There is No Cost to Friendship: Part Two
Lunchtime was often the worst part of the school day. Hundreds of other hungry students would crowd together in one single line, fighting each other for the last chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes bottlenecks were caused because people waited for a fresh, hot tray of pizza and fried potato wedges instead of the ones that were getting cold and hard. After a long trip in the lunch line, decisions arose about where in the lunch room to sit, and this always caused some sort of drama.
Brooke always packed her lunch to avoid the terrible line. Also, she could pack herself an extra dessert or two, instead of fighting others for the last chocolate coin or cookie. The only bad part about skipping the lunch line was that she was normally the first one at the tables.
She placed her lunch bag on a table not occupied with other students and sat awkwardly by herself. This was a normal custom of hers, yet she always wished for a table filled to the brim with people to wave her over and engage her in conversation. Nothing of the sort ever happened.
She bit into an apple and stared at the clock above her head. Only fifty-four more minutes until the end of the period.
“May I sit here?” Brooke quickly looked up and saw a red Ogrin wearing a denim skirt, three tank tops, and canvas sneakers. It was the new girl, the one riding the skateboard in the hallway. Brooke could smell perfume wafting in her nose. She did not know of anybody who wore perfume.
Brooke was caught off guard. Nobody ever asked to sit with her, not with the lack of social skills that she had. Why on Earth would the Ogrin want to sit with her? Maybe she felt sorry for Brooke, a girl sitting all by herself, and wanted to give her a friend. Maybe the Ogrin was also shy and was scared of sitting at a table full of strangers, so she just decided to take it slow and just sit with one stranger. Maybe Brooke actually looked like a possible friend to her.
“Sure,” Brooke said, and scooted her lunch bag across the table so the Ogrin could sit next to her.
The Ogrin took a strange smelling meat wrap off of her plate. The school often served lunches that had their own distinct smell, none of them pleasant. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“Brooke,” the Xweetok replied.
“I’m Sam,” said the Ogrin. “It’s short for Samantha, but only people like my mother call me that.”
Brooke nodded. “Did you just move here?” she asked, trying her best to make small talk. What she really wanted to talk to Sam about was her skateboard. Nothing was cooler than a girl skateboarding through a hallway, Brooke had decided.
“Just a few days ago,” Sam replied. “I was born in the Lost Desert and have moved practically everywhere in Neopia. But this is my first time in Brightvale.”
“Yeah, I like it here,” said Brooke. “Everything is really pleasant and nice. Well, actually, I live in Meridell. I just go to school in Brightvale because everybody is so... bright.”
“I’ve never been to Meridell, either,” said Sam. “What is it like there?”
“Boring,” Brooke replied quickly. “There is absolutely nothing to do but count potatoes, kiss Mortogs, and send your Petpets down little holes. I would give anything to live somewhere else.”
Sam shrugged her left shoulder. “I would much rather live in one place my entire life than bounce around from one place to another. I have just gotten so sick of packing up boxes and moving to an unfamiliar place.”
The two of them sat and ate in silence for a while. When Brooke was almost finished with her lunch, with the bell about to ring, she forced herself to talk to Sam about what had been on her mind the entire day. “When did you learn to skateboard?” Brooke asked, blushing. “I-I saw you in the hallway today and thought it was really, um... cool.”
“Thanks,” Sam said. Her flushed face and shy smile matched Brooke’s exactly. “I actually taught myself back a while ago. In the Lost Desert there really isn’t much to do, so I just learned.”
“Cool,” said Brooke. She hated sounding so awkward, but she did not know what else to say.
To her relief, the bell rang. Brooke gathered her trash and threw it in the trash can. “What class do you have next?” she asked Sam. She hoped that Sam would respond with English, the class that she happened to have next, so they could walk to class together.
Sam grabbed a worn schedule from her pocket. “History,” she replied.
“Cool,” said Brooke. She wished that she did not say “cool” as often as she did, but it was the only thing that she could say. “I have English,” she said, placing her hands in her pockets. “It’s, like, on the other side of the school.”
Sam smiled and bit her bottom lip. “Cool.”
Brooke met up with Ryan as soon as school ended at the base of the long flight of stairs. Ryan was wearing an annoyed look on his face, almost collapsing from the weight of his overloaded backpack. “Why do the teachers have to give us homework on the first day?” he said to no one in particular. “I have so much homework.”
“Get used to it,” said Brooke. She had no patience for her brother’s whining. She, too, had a load of homework. Ryan had no idea what he was in for in seventh grade. “Oh, Mom says that we have to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen today. She said we can get a ride from an Eyrie somewhere.”
Ryan leaned back and moaned. “I already have so much homework!” he whined. “I don’t have time to take a trip to Neopia Central and volunteer!”
