From afar she saw him. Taylor was dressed in an expensive black suit, a rose in his breast pocket and his hair rumpled, curls getting into his eyes.
"Taylor!" she called out.
He didn't hear her. Must've been the thunderous crowd, she thought. Alec ran forward, as fast as she could without tearing her gown. Excited shouts all around her, the fresh smell of roses in the night air. Anybody could forget that they were in a secret government school.
"Taylor!" she said, breathless and flushed. Taylor turned to look at her. Surprise flitted over his face for a split second, and then - to Alec's consternation - annoyance.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, sounding so arrogant that if Sabriye had been there she surely would have thrown him.
"We - we're going to the ball together, aren't we?" Alec asked, wondering what exactly was going on.
"No." Taylor said. "I never asked you."
"I asked you!" Alec said, something close to panic erupting in her chest. "You said yes!"
"When?" Taylor sneered. "You have proof? A tape recording, perhaps? Or maybe one of those MP3 players - i heard some of them can record voices now -"
"What? What the -" Alex stammered, heart beating, hands sweaty. She realized people were stopping and staring at them.
Taylor looked to the side suddenly, and Alec followed his gaze. A group of prefects all dressed up for the ball were trudging up a garden path. She flicked her attention back to him.
"Just what do you think you're doing?" she said, trying to control her voice. It was starting to get harder to do so. "I asked you and you accepted! I -"
"I suggest you leave now." Taylor said, still looking at the prefect group.
This time it seemed as if a Freeze charm had been casted at the entrance. People stopped and stared.
A girl of extraordinary beauty stepped up to Taylor. "Is anything wrong? Taylor dear?" she asked.
The crowds' muttering instantly became muted, as if someone had decided it was all too loud. Alec looked at the girl, who was rumpling Taylor's hair, moving slowly. She recorded every minute detail in that split second, sudden realization hitting her -
The crowd volume returned to normal; the girl turned and surveyed Alec.
"Who exactly," she asked, "- are you?"
Alec turned to Taylor. "You slimy, cheating, bastard, you little f-"
She lunged at Taylor, fists out and ready to deliver a blow to the neck; he leant back in surprise, arms coming up in a defensive maneuver; and then someone had grabbed her, and someone had pulled her away -
"Enough," the girl said, looking horribly angry. "Vera, take this girl away and make sure she doesn't come back to disturb us again."
Vera nodded, but Alec stared at him until he let go of her hands.
"I'll take myself out, you useless slut -"
"Vera!" The girl commanded, and claws sprouted out of Vera's fingers; he launched himself at her, with a snarl.
It happened too fast for the naked eye to catch - one second Vera was coming down upon Alec, and then the next a crack echoed throughout the entrance courtyard, with Vera on the ground, yelling, and clutching his arm. Alec firmly planted her foot into an indent under the jaw, choking him.
She looked at the girl. "Do that one more time," she said, "And that'll be you on the floor."
Alec turned and walked away towards the outer gardens, not looking back. Soon the sounds of the crowd faded away, and she came upon a fountain lit by moonlight.
Alec sat down, buried her face in her hands, and cried.
Chong Fen looked at him, face not showing any emotion. In truth, his heart was thumping hard in his huge frame, and he looked at the punch table.
Jean was there, beautiful in a flowing silk gown that clung to her like a cloud. He breathed in and sighed.
"Ross, why are you here?"
Chong Fen turned and saw Ceri, who gave him a nod and then continued staring at Ross.
"I thought you said you were too lazy to come?"
"Just providing moral support," Ross yawned back. "You better approach her now - look, someone's asking for a dance."
Chong Fen turned so sharply he thought his neck would crack. A boy with flaming red hair was talking to her, hand outstretched. For a few nervous seconds, he thought she would accept, but then the boy retracted his hand and walked away.
"Jean's hot enough to be a guy magnet." Ross said, arms folded, "Go on, before you lose her forever ..."
Chong Fen shot Ross a what-are-you-saying look, to which Ross made a funny face and then puckered his lips.
"Pretend i'm Jean," he said, "Ooh, Chong Fen, you look sooo good in that suit - let's practice kissing -"
And then Ross tried to wrap his arms around him. Chong Fen backed off hurriedly.
"Okay, okay, i'll do it. Just don't go turning gay on me." he said, hands up in the air.
Ross winked and sat down next to Ceri, who was sampling some sandwiches.
Chong Fen made to go for the punch table, but was blocked almost immediately by Sabriye.
"Have you seen Alec? I've been looking all over for her. I -"
"No, Sab," Chong Fen interrupted, a little annoyed, "Try asking Ceri and Ross over there."
Sabriye took one look and scowled. "Well, if you say so ..." she said, and approached them.
Chong Fen took a deep breath, and then walked forward and tapped Jean on the shoulder.
"Hello, princess," he said.
"Oh, hi, Chong, what's up?" she said.
Chong Fen looked at her, then stared at his feet.
"I - i wrote that letter."
Silence. Chong Fen didn't dare look up. And then he heard the longest bout of laughter he had heard in his entire life.
Chong Fen looked up -Jean was laughing so hard she was holding on to the table for support. He looked around, people were pointing and staring.
"Jean, what's wrong?"
"Of-course- it-was-you!" she gasped, tears streaming down her face. "Eating-soup-with-chopsticks!"
And she laughed even louder.
Chong Fen grabbed hold of her and quickly led her away from the crowd. She shook free, still laughing, but getting herself under control now.
"You were always so inept at expressing yourself." She spluttered, wiping her face and grinning.
"I - i can go now."
"No way Chong," she said, and grabbed his arm. "What about the dance?"
He stared at her. "What dance?"
"Aren't you going to dance and profess your tortured soul to me?"
Chong Fen nearly blushed. Second time in a week. Man, that had to be a record.
"I thought -"
"I like you too. Doesn't that count for something?"
He looked at his feet for a moment, just as the music began to play.
"Well?" Jean asked, face suddenly serious.
Chong Fen smiled, and still looking at his feet, led her onto the dance floor.
Sabriye's blog extract
Idiots. Can't even keep an eye on the crowd. Where the heck is Alec?