Usuki Singing Stars #23: The Almost Graduation
This story is dedicated to all the ex teachers of the NSOD!
"Well, Scary, here we are at last!" Sparkles announced as she gestured towards the oak door in front of them. The pink Bruce clapped her hands and hugged her sister. "Can you believe it, Scare? You and I will be in the same fifth grade class! Isn't that exciting?"
Scary yawned. "Can we go in now?" asked the purple Bruce. She pushed herself away from Sparkles' grasp and opened the door to classroom 5A.
This is going to be so great! Sparkles thought as she entered the classroom. For the past four weeks, both Bruces had been attending classes side by side at the Neopian School of Design: a customization school that was commonly known as the NSOD. Attending two different schools each week was difficult at first for Sparkles, but now she felt like she was getting the hang of balancing her Neoschool work alongside her NSOD studies. And attending alongside Scary made attending both schools more enjoyable–well, for Sparkles, at least.
"Look at these unfashionable losers we have to associate ourselves with this week," Scary scoffed. She shook her head. "You can easily tell who can and who can't afford to buy anything from the NC Mall."
Sparkles looked around the classroom and gasped at the size of their fourth grade class. "Why are there only four other students here?" she whispered.
"Who knows, who cares," Scary said in a louder tone. "They will all fail this week, anyways."
"But it's still kind of strange that our class is so small this week," Sparkles added as she took a seat next to a blue Aisha.
"Good afternoon, everybody!" said a magma Koi as she entered the classroom. She was wearing a bright pink dress with long sleeves and a skirt that flowed as she walked towards her desk. "I'm Ms. Una, and I will be your fifth grade teacher this week."
Sparkles clapped her hands. Ms. Una had been her first grade teacher (twice) and she was always so compassionate towards her students. The Koi would also wear a beautiful dress that convoyed with the latest Neopian fashions. I would I could one day be as fashionable as Ms. Una, Sparkles thought as her teacher wrote on the chalkboard. Then maybe I will be a teacher at the NSOD someday! Oh, that would be so much fun!
As the classes went on, Sparkles and the rest of the students paid close attention to everything their teacher was telling them. Because they were in the final grade at the NSOD, Ms. Una was insisting that every student should try to look very refined and well-groomed for the upcoming graduation ceremony. "This Saturday, all of you are invited to congratulate those who will be graduating from the Neopian School of Design," Ms. Una explained. She wiped her eyes with a handkerchief she pulled from her pink purse. "I will truly miss each of you when classes end this Friday."
The blue Aisha shot her hand in the air. "Will all of us be graduating this Saturday?"
Ms. Una shook her head. "I'm afraid only those who receive over eighty five percent on their final customizations will be graduating this week. In fact," the teacher looked at her students with sympathetic eyes, "this week's graduating class will, unfortunately, be the last graduating class of the NSOD."
"WHAT!?!?" everyone gasped. Immediately the students began asking questions all at one, demanding why there will be no more graduating classes. The green Gnorbu pushed all his books off his desk with a huff, and Scary shouted that the NSOD was the worst place in all of Neopia because of it's rigged 'graduating procedure'. Sparkles just sighed and wiped her eyes with a tissue.
"Please calm down," Ms. Una insisted, raising her fin to silence her students. Once everybody was quiet, the teacher began to explain her previous statement. "I'm certain that all of you are anxious about the graduation ceremony... but I'm also certain that all of you are aware of the small class sizes in each of your classrooms. Am I correct?"
Some of the students murmured their agreements. Sparkles nodded, remembering fully well how small her third and fourth grade classes were.
Ms. Una continued, "The reason for our smaller class sizes is because a majority of the students that enrol into the school don't make it past the third grade. Many of the other faculty members agree that even though closing the NSOD down this weekend would be an incredible risk, none of us can afford to teach such small classes for a salary that is decreasing every week."
"What will happen to those that won't be receiving their diplomas?" asked Sparkles.
"Those who don't receive a diploma will get a special certificate for participation," said Ms. Una. She clapped her hands quickly. "Now let's not fret about the graduation or diplomas for now. Let's continue our discussion on shoe and outfit coordination."
