Excellence in Short Fiction 2013 (Short Story Competition) Day Two
The Last Chance
Once she got the examination paper, she turned her head furtively to Elle behind her, and nodded. The high heels footsteps echoed in the air; the louder it was, the more anxious she grew. The clock’s ticking was unusually distinct; the clearer it was, the more distracted she became. A solemn atmosphere was created under the intense pressure. Mariam – she wrote the name in the correct column on her examination paper.
Three times in total, over, front and back, front and back. She glanced at the questions thrice but she could not grasp their meaning. Instead, the image of a prestigious party was spinning around in her head. She knew none of the answers either. The answer sheets were left blank. She waited.
She stared blankly the answer sheets and it turned on. She, in an eye-catching gown, in incredible high heels, carrying the latest limited edition Chanel leather bag, walking among the glamorous party-goers. She looked perfectly stunning and proud of her possessions. ‘Glamorous’, ‘gorgeous’ and ‘unbelievable’ - the other guests’ expressions and praise revealed their admiration. She was deeply engrossed in the paradise of compliments, a self-created world. The possessions were the only thing that could bring her the fame and glory she thirsted for.
Mariam was resplendent in fine dress, high heels, bag and accessories; she never got enough. She loved the feeling of having them in her closet, even though she did not have chances to put them on. Sometimes, she put them on in her self-created world. What’s more, ‘limited edition’ was a magician’s spell and she just could not resist the temptation.
She never concentrated on her studies because for her, study had gained her nothing. This time, Chanel was to be blamed. A newly-released turquoise leather bag with a metal chain handle had distracted her entirely. It was even tagged as a limited edition. To possess a thing that the other did not have or could not afford, especially the first owner, made her proud and outstanding. She could hardly contain her excitement even in the exam. An only child, her parents had promised a gift if she got an “A” on the History exam; they gave her everything she requested.
The answer sheets were still blank. Twenty minutes had gone.
“Which dress goes with my limited edition Chanel bag perfectly?” She was now standing in front of the mirror in a walk-in closet that every woman would probably scream for. She put them on one by one. From pink to orange, from polka dots to stripes, from pleated skirt to tight-fitting dress, the whole closet even; none looked perfect on her. She was not satisfied. She buried her head and tiny body into the dresses and gowns until she felt someone touch her on the back.
She looked at the clock on the wall, ten minutes left. Flustered, she raised her head slightly, looking around. Only when she was assured no eyes were focused on her, did she quickly stretch her left hand to Elle’s desk and taken the note; she did not shift attention from the teacher. The note was placed intentionally on the upper left part of the desk which Mariam could easily reach. She did it twice. Everything went smoothly. A transaction was made: Mariam promised Elle her iPhone 5 in return for an “A” on the History exam. She could take any risks to get her desired bag.
“(1) B, (2) A, (3) D, (4) B……” Mariam opened her only hope and copied the answers. She dreaded being caught. Blindly, she completed the 30 questions in a few minutes. Then she crunched her hope up into a ball and slid it directly into her pocket. Done.
Few minutes left, she again went back to the party, holding a glass of white wine in hand and ready to be flattered as usual. She waited. Just as she thought, high heels footsteps came closer and louder in her direction. She knew someone was coming to admire her new Chanel bag, she convinced herself to stay cool. She was ready for any compliment.
The anticipated touch on her shoulder finally came: “Mariam, take that note out from your pocket! I told you, this was your last chance or you would be expelled. Leave at once!”
In the Saturday morning, she was sitting at a sidewalk cafe and having lunch. Going to café was unusual for her. She needed to relax for some reason. Her name is Maria. She graduated university last year and moved to the city to work. One year had passed since she came here. She was getting use to her job, living alone and the life in the city, so she started to take Yoga lesson every Saturday afternoon.
“Today’s plan: Relaxing at café and later yoga! Perfect!”
However she didn’t know that one more special thing would happen to her...
“Excuse me? Isn’t it yours?” A man said and gave a keychain to her.
“Yes, it’s mine. I don’t know when I dropped. Thank you so much.” Maria answered.
“You went Paris?”
“Yes, it was “Girls trip”. I bought it as a amulet not to come there again with same members.” She was still trying to fix Eiffel tower keychain.
“Why?? You don’t like that member? You didn’t enjoy??” His small round eyes become bigger.
“Hey, don’t be serious! Of course I like that girls, but I mean, it’s better to come to Paris with somebody special...hahaha” She laughed bashfully.
She had been acting such things superstitiously for good luck. Last night, she had just thrown all the things from her ex boy friend.
“Oh, I see…sorry I didn’t get it…haha…I believe everything I heard usually, so…I I often can’t get jokes as well…so my colleague always say I’m a boring person…So.sorry I talk too much I think, oh It seems to be crowded in this café. There is no seat, hahaha.” He said.
“You can sit here if you don’t mind.” She suggest because she was using a table for 4 people alone and she was sure he was nice person. Height, weigh and face… all of them is a little bit less than average….
“That’s really kind of you.” He smiled
…But he had a good smile
It was awkward at the beginning, but she could enjoy the conversation with him after he continuously talked to her. He is a one of stammer man but she was getting interested in him because he had exactly the same taste as her. When he talked about his favorite movie, author, food, and music she could definitely agree with him. Under the hard sunlight, yellowish green leaves came to her with breeze. She felt presentiment of romance. Spring had come to her. She clasped the Keychain he passed her. It seemed glass slippers to her on this day. Princess needed help recently because there were strange things happened to her. For example she got nuisance phone call many times at night, sometimes her mails were disappeared from mail box, only her garbage bag in the garbage area in her apartment was opened, and so on. She dreaded it so the reliable prince who can fight for her was needed.
She started to image the future with him. In her mind, she was dating in cinema, park and zoo.
“I met him suddenly. -It must be destiny!”
He was not handsome but this sweet situation made her wear the pink glasses.
Especially in spring, every girl wants to find somebody. The topic that she wants to talk first to her yoga-friends was made…
“I have to go because I have to prepare for the event tonight” He woke her up.
“Thank you for offering a seat, I enjoyed talking as well, so it’s on me” He took his wallet from the bag.
“Oh, thank you so much, so next time let me…..” She gave a gasp…
There was a one thing that she found…”----I know this wallet----“
It must not be the same wallet as his, because he had the wallet she gave his ex boy friend for his birthday and it was tailor-made.
“Oh..Ok! I have to go as well!!” She prepared to leave quickly.
“Yoga class??” He grinned.
She was sure that she didn’t tell him about it because she told him that she was going to take ballet lesson to make her image better.
Her pink glasses were broken and her face turned blue because the one thing came into her mind…
“I will call you later Maria”
There was only a broken Eiffel tower that had been felled on the table in the café.
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