Neovision Superstar: Part Five
I really, really didn’t want to go to school on Monday, for obvious reasons. The weekend had been torture enough, with both Cassy and Michelle dropping by to see how it went. They did the only thing they could and gave me their sympathies, but I doubted Ms. Vanderbalk would do the same.
I had woken up early that morning to a bright and sunny day. “That’s not fair,” I mumbled to myself. “I’m in an awful mood. The weather should be, too.”
It was hard to avoid talking to my mother and father much for the morning, but I managed it. I’m sure they realized their daughter wasn’t in a mood to talk.
Grabbing an apple, making my lunch, and putting on my jacket were the last tasks for the morning. Before I could open the door, my mother put a furry paw on my shoulder.
“Hillary,” she said in a soft voice. “Just remember to have hope in yourself.”
Tears started coming to my eyes again, and with a strong force of will they were kept back. I nodded solemnly and went to Neoschool.
“Hey,” Cassy whispered as we walked into the building. “How are you?”
“What’s with the whispering?”
Her mouth twitched, holding back a smile. “I really don’t know how to act around you.”
I raised an eyebrow, not sure what she meant, but the knowledge suddenly swamped over me. Cassy wasn’t sure if she should pretend the audition ever happened, tell me everything was all right, or say to do better next time.
There was no time to answer, as the warning bell rang and we sprinted to class with seconds to spare. The rest of the class was already assembled, smirking at us.
When the final bell rang, Ms. Vanderbalk arrived exactly as the sound died out again at the doorway. “Silent reading time, remember?” she half-said, half-yelled.
There were a few stifled groans as we started our daily ‘silent’ reading, although it wasn’t too silent. Most of the time there would be a few whispered conversations or giggles, but Ms. Vanderbalk didn’t mind. Today was different.
“So did you hear?” Luke said, turning to Jan beside him. He was speaking in a stage whisper, so the whole class could hear. “Apparently Hillary got turned down at the Neovision Headquarters. She botched up badly, I heard.”
A tidal wave of shock rolled through me as nearly every person in the class turned towards me. Ms. Vanderbalk, having momentarily stepped out of the class, was unable to help me. I knew this is what she meant by having to stand up for myself.
“Luke,” I said carefully, setting my book aside, “if I were you, I’d focus more on not failing math tests than trying to bring my down to your level.”
My paws flew to my mouth. Did I just say that? I had totally forgotten about Luke failing the math test, and here I was, telling the whole class!
His eyes darkened, and the eyes of the class kept flickering from him to me. “That’s nothing compared to you making an utter fool of yourself in front of the best Neovision directors of today!”
I felt like he’d punched me. How did he know? “Really? At least my grade average will allow me to go into a good profession!”
That was harsh. I could tell just from the way he recoiled. He was about to launch into a tirade when Ms. Vanderbalk came in. Noticing the way all of the heads in the class faced either Luke or me, she sighed.
“Luke, Hillary, could I see you two in the hall?”
There were whispers flying about as we stepped into the hall. I caught Cassy and Michelle’s eyes and shook my head, trying to tell them not to knock any of the gossipers out. As Ms. Vanderbalk closed the door behind us, my guilt once again threatened to take over me.
“So, Ms. Benk, Mr. Abencorth,” she began, “I do believe that some explanations are in order.”
Luke and I, not really listening, had engaged in a staring match. Ms. Vanderbalk sighed, and clapped her paws together. We jumped.
“Explanations?” she repeated.
“For what?” Luke and I said at the same time.
“Why is it that when I enter the room, every single person is watching you two with held breath? If I didn’t know better, you two were in a verbal fight.”
We didn’t know how to respond.
“Hillary... Luke. Why don’t we get all of this behind us? What’s the problem?”
I knew Luke couldn’t keep control of himself. “Ms. Vanderbalk, Hillary said I wouldn’t get into a good profession because my math average was low!”
Well, if I was getting detention, so was he. “Luke started telling the whole class that I was... that I was less than successful at the Neovision auditions.”
Ms. Vanderbalk crossed her arms, her eyes flashing. “First of all, listen closely. Luke, your math average does not dictate your future profession necessarily. It will help greatly, however. Secondly, a high-paying job may not be for you. Would it better to be rich and unhappy or poor and happy?”
