Look at those cheeky little faces. When we hit the ‘Publish’ button on them this morning, we were struck by a sudden chill of misgiving. What fate would befall those poor mites in your terrifying, talented imagination-lands?
We just didn’t know.
But turns out we needn’t have worried. You actually turned out a whole bunch of beautiful, nostalgic stories – mostly melancholic, admittedly, but all very wonderful.
And here are the two most wonderful of all:
RUNNER-UP: Sharon Telfer
“Look, Daddy, look!”
She strains upwards, on tiptoes, arm, fingers, whole body outstretched, willing him to see.
The black pebble gleams in her starfish hand.
“I found some jet.” She plants it in his palm.
“That’s not jet!” Her brother pulls at his sleeve, trying to get a better look. “It’s not, is it, Dad?”
“Well, it does look like jet.” Unlikely, he thinks, and too heavy. “Let’s see what else we can find.”
They lean their long shadows over the pool. He takes his daughter’s hand. Her sea-wrinkled fingers curl round his like suckers. Last summer, he had held onto her brother as tightly. Now the boy crouches at the edge, old enough to balance on his own.
The green weed sways softly. A crab scuttles under the overhang. He names mussels for them. Barnacles. Sea squirts. They giggle at the words. Twice a day, he says, the waves come in and wash the pool clean. No one but them will ever see it just like this again.
He glances up. The tide has turned, sooner than he’d expected.
“I know what we should try to find now.” They look up, their faces like sea anemones, opening for what he will say next. “Mummy! And what was Mummy going to get?”
The boy is already away. Hoisting his daughter onto his shoulders, he strides after, calling warnings of seaweed and slippery rocks.
The pebble, drying now to grey, lies forgotten, as the tide creeps in behind them.
WINNER: Jude Higgins
Are We Nearly There?
You’re off to the seaside because you don’t know what else to do since he left. Sissy knows she shouldn’t ride in the boot with her beach ball but you won’t stop her. You’re just glad she blew the ball up herself. You refuse to take over that role as well.
All three kids look happy enough in the photograph. That’s a plus. It will be different when you get going. These days, they’re quiet in the car – even Finn, who used to sing all the time. You’ll keep checking the mirror and see him sucking his thumb, hear the girls playing Angry Birds on their iPads.
You’ll drive on and on through the mountains, past fields of lambs, past that stream where you had the picnic last year. Back then, he helped Finn catch a minnow, and pointed out the Red Kite gliding on a thermal. You’ll see a hawk yourself, but you won’t know its name. When you switch the radio on to blur your thoughts, Amy Winehouse will be singing Rehab. It always makes you think of him. Because the kids aren’t looking and asking, you’ll be the first to glimpse that line of darker blue on the horizon.
You’ll wonder if you’re nearly there. If you’ll ever arrive at a new place.
Wowza. Congratulations, Sharon and Jude! And thanks to everyone who entered. You were a delight as always.
Happy weekends, happy writing!