A New Coat for Taelia
Our story begins on a lovely autumn’s Saturday in the charmingly busy streets of Neopia Central. Many Neopets and their friends, taking advantage of the unusually warm temperatures for this time of the year, stroll between stores with shopping bags stuffed full of their purchases, stopping to wave hello at familiar faces or perhaps dipping into Fresh Smoothies for a frozen treat. Today, an unusually large crowd of pets clusters around a beautiful new building constructed to look like a miniature castle. Creamy white bricks, wild roses spiraling up the small turrets, frosted pink double doors welcoming in new customers – what could this enchanting new shop be?
Just as the pink satin banner above the double doors reads, it could only be Designs by Patrice! The long-awaited fashion boutique has at last made its grand opening on this balmy day, throwing open its pretty pink doors to both curious shoppers and devoted followers of Patrice’s trendy fashion creations alike. And judging by the sheer number of pets swirling around the shop’s entrance, we can bet that the grand opening will be nothing but a success for the genius herself, Patrice. A pastel Zafara from humble beginnings, Patrice started out hand-stitching costumes for a local theatre to pass the time. Realizing her passion and talent for creating beautiful, thought-provoking garments and accessories, Patrice honed her craft, investing in a worn down sewing machine and some dusty old rolls of fabric from the back of the General Store. Before long, friends and acquaintances began asking for custom pieces – an eye-catching pair of plaid trousers for her next-door neighbor, a gemstone-studded tutu for a local prima ballerina’s next big performance – and thus Designs by Patrice was born.
It wasn’t long before the designs caught on with a different crowd – the elite social in-crowd of Neopia. Patrice’s first big break came when a famous former Cybunny Beauty Contest winner contacted Patrice and requested a custom gown for a frou-frou gala in Faerieland. The gown, a velvety pink number that appeared to be made of oversized rose petals, garnered much attention at the party and brought dozens of new customers Patrice’s way. Her designs, worn by the most famous models and stars of Neopia, became increasingly featured in gossip and fashion magazines and Neopia could not get enough of them. In order to keep up with growing demand, she was furiously sewing garments day and night in her humble Neopia Central abode, rarely sleeping, only venturing out of the house to purchase more thread and fabric. It became quite clear that Patrice needed to hire a team of competent seamstresses and move her business to a more appropriate location. So she bought a plot of land in Neopia Central (a nice, wooded area to fit the sort of enchanted forest vision she saw for her future shop) and formed a team of employees who eagerly shared her passion for fashion.
After months and months of planning, sketching clothes, and picking out just the right shade of paint for the walls (she settled on an angelic sky blue flecked with glitter), Patrice is finally ready to unveil her fantastical new boutique. She has designed an entire season of clothes and accessories to be mass-produced and available for the general public to buy, and for the Neopets who can afford a much higher price tag she herself will be handling the painstakingly perfect custom pieces for which she has become famous in the fashion circles of Neopia. That way she can continue luxuriously dressing the most elite, fashionable, and famous of Neopia while also giving average pets a chance to wear her coveted designs.
Patrice ambles serenely around her boutique, her white silken slippers brushing delicately against the pink marble floors. She is an astute perfectionist, taking in every detail, adjusting every minor wrinkle, yet remains perfectly calm. Patrice is not one to panic, lest she let the quality of her work suffer. No, she has worked so hard for this glorious day and everything is going according to plan. Neopets gush over the racks and rows of patented Patrice Designs, filling their shopping baskets with oodles of new fall clothes. The line for the cash register snakes around the room, and the pair of Grarrl security guards Patrice hired to make sure everything would run perfectly smoothly have had to limit the number of Neopets allowed inside the shop for safety reasons. Opening day is a splendid success.
Speaking of the Grarrl security guards, there seems to be a bit of a ruckus at the front of the shop. Patrice looks up from readjusting a bouquet of Perfume Mallows (she had arranged for the entire boutique to be filled with them because of their wonderful aroma) to see the guards attempting to block a customer from entering. They look irritated and very, very intimidating. Who could be trying to get past them?
Suddenly, the guards are pushed aside and the frosted pink glass doors swing open with a burst of icy wind. The cozy interior of the boutique suddenly becomes as chilled as the peak of Terror Mountain, an unusual change in temperature for such a mild weathered day. All of the Neopets stop in their tracks and shiver as an imposing figure breezes through the doors.
Patrice would recognize that iconic jet black bob and those icy blue snow-dusted wings anywhere. This is none other than Taelia the Snow Faerie in her very own boutique!
Taelia, seemingly unbothered by the wide eyes and dropped jaws of all the Neopets she passes by (they didn’t know Taelia ever left Terror Mountain, except perhaps for important meetings or parties in the glamorous Faerieland), floats regally through the racks of clothes, not even bothering to browse through any of the designs. Instead, she flies right towards Patrice who is waiting with her hand still clutching the bouquet of Perfume Mallows and who is frankly looking a bit starstruck herself.