It was a rhetorical question, that much I could tell.
“Hillary, every profession deals with losses before its gains. That’s why, after the darkest, harshest storms, the birds sing their best songs.
“Now, I will not be giving detention here. Think about what I said. And Luke, how do you know about the Neovision auditions?”
“My uncle works there,” he said, and something flashed in me. The Lupe who had led me to the audition room! He hadn’t left during the audition, I guess. Somehow, he connected that I knew Luke and had told him.
“Now why are you two just standing here?” Mrs. Vanderbalk briskly said. “Get in to class. You still have ten minutes left of reading!”
The rest of the morning passed horribly. Whispers and turning heads following me everywhere, and I could feel shame and failure weighing on my shoulders side-by-side. Instead of sticking up for myself –I know, I should have- I kept silent and had my head hanging down.
When the bell for lunch rang, I nearly catapulted myself up and out of the chair. Behind me, I could hear Cassy and Michelle scrambling for their books, trying to catch up with me.
“Whoa, Hillary, slow down!”
The two were breathless by the time they caught up to be in the jammed hallway. Quickly opening my locker, I shoved in my books and brought out the customary lunch bag filled with the usual sandwich.
“Why’d you run away so fast?” Michelle asked, collapsing against the locker next to mine.
“Luke,” I mumbled under my breath, fighting with the junk that was piling up in my locker. “Don’t-want-to-talk-to-him!”
On the last word, my books and other school things came falling out of the locker. I groaned, and quickly started picking them up. “His locker’s beside mine- gotta hurry!”
My friends exchanged looks, and decided to drop the subject. “Well, he’s not here right now,” Cassy said, helping to put my geography book back in the locker. “So calm down. Anyways, did you hear? It wasn’t Kenneth Kyrii who stole from that shop! Turns out it was his brother, who just used his brother’s fame to help him steal.”
I paused my frenzied cleaning, shocked. “Really?”
“Really. So he’s still your idol, then?”
Pausing, I reflected on her sentence. Sure, Kenneth was awesome. He had achieved super-stardom and everyone knew his name. But my idol?
“No,” I finally said slowly. “No. He’s not. My idol... is my mother. She is the happiest person in the world, and to me that beats anything.”
Cassy and Michelle blinked once, then twice. Michelle spoke first.
“Whoa. That was actually something smart, Hillary. Is the world ending?”
I laughed. “No... just a celebrity crush.”
We made our way to the cafeteria, talking out irrelevant things, and ignoring the conversation I’d had with Mrs. Vanderbalk. However, I could tell they were both itching to talk about the audition.
“You can ask me more,” I finally said, sitting at our regular table. “I think I can tell you guys about it. All of it.”
Without missing a beat, Cassy asked, “So why did you mess up reading it?”
I shrugged. “Dunno. The words just... couldn’t form, you know? They were okay on the page, but they sounded funny when I said them. I couldn’t stop stammering!”
Michelle slurped her soup, gasping at the heat. After she had chugged back some water, she had a weird look in her eyes. “Hey, Hillary. What’s today’s special?”
My eyebrows narrowed. What was she getting at? The special was Lasagna with salad. It looked good, but was a tad too pricey for me.
“It’s...” I paused. “Lasa-lasagna wi-with s-salad.”
Cassy and Michelle’s eyes bulged. “Um, Hillary?” Cassy started.
I couldn’t help it. My eyes started to water. “Yeah?”
“Do you... have trouble with reading things aloud?”
Staring ahead, trying not to break into sobs, I realized she was right. I never read aloud. I never needed to. If I was in class, I would excuse myself to the washroom before it was my turn. I had never realized I had dreaded it so much. Reading something was fine, but saying it was totally different.
“I feel like a total fool!” I yelled, but luckily no one except my friends heard me, as it was too loud. “I can’t read aloud! How stupid! Now I can never be on Neovision, I can’t even read a script!”
Shoving my things to the floor, I collapsed into tears and buried my head into my arms. “Dreams die hard,” I mumbled tearfully, and tried not to think of the future.
To be continued...