May. I’ll forever remember her name. May, the weasel of a girl who stabbed me in the back and left me for dead. Looking back, I wonder why we even became friends. Our friendship was doomed from the start, but if I were to trace back the events, it all began the first day of school.

To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement. There I was, as diminutive and quiet as a mouse, sitting all by my lonesome by the window, and surrounded by utter bedlam. Boisterous boys of all shapes and sizes wrestled energetically at the back of the class, shrieking in high-pitched voices, while the girls pursed their lips primly with unbridled distaste and flocked together, prattling cheerfully. I hated it, I hated it all! My friends were not here because I entered a better school, and neither were my old teachers around and how different everything was! I was very alone, and so very lost.

Then the light of an angel cut through the fog of despair. May, she introduced herself chirpily. She held my arm close, closed the gap between us and fired off rapidly, “What’s your name? I saw you all by yourself not talking to anyone, want to be friends?”

I gaped at her and looked down at our intertwined arms. She repeated herself readily with twinkling eyes and flashed a warm grin, and we hit it off.

It all happened so fast. We went from strangers to best friends in the space of an afternoon. It felt like she was an old friend I had known all my life. We sat together, ate together, hung out after school together – we were two peas in a pod, inseparable.

Yet one day, everything changed. She asked me to meet her after school at our usual stamping grounds – a little secluded alcove on the edge of Pasir Ris park. Like a lamb to slaughter, I obediently showed up at the agreed time. When I entered the place, I knew something was wrong. It was a warm sunny day like any other, but the place no longer felt familiar. It felt sinister. I turned to leave, but I bumped into a barrel chest and tripped, falling soundly.

“Oy, is it her?” a rough voice drawled. I looked up and cowered. It was Reuben, the notorious bully! And his cronies too, Zachary, and the other one! My blood ran cold.

“Yeah. It’s her alright,” grunted Zachary as he thumbed his phone. I caught a glimpse as he showed a picture to Reuben. It was May and I! At Cedele Café! How did they get that? I wondered dully.

“I hear you’ve been treating May real good. Treating her to meals and stuff, you’ve got a lot of money to spend, huh?” Reuben leered wolfishly. He cocked back a sinewy fist lazily and menaced, “Hand it over. Scream, and I’ll knock your pretty teeth down your throat.” I gulped, eyes wide and pulse racing with terror. I fumbled clumsily for my purse, trembling. I had no doubt the hoodlum could make good on his promises. Reuben clicked his tongue, and the other one snatched it from my hands and rifled through it.

A high, shrill voice called out: “Coz, she’s got an iPhone X too. Let’s take that too.”

My eyes widened. That was May. May stalked confidently into view and stood beside Reuben. She’s with them, I realised, as everything clicked into place. “May! How could you! I thought we were friends!” I cried breathily through streaming tears, finding my voice suddenly. I lunged at her, but Zachary moved between us and restrained me bodily. “Whoa! Aren’t you feisty!” he crowed, before knocking me to the ground. “May! Help me!” I wheezed, lifting my head, but her once cherubic face had hardened. It was as if the May I knew had never existed. Regarding me coldly, she said evenly, “It wasn’t personal.” Then May turned sharply on her heel and strode on out. And then the world went dark.

Needless to say, our friendship was over the moment she double-crossed me. Was it ever true, who could say? It certainly felt real in those happy days. But then, so did the broken ribs. Nothing ever came of the investigation, since there was no CCTV nearby and everyone involved had alibis, however I suspect it had more to do with the fact that Reuben and May’s parents were high-rolling benefactors of the school, and I knew we could not afford to press charges. In any case, I had a bag thrown over my head before they really started beating me up, so I could not identify who threw which punch. The money, petty cash it was, evaporated, but everything else was untouched. Perhaps even that would have been too risky for them. Regardless, I transferred out of the school, traumatised by that incident. May, that traitorous snake. I’ll never forgive her.

This essay was originally written for the question: Write about a bullying incident that caused a friendship to break apart.