“You are Patrice?” Taelia asks in a dignified tone, lowering her fur-lined hood.
“I am,” the Zafara responds as she finally releases the flowers’ stems back into the marble vase.
“I would like to place a custom order.”
Patrice’s eyebrows raise a bit with surprise. “Oh, I – I would be glad to assist you. Would you like to step into the lounge?” She gestures towards a second set of doors that lead to the private chambers she included specially to cater to the whims of her more high-profile clientele.
“That won’t be necessary. It shouldn’t take long.”
Patrice weaves between racks of clothing to retrieve a pink paged rose-scented notepad and violet ink pen she had methodically stored in one of the shelves behind the register counter. Hurriedly so as not to disrespect Taelia’s precious time, she stations herself in front of the frosty faerie once more with her pen poised ready to take detailed notes.
“I would like a new coat. This one is worn and outdated.” Taelia gestures to her floor sweeping pastel blue coat, the gorgeously designed suede and white fur confection that has become her signature outfit. A few murmurs ripple through the still mostly silent crowd of customers who are listening eagerly to the transaction take place.
New coat, Patrice scribbles quickly, then looks back up at Taelia for more details.
“I would like the coat to be finished in a week’s time. Of course I will reimburse you generously. That is all.” With a flourish of her apparently outdated fur lined coat, Taelia floats right back out the double doors with cool composure. The Grarrl guards watch quizzically as she disappears into the throng of Neopia Central.
The crowd of customers gradually returns to its original excited, noisy buzz and business continues as usual. But all Patrice can do is look down at the two words she has scrawled on the rose colored paper. It appears she has her work cut out for her.* * * *
“Here you are Patrice: One Caramel Iced Coffee with Extra Caramel,” Stella announces, plunking a plastic cup dripping with whipped cream and caramel sauce on the table in front of Patrice.
“You’re a lifesaver,” Patrice gushes. “How much do I owe you?
“Oh, nothing. Don’t be silly.” Stella gives her friend a faux-scoffing look.
“Well, I’ll make it up to you. I’ll take you out for dinner or something once I finish this coat.”
“I still don’t understand how you can enjoy such sugary drinks. When I need a little energy I just drink a cup of classic Chamomile Tea.” The plushie Scorchio gestures towards the steaming porcelain cup of tea in her hand, her go-to order when picking up a much needed caffeine boost from the Coffee Cave. She has grown quite accustomed to supplying Patrice with sustenance and groceries when the Zafara is swamped with clothing orders and cannot leave the Neohome. So much so that Stella knows all of Patrice’s favorite drinks, snacks, and preferred refreshing beauty products after a long sleepless night of sketching and sewing. Although she probably already knew them, considering that Stella and Patrice have been best friends for years. In fact, Stella has helped quite significantly in starting up Designs by Patrice. Though without an artistic or fashion-forward bone in her body, the Scorchio is quite talented with math and logic and the like. Naturally, she had offered to assist with the business side of things and is currently in charge of all the financial matters of Designs by Patrice, allowing her best friend to focus fully on doing what she knew best. They are wonderfully complementary friends and both very considerate of each other.
Stella takes a long sip of her tea, strolling around the perimeter of the table and leafing through the pages that litter the tabletop. Scribbled notes and unfinished blue and white coat sketches abound, some crossed out with large red pen marks. Clearly the design for Taelia’s coat isn’t coming too easily.
“Have you made any progress since I last saw you?” Stella asks, examining a page that has fluttered to the floor. Taelia is sketched dressed in a knee-length fur coat that resembles a puffy white cloud. Too obvious, Patrice has written in red across the design.
Patrice sighs tiredly, shuffling some of the papers around. “Unfortunately no. I’ve been brainstorming for hours and none of my ideas seem right.”
“This doesn’t seem like you. Usually inspiration strikes you at every corner. I’ve never seen you work on a design concept for more than a few hours.”
“This is different, Stella. This is the first time a faerie has asked me to design something for her. Designing garments for famous Neopets is one thing, but creating a new signature piece for a faerie as well known as Taelia is quite another. I have to impress her with the perfect coat, and her approval will open up a new market for me. Imagine designing clothes for Illusen, or the Space Faerie, or even Queen Fyora herself! That would put my clothing on a whole new level. It’s such an honor to be approached by a faerie like her and if the coat isn’t just right I’ll never forgive myself.”
Stella places her porcelain tea cup on a stack of rejected designs and sinks into the chair next to her best friend’s. “I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself, Patrice. Of course she’ll love your design; that’s why she came to you in the first place! You just have to get out of your head and do what you always do. It will come to you.”
Patrice takes a few generous sips of her caramel coffee. “It’s just difficult to design for someone with such a distinct look. I mean, when you think of Taelia, you think of black hair, pale skin, snowy wings, and her signature blue fur lined coat. How am I going to redefine yet keep intact her famous image? I can’t just make her any old coat.”
