From Enemy to Brethren: Part Two
Over the next few weeks, Rat and I grew more and more close.
We were becoming friends, the last thing anyone would expect from us.
Now, as Mimi and I headed to school, with Rat
trailing behind us, I let him tease me. Every time he leaped for my tail I'd
manage to flick it away in the last minute, and he'd go sprawling. I'd give
him a wink and swish my tail just in his reach, daring him to leap for it again.
He'd grin, and then we'd both laugh and chase each other all the way to school.
When he'd make faces at me through the window
during class, I'd make faces back and then resist bursting into laughter.
He stopped jeering during lunch and didn't pull
at Mimi's tail. In fact, he'd wait calmly for me until the end of school and
then he'd escort me home while we talked. I found myself telling him things
I'd never told anyone else, not even my owner. I told him my love for school,
and how I wished that my owner would be with us more often. In turn he'd tell
me about his life and what he planned to do with it.
"I plan to become an astronaut," he informed
me once, careful to keep his grammar correct. I'd recently begun giving him
lessons. He was a good learner, though he refused to give up saying "ain't."
"Cool," I said. "You like astronomy?"
"Never mind. I meant do you like the stars?"
A dreamy look came over his face. I no longer
thought any of his expressions disgusting. In fact, I didn't really care at
all about his appearance anymore.
"I love the stars," Rat breathed. "Any time I
look at them..."
"Every time," I corrected.
"Right. Every time I look at them, I forget all
about being lonely and sad. I feel that if I was up there, instead of down here,
nothing would bother me. I spoke okay, right?" he added.
I nodded, glad that he could say so much without
a single grammar mistake. I now wanted more than ever to help get a starry paintbrush.
It'd long been obvious that he'd always wanted one. I already had a hundred
and fifty thousand Neopoints stored, but I needed three hundred thousand. Could
Rat perhaps have some money saved up?
"Rat," I started, "have you ever thought of buying
a paint brush?"
Rat scowled and looked down at his paws. "They
don't let me play games," he said darkly. "They say I ain't healthy, and should
stay away from the other pets."
I stopped and stared at him, forgetting to correct
his grammar for once. "What?! But you're not unhealthy! You're just... different."
He gave me a grin. "I guess I'se..."
"I'm," I interrupted.
Obediently he tried again. "I guess I'm the wrong
kind of different."
It was my turn to scowl. How could people be
so unfair towards mutants, just because they weren't very attractive?
About a month after our friendship began, I was
counting my paintbrush fund in my room on a hot Saturday afternoon. Mimi was
playing at day care, while my owner was away from home on business. It was the
kind of day that made you tired just by heating up. I thought of Rat, wandering
somewhere in the jungle, probably looking for some shade.
I dumped my jar of checks and coins out on the
bed. There was so much that it caused a deep depression in the mattress. It
took me a full half hour to count it all.
"200,950, 200,975, 300,000!" I crowed, letting
the coins rain down from my paws and plunk onto my head and arms.
I quickly gathered it all up and ran all the
way to the trading post. It took me an hour to finally purchase the brush, haggling
and trying to find traders that were ready to trade then and there. But finally,
after weeks of saving, I had my starry paintbrush.
I wanted to find Rat that very day and drag him
to the Rainbow Pool. But I didn't know where he lived in that vast jungle land,
and I wasn't about to lose myself in it looking for him. I'd just have to wait
So on Monday morning, when I saw the mutant scramble
out from the trees with his usual mischievous grin (I no longer thought of it
as malicious), I didn't let him tease me, or even let him try.
"Come on, let's go!" I said as I took his paw
and headed in a direction opposite the school. I needed to reach the docks in
thirty minutes if I was to catch the next ferry.
Rat was completely shocked. "What?! But I thought
you liked school!" he panted as we dashed by Tiki Tours.
"I do!" I called back. "But there's something
more important needing to be done!"
Rat didn't speak up again until the beach was
in sight. I only had two minutes to get on board! I began to pick up the pace
when Rat suddenly jerked his paw out of my grasp.
"I'm not going," he said clearly and flatly.
His grammar wasn't a problem now.
"But this is the last boat for an hour! We have
to go!" I said breathlessly, reaching for his paw again.
"No!" Rat shouted.
I stared at him, my trip to Neopia Central temporarily
His defiance subsided, and all he could do was
look down at his feet, "I'm too scared," he mumbled. "I've never left the island
"Not ever?" I asked in disbelief.
