Laughter and screams shattered the night as what could best be described as carnival music wafted through the air. I slammed my car door shut and wrinkled my nose with the overwhelming stench of port-a-potties and cotton candy mingling together. A crying child stood in line for one of the many small, blue portable toilets.
“Momm-uh-mmyyy,” he whined. “When-hic-can I-hic-go to the bathroom?”
“When the little square on the blue box turns green and we’re in front of the line. Then you can go,” she calmly explained.
“Shut up Jonny. Mom, can I please go down there without you? I have a date waiting.” a tall teenage boy said from behind them
“Not with that attitude, young man,” she frowned.
“Mo-” the small child began to cry again. I tuned them out as I singled in on the guy who had said he had a date. Could this be the boy she was trying to meet? She surely wouldn’t choose him over me.
His shaggy dark brown hair lay flat on his acne covered face, and his posture looked like one of an old granny’s. His eyes were downcast and I couldn’t quite make out his shirt, but he was clutching a basket of fruit. Was that for her? She didn’t even like apples! I leaned against my dirt-stained car and waited for him to convince his mom to let him go down to the carnival.
How could she date a loser like him? It better not be him, but it all checks out. She described him as tall with matted brown hair and some acne on his face but a kind heart. She said a kind heart was all that mattered to her, but I think that’s a lie. Who doesn’t care about looks at all? Plus, he doesn’t seem very kind to me. He looks like the kind of guy who’ll grow up to be 43 and obese in his mom’s basement even though he’s freakishly skinny now, and he’ll have been a college dropout who has depression and a million other disorders that he isn’t actually diagnosed for. Kind heart my ass.
I jerked myself out of my thoughts as I saw him running down the hill to all the flashing lights. He looked too dorky to be real in the moment, with his skinny legs hurling him down the steep slope. An orange flew out of his basket, and then he stumbled over a twig. In one wonderful, cartoonish motion, he successfully face planted in the dirt and spilled all his fruit every which way. I couldn’t help it, I laughed so hard I almost joined the ground with him. When he got up his nice clothes were dusted in dirt and strands of grass fell from his shirt. Watch him try to explain that one to his mom.
“Do you need help sweetheart?” a middle aged lady dressed in the ugliest purple shirt you had ever seen asked.
“Yes mam,” he said, with a quiver in his voice. He seemed like he was about to cry. I had just stopped laughing, but that made me snigger. He looked so helpless and funny just standing there rubbing dirt off his shirt and a random lady chasing after fruit for him.
“Could you please stop that?” he asked exasperatedly, turning to look me in the face. I stopped sniggering and frowned. What did this kid think he was doing?
“Stop what?” I asked innocently enough.
“You’ve been watching me like some low rated stalker ever since you pulled up in your car. Then you laughed at me when I fell, didn’t offer to help, and are so full of yourself that you continue to watch me be humiliated while chuckling to yourself like-like-”
“I’ll save you the trouble mate. Like a normal person. Pus, I just got here. You must be talking about someone else watching you,” I shrugged. It took all my willpower to ot start scream laughing right then and there. This guy was hilarious!
“I’m not an idiot,” he complained angrily. “I know it was you.”
“Ha! You sound like your baby brother, going around whining about stupid stuff. ‘Mommmmmy, I wanna go to the bathroooooom’,” I teased.
“So you were watching me!” he yelled. Just then the woman came running up to him with all the fruit in his basket and glared at me.
“Are you bothering this young man?” she asked.
“No mam,” I said, sweet as candy. “He’s just my friend from school, that’s all.”
“Okay,” she said wearily. “You boys play nice.” As soon as he opened his mouth to protest she left, trotting down the hill with her purple shirt, striking out like a sore thumb among the normal people. The other boy looked like he was stuck between being angry and looking like a lost puppy dog while sitting down and sobbing into the hill.
Just then I got a good idea, great even. Even thinking about it got me excited. It would work, and I would finally get her to be my girl once she realized how gullible and dumb this guy was!
“Will you please just leave me alone?” he pleaded.
“Why are you at the carnival with a basket of fruit anyway?” I asked, ignoring him.
“Why are you asking me weird questions and following me around?” he asked. “Besides, if you were actually doing your job stalking me then you would know by now.”
“Of course,” I said. “You’re here to date Bianca.” As soon as I said it his face fell and I knew I was right. My breath was stolen from me and I winced in pain. I still had some hope that she wouldn't actually be dating this guy. I had thought that there was a chance that maybe she was just twisting my arm to see how far I’d go for her.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“So it is true?” I asked, trying to sound as upset and I possibly could. It wasn’t hard, considering I felt betrayed by the love of my life, the only one who ever understands me and cares for me. She’s my only friend.
