Say "No" to Drugs
       Dusk was falling. Carris dragged her worn-out body into the musty-smelling three-room flat which she shared with her mother who worked as a cocktail waitress at a nearby bar.

       "I'm home, Mum," thirteen-year-old Carris announced automatically, as she locked the dusty iron-wrought gate and the ill-used wooden door behind her. She glanced around, then scornfully waded through the incredible mess which her mother had chosen to ignore.

       "So you're home, huh?" Carris' mother came out of the bathroom, smoking a stinking cigarette. For a thirty-six-year-old and a divorcee, Carris' mother was very attractive.

       Carris cast a disdainful look at the skimpy outfit her mother was wearing, and said, "That is absolutely awful!"

       Knowing that her mother would soon start screaming at her, Carris sought refuge in her room. Scanning her room, Carris let out a troubled sigh; her room was in the same state as her mind - immense turmoil.

Mouseover to hear her crying

       Slumping against her unkempt bed, Carris felt tears welling up in her eyes. A lump formed in her throat. She buried her face in her hands. Bitter tears blurred her eyesight.

       Life had been perfect before her father broke up with her mother. When her parents divorced, her perfect world shattered to slivers. Her almost perfect scores which ensured her a good secondary school after PSLE started to drop. For the first time in her life, Carris experienced peer pressure. It was too much for her. The heart-breaking separation of her parents, the pressure in school and her grief added up and soon, it was beyond what she could endure. She began playing truant and met Henry and his gang.

       Carris had thought that they were cool. She started to hang out with them. She was soon considered one of them.

       The thirteen-year-old shook herself out of her reverie. Pulling herself together, Carris glanced at the clock. "Six-thirty! I'd better get ready, they are expecting me at seven!" Carris exclaimed as she hustled around the room, dressing up.

       Half an hour later, Carris was at Henry's lavishly-decorated flat, flustered and excited. Henry and his friends were exceptionally nice to her, praising her looks and style. She was basking in triumph. Little did she know that trouble was brewing.

       "Hey, Cor! Come here! I've got something to show you!" Henry suddenly waved her over. Carris did as she was told, not realising what was going to happen. Henry grinned, malice glowing in his eyes.

       "What is it?" Carris asked, full of curiosity.

       "These!" Henry said in a sugary voice as he unclenched his fist to reveal some colourful tablets. "If you want to become one of us, all you have to do is to show your guts by taking these tablets!" Henry coaxed.

       For a moment, Carris was tempted to try the tablets, but not before remembering the unforgettable speech a CNB officer gave in school a few months before.

       "Drugs can come in different forms: powder, tablets, and so on. But no matter what forms they come, they are highly addictive, and they can cause the addict to suffer from withdrawal symptoms like convulsions, and jaw clenching," she seemed to hear the officer's voice.

       "No!" Carris withdrew her outstretched hand. Henry glared. "I will not take them, and I don't want to join you!" she cried as she darted out of the flat. She kept on running until she reached home.

       "What happened?" Carris' mother asked in a voice that was so full of anxiety and care. Unable to sustain her anguish any longer, Carris fell into her mother's arms and cried her heart out.

       "My poor girl!" Carris' mother was near tears herself when she heard the whole story. "It's all my fault! I shouldn't have neglected you, I'm so sorry! I never knew you were so troubled and helpless!"

       Carris looked at her mother. How old her mother looked! Lines of worry around the tired eyes and parched lips had aged her mother mercilessly. Suddenly, she seemed to understand her mother completely. She knew that no matter what happened, her mother would always be there for her.

       Henry and his gang, for once, were not as cool as they seemed to be; neither were they as important. To Carris, what could be better than having a loving and caring mother like hers?