The cupcakes were just sitting on the table. Sweet, scrumptious, cupcakes, just sitting there, waiting to be eaten. The smooth, watermelon pink icing sugar that covered the top of spongy cakes was slowly melting in the heat of that hot December afternoon.
A small hand – no bigger than the cupcakes itself – reached out with caution. The swift, plump fingers snatched up one of the irresistible treats. There was a brief pause, and then the suspicious hand took one, no, two more. The feet that belonged to the hands scurried out of the kitchen, leaving three empty spaces where the cupcakes once stood.
Simon was in his room, reading the school novel, ‘Little Women’. What nice girls they are, he thought. So sweet-mannered, so sympathetic, he thought. Unlike my sister – she wasn’t anything like them. In fact, she was the polar opposite! Simon sighed and shook his head, feeling sorry for himself. Brattish, selfish, rude, loud…
‘MUMMY!’ screamed a voice from downstairs. ‘Simon ate my cupcakes!’
Simon froze. He stood up, comprehending what his sister had just yelled out. He didn’t recall eating any of the cupcakes. Simon shrugged and went downstairs anyway, bracing himself for his inevitable misfortune.
‘Simon! Come downstairs!’ his mother demanded.
‘I’m already here,’ said Simon
‘Oh, ‘his mother turned around to face him. ‘Why did you eat Mary’s cupcakes? You knew it was for her friend’s birthday party.’
Simon’s mother was older than she looked. For a woman of thirty-five, far too many wrinkles were on her forehead. Her skin was like creased paper and her cheekbones were awkwardly sticking out. Simon could see that deep inside her green eyes, stress and work were haunting her.
Mary had her arms wrapped around her mother’s waist, and she had made sure Simon could see her face. The face was terribly familiar to Simon. She held a wide grin that showed her teeth, decayed and crooked, from all the sugar she’s had. Her rosy, chubby cheeks were pushed up high, so her eyes were nearly closed, but just enough to show her eyes. And her eyes, so full of mischief and pleasure…She was grinning a smile of malice, a smile as sly as a fox, a smile that tells Simon that yes, it was her who ate the cupcakes, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Simon welled up with fury. He gritted his teeth and nearly started to protest, but he knew better. This has happened before, he told himself. No need to give Mum more worries.
‘I was hungry,’ Simon said. ‘Even Mary ate one.’
His mother turned to look down at Mary. At that millisecond, Mary transformed her face and put on a tearful, bitter mask. ‘Simon is l-lying. I-I didn’t eat any c-cupcakes,’ stammered Mary. Simon shook his head in disgust and thought to himself: if this girl is good at anything, it’s acting.
The mother sighed deeply, buried her head in her hands and said: ‘Simon, go to your room. Mary, we’ll make some more, okay?’
Simon wasn’t in the mood to read anymore of ‘Little Women’, so he lay down on his bed, feeling sorry for himself, and plotting revenge to his sister. He shall give her a good scolding – just a long, intimidating lecture and nothing more. Anything more and he would just get in more trouble. Simon lay there for a while, and began let his mind ponder about other things. School, friends, homework… It wasn’t long until Simon fell asleep.
Simon was woken up by the heat of the summer day. It was three o’clock, which meant his mother should be at work. He remembered the incident about the cupcakes, and thought he would let Mary off this time.
Simon went downstairs, and saw Mary sleeping on the couch. Probably faking it, he thought. He decided to practise his piano. Simon was a very capable piano player for his age, and he would play for an hour each day. Perhaps he shall play some Bach today? He didn’t feel like it. Nielsen? Yes, he shall play Nielsen’s ‘Snurrentoppen’.
His nimble fingers started to play, and every key was stuck with confidence. He was up to the end of the first page, and he realised Mary had woken up. He kept on playing. Mary suddenly said: ‘AHH…I HAD A GOOD NAP…’ in a deliberately raised voice. Simon ignored her and continued. ‘THAT’S A NICE SONG YOU’RE PLAYING, SIMON. BUT NOT NEARLY AS NICE AS THE CUPCAKES I HAD…’
Simon stopped abruptly. He couldn’t help himself. ‘You,’ he said fiercely, ‘should shut up! You don’t know how much stress you’re causing Mum, you don’t know how hard she works out there to support us, and all you do is make her more worried. YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING! YOU SELFISH STUPID BRAT! YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A BURDEN FOR MUM! SO JUST SHUT UP!’
Simon had said all that, out of anger, in a very loud voice. His face was red and hot, and his fists were clenched up tightly. Mary was curled up in the corner of the couch, and had burst out in tears, for real this time. Simon knew he had gone too far. She was only seven, and after all, his only sister.
Mary had run up to her room, leaving Simon behind. Out of extreme rage, he kicked the old television, and stormed out of the room. However, it so unfortunately happens that a spark flew from the television and flew towards the green set of curtains behind. For a second it seemed as though nothing happened, but all at once, a tiny flame ignited on the curtains.
Everything happened too quickly. Simon, in his room, smelt smoke and immediately ran out of the house. If he was two seconds late, he might have died. He puffed heavily and strained his face in the presence of the hot sun. Mary, he thought. Mary’s still inside the house.
‘We are gathered here today to commemorate our beloved girl Mary, whose life was lost in a terrible accident…’
Simon’s mother face remained expressionless throughout the entire duration of the funeral, as if her emotions were too strong to be expressed. Every single person there could sense the tremendous grief she was experiencing, and the event was one of extreme graveness.
Every time Simon closed his eyes, the scene of the fire would appear. The fire would crackle, burning his ears. Mary stands by the window, her eyes staring helplessly into his, penetrating his soul and destroying his dreams, his hopes, his determination to live on. He buried his face onto his mother’s shoulder, the world around him beginning to blacken out.
‘Well, this was what you wanted, wasn’t it?’ A familiar voice sounded.
Simon’s body froze in horror. He felt like his heart had stopped beating. That voice – he’d heard it more than a million times. It had loved him, annoyed him, laughed with him, angered him. He had hated that voice, and now he dreaded to hear it.
‘Come on, look up! My big brother, look at me!’
Simon was determined not to look, but his mind and body was no longer in sync. He was a puppet, and the puppeteer slowly pulled his head, showing the burnt, disfigured body of his sister.
Simon sprinted out of the place, leaving the guests puzzled and feeling sorry for the poor boy. He ran for kilometres, until finally reaching a place where he felt safe – the beach. As a younger child, Simon came here nearly every day with Mary. Now, here they are again.
‘Simon, are you sad that I am dead?’ asked Mary.
Simon stared at her for a very long time. He no longer seemed afraid.
‘You don’t have to be, you know. Do you know what makes burns better?’ She looked at Simon, then at the vast, azure ocean.
‘Here, hold my hand. Let’s make this all better.’
The pair drifted slowly towards the horizon, the gentle waves teasing their legs. Before you knew it, they had disappeared, their footsteps still clearly engrained in the cool, white sand.
Ryan Teo 10M