When Real Life is better than Fiction

Submitted into Contest #223 in response to: Write about a student reporter uncovering a university scandal.... view prompt


Fiction Teens & Young Adult Inspirational

When Real Life is Better than Fiction – Loosely based on a true story. Names changed.

“Derek, now that we’re alone, I’d like to ask you to the Homecoming Dance,” she said.

Derek Rodgers looked furtively behind him even though he doubted another Derek stood there.

“You mean me?” He stared at her, one of the prettiest girls in the college.

“Of course, I mean you. Rumor has it that you want to go to the Dance.”

Derek hung his head, his cheeks pink. ‘Rumor’ – a hyperbole! “I did want to go. B - but you can go with anyone. You don’t need me.”

“I have been asked by a few. I don’t want to go with them. I want to go with you.”

“Why me? Anyway, aren’t I supposed to do the asking?”

“I doubt you would, after all the rejections you’ve had. And the malicious way it’s been blown out of proportion by everyone.”

“It has been bad. . . So why do you want to go with me?”

She fixed her baby blues on Derek. “We actually have more in common than you think. Any boy I go out with will be thinking more of their own status than about me as a person. Same for you. You’ve been rejected by girls more concerned about how they may look, than about you as a person. Also, we both really want to go to the Dance.”

“But what do you see in me? How can I be the sort of guy you want to go with?”

“I know you’ll treat me like a lady. I’ll feel safe with you, Derek. Lets keep this our secret for now.” She left with a toss of her blonde mane.

From Derek's demeanor, his fellow students deduced that something had changed. They harassed Derek as they suspected he had talked some unlucky girl into going with him to the Dance. He wouldn't let on who.

The tale of Derek having a partner for the Homecoming Dance came to my attention. When I interviewed him a week later, in preparation for an article in the Campus Tattler - our College’s Magazine, this is precisely how their conversation went down. Apart from the articles about this event being the ones that inspired me to take up Journalism as a career, it turned out to be a truly fantastic story. It is a tale of karma which proves the more you give, the more you get back. 

I’ll explain. I first heard the scandal about this boy Derek, who should have known better than to ask any girl to the Homecoming Dance. The story became viral overnight, but not in a good way. Derek has Mosaic Down’s Syndrome. This means that only some of his cells have the typical extra instance of Chromosome 21. The other students behaved abominably towards him. No way did I want a bar of this nasty situation, for print or otherwise.

When I heard that a lovely girl had asked him to partner her, I wanted to write the inside scoop. We kept her name quiet as long as we could.

The daughter of some of my parent’s friends has this syndrome, but they didn't tell her. She constantly struggled and was put down by her father, who compared her lack of achievement with her younger brother’s abilities. She did eventually get a job as a secretary and supported herself. When her parents eventually told the truth and explained why they never told her, because of shame, she felt cheated. Instead of forcing herself to meet everyone’s expectations, she realized that she had fundamental limitations and should have had allowances made. She had genuine strengths they could have been proud of, rather than forcing her to suffer a lifetime of stress, trying to do better than her best. She shared her story with me. Hence, I understood how Derek must feel. Knowing he wasn’t like others but wanting to enjoy the same events and activities as fellow students.

When news that Derek had a partner for the Dance became common knowledge throughout our college, other astonished students speculated who it could be. When they found out, via my article, no one could believe it and were convinced she would never go through with it. But, instead of being the objects of malicious gossip, Derek Rodgers and Kelsey Stuart rose to almost celebrity status. The whispers changed, and she became the envy of all those who had refused to go with Derek. What started off as a mystery became a shock, a scandal, and then a sensation.

I ran my article on their first conversation about the Dance, which I already had notes on. Kelsey's name was finally revealed. I included a little about Derek’s syndrome and how he fared academically. Though no Einstein, he indeed held his own in class. He was known as a kind boy despite being teased a lot. I promised updates as the days counted down to the Homecoming Dance. 

Reynard News came to the college to interview them and did a sensational article about them with a beautiful photo of the twosome. He looked like a boy next door, and she looked like a sweet, unpretentious girl. 

I questioned them about the interview. 

“So, Kelsey, what reasons did you give the interviewer for deciding to ask Derek to be your partner for the Homecoming Dance?”

“I believe that Derek is a regular person who just learns in a different way. Out of all the boys who wanted to go to the Dance with me, Derek can be trusted to behave like a gentleman.”

“And Derek, why did you say yes to Kelsey when she asked you?”

“I wanted to go, and so did she. Neither of us wanted to go with the type of people who worry about how their partner will make them look.”

“I can tell you how you both look. Like a great match. We all want you to have a wonderful time. Have you got some special clothes to wear?”

