Usuki Singing Stars #21: Sparkles Gets Schooled
This story is dedicated to the folks of the NSOD, who still continue the legacy with their personal thread.
"I can't believe I'm actually here!" Sparkles gasped as she stared up at the tall, brick building in front of her. The pink Bruce couldn't believe that she had been accepted into the NSOD: The Neopian School of Design, which was located near the Neopian Plaza. From the outside, the building was painted in a deep shade of scarlet red. Over the main entrance to the school was a sign that glistened in gold lettering: The Neopian School of Design.
NSOD, the acronym the school was known by, was a well-known institution where Neopians could learn all about the basics of customization, as well as how to keep up with the latest trends of Neopian fashions. According to the school's brochure, there were five grades overall, and all of the students would be allowed to advance to each grade once a week during a 'final customization exam', in which they would have to show their teachers what they'd learned by displaying an outfit they've created. The students with the best outfits were allowed to go onto the next grade, while those who had the worst were held back for another week. Those who couldn't pass their classes for a second time were kicked out, and asked to re-apply the following week.
The idea of attending another school after Neoschool sounded a bit too frightening at first, but the idea of studying at a prodigious customization school, such as NSOD, was a privilege even Sparkles couldn't resist! After taking a few deep breaths, Sparkles had approached the front doors of the school and swung them open dramatically. Then she walked down the main hallway until she found classroom 1A, where she would be placed until Friday. After noticing a desk in the front row, Sparkles sat down and raised her eyebrows in alarm when she saw how many students were in her class: only nine!
After a few moments the first grade teacher, Ms. Una, entered the classroom and immediately began the day's lesson. The magma Koi wore a striking yellow dress that was sleeveless and embroidered with white daisies. Sparkles sighed as she admired her teacher's beautiful dress, as well as the bright pink hat Ms. Una wore. She certainly knows how to customize like a real fashion model! she thought with admiration.
"How many of you understand the basics of color coordination?" asked Ms. Una.
"I do!" called a red Krawk from the back of the classroom. Several other students, including Sparkles, raised their hands as well.
"Excellent," said Ms. Una with a smile.
As the teacher wrote some notes down on the chalkboard, Sparkles turned around and felt her face grow hot as she noticed the scarlet red dress the red Krawk who had answered was wearing. The blue Kau beside her wore a dashing blue sweater vest over a white T-shirt, and his deep blue denim pants gave his outfit a pop of color. When the Kau turned to face her, Sparkles turned back around and gripped her sweater sleeve with two fingers. Her sweater was light pink and decorated with red roses. Earlier I thought this sweater was pretty cute, thought Sparkles, but now I'm starting to feel a bit weird... and I don't know why.
When the color coordination lesson ended, Sparkles immediately ran out of the classroom and out of the NSOD. "I can't believe I decided to wear this today!" she gasped as she stared down at her purple skirt and bright pink shoes. "And to think today was only the first day!" Still feeling awkward, Sparkles walked back home with a firm belief that she would improve her social stance at the NSOD by passing onto the second grade. Standing taller now, the Bruce marched straighter to her neohome with her head held high... only to run up the stairs and to her bedroom in a frantic frenzy.
For the next three days, Sparkles felt a feeling of dread every time she walked from Neoschool over to the NSOD. Every day, she would admire-and fret over-her fellow students' outfits and the shoes they wore. "Everyone looks amazing in their NC clothes," Sparkles mumbled as she took her regular seat in the front row. Whenever her classmates turned to face her, Sparkles felt that they were also judging what she was wearing and may have been thinking about how easy it would be for her to fail the first grade with 'simplistic outfits'.
Each day, Ms. Una would wear an eye-catching outfit that made Sparkles even more self-conscious about the clothes that she'd wear. Ms. Una still continued to teach her students on the subjects she taught, such as her basic guides to hats, shows and handheld items. At the end of each class she would say enthusiastically, "I hope you use what you've learned today to help with your final customization project."
By Thursday, Sparkles was still finding trouble with creating the perfect outfit that would please both Ms. Una and her well-dressed classmates. After searching and re-searching for any 'proper attire' in her wardrobe, Sparkles went over to her sister's room to ask for her services. "I'm begging you, Scare!" she pleaded, kneeling for further emphasis.
Scary rolled her eyes. "Aren't you the one who decided to enroll in that scam-school in the first place?" asked the purple Bruce. "I told you not to sign up for a place I viewed as stupid!"
"So you won't help me, then?" Sparkles wondered.
"Nope," said Scary. "This is your homework assignment, not mine. Plus, I wouldn't know what I'd do if I caught myself helping you with something as easy as creating an outfit."
