The greatest thing about a GPS is that it tells you exactly which direction to head in and exactly how long it will take to get there. Unfortunately for Label, her phone needed constant charging or else it would die and leave her with an outdated map and no sense on how to use it.
"Stupid phone", she said to herself bitterly as she flipped and turned the giant foldable map she had found in the bus terminal, "And what kind of a bus terminal doesn't provide phone chargers!?".
She was trying to get a grasp of where she was. She felt like she was probably headed in the wrong direction. And she was right.
After a long while of bumping into busy city dwellers and flipping the map in every direction possible, she crumpled it up and frustratingly tossed it to the curb. She sat down on a nearby bench and let out a sigh of defeat. She'd only been in the city for a week and she was already feeling like maybe leaving home wasn't the best idea after all.
As the regret was filling her mind she took a look up at the skyscrapers and admired their magnificence. Such marvelous structures, beautifully designed, towering over all the people power walking to and from their jobs. Their careers. Their dreams.
There was no way she was giving up now. She'd sacrificed way too much to get here. To get to this little green bench right here. This is exactly where she needed to be. This was exactly where she was supposed to be. She stood up and took a deep breath. She coughed profusely. Label had grown up in the country in a small rural town where the air was much cleaner. It would take much longer than a week to get used to the polluted city air.
"I'm not going back to that gross hostel, and I'm definitely not going back to Animal Village. My dreams are out here and I'm going to get them, no matter what it takes!"
She crossed the street and entered a local library. After a few words with the front counter she got her bearings and knew exactly which direction to go. It was a fairly windy summer day with cloudless skies and for a moment she felt good about her journey. It took guts to leave home in the middle of the night to pursue her dreams. Of course, she couldn't help wonder how her sisters were doing back home. Mabel was only 10 and loved playing with Label's makeup. As much as it bothered her to find her makeup in a mess, she saw it as a bit endearing. Sable was her older sister and the one who took over house responsibilities when their parents died. Label loved her but couldn't stand how bossy she'd acted over the years. Label felt like no one really understood her dreams the way she did, so after they had the mother of all fights, she knew it was time to make her dreams a reality. No matter the cost.
After much walking, Label finally arrived at the address she was given. She was stunned. The building was grand and impressive, a true architectural accomplishment. The online ad failed to mention how gorgeous it looked from the outside. A doorman opened the door for her, "Welcome, Mademoiselle." French. Very impressive.
"Wow, this is Stoney Acres!?" she asked in excitement.
"Stoney Acres? Why no, Mademoiselle! Stoney Acres would be that one over there." The doorman pointed across the street.
Label turned around and her smile quickly turned into a frown of disappointment. She felt a shiver go up her spine. The building was old, peeling and the bricks were cracking. The only thing missing were dark rainclouds with a lightning strike in the background.
She crossed the street making every effort to avoid the vehicles driving from both directions.
The main foyer was darkly lit and there was an elevator with an 'OUT OF SERVICE' sign stuck to it. She was greeted by an elderly man who was sitting at a small front counter.
"Hi, my name's Label. I'm here about the online ad."
"Whaaa?" The old man asked loudly
"The online ad!"
"My hearing aid's busted, come again!?"
"ONLINE AD!" Label shouted.
"Online ad, eh? You look a little young, but I guess that's the appeal. My room's down this hall right over here--"
"--The ad about the available room."
"Oh! That ad... Yeah just go up the stairs to the 5th floor, second door down the hall. Your roommates will let you in."
Label didn't realize she would have roommates, but she had to make due with what she had. She was getting creeped out by the old man at the front counter so she quickly went up the stairs until she got to the 5th floor. Second door down the hall. She stood in front of room 52 and let out a sigh. She knocked on the door and heard someone say "coming!".
The door was opened by a petite orange rabbit with a bright smile on her face, "Hiya!" she said cheerfully.
"Hi, my name's Label, I think I'm your new roommate."
"Yippee!!! Frank told us someone would be coming soon!"
"Frank? Is he the old guy downstairs?"
"Yes! He's a very nice old man, but Pashmina always makes me avoid him."
"Who's at the door?" a voice from inside the room questioned.
The rabbit let Label in and introduced herself, "My names Bunnie! And this is Pashmina my roommate, and now your roommate too!"
Pashmina was a brown goat with a chic sense of style, "Oh, welcome! I'm glad to see Frank didn't scare you away. He's a bit of a creepazoid but he keeps the rent low if you give him a smile every now and again."
Bunnie and Pashmina helped Label get settled in. She'd been traveling light so there wasn't much to put away.
The three of them sat in the living room and got along immediately, sharing a bit about themselves. Pashmina was 17 and an aspiring novelist, although she was in a bit of a slump with her writing. Bunnie was 15 and an aspiring ice cream maker. She came to the city to invent the best tasting and most popular ice cream flavors that anyone had ever tried. While Bunnie was going into the details of her dreams Label gave Pashmina a look of confusion and Pashmina just winked at her and patted Bunnie on the back,
"I'm sure you'll invent the greatest ice cream flavour one day, Bunnie. Just keep up the hard work." Bunnie ran into the kitchen to grab some samples of her latest invention. Pashmina rolled her eyes and shared a laugh with Label.
They were munching on popcorn while Label shared her brief and limited backstory,
"I moved away from home to pursue a career in fashion. I'm gonna go to the Academy of Fashion & Design and get my degree to work in the industry!"
"That sounds awesome!" yelled Bunnie from the kitchen
"So you've been accepted to the Academy then? I hear that's a prestigious school." said Pashmina as she tossed some popcorn into her mouth.
"Well, not exactly. I still have to apply. I've been so busy arranging where I'd live I haven't had the time to submit any application."
"That's alright, we'll help you!" Bunnie said entering the room with three mugs of a strange ice cream.
"You will?" Label took one of the mugs.
"Oh course" Pashmina said as she brought a spoonful of the ice cream up to her nose and took a sniff, "What's the flavour of this one, Bun?"
"This one's Taco Flavoured!"
Pashmina and Label looked at her with some fear in their eyes. They laughed, cheered their mugs and ate a spoonful of the taco flavored ice cream. They each spat the ice cream back into their mugs and laughed some more.
It was starting to look like leaving home wasn't such a bad idea after all.
A loud bang from the ceiling rudely woke Label up. She looked at her alarm clock: 4:59am. Her alarm was set to go off right at 5am. She covered her face with her pillow and took full advantage of the next 60 seconds to rest her eyes and drift back into dreamland. Her alarm immediately went off and filled her ears with the horrid sound of a morning shift.
She silenced it with a slam of her fist and slowly got out of bed. Another loud thud from the ceiling.
What could her neighbours upstairs possibly be doing at 5 in the morning?
She walked into the bathroom and turned the light switch on. The light fixtures flickered for a few seconds and then stayed on. Half of them were dim and needed to be replaced. She turned both knobs in the shower. The pipes made a foul sound and eventually the water began to spray out. Great. Only cold water.
She dried herself off, brushed her teeth and took a long look at her reflection in the mirror.
It had been four years. Nothing has changed. Her luck hadn't changed, her career path hadn't changed, and as the lights flickered again, she took note that not even those had been changed. Four years of the same routine.
She was lost in thought until a knock on the bathroom door snapped her out of it.
She stepped out of the bathroom and was greeted by a half asleep Pashmina holding her own toiletries and towel in hand.
"Good morning." Pashmina said with a yawn.
"Awful morning." Label replied as she made her way back into her room.
She closed her door and started to pick out her work appropriate outfit for the day. She worked as a hostess at a high end restaurant that only paid low end wages. It didn't open up until 8 but since the bus was the only mode of transportation she could afford, she had to accommodate the bus hours. Her boss needed her in by 7 every morning that week to help out with the general setup.
Pashmina was getting ready for her opening shift at a local hardware store. She knew next to nothing about plywood or PVC pipes but it was seemingly the only place she could get a job. The pay wasn't bad and her schedule allowed her to work on her writing over the weekends. Writing and spending time at the local Club LOL that is.
Bunnie was still sound asleep since the ice cream parlor she worked at didn't open up until noon.
After four years, it seemed funny to Pashmina and Label that out of the three, Bunnie had been the one who ended up working in the field of her interest.
