A sequel to "Best Friends for Life and Longer"
"Are you really going, Lucy?"
"Why would I lie about that?"
"You hate travelling!"
I look up from my packing. "Madame, I have never been to a Gadgadsbogen Festival, ever. Everyone says that it's the one thing you need to see at least once in your lifetime." I close my stone box. "Besides," I add as I lift it wearily off the table, “Kitty will be there.”
Julie stops in shock. She opens her mouth to say something, but then closes it again. She points at my box. “You probably should have packed a tad lighter,” she says quietly. “The box itself weighs a ton.”
I shake my head. “I packed as lightly as possible; I need every single thing I have in here.”
Julie shakes her head as she recalls the items I had packed: “Ixi crossing sign, Flotsam sweater, The Kougra’s Paw, Battle Muffin... Why would you need any of this junk?”
I glance at the clock. One hour to catch the ship. “It’s not for me,” I say, lugging the heavy box out the door. “It’s for Kitty.”
The snow is falling sideways as I stumble outside. I shiver and wish that I had thought to wear something heavier than just a Snow Roller Crash Jumper. But, I don’t have time to change; ships heading for Mystery Island Harbour have a reputation of leaving five minutes early, especially around Gadgadsbogen. I have to hurry if I’m going to make it on time, especially in this weather.
As I rush through the snow drifts, I can’t help but wonder what seeing Kitty will be like. After all these years... will it be awkward? Wonderful? Catastrophic? At the very least, I know it will be emotional... but what emotions will become most prominent, I haven’t the faintest idea.
Through the snow and the howling wind, I hear the faint melody of a piano solo coming from a brightly lit neohome. In the short amount of time that I allowed myself to listen, I was able to identify the piece as “You and I, Unfulfilled Feelings,” a song that plays softly in the background of my childhood; everyone in my neoschool knew it, and everyone learnt how to play it on what ever instrument they knew how to play. It’s a sad song, but a beautiful one; I smile, reminiscing, as I force myself to push on.
The ship is just leaving as I stumble onto the Neopia Central Dock. I wave my ticket at a crewmember, and he motions at the Captain to stop. He does, reluctantly; you can hear his impatient shouting about being on time through the thick panes of glass that separate the Navigation Room from the outside world.
The crewmember approaches me. “Let me check your luggage, Madame,” he says, and then, seeing my puzzled expression, adds, “You must be familiar with our policy---no battledome equipment, no sharp cooking utensils, nothing that can be used as a weapon in any way.”
I nod, and he quickly sifts through the stone box; and, not seeing anything hazardous among its contents, he lets me board the ship.
On the ship, I drop my box in the luggage corner and look around for something to occupy myself. I notice a small crowd around four Neopets playing cards, and decide to go see what they are doing.
“Two. Threes,” a shifty looking Jetsam says as he slips two cards, face-down, on top of a large pile in the middle of the table.
After a slight hesitation, a green Bruce taps the pile and says, “Cheat!”
The Jetsam flips the cards to reveal two threes. The crowd gasps. “Take ‘em!” the Jetsam nearly shouts.
The Bruce makes a noise of disgust, then stands up, throws his cards on the table, and walks away. The Jetsam scoffs. “Who shall the next victim be?” He looks around, and catches my eyes. “You, Madame; I’ve never seen you around. Would you care to play a round?”
After a moment, I sit down slowly, and the Jetsam deals the cards. “You go first, Aisha,” he says to me. “You know how to play, right?”
I nod slowly; I’d played Cheat all the time in neoschool---like the piano solo, this game is intertwined deeply with my childhood.
I throw three cards into the middle. “Three tens.”
The game is a long one; by the time I finally win, we have already past Tyrannia, and are headed for Krawk Island.
A blue Lupe approaches me as I start to leave. “You’re pretty good. You’ve played before, haven’t you?”
I nod and turn to leave again, but the Lupe grabs hold of my arm. “I’ve never seen you around. Is this your first time travelling?”
“Second,” I mumble. “I don’t like travelling.”
“What’s so important that you decided to travel?” The Lupe wears an expression of naïve fascination. He’s young, probably just out of neoschool; I get the feeling that he wants to see Neopia before he ties himself down with a job.
I only utter one word, “Gadgadsbogen,” before trying to leave again; but again, the Lupe stops me.
“You’ll love it! It’s so amazing. Most of the Neopets on this ship are headed for Gadgadsbogen. Oh, I’m Andrew, by the way.” He holds out a paw to shake. “What’s your name?”
