Hey, you’ve heard there’s lead in those things, right?
I heard there was a huge deal about them making people sick or something. Something about the way they make the insulated parts of the cup you know?
Then again, there is something to say about them staying cold forever. Hey, you see that video where the girl had her car catch on fire and burnt to the frame, but her drink still had ice in it, or something like that?
It’s probably all bunk anyway. I mean, my grandpa had a Stanley. He lived until he was like 80 or something. Hey, Are you listening to me at all?
Kennade swishes the water back and forth in her pink, bedazzled Stanley, the metal straw making a sharp “Ting” every time it strikes the side wall of the cup. She stares blankly at the cup as Susan speaks to her. This may be the most jovial that Susan has been seen in quite some time, even if Kennade seems to be a million miles away.
You know, you shouldn’t be so down. The numbers aren’t really that bad. Besides, we’ve been through slumps before. We always came out ok on the other side, right? Who’s to say that this time would be any different? And we’re hardly the only ones going through it. It’s going to be fine. We’re going to be fine. We’re going to be fine.
It was hard to say what Susan’s definition of “fine” really was. She was always the one to panic everytime the numbers dipped first. This time felt different though. The news was grim all over the internet. Hosts of prominent internet celebrities had seen their streaming numbers and advertising checks dip in the past several months. Whole hosts of people that Kennade had come up in the business with were logging out and getting real jobs. “The pressures of the public eye” they called it. But that was hardly the case. Sure it was easy to fool those outside looking in, but for those on the inside it was clear to see that the business was dying.
She was barely in her twenties, but could already see the business passing her by. Younger kids, barely out of high school were taking the clicks from them. Times were moving faster now than they ever had before. The generation gap between Kennade and her mother was well defined. It was decades. Now it seemed like women three years her junior were speaking in tongues.
The E-girl was dying.
You have to say something. You can’t just sit here in your room all day. We have work to do. We have to…
WHAT’S THE POINT SUSIE!?
Kennade hadn’t spoken in hours, had barely made a peep, but the anger poured from her mouth like hot venom, all directed at susan. She almost resembled a wounded raccoon backed into a corner, hissing to get her attacker to back down.
Everytime I log in I see the same thing. Some nonsense about NPC Girls? They just sit there and pose, and say thank you while people give them money. What even is that!? They aren’t doing anything. There’s no art here. There’s no subtlety. It’s just garbage!
The irony was hardly lost on Susan that the woman who sold her used training gear to people on the internet was complaining about the lack of art in the internet community. She thankfully managed to hold in her laughter and maintained the visage of the concerned parent. While it was true, there was a dip in her numbers, and quite a few of her peers were quitting, it wasn’t all that bad. Susan would never admit it, but she saw this coming. The younger generation is fickle, their taste is ever changing. Susan had pushed Kennade to diversify her interests because she knew that this was coming sooner rather than later. Eventually Kennade was going to become niche, and then eventually, be forgotten. Wrestler’s don’t get forgotten. They are emblazoned in the memories of some of the most passionate fans of any interest for all eternity. When Susan had seen the keen interest that Kennade had in the sport, she knew that there was a chance to get them out, keep them relevant, keep them alive. Outside she protested the involvement in the sport, but that was only because she knew her friend well enough to know that the best way to get her to do something, was to tell her it was a bad idea.
It won’t be long before I’m nobody. If I’m lucky people will remember me enough to say “Hey I remember that girl. Didn’t such and such long-form YouTuber do a special on her once?” People will click on my video because it’s recommended after one about Wings of Redemption or Chis Chan. I wont even be the first choice, Susan. FUCKING CHRIS CHAN, SUSAN.
I mean…Sonic Fan-Fic is pretty popular still…
SHUT UP, SUZE!
Kennade falls into her bed and pulls a handful of Squishmallows on top of her in dramatic, Disney Princess fashion before screaming into their plushy comfort. Susan puts a hand on her back and begins to gently pat her with comfort. This wasn;t about relevance. This wasn’t about losing followers. Kennade had known that her streaming career was winding down. She had been scaling back how often she had recorded and had been dedicating herself to peddling merchandise for her PRIME career. This was about losing. This was about losing multiple times. This was about not being at the top of her game in the ring. Susan knew Kennade all too well, and this was always what happened when she had a slump. Whether it be Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter. Tekken was the worst. For whatever reason, Kennade never could quite get the hang of the Tekken games. Susan would warn her everytime she logged on not to take it too seriously, and every time K would get rocked in competitive play. It always ended the same way, face down in a pile of plushies, screaming into the void.
