Neovision Superstar: Part One
“I can do this.”
Repeating my mantra again, I found no comfort.
“I can do this. I can do this. Oh, what’s the use, I can’t do this!”
Frustrated with myself, I finally simply curled my paws over the bed sheets and yanked them off of me. There, I had done it- the first step to getting up.
“There is no way,” I muttered, “that I will ever make it downstairs.”
Fumbling across the dark room, stubbing my toe on the way, I found the edge of the curtains. I took a deep breath, and drew them across to the other side. The light poured into my room with no mercy, nearly blinding me.
The light illuminated the cluttered area of my room. Well, it wasn’t cluttered- it was simply lacking extreme organization skills. I told my mother that, but she still said I had to clean it. My clothes, books, and trinkets were scattered across the floor. Even though my family didn’t exactly have a lot of money, I had managed to keep every single item ever given to me. A picture on the ground at an angle drew my attention- it was of my mother, father and myself. The Three Zafaras, my dad called us.
I took a moment to stare at the poster of Kenneth Kyrii, the latest celebrity. He was a star on Neovision- something that my own family didn’t have, due to the costs. But whenever I went to my friend Cassy’s house and watched him, I knew I wanted to be just like him. He sang from his heart with emotion, and didn’t shame himself by being embarrassed. I was personally obsessed with him, as he had come from a low-income family to rise to who he was. Cassy, however, liked just his voice.
It was my personal, heartfelt goal to be on Neovision. Just like Kenneth.
“Next step... clothes... right.”
I opened my drawer, and scowled. Most of the items didn’t fit, or had holes the size of my fist in them. Slipping on a green shirt and blue pants, I decided that would do well enough.
Hyping myself up to exit the room into the ‘sentient’ world, I realized that my old clothes probably weren’t the best to wear today. It was the first day of Neoschool after the summer vacation! I grabbed a blue sash, tied it around my waist, and threw open the door.
“She’s alive!” yelled my father when I stumbled into the kitchen, eyes half-open. Why did everything have to happen so early in the morning? “Hillary, you’d better hurry up; you’re getting late!”
I nodded, mumbled something even I didn’t understand, and grabbed an apple. The kitchen was tiny, like everything in the house. A basket of fruit where I had grabbed the apple from was the grand centerpiece of the table, and three wooden chairs surrounded it. A counter and rows of spices lined the walls, the wooden boards protruding at the corners.
“School today!” came my mother, bustling into the kitchen. “Oh, la-de-da, I can’t wait for you to tell me how your day goes!”
How my mother –Sareen- is cheerful at seven o’clock in the morning is beyond me. She wakes up before me, always, and has a cheerful smile on her face that could be front-page worthy of magazines.
I tossed the apple core into the waste bucket, and worked on opening my eyes fully. “School... today?”
“Very funny,” retorted my father, Perry, tapping his spoon against the bowl he was eating from. “You should put your books together.”
My books! I snapped awake- they were scattered all across the floor.
“Yeah... my books... I’ll be right back...” I said, dashing to my room. I gathered them up –mathematics, language, geography... the list went on. Returning to the kitchen, I saw that my father had gathered up his briefcase already and was getting ready to leave for work.
Perry’s job was to supervise Money Tree donations and make sure no one loitered around, taking as much as they could. It didn’t pay too well, but my father enjoyed it, making it all worthwhile.
“I should get going,” I said, taking my bag-lunch from the counter. “I’ll take an orange and eat it on the way!”
“Oh, have a good day!” exclaimed Sareen. My father simply hugged me.
“I’ll see you two later!” he said, and left for work.
“So what are your goals for today?” my mother asked, turning to me and holding my shoulders.
“I’ll get one step closer to Neovision,” I answered, smiling.
She smiled back, pleased to go through this routine again. Every day before school, she would ask me the same question. “Good,” she replied. “Now, hurry!”
I smiled again, and went through the wooden hallway to the door. It creaked as I opened it.
“I’ll see you later!” I yelled over my shoulder as I went down the path. Sareen waved.
I started the walk to Neoschool, looking at the bright sky. The sun already shone, promising to be a bright day. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that it’s a lot easier to be optimistic when you’re awake.
