Bigger Than I Look
"Let me go," I begged. "Mom, come on."
"I can't do that, Lea. You know that," she replied. Her voice was more high-pitched than usual, almost whiny. She was worked up over something, I could tell.
I wasn't about to give up. "I want to GO. Mom!"
"Lea," she scolded. "You cannot go to Brightvale. We live in Faerieland – do you have any idea how far away that is?"
"Molly and Ava get to go," I argued. "Why shouldn't I?"
"Lea." Mom's voice became gentle, but the gentility was forced. I could almost hear her throat constricting, pushing back the urge to yell at me. And it wasn't her fault; I had argued with her about joining my sisters' upcoming trip at least once daily for a month. "Molly and Ava are participating in a Land Exchange program through Neoschool," she said instead. "Molly is a Faerie Lupe. Ava is a Spotted Xweetok. They can stay safe away from home with no trouble."
"I can take care of myself too."
"You're a Baby Peophin, Lea." There was pity in Mom's voice. "You can't even go to Neoschool. Look at you – you're in that pool nearly all day. How would you go to Brightvale?"
I started to cry. I tried to hold back the tears, but they tumbled down my face like waves crashing through a dam, bricks crumbling to nothing. No matter what I told myself or how I argued, I knew my mom was right. Water was my niche, but that unfortunately meant land was forever a struggle. Before adopting me, my family had built a huge pool that I can't even describe in words. It's just amazing. I can access every room in our home, and I have a HUGE pool in the backyard, but there is a shortcoming. I can't access as much as the rest of my family can. My sisters leap effortlessly over the freshwater canal the family calls 'Lea's path', but I can't do the same for their dry space. 'Lea's path' is just that – a path. No Maraqua-style rooms for me. If I was hanging out on the couch with my family, I was uncomfortable. I belonged in water, but Faerieland and Maraqua are polar opposites.
Sometimes I was bitter about having to live in a place that presented so many struggles, but I tried not to. Mom did her very best; maybe, to pay her back, I could at least reciprocate the effort.
"Sorry," I muttered to Mom. It was the first time I had given up an argument so quickly, but I did not have the strength right now.
"Oh, Sweetie," my mother murmured. She stroked my short mane. After a moment, she added, "Well... I have to go now. Got to take your sisters to school."
Right, school. Something else I was missing.
I want everyone to know that just because I was painted Baby doesn't mean I'm not smart. My mom would be the first to brag about my scholarship. But I can only study so much. Most of the heavy textbooks my siblings lug home from school are too heavy for me. And their backpacks? Forget it. Even squirming around away from my pool for an hour or two is too much.
I suddenly had an idea:
What if I had some way to maintain my energy? What if I had some way to carry books and a real backpack? If I was as good a student as any, I wanted to prove it. I wanted to invent something just for me.
When I ran this past my mother, she just tried not to roll her eyes. "Okay," she said. "Your sisters are allowed to take a family member, I suppose. If you can prove to me you'll be able to go to Brightvale without having an impossible time, you can join your sisters."
I set to work. For at least fifteen hours every day, I worked on my project. I never got bored, not when I was sketching all the contents of my head searching for ideas, not when I was drawing carefully calculated blueprints, not when I endured a visit to the library to get some inspiration and knowledge.
A winged friend of mine visited a few shops in Brightvale - they have the best quality supplies there - on my behalf. I asked the advice of every faerie I encountered, except the Dark Faeries, of course. I ran through prototypes, barreled through failures, and built a castle out of hope.
Months passed. Holidays skirted by, but I didn't even complain about not getting to celebrate as wholly as the rest of the family. I was busy proving myself. I pushed through sleepless nights and discouraging days, the hardest of my life because my pride was at stake. I could either prove my worth, or be forever passed off as that cute Baby Neopet who thought she was a queen when she was only a child. The thought of being the laughingstock of my sisters' school (the news was out) and of my own home (my sisters made fun of me as it was) made me sick, but also made me work harder.
Finally, my proof was done.
"Look," I said. My family was lounged in the living room; I was in front of them, outside of my water-path. Behind me, still submerged, was my invention.
"How long will this take?" groaned Molly. She beat her wings in annoyance.
"Molly, quiet." My mom looked surprised but curious. All the same, there was a foreboding look on her face, as if she thought my little invention was a synonym for failure.
"I'm sure it's great," chimed in Ava. Her tail was wrapped neatly around her paws and her head was tilted in curiosity. "Come on, show it to me, Lea."
I beat the water with my tail and my invention emerged. It was, quite literally, a bundle of water, and seemingly, nothing but water. "It's powered mostly by wind motes - motes aren't only useful in the Battledome! There are water motes and bubble motes too, to help it float." I leaped into the air and landed with a slight splash in my levitating miniature pool. "Mirrors enhance the motes' powers, and healing potions mixed with the water help me keep my energy up... even though it looks like water, it's not as good. But good enough."
Molly was speechless. Finally, she said, "More complicated than it looks... I wouldn't have thought of it, and I'm in all the advanced classes at school."
I beamed. "Better than you expected, right?"
"I have to say, you ARE right." My mother wore the biggest smile I had ever seen. "You, your brain, and your heart certainly are much bigger than you look."
"SO I CAN GO TO BRIGHTVALE?"
"No," protested Molly. "This is good, but who wants to see you with this thing outside?"
"I don't know about you, Mol, but I think everyone would," said Ava. "Lea's a genius."
I couldn't help but smile. I was still smiling a week later when Ava, Molly, and I left Faerieland on the journey to Brightvale. I had done it. I had done it! On behalf of Baby neopets everywhere, I proved that we are truly bigger than we look.