Those Dark Eyes: Part Two
“He offered you a job?” asked Darren. He and Afton were eating a casserole dish that Darren had supposedly been slaving over for hours.
“Yes,” said Afton. “I was a little bit nervous at first, though. I’m not sure if I should take a new job just like the one that almost ruined me.”
“Well, don’t ask me for advice,” replied Darren with a frown. “Last time I gave you career tips, you moved to Faerieland. I’ve decided not to encourage you anymore. It always leads to trouble.”
Afton laughed. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I can promise you that nothing like that will happen ever, ever again.”
Darren gave her a suspicious look while chewing, but then said, “I know, I know. You can only be stupid once in your life. Now it’s time to make good decisions.”
“This certainly does seem like a good decision,” said Afton slowly, turning over the idea in her head for the millionth time. “He owns an independent investments company, so it’s not going to get out of control. It’s quite small, actually.”
“Have you been there?” asked Darren.
“No, I just met him this afternoon,” laughed Afton. “He said he’d take me to the building tomorrow. But when I said it was small I meant small in the amount of business it does, not the size of the office.”
“I’m just warning you not to always believe what you hear until you see it,” said Darren, helping himself to more casserole.
“Don’t worry,” insisted Afton. “I’m not going to make any mistakes this time. If he pressures me, I’m out. If I don’t feel comfortable, I’m out. But Rovan is such a nice Neopet; I can’t imagine him being pushy or rude.”
“Rovan,” repeated Darren. “What an odd name.”
“I like it, actually,” said Afton, glaring at the Bruce but not managing to hide a smile. Darren raised an eyebrow. He opened his mouth to say something, but Afton cut him off. “It doesn’t matter what his name is anyway,” she said quickly. “It matters that he’s kind and friendly and that he’s offered me a job, which I desperately need.”
“Well, you can stay here as long as you wish,” said Darren. “I really do hope this goes well for you, Afton.”
“Me too,” said the Gelert, frowning for a moment. “Me too.”
* * * * *
“And this is where you’ll be working,” said Rovan, showing Afton a small office. The red Lupe was dressed up in a handsome suit, and he was giving Afton a tour of the humble building in which his company was located. His workplace was only a short walk into the city, and Afton was quite impressed by the building so far. Rovan had introduced her to the secretary, showed her the few rooms in which the employees worked, and explained the business to her in great detail. She was fascinated by his new methods of actually going out into the city and visiting the companies that he would invest in, rather than the way that Afton was used to investing, which was reading the graphs of previous market trends. Rovan and the rest of the Neopets were very kind to her, and the Gelert was beginning to wonder if she could really be happy after all working with the numbers and figures which her mind was so adept at analyzing.
“Do you like it?” asked the Lupe, gesturing to the small office. It was nothing compared to her old one at the National Neopian, Afton realized immediately, but it had a very nice charm about it. There was a small desk and file cabinet, with a couple of chairs and four blank walls. As she stood in the doorway, looking into this small space, Afton could see its potential. A new lamp on the desk, some wallpaper, papers and charts scattered throughout the room, close to home... It was perfect. As the room transformed before her eyes, Afton could see her whole life unfold in front of her. Yes, in that moment, she knew that this small office could be the place of her dreams.
“I love it,” she said, smiling.
Rovan grinned. “I’m glad,” he said. “So what do you think? Would you consider taking this job?”
Afton looked at him. In his dark eyes she could see potential as well. With someone like this by her side, an honest worker and a good friend, Afton felt that perhaps this really was the perfect choice for her, and that taking this job could be the best decision she would ever make. Afton had been through a lot, but Rovan’s mysterious eyes convinced her to take a leap of faith. “Yes,” she said, the word feeling strange but exciting in her mouth. “Yes, I’ll do it.”
* * * * *
“So you told him you’d do it?” asked Darren. Afton nodded. “After just one meeting?” She nodded again. “Did you sign a contract?” This time Afton shook her head.
“I’m going to start work tomorrow. Basically, since there’s no contract, I can work there for as long as I want, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to stay,” said Afton.
“On the flip side,” Darren pointed out, “he can fire you whenever he wants with no consequences.”
