I wasn't nervous.
Not at all.
At least, that's what I'd repeated to myself while my hands shook in anticipation.
You would think that with my level of experience I would be perfectly fine, but I had butterflies in my stomach, my heart in my throat, the whole shebang. But it had been over a decade since I'd last done this— I came back on a whim. I had been living a different life altogether after I had parted ways with my previous pets all those years ago. Back then I was a plucky little girl, running around Neopia and solving mysteries with my best friends.
I realized the memory brought a smile on my face when he gave me a curious look. I cleared my throat.
Hello? Was that the best I could do now? No introduction? Well, it's far too late to tack on my name now, it would sound pretty stiff. Not that it doesn't already.
The blue Gnorbu lit up as soon as I offered my lackluster greeting. He did not seem bothered by it at all as he trotted towards me and straightened up to present himself excitedly. The sight of it was so endearing that in that moment I had felt a rush of nostalgia and warmth. I was no stranger to meeting a Neopet for the first time, but ten years have ways of making you forget the little things.
"Hi! Are you my owner?" His tail did not wag so much as it wiggled. "I mean, if you're here, I guess you are, huh. Kind of a silly question."
He seemed to be the type to say every bit of his thoughts aloud. It reminded me of an old friend, a young Chia. I impulsively reached out to pet him, but hesitated in the middle of it. It felt incredibly alien even if every part of me said it shouldn't be. To my surprise, he met me halfway and bumped his head against my palm.
A wave of relief washed over me. To be accepted so quickly was quite the blessing.
"Not at all, Somerby," I replied, suddenly aware of how grown-up I might have sounded. "It's totally cool, call me Marcha." Nope, definitely grown-up.
Somerby's tail wiggled wildly, eyes twinkling. "Oh! Somerby? That's my name?" Even without a response from me, he started muttering his new name, trying it on. He's pretty excitable, isn't he? "And you're Marcha! Somerby and Marcha!"
I chuckled and nodded.
"It sounds kind of fancy, but, I think it suits you." Truthfully, I liked the sound of it, but there was not much more thought that went into it.
I'd gotten much better at naming Neopets since I last tried. There was no hesitation in me when I named my pets after two things I liked and smushed it together. They accepted my name happily, and we had the best of times. The names were a little embarrassing, but it was a chapter that represented us and our adventures. I made a lot of memories, fought a lot of battles, solved a lot of mysteries.
Knowing I had outgrown that made my smile falter for a moment, but long enough for Somerby to catch. He hopped up on the couch next to me, sitting there with his tilted head.
'Hey, Marcha, you look kind of upset..." Uh oh. He was getting worried, judging by how his ears drooped. I should really quit with the sad flashbacks.
"Oh, no, no, I'm sorry, I'm not upset." With some ear scritches I reassured him to the best of my ability— not that it dispelled his concern. "I just... remembered how long it's been since I had a Neopet to call my own."
"Oh? I have siblings?"
"Sort of. They're much older than you and they're living different lives now, last I'd heard. It was a long time ago, but I'm always grateful for our time together." Hoping he didn't take that the wrong way, I hastily added. "I missed that feeling so, I decided to make a new friend"
"Woah. I thought you were a new owner. You were shaking like a leaf. But I guess you just miss the old times..." Busted. I wasn't as calm as I thought I'd been. "It's not a bad thing! That means you're more dependable now."
Somerby looked around, spun in place a few times before he hopped off the couch, to retrieve a little box he had brought with him. He dropped it on my lap and watched me like an eyrie. Assuming he had wanted me to, I took it and shook it lightly. The contents rattled somewhat, but gave me no clues to what it was. Somerby just gave a mysterious smile. I opened the present, gingerly tearing the wrapper off the box. Inside was a simple snowglobe. I remembered these had been all the rage at some point— or had I been remembering wrong? In either case, I knew that I had been fond of these in the past.
I looked up at Somerby, puzzled by his choice. He returned my look sheepishly and drew crosses on the floor with his hoof. "It's not much but... I thought it was nice and I wanted to greet you with one of those."
It really wasn't much. It was cheaply made, and likely mass produced. Parts of Neopia weren't colored right, and things looked rather... off. It was a few hundred neopoints at best. But... it still put a genuine smile on my face. Despite my apprehensions, Somerby met me with nothing but excitement and joy. I hadn't seen that sort of spirited enthusiasm in a long, long time. More than a smile, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Oh no.
I bit my lip and fan my face with my free hand as I cradled the snowglobe with the other. "I'm not crying, I'm just so happy," I said preemptively. "I love it, thank you."
Somerby looked rightfully concerned as his owner had been drowning in emotions. Instead, he nuzzled against me and hopped across my lap as though he was a kougra. He was comforting me the best he could, so I slung an arm around him and buried my face into his mane.
"Sorry our first meeting is kind of strange, Somerby." I lifted my head and sniffled. He shook his head.
"Nah, I think you just feel things pretty strongly, Marcha. You seem to cherish memories a lot, and that makes sense!"
"That's true. I get pretty sentimental when it comes to the past. It was why I couldn't part with most of my things back in the day, and how I quickly filled up my safety deposit box."
Somerby looked at me in shock. "Did you really?"
I grinned, drying my eyes.
"Oh, the looks I had gotten when I insisted that I wanted to place a tattered shoe in there."
"What?! Why would you want that?" He laughed, and I, along with him.
I placed the snowglobe back in its box, slipping it into my purse. I walked away from the couch, and he looked worried I was going to leave him for a minute. Never. I beckoned him over.
"Come, I'll buy you some ice cream and I'll tell you all about it."
His tail wagged from side to side and he leapt from the couch to my side. I told him all about the silly stories I had about my time in Neopia, and he was nothing but invested in my adventures. I assured him that he would live it for himself some day, and that I would take him to all these places. We would be inseparable, writing new chapters in the story. Suffice to say, he was plenty excited— and so am I.