Winner of the Grade 9 and 10 Fiction category
After studying the novel Spies by Michael Frayn in class, we noticed many themes that are explored throughout the novel. One of these themes, and one of the most prominent, is bullying. We see the relationship dynamic between the bully and bullied, and understand further the mental and physical implications caused by this unhealthy relationship. This is a fictional piece of writing reflecting my interpretation of this kind of toxic relationship through the perspective of a teenager struggling with physical identity inspired by this novel.
My dress looks okay.
I already know that Vanessa is going to look beautiful, obviously, but at least she’s going to make me like her. Sadly, she reminded me that I can’t wear my black embroidered dress with the lace detailing, as otherwise it would seem as if I’m copying her. Thankfully, to compensate for the dress, she caked me with heavy foundation and bright red lipstick, saving me from being a total disappointment. Thanks to her I am wearing makeup to school every day, to fool people into thinking I’m pretty, and I feel mildly improved.
I leave for the party, by bus, nibbling on an apple. The hunger doesn’t disturb me anymore, it’s almost comforting. It feels as if I’m taking a stand and actually doing something to be liked, and distracts me from the reflection in the mirror. Vanessa has taught me so much: I don’t eat lunch anymore, and I’ve lost 4.5 pounds this week alone. Hopefully by next week I will have lost enough weight for her to finally notice.
I see her, in the school parking lot, posing beside the limo she reserved. She’s stunning. I know now why she didn’t let me wear that dress. It’s a black shimmery strapless maxi dress with red Jimmy Choo high heels. She looks like a model. I only aspire to be like her. I wobble towards her, as she inspects my attire:
“You’re a complete mess,” she sighs, “and what did I tell you about eating? I’m trying to help you, Lisa, but I don’t know if you’re presentable enough to come with me.” She waits a second, not allowing me to speak. “I’m so disappointed… I really thought you were my best friend.”
My cheeks feel hot with embarrassment. Why didn’t I make more of an effort? I wish I could just crawl back into a hole, unnoticed, lose this weight and be pretty, for once. Be popular. Be like Vanessa. Be anyone other than Lisa, that ugly girl who still takes the bus.
“I’m sorry, Vanessa, I didn’t mean to disappoint you…You see, I am trying…. Maybe if I found the right dress…”
“Oh Lisa, no dress is going to fix this. You need to make more of an effort because you’re making this plainly difficult for me… Here’s an idea: Why don’t we go tomorrow and fix your hair? This dirty, inadequate blond is definitely not helping this situation.”
I take a deep breath. She’s not done with me yet. I kind of like my hair, it’s the same colour as my dad’s, but for Vanessa, I’ll change anything. Maybe this change is what will make a difference, giving Vanessa no reason to ever be disappointed in me again. But unfortunately, there’s always something that makes me disappointing.
“That sounds perfect. Thank you for helping me, Vanessa.”
“I’m glad. But tonight, I’m going to dance with better-looking people, Lisa. Is that okay? Good. I’m going to walk in and you can walk in after me, but 10 minutes later. Okay? Good girl. Now go and wait over there, we don’t want people thinking that this is your limo, do we?”
And with that she slithers away with two boys wrapped around each arm, and marches into the party. I hear the sound of everyone cheering at her arrival, and I can only imagine them handing her drinks and trying to have her dance with them. Suddenly I feel so jealous. I wish I was her. Everybody loves her, cherishes her, and wants to be her friend. She’s so much better than me. I don’t even know why she speaks to me.
I make sure that 11 minutes have passed instead of 10, as her rules should never be broken, before making my way to the party. I feel slightly giddy with excitement, and for a moment I forget all about how I look and what others think of me. I open the doors and I am greeted with pink and blue lights, moving in sync with the beat of a song that I’ve never heard of.
When the doors shut behind me, the music stops. Everyone turns to me. It all feels slightly staged, but I stand there awkwardly until I’m asked for my name. I’m not on the list. I am hit with the realisation that I was Vanessa’s +1, and that by me not going with her, I can’t come to the party. This is her punishment, and I have to live with it. This is what you get for being ugly. There’s more to it, though: she made sure all the popular, important people in the grade are at this party, so that they can observe the moving performance of my being rejected. Drops of sweat fall down my neck as the growing uncertainty of my fate is determined by one person: Vanessa.
People begin to laugh, and a few of them whip their phones out to snap a photo, others start booing. My eyes begin to sting without my consent, and I let out a small cough. I feel so small, so helpless. From the corner of my eye, I see Vanessa smiling, with her phone out, wearing that stunning dress with the red high heels, and I feel worthless. I’m so sorry, Vanessa, I failed you, I deserve this, and I will accept my punishment.
Hearing my thoughts, like the director of a play, she tells everyone to settle down, glides through the crowd and announces to everyone that I am in fact her +1. She then smiles a goofy smile at me, wipes away my tears and sooths me with the fact that I look presentable in this lighting. I let out a deep sigh. She let me stay.
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