“Since when did you become Mr. Negativity?” asked Afton with a laugh. “Sure he can fire me whenever he wants, but I don’t think he will. This job is a perfect match for me.”
“It does sound like it,” admitted Darren, taking a sip of tea. The two were in Darren’s parlor, and the Bruce had prepared their daily afternoon snack. “And don’t call me Mr. Negativity.” He scowled.
“All right then, Mr. Sunshine.” Afton laughed. Darren continued frowning, but Afton knew that he couldn’t keep a smile off his face for long. She certainly couldn’t keep one off hers. New opportunities were arising at every moment, and she felt for the first time in a long time that things were finally looking up.
* * * * *
“I’ve prepared the latest stock report for you,” said Afton, presenting Rovan with a stack of papers.
The red Lupe looked up from his desk. “Thank you,” he said, taking the pile. He glanced quickly at the top sheet. “The Neopian Philharmonic is looking to rise significantly,” he noticed.
“Yes,” said Afton. “Apparently music and theater are really catching on now. The Tyrannian Concert Hall has been suffering, and apparently the traditional sound is what Neopians want to hear now.”
“The whole Art Department is really coming back,” said Rovan, shuffling through the papers. “They were really hurting just a little while ago.”
“Yes,” said Afton, remembering with a pang of guilt the part she had played in the Art Department’s demise. “Their stock is extremely low now, but with the Philharmonic catching on and the Poetry and Art Galleries gaining momentum, now is the perfect time to invest.”
“You’ve done a phenomenal job,” said Rovan, looking proudly at Afton. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
The Gelert smiled. “I’m just doing my job,” she said.
As Afton turned to leave, Rovan added, “Say, I’ve got an idea.”
“What is it?” asked Afton, facing him again.
“Well, before I invest with the Art Department, I think we should at least go out into the city and check it out first.” Afton was used to Rovan’s habit of physically visiting the companies he planned to buy stock in. “Would you like to go to the Neopian Philharmonic concert with me tonight?”
Afton allowed herself a smile. “I’d love to,” she said. “If all of my research is right, then this group has the hottest sound in Neopia.”
“Glad to hear it,” said Rovan, returning the smile. “The concert is at eight tonight, so I’ll pick you up at seven.”
“I’ll be there,” said Afton.
* * * * *
As Afton dressed for the concert, she vaguely missed all of the fancy gowns that she had owned during her streak of fame. The Gelert had been a veritable fashion goddess, and had once worn a dress that was praised higher even than Fyora’s at a ball in Faerieland. Now, as she searched through her meager wardrobe, Afton could not find a single garment suitable to wear to a sophisticated musical event.
A knock at the front door surprised her as she was looking sadly at her clothes. “I’ve got it!” called Darren from another room. Afton would have chuckled as she heard her friend stumble down the hallway to answer the door if she hadn’t been so disappointed. She detected a quick conversation between her friend and the visitor, and then Darren came pounding back down the hallway. “Delivery!” called the brown Bruce as he found Afton. “Special delivery, I might say,” he added, handing a broad box to his friend.
“Special delivery?” repeated Afton, frowning at the white package. “Who sent it?”
“Rovan,” replied Darren with a smile. “You know, he’s actually quite nice. It’s something in his eyes.”
“What did he say?” asked Afton, still holding the box gingerly.
“He just said he wanted to drop a gift off for you,” replied Darren. “Maybe you’re getting a promotion.”
“He wouldn’t have needed to box that,” said Afton, untying the red ribbon slowly. “I wonder what it could be.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out,” said Darren, watching his friend lift the cover off of the box. Afton gasped. “What?” asked Darren, leaning over her shoulder.
Afton lifted out a beautiful crimson evening gown. “I can’t believe it,” she whispered.
“Oh, is that all?” frowned Darren, staring at the dress. “He could’ve at least sent by a batch of cookies.”
“This must be for the concert tonight,” said Afton, smoothing out the glorious garment. “What a thoughtful gift!”
“Well, enjoy yourself,” said Darren with a shrug. “Although I can’t imagine who could possibly prefer a dress over cookies.”
To be continued...