A Very Hunter Christmas: Part One
“I can’t believe this is going to be our first Christmas in the new house!” exclaimed Tsukasa, gliding around the living room dreamily with a strand of gold tinsel held in her hoof. The rainbow Peophin twirled a little more, her evergreen dress spinning out around her, before stopping and staring up at the Christmas tree which reached all the way up to the ceiling. “It’s going to be amazing! By the time this tree’s finished, it will be a cut above everything and I plan to put the perfect presents beneath it.”
She looked over at her Delfin, Moonlight, who flipped out of her tank happily at the sound of Tsukasa’s voice. She draped the tinsel around the thick green branches of the tree and stood back to survey her handiwork with pride. It was the only thing actually on the tree, but Tsukasa was determined to make it look perfect by the time all of the boxes of decorations were unloaded. She was pretty sure it was going to be the best Christmas ever.
“Wow, well done, Tsukasa,” commented Feather Dust, her younger gold Uni sister, as she walked into the room, eating a piece of gingerbread, “You’ve managed to make the tree look ten times better than it was thirty minutes ago.” Tsukasa rolled her eyes.
“You may laugh,” she replied firmly, “But decorating this tree takes time, love and attention... and a younger brother who gets paid in the form of peppermint candies.”
At the sound of himself being mentioned, Blitz poked his head up from behind the couch. He was a baby Gelert, smothered in Christmas lights with a Santa hat perched on his head. A sticky swirl candy was stuck on his fur. Feather Dust blinked.
“Blitz. What are you doing?” she asked.
“Tsukasa’s paying me to find the fuse that’s blown on the Christmas lights,” he told her, surprisingly happy about the whole situation, before disappearing back behind the sofa. Feather Dust shrugged, swallowed her last piece of gingerbread and turned her attention back to Tsukasa, who was now measuring the coordinates of where to put a purple bauble.
“I guess we all have our own goals,” she said, “And mine is to get the lead role in the Christmas play.” She broke into a grin at the thought of it.
“I thought you were completely against the idea of auditioning for the play,” came Hennagell’s voice as he entered the room, holding a book of potions under his arm. He was a checkered Gelert and like everyone in his family he walked on two legs, apart from Tsukasa who floated.
“Well, I was,” Feather Dust answered, “But Fadey and Annabel persuaded me. Though I’m still kind of unsure about the whole thing...”
Tsukasa rolled her eyes again.
“No way, Feather,” she snapped, but in a friendly way, “You have an amazing singing voice and you know it. You’ll get the lead role easy.” Feather smiled weakly. She knew that everyone said that, but she couldn’t help but feel a little doubtful about it.
“What do you want for Christmas, Hennagell?” asked Tsukasa as she carefully placed the purple bauble on the exact branch between the exact green spikes.
“I’m working on a brand new potion,” he told her proudly. “Trust me, it’s going to blow everyone away on Christmas day!”
“I hope you don’t mean that literally,” said Tsukasa.
Blitz poked his head up from behind the sofa again and cried out, “Found it!”
Feather Dust stared into the mirror and smiled. It was auditions day.
Capricorn had insisted on making her look perfect for the ‘most important day of her little Uni’s life’. Feather Dust, by the end of it all, looked perfect for the part. Her golden locks had been curled into little ringlets and the front of her mane had been pulled back and tied with a red ribbon. She had polished her horn until it sparkled and brushed her tail until it was silky smooth. Capricorn had even bought her a pretty red dress which was layered with petticoats.
“I’m so nervous,” admitted Feather Dust. “Clarissa’s auditioning too.” Capricorn placed her hand on her pet’s shoulder.
“Feather Dust,” she said in her I’ll-make-you-feel-better-if-it-kills-me-voice, “if you don’t get this audition, I don’t want you to be too upset. If Clarissa gets the part, then it’s just one of those things. All I want is for you to do your best and show them what you’ve got.”
Feather Dust, as usual, couldn’t say no to anything her owner said. She gave her a big hug and got ready to leave.
Hennagell was the one who was going with her. He found a time in his schedule to accompany her while his potion settled to rest for four hours. They walked through the bitter winter air, wrapped up in their coats and scarves and listening to the sound of bells which chimed somewhere in the distance. It definitely felt like Christmas.
The only thing missing was snow.