What will we do if we don't graduate? Sparkles wondered as Ms. Una started up her lecture. She looked over at Scary and saw that her sister wasn't writing any notes down. Was Scary also worrying about the possibly of being excluded from the NSOD's last graduation ceremony? I hope both Scary and I will graduate this Saturday, Sparkles thought as she quickly scribbled some notes in her notebook.
After classes at the NSOD were done on Tuesday, Sparkles and Scary headed to the Uni's Clothing store to find some new dresses for their final customization outfits. As worried as she was about the upcoming graduation ceremony, Sparkles entered the Clothing Shop and picked up a pink sleeveless dress from a sale's rack. Scary picked up a grey dress with a lace collar.
"This dress is so tacky!" Scary exclaimed, dropping the grey dress onto the ground. "Why can't this stupid store have something better for fewer than one thousand neopoints?"
"Scary, aren't you worried?" Sparkles blurted out suddenly. She placed the dress she was admiring onto the rack and walked over to a shelf full of multi-coloured pants.
"Why would I?" asked Scary. "That creepy Uni with no fashion sense will pick that old granny's dress up for me."
Sparkles unfolded a pair of red slacks. "I meant about the NSOD. Aren't you worried that you won't be able to graduate on Saturday?"
"No," said Scary, skimming through a rack of sweaters. "I already know I'm good enough to graduate from that wannabe fashion school, Sparkles. Everything will turn out fine."
"I don't know," Sparkles sighed. "As confident as I am with my new customization skills, I'm just worried that there won't be enough diplomas for both of us."
Scary picked up a red jacket and tried it over her purple dress. "You worry too much, Sparkles. Now tell me if this jacket makes me look good."
"It looks nice," said Sparkles.
"Good," said Scary. She took the jacket off and placed it back on its hanger. "I think this jacket would look wonderful with that purple blouse I got last week. Oh, and I'll pair it with a really nice skirt, too!"
At least Scary planned out her final customization outfit already, thought Sparkles. I still don't know what I want to do this week!
After Scary purchased her new jacket, she and Sparkles walked home, Scary talking eagerly how her outfit will give her a diploma over all the other 'losers' in their class. "It's just because they don't deserve to be in my presence, that's all," she insisted.
Sparkles just sighed and nodded, not wanting to confess how nervous she felt about rummaging through her closet for the fifth time in a row. When they reached their neohome, both Bruce walked into their bedrooms to work on their individual outfits. After going through every article of clothing in her closet, Sparkles flopped onto her bed and stared up at the motionless ceiling fan. "I have nothing," she said after a moment of silence. "How did this happen? After four weeks, have I used up every pretty dress and feather boa? Do I not have anymore shoes that I can wear with my final customization?"
There was a knock on the door. "Sparkles are you done talking to yourself yet?" asked Scary. "I was wondering if you would come and look over my outfit-though to be honest, I might just ignore all of your suggestions."
Sparkles threw a pillow towards the door. "I'm busy," she replied. "Maybe you can ask Snaw to look over your outfit?"
"Only if he doesn't say anything too stupid," said Scary.
As soon as she felt Scary was away from her bedroom door, Sparkles got up and looked over the dresses, shirts and skirts she had scattered all over the area around her closet. "I wish I had bought that pink dress from the Clothing Shop," she sighed. She went back to her bed and stared up at the ceiling fan once more. "I just hope Scary doesn't brag too much when she gets her NSOD diploma," Sparkles said as she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
By Wednesday, Sparkles found that all of her time spent at Neoschool was consumed with thinking about the perfect outfit for her final customization for the NSOD. At lunchtime, the pink Bruce stared at her lunch tray and jabbed her plate of mashed potato with her fork. "I just don't feel very hungry," she told Patricia, a close friend.
Patricia took a bite from her sandwich. "How are your classes at the NSOD going?" the faerie Shoyru muffled as she chewed her food.
"They're going okay," said Sparkles, "but I still keep thinking about the upcoming graduation ceremony! It's happening this Saturday, and I honesty don't think I have anything to wear!" She jabbed at her mashed potatoes again with more force.
