This is the ninth finalist in Young Post's 2015 Summer Story competition in which some marvellous books are up for grabs. Each week, we will publish one of the finalists' stories, with the winning entry appearing in Young Post on August 29
I once again walked through those familiar white-washed hallways; it was my first day of Grade Five, and I was looking for my locker.
Fiddling with my combination, I saw Kat approaching and waved to my chicly dressed friend who I hadn't seen all summer. No reaction. In fact, she purposely blanked me and walked straight past me! Before I could open my mouth, I saw Kat happily hooking arms with Gabby, Bianca and Clarissa aka "The Mean Girls"! What on earth was she doing with them? And more importantly, why didn't she want to hang out with me? Comforting memories of last year flooded back to my confused mind.
"Don't forget to write," Kat had said as we both threw our arms around our bubbly friend Ruby in one of our famous group hugs. We had been known as the "terrific three" - famous for sharing an oversized bowl of toffee-popcorn as we discussed Kat's mad crush on Bryan and splitting a peanut-butter milkshake three ways at our local diner, Digbys.
Then Ruby dropped the bombshell that she was moving back to London and I knew that things would never be the same. Still, I never expected Kat to drop me so abruptly, and on the first day back at school, too.
I walked into the buzzing classroom with my head held high. Looking around, I wondered who would be my friend this year, if anyone. Sitting down, I looked up to see a pretty Chinese girl with brown, gleaming eyes. The look of relief on her face told me that I wasn't alone in my dark and scary world of friendship anxiety.
"Hello, my name is Hana. What's yours?" she smiled. That was enough - I knew that this was the beginning of a great friendship. After 10 minutes of exchanging information with her and two other sweet girls named Nicola and Leila, I had high hopes for a new and exciting chapter.
Within a few weeks the four of us were as thick as thieves. Now, there were four straws each time we drank at Digbys. Kat had become a distant shadow from my past - never smiling or meeting my eye in the corridor, and she was totally blanking Bryan, too, when before she couldn't help but drool. The Kat mystery was driving me crazy but she was too hard to approach with "The Mean girls" always by her side.
Hana, Leila and Nicola had become my daily sunbeams, but without Kat, I still sensed the weight of a heavy storm cloud.
One morning before class started, Principal Walters made a special announcement:
"Many of you are aware that last year's annual beach triathlon, traditionally held at Smooth Sand Beach, was cancelled due to an explosion which left the beach covered in rubbish and purple spray paint. Sadly, we believe that this was due to a tasteless prank by some of our students, so if any rowdy tricks are played this year, the perpetrators will be severely dealt with."
"Leila you're the fastest swimmer in school - you're sure to be Tri-Queen!" squealed Nicola.
"Let's just hope that whoever bombed the beach isn't going to do it again," Leila sighed. "That must have been awful last year, Anoushka?"
"It was just a shame because it's usually a wonderful day at the beach," I sighed, "In fact, I think ... the only person who was happy about it was ... was ... oh, guys I think I know who caused the beach bomb blast!"
"Who?" Hana, Nicola and Leila asked eagerly at once.
"Why are we whispering?" Nicola asked as we hovered on the balcony above the art room.
"This is where 'The Mean Girls' meet everyday at break," I replied, leaning close to a side window, "and I think Gabby and her gang are behind the beach bombing."
"Why would they do such an awful thing?" whispered Hana, looking horrified.
"Because Gabby was thrown off the swim team two years ago for cheating, so she's not eligible for the title of Tri-Queen."
Just then we heard "The Mean Girls" plotting:
"So it's not going to be easy to sabotage the Triathlon this year. They're going to be watching closely," said Bianca.
"Well, there's no way I'm letting anyone take my Tri-Queen crown," Gabby hissed as she reorganised the cans of purple spray paint.
"And there's no way I'm letting Bryan take the Tri-King title, after the way he and that traitor treated me!" Kat scowled.
"What is she talking about?" I wondered, "What did Bryan do and who is the traitor?"
The others looked at me with blank faces and I shrugged in confused ignorance. We had heard enough. We left and I led my three partners in crime quietly to the principal's office.
Jessica Chan won the SCMP-RTHK Top Story competition - Junior Category with her story about two souls that chase each other through infinite lifetimes
The morning before the triathlon, "The Mean Girls" arrived at Smooth Sand beach with heavy duffel bags filled with cans of purple spray paint and rubbish.
They waded out into the frothy, salty sea and swam to the 200m platform to set up the bomb. After 10 minutes of rigging, a huge explosion of purple-coloured rubbish flew across Smooth Sand beach and the four girls cheered in delight.
