Usuki Singing Stars #31: Lola Minds Her Manners
"Hi guys,” greeted Lola as she took her seat. The yellow Cybunny looked around her friends’ cafeteria table and smiled. “I have some exciting news to share today.”
Sparkles opened her lunchbox. “What is it?” asked the pink Bruce. “Is it something good?”
Lola nodded. “Yes. It’s very good news.”
Scary blurted out, “Are you moving somewhere far away?” The purple Bruce raised her eyebrows hopefully, then frowned when Lola shook her head.
“Then what is it?” Patricia wondered. The faerie Shoyru saw Lola’s eyes dancing with happiness and asked, “Is this about those tulips you’re growing?”
“Nope,” said Lola. Her smile widened. “Ms. Butterworth has invited me to an elegant dinner at Kelp! She’s taking me because she’s been so proud of my Neoschool grades.”
Patricia and Sparkles sighed enviously. Kelp was the fanciest restaurant in all of Neopia! Located in Maraqua, the restaurant had a reputation for serving the most exquisite entrees, the delicate china plates in the dining room and being one of the few places in Neopia where Neopians could dress up in their best clothes and jewellery. “Going to Kelp has always been a dream of mine,” confessed Patricia. “If only my mother could afford their highly-priced meals.”
“Snaw said Kelp has the sturdiest to-go containers for your leftovers,” said Sparkles. “Oh, wouldn’t it grand to wear a beautiful gown and diamond earrings while you dine on super expensive food?”
“So Lola’s moving to Maraqua now?” asked Scary.
“It’s going to be a magical evening for sure,” Lola insisted. Then she gave her friends a crestfallen look. “But I’m really worried.”
Sparkles waved her hand. “Worried about what? You’re going to the fanciest place in Neopia! What’s there to worry about?”
Lola placed a copy of Cybunny Rules 101 on the table. “After Ms. Butterworth announced our dining plans, I checked this book out from the Neoschool library, hoping I could learn all about proper table etiquette.”
“Dining etiquette?” Patricia shook her head. “You don’t need to learn that, Lola. You’re already a very elegant eater.”
“And you’re always so polite towards others,” Sparkles added. “You’re just the type of Neopian who’s fitted to dine at Kelp.”
Lola shuffled. “I don’t know. From what I’ve heard, dining at Kelp is a very intricate craft, and not knowing which utensil to use for each course is a sure way to be expelled from the restaurant.” Her eyes grew more earnest. “That’s why I need your girls’ help with preparing me for this meal. Oh please tell me you will!”
“If you want us to,” said Patricia, “then I suppose we can help after Neoschool.”
“It’ll be so much fun!” cheered Sparkles, clapping.
Scary groaned. “So does this mean Lola ISN’T moving??” she boomed.***
“Here’s where I’ve be practicing my etiquette lessons.” Lola gestured towards a pink table placed near her bed. The table was draped in a lacy white tablecloth, and on its surface laid a tea set. Two wicker chairs were placed at the table, and Lola took the seat to the right. “So what I know so far is that if a waiter pulls out my chair, I must thank him and sit down.”
Patricia took the left chair. “What if there aren’t any waiters?”
“Then I must remain standing until one arrives,” Lola replied.
“Sounds stupid,” said Scary.
“It would be bad if nobody seated you,” said Sparkles, “but then again, Kelp is such a fancy place I’m certain you will be seated immediately.”
“The next lesson involves the utensils,” said Lola. “As you all can see I only have two spoons and one fork, so I have to imagine there are seven spoons, ten forks and five knives.”
“Why would you need five knives?” asked Patricia.
“One for steak meat, one for chicken,” said Lola, “one for fish, one for asparagus and a fifth one for…well I don’t remember, but I’m certain there will be one at the table.”
Sparkles flipped through Cybunny Rules 101 . “It says here if an olive knife is not placed on your table, you must ask a server for one before you place your appetizer order.”
“That sounds very snobbish,” said Patricia. “Who cares if you don't have an extra knife for slicing olives?”
“Can you read the section about napkins, Sparkles?” asked Lola. “I don’t know whether or not it’s proper to place one upon my lap.”
