Unlucky Issue Four Hundred
If just about any other Elephante had screamed, the structure of their strong bodies and stately trunks would have created a deep, rumbling, ground-shaking sound to be feared by opposing troops and lunch-snatching bullies all around. Phairix, however, had been swayed six months ago by the more fashionable ideal of the higher voice and had spent every morning thereafter drinking down odd concoctions of honey, cherry neocola, and the juice of a half-cooked tchea fruit with the intentions of taking her voice a few octaves higher. Thus, Phairix's scream was light, high-pitched, and came out in one long note as if it were the climax of the number one pop song this week.
Phairix wouldn't stop screaming. The Speckled Elephante continued her scream as she stood up from the floor and stomped her feet in a pouting fashion. She continued her scream as she snatched up the magazine she had been reading and pout-stomped into her bathroom with its brightly lit vanity. Her scream ended abruptly as she slammed the open magazine onto the toilet seat next to her, and her scream was quickly replaced by heavy frantic breathing as she rummaged desperately through a drawer. The magazine was the four hundredth issue of "Neopia Fashion Monthly," and it lay open to the page that had just informed Phairix that her long trunk was just not "in."
"If it's coming out of your face," it said, "it'd better be small!"
Phairix had devoted her life to always being in fashion. She subscribed to the top Neopian fashion magazine and spent long hours examining each new issue, then figuring out how to execute each new look so that her next month at Neoschool could be spent in complete style. All of her friends did the same, so it was absolutely crucial that she never missed a step. There were plenty of girls in her clique but, because of Phairix's hard work and snobbery to anyone who didn't match up with what was "in," she was number one.
"But every single one of those girls is just waiting to stomp all over me to be number one," Phairix muttered as she attempted to fix her new problem. The Elephante slid a few wide bangle bracelets over her trunk, hoping the width of them would help make her trunk look smaller. By the time the optical illusion was sufficient enough for Phairix, however, her trunk was just too heavy to lift and even she had to admit that it looked too cluttered to be fashionable.
"I'm doomed!" Phairix sobbed. Phairix had undergone so many transformations to stay number one in her Neoschool's fashionable who's who. She had flaunted being a Royal Elephante until issue 393 of "Neopia Fashion Monthly" stated that green and white were totally the colors for spring, that no others would do. While her friends had opted for either green or white, Phairix had stepped it up and picked both. This was a sacrifice for Phairix because the pale blue she had left behind had always felt divine to her. But fashion for Phairix was worth every sacrifice. Now there were no more to be made, and Phairix swallowed the large lump in her throat as she imagined the four pairs of eyes that would be gleaming maliciously at her as she fell from her roost.
And gleam maliciously those four pairs of eyes did as Phairix strode into the lunch room that next week, plus one extra pair. Phairix grimaced harder than she had already been doing. One of the girls' cousins, a particularly short-beaked Disco Lenny that Phairix had really never liked, had finally gotten her chance to edge into the group. The Lenny, to Phairix, had always been one of those desperate types who, despite their embarrassing efforts, was always one step behind the latest "in."
But now it was Phairix who was behind. The group collectively let out false, saccharine sounds of concern as their shining, hungry eyes locked on to Phairix.
"Oooh, Phairix dear," cooed the Lenny's cousin, a Christmas Gnorbu named Chel, "did you forget to read the 400th issue of 'NFM?' It was their biggest issue ever, you know. But you must have missed it because..." Chel shrugged as she let her dangerously syrupy voice drop, leaving the silence for her newly-accepted cousin to finish.
"Because 'if it's coming out of your face, it'd better be small!" the cousin finished with a snide smirk.
"Oh yeah, I read that," Phairix exhaled in the best dismissive voice she could manage. She knew this was coming and had spent her time dressing that morning in as many of the more expensive new fashion choices she could find. She purposefully dangled a very new and very expensive designer bag out in front of her for the girls to see as she feigned idle boredom with the conversation. "But that's just silly," she half-laughed, "because what is anyone with a trunk or a long beak or whatever going to do about it? I think it was just some opinion of someone not too high up or something, it doesn't make sense."
"Yeah, it doesn't make sense," the cousin spat with her cheeks burning, "but what doesn't make sense is why you say that now when you, Phairix, always made fun of me because of my short beak. Now you're at the bottom and I'm at the top, so how does it feel?!"
Chel silenced her cousin's rage with a look, then cleared her throat and turned back to Phairix. The smile on her face and the sweetness in her voice were just as fake as all the girls had ever been to each other. In a word, terribly.
"Sorry, Phair," Chel's sing-songy statement began, "but fashion isn't always 'fair,' Phair." The girls all smiled at Chel's ridiculously simple pun.
Phairix knew what that meant. There was no way she could still be queen, and the venom that her "friends" constantly spat between themselves meant that, for as long as Phairix wasn't in fashion, she wasn't one of them either. Years of fakeness and devotion to a superficial magazine let Phairix keep a detached and uncaring visage, however, as she rolled her eyes boredly and replied, on a short and forced exhale,
Phairix left her vulture-like former "friends" and strode out of the cafeteria and into the yard. She wasn't one of them but that definitely under no circumstances meant anyone else was good enough for her to sit near them either. The bejeweled and befashioned Speckled Elephante settled under the shade of the tree and began to eat her lunch as she fumed. This was absolutely ridiculous! Three hundred and ninety-nine issues of pure perfection, just for it all to fall apart!
"Hey Phairix," came a voice to interrupt the Elephante's mental outrage. The voice came from a Striped Aisha who had a lot of classes with Phairix and always greeted her. Which was ridiculous to Phairix, of course, because it's not like she ever greeted her back, so why did she keep doing it? So weird. But Phairix was tired of hearing herself think, and she was ready to hear herself talk instead.
"Yeah, hey, you, whatever your name is, come sit because you will not believe what just happened," Phairix insisted with indignation.
"My name is Reli..."
"Yeah, whatever. So like,"
And with that, Phairix spilled her story and her appraisals of her friends' jealousies and the like whatever's about the whole situation to a slightly ambushed Reli. The Elephante finally said what she had left to say after twenty minutes, ending, of course, with a "whatever."
"I totally agree." Reli nodded, speaking for the first time since she had said what her own name was. "I've got a little after school job at that fashion mag and it's crazy what all of the people there do to get to each other. It's so Warf eat Warf it's ridiculous. Every so often they ask me for my opinion and, just to trip people up, I say that something nobody can control is totally in and watch them go crazy over the smallest things. I think it's called 'minimum groups paradigm' or something, where you separate people for really trivial reasons and then watch the way those groups do mean things to each other. I have to apologize that you got hurt, I think the 'short on your face' thing was my joke comment when they were doing this magazine like three months ago."
"Yeah yeah, whatever, you talk a lot." Phairix hadn't genuinely heard a word that Reli had said, obviously too wrapped up in her own mind, her own problems, and her own words. If she had heard Reli, she might have spent some genuine thought on her situation and the things that she thought were important. She might have reevaluated her values and chosen friends who didn't care so much about "fashion," which just changed every month anyway. Phairix might have grown, Phairix might have changed, and Phairix might have had a more stable sense of self where she appreciated everyone for their differences.
But the only parts that Phairix understood about that last sentence of possibilities were "Phairix... Phairix... Phairix."
So the Speckled Elephante, who became a Pink Elephante the next month in an attempt to keep up, spent her time orbiting the edges of her former clique like Chel's cousin had done until finally, months later, "Neopia Fashion Monthly" declared that any sized facial protrusion was fashionable as long as you used shimmery makeup to draw artistic swirls on it.
And Reli just shrugged.