Label took a look at her emails while eating some buttered toast. There was a reply from the Academy of Fashion & Design. She'd already received numerous denials from them, but she was still determined to apply each year. She held her breath as she opened the email. She dropped her toast and jumped with excitement.
"Congratulations! You've been considered for our coveted Fashion design program!" read the email.
The consideration alone was a huge step in the right direction for her. She read through the whole email. In order to be accepted into the program, she would need to attend a short examination interview where she'd present her portfolio showcasing designs she'd worked on. The scheduled interview was today at 1:00pm. Her shift didn't end until 2:30pm and she knew her boss wouldn't stand for letting her leave early.
Just then she looked at the time on her phone: 6:13am. Her bus would arrive at 6:15am and the next one wouldn't arrive until 6:50am. She took her portfolio off her desk, swiftly ran out of the apartment, past the elevator with the 'OUT OF SERVICE' sign still stuck to it, and down the stairs.
She exited the building and saw the bus had just left. She had no choice but to wait for the next bus.
Label made it to work by 7:05am.
"You're late, again!"
"I'm sorry, Gaston. The bus was late and I--"
"No excuses! You should take an earlier bus if you want to arrive on time! Now, hurry up and help lay out these plates and cutlery. We have a big reservation to prepare for today!"
Gaston was the head manager of the restaurant. He strived for excellence and his diligent personality often clashed with his employees.
Label hung up her coat and got right to work.
"Who's the reservation for this time?" Label asked her coworker.
"Some celebrity hot shot. One of those up and comers from the marquee."
It was after opening hours and the morning went on as usual. Customers came in, ordered food, ate and then left. Label greeted and sat each of the customers that came through the front doors. The restaurant was located on the posh end of the city and its reputation quite often attracted celebrities, so it wasn't uncommon for Label to occasionally meet some high profile industry workers. This perk was the only reason she stayed at her otherwise miserable job. Her hope was to meet someone from the fashion industry who could help her get her foot in the door.
Lunch time rolled around and a rather large group of customers entered the restaurant. This must be the big reservation. She greeted the guests.
"Table for nine, under the name Horace Hillbottom."
The name sounded familiar to her but she couldn't pinpoint exactly where. Must have been from a poster she'd seen once. She asked them to follow her as she brought them to their table.
As they all sat down she noticed there were only eight of them seated.
"Are we waiting for one more?" She asked after introducing herself.
"Yes, he'll be here any minute now. Ah! Here he comes now."
She turned to the front door and saw the most gorgeous looking horse she'd ever seen, clearly the right choice for the Marquees next star in the making. As she approached him she began to get a feeling she'd seen him before.
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Oh no. She definitely recognized that nickname, and suddenly knew exactly who he was. Horace was one of her ex boyfriends from high school back in Animal Village. She dumped him for being a total dweeb and told everyone in her school that they never really dated in hopes that it wouldn't tarnish her high school reputation. Horace looked quite different now that he was older. Oh, how the tables have turned.
"Oh my... Horace. It's been so long, your skin's cleared up."
"Yeah, ever since I got a sponsorship deal with this hot new acne cream company, my skin's been great!"
Something about the the words 'hot', 'acne' and 'cream' in a sentence made Label shiver.
"Wow, that's so great for you! Well... this is your table."
"Oh, right! Thanks. Well, it's nice to see you again after so many years."
Label walked back to her post as awkwardly as she possibly could have.
She spent the next few minutes anxiously looking at her watch.
"Somewhere you gotta be?" asked one of her coworkers.
"I have an interview at the Academy soon" she whispered looking around to see if Gaston was within earshot. He was standing off monitoring the layout of the restaurant, making eye contact with Label. She turned her attention back to her coworker.
"Woah congrats, so you finally made it!"
"Not if I can't sneak out of here."
"How do you plan on leaving? You know Gaston never lets anyone leave before their shift's ended, and he's always supervising us."
"I had an idea... but I'll need a distraction." she gave her coworker a smile indicating a horrible idea was brewing.
"I don't think I'm gonna like the sound of this."
After whispering her devious plan, Label and her coworker made their way over to the kitchen. When no one was looking, Label dowsed one of the skillets with some high proof liquor and hid behind a pantry. A chef stepped up to the stove and began preparing the skillet by heating it up. It immediately set ablaze and the chef, startled, dropped it onto the kitchen floor. Just as that happened, Label's coworker hid the fire extinguisher out of sight. Gaston entered the kitchen to check on the commotion that was rising from the back.
"What's going on here!? Where's the extinguisher!?!?"
Gaston proceeded to join the chef and other cooks by smacking the flaming skillet with hand towels. They were all struggling to extinguish it.
As the chaos unfolded in the kitchen, Label took her coat and made her way to the front entrance mouthing 'thank you' to her coworker who was also smacking the fire with the others, who mouthed 'you owe me' right back at her.
Label quickly hailed a cab, gave the driver the address and asked him to step on it.
She made it right on time, now she just needed to make her way to the appropriate office to conduct her interview.
"I can't believe I actually made it!" Label thought to herself. She excitedly made her way into the Academy.
"I'm sorry, but it doesn't look like you'll be joining us this term at the Academy." said the interviewer handing her portfolio back to her.
Label was in disbelief, "But there's so many different designs, surely you like at least one of them?"
"Unfortunately that's the problem. The best way to get selected is to present many pieces that are share a common theme. These are all over the place and it's not what we're looking for at the moment. You can always apply again for next year." the interviewer said as she handed Label a school pamphlet.
Label put the pamphlet into her folder and left on the verge of tears.
She stood at the bus stop trying her best to hold back her tears. The bus arrived shortly after and took her home.
Label made it back to her apartment and was greeted by Pashmina who'd only just got home.
"Oh hey, how was work?" Pashmina asked setting her bag on the counter.
Label burst into tears. Pashmina ran and gave her a tight hug, "That bad, huh?"
Through her tears, she explained what happened.
"I think we both deserve a little pick me up today" she said as she used a tissue to wipe Labels tears away, "Let's go get some ice cream. C'mon, it's on Bunnie." she winked at Label who appreciated the comfort Pashmina provided.
They walked over to the ice cream parlour Bunnie worked at who excitedly greeted them both. The three of them sat at the outdoor patio and brought Bunnie up to speed.
"Well what do they know, I think your designs are perfect! Speaking of perfect. I have the perfect flavor for this." Bunnie ran into the parlour and came out with three cones filled with a melted purple ice cream.
"It's wine flavored!"
Label had a taste, "It just tastes like grapes." she said with a sniffle.
"...yeah. I guess I thought if I let the grape ice cream sit out it would ferment and turn into wine..."
The three of them laughed and Label felt her spirits lifted, "Well whatever it is, it helped, Bun. Thanks." She gave Bunnie a squeeze and they sat sipping on their ice cream cones.
Label pulled out the Academy pamphlet she'd carried with her. She felt a sudden determination to give this another shot.
Today was a brand new day, and yesterdays tears were in the past. Label had the day off, but the loud thud that came from her ceiling still woke her up around the same early hours as the day before. She stayed in bed until around 11am and then joined Bunnie for breakfast who was also up by this point, preparing to head into work at the ice cream parlour.
"Any plans for your day off?" Asked Bunnie as she poured her favourite colourful cereal into a large bowl.
"The lady at the Academy yesterday told me that I should try to keep my designs all within the same theme. So that's exactly what I'm gonna do."
"Good for you!" she said with a mouth full of cereal, "I'm sure they'll turn out excellent!"
"How've your new recipes been coming along?"
"Still a work in progress, but I have a few ideas I'm gonna try today. None of them have really been a big hit, yet. It'll take some time, but I have a good feeling about these new ones I'm developing."
Label always admired Bunnie's optimistic energy. Bunnie was younger than both her and Pashmina but Label loved that even if an ice cream recipe went horribly wrong, she wouldn't let it stop her from trying again. She reminded her of Mabel, her younger sister back home. They both had a similar bubbly cheerfulness to them.
"Do you want a hint on what the flavour I'm attempting today is?"
"Sure, Bun." Label poured herself a cup of coffee and sat on the couch.
"It's got lots of turmeric, cumin and chili pepper in it."
