Where Birthday Petpets Came From
Chilirae, known by everybody as Rae, owned the most successful candy shop in all of Neopia Central. She created the most coveted chocolates, the most lickable lollipops, and the most sugary sweets. Everybody who walked in never wanted to leave. Neopets from as far away as Maraqua came to sample her one-of-a-kind treats. Neopets young and old and even humans sampled her candies, and everyone loved them.
But the Neopets of Neopia were still left unsatisfied. Her shop had been open for nine years, coming up on its first major milestone. Rae had made no new changes, and added nothing radically new each year. She needed something new and exciting if she wanted it to last.
Rae sat in her office, sighing as she glanced in a mirror. She was a chocolate Chia, and was slightly rounder from tasting each piece of candy she made for quality. A small bit of freckles dusted across her nose. She wore her chocolate-making smock that smelled eternally of chocolate no matter how many times she washed it. Her dark brown eyes reflected her inner worry back at her.
She heard the shop bell tinker towards the front. She was about to politely yell out that the shop was closed, until she saw it was her owner, Anna. Anna was walking in with a big cupcake and an even bigger smile. She was wearing another one of her dresses covered in flowers and had that bright red lipstick that Rae disliked on. It might be fashion, but Rae thought it looked silly. She would never understand the ways of humans.
"There's my super successful Neopet!" she said enthusiastically, offering Rae the cupcake.
"Thanks, Anna," Rae said gratefully, taking the cupcake even though she had no appetite. "But I might not be successful too much longer. I still can't think of anything new to do for my shop."
Anna frowned thoughtfully, putting one manicured finger to her lips. She was aware of her Neopets' struggle. She had tried to think of a few ideas to help, but none of them were what Rae was looking for.
"I know you will think of something," she said encouragingly. Her dark eyes lit up. "Hey, what do you want for your birthday?" she asked. Rae's birthday coincided with the opening of the shop, and Anna wanted to do something for other than having a store party. "Do you maybe want a petpet finally?"
Rae stiffened slightly defensively. Petpets were a slightly sore spot for her and her owner. Anna insisted that a petpet would be a wonderful companion that could really add to Rae's life. Anna even had a small petpet of her own, a little pink Doglefox that Rae found to be annoying but that Anna was crazy about.
But Rae saw petpets as a nuisance and a lot of work. She had constant nightmare vision of a petpet jumping into her fondue fountain or rolling around in the flour she used to make croissants. And she'd never forget that one time that Anna brought home a Floud that got into the carrot cake she was making. Or that time that Anna took Rae to pet a Reptillior and they both got bitten. Or especially that time that Anna tried to smuggle in a Pandaphant from Shenkuu (they were both banned from visiting Shenkuu ever again after that).
"I told you Anna, I don't want a petpet for my birthday..." she trailed off suddenly, looking at the cupcake Anna had brought her as she said the word "petpet."
A petpet made out of a cupcake for the birthday of the shop!
"Anna, I think I have an idea of how to save the shop!" Rae exclaimed. Already her mind was racing as to how she could create a birthday-themed petpet.
Anna gave a knowing smile. She knew she had to give Rae her "thinking space" if she wanted to get anything done. "Ok, sweetie, good luck. I'll see you in the morning." She gave her Neopet a hug before leaving the shop.
Rae set to work. What did you need to make a petpet? Happiness, energy, and lots of love. And this time, she would be adding some frosting, sprinkles, and candles to that mix. She worked all night, losing track of time. But by the time she was done, the results were remarkable.
A tiny little Warf smiled up at her. Its body was made of the finest vanilla cake recipe Rae had. A mountain of pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles rested atop its head. Its eyes were made of cherry jellybeans, and its smile was a red swoop of icing.
The Warf looked good enough to eat. But instead of eating it, the little Warf was going to be Rae's most cherished companion. And if Rae could make one for herself, why not make some for other Neopets? Didn't every Neopet deserve the joy of having the perfect petpet, no matter how unconventional it was? Some Neopets wanted a Ward. But Rae? She wanted a birthday Warf.
"Do you want to have some friends?" Rae asked her new companion, a permanent smile plastered on her face as she asked.
The Warf chattered excitedly in agreement.
