Inspired by the glamour of celebrities and their concerts, even though I do not know what lies behind it all.

Lyrics are original.

Spotlight


The brilliant spotlight flashed onto the solitary figure on the vast stage with a dull resonation. The young singer held the small microphone in her hands, her blue-grey eyes scanning the five thousand-strong crowds in the stands. Fans waved huge signboards, fluorescent light sticks and posters wildly in the air, chanting her name, cheering and hooting and whistling and clapping. A desperate supporter even went to the extent of scrawling 'Jilyn we love you!' along a black banner in silver spray paint, and it hung on two poles placed near the back of the indoor stadium.

The pale blue flowing dress — sprinkled with fine glitter — and the small tiara resting at the top of her head shimmered beautifully in the stage lights in hues of blue and green. The nineteen-year-old smiled gently as she waved appreciatively to her fans, with shrill screams and low calls as response. Her dark blond curls shone wetly like freshly bound rope, the pink tinge on her cheeks glowing, the watery rose-coloured lipstick gleaming.

Yes, she was nineteen, yet she looked eight years younger — pure, angelic and innocent, unstained by the cruel colours of the real outside world, bringing peace to her own soul within and to everyone around her. She was a kind girl to all — the symbol of happiness, the key to Utopia.

With deafening fizzles, golden fireworks sprayed up from the sides of the stage, and the teenage fans whooped in delight, yelling madly, arms waving, perspiration dripping.

The last song of the night — her first concert ever. And it was coming to an end.

The man at the glass grand piano struck the opening chord on the white keys, playing the first few bars of the tune to her song.

Jilyn remembered. The melody sounded so familiar, it almost seemed distant, like a faded memory, refusing to move forward or die down. A wave of sadness washed over her as she fixed her gaze upon the crowd, searching, searching for the dark green eyes, all in vain.

As if by instinct, she raised the microphone to her lips. She was there, in the limelight, physically and mentally.

But emotionally and spiritually, she was far away. Far away somewhere else.

I'm standing here by myself
Alone in the midnight rain
The wind is breathing
The sky is crying
I'm alone
So alone

I'm standing in the mall
Your gaze is not there
Our shoulders brush
You rush
Not noticing at all

– – –

Fifteen years ago.

Two children, playing happily in the sandpit. A sweet-looking girl with hair tied in two pigtails and dressed in a simple blue frock; a little boy, eyes wide with curiosity and wearing an green shirt and black shorts, squatting on the sand, making sandcastles, pail after pail. Jilyn planted shells brought back from the beach onto the walls of the fortresses, and the five-year-old lined the borders with small stones, the short brown crop wispy in the afternoon breeze.

There were no words between them, only childhood bliss and the sheer joy of watching their Utopia take shape. Her dreams of growing up to become a princess; his dreams of becoming the most skilful builder in the world.

The two mothers sat nearby on the bench, smiling as they watched their kids frolicking between themselves. The one with chestnut-coloured hair did most of the talking, gesturing enthusiastically with her brilliantly ringed fingers, her body donned in designer labels and fancy stilettos. The one with her curly blond hair tied back with a scrunchie looked on, smiling politely and nodding, occasionally making small comments and looking at her daughter with fondness.

Suddenly there was a rowdy scampering as a couple of boys chased each other, running across the sandpit — reducing the dream castle to a flat pile of silica grains and broken shells — before disappearing into the distance. The parents stopped talking.

Jilyn burst out crying, hands still holding on to the red plastic pail. Her mother dashed over to her and held her in her arms. "Hush, Jil . . . there's nothing to cry about. It's okay, honey. Mummy'll make you a new one, okay? Shh . . ."

The little boy stood beside the couple and looked on. "Sorry . . ." he sniffled. And to the woman's surprise and his mother's horror, the boy leaned over and gave the girl a kiss on the cheek.

"Oh my God! What do you think you're doing, dear? Come, come here to Mummy. We'd better wipe all that grime off you . . . your clothes are soiled!" She whisked out a white handkerchief and wiped his mouth and the green shirt and the collar, giving Jilyn's mother a glare before scolding her son quietly for making that move.

The boy kept staring at Jilyn, and his mother turned his head to face him. He, however, snapped back to his trance again and the mother snapped. "All right. Let's go back home, Lester. I can't stand you looking so lovesick. And at such a young age! Go back and take a quick shower, then I'll bring you to the mall. Mummy will buy that car you wanted, okay?"

Lester nodded distractedly, all the while staring at the blonde with his wide green eyes. Jilyn blushed through her tears, and her mother just held her tightly, trying to hide her shame behind her daughter as her eyes grew red and puffy.

As Lester sat in her mother's arms he suddenly turned back and called to Jilyn, "You're my friend!" and beamed innocently, before his figure disappeared into the distance.