“Sorry, Ryan,” Brooke replied. But it was no use. Ryan was deep in a rant, pacing around the front of the school.
“There aren’t many poor people in Neopia anyway,” he barked. “And the Soup Faerie can handle them all, anyway. I bet that most people who go there aren’t even poor anyway and just want a cheap meal! And, I mean, it’s mostly the poor people’s fault that their poor because they spent all of their money on worthless things like Scratch Cards and the Wheel of Excitement.”
Brooke felt this way, too, but was not as willing to scream her feelings to the world like Ryan was. “Let’s just go get this over with,” she said to her little brother. She walked with him over to the nearest Eyrie cab and started their journey to Neopia Central.
Ryan came off of the Eyrie cab in much worse of a mood than he was after school had ended. Brooke decided that the cause of his bad mood was that, due to the lack of seats on the Eyrie cab, he had to sit in Brooke’s lap the entire ride.
“I cannot believe that I have to spend my precious time at the Soup Kitchen,” he whined as he and Brooke walked from the Main Shops of Neopia Central to the Bazaar to the Marketplace. Ryan was so upset that he did not even beg Brooke for a chocolate Moehog coin as they walked past the Chocolate Factory.
“Can you just please put on an act for the Soup Faerie?” Brooke asked. “She’s the kindest resident of Neopia and I do not want to upset her.”
Ryan grumbled something to himself and crossed his arms. Brooke rolled her eyes as she opened the door to the Soup Kitchen.
The first thing that struck Brooke was not the huge caldron of soup in the middle of the kitchen or the discomforting aroma coming out from it, an aroma almost as pleasant as the meat wraps from the school cafeteria. She was also not struck by the beautiful Soup Faerie wearing clothes unsuitable for most Faeries: a bandana and an apron. Nor was she struck by the hordes of hungry Pets waiting to be fed. She was struck by a red Ogrin standing behind the caldron of soup, looking as if she had no idea what to do. A purple skateboard was at her feet.
“Sam?” Brooke asked.
The Ogrin looked up and widened her eyes, her mouth ajar. “Brooke?” she said.
“Hi!” Brooke squealed.
“Hi!” Sam ran over to hug Brooke and Brooke was taken aback. It seemed like Sam really wanted to be her friend, which was something completely new to her. Normally, Brooke was the one who struggled to make friends with people. Nobody ever strived to be friends with her.
When Brooke was released from Sam’s embrace, she asked, “Do you work her often? My mother makes me and my brother work here every Monday.”
Sam ran a hand through her fur. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m here practically every day. It’s like I live here!” Beads of sweat ran down her face. “It’s so hot in here,” she complained, wiping the sweat from her forehead. She laughed nervously.
“Aren’t you used to the heat?” Brooke asked. “I mean, you are from the Lost Desert.”
“N-No,” said Sam. “I was just born in the Lost Desert. I’ve moved everywhere. I actually just came from Terror Mountain.”
There was nothing that Brooke could think of that she could say next. Having a friend was tough work when you could not find anything to talk about.
To save Brooke from another awkward silence with Sam, Ryan came up to the girls. “If I have to work here, so do you,” he said coldly, tossing an apron at his sister.
Brooke groaned. “I actually don’t like working here,” she confessed. “I think I have better things to do with my time.”
Shrugging, Sam said, “But look at all of these hungry Pets we are helping! Isn’t that a good reward?” She gestured towards the line of Pets in front of the caldron.
Brooke was silent. “Here,” said Sam, tying her own apron around her body. “I’ll work with you at the caldron for a little bit. I’ve been working here a while, I can show you the ropes.” She led Brooke over to the caldron, telling the Soup Faerie that she should take a break for a while.
The Soup Faerie raised an eyebrow. “If you want to, Samantha,” she said with a strange look on her face. The Soup Faerie made her way over to the other volunteers, engrossing herself with other things. “I’m waiting for Al to come,” she said. “She’s usually never late.”
The girls gathered around the chicken noodle soup and used ladles to pour some into plastic bowls. Laughing and talking about nothing in particular, Brooke forgot that she was doing charity and truly believed that she was having fun with a new friend.
After about an hour and a half working with Sam, Brooke heard from her brother that it was time to leave. She said her good-byes to Sam and told her that she’d see her tomorrow.
Sam smiled. “I’m jealous that you get to leave,” she said. “I’m stuck here practically the entire day. It gets boring.”
“But what about the hungry Pets you are helping?” Brooke said, trying her best to mock the Ogrin. “Isn’t that reward enough?”
Sam laughed even before she realized that she was being made fun of.
Brooke said good-bye to Sam again and walked out of the Marketplace with Ryan. She would have never thought that she had made a friend over a skateboard and a caldron of soup.
To be continued...