"Something tells me you're onto something, Bun!" Label said as she sipped on her coffee and laid out the Academy pamphlet on the coffee table.
Bunnie picked up her tote bag and put her shoes on, "Well, you know, I figured if I love butter chicken for dinner, maybe I'll love it even more as a dessert!" she said as she waved goodbye, blew Label a kiss and went out the door.
Label laid out some blank sheets of sketch paper onto the coffee table along with her freshly sharpened pencils and wax crayons. She took another sip of coffee and then looked at the blank page.
"Where to begin."
She spent a few hours sketching, coloring, crumpling up and tossing until she was satisfied with a handful of designs she felt she could work with.
She took the first design over to the work station she had set up in her bedroom. Bunnie and Pashmina got her one of the high-end sewing machines for her birthday last year. She wasn't the best at sewing, definitely no where near as good as her older sister, but with plenty of practice she felt she could get to where she needed to be. As she pulled out some long ribbons of fabric from underneath her desk she thought how funny it would be for Sable to see her choosing and cutting fabric. She always hated working the machine when Sable asked her to. She remembered some of the key tips and tricks that she taught her so many years ago. She never imagined she'd be using them out of her own free will. She chuckled a bit and then tried to shake the thought out of her mind before she started feeling homesick again. She'd never admitted to Pashmina or Bunnie that she had sisters back home, or even that she ran away from home for that matter.
Label worked tirelessly on the sewing machine, cutting and stitching pieces together, messing up and starting over. It didn't seem like the she could shake the memories out of her mind. The homesickness starting settling in.
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She opened her top desk drawer and moved aside some old papers to reveal an opened envelope with her name on it. It was from Sable, written to her a few weeks after she'd moved away to the city. Label had never written back, not even after so many years had passed. She felt her eyes filling with tears.
Pashmina knocked on her door to say hello, "I brought takeout, you planning on eating anything today?" she asked with a smile.
Label was startled and quickly put her sisters letter back in the drawer. "I lost track of time. Oh my, I completely missed lunch and now I'm starving!"
They sat on the couches and enjoyed dinner together. Pashmina shared her day with Label and they chatted about the latest gossip and did some venting on the annoying customers she had to put up with.
As Label was stuffing her face with dumplings, Pashmina asked her how her designs were coming along,
"You've clearly been hard at work with those new sketches." She motioned to the unfinished and abandoned sketches on the living room floor.
"Right, well I think I figured out which ones I want to focus on. I made a mock up of one of them and it's not even close to being finished, but I'll show you anyway!"
She ran into her bedroom and brought out a colourful skirt she'd been working on. Pashmina looked up from her plate and almost spat out her food out.
"You think it's hideous!" Label said with a gasp.
"No! It's uh... it's vibrant." She tried to contain her laughter.
Bunnie arrived and yipped enthusiastically, "Pretty skirt!"
Label playfully threw the skirt at Pashmina and told her to try it on. They had an impromptu fashion show with the skirt, pretending to be runway models. They all laughed hysterically and finished eating their dinner for the night.
"How'd your butter chicken ice cream go, Bun?" Label asked. Pashmina looked at Bunnie with a look of disbelief.
"Tell me you did not make butter chicken ice cream!"
"Butter Chicken Gelato! Not so well actually. I gave some to Bob hoping he'd be able to guess what the flavor is, but then he had to rush out and I had to close the shop early. Turns out he's allergic to cardamom."
"At least you got to come home early today!" Pashmina said as she cleared her plate into the sink.
"Any progress on your book, Pashmina?" Bunnie asked.
"Nope, still stuck on the first chapter. I can't seem to get past it and I really don't want to start over again."
"Just give it time, you'll come up with something I'm sure!"
"Easy for you to say, you're always coming up with bright ideas for new ice cream flavors!"
"Do you guys want to try the butter chicken gelato? I have some in the freezer I could whip up--"
"NO." Label and Pashmina said in unison.
Bunnie sighed, "Maybe I should move on to some other recipes then." She inspected the half eaten pork dumpling on her plate, "Hmmm...Dumpling. Pork Dumpling...hmmm."
The next morning Label wasn't woken up by the usual thud from her upstairs neighbour. Instead, she was awoken by a text from one of her coworkers asking her where she was, and that Gaston wasn't happy.
She got up with a panic and frantically got dressed. She'd forgotten she had a shift that morning and it was already 9am. She was extremely late. She rushed outside and took a cab to work. She arrived shortly after but Gaston stopped her just outside the restaurant.
"Fired!?" Label questioned.
"Yes! Fired! I simply cannot allow this kind of behaviour! You have been consistently late for your shifts and don't think I don't know about your little stunt the other day!"
Label felt the blood leave her face, "W-what do you mean?"
"I saw you flirting with Mr. Hillbottom!"
Label was relieved that Gaston wasn't referring to her plan on starting a kitchen fire to sneak out of work. Rather than going back home, she decided to pay Bunnie a visit at the Parlour. Bunnie was pleased to see her friend visiting her at work. Label explained her firing situation.
Label plopped herself on booth and let out a frustrating sigh. Bunnie offered her some ice cream to cheer her up.
"You know, being around all these colourful and yummy ice cream always cheers me up!" She said as she hopped over to Label bringing her some ice cream. Label inspected the job ad section of the newspaper while Bunnie served the occasional customer. The ice cream Bunnie provided her was a simple vanilla bean, nothing fancy, but it was just what she needed in that moment. She wasn't too bummed out about losing her job, she knew it was coming, It was the job hunting process she didn't enjoy.
Label couldn't help but stare at Bunnie as she cheerfully greeted any customer that walked in. She wished she had her optimistic cheer.
"How do you do it, Bun?"
"You're just so happy all the time. Nothing ever seems to get you down."
Bunnie skipped around the front counter and over to where Label was sitting, "My mom used to tell me, If you take things one hop at a time, with the right attitude, you can get over any hurdle that comes your way."
The days became weeks and the weeks became months and Label was having no luck finding any jobs. Actually, the truth was, Label was having no luck finding a job she absolutely loved. Pashmina and Bunnie helped her by looking through the job ads of the daily newspapers and they also searched online ads. Nothing ever seemed to pique Label's interest. When she wasn't job hunting she was working on her designs by sketching, stitching and sewing them to life. She was getting better at it, so she figured having all this time off probably wasn't such a bad thing. If she was lucky, she could have enough quality designs done in time for the Academy's Summer term.
As time went on she was spending less time looking for jobs and more time with her sketches.
"How about Barista at that old cafe down on 11th street?" Pashmina asked as she circled an ad on the newspaper.
"Yuck, that area is way too sketchy."
Pashmina scribbled it out.
"How about at the Gardening Store? That place will have all kinds of pretty flowers!" remarked Bunnie pointing at a different newspaper.
"Nah, I feel like I'd develop allergies being around all those plants."
Label didn't seem to like any of the suggestions. She was focused intently on her sketching until,
"How about as a hedgehog fashion designer working at a luxurious and exclusive clothing store?" Pashmina said.
Label's eyes shot up from her sketch, "What? Where? When? Yes!?"
Pashmina tossed the newspaper to the side, "Oh my bad, I meant to say bartender, because these are the only kinds of jobs that you're going to be able to find right now."
Label put her sketch down and turned to her roommates, "Alright, alright, I'm sorry."
"You need to keep an open mind, you can't be so picky, Label. We'd all love to be working our dream jobs. Unfortunately, that's not realistic, at least not at the moment."
Bunnie interjected, "I love working at the parlour."
"Okay sure, fine, Bunnie gets her dream job. But I want to be a renowned novelist and you want to be a renowned fashion designer. Neither of us are going to get to where we want to be if we just sit at home and ignore other avenues that life has to offer."
"I'm not sitting at home and doing nothing, Pash. I've been working super hard on my portfolio."
"I think what Pashmina means to say is, it's good that you're following your dreams and it's important you don't lose sight of them, but sometimes to get to the path we want to be on, we have to take a couple of left and right turns. Those Academy applications are pricey, you should also be working right now to save up enough to even apply."
Label put her sketches away in her folders and packed up her art utensils.
"Okay, you guys are right. I'll be more open to your suggestions."
"Mail clerk at the city post office?" Pashmina asked as she picked up the newspaper again.
