The pair of Unis walked up to the Neoschool. Outside, groups of students mingled on the lawn, excitedly comparing schedules and catching up with those they hadn’t seen over the summer. It seemed like a picture perfect first day of Neoschool.
The mother turned to her daughter. “I want you to promise me you’ll try to make friends here. You may have gotten away with keeping to yourself in the past, but this is high school now. You’re supposed to be social and involved.”
The woodland Uni merely shrugged in response. Her family moved Neohomes almost every year, so she found it difficult to make friends in her classes. While she sometimes wished she had someone to talk to, she found it easier to study and keep her grades up if she didn’t have other Neopets pestering her to hang out all the time.
Her mother raised an eyebrow, glancing around at all the groups of students. “I’m sure you’ll find a group you’ll fit right in with.”
“Right.” She turned to leave before hearing her mother call her name once more.
“Rootz? Try to find some after-Neoschool activities to get involved in, too.”
“I’ll see how much time I have when I’m not studying,” Rootz replied, sure she’d be too busy to even think about getting involved in Neoschool. She finally parted from her mother and entered the building, where the hallways were filled with the chaos of students finding their classes, greeting their friends and organizing their lockers. A few Neopets smiled at Rootz as she passed them by, but she merely nodded and moved on. Anxious to get away from the crowd, she made a beeline to her first period biology class. She took a seat in the front row, set out her notebook and pencil and waited for class to start.
“Good morning,” said the teacher after the bell finally rang. He was a Kougra in a plain suit with neatly combed hair. He spoke in a monotone voice. “I’m Mr. Norton. Welcome to freshman level biology. First you will be picking your lab partners. Keep in mind this is the Neopet you will be working with all year, so pick someone you work well with.”
Rootz was horrified. She had to work with someone all semester? She didn’t know anyone at this school, and she certainly didn’t want her grade to depend on someone else’s work. She began devising a plan. She’d ask Mr. Norton if she could work by herself. Surely he’d understand why she didn’t want to work with anyone!
She was shaken out of her thoughts by a small voice. “You look nice. Will you be my lab partner?”
Rootz looked up to see a white Uni standing over her. She looked somewhat odd in a formal purple dress with paint stains on her face. Rootz glanced around the room nervously, but most of the Neopets were already pairing off and paid the two no mind. She decided she didn’t have much of a choice.
“Alright, I’ll work with you.”
The girl smiled. “Thank you! I’m Cress. It’s nice to meet you!”
Rootz nodded, not sharing Cress’s enthusiasm. “I’m Rootz.”
Throughout the class period, Cress talked Rootz’s ear off about everything under the sun. She talked about their Neoschool, her other friends, her family, her schedule and, most of all, the art club.
“You should join!” She insisted. “Most people don’t because they think they’re not good at art, but you don’t have to be talented! You can just come hang out with us!”
Rootz nodded, barely listening. “Right.”
At the end of the class period, Mr. Norton gave them their first assignment, which was to be completed on their own time with their lab partners. Rootz was eager to get this over with as soon as possible. To ensure her new lab partner wouldn’t procrastinate, she suggested they do it that day. Discovering they had the same free period, the pair decided to meet in the library.
Later that day, Rootz walked into the library, dreading having to work with another Neopet on a project. What if she tried to do everything and got them a bad grade? What if she made Rootz do all the work and took the credit? What if she didn’t even bother showing up? Rootz was surprised to see Cress already there waiting – Rootz had gotten there very early herself.
“Okay, let’s get to work,” said Cress. “I don’t know about you, but I really want get an A on this project, especially because it’s the first thing in the gradebook.” Rootz sat there, dumbfounded, as the other Uni went on and on about the same thing she’d been thinking.
“Um, great,” she replied. “I’ll do the analysis.”
“And I’ll organize everything and do the illustrations!”
The two girls worked on their project all period. Between the two of them, they got it done more quickly than Rootz could have imagined completing it alone. Cress’s diagrams were much better than Rootz could have drawn them, and they perfectly demonstrated what Rootz wrote in her analysis. Maybe this isn’t so bad, she thought at the end of the hour as they admired their finished project.
“This is great!” Cress exclaimed. “Go teamwork!” She held her hand up, and Rootz stared at it a moment before realizing she wanted a high five. Cress laughed. “So will you come to the art club? Our first meeting is after school today. You can paint whatever you want!”
Rootz opened her mouth to object, but she realized she didn’t have a reason not to go. She had no other homework for that night, and no one else had tried to befriend her. All she would have done was go home and read ahead in some of her textbooks anyway.
“Um, sure, I’ll go.”
Cress’s face lit up. Rootz didn’t realize such a simple answer would make her so happy. Rootz went to the club that day, made lots more friends and painted a pretty picture of herself. She resolved to come back whenever she didn’t have too much work to do.
Rootz arrived home with a smile on her face.
“Did you make any friends?” her mom asked her, clearly not expecting to hear the answer she wanted.
“I did! I made friends with my lab partner, Cress, and everyone I met at the art club!”
Her mother’s jaw dropped. “You actually joined a club at Neoschool? I’m so proud of you!”
Rootz blushed, hating how her mother was making a big deal about this. She admitted to herself, though, that her mother had been right all along – Neoschool was better with friends and activities.
“Well, did you like it? Are you going to go back?”
“I think I will.”
“Great.” Then her mother added jokingly, “As long as you don’t have too much homework!”
The pair shared a laugh at Rootz’s old excuse for being antisocial.
When Rootz and Cress got back their graded assignment a few weeks later, they shared a high five over having received an A.
“That worked well!” said Cress. “You’re great at doing the wordy parts, and I can spruce it up and make it look presentable!”
“We’ll have to do it that way for all our assignments,” Rootz agreed. “By the way, thanks for telling me about the art club. I’ve met so many cool Neopets there, and it’s so much fun. I’m really glad I joined.”
Cress smiled in return. “Friends?”
Rootz nodded, cracking a small smile herself. “Friends.”