My house bordered on a forest, and when I walked through it created a shortcut to the school. It’s my favorite place in Neopia, as the trees and flowers made me feel... unique.
Making my way through the final stretch of trees, the school opened up right in front of me. It was a medium-sized building, with a clock embedded in a central tower- it told me that I still had ten minutes before class.
As I was crossing the street filled with bustling Neopians and their wagons of wares, I couldn’t help but feel a rise of dread- school.
“Hillary!” I heard a voice call as I stepped onto school grounds. “Hillary!”
“Hmm?” I asked, turning. Panting, a green Lupe appeared in front of me.
“Hillary! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“What is it, Cassy? I only saw you... yesterday.”
She gave me an I-know-that look. “Come on!” she said. “We have to get the good seats in class!”
Cassy dragged me into the main entrance of the school. It was filled with Neopets of all kinds and colors, each one trying to make it to their allotted class.
“I’ve been here forever!” she explained above the sound of the conversations and lockers being closed. “And have been looking for you ever since! Hopefully we’ll be lucky... we’re not allowed to save seats, either, so that’s why I don’t have two for us...”
I stopped listening, trying to will myself to step into the classroom. School was fine, and everything- I got average grades, but complying to all of the rules was hard for me. It was easier and less stressful to, say, walk into class ten minutes late.
“Come on!” She dragged me into the room. It was three-quarters full, with two seats available next to each other in the middle of the class. We made our way there, and plopped our books down.
I was about to comment on our being lucky when a bell suddenly chimed from outside, and the stragglers came rushing into class. Everyone was seated, yet there was no teacher. I took a chance to look around the class.
It was large, holding approximately thirty students, with two windows to my left. Shelves and posters lined the walls, giving a friendly appearance. Well, not too friendly. How could it be?
The door to the hallway slammed shut, and an adult Wocky walked in. “Class!” she announced. “Please be seated.”
We all exchanged glances- we were already seated.
“Thank you,” she said in a soft voice, putting doubts in my mind of her mental state. “Now,” she continued, “I am Ms. Vanderbalk. Call me Ms. V if you wish. I would like to get to know you all better, so please, when I call your name, state your name, age, and future ambitions. Starting with Luke Abencorth, please.”
Luke was a brown Kacheek who was sixteen, the same age as me, and most likely everyone else in the room. He wanted to be a doctor in the future.
“Very commendable!” Ms. Vanderbalk said. “Jan Acern, now.”
Jan wished to be a lawyer, and Ms. Vanderbalk nodded her assent. I took a deep breath- I was sure I was going to be next, and I wasn’t sure if Ms. Vanderbalk wanted to hear my future ambitions. I smiled inwardly- this could be fun. Perhaps everyone would clap for me?
“Hillary Benk!” her raspy voice announced. I stood.
“My name is Hillary Benk,” I repeated. “I’m sixteen, and in the future, I’m going to be a Neovision superstar.”
I stood, unwavering. Nobody spoke, nobody moved, until Luke covered a snicker. Everyone burst into laughter. I ducked my head, ashamed. It was mortifying.
“Class!” shouted Ms. Vanderbalk. “Control yourselves!”
Luke and others looked like they would die from laughter- I felt my insides roll up.
“Be quiet!” snapped Cassy, coming to stand by my side. “She wants to be on Neovision! Is there anything wrong with that? It’s the same as being a doctor or lawyer!”
A Kougra one row ahead of me turned in her seat. “But you’re not even painted!”
“So?” I retorted. “I- I...”
“SILENCE!” roared Ms. Vanderbalk, leaning on her desk. The class did so. “Ms. Benk wishes to be a Neovision... superstar. So be it. I will not challenge her future, and neither should you. How would you feel in her situation... good. Now, continuing on; could Karen Bindelo please stand?”
I sat down slowly, nodding to Cassy who was obviously concerned. “Don’t listen to them,” she whispered in my ear before sitting back in her seat. My insides slowly unrolled. That had been humiliating. I was glad Ms. Vanderbalk was on my side, no matter how snappish she had first been. Or perhaps it was that Ms. Vanderbalk wasn’t on a side.
Feeling stares in the back of my head, I raised it so that my classmates would not think I was ashamed of what I wanted to be.
I was going to be a Neovision superstar, no matter what the cost.
To be continued...