The Contest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: All Star Story Writers

Chapter 6 (v.1) - BALL GOWNS AND PIZZAS

Submitted: October 13, 2016

Reads: 270

Comments: 2

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 13, 2016

A A A

A A A

It was dread that eventually won the battle!

“If we can’t afford to host the Ball in style, then I would rather it didn’t go ahead at all,” I told Mum, who had already thrown herself into the preparations with gusto.

I was well aware that money was scarce and if we intended to host a ‘Grand Ball’ then I wanted one in the true sense of the word. I would have been quite happy to go to McDongles with a group of friends to celebrate my birthday, than put on a Grand Ball that could not live up to its name, be a total disappointment to all the guests invited and a complete embarrassment to me.

Mum looked up at me from her lap-tab. “Don’t worry Emmy, I have been speaking to some important people at a number of companies and organisations, and I promise I won’t let you down.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My day had been very busy and tiring. In the morning, I had prepared the gatehouse (now converted into a Guest house), for new guests, which took longer than usual because the previous ones had left it in such a disgusting state. After an early finish from College, I went straight over to the Mini Zoo where a queue of children waited for rides on Pixel and Digit (the rescued donkey – such a sweetie). After that, I helped clear tables in the bistro, and then served in the produce shop until it closed for the evening.

Feeling shattered, I kicked off my shoes, picked up a magazine and was curled up in an old arm chair with a hot drink when Mum walked in with a smug, “I told you so”, expression on her face.

“It seems you do have a fairy godmother after all,” she said, smiling like an angel.

I stifled a yawn. “And I feel like Cinderella, all work and no play.”

The pantomime continued. “But, Cinderella, you shall go to the Ball.”

“I’m sorry Mum, it’s been a long and tiring day. Besides, Cinderella doesn’t have big feet!”

“Well maybe I can cheer you up. I heard that Vanessa Vandetta, the popular dress designer, pays famous people to model her latest creations at public events, as a way of advertising her designs. So I cheekily phoned her up, and am really glad that I did, because she has offered to pay us a generous sum of money to ‘model’ her latest collection of ball gowns at your birthday ball, subject to certain conditions. All we have to do is promise not to use any other dress designer, and allow her to promote her summer collection at the Ball. Oh, and I almost forgot, she’s keen to make the most of the opportunity to show off her designs, so up to five of your closest friends are also included in the deal. So that’s the ball-gowns sorted.

I have also agreed a deal with ‘Buffet Boffins’ who, in much the say way, will supply the party food free of charge, provided we allow them to advertise their wide selection of party food at the ball - so that’s the buffet sorted.

Now for the best news ever! I phoned round several Editors of the most popular glossy magazines, and the Chief Editor of Incyte magazine has offered to pay us half a million cyber pounds, if we agree to your birthday ball being featured in their July edition of the magazine, again subject to certain conditions. Basically, all we have to do is promise not to involve any other magazines or newspapers and to make sure no one, other than the magazine’s official photographer, is allowed to take photographs at the ball. Unfortunately, this will mean banning all items of technology, capable of taking photos, but it will be well worth the sacrifice.

So you see Emmy, with a bit of clever bargaining, we can use our royal status to host the ball at no cost at all, in fact we will definitely make a nice profit.”

“Well done Mum,” I praised, genuinely stunned at her brilliance.

----------------------------------

At college, my birthday ball dominated topic of conversation.

Over lunch break in the café, Lea asked. “When do we get to choose our ball gowns then?”

“Mum’s sorting it out with Vanessa, so I’ll let you know.”

“Emm, you don’t seem very excited. If it was my birthday ball I’d be over the moon.”

Pushing tomato pasta around a plate with my fork, I confessed. “You know me, it’s not something I’m comfortable with.”

“But l don’t get it. As a Princess, you’re always on show opening this, that and the other, surrounded by the press, what’s the difference?”

“It’s a job, so I put on a front, but this is about me, my personal life being revealed in front of hundreds of people, and I’m just not that confident.”

Pen placed her sandwich down on the table. “Emm, we’ll all be there to support you. I’ve told you before, it’s going to be a fantastic night. What are you worried about?”

“I’m just worried something might go wrong. That they might not like me and I’ll look stupid in front of all the guests.”

