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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2232566
Sometimes, you need friends who make you believe in yourself. Proud to win Cramp!
"You have to give them a reason to believe," Shalini urged. "Believe in yourself, then they'll believe in you."

That, as it turned out, was just what Hasika couldn't do. Believe in herself. At some level, she knew she was a better singer than Ritu. She knew she should be the one representing the school in the competition. But when it came to auditioning, she went to pieces. She got so nervous, she forgot the lyrics, she forgot the melody -- she forgot how to get off the stage without tripping over something or knocking something over.

The competition was to be held over the weekend, in the big town hall. Most of the families were planning to make a picnic of it. Watch the various events and carry food to eat, sitting on the mats scattered across the sprawling lawns. Hasika's brother was participating in the painting event, her sister had a small role in the play. She was the only one who would be with her parents in the audience.

She tried to smile as she wore her Hufflepuff t-shirt and scarf, on the big day. "I'm a Hufflepuff," she thought. "I'm loyal to my friends and my sister and brother. I'll cheer them on."

Except that she couldn't cheer her sister on.

She was sitting with her parents in the middle row, caught up in the excitement that was building around the hall, when someone spoke in her ear, "Come on out."

It was Shalini. As the lights dimmed, the two girls walked to the end of the row and groped their way to the exit. Once they were outside the hall, Shalini explained. "Ritu has a sore throat. She can't sing. You'll have to go on."

"But -- but ..."

"But nothing. the singing starts after the play is done. Sorry you can't watch your sister acting, but you've got to practise."

Unmindful of Hasika's protests, Shalini dragged her to a corner and made her sing. She dinned the lyrics into her head, she repeated the melody over and over again. She made Hasika repeat after her, line by line, verse by verse.

The voice on the megaphone said: "All those entered for the singing competition to report backstage, please."

"I haven't been entered ..."

"Yes, you have," Shalini said. "Ritu went to the organisers and had the name changed. Come on."

The wait was agonizing. Fortunately, it wasn't long, she was slated as the fifth singer to go on. Her name was called, she walked on stage, everything was a blur - the spotlight was in her eyes. That was fortunate, she couldn't see the audience. Was she going to choke?

There was a cheer building up. "Hasika, Hasika, Hasika."

She smiled. She was a Hufflepuff. Hufflepuffs were loyal, they didn't let their school down.

Could she remember the lyrics? She pictured Shalini's face singing them, and ... yes, she could.

She sang.

The rest of the evening was a whirl of excitement. The moment she liked best was when her parents posed for a photo with all their three kids, each holding up a trophy.

"Smile! Say BELIEVE," said a voice.

"Ritu?" Hasika stared. "But Ritu, you're speaking clearly. What happened to your sore throat?"

"It was a figment of my imagination," Ritu said, blithely. "Shalini and I decided to imagine that my throat was sore, to get you up on that stage."

"But -- Ritu -- you could have ...." Hasika stammered, gesturing toward the trophy she was holding in one hand.

"I couldn't have won that for the school, Haskia, and I had reason to believe you could. I had to do what was best for the team and make you compete."

Haskia's parents had heard. They pulled Ritu closer, so that she was in the photo. Her sister found Shalini in the crowd and pulled her into the shot, too.

"SAY BELIEEEEEVE ..." everyone chorused, as they posed for the camera.
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