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A Dinner Party


by lavender_plum

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Saturday mornings are usually a safe haven of glorious comfort and alone time for me. It's the single day of the week that my mother doesn't force me out of bed before noon and thrust expensive clothing at me, muttering about the deplorable crime that is my pair of worn, navy blue sweatpants and despicable posture. It's also the one day that she doesn't drag me to some dull, stuffy high society gathering like a formal brunch at Kelp or – the horror – a charity ball, where I'd be expected to sit ramrod-straight for hours in an uncomfortable evening gown and ridiculously tall shoes that pinch my feet.

      So you can imagine the immediate sense of impending doom that floods over my poor soul when I awake to the shrill, icy sound of my mother's voice ringing through my bedroom. Let me tell you, I nearly have a heart attack. It's worse than the nightmare I'd once had about dangling from the tallest tower on the castle in Meridell, knowing that if I made a single move, the tiny thread suspending me from the stained-glass window would snap and I would plummet to my death. Heights terrify me, in case you couldn't already tell.

      Mother is cradling Lucille, her revolting pink Spardel who I'm positively convinced has this all-consuming hatred/death wish towards me. I know because whenever I'm around Lucille starts growling really low and scary for something so tiny, and she just stares at me with her creepy bug eyes. It gives me anxiety, probably another reason why I don't enjoy spending time with my mother. Wherever Mother goes, Lucille goes with her.

      Anyways, Mother is standing there in her pale pink blazer and matching pants, rambling on and on about something that I can't quite concentrate on, because it's far too early in the morning to be having a legitimate conversation. Especially when there's a miniscule, fluorescent pink Petpet giving you the death stare.

      "I'm sorry, Mother, what?"

      She just lets out this huge exasperated sigh, like I'm such a waste of time and why does she even bother trying to explain anything to me.

      "I said you'd better come take a look at the menu and then I'm calling Lorenzo right away to start on your fur because Fyora knows it's going to take all day to straighten out that hideous mess."

      Gee, thanks, Mother.

      "What menu? Why is Lorenzo coming? It is Saturday, right?"

      "Of course it's Saturday," Mother retorts frostily, shifting Lucille into her arms. "And I do hope your joking about the menu, and Lorenzo. You should know why."

      I respond with a blank stare.

      She sighs again, all huffy like she's got somewhere else to be. Well, in her defense, she probably does. Mother is always busy.

      "The dinner party? Tonight, at 7:00? At our home? The mayor of Neopia Central is attending? Does any of this ring a bell?"

      At that precise moment my mother's words send a shock rippling through my entire body, ending with a sickening thud in the pit of my stomach. A dinner party? Tonight, of all nights? It's Saturday, for Fyora's sake! Didn't you hear me before talking about how this is my one and only night of freedom from the burdens of high society?

      And let's not even get into the fact that the mayor of Neopia Central is attending. The last thing I want to do is make a fool of myself in front of him.

      "Er, uh, yeah, of course I knew about the party," I try, hoping to fill the awkward silence that fills the room like a giant balloon of... awkwardness.

      Mother responds with a frustrated roll of her eyes. "When you've collected yourself, find your way to the kitchen to look over the menu. I'll be sending Lorenzo in shortly."

      Okay.

      Well this is just FLIPPIN' GREAT.

      I've got less than – let me check my clock – twelve hours to adjust to the fact that not only a slew of society Neopets, including the mayor of Neopia Central, will be mingling and chatting and sipping cocktails inside my home, but that I'm expected to attend, probably clad in some absolutely ludicrous dress, and be SOCIAL?

      Yeah, that's not happening. I HATE being social.

      With an aggravated huff worthy of my mother herself, I fling the thick comforter off of my bed and jump down onto the plush, cream-colored carpet. The sun outside of my arched floor-to-ceiling windows shines cheerily as if it is oblivious to my despair. Stupid sun. Stupid floor-to-ceiling windows. Stupid party, stupid mayor, stupid society.

      After digging through the piles of dirty clothes on my floor to find my glasses (I'm blind as a Korbat), I exit the comfort of my room and sulk down the winding marble staircase in the direction of our enormous, restaurant-quality kitchen. There are Neopets everywhere – maniacally polishing doorknobs, vacuuming the ornate Qasalan rugs, arranging fresh flowers in every corner. When I finally manage to dodge all of the enthusiastically determined workers and reach the kitchen, I notice that, in addition to our full time culinary staff, Mother has acquired several additional caterers to help out in the kitchen.