“Maybe you should take a walk, relax a little. It would do you some good to get out of this house, and you might even draw some inspiration from the outside world.”
“You’re probably right,” Patrice admits, finishing the rest of the coffee in a quick succession of gulps. “I’ve been at this for hours. I could use a break.”
“Well, you go enjoy yourself. As for me, I’ve got some finances to manage!” Stella grins at her best friend and whisks away out the door, teacup in hand.
* * * *
Alright, relax, Patrice commands herself, venturing down a quiet shaded path not too far from her home. This frustration and nervousness is an unfamiliar feeling; like Stella had said, it is very unlike herself to spend so much time on one design.
Patrice continues repeating her mantra in her mind, instead attempting to focus on the beautiful day and not the impending deadline or her exasperating lack of good ideas. Everywhere she looks, she seems to see white and blue – the cheery white clouds in the blue autumn sky, a cluster of wildflowers growing on the side of the path, a Beekadoodle flying among the tree branches. Why can’t she seem to get the tiniest bit of inspiration from any of these?
Patrice watches as the Beekadoodle, still fluttering overhead, soars down through the branches and perches on a Blazing Frooble Shrub. The shrub stands out from its mostly green neighbors, its eye-catching scarlet leaves contrasting strikingly against the periwinkle-blue and white feathers of the Beekadoodle. Patrice stops in her tracks, tilting her a head a bit as if trying to capture the image in her mind. The Beekadoodle seems to tire of its perch among the rich red leaves and flits off elsewhere, but Patrice has seen enough. With a calm smile, she pivots and begins to pace back towards her Neohome. Her face looks perfectly serene, but her mind is churning away like a freshly oiled machine. She has an idea, alright – it may not be the most conventional, but Patrice has a good feeling about this.
* * * *
“Welcome back to Designs by Patrice. I think I’ve created something that you’ll really enjoy.” Patrice smiles radiantly as she ushers Taelia into the private lounge.
Taelia floats over to a pastel pink suede armchair and seats herself gracefully. “That’s very pleasing to hear. I’d like to see it.”
Patrice makes her way to the walk-in closet installed at the far corner of the room, retrieving a signature pink Designs by Patrice garment bag, embroidered with Taelia’s name in swirly white cursive script. Just like Patrice to pay attention to every lavish detail.
“I had a bit of trouble thinking up the design at first,” Patrice admits, carefully transporting the garment bag across the room, “but I realized that I was limiting myself by something very important. While I was sketching out preliminary designs, I kept picturing your original coat. I wanted to stay true to your image and your distinct color scheme, and by doing that I was severely restricting my full creative talents. So instead, I drew from the beautiful color contrasts in nature to create your new coat. It may seem to be a bit different from your usual fashion choices but I assure you that you will look absolutely stunning in it.”
Taelia raises her eyebrows a bit curiously but still maintains her cool and collected expression. She delicately unzips the garment bag and reveals a long scarlet coat, lovingly and stylishly cut from the finest suede and lined with soft velvet in the same shade of red. The design, while simple, is perfectly tailored and looks as if it has just escaped the glossy pages of a fashion magazine.
“It’s…red,” Taelia exclaims, removing the coat from its hanger to inspect it more closely.
“It is,” Patrice agrees. “I think that red will complement your complexion, hair, and lovely blue eyes wonderfully. Not to mention it will make you stand out like a beautiful ruby against the snowy backdrop of Terror Mountain. Of course, I have designed it specially to withstand cold temperatures and blizzards. You’ll find that it’s very durable and warm.”
Taelia’s face shows no discernible expression as she continues to examine the coat. Patrice watches calmly, without a trace of anxiety or doubt clouding her mind. It is a bold choice, yes, but she is confident in her decision and knows that this is the perfect design.
Taelia slips off her old coat, draping it over the back of the armchair. Patrice assists her in sliding into the new coat and then guides her to the glimmering full length mirrors that occupy another corner of the lounge. Taelia ponders her reflection, twisting this way and that to see the garment from every angle. And suddenly, her cool demeanor melts into a warm, satisfied smile.
“I absolutely love it. I never would have picked this out for myself but I couldn’t be happier with what you’ve made me,” she praises. “As I promised, here is your payment.” With a flick of Taelia’s wrist, a drawstring bag overflowing with Neopoints materializes from thin air.
Patrice graciously accepts the payment and escorts Taelia out of the boutique with a smile and a promise from the faerie that she will return soon. As soon as she has left, Patrice prances in an uncharacteristically giddy manner behind the register counter and quickly dials a number on the lavender purple store telephone.
“Stella? It’s Patrice.” The Zafara glances with a grin at the bulging sack of Neopoints resting on the counter. “It’s time for me to pay you back for that coffee. Let’s go to Kelp, and you can order whatever you want.”