The Draik and the Clothing Shop
Druyanava looked longingly at the windows of clothes while she walked past Unis Clothing Shop on her way to the family house on Bread Street. Dru carried an unwieldy bag of coal from Moltara that her older sister Nayha had promised to bring the Lab Ray Scientist the next time they had lunch.
Nayha kept hinting that Dru might want to come along and try a zap at the Lab Ray herself. Dru didn't know how to explain she was too scared of Secret Lab to even set foot inside for a companionable lunch, let alone an actual zap from the Lab Ray.
Having discovered the best way to sneak into the Magma Pool, Dru's older brother Nerc had offered to help Dru paint herself Magma. She dipped the tip of her tail in, but when it came time to step into the pool, she couldn't do it. Nerc promised it didn't hurt. Dru believed him. She just realized in that moment she didn't need a special color to make her feel special. She liked being Christmas.
And, she realized, unless it was on her Shoyru brother, Dru didn't particularly like Magma as a color. She had kept her tail covered with a fashionable gold tail ornament ever since.
Really, Dru loved her brother and sister for wanting to help. She did. Dru just wished they would believe her when she kindly declined all of their attempts to help her get a new paint color.
Walking into the house on Bread Street, Dru dropped the bag of coal at the door. Her other sister, Kataz, was very strict about keeping the house clean—no easy feat with four petpets running around.
Kataz was reading in the living room when Dru came in. She dropped herself onto the couch next to the Cybunny.
"I don't understand why the Lab Ray Scientist needs so much coal," Dru groused as she clenched and unclenched her claws to each the ache of carrying a heavy bag all the way from Moltara.
Kataz shrugged as she closed her book. "Apparently Nayha and the Scientist are good friends now. She says he doesn't trust anyone else to handle his deliveries."
"That doesn't mean I had to help. Nerc is in Moltara all the time now that he tinkers with Tangor at his workshop—he could have brought the coal home for Nayha."
"She just wanted you to feel included, Dru. Nerc has his workshop space in Moltara. Nayha has the Secret Lab and her deal hunting at the shops in Neopian Bazaar. I have the Faerieland Library. We all want you to find something that makes you just as happy."
Dru stared at her older sister for a moment. "Is that why they keep telling me to paint myself a new color? They think I'm not happy?"
"Maybe," Kataz replied. "Both of them only realized who they really wanted to be after they were painted."
"You didn't. You're a Christmas Cybunny."
Kataz nodded. "That's true. But I've always liked reading and I always knew I'd try to work at the Faerieland Library. And this isn't about me. It's about you and who you want to be," she said as she took Dru's claw in her own paws.
"I want to be Christmas. Like you."
"What else, Dru?"
"I . . . I don't know," Dru said with a frown. "I like helping other Neopets. I like organizing things. I like drawing. I like finding pretty clothes to help everyone look their best!" she finished with a smile.
Kataz smiled too. "Maybe it's time to put some of that to work by applying for a job at Unis Clothing Shop."
The next day Dru walked from Bread Street to the Neopian Bazaar in a carefully chosen outfit. Her hair was neatly styled in a timeless Faerie fashion. She wore her favorite Polka Dot Holiday Dress and her signature Laced-up Spring Shoes. She even had an Adorably Pink Lollypop for the Uni shopkeeper who, if rumors were to be believed, had quite the sweet tooth—not to mention a fondness for pink.
Dru could already see how it would go in her mind. She'd dazzle the Uni with her sharp fashion sense before sealing the deal with her gift of the Lollypop. Maybe she'd even make her first sale before the Uni would say with resounding approval, "You're hired."
When she arrived at the shop, Dru recognized her friend MomMom trying on an Extravagant Krawk Hat. It looked beautiful with her Faerie coloring, but when MomMom tried to remove that hat it got stuck on her wig. She tried and tried to extricate herself to no avail.
Dru quickly walked over and try to help. Together they go the hat off.
MomMom smiled gratefully. "I'm so glad you were here! I didn't have the Neopoints on hand to buy this hat so I have no idea what I would done if I didn't get it off."
"I'm glad I could help," she replied. Surely, Dru thought, assisting a customer would make the Uni take a shining to her right away!