You would think that after all of this time that Susan would have a better answer, but Kennade didn’t want answers. She didn’t need to be told that she was doing her best and that it was all going to be ok. She needed to be left to feel every bit of it. Eventually that competitive drive within her would spill out and she would stop feeling sorry for herself long enough to move forward. This was just something that they would have to live through first.
You know, K. The only way out is through. Things seem pretty rough right now, and you probably don’t want to hear it, but we have to get to work. You’ve got a match this week, and there’s plenty of StarrShines out that that want to see you get back on top.
Kennade whimpered a little from beneath her fortress of plush-titude.
You’ve got a whole lot left to give this world. I know you, I know your…art. Make that ring your canvas and the StarrShines will come from miles around just to see what you can do in this new Medium. You;ve been doing great so far. You just haven’t gotten to your masterpiece yet.
The whimpering stops for a moment as Kennade pushes one small plush from in front of her face akin to pushing a Jenga piece from the center of the tower.
I haven’t been doing great. I’ve been doing awful! I started off awesome. Then I lost. Then I had all of those public engagements that we had to wrap up so I couldn’t come back for a few months. I heard what all of those awful people said about me. That I was hiding because I lost a match. They thought I was running away. No one cared that I was out there trying to be there for my StarrShines. They just thought I was a sore loser.
The sobs start again as Kennade is visibly upset.
Then when I got another Match against Sage he beat me pretty good. So after all that hate, and all that time away I came back…just to lose. It’s not FAIR Suze. I tried so hard!
And there it was.
Losing was a bitter pill that Kennade never did swallow very well. From the time she was small she was always told that the world was hers, all she had to do was take it. Doors would open and the sea would part because she was something special. She was Momma and Daddy’s little girl and the world would notice just how great she was. She had lived her life that way for as long as Susan could remember. Susan would study for exams from sunup to sundown to make sure that she would pass her classes. Kennade would flirt with some guy in the front row most of the class and then turn in a half done paper. She’d get extra time after class to finish and everything would be fine.
No, it wasn’t fair. But not in the way that Kennade had thought. It wasn’t fair that everyone worked so hard and she skated through life because she was a pretty girl with all the luck in the world. But that was the way of things. The hard pill for Susan to swallow was that she secretly enjoyed these little humbling defeats in Kennade’s life. Partly because she felt that Kennade could use a little humility, but partly because it was always a thing of beauty to watch this girl tap-dance her way to the other side of this heartbreak.
And she always did.
This time would prove to be a little more difficult. There was no doubt in Susan’s mind about that. The biggest hurdle would be convincing Kennade that she needed to start taking this new career path seriously. She would have to approach it in just the right way. Like the scared racoon, Susan would have to ease her way into this before the spooked critter would be gone forever, lost in the night.
You know what I think the problem is, K? It’s not that you’re scared or that you’re no good at this. Heck no. You’re a superstar. But you don’t need me to tell me something that you already know. They aren’t any better than you at this. You’re just spread too thin. You’re putting so much of yourself out there trying to make all of the people happy that you haven’t been able to put your focus where it really needs to be. You should be devoting all of your time to your StarrShines, and they’ve all followed you to PRIME.
The sobbing stopped. One by one, the plushies fell to the side of the bed like pieces of armor being unsnapped after a long battle. Eventually, Kennade sat up and leaned her head on Susan’s shoulder.
That was it! Susan may have found the angle that she needed to get Kennade to focus on the task at hand. At the very least, she got her out from under her sea of felt and fluff.
You know, you’re right. My StarrShines are what got me here in the first place. They won’t leave me just because I don’t make cutesy faces and say things like “Tank-You Tank-you”
Kennade does a terrible impersonation of an NPC TikTok girl as she says this. Both women fall over on the bed laughing. It was the first laugh Kennade had made in several weeks.
