Star Power: Part Two
The next afternoon, Rodney and his sister had decided to greet Lena on her doorstep and escort her to Krawk’s Tavern, a restaurant in which she frequently performed. Krawk’s Tavern was one of the best Golden Dubloon imitations in Neopia Central, but by no means a sophisticated cabaret. When the two of them had planned on taking Lena there, however, they were assuming that Lena would be fully capable of turning a doorknob.
“Open the door, Lena.” Rodney rang her doorbell for a fifth time. He folded his wings in exasperation.
“Sorry, Lena isn’t here,” the Yurble’s muffled voice said from inside. “If you would like to speak to a monster from the depths of a mutated pit of death instead, why then, come in.”
Bethany rolled her eyes. “Very funny. Now let us in.”
Lena finally twisted the doorknob and allowed the pets to enter. They did not do so right away, though; instead, they stared at her quizzically. Specifically at the brown paper bag over her head with two peepholes for eyes.
“What. Are you doing?” Rodney asked, breaking the silence.
“Well, I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror, so I’ve decided that if I put this grocery bag over my head, I’ll never have to see me or my jagged nose or my dull eyes or my uneven beard. I’m doing you guys a favor here.”
“Lena, take the bag off your head and let’s go,” Bethany said, arms folded.
“Oh, fine. Spoil my fun,” Lena said, simultaneously disappointed and amused. Rodney reached over and yanked the bag off of the Yurble’s head, then handed the shredded wad of paper back to her.
“Hold on, let me go throw this away,” Lena said, turning back into her house.
Bethany peered through the doorway. The inside of the home was a bit of a mess; small portable mirrors lay all over the hallway floor. “You would think one of the best singers in Neopia Central would find a more productive way to spend her time,” the Xweetok noted, pointing at one of the mirrors.
“She’s just a bit preoccupied with physical appearance. It’s her nature,” Rodney explained. “Also, she’s just plain nuts,” he added.
“In a cute way, though.”
“Try being her agent.”
Lena returned to the door a few seconds later, finally ready to leave. “So, where am I performing tonight, again?”
“Krawk’s Tavern,” Rodney replied. “You have a pretty strong fan base there; it should be fine.”
Lena laughed. “Fan base, sure. You know, come to think of it, I did meet a strange new fan last night.”
“Really? Who was it?” Bethany asked, slightly intrigued.
“He was this skinny fire Nimmo in a brown coat. His name was Thompson, or Swampson, or something, and he owns a recording studio. I was a little scared of him.”
Rodney nearly choked on his own beak. “Samson from Samson Studios spoke to you?”
“Um... yeah. Is that a good thing?” Lena wondered.
“Yes. Wow. Yes. That is a very good thing. Samson Studios is big time, M*Y*N*C*I got their debut with that company. What did he say to you?” Rodney asked excitedly.
“He wanted me to work for him or something, but he was intimidating so I walked away instead.”
“Might not have been the best idea, Lena,” Bethany said. “If you collaborated with this guy, you would have the chance to become a famous artist not only in this area, but around other parts of Neopia. I mean, you could be as big as M*Y*N*C*I.”
“I don’t even listen to that band,” Lena said with a sigh. “And I’m not marketable, I could never be a famous singer.”
“Never say never. I think you have what it takes, so you need to get in touch with Samson as soon as possible. Do you think he’ll be at the show tonight?” Rodney grew more and more excited.
“He might be there. If I see him, I’ll recognize him. He has a big diamond ring on his finger. Oh, and when I was leaving, he told me that his offer stands.”
“Well,” Bethany said, “I think that’s great news.”
“Yeah, whatever. Samson is whatever. Can we talk about something else?” Lena grumbled.
Rodney and Bethany simply chuckled and patted the Yurble on the back. The three of them continued on down the road to Krawk’s Tavern, two of them eagerly awaiting the outcome of the night, and one, well... fiddling with her chin fur.
A clumsy pirate Blumaroo waiter sat Bethany and Rodney at a table near the stage and hurriedly served them assorted seaweed wraps and greasy hamburgers. Bethany poked the seaweed wraps with her fork briefly, then moved her plate aside. “This food doesn’t look like it’s meant to be consumed, but Lena loves it, doesn’t she? Maybe that explains why she’s so bizarre. It’s the seaweed wraps,” Bethany quipped.
“Lena’s strangeness can’t be based solely on the strange stuff that she eats. I mean, she didn’t lead a normal childhood under any circumstances. Her owner practically forced her into singing lessons from day one, and then suddenly took off one day. I don’t get the feeling they were ever very close. When I stumbled upon her singing at this very tavern, I seized the opportunity and offered to be her agent in exchange for some of the profits from these shows,” Rodney said wistfully.
