Chapter 7

New Stages

Everyone admired Vida for their selflessness, and other Peridots strived to be like them. But when Vida became a teenager, the idolatry came to an end. While their gesture to create “Little Kingdoms for One and All” impacted Peridots and their keepers profoundly, Vida stumbled through life just like every other Peridot. They were no less clumsy, no less awkward, no less unknowing, and no less in need of companionship.

The keepers, one day, created a school for Peridots. Its goal was to enhance their knowledge of food retrieval and preparation, habitat creation, better fluttering techniques, and more. For just a few hours a day, Peridots learned to become better prepared for the world without their human keepers by their side. Many Peridots fretted about, most of whom could not bear a moment’s breath without a belly rub from their trusted friend. Eventually, they grew strong and, while they missed their keepers dearly, they no longer shed tears at the thought of being without them.

Vida shined at school, especially when it came to performance. Vida was the lead in every stage production made of toadstools and fennel stalks. Demonstrations on how to polish twigs, to gather moss from trees, and the like required performances of the highest order. When it came to showing others on how to make purple onion soup, Vida took on six roles within the playlet, which they wrote themself. Other Peridots offered to participate, but Vida turned them down. Vida was convinced that they did not possess what it took to be a performer. The others were hurt, but promised to attend Vida’s performance and applaud when necessary.

Upon opening night, Vida’s excitement quickly drizzled. Their performance induced yawns and drifting eyes. (Perhaps it had something to do with watching Vida cut garlic for two hours?) Vida pressed on and acted with greater conviction. The audience paid them little mind and departed the mushroom theater early. Vida was left with a pot of hot purple onion soup and no one to share it with.

That evening, Vida sought the care, comfort, and hugs of the Tawnis and pretended to be sick the next morning, which resulted in their absence from school. The following day, Vida feigned a stomach ache to avoid, once again, going to school and snuggled all day, once again, in the hugging arms of their keeper.

The Tawnis caught on to Vida’s ruse and marched them down to school the next day. Vida was sluggish and hesitant, and when the first class started, concerned eyes greeted them. Through gesture, Peridots wondered, “Are you feeling better?” Vida closed their eyes until the others walked on by. When they brought Vida flowers to congratulate them for their purple onion soup performance, Vida shooed the others away. During recess, Peridots attempted to apologize for walking out on Vida’s performance, but Vida tipped up their chin, flouted their back feathers, and swaggered off. By the end of the day, Peridots learned their lesson and made every effort to avoid Vida.

So, too, the next day.

And the day after that.

Vida ate alone during lunchtime and yearned for the company of others. Their eyes drooped, as loneliness weighed heavily upon them. During recess, Vida had no one to play with, so they watched others have fun. Watching others having fun was no fun at all, and this Vida could not stand. They huffed and scampered to their classroom and longed for the end of the day, so they could, once again, snuggle in the hugging arms of their keeper.

For most of the afternoon, Vida turned their head away from the others and refused to participate in lessons on egg cracking, flower sniffing, and tail preening. But the afternoon was long, and being left out – even if by their own will – put a chill in Vida’s heart.

It was the final class of the day, and the teacher asked each student to split an acorn. Vida’s front hooves were sharp but not fine, so they struggled. A Peridot in the table ahead excelled where Vida didn’t. Three acorns in and the classmate had much to show for their efforts. They looked behind, saw Vida struggling, and attempted to walk over to help. But they stopped once they remembered that Vida let everyone know that no one was welcome.

Vida continued to struggle and saw everyone else piling up halves of acorns, one by one, when Vida could not cut even one. Vida hesitated to join the Peridot ahead of them, but being so far behind instilled panic, and the only way to quell such panic – Vida figured – was to sit next to the adroit Peridot and learn from them. Vida watched on and copied the cutting gestures of their classmate. They would not lock eyes, until Vida successfully cut three acorns. By then, the classmate gave Vida a nod of approval.

Two other Peridots joined them and helped Vida cut acorns. Soon, the table was filled with five other Peridots in total, each of whom showed Vida their unique ways of cutting acorns. When school ended that day, Vida and their friends stayed late, cutting acorns. When it was over, they had so many acorn halves that they could build a stage.

And they did.

One month later, the class prepared a demonstration on how to make acorn soup. Vida played just one role, while five other classmates played five other roles. Together, they wrote the playlet (just a twenty-minute performance this time). Uproarious applause shook the acorn stage. Vida took a bow. The others did as well. Vida joined them to bow together, and when they rose, they shared a knowing glance of friendship, and never again did Vida eat purple onion soup alone.

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