Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 194,100,740 Issue: 739 | 1st day of Swimming, Y18
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The Mark


by noel3840

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      It was a gloomy day. Alex the Purple Draik trudged home with a huge burden weighing on his shoulders. With his head hung low, and his feet dragging in the mud, Alex heaved a sigh. I don't want to go home. I'd rather stay here than feel the wrath of my parents when I tell them what I got on my test today... Disappointing my parents is a nightmare that I don't think I could ever handle, he thought to himself.

      Earlier that day, Alex had received a very shocking surprise. However, it was not a pleasant one. It all started when Ms. Wellington, who was a new faerie at Neo Academy and also Alex's math teacher, was passing out the algebra tests that her students had done a week before. Each student had a different response to the mark they received, but it was Alex who was the most disappointed of them all. Before his teacher had the chance to hand his test back to him, the Draik ran out the door of the classroom and into the hallway. I don't want to see it. I probably got a terrible mark... It would've been better if that test was burned in the lava of Moltara. Perturbed thoughts filled Alex's mind as he continued to escape from his fate and he soon found himself locked in a stall of the boy's washroom, crying. A couple of minutes had passed when Alex heard a voice outside of the washroom door.

      “Alex? Are you in there? If you are, please come out. You've been there long enough and you still have work to do."

      It was Ms. Wellington. Alex unlocked the stall door and quickly washed his face. With a groan, he entered the hallway and came face to face with his teacher.

      “Now young neopet, we're going to have a talk for a bit. Running out of class without permission is unacceptable, all right?"

      Alex gave a weary nod.

      “I'm glad I have your understanding. Follow me to class now. I still have to give you back your test."

      Alex sighed and quietly followed his teacher back to the classroom.

-x-

      It was 3:00 pm NST and class was soon to be over. As soon as the bell had rung, all the little neopets ran out the door... except for one. Alex stayed seated in his chair as he kept on staring at the big, red number at the top of his page. 58%?? How am I going to show this to my parents?? Alex slumped in his chair as his ears drooped low and tears began to well up in his red eyes once more. Ms. Wellington looked up from her desk full of papers as she heard the sound of a neopet crying. Her eyes scanned the room looking for the poor neopet, and her eyes laid sight on Alex.

      “Alex! Dear neopet, why haven't you left school yet?"

      Sniffling, Alex glanced up. "I don't like my mark, Miss."

      “Are you still upset about that?"

      “Yes."

      Ms. Wellington got up and began walking towards Alex's desk. She pulled up beside him from another desk and laid her hand on his shoulder.

      "Don't worry! There's always next time! Remember my #1 rule?"

      Alex nodded his head.

      “Well, what is it?"

      “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

      “Now I want you to tell me honestly: Did you actually study for this test?"

      Alex diverted his eyes from his teacher and looked down.

      “No..."

      “Well then, problem solved! As my rule states, try again! Next time, Alex, you have to study all right? How can you expect to get a good grade if you don't work hard for it?"

      Alex kept his eyes glued to his desk and sniffled, but gave a small nod of accord.

      “Can I get a promise from you that you'll study next time?"

      Slowly, the Draik raised his head and looked right into the faerie's eyes.

      “I promise that I will study next time, Ms. Wellington."

      A bright smile emerged from Ms. Wellington's lips and her brow was no longer furrowed.

      “Glad to hear it. Go on home for dinner now, all right? Your parents are probably wondering where you are right now."

      "Yes, Miss."

      “All right, take care Alex!"

      "Have a good evening, miss."

      With sluggish movement, Alex got up from his chair and silently left the classroom.

-x-

      It was a little after five when Alex got home. Darkness had already fallen over Neopia and the lanterns all over Shenkuu shone brightly. As the Draik trudged up the steps to his house , he caught a glimpse of his friend Rita the Yellow Kacheek waiting by the entrance.

      “Rita!" Alex called out. "Is that you?"

      The Yellow Kacheek spun around and smiled eagerly at him.

      "Hi Alex! I've been waiting for you."

      At the sight of his friend's smile, Alex just couldn't keep a smile off his face and he grinned for the first time that day.

