The Silver Lining: Part Two
In her room, Philesia threw the trophy to the corner of her room. She couldn’t believe she had ever felt pride for receiving it. It was only a second-place trophy, after all.
She stalked back and forth, wishing she could punch something. She had entered the Beauty Contest countless times. She had advertised as much as she could, she had talked with voters. And Thunder, who had never entered the Beauty Contest before in his life, who had never shown even the most basic interest in beauty or fashion, had beaten her.
The brightly colored Orange Kreludan Bed caught her attention. She stared at it in disgust. It was no better than the silver trophy, and she had been content to settle for it as well!
There was a light knock on her door, but Philesia continued to pace and ignored it. After a few moments, when it was obvious she wasn’t going to respond, Lina pushed the door open. “Philesia? Can I come in?”
“You already have, haven’t you?” Philesia spat. She stopped pacing, but her ears continued to writhe in irritation.
Lina didn’t respond, but closed the door behind her. “Phil, the fact that Thunder won gold doesn’t take anything away from your win.”
“Well, people obviously loved him more than they loved me.” Sarcasm dripped from her words like poison. She wished Lina would let her rage in peace.
“Aisha is a harder category than Ogrin, Phil, you know that. Anyone who has experience in the Beauty Contest knows that.”
“Yeah, but now my trophy will mean nothing when people see Thunder’s gold.”
“That’s not true, Philesia.”
“You just had to enter that stupid Ogrin in the BC, didn’t you?”
Lina’s eyes flashed. “He’s your brother. He had just as much a right to enter as you. You will not talk about him like that.” She stood up and walked to the door, but paused with her hand on the doorknob. “I know it’s disappointing not to win, especially when you’re competitive. Sometimes you just have to concentrate on what you did right, even if you weren’t the best. You can’t beat yourself up over the fact that you weren’t first. You still did it - that’s more than most people.”
Philesia stared at the carpet, listening to Lina’s retreating footsteps. A nasty lump was rising in the back of her throat; it made her feel like crying. She swallowed and closed her eye, breathing deeply, counting to ten. Then she went to the plush petpet bed in the corner where a grey Bluna was lounging. The air-breathing fish purred at her owner as the Aisha picked her up.
Grooming Puppup always calmed her down. Philesia sat down on her bed with the petpet in her lap, setting the grooming kit beside her. She took a cleansing wipe and smoothed it over Puppup’s scales. In the corner of her peripheral vision, she could feel the trophy, as if it was staring at her.
She pulled on Puppup’s fins, extending them so that she could wipe underneath. The Bluna pulled slightly against her, but stopped struggling when Philesia gave her a treat. Despite both of their difficult personalities, the Aisha and petpet got along wonderfully.
Finished with the cleansing wipe, Philesia threw it away and picked up the soft Snowbunny-fur brush. Just as she was about to brush along Puppup’s dorsal fin, someone knocked at her door for a second time.
For half a second, Philesia debated ignoring it, but then she huffed and said, “Come in.”
This time it was Thunder at the door. “What do you want?” Philesia asked.
Thunder’s eyes went to the corner where Philesia knew her trophy was, but she refused to look at it. Then Thunder looked back at her. “I talked to Lina, and that banquet? It’s tonight. I know that the Blumaroo said the invitation is for the first place winners and their owners, but I opened it up and it just says ‘ThunderClap37 and guest,’ so I was wondering, do you want to go with me?”
“Why would I want to go to a banquet I’m not even invited to?” Philesia spat, bringing the brush down on Puppup’s back a little too hard. The Bluna hissed and Philesia brought the brush back up, stroking her soothingly.
“But you are invited. I’m inviting you,” Thunder pointed out.
But Philesia ignored him, considering his proposal. Her gut wanted her to refuse; after all, the committee felt that she shouldn’t be personally invited, so why should she grace them with her presence?
But then again, it would be a foot in the door. The weekly Beauty Contest Banquet was one of the most important fashion-related venues that was held in Neopia. Philesia didn’t want to turn down an invitation solely out of spite.
While she was thinking, Thunder reached out a paw to pet Puppup. The Bluna hissed at him, striking at his approaching paw with her tail fin before Thunder quickly brought his paw back. Philesia watched the encounter, before saying, “Alright. I’ll go with you.”
“Okay, cool. It starts at six. The invitation says formal attire, but, uh…” He looked momentarily embarrassed. “You… uh… you probably knew that.”