"We can't." The mother looked at her child, eyes shimmering. "We're different. We can never get together with them. We don't have the money. We don't have the status. We can never equal them, Jilyn . . ."

The girl listened, frowning slightly. She raised a tiny hand and wiped the tears on her mother's face. "Mummy."

"I'm sorry, Jil. I'm fine." She hoisted her daughter up and walked away. "Let's go home."

– – –

Long to be somewhere
Out of this place
Out of this world
To where music forever plays
To where love forever stays
But I'm alone
So alone

As she sang, the scenes of her childhood flashed back in her mind, one by one. And most of them — she noticed with a tinge of loneliness — contained Lester. He was around her most of the time, despite their financial differences. He was the prince, the outstanding, the all-rounder; she was the pauper, the ordinary, the inconspicuous. But they shared everything they had together — their time, their toys, their knowledge.

Despite this, Lester's mother still did not fully approve them being such close playmates. She forced her son to take piano lessons, swimming lessons, art lessons, tuition . . . until he became the perfect child genius in town, the boy worthy enough to be the son of the most influential businessman in town.

Jilyn smiled. She never had those lessons, and here she was, enjoying fame and bringing her love for singing to the world out there. That was enough to wish for.

What's the difference?

I've let my chances slip by
Promise I won't do it again
But you never came by
I chose fame
You thought love is just a game

Long to be somewhere
Out of this place
Out of this world
To where music forever plays
To where love forever stays

– – –

Six years ago.

"Mum! Dad!"

"There you are, dear. Dinner's ready —"

"Mum! I won! I won the songwriting competition!"

"W . . . What?"

"I won! I really won! I'm going to get into showbiz! I'm going to be the greatest singer alive!"

"Cool down, Jil. You won. Right." Her father mused. "What was the prize, then?"

"A thousand dollars! In cold hard cash! And then this producer from a record company . . . he . . ." she stopped to catch her breath. "He said I was really good and he liked my voice and he told me to go look for him if I wanted to audition as a singer!"

By then her arms were waving like windscreen wipers as she clutched the precious name card.

"That's great, Jil . . . that really is . . . I'm so happy for you, Jilyn . . ." her mother embraced her daughter and kissed her on the forehead; she grinned gratefully back. "That was all you wanted, isn't it?"

"Yes," she admitted. "I love you, Mum."

The woman ruffled her girl's hair lovingly. "I love you too, honey. Dinner's ready. Go eat your heart out. You too, Will. This is really worth a celebration."

"Hmm," the father grunted in reply. He flipped the newspaper, a satisfied grin on his face.

Jilyn threw her backpack onto the couch and sat down at the dinner table. Her mother scooped spaghetti onto the plates.

She picked up her fork and twirled the pasta, watching ,fascinated, as the steam rose and vanished from the tomato and gravy. Sure, this wasn't any classy meal, but the food was piping hot, and her own mother cooked it. Specially for the family. Specially for her.

She smiled.

"Hey, Sandra. Read the news today?" Jilyn's father suddenly asked from behind the cover pages.

"What about it?"

"See," he pointed at the title in bold, on page four. "Corlett Family Goes Bankrupt". He clicked his tongue and shook his head. "Sad."

Jilyn paused, the noodles paused halfway between her lips. The fork clattered on the plate. "Whmmf?"

"Yeah, that's Lester's family . . ." Sandra trailed off. "What does it say, Will?"

"Let's see . . . 'The Corlett family was declared bankrupt last week due to the economic recession and being unable to meet their employees' demands in salaries . . . The once-booming business in the computing industry has since been taken over by another company . . .' Seems like they exhausted their resources too quickly, huh?"

"Really? Are you sure Dad?"

"Of course I'm sure." He pointed to the headline. "It says so in the papers."

Suddenly Jilyn didn't feel like celebrating anymore. Lester was her childhood friend, after all. She couldn't laugh at him because of that. It would be hard, she thought, to change so drastically, from such a rich person to almost nothing. And she actually felt sorry for him.

Sandra watched as her daughter put the fork silently down. "I . . . I'm full, Mum. I'll do my dishes." She gathered her cutlery and crockery and went to the kitchen.

The sound of running water went on for a couple of minutes, then Jilyn came out. "Mum, I'll just pop around the corner to Lester's. I'll be back by around nine."

"But Jil —"

She never heard her mother's full sentence, and shut the door behind her.

– – –

"Is it true?"

The boy smiled faintly and nodded.

"Really? Are you sure?"

"When have I ever lied to you?"

Jilyn slumped into the cozy depths of the feather couch and sighed. "So . . . does this mean this house is gonna be sold?"

