A Not-So Grumpy Christmas
Nobody liked Mr. Ross. He was an old, lonely Kougra that lived in a very small house on the outskirts of Happy Valley with nothing to keep him company. Neopets tended to avoid him because he snapped, he showed a negative attitude towards almost everything, and most of all, he hated everyone.
Mr. Ross had a bad reputation throughout Neopia. While not everyone had heard of him, those that had stayed away. They knew that if they were to come close, Mr. Ross would chase them away with a harsh remark or a warning to back off. He scared the younger Neopets, which often made most owners despise him; but his cold heart taught him to not feel any form of guilt.
Christmas was always the Kougra's least favourite time of the year. Come December the first, and he'd already see decorations start to appear, all sorts of people and Neopets alike rushing to get to the Advent Calender first. He would hear from inside his house the screams of excitement and the happy laughter of those around him, and it would make his shoulders tense up with anger. Why couldn't anyone just quiet down for once? It didn't make any sense to him - all the excitement.
Mr. Ross had, of course, grown up without a family. He had been abandoned by his 'loyal owner' at a very young age, left in the snow of Happy Valley to fend for himself. This is where he immediately found a small, empty house which seemed unoccupied; he quickly made it his home. From then on, he had learnt to trust no one, which meant that he never made any friends because he would always tell everyone to leave him alone.
This is why the blue Kougra never understood the concept of Christmas.
He knew that people gave and received presents. He knew that they would get free things from this 'Advent Calender' and share happy memories and laughs in the snow. He knew that unnecessary decorations would suddenly appear everywhere for the entire month.
He just... didn't know why.
So Mr. Ross spent all of his life feeling fed up on Christmas. He'd spend the entire month alone in his house, waiting for the holiday to end, waiting for the new year to begin even though he had nothing to look forward to. Occasionally he would venture out to get a small amount of needed groceries; but then his home would quickly become his hiding place once more, as if he never left.
Yep. Mr. Ross hated Christmas.
One cold December morning (the sixth day of December, to be exact), heavy snow began to fall in Happy Valley. While everyone else hid in their homes or in the famous Ice Caves, Mr. Ross headed out into the harsh weather to get some slushies - maybe ice cream, too.
The striped Eyrie behind the counter of the Slushie Shop gave Mr. Ross a surprised look as he entered, snow stuck in his ruffled blue fur. He shook it off in frustration and headed over, ignoring how her eyes widened as if she hadn't expected him at all. Oh, please. She saw him near enough every two weeks.
"I'll have a Black Cherry Slushie and a Pineapple Slushie, please," he muttered, eyes focused on the wall behind the shopkeeper's head as she stupidly continued to stare.
Finally she snapped out of whatever state she was in. "Are you crazy, sir?" she laughed, and that stirred in Mr. Ross' blood a bit because how dare she talk to him in that way? "It's freezing cold outside, and you're asking for two freezing drinks."
"Well done, Miss Observant," he snapped angrily, growing increasingly impatient. When her previously friendly eyes turned cold, he threw two and a half thousand Neopoints onto the counter to distract her. "There. Just make me the slushies already so I can go home."
The Eyrie huffed but obeyed without another word. The slushies were rushed and the stupid shopkeeper almost forgot to put a lid on the Black Cherry Slushie, but when she was done, she snatched the Neopoints and basically shoved the two slushies into her customer's face.
"There. Have a happy holiday," she growled, her words forced yet dripping with sarcasm.
Mr. Ross just rolled his eyes and left without replying.
He placed the two slushies in the brown shoulder bag that he takes everywhere with him before venturing out into the heavy snowfall. It was becoming something like a blizzard now, with snow almost too thick to walk in and white drops falling everywhere. Mr. Ross had to squint to see where he was going, and his pace was extremely slower than usual due to the fact that he was wading almost shoulder-deep through the freezing white mess.