“That I’m here for a date? Is it really that shocking? Grow up,” he spat.
“No I just-” I paused and took a deep breath. This was it. This was going to be the moment of all those five seconds of planning I'd spent. “I didn’t actually want to believe that she would cheat on me.” I watched his face turn from what I thought was upset to what was really a heartbroken look. His face went slack and his eyes watered in disbelief. His puppy dog brown eyes seemed so lost and betrayed that for a moment even I felt bad for lying to him. Only for a moment though, because then I remembered that he was stealing my future girl from me.
“Is she your-”
“Girlfriend, yes,” I said quickly. Those words sent a flutter of heat to my throat and I coughed nervously.
“How long?” he whispered.
“Three years,” I whispered back. Then he did something I didn’t expect. He stood up, resolution shining in his eyes, or maybe it was just the tears, and picked up the fruit basket from the ground.
“What are you doing?” I asked. I had expected him to go sniveling to his phone and text her in a bitter rage about being cheated on, and she would think he was assuming things and dump him or something. I wouldn't know, but that’s only because I haven’t chosen to end up with any girls yet, not because I’m a loser who can’t take social cues.
“I’m going to go ask if this is true. You better be just pranking me,” he said as he speed walked down the hill. Without thinking, I walked with him. At least she would see how gullible and dumb this guy was.
The lime green grass below our feet quickly faded to white ghosts of what had been healthy plants just hours before. Even outside the designated carnival area, clumps of children ran amok, bumping into people waiting in line and yelling wildly like monkeys at a zoo
The music grew louder and the flashing lights highlighted the left side of his face. Kids ran around us, swirling in with the drunk adults and close knit huddles of parents. A young boy, maybe ten or eleven, ran in front of me chasing after what looked like his younger brother. Laughing, he caught up to him and playfully started tackling him.
Looking back up from their childish shenanigans, I couldn’t see the boy I had been following. Where did he go? Panic rose in my chest as I pushed past a couple who were making out behind the ferris wheel and almost ran over a six year old girl doing cartwheels in the grass. Where would he have gone? Why would he have gone?
A short strawberry blond haired girl slammed into me and muttered an apology before sprinting after another in a rainbow hoodie. The cacophony of people laughing, yelling, talking, and whatever else rang in my ears as I frantically searched the crowd.
Why would he leave? What was he trying to do? I needed to find him before he did something stupid. What if he hurt her because I had said she cheated? He didn’t seem like he could throw a strong punch, but she wasn’t especially strong either. Rage was powerful too, and he would have the advantage of first strike.
My heart sped up as I imagined him charging towards her, fists raised and ready to hurt. She wouldn’t know what was coming, and she might be too scared to even block his attacks. She would be caught like a deer in headlights, I’m sure of it, and he would be mindlessly pummeling her until they were pulled apart, her with a broken face and him with a sick smile shouting something about that’s what she deserves. No, I couldn't let that happen.
Suddenly, just when I thought all hope was lost, I spotted her standing next to the cotton candy booth talking to the boy, fruit basket clutched in her hand. Her hair shimmered in the dancing pink and gold lights, and her eyes sparkled with mischief like they always did. She tossed her head back in laughter and the boy’s shoulders sagged in relief. Was that it? Would he just believe her no matter what? I had to do something about this stupid boy who was hopelessly clinging to her flawless body and brilliant mind. He couldn’t just take her from me! She was supposed to be my girlfriend, that was what I deserved!
I sprinted towards them, ready to do whatever I needed to. Before I could attack the boy though, she stopped me by placing her hand on my chest. I stopped immediately and wished she would keep it there forever.
“What are you doing Benson?” She asked me.
“So you do know him?” the boy asked.
“Yes,” she said. “But he’s just my brother. An ultra weird one, but I would never cheat on you, and I would never date my brother for obvious reasons.” She said something else but before she could finish I slowly walked away, defeated. I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart.
She would never date me? Why? I loved my sister, and she was the most beautiful girl in the world. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. Nonetheless, I trudged up to my car and dejectedly started driving home. She would love me someday, that I was sure of. I would just have to be better next time.
As I step onto the pavement a familiar figure strides by, his shoulders hunched against the drizzle. Forgetting the reason for my trip, I increase my pace in an effort to catch up to him.