I know I’ve got a pretty tough test ahead of me this week. I’ve seen Sean O’Neil before. He’s been around since I was really little. My brother loved tag-team wrestling more than anything. Said that there was something beautiful about how two people with different skill sets could blend together to make a masterpiece of a match. He would watch old YouTube videos of guys I had never heard of. I’ll bet if he was here right now he could tell me everything I would want to know about facing off against this guy. I know the first thing he’d tell me is to not get intimidated by the moment. That it’s not too big for me.
Kennade drifted for a moment. No doubt thinking back to all of the times that her brother would tell her that she’s got this, most likely after telling her how much she sucked.
I’ve been trying to figure out just what kind of approach I wanna take to this. Frontal assault? Try to zone him? Whatever the angle is, I’m going to find it.
Susan was speechless. Something that she had said must have sank in. It was hard to say if it was the jarring feeling of losing, or the fact that this was a wrestler that K’s brother likely knew and had spoken about before, but she hadn’t seen Kennade this invested in a match since her debut. She could see that same sparkle of excitement back in her eyes that she saw right before she had gone out the curtains on her debut night. It filled Susan with a sense of warmth that she did not expect to get out of this conversation.
You know, I meant what I said to you earlier. It really wouldn’t hurt for you to do a little more training. Like, get in the gym, get some reps in, get a little bit more technical skill. Sounds to me like you’re finally ready to take that advice?
Kennade lifts her head up from Susan’s shoulder.
I have the names and numbers of a few people that have expressed interest in helping out. I could give them a call and see how quick they’re available? We’ve still got a whole week to get ready for this thing. You could be a brand new woman. One that none of the StarrShines have ever seen before. Just think about it.
Kennade gets up off the bed and grabs her Stanley that she had sat in the floor earlier. She moves over towards her closet and starts to rustle through, finally appearing ready to change out of her pajamas.
I’ve been level grinding all week here. This show is going to be different than the last, that’s for sure. Don;t worry, Suz. I told you I have a plan for the week, and I do. No more controller throwing, no more crying, and no more hiding. K-Starr is back, and ready to show all of her Starrshines just what she’s made of. And I think I have just the right skin for my Avatar to roll out this week that I know will mark the occasion for just how special it really is!
The moment had been fleeting. Susan had thought that there was a chance that she was starting to get through to Kennade, but they were right back to where they were. It was a start though, being out of bed was a positive move that could only mean that they were on their way towards getting out of the funk they had found themselves in. She’d just have to cut her losses and try again tomorrow.
I refuse to be a recommended video. I am a search result, damnnit! I don’t care how seasoned Sean O’Neill is. He hasn’t tangled with K-Starr before. I’ll give him and all of the StarrShines something that they will never forget. I’m going to show up to ReVival and I’m going to put on the type of show that not only makes the StarrShines happy, but makes all new StarrShines! This is gonna be my week, Suz. I can feel it!
There’s just the small matter of what kind of load-out that I’m going to take into the match. I just have to figure out if the problem is the specs I’ve been using or if the problem is the way I’ve been using it. For a while there I didn’t even want to consider that the problem was my piloting. I just assumed that Bubbles had been nerfed after my first couple of matches. But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that I just didn’t have the practice using his kit. You’re definitely right. I need to get into training mode and make sure that I know it inside and out before I step into the ring with O’Neill. Otherwise I’m just going to get embarrassed. The first step is going to be committing myself fully to this game. No one gets to the top of the leaderboards on three or four games. Everyone does super good at a few, but the greats only specialize in one. Time to concentrate.
It could be worse. The delusion was still alive, and Susan was starting to worry that the gravity of her friend’s career choice had not yet sunk in. At least she was finally willing to put the work in. It was unlike Kennade to admit that she actually needed to practice.
It does different things to everyone. Motivating Kennade Starr was a tricky dance, one that Susan had danced countless times before. Kennade hated the feeling, and it drove her. Where it would drive them this time was anyone’s guess but Susan had seen this fire in her before. She was either going to make a name for herself, or embarrass herself badly enough to make sweeping positive changes in her life to avoid that feeling again. Either way, the wheels were in motion, and Kennade was finally on the bus. As Kennade grabbed a jacket from the closet and chirped “Let’s go, Suz” Susan stood, brushed down her jacket and met her friend at the door.
So where we headin’, K?
Only place I know how to get to, Suz. The top.