A pure white snowflake drifted from the skies and landed on the window pane that Kristoff had been staring at for the last half hour.
It promptly melted.
The Cloud Lenny sighed. It was Christmas time again. Many Pets wished and longed and dreamed of being rich for the holiday season, of how happy all the money could make them. Kristoff could tell them otherwise.
Kristoff had been born into wealth, and there wasn't a single Christmas he could remember during which he had been happy. Sure, there was his fifth Christmas, when he got the Moltenore he'd been begging for all year, but even the rare Petpet couldn't bring a lasting smile to his face. It was always the same story: Kristoff's family would take a private boat to the most popular island in Neopia that particular year, and then his parents would frolic away to socialize with their wealthy friends. Since the family was only Kristoff and his parents, that left the Lenny alone with all of his gifts for the few days that they were there.
And now it was about to happen again.
Kristoff strolled into the den where his mother was standing. The Faerie Lenny was directing the servants bustling to and fro as to which of the items they were holding should be packed, and which should be put back. Kristoff stood and watched for a moment with disinterest in his eyes before clearing his throat to speak.
"I'm staying home, in Neopia Central, this holiday."
"Don't be silly, darling," his mother lilted, not taking her attention off of the procession before her. "Go pack your things."
"I'm serious. I'm not going to go with you guys. I really don't like it. I'm going to stay home this year."
His mother looked up with the quintessential look of confusion on her face. A few servants stumbled into each other as the line of movement halted.
"Wh-what do you mean, 'stay home?' How can you stay HERE for the holiday when your father and I are away? It's Christmas!"
"You're right," said Kristoff, taking the opportunity to make his point, "it's Christmas, and we should spend it being happy. I'm not happy when we go away and don't even see each other. I'm old enough to stay here on my own, and I'd rather do that."
"But what are you going to do here? Play cards in the kitchen with the servants? I mean, seriously, Kristoff, what could there possibly be to be done here in Neopia Central, with all the normal Neopians?"
"Normal things, Mother," Kristoff sighed as he rolled his eyes. "Things that people are supposed to do during the holidays. I have friends here, I can visit with them. I'd rather do that than sit around tracing pictures in the sand while you and Father visit your friends. I'm not saying you have to stay too, you know. You visit your friends; I visit mine."
"But Kristoff, Christmas! We are a family! We should be together!"
"Yes, we should."
His mother's face fell as Kristoff gave a pointedly solemn look, then walked away.
Kristoff's parents left the next day after some exchanged apologies for the conversation the day before. None stayed hurt, all was mended, just as usual. Some times the Cloud Lenny wished that they could stay mad for a normal period of time. It might show that they were real, breathing Neopians, and not some sort of perfect robots going about their instructions.
"Well, Kristoff," said Linda, the Fire Acara that worked for his parents as a servant, "I understand why you chose to stay and all, but it will be mighty lonely around here in the mansion; everyone's leaving to spend time with their family and friends."
"Oh I know," Kristoff said with a friendly smile, "and I plan on staying with my friend Trellon and his folks."
Trellon had been Kristoff's best friend since they were little. Trellon's family wasn't rich, and they always had what Kristoff considered normal holidays.
Trellon the Rainbow Skeith opened the door after Kristoff's first knock. He seemed quite excited to have the Lenny over for the holidays.
"We're going to have a great time, Kristoff! I'm sorry things didn't work out with your family this year, but we'll make up for it, right?"
"Of course we will," Kristoff responded with a genuine grin. "So what's the first thing on our agenda?" Trellon's family always did the most fun and rewarding things when they were together for Christmas.
"We're going to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen for a few hours every day!"
Both the activity and the joy it seemed to bring to Trellon's face made Kristoff smile even wider. Being around others and helping those less fortunate was what Christmas and all the other holidays really meant to him. The hours at the Soup Kitchen went quickly, but the grateful smiles that he saw stayed with the Lenny for much, much longer. The rest of the days before Christmas were spent making holiday crafts with Trellon's family.
Early Christmas morning came, crisp and misty, and Kristoff set off with Trellon's family towards the Money Tree. Each of them held multiple packages to set in the shade of the tree, where poorer Neopians waited and hoped and wished that something nice would come for them today. Their wishes were about to be granted, as the soon to be givers had spent the night before wrapping up the things that were nice but that they didn't play with or use anymore, so that others could have them instead.
There were, indeed, small and scattered groups around the tree who stood waiting, blowing on their paws to keep warm. Their faces lit up with joy and relief when Kristoff's group set the packages into their hands and onto the ground. Their thanks and gratitude filled the air with more holiday cheer than a thousand decorated trees could have hoped to.
Celebrating the rest of the day with Trellon's family was even more fun. Trellon's mother had even knitted a scarf for Kristoff as a present, just like he was part of the family.
"Thank you so much," Kristoff beamed as he wrapped it around his neck. "It's so warm, and it was very nice of you to make one for me. You really didn't have to."
"Oh yes, I did," Trellon's mother laughed. "You're a great friend to our son and to our whole family. You're always welcome here, Kristoff!"
Always welcome, Kristoff repeated silently to himself. That's really a nice change.
Kristoff's parents returned the next day, so the Lenny said his goodbyes and gave his thanks to Trellon's family.
The mansion was quiet when he entered. The servants were still gone, and the only sound echoing through the halls was the rustling that Kristoff knew was from bags being unpacked. Large wrapped presents still lay before the fireplace in the den for him.
"Mom?" he called through the halls.
"In here, darling."
Kristoff followed the voice to where his mother stood with her wings on her hips, staring into her half-unpacked bag as if unsure of what she should do with it. Kristoff gave her a moment before he spoke.
"I missed you and Dad, Mom."
"We missed you too," she replied almost robotic-like.
"Will... will you guys come out into the den with me? I haven't opened my presents yet, and I have some for the two of you that I made at Trellon's. It's nothing fancy, but I thought of you when I made them."
"That... would be nice," she said with a small but genuine smile.
Kristoff led his mother into the den as his father was settling into his easy chair before the fireplace. It would be a long while before wealth stopped meddling with family time...
But this was a start.