The Side Effect
In the distance, Parley (a green Xweetok) could hear the ringing of bells, and the sound a students gathering their things and rising from their seats. Pencils dropping onto the ground, papers being scattered... But in her classroom, nobody moved until the teacher dismissed the students.
"Before you go, remember the talent show! It starts tonight at six o'clock, and I hope you'll all be attending!" Ms. Wafer almost sang. She cheerfully raised her hands. "You are all dismissed."
Parley didn't always like how joyful Ms. Wafer, her science teacher, could be. She was an aqua-blue Acara who always dressed in bright colors and did her cherry-colored hair up in curly buns. Sometimes her happiness was annoying, like when Parley was stressed over something. In this case, she was stressed over the talent show. How could Ms. Wafer be so excited for that thing? Maybe because she won't be performing... Lucky her. Parley was performing, though. In front of all the other thousands of neopets who also went to her school. Parents too. If she messed up, she would mess up big time.
Parley's talent was dancing. She was going to perform with her sister, Pretyla, and her two brothers, Donut and Cutey. But perhaps one of her siblings could mess up, not Parley. The embarrassment would be just as bad, followed by teasing from her fellow classmates. If anybody performed a move wrong, nobody was going to forget it. Pretyla was Parley's twin sister. She had beautiful blue hair and turquoise eyes. Parley and Pretyla were the oldest of the siblings. Then came Donut, the white Kougra. Donut was strong and stealthy, but he wasn't all so tough on the inside. Donut was more of the punching-bag type. And last but not least was Cutey, the Shoyru who knew how little boys and girls admired his... his cuteness. Even Hailee, their owner, knew he was adorable, and sometimes fell for his childish tricks.
And it was 4 o'clock now. The show would start in two hours. Parley gathered up all her things and headed out the door of the classroom. She would head home, have dinner, then go back to school at five o'clock, meet her siblings in the cafeteria, practice for the show for half an hour, then wait backstage until it was their turn to go up and perform. It was a lot of pressure for Parley. It was her younger brothers who pushed her and Pretyla into this. They wanted to impress pretty girls of their age. If it hadn't been for them, Parley wouldn't take part in the show at all. "I shouldn't have agreed to this," she mumbled to herself as she left her locker.
Parley and the others waited backstage... The show was going on, but other children were performing. A kid named Scooter with big yellow ears, a girl who called herself Fruity, whose face resembled a fox... And a group of blue boys, all with a band-aid stuck to their foreheads. Parley didn't remember all the neopet breeds... So far, pets had shown their dance-moves, how well they can sing, and magic tricks. Parley didn't think any of the kids were really all that talented, but she could admit that they were entertaining.
"Next up, Parley, Pretyla, Donut, and Cutey performing their talent: Dance," Parley heard a low-pitched voice say. "Come on up, kids! Show us what you got!"
Parley and her siblings were rushed out to the stage. "I don't know if I can do this," Parley thought to herself. She got into position. Then the music started... And so did Parley. She and her siblings wiggled their hips, knelt down on one knee, then rolled to the side. They all got up, bent their elbows and then they slid.
"I can do this!" Parley thought to herself, convinced. She felt her elbows shake and her back flex. The audience was dancing along, laughing in delight, and clapping along to the music.
It was only halfway through that Pretyla fell to the ground beside her. Parley didn't know whether she should continue the dance, stop, or help her up.
But then she did know what to do. Parley froze, and the music stopped. Donut and Cutey exchanged glances. Parley looked down at her younger sister. She lay in an awkward position, her legs twisted together with her arms. Did Pretyla break a bone?
The low-pitched voice from earlier came back. "It looks like a contestant lost her balance," he joked. Oh no... was he making fun of her? "Nice pose, bro."
Pretyla was blushing, embarrassed. Parley doubted she was in pain; she was just too shocked to get up. Too embarrassed. Too humiliated. Parley could hear laughter and giggles sounding from the audience. Somebody hollered, "She looks like a mushroom!"
Parley couldn't help it; she held her fists at her sides and shouted at the man with the low-pitched voice. "You leave her alone, and keep your snobby comments to yourself! Please make them," Parley pointed to the crowd, "stop, too!"
The man looked stunned at her outburst. Parley helped her sister up, and saw tears in Pretyla's eyes. Before Parley could say anything, she ran offstage. "This is all his fault," Parley thought, "that ignorant man who's hosting this useless show."
The man knew she was angry, and knew that this was not supposed to happen. He knew Parley'd made him look bad. So he ended their performance. "And that's it for Parley, Pretyla, Donut, and Cutey!"
And that moment, the one I just explained to you, was the beginning to all Pretyla's teasing. All of it. She used to be the most popular girl in school. Now her reputation went to downhill, and she's worse than a loser.
For the rest of the school year, Pretyla was teased. All because of the talent show. And now, Parley truly regretted attending that thing. "I should have never agreed to it," she said to herself.