"You could always ask Snaw to buy you a new dress," Patricia suggested.
Sparkles sighed. "I tried, but it seems he's more interested in buying old lamp shades than a brand new dress. Besides, I don't even know what kind of outfit I want to wear: a beautiful dress or a really cute sweater and skirt?"
"Well, I hope you choose the right outfit to wear," said Patricia. She took a sip from her milk carton and said, "I heard from my mother that the NSOD will be closing at the end of this week, and the teachers are going to make some kind of guild afterwards. It's a shame since I kept debating whether or not I wanted to attend the NSOD, and now I'll never get my chance to graduate."
Sparkles grabbed her friend's hand. "I really wish you could have attended classes with me and Scary. Then all three of us could have graduated together."
Patricia smiled. "Thanks, Sparkles. Speaking of which, where is Scary? I thought she was going to meet us here at the cafeteria for lunch."
"Scary said she wanted to spend lunchtime in the sewing room," Sparkles explained. "I don't know what she's doing, though." She took a few bites from her sandwich and chewed slowly. What was Scary doing in the sewing room? Was she really sewing something for her final NSOD customization? Hopefully she can finish whatever she's making before Saturday, she thought as she hastily finished her sandwich.
On Friday, after classes at the NSOD had ended, Sparkles and Scary walked back to their neohome, where Sparkles flipped through the latest issue of the Neopian Times to see if the newspaper mentioned anything about the closing of the NSOD. Sure enough, on the fifth page, an article was written up about the NSOD and how the teachers were going to demolish the building on Sunday to make room for a new guild headquarters. "I sure wish the school was a public school," Sparkles sighed. "At least they could have attracted more students that way."
After reading a few comics in the comics section, Sparkles walked up the stairs and past Scary's bedroom, where she heard her sister grunting. "Scary, are you alright?" she asked, knocking on the door.
"Stupid... thing....!" Scary grunted.
Curious, Sparkles opened the door and gasped when she saw Scary struggle with pulling a long black dress over her head. "Do you need any help?" she wondered.
Scary pushed the black dress off of her and tossed it aside. "That stupid sewing teacher made the collar too small! How am I supposed to wear this disgraceful gown if I can't even get my head through?"
"You mean you got the sewing teacher to make you a new dress?" asked Sparkles.
"I only asked her to tailor it for me," Scary explained. "It was too big when Snaw found it at the Second Hand Shoppe. Thank goodness he washed it a couple times before I had it tailored–or wrecked by that idiotic pink Lenny!"
Sparkles picked up the dress and looked it over. The bodice was plain and the collar was a dull grey, but the skirt flowed magnificently, and the dress could have looked wonderful if Scary wore a silver necklace and a pair of gloves. "This dress does seem a bit plain," she remarked.
"It's a shame it wasn't bought at the NC Mall," Scary sighed. "Oh well. Did you pick what you're going to wear, Sparkles?"
Sparkles shook her head. "I'm still feeling indecisive."
"Well, you better hurry up and pick something soon," Scary said as she examined a pair of black high heels.
"Scare," Sparkles began hesitantly, "do you think the NSOD will allow both of us to graduate tomorrow? I know our final evaluations are before the graduation ceremony, and I was just thinking how great it would be if we could both receive diplomas–"
Scary picked up a pair of red slippers and said, "Are you still scared about failing?"
"I'm not scared," Sparkles insisted.
"Then why haven't you picked out your outfit for tomorrow?" asked Scary.
Sparkles shrugged her shoulders. "I guess I just don't have anymore outfit ideas."
"Well, I can care less of those NSOD idiots refuse to give me a diploma," said Scary. She picked up a pair of black slippers and nodded. "These will have to do."
"But aren't you worried that you won't be graduating?" Sparkles wondered.
Scary placed her slippers onto the floor and shook her head. "As long as I'm happy about what I wear tomorrow, then a stupid piece of paper won't matter to me. Besides, I already know how fashionable I am compared to everyone else in Neopia." She grabbed a dark purple dress from her closet. "Can you leave my bedroom now, Sparkles? I need to try on my outfit."
