Six Names, Six Lives, Six Owners, One Terrible Tale: Part One
My name is Xander, but you don't have to bother calling me that, no matter what anyone says. I've been called by more names than anyone I know (not all of them very nice). Not that I know anyone who has ever had more than one. Anyway... I began my life with the name of Xander, and as of now that is how I will and do refer to myself. So there. I'm a pretty average blue Xweetok, despite the fact that some Neopians are a little paintbrush-happy. As in a LOT paintbrush-happy. I don't know if they got the jackpot at the lottery or what, but anyway, back to what we were saying. You didn't come here to learn about me... well, actually, I guess you did.
Anyway, this is my story... I suggest you don't read it at all. See, my story DOES have a happy beginning AND a happy end (if there WAS no happy end, I wouldn't even have the heart to write these words), which I admit is nice, but the middle is rather iffy on the happy scale, I'm sorry to tell you. I suggest you leave this page of the Neopian Times, in fact, and go and read something more cheerful, such as the comics. I love reading the comics, don't you? Never puts you in a bad mood. Go on, go!
I can see I haven't convinced you. Oh well, your loss, because this story is not funny or overly happy. It is not even half-happy. At best, it's one fourth happy. Really, go check out the comics.
I stirred slightly. I felt warm and safe, and I could hear a soft voice crooning to me. A hand ran through the fur on top of my head, and I purred contentedly as I opened my bright blue eyes.
Everything was cloudy and blurry for a moment, and I first I only noticed vague shapes and colors. Then... a face. A girl was holding me and petting me, and I looked up at her in confusion.
“Oh, Xander!” she said happily. “You opened your eyes!” She stroked my then-tiny head with two fingers. As she came into full focus, I was able to make out her light coffee-colored skin and dark, curly brunette hair. Her eyes were brown too, and in the future I would dub her 'Brownie', especially when she wore her favorite brown dress.
“Oh, Xander, you are soooo adorable!” she proclaimed, hugging me gently.
Xander. Zan-dur. Short for 'Alexander', though you'd better not tell anyone, or my reputation will be totally ruined. Soon, that is what I would learn to call myself. I also learned to call the girl 'Laura' (if I wasn't using Brownie). I learned a lot of things, my first few days in the world. I learned about glue, and burritos, and apples, and socks, and Dr. Sloth, and white weewoos, and I learned that the neighbor's spyder is not for eating, and the toilet water is not for drinking. I also learned that if you use your claws to climb up a nice-looking stranger and say hello, the nice-looking stranger is likely to not look so nice anymore, scream, and fling you away. Sad but true.
Laura was a pretty average Neopian. I was her first pet, and we both learned the ropes of Neopia together. We would bash Kass and explore the Pirate Caves all day long, and we became thicker than thieves. Laura was a decent gamer, and made enough neopoints for the both of us playing in the Neopian game room. Thus, we always had enough to eat, and sometimes, as a treat, she would buy a book for me, even if it meant nothing but omelette, jelly, and soup for a week.
I developed a love of reading right away. In my first two weeks of life, Laura bought My First Book for me, and we would sit on our couch every night and thumb through the pages. Once a week, we would receive the Neopian Times, and read it with gusto. The adventures, the articles, the editorial, the comics, anything that contained words. Over time, my bookshelf filled, and Laura and I could not have been happier. It never seemed to matter that we didn't have a big neohome or expensive paintbrushes or other material things that some Neopians think are important, all that mattered was that we were together.
For my '100 day' birthday, Laura raised a lot of suspense for me. I watched her carefully every day, and explored every nook and cranny of the house, but there was no gift, wrapped, bagged or otherwise, and I couldn't catch Laura buying wrapping paper, ribbons, or cards.
Laura refused to give out clues, unlike she usually did, and I came to suspect that it couldn't be a plain old book or toy.
I retreated to my room, as I usually did when I was nervous or excited. It was nothing fancy, really. Just a bed and a small bookshelf. Oh, and my 'petpet'. At least, that's how Laura referred to it. However, Lionel was no more a petpet than a tin can is a spaceship from Kreludor.
Lionel had sat forlornly on my bed for as long as I could remember. He was basically a cardboard toy with one of his eyes missing and a crushed back paw from excessive cuddling the day I received him. I, however, hadn't cuddled with him for weeks. In fact, since I received him for my two-week birthday, I had pretty much ignored him. After all, who wants a cardboard petpet?
I had been begging Laura for a real petpet for some time now, ever since Lionel had lost his eye. Nothing fancy, just a plain old snorkle, or maybe a kadoatie. Anyway, that night, my 99th day of life, I admit, I fell asleep cuddling Lionel, imagining that he was the petpet of my dreams.
