Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 99,279,380 Issue: 195 | 17th day of Relaxing, Y7
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True Friends: Part One

by extreme_fj0rd


"Becca! Over here!" The blue Acara waved frantically, hoping her friend would see her. Neoschool had just let out, and everyone was rushing to get out as quickly as possible.

      Becca, a red Elephante, moved towards the Acara. "Hey, Angela," she said with a smile.

      Angela gave her a quick grin and shouldered her backpack. With a glance to make sure Becca was following, she wound her way towards the double doors of the Neoschool building. Once outside, they could walk side by side.

      "How're things?" Becca asked.

      "Not too bad. You?"

      "Been better." The Elephante tilted her head back to look up at the sky.

      They reached the sidewalk and turned to the right.

      "Any ideas for the essay?" Becca asked.

      Angela shook her head. "Not a one. You?"

      Becca laughed. "What do you think? Angie, it's the weekend. We're not supposed to be thinking about homework."

      The Acara laughed with her for a few moments, then paused and grinned suddenly. "Race you," she said, starting to run already.

      Becca shook her head. "You got a head start," she called after Angela, but ran after her anyway. She caught up with the Acara outside of the Clothes Shop, where Angela had paused to wait for her. The Elephante slowed, then stopped.

      "It's still there," Angela said, smiling.

      "Of course it is." The Elephante stepped closer to the store window, where a dress was displayed. "After all, it is yours."

      "It's as much yours as mine," the Acara said. The two stopped after Neoschool each day to admire the dress, and indeed it was worthy of admiration. It was made of pale blue cloth, with pink flowers scattered across the fabric; the sleeves and skirt poofed out, the skirt far enough that it must have had a petticoat. It was obviously constructed for an Aisha, but they knew that the shop would have styles for each species of Neopet. Though they'd stopped often, neither had ever been brave enough to go in and try it on.

      "You want it more," Becca argued.

      "And therefore it's more mine?" Angela smiled. "Thanks." Though both would've liked the dress, Angela didn't have the means to get it, and Becca didn't want to have it if her friend couldn't get it as well.

      "We should go," the Elephante said after a few minutes, "or it'll be dark before we get home."

      Angela glanced up at the sun, which wasn't anywhere near the horizon, and laughed. Nevertheless, she followed Becca down the street toward Becca's home on Rainbow Lane.

      "See you tomorrow!" Becca called, waving good-bye to Angela as the Elephante walked backwards down the path to her front door.

      "See you," the Acara called back, raising a paw in farewell. She waited until the door had clicked closed behind Becca, then started for her own home, whistling a tune and hop-skipping every few steps out of sheer happiness.

     "Mom?" Becca called, sliding her backpack off and setting it on the table in the entranceway. She set her lunchbox next to it and wriggled out of her coat, hanging it neatly on a peg. "Martha? Are you here?" A few steps brought her into the kitchen, and she saw the note on the table: Becca's owner had gone to buy groceries at the Food Shop, and she'd be back soon.

      The Elephante nodded and returned to the entranceway to pick up her backpack. She took it up to her room and dropped it onto her desk to dig out the book she'd been reading for fun. Pazo the Lonely Aisha. Becca smiled at the cover image and opened it to the bookmark she'd stuck in there last time she was reading.

      She'd read about thirty pages when the door downstairs opened.

      "I'm home," Martha's voice said, and keys jingled as Becca's owner put the house key into her pocket.

      "In my room," Becca called back. She put her bookmark back in and closed her book as her owner came in. Martha was a slim, pale girl with red hair; she smiled at her only pet as she entered the room.

      "Why were you at the Food Shop?" the Elephante asked. "We went just a few days ago."

      Martha smiled. "The family reunion's tomorrow, remember? Since it's at Neopia Central Park this year, we're providing food."

      "It's in Neopia Central?" Becca said. Her owner had left that detail out last time. "Cool! I can show Jessica my room, and--"

      "You can do more than that," Martha said with a smile. "Jessica and her owner are coming into Neopia Central tomorrow morning, and they're staying with us for the weekend. You might want to do your homework tonight, if you have any."

      Becca nodded. Though Jessica was one of her favorite cousins, the Faerie Zafara could be demanding at times.

      "Oh, and we should go shopping after dinner," the girl added.

      "What for?"

      "A new dress."

      "Do I have to?" The Elephante gave her owner a pleading look.

      "Unless you want Jessica remarking snidely on how you wore that dress last year, and don't you know that it's out of style by now--yes," Martha said.

      Becca sighed. "All right, all right. I'll go."

      "Good girl." Martha smiled. "What do you want for dinner?"

      The Elephante considered. "How about spaghetti?" she said.

      "Okay," her owner said. "You can get a head start on that homework now," she added as she left the room. Becca sighed and pulled her math assignment out of her backpack, a frown already creasing her forehead at the first problem.

      "How's your homework going?" Martha asked later, over a dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread.

      Becca swallowed and nodded. "Pretty good. I've still got a couple of math problems left, and then I have to write an outline for this essay for Neopian History."

      "How long do you think that'll take?"

      "Not too long--maybe half an hour, an hour at most." Becca smiled and took another bite of spaghetti.

      "Good." Martha smiled at her Elephante, and for a while neither said anything. Then Martha stood up and stretched. "You ready?"

      Becca gulped down the last few bites of spaghetti and nodded. Martha put their plates in the sink and followed the Elephante out to the entranceway, where Becca was already putting on her coat.

      "No, no, that color is completely wrong. Try something in--oh, green or blue," Martha instructed, sending the red Nimmo shop assistant scurrying into the back room of the Clothes Shop once more. Becca pitied him for having to put up with Martha.