Pen grabbed my hand and looked me straight in the eye. “Emm, you have to be more positive. You’re clever and pretty, but you’re too hard on yourself. Come on, lighten up and enjoy yourself, that’s an order, OK!”

I smiled and saluted. “Yes maam!”

“That’s more like it.”

------------------------------------

Soon, racks of ball gowns were wheeled through the palace corridors, and I invited my five friends over for a ball gown and pizza evening.

Bubbling with excitement we all made a lunge for the dazzling gowns.

Predictably, Francesca and Katy were the first to have an argument. They are by nature two very strong characters who have always had a love-hate kind of friendship. They will argue like cat and dog, but surprisingly remain really close friends who support each other loyally, and never hold a grudge.

“Hey, I had it first,” said Francesca, snatching a hideous bright red Spanish style creation out of Katy’s grasp.

“No you did not, you put it down so then I picked it up.”

 

They continued to argue, while playing a vicious game of tug of war with the gown.

“Be careful, if you carry on like that you’re going to tear it, and then you’ll have to pay for it,” I warned.

They both let go at the same time and it fell to the floor in a heap. They just stood there, looking at it, neither of them willing to walk away.

“OK, let me flick a coin,” I suggested, that’s the fairest way to decide. “Francesca you’re Header and Katy you’re Footer.”

“Gone on then,” they agreed.

I flicked the coin, watching it twirl in the air, before catching it safely in my palm.

“It’s Header, so Katy you will just have to choose another.”

I couldn’t understand why either of them would want to wear such a hideous creation, but we all have our own style.

“Actually, I think the colour suits you better than me, and I know you have a thing for swarthy Spanish guys,” Katy conceded, and with the disagreement settled, they linked arms happily, and followed their noses to the delicious smell of pizza wafting up from the table.

My eyes were drawn to a strapless gown in crimson silk, and my friends encouraged me to try it on. The material felt soft against my skin. The tightly pleated bodice, edged in tiny crystals, nipped into my waist and hugged my hips, before swirling into a full skirt that fell in ruched folds to the floor. I thought the colour really suited my skin tone, and when I looked in the mirror, for once, I felt glamorous and confident.

 

“Well, what do you think?” I asked, interrupting the girls’ frenzied activity.

They looked up and just stared at me, mouths gaping.

“Oh, that bad is it?” I said, disappointed at their reaction.

“No, no, you look absolutely stunning,” replied Grace.

“Just beautiful,” enthused Katy.

Not used to such gushing comments, I suddenly felt awkward and embarrassed. “OK, that’s me sorted. I want you all to look amazing, so come on, just get on with it!”

Grace eventually chose a fitted gown that swirled into a dramatic ‘fishtail’ in shimmering silver, flattering her amazing curves and long blonde curls. “Ooh I look just like a mermaid,” she crooned. “Maybe there’ll be a rugged pirate with rippling muscles, or a handsome ship’s captain at your ball.”

“Or perhaps a smelly old fisherman,” Lea suggested, laughing like a drain.

After stuffing herself with huge wedges of Pizza, Katy resumed her search for the perfect gown. With her creamy skin, and glossy dark brown bobbed hair, she looked a picture of cool sophistication in a classic black dress, emphasising her tall slim physique to perfection. She is renowned for her love of pizza and chocolate, which she regularly consumes in colossal quantities, so how she manages to stay so slim is a complete mystery.

Francesca, clearly trying to get into character, was now cavorting around in her gaudy red gown, in typical flamenco dancer style. With a rose clenched between her gritted teeth, she flicked the bright red frills around, stamping her feet dramatically, completely lost in her own little world.

Lea, being the biggest flirt you could ever imagine, decided she wanted to look like a goddess for the evening and chose a stunning white Grecian style gown. She is a very curvaceous girl, and I have to say that I thought it clung to her voluptuous curves far too tightly, and tried very tactfully to give my opinion.

“Why don’t you try on a bigger size, because white always shows up every bulge?”

“Are you saying I’m fat?” she retorted, obviously offended. (So, tact is not my strong point).

“No, not at all,” I replied, trying desperately to back track. “It’s your choice, you look lovely,” I lied.

She stood in front of the mirror, pouting and posing seductively. “If there are any spare princes, you can always point them in my direction.”

