Year 10 student, Stephanie Dundon, recently won the W.T. Mott Prize (Best Overall Exhibit) at the Whittlesea Show.
The prize is an annual short story competition and every year, English teachers and library staff encourage students to enter. This year, a number of students received ribbons for their stories and Stephanie took out the major prize.
Stephanie has always enjoyed writing and has considered English her favourite subject since primary school. Her short story, 'What Once Shone' was originally an English assessment, but her teacher was so impressed with it that she encouraged Stephanie to enter it into the Whittlesea Show. She was very happy to win the prize because she really liked the concept and message of her story which touches on a heavy teenage issue.
Congratulations to Stephanie and all who received ribbons at the Whittlesea Show.
Read the short story below:
What Once Shone
by Stephanie Dundon
The music pumps loudly as it echoes through my ears. The red cups vibrate on the table shaking side to side. The lights flash different rays of colour, changing every two seconds into a new vibrant beam that sprays across the room, lighting up the faces of the youthful throng. Their teeth glow as their smiles glisten with happiness. The sweat drips, covering my body that is squashed amongst the sea of teenagers bouncing up and down to the rhythmic music.
I scan through the rainbow of lights. I see Lola, shining like a beacon in the gorgeous red dress she has been dying to wear. It wraps around her body, showing her perfect figure and long legs. Eliza is in the corner with Brett, chatting away and curling the ends of her hair with her perfectly manicured nails. Aria is floating around the dance floor finding someone new to cling to and flirt with. Her body sways to the music with the grace of an angel. Somebody nudges past me, brushing his or her hot skin onto mine. It is Lola. She has miraculously emerged from the crowd of people on the dance floor. She gives me a cheeky smile, her warm hazel eyes sparkle.
“You ready to go Jess?” she yells over the music.
As I wander outside, the crisp air hits my face and the street light flickers at the end of the court. Moths dart and weave in the glow. Behind me, the music beats in a steady rhythm and I can hear laughter in the distance. I notice the weary body language of a group of teenagers down the side of the house passing around a glass bottle. Footsteps approach me. Lola, Aria and Eliza are all standing there. I turn to see Lola on the phone.
“Hey, how far away are you?” she speaks into the phone while the other girls whisper about Brett.
I stand awkwardly playing with my fingers, fiddling with each one until I hear the satisfying crack.
“Ok no worries, see you in a few…”
Lola walks up to us.
“Nick will be here in like, two minutes,” she says, smiling.
We wait patiently on the curb. I stare at all the little creatures crawling around on the road. I think about how their lives are about to end from the car wheels that will be rolling up anytime now.
“Jess come here and sit” Lola demands “Eliza has so much gossip!”
As I approach the group, Eliza exhales loudly as if she is trying to tell me to leave. Eliza has never liked me. Ever since I came to the school, she has been giving me a hard time. She feels threatened because she is afraid Lola, the most popular girl in the school, likes me better.
I hear the screeching sound as polished wheels turn the corner. A navy Subaru Liberty, with dirt on the front from the dust on Lola’s driveway, pulls up in front of us. The music pumps through the car and spills out onto the street. The window rolls down and reveals a brown haired boy with blue eyes, Nick, Lola’s older brother. As I bend down to look inside, I see another face. A boy with blonde hair and green eyes. They smile and wave at us to get in. As I open the heavy car door, I look over the car once again and notice the bright red square in the left corner of the windshield. It has a large white ‘P’ in the middle, and suddenly my heart starts to beat faster. I count the number of people sitting in the car. Nick and his friend in the front and Lola, Eliza and Aria in the back.
“Uhm Lola, how am I getting home?” I quietly say.
“Oh my god I forgot! That’s alright, we can just squish, can’t we Nick?” she asks.
Nick nods and twists the knob causing the loud sound of Band Perry’s ‘If I die Young’ to soften.
“Uhm are you sure? We are already overloading, and I don’t want to get in tr…” Nick cuts me off.
“It’s fine. We will take the back roads,” he says curtly.
I can hear my mum’s voice echoing in the back of my head, ‘Don’t overload in cars…It’s dangerous and illegal!’
I try to block it out, but it keeps bouncing through my head.
“Jess… Jess… JESS!” Eliza yells waking me from my trance.
“Are you coming or not? We have to get home before midnight, so… what’s it going to be?” Lola asks.
My heart feels as if it is going to burst out of my chest. The questions run through my brain ‘Do I go? Do I stay? What if we get pulled over?’
My palms explode with sweat and I can feel the urge to hear that satisfying crack of my knuckles again, that will relieve my anxiety.
I watch as the navy Subaru Liberty with freshly polished wheels, speeds down the court, lifting a cloud of smoke and leaving me with the smell of burnt rubber. The music coming from the house behind still pumps loudly, mixing with the sound of insects lingering in the night sky. I look down at the brightly glowing screen in my hand. I open my messages and text my brother Will to come and pick me up from 76 Drysdale Road. He replies ‘I will be there in 5.’
As I sit and wait a notification pops up on my phone. A message from Lola.
‘Hey gorg, sorry about that little mix up before. There has been a change of plan so, get whoever is picking you up to drop you at Aria’s because we are all going to sleep there tonight instead of mine. She only lives, like 1 sec away from your house! See you soon xxxx’
‘No worries.. my brother is going to be here anytime now so I will be there soon xx’ I reply.
As my brother’s shiny black Jeep Wrangler pulls up to the curb, I watch all the insects quickly run for their survival or to their death. I climb into the car and we drive away. My brother begins to ramble about all the idiots that he has to work with. I nod and smile making it look like I am interested. I am still texting Lola as he talks on and on. As we turn a corner, I get a snapchat message from Lola, of her and her brother. I reply with a photo of me and Will. I send another photo of myself and ask ‘what time are you getting picked up tomorrow? x’ I sit and wait for Lola to reply. I listen to the music playing in the Jeep. Will continues to talk as I count the minutes until we are home. A few minutes pass and I still have no reply from Lola, so I text her again. ‘What time are you getting picked up from Aria’s, in the morning?’ This time I send the same message to Eliza as well. I look out the car window and count how many white cars drive past us. 9, 10, 11, 12… I turn my phone on again and check my messages. Still no reply from either Eliza or Lola. ‘Maybe they have no service’ I think to myself.
Something catches my eye. I look up from my phone to see flashing lights. Blue and red lights glow in the distance. As we get closer I realise there’s been an accident. I make out a car that seems to have a tree growing from its crushed belly. Emergency services begin to redirect traffic and as we edge closer a shocking realisation sets in.
There, right in front of me. I can see men in reflective high viz clothing hurriedly wheeling a stretcher towards an ambulance. On it there is no mistake; the same red dress that once shone like a beacon.