Philesia stared at him coldly, and Thunder let himself out. Puppup glared at the closed door before huffing and scooting off of Philesia lap. Philesia let her go, even though she still hadn’t cleaned Puppup’s teeth or applied polish to her scales. After all, she needed to get ready herself.
Two hours later, after a long, relaxing shower and an intensive search for the perfect outfit, Philesia sat in front of her vanity mirror, the tip of her mascara brush extended to her eyelashes.
Suddenly, there was a knock at her door. Philesia jumped, poking herself in the eye; she winced and both of her ears hissed in response to the pain.
“Almost time to go, Philesia,” Lina said, her voice floating through the wall.
“I’m coming!” Philesia shouted angrily, turning back to her mirror. She quickly finished the last of her makeup up, patted down her skirt, and walked to the door. At the base of the stairs, Thunder was waiting in a gray suit. “Let’s go,” she said to him.
“Right behind you.” They waited while Lina kissed them and told them to have fun, and then they opened the door.
Philesia looked up and down the street. “Where’s the carriage?”
“Carriage? The banquet is right in Neopia Central. We can walk there.”
“Neopets from all over the world are coming, and the most stylistic ones will be arriving by carriage!” Honestly, Philesia thought. Didn’t anybody think things through?
“Well, it’s too late to get one now.” Thunder looked sideways at her. “What happened to your eye? It looks red.”
“Nevermind,” Philesia huffed. She stared ahead, her shiny black skirt fanning out beautifully as she walked. She particularly liked the way it paired with her white blouse; she felt like an old-fashioned movie star.
Ahead of them, the Beauty Contest building was already busy with contestants. Philesia spotted several of the Aishas from the previous week whom she had competed against. Doing her best to ignore them, she and Thunder walked to the adjacent building, which was also bustling with activity.
A Jetsam waited at the door, greeting a variety of glamourous Neopets and their owners. Thunder and Philesia stepped closer, and he flashed them a toothy grin.
“Here,” Thunder said, holding his out before adding, “She’s my guest.”
“Alright, enjoy.” The Jetsam gave them a slight bow and opened the door.
Elegant music played dimly in the background while voices chatted pleasantly. Small groups congregated around tall tables with appetizers. Waiters floated amongst the crowd, refilling drinks and replenishing food.
“Hey, I remember him,” Thunder said, pointing towards a tall Ixi with flowing hair. “And look, there’s that Lupe. I’m glad she won; she really advertised hard.”
“Yes, I see them, thank you,” Philesia said. She was starting to wish she hadn’t agreed to come after all. Before Thunder could start commenting again, she strode off with the claim that she needed to find a rest room.
Female Neopets of all different species were freshening up in the large bathroom, preening themselves in front of the gilded mirrors. Philesia only washed her hands and patted down a few stray hairs before going back into the main hall. At least Thunder was nowhere to be seen now.
She picked up a fluted glass of sparkling cider, sipping while she scanned over the crowd. Her gaze lingered on a long-boned Aisha she recognized instantly as her competition. She obviously wasn’t here as somebody’s guest. Disgusted and frustrated, Philesia looked away.
“Hey, I remember you.” Philesia turned the other way and saw the Lupe that Thunder had pointed out earlier. “I looked up the results for Aisha. Congrats on second!”
“Thanks,” Philesia said, before turning away again.
“This is my first time at the Beauty Contest banquet. I’ve never won the BC before. I was so excited when I got my trophy!”
“Anyway, hopefully I’ll see you in the BC again sometime.” The Lupe gave Philesia a small wave before walking away. Philesia took another sip of cider while scrutinizing the food choices.
“There you are,” said a voice to her left. Philesia looked up into her brother’s face. “I don’t
have any idea what to talk to these people about. Three different owners asked me where I got this suit from. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that Lina bought it second-hand.”
“Just ask them about their trophies, I’m sure that will get the conversational ball rolling,” Philesia said, watching the bubbles in her cider float to the top.
Thunder sighed. “I wish you weren’t mad at me, Phil.”
“Who says I’m mad?”
“Your ears haven’t stopped growling at me since we left for the banquet.”
Automatically, Philesia reached up to smooth them down; now that he mentioned it, she noticed that they were growling slightly. She could feel her left ear grinding its teeth.
“This is your thing, I know that, and I’m sorry that I won gold, but if you look at it from the
numbers stand point, you still beat me.”
“You got 17th place overall. I didn’t even make the top twenty.”
Thunder opened his mouth to explain, but before he could, somebody else shouted, “Ah, here he is, the young man who won first in Ogrin!”
