A panicked scream filled the air as Yvon tripped over her own skates for the umpteenth time that afternoon. But the scream was soon replaced with laughter by a boy as he skated to a halt beside Yvon who was tending to the newest addition to her collection of bruises.
“Hey, here.” He offered to help her get back on her feet but she refused.
“I don’t wanna do this anymore.” Yvon was sulking.
Rick sat down beside her. “So what do you wanna do instead?”
“Let’s just sit here and enjoy the view.” She grabbed his arm and pointed at the sunset. “Look how pretty the sunset is when it goes into the ocean.”
“Not as pretty as my sunset when it goes into your ocean.” Rick realized it right after he said it. That was not something appropriate to say on a first date.
The perfect first date should be skating followed by some ice cream then, if he’s lucky, maybe a kiss. But Rick had just given up all hope of that last item on his itinerary.
“What did you just say?”
Rick winced. He was hoping that she may not have heard it. No such luck.
“Yvon, I- I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have said pervy stuff like that. Uh, I didn’t mean it. I’m really sorry…”
He fumbled around for the words to make this awkward situation less awkward. Again, no such luck.
“Rick, if you’re gonna yap away like that, you’re not even gonna get a shot at seeing your sunset entering my ocean.”
“I like pervy stuff.” Yvon was admiring the sunset with a flawless smile on her face, looking every bit like the perfect girl- except for what she just said.
Yvon nodded and looked at Rick in the eye. “I’m actually glad and relieved that you brought that topic up on our first date. I would never know how to break it to you otherwise. It’s a part of me and I know it’s a part of you too. And I accept you for who you are. I don’t find you weird or anything.”
Rick was grinning from ear to ear. He really struck the jackpot this time. This girl is a keeper.
“… , therefore we ought to review his work and reevaluate if the positive admiration received by his work is justified.”
As his fingers hit the final full stop key, relief flooded his body and an entire week of pent-up stress released itself in a single breath. He flexed his shoulders and enjoyed the feeling of being able to do it without feeling the guilt that every passing second spent flexing his shoulders is a passing second that could have been spent productively.
His eyelids closed, and he entered a state of bliss. It was as though his pupils were producing magical water that had miraculous healing qualities. He leaned back in the chair that has been imprinted with his rear for the past week and lazily, he moved his mouse cursor and clicked “Submit.”
You miss him so dearly. So you leave him a text. The same text that always worked. Then you sat and waited while you let the text work its magic. But you don’t realize that the magic of this text has already been lost. He saw right past it. He saw it as insincere. He saw it as lazy. He knew you could do better but you didn’t. So he didn’t reply. And you kept waiting for the magic, but as we all know, magic doesn’t exist.
Sweat coated Bradley’s palms like the natural moisture that a toad excretes. He rubbed them furiously on his pants but the sweat just kept coming back. Nervousness only began to describe how he was feeling. It was lucky that he was usually quiet, because his friends did not notice any change in his behavior at all.
Then the lights dimmed, and a man whose body shape resembled a hazelnut stepped onto stage. He was wearing a black dress shirt that was stretched so tightly over his protruding belly that the stretched fabric made the buttons seem like they each had their own pair of wings. Of course, his peculiar outfit was complete with the skinniest red tie that Bradley had ever seen.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen,” Mr hazelnut boomed, “Please settle down shortly, the shows are about to begin.”
Then he waddled off stage.
A young man stepped onto stage, followed by two other men, one of which was carrying a violin. Bradley recognised them immediately. They were Gentle Bones! The sweating was now worriedly prominent. The beads of sweat glistened on Bradley’s forehead as if he had just drank a litre of tom yum, sparkling in the midst of the throng of other smooth foreheads.
But Bradley did not notice. The band was beginning to play. They played out their first ever single that made it to the charts. How apt – to pick to play their first famous hit as the first song of the concert.
The crowd was cheering now and hands waved frantically in the air, remarkably similiar to how they behaved when trying to flag a cab during rush hour. Bradley tend to make the weirdest comparisons at the oddest times.
“How are you tonight?”
The crowd went wild.
“Okay, for my next song, I’m going to sing Settle Down. Sing along if you know the lyrics.”
Then he began to strum.
Bradley’s impatience was now killing him. But the lead singer then added, “Oh and this song is a dedication to a certain girl in the crowd.”
Bradley perked up.
“Can I see where Beverly is sitting? Beverly Lui,” he asked.
