by Chloe Tan
They came for her that morning as she was walking home from school. Fists slammed into her, and she felt someone’s warm spit on her face. She tried to wrench her arm free, but they wouldn't let go. Instead, they moved in to surround her, tightening their circle. Through the pain, she realised again how much hatred they bore towards her .
She turned, searching desperately for a break in their circle, but she was surrounded by a blur of faces -- the sun made it difficult for her. They were all from her school — a school that would never accept a pariah like her. She fingered the purple birthmark on her face, and tried to repress her tears once again.
Then the mob surged and struck at the young girl at the center. And struck again.
They had been waiting for her since the school bell had rung. They always waited at the same place at Jurong West, block 264 to do the same thing — to torment her for being different, for being ugly, for being branded with a Ribena-coloured mark across her face.
Glenda tried desperately to break free but they held her down while cruel hands smeared cheap makeup on her face. “There you go — cover up your hideous face!” spat one of her tormentors.
With that epithet, the mob left their victim sobbing at the void deck, her face a garish mix of tears and makeup.
Sobbing, Glenda tried to wipe off the makeup that had been so callously smeared on her face.
What did I ever do?
Glenda had always been the last one picked to join any group activity, to be part of any project. She was the underdog in every situation, despised because of a birthmark on her face. Curiously enough, Glenda was brighter and quicker than many of her peers —but she was never given a chance to show her athletic prowess, for she was never picked. Even teachers had asked, “Can’t you laser it off? Technology…”
Glenda, already mindful of how her taxi driver father had scrimped and saved to send her to school, refused to spend any more of his money. She did not choose to take the easy route, but chose to wear her birthmark with a badge of courage.
It was because of this choice that she had suffered.
However, that day she hoped that her tormentors would be quick, for it was the day amongst days — her admirable K-Pop idol, Jae-Min, would be visiting her school for a meet and greet session.
Glenda loved everything about her. Squirrelling away all her pocket money, she had plastered posters of her all over her bedroom.
And today, the day of all days……
“Glenda’s favourite star is coming today. Let’s see if we can do anything…”
“Please! I’ll do anything! “Just not today!” They dragged Glenda, writhing and shouting to the stairwell. They pulled out a ball of twine and bound her wrists to the pipes of the stairwell of block 264 tightly.
They had tied the knots so tightly she writhed in agony. Barely casting back a glance, they exited the stairwell, their raucous laughter echoing like cruel, hateful cries.
Time was running short — she needed to escape, and fast. She tried again and again to wrangle her way out from the knots, but it was almost impossible.
She had to make a choice.
Would Jae-Min mind the way I look?
There was only one way to release herself. Glenda gritted her teeth and thought of Jae-Min. She rubbed her wrists more vigorously against the pipe and could feel the twine grow sticky and red with blood. The pain made her even more determined to escape so she rubbed even more vigorously. Soon, her skirt was dotted with spots of crimson blood.
Finally, the twine snapped from friction — her pain had reached a crescendo but it was a choice that Glenda was happy to make.
With her wrists bloodied and blistered, Glenda ran as fast as she could to school. At that precise moment, the limousine pulled up and Jae-Min stepped out of the car door.
“Please, would you sign this?” implored Glenda. The heavily made-up star looked shocked but acquiesced to the teen that stood before her.
“I got it!” Glenda raised the autographed picture in triumph, much to the utter shock and surprise of her tormentors, who were already standing at the side of the stage.
Sacrificing herself for Jae-Min, she could also stop others from underestimating her. The underdog had managed to emerge victorious for the first time. Through the pain, taunts and torment, Glenda had chosen to be strong, and that had made all the difference. Despite the purple stain on her face that day, they could see the whiteness of her smile.