Shay Peters and the Frivolous Fashionista: Part One
Also by chocolateisamust
I. The Con
You think you know somebody. That is, until you’re tied and gagged by the edge of a pool, holding on for dear life. It’s funny how these things happen. One minute, you’re just a thief trying to make his way in life. The next, you’re stumbling onto secrets and finding out things you should never, ever know. And then you get hurt. Well, I guess I should really start at the beginning of things...
It was a sunny day in the middle of Neopia Central. I was roaming around the various shops and making my way through the usual hustle and bustle of people; I was doing an underground trade, something I like to call Routine Forty-Two.
I was carrying a brown package under my arm, heading towards a bench next to the Bakery. The smell of crescent loaves and chocolate donuts filled the air as I sat down and looked around, dark sunglasses covering my eyes and a trench coat over my body.
An eager looking red Kyrii sat down next to me and avoided eye contact. “You got the paint brush?”
“I got the paint brush. You got the dough?” I asked, making my voice deeper than usual. I glanced at my buyer and slid the package across from him. “One starry paint brush.”
“Mind if I check it?”
A pesky one, I thought to myself. Play it cool. “Not a problem.”
I heard the Kyrii opening the box and looking inside. “Looks good.”
“I don’t play around with people,” I said. “Now you have the money?”
A bag was gently placed into my hand. “It’s all here?”
“One hundred fifty thousand.”
I took the bag and left him. As I walked away, the familiar feeling I got every time I conned someone came over me. It was a simple con: simply give them a piece of thin paper, crudely cut out and drawn to be the correct shape and colour, instead of the actual paintbrush, for a discounted price. They think they're getting a deal, you're getting a payday. Not exactly a valuable way to spend your life but, hey, I was a Krawk gone wrong.
"HEY! WAIT A SECOND!”
I looked back and saw that the Kyrii had dropped the package onto the dirty ground. He was holding the fluttering paper in one hand and flailing around with his free arm. As my eyes met his, he bounded after me, his long legs striking furiously against the pavement.
I took a deep breath and shoved the bag of money into my coat pocket. Then I unfurled my delicate faerie wings and began beating them rapidly.
I was high in the air before the Kyrii even got near me, and I inhaled a lungful of stale city wind before darting forward. The naïve victim of my scheme chased me from the ground for a while, but he soon gave up. Eventually, I veered away from the main bazaar, choosing instead to soar over a more deserted part of Neopia Central.
All the while, I kept my eye on the winding dirt path below me, trying to find a wealthy looking pet who could double as the subject for my next con. When I had first started thieving, I'd had a difficult time discerning rich citizens from others, but as time progressed, it grew easy. The well-off denizens of Neopia had a different air about them; a more confident stride, a bigger smile. Exquisite paint colours and designer clothes were also signs of wealth, but through trial and error, I’d found that they weren’t as telltale as the more subtle things. In the end, the easier to miss things were often the most important.
Suddenly, my heart skipped a beat as a willowy light faerie came into view. She was ambling along the path, shopping bags like bookends on her arms, her steps sleek and certain. Her golden blonde hair was tied up in a bun, and as I swooped lower, I saw a look of smugness on her face. Bingo, I thought.
I flew a little ways ahead and landed quietly behind a bush. The light faerie was coming toward me, her hair bopping with her steps. I pulled a piece of paper out from my pocket and quickly unfolded it. I pretended to stare down at it as I walked, intending to bump into her.
And bump into her I did. She let out a gasp of surprise and dropped one of the numerous bags from her arms. A garden salad and a bottle of water rolled out onto the pavement. Useless, I thought as I scooped the items back into the bag.
“Oops, I’m so sorry,” she said in a squeaky voice as bright as her wings. As I placed the fallen bag back onto her arm, she added, “Thank you. I can be so clumsy sometimes.”
I peeked inside a few of the bags on her arms and noticed a large assortment of expensive things ranging from jewelry to potion bottles. My eyes twinkled, and I decided something in that moment that would change the rest of my life. “Oh, no! It was my fault. Don’t worry about it. I‘m such a klutz,” I said in the highest voice I could make.
