My sister Wonderwand is collecting tea.
Yes. You read that correctly. Tea. Of all the things in Neopia to collect. Tea.
And my other sister, Sapphirine, who manages the family finances, doesn't even seem to care. "I've done the calculations," she told me when I first brought up my complaints. "Buying all the types of tea shouldn't cost more than what we have."
I'll tell you now that we have eleven million Neopoints. Or had is probably the more correct word to use now. The way Wonderwand's going, we'd be lucky to have eleven by the end of the week.
It started when she got tired of our old gallery, which was a dung gallery, and—let me tell you—not that bad. It stunk to old Faerieland, but it wasn't bad—honestly kind of convenient, if you ask me. If my petpet's acting up, I've just got to tell him, "Stop that right now or I'll put you in the dung gallery for thirty minutes!" And Mulciber listens. It's nearly impossible to get a Vaeolus to listen, but the dung gallery works perfectly...
That is, worked, until Wonderwand cleared it out, discarded everything ("No one at the Money Tree would want any of this dung!") and decided to create a lovely little prissy frilly tea gallery. She got one of her Royalgirl Kyrii friends—I don't know the name, Marioa? Marikette? Whatever—to act as gallery keeper, probably only because even our owner wouldn't agree to turn Wonderwand into a Royalgirl Kyrii herself.
But our owner's agreed to everything else—dumping the dung, buying the tea, and setting up "The Tea Room," which is what they're calling it now. Oh, and Mariwhatever's over at our Neohome every other night for dinner now. It's awful. Wonder and she are always busy talking about things like tea and cakes and dresses and probably those cone-shaped princess hats, who knows—I swear, they act more like Unis than I do, and I am a Uni, although the fact that I'm a Fire Uni probably helps keep my head clear of all this frilly stuff. If I was Royalgirl, maybe I'd be having tea every day with them. (I suspect Wonderwand wants to be Royalgirl but only won't because then her fur wouldn't match her 400k Lotus Xweetok Dress.)
Anyway, my major complaint, besides the fact that nowadays our house reeks of probably every kind of tea in Neopia, is that Sapphirine was wrong. Maybe eleven million would be able to support a tea gallery. But Wonderwand's adding cookies and cakes and pastries ("You just can't have afternoon tea without pastries, of course!" she says) and if this keeps going on we're going to have to go to the Soup Kitchen to get our daily meal. But that's alright, because at least we can look at all of these baked goods, huh?
I haven't told Sapphirine that she was wrong, though. Sapphirine hates being told that she's wrong. As does Wonderwand. As does everyone in my family, except Gipri, I guess. Gipri's nice. It's a shame her niceness doesn't help my cause, though. She's a Royalgirl Bori. She's in love with tea and little cakes, and she adores Mariwhat. It breaks my rotten little heart.
* * *
We're having Shenkuu food. Except Wonderwand and Mariwho. They're drinking tea. Not one of the more expensive teas, at least. But come on. It's dinnertime. Isn't tea supposed to be for the afternoon?
Gipri looks like she wants to join them, too, but Gipri's still too fond of her rice crackers. Sapphirine's having Curried Fish. She's trying all of the Exotic Foods on the menu, one by one, alphabetically. Sapphirine is like that.
I'm eating Hot Mustard Sauce.
To be honest, I'd rather eat the dung gallery. But there's one good thing about the mustard sauce: it stinks. I don't know what the exotic chefs do to mustard to make it stink so much. But it does.
Halfway through dinner, Wonderwand finally breaks. "Viridri," she says, though not in her usual annoyed voice—she's speaking in her new princess-like, condescending, I-understand-and-forgive-you-but-I-still-hate-you voice. "Is it really necessary for you to eat that at the table?"
"I'm a Fire Uni," I say. "I need my fiery food." I choke down another spoonful of sauce. My ears are burning.
"I understand," says Wonderwand. I wait for her to add the rest, but she doesn't. "However, it's, ah... affecting the rest of us."
"I like mustard," says Gipri. Good sister!
"See?" I say. "I wouldn't want to deprive Gipri of her condiments. Even her secondhand condiments. Have some compassion, Wanda."
Wonderwand hates the nickname Wanda. I know this because I came up with it. It seems that she hates everything I come up with.
"Besides," I add, "I can smell your tea from here. You're affecting me, too." (Oooh, burn! If this was the Battledome, Wonderwand would be on the floor.)
Marihuh? speaks up. "There's an obvious difference," she says. Her voice is kind of nasally. "Tea is nice. Mustard is not. There." She sounds like a kindergarten teacher at Neoschool. I want to pour the rest of my mustard on her face.
Instead I say, "Well, I'm really sorry, but it's a free planet, and besides, this is as much my dinner table as yours." I remember she's a guest. "More of my dinner table than yours, I mean."
"I'll tell our owner," Wonderwand says.
"Do," I say.
After dinner, she does. Our owner tells us to work it out amongst ourselves. We're sisters. We shouldn't be fighting.
