It will be spring by the time you awake

It will be spring by the time you awake

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Short Story Emily Archibald_L
Illustration: Sarene Chan

The soft breeze will flow through the open window, stirring lacy curtains gently, and carry the smell of light rain and concrete. The white-walled, square room will bounce about the sunlight coming from the same source, eliminating any need for the tall, stainless steel lamp beside your bed. The bed itself will be set perpendicularly to the wall: a simple, off-white plastic frame supported by black wheels.

On the left side of the bed will be a petite pine table displaying a ceramic mug of cold coffee and a squat glass vase filled with drooping carnations.

It will be the muffled sound that first filters through your consciousness. The dull sound of plastic-soled shoes on the linoleum floor will add rhythm to the general low murmur of multiple voices from outside your room. Louder, there will be a soft, monotonous beep coming from a strange machine supported on a tall, metal pole on your right.

Next will be sensation - or lack of it, as the case may be. As you lie still, you will become aware of a strange numbness in your limbs. You will vaguely wonder why but, for the moment, you'll be content to simply drift.

Your mind will be pleasantly uncluttered, a gentle fog that robs you of all but the most basic thought. It feels, you will think, like cotton wool. But as peaceful as it seems, something will bother you. As much as your clouded mind attempts to block it out, you will be quietly but incessantly troubled by a niggling probe in the back of your head; something just out of your reach. You will realise you cannot remember. The thought is there; you just cannot think of it. Unable to relax, unable to ignore it, you will finally let go. You will remember.

You stand in your bedroom. The light outside is growing dim, and you know it is almost time to leave. You strike a final pose before the oval mirror propped carefully on your desk (borrowed from your mother for the occasion), checking your appearance over and over. When you went shopping together two weeks ago, the enthusiastic Ester had insisted you buy the sandy-grey suit with the white piped edge.

"We have to match!"

But despite what the store clerk may have told you, the collar of your white linen shirt still feels uncomfortably tight - especially when you are used to loose-necked tees emblazoned with the Paul Frank monkey hanging over three-quarter-length khaki cargo shorts. But at least you were able to sneak your red-laced leather boots beneath the rolled-up hem of your trousers. And it would be only for one night - the prom.

You hear your mother call you from the living room.

"Hurry up. Your friends are here."

Your already fluttering stomach leaps. The night of your life is about to begin.

Your blond friend, Jacob, in the front seat, leans on the dented silver Corolla's horn as you pull up outside Ester's house. You wind down the curbside window to watch your date trot down the drive towards you. Jacob and the smirking Marco beside him give raucous wolf whistles. Cherry, sitting on your left in a dusty pink evening gown, rolls her green-shadowed eyes.

Ester wears a short, royal blue dress that you figure must be fashionable, with its single, stylish sleeve and bunched waist. Ester places her feet carefully. More used to flip-flops, her sky-high stilettos are as unusual for her to wear as it is for you to see her in them.

But you are more interested in her face. Your usually conservative classmate has gone all out for tonight's event. Her dark eyes are smoky with make-up and her rosebud lips carefully outlined in pink gloss. Her black hair has been curled dramatically and falls down her shoulders, bouncing lightly as she walks.

You decide she is beautiful.

With two weeks to go, you took the train home.

"Hey, Ester, have you got a date for the prom yet?" You adjusted your sweaty palm on the MTR pole as you gazed over at your friend sitting nearby.

Ester, her face grimy and hair frizzed in the summer heat, looked up from the biology textbook on her lap. She shook her head. "No, how 'bout your end?"

You gave a self-deprecating shrug: "Pretty hopeless."

Ester returned the gesture apologetically and returned to her book.

You were silent, staring at your feet and rocking with the movement of the train as it turned a corner.

"Next station, Mong Kok," called the generic female announcer from a speaker overhead.

Ester stood, tipping the book into her school bag, which she then threw over her left shoulder. "See ya tomorrow."

You waved a hand at her, still not raising your head. Then just as the doors began to beep, you found your voice. "Ester, wait!"

She turned to you, one foot on the platform.

"Wanna go to the prom with me?"

She smiled widely, and nodded.

When you arrive at the venue, Ester holds her hand out for you to escort her inside. You notice her rounded, manicured fingernails are carefully painted the same colour as her dress.