There’s something you learn when being a thief -- people will believe you’re anything. And, being a faerie Krawk, I have somewhat of an advantage. I can easily pass as a number of things, and a fashion-obsessed diva is just one of them. Let's face it: no one suspects a cute little faerie of thievery.
“I’m Shayna,” I said, my voice ripe with false sincerity.
Okay, I’ll admit it - that’s not true. My real name’s Shay Peters, but she certainly didn’t have to know that. A con artist can’t be successful using their real name. Unless they want to be captured or identified. And before you ask, no, I’m not a girl. Sure, there’s the faerie colour, but that wasn’t my idea. You see, before I ran off to start a life on my own, my owner had been a bubbly little fool called Rachael. She was obsessed with all things pretty, and when she brought me to the fungus cave when I was just a Petpet, I don’t think she expected me to turn out male. Still, Rachael was not going to let my gender quell her want for a faerie pet; she dragged me to the Rainbow Pool anyway and turned me into a charming little faerie. The first thing I planned to do after running off was paint myself something more masculine. Then I got into thieving and figured out how well my dainty colour helped my cause.
I didn’t hate being faerie so much after that.
“I love your dress!” I exclaimed to the faerie and gave the biggest and brightest smile I could.
The light faerie seemed receptive. “Julia James,” she said with an even bigger and brighter smile. “I like your... trench coat!”
“Yeah, new fashion trend,” I said as I struck a pose.
And that’s when our friendship started.
Julia lived a few miles up the winding path, in a quaint cottage with a thatched roof and lilac siding. It was the definition of cute, but honestly, it just made me feel sick. It reminded me too much of my time with Rachael, who had lived in a house that could be this one’s identical twin.
Still, I didn’t say anything to Julia, and I simply took a deep breath and asked, “Want some help bringing your bags in?”
Julia gave me an appreciative grin. “If it’s not too much hassle, Shayna. I really need to stop buying so much stuff on my shopping trips.”
“No problem at all.”
Julia’s grin grew, and she shifted a few of the bags from her arms to my hands. I took them graciously, then followed the light faerie as she began up the front walk.
“Nice place you have here,” I said as we stepped inside, still maintaining my high-pitched tone.
“Thanks,” Julia said, setting her own bags onto the shiny wooden floor. “You can set those anywhere, Shayna. I’ll get to unpacking them later.” She then glanced to the left, where I could see a tiny kitchen through a doorway. “Want something to drink?” she asked.
I nodded. “Yes, please. A glass of water would be fine.”
“Okay. Make yourself at home, Shayna.”
The light faerie then confidently strode off to the kitchen, leaving me alone with her goods. I heard her opening some cabinets, and as she rifled around for a glass, I dropped to my knees. Peeling open one of the bags I hadn’t looked into before, my body almost froze from shock.
This was pure treasure.
The bag contained only a small purple bottle, but I recognized it immediately. I had never actually seen it up close, but it gave off a faint luminescence and had a musky lavender scent. It was Glittery Faerie Dust, a rare and valuable artifact, easily going for an upwards of twenty million on any kind of market -- black or otherwise.
My mind was ripped away from my exciting new prospects as I heard footsteps from the kitchen coming closer to the living room. I closed the bag and took a seat on a plush light purple chair, then smiled as Julia handed me a glass decorated with a tacky pink flower design.
I took a sip and placed it on a polished wooden table next to me. As I did, Julia sat down in a matching armchair a few feet over.
“So where are you from?” Julia asked as she settled in and placed her glass next to mine.
“Not far from here.”
“I haven’t seen you before.”
“I’m a little new here. Really don't get out much,” I lied. I tried carefully to remember the story I fabricated for myself as we talked. It would be too risky to get a detail wrong later when she noticed things start to go missing. I added, “So what do you do for a living?”
“Oh, I’m an up and coming fashion designer!”
“Wow!” I feigned interest as my eyes glanced down at the pile of bags on the floor. A rich fashion designer.
Everyone, meet my new project. Julia James: fashion extraordinaire. Soon to be Julia James: con of the century.
To be continued...