Saturday afternoon at the IFC Mall was going to be a dream come true! Alisha, Imogen and I would stop at Dymocks and spend our birthday vouchers on the latest teenage magazines.
We would also check out the coolest pens, stationery and secret diaries in stock. Then we'd pop into Edible Arrangements and drool with delight over the chocolate-dipped strawberries. After treating ourselves to something scrumptious, we'd head off to Folli Follie to feast our eyes on the beautiful jewellery.
The only major downer to my perfectly planned day was that we had to take my annoying 10-year-old sister Sasha with us.
"Hey guys let's check out Accessorize," Imogen said, flicking her blonde curls to one side.
"Let's check out Accessorize!" Sasha's squeaky voice mimicked as she attempted to flick her short black hair the same way.
"Do you have to copy everything we say?" asked Alisha, rolling her eyes.
"Do you have to copy everything we say?" sang Sasha's happy voice as she rolled her eyes the same way.
"Sasha!" I snapped, my eyes widening.
"Sasha!" the copycat laughed as she opened her eyes wide, batting them just long enough to make us all groan.
When you're 14, walking round the mall sandwiched between two awesome friends makes you feel as if you could rule the world. Wearing our matching lockets and new halter-neck tops, we were dressed to impress, and having Sasha around was cramping our style. It wasn't just the mimicking and constant whining about where to go next. Sasha was really clumsy. She would knock over piles of books in the store or "accidently" eat a strawberry from the display buffet. She was constantly getting us into trouble and we were all well and truly fed up.
"So tell me again why Sasha's with us?" Imogen asked as she sighed and scanned the mall to see if there were any boys she recognised.
"Mum said that was the condition we could come to the mall today. She called it 'bonding time' and even gave Sasha HK$100 to spend.
"I'm really sorry guys - let's just try to tolerate her."
On our way to Accessorize, I thought of a plan to put an end to Sasha's annoying behaviour. I kept thinking about it until it struck me like a ray of light bursting into a dark tunnel. I innocently wandered around the store, pretending to admire the fruit-top earrings and chunky bangles, and then quietly huddled with Imogen and Alisha in a corner.
"Why don't I tell Sasha to go to Zara and say we'll buy her a surprise from here and meet her there." I said. "Instead, we'll sneak off to City'super and try our favourite cheeses?"
I looked over to ensure Sasha wasn't listening, then turned back to carry on in true CIA-style.
"Later, after Sasha has been worried for 10 minutes, we'll find her at Zara. Isn't that a cool prank?"
Imogen and Alisha looked at each other with uncertainty. "I don't think that's such a good idea, Nikita," Alisha said, pushing her drooping glasses back up her nose.
"Come on Alisha, it'll be fun!" I said. "And it'll certainly show her who the boss is around here." I grinned and took a step towards my gullible sister.
"But what if you get into trouble? What if ..." Alisha tried to continue.
"Alisha, you're always looking on the dark side," moaned Imogen. "As long as it's a short prank, I agree with Nikki. It might be fun to scare the little munchkin."
"OK, so let me get this straight," Sasha began as she looked up at the three faces above her. "You want me to go to Zara so you can buy me a present from here with your own money and bring it to me? And you promise it won't come out of my HK$100 pocket money?"
"I promise!" I said, crossing my fingers behind my back.
Sasha paused to process this information, shifting her weight from one foot to the other as her brain calculated the benefits of the proposal.
"You know sis, you're cooler than I thought! But don't let that go to your head," Sasha winked as she skipped out of the store, knocking over a pile of handbags on the way.
"Whoops!" she said, putting her hand over her mouth with a naughty sparkle in her eyes.
I picked up the bags and restacked them, dusted off my hands and, with an evil smile on my face, said, "Let's go!" My plan was going great so far, I thought to myself as we giggled our way to the land of cheese.
From Brie to cheddar to blue cheeses, we tried as many tasters as we could stomach. I was feeling extremely proud of myself for getting rid of my pest of a sister, especially when two very cute boys walked past the cheese counter. I was sure that one of them smiled at me, too, though Imogen swore he was looking at her.
After buying a crispy sweet pineapple bun each and one for Sasha too, I said: "OK guys, it's been 15 minutes, so we'd better go to find my sister before she cries or something."
The three of us entered Zara with beaming smiles, ready to catch a glimpse of Sasha's puzzled face. We wondered if she would be holding the skirt of a sales lady and giving her a sob story, or if she would be sitting in a puddle of her own tears, feeling sorry for all the trouble she had caused us.
As we walked into the children's section, our smiles slowly faded. As our eyes swept the racks of clothes, shoes and the faces of the children. Sasha was nowhere in sight.
We searched the dressing rooms, asked the sales ladies and even went to the men's store to see if she was waiting for us there, but we could not find her anywhere.
