Well. We were once again given names and a location. Mine was Rose and Ben and the location was police station. And I didn’t manage to use the police station. And we were supposed to choose from one of the master plots to create a story. I chose revenge but I don’t think it came out well. I really don’t know what I’m doing in Creative Writing in-class assignments. I don’t know what this story is about either. Well, I do but like it wasn’t what I was intending it to be. After reading the story, it’s about fairness, I guess? Rose is a girl who got bullied but is attending her school’s dinner and dance at the insistence of her mum and the shit that goes down during the event.

Dinner and Dance

Rose stood at the far end of the school hall. She watched. Sipping on a cup of fruit punch, she watched the rest of her school mates dance along to the upbeat songs the band on-stage played. Everyone she knew was decked to the moons, even the ones who normally dressed in ways to avoid attracting attention – especially the ones who normally dressed in ways to avoid attracting attention. All the girls’ dresses glittered under the neon disco lights and all the boys’ suits fitted as if they had had them specially tailored. The efforts these people put into this one night of merriment left a bad taste in Rose’s mouth. The flash from the photobooth beside her went off. A couple were having their pictures taken. She watched the couple take a series of photos with different poses.

“Would you like to take a picture?”

Rose glanced away from the couple to the boy in front of her. He wore a black shirt that had ‘Photography Club’ written on it. Although he was taller than her, she figured he was at least a year younger and judging the lack of amusement he wore on his face, he must have been forced to document this evening.

“Why would I?” Rose asked.

The boy scratched his head. “I don’t know, for memories?”

“I have four years worth of memories. Tonight isn’t going to change anything that’s happened.”

He blinked twice and gave Rose a once-over. “Okay,” he said and walked off.

For someone that had no interest in getting her pictures taken and seemed displeased to be there, even Rose knew she was dressed too nicely in her black dressed paired with a studded choker around her neck. But her mother had insisted. Rose had no interest in going to her school’s Dinner and Dance. Rose hadn’t even bought a dress. But her mother had. With the money she had put towards buying a new dishwasher, her mother had bought Rose her attired and accessories for the Dinner and Dance.

“You shouldn’t have,” Rose had said when her mother came home with the surprise. Her mother laughed it off but Rose was serious. “Look at your hands,” she said as she held onto her mother’s hands. They were wrinkled and blistered from washing too many dishes, sweeping too many houses and wiping too many windows. Rose knew being a house cleaner was neither an easy job nor did it pay well and she hated that her mother had to sacrifice one more thing for her.

“Go have fun, with friends, last time!” her mother said in her broken English excitedly. It had tugged Rose’s heart, pulled it in many directions and wrung it dry as she wore on the dress. She had no heart to tell her mother who had tears in her eyes seeing how beautiful she looked that she had no friends in a school her mother struggled to pay to keep her in. Instead she waved goodbye with a small smile to her mother who stood at the doorway of their one-room apartment.

A clinking sound resounded in the air. Leaned against the wall, Rose looked away from the photobooth to the stage. The band were still on stage but they weren’t playing. Instead, the school principal, Mr D’Souza took centre stage.

“May I have your attention please.”

The murmuring in the hall ceased to a silence. A screen at the side of the stage came on. There was a QR code on it.

“If you would scan the QR codes on your phone, you will be directed to a webpage-” movement in the crowd interrupted Mr D’Souza and he tried to get the students attention once more. Rose had no interest to be part of this ruckus but the QR code did pique her curiosity. So she took her phone out – rather slowly than most.

“The teachers have nominated a few of you for the categories up for grabs tonight, so we would like the rest of you to spend the next three to five minutes to select who you’d like to see win. I will remind you again before the voting closes. That is all! Boys you may resume,” went Mr D’Souza before he strode off stage. The band continued their song.

Rose sipped on her fruit punch that was almost finishing. She loathed having to walk across the crowd to the buffet table on the other side of the room, so she drank sparingly as she looked up the nominations on her phone.

