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The Dancer's Scarf


by scar19

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"C'mon. Let's go in. There's nothing to be afraid of," I insisted.

      "But, Akiri, what if they don't like me! You said yourself that none of them are Peophins like me!" protested Mage, my Christmas Peophin friend.

      "Nonsense, they'll think you're great," I assured her.

      We stood in front of a small building, which could also be described as a large house. It was the dance academy that I was a part of. After Mage had seen me dancing once, she had told me how much fun it looked like and admitted how much she would love to learn how to dance. I had suggested that she learned to dance, which had really seemed to take her by surprise.

      "But I don't think I can do it," she had said.

      After a while, I had convinced her to come with me to the dance school and sign up for lessons, but I had to drag her all the way. She was always unsure of herself, but when she put her mind to something she was always very good at it. Except the time when she tried to bake pastries and ended up blowing up the oven. But that's beside the point.

      I pushed open the to reveal a wooden dance floor raised a few feet off the ground. A pair of Acaras danced on this little stage. The ground around the dance floor was tiled, and a group of all kinds of pets sitting in a circle and laughing at a joke a Gelert had just said. There was a wide variety of pets present; there were no Peophins. This must have made Mage nervous because she began to back out of the door, but my arm around her shoulders kept her from doing so. After a moment she must have realized it was too late to back down because a red Usul stood and began to walk towards us.

      "Akiri," she greeted me, "It's good to see you again. And who's your friend?"

      I was a female fire Kyrii, and I'd known the Usul, who was the dance instructor, for at least a few years. I took lessons every now and then. I had been Mage's friend for about a year since we had met at Kiko Lake. Now we were the best of friends. The last member in our little circle was a Techo, but he was on a trip for the rest of the autumn and for part of the winter.

      "This is Mage. She wants to learn how to dance," I said, elbowing the Peophin. I was trying to get her to speak, but for a moment I thought she didn't understand. Then she spoke.

      "Um, yeah. Do you teach Peophins?" Mage asked.

      "I teach everybody," said the Usul. "My name's Jeanie. I've never actually taught a Peophin before, but we'll invent some steps for you. Everybody can dance."

      Mage nodded, seeming to relax a bit now that the dreaded introductions were over. "When do the lessons start?" she said.

      "I'm not teaching anybody at the moment, so what about right now?" replied Jeanie.

      "Uh," Mage said, casting a glance at me. "I guess that's fine."

      Then the Usul smiled warmly and led my friend towards the raised dance platform. She hopped up and motioned towards the two-step stairs. Mage took those instead of hopping right up like the Usul had. Once again she looked to me, obviously not sure what she was supposed to do. I followed, leaning against the wall to watch but staying out of the way. The two Acara continued to dance, but there was plenty of room for Jeanie to teach Mage.

      While Jeanie began to show Mage some basic steps, explained how things worked at the school, and made Mage comfortable on the dance floor, I thought about how I had convinced Mage to come.

      "No offence, Mage," I had said to her, "but Peophins might not be well balanced enough to dance well."

      "We have very good balance! I'll take your dance lessons just to show you," she had said, glaring at me.

      I had gotten her fired up on purpose, knowing that Mage would want to prove me wrong. Although she seemed shy right now as I watched her on the dance floor, she was actually very stubborn.

      "Akiri, come here," called Jeanie, bringing me back into the present. "Come help me show Mage how this is done."

     ***

      After an hour or so, Mage and I returned to her house. Nobody else was there. According to a note we found on the counter, her family was getting lunch and we were welcome to join them if we wanted to. But Mage was tired out, so we flopped down on the sofa.

      "I don't think I'll be any good at this. I mean, I don't think I know anything more about dancing than I had when I went in there, and I'm sore all over," the Peophin complained.

      I knew this wasn't true because I had watched most of the lesson, and she had learned a lot.

      "These things take time. You'll get better before you know it," I encouraged.

      "But Jeanie said that she's never taught a Peophin before!"

      "You worry too much. How about I get us some Chia pops?"

     ***

      After about two and a half months of Mage taking dance lessons every day, she came running full speed into her house, where I was staying. Her family, the Nineteen family, had been nice enough to let me stay at their house for a while because I lived in Meridell and wanted to be with my friend Mage. I lived too far away to got back and forth between Meridell and Neopia Central every single day.

      "What is it?" I asked, sitting up straight. It was unusual for her to come running in after a dance lessons. Usually she was exhausted.

      "Jeanie says that I'm going to be entered in an amateur dance competition next week! Isn't that great?" she said, nearly shouting.

      "That's exciting! You'll do great," I replied with a wide grin.

      After hopping around the room and doing a few dance steps, Mage plopped down next to me on the sofa. "I can't wait!"

      "Where is the competition being held?" I asked.

      "Altador! Isn't that great?"

      Altador. It was so far away, and it would be so much fun to see the city and to watch one of my best friends dancing on the famed stage where Sasha performed every now and then.

     ***

      But as the week wore on and the competition came closer, it was obvious that the Christmas Peophin was getting more and more nervous. She was afraid, she told me, of what would happen if she forgot her steps and everybody laughed at her. Or what if they didn't let Peophins into the competition? Or maybe something would happen before the competition and she wasn't able to compete? I assured her that she would do great. And I knew she would. I had seen her dance recently, and she stood a good chance against the other pets at her level.

     ***

      The day finally came. I stood in the dance academy early in the morning while Mage nervously paced the floor. Jeanie entered the room and approached us.

      "Okay. Let's get going!" she said in her usual peppy and cheerful tone.

      We left at a walk, but Mage insisted that we go quickly. She didn't want to be late.

