Under 18 Native Speaker WINNER — 2019







An old-fashioned instant camera reposed on the desk. It had an agitated look about it as if no one had used it for a long while. Four books leaned against each other for support and, like a ghost, a picture lay against the books. The photo was of a woman. She would probably not have been associated with beauty by most, but in her eyes was something wild and untouched by reality. On the other side of the desk, a jam jar was full of pastel pencils and in front if it a glass angel stood with its wings spread wide. Over the desk lay a blanket of dust. Neglect was made easy by grief.

Three months previously Maple’s mother had died. Her older brother had been hiding his grief by being grumpy ever since. Maple had subsequently been alone a lot. She thought about death. Where did you go? Was it painful? She didn’t want her mother to have suffered. Perhaps a handsome man in silver and white came and gently drew away the dying until he could lead them to the edge of a white forest where they would eternally play with water nymphs and mushroom gnomes and flower fairies. This thought helped Maple grieve less for her mother.

Maple hated school because people looked at her anxiously. Everyone knew her mother had died but she had never cried in class. She had never run to the bathroom in the middle of lunch or refused to do homework. She was just silent. To her friends and teachers, this had been even more worrying.

A red maple leaf fluttered on the brisk wind….