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Winning Stories - Henrietta Branford Writing Competition 2018

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The Branford Boase Award for

 


Eugene and the Amulet

by Elisabeth Goldsmith, aged 13 years, Lymington, Hampshire

 

The map had led us to an old wall dressed in ivy. I reached through the leaves till I was touching the bricks and felt my way sideways. The wall continued three paces then changed from the rough touch of fired sand to the smooth damp texture of rotting wood. We pulled the evergreen curtain aside. Beneath it was a hidden door. I grabbed the heavy iron ring handle that was riveted to the ancient wood and twisted it with both hands, hoping the door would open.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I opened the door, but a man riffling through shelves certainly wasn’t it. As if sensing my presence, he straightened and turned. “Hi! I’m Eugene,” he said, offering me his hand.

There are times when the neurons in my brain move quite fast. For example, when the teacher asks me a question when I’m not paying attention. However, there are incidences where they decide to do nothing at all. This was one of those times.

I stared at his hand in shock then back up at his face. He was so good looking I felt my heart drop to my stomach.

“Well?” he asked, taking his hand back, “Are you going to tell me your name at least?”

He was a few years older than me with ruffled dark hair. I noticed his deep green eyes, sharp jaw line and luscious lips. I wondered if his personality was as perfect as his smile. Then I realised I was staring at him and he was still waiting for a reply.

“Uh…yes?” I stuttered out. What a great introductory statement, I thought to myself. He laughed and turned back to the shelves.


“Aren’t you going to tell me then?”


I blushed profusely, “Its Jasmine,” and realising I’d held out my hand too late, played it off by wiping it on my jeans. We stood in silence for a while, me wondering if I could have made a worse first impression and him still searching for something. “What are you looking for then?”

“Oh, just an amulet,” Eugene paused, contemplating. “Hey, I have an idea. Maybe you could help me find it?”

I knew this guy was attractive, but I had only just met him. “I’m really sorry but I need to do my English assignment.” A sudden thought struck me, “unless there’s something in it for me?” I winked cheekily.

Eugene smiled, and I nearly melted on the spot. “Maybe if you do this for me,” he chuckled lightly, “I’ll take you out sometime?” “Ok.” I was more than sold. “How do we find your amulet?”

Time went on and on rummaging around the shed, but the more I got to know Eugene the more fun I found myself having. He was the perfect guy: sweet, funny and handsome.

“…and then I said, ‘don’t worry your Majesty, I’ve got this’.”

“WOW! I can’t believe you met the queen, Eugene, that’s so cool!”
He shrugged modestly, “I can’t believe it either. It was such an honour to meet Queen Victoria.”

I laughed, “Don’t you mean Elizabeth?” Eugene looked slightly uncomfortable, “Ha-ha, oh yeah….silly me.”

Confused at his sudden change in demeanour, I chuckled awkwardly as well. “Anyway…I forgot to ask…what’s so special about this amulet anyway?”

Eugene smirked. “Let’s just say that it’s my ticket out of here.” I nodded approvingly, assuming he meant selling it and leaving the country.

Time carried on like that, the two of us searching and chatting more flirtatiously than would be considered normal for mere acquaintances. Just as I thought we might be soulmates, a soft shine caught my eye. “Hey Eugene, I think I’ve found something.” He crouched down next to me and if he noticed my heartbeat dramatically increasing, he didn’t say anything. “I think you have!”

I brushed away the remaining dirt to reveal the most beautiful amulet I had ever seen. A red jewel was embedded in a circle of gold and when I turned it over in my palm, I was surprised to see words etched into the back. “The bearer of this curse shall be forever sealed inside…” I read aloud but before I could finish, the charm was snatched from my palm. “Thank God I’ve found it! And in such beautiful company too!”

I brushed the dust from my jeans to hide the red crawling up my cheeks. This was the first time he had been so brazen. “Ditto.”

Eugene placed the amulet around his neck and thinking it a trick of the light when it shone red, I tried to think of how to smoothly mention our date. Thankfully, he beat me to it.

“Before we set the details of our night in stone, I have a question to ask.” He started backing towards the door with me closely following. “Shoot,” I grinned.

“What do you think about older men?” I stopped, confused. Surely, he was only in his late teens? “If it’s you, I don’t mind.”

“Good,” he said and stepped outside. I watched patiently as he held up the amulet to the light and suddenly to my surprise, he was surrounded in an impenetrable red glow. I shielded my eyes as the intensity grew and grew and just as I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, it stopped. I blinked a few times to remove the white dots, only to reveal an old wrinkled man staring at the amulet and laughing crazily. “What’s going on? Where did Eugene go?”

The man smiled at me except he had no teeth, so all that was left was rotten gums. “My dear Jasmine, don’t you understand? I am Eugene!”

“What? Don’t be stupid! Where is Eugene?”

The elderly man seemed unaffected by my growing anger. “You see, I was cursed all those years ago and forced to spend my days locked in that shed. I needed a pretty girl to find the amulet containing the spell to set me free. Then you came along and look what happened.” I felt like throwing up.

Completely oblivious to my inside torment, old Eugene continued, “I wouldn’t usually do this but,” he stopped and licked his cracked lips. I felt mine go suddenly dry. “You still up for that date?”

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long list

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HBWC 2017

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