Star Power: Part Three
Bethany knocked on Lena’s front door and winced. “Déjà vu,” the Xweetok mumbled to herself, wondering if the knock would be answered. To her relief, it was.
“Morning, Bethany,” Lena said, letting her friend into the house.
“So, how’d it go last ni–” Bethany began. She stopped herself mid sentence and blinked. Wondering what had gone wrong during Lena’s childhood, she began to ask, “Lena, why do you–”
“Have cucumbers in my ears, you ask?” Indeed, she had a cucumber slice placed snugly in each ear. The mere sight of it was a bit disconcerting.
“Uh, yeah. Honestly, are you kidding me? Is this a joke? I don’t think doing such a thing would ever even cross my mind, not even in those weird dreams you have after you’ve been awake for a whole day. Even if it did one day occur to me to put cucumber slices in my ears, would I do it? No. Common sense. Your ears can’t digest food. Your ears don’t have teeth–”
“See, here’s the thing,” Lena said. “Stars and celebrities always put cucumber slices in their eyes at night to keep the skin on their face from wrinkling and aging, and also to moisturize vision.”
“I don’t think vision can be moisturized– ”
“Anyway, I thought, what if my ears got old and wrinkly? So I put cucumber slices in them to keep them from aging,” Lena explained in all seriousness.
Bethany sighed, and wondered why she even bothered trying to engage in normal conversation with Lena; it was obviously impossible. “Lena. Take the cucumbers out of your ears and let me empty your kitchen. I want breakfast.”
“Aye aye, captain!” She had said this enthusiastically, but truthfully took the cucumbers out with great reluctance.
“So,” Bethany said, grabbing a banana from the kitchen table, “what did you and Samson talk about last night? Did you get a job with him?”
“Yep.” She grinned.
Bethany waited for her to continue, but the two stood in undisturbed silence. “And...?”
“Oh, and he said he’ll publicize me and let me perform at a professional auditorium: one that rich pets go to! You know, the pets that buy a diamond necklace for every other party they go to?”
Bethany frowned slightly. “That’s amazing, and I’m really happy for you, but are those really the kind of pets you want to be associating yourself with?”
“I want to be glamorous, just like them. Is that really too much to ask?” Lena said defensively.
“No, no, of course not. Being glamorous is fun every now and then. Just don’t forget about your natural beauty,” Bethany reminded her.
“I don’t have any natural beauty.”
“Let’s change the subject.”
“I like bananas,” Lena said.
The two sat glumly at the table and achieved nothing more than small talk for the rest of the morning. Lena did, however, somehow manage to get a bit of a banana stuck in her chin fur, which was moderately exciting.
Lena’s first meeting with Samson and Rodney was the following day. Lena and Rodney sat in comfortable chairs across from Samson, who was sitting at a desk larger than Lena’s home. A gigantic window was directly behind Samson, giving him the semblance of some divine power. The light that shone through nearly blinded Lena, but Rodney shielded his eyes conveniently with his sunglasses. Rodney was chipper and relaxed; Lena was a nervous mess as usual.
“Here’s the deal. I’m not going to waste your time, and you’re definitely not going to waste any of mine. Lena, you’ll perform on Friday and Saturday nights. Twenty five thousand neopoints an hour. Rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Got it?” Samson said, getting right to the point.
“Will I be booking her? I know of fancy places where she could perform,” Rodney offered.
“Thank you, but I have it covered. I know exactly where Lena will be performing each weekend.”
“Oh, okay.” Rodney slumped a bit in his chair.
“So there’s a rehearsal tomorrow, right?” Lena asked, choosing to ignore the awkward, but polite hostility between Rodney and Samson.
“Yeah.” Samson handed her a slip of paper with some directions scribbled on it. “Show up at the Eyrie’s Wing, no later than three o’clock.”
Rodney gaped. “How in Neopia did you already land her a spot performing somewhere as prestigious as the Eyrie’s Wing? Isn’t that one of King Skarl’s favorite dinner theaters?”
“Yep. I own it,” Samson explained frankly.
“Should I bring Bethany and Rodney with me to the rehearsal tomorrow?” Lena asked.
Samson laughed. “No.”
“What? I’m her agent,” Rodney reminded him.
