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The Truth about Being Popular


by neo_star_queen

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First, I want to ask you a question; how many stories have you seen where the poor shy new pet gets bullied by the popular pet, and then "wins" in the end? Like a zillion, right? Ugh, I detest those! Story after story about how the poor, ugly basic-colour pet gets teased by the popular pet painted Faerie or Lost Desert, or whatever. Stereotyping, much? We're not all like that! People will look over the tops of the latest issue of the Neopian Times and snigger at me; how do you think that makes me feel? Didn't think about it, did you? Do you think we got popular because we were mean to everyone? No! Those people are just… mean! But I'll save some for the story… yes, I've finally decided to do something about it and tell MY side of the story. OUR side of the story. However, I'm not the best writer, so I asked my friend, an owner, to write it for me. So read this, and think about who you're calling mean, hmm?

     ***

     Melissa, called Mel by her friends, one of the most popular girls at Pawspring Neoschool, and definitely the most popular Island Aisha, had endured a horrible night filled with horrible dreams. She had gone to sleep late because she had been reviewing applications for her owner's private beauty contest winners, storytelling competition winners, gallery champions, all around we're-good-at-everything guild. After rejecting the last one ("CAN I PLZZZ JOIN UR GUILD I WON THE COCONUT EATING CONTEST AND I NEED NPZ") she had dragged her feet to her Heart Shaped Bed (complete with Pretty Pink Pillows, a fuzzy pink blanket and an oak wood headboard) and fallen asleep at once.

     Immediately, her head had been filled with nightmares. Visions of failing Home Economics and losing the respect of her peers, forgetting her lines in the upcoming school play, not raising enough funds for the Art Club in the bike wash… it was a lot of stress to put on one person, but people expected her to do all of it because she always did, and they were used to seeing her shine. She couldn't let all those people down!

     Mel sighed and rubbed her eyes, glancing at the alarm clock beside her. 8:30. Yes, that was nice- WHAT!? School was starting in 10 minutes!

     "Oh, I'm going to be late!" cried Mel, throwing off her blanket and leaping out of bed. She shoved her toothbrush into her mouth, threw her notebooks into her book bag, and started pulling on her clothes. She was good at multitasking.

     5 minutes later, she looked as good as she always did. She stood on 2 feet, like the Royal Aishas. That day she was wearing shiny gold earrings on her second pair of ears, a fresh red flower on her neatly combed auburn hair, a dark purple sweater and a blue knee-length skirt. She smiled. Perfect. But, there was something missing…

     Socks! Of course! She flew to the closet. "Socks, socks…" All she could find was a red sock with gold stripes, and a green sock with blue Kadoaties. How tacky. She grimaced. She could wear sandals… no, it was much too cold for that. There was only one thing to do. She pulled on the odd pair of socks, grabbed her bag and rushed to the front door. Her owner was already gone, off bright and early to restock at the toy shop. If you wanted to be rich, you had to do a lot of hard work. Mel put on her tall black boots. At least she could avoid total embarrassment, except in gym class. And she'd think up a story then. Right now, she had to get to school!

     ***

     "You're late, Melissa," squawked her first block Neopian History teacher, Mrs. Orangefreeze. The old Lenny squinted at Mel through her glasses as the Aisha hurried (gracefully, of course) into class.

     "You're late, Mel," repeated her best friend Celia as she sat down in her desk.

     "I'm fashionably late," replied Mel. "What are we doing right now?"

     "Marking homework," answered the Faerie Draik. "I'm doing so bad in this class…"

     As Mel took out her notebook, she heard 2 pets in the row diagonal from her whispering: "I can't believe she came in late and all Mrs. Orangefreeze said was, 'You're late, Melissa." "I know, can you believe it? It's soooo unfair… if it was me, I would've gotten detention." "I hate those popular pets, they think they can get away with anything…"

     Mel fumed silently as she flipped to last nights homework. How was it her fault that Mrs. Orangefreeze had let her off easy?

     "Question #6," said Mrs. Orangefreeze. "When and how was Tyrannia discovered? Melissa, do you have the answer to this one?"

     The Aisha scanned her sheet. "Umm… on the 20th day of the Month of Running, a large earthquake left a giant crevice in the Ice Caves, and on the 21st day Tyrannia was discovered through the crack."

     "Yes, very good Mel."

     "I can't believe she thinks she can be smart and pretty," commented a Wocky to the left of our protagonist to her friend, apparently under the impression that Mel either had no ears or no heart. "You can be smart, or you can be pretty, not both."

