Military Holidays

Chapter 14. Dracula, gnomes, trolls and the Beauty Queen

Our costumes for the party had been prepared and neatly hung on the chairs in our rooms. That is my and Elmo’s costumes were ready. As for Tom, he repeated all the time that he would wear his own costume, but I hadn’t seen it done yet. We started to change into our costumes, when someone knocked on the door.

‘Come in,’ Elmo shouted.

The door opened and Gregory came into the room. He was in a bee costume, which seemed to be a little bit small for stocky Greg.

‘I think you chose the wrong size,’ I grinned.

‘Yeah, it’s a bit narrow for me,’ Greg agreed, horns on his head waved in all directions. ‘I can’t zip this thing up at the back. Can you help me?’

‘Let me,’ Tom rushed to help Greg and pulled the zip fastener up with all his might. The fabric threateningly crackled.

‘Hey, you’ll tear it,’ I grabbed Tom’s hand.

‘Be careful, please,’ Gregory panted. ‘I don’t have another costume. And they won’t allow me to go to the party without a costume, won’t they?’

‘Of course,’ Elmo said seriously. ‘You should have chosen a bigger size.’

‘We chose the costumes more than a week ago,’ Greg objected, hauling his stomach in as deep as he could. ‘It hardly fitted me even at that time. But then I intensely worked out in the gym and probably grew more muscles. So now it became a little bit small for me.’

‘If you grew more muscles, go to the party only in pants as a bodybuilder,’ Tom chuckled. ‘Stand like this,’ he assumed a pose of a bodybuilder, ‘and all girls will be yours.’

‘Very funny,’ Gregory pouted.

Elmo, meanwhile, was calmly tying to find a reasonable solution of the problem, examining Gregory from all sides.

‘Okay,’ he finally said. ‘Greg, pull off your singlet. It’s too thick.’

Gregory obediently pulled off his singlet and only then, with great difficulty, we managed to zip up his costume.

‘Let me give you a piece of advice,’ Tom couldn’t stop himself from laughing when we finished. ‘Try to stand still. Otherwise your costume will tear.’

Gregory said that he would try and toddled out of the room.

Five minutes later we all were dressed up. As I’d already said, I looked very impressive in this pirate costume. I really was pleased with myself.

Elmo put on his costume of a dwarf, which perfectly matched his height. And he received what he wanted. You would never recognize him under these bushy eyebrows and thick grey beard. He wore wide brown trousers, dark-white shirt and padded waistcoat. On his head there was a red cap with white pompon.

Tom made a really original costume, I have to admit. He managed to find loads of bandages and white pieces of fabrics, and wrapped them around his legs, arms, body and head until he turned into a mummy. A few torn pieces of bandages he left hanging loosely, what made his costume look more realistic. But he didn’t stop at it and fitted a fake eye with huge yellow pupil on his own eye. I don’t know where he had gotten this fake eye, but with this thing he looked like an one-eyed mummy or zombie, which had been sleeping for hundreds years and had just left his tomb in order to find some fresh flesh.

Liz was waiting for us near the girls’ sleeping building. She also made her own costume – she sewed a short, bright pink-and-white dress, with bouffant short skirt and puffed sleeves. That sort of dresses, which little girls wear in pictures in fairy tales books. Her hair had been done in two ponytails and she held a big lollypop in her hand.

‘Tom!’ Liz pleaded when she saw Tom’s fake eye. ‘I beg you, take this disgusting thing away from your eye. I can’t look at you without shuddering.’

‘But that’s exactly what I wanted!’ Tom laughed in a sinister voice.

We came up to the canteen when something white-faced, in a black robe flew out with blood-curdling laughter, nearly knocking us off our feet. Liz squealed.

‘Cool, hah?’ the boy smiled, baring vampire fangs.

‘Wow! Awesome!’ Tom sincerely admired. I rolled my eyes. Sometimes Tom is so childish.

‘Your costume is also pretty,’ the boy grinned to Tom and ran away to frighten girls.

