Of Draiks and Morphing Potions
“Wow, I love your Draik. It’s my dream pet!”
I jumped back as a young girl suddenly stopped in front of me and my owner. She was wearing a bright pink shirt with some pop star’s face plastered over the front I occasionally heard my own owner griping about, and a too-white skirt. Trailing behind her was a green Lupe, his fur matted and clinging to a thin frame that screamed “underfed”. I gave him a sympathetic glance that he returned with a half-hearted smile.
“Thanks,” my owner replied with a thin smile, stepping around the girl quickly and giving me the hurry-up-or-they’ll-keep-talking look. I followed dutifully, cringing as the girl leaned towards me with wide eyes filled with greed. We walked briskly through the crowded marketplace, sometimes stopping at a shop to buy a cheap codestone or two. I let out a breath of relief as the shops slowly melted away to reveal clusters of small neohomes crowded together along crooked streets.
We were almost to our neohome when we were stopped again.
“Wow, nice Draik. I’ll trade you it for my decent-named green Cybunny.”
“She’ll never be up for trade,” my owner snapped, grabbing my arm and pulling me up our walkway.
“Well, your Draik is ugly anyways! I could trade for better!”
I cringed, and let out a breath of relief when the front door snapped shut.
“Ignore it,” my owner said flatly, throwing her purse onto the couch. “Don’t let them get to you.”
“I know,” I replied tiredly. We went over this every night, yet it didn’t let the comments referring to me as if I was an item for trade, or the hurtful insults that sometimes followed my owner’s refusal, sting.
“I’m serious, Aratheya. You’re not an it. You’ll always be Aratheya to me. Remember that.” My owner looked me straight in the eye, willing me to deny it. I squirmed uncomfortably and looked down at my toes with a mumbled agreement.
Finally my owner looked away. “What do you want for dinner anyway?” she asked, pulling open cupboards in the large kitchen. “I’m thinking... spaghetti.” The box of dried spaghetti rattled ominously as she let out a wicked grin.
“I would never trust you with a stove and pot of boiling water,” I teased, snatching the box away. “I’ll cook the dinner, and you’ll set the table.”
Her face fell, but she obliged, taking out the plates and silverware and setting them onto the placemats with a stubborn clatter. “Happy?” she asked sarcastically.
“Morning, Ara,” my owner greeted me the next morning with a yawn. She sat at the worn dining table with a hot cup of tea between her hands. “I got up early and decided to cook you breakfast for once. Hope you’re ok with Ummagine Tea,” she joked. “The pancakes didn’t turn out so well.”
I eyed the tea dubiously. “I’ll have a cup, but let’s go out to eat this morning too.”
My owner looked up. “You sure?”
“Yeah.” I grimaced. “We don’t seem to get out that much any more, do we?”
She shook her head and pulled out her coat from the closet. “Where do you want to go?”
“Umm, how about the coffee shop? Or maybe the neolodge or the bakery.”
“Let’s go to the bakery. The neolodge is always so loud and crowded, and tea is making me kind of queasy,” my owner replied, shoving her cup away from her.
I picked up my own untouched cup of tea and dumped it in the sink before linking arms with my owner and steering her towards the front door. “Well, hurry up! We don’t want the bread to get cold while we sit here chatting about bad tea!”
“Well, you ungrateful little...”
We laughed, teasing each other as we strolled down the paths towards the bakery. It was still early, and not many Neopians were out yet, so we weren’t stopped by anyone asking to trade. My spirits had lifted monumentally, and I really believed everything was going to turn out well.
“Yo,” the shopkeeper greeted us as we walked into the shop.
“Hello, breadmaster,” my owner said politely before turning to look at the selection of food.
“Looks strong... has nice stats. Nice color, plus it’s a Draik...”
I turned abruptly to find a guy studying me intently as he muttered to himself. I shifted uncomfortably under his gaze and stepped towards my owner.
“Oh,” my owner said simply as I tapped her on the shoulder, still looking at the boy. “One moment,” she told me, picking up two Lettuce and Tomato Baguettes and paying for them quickly. Finally she turned to the man. “Can I help you?” she asked, feigning politeness.
“Yes, is your Draik up for trade?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, no.”
I felt relief. I could never stop myself from always assuming the worst whenever that dreaded question came up, and the relief of my owner’s love was the best part of the situations.
“I have an unconverted plushie Yurble,” he shot back quickly as we were about to leave. My owner paused, a very brief pause, but enough of a pause to fill my heart with lead.
“It’s very well named, only four letters.” The boy’s eyes were triumphant, and my own owner’s eyes were uncertain. My throat was dry and closing up, my eyes were on the verge of tears.
“No,” I managed to croak, but neither seemed to hear me as they exchanged names.
“I’m sorry, we must be off.”
My owner grabbed my hand, and led me, back towards home. I stumbled blindly into my room, not bothering to pull up the blinds, where I lay on the bed, motionless and numb with the shock of what had just happened. There had been doubt, doubt where there should have been unwavering assurance. Night had fallen when I finally dragged myself back into the living room. I stood still in the shadows as I watched my owner compose a neomail to the boy we had seen this morning. Judging by the small pile of letters beside her, this wasn’t her first either.
I slipped out the back door, silent as I glided across the moonlit streets with a small sack of neopoints in my hands. I stopped in front of the magic shop, barely recognizing where I was. My stomach rumbled as I stepped inside the brightly lit room with shelves of potions lining the walls.
Most of the shelves were empty, except for the cheap bottles of healing potions nobody who knew any better bought. Even Kauvara had disappeared, most likely to restock the shop. When she finally reappeared, carrying an assortment of junk, I gazed at her with hopeless eyes. I grabbed the first thing I saw her put down, a Green Uni Morphing Potion, and waited until she had returned to her counter.
“I’d like at least 30,436 neopoints for this great item,” she told me dubiously. I knew that they were much cheaper in the normal shops, but I didn’t care. I handed over the neopoints and stumbled out of the shop. I looked up at the bright moon hanging in the sky, and drank.