In Perfect Harmony: Part One
This series is a companion to my series Usuki Star, which I recommend reading first.
“Guess what, Ali!” A small striped Shoyru held up her hand, which was grasping a brand new, unread issue of Neopia Culture. She ran towards her sibling, a Starry Yurble, and held the magazine in front of her face.
It was a calm summer day in Neopia Central: an average Friday afternoon. Neoschool was near its end and young Neopets were begging for vacation to finally arrive. The sun shone daily, sometimes warm and sometimes hot, with the occasional cool breeze sweeping through the area to spoil uncomfortable citizens.
“Calm down, Rose; it’s not a very big deal. After all, it does come every month,” Ali responded coolly, unfazed by her sister’s excitement.
Rose looked dejected. “But it’s Friday! Don’t you want to read it together and see if there’s a good contest in it? Last month’s was quite disappointing, but I have a feeling that this one is great.”
“Well, your instincts are usually correct. You’ve already won one contest, though. Why not give me a turn?” she replied, jokingly.
Rose grinned. It had been almost a year since she had received the letter that had contained tickets and backstage passes for her favorite band, Usuki Star. She always loved to think back to that when she was daydreaming in Neoschool; it had been a dream come true for her. Ali had thoroughly enjoyed the experience, too, Rose knew. But time had passed, and the times of the Usuki Star contest faded into their memories. The only thing that seemed to remain in Rose besides memories was an ambition to win.
“Go ahead,” Rose said, handing the magazine to Ali, “Take a look.”
Ali sat down on the rug in the sisters’ bedroom next to Rose. She flipped through the issue until she found the contest page. It was tradition in Neopia Culture to include a special contest in each month’s issue, but the contests after the one Rose had won had been disappointing to the sisters. They both had high hopes that this contest would be as exciting as meeting Usuki Star.
“A singing contest,” Ali read aloud to her sister, who was following along, “Submit a video on Neovision with the specified title for a chance to perform live at a location of your choice.”
There was silence in the room as the Yurble stood up and shut the door. She turned back towards Rose and paused. “What do you think?”
The Shoyru searched for the right words. “I know that I can’t sing very well at all, so I’m definitely not going to enter.” Rose hesitated. “But I know someone who is a great singer, and I think that she should.”
Ali’s eyes widened. “Rose...” she began.
“No, I mean it!” Rose interrupted. “You’re great, Ali, and this would be an amazing opportunity for you. And this contest,” Rose pointed at the magazine, “is based on talent, not luck. Why not?”
“I’m not sure.” Ali pursed her lips. “It’s a nice idea, but I really don’t think I’m up to it. There are tons of Neopets out there who are amazing singers who dream of being famous who will take advantage of this chance now that it has come. I don’t aspire to be a singer; it’s simply a hobby.”
Rose opened her mouth to argue, but Ali held up her hand.
“I’m not saying I would win if I entered,” Ali continued, “but I would much rather have someone who has always dreamed of winning something like this win than someone like me.”
The Shoyru seemed unsure of what to say. She stood up and leaned against her bed. Tracing a circle into the rug with her foot, she replied, “I guess that’s true.” She sighed. “It would have been so nice to see you win something also, though.”
Ali went over to her sister and patted her on the head. “When you won the contest to meet the members of Usuki Star, I was jealous at first, but you took me along; I felt like the two of us were both the winners. That’s enough for me.”
Rose took the magazine from her sister. “Whatever you say, Ali.” She shrugged and sat down on her bed, beginning to read the rest of the issue.
The Yurble watched her for some time, but Rose said no more. She walked out into the living room, where her owner was sitting reading the Neopian Times.
“Ali, I was just about to come in there,” her owner said, standing up. “You should probably start getting ready for your party. You don’t want to be late!”
Ali had nearly forgotten, having been caught up in talking about the new Neopia Culture contest with her sister. It was her good friend Lea’s birthday tonight, and she was holding a big party. Ali wondered how she could have forgotten about it so easily.
“I’ll go and get ready now, Mom!” she exclaimed, and rushed back into the bedroom to change.
Ali rummaged through her wardrobe and picked out a new outfit her owner had just picked up from the NC Mall a few days ago. She had not yet worn it, and she was sure her friend would love it. She slipped the clothes on and tidied herself up while Rose continued to read. And finally, the Yurble was all set.
“I’m going to my friend’s party now, Rose.” She patted her sister’s wing.
“Have fun,” Rose mumbled, deeply absorbed in the magazine.
Ali left the bedroom and exited the house. Outside her brother Mat, a Draik, was waiting for her.
“It’s about time,” Mat grunted. “Girls take forever to get ready.”
Ali giggled. “We like to look good. Thanks for taking me to the party, Mat.”
“It wasn’t my decision, but you’re welcome.”
The two siblings journeyed in silence. When they reached the home of Ali’s friend, it was obvious the party was already starting. Loud music radiated from the house, and Ali could see lights flashing through the windows.
“Oh boy,” muttered the Draik. “Have fun, Ali, and don’t get into trouble.”
Ali hugged her brother. “Don’t worry, silly, I’ll be fine.”
Mat nodded and walked back the way the two had come as Ali approached the house. A slender Aisha opened the door and scrutinized the Yurble. “Your name, please?” she asked blandly.
“My name is Ali,” Ali replied, as she peered inside the slightly open doorway.
The Aisha looked over a list. “Come right in, please,” she finally responded.
As Ali entered the lively house, a Plushie Gnorbu standing by the doorway squealed and embraced the Yurble. As the two Neopets hugged, the Gnorbu exclaimed, “I’m so glad you could come, Ali!”
The Yurble giggled. “I couldn’t miss your party, Lea,” she responded joyfully. “I’m sorry I was late. I lost track of the time.”
“It’s alright; you made it just in time for our first activity!” Lea informed her friend, and then skipped off to talk to some of her other guests.
Ali made her way through the crowd of dancing Neopets and, as she reached the snack table, heard an announcement from behind her.
“Attention,” Ali heard Lea say, as everyone grew quiet. She turned around and saw Lea standing on a raised platform. “We are about to start the contest I’m sure you’re all looking forward to!”
With a puzzled look on her face, Ali turned to a nearby Kacheek, who simply pointed at the platform Lea was standing on.
“Tonight, I am proud to present,” Lea continued, “a singing contest!” She paused, as the members of the crowd began to murmur to one another. “It’s just for fun, don’t worry. But the person who the crowd votes for as the best singer will win a small prize, so get excited!”
The crowd cheered, and many different conversations began, obviously discussing whether or not one should participate in the contest.
Ali grimaced as various Neopets headed up towards the platform. Lea motioned that they should step on to the platform. One by one, the Neopets who were participating took places in a line on the platform behind Lea.
“Anyone else?” Lea asked, after a few minutes when no one else had joined the line of Neopets participating. She searched the crowd and stepped down from the platform. The Gnorbu wove through the guests, stating loudly, “You have a great voice, go up and sing!” or, “I know you want to!”
Ali sat down in a chair next to the snack table, where the dark shadows of other guests could hide her. The last thing she wanted was for Lea to make her participate. But, of course, she knew what would happen next.
“Ali, come on up and sing!” Lea yelled enthusiastically as she reached the back of the room. She motioned for Ali to stand up.
The Yurble stood up but did not move. “Lea...” she started.
“Would you sing as part of my birthday present?” Lea requested innocently, “I love your voice, Ali. Please, it would mean so much to me!”
Ali rolled her eyes. “If it really means that much to you, okay.” The Yurble unhappily stepped up to the raised platform at the front of the room.
To be continued...