“I know, Rodney, you tell me this story almost every night.” Bethany smiled gently. “But it’s not just her owner, you know. I don’t think that she’s ever been close to anyone in her life. Sure, we’re her friends, but if we were her true friends she would trust us by now. She would be able to take a compliment, you know? Why is she so down on herself?”
“She’s my friend,” Rodney said a bit defensively, “and besides, when you have no one to love you early on, the love you receive later is never enough to compensate for what you lost,” Rodney said.
“Did you steal that quote from a magazine or something?”
“Yeah,” Rodney admitted.
Bethany rolled her eyes, but mid-roll, noticed a familiar fire Nimmo enter the tavern. Amid the swashbuckling pirates and confused waiters, he stuck out like a Skeith in a health food store. “Isn’t that Samson?” she asked.
Rodney turned around in his seat. “Sure is,” he confirmed. “He must be really interested in Lena; this is pretty exciting!”
“Let’s invite him to sit with us,” Bethany suggested out of nowhere.
Rodney shrugged. “Why not?” He waved his wing to Samson, trying to catch his attention. The Nimmo discerned him through the buccaneers and plunderers and went to the table.
Before Samson could utter a word, Bethany greeted him. “Hello there, you must be Samson from Samson Studios. You’re the one that’s interested in Lena, right? Well, Rodney over here” – she gestured to the Lenny – “happens to be her agent.”
“I’m interested,” Samson said. “Lena is a real prize. She could make a fortune, well, she would make a fortune if she worked for me.”
Rodney looked slightly perplexed for a moment, then shrugged off the statement. “Lena’s a bit shy, but we’re sure she would love the opportunity to excel in the performing arts.”
“She has a great voice and she’s nice most of the time–” Bethany began to add.
“She’s just not marketable yet. Sure, her voice might be okay, but she looks like she’s been pulled right off of the street. She needs to look the part,” Samson said, rather insincerely. He moved his monstrous diamond ring up and down his finger, irritating the other two to some degree.
“But she’s already a very cute girl,” Bethany countered.
“Cute doesn’t always cut it in show biz. She needs to be glamorous,” Samson said flatly. “Ah, but anyway, it’s been a pleasure.” He took off without any further good-bye.
Rodney smirked. “He’s not the most pleasant fellow.”
“True, he seems superficial to me. But if you worked with him to get Lena’s name out there, she’d be in for a bright future. It’s worth it, for Lena. You have to remember, this is the guy that put M*Y*N*C*I onto the red carpet,” Bethany reasoned.
“I know, sis. He’s like the Fyora of my business. He’s supreme. Almighty. Paramount. He’s the crowned chief; he’s the unmatched Nim–”
“I think I get it. No need for any further explanation.”
Rodney shifted his eyes awkwardly. “Right. Let’s try and arrange a meeting between them after the show.”
Bethany nodded, and the two fell silent as the curtain opened and Lena made her entrance. Before she began singing, she hesitated for a short moment due to Samson sitting at a table no more than three feet away from her. She was afraid of him and intent on impressing him at the same time. On the first note, her voice shook slightly, but she regained control and sang her heart out after that. She made no further mistakes and commanded attention from even the rowdiest pirates for the rest of the night.
When the show was over, Lena stepped out into the now calmer dining area and sat down with Rodney and Bethany. A few pets came by to compliment her, but did not affect her mood that much one way or another. “Well, you did it again,” Bethany said, congratulating her. She then noticed Samson walking towards their table.
“Fantastic, Lena, as always,” the Nimmo said loudly, approaching the table with arms wide open. “You are a star in training.”
“You liked it?” Lena asked, speaking her first words of the night.
“Sure did. You’ve certainly got talent. Come on, walk with me,” Samson said.
Rodney grew so excited for Lena that he nearly crushed his own sunglasses in anticipation. He urged her to go along with the Nimmo and ruffled the matted fur on her head. “Remember, Lena, M*Y*N*C*I,” he whispered.
She smiled, betraying a great deal of nervousness, and turned away from him.
As they walked towards the exit of the restaurant, Samson began to shower the young Yurble in offers to work for Samson Studios. “...You’ll perform on weekends for the wealthiest Neopians, and eventually, you’ll be one of the wealthiest Neopians,” Samson finished.
“That sounds amazing, but... I’m so plain. Do you think all of those rich pets would really come to see me perform?” Lena asked in disbelief.
“Without a doubt. Once my make up artists are through with you, kid, you’ll be looking like a whole new Yurble.”
Excitement welled up inside of Lena. This is it, she realized, this is my chance to finally be glamorous. No more wondering about whether I have to be pretty without jewelry, or with it, or anything! If what this guy is saying is true, then I can be a star, can’t I?
“I’ll do it. I’ll work for you,” Lena said happily, feeling confident for once. Samson had seemed so unappealing before, but she now felt like she could trust him. He would make her the beautiful star that she wanted to be. He would set her free from her insecurities. She hoped.
To be continued...