     Mel rolled her eyes in disbelief. Now who was splitting the school into stereotypical groups?

     ***

     When the bell rang at exactly 10:00 sharp, Mel quickly shouldered her bookbag and stood, eager to get to her locker. It was Tadakai's birthday, one of her friends, and Mel, Celia and a few of their other friends had stayed late at school yesterday to plaster her locker door with birthday cards and real flowers. The Aisha waited for Celia to pack up, and then they both strode quickly down the hallway.

     They pair arrived just in time. Faranilla, a rainbow Gelert, and Rishidori, a striped Eyrie, were already there. Rishidori was leaning against her own locker, whistling off-key, while Faranilla giggled. Mel and Celia dropped their bags and assumed casual positions just as Tadakai came around the corner.

     The tall shadow Cybunny took one look at her locker and grinned. The red dyed fur hanging in front of her left eye swung to one side as she bounded up, a huge smile on her usually cool visage. "Aww guys, you didn't need to go through all the trouble!"

     "Of course we did," commented Mel. She gave the Cybunny a hug. "You're our friend."

     "Yeah, and you were dropping hints all over the place," grumbled Rishidori, but she was smiling.

     "So do you like it?" blurted out Faranilla, her tail sweeping from side to side in joy.

     "No duh!" exclaimed Tadakai. She pulled all of them into a group hug. "You're the best friends I could ever wish for."

     Over Tadakai's shoulder, Mel noticed that a few pets had slowed down to watch them. When they saw Mel looking, they quickened their pace, but all 5 friends heard bits of their conversations:

     "Sure wish I was popular, then I'd have a ton of people decorating my locker on my birthday…"

     "-And all the times they called each other friends. They hardly know each other!"

     "Just because popular pets stick together."

     "Making it a spectacle too! They're just trying to make us jealous, staging a big birthday surprise for everyone to watch… once again proving to us that they're supreme…"

     Mel rubbed her forehead. She was starting to get a headache, even though she was used to this sort of talk. Today seemed to be particularly bad though, as if it was 'try-to-get-Mel-mad day.' She wouldn't have put it past some of the pets in the school to plan something like that.

     Rishidori growled, leaving her spot against the locker to stand up properly. "If there's one thing I hate-" she started hotly.

     "Rish," said Tadakai sharply. She glared at the lingering spectators and they scattered.

     Mel heard sniffling behind her, and she turned around. She was shocked to see Celia blinking furiously, her eyelids working overtime as she tried to keep back a few rebellious tears. Her beautiful wings drooped as she quickly wiped her cheeks.

     "Aww, come on, Celia," soothed Mel, putting one comforting arm around Celia's frail shoulders. "Don't let them get to you."

     "They don't know what they're talking about," added Tadakai. "You know what's true, and we know what's true, and that's good enough."

     "I know, I know," gulped the Draik. "I know I'm being stupid. I just… I dunno, I guess it just hurts to think that almost the whole school believes all these rumours about us. Why did we have to be popular? I wish I could come to school and walk through the hallways with you guys without anyone sending nasty looks our way, or whispering about us behind our backs. It seems like everyone knows what's going on in my life when I don't even know their name. I just want to be able to have a good time…"

     There was an awkward silence. Faranilla placed a paw on Celia's knee consolingly.

     "I'm sorry," choked Celia, trying to smile as she rubbed her eyes. "I'm ruining your birthday surprise."

     Mel linked her free arm around Rishidori's, who linked her arm though Tadakai's. Faranilla, the only pet in the group who walked on all fours, bounded to Celia's side. "Come on, let's all go get ice cream bars from the school shop," suggested Mel cheerfully. The others voiced their agreement, and they walked together through the hallway, deserted after Tadakai had glared, no one to shoot nasty looks at them or spread rumours.

     ***

     Mel scanned the cafeteria and smiled when she saw Celia and Rishidori waving at her. She waved back in return and walked over to their table, careful to keep her tray balanced so that her tomato soup didn't spill.

     "Hey guys," she said as she sat down beside Celia. "Are Tadakai and Fara still at class?"

     "Yup," answered Rishidori. She popped upon the top of her Neocola can before continuing, "Tadakai's partner blew something up in chemistry, so she's cleaning up in the washroom. And no, I wasn't her partner," she added, "although had I wanted to, I could've blown something up too. And Fara offered to show the new girl in her math class around. She's eating lunch with us today."