“Napkins…napkins…” Sparkles flipped through the book and, once she found the appropriate section, read aloud the tips on using napkins. “Paper napkins must be placed open faced on one’s lap as soon as one is seated. Cloth napkins remain folded on the table, unused. It’s essential for every young Cybunny to wipe crumbs off one’s face every few bites with a paper napkin folded neatly on the next side of the dinner plate, underneath the vegetable fork. Always refold the napkin to hide stains and never discard napkin until the meal has ended.”
“Boring,” Scary sighed. “Just tell Lola to stay away from anything with crumbs and she’ll be fine.”
“It’s a shame I don’t have any cloth napkins to practice with,” said Lola. “Although I suppose I can use a handkerchief. Would that be proper, though? Well I suppose it doesn’t matter in this case…I think? And since I don’t have any paper napkins, maybe a tissue would be a proper substitute–” Feeling exasperated and completely confused, Lola sighed loudly and declared, “Oh, this is hopeless! There’s no way I’ll be ready in time for our dinner!”
“You’re just over thinking everything,” Patricia insisted.
“Maybe I am, “said Lola, “or maybe I’m just not ready to dine at a really fancy restaurant yet. Maybe all this confusion and proper etiquette training is stressing me out too much.”
“Perhaps we should skip the napkin section for now,” suggested Sparkles, flipping through the book desperately for a new topic. “Here’s something worth noting: the dos and don’ts of ordering. Never raise your voice. Always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Never request any additional napkins for yourself. Cybunnies should only consume vegetarian meals, never meat. And every well-behaved girl must refuse dessert and any drink refills.”
“That sounds even snootier than the napkin placement tips,” Patricia remarked.
“Those tips do sound very precise,” said Lola. “I can understand not wanting to consume any meat, though I’m sure about not requesting extra napkins.” She sighed. “Although the experience would be fun, I am having second doubts about wanting to go, especially if I have to remember so many rules of etiquette.”
“Does this mean you won’t be going to Kelp?” asked Sparkles.
“I don’t know what I want to do,” Lola admitted. She gave her friends an earnest smile. “Still, I must thank you all for helping me today. Even if I don’t go, it’s nice to know I have you three to lean on for support. You’re the best friends a Cybunny could ever have!”
“Pfft, dream on carrot-muncher,” scoffed Scary.
“We’ll always lend a hand, Lola,” said Patricia, grinning. Sparkles nodded and Scary looked away, shaking her head.***
“Lola, are you enjoying your dinner?” asked Ms. Butterworth. The cloud Bruce added with enthusiasm, “Because I’m really excited about our upcoming dinner at Kelp. Does Saturday sound like a good day to go?”
“Sounds fine,” said Lola, absentmindedly poking her mashed potatoes. She looked down at her Snorkle, Mr. Porkers, as he finished his dinner.
“Is anything the matter?” Ms. Butterworth sounded concerned. “Are you feeling ill?”
Lola shook her head. “No, I’m fine. It’s just…well, about our dinner at Kelp…”
“Ah, I see,” said Ms. Butterworth. “You’re worried about what to wear, aren’t you?”
“It doesn’t matter what you wear,” Ms. Butterworth insisted, “but if you do wish to dress up, I think that yellow dress with the white lace collar would look splendid.” Mr. Porkers squealed his agreement.
“I actually haven’t given any thought about what I was going to wear,” Lola admitted. “There was something else, something more important, bothering me.”
“And what is it?” pressed Ms. Butterworth.
Lola pushed her plate away. “I’ve been reading a book to help prepare myself for our visit to Kelp. Do you remember when you said Kelp was the fanciest restaurant in all of Neopia? I wanted to impress you with my exceptional table manners, but now…I’m not feeling comfortable with going to Kelp.”
Ms. Butterworth looked thoughtful. “Lola, dear, you already have exceptional table manners and you are such a well-behaved Cybunny. But if you don’t feel like going to Kelp, then I understand.”
After thinking for a moment, Lola nodded and confirmed her decision. “Although Kelp would be a lovely place to dine, I would much rather stay here with you and enjoy a home-cooked meal. And I must thank you for your offer, Ms. Butterworth. I really hope we can go there another time.” She added with a smile, “Besides, if we went to Kelp, then poor Mr. Porkers would be all alone here while we traveled to Maraqua.”
"That's very true," beamed Ms. Butterworth. "We wouldn't want to leave our precious Snorkle behind."
Mr. Porkers squealed his enthusiasm, and Lola laughed, agreeing with him.