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Watching: Young Writer’s Competition winner Rennee Tan

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By Around DB and Life on Lantau Young Writers Competition winner Renee Tan, 15, Discovery College.

I watch. I always love to watch the children play outside. Running around free in the tall green grass, flying high in the swings. I scan the crowd for the girl with the shiny pink shoes. She’s my favourite to watch, her smile bright and her soul sparked with joy. Today, the sun glistens brightly in their hair, while their skin absorbs its warmth.

Through my stained dusty window, I see them dancing with the wind as their singing spreads my smile from ear to ear. I press my ear against the window, desperately trying to catch the lyrics to the song they’re singing. Their voices are muffled by the walls that isolate me from what seems like a different universe.

I hastily fidget with the window handle until it finally creaks open. How I long to feel the sun’s glow, to belt out a chorus and feel free. I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

My bleak, solitary house transforms into a haven of nature and tranquillity. Birds flutter around me and a soft breeze blows through my hair. I can feel the dirt beneath my feet, while the cool grass tickles my legs. This, is the world I dream of being a part of. This is…

“What are you doing!”

In a split second, this hope is lost. I open my eyes, returning to my own secluded world, the warmth reluctantly leaving my body as a chill runs down my spine.

“How could you open the window again? After all the times I’ve told you.”

My mum sighs as her eyes drift to the outside. For a moment, I saw the spark that I feel, the longing to push past the walls of this house. Yet, just as quickly as it came, the look vanishes, and her eyes turn dull once more.

My mum says I can’t go outside. She says that the people are mean. Dangerous. However much I persist that the children sing and play, laugh and smile, and don’t look mean at all, her answer remains the same.

“No, I am protecting you.”

Sometimes, the tears can’t help but flow as I wonder why I am different, why I can’t play outside. Sometimes, I laugh and hum along with their cheerful melodies. Sometimes, I am so absorbed by the fantasy that I believe I’m with them, that they’re my friends, that I am happy. The one thing that prevails is the omnipresent yearning for more. More.

Absorbed by my thoughts, I barely notice my mum walking back to her room. I am about to head to mine, when I notice the nice girl’s pair of pink shoes gleaming by the swings. All the children have finished playing and are scattering back to their houses. The shoes were left behind.

A knot grows tight in my stomach as I consider my options. Despite my mother’s warnings, there is no doubt in my mind of what I should do. I tiptoe across the rug, so gently that not a strand of yarn is changed. I clench my fists in fear as I shakily walk to the doorway, yet the wooden boards don’t creak. With relief, I rush past the mirror with such speed that I don’t even see my reflection. Without hesitation, I unlock the door and bolt to the swings. It wasn’t until then that it hit me. I was out, free. It was just as I imagined. No, more. I can see the little bugs crawling in the tree bark, hear the birds chirp, while the smell of flowers overtakes my senses. None of this can be experienced from my window, watching. Yet nothing bad has happened like my mother warned.

“Hey, wait up!”

I shout to the girl as I excitedly skip over with her shoes in my hand. I tap her on the shoulder with a grin on my face.

“Your shoes are really pretty. I live in that house right there and saw you left them.”

The girl’s eyes scan her surroundings, frantically searching for… I’m not sure… In confusion, I do the same, looking behind me. In the reflection of my window, I spot the beautiful pink shoes. Floating. But where am I? In panic, I rub my eyes and glance once more. Why can’t I see myself? A million questions race through my head as my grin fades to a frown. Panic swallows my whole body.

I drop the shoes as my body collapses in shock. Before the shoes have even hit the ground, the girl whips around and runs away, her mouth open in a silent scream. I hardly notice. My eyes are glued to the window. I suddenly realise the reality my mum has been protecting me from.

I am a ghost.

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