The next morning, I sat right up in bed, and raced downstairs, where Laura was waiting. The first thing I noticed was the omelette on the table. Hmm... we rarely ever got omelette, unless Laura had purchased something expensive. However, despite my best searching attempts, I eventually had to conclude that there was not a single gift in the entire room.
Laura gave me some omelette and smiled a secretive smile. As we ate, we didn't say very much, but the tension in the air was growing. Finally, I put my plate in the sink and smiled.
“So, where is it?” I asked.
“Where's what?” Laura asked, playing dumb.
“You know, my gift! For my one-hundred day birthday!”
“Oh that,” Laura said. “I hid it somewhere special. Close your eyes.” I sighed and obliged.
“Don't peek,” Laura said. “Okay... open your eyes!” I opened my eyes and exclaimed loudly. It took me about one-one-hundredth of a nanosecond to figure out what to do.
“Oh, Brownie! Thank you thank you thank you thank you!” I snuggled my gift. My gift licked my on the face.
“I'll call him Rocko!” I declared after a moment.
“What if it's a she?” Laura asked.
“Rocko-ette,” I joked, petting Rocko's soft grey and white fur. We laughed together as Rocko the altachuck explored his new home, his horns barely reaching the top of the chair legs. He was absolutely adorable, and both Laura and I fell in love with the petpet from Altador in an instant.
That day was probably one of the best days of my life. Laura had, along with Rocko, hidden in a big cake. Best part about having a small family? The smaller the family, the more cake you get. However, I discovered that Rocko was a bit of a hog when it came to sweets. Afterward, with Rocko by my side, we left our home and headed for the plaza. A Kougra, two Wockies, a Zafara, and half a dozen Shoyrus stopped to pet Rocko, who enjoyed the attention and arched his back, as if asking for another rub.
We went to the Pizzaroo, despite our rather low budget, and dared each other to eat the weirdest and wildest flavors. Surprisingly, Rocko enjoyed mud pizza. Make of that what you will.
Finally, we went to the book shop and bought The Guide to (what else) Petpets. That night, the three of us squished into my tiny bed. Lionel fell off, and I'm sure he is still under that bed somewhere, as I had no interest in getting him back out (and I still don't). Despite our rather compressed room space, we read until late at night, right up to the part where it explains petpet grooming. I'm sure we would have read on, but falling asleep makes it very hard to focus, even if you are reading a book.
It was Laura, Rocko, and me for the longest time. Each day was a new adventure, in a way. I thought nothing could ever separate us.
I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
For Christmas that year, I expected something great. Worst mistake I ever made. By that time, Laura had done some favors for the faeries, and we had many more neopoints than we knew what to do with.
I woke up on Christmas morning so excited I thought I might burst. I ran downstairs and peered under the tree. Presents! There were presents from me to Laura (which I had placed there last night) and presents from Laura to me. There was even a new petpet bed for Rocko.
I woke Laura up, and we tore open our gifts, hugging each other happily as each book, toy, or other present was revealed. Finally, with wrapping paper littering the ground, Laura looked behind the couch and said. “Look! someone put another present behind the sofa!”
When Laura showed me the huge box, at least as big as I was, was I ever excited. Laura slowly lifted the lid, and suddenly, a single-horned head poked out. “Hi there!” the head said. The head had a mouth, in case you haven't guessed.
“You got me a Uni?” I asked Laura angrily. “A Christmas painted Uni?” The Uni drooped.
“Not just any Uni!” Laura said happily. “This is Mavis, your new sister!”
I narrowed my eyes. How could Laura, my Brownie, do this to me? We were a family! A family without room for one more. I angrily stalked away to my room.
Five minutes later, Laura was knocking on my door. “Xander, can we talk about this?”
I heard her walking away, and you know what? I didn't care.
It only got worse from there. Mavis ended up sharing my room, and the first thing she did was play with Rocko.
“What's his name?” she asked.
“That's a dumb name. I'm going to call him Snooky-wookums!”
From then on, I resolved to hate Mavis. She had stolen my Brownie away from me. Laura, day after day, would go into town with Mavis, and Mavis would drag her 'Snooky-wookums' along.
Finally, after two weeks, I decided to talk to Laura. I confronted her in her room, and she acted all innocent. “Thought it was best, blah blah blah,” or “Maybe if you tried to be more welcoming, yadda yadda yadda.”
I ran away from her, to the refuge of the room that was no longer mine. I wanted to just keep running, and running, and running, away from Mavis and the new Laura, and back to my old life.
Three times after that, Laura tried to make up with me. One night, she left a new book on my bed. I responded by throwing it out my window. I didn't want a book. I didn't want to make up. I wanted to go back in time, or wake up from a nightmare. I wanted my Brownie, not the traitor with her face. While Mavis was there, we could not make up. Mavis was the barrier between us, and she wasn't going to budge.