     A few minutes later, Faranilla came up to the table. "Hey," she said brightly, "everyone, this is Ashley!"

     The new pet was a Kyrii, standing behind Faranilla and smiling at Mel. She had a neatly combed, glossy Starry coat. As she turned her head, her beautiful blue mane fanned gently to one side, as if there was somehow wind in the still cafeteria room. She wore perfectly applied dark red lipstick and black mascara, a red tank top and grey pajama pants.

     "Hey," she said, taking a seat beside Rishidori. Mel and Celia moved over to allow Faranilla to sit down.

     "Hey, welcome to Pawspring," Mel greeted her in a friendly way.

     The new pet sighed. "I suppose I'll get used to it here. It seems to be a rather boring school, no offense to you guys. And I hate having to make a new reputation for myself out of scratch."

     Faranilla blinked. "Reputation?"

     "Yah. I was the most popular girl at my old school, and here I'm just another nobody! Well, that'll change…"

     Rish raised her eyebrows, but since she was sitting beside Ashley, the Kyrii didn't see her. No one commented. Ashley leaned over the table and glimpsed into Mel's bowl. "Tomato soup," she said approvingly, "very healthy. Maybe I should get some. I'm definitely not getting any of the spaghetti and meatballs, that stuff is so fattening!"

     Celia looked insecurely at her own dish of spaghetti. Mel kicked her lightly under the table.

          A rather irritated looking shadow Cybunny came up to their table. Tadakai. She had done her best to wash the thick purple liquid from chemistry class out of her sparkly, multi-colour shirt, but a large dark stain still covered part of it. "Hey guys," she said without looking at them, "I'm gonna go get lunch and then I'll be right back." She left to line-up.

     As soon as she was out of hearing distance, Ashley leaned over again and whispered, "Totally don't let her sit with us! Did you see that big purple stain on her shirt? Obviously she should keep a few extra outfits in her locker! And her mane was covered in some sort of disgusting goop! It was so tangled!"

     Rish leaned forward as well, and hissed, "That happens to be our friend Tadakai."

     "Her partner in chem. exploded a project," explained Celia.

     Ashley paused. Then she leaned back nonchalantly and said coolly, "Oh." Just, 'oh.'

     A few minutes later, Tadakai came back with her tray of spaghetti and Neocola. She plopped down beside Rishidori and sighed.

     "Not the best birthday ever, huh?" asked Rish sympathetically.

     Tadakai smiled. "It's not going too bad."

     "I love your shirt!" exclaimed Ashley suddenly. "The way that the spot covers the other rainbow colours is really very unique and… totally cool!"

     Tadakai looked at her. "Uhh… thanks." She glanced at Mel.

     "Oh," said Mel quickly, "Tadakai, this is Ashley. She's new at Pawspring. Fara's showing her around."

     "Hello Ashley," Tadakai said with a half-smile. The Kyrii smiled back, and if she had noticed Tadakai's lack of enthusiasm, she didn't show it.

     They ate in silence for a few minutes. Then Ashley stood up and said, "I think I'll go get some of that tomato soup. Don't ditch me, okay guys?" She giggled, as if that was a totally ludicrous idea. Rishidori mock giggled; Tadakai nudged her. Ashley then walked off like a model, her tail swishing from side to side.

     "Okay, let's ditch her," Rishidori said, once the Kyrii was gone.

     Celia bit her lip. "That's the type of thing that she'd do though. Are we really like her?"

     "Hey, we're not ditching her because we're too good for her," Rishidori countered, "we're ditching her because… well yeah, we are ditching her because we're too good for her! But probably everyone in this school is too good for her, come on. What a spoiled brat."

     "She was rather annoying," agreed Tadakai, "but I think anyone, regardless of what they think of everyone else, would hate to be left all alone on their first day at a new school."

     "It'd serve her right," grumbled Rish.

     Faranilla's ears drooped. "Sorry guys, I didn't know she'd be such a bother."

     "That's alright," Mel comforted her. "It's only one day, after all. We don't have to sit with her tomorrow."

     "We can introduce her to some new people, and maybe she'll make new friends," added Celia.

     "My dear, naïve friend," sighed Rishidori, "that's not going to work. You heard what she thinks of the people in our school. Apparently, we're the only ones worthy of hanging out with her, because we're 'popular'. The only way to get her to stop clinging to us is to hurt her pride."

     Faranilla opened her mouth to say something, but Celia quickly hissed, "Shh, she's coming back!"

