Henrietta Branford Writing Competition 2016 - winning stories


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The Branford Boase Award for

Josie Davies  |  Devon Davies |  Elsie Leiper  |  Isabelle Mills  |  Jessica Wood  |  David Wright

What I saw

by Josie Davies, aged 13 years, Petersfield, Hampshire


Grabbing a sheet of paper, and a pencil, I started to draw what was in my mind. That’s how it worked. I would get hints of an idea in my mind, but it came together when I drew it down. I let my mind guide my hand, fitting the fragments together like a jigsaw. My hand swooped over the paper, leaving nothing out.

When I had finished, I held the paper up to the light, to admire what I had drawn. I didn’t have the greatest artistic skills, but even I could see what was on the paper. My heart leapt into my throat, and I felt nauseous, as I always did when I was excited. What I had seen, well, it was not what I was expecting.

I ran downstairs, my feet thudding heavily as I took two at a time. Flinging open the door to the living room, I leapt onto the sofa where my mum was engrossed in a book. She groaned as the cushions bounced up and down, and patted my head, to show that she knew I was there.

“Mum,” I said slowly, leaning my head on her warm shoulder, “do you remember Xander?”

My mum looked up sharply, her grey eyes piercing mine like a hawk. “I thought that we agreed that we would never talk about that person,” she said quietly, in a voice that I knew represented danger.

“Yes, but what would you say if he was coming back.”

My mum slammed down her book so hard on the coffee table that a mug toppled over, and tea spilt everywhere. I picked it up, and lifted the papers away from the spillage. Then I looked back at her, my eyebrows raised.

“If he came back,” my mum said slowly, “I’d tell him to get out, and never come back again. Anyway, he’ll never come back. God knows where he’s ended up. Japan probably.” She uttered a harsh laugh, and picked up her book.

“But mum-”

“No buts Rosie. We never talk about him. Ever.”

I got up, and walked out of the room. I know what I had drawn. There was only one place that I could go.

It was raining outside, and my trainers let in the water, as I didn’t avoid the puddles. Rain dripped down my neck, and into my shirt, soaking my back, and freezing me. I walked past all the brightly coloured houses in my terrace, muttering the colours out of a memorised habit. Yellow, peach, blue, orange, green, grey, brown.

I reached the last house (red) and turned right, heading for the woods. I was told time and time again never to set foot in the woods at night, but nothing had ever happened, apart from tripping on roots, and falling down rabbit holes.

The trees sheltered me from the rain, thick leaves taking the weight of one million droplets of water- God’s own umbrella. Like the terrace, I had memorised these woods, the shape of the trees, and the land. Past the birch, left at the badger’s sett, and right at the root that reached my knee.

Eventually, I reached my destination- a large oak tree, with boughs that leant to the floor, just begging for children to climb on them. When I put a foot on the lowest branch, my foot slipped. Obviously, the rain had still managed to get down here. I would have to be careful when climbing. A fall from these branches could result in a broken arm.

I gripped the branch with my knees and hands, and began edging my way up, moving like a caterpillar. The boughs creaked under my weight, but I managed to get up there all the same.

It was dry at the top, an overhanging branch sheltering me from the rain. I turned on my phone for light, and shone it on the walls of the tree, shining polaroids glinting back at me. I could see my own face smiling out of many of them, and my mum’s too. My dad was in a few, but they were earlier ones, when I was too little to remember. But someone who featured in all of them was Xander.

Xander. My brother. He had been my whole world, left right and centre. When I was little, he would carry me to school, and we’d sing about ponies. My mum would sing too. But when he was sixteen, he got in an argument with my mum. I could hear them from my room, shouting, words I should have never known at that age. One day, on a Friday, we came home to find five hundred pounds gone. And Xander. No note. My mum hates him now. But I think that it’s out of love.


I hear my mum’s voice, and a head appears. “Mum?”

“Darling, I know where you go, it’s my job to know.”

I wrap my arms around her, and together, we stare at the wall of photos, listening to the rain drip.

“You know, maybe I need to start over on Xander. I love him, I should have realised. If he came home, I’d be overjoyed. How I couldn’t see that- I’ll never know.”

We climb back down the tree, and walk home, my hand gripping hers as though I’m five again.

When we reach home, I see a figure, standing outside of the door. It turns at the sound of our footsteps, and reaches out its arms.



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