      Yes, we have a full time culinary staff. And maid crew. And a butler. I don't like to bring any of this up, because I hate sounding like some wealthy, pompous jerk. I also don't like to mention that our lavish Neohome is located on Wisteria Avenue, perhaps one of the most prestigious addresses for a rich family.

      That's the difference between Mother and I. She loves to flaunt our money like it's the latest designer hand bag. For example, she's always trying to get me to paint myself a different color that "appropriately depicts my wealth and rank," like her (a faerie Lenny). I flat out refuse to be any fancier than what I am – a striped Aisha. It's more subtle than what she wants, at least: either gold, faerie, or royal.

      She doesn't understand that I would be just as content living in a modest Neohome, wearing common brands, never having to attend silly society gatherings to prove my financial and social status to the rest of Neopia. No one does. They all think I'm ungrateful for not appreciating what I have. It's not that, at all. I know there are Neopets out there that don't even have homes and would be elated to live somewhere so grand. It's just that all this splendor isn't really my style.

      I walk through the solid oak doors that lead to the kitchen and say hello to George and Helena, the brown Flotsam and speckled Kyrii who handle most of the day-to-day food preparation. They've both obviously been working like crazy to pull off the dinner tonight – I can tell it's not exactly a simple little one-course meal from the lengthy menu posted on the wall next to the door.

      Cocktails

  •       Iced Berry Water
  •       Lutari Fizz
  •       Sparkling Apple Juice
  •       Hors D'oeuvres
  •       Stuffed Grape Leaves
  •       Shrimp on Ice
  •       Brie Cheese Platter

      Soup

  •       Spicy Coconut Soup

      Salad

  •       Mushroom and Herb Salad

      Seafood Course

  •       Fresh Lobster Tail
  •       Black Caviar
  •       Organic Yellow Tomatoes

      Meat Course

  •       Fancy Rack of Lamb
  •       Simmered Shenkuu Mushrooms
  •       Radish Sprouts
  •       Flower Nectar

      Dessert

  •       Rose Cake
  •       Chocolate Mousse
  •       Peophin Fruit Medley

      Coffee and Tea

  •       Lavender Mint Tea
  •       Maraquan Blend Coffee

      I must admit, everything smells pretty good, but I'm still mystified as to why a dinner requires eight different courses. I mean, who really needs a seafood course and a meat course? All of this fancy gourmet food is way too frou-frou for my taste. I personally prefer a nice Rainbow Burger with Cheese and some Baked Chomby Crisps over all of these extravagant dishes.

      I grab an Earth Faerie Apple from the stainless steel bowl on the counter and make my way back up to my bedroom. Of course, Lorenzo is already there, cheerful as can be despite my obvious lack of interest. Lorenzo just loves to doll me up.

      "What are we gonna do with you today, Missy Claire?" he sings, throwing his arms out for a hug. I reluctantly embrace him and plop down in the feathery pink pouf that sits in front of my vanity table. Lorenzo is the only one who actually calls me Claire, like I asked everyone to. Everyone else calls me by my real name, Clarity, which I absolutely detest. I guess Mother instructed them to do that because she hates when I ask her to call me Claire.

      "Just get it over with," I grumble, biting into my apple and slouching down on the pouf to demonstrate just exactly how irritated I am with this whole party thing.

      Lorenzo sinks into one hip and purses his lips at me in the mirror. "Looks like somebody is in a bad mood, huh? Well, don't you worry, sweetheart. You're gonna be grinning from ear to ear when you see how fabulous you look!" The electric Blumaroo leans down and hefts his massive cosmetic case onto my vanity counter. "It's makeover time!" he trills.

      Three hours later, I've been plucked, polished, prepped, brushed, and sprayed to Lorenzo's satisfaction. I'm wearing the evening gown that Mother has picked out for me – a long, sequined thing in a shade of mysterious emerald green that I have to admit I kind of like.

      But that does not, in ANY way, mean that I am looking forward to wearing this itchy thing all night while fake-smiling and small talking with a bunch of snobbish strangers.

      Mother comes in to see me, and she looks pleased. At last, I've gained her fickle approval.

      "I must say, I'm impressed," she observes, looking me up and down. "You look like a proper society Neopet."

      "Just what I've always wanted," I mutter under my breath, adjusting the tight strap on my metallic high-heeled shoes.

      "Now, Clarity, you know that the mayor will be attending the party tonight."

      I fight the urge to roll my eyes. "Yes, Mother."

      "He will be bringing with him his daughter, Angelica. I believe she is about the same age that you are and I expect you will be exceedingly cordial to her. Perhaps if all goes well tonight, you two shall visit each other again in the near future. Imagine how impressive it would be to be friends with the mayor's daughter!"