The auditorium of Sandy Oaks Neoschool was huge. Hundreds of velvet red seats were place in front of the stage. Lots of other Neopets were practising their lines on the front few rows and were shaking with anticipation. On the stage, the technical team were hammering away at the different parts of the set, painting trees and slotting together bushes. The school’s drama teacher, Mrs Forthright, was organising the whole thing.
“Good luck, sis,” said Hennagell, giving Feather Dust a hug and sitting himself down somewhere in the middle of the seats. She took a deep breath and walked up onto the stage. She greeted Mrs Forthright, a tall yellow Lenny with a rather eccentric expression written across her face when she was happy.
“What part are you auditioning for, dear?” she asked pleasantly.
“The part of Lucy Mistletoe, please,” Feather Dust told her. Mrs Forthright handed her the extract of the script and song sheet and walked away to handle a very nervous Xweetok who was shaking in the corner of the room.
“You’re auditioning for Lucy Mistletoe?” a voice drawled. Feather Dust turned to see Clarissa and her friends standing there, Clarissa wearing her usual stuck-up expression. Ever since Feather Dust’s first day at Sandy Oaks, Clarissa had found a grudge to bear on her. Feather Dust had found a way to make her rather mean teacher like her, when the class discovered how musically talented she was. Clarissa, of course, was green with envy.
“Yes, I am,” said Feather Dust, trying not to look like she was intimidated by her.
“Puh-leese,” said the Uni. She had been recently painted white, especially for the role of Lucy Mistletoe, just so she could match the movie that had been made about it. “I can’t believe you actually expect to get a role in the play. You do realise that they’re looking for someone who is actually remotely attractive.” Her Uni friends laughed.
“And you do realise that they’re looking for someone who is actually remotely talented?” countered Feather Dust, pretty pleased with herself. Clarissa scowled.
“Break a leg,” she sneered, “Really.”
The auditions began.
“Clarissa Cartwright,” Mrs Forthright called. Feather Dust sat nervously in the front row along with the other Neopets. Everyone was anxious except, so it seemed, Clarissa. She bounded up onto the stage and clapped her hands together. The piano began to play and she sang a very upbeat version of the song ‘Christmas is My Only Best Friend’. Feather Dust rolled her eyes. Trust Clarissa to overexaggerate everything. However, it wasn’t her opinion that mattered. It was Mrs Forthright’s, and it seemed like she was enjoying it.
When it ended, the judges burst into applause. Clarissa curtseyed sweetly before climbing down the steps to the floor. She threw a dirty look at Feather Dust and laughed. Feather Dust had never felt more nervous. She was singing the same song as Clarissa, but slower.
“Feather Dust Hunter!” exclaimed Mrs Forthright. The Uni took a deep breath and walked up to the stage. She tried to block out the sound of Clarissa’s taunting and focused completely on the song. The piano began to play a slow ballad and she closed her eyes and sang.
“Sometimes I wonder why the stars still shine so bright,
Even when I’m lonely all through this Winter’s night,
That’s when I realise that I’m not alone,
And that this Christmas will be what I want.
Because Christmas is my only best friend...”
Feather Dust had never felt more comfortable in her life that when she was singing on stage. She felt so happy and she hoped that everyone else liked it too. The song finally finished and everyone clapped, apart from Clarissa and her posse. Feather Dust smiled and got down from the stage. Hennagell was standing up and clapping as loudly as he could, whistling and all. She ran over to him and hugged him.
“Well done, sis!” he said.
“That was amazing!” she gasped. “It was so much fun!”
“You’ve got the part for sure,” Hennagell told her. “There’s no way that you can’t. You should have seen Clarissa’s face!” Feather Dust smiled. She couldn’t wait to see the cast list the next day.
Feather Dust almost ran into Neoschool the next morning. She just couldn’t wait! Hennagell had told the whole family about her great performance at the auditions and they were all certain that she had got to the part of Lucy. She galloped down the corridor to the notice board, waving at her best friends Annabel and Fadey as she past them.
“Feather! Wait!” called Annabel, a royal girl Usul. Feather Dust slid to a stop in front of them.
“We’ve been waiting for you!” said Fadey, an orange Kougra.
“Because of the auditions,” squealed Annabel, “Someone who was there last night told us. They said you were amazing! You have to get the part. You just have to!”
“Come on then, let’s go!” said Feather Dust. She and her friends raced down the corridor to the drama notice board, where the cast list was posted.
She felt her heart fall.
Clarissa had got the part.
To be continued...