As I trudged into the classroom, sweat beaded off my brow. I slumped into a seat, disheartened. How was I going to pass this examination? Mathematics was my worst subject!
“So… how much are you aiming to score for this exam?” my best friend, Arielle, asked as she slid into the seat next to me. I hung my head morosely, refusing to look at her.
She must have noticed my defeated expression, as she patted my back comfortingly. “Don’t worry,” Arielle chirped. “You studied very hard, didn’t you?”
Too afraid to tell her the truth, I sighed and said nothing, staring blankly into the distance.
Right then, the teacher strutted in, the click-clacking of her heels resounding through the soundless classroom. “Okay, class. I am Miss Anna and I will be your invigilator for your Mathematics examination,” she announced. Miss Anna studied each and every one of us with her steely blue eyes.
I shrunk under her gaze, staring at my feet. Remaining silent, I looked away as Arielle shot me a concerned glance. Miss Anna soon began to read out the examination rules. “Cheating is a serious offence. A pupil is considered cheating if – ” she droned on and on monotonously. As I side-eyed Arielle, I could see that she was hanging on every word the teacher was saying attentively, without a hint of disinterest.
After what felt like an eternity, Miss Anna finally started issuing the examination papers. I began to hyperventilate. “No… please let this be a dream… I barely studied!” I prayed under my breath, twining my fingers together and squeezing my eyes shut in desperation. I opened them a moment later, and the examination paper glared at me.
“It is eight forty-five, you may begin now, “ the dour teacher called out, striding towards her table. Unlike the rest of my classmates, I hesitated before flipping the paper open with my clammy fingers. The questions looked oddly familiar, but I did not know how to answer them!
The evil examination paper seemed to be laughing mockingly at me. As my heart thumped faster and faster, hopelessness brimmed in my eyes.
Just then, an idea popped into my head. Not only was Arielle my best friend, but she was also the brightest in our class. Would she help me?
I pushed the impulse away. Arielle has always been my moral compass who gave me sagely advice. Of course she would not help me cheat! For once, I wished that she was not so rule-abiding.
As I scribbled my answer to the first question, I started to swivel around desperately. My eyes drifted towards Arielle’s paper and I realised that she was at the same question as I was. She finished it swiftly before moving on to the next question.
Lady Luck was smiling down on me. I leaned forward as if I was attentively studying my paper, but I was actually copying Arielle’s answers – word for word – stealing glances out of the corner of my eye.
Just then, Arielle snapped her head up.
Ducking my head down as quick as The Flash, I could feel my heart leap into my throat. Had she seen me? I slowly lifted my head from the table and spotted Miss Anna peering at me suspiciously. However, she merely grunted and continued surveying the other students.
When the examination finally ended, I exhaled loudly. I did it! I felt euphoria yet regret began seeping in. Heat rushed to my cheeks and my brow creased with worry. Perhaps I should not have done that. I turned to the only person who could comfort me right now, only to face her dagger eyes stabbing at me.
Arielle glowered at me, her arms crossed. “Emma, why were you looking at my paper just now?” I gulped and tried to control my quivering.
She had noticed me after all.
Arielle took a shaky breath, and angry tears began flowing down her face. “How could you do something so horrible? I thought you were an honest person!” she cried, slamming her fist on my table. Our classmates stopped in their tracks and began to murmur about the drama unfolding before them.
I looked up at Arielle, then averted my gaze in utter shame.
Arielle shot me one last hateful scowl before spinning around to look away. “Where is your integrity?” she rebuked in a hushed tone. Those words were voiced more softly, but they struck me the hardest. With that, Arielle stormed out of the classroom.
My heart sank to the pit of my stomach, and tears cascaded down my cheeks. “How could I be so foolish?” I deplored internally, biting my lip in shame. I would give anything just to tell Arielle how sorry I was.
I turned my head slowly towards the teacher’s table, weighing my options. Miss Anna was stacking up our examination papers. I thought of Arielle’s tear-stained face, and the last words she uttered to me before she abandoned me.
I glanced at the door Arielle had just walked out of, and then at the teacher who was just about to leave. There was still a chance for redemption. I mustered all my courage, swallowed my pride and made my choice, my last shot at integrity.