      “Oh really? Why is that?" The Draik used his wings to fly over to where his friend was at to save the trouble of walking up the remaining fifty-two steps.

      "I wanted to show you something." Reaching into the pocket of her purple dress decorated with daisies, Rita pulled out a folded piece of paper.

      “What's that?"

      Rita laughed. "Patience, silly!" She unfolded the paper and held it up right in Alex's face. "Tada!"

      Alex took a step back so he could get a closer look. "Congratulations, Ms. Rita! You are now officially an Astronomer at the Neo Astronomers Club!" he read. "Oh Rita, that's amazing! Congrats!"

      "Thanks Alex! This has been a dream of mine ever since I started school at Neo Academy!"

      Alex chuckled. "I know. You've told me that at least a hundred times now." He patted her head and smiled. "I'm happy for you, Rita."

      If only I could be like Rita and accomplish my dream of making my parents proud... Alex thought to himself and sighed.

      “Hey, are you okay?"

      Caught off guard, the Draik took a step back and coughed. "Definitely. Just thinking."

      Rita sensed something was amiss. "Are you sure Alex? You know you can tell me about anything..."

      Alex managed to fake a smile and replied, "I'm fine, Rita. It's okay."

      The Kacheek was still unconvinced but she thought it wise to just leave her friend alone for the time being. "Well give me a neomail if you want to talk about it. I've got to go help my mama prepare dinner. Night, Alex." Rita waved good-bye and was soon gone.

      With her trail left in the dust, Alex waved good-bye also and whispered very faintly, "Night."

-x-

      Alex opened the door to his Neohome with a click and took off his shoes.

      “Mom! Dad! I'm home!"

      Two Purple Draiks appeared in a flash. Mama Draik ran to hug Alex as soon as she saw him.

      "Alex, dear! Where have you been? It's way past dinnertime."

      Engulfed in her embrace, Alex began pushing her away. "I know and I'm sorry. I was just talking to Rita."

      Papa Draik stood off to the side frowning. "Well come sit down at the table and have dinner. It's cold now."

      The Purple Draiks' Neohome walls were decorated with certificates and awards which Alex had won over the past five years from both track and school. Although Alex was proud of his achievements, his main goal was to make his parents proud because that was his dream. Many a time Alex tried to fulfill this dream but these attempts resulted in failure. Every time he came home with a new award, his parents would just reply, "That's great, son." with little to none enthusiasm. Alex yearned the pride of his parents so he did his best to excel in everything that he did. One night, however, the Purple Draik was fed up with the little amount of affection his parents were giving him, so he decided not to study for the first time in his life. The next day, Alex wrote his math test with ease. Or at least he thought so. Being the smartest in class, the Draik had no worries about his grade whatsoever. However, as soon as class was over and he began walking home, Alex felt instant regret. Oh no! What have I done? I'm pretty sure I'll get a decent mark since I'm good at algebra but what if I actually get a bad mark? Having no knowledge about his fate, Alex was cast down and moped for about a week and half. Then the day that his teacher gave back her students' test arrived.

-x-

      “Alex stop poking at your food. That's bad manners." Papa Draik scolded him.

      Dinner that night was pasta with alfredo sauce - one of Alex's favourite foods. His parents thought it strange that he had not taken a single bite since he sat down.

      “Sorry..." Alex muttered as he put his fork down and folded his hands in his lap.

      “Did something bad happen at school today?" Mama Draik intervened.

      Alex gulped. His palms began to sweat and his heart rate increased rapidly. After breathing out a cool breath, he answered, "Not at all."

      “We're your parents, Alex. We can tell when you're upset about something."

      Alex took his Mom's words into consideration and thought carefully. Should I tell them? It's true. They're my parents and they can see right through me, but do I want to risk getting a lecture from them?

      The Draik drew in a large breath and hesitate a moment before speaking. "Well I didn't want to tell you because I knew you'd get upset at me but I got my math test back and I got a really bad mark..."

      Alex held in his breath as he waited for his parents' reply.

      “Did you fail it?" Papa Draik asked quietly.

      Alex reddened deeply and spurted out, "No! That's impossible, sir."