A lot of different creatures were walking around near the canteen, waiting for results of the contest. There were musketeers, cats, hares, Cinderellas, pirates and Indians of all kinds and ages. One angel. Two deaths with cardboard scythes. Four demons with horns and long tails. One cow, which obviously consisted of two persons, who couldn’t synchronize their movements, and as a result, the poor animal helplessly swung around on the spot.

Fauna also was represented by several rabbits; a crocodile with a very long tail; a mouse, which was much bigger than the crocodile; and by a two-legged creature of indefinite kind and gender, with big round ears and huge belly. As Tom said, it was something between a mouse and hippopotamus. Although one of the demons later explained to us that it was an elephant, but all the same, Tom stuck to his opinion.

There were also a couple of flowers and several princesses.

Soon Gregory-bee came up to us and stared at Liz in admiration. ‘Cool costume, Liz,’ he said.

‘Oh, thank you,’ Liz beamed at him.

###

‘Okay, let’s go in,’ Elmo said, nervously pulling at his beard.

We pushed our way through the crowd and came into the hall, where most of campers were already gathered. Right on time, because at that moment Michael marched onto the stage. The crowd burst into applause.

‘Silence, please,’ he barked into the microphone.

The hubbub in the audience faded. All eyes were expectantly fixed on the stage. Marina and Mr Wang came up to Michael from the backstage.

‘Let’s greet the contestants,’ Michael went on.

There was an explosion of cheering. Someone blew into trumpets, someone else whistled and shouted. The banner with “Christina is our queen” flew up into the air.

Justin turned on solemn music and the girls walked onto the stage. They were wearing evening gowns again. Trolls, Cinderellas, and other representatives of flora and fauna clapped, cheered, whistled and shouted. The contestants lined up on the stage. Judging by their faint smiles and pale faces you could say that their nerves were strained to the breaking point.

The director took the microphone, and clearing his throat, spoke.

‘The fastidious and unprejudiced vote count has given the following results,’ he fell silent and cleared his throat again. The girls’ faces were almost white with nervousness.

‘So. The third place,’ Mr Wang said, ‘and the title of the second princess is awarded to… Helen Murray.

Helen, a short-haired girl in the tuxedo walked on the centre of the stage and bowed to us. Michael gave her a huge bunch of flowers and a small box, apparently with a mobile phone. A few girls hugged Helen and congratulated her. Sunny patted her on the shoulder. Neither Christina nor Richelle moved.

‘The second place and the title of the first princess is awarded to…’ Mr Wang made a pause, which was too long in my opinion.

Richelle? A thought was pulsing in my head, I felt a sudden dryness in my throat. Can it be Richelle?

‘Jennifer Lima,’ the director announced.

Jennifer’s support team went into raptures. A guy, apparently her boyfriend, climbed on the shoulders of one of his friends and roared “Jennifer is the best”.

‘Oh no,’ Liz clapped her hand to her mouth. ‘If Christina wins, Richelle’ll go mad. I’m afraid even to think of it.’

Jennifer, beaming, took a huge bunch of roses from Mr Wang. Two counselors carried a big box with stereo system on the stage, and put it next to the first princess. Her friends were bellowing in admiration. A few girls, except for Richelle and Chris, dashed to hug and congratulate Jennifer. The audience cheered and clapped.

‘The title of the beauty queen,’ Mr Wang began when the applause went down, ‘and the main prize – laptop, is awarded to…’ Mr Wang fell silent, checking the piece of paper in his hands.

My heart froze. It must be Richelle. It just must be Richelle, because in my opinion all girls who deserved to win had already won. There were only two girls on the stage and in the whole camp, who were worthy to become the beauty queen. Richelle and Christina.

Everyone in the audience fell silent. All eyes were fixed on the stage. Liz and Elmo were staring at the stage, Liz with her hand pressed to her mouth, and Elmo pulling at his beard.

Not Christina! Not Christina! I repeated to myself. It must be Richelle. Oh, god, let it be Richelle!

‘Is awarded to…’ Mr Wang went on stretching the pause. ‘Alice Chan!’

My heart fell down into my shoes, my jaw dropped. Tom yelled deafeningly. So did Liz and Elmo.

