You've Got A Friend In Me
Oh, why in Neopia had I ever agreed to this? Altador knew that I was terrible at Gormball, so why did I decide to play it, making a complete and utter fool of myself in the process?
Sighing, I slumped my shoulders forward tiredly. I knew why I had done it. It was because Marius had asked me to, and Marius was my best friend, so I would do whatever he wanted me to. No matter how silly or ridiculous the event, we were always there for each other, no exceptions. Sometimes, I really wished that statement wasn't true.
"Eponine, look out!" I jerked my head up as I heard my name, only to get hit in the face with the Gormball, causing it to explode all over me in a wet, soppy mess.
"Ugh," I said, wrinkling my nose and attempting to remove the stray Gormball bits and dry myself off at the same time. This was one of the reasons that I hated Gormball. I was a Xweetok, and I absolutely abhorred getting my fur wet, which happened quite often, considering my less than stellar skills.
"You all right, 'Ponine?" Marius asked. stretching out one purple paw to pat my shoulder, and looking at me with such concern, it made my heart absolutely melt.
"Yeah, I'll be fine," I said, smiling at him, sincerely hoping he didn't think me too much of a fool.
Apparently, my wishes weren't about to come true, because all Marius did was look at me skeptically, and say, "Maybe you should just sit the next round out, Eponine."
I blinked my eyes in surprise and hurt, but only for a minute. I didn't want to upset Marius, and I knew he'd feel bad if I began to cry. So, all I did was complacently smile, and say, "Sure. Sounds great. I could use a rest, anyways."
Marius smiled brightly at me, then turned tail and immediately ran back to his other friends, who were waiting, rather impatiently, for him to return.
Sighing dejectedly, I slumped myself over to a grassy area on the other side of the Gormball field. Plopping down, I began to unconsciously pick at the grass, staring into nothingness as my mind drifted.
Though I'd never admit it to anyone, I felt worse than horrible at having been sent away by Marius. Not only was he my best friend, he was my only friend. He was the only Neopet that I knew, excluding my family, that could handle my indifferent attitude and random mood swings. Now, I felt like I had a huge, great pit in my stomach because the very person that I confided everything in was turning me away.
Thinking back, I reminded myself that this wasn't the first time that Marius had sent me away. A few weeks ago, he had started asking me to sit out of things when I wasn't capable of keeping up with him and his friends. After that, the strange distance continued to progress, to the point where Marius would often just leave me by myself, giving no explanation as to why. All in all, it confused and hurt me, but I simply accepted it, because Marius could do no wrong. Well, in my eyes, at least.
However, I was beginning to have doubts. I began to ponder if Marius even still counted me as a good friend. That thought completely destroyed me inside, forcing a single, crystalline teardrop to trail slowly down my cheek.
"It does hurt, doesn't it?" A voice startled me out of my reverie, causing me to jump slightly. Looking up to see the owner of the voice, I was startled to see that, right before my eyes, stood Enjolras, one of Marius's very good friends, and a Neopet that I had considered far too majestic to even talk to the likes of me.
Enjolras was a gold Lupe, complete with shimmering, golden fur, and bright yellow eyes that were always sparkling with an unknown wisdom and strength. He was an imposing Neopet, and a powerful speech giver. He had rallied many a people with his speeches, often talking about freedom and equality for all Neopets, no matter their color, species, or gender. Everyone looked up to him, even some who had never met him. He was not known as someone who often talked to people outside of his group, yet here he was, standing in front of me, asking me a question.
He asked me a question... Gasping, I blinked and shook my head. "I-I'm sorry, what was your question?" I asked, stuttering so badly that I wondered how he could ever understand me.
Instead of commenting about my obvious nervousness, he offered me a kind smile, and said, "I wasn't really asking you anything. I was merely stating that you were hurting inside, and I know exactly how you feel."
Suddenly, my usual protective shield stole over me, causing my eyes to narrow and my jaw to clench. "Oh?" I retorted shortly. "And how exactly do you even know what is wrong with me?"
Enjolras shrugged, then plopped into the grass beside me. "Because I'm not blind. I saw everything that just happened, from the Gormball exploding in your face to you walking over here alone."
A blush crept over my face, and I ducked my head to hide it. "Oh," I muttered, greatly mortified that somebody had been witness to that sad display.
I looked up sharply when I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. Enjolras had moved his paw, and was looking at me compassionately and sympathetically. "Don't be embarrassed," he said reassuringly. "I think no less of you, not in the slightest. In fact, I know exactly how you feel."
My brow furrowed, and confusion filled my eyes. "How would you know?" I asked, baffled that someone like him could ever have experienced the spurning of a friend.
A sad expression stole over his features, and he replaced his paw back in his lap. "It's not easy, you know, giving speeches and working to make everyone equal. It's not the 'coolest' thing to do, and people don't seem to accept it very well. Not even my friends." He focused his eyes on an uninteresting patch of grass, refusing to look at me.
I stared at him, my mouth half-open. "Really?" I asked disbelievingly. "What do you mean?"
Enjolras turned his gaze to Marius and the others, who were still happily playing Gormball. Smiling at them unhappily, he said, "They're great friends, but they don't really understand me. They expect me to play all these games that young Neopets play, be into a bunch of sports, and all of that other stuff. But that's not really who I am, and I suspect they treat me differently because of it. They don't really include me in anything, and when they do, they often ask me to sit out."
Locking my eyes on Marius, I was certain my expression matched his perfectly. "Yeah, you definitely know what I'm feeling right now," I responded, not sarcastically, but actually genuine, for once.
Enjolras looked back at me, giving me a small smile. "I know. That's why I came to talk to you. I didn't want you to feel all alone, like I have before. It's terrible."
I returned his smile, and nodded. "Thank you," I said warmly, feeling more comfortable now with this young Neopet than I had in a long time with Marius. "That really does mean a lot to me."
Enjolras nodded. "I know. I would have loved it if I could have gotten the same thing before, but it still feels great just saying it to someone else, and reassuring them that they're not alone." I could see it in his eyes as he looked up at they sky, he was feeling elated and free, just as I was.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. "You know, Enjolras," I said slowly, "you don't have to be alone anymore, either. I'm here for you. I'll talk to you, if you need or want me to."
Enjolras snapped his eyes back to me, a partially hidden look of disbelief written in them. Then, he burst into a huge grin, one that lit up his eyes, and made them shine more than usual.
"Thank you, Eponine," he said, almost reverently. "That is the kindest thing that anybody has ever said to me." I could tell he truly meant it, just from the tone of voice he said it in.
I was certain the grin on my face mirrored his as I replied, "The same here, Enj. The same here."
As we sat in a quiet peacefulness, I looked up at the sky, not really seeing anything, just looking. However, I didn't feel wishful or depressed now. I felt airy and cheerful, something that I hadn't felt since the beginning of mine and Marius's friendship. I just knew that Enjolras and I would always be friends, from here on out.
After all, we were both terrible at Gormball.