      “No need to get angry Alex, your father was only asking a question." Mama draik said calmly.

      Alex sighed and said more composedly, "No, sir. I did not fail it."

      “What did you get then?"

      Alex slouched down in his seat and fidgeted. "A 58..."

      “How did you manage to get that?”

      The little Purple Draik hesitated. “Well... I didn’t study.”

      “And why is that?”

      “I didn’t want to?” Alex winced as soon as the words left his mouth. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that...

      Papa Draik narrowed his eyes at him sternly. “Son. We’ve told you this many times already. Study and you will succeed. You’ve been doing it for all this time so what caused you to change?”

      Alex’s mouth went dry at his Father’s words. However the reason why he didn’t study that night flashed back in his mind and his eyes flared. “Well if you don’t care if I get a good mark, you shouldn’t care if I get a bad mark either.”

      “Don’t talk to me in that tone, young one.”

      Without replying to his Father, Alex turned to his mother and mustered up the strength to ask her in the most pleasant way, “May I be excused?”

      “Alex we-“

      The little Purple Draik didn’t even stay to hear what his mother had to say. He marched up the stairs and slammed the door to his bedroom.

-x-

      Alex lay in bed while reflecting on his actions. Tears trickled down Alex’s chin as his ears dropped once again. Oh no. What have I done? Instead of keeping my mouth shut like always, I just made matters worse. His hands went up to cover his face as his mind replayed to what had just happened. Alex groaned and shut his eyes. They just don’t understand how I feel. I admit I was at fault too but he has no right to talk to me like that after all I’ve done. It’s just one stupid mark. Well there’s no use crying over spilled milk... I should probably go to sleep. It was only 8pm at that time, three hours prior to his bedtime, but all the events that had occurred had overwhelmed the little Purple Draik to exhaustion. Within seconds, Alex was soon counting babaas and fell asleep.

      About an hour or so later, a knock came from the door.

      “Alex? May we come in?”

      Rubbing his eyes, Alex looked over at his clock on his nightstand and tried to read the green, glowing numbers. Oh it’s only 10 o’clock. But what do they want now? With a sigh, he sat up against his headboard and welcomed them in.

      Mama Draik went over to hug her son. “Oh Alex. We know you’re pretty upset about your mark but there’s no need to get angry at your father like that.”

      Alex wriggled free oh her grasp and glared at his father. “Well what I said is true. You guys don’t care how well I do no matter how many times I come home with a good grade, certificate, or award. To be honest, it seems like you guys don’t care about me at all!” He turned away from them and crossed his arms around his chest. Wow. I sound like a spoiled brat.

      Mama Draik and Papa Draik just looked at each other and they both sighed.

      His father was the first to speak. “Alex, you know that isn’t true. We care about you very much. We just want you to succeed so that-“

      Without turning around, Alex retorted, “You don’t understand how I feel at all, do you? All I wanted was for you guys to be proud of me... Is that so hard to ask for?”

      There was silence.

      “Alex.” Papa Draik sat down at the edge of Alex’s bed and looked at him with sincere eyes. “We are always proud of you. We just choose not to express it because we figured you would get tired of us telling you the same thing over and over again.”

      Alex was stunned at his Father’s statement. “Do you really mean that?”

      Both his parents nodded and smiled at him.

      Mama Draik squeezed her son’s shoulder tight and said, “We are very proud of you, Alex. Don’t ever get that silly idea into that head of yours that we don’t care for you and that we aren’t proud of you, all right?”

      The little Purple Draik nodded his head subtly and tried to take in everything that had just happened. “Yes, ma’m.”

      “Okay it’s already past your bedtime so we’ll let you go to sleep. Good night, Alex.” His mom kissed his temple softly and left the room with her husband.

      Did I hear that correctly? Did my parents really just say that they’re proud of me? Alex tucked himself into bed once more and stared up at the ceiling. What a strange turn of events... My only dream and worst nightmare came true all in one day. Wow. His eyes fluttered in the darkness as his mentality to stay awake was growing weaker. Is this reality? Or is all just an illusion? The little Purple Draik had no time to answer his thoughts as sleep took over him.

      The End.

 
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