      The Nimmo emerged a moment later, holding a clipboard. "I'm sorry, we've just sold the last green Elephante dress today," he said.

      "Blue, then?"

      "Well--" He consulted his clipboard. "We have that one in the window," he said, pointing towards the dress Becca and Angela had admired just that afternoon.

      "Hmm." Martha stood to inspect it. "Yes--yes, it's quite lovely. You said you had that for Elephantes?"

      The Nimmo nodded.

      "Becca, what do you think?"

      The Elephante's mind whirled. She couldn't get it--Angela had wanted that dress for far longer, it just wouldn't be right. But Angela didn't have to know; they'd never gone to each other's houses, let alone inspected the contents of each other's closets, and Becca would only wear it the one time. And she did want to show Jessica that she was up to speed on the latest fashions--Becca hesitated, then nodded.

      "It--yes, it's gorgeous." The Elephante glanced sidelong at the large shop windows, sure that Angela would pop up any moment and see them buying it. To Becca's relief, she didn't. The Elephante style was brought out; Martha didn't have to persuade Becca to try it on. It was even more wonderful than she and Angela had imagined.

      "Yes, we'll take this one," Martha said, smiling at Becca. Becca smiled back, still imagining that Angela was going to see them buying it. But the Acara was halfway across Neopia Central, and Becca walked home with the dress in a large white box under her arm.

      The next morning dawned bright and early, and Becca was tidying her room for Jessica's arrival. The Faerie Zafara's arrival was announced by a sharp knock on the front door. Martha opened it; a teenage boy stepped inside with a smile, followed by Jessica and her younger sister, a yellow Aisha.

      "Hi, Marcus!" Martha smiled back at her brother. "Hello, Jessica. Hello, Amy."

      "Hi!" Amy said enthusiastically. Jessica just raised her eyebrows.

      Becca, hearing their voices, stepped out of her room. She smiled and came down the stairs to the entranceway. "Hello," she said, nodding to them.

      "Jessica, you'll be staying with Becca. Amy, you're in the blue guest room, and Mark, you can take the white room." Martha smiled at her guests. "How was your trip?"

      Mark started to give an answer; Jessica turned away with a sigh. "So, is Neopia Central really as boring as it sounds?"

      Becca shrugged. "Sometimes, I guess. But there are really nice people here, like my friend Angela--she goes to Neoschool with me."

      "Neoschool. How inelegant." The Faerie Zafara started towards the stairs, and Becca followed with a worried glance at the two owners. "In Faerieland, there's something called the Academy of Learning. It's a private school, so Marcus pays the tuition every year."

      The Elephante nodded. "Are there good classes?"

      "Oh, Becca. You're so funny," Jessica said with a smile. "Everyone there is rich, of course."

      Becca didn't really see what that had to do with anything. "This one's my room," she said, pointing it out.

      The Zafara pushed the door open. "Well, it's certainly very... clean," she said, sweeping the room with a calculating glance. "It looks cramped, though. How can you stand to have so little room?"

      "I--" The Elephante was taken aback by Jessica's comments.

      "I mean, it's about the size of my closet at home!" Jessica gave a small sigh. "I suppose I can endure it, though. For you, cousin."

      Becca smiled. Sure, Jessica could be snide at times, but she was really an all right person. "What do you like to read?" she asked. "I'm reading--"

      "You read? For fun?" The Zafara shook her head. "Well, it's plain to see that you need me to help you with some things."

      "Like what?"

      "Like having fun, and makeup! I mean, look at you!" Jessica shook her head. "You look like you're homeless, Becca dear. Now, where did I leave my purse--oh yes, it's down in the entranceway. Be a dear and fetch that for me."

      Becca was on the verge of snapping at Jessica, telling her to get her own purse, and then remembered Martha's warnings to be kind to her guests. She gave a sad little nod and went to find Jessica's purse.

      "Oh, now that is a pretty dress," Jessica exclaimed when she saw Becca's dress for the family reunion. "Oh, yes--quite nice." She plucked a makeup case out of her purse and brushed blush over the Elephante's cheeks. "There you go." She gave Becca a lipstick. "Put that on, too--and let's see, you need some mascara and eyeliner." The Zafara dug through her purse again for the makeup she'd named.

      Becca looked at herself in the mirror afterwards, horrified. She and Angela had resolved to never wear makeup--but then again, they'd also resolved to not buy the dress if the other wasn't getting it, and Becca had definitely done that. And it did look nice... The Elephante pursed her lips and gave the mirror a smile, then turned to Jessica. "Anything else?"

      They were the first ones to arrive for the family reunion; Jessica lounged on a bench while the others, including Amy, set up the food on the two picnic tables. Becca hovered between the two groups, helping out her owner at times and drifting over to trade small talk with Jessica at others.

      Other relatives started to arrive, and soon there was a large group of owners around one of the tables and a group of pets around the other. Becca tried to find interest in the others' talk of clothes and makeup and Neopoints, but she grew increasingly bored as time wore on. Her gaze wandered around the park, taking in the joggers, the homeless pets begging, those who were taking a shortcut through the park--

      She had the feeling that someone was watching her, and turned around. Her gaze locked, for just an instant, with the blue Acara on the other side of the park. Becca whirled around again, hoping that Angela hadn't been able to recognize her face, but knowing that she had.

      "Becca?" Jessica asked, a look of concern on her face. "What's wrong?"

      The Elephante shook her head. "Nothing," she lied. She went back to listening to the other pets' conversation, and when she chanced a look back at where Angela had been standing, the Acara wasn't there any more.

To be continued...

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