Pros and Cons
Rhamory's owner had a cold. 'I'll have to go to the Healing Springs,' she said. He was eating breakfast and she was still in her dressing gown, holding a cup of tea and sniffling.
'All the way to Faerieland?' he asked.
'Don't talk with your mouth full, Rhama. But yes, I'll be gone for two nights.'
'No, you have school. We'll have to find you someone to stay with.'
Rhamory was the youngest of four pets, the only one still left at home, so there was quite a choice for who would mind him while his owner was away.
'Well, who would you like to stay with?'
Kaelsie or Eugene or Eftae. Who would he choose? He didn't really know. He thought all his siblings were very cool and grown-up. It would be exciting to stay over with any of them.
'I don't know! I can't choose. You choose.'
'How about you make a list of good points and bad points for each of them? Then you could give them all a score and decide who'd be the best.'
'Alright, I will!' He jumped down from his chair and went to the counter where there was a writing pad and pen.
'Not now, Rhama, come on, finish your breakfast - you're almost late for school! Have you fed Honey?'
He had returned to stuffing toast into his mouth. He swallowed before replying - 'Not yet.'
'Alright, I'll do it. Hurry up though.'
'Wait, what about Honey, actually? Will she go to Faerieland with you?'
'No, I suppose she'll have to go wherever you go, if they'll have her.' Honey was Rhamory's petpet, a dragoyle, and it looked like she'd be sticking with him!
Rhamory made a list for his potential hosts that afternoon. He tried to think about what was important to him - what would he eat? Where would he sleep? What would he do? He wrote 'food' and 'bed' and 'entertainment' down in his grid and then gnawed on the end of his pencil. What else? He couldn't really think. He decided to go and visit Kaelsie, who lived just a few streets over in a very swanky apartment building.
Armed with his notebook and pencil, he rang the bell. She opened the door with her fur rolled into curlers. 'Oh, hello Rhama, I wasn't expecting you!' she said. 'Sorry about this,' she indicated to her head and all the curlers jiggled. 'I'm just getting ready to go out. But come in!'
'I'm just here to talk about a sleepover. Mom is going away, and she said I have to stay with somebody for two nights.'
'Oh, I'd love to have you!' Kaelsie gave him a big smile.
'Well, I could stay with Eugene or Eftae either, you see. Can I ask you a few questions first?'
She laughed. 'Of course! Do you mind if I keep getting ready?'
He didn't, so he followed her instead. She had a big vanity table with a mirror surrounded by little bulbs. The table was littered with jewellery and pots of moisturiser and little vials of perfume. She continued her beauty routine while Rhamory cleared his throat and looked at his grid.
'Ok. If I stayed with you, what would we eat?'
'Oh there's this restaurant I've been meaning to bring you too for ages. It's this really cute place just nearby, where they serve the best burgers. And at the end, they let you put anything you want on a sundae!'
'Oooooh.' Rhamory loved sundaes. Kaelsie got a big tick for food. 'And where will I sleep?'
'Well I have a spare room. It's a double bed and I just bought new sheets.' A double bed! He only had bunk beds at home. Kaelsie was getting a big tick for sleeping arrangements too. 'Of course, you'll have to have a bath before you go to bed,' she added, glancing at him. 'Your paws look a little dirty.'
Rhamory glanced at his paw. True, his pale lemon fur was sort of grubby looking...but a bath! Midweek! 'hate baths,' he grumbled, adding that to his grid.
'Oh it's not so bad. I'll let you use as much bubbles as you want!'
Hm. Bubbles could be okay. He'd leave a blank space rather than an X.
'Last of all, entertainment. What will I do after school when I'm with you?' he asked.
'Hm. When will you be here?'
'Thursday and Friday.'
'Those are my shopping days.' That was how Kaelsie could afford her fancy lifestyle. She had a great eye for bargains and made a fortune as a crafty business woman, buying and reselling expensive items.
'Shopping?' Rhamory repeated, pulling a face. That meant trailing after Kaelsie as she haggled with shopkeepers in boring, crowded, sweaty shops. That was not his idea of fun! She was getting an X.
'Anything else?' she asked.
'I don't think so. Oh wait, is it okay if Honey comes too?'
