Star Power: Part One
Lena stared into the mirror intensely, hating the way her nose stuck out like a jagged tooth and how her brown eyes didn’t match the rest of her blue fur. Irritated, she tugged on the fur underneath her chin with a pout. “I have a beard,” she declared. “Girls aren’t supposed to have beards.” She turned the mirror away and spun around in her chair.
“I’m pretty sure all Yurbles have ‘beards,’ Lena,” a friendly voice said, chuckling. This voice belonged to a rather amicable shadow colored Lenny by the name of Rodney, who on most occasions would wear dark sunglasses that rested on his forehead as if it were a throne. His feathers were so black that Lena often mistook him for an over-cooked meal.
“Oh, stop trying to comfort me,” Lena said to him. She dared to look back into her mirror, then promptly took a pair of scissors and tried to clip at her fur to give herself a more attractive beard. Her attempt was fruitless, resulting in a deep sigh from the blue Yurble. Lena was by no means ugly or any of the other words she would regularly use to describe herself, but she was always inclined to point out her own negative traits.
“Seriously, though,” Rodney said, fiddling with his sunglasses, “you look great and you’re going to completely captivate your audience tonight, as always.” The Lenny glanced around the dressing room wearily, knowing that Lena would find a way to reject his compliment. He wondered why he even bothered. Lena was a young prodigy with an amazing talent, but when it came to recognizing it, she was clueless. Rodney had been her agent for over a year and still hadn’t gotten through to her.
“I look like a less pretty version of Turmaculus, and to add on to that, I think I lost my voice,” Lena groaned.
Rodney almost laughed aloud. Lena never ‘lost her voice.’ Her range surpassed what most instruments could do. Her ability to hit a note was infallible, regardless of how much breath she had left or how tired she was. She was on a completely different level than most singers her age.
“Oh, hush. What’s it going to take for me to prove to you how amazing you are?”
“You could start by cutting down on the flattery,” Lena said facetiously. She brushed off the clips of fur from her now slightly uneven ‘beard,’ and pushed her chair aside. “That’s it, I’ll just look like a fool on stage tonight. Lena strikes again! When does the show start?”
“In two hours or so. You better get on stage for microphone check and all that jazz. Oh, and Lena?” Rodney said. He gave her a somewhat meaningful look that he usually gave her before performances, but she had long since learned to ignore them.
“If I cut down on the flattery, then you need to cut down on the self-insult.” The Lenny winked at her and ruffled his black feathers.
Lena laughed. “Whatever you say, Rodney.” She slipped some pearls around her neck and left the dressing room quickly.
Rodney entered the dinner club with high hopes for the night and a cheerful look on his face. Sunglasses were still perched on his forehead like a second pair of eyes, just as some of the other pets in the restaurant wore inexpensive jewelry and clothing to try and add a bit of flare, a bit of personality to the way they looked. But did they really need any of it to prove themselves to each other? Strange thoughts floated in and out of Lena’s mind as she ran her paw along her own pearls, anticipating the start of the show.
On the other side of the room, Rodney sat down next to a comely green Xweetok named Bethany. “Nice of you to finally show up, brother,” the Xweetok said, grinning.
Rodney rolled his eyes. “I was backstage with the virtuoso.”
“Eccentric as usual?”
“Very,” Rodney said with a sigh. “Lena’s a nice girl but I, well, I just don’t get it. All of the other brats I have to deal with in the performing business are stuck up, self centered, and think they’re precious gifts sent down from Faerieland to grace me with their presence. Not a single one of them is half as good as Lena. And yet, that little Yurble...”
“Is the only one with confidence issues?” Bethany finished her brother’s sentence in an amused tone of voice. She had been raised alongside the Lenny during their childhood, and they were still close. Rodney was a bit older than she was, and Bethany was a bit smarter than he was.
“Exactly,” Rodney said, scratching his head, “and here she comes.” The lights in the dinner club had dimmed and a single spotlight was shining on a stage in front of their table. Bethany nibbled on her meal but kept her gaze attentively on the stage’s curtain.
Soft jazz music began to play and the curtain slowly opened. Lena smoothly took the stage and held a microphone with one paw as if it would be no big deal if she were to drop it. She took two steps forward and raised one eyebrow to the audience, attracting its full attention. She put the microphone to her mouth and began to sing. Cheers could instantaneously be heard throughout the dinner club, but they didn’t phase Lena one bit. She continued to sing and belt out notes until even the pets who had come to the restaurant just to eat put down their forks and watched her outstanding act.
