Who would have thought things would turn out like this? Nevertheless, I still believe what I did was right…
It was recess time and I hurried towards the toilet, on having a call of nature skidding a few inches as I braked outside the entrance of the lavatory. I turned right and strode into the toilet. There, I halted abruptly. It was our school’s bully, Tom, standing in the toilet.
Tom had unkempt hair and sported a long fringe, which covered half of his face. His shirt was half tucked out and was badly creased. Teachers had advised him about his untidy attire countless times before, but their words fell on deaf ears. Tom had a permanent marker in hand and was scribbling furiously on the walls and doors of the toilet. My jaw dropped. Tom threw me an if-you-dare-to-tell-anyone-I’ll-murder-you look. If stares could kill, I would definitely have wilted on the spot. Horrified and flabbergasted, I inched away from Tom and hurriedly did my business. With sweaty and clammy palms, I scampered out of the toilet hurriedly.
Once I was out of the toilet, I was at sixes and sevens, debating whether to report the vandalism to the discipline master. After all I was the assistant head prefect and it was my duty to report any wrongdoings. After a few minutes, I came to a tough decision- I would not report this matter. The reason I would give when I was found out would be that I decided to let him off, but deep down in my heart, I knew I was to cowardly and afraid that Tom would get back at me for revenge.
Not long after, the bell that signalled the end of the recess rang and my classmates and I filed into the classroom. Mrs Lim, our Maths teacher had barely begun the lesson when Mr Suresh, our discipline master, strode into our classroom.
“Ahem,” he cleared his throat, and continued,” boys and girls, may I have your attention please. It has been discovered that the toilet on this level had been vandalised by a student. The disciplinary board has decided to search your class for a permanent marker, which was used to vandalise the toilet, first as your classroom is just beside the toilet where the vandalism took place. However, before we begin the search we would like to give the culprit a chance to own up. If he or she is repentant, we will not deal with him or her as harshly. But if the culprit does not own up and is found guilty, the punishment will be very harsh indeed. Now, who would like to own up?” Mr Suresh questioned, narrowing his beady eyes and scrutinising every student.
A murmur of hushed whisper was heard as the students wondered who had done it. I glanced at Tom, and saw that he was frowning and kneading his hands in anxiety. Bead of perspiration trickled down his face as he stared hard at Mr Suresh.
After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Alex, a good friend of Tom suddenly stood up. I was agog in disbelief and my jaws dropped. How could Alex own up for something he did not do? I glanced at Tom and saw that he looked guilty and at the same time relieved, and was hanging his head down in shame.
“So it’s you, young man. Follow me,” Mr Suresh commanded in a stern voice.
There was ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the class as they saw Mr Suresh leading Alex out of the classroom. I was furious at Tom! How could he allow Alex to suffer the harsh punishment, which was meant for him? My eyes saw red and were fuming mad! Miss Lim continued the lesson, but I could not take anything in. I was too occupied and distracted.
At the end of the day, when class was dismissed, I saw Alex shuffling out of the HOD room and rushed over to catch up with him without hesitation. He smiled when he saw me, and told me his punishment was only to do community service for a month during recess.
“Actually, Mr Suresh is hard on the outside but soft in the inside,” he told me humorously, chuckling.
I started to bombard him with questions and finally, he explained it all to me. Alex patiently told me that he knew it was Tom the moment Mr Suresh mentioned the matter but he decided to take the blame with a reason. Tom came from a poor family and his parents were divorced. He lived with his father who was a drunkard, and he beat him up whenever he was down, sometimes with a belt. Tom was very depressed as he wanted a loving and complete family but that was impossible as his mother had remarried a typhoon from Taiwan a few months ago. When he could not take the beatings anymore, he found a way to vent his frustration and that is through vandalism. After he had done it the first time, he found out that it worked and that was why he had committed vandalism the past few times. At first when Tom first knew Alex, he had confided freely with him and poured out his heartfelt pain and agony. As he had been warned by Mr Suresh that if he were to break another school rule, he would be expelled, so Alex decided to take the blame.
After listening to Alex’s story, I was both touched and awed by Alex. He was loyal beyond words and so willing to sacrifice for a friend. If it had been me, I was sure I would not have done that. I promised Alex I would not spill the beans to anyone, and went home.
The next day, when I arrived in school, Mr Suresh signalled me to go to the HOD room with him. Puzzled, I followed him. To my surprise, I saw Alex waiting in it already.
As I turned out, the matter about the real culprit has been exposed, and I was stripped of my prefect role. Of course, I was depressed at first, but not for long. I did not regret my choice for my prefect tie was a small price to pay for the self-sacrificing lesson I have learnt from Alex.