Scary's so lucky she's so confident! Sparkles thought as she closed the bedroom door. When she entered her bedroom, she opened her closet and looked over all of the dresses she had. After grabbing a pale pink dress with a flowing skirt and puffy sleeves, Sparkles sighed and said, "This will have to do for tomorrow... now if only I can find the right shoes..."
On Saturday morning, the Neopian School of Design was decked out with white banners that surrounded the outer building. Yellow and white balloons dangled from the edges of each banner and tied with sparkling gold ribbons. The interior of the school had no decorations, but all of the students were dressed up in their finest outfits, accessories, and headpieces. In classroom 5A, Sparkles shook nervously as she looked around at her other classmates. "Everyone here looks amazing!" she whispered to Scary, who was sitting next to her.
"They're okay," said Scary. The purple Bruce had decided to wear a light purple dress with black slippers, a black hair decorated with a scarlet red ribbon, and a pair of black gloves to match her satin purple purse.
Sparkles looked over her sister's outfit as Ms. Una made her way around the classroom, clipboard in hand. As the teacher approached her, Sparkles gulped and looked down at the light pink dress she wore and the pink purse she paired it with. She was also thinking about the white gloves and gold necklace she also used as accessories. I hope this will be enough to help me graduate, Sparkles thought as Ms. Una walked back to the front of the classroom.
"I'm very impressed with everyone's ensembles," said Ms. Una, smiling proudly. "But I am afraid that only three of you will be graduating today. The rest, and I do apologize dearly, will not be graduating today."
"Here it comes!" Sparkles whispered to Scary as Ms. Una handed her a slip.
After receiving her slip, Scary examined it and ripped it up. "What an idiot," she scolded softly. "I knew she was a fraud from the moment I met her."
After hearing the murmurs of her other classmates, Sparkles finally unfolded her slip and looked at the mark she had received: seventy two percent. She showed Scary her mark and said, "What did you get, Scare?"
"Seventy," Scary sighed. She looked over at the Blue Aisha, who was clapping her hands with glee. "I can't believe that Aisha got in with her ballerina outfit!" she complained to Sparkles. "You can tell she just used a super pack from the NC Mall to help her CHEAT!"
"I think her dress looks cute," Sparkles insisted. She tried to calm her pounding heart down as the blue Aisha, green Gnorbu, and a yellow Elephante hurry themselves out of the classroom, possibly towards the stage that was set up outside.
Ms. Una gave her remaining students a sympathetic look. "I really am so sorry that all of you will not be graduating, but I'm afraid the graduation minimum was eighty five percent, which is a really hard grade for a majority of our students to receive. But do feel proud of yourselves for making it this far! And may all of you continue to practice your customization skills in the future, as well."
After getting up and giving her teacher a hug, Sparkles followed Scary out of the NSOD and towards their neohome, both Bruces in silence. As they approached their neohome Sparkles blurted out, "Well, at least both of us failed the fifth grade."
Scary raised her head. "I'm just glad that you're puffy pink dress didn't beat my look! If you thought you could graduate looking like a ball of cotton candy, then you were wrong."
"At least we'll be getting certificates," said Sparkles. "I'm sure they'll mail them to us tomorrow, or Monday."
"I don't really care about that," Scary insisted. "All I care about is that I was able to beat out that prissy faerie Zafara back in the fourth grade! Now that was a victory worth celebrating!"
Sparkles laughed. "You're right... sort of. I am glad that I made it to the fifth grade with you, Scary. And I'm glad I got to finally wear this puffy dress Snaw got me from the NC Mall."
"I still think it's hideous," Scary sniffed. "It's a good thing those NSOD finks didn't make you graduate in it."
After a moment of silence, Sparkles turned to Scary and said, "You know, I'm actually really glad Snaw enrolled us into the NSOD. If he didn't then I wouldn't have expanded my mind on–"
Scary opened the front door. "That's great, Sparkles. I don't care."
I'm sure you do, deep inside, Sparkles thought as she entered the neohome. I'm positive you had as much fun as I did at the NSOD, Scary!