* * *
I eat something normal the next day because Marieh? isn't there, but on the day after that I have a Dung Cream Sandwich—it's vile, but it's worth it. Both of them wrinkle their noses. And then I find something beautiful in the Marketplace: Eau De Skunk. It gives me an idea that Sapphirine would be jealous of.
Our owner says yes, I can have a skunk items collection, although I might want to keep it out of the gallery since the gallery's already short enough of space as is. I say alright. I'll keep it in my room, is that fine? "I don't see why not," says our owner. "I'm rather fond of skunks! I had a pet skunk once..." Our owner is super weird, but for once I'm not complaining.
There aren't actually that many skunk-themed items in Neopia, but the few that exist are enough: Skunk Lipstick, a Skunk Pattern Pen, a Skunk Moehog Plushie—fun fact, by the way: all of those things are scented. And they're scented skunk. The Eau de Skunk and Skunk Perfume rounds it off. I wear both every day, just for double the skunkiness, and walk by Wonderwand and MariIstillhavenoidea as often as I can.
One time she says, "Viridri—ugh—Viridri, please stop that."
"Stop what?" I say.
"Stop the skunk thing," she says, "whatever you're doing—for whatever reason it is. Please."
"It's my collection," I say. "You have yours, and I have mine. It's only fair, don't you think, Wanda?"
"Think about everyone around you," Wonderwand says, in that same awful condescending tone. "Do you think Gipri likes skunk perfume everywhere?"
"I know I do."
Her comment about Gipri bothers me a bit, though, so later I ask Gipri if she minds the skunk stench too much. She says, "Well, if you like it, I don't mind too much!"
Why couldn't it be just me and Gipri?
Sapphirine comes up to me a while later and says, "You know, this sort of passive-aggressive behavior really won't work out in the long run."
"Don't tell me you like tea, too?" I say.
"I like it more than I like skunk," she says. Then she leaves.
* * *
It's at the fifth dinner that everything falls to pieces. I'm wearing Skunk Lipstick and Skunk Perfume and Eau de Skunk—I keep the little skunk bottle on the dinner table—and eating a lovely Double Dung Hot Dog. It tastes just like a regular hot dog, except not at all. Anyway, I am actually enjoying myself until Wonderwand says, in a sickly-sweet voice, "Viridri, could you please join me in the living room for a moment?"
I'm looking forward to this conversation. "Sure thing, Wanda."
We go into the living room. I can hear the conversation at the dinner table silence; everything's listening. This'll be my best performance yet.
"I really don't know why you want to do this, Viridri," Wonderwand says.
"I've suddenly realized that I like skunks," I say, "just like you've suddenly realized that you love tea. Isn't that funny? Maybe it means we're related."
"Viridri, please can you stop pretending for just a moment?"
"I'm not pretending anything!" I say. "I really like skunks. The smell's heavenly. The color scheme, too."
"You really shouldn't insult my appreciation of things by accusing me of making them up, you know! What if I told you that you were buying hundreds of thousands of Neopoints' of tea and baked goods, not because you actually liked it, but just to antagonize me? How would you feel, then?"
"Stop that!" Wonderwand screams.
Yes, she screams. She's kept her voice princess-soft for the past few weeks. I'm so surprised I actually shut up.
"I know you're doing this just because you know I don't like it!" she shouts. "You don't like my tea for some reason, even though I just wanted to do something nice. I just wanted to make a nice gallery! What's wrong with you?"
"You threw out my dung gallery," I say. "I liked it. You threw it out."
"No," says Wonderwand. "Don't use that as an excuse. If it had just been the dung, you would've just asked our owner to buy it for you again. She'd do that for you and you knew it. You could have your little dung-pit in a corner of the house. No," she said again. "It wasn't that. You just wanted to ruin my gallery. I'd found something that really made me happy and you didn't like it. But instead of telling me you decided to do it in that twisted roundabout way. Would you just go away? Why can't you just go?"
"You like thinking of yourself as the hero," I say. "You really like it a lot, don't you, Wonderwand?" Then I leave the room and I leave the house and I fly out of Meridell and around, around Neopia until I'm exhausted. I land by a secluded pool somewhere in fallen Faerieland. I stay there until nightfall, and then I'm ready to fly again; I fly to Altador where my cousins are.
"Viridri," they say, Venose and Lumenare, "you're back!"
"Yeah," I say.
"So how was the visit?" they say.
Yes, that was what it was, after all. Just a visit. I'm still living here. "Okay," I say. "It's funny, though. You guys feel more like my sisters than they do, now. I guess I've spent so much time here."
"Oh, well," says Venose.
Lumenare says, "I suppose that means you like spending time with us?"
"Yeah," I say. "You guys are pretty cool. Listen—if any mail arrives from them to me, maybe tomorrow—just give it to me. Straight to me. I'll handle it..."
Then I go into my bedroom and I fall asleep on my green wooden bed.
* * *
I'm sorry this story doesn't have a satisfying ending.