watched in a state of approving tranquility, while their brothers looked in confusion at each other. Finally, Dai shrugged, as if to say “Girls.”
The long, long day was filled with laughter, fun, and joy. All eight pets were smiling happily by the time they reached home. The day had been one of those rare, dream, ideal days, where nothing went wrong for anyone. The siblings’ only objection was that it wasn’t long enough!
Arriving home late that night, exhausted but happy, the eight only had time to eat dinner – declaring that the day had been amazing and recalling several short anecdotes about their activities to their owner between bites – before flopping into bed and falling asleep.
“Thanks for walking me here, guys,” Abu said.
“You’re welcome,” her seven siblings replied at the same time.
“Well, good luck, Abu,” Sabby said, grinning encouragingly at her oldest neopet. “You can do it!”
“OK guys,” Kat said, just as Abu was about to head for the line. “One... two... three...”
“GO ABU!!!” all of her family cheered at once.
Abu smiled at them all, and, as they called words of encouragement after her, trotted off to the line.
The day was pleasant: it was warm, but a refreshingly cool breeze blew through the air. Nervously, Abu clenched sweaty palms. She went over her word (“S-e-d-i-m-e-n-t-a-r-y. Sedimentary.”) in her head. She could – and literally had – spelled it in her sleep. Still, she thought, better safe than sorry...
Abu couldn’t decide whether she should grin or grimace. She was inside the hall of examination, seated at her desk. On the one hand, she was over Kreludor thrilled to be there. On the other hand, she needed to pass. She was actually there, and she had to pass.
A bored Eyrie wearing a frown as big as some Neopet’s grins sat at a desk at the front of the wide room. Fifty or so intelligent, intense eyes met the Eyries’s own blue ones when she stood up.
She smiled slightly, and then began talking. Her pre-test speech was basically a summarization of what they all knew: that there was no possible way to cheat on the examination; that a prize would be given to the top scholar; that the exam questions would be a combination of multiple choice, essay questions, and short answers...
Finally, the blue Eyrie finished. She turned sedately on her heel and walked back to her desk where she sat. She pointed to the clock, which was slowly ticking away the seconds until twelve o’clock... “Begin!”
It felt like a dream, except it was real. She had had this dream before, she knew. This was where she was meant to be.
The large auditorium the students who had passed the advanced examination were in was nearly full. A shadow scholarly Mynci was standing on a platform, watching the room serenely. This was not a dream. This was the real Jari Moonbeam, Abu’s idol.
He cleared his throat, and then began his speech. It was the same speech he gave nearly every year. Abu had memorized it; lived it; dreamed it. She mouthed the familiar word along with him: “This is the moment you have all been waiting for, since qualifying as top students in your various schools around Neopia. As you struggled through your studies, seeking knowledge – precious knowledge! – the daydream that you would be the one honored in this moment kept you going. Your precocious minds have only been concentrating partially on your studies, young scholars. Instead you have been focusing on this moment for long, long before we even knew you...”
Abu wasn’t in the room anymore. She was everywhere she had ever been; ever studied; ever dreamed. She was sitting at her desk in first grade, looking at a pathetically easy spelling test – she was reading a long handbook of examination rules – she was sitting in a room at two in the morning, while it rained outside, studying the conjugation of Altadorian verbs...
And then she was sitting with her siblings and Sabby, at dinner, and they were all a huge family. And this was the memory she dwelt on; she was content. It didn’t matter if she won the top scholar award, which she had coveted for so long. She had Kat, Xena, Sabby, Ky, Ki, Dai, Fen, and Cela. But it would be nice to win...
“And, so,” Jari Moonbeam said, concluding his speech, “we begin our Awards Ceremony. The top scholar in this year’s class is –” and he coughed, and the cough seemed to take a million years – “Abiugiakl Kilikary!”