I started sleeping in just so I wouldn't have to see Mavis at breakfast. I went to bed early so I wouldn't see her at dinner.
Finally, one morning, I peered downstairs. Laura was alone at the sofa, reading the Neopian Times. I took a deep breath and started walking toward her. I wanted to read with my Brownie again. Suddenly, Mavis burst into the room and sat next to Laura.
“Let's read the comics, Mommy! Can we? Please please please?”
Laura laughed and flipped to the comics. When she was reading one out loud, Mavis smirked at me.
“Loser,” she mouthed silently.
By my 200 day birthday, I had no one. Mavis was bossy, spoiled, and stuck-up, and even Rocko had abandoned me. He had learned to like Mavis more than me. At night, I would cry myself to sleep. I felt as if I didn't exist to anyone else in the world.
Some mornings, I would peer downstairs and see Mavis and Laura reading the Times together. I tried to join them once or twice, but Mavis glared at me each time. Over the next week, I made several attempts to approach Laura. Every time, Mavis would stop me, or even insult me when Laura couldn't hear.
Finally, one day, I woke up to hear Mavis running down the stairs crying. “Mommeeeeee! Xander HIT me!” she shouted.
I half-rolled, half-fell out of my bed and peered out of my bedroom. Laura was hugging a sobbing Mavis. Not surprisingly, Mavis's eyes were dry, and her sobs abnormally loud. Finally, Laura let go of her and the two of them stalked up the stairs.
“Xander! What has gotten into you?” Laura shouted as Mavis peered around her legs and gave me that awful smirk.
“She's lying!” I said.
Laura glared at me. “So first you hit her, and then you accuse her of lying?”
“Yes! I... I mean no! I... I mean... ”
“Xander, I've always expected more of you!”
“Don't talk back to me!”
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I choked back a sob. I was the one crying now, and for real.
“Laura... Laura, please... .” I felt my love for my Brownie bubbling up inside of me. “Please, Laura. I... I want things to be like they used to be.” Laura put her hands on her hips.
“They can't, Xander. Not anymore.” She pulled the old leash off of the wall. She used to use it, when I was a baby, to prevent me from running away when we were outside. Now, she looped it around my neck once more and half-dragged me into the kitchen. I looked back at Mavis, who was still smirking. She waved happily.
Without another word, Laura pulled me outside and down the street.
“Laura,” I sobbed. “Where are we going? Where are you taking me? Laura... Laura... please, please tell me!”
Laura continued to pull me along. Normally, people would stare, but at the moment it was still early enough for the streets to be almost empty.
I clawed and bit at the leash, but it did no good. It had survived my teething stage, after all.
Finally, Laura pulled me toward a building I had only heard about.
“Laura! No, Laura! Please, Laura, not there!” I pulled as hard as I could, but she was bigger and stronger than me, and pulled me up the steps and inside. I fell silent and began to gnaw my leash once more.
“Adopting or abandoning?” asked a pink Uni, even though she clearly knew the answer
Laura took a deep breath and uttered the one word that would seal my fate. “Abandoning.” I looked up at the Uni and shook my head. She just nodded to Laura
“All right then. It's that door, just over there.”
Suddenly, the evil-looking door opened to reveal a monster who had haunted my nightmares, and the nightmares of every neopet in Neopia... Dr. Death! He rubbed his hands together.
“What do we have here, Magenta?” he asked the Uni. “Are they abandoning? Hmmm?”
“Yes, Meredith,” Magenta said.
“I've told you, Magenta, DON'T CALL ME BY MY FIRST NAME!”
“Of course, sir.”
Dr. Death rubbed his hands together again and snatched my leash. Then, he held out his hand for the neopoints. Laura didn't look at me as she handed them over. The techo cackled and picked me up.
Laura shoved her hands in her pockets and started to walk away.
“Laura! Laura! Don't do this to me! PLEASE!” I shouted after her. “Come back, Laura!” She ignored me. “Brownie, stop!” As if by some miracle, Laura actually stopped and looked around.
“Brownie, don't you remember, before Mavis? We'd read together, or we'd visit the plaza. You remember, don't you? You can't throw all of that away, can you?”
“I... I'm sorry, Xander,” she said. “but you aren't the same neopet you used to be.” She shoved the door open and walked outside, leaving me alone in the worst place in Neopia.
“I can take him, Meredith,” Magenta said. “You're just scaring the poor guy.” She took me into a room filled with cages and took off my leash. She placed me in small cage and sighed.
“You poor thing,” she said. “You look like a pretty decent little guy, too.”
The cage door slammed shut with horrible finality.
To be continued...
If you are reading this, I'm in the times again! Woot! *Hands out cookies too all* Neomail is welcome!