It was only Pen, who had tried on more gowns than all of the other girls put together, who still couldn't make her mind up.

“Oh, I’m not sure the colour does anything for me,” she whined.

“My bum looks enormous in this,” she criticised.

“I don’t do frills,” she moaned.

This went on and on until everyone got totally bored and just left her to it. At the end of the evening she chose the first one she had picked up.

Pen is tall and athletic, all long lean legs and silky, blonde hair with not a hint of frizz (not that I’m envious – well, OK just a bit). We first met when I was transferred to Cyberia Comprehensive State School, because my parents could no longer afford the fees for my private education, and where the bullying began on my first day.

“Ooh look, Her Royal Highness the Princess of Frizz,” shouted Cara, the ring leader in my class, yanking my hair viciously.

“Think you’re better than us don’t you?” she mocked, grabbing my cyPhone and throwing it to her friend, before seizing my school bag and emptying the contents over the floor, laughing hysterically.

I’m not normally a wimp, but I felt isolated and vulnerable. Tears suddenly stung my eyes, pouring in rivers down my face.

“Boo, hoo, hoo,” Cara teased. “Princess cry baby needs her nappy changing.”

“Don’t you think that’s enough, Cara?” Came a stern voice behind me.

When I looked round, it was Pen. “Leave her alone, what has she done to you?”

“Hey, girls. Penny wants to be the princess’s pet,” Cara said, her fawning friends giggling appreciatively.

Pen’s eyes flashed with anger. “Why do you always have to be so cruel? My Mum always says you get back what you give out, so one day the tables will turn, and see how you like it.”

Cara threw my phone at me, tossed back her long dark hair extensions and swaggered off with her giggling friends in tow.

Pen helped me to pick up my scattered school books. “Take no notice, she’s a typical bully, a real coward when you stand up to her.”

From that day on our friendship was sealed.

We’re both animal lovers, enjoy horse riding and, along with all the other girls, share a great passion for music and dancing.  She also has the most sensational singing voice and, being a reasonable pianist myself, I often accompany her on the piano.

Towards the end of the evening Mum joined us, curious to see the gowns that everyone had chosen.

“Why don’t you try some on?” asked Grace.

“I know, why don't you try to choose one for me?”

Grace set off on her mission and came back with a strapless gown in lemon, holding it up for her to admire.

"Oh, goodness me no, far too revealing.”

Pen picked out a pale blue delicate chiffon concoction. “What about this one?”

“What’s that all down the front?” Mum asked, taking the gown and examining the fabric closely. “It looks like someone dropped pizza down it, but if you ask me the tomato sauce and pepperoni definitely spice it up.

Perhaps I'd better have a look through the gowns myself,” she concluded, casting her expert eye over the glittering array.

She is naturally graceful and stylish and it took her all of thirty seconds to choose the one she would wear for the ball. The purple satin floor length gown looked quite plain compared to all the others, but when she tried it on the effect was stunning. The colour, bold against her short fair hair and flawless complexion seemed to deepen her amazing blue eyes, and the style flattered her petite frame perfectly.

By now, we had all chosen our gowns, jewellery, shoes and handbags, and had styled each other’s hair ready to be ‘filmed’.

“You go first,” said Lea.

“No you,” barked Tash.

“It’s OK, I’ll go first,” I volunteered.

As part of the deal with Vanessa, before the ball took place, we had agreed to be filmed walking along a red carpet in our chosen ball gowns, posing this way and that, in ‘supermodel’ style. To prepare for this, we had watched clips from Cyber City fashion week, featuring stick thin models in outrageous outfits, looking decidedly scary.

I set off in fine style, having been practicing the scary stare and trouty pout of the models I had watched. But it was during my attempt at their strange exaggerated walk, that I became unstuck. My heel got tangled in the hem of my gown, sending me sprawling head long to the floor, my big nose skimming the thick pile carpet.  Fortunately, it was only my pride that was injured, so I picked myself up and started again, but this time decided to be myself, rather than trying to be the catwalk supermodel that I was never destined to be.

The other girls had watched on in horror, while learning a valuable lesson at my expense. They each made their way along the red carpet in particularly cautious style.

By the end of the evening everyone was looking forward to my birthday ball with great excitement, even me!

 


© Copyright 2020 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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