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Ridley's Ruin: Part Four

by ireneholmes


"Fay can't go to the concert, Genson," I announced as soon as I spotted the other Kougra.

      "Mmm?" he asked, looking up from his book. He was currently leaning against the doorframe as the band packed up from our latest practice. I wasn't sure how he could read while we were practicing, but whatever floated his boat.

      "I said, my brother Fay can't make it to the concert. Is there any way we can possibly reschedule?" I asked, snapping the book shut so Genson couldn't open it again. He eyed the closed book and sighed.

      "Who's Day?" Li asked, craning his neck to look at us from where he was putting away his drumsticks.

      I sighed and rolled my eyes. "Fay. F-a-y. Seriously, it's not that hard to remember."

      "This Fay. . .what is his relationship to you, again?" Genson asked, sliding the book out of my hands and putting it down on the folding chair Li had occupied only minutes before.

      "He's my brother."

      "Oh, great, another Kougra," Li said, smiling and looking at Genson and me.

      "No, he's a Lupe. He's not really my brother. . .well, actually, he is."

      "You're confusing me," Helios rumbled, zipping up his bass case.

      "He's my brother, as real as anything. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't know what they're talking about. The only thing is that we don't have the same parents," I said, leaning back against the doorframe opposite Genson. Barry had left, so it was just me, Li, Helios, and Genson.

      "Yeah, that makes total sense," Helios said sarcastically. Li rolled his eyes and muttered the same thing. Only Genson remained silent, stroking his chin and staring at me.

      "My parents were flying over the lava pools when I was a baby when a sudden draft made them drop. I was left an orphan, and it was Mama who took me in. She's not my biological mother, but she was as real a mother as anything, as real as Fay is my brother. Mama is Fay's biological mother." I refused to speak of Mama in the past tense, even though she was long gone.

      "So you're adopted," said Li.

      "Yes. But that doesn't mean Fay isn't my real brother. Sure, he's not biologically my brother, but he's real. Whatever 'real' means."

      Genson stooped to the folding chair and grabbed his book. "Very touching, Ridley. Very well. You have me convinced. We can reschedule the concert to the Friday before."

      "Thank you!" I exclaimed.

      "Barry has a recital," Helios said. "I have a doctor's appointment. Only Li is free."

      "We all know you don't really have a doctor's appointment, Helios," Mr. Genson said, and Helios scowled. "And my. . .associates will pay the Moltaran Concert Hall a visit and convince them to switch our gig with Barry's recital."

      "I'd sooner hear a rock concert than a piano recital, anyway," I said.

      "Same," Helios said, and we exchanged a high-fives.

      "Alright. Only one problem," I said.

      "Whatever could it be?" Genson sniffed, already turning to go, book in hand.

      "Who's gonna want to come to our world premier? The only folks who'll be visiting the concert hall on a Friday night will be old. Everyone knows Friday nights are piano nights. In Moltara, anyway," I said.

      "Don't worry about that. I'll have my, erm, associates spread the word. We can't have a single pet in Moltara missing our world premier." He flipped open his pocket watch. "Now, I expect all of you to practice hard over the next week. Seven days left."

     . . .

      For the next seven days I ate, slept, and breathed guitar. I played in our tent, Fay's forge, on the roofs, in the street, at Genson's house, and in Helios' tent every day, all day, stopping only to grab a bite to eat or a few hours of sleep.

      I found Helios and his family's tent to be both an extremely relaxing place to practice and, at the same time, tense enough that I felt more adrenaline when I was practicing, if that made sense. Relaxed, because I found a new family (sort of), and tense, because having five kids haring around the place put me on edge (or maybe there were seven? I couldn't remember).

      Plus, when I was at Helios' place, he was able to use his own bass to practice, which made practice much easier and more fulfilling.

      Once I found myself staring at them, while Helios was out to get food and I was left watching the kids. I couldn't help it. I watched the kids and their mother interacting and felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and a warm feeling in my heart. I was getting to be full of contradictions. Maybe it was forecasting my ruin. I didn't know then. But the sick feeling came from the fact that deep down I knew I didn't have a real family. One brother was hardly a replacement. And the warm feeling came from a renewed sense of sisterly love for Fay and a realization that without him I would have no one, no one at all.

      Then Helios came back and broke me out of my reverie and we played 'Road to Faerieland' until our fingers were sore. He even sang a bit, and he wasn't half bad, just not as good as Barry or Li, the lead singers. Me, I could sing, but it sounded like a sick Mortog. So I usually spared others the agony of listening to it.

     . . .

      Then that fateful day came. Friday. I found myself wishing I'd never mentioned Fay to Genson and instead let the concert be on Saturday so I could have one more day, one more day of blessed peace.

      But no, the show had to go on. Of course. It always did. So I woke up early and went to Genson's place without waiting for Fay to wake up and parked myself on Li's chair while I waited for the rest of the band to arrive.

      Helios came first, his eyes rimmed with purple from staying up late with a sick kid. He unpacked his bass, remembered Genson's rule, sighed, and unpacked the signature Genson Bass, otherwise known as the Awful Bass.

      Barry came next, still in a tux from his concert the last night and looking like he hadn't had a wink of sleep since then and now. Uh-oh. Three bandmates tired. This wasn't looking good.

      Li arrived last, slurping down a quick breakfast of negg noodles before yawning widely and pushing me off his chair. He unpacked his drumsticks and tapped on the cymbals one, two, three times to signal us to start.

      We ran through 'Road to Faerieland' a few times, but we'd played it so many times that playing it was like breathing, and I could have played it in my sleep. Next was 'Stardom', which was a little tricky because it had some chords I hadn't played before but in the end we pulled it off. Our final song, 'I Refuse' I'd been worried about because Li kept forgetting the words but in the end it wasn't half-bad, like 'Stardom'.