"Oh heavens no!" Label yelled.
Pashmina and Bunnie gave her a stern look.
"...Well... maybe. I don't know. I've had bad experiences with the post office." Label sat beside Bunnie.
"Did they mess up you mail or something?" Pashmina asked jokingly.
"I used to work at one back home. It was kinda awful."
"Was your supervisor too mean?"
"No not at all, Pelly was sweet, but Phylis was even sweeter. Too sweet. It was so annoying, she would drive me nuts always telling me to smile more and to be more cheery."
"Well that doesn't sound so bad to me!" Bunnie said with a cheery tone.
"I really don't know about that one you guys. Maybe we can take a look again tomorrow."
The girls sat up and got ready for bed. They all said goodnight, shut off the lights of the apartment, and went into their respective bedroom.
A few moments went by and Bunnie and Pashmina's doors both opened quietly.
Pashmina motioned to Bunnie and they both made their way into the living room carefully sneaking by Label's bedroom. They whispered something to each other and Pashmina pulled out her laptop. Bunnie took out her flashlight and aimed it on the newspaper that was laid out to give Pashmina some reading light. They were looking at the mailroom clerk ad and input the email into the appropriate section of the correspondence. Pashmina quickly typed something up and when she was done she closed the laptop and whispered to Bunnie indicating it was sent.
A few days went by and neither Pashmina nor Bunnie said a word to Label. One afternoon Label received the call. She answered and was caught off guard. Confused and disconcerted, she agreed to meet for an interview.
When Pashmina and Bunnie got home Label was sitting at the table waiting for them. With just one look at Label's face they both knew exactly what had happened.
"I can't believe you guys gave them my phone number!"
"So did you get the job?" Pashmina asked as she took off her autumn coat.
"Not yet!" Label said angrily.
"So that means you're going in for the interview?" Bunnie asked.
"Yes." Label replied with displeasure.
"Hooray! I'm sure you'll do great!" Bunnie ran up and gave her a hug.
"Look, Label, we're all working our jobs, and you've been out of work since August. It's November and you weren't making any progress!" Pashmina said joining in the hug.
Label gave a sigh of defeat and hugged them both back, "Let's just hope this post office job isn't as awful as I remember the one back home was."
The next morning Label spent an hour putting together the perfect interview outfit. When she was satisfied with her look, she waited until the interview hour approached. She arrived at the city post office and was greeted by a monkey in a uniform who's name she didn't quite catch.She was brought to an office where they received her resume from her and conducted the interview. After about ten minutes they shook her hand and offered her the job.
"So? how'd it go?" Bunnie asked just as Label returned to the apartment.
"...I got the job!" Label said with an unenthusiastic cheer.
Pashmina and Bunnie jumped up and danced around. Their friend was no longer unemployed or broke.
"Well you know what this means, right?" Pashmina asked, "We need to go out and celebrate!"
Pashmina was a big fan of Club LOL and made an effort to go whenever an opportunity presented itself. The three girls did each others makeup, put their favourite outfits on and went out the door, trying their best to sneak past Frank, who spotted them in the foyer and gave them what he thought was an appropriate compliment.
At Club LOL, the girls stuck together and danced the night away, celebrating as much as they possibly could.
"The mail's not gonna sort itself!" said a raspy voice from behind a desk.
Label was caught looking out of the window and day dreaming again. She turned to see Phyllis sitting at the desk smiling at her, "I'm only teasing! No need to be so serious. You've had that pile of envelopes in front of you for a while now. What's outside that's so interesting?"
"Nothing, Phyllis. Sorry, I'll finish sorting this bundle."
"Oh stop, call me Philly. I know you've only been working here for a few weeks now, so you may not know, but I like to have fun in the office! Sometimes I like to play some salsa music and dance around when the room's empty." Phyllis switched on the stereo and commenced to dance around Label's desk. Phyllis had absolutely no rhythm.
Label tried to sort the mail and put each in its corresponding pigeon hole as quickly as she could so that she could get out of that situation. She felt like she was going to die from second hand embarrassment.
"You should smile more! It's the best kind of medicine. Well, that and the pain medication my doc gave me for my knees!" Phyllis laughed and walked back over to her desk.
Just then, Pete walked in and greeted them both, "Just pickin' up the afternoon mail!"
Label's shift felt like an eternity, but eventually it came to an end. When she was finished she said bye to everyone, punched out and rode her bike home.
Her bike ride home was her favourite part of the day. She didn't mind the scenery Animal Village provided, she just hated that it was such a small town and that there wasn't much to do. On her ride home she could enjoy the quietness of the forest trails and day dream in peace. She'd always played make belief that she was a famous fashion designer and use whatever rags and towels she could find around the house to mock up an abstract outfit. She used to wait eagerly for the monthly issue of Fashion Monthly to arrive in the mail. She had an entire wall in her bedroom with cut outs from the magazines of her favourite pieces of clothing. She knew it was her passion from a very young age. One of her most fondest memories was of her mother stitching two different shirts to make one, just as little Label had requested. Rather than seeing a horrid abomination, she saw it as a beautiful design and it became her favourite shirt. It wasn't until Fashion Monthly said stitched patterns were out and simple patterns were in that her favourite shirt was out of her closet and in the trash.
She arrived home and put her bike in the shed. Mabel greeted her with a tight hug and then went back to her usual spot in the living room to continue playing with her sister's make up.
"Hey Label! Dinner's almost ready." Sable was at the stove stirring something in a pot, "Oh what's that you've got there?"
Label put the Fashion Monthly magazine on the kitchen table while she removed her work bag. Sable wasn't a fan of the magazine. She felt like it highlighted too many negative points of view from the fashion industry.
"Oh it's just that old thing." She said as she continued to stir.
"There's quite a few lovely pieces in this issue. You may want to have a look before you dismiss it so quickly."
"C'mon Label, you know I don't like what they have in there. Unrealistic expectations and ridiculous standards. I mean, one day something's in and the next day it's out!"
"They're called trends."
"No, it's called nonsense."
Label left the kitchen and went up to her bedroom to change and wash up for dinner.
Sable asked Mabel to wash up and get ready for supper. Mabel ran up the stairs and passed Label who was on her way back down.
"I made some green bean chili." Sable said as she ladled some of the chili into a bowl.
"Again? Didn't we have that a few days ago?" Label took a seat at the table.
"Yes, but Mabel likes it, and to be honest we're running low on groceries, so you'll have to pick some up on the way home tomorrow."
"Why do I have to do it? I come home tired as it is. Mabel's 10, she's old enough to go to the market."
"She's too small to carry the bags all on her own. I need you to do it, Label." She placed a bowl of the chili in front of Label.
"This isn't fair!"
"If you don't want to eat green bean chili everyday, then I don't see how it isn't fair that you go pick up some groceries." Label replied as she ladled another bowl with chili.
"No, it's not fair that you get to just make all the rules and tell everyone what to do!"
Sable put the ladle down and turned to look at her sister, "I'm the oldest, therefore it's my responsibility to look after the both of you."
"That doesn't mean you can boss me around."
"I'm just asking you to pick up some groceries!" Sable was starting to get upset, "I'm not asking for much!"
"It's not just the groceries, it's every day. You treat me like your daughter and I'm not. I'm not that much younger than you but you still treat me like a little girl!"
"That's because you behave like a little girl! I need you to help around the house, you can't always be living life as if there aren't any responsibilities!"
"Well when I go to school I won't be around for you to boss around. When I'm out of here you'll have to ask Mabel to do everything."
Sable looked visibly irritated and raised her voice, "Label you need to forget about that fashion school you're always day dreaming about. You need to focus on your responsibilities here at home. One day you'll have your own family that you need to take care of and you won't get anywhere by entertaining these fantasies!"
"The Academy is my dream, it's not just some fantasy! I'm going to get accepted and leave this horrible town."
"Label we're a family, we need to stick together. It's just the three of us now. Do you think I asked for this responsibility? We have to take care of each other and focus on the household. That starts with forgetting those stupid magazines and that stupid Academy! You're not going anywhere, and that's final!"
Mabel entered the kitchen, "Ooh! Green bean chili, my favourite!"
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Label screamed in frustration and stomped out of the kitchen.