      There's the mother I know. Always so concerned about public image.

      "Now, I must go and attend to some urgent business in the dining room. That dimwitted new maid seems to have lost the place cards and something simply must be done about it." With that, my mother sweeps out of my room, Lucille glaring at me from over her shoulder.

      I check the clock and realize that there is only half an hour until the guests start arriving. I start to get this sick feeling in my stomach, not only because I dread this sort of thing but also because of the added pressure that I have to entertain the mayor's daughter. She's probably some snooty, arrogant princess. I doubt she'll be very pleased to be in my company for the night, let alone want to be friends with me. What is mother thinking? I'm not cut out for this.

      The time seems to go by in a flash, and all of the sudden, Mother is screaming at me to hustle downstairs because the first guest is approaching down the front walk.

      Well, here goes. Wish me luck.

      * * * * * * * *

      I'm freaking out.

      FREAKING OUT!

      I'm standing here in the corner of our drawing room, nervously clutching a glass of Sparkling Apple Juice and waiting for them to arrive.

      By them I mean the mayor and his daughter, Angelica. They're still not here. I guess it's only been about ten minutes since the first guest walked through the doors, but it seems like so much longer. I've been trying to avoid talking to anyone by hiding strategically behind the intricately carved oaken bookcase, and so far, it's worked. But it won't save me from socializing forever. Particularly because Mother told the mayor that I would be delighted to entertain Angelica for the evening. Even her name sounds totally bratty. Angelica. Well, I shouldn't be talking – my name's Clarity.

      These things give me so much stress. I wouldn't be surprised if I fainted halfway through the soup course from the strain all of this social business is causing.

      I dart my hand out to stealthily snatch a shrimp from the crystal bowl a waiter is carrying around the room, offering to the guests. When I'm stressed, I get hungry. Right now I'm so stressed I could eat the entire Giant Omelette on the Tyrannian Plateau.

      Uh, oh. Mother sees me from across the room and is giving me that scary, threatening look she has. I can just tell she's thinking: You better get out here and mingle or so help me I will lock you in your room for the rest of your life. Now that I think about it, maybe being locked in my room wouldn't be all that bad. At least I wouldn't have to go to any more dumb parties.

      I give in to my mother's persistent glaring and meekly shuffle out of my hiding place. Almost instantly a portly white Moehog catches sight of me and ambles over.

      "You wouldn't happen to be Clarity, would you?" he asks me, adjusting his shiny gold monocle.

      "Yes, sir," I reply wearily. Get ready for an evening filled with uncomfortable questions like, "How's school going?"

      "Pleased to meet you. Mayor Applegate." He offers his pudgy hoof to me for a handshake.

      The mayor! He's here! When did that happen?

      So if the mayor's here, that means that Angelica must be, as well. Oh, boy. It all starts now.

      "I'm sure you've heard about my daughter. She's quite excited to finally meet someone her age at one of these parties." Mayor Applegate chuckles to himself.

      Okay, sure. Just wait until she sees how antisocial and weird I am, unlike all the other seasoned society party-goers currently occupying my home.

      "She's right over there." The mayor turns to indicate a faerie Acara standing with her back turned to us. She's quite visible through the crowd, thanks to the giant, bubblegum pink faerie wings sprouting from her back.

      "Okay," I reply, my voice wavering a little. "I'll go and say hello."

      It suddenly feels way too crowded and hot in the drawing room. There's too many Neopets, the laughter is too loud and I'm starting to get sweaty. The minute I reach Angelica, she turns around and faces me.

      "Oh!" she exclaims in a quiet, high-pitched voice. Not exactly the voice of a stuck-up super diva, but who knows.

      "Hi," I say awkwardly. "I'm Claire."

      "Angelica," she says. I notice that she seems a little ill at ease. She's looking at the ground, not making eye contact, and I can see that her knuckles have turned white from gripping her Lutari Fizz. Weird. She seems even more nervous than I feel.

      Deciding to go out on a limb here, I lean in and whisper, "Just so you know, this is totally not my crowd. I've never been a fan of these formal parties."

      Relief washes over her face and I can visibly see her relax. "Oh my gosh, me too! My dad drags me to all of these parties and I feel so awkward! I never have any idea of what to say!"

      We both giggle, instantly bonded by our mutual dread of high society.

      "I like your dress," Angelica says.

      "Thanks! I like yours too!" For the first time tonight, I genuinely smile. I turn and see Mother looking at me, nodding. YES! She finally approves!

      Maybe this dinner party won't be so bad after all.

The End

This will be my first in the Neopian Times!!! I welcome any comments, criticisms or suggestions! (:

 
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