A First Valentine's Day
15th, Month of Awakening
Yesterday I found out that chocolate covered meatballs do not make a good gift.
It all started at school, during recess. I had been surprised when Nalazii told me about the presents she was getting for her brothers and sisters for Valentine's Day. With this being my first Valentine's Day, I hadn’t known that you are supposed to get your family gifts to go along with the construction paper Valentines our teacher had us make earlier this week. I had worked really hard on the cards for my older brothers and now I had to go and spend my allowance on gifts for them? Nalazii had been insistent, though, and Avyntura, having heard us talking, chimed in that she had already bought her presents for her family. Of course my perfect cousin had; she always had these kinds of things done before I even knew about them. Nalazii helped me, though. We spent the entire recess making a list of gift ideas, so that I could go to the marketplace after school and find something for each of my brothers.
My list wasn’t that long, mainly because we had such a short time to work on it. Our top picks were: chocolates or candy, flowers (but I said no to that, 'cause my brothers are boys!), plushies, jewelry, new clothes, a new book for Tae, and a few other things. The one thing that Nalazii kept insisting was that I get something that was either red, pink or white, as they are apparently Valentine colors.
I really don’t think pink would suit any of my brothers, cause pink really does not look good with dark purple or dark red.
When I got to the marketplace, I was shocked to see how many of the big stores were decorated in the red, pink and white colors Nalazii said were the colors of the holiday. Shopkeepers were out in the doorways of their stores, calling out to people, trying to get them to come in and shop. One, who was standing in the doorway of a HUGE store pretty much dragged me in, all smiles and encouragement to pick something out. I was passed to another employee of the store as he returned to the door to pull more people in.
My nose wrinkled then. I could feel the skin on my snout curling up at the overwhelming smell of strawberries. Looking up, and up, I found myself in the care of a bright red Gelert, whose nametag read Brayca. It took me a second to realize that no, she didn’t have ticks attached to her skin; they were little seeds, just like every other strawberry pet had on them. Brayca smiled down at me.
“Valentines shopping? You’ve come to the right place. What are you looking for?” she asked, her ears drooping a little like she was really, really tired. I thought then of Wyc and how his ears did the same thing when he got worn out after playing with me. I guess the clerk had been working for a while, because she really looked beat.
“I need to get something for my brothers,” I said softly, a bit nervous at having all of her attention. Nothing new, that. I always get nervous when I have someone’s full attention.
Brayca smiled. “Alright then, we have some lovely chocolates over here, and down aisle five there are some really cute plushies for sale. What are your brothers like? Are they older or younger than you?”
“Older; I’m the baby of the group,” I said. “Tae’s the oldest, he’s really bossy. Hita likes to read a lot and he’s always playing these really hard ‘strategy’ games he calls them. There is one he plays sometimes with this really scary Mynci, who I am not getting a gift for, by the way. That Mynci is really, really scary.”
Brayca chuckled at that and I frowned up at her. The games guy was really scary, though. She wouldn’t laugh if she met him, I told myself.
“Just two then?”
“Oh and Wyc,” I added then, solemnly. “He’s just a little bit older than me; he likes to play all the time and has this weird collection of marshmallow things. He says he’s building a marshmallow army when we play together. I think he is joking.”
Brayca’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her head she laughed so hard. I looked around for another shopkeeper then, thinking maybe this one wouldn’t be much help. Here I was being serious and she kept laughing at me!
“Alright then, do you have any ideas of what you want to get them?”
“Um....” I hesitated, not sure that I really liked the list that Nalazii had helped me come up with. There were things in there that really wouldn’t suit my brothers. “I ah...”
“I can see you don’t know just yet. How about I show you some things that I think they might like from what you told me and we can go from there.”
Brayca actually did end up helping me after all. She showed me all sorts of things, some of which I was tempted to buy just for myself. They had this really neat draik plushie, but it cost too much. Then there was this book about strategy for games, but it was too pricey too.
After about two hours we had some things picked out. Brayca found a Jumbo Cell Block Board for Tae to practice his games on, and luckily it folded into a small little box that I could carry. We found this really neat pocket watch for Hita in a catalogue for the NC Mall, and Brayca called ahead so that they would hold one for me so I could pick it up on my way home. Finally I found Wyc’s gift all by myself. It was a hat, but it was shaped like a marshmallow and it was on fire. Brayca started laughing again when she absently asked what my brother’s colors all were and I told her. Apparently she found the idea of Wyc wearing his new hat very amusing. I also bought them all some fried meatballs dipped in pink and red chocolate. Apparently it was supposed to be very good.