      We arrived at the port, where we boarded a ship as the sun rose. After a long, long boat ride we arrived at Altador. Mage practically leaped off the boat and all three of us raced excitedly towards where the competition was held. We were there early because we had hurried, but we didn't mind.

      Mage stared in awe at the beautiful stage, draped with ribbons and flowers and bows.

      "It's so beautiful! I can't believe I'm going to dance on that," Mage said quietly to me.

      We both spun around as we heard a voice behind us that called out names.

      Jeanie stood grinning beside a beautiful blue Cybunny in an equally beautiful dress who said, "So you're the Peophin Jeanie had told me about?"

      Mage's mouth dropped open, and I barely managed to keep mine shut. It was Sasha the Dancer. There was nobody else it could be. Although Mage would be dancing on the stage that was called Sasha's Stage, we hadn't expected Sasha to actually make an appearance.

      I elbowed my friend hard in the shoulder, and she immediately realized how silly she looked. She closed her mouth and smiled in return.

      "Yes," the Peophin said. "My name's Mage. And you're really Sasha the Dancer...?"

      "Last time I checked, I was," the Cybunny replied in her soft, smooth tone that reminded me of velvet. She laughed goodnaturedly. "We don't usually see many Peophins dancing around here. I can't wait to see you perform."

      Then she was gone and Jeanie wrapped an arm around each of our shoulders.

      "Check that out! That was the amazing Sasha, obviously. I was telling her about you, Mage," she said.

      "We know. She told us," I pointed out.

      ***

      As the sun began to set and twilight came upon us, multicolored lanterns were lit all around the stage and hung in trees. By then many more pets had come, most wearing beautiful dresses and jewelry. The competition was about to start.

      "I don't look as nice as them..." Mage said, referring to the other pets. "I don't stand a chance. I don't think I'm ready for this."

      "Nonsense. You look fantastic, and you're a far better dancer than them, I'm sure," I said.

      Just then Jeanie came towards us after being gone for about an hour. She held something behind her back and looked mighty pleased with herself. When she stood right in front of us she whipped out the most marvelous looking cream-colored scarf I had ever seen. With a flourish she wrapped it around Mage's neck. Little golden bells tinkled on the edges of it. It looked as if it were made for Mage as they both stood in the starlight.

      "Now you're ready," Jeanie said firmly and surely.

      Mage smiled widely, and I knew that she was ready also.

      Then, a loud voice announced the beginning of the competition and for the performers to come and meet him and the other judges at a small tent next to the stage. Jeanie and I wished Mage luck as she smiled and trotted off towards the tent, looking fabulous with her cream scarf that drifted lightly behind her.

      Jeanie and I waited nervously (though neither of us would admit it to each other) for Mage's turn to dance. We seated ourselves in the front row of chairs along with many other pets and owners who had come to see the competition. First on stage was a white Kyrii who danced beautifully. A group of musicians played at the very back of the stage, providing the music. I knew that Mage was better. Or at least I hoped she was.

      Mage entered the stage as the third-to-last pet to perform. At first she looked out at us, the audience, blankly as if she had stage fright. After a few silent moments in which I thought she wasn't going to dance at all, I called out, "You can do it! Show them what you're made of!"

      She smiled in embarrassment as if she just realized that she was supposed to perform. I heard a person behind me whisper to his friend that there was no way a Peophin would be able to dance better than any of the other competitors. I glared at him icily, and he shut his mouth quite quickly. I turned my attention back to the stage. Mage took her starting position and the music began.

      The Christmas Peophin began to dance. First slowly, then the music quickened and she did as well, gracefully dancing a few traditional, well-known steps and maneuvering her long tail around in a way that just seemed right. Then she added her own twist to it, leaping and spinning with her scarf twirling around her with its bells tinkling quietly along to the music. After it was over and she took her bow, there was a silence. I was afraid nobody enjoyed the show, but I bravely stood and clapped wholeheartedly. Jeanie stood as well, applauding enthusiastically. No matter what anybody else thought, my friend did excellent. Soon others began to rise and clap with us and stamp their feet. Typical, I thought as the slow applauding turned into a roaring cheer just like a fairy tale. Go figure. However, I wasn't complaining.

      And so after the last pets performed, Sasha stepped out onto the stage along with the other judge, an Acara. Every one of the dancers that competed followed them after a moment. Moonlight bathed them all in a white glow that accented the lantern light perfectly. Mage had a wide grin on her face, obviously looking very proud of herself. Honestly, I was proud of her as well.

      "We are proud of all the dancers who performed tonight, and we believe they all deserved to be here," announced the Acara, and cheering rose from all of the audience, especially me. "But the winners are..."

      Sasha took over from here, saying, "In third place, Sammy the white Kyrii!" Here everybody cheered as the white Kyrii who had performed first went to shake hands with Sasha, accepted a shining medal, and stood a few feet beside the judges.

      "In second place, Mage the Christmas Peophin!" Everybody cheered, Jeanie and I being the loudest, as Mage did the same thing as Sammy had. She got a slightly larger and, I thought, a slightly shinier medal that was silver to Sammy's bronze.

     "And in first, Xero the green Xweetok!" The Xweetok followed what Mage and Sammy did and stood beside them, smiling proudly.

      "Have a good night, everybody!" Sasha said, waving to us all.

      The crowd dispersed and I raced over to the place where Mage was leaving the stage. I gave my friend a huge hug and said, "That was brilliant! I can't believe you won second place! You're amazing."

      Jeanie appeared beside us. "Indeed. You did great, Mage! Good job."

      Mage smiled proudly at us, looking obviously extremely pleased with the way things went. "Thanks. Maybe next time I'll get first place."

The End

 
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