To Space!: Part One
The orange Aisha lay out on the roof of her Neohome, blue gaze sad. For the last six months, ever since her twelfth birthday, Brandi had had a new obsession: space. She'd had a Nedler since she was a young child. He had adjusted well to living in Neopia but she had always done her best to remind him of his home whenever possible. She hadn't had much success until her last birthday, when she met a shadow Grundo.
Gordon had a small shop, Galactic Gastronomy. He had a passion for space food. He'd not had much success but Brandi gave him some tips. Slowly, a fan base was growing. Gordon and Brandi had become fast friends.
The Grundo's passion for space had spread to his young Aisha friend. As it usually was with Firebrand, all it took was a spark. She had first gone to the bookstore and read all of the available material on space. She had gotten a taste of the food, thanks to Gordon. She learned about the stars, the constellations and navigation.
Brandi learned the geography of Kreludor and the history of the Space Station. She read of Dr. Sloth, the Space Faerie and the Resistance. She couldn't seem to learn enough. She had basically exhausted her resources. Now, she wanted something more.
Brandi wanted to go to space. There was just one problem. It was out of her parents' means to buy a ticket. She had saved her Neopoints but she had only half the amount she needed. She was not a patient Aisha and space seemed so close, yet so far.
Brandi sighed heavily and Abacuc made a sympathetic clicking sound. She reached out a hand to her Nedler, resting on her stomach, to fondle his round ears. She had never felt closer to him or so disconnected from the rest of Neopia.
Aishas were the only Neopet species in Neopia that could become alien in color. For Brandi, this had to mean something. Her mother was an eventide Aisha. Yet, the stars that scudded across her patterned fur didn't draw her to the sky but to the mountains, where she had been born. How could it be that Brandi was the only Aisha in Neopia that longed for space?
Brandi awoke on the roof of her Neohome as the sun rose. She had fallen asleep on the roof without realizing! She sat up quickly and simply jumped off the roof, landing on her feet.
"Good thing it's only a one story or I may have to rethink that," Brandi said to Abacuc, who she held in her arms.
The young orange Aisha slipped inside her Neohome and hurried on silent feet to her bedroom. As the door clicked shut, she breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn't been caught! She just had time to change into clean clothes and run a hand through her short blue hair before she heard the rest of her family stirring. She headed for the kitchen, Abacuc beside her.
The twins were already in the kitchen, eating cereal.
"Good morning, Brandi," Zach said cheerily.
Yekaterina flicked her white ears at her youngest sibling.
"Good morning," Brandi said, just as cheerful.
The Aisha poured her own bowl of cereal, after giving Abacuc his Petpet food. That was when their parents came in. More "Good mornings" were exchanged. More cereal was poured. Then, the good morning turned sour.
"We're going to visit the Torches today," Mother said.
"What?" Brandi exclaimed.
At sixteen years old, the twins didn't vocalize their displeasure. They both flicked their left ear. Zach's face said it all. He was just as happy as his younger sister. As always, Yekaterina was far harder to read. Brandi stood up abruptly.
"How long are we going to stay?" Brandi asked, trying and failing to keep from whining.
"A week," Mother said.
Brandi groaned and stomped out of the kitchen. Once packed, the Alms family took off for the Haunted Woods in a Uni carriage. It took days with a swift Uni to reach the Woods. Over that two day period, Brandi had resolved herself. She found her cousins stuffy and unpleasant but the Woods were fascinating distraction from her space obsession.
The orange Aisha was an active twelve year old and she was more than ready to regain her freedom. She scrambled out of the carriage and let out an exultant yell, stretching her arms over her head. It felt so good! That's when she saw the Torches staring at her with mixed looks of faint humor, confusion and derision on their faces. Brandi watched her mother greet her sister with warmth.
They all went indoors. The adults went into a cozy parlor to the left. The children stood in the main hall, unsure of what to do.
"I'm twenty years old! When will they consider me an adult?" Amalia groused.
"That's easy, Amalia. They'll treat you like an adult when you start acting like one," Marc said cheekily.
Brandi snickered. Angela glowered at her but Brandi was hardly affected by it. Amalia shot her brother a look from storm gray eyes. Immediately, Ana stepped between her older siblings.
The blue Bori began to speak, to take the sting from her beloved brother's words, even though she knew no harm was meant. "Amalia, please, be honest with yourself. Would you really enjoy the company of our parents? They talk about memories from before we were born. They talk about us. You would be bored silly in their company and you would be ruining our mothers' precious bonding time. Just think about that, will you?"
Amalia pursed her lips. She still looked cross.
"Oh, why do you have to be right all the time," the electric Blumaroo snapped, tossing her hands up in the air in an exasperated manner.
Before another prolonged awkward silence ensued, Zach quickly filled it, "So, Marc, anything new in your studio you'd care to share?"
