A dark tale with a twist.
‘Come on, let’s sit at the back,’ Belinda said.
‘They,’ Mel pointed back, ‘won’t want us. Sit here instead.’
‘If we don’t try, they will never accept us.’
‘No, thank God. Who wants to be in their gang?’
‘You go ahead then; I’m sitting here,’ Mel’s mind was made up, and she plonked herself next to the window. The school coach was filling fast with excited teenagers.
‘Right, you lot, what is going on?’ Mr Jones, the English teacher, shouted and clapped his hands.
‘She started it,’ a broad-shouldered, overweight boy, stiff-finger pointed into Belinda’s shoulder.
‘Ow, that hurt,’ her eyes drilled into his. He smirked.
‘Young lady, sit at the front where I can see you.’
Mel sniggered but decided to join her friend. She clambered over her to sit next to the window. She then glared across the aisle at the Asian girl in the opposite seat.
‘Christ, look who we’ve got next to us now,’ Mel pointed her nose at the shy girl with the oversized school jacket. Sai joined the class midway through the term, but she had yet to make friends, partly because her Thai accent led to comments and mimics making fun.
‘What is it with you? Nothing fits, old and shabby. I bet it’s all second-hand?’ said Belinda.
The timid girl said nothing and studied her highly polished but worn shoes. The two girls opposite giggled and high-fived.
‘Listen up, please. As you all know, we are going to Brighton.’ A muffled cheer met the teacher’s opening line. ‘Please take a paper, then pass the questionnaire to the seat behind you.’ Mr Jones gave a small pile to the front seats on both sides of the gangway. ‘Our first stop is The Royal Pavilion. It is one of Brighton’s most famous landmarks, and its original owner is largely responsible for putting Brighton on the map. There are some multiple-choice questions on this. The Prince Regent built the iconic eastern-influenced Palace in the late 18th Century as a seaside resort and later became King George IV. Then, I expect a single paragraph on the following questions: What did George love to throw? Here is a clue – What has more courses than most people could manage – Later, you can see his fairy tale kitchen, the decadent dining hall and the sumptuous four-poster bed where his niece, the future Queen Victoria, slept when she popped in to see him. I want to read your impressions of the rooms that struck you most. Easy. So, enjoy the Palace. Oh, then we will be going to the art gallery and museum. And there we’ll have no questions. Instead, we will be discussing these places on the way home. Don’t forget you are ambassadors for the school, don’t let us down. I’m looking at the back seat.’
The questions were folded and stuffed into school blazer pockets or crumpled and chucked on the floor. Belinda folded hers into a paper plane and threw it at Sai. It hit the window and fell to the floor. Sai bent and retrieved it. She smoothed it out and placed it on the next seat.
‘I don’t want it now. It is all dirty,’ said Belinda. Sai turned and looked at the motorway traffic.
‘Oy, I’m talking to you. Don’t you have manners where you come from?’ She turned and bent forward, her shoulders squared up. Mel smirked and tapped her friend’s leg. ‘Leave it.’
The tall English teacher clapped his hands for attention.’ We have arrived. Please, in an orderly fashion, disembark, and follow the guide to the palace doors. We will spend ninety minutes here, then after the museum; we shall go to “The Lanes” and walk along the seafront. No swimming, please. Those wishing to may visit the aquarium, be careful crossing the road. Then at four pm, we will all meet at the coach.’ Mr Jones smiled. A strained attempt at jollity, he was a worried man. He begged the head to let someone else take charge of this group.
Belinda and Mel got off behind Sai and started flicking her long black hair. They got no reaction, so they shrugged and strolled on. The backseat gang attempted to steal cutlery or anything else not nailed down. The security guard was wise to school kids looking for souvenirs. Belinda kicked one of Sai’s heels against the other, and she fell on hands and knees, causing laughter all around. The security man helped her to her feet.
‘Ooh, got a new boyfriend, or is it your first?’ Belinda was pleased with the giggles of her schoolmates.
Sai escaped the others and opened her tourist map on the coach’s seat, and she tracked the aquarium. It was free to enter, and she was keen to see the fish she missed from Thailand’s waters.
All the children wandered along the seafront, checking “The Lanes” and the pier. Sai counted out her coins and ordered a “Mister Whippy” special with a chocolate flake. She was proud of her purchase until it was knocked from her hands. Belinda and Mel made a big show of enjoying their own.
Sai attempted to run away from the girls, and they followed her to the aquarium. The display captured their interest, marvelling at the fish. Sai led them to a tank filled with starfish. She smiled and remembered the creatures from the waters around the island of her home in Samui.
Earlier, a local magazine reporter had written an article with a photo shoot. However, he had left his equipment as he needed a tea break.
The sign said, “Please wash your hands before touching the fish”, ‘Mine are clean enough,’ said Belinda. ‘Mine too,’ said Mel. So they tried to catch a star and laughed at the contact.
Sai was busy fiddling with an electrical plug on the journalist’s lighting. Then she dug deep, pulled the last coin from her pocket, and flicked it high in the air. ‘Heads or tails?’ she asked.
‘Heads, it is one person. Tails, it is both,’ she said.
Sai moved one step to the tank and plunged the raw end of the electric cable into the water.
‘Sorry, I lied. It will be two people whether its heads or tails.’ The coin slipped back into her skirt pocket.
She skipped to the bus at the allotted time. Others were a few minutes late, and two didn’t make it.
To read more dark stories:
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