Ridley's Ruin: Part Two
"So he wants you to join his band?" Fay asked, crinkling up his nose like he always did when he didn't believe something.
"It's true!" I said, pounding the table with my fork. We were sitting at the counter of Molten Morsels like we always did on Friday nights, enjoying a treat after a week of hard work. Well, harder on Fay's part; he had a real job while I played for tips.
"Sounds sketchy," Fay said, stirring his fried ginger with his spoon. "I don't know. Still, if we turn down the 'rich folks' part. . ."
". . .he might just give us a ton of money," I finished for him, shoveling a forkful of hot onion salad into my mouth. "Which we need."
"Yeah. We need the shed Mama gave us for the forge, so we're forced to share a tent with the Flints," Fay said, making a face. The Flints had recently had quadruplets, and they made quite a racket.
"It would be nice to have our own place. And a better forge for you. And a better guitar for me. Not that I'm not grateful to you for making this," I said quickly, and he made a face again.
"I guess. Just, be careful, alright?" He finished his meal and laid the empty plate aside and leaned toward me, his elbows slipping on the dirty counter.
"Of course. I always am." I shoved the last forkful of onion in my mouth and sighed, pushing the empty plate away from me. "C'mon, Fay. You know I've always wanted a band."
"Your own band. Not someone else's," he reminded me. "You can't pick your bandmates. You can't pick the instruments, you can't pick the name. You can't pick anything. And you're not the lead."
"You know I can't sing, Fay, I wouldn't be the lead singer. . ." I started.
He held up a paw to cut me off. "I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about how you're gonna be just another member of the band, and you'll have to do whatever this Mr. Genson says."
"Well, it's a band," I said airily. "C'mon, Fay. Let's get home."
. . .
It was only when I got home that I realized there was something in my pocket.
I had just lain down on my mattress (it was my week to have it; next week would be Fay's) when I realized something was jabbing my side through the thin material of the shabby overcoat I never took off. I squirmed around for a bit, thinking that maybe there was a thorn or something in the mattress, when I remembered that there weren't any thorns in Moltara. That made me sit up straight.
I rummaged around in both my pockets, both of which I kept meticulously empty. As Fay would say, why carry something in your pocket when you can not carry it at all? Wise words from an even wiser pet. I finally found a crumpled-up business card hidden deep inside my left front pocket.
How had he gotten it on me? I couldn't remember him getting any closer than a foot the whole time he was skulking creepily around me. It didn't add up. Whatever. I examined the business card in the dying lantern light.
"Mr. Robert Genson. 85940 Smoke Street. Tch." I threw the business card out the tent flap opening. One of the Flints' babies cried. Smoke Street was the place where the richest of the rich lived.
"As if I'd go there," I grumbled, and flopped back into bed. Before I realized that to live on Smoke Street, you'd have to have a lot of money. Duh. And you'd have to be rich. Double duh. But maybe, just maybe, I could find some way to siphon some of that money into my own pocket. Well, mine and Fay's.
"Alright, Mr. Richy-Pants," I muttered. "I'll visit you. Tomorrow."
. . .
In the end, I half-dragged Fay out of bed and we both trudged up the road to Smoke Street. The road to Smoke Street, mind you, not the actual Street itself. Fay wouldn't step foot on it. Even though I whined and begged and pleaded, he put his foot down and flatly refused to go.
"What about when my band gets famous and we have to travel the world? Are you gonna refuse to come to my concerts just cause a couple rich people might be there?" I asked.
"First of all, it's not your band. Second of all, this isn't just a couple rich people, it's a whole street full of rich people, and I'm not going, and that's final." He lifted his chin in the air as if daring me to argue.
I had to hand it to him. He'd put up a pretty good fight. And I also had to agree with him. I didn't want to be heading up Smoke Street any more than he did, but I had to. Besides, all managers were rich. Right?
"Well, then, Faycee," I said, knowing he hated it when I called him by his full name. "I'll be going on alone. If a big bad rich guy tries to cook me in a pie, you know who won't be there to help me." And with that, I stomped off, my guitar jostling against my back as I sloshed through several layers of mud—there was a crack in the cave ceiling over Smoke Street, and whenever it rained Smoke Street was muddy and wet.
"Oh!" a few rich girls tittered at me, all dolled up in their fancy lace and bootstraps adorned with miniscule golden gears and trimmed with velvet and silk. I stopped and looked down at myself. An oversized overcoat, a pair of scuffed black boots, ripped black pants, and a stained rag of a shirt. I snorted. I might look poor, but I looked pretty metal. And that was good.
So I walked on and ignored them and was on my way. "85940. 85940," I kept muttering to myself, scanning the houses. The rich sector of Moltara was mostly made up of former tourists who for some reason enjoyed living in wooden houses next to a magma lake. Genson had seemed more sly than stupid, so I wasn't sure why he was living up here, besides the fact that he was rich. Well, he had bumped into me.
Where was the stupid place? I could see practically every other number in Neopia besides 85940. What in Fyora's name was going on with the builders when they decided to put 59403 next to 23034, anyway? None of it made any sense. I was pretty sure I walked the length of the whole street about fifteen times before I saw it.
Stupid. Of course. It was the most enormous, grandiose house you could imagine. The gables had gables. There were turrets with little flags with what I swear was Mr. Genson's face on them. "85940" was painted in huge letters next to the solid gold mailbox. I couldn't believe I had missed it.
Well, I was here now so I might as well march right in and demand to see Mr. Genson. Except Mr. Genson was rich, so I couldn't just march right in. First I had to get past the yard guard, who had been disguised as a gnome in the front lawn, and then the door guard, who had painted themselves yellow and bent into the shape of a five to blend in with the house number. After all that I was finally in the house, where a maid took my boots and another maid took my coat and another maid and I had a fight over her taking my guitar. In the end she won (she was the biggest Skeith I had ever seen) and I was left standing barefoot on a huge marble staircase in nothing but my street rags.
"So, like, where's Genson?" I asked the nearest gaggle of maids. They gasped in horror.
"You mean Master Genson? Or perhaps Sir Genson? Or the Honorable Mr. Genson—" One, a tiny Wocky with eyes as big as her head, began rattling off names.
I cut her off before she could pass out. "Um, no. Just Genson. He's cool with me calling him that." I hoped. "Anyways, where is he?" I hoped this was the point where he'd say "That would be me" in his over-dramatic voice and come waltzing down the grand staircase and I'd be spared all this hooplah. No such luck.
"You must wait in the sitting room for Sir to come fetch you," the tiny Wocky said.
"Okay. . .how long will that take?" I examined one of his fingernails.
"The average time it will take his Lordship to prepare himself is three hours," a stick-thin Lenny said.
My eyes bulged out. "Three hours? What's he doing, running to the Lost Desert and back?"
"No, he—" But I never did get to hear exactly what he was doing, because at that moment he decided to make his over-dramatic entrance. And boy, was it dramatic. He was even wearing a cape. I kid you not.
"Ah, Ridley," he said grandly. "How nice to see you again. Please, have a seat in the parlor. Letitia, get us some tea." The tiny Wocky went running off, probably towards the kitchens.
"I don't drink tea," I snapped, annoyed and relieved at the same time. Annoyed, because he was such a ham. Relieved, because at least I didn't have to deal with the maids anymore.
"Whatever do you drink, then?" he sniffed.
"Plain old water."
"I don't believe I've ever had that. I only put milk in my tea," he said, looking down at me curiously.
"No matter. Ridley, I hope you're ready." Genson flung his arms out wide. "It's time to meet the band!"
To be continued...