Henrietta Branford Writing Competition 2015 - winning stories


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The Branford Boase Award for

Charlotte Avery  |  Grace Christopher  |  Henry Jobling  |  Isobel McArthur  |  Alexia Sloane  |  Makkenzi Smith

Alone with My Thoughts

by Charlotte Avery, aged 12 years, Waterlooville, Hampshire

It was the third day with everything missing. Mum was missing, my big sister, Lol, missing, my little brother Rudy, missing. The Hardwicks from across the road and their people carrier; Caribou from next door and her seven cats; Jock and Ina from the shop below, their tiny baby: missing.

I had explored our cul-de-sac, but it was like walking through a dream. The semi-detached houses were empty, some with their front doors wide open. Toasters cold. Kettles unboiled. I’d stood at the end of Park View Crescent and shouted until my throat felt torn.


Is anyone there?


Never in my life had I felt such a desolate feeling of helplessness. I felt so very alone, isolated like an empty bottle bobbing in a vast ocean. Everywhere I looked, things were so familiar, yet completely wrong.

I raced back home, tripping as I always did, on Rudy’s silver scooter, and ran through the door, slamming it shut behind me.

I tried to catch my breath, both feeling and hearing the hammering in my chest as my heart and lungs fought to suck air back in fast enough. It made my head spins.

I wondered if I was going crazy.

Why was I here all alone?

Where was everyone I needed?

Why would Mum leave me here to fend for myself?

I struggled to focus on thoughts that were normal, mundane, annoying even, just to test my own sanity. I remembered it was only a few days ago that I stood in this very spot in the hall as I hollered at Rudy for using my best lipstick to add fake blood to his Halloween costume.

He wanted to go as a zombie and had smeared my Maybelline Ravishing Rose all over his sheet/zombie outfit. I could not believe that he had ruined my best lippie and had screeched at Mum as she defended him saying that it was left on the bathroom floor for weeks, he probably thought it was rubbish! Seriously, I knew it was there.

Typical Mum, always protecting Rudy, she never sees any wrong in him, but plainly he is selfish. Like when I came in from shopping on Saturdays and wanted to turn over the TV, he was only watching some stupid science programme, but Made In Chelsea re runs were on the other side! And whenever I tripped over that stupid stupid scooter, my Mum would always say I should look up from my iPhone and take care when I am walking – like it was my responsibility!!! Jeezzz – how does she expect me to read my Instagrams and text back and watch where I am going! Rudy is a walking health hazard!

I tried to remember the last time I had seen each missing person, apart from Rudy as I knew he was when I was screaming at him, and one by one the memory of each of them reappeared in my mind.

I had seen Caribou out in the street last week. It was a warm, sunny morning and she was sat in her wicker chair, Floops and Bubbles, two of her cats, lounging purring on her lap. “Hello Bex, lovely day isn’t it – how are you?” she said with a huge, encouraging smile – just as my friend, Lexie, walked up. Lexie giggled as she took in the sight of Caribou in her huge colourful kimono and massive dangly earrings.

“Fine” I said, embarrassed, looking away. I darted off with Lexie, giggling as she made fun of Caribou.

Then there was Jock and Ina. I was supposed to babysit for their baby, Johnson, two nights prior, but I cancelled at the last minute saying I had homework. This wasn’t quite true, it was actually because I wanted to watch the final of ‘The Voice’ and then text all my friends about the result, I couldn’t believe Stevie beat Emmanuel – oh, the travesty!!

Jock and Ina went out every second Saturday evening to visit Ina’s close friend, Sarah. Sarah was a single parent and Jock would babysit for her whilst the two women went to the cinema on a 2 for 1 deal or the like.

What a waste of my time - I mean, Sarah is a single parent, she has loads of time to watch films doesn’t she? Like, all day!

The Hardwicks, well, that was quite a while ago. In fact, I think the last time I spoke to them was when I needed a lift to town to meet up with Lexie and Stacey. I probably should have said thanks, but they would have known I had meant to, why wouldn’t I?

Ok, now family, Lol, well I saw her three days ago when she was getting riled at me for borrowing her Topshop leather jacket. I had spilt coke on it, but that was ok – it was just a little bit and Lol worked weekends so she could easily get another one I had reasoned.

Lol always seemed to be jealous of me, trying to sit down and act like a grown up by bossing me about and telling me rubbish, such as “you’re so self-centred Bex” and “the world isn’t here just for you Bex” – as if!! I would describe myself as a caring, sharing, a fun to be with type of person. She was lucky to have me as a sister.

And then there was Mum. Mum was always nagging. She hated driving me to town for Shakeaways and moaned when I forgot I had cookery the following morning. She was always looking at me with exasperation etched all over her face “Bex, please try and be fair. It’s hard enough with Dad working away and if you could bring your washing and dishes down once in while, that would help.” Like I had time to spare to do such things!

All these thoughts rushed through my head over and over until the hallway was dark and the Sun had long since set.

A horrible thought entered my head. What if everyone had left because of me? What if I wasn’t all that perfect?

Maybe I should try and look at things from other people’s perspectives, like Lol always tells me to. I tried to dismiss this terrifying thought as quickly as it had appeared, but I couldn’t shake it and as the hours past I began to reflect.

My mind wandered far back to a time when Caribou would babysit for me and let me play for hours with her earring collection and rename all the cats when I couldn’t say their real ones, she is kind and caring and just because she looked a little eccentric, I got embarrassed when I was with Lexie. I hoped that Caribou hadn’t heard the giggles and snide remarks and my face flushed red in the darkness. Was I rude? The answer came soaring back as a resounding – YES.

Then, like floodgates releasing, I realized. I was mean. Mean to the Hardwicks, not thanking them, to Jock and Ina, who were just being good friends, Lol, who was trying to help me, and Rudy. Oh definitely Rudy, he was a sweet brother always bringing me daffodil heads home from the park and I was just mean back to him.

Guilt started to wash over me and the realization hit home. Everyone had had enough of me and left and I couldn’t blame them.

I sat sobbing as the acknowledgement of my selfishness overwhelmed me. It took a while for the light shining in my eyes to break me from my sadness.

Was it dawn already? I looked up and the light grew stronger and brighter. I closed my eyes against the glow.

Then I heard my Mum’s voice – “Bex, Bex, all done sweetheart”

I opened them to the same bright light and saw Mum peering down at me.

“Well, four teeth gone and next week you can have your braces fitted” she said.

I jumped up and flung my arms around her “ Oh Mum, I am so glad to see you” I mumbled through my hamster-looking cheeks.

Mum looked dazed, “must be the anesthetic” she muttered.

“No, it isn’t and I am going to be a better person Mum” I babbled at top speed.” I need to go see Caribou, get some cat nip and tell Jock and Ina I can babysit whenever they want and most of all I need to go and apologise to Lol and Rudy”

“Seriously?” said Mum, laughing, “who has taken my Bex? But it was only last week you said you wished we would all go away and leave you be?”

“I know” I replied “but I’ve learnt you should be careful for what you wish for. Turns out I don’t always like my own company. After all I don’t want to end up on all alone, do I!”

I never told anyone about my dream at the orthodontists, but it was one visit I won’t forget in a long time.

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