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This Old Neohome


by willow_lightfeather

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It had been three days since we came home from a month on the sea to find our home gone, completely washed away in a hurricane that had hit only a week before. Mom was standing over the remains of our garden. With her hands resting on her hips she quietly surveyed the damage. The ground was still soggy and where the house had once stood on stilts there was nothing but a huge, muddy puddle. Mom had not said a word since we arrived that morning. She hadn't said much of anything since we got back; just took one look at what we had once called home and turned towards town to get us a room at the Neolodge. I looked past her to the only remaining structure still standing. On a hill only a little ways away was the outhouse. The floodwaters had not touched it. Ironic that all that was left was our bathroom. I smirked in spite of the situation and my brother Binky, a red Mynci, following my gaze and sensing the humor in the situation, also cracked a small smile. Our home had never been much, just three rooms; a living room, a dining room, and a bedroom that we all shared. There was never much of a need for a fancy house. We were never home and when we were it was usually only for a couple of days or a week at the most. Just then Mom sighed and slowly she turned to face us.

      "Well…" She spoke very quietly, looking us each in the eyes as she let out another sigh. "We'll have to rebuild. I have some money saved up, and there's some stuff I could sell. We should be able to swing it." It was all she said, but it was enough. From the look on her face I could see that we had a lot of work ahead of us.

      The last four months had been busy, but looking back, it was probably some of the most fun I had ever had. When word got around that Mom was trying to rebuild the house everyone seemed to want to chip in. An old friend of hers from Terror Mountain was remodeling her home and sent us about half of her old furniture to sell in a massive garage sale. Another friend drew up a new plan for the house which included two extra rooms. Mom and I were to have our own room while the boys had their own as well. There was even a lookout tower on top with views in every direction. Nowadays it's my Mom's favorite spot to go and read. Some of our neighbors helped us to dig and pour a foundation so that, should another storm come, our new house would be safer. The framing of the house went up in a matter of days, and before a month was out it was ready for furniture. Mom spent hours at the bazaar, browsing furniture shops and the like, picking out lighting, sofas, tables, beds, mirrors; everything our new house would need. She had the time of her life designing each room one at a time, and little by little every one of them came to life.

      It was on a warm sunny day, while I was reading in the backyard that mom called us all into the living room. As we all sat in our new Nova sofa, one of our favorite pieces of furniture, Mom was positively beaming. With a deep breath and a wide smile she announced "It's finished." It took us all a moment to understand what she meant, but one by one the lights went on in our heads and we understood.

      "You mean the house?" my brother Nimbus, a cloud Scorchio, asked, looking around. "It's done?" Mom nodded enthusiastically. Bing, a pirate Aisha, immediately jumped up and started running around the house inspecting every nook and cranny, while Binky smiled and gave Mom a big hug. I stood up and took a good look around me, taking it all in. It was finally done. It was a house; not just a house, but a home. It was better than it had ever been before. There were flowers wherever Mom could fit them, and windows everywhere to let in the sunlight. We finally had comfortable chairs and couches to sit in, something we had never bothered with before. There was even a formal dining room table. The outhouse had gotten a makeover as well. Instead of just a tub, a sink, and a toilet there was now a new shower with massaging shower head, a laundry station, two sinks, mirrors, and carpets. Admittedly, it still was not a huge mansion like we had kept seeing in the Neohome Spotlight, but to us it was a castle. I looked down at the coffee table and spied Mom's copies of Neohome Monthly and Better Neohomes. She really had become addicted to designing in the last few months. I wondered what she was going to do next. With the house done what would she have to do with her time? Nimbus had apparently thought the same thing.

      "What are you going to do now, Mom?" he asked. She stopped for a moment and looked at us.

      "You know, I haven't thought about it much." She came over and sat next to me on the couch while Binky jumped into her lap. "However, I did have one crazy idea."

      "What's that?" I asked eagerly. I loved crazy ideas.

      "Well, Addy," she grinned and tweaked my nose, amused by my enthusiasm, "I thought about becoming a neohome designer." We were all a little confused. We had never heard of one of those. Before I could ask what a neohome designer was, Mom explained. "I've noticed that there are a lot of rich Neopians who build huge houses and then have no idea what to do with them, so since I enjoyed designing our house so much, maybe I could help them design theirs. What do you think?"

      "Well, it's a new idea," Nimbus quipped.

      "Yeah, but that's all it is so far," Mom smiled, "just an idea. Come on, let's go to Patty's and celebrate the house." We all jumped up immediately to put on our shoes. Mom started leasing out a part of our property to a restaurant about a month before to help pay for decorating. The owner was Patty Poppy, a pink Nimmo with the best recipe for barbecued raptraphant leg in all of Neopia. It was one of our favorite places to eat, and it was there that night that I got my great idea. After dinner I snuck my brothers away to our hiding place in one of our gardens. It was concealed by hundreds of bushes of kelp and off in a corner where no one else could hear us. Once we were sure the coast was clear I told them my ingenious idea.

      "I want to enter the house into the Neohome Spotlight, for Mom." Bing jumped up excitedly right away, his grey Aisha ears flapping around behind him as he danced about merrily, truly excited by the plan. Binky was also in full agreement and we shook tails on the matter while Nimbus quickly patted me on the back for my brilliance. Now the only matter was getting it done. That very night Binky drew some pictures of the house while I wrote up a letter to the judging committee. The next morning we popped it all into the mailbox and awaited a reply. It was two weeks before we heard anything.

      "Hey, Addy?" Mom was flipping through the mail while I snacked on some cookies in the dining room.

      "Yeah Mom?" I mumbled through a mouthful.

      "There's a letter for you from…" she squinted to read the writing on the return address, obviously not wearing her glasses. I quickly jumped up from my snack and snatched the letter away and before she could say a word I was closing the door to my brothers' room.