'Honey?' Kaelsie frowned. 'I'm afraid not. My building doesn't allow petpets.'
'Huh? You have a petpet!'
'Rosalind is a delfin. She stays in her tank. I know Honey is great and all, but you have to admit she tends to...cause a mess. She's a bit of a troublemaker, and she makes a lot of noise.'
'I guess.' Rhamory frowned and wrote 'Honey' on his list. Kaelsie got a big cross for that.
He said goodbye to his big sister and went down the stairs.
Eftae lived in a cottage right on the edge of Neopia where the city faded into the countryside. It was quite a trek to get there, but since he didn't have to cross any roads, Rhamory was allowed to walk there on his own. It was a long walk and he was thirsty by the end. When Eftae opened the door the first thing he said was, 'Can I get a drink?'
'Hey bud!' Eftae said. 'Good to see you. Did you come all this way for some water?'
'Of course not.' Rhamory followed his older brother into the cottage's little kitchen. 'I came to suss you out. Mom is going away Thursday and Friday night and I need to see who I want to stay with.'
'Ah. Water or interview first?'
Eftae handed him a glass from the tap, and then poured one for himself too.
'So you want to stay with me?' he said.
'Well, we'll see. I need to find a few things out first.'
'Okay. If I stay with you, what will we eat?'
'Only the best! Potatoes and turnips, fresh from the garden.'
Eftae grew vegetables for a living. He didn't have very much land; just enough to sustain himself and a little left over to sell at the market every week.
'Eugh.' Rhamory was not a fan of healthy foods.
'Hey, my turnips are the finest in all of Neopia! I make a great turnip and leek soup. With that and a little bread on the side, you won't need to eat for days.'
Rhamory didn't think so but he didn't want to hurt his brother's feelings so he gave him a shaky tick.
'And where will I sleep?'
'Hm. I'll have to get the camp bed down from the attic. It's a bit dusty, but it's okay.'
Another shaky tick.
'And for entertainment? What will we do after I get to school?'
'Well, Friday is market day so you'll have to come with me that afternoon. You can work at the stall, there's lots of little jobs you could do. You can help set up, man the till, maybe even make a few sales!' Eftae grinned, but Rhamory didn't think it sounded like much fun. 'Then Thursday is a busy day too - I'll be getting ready for the market. You can help me with loading up the cart, picking the crop and then we'll get an early night,' Eftae continued.
'Alright. Will I have to take a bath?'
'If you're working in the garden all day you'll definitely need a bath! I can't send you to school covered in soil, can I?'
A bath. And Eftae certainly didn't use bubbles or nice perfumes on his plain blue fur. He was a kacheek and pretty much the opposite of Kaelsie - she would never have been caught in the patched blue overalls he wore every day.
Things were not looking bright for Eftae's chances. 'Okay, one last thing, what about Honey?'
'What about her? Does she need a place to stay too?'
'Well, there's room for her here. She can sleep at the end of your bed.'
That would be nice anyways. Honey was painted plushie and sleeping beside her was like having a particularly warm and squishy soft toy to cuddle. Eftae earned a solid tick there, at least.
'Okay, that it? Have I been thoroughly evaluated?' Eftae asked with a grin.
'Yeah I guess so.' Rhamory glanced out the window. The sun was beginning to set. 'It's a long walk home, I should get going anyways.'
'Hey, my neighbour is taking a delivery of carrots into town tonight in his cart, you can get a lift with him if you'd like.'
'In a cart?' Rhamory grimaced.
'Yes, a cart! Maybe it's not very glamorous, but it's a good way to get around. If you stay with me you'd better get used to it because that's how you'll be getting to school in the morning.'
'What?! In a smelly old vegetable cart?'
He hadn't considered that. Kaelsie's house was close enough to walk just like he usually did in the mornings, but he'd have to get up at the crack of dawn if he walked from Eftae's cottage. Either that or get laughed at when he turned up at the school gates sitting on a pile of carrots. No, things were not looking bright for Eftae.
Dinner was almost ready when Rhamory returned to his owner's house. 'I was wondering where you'd got to, Rhama!' she said. 'Honey's been missing you all afternoon.'
He bent down to scratch Honey between the ears. 'I've been interviewing candidates,' he said.