A huge concoction of excited screams and shrieks erupted from a corner of the small ballroom. Bradley’s ears made out the voice of a girl screaming, “SHE’S HERE! SHE’S HERE!”
He turned, as did the hundred other foreheads in the throng. A spotlight shone down on the excited shrieking group, and finally a girl was pulled to her feet by her friends. She gave her friends a friendly look of annoyance before adjusting her hair and smiling sheepishly to the hundred foreheads that were now pointed directly at her.
Bradley’s heart stopped. She looked more gorgeous than she had looked in the past three days of this camp they were currently attending together. She had on a cute, white lacey crop top and a sleek black pencil skirt. Basics, simple yet elegant, and she furnished her look with golden colored accessories.
“Beverly, this message is for you,” the lead singer spoke, in his unbelievably melodic voice, while gently strumming the guitar, “Beverly, I wish that you and me could Settle Down.”
The crowd went crazy again with whoops and wolf whistles.
Then all of a sudden, Bradley stood up, joining her as the only other person in the throng that was standing up. It took the lighting directors a while to notice, but eventually they shined another spotlight on him. The dazzling white light reflected off the sweat that now coated his forehead like a second skin, making him look like he had on very sparkly make up.
The crowd quietened down. His friends that sat around him were glancing at each other quizzically. The nearest one asked him in a hushed whisper, “Bradley! What are you doing?! Sit down!”
Then from somewhere else, someone else whispered, “I think he dedicated the song to Beverly!”
But Bradley’s attention was now wholly focused on Beverly, and her stunning beauty. He slowly waded his way through the throng, stepping on toes and fingers and phones and wallets and causing some annoyance, but he did not stop until he was within arm’s reach of Beverly.
Beverly was a head shorter than Bradley was and she looked up to him with eyes that were wide in anticipation and a lip that was pursed in a shy but cute manner.
Then Bradley spoke. A nervous person by nature, being placed in this position did nothing to boost his confidence and his voice was beyond inaudible to anyone but Beverly. The crowd went dead silent and craned their heads and ears as one towards the couple, a fruitless attempt. After a while, someone from the other end of the room yelled, “JUST KISS HER ALREADY.”
The throng took this as a cue and began to chant KISS! KISS! KISS!
Beverly had never expected something like this to happen. Bradley seemed to her like a genuinely nice guy but she never took him for the romantic type that was capable of a gesture of such a scale. But she felt very attracted to him for some reason. The truth is, they were very suitable for each other and their minds worked exactly the same way, and Bradley was also wondering where he had gotten the guts to carry out an actual song dedication.
Since I already made it here, might as well go all the way, he thought and he leaned in for the kiss.
Oh my god, he’s actually going for the kiss, thought Beverly, as well as several other drama-loving girls in the throng.
Beverly closed her eyes, and loosened her jaw muscles, opening her mouth slightly, and waited for the kiss.
She tried to recall all her ‘training’ with her ex boyfriend. Was it to use tongue from the start or no tongue at all?
Senseless questions began to bombard her one after another but eventually she got rid of them, which was when she realized the kiss still has not reached her.
She opened her eyes slowly, afraid to ruin the moment, but then suddenly she felt Bradley’s weight crash into her. Her eyes flew wide open as her knees buckled under his weight and the two came crashing down.
An excited whisper began to wash over the throng. The lead singer was watching awkwardly, completely unfamiliar with being onstage yet not being the center of attention. He desperately wanted the spotlight back and he signaled to his band to start playing.
“Um okay, thanks Beverly and Bradley. I hope you enjoy the song, Settle Down.”
This project was their greatest yet. They had it down to every minute detail and it was going down tonight.
The team pulled their gloves over their sweaty palms and wore ski masks to cover their faces, par for their eyes, which they used to exchange nervous looks.
But the pair of eyes with the most determination in them spoke. The man said, “Let’s do this.”
The next day, the morning crowd were the first to witness their remarkable production. Then even the lunch crowd stopped in awe, despite of the unreasonable pile of work waiting for them back at the office. Then school’s out, and the kids started running rampant through the streets, like bats out of hell, and they looked up at the side of the building. Then little Timmy pointed and said: “Whale!”
He was thrust into the room that felt completely foreign to him. He hovered by the door hesitantly, scanning the faces one by one, hoping that he will see someone familiar, but knowing he would not. There was indeed no one he knew. Shit. He wished then that he was invisible, or could camouflage but he already felt eyes on him and he felt the hands pulling him forward and pushing him from behind.