About four hours after school had let out I turned onto my street in Shenkuu, where our little house was still being built. It was past dark now and I was surprised to see that all our neighbors were out and that all the houses were lit up, though most everybody I knew was out there on the block.
Our house is at the end of the street so when I came around the corner I saw my brothers out in the front yard. Hita was pacing, his tail lashing back and forth. I’ve never seen him so angry looking! Tae was talking with a bunch of the neighbors, his shoulders hunched in worry while Wyc paced up and down the sidewalk. I guessed he was looking for something, but I didn’t know what until he turned around and stopped, staring at me.
For a moment he just stared and then he screamed out my name and raced over to me. I caught the shocked looks of everyone else but then didn’t seen anything else as my brother tackled me, sending all my hard thought out gifts flying all over the place. People crowded around, and then Tae was pushing through, making even Wyc move aside.
“Where have you been?!” Hita snapped from behind me before Tae could say anything. I was spun around by my second oldest brother’s claws and then lifted off the ground. Hita’s claws were shaking he was so mad. I’d never seen him so upset.
“I was out shopping-”
“And you didn’t think to tell any of us?” Tae said, his tone soft. Tae only talks like that when he is upset. I didn’t even realize why he was so upset then.
“I--ah.” No, I realized, I hadn’t thought to tell any of them. The entire block had been on high alert since news of the Space Station being taken over had reached us, but I hadn’t thought a thing about it. The Space Station was, after all, in Space. What did it matter to us?
Apparently a lot, I realized. “No, I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
Hita set me down and Tae glowed down at me for a moment before turning to the crowd of neighbors, thanking them for their help in trying to find me. Some shot me looks of annoyance, others looks of relief. I caught one or two other youths giving me a look of sympathy. Having three Darigans mad at you was not always fun. I knew my brothers would never hurt me, but when they got really mad, I could see how sharp their fangs and claws really could be.
“It's not safe out there by yourself,” Wyc said finally, next to me. “You’re really too young to be out at this time of night.”
“I got caught up shopping for presents.”
“For Valentine's Day, you dolt!”
Wyc frowned and then laughed. “I hadn’t remembered it was Valentine's, and your first one too, right?”
“It took me so long to find something for each of you.” I sighed, looking at the spilled mess that had once been the gifts, while the neighbors all disappeared into their houses.
“You made us worried sick because you were out shopping for presents?” Hita said waspishly. “Why on Neopia would you go out and buy presents?”
“Because you’re supposed to on Valentine’s Day! Nalazii told me all about it! You have to give people candy or gifts. The gifts have to be red, pink or white because that’s the color of the holiday and you have to get a red or pink card with hearts on it to-”
“Xan,” Hita growled. “I don’t care about gifts.”
“But--but I worked so hard to find them-”
“I would have much rather known where you were,” Tae said, returning to where we sat on the grass in front of our house. “We all would have.”
“B-but it’s a holiday! I wanted to get you guys what I was supposed to get you-”
“Xanjie,” Tae interrupted, looking at our brothers for a moment before continuing. “Valentine’s Day is not about gifts and candy. It’s about being with the ones you love.”
“Yeah.” Wyc placed a paw atop my head, tweaking my big pink ear with the blunt side of his claws. “I don’t need anything but my little Second in Command of my Marshmallow Army. We were supposed to take over the hot chocolate swamps today, don’t you remember?”
“And I was going to show you a new game one of the neighbors taught me,” Hita added. “It’s supposed to be really fun for everybody.”
I felt like crying then, really I did, but it was Tae who calmed me down. My eldest brother crouched down in front of me, staring me in the eye for a long moment before sighing. “We don’t care if you go out shopping, little one, but you need to let us know where you are going. I don’t want to come home and find you missing again. I’d rather have you here than some present.”
They let me off easy, really, for what I had done. I’d gotten so caught up in the gift giving part of the holiday I hadn’t spent any time with my family the entire day, which kind of defeated the purpose of the holiday, I discovered. We went in after cleaning up the mess. My brothers laughed at Wyckid’s hat when I finally did give it to him, because the white was now covered in grass stains. But he enjoyed it all the same. We played with my brother’s marshmallows and all of us joined Hita for his new game, which we ended up playing all night.
I also gave them each one of the chocolate covered meatballs and had one left over for myself. After we ate them, I got to see each of my brothers turn decidedly green under their feathers, fur and scales.
I have to remember to tell Nalazii about this on Monday when we go back to school. Red and pink toys do not make a good Valentine’s Day gift. Nor do pink and red chocolate covered meatballs.
I found out that spending time with my loved ones was what really made a good Valentine’s Day gift.