'Oh yeah, who's winning?'
'Maybe Kaelsie, but I haven't talked to Eugene yet. Can we go over there tonight?' His eldest brother lived way on the other side of town, and it was too far and too busy to go there by himself, especially at night.
'Oh Rhama, I'm not feeling great and it's so far. How about you write to him instead? If he makes the last post we'll get it tonight, and then you can make your decision.'
'Alright. I'll do it now so it'll get to him on time.' He sat down at the kitchen table and scribbled a neomail to him, then ran with it to the post box, making it just as the neomail worker was collecting it.
The reply was delivered about an hour later; Rhamory read it on his bed with Honey on his lap.
"hey there little bro, good to hear from you! I would be happy to have you to stay. I'm afraid my place is pretty small though - you can sleep on my couch, but there won't be room for Honey. My Thor is pretty territorial and he'd fight too much if there was another petpet around. Sorry.
You can sit on my back and I'll run you to school in the mornings. Then when I pick you up, we're going straight to the battledome! You can watch my fights and if you're lucky we might find a suitable opponent for you to practice on. Would you like that? You'll have to go on my new training diet with me though. Hope you like vegetables, eggs and fish! No pizza, no french fries, and definitely no ice-cream. It'll make you strong though! Anyways, see you soon,
Lots of love, E.
ps. No, I don't care about baths. You might get a little sweaty from the Battledome, but I'm sure a bath can wait til the weekend."
Eugene was a big kau, rippling in muscle and strong as ten pets, but a great brother. Everybody at school would think it was so cool if Rhamory showed up with him in the morning. And seeing him battle would be awesome! But the rest - sleeping on a couch and eating healthy food and not having Honey...that wasn't exactly ideal.
There was a knock at the door and his owner entered. 'Hey, have you made a decision yet?' she asked.
'Not really. I don't know what to do. Everybody has different good points and bad points.
'I guess that'll always be the way.'
'Yeah. Hey mom, Kaelsie and Eugene said if I stay with them, I can't bring Honey. Is that ok?'
'It shouldn't be a big deal. We can put her in the kennel for two nights.'
The kennel? Rhamory didn't like the sound of that. After his owner had left, Rhamory petted Honey absentmindedly. He had spent the last hour running around with her outside and now she was sound asleep on his lap, all worn out. 'You're causing a lot of trouble, little buddy,' he said. She just gave a little puff in her sleep. She was so cute curled up. He loved tracing the little patches sewn onto her felt and looking at her tiny feathery wings. Her button eyes were squeezed shut, but he knew as soon as they opened she'd be ready for another adventure. Being the last pet home alone would have been a lot lonelier if he hadn't had Honey - she was his number one pal, always ready to spend time with him. He realised that he could stay with Kaelsie and have great food and a comfy bed, or stay with Eugene and have a blast at the battledome - or he could choose Eftae, and bring Honey along with him. He knew what he wanted most.
Friday afternoon found Rhamory sitting on an upturned crate biting into a fresh bun. A customer had given him a tip after he'd helped carry two sacks of potatoes to a waiting cart. Well, Eftae had earned an upgraded tick for food anyways! He thought back on the grid he'd made. How had Eftae fared?
Rhamory would never admit to enjoying a vegetable, but the soup was not so bad, and with bread still hot from the oven and a generous helping of butter, he had quite enjoyed last night's dinner. Going to school that morning had been okay too - the uni who owned the cart had all sorts of interesting stories, and when Rhamory begged he agreed to gallop at the very end and so Rhamory reached school bouncing on top of a pile of carrots, pretending he was at the very end of a great chariot race urging his steed to go faster.
And the market, how was that? Actually, it was a lot of fun, and if he worked hard for the last few hours, maybe he could get another tip! That was a cheery thought.
A little soft mouth nipped his ear. He turned to see Honey hovering beside his head, wings beating hard (she wasn't a strong flier). He laughed and broke off some of his bun to give to her. 'I saved you from a cold dark kennel, and this is all the thanks I get!' he said, laughing. He was only joking - he could have stayed at the Royal Neopian hotel and eat sundaes all day long and it wouldn't have been any fun at all without his best friend. He broke off another piece of the bun for himself, and gave the rest to her.