A Slightly Spooky Valentine's
Seaqual pounced on the glittering object. The Baby Zafara adjusted his nappy as he straightened, fist clenched tightly around his find. He tried to stop himself from losing control, but his emotions won the war slowly.
First it was a wriggle. Then it was a wildly wagging tail. Then, with an almighty squeal, it was an unrestrained victory dance.
His companion Chalia was fighting to extract her cape from the tenacious hold of her Tasu. “Spearmint, let go! I swear, you’re not going to get any of my bonbons tonight.”
At last, Spearmint was coaxed to release the cape in exchange for some Valentines Cookies. The Island Xweetok was none too happy about that, since she had gone all the way to Neopia Central earlier that day specifically to buy the cookies for Valentine’s Day the next day.
When she finally noticed Seaqual’s joyful dancing, she was in no mood for happiness. Her ears swiveled back to lay flat against her head and she struggled to keep her fur from puffing up.
“What’s your problem?” She didn’t entirely succeed in keeping the growl out of her voice.
Seaqual bit his lip in excitement, too happy to care about Chalia’s fickle moods.
“Oh, nothing,” he said, bouncing from place to place as Zafaras are apt to do, “except a Valentines Day Ring!”
His Snowbunny petpet Thumper followed Seaqual’s lead and hopped along behind him, crashing into him when he suddenly paused to show the ring to Chalia. Her bad mood immediately disappeared with the sight of the sparkling ring.
“Oh, wow!” Chalia breathed. “Can I see?”
She reached out to pick it up from Seaqual’s palm.
“No!” Seaqual pulled his arm back. He playfully wagged a finger at her. “See with your eyes not your paws.”
“OK, gosh,” Chalia scoffed, her bad mood returning. She viciously smoothed her fur in an attempt to restrain her irritation. “It’s not like I was going to steal it.”
“Just in time for Valentine’s Day tomorrow!” Seaqual crowed. “Lucky it was sunny out today.”
“Yeah, lucky,” Chalia agreed. Despite herself, a smile broke out as she looked up at the sun. “When’s the last time there was sun in Neovia?”
“Maybe Neovia’s getting in the Valentine’s Day spirit?” Seaqual joked.
“Yeah, right,” Chalia laughed.
The natural gloom of Neovia cut through the bright sunlight of the day, making it only marginally less spooky than any other day of the year.
Seaqual turned the ring over and over in his paw. “Say, these things go for a lot, don’t they? Plus people might pay more if they’re shopping at the last minute.”
“Yeah, they do go for a lot, last time I checked.” The last time she checked was the day before, like she did every day before that, having hoped that she could buy one in time for the Valentine’s Day party at a friend’s Neohome. Chalia looked around at the other people milling around up and down the street. She secretly wished that she hadn’t brought Spearmint along that day; if she hadn’t been distracted, it could have been her dancing for joy. “I feel sorry for whoever lost it, though. It might have been important to them.”
Seaqual looked around, too. “Too bad. I don’t think that we’d find them even if we tried.”
“We could always wait here,” Chalia suggested. “Whoever lost the ring might come back looking for it.”
“Are you kidding me? We could be waiting here forever!”
“It’s not like you’ve got anything better to do,” retorted Chalia. “What else can you do around this place? Check in for more gossip at the Neovian Printing Press? You know as well as I do that the shopkeeper makes up half of what she says. She’d be better off writing books instead of selling them.”
“Well, what are we going to while we wait?”
“Look; Prigpants & Swolthy is just over there. We can sit inside while we wait.”
“I don’t like Mr. Prigpants,” muttered Seaqual. “He scares me.”
“Well, just avoid him, then, OK? We can sit with Mr. Swolthy.”
“And what if whoever lost this ring doesn’t come back today? We could be waiting forever for them to come back.”
“Fine!” Chalia threw up her paw in impatience. “If no one comes back here looking for that ring by the end of today, we’ll just go home and that ring is yours, OK?”
“OK,” said Seaqual, placated.