Neither Label nor Sable got any sleep that night. Label sat on her bed staring at the photo of the Academy posted on her wall. She opened the magazine and turned to the very back of the page. She'd eyed the address of the Academy many times and dreamt of the day she'd leave Animal Village and head to the big city. Then suddenly, she thought to herself... why not today?
Sable was right about one thing, Label wasn't going to get anywhere by just day dreaming. She needed to act on it.
She'd been saving quite a bit of money from past birthdays, holidays and every part time job she worked in the summer time over the last few years. She opened a shoebox under her bed where she kept all of those bells. It was definitely enough to get her to the city, and enough to find a place to stay for a while. She couldn't believe she was actually considering this. She was filled with adrenaline and did a quick search online for places offering short term rent. After a few minutes, she saved some information down into her phone and started packing her bag. She looked at the clock and it was almost midnight. The last bus to the city was going to depart in half an hour. She quickly wrote a note on some stationary, left it on her pillow and took one last look at the framed photograph of her with her sisters on her night table.
Sable was tossing and turning feeling restless. She took a look at her clock and it was 1am. She couldn't stop thinking about her argument with Label. They fought often and she hated it. She wished Label could be more understanding. She got up and went over to Label's room, trying to think of how to apologize for the fight they had.
She opened the door and gently whispered Label's name, thinking she was asleep. She walked over to the bed and was shocked to see it was empty. She picked up the note left on the pillow and her eyes filled up with tears.
It was Label's first day at her new post office job and the memories of her days working at the post office back home began to flood her mind. She had an idea of how to do the work, so when the supervisor gave her instructions for the day, she wasn't completely lost.
She would receive bundles of letters from the courier and then sort them into their respective slots, called 'pigeon holes'. Then, a few times a day she'd collect all the mail from each pigeon hole and put them in a transport bag that was to be given to its respective post man or woman.
It was easy work with a lot of downtime, so she found herself sitting at one of the sorting tables sketching up new ideas. Her coworkers would spend the downtime reading or playing chess until it was time for them to receive the new bundles of mail to sort.
Over the next few weeks Label had drawn up a number of sketches. She was able to get her sketches finished and her coworkers for the most part left her alone. She started to think working as a mail clerk in the city wasn't such a bad idea. That was until an unexpected visitor arrived to drop off a package. It was Horace.
"Buttercup? Well, didn't expect to see you here."
Label's attempt at hiding behind a large potted snake plant failed. She came up from behind it and greeted Horace.
"I didn't expect to be working at the post office either to be honest with you."
"I noticed you weren't at the restaurant anymore, figured maybe I just kept missing your shifts but I guess... you quit?"
"Yes! Yes, I quit. I Couldn't stand the smell of the caviar cooking in the kitchen every morning!" She said trying her best to come up with an excuse for her absence from the restaurant.
"I didn't know caviar was cooked...?"
"...Any-who! What brings you here?" she said trying to change the subject. Horace lifted a medium sized package wrapped in bubble wrap.
"I just need to send this off somewhere and was hoping I could get a packing box for this?
"Right, let me get that for you."
Label proceeded to gather the supplies Horace needed and received his package for him. He gave her the delivery address and she typed the information on the computer at the front counter. When she was done he thanked her.
"Hey, you know, I'm actually performing at the Marquee this weekend. It probably won't be a packed show or anything, but you should come!"
"The Marquee? Oh I don't know, I'm not really the theatre type."
"I could give you some free tickets."
"Really!? Oh. Um, I guess that would be cool."
"Great! You can bring some friends and you can all come back stage and meet the other actors."
"Oh my gosh, really? That sounds fantastic!"
"Perfect, I'll drop off the tickets tomorrow and give you the details!"
Horace left and Label couldn't help but keep her eyes on him until he left out the front door and turned the corner.
Later that evening, Label told Pashmina and Bunnie about the Marquee invitation.
"Yay!!! I love the Marquee! They always have such romantic shows!" Bunnie said jumping excitedly.
"They're pretty sappy, but if you guys are going I'll come too. So who's this Horace guy?" Pashmina asked as she looked up from her typewriter.
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"If he's just an old friend then why are you blushing?" Bunnie teased.
The girls pried until Label finally came clean, "Alright, he's an old boyfriend from when I was a teenager."
The girls squealed.
"He was such a dweeb in high school, but he was nice to me. That was the only reason I agreed to go out with him back then. I was so embarrassed, I told him not to let anyone find out we were dating. I broke up with him after a few months, and I feel kinda bad, but he doesn't seem to remember."
"Or maybe he does but he's playing the long game waiting to act out his payback!" Pashmina said laughing.
"Well it doesn't matter either way, I'm not interested in him. No matter how rich and famous he is. Or how fit he's gotten. Or how perfectly shaped his face is."
The girls squealed some more. Bunnie pulled out a pint of chocolate cookie dough ice cream with three spoons. The three girls sat around it and shared it together. Label pointed at Pashmina's typewriter, "I see you're doing some work on your book?"
"Well sort of. I caved and decided to start from scratch. I just couldn't get past the first chapter and figured if I don't even find a story about a girl and a radioactive butterfly all that interesting, why would any reader?"
"So is this one about a radioactive spider instead?" Label asked playfully.
"Ha Ha, aren't you clever." Pashmina replied.
Label looked around at her roommates and smiled as they all laughed, with mouths full of ice cream, thinking to herself how nice it was to have sisters again.
The weekend came and the work week was finally over. They each tried on multiple outfits until they all decided which ones were perfect for the Marquee. They made their way over and each presented their tickets.
The show was quite enjoyable. It had action and comedy and drama and the cast got a standing ovation at the end. Horace was right in the centre of the stage and gave Label a wink after he took a bow. They pulled out the VIP passes Horace had given them and made their way backstage where they met numerous actors. Pashmina and Bunnie were in awe, and Label was off in a corner chatting with Horace.
"This was fantastic! My friends and I loved the show!"
"I'm glad you liked it! You said you weren't the theatre type, so what are you usually into?"
"I'm focusing on fashion right now. That is, when I'm not sorting mail!"
"Ah, that's right. Back when we were dating you were always obsessed with those fashion magazines!"
Label was horrified that he brought up their history.
"Right, High school. That was such a long time ago." she said nervously.
"Hey, don't sweat it!" he laughed, "You know, now that you mention it. I know a couple people in the fashion industry."
"Stop it!" she said in disbelief
"No it's true! If you wanted I could put in a good word for you."
Label couldn't believe what she was hearing. It felt too good to be true.
"Show business lets you meet all kinds of people! You know, the Christmas season is here and that means its the season for partying. If you come to one of my party's you're definitely bound to bump into all kinds of interesting people. You know, to expand your circle a bit." He said as he held her hand.
Pashmina looked over and noticed Horace was getting closer to Label. She excused herself from the conversation she was having with one of the actresses and walked over to Label.
"That sounds great, I'd love to come!" Label replied.
"Hey we should get going." Pashmina whispered to Label giving Horace a friendly smile. Label introduced each other and said goodbye to Horace, thanking him again. The three girls made their way home and Label told them her exciting news.
"That sounds great, Label, and you know me I love a good party, but I don't know if this guy's such a good idea." Pashmina said. Label gave her a strange look.
"What do you mean? He has connections with the fashion industry. Being friends with him could be exactly what I need!"
"Yeah but, why is he getting so friendly all of a sudden? Offering you VIP tickets and inviting you to exclusive parties?"
"He's a friendly guy! He was like that in high school too."
"I'm just saying it's good to be cautious before you decide to go to every event he invites you to."
"I think you're worrying too much. Everything's going to be fine. He's an old friend, trust me."
The three girls walked off into the busy streets, where the sounds of their clattering high heels drowned out in the endless sirens of the city.
December and January were prime party months in the city. The cheerful season put everyone in the city in the right mood to dance all night long. That's exactly what Label did. Pashmina and Bunnie made sure to stick by her at all times because although Bunnie couldn't have been more clueless, Pashmina had a suspicious feeling about Horace.
"He seems like a nice guy, maybe you should give him a chance, Pash." Bunnie was sipping on a tall glass of punch with plenty of colourful citrus slices in it.
The music at the party was booming and the bass made the room vibrate rhythmically. Bunnie liked attending parties for the colourful light show often on display, watching them dance around the room changing depending on the beat and melody.