Then Dru's eyes shifted to the hat that she and MomMom held between them.
"Oh no," Dru said with a horrible sinking feeling.
The hat was ruined. Somehow, in all of their wrestling with the enormous hat, the feathers had collided with the Lollypop still held. The Lollypop was fine. But every single feather on the hat had snapped in two.
It was then that the Uni noticed them.
"What have you done to my beautiful hat? This hat retails for three thousand Neopoints! Do you think I can charge that much when it's broken? Do you have any idea how much Donny is going to charge me to fix this?"
"I'm so sorry," Dru tried to interrupt to explain.
Before she could say anything else, MomMom loudly said, "It was me. I tried it on and broke it when I took it off. I don't have any Neopoints right now but I can give you this Vo Codestone I found on my way in. That will cover the costs."
The Uni grabbed the Codestone out of MomMom's hands while taking the hat from Dru. They were already backing toward the door when the shopkeeper shouted, "RIGHT NOW I'M REALLY ANNOYED. BEGONE. DON'T COME BACK!"
Standing outside in the Neopian Bazaar, Dru struggled to hold back her tears.
"That didn't go at all how I planned," she confided to MomMom. In a small voice she explained how much she had wanted to work in the clothing shop.
MomMom gave Dru a hug. "You wouldn't want to work there anyway. Half the clothes aren't even wearable. Listen, I was shopping with Marusi the other day in the Lost Desert. Marusi is a little scary, being Wraith and all, so she's great to have around when I want to haggle. Anyway, when we were in Mystical Surroundings, I saw a sign saying that they were hiring. Try going there, Dru. I'm sure the shopkeeper will love you."
Dru smiled. "Thank you," she said with a parting hug. She had a long way to fly if she wanted to get to the Lost Desert before the shop closed for the day.
Dru was glad her signature shoes were comfortable as she wound her way through Qasala's streets to Mystical Surroundings. She nibbled the last of her Star Shortbread Cookies as she made her way to the front door. The "Help Wanted" sign still hung in the window.
Wiping her claws on her skirt and making sure the bow on her Adorably Pink Lollypop was straight, Dru walked into the shop.
Inside the walls were lined floor to ceiling with backgrounds. She had a nice collection of backgrounds at home that she shared with her siblings. But their backgrounds were all neatly hung in a closet. Here the backgrounds were displayed as art. The sheer volume made Dru dizzy with customization possibilities.
A Green Kyrii tapped Dru on the shoulder. He greeted her with a smile. "I see you've made your way to Mystical Surroundings! If you're tired of that plain ol' white, our backgrounds will definitely give you the change you're looking for!"
Dru smiled brightly at the shopkeeper. He was dressed for travel in a white shirt and cargo pants. She hoped she didn't appear overdressed by comparison.
"Hello!" she said brightly. He voice echoed uncomfortably in the large shop. "I came to apply for the job."
"Do you have any experience working with Backgrounds?" the Kyrii asked as he led her to a side office that Dru hadn't noticed before.
"Oh yes. I've been a Notable Neopet three times and I help all of my friends and my siblings with picking out just the right background to go with their customizations."
"Neopoint or Neocash?"
"Both! Although I've always thought the artwork was more vibrant in Neopoint Backgrounds."
The shopkeeper smiled, mollified by her answer. "I travel a lot to search for new inventory for the shop. Would you be comfortable managing Mystical Surroundings on your own while I'm away?"
"Absolutely. I manage an entire Petpage on my own which has a lot of coding. I'm used to solitary tasks. And I live with my brother and two sisters so it would be nice to be on my own with the customers here."
She gave a calculated smile meant to show her enthusiasm without bringing attention to her sharp fangs.
The shopkeeper stroked his mane for a moment while he considered. "All right. I have to leave on business in two days. Training starts tomorrow."
Dru's eyes widened. "Does that mean I have the job?"
"It does," he said with a smile. "Why don't we celebrate with something sweet? I've been craving some candy all day."
"Actually, it's funny you should mention that," Dru said with a laugh as she held up her Lollypop.
Flying home that evening, Dru could still taste the sweetness of the Lollypop on her tongue. Even sweeter was the prospect of her family's approval when she told them that she had finally found a job all her own where she fit in perfectly.