“Lucy,” I mumble, taking his paw lightly.
I think he must notice how I want to walk away, because he suddenly frowns and says, “You’re not very social, are you?” I shake my head. “Well, you better start becoming more social, ‘cause at Gadgadsbogen, everyone knows everyone else, by sight if not by name. It’s like a huge party that everyone in Neopia is invited to! I’ve been going every year since I was little, so I would know.”
I hesitate to ask at first, but then blurt out, “Do you know a green Ixi by the name of Kitty? Blue eyes, always wears a Ghostkerscarf?”
“Kitty! I love Kitty!” Andrew laughs loudly. “Kitty has been helping organise it every year since she moved there, and, I must say, they’ve gotten so much more amazing since she’s been there to help!”
I smile and sigh. “Good old Kitty,” I whisper. The news is bitter-sweet; it means she hasn’t changed at all, so she’s just as helpful and adventurous as she used to be. But, it also means that she may still be as stubborn, which doesn’t go over well for my peace efforts. Yes, she responded to my letter, but that doesn’t mean she’ll react positively when she sees me at Gadgadsbogen.
I look out the window, and notice that we’ve pulled into the harbour at Krawk Island. Just one more stop to go before I can begin my quest for peace and forgiveness.
I expect a group of rowdy pirates to board the ship, but, to my great surprise, many of the new passengers are from different parts of Neopia, only having been here for vacation. Others are natives, willing to put aside their bloodthirsty tendencies and enjoy the festivities of Gadgadsbogen. Andrew must have noticed my surprise, because he just laughs again, and assures me, “The company that owns this ship has a policy against pirate passengers. Sure, it’s not fair, but they’ve had too many bad experiences with pirates to not have a policy against them. So, don’t worry---you won’t get looted on this ship in a hundred million years!”
I smile vaguely. I look around at the happy groups of Neopets, with whom I will be sharing Gadgadsbogen, and I sigh. There are how many people on this ship alone, plus whatever number of Neopets coming on other ships, plus the thousands living on Mystery Island already... will it even be possible to find Kitty this way?
Before long, we arrive in the Mystery Island Harbour. Not wanting to hurt anything inside my stone box, I wait for almost everyone else to get off the boat before I even start to get my things together. Andrew, on the other hand, pushes towards the front, but not without wishing me a happy Gadgadsbogen first.
I find my way to the neolodge I am staying in, and I drop my box in my room. A change in clothes, a quick brush taken to my fur, and I rush out the door to start my search.
I wander for hours around the island, wondering where to start. The area set aside for the festival is closed off to visitors before the first day of the Month of Running, and I have no idea where Kitty might live.
Eventually, I find myself lost and caught in a thunderstorm. “Dear Queen Fyora in Faerieland!” I shout at the sky. “Isn’t there anything I can do to find her today?” I sit down on the ground and start crying.
“Hey!” a voice comes from behind. I look up; I have no idea how much time has past since I sat down. “Are you insane? You’ll catch Neomonia out here like this!”
The voice is high and scratchy, that of a female. I see the Neopet calling to me, although I can’t make out what species---the night is too dark, and the lightning is to bright. I don’t stand up until she pulls me onto my feet. “Didn’t you hear me? You’ll die out here like this!”
She takes my paw and runs, dragging me behind her. I don’t bother asking where we are going; as long as she gets me out of the rain, I’m fine.
I don’t know how far we run before she stops on the doorstep of a lone neohome. She pulls a key out of her pocket, and fumbles for the lock. After a moment, she pushes the door opened and drags me inside.
“I don’t know what you could have possibly been thinking out there!” she scolds me good-naturedly as she flips a light switch; when the lights flicker and then burn out, she lights a candle sitting on an end table by the door. “Do you have a death wish, Madame?”
I keep my head down, not wanting to look her in the eyes. I am embarrassed; how could I possibly be so stupid?
“Madame?” She crosses to me and forces my head up to look at her. “I asked you a quest---”
By the light of the candle, I can see her clearly for the first time: crystal blue eyes are covered slightly by wet, green bangs. A worn Ghostkerscarf hung from her thin, green neck. She stands slightly taller than I do, but to an untrained eye, we’re the same height.
Shaking, I take the paw she has on my head, and I hold it in mine. “Kitty?” My voice is trembling almost as much as my body is. “Could it really be you?”