He stood with his arms hanging down infront of him, making his bulk look smaller than it actually was. His eyes were trained at his feet and the floral patterned carpet but they slowly wandered up, and his eyes met many other pairs that were looking expectantly at him. His mouth twitched into a nervous smile which resembled more of a gritting of his teeth with the corners of his mouth turned up slightly.
“I- I- I’m Rick.”
“Hi Rick!” came the chorus.
He was ushered into a seat beside a girl bearing a “MED RAG” tee. He thought she looked gorgeous. Naturally, he blushed.
“Hi there!” The girl turned to face him enthusiastically. “Your name is Rick right?”
He nodded, his eyes darting from the ground, to her face, then back to the ground again.
“Is Rick short for anything?”
He nodded again, this time he kept his eyes trained at the leg of the chair in front of him.
The girl looked at him expectantly and ducked her head to try to see his face, which was half hidden because he kept his head bowed and his long hair obscured her from a perfect view. Then, realizing he was not going to speak, she spoke up instead.
“Hey, you don’t have to be so shy!! My name is Elsa! Like from the movie Frozen!” She stuck out her hand.
He stopped boring the carpet with his gaze and looked at her hand. Rather, he examined it as if he was trying to decide if it was harmful to him in any way. The pair paused there uncertainly, waiting for Rick to complete the gesture. Then instead, Elsa moved and grabbed Rick’s right hand with hers, and shook it.
“There!” She let go of his hand. “So what do you study?”
“Accounting,” he mumbled.
Elsa was then feeling very grateful for the fact that she had excellent hearing because otherwise, she would never have heard his whisper over the loud din. Everyone were having great conversations around her and getting to know one another. It was the first icebreaker session they had as a group and everyone was speaking all at once and the room resembled a noisy fish market in the morning.
“Are you a freshman?”
He nodded. Then he spoke up. “You?”
As he spoke, he stopped bowing his head and looked up at her. It was the first time after he entered the room when his eyes saw something beautiful other than the carpet. His eyes unintentionally widened and a deep red flushed across his face. He immediately looked back to the florals on the ground. He hoped she did not notice.
But she did.
Elsa felt a flutter of hope when he finally raised his head, then she finally got a clear view of his face and what she saw surprised her greatly. He had an adorable nose and a pair of black spectacles framed a pair of curious, albeit shy, eyes. But the main feature she noticed was the deep red of his cheeks. Was he blushing? Her smile faltered for a second. Then she picked up the conversation once more.
“So what school were you from?”
Rick now was very careful to orientate his head such that his hair completely obscured his face now. He could feel the heat in his cheeks and wished that it would go away.
“Anderson,” He answered.
“Anderson JC? Oh okay, I’m from poly(technic).”
Rick felt a twinge of disappointment. He had a poor impression of polytechnic students. He himself went to a Junior College and he always thought polytechnic students were an academically ill-equipped bunch. But this girl seemed genuinely nice, and there was something about her that made him be able to tell that she was smart. Possibly smarter than him, but that is not very likely.
Gingerly, his mouth moved and formed words that he never imagined he would ever utter that night, if not forever.
Elsa was caught by surprise when her excellent hearing picked up his words as well.
“Elsa, I don’t like poly students.”
She felt a disgust surge through her because she always believed in kindness.
Rick waited a long pause before he plucked the courage to say the next sentence that followed.
The monsters were closing in. Their hands could reach out and grab his ankles and he would be done for. Any second now. His lungs were already burning and he had no idea where he had been running in. He just wanted to live. Then he heard a monster behind him bellow loudly. Shortly after, he felt a huge weight hit him from behind.
Fred woke up startled in his bed. His hands were clutching the blanket tightly and his knuckles were white. His neck was drenched in a cold sweat. But he felt relieved that the nightmare had ended and that he was back in his own bed. He rolled in his bed towards the edge and groped around the floor for his phone and spectacles.
He examined his phone for the time. Eight in the morning. Splendid. He was early. He sat up in the bed. He realised now he had drooled a lot that night. His pillow were wet in many spots and it looked as if it had a polka dot pattern. Gingerly, he denuded the pillow and tossed the pillowcase into his laundry hamper. Then he got up and wandered to the toilet.
As he brushed his teeth, he looked at his reflection and tried not to acknowledge the fear in his eyes. University life was starting soon and everyone said it’s a whole different ball game. He was scared. Really scared. Who wouldn’t be? If you were in his shoes and had such high hopes to live up to, you would be scared out of your wits too. Fred gargled and spit. Then he realized the irony: his nightmare was just beginning.