We pass an abandoned building-site, rubble piled high and Portaloo doors ajar. The echo of my footsteps must betray my presence: my target glances over his shoulder. Sees me. Stops.
“Sophie?” It’s more of a statement than a question. My mouth suddenly dries, leaving me to nod in reply.
Rowan Daniels frowns. “Why are you following me?”
Instead of responding I take in his appearance. From his battered black trainers, to his faded jeans, then over a blue t-shirt before looking into his clear grey eyes. Clear, yet impenetrable.
His gaze sharpens, focusing on my green-stained knees. “What happened?”
“I – um – slipped?” My words taste weak in my mouth. Even to me it’s a flimsy excuse. “They’re grass-stains,” I add. Truth.
Rowan notices my hesitation but doesn’t comment on it. He gently leads me to the nearest bus shelter, out of the rain. Must have seen the shivers in my arms.
We stand together awkwardly, neither of us knowing what to do next. I’ve never been this close to a boy my age before. At school I’m the loner. No one comes near me.
“Thanks,” I say finally. Rowan raises his eyebrows. “For stopping, I mean. And, you know… this.” I gesture around us. A slight smile plays on his lips. Amused by my social incompetency.
“Sorry,” I mutter, flushing again, “I’ve made it weird, haven’t I?”
Rowan cocks his head to one side. “You interest me,” he replies simply.
I process this statement, spoken to me by the hottest boy at my school. The silence draws out between us.
Pounding footsteps alert us to another person approaching. A girl in a purple coat hurries towards us under an umbrella. To me she is instantly recognisable.
Bianca Willis, queen of the cliques, comes to a stop beside me, breathing heavily. Her dark curls glitter with water droplets.
“I - knew – it was – you,” she pants, completely ignoring me as she gazes at Rowan. She has a straw-woven basket hooked over one arm, out of place in the city. A handbag perches on her hip, from which she produces an inhaler. After several deep puffs she seems to recover.
Bianca thrusts the basket into Rowan’s arms. “For you.”
He stares down at the basket in confusion. Inside it lies a sea of red grapes. “What for?” he asks, puzzled.
“You like grapes, don’t you?” Her voice carries an edge of hurt.
“Yes - ”
“It was supposed to be a fruit basket, but they only had grapes left. Red ones.”
“But - ”
“Look, it’s a gift, not a bomb!” Bianca says irritatedly. “Just accept it. Okay?”
Rowan shrugs helplessly. Turning to me, he holds out the basket. “Want a grape?” I groan inwardly, cursing the obliviousness of boys. Bianca notices me for the first time, her brown eyes narrowing.
“Who are you?” she asks, wrinkling her nose. That annoys me.
“Just a friend,” I reply as nonchalantly as possible.
Realisation dawns as Bianca figures out that if I’m a ‘friend’ of Rowan’s, I must be a rival. Her expression darkens. “You can’t be.”
“Rowan wouldn’t mix with your sort.”
“My what?” My voice goes dangerously low. Bianca waves her hand vaguely.
“You know. An unpopular,” she says, her tone dismissive.
I’m seething. I had no idea the ‘in’ crowd had a name for people like me. Should have expected it, really.
“Is that so?” I grit out.
Bianca straightens. “Of course it is.”
At this I see red. “He’s mine!”
“Oh, really. You only just met him.”
“I approached him first!”
“Well, I gave him fruit. That makes me better than you!” Bianca’s voice rises with mine.
“Get your own boy,” I hiss at her, fists balled.
She growls. “He’s not yours, you - ”
“Enough!” Rowan’s icy tone stops us cold. His eyes blaze, forcing me and Bianca to look away. “I am no one’s” he states, his face stony.
“I - ” Bianca’s trembling voice dies away. She swallows, instinctively backing away from his fury.
Rowan takes us in. Inches apart, about to claw at each other’s throats. His next words are laden with disappointment.
“Is this all I am to you? Something to be fought over?” Guilt coils in my stomach. “Am I just a pawn on a chessboard, to be used and manipulated?”
Neither me nor Bianca dare speak.
Rowan shoves the basket back into Bianca’s hands. “I’m done,” he says shortly.
Without a backward glance he turns and walks into the rain.
Stargirl is the winner, congrats stargirl!!!!
Yay! Looking at all the comments, I definitely should have proofread it. I think I was in a rush that day or something. Oh well, at least I still won!
Nice job to Goodnight_a as well. She might not have beat me, but her story was still nicely done and had way less grammar issues than mine.
Was stargirl A or B?
They were both good, but I liked A just a little better.