"Not only that. All the furniture, displays . . . even my father's collection of antiques. We'll be moving down south early next week."

They said nothing.

"We'll miss you," she said quietly. She knew the 'we' meant 'I' at the moment, but she didn't want it to sound so obvious. And it was meant to be a thought, but Lester still caught it.

And he gave her a hug.

Jilyn just held him tightly. That was their first, and their last. It symbolized their friendship over the years, the tides both of them had overcome . . . everything.

"You're my friend." The sincerity and sorrow in his voice made her want to cry. But she didn't. Not in front of her childhood friend. Especially when he should be the one who wasn't supposed to.

Metal clattered.

The two of them immediately let go of each other. Mrs Corlett looked at them in the kitchen doorway, hands holding a tray with silverware on it.

"Hi Jilyn," she smiled. Jilyn realised how much the voice had changed, from one of discrimination to humbleness. She placed the tray onto the table in front of the couch. "I guess you knew about the family business?"

Jilyn nodded meekly.

Mrs Corlett forced a smile again. "Maybe it's time we gave it up . . . I've been a really terrible person . . . I'm sorry."

"It's not your —"

"No. Accept me apologies, Jilyn dear. I know how important you are to Lester." She glanced at her son, who turned away uncomfortably. "Here, I made something for you. Guess the silver has to go too. I hope the food isn't too . . ."

Jilyn stared at the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the two cups of soda. It wasn't the usual fancy little cupcakes and pastries, or the dainty little chocolates brought back from Switzerland, or the sweet-smelling tea brought back from London. Just bread and soda.

But that was enough.

For the next ten minutes the trio ate and drank and talked. Jilyn had never felt so easeful in the exquisite three-storey mansion before. At that point of time everything — the soon-to-be-taken-down pictures on the walls, the food, the family — became so close to her. Money never came into the picture.

And after that night Jilyn never saw Lester again.

– – –

Long to be somewhere
Out of this place
Out of this world
To where music forever plays
To where love forever stays

I won't be alone
I'm not alone
I'm not alone

The entire crowd silenced down as they listened intently to Jilyn's song. The tears cascaded down her face as her voice almost broke. The pianist paused for a split second, then continued the moving tune again.

Don't break down . . . don't break down! It's your first concert, the last song! Let it end as perfectly as you can, as perfectly as you want it to! Don't flunk everything . . .

Composing herself, Jilyn continued singing, her voice floating towards her fans, like a gentle breeze over a vast green pasture, like a solitary balloon rising up into the azure sky, like a melodious major scale, the fingers flying up the flute.

Are you there, Lester?

Can you hear me?

A teardrop splashed onto her white shoes, the mirror shattering into tiny pieces of silver and glass.

I want to hear you.

I want to see you.

I miss you.

Please . . .

But the spotlight continued shining, the Utopia that she shared with him over the years fading, fading back as memories, fading into oblivion.

In the darkness of the audience, a lean figure made his way up slowly towards the stage, undaunted by the bodyguards and the yellow fences surrounding the stage.

Her blue-grey eyes turned to the left, where there was a loud commotion. The fans started protesting.

What . . .?

Her eyes fixed upon the dark green ones, widening as his true identity dawned on her.

The protectors retreated. The supporters hushed down. And Lester gradually walked towards Jilyn, the second spotlight that shone on him the minute his feet touched the floorboards merging together to form one white circle.

Jilyn stared up at him, the wetness on her face evaporating in the stale, cold air. He hadn't changed much. It was the same eyes, the same matted brown hair, the same smile . . . but he looked a lot humbler.

He was humbler, and more ordinary looking than ever.

"L . . ." Too choked up with emotions, she couldn't get the words out.

He said nothing. His hand praised up to her glittering face and brushed away the hot tears tenderly. And he kept on smiling.

"We'll always be friends, won't we?" Lester asked, his voice never amplified by the microphone in her hand, his gaze fixed on the beautiful face before him. "Friends always stay together, right? . . ."

Jilyn could contain it no longer. Overwhelmed, she threw her arms around him with a strangled cry. And at that precise moment hundreds of cameras flashed, aimed directly at the childhood couple on stage — now reunited — and fans cheered and screamed, neon streaks flying, posters swinging.

Despite being bathed in blinding white flashes, Jilyn clung onto Lester, the microphone falling unnoticed to the floor and rolling off the raised platform.

She didn't care. She didn't care anymore. Nothing mattered more than the reunion in the spotlight. Their Utopia was back, right before her eyes, and here he was, holding her in return, his face buried in the fabric on her shoulder as her tears seeped into the black cotton endlessly.

"More than that, Jilyn, I promise. More than being just friends . . ."

I won't be alone
I'm not alone
I'm not alone . . .

-fin-