"No," was the gloomy reply.
I heard the ferryman call out, "All aboard!"
and turned to desperately watch the last passenger board. I walked over to Rat
and gently took his paw.
"We're leaving together," I said softly. "You
won't be alone. I want you to come. You need to come."
When he asked why I only said it was a surprise.
He grinned at that, and said, "Let's give it a shot!"
It's a miracle that we managed to catch the boat.
We practically had to leap on board, and it was only under my insistence that
the ferryman let Rat stay. I brought my companion to the edge of the ferry and
showed him the land beyond and the sea below. I really shouldn't have done that,
because from then on Rat's expression was rather green and he kept moaning about
He was very glad to reach Neopia Central at last,
and asked whether or not we could travel by different means of transport on
the way back. But I didn't take time to answer. I was too eager to reach the
Unfortunately, Rat was just as eager to go sight-seeing,
"I want to see everything!" he proclaimed excitedly.
"Fine!" I agreed impatiently. "We'll see the
Rainbow Pool first."
"You'll see in a minute."
We finally reached the plaza, and were soon bounding
across the meadow to a landmark I'd been to once before; a glistening pool with
a faint rainbow arching into it.
"Wow," Rat murmured, awestruck.
"You still don't know the best of it," I hinted
with a smile. "Let's get a closer look."
I led him to the edge of the pool and urged him
to look into it. As he gazed at his reflection, I quietly pulled the starry
paintbrush from my school bag.
Rat was scowling at the pool. "I'm so hideous,"
he said with a shudder.
I couldn't hold back my excitement any longer.
"Not for long!" I cried and then I gave his back a swift stroke with the brush,
feeling it evaporate from my paw almost at once. Before Rat could ask what had
happened, I shoved him hard and he fell with a yelp into the pool.
Bubbles surfaced where he'd fallen in, and for
a split second my vision was blinded by a blue and yellow flash! When I at last
lowered my arms to see again, I saw Rat standing in the pool before me. At least,
I saw a Xweetok.
The Xweetok's shining blue coat was splashed
with yellow stars, and his stripe was a brilliant gold. Stars seemed to shine
in his eyes as he looked at me. I couldn't believe that this was Rat staring
at me. And yet...
"Rat?" I asked hesitantly.
The Xweetok gave me a cocky grin that I knew
too well. With a laugh I pulled him out of the pool, and we scrambled about
in the grass for the next few minutes. Rat began to talk even as we played.
"How... did... you manage... to... get... the
brush?" he panted between struggles.
I extricated myself from the tussle and lay breathing
hard on the grass beside him, "I just worked really hard," I explained. "It
took me weeks, you know. I've been working ever since... since..."
"Since I shaped up?" Rat prompted.
"Yeah, pretty much," I answered with a smile.
We were silent for a moment, with me still trying
to absorb this new Rat. He looked so different, so completely unrecognizable.
Rat meanwhile seemed to be thinking.
"It won't be the same, living on my own now,"
he said quietly. "Now that I fit in, I don't really want to stay out of things."
"But you have no owner," I said, pointing out
"I probably have to go to the pound," Rat mumbled.
"No, you don't!" I said fiercely. "I won't let
He stared at me, and it took me a second to register
him as Rat. "You mean..." he started.
"Yes!" I said defiantly. "I want... I want you..."
Why was it so hard to admit it?
"You want me to be with you?" Rat asked. His
voice was full of hope.
I looked at him. "Rat," I laughed, "I never thought
I'd have you for a brother!"
My owner was certainly surprised to see not one,
but two Xweetoks come prancing up her walkway.
"Well, Bethany, this is certainly a surprise."
"Mom," I proclaimed proudly, "This is..."
"Seth," Rat interrupted.
I gave him a confused look. "Seth?" I repeated.
He nodded. "I've always liked that name, and
I think it fits."
I grinned. He was right. It did fit his new flashy
"Nice to meet you Seth," my owner greeted him
warmly. "Are you here to stay for long?"
"Well," Seth began shyly, "I don't really have
anywhere else to stay."
"What about your owner?"
"I don't have one."
"So I thought we could take him in," I blurted.
My owner's eyes widened but she didn't say anything.
She only looked from Seth to me, and from me to Seth. Then a slow smile spread
over her lips, and my heart soared.
"Welcome to the family, Seth," she said.
And that's how Seth the starry Xweetok, once
my arch enemy, then my best friend, became my loving brother.