To think I thought Scary could actually help me with my problem! Sparkles sighed as she entered her bedroom and sat on the fuzzy carpet. After re-examining the clothes, purses, hats and shoes that were scattered around her room, the pink Bruce picked out a bright red dress with a long skirt and paired it with a pair of golden shoes she never found comfortable. After trying on the outfit, Sparkles twirled around and grunted as her toes pinched within the heeled shoes. "But I still... look good," she reminded herself aloud as she pulled off the tight shoes and collapsed upon her bed.
On Friday afternoon, Sparkles hurried out of Neoschool so she could get to her neohome and dress quickly into her final examination outfit. Her shoes still pinched her feet and made it difficult for her to run, but she was determined to walk towards the NSOD in order to get her final evaluation from Ms. Una. "Just one... step... at a... time," Sparkles grunted as she approached the front steps of the customization school.
Still wincing from the shoes, Sparkles made her way towards her classroom and plopped down in her regular desk. She looked around and gasped at all of the beautiful gowns and dresses the other girls were wearing. A faerie Draik was even wearing a glimmering, golden ball gown! The Draik turned to her and said, "Nice shoes."
Sparkles wasn't sure whether it was a compliment or an insult, so she just forced herself to smile. "Nice... dress," she grunted through clenched teeth.
When Ms. Una entered the classroom, everyone was surprised to see their teacher wearing a flowing pale blue dress paired with white gloves. "I can't wait to see each and every one of you in your final customizations," the teacher said as she walked past Sparkles, as if she hadn't acknowledged her outfit.
Please just hurry up and pass everyone, Sparkles wished silently as Ms. Una walked up a row of desks.
After she had walked down the second row of desks, Ms. Una turned to face her students. She smiled and clapped her hands. "I am pleased to announce that all of you have done a wonderful job with your customizations. Now you may all relax and talk with your fellow students while I write up your progress reports. Those who receive over fifty percent on their report shall go on to the second grade."
Everyone cheered and Sparkles sighed with relief. Just had Ms. Una finished, she approached Sparkles' desk and whispered, "May I speak with you outside, please?" As soon as the two were alone in the hallway, the magma Koi smiled and said, "If you wish to take off your shoes now, you may."
"No, it's okay," Sparkles insisted. "I'm getting semi-used to these shoes now, so I can keep them on until the end of class." After a brief silence, she asked, "Ms. Una, why did you want to talk to me?"
"It's because of your progress report," Ms. Una explained. "I'm afraid, Sparkles, that your peculiar outfit just didn't fit the standards of this class."
Sparkles gasped. "What? Why? I worked so hard creating this outfit for today, Ms. Una! You have to believe me!"
Ms. Una sighed and nodded. "Yes, I can only imagine how much effort you put in your outfit, but where is your accessory? Why aren't you wearing a hat, or wearing some type of boa or scarf?"
"I... don't know," said Sparkles. She tried to mentally picture her classmates' outfits to see if any of them were using any accessories.
"The issue here isn't that your dress is a bright red," said Ms. Una. "It's that it doesn't fit you and who you are."
"But it's a beautiful dress, isn't it?" asked Sparkles. She held up the skirt with her hands and twirled around, despite how much her feet ached from her shoes.
"Yes, the dress is lovely," said Ms. Una, "but the shoes don't go with them at all. In fact, I could tell by how you kept biting your lower lip that you were very uncomfortable with your shoes. Why would you think you had to wear something so uncomfortable?"
Sparkles felt her cheeks grow warm as she mumbled, "I saw that everyone else had been wearing during the week and got a bit jealous."
Ms. Una beamed a compassionate smile. "I understand. Seeing your fellow peers in their striking ensembles could have given you extra pressure to out-dress them in order to prove that you're as fashionable as them. As much as I can feel your anxiety, Sparkles, you must remember one of the main rules of customization: fashion isn't about how you look in an outfit, its how you feel and how you portray your inner self."
"So I guess I must have failed the first grade, right?" asked Sparkles.
"I'm afraid your outfit needed more components," Ms. Una insisted, sounding a bit disappointed. "Now, would you like to come inside or would you wish to leave early?"
"I'd like to leave, please," said Sparkles.
"I understand," said Ms. Una, who gave her student a quick hug and whispered, "You can always come back when you're ready, Sparkles. Remember that." Then she smiled again and turned to enter her classroom.
Still seeing disheartened, Sparkles trudged back to her neohome with a heavy pain in her heart. She didn't mind walking in her shoes, as she felt it was the appropriate punishment for self-sabotaging her final customization. "I can't believe I failed," Sparkles sniffled, wiping her damp eyes with her arm. "And I was so close to making it through!"
After wiping away more tears, Sparkles stood tall and held her held high. "No," she said, "I won't let this get me down! Tomorrow afternoon I'll go back to the NSOD and see if I can re-attend next Monday. Then I will get through the second grade!" She winced as she took a few more steps. "First, I'll have to get rid of these horrible shoes," she said with a small smile.