Twilight found the two Neopets still sitting with Mr. Swolthy. The perpetual fog was rolling back into town with the retreat of the sun and the gas lamps that lined the streets were being lit by a korbat that flew along with a torch in his claws. Town Hall on the other side of the street was closing up and Prigpants & Swolthy was about to do the same.
The plump Purple Mynci got up from the jacket he was working on. “Well, that’s that. The last dress, ready for a Valentine’s Day party tomorrow. Time to close up.”
“Alright, Mr. Swolthy, we’ll see you around,” Chalia said.
“Are those two kids out of here yet?” yelled Prigpants.
Spearmint and Thumper immediately retreated at the sound of the Yellow Lenny’s voice, hiding the darkness beneath Chalia’s Fur Lined Coat.
Prigpants emerged from the supply room carrying cloth over his wing and an intimidating scowl on his face, the latter of which was prepared especially for Chalia and Seaqual. “You two didn’t bring those nasty petpets this time, did you? I’m telling you, if they tear one more garment--!”
Before he could say anything else, Mr. Swolthy broke in. “Don’t worry, Prigpants; the inventory is safe and sound. Why don’t I see you two out, hm?”
“Good-bye, Mr. Prigpants,” Chalia and Seaqual chimed in unison as they walked away.
Prigpants harrumphed, but didn’t say anything else. However, all the way there, the two could feel Prigpants’s beady eye watching them from behind his monocle.
Once the door closed behind them, Seaqual growled. Thumper stuck his tongue out at the store.
“I bet his face is stuck like that.” Seaqual screwed up his face to imitate Prigpants’s.
Chalia laughed, but wasn’t as disposed to mocking others. “He has to keep his monocle up somehow.”
“I wish we were at The Crumpetmonger’s. At least we could get food. And there’s no creepy Mr. Prigpants. Do you have any more cookies?”
“Not for you,” Chalia said.
“Gee, thanks. But I still can’t believe this fell out of a window right in front of me, though,” Seaqual said as he hugged the fist clenching the ring.
“Wait.” Chalia stopped in her tracks. “That ring fell out of a window?”
Seaqual hunched his shoulders. “Oops.”
“You mean we’ve been sitting around doing nothing all day because you lied? I can’t believe this!” Chalia screamed. It definitely wasn’t a day to remember.
“I only lied because I didn’t want to go in there,” Seaqual whispered the last two words.
“In where?” Chalia growled. Her ears were starting to slowly swivel to lay flat against her head again. “The store?”
“No; in there,” Seaqual whispered as he pointed to the house in front of Town Hall. He hugged his tail. Thumper scooted close to him. Spearmint chewed on Chalia’s cape.
Chalia’s jaw dropped open and her anger faded away completely. “You mean it fell out from that house?”
Seaqual nodded and shuffled around to put Chalia between the house and himself.
“What are you hiding behind me for?” Chalia demanded. “You’re stronger than I am!”
“You know I hate ghosts!” Seaqual wailed.
“Well, we’re going in there anyway.”
“What?” Seaqual screeched.
“We’re going to do our best to get that ring back to its rightful owner.” She pointed an accusing finger at Seaqual. “If you had told the truth from the beginning, we could have done this during the day. But thanks to you, we’re going in there now.”
“But I don’t want to!” Seaqual squealed.
Chalia whapped the back of his head. “Deal with it.”
“Here.” Seaqual held out the ring to Chalia. “You can have it. You can take it in yourself. If there’s no one in there, you can keep it.”
Chalia had the fleeting idea to go into the house, come out, and pretend there was no one inside, leaving the ring for herself. But she gave up the idea in a split second with some effort.
“Y-you wish!” she stuttered. Chalia grabbed Seaqual’s around the waist and held him above her head as she walked toward the abandoned house. Her face heated with the idea of even considering keeping the ring and she resorted to chastising Seaqual to distract herself. “Of all the rings you had to pick up, you picked the one that fell out the window of a haunted house?”
“Is it really haunted?” Seaqual squeaked and struggled harder to get away. Thumper and Spearmint ran to keep up.
“Oh, who knows.” Chalia rested Seaqual on her shoulder and reached out to open the door.