The young spotted Gelert, Brandi knew full well, was not interested in the least in art. Her older brother was only trying to at least keep a conversation going. Thankfully, Marc readily went along with it.
"Yes, I do actually. Since we don't see each other often I have plenty of pieces that will be new to you. I'd be delighted to show you, except for Brandi, of course," the rainbow Ogrin said.
Brandi lowered her ears slightly and it was Angela's turn to snicker. Brandi had been five years old at the time when she had gone into her older cousin's art studio alone. There had been an... accident. The studio had been completely destroyed. Marc had forgiven her but he hadn't forgotten.
Brandi shrugged her shoulders. "That's OK. I'm very good at entertaining myself, especially with Abacuc's help."
With that, Marc, Ana, Yekaterina and Zach headed off. Angela tugged on Amalia's hand.
"I'm going to Agneza's," Angela said.
"Not alone in this weather, you're not," Amalia objected.
A stubborn look crossed over Angela's face. The two sisters glowered at each other for a long moment. Then, Amalia's face twitched and she looked away.
"Fine. I'm coming with you," Amalia growled.
"I'll come, too," Brandi put in.
"I don't want you to," Angela said petulantly.
"Too bad. She's coming with us," Amalia said, silver eyes gleaming.
Brandi gulped, suddenly nervous. She didn't know her oldest cousin that well but she had seen that look on the electric Blumaroo's face before and it wasn't good. Brandi wasn't one to back out once she had committed to something. She looked away from her oldest cousin and followed Angela, who had flounced off toward the stables. The three of them settled into the carriage and off they went.
Agneza did not live too far away an, weather aside, they arrived at the neighboring residence shortly. Brandi was thankful. There was a stony silence in the carriage that the orange Aisha found far more oppressive than the thickly falling snow. Almost before the carriage stopped, Angela clambered over her oldest sibling-who emitted an angry cry-flying for the front door of Agneza's dwelling. Amalia got out, muttering loudly as she high-stepped it through the snow.
Brandi followed in the Blumaroo's footsteps and soon stood on a weathered porch. Angela had already pounded on the door. As Brandi stepped up, the door creaked open. An alien Aisha stood in the doorway, a gaggle of ghosts ('pets and Petpets alike) hovering around her. At this sight, Brandi gasped, blue eyes widening and she took a step back.
The young Aisha would have fallen off the porch had a ghost Kacheek not materialized behind her and caught her. She was not afraid and found her balance. She had just been caught off guard, not by the ghosts (it was the Haunted Woods, after all) but by the alien Aisha. She watched the ghost Kacheek float back into the rundown mansion by going through the door. Her cousins had already gone inside.
Agneza gazed calmly at Brandi with glowing red eyes, not unlike the ghosts that she lived with.
"It's cold outside. Aren't you going to come in?" Agneza asked.
As if to back up the older Aisha's words, a screaming cold wind blasted past Brandi and slammed into the open door. Agneza gritted her teeth and fought to keep the door open as Brandi made up her mind and slipped inside. Agneza shut the door quickly with a grateful sigh. The alien Aisha leaned against the door for a moment, regaining her composure. Then, she turned her piercing red gaze on Brandi once more.
"Let's sit, shall we?" Agneza said, waving a hand towards two antique chairs covered in a layer of dust.
Since her cousins had already left the room and Brandi's curiosity had been sparked, she did as Agneza asked. She sat back in the chair, feeling almost swallowed by it. It was more comfortable than it looked, at least. Agneza sat in the other chair, a ghost Meowclops on her lap.
Running one hand over the Meowclops' back, Agneza said, "My name is Agneza. What's your name?"
"Brandi and this is Abacuc," Brandi said, running a hand lightly over her Nedler's tentacles.
"What brings you here, Brandi?"
"Amalia and Angela are my cousins. My family and I are visiting."
Abacuc was sitting on Brandi's lap. She rubbed his ears and he let out a happy click.
"A space Petpet for an Aisha drawn to space. Its natural but you're the first I've met to be so," Agneza observed.
"How do you know that I'm drawn to space?" Brandi exclaimed, incredulous.
"I was born and raised in space. I can feel it in you quite clearly."
"What? Why did you leave?"
"I came to Neopia to learn all there is to learn here. It is so very different. It is challenging but rewarding. I'm so glad I made the decision to live here."
"That's why I want to visit space!"
"You are so young. You've yet to see and experience everything Neopia has to offer. Yet, you long for space as if that were your true home."
"Yes! Finally! Someone who understands me!"
Brandi's outburst startled the Meowclops, who had been staring off into space. The Petpet arched his back and extended his claws, fur bristling. He stared for a long time at Brandi, who couldn't seem to break his gaze. Then, the Meowclops blinked and promptly sat, looking up at Agneza. The ghost Petpet let out a firm meow that echoed in the room.
A chill ran down Brandi's spine that had nothing to do with the weather. Agneza looked thoughtful. Then, she nodded her head once, as if she had come to a decision.
To be continued...