Usuki Singing Stars #20: G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S.
"Would you two like to join my guild?" a pink Wocky asked from behind a bright yellow booth.
Patricia and Scary were making their way towards the Smoothie Shop, their favourite hangout spot, when they came across an eager Wocky waving two sparkly red pamphlets in the air. "No thank you," Patricia said as she walked past the booth.
Scary turned around to glare at the pink Wocky. "What a nut," the purple Bruce mumbled. "Why in Neopia can't anybody enter the Neopian Bazaar without being bothered by one of those annoying guild-recruiting schemers?"
"Actually, she was the first guild recruiter I've seen at the bazaar," Patricia admitted. "And besides, it's not like she was forcing us to join."
"But guilds are traps, Pat!" Scary insisted, forming her hands into fists. "All they want are your time, your neopoints, and your innocence so they can snatch it all away from you when they randomly decide to close! Just look at all the guilds Snaw joined in his pastime."
Just as Patricia was going to respond, a yellow Acara with round spectacles approached her, handing over a white pamphlet. "G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S?" Patricia read the name on the top of the pamphlet and then looked up at the Acara. "What is it?"
The Acara smiled. "My name's Jackie and I am the president of G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S, one of the fastest growing guilds in all of Neopia Central!" Jackie handed Scary a pamphlet and said, "I really hope you two would take the time to visit us at our guild headquarters tomorrow afternoon."
Scary placed her hands on her hips. "Do I look like somebody who needs to join a group of loners in some other loner's house? Am I honestly just like my owner, Snaw??"
"What does G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S mean? Is it an acronym for something?" asked Patricia.
"Nope," said Jackie, shaking her head. "I mean it was supposed to be one, but none of the other members could think of an acronym, so we decided to just keep our name like that because it looks really good. Plus, our guild mainly serves those who are currently in no other guilds."
Scary ripped up her pamphlet and walked past Jackie to enter the Smoothie Shop. "Well, I'm not going to join your stupid club," she snarled as she opened the door. "Pat, are you coming or not?"
Patricia looked down at her pamphlet again. Maybe it'd be fun to join a real guild, the faerie Shoyru thought as she skimmed through the pamphlet's introduction. These guys sound like they have a lot of fun every week, so I'm sure everything will be fine.
"Oh, thank goodness you came over!" Jackie exclaimed at the guild's meeting the next day. "Did you find the place alright?"
"Yeah, I guess," Patricia said with a shrug. She didn't want to tell Jackie how easy it was for her to find the guild's headquarters–which was also conveniently Jackie's bright yellow neohome. As soon as she entered the living room, all twenty members of G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S clapped their hands, and Patricia felt her face grow warm as she sat beside Jackie on the sofa.
"Did you like the plastic pink Lenny on the front lawn?" asked a pink Tonu named Sandra. "I gave Jackie that for Christmas last year!"
Patricia nodded hesitantly and reached over to take a sugar cookie off the table in front of her. She took a bite and smiled as she savoured the cookie's sweetness. "Mmm, this is the best sugar cookie I've ever had!"
"That's because I made them," said a faerie Kau named Carrie. "I used the recipe my grandmother taught me ages ago."
Patricia nodded and took another cookie while an orange Usul named Travis began a lively conversation about the Kreludorian music band Gruundo, as well as his experiences at their last concert. After finishing her second and third cookies, a conversation about Yes Boy Ice Cream came up, to which Patricia replied eagerly, "They're my favourite Neopian boy band! My second favourite would have to be M*YNCI."
A blue Usul named Alice nodded in agreement. "Those two are definitely my favourite bands too! I also love the all-female band the Usuki Singing Stars, who I heard had a fight during their Mystery Island tour!"
"No way, I heard about that too!" Patricia gasped. And so the guild began a new, livelier conversation about the various gossip stories they have all heard about famous Neopians, as well as of their close friends and family members. As the conversation continued, Patricia felt like she was bubbling with excitement inside as she laughed alongside her fellow guild-mates and listened to the stories they had to tell. By the end of the guild meeting, she had left like she had known everyone on the guild a lot longer than that day.
When it was time to depart, Jackie stood up and said, "Alright gang, time to end this week's meeting! See you all next week, and I hope you all have a fantastic weekend."
Everyone nodded, but Carrie looked down at the floor and sighed. "I'm afraid I can't go next week. You see, my little baby Kau is ill and I need to take him to Faerieland in order to get him healed, as the cure for his illness is much too expensive for me."
Patricia and the other guild members surrounded Carrie, giving her hugs and their words of support. I really hope her baby will be alright, she thought as Carrie wiped her eyes and left the neohome. And I hope she'll return next week with more cookies, too.
Unfortunately, at the next meeting Patricia was told by Jackie that Carrie would not be returning to G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S. due to a sudden employment opportunity she had received while in Faerie City. "Is her baby okay?" asked Patricia.
