Star in a Lantern: Part One
This story is dedicated to anybody who feels less than who they truly are.
In the Meridellian woods where petpets flourish and vibrant, colorful wildflowers bask in the dappling gold sunshine of the afternoon, there was a log cottage sitting in an emerald glade. Here lived three individuals: Sherry, a young, impulsive red-headed girl with clear blue eyes, and her two pets. The sky was wide, blue, and cloudless when Sherry set out to work in the garden behind their little home. With her was her older pet, a responsible and prudent yellow Xweetok named Tramikaa, while her younger pet, Kannon, went off to the Petpet Stables with her friends. Tramikaa - better known as Tammy - didn't have a friend to speak of, but this didn't bother her. She was an introverted, quiet girl, the lone student at school who was an outcast of her own accord. Tammy, however, was a delightfully good listener and was always able to offer the most honest and reasonable advice she could think of in order to solve one's problems, and never did she sugarcoat her opinions in order to make them sound less harsh or truthful.
Although Tammy spent a lot of time watching her little sister, cooking, and cleaning, these were all things that she was self-required to do; gardening with her mother was one of her few leisures. Sitting knee-deep in jade-colored grass while digging through soft, brown dirt and caressing the silken petals of the flowers, a serene Tammy didn't notice the odd, nervous glances her mother kept tossing her. In fact, these glances were completely undetected until Tammy herself glanced at her mother, and the gaze of the Xweetok's piercing, liquidy red eyes - so frightening and unusual that Sherry nearly shivered - met that of the girl's clear, pale blue eyes. There was an awkward moment of silence, the spade still in Sherry's hand and the watering can stalwart in Tammy's, before Sherry cleared her throat and spoke.
"Tammy," she began slowly, "Kannon's almost five years old."
"Oh, I know," Tammy - who was fifteen and attending her first year of Neo High School - breathed softly. "She's getting big. I'm sure she'll love attending Meridellian Elementary and making more friends. She's a natural at that." Despite her own lack of social skills, there wasn't a hint of envy in the Xweetok's voice - only admiration, love, and tenderness. It hurt Sherry to hear Tammy speak in such a kind and sisterly way.
"Actually," the girl said, her voice barely audible murmur, "I want to send her to Skye's Meadows."
Tammy raised an eyebrow. Although her family wasn't necessarily a poor one, they weren't rich, either, and Skye's Meadows was a very prestigious and expensive private school located near the border between Meridell and Brightvale. It was full of noteworthy scholars from both flourishing kingdoms, and was the first choice for the Meridellian nobles to send their children in order for them to grow up to become respected, educated individuals. "Mom," Tammy found herself saying, "You can't."
"Why not?" Sherry retorted, quickly and crossly.
Tammy chose her words carefully; she didn't want to get on her mother's bad side. Sherry could hold a grudge well, and it would take all the forgiving, sorrow, and kindly actions in the world to gain her forgiveness. A small voice spoke in the back of Tammy's mind then, whispering: "Sherry never gets angry at Kannon. Sherry always got angry at you when you were four." Tammy shivered, willing the thoughts away like leaves in the breeze. "Because, Mom," she replied cautiously, "we can't afford it."
Sherry's gaze instantly dropped to the ground. That's when Tammy knew that something was wrong.
"What, Mom?" she asked. "What is it?"
The human girl paused, and a curtain of fiery red hair fell between her and her Xweetok. Through the silky, flaming strands dappled with the afternoon sunlight that was filtered through the wood's bent, leaf-bearing branches, Tammy could see her mother's eyes, as pale and wide as blue moons, gazing at her half-open. The dark lashes didn't flutter, and in the depths of those eyes Tammy could see nothing but a horrible emptiness, an emptiness that swallowed the blue skies inside. And then she knew.
28th Day of the Month of Awakening
My name is Tramikaa, but call me Tammy, please - Tramikaa's just too exotic and fancy for me. My last name used to be Skie, but not anymore. My roommate says that I'll forget the name eventually, and I might even forget my first name if I don't get adopted soon, but I doubt that, since I'm writing it down in this journal, which is the only thing Sherry let me bring with me. Oh - I'm sorry - I must be confusing you. Okay, let's start of with the basics. I'm Tramikaa No-Last-Name, I'm fifteen, and I'm a yellow Xweetok. I used to live in a little Meridellian village called Esro, which is just an anagram of the word "Rose." In Esro, I lived with my little sister, Kannon, who was four, and my mom, Sherry, in a log cottage in the woods. Kannon was an adorable red Zafara with wide green eyes. She was very sociable and had so many friends that it was impossible to count them all, while I was quiet and introverted and had no friends at all. But I never resented her for this. I loved her and I loved Sherry, and I loved our home and I loved my place in the world. But that has all been taken away from me.