"I know," said a hopeful Imogen. "Let's go back to Accessorize."
"But I told her to stay here," I said in a small voice.
"You also told her you would be right behind her, Nikki," whispered Alisha, with a concerned look on her face.
"OK," I nodded as a sinking feeling came over me.
However, Sasha was nowhere to be found.
We decided to retrace our steps. We ran back to Folli Follie just in case she had gone back to admire the sparkling pink ring she liked. Then we ran to Edible Arrangements, hoping that she might be drooling over something beautiful and sweet. Both were dead ends. "This can't be happening," I said under my breath.
Dymocks was our last hope.
We scanned the book and magazine racks and even asked the sales lady if she had seen a lost 10-year-old girl wandering around.
"Oh dear," sighed Imogen. "She's not here either, Nikki. What do we do now?"
My heart sank and I could actually feel a stinging pain in the pit of my stomach. My mother was going to kill me. I had lost my 10-year-old sister and didn't know if she was OK.
My mind raced. What if someone had taken her? What if someone had hurt her? What if we never found her? Crazy thoughts started to fill my mind about the most terrible things that might have happened and I couldn't stop the tumbling tears.
"I need to call my mum ..." I sobbed. "What do I even ... tell her?"
"It's OK," said Alisha encouragingly.
"Just call her - she'll know what to do," nodded Imogen.
Within 35 minutes, my mother and father had arrived at Zara. Alisha's parents and Imogen's mother had also come, along with two members of IFC security. All of them had very sombre expressions.
"She was wearing a red and white striped T-shirt with jeans. She has short black hair and was carrying a small blue shoulder bag - and I gave her HK$100 spending money today," my mother said to the sales manager.
"She doesn't have her mobile phone with her. Here, I brought her passport for identification."
Mum was trying to stay calm, but I could tell she was frantic with worry.
"Yes, please do call the police," she said, after the security officer had asked her some questions.
My heart broke at those words. It suddenly made everything very real and I was scared out of my wits.
"Are you sure you were gone for only 15 minutes?" my father asked as he placed his hand on my shoulder outside Zara.
"Did Sasha have anything with her? Did she mention wanting to go anywhere?"
My mind raced. All these questions - yet I had no answers that were going to take the worry lines away from my father's forehead.
Imogen and Alisha's parents also asked some useful questions but, after a while the three of us could only stare at each other in despair. It was nearly two hours since we'd seen Sasha. I had really messed up this time.
"Look!" screamed Alisha suddenly, pointing towards the crowds outside the Palace Cinema.
And there, slowly wandering towards us among the swarms of people, with a happy grin all over her popcorn-encrusted face and hair, was our Sasha!
One after the other we engulfed her in embrace after embrace, so grateful to have found her safe and sound. Sasha looked a little bewildered at the sudden display of affection but happily lapped it up after a while.
"My baby, come here," my mother said, with tears in her eyes.
"We found you!" sang Imogen.
"Sasha ..." I began, but had no words to say. A big gulp formed in my throat and a sudden wave of relief came over me as the tears streamed down my cheeks and I sobbed on my mother's arm.
"Where did you go sweet-pea?" My dad asked Sasha calmly as he gave her another tight squeeze.
"Well, I was waiting in Zara, as Nikita told me to, but then the three amigos didn't show up!" she said, glaring at me. "So I wandered out here and saw that Snow White and the Huntsman was playing and I had just enough money for a ticket and some popcorn! It was soooo good, Dad; we should definitely go to see it!"
We all stared at my sister in disbelief. I guess she showed me who was boss after all. I had been well and truly humbled and realised that, even though I was 14, I still had a lot of growing up to do.
Through wet lashes, I caught Alisha's eye and went over to give her a huge hug.
"You're such a good friend Alisha. You were right to say it wasn't a good idea and I am so sorry. I should've ..."
"The main thing is that Sasha is safe," interrupted Alisha, giving me a big hug. "And it's always something to learn from."
"Were you just born to be a wise old owl?" winked Imogen, flicking her locks over to the other side.
"Well, we can't all be born beauty queens," said Alisha, smiling back.
"Well, we can't all be born beauty queens," came the familiar mimicking voice. But this time it made everyone laugh.
Read the other entries to our 2012 Summer Story competition.
- The winning story, Eyes of the Departed, by 16 year old Lorenzo Chim
- Don't Mess with the Old by 13 year old Justin Yu
- I Should Have Listened to My Friends by 13 year old Charlotte Chan
- All's Fair in Life and War by 15 year old Brandon Mok
- Dreams of fame turn to tragedy by 15 year old Chaang Vi Ka
- A love to remain forever unspoken by 15 year old Lorraine Ho
- The sad tale of a drowned ghost by 16 year old Gene Lin
- It will be spring by the time you awake by 15 year old Emily Archibald