Sunny walked on the centre of the stage. To tremendous applause Mr Wang handed to her a bunch of roses and solemnly put the silver tiara on her head. Then he, Marina and Michael shook her hand. Michael gave her a box with laptop. Sunny was beaming. Despite all her assurances that she didn’t care if she win or not, it was obvious that she was happy. Tom was dancing up and down on his seat, shouting Sunny’s name.

All of a sudden a sharp, clear exclamation came from the audience.

‘The voting wasn’t fair. Who would vote for this midget?!’

Everyone turned to this familiar voice, which without doubt belonged to Victor Wilson. But it was just impossible to understand where Victor was in this dressed-up crowd.

‘Where’s this bastard?’ Tom turned in all directions.

‘Over there, I think,’ Liz pointed at a gang of trolls.

Right at that moment one of the trolls yelled in a voice of Victor’s best mate, ‘the queen is phony!’

‘So they are trolls now,’ Tom growled. ‘Okay, let it be this way,’ he went on threateningly, ‘I’m going to make them trolls’ faces. I promise, they won’t even need to wear masks!’

‘Tom, no! Not now!’ Liz clutched at his hand. ‘Please, you’ll spoil the party!’

‘Who cares,’ Tom shook off her hand. ‘Why these stinky trolls are allowed to spoil the party and I am not?’

‘Because they are stinky trolls,’ Elmo said reasonably. ‘It’s their nature. Don’t be like them.’

‘Okay, we won’t be like them,’ Tom agreed. ‘But all the same, I’ll punch this bastard Wilson later.’

‘You’ll punch him,’ Gregory-bee slapped the mummy on the shoulder. ‘But after the party.’

‘Okay, fine,’ Tom agreed reluctantly.

I didn’t take part in this argument. I guess I was too thunderstruck. I couldn’t believe it. Okay, I thought that Sunny could become one of the princesses. But to become the beauty queen… I absolutely didn’t agree with it!

Mr Wang and Michael, meanwhile, began to hand out consolation prizes, which were consisted of cosmetics and perfume. Then Mr Wang took the microphone to say a few concluding words.

‘The best girls won,’ he said. ‘But I’d like to point out that all girls here are beautiful and smart,’ he waved his hand to the half-circle of participants. ‘So I want to congratulate you all on the end of your holidays here and I do hope that you’ll visit our camp again. Now. As you know we promised to give a prize for the best and ingenious costume. Our dear queen and two princesses will discuss it and choose the winner. Now, let’s start the party!’

The girls waved to the audience and went off backstage.

‘Come on,’ Liz said. ‘We should congratulate Sunny and console Richelle.’

‘There she is,’ Tom shouted, pointing to the left. ‘Hello, dear queen!’ he yelled, running up to Sunny and hugging her.

‘Congratulations, Sunny,’ Liz said, quite heartily, also hugging Sunny on the other side.

I politely smiled at her and muttered congratulations. Now another question was bothering me. Where’s Richelle? She wasn’t anywhere in sight. Knowing how much Richelle wanted to win this contest, I could imagine how she must have been disappointed and upset.

‘Sunny, do you know where Richelle is,’ I asked, tearing Sunny from Tom, who couldn’t stop admiring her.

‘She didn’t say anything to me, just quietly went out,’ Sunny replied. ‘I don’t know where she was heading for.’

‘I’ll go to look for her,’ I sighed.

‘I’m with you,’ Liz suggested.

‘No, I’d better go alone,’ I objected. ‘Liz, she didn’t become even a beauty princess! Can you imagine how she feels now?’

‘I know,’ Liz nodded. ‘But all the same I can’t let you go on your own. She’s my friend after all.’

‘Er…Liz, you promised to dance with me,’ Gregory made a faint effort to stop her.

‘Greg, I’ll dance with you when I find Richelle, okay?’ Liz smiled at him.

###

Liz and I searched the whole building, but didn’t find Richelle. Then we went outside and went to look for her in the camp. The night was quite warm. The campers were walking here and there. We walked on and on around the camp, but Richelle wasn’t anywhere.