“Yeah, and I’m the Brain Tree,” Samson said sarcastically, and chuckled. “I hope this meeting clarified what your” – he glared briefly at Rodney – “roles are in this undertaking. Good day.”
“Thank you! See you tomorrow!” Lena said, pulling Rodney along with her as she exited the office. He gave her a stern look as they walked through the hallways of the Samson Studios building.
“That did not go as expected,” Rodney said unhappily.
“What do you mean?”
“Samson is trying to cut me out of your career. Can’t you tell? If I’m not deciding where you perform, setting up your rehearsals, or advertising your shows, then what is my purpose exactly?” He took off his sunglasses. “If you work for this guy, I’ll be unemployed in no time.”
“Oh, come on, don’t overreact. You’re not fired just because I’m going to work for Samson Studios now. Come to the show on Friday night at the Eyrie’s Wing. It’ll be fun; Samson’s going to make me a star and the audience might like me for once–”
“The audience always likes you, Lena,” Rodney interjected.
“The audience does not like watching a boring, unattractive bearded Yurble sing, okay?”
“Don’t start up again with the beard–”
“And furthermore,” Lena continued, “I don’t think you’re giving Samson a fair chance here. He’s giving me the opportunity of a lifetime and you’re just thinking about your own personal gain. This is about me, and my future.” She paused. “Rodney... when I’m gone, I don’t wanna be remembered as that messy fur-ball that performed for wanna-be pirates in Krawk’s Tavern every night of her life. I want other pets to look back on me and my life, and think, ‘Wow, she inspires me. She’s gorgeous. She’s a star.’ Do you understand?”
Rodney was nearly speechless. “What’s gotten into you? I’m apparently not the one being self-centered here. It seems like all you care about now is wanting to be glamorous. Or maybe that’s all you’ve ever wanted.”
“Well, you obviously have no room to argue. You’re the one who convinced me to talk to Samson in the first place.”
“Bethany and I only decided to do that because we wanted you to succeed! You have a real talent, Lena! But what I didn’t want was for you to turn into one of his shallow pop star clones.”
“Being one of his pop star clones,” Lena said, hesitating, “is better than being a nobody.” The temerity of her own words surprised even herself. She had never fought with Rodney before, and now they were suddenly in the most heated discussion either had ever experienced.
“Fine. Go for it. One thing’s for sure; on Friday, Bethany and I won’t be there. Not to see you made up like some superficial princess.”
“All right. Fine. I guess you’re not my agent, then.” Lena turned to walk in the opposite direction.
“Lena,” Rodney called to her from down the hallway, “you don’t even know what you’re getting yourself into. I know you’re unconfident. I know that you think you’re nothing special. But the confidence you need can’t be fueled by makeup and pearls around your neck. Sure, that stuff helps sometimes, but if that’s what you think you need for an audience to like you, then you’re deeply mistaken.”
Lena did not even bat an eyelash. She continued to walk down the hallway, carefully looking straight ahead, and out through the doors of Samson Studios. As soon as she was a safe distance from the building, she burst into tears.
Just as Lena left, Samson opened the door of his office. He brushed off his brown trench coat and admired his diamond ring for a moment. Rodney stood but a few steps down the hallway from the office, looking crestfallen. Samson shot him an unsympathetic smirk and smugly left the building with no further delay.
When she reached her house, Lena wearily trudged through a pile of laundry and portable mirrors in her main hallway. She was more confused and bitter than angry at this point. Had she really just fired Rodney, the agent that had discovered her and been her closest thing to a friend for so long? Or did he imply that he was quitting anyway? Lena couldn’t help but blame herself for everything that had happened (since it basically was her fault), but was not interested in confronting Rodney or Bethany any time soon. She pushed them out of her mind, stepped into her kitchen, and grabbed a jar of peanut butter and a cucumber, which she then cut into thin slices. She sat down and put a slice in each eye and ear, and dipped the rest in peanut butter. As she brought the snacks to her mouth, globs of peanut butter stuck to her beard. Groaning, she rested her head on the table and fell asleep, letting the peanut butter glue her chin to the wooden surface.
Quite frankly, she didn’t care, for all that consumed her dreams was the single thought of how much the audience would love her Friday night when she took the stage like a goddess.
To be continued...