The Cross-Painted Curse: Part Two
Part 2: Go Jump In The Symol Hole
My apologies for leaving the story there. Both Lorelai and I were too upset to continue. But we're ready to carry on now. I'm so embarrassed that it's come to this, that I didn't listen sooner. She may be my pet, but she is a Neopet with her own views, feelings and personality, and I rode roughshod over that in my excitement. In writing this, I hope she will understand just how terrible I feel for making her feel this way.
It took me a week to work up the courage to leave the house. Every time I walk past any reflective surface all I can see is me. I'm not the Magma Koi I was so proud to be. Kai and I spent hours by the Magma Pool, whole days where we did nothing but jump up every five minutes to see if the guards would let us in, until eventually they got so sick of us hanging around and annoying them that they let me go for a swim. Magma was painful, so painful at first, but I'd earned it, I'd worked hard for it, and I was proud of my colour. I loved the way the water sizzled around me as I beat my fins and tail, I was the fastest swimmer on Krawk Island, I could make it to Mystery Island in under twenty minutes, faster than the ship.
But now I'm a Snow Acara, and I can't swim. I can't even go out in the bright sunshine, I'm turning into Count Von Roo, but more miserable. Not only am I a Snow Acara, but I wear the clothes of a Christmas Acara. I look stupid. I look confused. I look like I'm trying to be something I'm not. I hate it.
The worst thing is that I can't hug my brother. Cal is still Magma, the lucky battle duck, but when I get close to him, my Snow starts to melt. We can't even pass each other in the hall, I have to back up and go into a different room until he's gone. He knows how upset I am about this, and so he's not teasing me. Which I hate even more, this isn't normal!
Kai, my owner, is oblivious. She doesn't get why I'm so upset. To her, I look unique, and beautiful. She can't see how wrong I look. She can't see why I daren't step outside. She can't see that I'm avoiding mirrors. She doesn't see.
The time has finally come. I have to leave the house. Those earthquakes around Tyrannia have everyone on the boards talking about an upcoming battle, so Kai is throwing me back into serious training. I have to go to Mystery Island today, and study defence, my worst subject.
I get dressed so slowly, hoping that we'll miss the ship and I will be spared. I'm not. Kai's really determined, when Faerieland fell she was in the middle of exams, so we couldn't do our bit against the librarian as she wanted us to. This time, she's determined that we will be in the first assault against whatever is throwing Tyrannia around like a baby's rattle.
When we get to Wharf Warf, I hug close to my owner, and try to make myself as small as possible. But it doesn't work, she's chatting to another owner about the possibility of an upcoming battle and points me out. They're comparing stats, or they were. Now the other owner is staring at me, a little freaked out. There's a shy looking Split Lenny near me, and the owner calls him over, holds him tightly. She says something I don't catch to Kai, who looks confused as the Split Lenny is hauled away, both of them staring avidly at me.
"THIS is why I didn't want to leave the house!" I hiss at Kai, as she picks me up. She shivers where I touch her bare skin, and zips her jacket up further. "Hmm?" she wasn't listening to me, and I can't be bothered to explain it. I just tuck my head down into her arm and try to ignore the fact that I can hear no one talking, and I know everyone on the crowded deck is staring at me and trying to work out what colour I am.
I want to scream at them. I want to throw myself out of Kai's arms and demand they listen to my explanation. I want them to know this wasn't my idea, I don't like it, and I know how stupid I look. But I can't. It almost brings a smile to my face as I realise I don't have the fire in my belly to fight any more, literally. Almost, but not quite.
It's not until we heading down the gangway that I realise the boat was going to be the best part of my day. On there, surrounded by rich, polite strangers too awkward to make a comment and possibly ruin their day trip to the exotic Mystery Island, I was safe. Stared at, isolated and whispered about, but safe. I'm joining my old classmates for the first time since I changed. I love my friends dearly, we're all loud, boisterous and teasing. But it's not just my colour that's changed, it's my confidence as well. They're going to eat me alive in there. In a well meaning manner, but still.
As we reach the doors I try one final time to persuade Kai to take me back with her.
"Please Kai, I can't, I really can't, I can't go in there, please take me home with you! I'll never ask for anything ever again, just don't make me go in there, please!"
"Oh sweetie, you'll be fine. You need to work on your defence anyway, don't you? It's a little low. Besides, you've spent the last week lounging around the house; you could do with a little exercise." Interesting, she uses the word lounging. I'd use the word moping. But never mind.