“She really is amazing. It’s like she’s an entirely different Yurble up there; look at how confident she is with her movement and voice,” Bethany whispered. She was so absorbed by Lena’s performance that she had spilled pasta onto her lap. Even worse, she knew that she had spilled pasta on her lap, but didn’t care because Lena was so captivating.
“I know. By the way, sis, you have pasta in your lap,” Rodney whispered back to her.
Bethany shrugged. “It didn’t taste all that great anyway.”
An hour or so later, Lena finished singing and took a slight bow. Then, almost as if the performance had never happened, her smile sagged a bit and she darted back through the curtain, ignoring the audience’s pleas for an encore. As she was walking back to the dressing room, she kept her head facing the floor, wondering if the audience had really liked her or if they were just being courteous. She was so engrossed in her pondering that she failed to notice her surroundings and bumped face to face with a tall, lanky fire Nimmo in a brown trench coat.
“Hi there, nice to meet you! I’m Samson. You probably know me from Samson Studios. Yeah, I own it,” the Nimmo said, shaking Lena’s paw.
“Oh, hello. That’s nice,” Lena replied, trying to get past him.
Samson stepped in front of her. She noticed a large diamond ring weighing down his finger and stared at it in awe for a moment. “Wait,” the Nimmo said to her, “I just wanted to tell you that you were fantastic tonight. Say, we could really use someone like you at Samson Studios. We’re on a much larger scale than the local restaurant-with-a-stage, if you catch my drift.”
Lena hesitated, refusing to make eye contact with him. “I would, but I have to go wash my beard – beard fur – never mind. But I have to go, so I’ll seeya,” Lena said whimsically, trying to think of a good excuse to leave. She hurried past the fire Nimmo and headed for her dressing room.
“Hey, the offer stands,” Samson called back to her.
“Whatever,” Lena muttered, twisting her dressing room’s doorknob. When she entered, she was surprised to see that Rodney and Bethany were already inside. Bethany seemed to be washing some meatball stains out of her green coat.
“Hey, there she is!” Rodney exclaimed. “You were something out there tonight, Lena. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you with so much star appeal on stage before.”
“I guess it was okay,” Lena said.
“Just okay? You were so good that my dinner fell into my lap,” Bethany said, taking out the final strand of pasta. She paused for a moment, giving herself enough time to realize how awkward her compliment had sounded. Quickly, she added, “Oh, and those pearls look great on you.”
Lena blushed, and took off the pearls immediately. Rodney and Bethany blinked at her for a second, and watched as she walked in circles about the room with the pearls before finally stuffing them anxiously into a drawer.
“Okay then,” Rodney said, bemused.
“Sorry, I just feel a little uncomfortable wearing jewelry,” Lena explained.
“Aw, but you shouldn’t. With those pearls on you look really glamorous,” Bethany said despite her awareness that the compliments were taking the conversation nowhere.
Surprisingly, Lena provided a substantial answer. “Maybe so, but do you think we really need clothes and jewelry to make ourselves glamorous? When I looked out into the audience tonight, a few of the pets were wearing make up, jewelry, and random clothes that they didn’t actually need to be wearing. All of those pets looked pretty to me, but I have no clue whether they are, really. I wish I had natural beauty, like you, Bethany. Even with tomato sauce in your fur, you look great. And I’m just this bearded girl.”
Bethany chuckled lightly. “Thank you, Lena, but I think you may be overanalyzing the situation a bit.”
Rodney nodded, pushing his sunglasses further up his forehead. “And didn’t I tell you earlier that it’s not a beard? Come on, all Yurbles have chin fur.”
Lena sighed, realizing that her friends didn’t understand the point she was trying to make. “Well, anyways, I’m going to head on home. I’ll see you both tomorrow, right?”
“Sure thing,” Rodney answered. “G’night.”
Lena left the dressing room with a brooding look on her face. “Maybe in the morning,” she said to herself, “it’ll all make sense. Maybe I’ll wake up and be a glamorous, beardless Uni.” She shook her head. “Maybe I should stop talking to myself.” With that afterthought, she set off for her home.
Down the hallway, a fire Nimmo fixed his narrow eyes upon her. “She’ll be working for me in no time,” he spat, and turned away towards the exit.
To be continued...