Droves of classmates swarm about the room, everyone excited. The unfortunate ones without a date lean nonchalantly against the far wall, their eyes scanning the room for a quick pick-up.

A casually dressed teacher braves the crowd, shouting to make way, and directs the school's five-piece rock band to the stage.

Cherry squeals as they jump into the first song, and she and Marco rush to become the pioneers of the dance floor. Jacob laughs at them, winks at you and slips away to find his own date. You and Ester stand awkwardly, neither of you quite sure of the next step. As the floor fills up, you slowly float over and stand near the speakers despite the loud noise.

After watching for a while, Ester snorts through her nose with frustration and drags you off your feet into the writhing throng of dancers.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," you gasp as you are surrounded on all sides by wriggling bodies.

"C'mon!" Ester screams to be heard. "Dance with me, doofus!"

She easily starts moving, swaying her hips and shoulders to the thump and crash of the drum kit. You watch her, fascinated. Her hair flicks about her face and she closes her eyes, mouthing the words to the song. Eventually, a grin spreads across your own face and you find yourself jumping, too.

The night passes in a blur of pounding music and throbbing beats punctuated by paper cups of spiked punch and a few attempted formal speeches that are quickly booed off the podium.

After a year of stressful studying, exams and worrying about the future, this is your chance to let go. Not caring how stupid you look or how your feet will hurt tomorrow, you forget all about your tight collar and just move to the music.

The wooden floor of the school auditorium vibrates to the bass and dancing feet. Fast rock songs and blinding light displays leave you out of breath, while the occasional slow dance sets a blush to Ester's rouged cheeks as you pull her close and sway together.

At last it is 1 in the morning and finally time to leave. The tired band has long since packed up shop and gone home, and the weary chaperones are ushering out the last of the stragglers. You and your friends are among them.

The world spins around you; the lights seem brighter and psychedelic, the dark's deeper and more mysterious. You feel an incredible high; the culmination of hours of adrenaline and alcohol. You wobble on unsteady feet back to the parking lot at the back of the school.

"Hey," you slur, "can I drive?"

Ester looks sideways at you and bites her lip. "I dunno, dude. You're drunk."

"So are you, Est."

"Seriously, maybe we should just call a cab and pick up the car tomorrow."

"Pthffffft," you blow loudly through your mouth.

Marco and Jacob laugh boisterously, and one of them hands you the keys.

On your first driving lesson, you gripped the leather steering wheel with clammy hands and carefully nudged the black plastic pedal with your foot.

"This is the brake, right?"

Your father nodded solemnly from the passenger seat.

"Correct. And the accelerator is here," he explained, leaning over to point at the smaller pedal to the right of the brake.

You watched him carefully. "I think I remember now."

He glanced sideways at you. "Are you sure?"

"Yep."

"Just make sure you don't get the two confused."

"I won't, Dad."

You grin as you slide into the driver's seat and whoop as the engine growls when you turn the key. Ester gingerly moves into the seat beside you and clicks her seat belt into place. Her sweaty brow furrows and she softly punches you on the arm.

"Do up your belt!"

But you are much too excited to listen and shrug her off. Your friends all pile into the back seat and roll down the windows. They begin to chant:

"Go, go, go, go, go!"

Baring your teeth, you stomp on the accelerator. The battered car leaps forward onto the deserted late-night road like a bull ready to charge.

Standing in the doorway of your house, moments before you left, your mother squeezed you tightly to her chest. She looked up into the face of the young man who would always be her little baby and blinked back tears.

"We're so proud of you."

You swerve recklessly around the bend in the road. The headlights are on high beam, and you lean on the horn. You can see the lit-up harbour through the spaces in the line of trees growing on the mountainside.

And it's never seemed as magical as it is tonight.

"Woo - hoo!"

And you're laughing and almost crying and everything is perfect - and you feel that you can fly.

And the blinding light comes round the corner.

And you can't find the brake.

And Ester screams:

"Oh, shi-"

Weeks will pass. Months, even.

Until the day comes when you open your eyes.

And you will cry and look at me, begging me to understand. And I will be there to hold your hand.

And I will tell you:

"I know."


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
- A prank goes out of control by 8 year old Anoushka Hemnani

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