Saga of the Pink Uni
The Pink Uni who manages the Adoption Center at the Pound hadn’t always been there. Even though most pets know her as being always at the Adoption Center, she only dropped into the scene a couple of years ago. And this is her story.
“Emma, does this look good on me?” Starry asked. She twirled around in her new outfit.
The pink Uni looked at her sister, who had combined a hideous costume with a red shirt and pink shorts, and to top it all off, a seasonal hat.
Emma tried to regain herself from saying anything mean to her sister, who looked so excited she might burst.
“Yes, Starry, it looks... wonderful,” she managed.
The blue Uni smiled and ran back to her room to try on more clothes. She opened her door carefully to make sure that no more costumes would spill out, and Emma sighed.
Ever since the two Unis had been little, they’d been expected to carry on with their parents’ store – Unis’ Clothing. Their Mom and Dad were beginning to tire of managing it, and profits were struggling. Since Emma was the oldest, Mom wanted her to take charge first, which would mean she would have to start working in less than a year.
And for about five years, Emma had dreaded that day.
The truth was, Emma hated clothes. She’d rather go barefoot than wear a pair of high-heeled shoes, and she’d rather shiver than put on one of Starry’s scarves. When the two Unis had been little, it had been Starry who’d tried on each single piece of extra clothing that had come from the shop, and it had been Emma who would have to look up from a book and give her approval.
Each Saturday, when Mom and Dad left the girls to run the shop, Emma managed the register while Starry helped customers try on outfits. Emma was always dying to leave early, whereas Starry stayed after hours to suit customers’ needs.
But even through the years, their parents had overlooked Emma’s apathy to clothes and kept talking about the prospect that she would continue with Unis’ Clothing.
Emma knew she had to do something soon, before it was too late. And as Starry came out of her room in another bulky costume, Emma resolved that she would take care of this once and for all.
“Back again, Emma?” the blue Eyrie asked. Tom managed the Pound, and he oversaw all employees in the Adoption Center department. Emma got to the Pound surprisingly early that day, as she only had to walk from her house in the Bazaar to Neopia Central. She often volunteered after school and on the weekends. It was the only thing that didn’t make her feel like she had to live up to something all the time.
“Yes, Tom, are you surprised?” Emma asked, laughing. She picked up the clipboard on the table to sign herself in. Tom smiled and turned away to talk to a couple of entering adopters.
“Tom?” Emma asked when he was done. She put on her most ingratiating face. “Tom, today... would you mind if I manned the counter?”
“The counter?” Tom said. Emma knew what he was thinking. The counter was the most esteemed job in the place, and Emma had only ever seen Tom run it. To do so, he had to greet all new customers and hand out sheets of paper for them to fill out, make sure each adoption was legal, and keep down the crowds.
“Well,” Tom said. He looked like he was thinking hard. “Since today is in the middle of the week, and because there probably won’t be that many people, I’ll let you do it. But ONLY today!” he called after her as she ran off to greet a few customers.
“Well, what are you looking for?” the Uni asked a teenaged girl. The girl nodded thoughtfully.
“I was thinking... a pet with wings,” she said. “With a fun attitude. I don’t really care about the pet being painted, or having a good name. I just want him to be happy.”
Emma smiled. “Don’t worry, we have many pets here who fit your description.” She began to lead the girl to a few cages.
“How about... Ng?” she asked. Ng123506887 was a yellow Scorchio with a ‘fiery’ personality, as Emma liked to describe him. Ng began flapping his wings upon seeing the girl.
“Oh, he’s gorgeous,” the girl said. She paused. “I’ll take him!”
Ng flew up into her arms, and the girl handed Emma the appropriate amount of Neopoints. Emma smiled as she saw the new family out of the shop, and placed the Neopoints in the register.
“How is everything going?” Tom said. Emma jumped.
“Tom!” she said. “You just seem to pop up everywhere.”
He ignored her last statement. “That girl sure looked happy,” he said.
“She was,” Emma agreed. “That’s my favorite part of this job. Seeing an owner walk away with a new Neopet... both of them look so fulfilled.”
“Emma, I was thinking -” Tom began. A few Neopians walked into the center, and Emma rushed over to greet them. She handed each one a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions, and turned back to Tom.
“Yeah?” she said.
Tom smiled and waved his hand.
“Never mind,” he said. “Carry on.”
It was well past sunset when Emma trekked back to their home. The walk seemed much longer at night. When she reached her house, she was surprised to see that all the lights were on.
'What’s going on?' she thought. She pushed open the door and stepped inside.
“EMMA!” a voice said. Emma cringed. It was her mother, who appeared right in front of the door.
“What were you doing out so late?” she asked. “We’ve been worried sick about you.”
“Mom, I’m sorry-” Emma said. “It’s only ten o’clock-”
Her mother sighed exasperatedly and led Emma to the living room. Sitting on one of the couches was... her father. Emma groaned.
“Emma,” he said. “Take a seat.”
The Pink Uni sat down reluctantly on their Furry Sofa.