Suddenly, something barrelled into his side, causing him to stumble a little before regaining his balance and whipping around. Snow flew everywhere as he turned to face whatever had dared to touch him, his lips drawn back in an ugly snarl and his eyes blazing with anger.
At first he saw nothing. Then, right in front of his paws, a small green head popped out of the snow. Mr. Ross blinked snow out of his eyes until he made out a tiny green Zafara, literally up to it's neck in the snow and eyes huge with pure delight.
"Hi there!" the little Neopet squeaked, and Mr. Ross just glared at it, surprised that it hadn't run away already. "I'm Alana. Sorry I ran into you; I was making tunnels in the snow. It's really thick today!"
Mr. Ross growled in disinterest and turned away, deciding to just ignore the stupid little Zafara, and began walking back towards his house. However, he was quickly stopped again when Alana caught up to him and blocked his way, bouncing in front of him - again.
"What's your name?" she asked with bright, cheery green eyes.
"Leave me alone," the Kougra snapped.
Alana tilted her head to one side, clearly confused by his angry words. "Why? It's the season to be happy."
"No, it isn't. I said leave me alone, so go away."
Mr. Ross tried to get past her, but she just kept getting in front of him, a big smile on her face as he grew increasingly more furious. She was younger and therefore a lot faster than him, so it was almost impossible for him to get past.
Eventually he gave up with a hiss of frustration. "What do you want?"
Alana stopped moving, squirming upward until her little arms appeared to rest on either side of her on the surface of the snow. "I wanted to know your name."
"Mr. Ross," he replied grudgingly, his tail lashing from side to side. "Can I go now?"
Alana smiled again. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Ross! I hope you have a wonderful holiday!"
Her words were so sincere that they somehow got to the Kougra. He stopped his movements, frowning at the little Zafara, but she was already bouncing up and beginning to move away.
Against all of his better judgement (and ignoring the voice screaming at him in his head), he called her back. "Hey, Alana, wait."
She stopped and turned, her ears perking up in interest.
"Why did you wish me a happy holiday?" he asked, genuinely confused.
Alana suddenly looked as confused as he was. "Why wouldn't I, Mr. Ross? It's the season to be happy!"
"Why is that?" He couldn't stop the questions now. His mouth was working without his brain letting him think first.
"Because Christmas time is about being happy and caring for everyone around you!" she replied over-excitedly, shifting from foot to foot although the snow prevented her from being able to move much. "You give to the ones you love, and you spend time with your loved ones to have a peaceful holiday. It's all about sharing the love, Mr. Ross!"
Mr. Ross was having a hard time processing her words. All his life, he had never understood the point of Christmas time. Until now, a tiny Zafara comes along and tells him that it's all about giving and caring? He never knew that. He thought it was all about getting, so he never understood the point.
He watched as Alana giggled, still clearly on a happy buzz. "You look so confused, Mr. Ross. Have you never had a Christmas before?"
And Mr. Ross found himself shaking his head, his tail lowering as he realized just how many times he had wasted this holiday. "No. I don't think I have."
"Come with me!" Alana then squeaked, bouncing back to tug on Mr. Ross' blue fur - and, surprisingly, he didn't mind. "Come back with me to my family! They like welcoming pets into the house at Christmas time. We like making everyone happy, so that everyone can feel like they're having a truly great Christmas time!" By now, she was pulling him along through the snow, covering her eyes with her free hand to see through the blizzard. "It isn't Christmas day yet, but we spend the whole month celebrating and on the day we open all the presents under the tree. It's exciting!"
For the first time in his life, Mr. Ross felt a glimmer of warmth in his chest. He didn't have to be alone. There was no fun in being alone on Christmas. Meeting new people and perhaps letting people in would be good for him. He at least needed to give it a try.
He looked down at Alana as she let go and skipped ahead to lead the way, and felt himself begin to smile for the first time in years.
"Hey, Alana?" he called.
She turned around, still smiling. "Yes, Mr. Ross?"
"You can call me Jake."