Our drinks arrived, and she then shifted things over to ask me about how I’ve been since the band broke up a few years ago—shifting a scary topic for a light and awkward one.
“Oh. I graduated from college recently, I’ve just been working on my music, and trying to get a label and stuff. Not much since coming back into the whole magical girl sphere.”
“I’ll definitely help you find a label, Ellery! I love it when girls stay interested in music after they flatline—”
I hadn’t flatlined; the suddenness of that remark caught me off-guard as a few sparkles glowed around me and our glasses vibrated a bit. Tiffany realized she made the mistake; my eyes shot an unexpected glance at her in recognition that I was very self-conscious about still being a magical girl at my age. She collected herself for a second and tried to correct things.
“I mean, I mean when girls stay interested in music after they leave their idol careers. It’s totally fine that you still have your powers! I even think it’ll help you relate to the girls.”
I was still glowing with anxiety a bit. I could feel those first few sips of whiskey going to my head.
“I don’t feel like I should be relatable to teenagers at 23, Tiff. I don’t know why I’m still magical, but it’s just weird, in all honesty. I wish I’d flatline already.”
“No, Ellery, please don’t take my comment as anything. It was just a dumb mistake I made. It was the martini talking. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about still having magic!”
“It’s fine,” I said, trying to suppress any sparkles around me as the waiter came to ask for our orders. I could tell that she liked the timing of the waiter to change the subject, but she still snuck one more prescient sentence in.
“Sometimes I wish I was still magical myself, Ellery.”
With the waiter arrived, we ordered some dishes I don’t remember much about other than that I liked them. The silence after the order gave me a moment to look out the window and see the sheer size of Los Cosmopilas looking out from the elevation of Highland Hills. Such an unnaturally large place, when you think about it. An unnaturally large place built entirely around people wishing they could get enough corporate attention to fund their dreams. On that thought, I shifted towards what we could do to make things better for the idols.
“So, Tiffany, what are some of the plans you actually have for your program? Like, what are we actually going to be doing differently with the girls this semester?”
She immediately went off on a kind of weird PR spiel, as she’s inclined to do.
“I have so many ideas, and both the Castle and the agencies sponsoring it have been so incredibly helpful with listening to them! So basically, what I’m trying to do is integrate the various spheres of the idol industry and extend their pipelines in a way that accommodates girls better for a post-magical career either inside of or outside of the music industry.”
My brain soaked up the whiskey as she continued her rather lengthy talk. A lot of it was very over my head. Things like “accommodating training curricula to dialect with the standards of evolving social and musical landscapes” and “exemplifying each girl’s specific strengths with industry trends in group formations that emphasize a unified cultural technology.” I didn’t understand all of it, but the gist I took away was that Tiffany wanted to update the way magical girls were trained, arming them with a better set of skills for when they leave the idol industry.
Even if I didn’t understand all of the terms she’d accrued at four years of elite Northeast business school, she spoke with an irresistible confidence and clarity. Hearing how much she’d thought everything out was comforting, and hearing her talk about what would ultimately culminate in “a new era for magical girls” was, in all honesty, inspiring. She was also emphatically thankful about having my help, and how much our involvement together would symbolically put the community’s minds at ease after what had happened to Bailey.
The check arrived as her fanfare, and we were treated to one last round of wine to celebrate the beginning of the magical girls’ semester.
“To the beginning of the new era of magical girls!” I toasted, buzzed happy.
“Yes! And to you, queen,” Tiffany responded, sentimentally.
We left, and Tiffany finished things up by calling a ride for me back to my apartment. I’d have to show up to the Castle over the next few days for the orientations of the other girls, and I thought about how much sleep I’d be losing staying out with Tiffany before having to head back tomorrow. But that was a problem for when I woke up. Tonight, I just wanted to be happy thinking about what looked like a bright future.