     Ashley came back and set down her bowl of tomato soup. "So," she gushed, "who wants to hear about the incredibly revolting outfit I just saw and totally made fun of?"

     ***

     Mel waved goodbye to Ashley at last as she, Tadakai and Faranilla headed into the gym. When they entered the locker room, Mel sighed in relief. "Did that lunch break seem excruciatingly long to anyone else?"

     "I hope we never have to spend time with Ashley again," said Faranilla in a sort of guilty way. "Is that bad?"

     "Not at all," Tadakai reassured her, "in fact, I wish the same thing."

     Mel dumped her book bag, sweater and skirt into the bottom of her locker. Then she remembered her almost-knee-high boots. They were doing gymnastics today, so how was she to explain her shoddy choice of socks? Remorsefully, she pulled off her boots and shoved them into her locker as well.

     "Those are really nice boots," someone commented behind her. Mel turned around. The owner of the voice, a shy pink Ruki, waved nervously. "Umm, hi."

     "Thank you," said Mel, smiling. She swung the locker door closed and did the combination on her lock.

     The Ruki seemed a bit braver. "Do you mind telling me where you bought them? I want to buy a pair for myself."

     "Oh…" Mel paused, wondering how to put her answer kindly. "W-ell… they only come in pairs. I don't think they have any for 4-legged pets. Sorry."

     "O-oh," said the Ruki, looking very disheartened. "Okay. B-bye."

     Mel, Faranilla and Tadakai walked out of the locker room together. "Nice socks," observed Tadakai. "The newest fashion in Faerieland, right? Stunning, the amazing ideas those Faeries come up with. You're a real trendsetter, Mel."

     The Aisha grinned. "Of course, dahling," she said in a funny accent, "I know fashion like the back of my paw." Trust Tadakai to come up with a good excuse.

     The trio passed a small cluster of girls, and Mel was shocked to see the pink Ruki from earlier in the middle of the group, crying. "And she s-said," sobbed the Ruki, "that pets with 4 feet were ugly, and they didn't deserve to have nice clothes!" The group of girls 'aww-ed' consolingly.

     "Oh my Mumbo Pango," growled Mel through gritted teeth, "the things these people come up with. I just said that the shop didn't have boots fitted for Rukis! Is that so wrong? It's the truth! Why would I diss 4-legged pets if I hang out with Fara? No offence, Fara."

     "It's really annoying," agreed Faranilla, not insulted.

     Mel bent over to touch her toes, starting her warm-up routine. She let out a sigh as the ends of her paws grasped her tacky socks. Why did everyone have it out for the 'popular' pets? Why did everyone judge her, and why would anyone want to be popular if this was how they treated the pets they seemed to admire?

     ***

     Mel locked the door behind her and stepped gratefully into her house. She took off her dark red jacket and hung it up in the closet. Upon hearing the door close, Mel's owner came up to her.

     "Hi there," the girl said cheerfully. "Have you had a good day?"

     "Mmf… I've had better," said Mel. "But it's alright, really. How about you?"

     "I've had a great day! Restocking just went wonderfully for me, I managed to make a lot of Neopoints! I've got a snack and some hot chocolate for you in the kitchen."

     "Thanks, but I'm not all that hungry." The Aisha took a few books out from her bag and said, "I guess I'll go do some homework."

     "Alright, dear."

     Mel hurried up the stairs and into her lavishly furnished room. As she flipped open her math textbook, she noticed a torn-out page from a cute notebook. "This isn't mine," she murmured, then realizing it had a message written on it, she read the note out loud to herself. "Hi Mel, I'm Fenitri. I sit a few seats away from you in math class." Mel paused, trying to remember who Fenitri was. When she had the image of a plain blue Shoyru in her mind, she continued reading. "I just wanted to say hi, since I'm new and don't know many people at Pawspring. You seem really nice, and you're good at math. Someone told me that you like The Hikalakas and Broccoli and Cheese Pizza. Same here! It might not be true, but if it is, that's pretty cool. Well, hope we can talk sometime!"

     Mel, who did indeed like The Hikalakas and Broccoli and Cheese Pizza, smiled. She read the note again and her smile broadened, already picturing Fenitri cheering in the crowds of the next Hikalakas concert with Fara, Tadakai, Rish, Celia and herself.

THE END

Author's note: Mel and all the other characters are not actually real Neopets. I just made them up.

Protagonist's note: Don't listen to her, my friends and I are as real as anyone else!

 
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