Super Secret Club: Festive Follies
In the garden of number forty eight, Rainbow Lane, Neopia Central, stands a tree house. But this is not just any treehouse. This treehouse is the headquarters of the Super Secret Club. It's Super (of course) and Secret (naturally) and the Club risk their lives on difficult, dangerous missions, like retrieving the ball that fell into Mrs-Jenkins-Next-Door's garden, and taming the wild Warf that somehow managed to crawl through the hedge. There's no mission too big, no task too terrifying. They will work tirelessly to ensure that justice prevails in the garden. Until nap time, that is.
Today, the Super Secret Club has temporarily relocated to Al's living room. Vyla is untangling a string of colourful lights. Taros is draping glittery tinsel over every surface. Al himself is keeping a watchful eye over the plate of cookies his Mama set out beside the fireplace (after being expressly told not to touch them). Outside the window, the sky is a blank white sheet of paper. The faint sound of the Jazzmosis Seasonal Album floats through the house.
"So, Al." Vyla momentarily pauses in arranging the lights on the tree in the corner. "What presents are you hoping to get this year?"
The tiny Grundo ponders for a moment. "Lotsa cookies," he starts. "Big, giant ones, like we saw at the Bakery. An', uh... New crayons an' plushies, an' a shiny wagon, an'...." he rattles off, counting each item on his stubby fingers. "I got Mama to put 'em all on a list." He leaps up from the carpet and races off to find aforementioned list, which is undoubtedly buried at the bottom of his toy box.
Vyla and Taros look at each other, grinning, and then at the pile of presents scattered around the tree.
"Oh, Vyla," Taros pipes up innocently, still covered in strands of tinsel. "I forgot to ask you what you wanted this year."
The Camouflage Techo shrugs. "I'll be happy with whatever. Heck, Neopoints are fine with me."
"Come on, where's your holiday spirit?" Taros moans good-naturedly. "Haven't you even got one thing you want?"
"Eehhh...." She deliberates. "I wouldn't mind one of those MAGAX posters."
At that moment, Al comes rushing back into the room, waving a sheet of paper triumphantly. "Found it!"
Taros squints at the list, which has been illustrated with Al's best crayons. "That's... a whole lot of stuff you want there, buddy. How's it all gonna fit in your stocking?"
"Magic," Al states simply.
"Speaking of which," Vyla interjects, with a pointed glance outside. The boys follow her gaze to see fluffy white flakes sailing dreamily past the frosty window.
Al's eyes grow wide in wonder. He scrambles up onto the windowsill, forgetting all about his list. 'It's snowin'!" he cries, face pressed to the glass.
"Uh-huh," Taros confirms. "Sure is pretty. Ever been outside in the snow, Al?"
"Nope." The leader of the Super Secret Club shakes his head. "Mama said I couldn't go 'ithout a grown-up."
"Lucky we're grown-ups, then." Vyla smirks.
"Oh, yeah," Al replies, as though he's only just remembered. "Can we go? Can we go and play in the snow?"
"We sure can. But we're gonna have to tell your Mama first."
"Oh, goody!" He bounces up and down in excitement. Then stops, spins around, and charges in the direction of the kitchen, where his Mama can be heard singing along to a seasonal song that none of them have heard of.
Before the three of them are allowed outside, Mama insists on them wearing warmer clothes. The Super Secret Club pile on assorted scarves, hats and gloves, and slip on their wellingtons. Once thoroughly insulated, they tramp their way outside into the blanket of snow that has covered Neopia Central.
Al only has to take a few steps off the now-invisible path before the snow reaches his middle, and he's creating a trail for Vyla and Taros to follow, much like those of the Glymes he caught during the autumn. The only evidence that he hasn't been devoured completely by the drifts is the bobble hat that appears to be moving of its own accord. To prevent him from vanishing under piles of freezing snow, Taros plucks him from the ground like a root vegetable, and places him carefully onto his broad shoulders. Al giggles, craning his neck to watch the flurry fall around them.
Eventually, they reach the front gate. Taros has to jiggle the stiff lock around for a bit, but they're soon treading the path that leads into town. Snow and ice have been packed down by countless feet, making it a far easier trek.
A familiar voice calls out to them. Taros winces at the volume. Turning grimly, he sees Mrs-Jenkins –Next-Door peering at them from her porch. She is wearing a revolting knitted cardigan, decorated with glassy-eyed Kadoaties. A strong odour of cabbages emanates from her open door.
"And just where do you kiddies think you're going?"
Vyla easily takes control of the situation. "Oh, we're just off to play in the snow, Mrs Jenkins. Isn't it beautiful?"
Her eyes narrow to a suspicious squint. "You stay away from my Wockies, all right? They're very sensitive to the cold, you know."
"Like we'd want to go anywhere near those mangy..." Taros hisses under his breath.
Vyla stamps meaningfully on his foot.
"Of course we'll be careful, Mrs Jenkins. You don't need to worry about us."
The old woman nods approvingly. "It's nice to see one of you hooligans showing some manners. Come here, all of you. I've got a little something for you."
The Super Secret Club exchange curious glances, and trample their way cautiously towards the old house, and its equally as old resident. Mrs Jenkins fusses around in the hall for a good while, eventually emerging with three slightly damp packages wrapped in old editions of the Neopian Times.