“My mum is fixing up a lovely new sun frock.”

“My parents have bought me new pair of trousers, a sports jacket, and I have a shirt to wear with them. I’ve ordered a wrist corsage for Kelsey. It’ll match the color of her dress.”

“I’m sure you will both look great. What about the dancing?”

“Dancing is a good hobby for helping you learn and be coordinated. It’s a secret that my Mum has taken me to dancing lessons for a couple of years,” said Derek.

“I am impressed. What about you, Kelsey?”

Kelsey giggled. “I’m no expert, so Derek has been showing me how.”

“Go, Derek!” I said to this surprising couple.

September 23rd 2020

Reynard TV was impressed with Derek and Kelsey. They had the two of them, including Derek’s mother, picked up before the Dance. Kelsey’s mouth opened wide, and she clasped her hands excitedly when she saw a Rolls Royce pull up in front of her house. They took photos of her surprise as she came out with Derek, and he, the perfect gentleman, opened the car door for her. 

Their first stop was a nearby, expensive restaurant. The Cuisine Royale. The three grinned and effused thanks when they pulled up. With the red carpet rolled out for their celebrity entry, they took on star status as they walked towards the restaurant arm in arm. Cameras flashed.

“I was so surprised,” said Derek’s Mum. “I’ve always wanted to go there, but it’s so expensive. And we were treated like royalty.”

They were offered a dinner of their choice. 

The couple were given a souvenir copy of the menu, probably for advertising. Most students at the college wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go there. For the information of my readers, I decided to include a list of mouth-watering gourmet meals and desserts to whet their appetites.

Baby Beet with Flank Steak and salad on Parmesan topped Pain de Campagne (Steak Sandwich), Kelsey’s choice.

Beef Steaks Wellington (Beef in Pastry) with Cauliflower Steaks fried in Browned Butter, topped with Crushed Hazelnuts.

Butternut and Squash Gnocchi with broccolini and peas. (Vegetarian option)

Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Rollups with Salad. (Fancy Savory Scones)

Chicken Masala Risotto (Savory Rice)

Japanese Spiced Roast Chicken with Roasted Baby Carrots, and Bok Choy drizzled with lemon and olive oil.

Lambchops with Blackberry Chutney and Balsamic Glazed Tri-color Carrots

Macaroni and Brie with Crab. (Taking Mac and Cheese to the next level) Derek’s choice.

Pan Seared Salmon with Baked Eggplant Parmesan and Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Portobello Pot Roast – Mushroom Steaks and Roast Veges. (Vegetarian option)

Scandinavian Steak and Hassleback Potato (aka Steak and Chips), Derek’s Mum’s choice.

Seared Scallops on Baby Spinach with Spiced Pomegranate Glaze

Short Ribs with Black Barley and Mushrooms.


Chocolate Mousse, Frozen Hot Chocolate, Crepe Suzette, Tiramisu Layer Cake – Derek’s mother’s choice, Molen Chocolate Lava Cake – Derek and Kelsey both chose this one, Carrot Cake, and Apple Cobbler. Deliciously presented.

Have to comment on this fancy-sounding lunch dish. Les oefs au fromage avec crispy bacon and brioche. Any ideas? Cheesy scrambled eggs with bacon and French bread.

Yum. Eat your hearts out, readers!

After the dine, without the wine, Mum was taken home, and the couple were dropped off at the college. They walked arm in arm to the gymnasium, cum ballroom. You could hear the music from the car park. Others who arrived were intrigued that a Reynard News cameraman was taking photos, and they loved the flash vehicle. Lots of couples cheated and had photos taken of them both, with the Rolls behind them. 

The entire evening progressed like a fairytale. Not as in ‘Cinderella.’ This evening finished at 10.30 pm. 

Kelsey and Derek wowed everyone with their smooth moves on the dance floor, not like John Travolta and partner, but with enough finesse to be voted Prince and Princess of the night. They had been surprised with one gift after another. Everyone was amazed at how the evening had gone for the young couple. 

I attended as well, with my partner. Firsthand experience enabled me to write a follow-up to the Dance. Written, not just for the ones present, but also for those absent who may have doubted how well it all went, especially the girls who declined Derek and may have missed out. The prominent stars of my article are Derek and Kelsey. It was a memorable experience to kick off their college years.

Last but not least, Reynard News shouted Derek and Kelsey to a free trip to Disneyland. What an excellent reward for them both. Derek had been in despair about having a partner to attend the Dance. Kelsey chose to go with Derek for great reasons. 

Even without the added rewards, they would have had a lovely time. Two exceptional people. I felt honored to share their story. Kelsey, by her thoughtful act, had proven that the more you give, the more you get back.

November 08, 2023 08:13

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