      "Thanks Mom!" I quickly jumped on the nearest bed and tore open the envelope. Bing, Binky, and Nimbus, who had all been playing "Go Flotsam" on the floor jumped up next to me to read over my shoulder as I read aloud.

      "Dear Lightfeather Residence,

     We are delighted to have received your submission into our contest. Your pictures were very nice and we look forward to seeing your home in person. Judges will be by next Tuesday at 3pm NST to take a tour. If this is inconvenient for you please contact our office to reschedule another time.

      Thank You,

      The Neohome Division"

     I reread the letter and my heart sank.

      "They're coming here?" I looked at my brothers. "How do we hide this from Mom?" They shook their heads. This was a dilemma. We wanted to surprise Mom for one thing. For another, we didn't want to disappoint her if we lost. How on Neopia were we going to get her out of the house?

      "I got it!" Binky jumped up triumphantly. "The Wheel of Monotony!"

      "Huh?" We were, to put it lightly, in the dark.

      "Mom goes at least once a week, right?" He was starting to make sense. "Well, we could get Bing to beg her to take him to the wheel and while they're gone we can do the tour! It'll be at least an hour before she gets back."

      "That's brilliant, Binky." Nimbus gave him a strong pat on the back, knocking him slightly off balance. The plan was set. All we had to do was wait till Tuesday.

      "Mom, I really wanna go nooooow," Bing whined, hopping up and down enthusiastically while at the same time giving Mom his most pitiful puppy-dog eyes. I had to admit, Bing was a pro. Mom, who had been trying to read a book, finally groaned and got to her feet.

      "Fine." She grabbed her bag and lawn chair by the door and tossed her book into the bag. "I can read while I'm waiting anyways."

      "Yaaaaaayyyyy!" Bing leapt into her arms and wrapped her neck into a fierce embrace, "I love you Mommy!"

      "I love you too," Mom gasped. "Now stop choking me so we can go." He released his grip and they were off. Bing gave a conspiratorial wink over her shoulder as she shut the door behind her.

      "Okay guys," Binky called. "We've got five minutes to make this place spotless." In record time we had straightened, swept, mopped, dusted, and even washed the windows. Just as we shut the door to the cleaning closet there was a knock on the door. We were all dressed in neat clothes, trying to give the best first impression we could. Checking to make sure we were ready, Binky carefully opened the door and smiled at the two figures that greeted him. One was a tall, bony Kyrii with a big carpet purse and chunky jewelry. She had a pair of round spectacles on her nose and her shoes had neat little bows on them. The other figure was an Elephante with a notepad. He had on a thick pair of glasses and a brown sport coat. He looked like a sportswriter as he scribbled furiously in his notepad.

     "Hello," the Kyrii woman spoke in a very nasal tone, "I am Madame Tulip and this is my associate, Mister Rufus." The Elephante man looked up and nodded.

      "Hi, welcome to our house." Binky smiled and gave a polite bow.

      "Yes yes yes," the Kyrii sneered as she bustled past him into the living room, "Where is your mother, boy?"

      "Uh, she's out at the moment." He was a little unnerved but with an encouraging look from Nimbus he continued on. "Our little brother got sick and she had to take him to the doctor. She was really sorry she couldn't be here."

      "Well." Madame Tulip peered severely over her spectacles down at poor Binky. "Perhaps we should return at a better time."

      "Oh no!" I almost shouted and she spun on me quickly, boring her eyes into me. I gulped nervously. "She wanted us to give you the tour. She said it was okay." She considered me for a moment and then turned to Mr. Rufus. He looked up from his notepad for a moment.

      "I guess we could take a look," she conceded. The three of us breathed a deep sigh of relief. Nimbus started the tour.

      "This is our living room." He waved his hand behind him, indicating the room we were in.

      "Yes, I see that." Madame Tulip shoved past him and began inspecting the room. "An awful lot of flowers for one little room." She wrinkled her nose as she sniffed one of the pots of daisies.

      "W-w-well, Mom likes flowers," Binky stuttered. Mr. Rufus was inspecting the furniture and taking down notes. It continued like that in almost every room; Madame Tulip would nit-pick while Mr. Rufus quietly scribbled. There was a lump in my throat as we reached the lookout tower. I was almost terrified to hear what Madame Tulip would have to say about my Mom's favorite room. Binky, Nimbus, and I stood in nerve-wracking silence while the pair looked over the room. Neither said anything, they just looked. Finally Madame Tulip turned and nodded at us.

      "I believe we have seen enough." With that she and Mr. Rufus made a beeline for the door and were gone. It was only moments later, while the three of us were still standing in the lookout tower calming our nerves, that the front door opened and Mom announced that they were home.

      "Hey, Addy?" Mom came up to me one evening, a few weeks later, while I was reading the articles in the Neopian Times on the couch while my brothers read the comics. I looked up and noticed she had her glasses on and she was holding a slip of paper in her hands.

      "Yeah, mom?"

      "What is this?" She handed me an envelope. The return address said it was from the Neohome Spotlight. I hurried to open it but found it empty. I looked up at my Mom and saw the slip of paper in her hand.

      "What does it say?" I asked cautiously. Obviously we couldn't hide it from her anymore. She cleared her throat and read aloud.

      "Dear Lightfeather Residence,

      On behalf of the Neopets Team Division of Neohomes, it is my privilege to announce that you are the winner of this week's Neohome Spotlight!"

      With that we all jumped up, shouting, hugging, crying, and dancing for joy! We had won!

      "This is the best surprise ever!" Mom cried as she hugged us all and danced around the room. "I think this is a cause for celebration! Put on your coats, we're going to Patty's."

The End

 
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