Over the next week, Rae made even more special petpets. She made a birthday Kadoatie made of chocolate chip cookies, with a splatter of pink frosting and sprinkles on its tail and head. She made a birthday Albariss with pink-frosted cupcakes for feet and a body made of passion fruit cake. She made a Meepit out of white cake and put it in a cupcake shell just like her Warf.
The store was closed this whole time. Public intrigue had circulated about what Rae was doing in there. Some said she was closing the shop. Others said that she had moved to Meridell to spend her days in nature with Illusen the earth faerie and get closer to nature. It was not uncommon to find Neopets pressing their faces against the glass at random times during the day, trying to see what was going on. All the gossip and rumors worked to her advantage, and it took no effort to spread word around of Rae's special anniversary celebration for the shop.
The big day had finally come. Anna had stayed up all night helping Rae clean the store and decorate it with balloons and streamers and signs. The store had never looked better. Rae and Anna sat inside Rae's office, with five minutes until opening.
Rae nervously twisted the end of her flowered dress, which she had worn specially for the occasion. "I'm so nervous," she said to Anna. "What if nobody likes it? What if I'm a total failure?" she asked.
Rae had been plagued with self-doubt, petrified that nobody would like her idea and that her business would fail. She had nightmares of all the mean things the papers would say about her new creations. Crazy chocolate cook dreams up freakish figures.
Anna looked at her Neopet with one of those serious looks that Anna knew meant a pep talk was coming.
"Look, Rae," she began, her voice gentle but firm, "you can never truly fail at anything if you give it your all and if it's something that made you happy. You put your heart and soul into these petpets. So what if they're a little different? If everybody always did the same old thing, the world would be so boring! Nothing new would ever happen! It's Neopets like you, with ideas that are unconventional, that keep the world going. Never feel like you're a failure. Because as long as you're happy with what you've done, you'll always be a success."
Rae smiled, her confidence restored. "You know what? You're right. I'm going for it."
Rae gently scooped up her new birthday Warf, which she decided to name Sprinkles. She looked fondly at the little petpet. "Think you can help me make a good impression, cutie pie?" she asked. The Warf barked enthusiastically in response.
Rae smiled and walked out the door to greet the giant crowd waiting outside. Anna followed faithfully behind her. The crowd cheered with excitement as she walked outside. Some even held up signs saying things like "We love you Rae!" and "Bring us the chocolate!"
Rae acknowledged everyone with a wave and waited for the pandemonium to die down before starting her speech.
"Hello everybody," she said nervously, feeling self-conscious. She glanced over at Anna, who gave her an encouraging thumb up. "A lot of you have been wondering where I have been. I'm sorry to tell some of you that I have not relocated to Meridell to become one with nature." The crowd laughed loudly, and Rae's confidence increased.
"What I have been doing is working on something extremely special for the tenth anniversary of my shop," she continued. "Everybody knows I have a good chocolate shop. But I don't want to be good, I want to be great. And to be great, sometimes you have to push the boundaries. You have to take risks. You have to try things that others might not necessarily like." An interested murmur passed through the crowd.
"I've created something very special. Something that's very dear to my heart and has brought me a lot of joy. And regardless of what happens today, I consider what I've done to be a success," she added, remembering Anna's words. She turned to Anna and nodded. Anna held a little cage in front of her covered by a red curtain. Everybody had been glancing at it the whole time Rae was speaking.
Rae took the little cage from Anna. "I reveal to everybody... the world's first birthday cake petpets!" She dramatically whipped away the curtain to reveal her own little Warf.
A gasp passed through the crowd, followed by a beat of silence. Rae's sense of time slowed down. She heard her own heartbeat, and that tiny beat of silence seemed to last for a million years.
And then, suddenly, the loudest applause she had ever heard in her life. People cheered and cried and whooped, and soon everybody was fighting each other to get through the door. Rae unlocked the door and everybody flooded inside.
They loved it. Rae watched Neopets and humans of all ages fawn over the little petpets, snuggling with them and laughing and gazing at them in wonder. She heard phrases like "the most adorable thing I have ever seen" and "I want to buy all of them!" and "Look at the previous frosting and sprinkles!"
Tears of happiness brimmed around Rae's eyes as she realized that she did something she loved and was successful with it. To her, that was the best birthday gift she could ever receive.