"I think I'm coming down with something," I whimper, forcing a cough. Kai isn't convinced, and to be honest, I can't blame her. I'm not the actor in the family, we leave that to Anonymised. My owner just stares at me, her, what I call, teacher stare, as powerful as it sounds, and predictably, I quail. My voice goes, I can only whisper to avoid crying, and I beg. "Please. Please don't make me."
"Go. There's the bell." Kai speaks firmly, and I know that her mind is made up. This is happening. I send up a quick plea to the Space Station, maybe they could crash on the school? With a deep breath, I take the front doors at a run, fling my codestones at the irritatingly calm young Techo at reception, and charge to my locker. Quicker than I've ever moved in my life, I've got my books and abandoned my shoes, and I'm barrelling into Defence and throwing myself down into my seat. Down is the operative word here, I'm sat so low in my seat the majority of my clumsy new body is under my desk. My stupid horns stick out though, and I can't make them fit.
I hear the usual hum of excited chatter and apprehensive questions approach the door, and the rest of class enter. I close my eyes, pathetically hoping that if I can't see them, they can't see me. They bustle around the room, getting comfortable, and I wait for the teacher, a cynical Eyrie, to enter and start teaching.
Where has the noise gone? There's silence, why is that? I know the teacher hasn't arrived, I'd have seen her feet, so why has everyone stopped talking? Oh Fyora. Is it- is it because of - me?
"Lorelai?" I recognise the hesitant whisper coming from Shantih, the big hearted Ruki who took care of me on my very first day.
Out of nowhere, I'm angry. I'm furious, I want to shout in their faces. So what if I'm different? So what if I don't look like they were expecting? This is MY life, not theirs, and they do not have the right to make me feel this way!
Defiantly, I push myself up, finding somewhere deep in me a close approximation of a smile. I turn to her, and do my best to talk normally.
"Shantih! It has been too long, how are you? How's Yasmin?" I helped her pick out her petpet, a Tyrowbee that we spent a lazy summer afternoon painting Faerie. I'm reminded of something Anonymised once said, about acting.
'It doesn't matter if the audience doesn't like the character, what matters is that they believe you.' Who cares what they think of me? They will never know how bad I feel. I will never let them know how much this bothers me. I will hold my head up and smile. I will never let them know.
Shantih stares at me. I know the rest of the class is staring at me, but I'm ignoring them. If I were still magma, there would be steam rising from my cheeks, but I'm snow, I'm cold inside, my embarrassment isn't showing. Ha, I think without mirth. Maybe there is an advantage to being snow after all.
My gentle friend takes my lead, and hastens to babble back to me, "Yasmin's good, I managed to catch a mootix for her on Saturday. It was a lot of work, but she's so happy."
I smile. I think it's a nasty smile, but that's all I have right now. "Oh yeah, I remember catching a mootix for Rory, wow, that must have been over two years ago. A lot of work? I don't remember that! Still, maybe yours was in a bad mood, hey?"
That was mean of me. Why did I say that? Shan looks shocked, I don't know about anyone else. I'm focusing so hard on her that the rest of them might as well not be here. In fact, they're not. THEY haven't spoken to me, so why should I speak to them? They can all go jump down the Symol Hole, I don't care about them anymore.
Just as I make this decision, the teacher trots in, and we all turn to face the front. Thank Fyora this lesson is theory, we have no reason to speak again. I have no reason to speak again, ever.
By lunchtime, I know everyone is talking about me. But I'm actually okay with that, because they aren't talking about how I look. So I was a little mean to a few people, so what? I'm nowhere near as cruel as some of the bullies we have here. So I scared a few first-timers, so what? They need to know the truth about this place. The fact that I didn't tell them the truth is irrelevant, someone else will. So I commented on a few of my former friends' weak spots, so what? I'm sure everyone was thinking it, I just had the guts to say it out loud. If they didn't like it, that's not my problem.
Kai is waiting for me out front. I stalk out to her, my horrible horns held high. "Well?" I demand of her. "Are we going or what?" Kai looks shocked, but starts moving automatically. She follows in my wake as I sweep out of the grounds and towards the pier.
I don't care about anyone else anymore. They are there to make my life easier, and that's it. I'm done with being nice to people who won't be nice to me. I'm done with holding the door open, and picking up dropped umbrellas, and smiling as we pass on the street. The world says I don't fit in? Good. If I don't fit in, I don't have to play by your rules. Neopia is my playground, and I make my own rules. This Christmas-Snow Acara is about to mess with you big time. Get ready, Neopia, the ball is in my court, and I'm going to enjoy this.
To be continued...