Anyway, we were a pretty poor family, I guess, but we got by. We were fine. I think that Sherry favored Kannon over me - probably because she was cuter, and more talkative, and had all these cute little friends and loved the outdoors, while I had loved the indoors. I went to Meridell Elementary and Meridell Middle School and was in Meridell High at the time. But Sherry had bigger dreams for little Kannon, who was almost old enough to attend the Elementary School. Sherry wanted to send her to Skye's Meadow, which is a fancy private school located in Meridell, but is at the border right between Meridell and Brightvale. But, as you probably know, private schools require tuition and tuition is expensive. Realizing that she couldn't afford to send Kannon there, Sherry decided to cut a few things from her everyday budget. Those few things include the beloved garden in the glade we lived in (she was going to sell the flowers), our funding to move to Brightvale, and, lastly, me.
And that's why I'm in the Pound. My mom thought that I had had enough, and that she had raised me, cared for me, and loved me enough. I already had a decent education from elementary to middle school, and had gotten decent grades. I was a decent outcome, she must've thought, a pet she had created that hadn't turned out spectacularly or disappointingly. But - but - I think my mom was disappointed. She was disappointed that I didn't get fabulous grades, that I wasn't amazingly popular, that I wasn't a complete social butterfly who breathed the outdoors. I was decent, okay, average. And for her, I guess that just wasn't enough.
So Kannon gets to go to Sky's Meadow. Kannon gets to get a petpet. Kannon gets to be painted.
I suppose, in a way, this is a good thing.
1st Day of the Month of Running
Hi, again. I let my roommate, Sadie, read over my entry from last time, and she said that she was "absolutely repulsed and horribly disgusted by my terribly inadequate grammar." Well, I got "decent" grades, in school, remember? Anyway, Sadie - she's a red Eyrie, by the way - is now proofreading all my entries for the tiniest of mistakes. She's seriously leaning over my shoulder right now, her beak almost in my eye as she intently reads each word I wrote down on this darned notebook paper. Now she's laughing. Hahaha, very funny. Anyway, I guess I should pick up from yesterday - "with more details", Sadie says.
I don't really know where to start... You know what? I'm just going to jot down my thoughts. Yeah, that's what I'm going to do. It's the 1st Day of the Month of Running today. I want to break out of this concrete room and run to the very ends of the planet, to wave to the Shenkuuvians, say hello to the Brightvalians, and say greeting to those living on our moon, Kreludor, high above us. Sadie says that she wants to fly higher than Kreludor, high enough to touch the stars. She says that she's going to catch stars in the rusted old lanterns that Dr. Death has in the storage room, and will bring them down to Neopia so that no one will ever have to suffer in darkness again. I'm sure the dark faeries won't appreciate that.
It's hard to believe that it's the Month of Running, and I'm stuck in this room - this decently sized, square room, with peeling blue wallpaper and a cream carpet spotted and speckled with drink stains. There are two bamboo beds here, both tucked into either upper corners of the room, with a small, square window plated with glass and barred with crisscrossing metal pegs seated quaintly in between. I suppose that this typical Pound room isn't as ugly and filthy as I had thought it would be, but it still isn't home. This place - the Pound - will never be home. Not to me, anyway.
Sadie told me that she was born in Kiko Lake. She had three older brothers brothers, who were identical blue Eyries, and a father with dark blue hair and light blue eyes. The idea of "light blue eyes" made me think of Sherry; thinking about her, my former mother, caused a horrible ache to suddenly wrench at my heart. I felt like throwing up, but Sadie stopped telling me her tale long enough for me to get a grip on myself again. Anyway, Sadie and her family owned a candy store in Kiko Lake, called Kiko Lake Candy Store - a simple enough name. They opened up the store when Sadie was seven. (She's thirteen now.) But when Sadie was twelve, this other candy store, called "Delicious, Delicious, Delicious" opened up across from Kiko Lake Candy Store. And let's just say that Kiko Lake Candy Store didn't stand a chance. It closed down, and her father was so disheartened that he decided to leave Neopia. Her brothers were adopted out to close friends, but, sadly, nobody wanted Sadie, the fiery youngest and only daughter, so she was abandoned in the Pound.
So Sadie's lost, too, just like me.
I wonder how many others there are in the world, searching for a light that isn't there?
To be continued...
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