Pashmina liked parties because she was a fan of dancing and the fun vibes. Parties were usually a good time for her. Horace hosted a few Christmas parties, a News Years Eve party, and then a New Years Day Party. She was starting to get a little tired of parties.
"Just keep your eyes peeled, Bun. When I have a hunch, I'm hardly ever wrong."
Label was dancing with Horace. He'd always made an effort to interact with most of his guests but he made sure to always give Label plenty of attention.
The party was crowded with people from the entertainment industry. Pashmina danced across the room and made her way over to Label,
"Come get a drink with me!" She yelled struggling to keep her voice louder than the music. Label mouthed something to Horace and went over to the punch bowl where Bunnie was bouncing to the music splashing and spilling her drink.
"What's up? Are you having fun?" Label screamed, the music blaring.
"If you really want to meet someone from the fashion industry, you should try mingling, instead of sticking to Horace. You guys are attached at the hip and that's totally not why you're here!"
Label rolled her eyes and got herself some punch. Bunnie leaped with joy, "I love this song!"
The party rolled on well into the early hours of the morning and the girls decided to call it a night. Exhausted, they got a cab and went home. They carried a sleeping Bunnie all the way up to their apartment and tucked her in bed, ensuring to gently place her soft teddy in her arms before they closed her door. Wishing each other a goodnight they both went to bed.
It didn't take long before the day came when Label got a phone call from the Academy.
"They said they received my name on a recommendation from a good friend and that they were excited to interview me for the summer term! This means in five months I'll finally be at the Academy!" The girls had never seen Label this excited before. Pashmina still had a bad feeling about Horace but was happy for her friend. Bunnie loved Label's excitement so she started bouncing around the room along with her.
Label spent the day at work day dreaming about the Academy. Once at the academy she would wear a new outfit each and every day, swap ideas with her fashion mentors and attend all kinds of high end events. She'd been in the city for four long years, what were five more months of waiting? Summer would be here in no time.
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Label left work early and went over to the ice cream parlour. She found Bunnie stacking what looked like a dozen scoops of ice cream, one on top of the other, creating a towering mess waiting to happen.
"Everything okay, Bun?" she asked finding a seat while keeping her eye on the ice cream tower, hoping it kept its balance.
"I'm trying to make a cone of each flavor." she replied with a look of concentration on her face. She was standing on a step stool trying to put one last scoop on the very top.
"I was thinking we could celebrate my interview with the Academy tonight by going out." Label said checking her phone.
"That sounds like a fun idea! Where should we go?" The tower was teetering back and forth a bit more now.
"Well, Horace said we could have a party at his place tonight to celebrate." she said eyes glued to her phone.
"Oh, another party. I'm down, but..." She placed the last scoop on top and hopped off the step stool, "...do you think Pashmina would want to come? You know she's got her own little Ms. Marple thing going on with Horace and she doesn't really trust the guy. Plus we've been to, like, a hundred parties in the last few weeks alone."
"I don't know why she doesn't trust him. He's only ever been nice to us. He's invited her to all of his parties and nothing bad's ever happened."
"Well, Pashmina always has these 'hunches'. Maybe it's all the books she's been reading, but have you ever known her to be wrong about stuff like this?"
"There's a first for everything."
Suddenly the ice cream scoop tower lost its balance and fell over, landing all over Bunnie.
"Maybe you should have put them in a bowl instead of a cone. A big bowl."
Bunnie got cleaned up as best she could and closed up the parlor. The two went over to Pashmina's workplace to pick her up. Pashmina was just finishing her shift.
"What's with the ice cream?" Pashmina pointed to Bunnie's colorfully stained dress.
"She went for a classic ice cream look design today, very chic." Label said jokingly.
"You're just missing a cherry on top, Bun." Pashmina said as she punched out of work. A customer walked up to Pashmina and was about to ask her a question, "Sorry, off the clock!"
The three girls rushed out of the hardware store. Label told Pashmina the plan for the evening and Pashmina gave out a loud sigh.
"Do we have to? Can't we just celebrate with an extra large pizza and a movie?"
"C'mon Pashmina! Party season will be over soon, we might as well take full advantage of it." Label pouted, "And plus, we need to celebrate big for this. This is huge for me!"
"Alright fine, but I swear this is the last time!"
Pashmina agreed and the evening quickly arrived.
They got to Horace's apartment and the usual large crowd of people were there, dancing in place, drinking punch, and yelling over the music. Label ran over to where Horace was socializing and he gave her a hug and a congratulations. Pashmina went around to see if she could find anyone who looked like a publisher and Bunnie went straight to the table filled with an array of colourful desserts.
The night went on as usual, the girls danced and drank and ate plenty of food. Horace whispered something to Label and disappeared. A few moments passed and Label too disappeared.
Pashmina lost sight of Label and was suddenly surrounded by a few gentlemen she had no interest talking to. They seemed to be blocking her on to one side of the room. She couldn't see Label anywhere from where she was standing. She saw Bunnie and gave her a look of concern. Bunnie knew the expression well and walked over 'accidentally' spilling her punch all over one of the gentlemen's expensive suit.
"Oopsies! I'm so clumsy sometimes!"
The blockade of gentlemen reached for some napkins to help their comrade's lemonade disaster. Pashmina and Bunnie slipped out from the end of the room and walked through the crowd of dancing party people.
"Thanks for that, Bun. I can't see Label anywhere!"
Bunnie quickly scanned the room, "Maybe she wasn't feeling good and left? I'll try calling her."
"I can't see Horace anywhere either." Pashmina said with worry in her voice.
Bunnie gasped with her phone still dialing, "You don't think..."
The apartment wasn't large, so they had no trouble finding and rushing into Horace's bedroom.
Horace was gripping Label's wrist tight, "I said you're hurting me!" Label said with a tremble in her voice.
Pashmina ran up to Horace and backhanded him. Bunnie took a sneaker she found laying on the ground and threw it directly at his head. He let got of Label's wrist and fell back onto his bed.
"Wait, where do you think you're going!?"
"Party's over!" snapped Pashmina.
"Don't be dumb, Label. Think about your interview with my friends at the Academy!"
The two girl's pulled Label out of the room. They bolted out of the apartment and when they made it outside Label couldn't hold back the tears. The girls put their arms over her and comforted her. Bunnie hailed a cab and they all got in. Label's phone started ringing. It was Horace. Label cried even harder. Pashmina took Label's phone from her. A flood of text messages from him came through, threatening her opportunity at the Academy. Pashmina deleted and blocked his number and then returned the phone back to Label. The cab drove down the busy city streets. The city was filled with bright lights and chaos but Label's cries weren't drowned out by the hectic city sounds.
Spring was Label's favourite season. She loved walking through the woods as the cherry blossom petals gently fell through the air. There weren't any cherry blossom trees in the city, or any woods for that matter. She hadn't had much motivation to work on her portfolio, although she knew that summer was just around the corner, and that meant so was her interview.
Spring was also Sable's and Mabel's favourite season as well. It was late in the afternoon and she sat on her bed still in her pyjamas staring at the desk in her bedroom.
Walking over and opening the drawer, she sat and took a long look at the letter that was hidden inside. The letter from Sable that she'd received so long ago. From time to time she would examine the letter, reading it over and over losing herself in thoughts of her time living in Animal Village. It was starting to feel like a lifetime ago, the cherry blossoms, the bike rides around town, her sisters.
Label snapped out of her memories when she heard Pashmina unlocking the front door of the apartment. She put the letter away and got dressed.
The girls were worried about Label. After the incident at the party, Label spent most of her time alone. She'd call into work saying she was sick often and wouldn't eat all that much. They knew it was best to try and give her some space.
Label came out of her room and walked into the living room to say hi to Pashmina who had arrived from worked.
"I was thinking of ordering some take out, are you hungry?" Pashmina asked hoping she'd say yes.
"I'm okay for now, thanks." Label laid back on the love seat and turned on the TV.
Pashmina thought for a moment and then brought Label her spring coat, "Let's go visit Bunnie. You've been cooped up in here all day, some fresh air will do you good."
"I'm not really in the mood to go out." She said with her eyes fixed on the TV changing the channels.