      So that was that. We'd be performing tonight, whether we messed up now or not. According to Genson, a ton of pets were coming.

      "We have something next to 2,000 tickets sold," Genson announced at the end of practice, around an hour before the concert.

      My jaw dropped. "2,000? That's 2,000 pets coming?"

      "Yep," Genson said, a first for him. He smiled, another first. "So get ready and make it right. I want every one of those pets satisfied."

      "One thing," Li said, pointing his drumstick at Genson as the tall Kougra made to leave.

      "Yes?" Genson asked, swiveling on one foot and tapping his book against his leg.

      "What's our band's name?" Li asked, leaning forward.

      "The Bank Robbers," Barry volunteered.

      "The Sun," Helios suggested.

      "Li and Company," said Li.

      "Ridley's. . ." I paused. Rug? Riffs? No, that sounded dorky. "Ruin," I blurted out, the first thing that popped into my head. Maybe the fates were messing with me.

      Genson stared at me, and then a slow smile spread its way across his face. "Yes," he said slowly. "Yes, that will do quite nicely."

      "Kay," I said, feeling, for the first time in my life, a little embarrassed. "It's a stupid name, really," I mumbled.

      "No, of course not." Genson reached for a cup of tea and sipped from it daintily.

      "Alrighty then, boys," Helios announced. "And girls," he added, tipping his head toward me. "Let's get going. We should set up."

      "You told Fay where it is, right?" Li asked me. "Your brother, right?"

      "Yep. 38945 Lava Way, right?" I asked.

      "Barry should know. He plays piano th. . .I mean, the bank he robs is right across the street from there," Li said, shooting Barry a grin. The keyboardist rolled his eyes.

      "Okay, then. Let's get going," Helios said. I nodded and turned to follow him, Li, and Barry out the parlor door.

      "And one more thing," said Genson, raising a finger.

      "What?" I asked, whirling around.

      Genson reached into one of the cupboards near the door. "If you're going to be representing my management, you need a Genson's Guitar." I cringed.

      "But. . .I've been practicing all this time with my own guitar," I protested.

      He waved the guitar in front of me. "No matter. Now take the guitar. Go on."

      Unwillingly, I took the instrument and gave it a twang. Everyone cringed. "It's awful," I protested, eyeing my own guitar longingly.

      "You're using mine," said Genson firmly.

     . . .

      We were awful. Or rather, I was awful.

      It started during 'Road to Faerieland'. My guitar kept giving off odd twanging sounds every time I strummed a D minor chord, which was about every other chord. I winced and cringed my way through the rest of the song. About halfway into 'Stardom' pets started leaving. A few even shouted, mainly at Helios and me, the only one with Genson guitars.

      Finally, just as 'Stardom' ended, there was an enormous outcry and someone in the audience got hold of the sound and lights and shut us down. I flung my horrible guitar down on the stage and screamed.

      I barged past Li and Barry to go backstage. I flung open the door and shouted for Genson. I found him near the sound booth, talking to Fay. Why was Fay here?

      Genson turned to me and gave me a horrible smile. I realized why he never truly smiled then. It was because it was so horrible. His yellow teeth glinted and his Hissi-like tongue showed through a gap in his teeth.

      Fay turned to me, and on his face was a look of horror. "Why, Rid," was all he said. "Why."

      "Why what?" I marched straight up to Genson's face and resisted the urge to grab him by the collar and shake him. "You gave me that horrible guitar. You ruined your own concert." I stomped on the ground with one foot for emphasis. "Helios says pets are demanding their money back. Stop laughing! You ruined your own concert!"

      But he couldn't stop. Genson cackled with barely contained glee. "But I'm going to make so much more money!" he said. "I didn't ruin the concert, Ridley. You did."

      "Me?" I stared at him, aghast. "It was your awful guitar!"

      He chuckled. "Don't you remember that release you signed? It clearly said in the second sentence of paragraph three that you, not your instrument, are responsible for your own performance. Therefore, you are reliable for the entire amount of money we lost." He smiled again, that horrible smile.

      My heart sank. We'd never pay off that much money. "But what about Helios?" I said, grasping at straws.

      The fire Tonu appeared behind me, and I jumped. "Don't you remember me saying I was a friend of Genson's?" Helios asked, grinning widely. "I didn't sign the release. Which you were too daft to notice."

      I stared at him. "I went to your house. I watched your kids. I thought you were my friend." His only response was a shrug.

      "We're gonna have to sell the forge, Rid," said Fay miserably. "Everything. The tent. Everything." He buried his face in his hands.

      "I'll have Mr. Faycee here making guitars for me for years, and you will be a maid in my extensive household to pay off your debts." Genson clasped his hands together and looked down at me and Fay, his eyes glinting.

      "Why did you do it, Rid?" Fay asked me. "Why did you play in that stupid concert?"

      I looked down. There was nothing to say.

     . . .

      The sun was shining and the Weewoos were twerping and I felt like screaming.

      Oh, wait. I already did that part. That's right.

      Mr. Genson let us out for a short walk to take a break off of our duties. I'm in my maid uniform, and Fay is in a blacksmith's apron with 'Genson Industries' embroidered on it.

      The other maids are walking in front of us, giggling madly to themselves. I can't bear to be truly part of them, so I spend my time with Fay and the other GI (Genson Industries) smiths.

      So that's the story of my ruin. How a piece of paper I didn't read and an awful guitar made me a pauper overnight. Of course, I was poor before, but now I was beyond poor. I owed millions.

      But do not, dear reader (or maybe not so dear) despair.

      I shall find a way out of all this.

      For Fay.

The End

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Other Episodes

» Ridley's Ruin: Part One
» Ridley's Ruin: Part Two
» Ridley's Ruin: Part Three

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