Yoica Van Den Bremt
I look at my watch. Ten more minutes and the award ceremony will start. Ten more minutes to decide what my future will look like. I look nervously at Céline, my older sister, and my parents, who are sitting next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I see Céline glaring at me. Obviously she still hasn't forgiven me. Understandably, I would also be furious in her place. The doubts flare up again. Have I made the right decision? I am about to do something that is very wrong. But do I have another choice? Our parents have always been very demanding. All my life I have fought against Céline. It started when we were toddlers. When she colored a beautiful house, I drew an entire city. When she reached the finals of a language competition, I just had to win the following year. It goes without saying that I also followed in her footsteps at school and decided to take the same courses. Because only the best received all the praise and attention from our parents. Unfortunately, Céline was always faster, better and smarter.
Five more minutes. I feel my body heat up and my heart accelerate. How slowly time goes. Now it's my turn to be the star of the family. I was nominated by my teacher for a national literary prize, because he found my thesis inspiring and instructive. What the jury does not know is that I only wrote one thing myself: my name.
It was a cold Wednesday afternoon in January. The exams had just finished and I only had to submit my final thesis. My entire school career went smoothly. I was the ultimate model student with almost perfect scores in all subjects. I was the one everyone was sure was going to be successful. Until that day. Because of the exams and all the other extracurricular activities, my thesis had been left behind. I only had two days to submit it and had been staring at an empty page for hours. It frustrated me that I still hadn't written anything. Céline went shopping with our parents. Maybe I could get inspiration from her thesis? I rushed to her room. Everything in there is so orderly and structured that I quickly found her schoolwork. There it was: an 18 out of 20. Disgusting! After reading through her work, I felt even more despair. I couldn't compete with this. Unless… Would anyone recognize her words? I could make some minor adjustments here and there. Everything would be fine. Voila, ready and submit!
A few days later my father received a phone call from the school with the good news that they had sent my thesis to an important literary competition. The school believed in my opportunities and assured me that this experience would open doors for me in the future. My parents were so proud. They took me out for dinner to celebrate my victory, and I was showered with gifts and love. And Céline sat there and just stared. I felt utterly happy. I would graduate in glory and maybe even win the competition. Nothing was standing in my way. Except for that gnawing feeling deep inside, which let me know I was actually doing something wrong. I doubted for a moment. Should I be honest while I still could? Before someone else exposed the truth? But no one knew what I had done, so there was no need to worry. Right?
Until one day Céline said she wanted to read my prize-winning thesis. I sat looking at her with halting breath and a trembling heart. Her expression changed and her eyes widened. "I have no choice but to like it, since it looks suspiciously like my thesis," she said icily. "Will you please not tell?" I begged. "Don't you want me to be successful?" "Successful with someone else's work?" she replied bitingly. "I believed in you, but this is so disappointing."
And now I'm here, full of fear and doubts. Next to a sister who won’t even look at me anymore. And also the proud parents of an award-winning daughter. The wrong daughter... Two more minutes. I look around the room. I see my family and friends laughing and waving, and the unsuspecting competitors and jury.
The jury compares the candidates one last time and makes a decision. I hear my name and my heart skips a beat. Here we go. Showtime! A deafening applause fills the room when I walk to the stage, with clammy hands.
I step behind the microphone and feel the nerves whistling through my body. “Thank you for this prize. I feel very honored,” I start slowly. "But I have something to confess." I hold my breath for a moment. "I did not write this thesis myself, but copied it completely from my sister." I close my eyes and feel the pressure drop from my shoulders. It becomes very quiet in the hall. I wait for the storm of reactions. Here and there people start to whisper. When I open my eyes again, I see my parents storming to the stage. "Honey, your sister died in an accident six years ago," says my mother, worried. I look at her confused. "So I wrote the thesis myself?" "Yes, of course, your sister never reached her second year," replies my father. I blink and look around the room in confusion. Looking for the chair where Céline used to be. Nobody. I search the entire row. No sign of Céline.