"Look, I understand you're going through a rough time," she sat down beside Label, "but don't forget what you came to the city to do. You're here to fight for your dreams, are you really going to let this stop you from doing that?"
"What happened at the party was wretched, what he tried to do was awful and what he said at the end... He was my link to the fashion industry, and over the last few months I can't help but feel guilty about it and how I may have ruined my chances with the Academy."
"The guilt you're feeling is normal, as awful as that sounds. None of this is your fault and you don't have to be concerned about the Academy. I've been dying to find a publisher who will even look at any of the work I've written. It's been years of doors closing in my face over and over. It's easy to give up and feel like we messed up by coming to the city. We have to be stronger than that. If you really want to enter this industry, then fight for it, even if the odds are stacked against you."
She gave Label a hug, helped her into her coat, and made their way over to he ice cream parlour. The parlour was relatively empty and Bunnie was manning the register alone again.
"Your boss is off again, Bun?" asked Pashmina as she went behind the counter helping herself to a cup of vanilla bean ice cream.
"Yeah, sort of. I tried to make a version of ice cream that was strictly egg flavoured. And I may have used some outdated eggs. He gave it a try and a few hours later he had to rush home."
"You gave your boss food poisoning?" Label asked covering her mouth with disgust.
"Technically it's not my fault. He should know by now that most of the things I've made have sent him home." she replied, hanging her apron up and putting the Closed sign up on the door. She walked over to Label and gave her a squeeze before offering her some ice cream. Label accepted and the three sat on one of the empty patio tables outside the parlor.
"I'm happy to see you're up and about!" Bunnie said spooning some of the colourful ice cream into her mouth.
"Pash convinced me to go out." she said with a half smile, "The last few months have just been hard on me, and it's not just that stupid party. I've been feeling a bit homesick." She admitted.
"You've never really talked all that much about your family. I don't know that any of us have, actually." Pashmina said rubbing Label's shoulder.
"Oh! Let's go around and talk about our life back home before we came to the city!" Bunnie said excitedly, "I'll go first!"
She cleared her throat and began to recount her days back in the town she grew up.
"I grew up with my parents in a town near a beach that had a lot of touristy attractions, like fun shops on the piers and carnivals rides. I used to visit the tea cup rides with my mom every weekend. I would always go multiple times so I could ride in every colour. My parents ran a souvenir shop along the pier. Some of my favourite memories are on that beach where I would collect sea shells and make crafts out of them for my parents. My dad always liked the sea shell necklaces I made and must have thought they were quite good because he'd put them up for sale in the shop. I loved seeing tourists walking around with the colourful sea shell necklaces that I'd made!" She recounted with enthusiasm,
"Every so often the ice cream man would come and he'd give me free ice cream. He was always so jolly, what was his name... Phil..Phiny..Phinea... I can't remember! But that's what sparked my interest in all of this." she motioned to the parlour, "I can bring a little bit of joy by making and handing out such wonderful, colourful frigid delights!"
"When Bunnie first moved in to the apartment a few months before you had, she drove me nuts with the mess she'd make in the kitchen. Giant tubs of ice creams on every surface imaginable." Pashmina laughed as she reminisced on the early days.
"My parents thought ice cream making was just a phase, but after about a year of messing up their kitchen, they were more than happy to send me to the city to explore ice cream making full time! It was a dream come true!"
"Wow, I'm glad your parents were so supportive, Bun." Pashmina said as she got up to toss out her empty ice cream cup.
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"Not exactly. My parents had hoped that I would follow in their footsteps and study law. To be honest, they weren't very encouraging about it, but they made the move easy. They live on the other side of the city and they both do a lot of traveling, so they're hardly ever around. I used to do a lot of writing in school and was always part of the writing clubs, winning every school competition and so on. It gave me the confidence to pursue it here in the city."
"So you pretty much grew up here?" Bunnie asked
"Not on this side of the city, but pretty much. It was a pretty lonely childhood, growing up as an only child and having my parents traveling so often. I got used to going to parties when I wasn't at home writing." Pashmina replied, "How about you Label? Did you grow up with any siblings?"
She felt her heart skip a beat and her hands clam up, "No. Only child, just like the both of you."
"Well, we've got sisters now!" Bunnie said as she pulled both of them in for a hug.
"Yeah, it's nice to have sisters." Label remarked, trying to wipe the sweat off her hands, "I grew up with a relative after my parents passed away. It happened a long time ago"
"I'm so sorry to hear that" Pashmina said with a comforting tone.
"It's alright, I was ten years old when it happened. It was hard at first but you just learn to get through it, I guess. It was unexpected really. One moment, they were on their way home from a trip out of town, and the next their car was found on an off ramp. I was home with my... relative, and the police showed up at the door telling us a car had t-boned them. The weather was really bad that night, and the roads were extra slippery. Life can change in an instant." She took a deep breath, "Anyway, it was a really long time ago and I was really young so I can't say I remember a whole lot of those days."
"Well we have each other now. We're in this together!" Bunnie said holding Label's hand. Label smiled at her. Pashmina included her hand on top of Bunnie's, "That's right, we're sisters and we're going to look after each other."
Label felt a tear rolling down her cheek. She wished Pashmina hadn't said those words, the pain was too deep in that moment. She appreciated the sentiment nonetheless.
The cherry blossoms had bloomed and spring had come and gone. Summer was here which meant the Summer term at the Academy would soon begin. Applicants were usually accepted a few weeks before the start of the term as the programs offered at this school were very exclusive and very difficult to attend.
Label had quit her job at the post office as she felt like she was entering a new chapter of her life and wanted some changes. She'd gotten rid of a ton of old clothing out of her closet and completely updated her wardrobe.
She had hundreds of new designs but selected only the top dozen she knew would impress the Academy. She kept in mind the feedback they gave her from her previous interview, keeping each design in line with a theme. The only thing she couldn't get out of her mind was that the only reason she was even accepted for an interview was because of Horace. The last words she heard from him were ones that she felt jeopardized her interview.
The only thing Label could do now was push forward. She sat in the living room, holding Sable's letter in her hands and had another read through it, feeling motivated by her past, the memories of her sisters and all the sacrifices that were made so she could get to this point. Bunnie and Pashmina walking in caused Label to stuff the letter under the couch cushions.
"Wow, don't you look ready for a fashion interview!" Bunnie said gleefully. Label definitely felt ready.
With her sunglasses on, she strutted out of the apartment and into a cab. The cab drove out of the crowded traffic and into a section of the city that wasn't as busy and where the buildings looked magnificent. As the cab approached the Academy, Label couldn't contain her excitement.
Upon arrival, she walked through some golden gates with black trimming. She admired the beautiful hedge designs surrounding the fountain at the center of the courtyard. The Academy had a beautiful campus. She entered the main hall and spoke to the receptionist who guided her to the upper level offices to wait for her interview. She felt calm, she felt ready.
She had a quick look through her portfolio before a middle aged woman stepped out of her office and called Label's name. Label took a deep breath and walked right in.
They introduced themselves and had a seat in the office.
"I'm the head of the fashion and design program here at the Academy, and as you may know we only bring on board the best and the brightest. Why don't you go ahead and tell me why you think you fit that criteria." The woman reached for Label's portfolio.
"Well, I'm 21 years old, and I've been diligently working towards improving my fashion skills--"
"--No." The woman interrupted, "You don't 'improve' fashion skills, you either have it or you don't." She quickly flipped through Label's designs, shut the folder and dismissively handed it back to her.
"Thank you, that'll be everything." the woman said as she pulled out a half finished crossword puzzle.
Label felt a lump in her throat and struggled to get her words out, "I'm sorry, you didn't like my designs?"
"They're not very good, and they all look too similar. You should have drawn up various themes rather than sticking to just one. You may go now."
Label's heart was pounding in her chest. She stood up and left the office more frustrated than she'd ever felt in her life. Months of hard work went into her portfolio and she'd done exactly what she was told to do as per her previous interview. She knew Horace's threats had come to fruition and she was furious. She stomped through the halls quickly turning a corner and bumping right into someone. Her portfolio opened and her designs fluttered through the air.
"How dare you!?" A voice cried out wincing in pain.
