Bending Over Backwards: Sailor Techo


Everyone said the marriage of Clair Belmonte and Anton Rheinhold was a political maneuver. But their longtime friend Richard Schwartz knew better. Political alliances are contrived and awkward. This was more of a bargain between old friends, a mutually beneficial agreement that made everyone's life easier.

Clair and Anton had known each other since high school. Richard, who was Anton's study partner and Clair's childhood friend, had introduced them when he had dragged Anton into signing up for the school's gymnastics club. Clair, the team star, took an immediate liking to Anton, and even after he left the gymnastics team the next year the three of them remained close. Throughout college the trio were inseperable. Richard even passed up his first choice university in order to go to the same school as his friends. Anton graduated at the top of his class and went to work for a law firm. Soon he became frustrated with his boss, feeling that he didn't have enough opportunities. Richard, meanwhile, had failed in his career as a writer and instead started up an insurance company. He also dated Clair for several months, but their relationship ended in a painful breakup. Clair, for her part, had begun training to become a taiko player, and was already a local celebrity. Anton finally quit his job, and Richard suggested they become business partners. Together they made Schwartz Insurance a household name.

Things were going well for the three friends. Business was booming, Clair and Richard had gotten over their hard times and become friends again, and the three of them were sharing a flat in the nice section of Neopia Central. It was then that Anton finally began to notice what Richard had known all along: that Clair was in love with him, as she had been since their teenage years. Though he cared for Clair as a friend, Anton had no interest in romance. Things grew awkward and tense between them, and Anton avoided Clair as much as he could. Undaunted, she enlisted Richard's aid in winning Anton over. Richard, wanting to see Clair happy, began to suggest to his friend that perhaps a relationship with Clair wouldn't be so bad. Anton refused to consider the idea, so Richard turned to alternate forms of persuasion: he reminded Anton that Clair's father was a multimillionaire, and becoming his son-in-law would undoubtedly have its advantages. Plus, Richard reasoned, being a family man would give Anton a better public image. And after all, Anton wasn't going to be marrying anyone else, so he might as well make Clair happy.

At Richard's urging, Anton and Clair started dating. Anton found that being a couple wasn't as horrible as he'd imagined, and decided he could live the rest of his life that way. It was a great surprise to everyone but Richard when a few months later they announced they were engaged. They were married within the year. Soon after their first and only son was born, and Clair named him Anton after his father. Unfortunately, due to complications with her pregnancy Clair would be unable to have any more children. Knowing this, Clair spoiled her son rotten. Anton Jr. grew up in the lap of luxury, and not surprisingly, became quite a brat. His father was rarely present, in fact Anton Sr. spent an increasing amount of time in the office. In his father's absence, Anton clung to his mother even more. Richard sensed their loneliness and frequently found excuses to drop by their home. Soon enough he had become like one of the family, and indeed young Anton knew him better than he knew his own father.

A few years passed and young Anton entered elementary school. (He decided to leave out the "junior" part of his name in casual conversation because, in his own words, "Father's never around so it's not like we're gonna get confused.") At school he found that the other children were not nearly as forgiving of his selfish nature as his mother had been. For the first time, Anton became aware of the fact that some people had many friends while others did not, and also that he was one of the ones who did not. This frustrated him, and he became a bit of a recluse during his early school years. His mother tried her best to make him open up more to others. To that end, and at Richard's advice, she gave him his first pet: Juno Hana, a red techo. Because of her loud and flamboyant attitude, Anton was a bit scared of Juno at first. After a while he got used to her, and his fear subsided into quiet annoyance. But though they fought often, Anton and Juno formed a strong bond, which became evident when Anton's father disapproved of having a pet in the house. With Richard and Clair backing him, Anton absolutely refused to give Juno up, and in the end his father conceded. It was one of the only times Anton would disobey his father's wishes, and because of that Juno has always been a thorn in Anton senior's side.

Juno did teach Anton patience and responsibility. But he was still a loner, and his mother still worried. Next she talked him into joining the gymnastics team. Anton readily took to the sport, but in the end he was more caught up in the competition and ended up butting heads with several of his teammates. After a particularly nasty yelling match which Anton apparently started, the coach called his mother and informed her that if this continued Anton would be asked to leave. Clair was not about to have her family name tarnished by having her son kicked off her beloved gymnastics team. She pulled Anton aside and told him in no uncertain terms that he was never going to be successful if he didn't learn how to work with other people, and that if he wasn't going to be successful she and his father would not have him under their roof any longer.

Clair had only meant to motivate her son. Perhaps, in her excitement, she'd gotten a bit carried away. In any case, Anton took her threats at face value. Terrified of being rejected by his only real parent, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the goal of making friends. The first year of junior high saw a whole new Anton. He wore all the right clothes, hung out in all the right places, and knew all the right people. And soon enough, he had become popular. He was still on the gymnastics team, and by now his years of practice were beginning to pay off. Clair was pleased by the change in Anton, and told him so. This only served to fuel Anton's obsession with popularity. Simply having friends was no longer enough. He must have the most friends, get the best grades, be the best at sports, and be generally recognized as good at everything. Somewhere in his subconscious, ruling the school translated to winning his mother's approval.

At the same time, though, Anton learned more about his family's position and the circumstances around his parents' marriage. It was Richard who told him the truth about his father's feelings torward his mother (or lack thereof). Anton began to feel more and more that he was a token child. He convinced himself that his mother must not love him as much as she professed to, and he was already quite sure that his father didn't care for him in the least. Unsure how to win her affection, Anton could only push himself harder. If he could finally become the perfect child, he reasoned, perhaps she would begin to accept him as her real son and not just another decoration for the family trophy cabinet. Of course, the entire basis of his logic was completely misguided. Clair had always loved her son and always would. But no matter what she told him, Anton had a hard time believing anything Clair said when he knew her own marriage and her life were based on a lie.

And so the Rheinhold family continued its existence beneath a carefully-maintained veil of perfection. Anton entered high school. Juno grew and matured but still maintained her childlike innocence. Clair continued her taiko playing, and also began helping Anton senior with his work. Anton Sr. was cold and distant as ever. Richard continued to make frequent house calls, often staying over for dinner. And so life settled into a comfortable, if tedious pattern.

Anton had begun to convince himself that he could live the rest of his life this way. Everything changed, though, when he got caught up in a fight with Sailor Chia and was rescued by the Sailor Neopets. Now Anton has begun to question where he stands, and where he really wants to go.
In Depth