Striding towards them was a rather plump Draik in a dress coat and top hat. Beside him was a Yellow Eyrie with stylish brown hair and a surprisingly casual outfit. He had very dark eyeliner surrounding his eyes and a beauty mark on one cheek.
“Pleasure to meet you. My name is Bernard Florspuff, and this is Caesar Stance. Caesar runs the entire contest, and I fund it.” Bernard stuck out his hand and shook Thunder’s. “I make it my own personal quest to meet the winners of each species every week. I must say, I love it when a pet turns up out of nowhere and sweeps their entire competition away. First time in the BC, eh?” Bernard waited for Thunder to nod. “And a natural winner! You’ll be back for more gold trophies as soon as that gold ban ends, right? But what am I saying; you deserve a break after that week. Congratulations!”
“Thank you, sir,” Thunder said.
“Not at all, my boy, don’t thank me. I didn’t do any of the work, after all. I just get the contest up and running with a little financial push every once in a while; what else is an old Draik supposed to do with a fortune?” He chuckled at his own question; Thunder, a bit dumbstruck, smiled weakly.
“Excuse me,” Caesar said, nodding at Thunder before striding off.
“Ah, you’ll have to excuse Caesar. He’s always distracted on the first day of the new contest; can’t wait to get a look at the pets who have entered. I’m the opposite, of course - I want to see the pets who have already won!” For the first time, Bernard turned to Philesia, who’s ears had started to growl louder and louder the longer that she was ignored. “And who is this lovely young creature?”
“This is my sister, Philesia,” Thunder said quickly.
“Ah, what a pleasure,” Bernard said, taking Philesia’s hand and kissing it. “Tell me, my dear, will you be entering the Beauty Contest any time soon? I must say, you certainly have the looks for it.”
“I placed second this week,” Philesia said, slightly mollified by the compliment, although her ears hadn’t yet ceased their growling.
“Congratulations! Silver this week, and gold next, eh?” He chuckled again. “I apologize for not being aware of your placing, my dear. Caesar and I discussed inviting second and third-place winners to these banquets, but with that many guests, I’m afraid things would simply get out of hand. You certainly must have worked hard to earn that trophy, though. Let me tell you, Aisha is one of the hardest categories, and the Aisha who won first? She ended up taking third overall. Quite a lovely creature she is, quite lovely.
“Ah, that must be the winner of the Poogle category. If you’ll excuse me, I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet. Enjoy the party!” Bernard waved goodbye and trotted off. Philesia watched him go, her eye narrowed.
“Anyway,” Thunder continued, “like I was saying, if you look at the numbers, you did better than me.”
“I’m pretty sure the numbers don’t say that.”
“I was competing against three other Ogrins, but you were competing against fifteen Aishas. If you think about it, I was in the top 25% of my category, but you were in the top 7% of yours.”
“I don’t think your math is right,” Philesia scoffed.
“Philesia, people loved you. More people voted for me because there were less Ogrins competing for those votes. But even with all of the amazing competition in your category, you won second. That’s amazing!”
Philesia stared at him for a moment, before turning away. “Excuse me,” she said to Thunder, stalking off after Bernard. Putting on a smile, she inserted herself expertly into the conversation, positively beaming at the Poogle and batting her eye. Thunder could tell she was using 100% of her charm and wondered what she meant to gain by it.
Soon dinner was ready to be served; the trays carrying appetizers were carried away, and Thunder found his place. Philesia, however, didn’t turn up. Looking around, he saw her seating herself next to Bernard, laughing at something a Uni was saying. All throughout dinner, Thunder watched his sister. Finally, dessert was served, and Philesia excused herself and stood up. She made her way back to Thunder.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked.
“Go? But we were just served dessert.”
“Yes, and some people are already leaving. Let’s leave too, and give them something to miss.” She hooped her arm through Thunder’s and they left the party, nodding goodbye at the other pets. Several were waiting for their carriages, but Thunder and Philesia turned to walk to their Neohome.
They walked in silence for several steps, before Philesia said, “Thank you for inviting me to the banquet.”
“Oh, you’re welcome,” Thunder said, surprised. “I’m glad you could come.”
“So,” Philesia continued. “The next time Lina enters me in the Beauty Contest, it might be a good idea for you to join too. After all, people know that we’re brother and sister now. They’ll expect us to be a team.”
“Nah, that’s okay,” Thunder said to his sister. “I think the Beauty Contest is your thing, after all.”