Label was way too upset to keep her temper under control, "Why don't you watch where you're....oh my." She suddenly wasn't angry and instead now mortified. She had just bumped into one of the most iconic and current faces of the entire fashion industry: Gracie.
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"Why don't I watch where I what? These halls are mine! I'm free to strut, stride and sashay wherever I please!" Gracie said as she readjusted her scarf and fixed her top, "You on the other hand, who are you that you think you can just waltz right into greatness incarnate!?"
"I'm so sorry. I wasn't...I didn't..." Label couldn't find the words to speak. Gracie was a goddess to her, producing every magazine she'd ever read, even before Gracie became the fashion legend she was today.
"You weren't? You couldn't!? I don't understand a single thing you're saying!"
Suddenly, one of the fluttering designs caught Gracie's attention. Label was struggling to pick them up off the ground with some still floating through the air. Gracie snatched one of them before they hit the ground, "What's this?" she examined it intently and looked over to the ones Label had gathered in her hands.
"It's nothing! I was just here for an interview and..."
"They'd never accept you with these designs!" Gracie started to lean over to have a better look at the ones Label was still picking up.
"I know, I was just on my way--"
"--They don't have an eye for such gems."
Label was caught off guard with Gracie's statement. Gracie demanded to see the rest of the designs and Label swiftly handed her the rest. Gracie examined each one closely and questioned Label if she'd worked with anyone on these designs. Label informed her of her tireless effort over the past year creating these designs.
"I see..." Gracie replied with her eyes fixed on the designs. Just then the woman who was the head of the program came out of her office,
"I heard a commotion out here, miss Gracie are you alright?" She looked at Label, "You! Didn't I tell you to leave!?"
Gracie silenced her and ordered her to leave them "This is a matter that doesn't concern you." The woman slowly backed away in reverse retreating into her office.
"Do you have more of these?" Gracie returned the designs to Label.
"Yes! Yes, I have plenty more at home--"
"--No, no. It's not good if they're home. I need them here. Listen, umm..?"
"Label." she introduced herself. Gracie grimaced at the sound of her name.
"Listen Label, I roam this city looking for talented individuals who want in, and if I like them, they get into their desired program. It's not everyday I find such delectable designs such as these. Before I can even consider you to join this Academy I need to see more. "
"I can rush over and grab them and have them here for you within the hour!" Label offered eagerly.
"No, that's no good. Bring them here tomorrow. You've piqued my interest, but don't think I'll bring you on board that easily! I mean, you did almost knock me off my stilettos a moment ago. No I'll need to inspect all of you myself. Tomorrow, my office, same time and don't even think about being late!"
Label couldn't believe it. She thanked her and had no idea how else to bid such an icon farewell than to curtsy. Gracie gave her another grimace and promptly walked away.
Label was over the moon. She skipped down the halls and down the stairs, thanked the receptionists and went out into the courtyard. The sky was sunny and clear, not a cloud in sight. The air felt fresh and there was a light breeze flowing through her hair. It was such a perfect day.
She got a cab that took her all the way home. She spent the whole time recounting her interaction with Gracie. She couldn't believe she'd met her, Gracie in the flesh.
She ran up the stairs of her apartment excitedly, she couldn't wait to hell the girls about what had happened at the Academy. Nothing could ruin this day.
Or so she thought.
Label opened the door and the girls were both sitting on the couch reading something together, quickly glancing up at Label. They both looked completely shocked. Label noticed one of the couch cushions on the ground and suddenly realized what they were holding. It was her letter from Sable.
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She couldn't believe her eyes. The letter from Sable was in both of their hands. How could she have forgotten it under the couch cushion. Label picked up her jaw up off the floor and made her way over to the living room where the girls were sitting.
"Label..." Pashmina stammered with a disconcerted look in her face. Label ripped the letter out of their hands.
"You two had no right to read this!"
The girls quickly stood up, "We found it in between the cushions, we didn't know what it was until half way through."
"You should have stopped half way through then!" Label started making her way into her bedroom embarrassed. She slammed the door shut.
Bunnie and Pashmina turned to each other, both clearly feeling horrible about what they'd done. They walked over to Label's bedroom door and knocked until she replied.
"Please just leave me alone!" Label shouted from behind her door. She'd felt betrayed, and rightfully so. Pashmina and Bunnie had no business reading the letter Sable had sent.
After much knocking and pleading Label finally opened her door to see Pashmina and Bunnie sitting on the floor in the hall outside her door.
"Can we talk about this?" Pashmina asked. Label nodded and the three of them made their way into Label's bedroom. They all sat on her bed and for a moment, there was silence.
"We really didn't mean to upset you. If we'd known about the letter we wouldn't have touched it." Bunnie said breaking the silence.
"We shouldn't have continued reading it, but we did and I think it would be good if we could talk about it." Pashmina said in a soft tone.
"It's from my sister. I have two of them and I ran away from home when I came to the city. I never brought it up because I felt ashamed of what I did."
"Why would you feel ashamed?" Pashmina reached for a box of tissues as she saw Label's eyes starting to glisten.
"I left them without giving them a proper goodbye. I left in the middle of the night and I thought what I was doing was right, but I've been in the city for almost five years and haven't made any progress."
"You don't have to feel ashamed with us, you can tell us anything. We've been through so much together. Was the story you told us true?" Pashmina questioned. Both her and Bunnie had also felt slightly betrayed as they'd alway been open with Label, although they understood why she'd kept this part of her life hidden.
"I didn't lie about my parents, that part is true. My older sister took care of us. I wasn't happy there, but she always did her best. I was young and stupid and ungrateful. The night I left home, I left a note on my pillow explaining my plan to come to the city. I told her which hostel I'd be staying at and I received this letter from her a week after I'd left town. I've kept it with me ever since but could never find the heart to write back. At first my intention was to make it big and then write back and shove it in her face. I was so foolish. Years went by and my life was stagnant, it got harder and harder to reply to her letter. The longer time passes the harder it is to write, and the more it hurts. I miss her, I miss both of them, but I can't bear to write back."
She began to weep. The girls comforted her and laid next to her on the bed. They suddenly understood how much pain Label had been in over the years, and how carrying around the baggage of a broken heart must have made her life in the city that much more difficult.
"Whenever you feel ready to write back to your sister, we'll be here for you. You don't have to feel alone." Pashmina said with her usual comforting voice.
"We'll never replace the bond you had with your sisters, but we'll always be here for you whenever you need us!" Bunnie added.
The three girls laid together in silence enjoying each others company.
When enough time had passed and Label started feeling a bit better, she shared with them her day at the Academy and explained how she ran into Gracie.
"That's amazing news!" Bunnie jumped up and down on Label's bed, "So the question is, what are you going to wear tomorrow?"
She hadn't even thought about needing to prepare for tomorrow. The girls quickly raided Label's closet and she tried on plenty of clothing before she put one on that they all felt was just right. It was a black dress with a white collar and a marigold plaid scarf to finish it all off. Label admired her outfit in the mirror and proclaimed, "This is the one!"
"Hey check this out!" Bunnie had her laptop opened, "I found this article on Gracie from a while back. I didn't know her dad was that Lungario guy from the news!"
Pashmina huddled up around her, "It says here he was arrested after it was discovered he'd been embezzling money from his company."
"She's always been a presence in the fashion industry, but after her dad's company shut down, she decided to make a name for self and start her own company. It's been skyrocketing ever since." Label said readjusting her scarf. The girls looked up from the laptop at Label, "What? I've done my research. Plus I'm a huge fan. I've been following Gracie's social since I was a teenager."
"Well I gotta hand it to her" Pashmina remarked, "She seems to be handling herself really well. She's still managed to hold on to her status as an honorary member at the Academy, despite all this bad news from her dad's sleazy business."
"Well, that and the fact that she's donated millions of bells to the Academy." Bunnie added as she continue to scroll through article after article, "It says here she's the largest financial contributor and often scouts the school looking for fresh talent! Hey, that's you!"
Label smiled, "I'm just hoping everything goes well tomorrow. I think it's time for my luck to finally change."
The girl's continued reading news articles about Gracie which soon turned to reading gossip columns. Label was glad she was able to confide in them about her past. Talking about her sisters made her feel like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. After the chaotic day she'd had she was finally feeling optimistic about the days to come.
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