NOMINATIONS FOR THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES ARE AS FOLLOWS

BEST DRESSED (FEMALES)

LAUREN ONG

The picture underneath the name resembled the Lauren that Rose knew. Best dressed? Yes. Rose thought that was accurate. Best dressed to hide the rotten person she really was. She wore a strapless white dress even though she was all but pure. It was a convincing garb. No one would believe someone who looked like that would stoop so low as to insult Rose’s family situation on a daily basis. It’s not that Rose ever took it lying down. She let it go the first time, the second time she warned Lauren to back off, the third time, she punched her face and found herself in the principal’s office. Her mother had been called down. And when Mr D’Souza had asked what the cause for the fight had been, Rose couldn’t answer, not with her mother right beside her. The only who changed after that incident was Rose. Whenever Lauren spewed a word, Rose would grit her teeth, clench her fists but she would always walk away. She bit the edges of her cup just thinking about Lauren smirking in the principal’s office. She grit her teeth, clenched the plastic cup in her hand and scrolled down the webpage.

RAIZA ROY

JUDITH CHERN

CARMEN LEE

ANDRIANI RAMILY

Although she had heard of the other nominees and had seen them around, none of them shared a class with Rose. She cast her vote for Carmen, not because she was the best dressed, no, Andriani was the most stunning of the lot. But Carmen had the kindest smile. She had the kindest smile when she had offered Rose who was behind her in line her cup of fruit punch earlier that evening.

Rose moved on to the next category which was the same category but for boys. She hated all of the nominees and she was sure all of them hated her too. None of them called her by her given name. She left the category empty and her fingers swiped against the screen. More categories, more names, at some point she didn’t even bother to read the names of the categories and just picked based on the people she knew. The scroll bar was almost reaching the end when her eyes fixed on a photo. Her fingers trembled over her phone. Heat rushed to her skin. This was unfair. All night she’d been keeping a lookout, ensuring that she was as far away as she possibly could from the one person she despised and yet there he was staring right back at her. Bile rose up her throat. This was unfair.

“Voting is now closed everybody!” Mr D’ Souza took the stage once more. When had he gone on, when had the music stopped, when had he given the reminder, Rose didn’t know. Her heart was pounding against her chest and her knees felt weak. She needed to throw up. Just as she looked away from the stage, she caught the pair of eyes she very much dreaded seeing. And the next moment, they glanced away from her, almost as if her presence did not affect the owner of those eyes as much his presence affected her. And in a fraction of a second, every ounce of uneasiness she had felt turned to rage. She grit her teeth, she crushed the empty cup in her hand and she advanced towards the pair of eyes that disregarded her as Mr D’Souza announced the winners. The students applauded and cheered as names were called out, but Rose was not distracted. She squeezed her way through the crowd. And when she stood in front of those hazel brown eyes, she punched her English teacher, her bare knuckles against his stubbled jaw. “Best teacher? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“What the-” Mr D’ Souza said before dropping the mike.

Rose who had begun punching and kicking one of the nominees for the Best Teacher category.

***

Mr Ben tended to his broken nose in the corner of the room while Rose sat in front of Mr D’Souza at his desk.

“Your mother is on her way,” Mr D’ Souza spoke.

Rose kept her mouth closed and her eyes on her throbbing knuckles as she clutched her phone tight.

“You’re always getting into trouble. Do you have any idea how much you worry your mother?”

Her vision of her bruised knuckles blurred. She rubbed away at her eyes fighting everything in her to utter a word.

“Do you know how hard your mother has worked to keep you in this school after you lost your scholarship?”

She swallowed her sobs. She knew. She could still feel the pain crushing her chest as she remembered her mother’s sore hands but the mere breathing of her English teacher behind her fanned her anger.

“What happened to you?”

She clutched onto the ends of her dress. “Why don’t you ask him?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Why don’t you ask him?” she repeated.

Mr D’Souza let out a loud sigh. “You only have yourself to blame for failing the test, Rose. You can’t blame him for losing your scholarship.”

She let out a laugh, a couple of them, unable to stop at how ridiculous everything was. By now her eyes were brimming with tears, her skin was engulfed in heat, she could barely sit still. “Sure I can.” Rose made a few loud taps against the screen of her phone and showed it to Mr D’ Souza. “He and Lauren look good together.”


My class instructor told me I spent too long building character. And I agree but in all honesty I didn’t know what I was going for in this story. I initially intended for there to be sexual assault which somehow resulted in Rose screwing up her tests and hence losing her scholarship and so when she came clean, they will go to the police station. But like I did spend too much time building Rose. I wanted to spend that much time on Rose because I like Rose’s character. And then I realised I haven’t thought about how the ending will work out. Idk.

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