Plus it Stargirl wins on the dialogue department as well
Well done stargirl.
Yes, my story was way over-clichéd. Sorry about that. I haven't had much experience with romance as a genre.
I still have a lot to improve. Thanks for all the comments. I will try to do better.
Can't say that I'll succeed...
Here's some notes I've made:
Overall if it comes down to my personal enjoyment, I would choose story A, though I do have to admit that these two entries are close. Story B reads easier with less noticeable SPAG errors while the story of story A makes a more lasting impression.
Story A gets my vote, plus it wins on the dialogue department in my opinion.
I like A for the twist and the generous spacing. Was naming a girl Bianca part of the challenge or just a freak coincidence?
A complete coincidence. Very freaky.
Yeah, I'm not sure how that happened. lol
You got yourself roped into this headache and made me put in way too much effort than I wanted to for this tournament. Chop, chop, it's time to start reading and judging. Based on the recent contest entry results, you all are way more qualified than me to pick out the shiniest thurd anyways.
Watch out for this thread too! I better expect some thoughtful feedback and not some half ass number scores. Most of the participants also had contest entries to worry about and they still delivered the works.
Oh my god. This is unironically one of the most unlikeable protagonists I have ever read in my life. Whoever’s story this is, you’re very good at writing delusional freaks, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s really a good hook, having the story revolve around such an egotistical dunce like Benson. I was invested all the way through because I wanted to see this guy fail hilariously- and that’s exactly what happened! So, a feel-good ending. The twist there at the end was pretty funny, too.
The dialogue was good, the conversation between Benson and Bianca’s date lets us know who the actual loser between the two is (despite Benson’s inner thoughts). I was glad to see Bianca properly clear things up in the end and showcase that at least one member of this family is normal enough.
All in all, this was very solid and kept my interest from start to finish, though it has its share of errors that could have been ironed out with a round of proofreading. I’d also like to commend that the fruit basket (my chosen item, smug laughter) was not only included, but a pretty relevant item to the plot all the way through.
Aha, the fruit basket is important twice in a row! My chosen element was clearly the best.
Okay, this one was… kind of a rollercoaster. Like, I rolled my eyes at the whole ‘popular guy takes an interest in unpopular girl’ thing, but then, hooray, Bianca shows up! She’s completely rude and makes me root for the protagonist, nice.
And then the protagonist gets bonkers, man, what? Both these girls are absolutely insane. They’re acting crazy. Now I’m agreeing with Bianca (the grapes aid her point), the protagonist only just met Rowan, so why is she acting like they’re an item? I’m glad he walked off, oh my god, what’s wrong with these people??
Well, this story has its share of errors, the dialogue could use some work, but this isn’t bad. I can most definitely say this one got the most emotion out of me (particularly my annoyance at these two wackos).
I’m going to give both my vote and the dialogue bonus to Story A on this one.
Both were done pretty well.
Story A: I liked the set up and the dialogue. And the twist that nods to Love Sick
Story B: The tension was pretty good but didnt do quite enough.
My vote is for Story A
All three bonus elements are present, well done! I really enjoyed the characterization in this story, contrasting the boy's goofy and wholesome demeanor with Benson's creepy egoism. However, there's a number of goofy errors in this that a proofread would catch, as well as some minor issues with tense and grammar. For example, in "he caught up to him and playfully started tackling him", it should just be "playfully tackled him" because tackling isn't a continuous action. There's also some issues with sentence structure, e.g. "The other boy looked like he was stuck between being angry and looking like a lost puppy dog while sitting down and sobbing into the hill". This sentence is a bit of a run-on, but you could just include some commas to sort out the issue: "The other boy looked stuck between being angry and looking like a lost puppy dog, sitting down, sobbing into the hill." While the wording might be a little awkward still, this flows much better than the long sentence with no punctuation. The twist was really clever, and I like it. Very CYStian.
All three bonus elements are present (although green is included a little haphazardly imo, it still counts). There's a lot less errors, and the story is overall smoother than A, but not perfect. Mainly, you use hyphens weirdly, with "building-site" and "grass-stains", which don't need hyphens at all. In my eyes, there's also a little bit of weird dash usage with "I--um--slipped" ("I, um, slipped" would work better). On the other hand, I like the tension built up through the argument and the abrupt heartbreak at the end. Also, the line about the obliviousness of boys was hilarious.
Overall, story B had more technical things going for it, but the plot of story A is great, as well as the laden characterization and the twist. This one was pretty close, but I'd say story A edges out the win and the dialogue point.