I was really starting to worry. So was Liz. All people were in costumes, who knows which of them were Wilson’s guys. That is we knew that they were trolls, but there were a lot of trolls of all kinds, and besides, Wilson and his friends could have more than one costume.

There’s no need for Wilson to do something to Richelle, I tried to calm myself down. She, as well as Christina didn’t become even a beauty princess. If there was someone Wilson wanted to have revenge upon, it was Sunny. Though, at the same time I realised that it was silly. Even Wilson and his stupid friends could understand that Sunny was a hard nut for them to crack. Even in the beauty queen dress she could defend herself. But Richelle was another matter.

So when we finally found Richelle behind the football field I felt a great relief. She was sitting on a bench, clasping her hands around her knees. Her shoes were on the ground nearby, the long train of her dress hung down from the bench. Liz and I glanced at one another. We knew that Richelle were crying. We knew how much she wanted to win this contest. Liz sat down on the bench and put a comforting arm around Richelle.

‘Richelle, the contest isn’t really important,’ she mumbled.

I rolled my eyes. Do you understand what you’re saying, Liz, I thought. Maybe the contest isn’t important for you, but for Richelle it’s a matter of life and death.

I was right. Liz’s words didn’t soothe Richelle at all. Quite the opposite, she burst into tears again. I sat down on the bench on the other side of Richelle.

‘Liz, leave us alone, please,’ I whispered in Liz’s ear.

Liz glanced doubtfully at me. I nodded.

‘I’ll…er… I’ll go to look for the others’, she stood up, and giving me the last glance, walked away. I put my arms around Richelle’s waist and pulled her towards me.

‘They all are wrong,’ I whispered. ‘You’re the most beautiful.’

‘No, I’m not,’ she sobbed in my ear.

‘Well, Christina didn’t win either,’ I said. ‘She’s not even a princess.’

‘What has Christina to do with it?’ Richelle sniffed irritably.

‘What do you mean?’ I raised my eyebrows. ‘I thought you didn’t want Christina to be the beauty queen. So you didn’t win the contest, but at least you didn’t lose to Christina!’

‘I don’t care about Christina,’ Richelle repeated. ‘Don’t you understand? Sunny is more beautiful than I am. Sunny! Do you understand that this short, plain girl, who doesn’t even try to care how she looks is more beautiful than I am?!’

‘Rubbish,’ I objected. ‘It’s just luck and nothing more. If this contest had based only on appearance, you would have won it for sure. But there was an intelligent competition…’

‘Are you saying that I’m stupid?’ Richelle shook off my hands.

I was confused. ‘No, I’m not saying that you’re stupid,’ I mumbled. ‘I just meant… I mean your questions were stupid. And anyway, who cares what all these people think. The main thing is that I think that you’re the most beautiful, isn’t it?

Richelle looked up at me, her big blue eyes were gleaming with tears. My words obviously didn’t make her feel better, but at least she smiled weakly. I kissed her. At this moment she seemed so… defenseless and weak. I squeezed her waist, pulling her towards me.

‘Come on,’ I whispered in her ear. ‘They will be choosing the best costume soon.’

###

We made our way to the girls’ room where Richelle changed into her costume of a princess. I helped her to zip up the dress, then waited until Richelle did her hair and makeup. When she finally turned to me, I have to admit she looked amazingly beautiful. White-and-blue dress matched her blue eyes and golden hair, the corset emphasized her perfect breast.

Together, hand in hand, we went outside and headed for the canteen. There we quickly found Tom and Sunny. In ultraviolet beams Tom, in his white mummy costume, was like a bright white blur. Liz was dancing with Gregory not far from them. Elmo for some reason wasn’t in sight.

Richelle nudged me in the ribs and pointed at Liz and Greg. Gregory leant towards Liz and slightly kissed her.

‘Liz isn’t wasting time,’ Richelle whispered in my ear. ‘Last night I told her that Greg really seems to like her and that she shouldn’t miss her chance. Why suffer because of Tom if there’s someone who can help you to forget him.’

In the centre of the dance floor the cow was awkwardly dancing completely out of beat of the music. The crocodile was dodging the cow’s clumsy legs. Next to them the huge mouse was making inconceivable twists and turns.


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