The two stared as the door eerily creaked open on its own. The petpets instantly sought haven under Chalia’s coat.
“I wanna go home,” whimpered Seaqual.
“Yeah? Well, you can go after we check this place out.”
Chalia walked in. “Hello? Anyone here?”
“Don’t call out,” moaned Seaqual. “You’re never supposed to call out in a haunted house. It just lets the things inside know you’re there.”
“Hush, you.” Chalia poked him and set him down.
They heard rustling from upstairs and a faint strain of music.
Seaqual gasped and nearly fainted.
“Pull yourself together,” snapped Chalia through her fear. She pulled her coat closer to herself and set a foot on the first tread of the staircase. “Hello? Is there someone up there?”
The music stopped.
She walked up the rest of the staircase, making sure Seaqual didn’t run away. Sticking her head up a little to peer through the bars on the second floor landing, she saw a profusion of pink.
She walked up the rest of the stairs. “Hello?”
The Chalia’s fur puffed up with such speed that there was a small shower of fur all around her.
“Oops!” giggled the Ghost Aisha in front of her. “Scared you, didn’t I? Sorry about that.”
Chalia stared. Seaqual hid behind her and buried his face in the fur of her leg.
“What are you here for?” asked the ghost.
“I, uh,” Chalia said, still out of it. “We, uh... we found something.”
“Oh, really?” the Aisha said politely, though slightly perplexed.
Chalia took a deep breath and nodded. “That is, uh, Seaqual found something. A ring. It fell out of the window. Of this house.”
“Oh!” exclaimed the Aisha. “Is it the Valentines Day Ring? I’ve been looking for it all day.”
“Yeah,” said Chalia. She nudged Seaqual to hand over the ring, but he didn’t move. “Sorry, he’s scared of ghosts.”
“That’s OK, lots of people are. I scare myself sometimes when I look in the mirror,” joked the Aisha. She drifted away, humming the music that the other two had heard downstairs. With some difficulty, she picked up some more pink decorations and flung it over the rafters.
“Seaqual! The ring,” hissed Chalia.
“It’s OK,” the ghost told Chalia. “You can keep it.”
“Oh, thank you,” Chalia said. After a pause, she said, “Um, could I ask you a question?”
“No, I wasn’t painted with a paint brush,” said the Aisha as she blew a lock of hair out of her eyes. Decorating was much harder as a ghost.
“No, not that,” Chalia said.
“Yes, this is really all my stuff.”
“It’s not that either. What’s with all the pink?”
“Oh! Do you like it?” The Aisha brightened considerably. “I thought that with Valentine’s Day coming up, I should get some spirit into this place.” The Aisha burst out laughing. “Get it? ‘Spirit?’”
Chalia shook her head.
“Nevermind,” said the Aisha. She floated up to shoo a Spyder out the window. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No, that’s all,” said Chalia. “Thanks for the ring.”
“No problem. Come back and visit, won’t you?”
Chalia grinned weakly while making a mental note to stay away from the house in the future.
Outside, Seaqual finally detached himself from Chalia. He brushed the remains of her fur off of himself.
“Never again,” he said. “Never.”
Chalia silently agreed with him. The silence was broken by the clock tower chiming midnight.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” murmured Chalia.
“Here,” Seaqual said suddenly. He held out the ring to her. It shimmered slightly in the lamplight.
“What? You don’t want the ring that came from a haunted house so you’re giving it to me? Thanks a lot.”
“No,” Seaqual said with impatience. “Valentine’s Day is coming up and since you’re such a great friend, I want you to have this. Even though you made me go into a haunted house. Not to mention that you want one so badly.”
“Don’t you want to sell it?”
“Yeah, but I think you’ll appreciate it more.”
Chalia thought about it a moment before taking the glittering ring from his paw. “Thanks.”
She slid it on and admired it.
“Can we go home now?” Seaqual asked.
“What,” teased Chalia, “scared some other ghosts might come along?”
A chill wind picked up and the gates to the cemetery began to swing open and shut, banging against each other, sending a Xweetok racing home with a Zafara at her side with two petpets that managed to work their way up into the hood of her cape.