Jackie nodded. "The Healing Springs was able to cure him in a jiffy. So thank goodness something pleasant came out of all this."
Something pleasant? Patricia thought as she took her seat beside Alice and a starry Kau she didn't recognize. That's a weird thing to say... oh well; at least her baby is fine.
As the meeting continued, Patricia noticed something else that was strange; twelve of the original twenty members of G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S. hadn't shown up to the meeting! Besides herself, Jackie, Travis and Alice, there were four other members that she was still not familiar with, and a starry Kau that she guessed had recently joined the guild. "So... lovely weather that we had today, right?" Patricia blurted out as the living room grew silent.
Alice nodded and grabbed a cookie off the table. "It was a very lovely day." She nibbled on her cookie and then said, "Hmmm, this cookie wasn't as delicious as the ones Carrie made. Then again, I always suspected that she'd leave ever since she joined our guild last month."
"I don't think that's a nice thing to say," Travis insisted. "Besides, you know as much as the rest of us that she was unemployed and was searching for a job."
"She should have just worked at the Food Shop and stopped complaining about being poor," said Alice, with an air of arrogance.
Jackie coughed loudly into her hand and then stood up. "So, shall we start our discussion on the Neopian Times now, or later?"
Nobody nodded, or even shook their heads. For a moment, everyone just stared at each other, as if uncertain what to say next. Finally the starry Kau stood up and shook Jackie's hand. "Thank you so much for inviting me to visit your guild," he said in his low voice, "but I'm afraid I'm just not convinced that I would like to join one just yet. Again, thanks for the opportunity."
As soon as the Kau left the neohome, Alice turned to Jackie and sighed loudly. "Well, there goes another potential member. And we would have nabbed him, too, if it wasn't for your strong approach to recruiting newbies."
Jackie coughed louder. "Anyway, I think it's okay if we end this week's meeting an hour early. I hope to see you all next week!"
Everyone nodded steadily, but Patricia could tell by how their eyes shifted from one member to the next that they may not be certain about whether or not they really did want to attend the next guild meeting. Maybe things will be better and they will come back, she thought as she walked to her neohome, still feeling nervous about this week's meeting.
At the next meeting, only five of the guild members had arrived, with some claiming that Alice had dropped out of the guild in order to focus on her preparations for this week's Beauty Contest. Patricia was certain that Travis would be there to cheer and encourage everyone to celebrate, but after sitting in the awkward silence of Jackie's living room for an hour, she realized that the orange Usul wasn't coming after all. I hope Travis is okay, she thought as she nibbled on a stale sugar cookie.
Things got even worse on her fourth guild meeting when Patricia noticed that she, Jackie and an unfamiliar plushie Kacheek she never knew was part of the guild, were the only three members to show up. After just ten minutes of silence, the Kacheek excused herself and politely left the room where Patricia and Jackie sat awkwardly, eyeing each other after they observed the now empty living room. Patricia coughed and looked at the bare table in front of her. "So... no cookies today, I see?" she asked.
Jackie shook her head. "I didn't feel like bringing any refreshments today, to be honest."
"Well, what would you like to talk about?" Patricia wondered. She looked around the living room and pointed to a painting that was hanging above the fireplace. "Hey, is that pink Lenny a relative of yours?"
"No," said Jackie. "I just found it at the Money Tree and took it home." After a brief moment of silence, she turned to Patricia and said, "Would you like to go home now?"
"Why?" asked Patricia, feeling surprised. Before Jackie could answer, she looked around the room one more time before realizing that the lack of members at this week's meeting was the main reason why Jackie had asked her to leave. After she stood up to stretch her legs, Patricia asked, "Will there be a meeting next week?"
"No," said Jackie. "In fact, I think I'm going to close G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S. and remain, well, guild-less, for a while until I can find a new one."
"What? Why?" Patricia demanded. "I've only been here for four meetings, and you're going to close the guild now?"
Jackie sighed. "I don't have a choice. Nobody wants to come back, and the only reason they don't want to come back is because all of the 'fun members' left when Carrie did!" After sighing again, she blurted out, "I had a feeling I should never have made a guild just to make new friends! What a fool I was to think I could actually manage a whole guild by myself."
"But Jackie, you can't just close your guild–"
"Goodbye, Patricia," Jackie said as she escorted Patricia out of the front door.
Before Patricia could say anything, Jackie had already closed the door, leaving her to walk back home as the sun began to set for the day. As she looked up at the setting sun, Patricia's mind was swirling with all of the fun conversations she had shared with the members of G.U.I.L.D.L.E.S.S.–Neopians she had hoped could be her friends outside of the guild. She could still hear Jackie encouraging everyone to talk and laugh, the sounds of roaring laughter, and the feeling of acceptance she felt, as if she had truly belonged in the guild. She also remembered Carrie's sugar cookies... a taste she could still somewhat taste on her tongue, just like on her very first guild meeting.