“Dad, what is this about?” she asked. “Because it’s not that late, and I don’t think-”
“Emma,” her father said. “We’re concerned.”
“Concerned? About what?”
“About this situation,” her mother said. Before Emma opened her mouth again, her mother continued. “This isn’t just because of tonight. For the past couple of months, you’ve been coming home late. You’ve been shirking your responsibilities at the shop.”
“I-” Emma began, but her mother held up a hoof.
“I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “Starry has told us that you leave the shop early and arrive late. Your sister is always setting the right example, you know. She helps the customers, she cleans up the shop, and she’s always ahead of the game-”
Emma stood up desperately. “Well, why don’t you just abandon me or something?” she said. “You OBVIOUSLY prefer her better!” And she stormed off to her room.
The next morning, Emma didn’t talk to either of her parents before leaving the house. Right after NeoSchool, she ran to the Pound. Tom was waiting at the counter when she arrived.
“Hello, Emma,” he said. He peered at her face. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Emma said shortly. She grabbed a clipboard and walked over to the cages. She began filling cups of food and water. Much of the water she poured slopped all over the bottom of the cage, and Tom quickly grabbed her hand before she could fill more.
“Emma, come over here,” he said. He led her over into a corner of the shop, and motioned for another volunteer to get the food and water.
Emma almost felt like crying. She knew what was going to happen. She was going to be fired. Well, at least she could always work at Unis’ Clothing. The thought almost made her sick.
“Emma,” he said.
“What?” the Uni asked. “Did my parents come talk to you, too? Am I ‘shirking my responsibilities’ here as well?”
“What?” Tom said. He looked genuinely confused. “No, Emma. What’s wrong? What happened?”
“Nothing,” Emma said, and Tom continued after hesitating.
“Emma,” he said. “You know I’ve been running this place for years. Almost longer than I can remember.” He laughed quietly. “But I’m getting too old for this place. And I’m looking for a replacement.”
Emma looked up, scared. “What, Tom?” she said. “That means everything will change! Nothing will be the same. You can’t do this, you can’t!” She tried to pull out of his grasp, but he held on.
“And I want you to replace me,” he said.
Emma burst into their Neohome a couple of hours later. She had never felt more excited in her life.
“Mom? Dad?” she said. She paused. “Starry?”
“What is it, honey?” her mother asked. She appeared out of the kitchen, with a rag around her shoulders. “What do you need?”
“Mom, I’m sorry,” Emma said. “I’m sorry for everything I said last night. But I have a question. Can I talk to you and Dad really quickly?”
“I’m kind of busy,” her mother said.
“But this is really important,” the pink Uni said. Her mother sighed before calling Emma’s father.
“Honey!” she called. “Come down to the living room.”
Emma took a seat and waited for both of her parents to arrive.
“Mom and Dad,” she said. “I have something to tell you.”
Both of them looked quickly at one another.
“It isn’t bad,” Emma said. “I wasn’t expelled or anything. I just – something important happened to me today. And I want to tell you about it, because I think the timing is really great.” She took a deep breath. “I’ve been offered a job.”
Her mother looked confused. “Honey, we have a job for you. You’re going to work at Unis’ Clothing. We’ve planned this out!”
“Mom,” Emma said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but I HATE clothes. I can’t stand them.”
Her mother and father looked shocked.
“But the reason I haven’t told you this is because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. I mean, have you seen my room? I have one T-shirt, and that’s it!”
“Emma, where is this job?” her father asked.
“It’s at the Pound,” Emma said. “I’ve been working and volunteering there for a couple of years now, and I love it. Tom, the blue Eyrie, is retiring-”
“Tom?” her mother asked. “I love Tom! He was the one who helped me out so many years ago...”
“Yes, Tom is retiring,” Emma said. “And I want to help out Neopets and Neopians like he did. I want to help all the pets who have been abandoned, and lead them to the perfect home. I know the pay isn’t that great, but I can manage.
“...and,” she continued, as her father began to speak. “I know someone who can take over Unis’ Clothing.”
“Who is that?” her Dad asked.
“Starry,” she said. “She’s perfect for the job. And you know it. And if you need me to – I can help out there sometimes too. And I’ll help you guys manage the money and everything, because I know this might be hard on you.”
“Well, darling,” her mother said, with a glance at her father, who nodded. “I think we both think that this is what’s right for you. And we only want to make you happy.”
Emma smiled. “Thanks, guys,” she said, and pulled them into a hug.
“How about a Mynci?” Emma asked as she picked up her clipboard. The boy shook his head.
“I want something that can swim,” the boy said. “I live in Maraqua, so it’s kind of necessary.”
“Ah,” Emma said. “I see. Well how about a Peophin? It’s hard for Peophins to walk, but I’d say that they can swim better than any Neopet.”
“That sounds great!” the boy said. After they’d picked out his pet – a red Peophin, he thanked the Uni.
“What’s your name, again?” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be back.”
“My name’s Emma,” the Uni said. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back too.”
Thanks to everyone who encouraged me, and to all of you who are reading this! I appreciate any comments or suggestions.