As they swam back in to the seashore, one by one their mouths fell open as they saw Principal Walters standing in front of them with a stern look on his face. Their game was up.
Two hours later in the principal's office, the four "criminals" sat with their horrified parents and questions were finally answered.
Between sobs, all Gabby could say was: "I'm sorry. I just didn't want anyone else to take my Tri-Queen crown. I'm the fastest swimmer at Reed High and I ... I ..."
"Bianca and Clarissa have been your best friends since preschool so I am not surprised that they would join you in this scheme, but why Kat?" asked Principal Walters as he squinted his eyes in confusion and pushed his glasses back up his nose.
"I ... I'm sorry too. I know it was wrong," started Kat. "It's just that Bryan Milrine is such a good swimmer that he would for sure have been made Tri-King and after I found out that he ... he was so nasty to me I couldn't c-c ..."
"Oh dear," said Principal Walters, "I have always known Bryan to be an exemplary student."
Kat's eyes grew wide with anger. "He and ... and ... Anoushka Bhatia publicly humiliated me and made up an awful song that they sent around the school about how I had a crush on Bryan but that he thought I wasn't just 'Kat' but also looked like a 'rat' and was so 'fat'. It was horrible!" she snapped and folded her arms, fighting back tears.
"And how did you find out about this ... song?" Principal Walters questioned, pinching his chin thoughtfully.
"Gabby played me the recording they had sent," Kat said, her eyes filling with tears at the memory.
"Girls," said Principal Walters, "is this story true?"
Bianca and Clarissa shot each other a look of guilt mixed with fear.
"I'm sorry," said Gabby quietly.
"Sorry? Why?" Kat asked.
"We kind of made it up so that you would help us bomb the beach," Gabby said in a low voice. "I'm so sorry Kat. I'm really ..."
"What?" Kat screamed in disbelief. "But you played me the song ... it had their voices ... how ... I don't understand ..." Kat demanded.
"We used a computer-generated voice programme, Kat. I'm so sorry," Gabby replied, as Bianca and Clarissa nodded in humble agreement.
"How could you? I thought you were my friends!" Kat said with tears streaming down her face. "I've been so rotten to Anoushka and Bryan ..." with that she began to sob uncontrollably.
Principal Walters stood up. "Gabby, Bianca and Clarissa, what you have done is very disappointing and you will each be reporting to the school cafeteria for the next two months for clean-up duty. You will each have to apologise to Anoushka and Bryan for misleading Kat with your nasty lies and you will be our new clean-up crew following the triathlon tomorrow."
"But how can we have the triathlon now since we bombed the beach?" Kat asked, distressed.
"Well, as we speak, the beach is being thoroughly cleaned by our Super Sunshine crew, otherwise known as Anoushka, Hana, Leila and Nicola who have volunteered their time to make sure that everyone can enjoy the triathlon tomorrow!"
It was the perfect day to be at the beach. The beaming sun shone down on blissful faces as races were won and new records set.
"Well done, Leila!" I squealed, throwing my arms around the new Tri-Queen.
"We knew you could do it!" said Hana, giving Leila a high-five.
"Well done to you too, Bryan," Nicola said as the new Tri-King walked past.
"Thanks guys," he said with a wide grin. "And thanks again for cleaning up the beach yesterday and solving the whole beach bomb mystery. None of us would be here today without you Super Sunshine girls."
"Anytime!" we all sang in unison.
"Anoushka?" said a familiar voice. I turned around to see Kat behind me. Principal Walters had already explained to me how Kat had been tricked, so I realised that I was the "traitor" she had been referring to.
"I wanted to say sorry, Anoushka. I shouldn't have believed Gabby. I should have trusted ..." Kat stopped, too embarrassed to go on.
"It's OK, Kat. I was actually relieved when I found out. Nice to have you back," I said as I gave her a reassuring hug.
"I promise not to doubt you again," Kat said, "and we can ..."
"Kat?" said Bryan shyly as he walked over to us. "I wondered if we could have a chat?"
Kat's eyes grew wide with alarm and she looked at me with urgency.
"Sure you can," I said, nudging her forwards, "we're all good here."
Bryan and Kat walked to the edge of the beach as we gazed on and Hana sighed.
"Gals, I think we should become the Super Sunshine Setter-Uppers! I have a feeling those two are headed for coupledom!" said Hana.
"Let's hope so!" I said happily, watching the romantic scene unfold before me.
Leaving the beach that day I knew that thanks to the amazing friends I had now, including Kat, I would always have a little sunshine on my shoulder.