One day at school, after the last bell rang, a group of mean Kikos called Pretyla over to their lockers. Parley watched, out of sight.
"Hey, slippy!" said a big red Kiko, with a look of triumph in his eyes. "Get over here, I've got to ask you something, well, Williams over here has to ask you something, but same difference." Pretyla obeyed the Kiko and followed him to a small blue neopet with a band-aid stuck to the side of his head, and big round eyes.
"Yes?" Pretyla asked, shaking.
"Pretyla," said the small Kiko, clearing his throat. "I've known you for a while. And since Valentine's Day is turning up, I was wondering..."
Pretyla's eyes brightened, "...if I would be your Valentine?" She jumped up and down, her tail swooshing back and forth with excitement. "I'd love to!"
"No, ugly. I was wondering if you could make me a batch of cookies to give to Ms. Sweetheart over there. Duh."
Pretyla's bright eyes faded to a dark greyish color. Tears started to well up. All the other boys were bursting out, laughing their guts out. Humiliated, Pretyla ran to the girl's bathroom.
Parley sighed, defeated. How long could Pretyla take this kind of abuse?
Another day (it was a Tuesday, I think) Parley was in the girls' locker room, getting ready for gym. A pink Chomby stole Pretyla's hair brush, taunting her with it. "What, you want to attempt to brush that knotty hair of yours? It's Blue, for Faerieland's sake! What kind of neopet has blue hair?!"
"Please, just give me my brush back," Pretyla begged. "My owner gave me that for my birthday."
"Your birthday, huh? I wouldn't say the day you were born was much of a celebration. You know, I knew you were fake from that day I first met you. With your creepy blue eyes, to your dirty, dung-colored fur."
"Come on, please?"
"I'm not nice to ugly people." The Chomby chuckled. Parley was getting angry now. Just give Pretyla her brush back already!!
"I'll pay you..." The blue Xweetok let her head down low. "Please?"
"S-u-u-u-re. Pay me. What, are you going to give me neopoints? As if; you probably don't even have any!" The Chomby held the green hair brush high in the air with her tail. "How about... you give me your hair!"
Without hesitation, before Pretyla could resist, the pink Chomby chomped down on Pretyla's head. Hard.
"Ah!" Her voice was shaking, and Parley could see tears in her eyes. "Please stop! I just want my brush!"
When the bully let go, a chunk of hair was missing off of Pretyla's head. "Doesn't look like you need the brush anymore, do ya?"
Parley stared at the clump of blue hair, lying on the floor. She looked up. Pretyla was crying.
"Oh, and one more thing." The pink Chomby smiled. "I just need to break this here for you, since you won't be needing this anymore."
The Chomby pressed a strong leg down on the green hair brush, crushing it. The bully then turned and left, leaving Pretyla bald, and without her only birthday gift.
The night before the last day of school, Pretyla had wrapped herself up in a blanket and was crying in the corner of Parley's room. "What is the purpose of life, Parley?"
Parley never thought she would hear Pretyla ask her that. Pretyla already knew the answer, Parley thought. She told her her answer anyway. "The purpose of life is to live it, create your own experiences, and to just enjoy yourself."
"How do you make a good life?"
"Life is what you make it. It is also what you make out of it. To make a good life... Hold on, define good."
"Happy. Strong. Confident. Smart."
"If you want a good life, you must go to school, do your homework, believe in yourself, and... have friends. Play games. But like I said, Life is what you make out of it, and what you make it... You have choices. So... choose to stay in school. Choose to do your homework. Choose to believe in yourself. And... always look on the bright side of things. Don't sweat the small stuff. Have a good attitude."
"Why do we live?"
"Because we want to, of course."
"Are you sure?"
"We live because we have to. Not only for ourselves, but for others too. Remember when Uncle Carl died? Mother wouldn't stop crying. You wouldn't want your friends and family to be sad, right? So we keep on living, and we stay strong."
Pretyla seemed to have wiped most of her tears away. "How do I make all those kids stop picking on me?"
Okay, it was time to get serious. Parley needed to get serious with all her peers, too, but they weren't there for her to explain anything to. "Look, you tripped during a talent show. Is that really enough to tease somebody for, for a whole school year? Apparently it is, because mean kids have been doing it ever since the show ended. But they aren't worth your time. They're mean. I say, we change schools. You can't control the people you hang out with, but you can change the group of people you're around.
"Will you ask?" Pretyla sniffled.
"I will, and our mother will say yes. For sure."
Three months later, Parley sat in a tree and wrote in her diary, "I suggested that we change schools a while back, me and my siblings. We did. The bullying towards Pretyla stopped. Some of the bullies were even suspended! Donut and Cutey never pressured us into anything ever again... And... I think I even saw Pretyla smile. It's been such a long time since she's done that... And if she's happy, I'm happy. Unless of course, she steals my Halloween candy."
Author's note: I don't mean to offend any Kiko or Chomby owners! A bully is based of a person's behavior, not body type.