Dazzling eyes. Flawless skin. A scintillating smile that lit up the room. All eyes were on the new girl as she walked into our maths class, and I couldn't help wishing I had features as perfect as hers.
"Girls and boys, before we start today, I'd like to introduce you to our new student, Angela Wong," Ms Kwok announced to the class. "Angela, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?"
With a toss of her wavy hair and a flash of her disarming smile, she began. "Hi everyone, I'm Angela and a couple of weeks ago I moved back to Hong Kong from the States with my younger brother."
When Ms Kwok asked for a volunteer to take Angela on a tour of our school at lunchtime, I quickly put up my hand.
At the sound of the bell, I grabbed my lunch and found Angela outside the canteen sucking on a lollipop. Trying not to sound rude, I asked: "Is that your lunch?"
"I don't really like canteen food," she said, with a smile. "I eat when I get home, but I like to suck on a lollipop during the day."
Despite this idiosyncrasy, it was easy talking to Angela. To my surprise, I learned that her family had moved into old Auntie Susie's house in Sai Kung. Auntie Susie had always talked about travelling the world before it was too late.
On the way back to class, we bumped into Angela's younger brother, Jack. I caught myself gaping at him. He was strikingly similar to Angela; the same rosy lips, creamy skin and eyes that sparkled like diamonds.
For the rest of the week, I spent every lunchtime with Angela, chatting, joking and laughing. Yesterday, she told me how she discovered the identity of the guy who has been surreptitiously dropping a love note on her desk every morning.
Occasionally, I caught the weird stares other students gave us. With my freckled face and one-inch-thick glasses, even I found it hard to believe that someone like Angela wanted to be my close friend and confidante. But not only was Angela a wonderful friend, she was also smart enough to solve all my maths problems.
When Angela asked if I was free to come for dinner, I was thrilled. I had never been invited to anybody else's house before, and I told Angela that I would love to come - after I'd checked with my parents.
But Papa put only one condition on his agreement. "Your Mum and I are going to dinner at the police station tonight, so you need to bring your little sister along, all right? Also make sure that you write down Angela's address for me."
With my eight-year-old sister, Jane, tagging along behind me, I half skipped and half ran the couple of blocks to Angela's house.
I was taken aback to see Auntie Susie's beloved front yard garden now so grossly overgrown. Her favourite bauhinias were dying, the vines were a tangled mess and the grass reached up to the sky. Perhaps Angela and her family did not have a penchant for gardening, I thought.
Angela, smiling as usual, opened the door, with Jack behind her. "I knew your Papa would let ya!" she exclaimed.
But her face crinkled into a frown for a split second when she saw Jane. Seeing her exchange looks with Jack, I quickly explained: "Oh, she's my sis, Jane. I had to bring her along because my parents are going out for dinner tonight. I hope you don't mind; she won't bother us."
Hiding her initial disappointment, Angela said cheerfully: "Of course, Jane is welcome to join us. Come on in!"
The furniture inside the house was exactly as I remembered, except everything was now caked in dust. I wanted to ask about this, but Jane spoke first: "Can I see your room, Angela?"
Once again, I saw Angela and Jack exchange sharp glances. Then Angela beamed and said: "Sure! Jack and I share." She paused, looking at me. "Jenny, we've got a little surprise prepared for you. Jane can help us finish getting it ready. But you have to stay down here so you don't spoil the fun."
Before I could protest, Jane ran up the stairs with our hosts. Alone in the dusty living room, I began to feel uneasy. There were cobwebs everywhere and the dimly lit chandelier cast an eerie glow. I could not stand it any longer so I climbed the stairs and peeped into Angela and Jack's room through a slit in the door. What I saw horrified me.
Jane was being held to the floor by Jack. Her eyes bulged in fear but his hand was clamped over her mouth to prevent her making any noise. When Angela opened her mouth, a long, forked tongue shot out, which kept extending until it reached Jane's face. The tongue licked her entire face, and as it did, Jane shrunk in size until she was shorter than a pencil. I bit my lip to stifle a gasp. Its work done, Angela's forked tongue shot back into her mouth like a spring.
Holding this miniature Jane between his fingers, Jack chuckled as he said: "Looks like we're going to have a tasty dinner tonight! Young flesh is always the best; soft, chewy and absolutely delicious."
He took out another figure the size of a pencil and put it in front of Angela. I had to squint my eyes to recognise the curly-haired figure as a shrunken, miniature Auntie Susie. No wonder she had suddenly disappeared leaving her house in such disarray.
My thoughts were interrupted by Jack's voice. "You can have the old lady for dinner; I'll have the eight-year-old. Deal?"
"No, that's not fair," Angela retorted. "We still have the girl downstairs, remember? After we shrink her, we can have one girl each for our main course and half the old lady for dessert. How does that sound?"
Jack nodded. "Deal, let's go get her."
I shuddered from head to toe at their chilling words. As I began tiptoeing towards the stairs, the doorbell suddenly rang.
"Hi there, please open up," a familiar, robust voice commanded. It was Papa! "I've come to pick up Jenny and Jane on my way home."
A wave of relief fluttered through me - until Angela and Jack emerged from their room in response to Papa's calls.
When they saw me standing outside their room, I realised escape was impossible. My whole being froze.
"I told you to stay downstairs," Angela hissed.
As she opened her mouth, glistening scales started to appear around her lips. Her long forked tongue began to snake towards me. Meanwhile, Jack had also opened his mouth and his identical tongue was also coming at me.
I screamed and I ran for the stairs. But it was too late - two slimy forked tongues wrapped around my ankles and I fell.
"What are you?" I cried, as I saw the forked tongues advancing towards my face.
"Amphibians," Angela said, with a malicious smile. "We suck on humans for food, just like you saw me suck on lollipops. Humans taste much better than lollipops. But first, we need to shrink you filthy creatures to make you more manageable."
Her cruel and merciless laugh was even more chilling coming as it did from a girl I thought was my good friend.
Just as I gave up trying to defend myself, the front door burst open. I saw Papa, still in his police uniform and with a pistol in his hand. He fired four shots and I heard Angela and Jack yelp in agony.
As her hands clasped her chest in a vain attempt to staunch the flow of blood, Angela's eyes burned with hatred.
"Even if you kill us, your sister will still remain this size," she hissed, "because only our blowing her a kiss can return her to normal."
With one last hysterical laugh, she died. However, Jack, injured in his shoulder and calf, was clearly intent on staying alive. "Oh great sir, please spare my life!" he pleaded, while kneeling on the ground. "And I promise I will return Jane and the old lady back to their normal size."
As soon as Papa and I had accepted his offer, Jack blew a kiss to Jane and a kiss to Auntie Susie. With our eyes wide in amazement, we watched as Jane and Auntie Susie grew back to their original dimensions, as if they were balloons inflating. Meanwhile, in a split second, Jack was transformed into a lizard that swiftly crawled away.
An overwhelming wave of relief washed through me. Both Jane and I rushed into Papa's tight embrace. The three of us hugged and cried - how fortunate we were to be together again.
Muffled between our sobs, I heard Papa say: "Promise me you'll never trust people so easily again, because you never know who they really are."
This is the first finalist in Young Post's 2011 Summer Story competition, sponsored by Dymocks, in which HK$3,000 worth of book vouchers are up for grabs.
Each week we will publish one of the finalists' stories, with the winning entry appearing in Young Post on September 3.