"One for you." She hands a parcel to Taros. "One for you..." another she gives to Vyla "And of course, one for little Art."
"Al." The Grundo in question corrects her loudly, taking his present and giving it a thorough shake.
"You can open those later today, if you want," she instructs, completely ignoring him. "Have a nice time."
"We will, Ma'am," Taros replies jovially. "Come on, Al. Let's get up the hill before the snow melts."
The moment Mrs Jenkins has gone inside, Vyla turns to her friends. "What was that about?"
Taros shrugs. "Maybe old Mrs Jenkins has finally seen the light." They look down at the soggy parcels, then at each other, before bursting into uproarious laughter.
It isn't long before they reach the base of the hill. Already, the shouts of excited 'pets has replaced the usual birdsong. A distant shape is suddenly speeding towards where they're standing.
"Watch out, buddy!" Taros drags Al out of the way as a Kyrii on a sled goes whizzing past.
"Wow." Al's gaze is fixed on the sled. "I wanna go!"
"Go ahead." The Kyrii passes his sled over to Taros. "Just remember to hold on tight."
Al plonks himself on the sledge, and Taros drags it slowly up to the crest of the hill. Vyla remains at the bottom, watching her friends become coloured specks as they climb higher and higher.
"You ready, pal?" Taros asks, making sure Al has a firm grip on the steering rope.
Al nods, beaming in excitement. Taros slowly draws the sled back, and gives it a reasonably hard push. Al squeals with delight as he begins his descent, gathering more and more speed until he is a turquoise blur against the backdrop of white.
Taros trudges his way down to meet his friends at the bottom of the hill. Al's cheeks are flushed in the bitter wind.
"How was that, Al?"
"'Mazin'!" Al replies. "We gotta tell Mama all 'bout it!"
"Well, why don't we go and see if she needs any help with the decorations? And maybe she'll let us open Mrs J's presents."
They bundle through the front door soon afterwards, trailing slush and water across the tiles. Upon entering the living room, they are greeted with twinkling lights, piles of blankets, and an enormous jug of hot chocolate. Al rushes off immediately to show his Mama the clumsily-wrapped presents.
"Well, that was nice of Mrs Jenkins," she comments, then looks very confused, as though she can't quite believe those words have left her mouth.
The Super Secret Club settles themselves in a circle in front of the tree. Vyla cautiously peels back the wrapping on her present, revealing a Basket of Gross Berries.
"Oh," she begins hesitantly. "How... thoughtful...."
Taros carefully unwraps his, folding the newspaper neatly. The present turns out to be the ugliest jumper he's ever seen and also about four sizes too small.
"Well... this is...." he fumbles for a word. "Nice?"
Al rips the paper on his present, showering the three of them with the strips he's made. A small handful of cookies fall onto the floor.
"Oh, goody!" he shouts, stuffing one into his mouth immediately. Seconds later, he spits it onto the floor. "Raisin cookies? Icky!"
"Do you think she meant to do this?" Vyla indicates their dreadful presents.
"She's a crazy old lady. There's no way of telling." Taros sighs, then lowers his voice "I suppose we could at least give him the thing to cheer him up."
"Good idea," Vyla whispers. "I'll just go and get it."
She manages to creep from the room whilst Al is still distracted by his disappointment. "Mrs Jenkins is a mean ole' lady."
"I know, pal... never mind, I'm sure you've got some more great presents."
"Ya think so?"
"Of course I do! Speaking of which, what's Vyla got there?"
Al whips round to see his friend carrying a huge box, studded with air holes.
"Wha'sat?" he jumps up from his place, inspecting the box.
There is a squeaking noise, and it wobbles ominously. Al runs to hide behind Taros' leg.
"Don't worry, buddy. It's not going to hurt you."
He slowly steps back towards the box, still holding tightly onto the Skeith's hand.
Vyla carefully lifts open the flap on the side and a small figure toddles out, blinking up at them with shining red eyes.
Al crouches down to observe his gift. "Wha'sat?" he says again. "Looks like a cookie with legs."
"That's a Jinjah," Vyla replies. "They're pretty fast, so you'll have a friend to run around with."
Al creeps closer to the Jinjah, who mirrors his movement. He extends a wary hand, and the Jinjah shakes it.
"Hello, Jinjah. You look just like a cookie," he whispers. "Cookies are my best thing to eat. But don't worry; I won't eat you, 'cause you're my pal."
The new Petpet makes an excited squeaking noise, grinning at his owner. Ever so carefully, Al lifts him up, and gives him a gentle hug.
"What are you gonna call him, Al?" Taros asks, distracting him whilst Vyla takes a photo of the two new friends.
Al thinks long and hard, looking carefully at the Jinjah "Hmmm.... I'm gonna call you... Chippy."
The newly-named Chippy chirps gleefully, presumably satisfied with Al's choice.
"Do you like him?" Vyla enquires, sitting down on the floor beside him.
Vyla and Taros are taken aback.
"I love 'im!" he finishes. "An' I love you guys too. Merry Christmas, Super Secret Club."
"Merry Christmas, Al."