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Winning Year 7-8 stories

1st place: My Unfinished Story, by Lisetta Darroch, St Joseph’s School, Nelson

It is fate and fate was always right but...
fate had arrived and fate hadn’t left alone.

Her stone cold body lies atop of the cream and green paper thin sheets and covers. There is an unusual greenish yellow tinge to her smooth tanned skin and somebody has gently and carefully closed her eyelids and placed two beautiful white lilies in her clasping hands that gave off a delicious aroma that wafts down the main bedroom and the hall. She is still wearing her blue and white squared hospital gown. Opera sounds in the air and it is as if everyone sings in mournful tune. They all came. I see them crying up the hallway as if it were a path to their doom. Coming one by one to see her unmoving body. Their faces are blotchy red and pinched as if they had eaten a sour lemon. My father sits on the bed comforting them. My brothers and I all stand watching, waiting. Gianni, who was only four, kneels by Raffie’s feet wailing, “Where’s mummy?” Raffie was too shocked to move his nine year old body to help him.

I was six at the time, jumping with my skipping rope wondering why everyone was so devastated. I had woken up first and dad had told me that there would be a time for tears but you have to be strong, and so I was, for my dad. I was a shoulder to lean and cry on.

Aunty Gianna is lying on the double bed next to her with Gianni tucked in her long spindly arms and me quietly sitting with my tiny arms and legs crossed staring down at her. Gianna bent down and kissed mum’s cheek. “Why’d you do that Gianna?” Gianni asked innocently. “I’m coming to peace with her going up to heaven. I’m letting her go,” Gianna said calmly.

“I want to let her go too!” Gianni exclaimed and placed his lips on her cheek just as Gianna had done seconds before.

“Lisetta, do you want to let her go?” Gianni asked batting his huge eyes as if pleading to me.

“No, stop it!” I retorted angrily. I wouldn’t let her go! I would hold her as my own angel like she used to be everyday.

The days rushed by as we calmly collected ourselves. Her body was taken by some funeral people wearing black polished suits and velvet ties, saying how they were so sorry about our loss. I didn’t believe them. One of the men even gave us three squishy stuffed toy animals to hold while we talked in case we cried. Raffie was silent, tears streaking down his face leaving trails like open scars. Gianni hovered near dad trying to understand. “Where are they taking mummy?” I asked openly hoping to get an answer out of these people who were as cold as granite. “She’ll be back here in no time Bedy,” my dad bent down and whispered in my ear. I wasn’t sure that they would bring her back, but my dad held my shoulder firmly so I wouldn’t say anymore.

I was now constantly being crushed by hugs and words of sympathy. They all thought I would burst out crying. I was bursting but I wouldn’t say it.

Mum’s body was back to lying lifelessly. The funeral people had plastered on a younger version of my mother’s face and I looked up at my mum and dad’s wedding photos and I understood now. They had dressed her in a white skirt and a black and white singlet.

Mum’s funeral was coming up and my brothers had chosen to stay at home. I was determined to say farewell.

There was a brown casket being pulled out of a black hearse and it was absolutely positively covered in lilies. Old friends clambered around the small church that was lit with bright lights, their eyes raining with small water droplets saying to each other how much Angela changed their life and what a great person she was. My Nona was saying prayers and straining to keep herself from crying. I hugged onto my dad so tightly that I think it hurt but he didn’t complain. I staggered to my feet to whisper in the microphone. “I loved my mum. She will always be around.” Then I spoke about the last happy moment that I had with my mother. I got up after that and returned to strangling dad with my sadness.

The aftermath

Nearly six years have passed since her death and all I can think is what if I had taken this differently? Would I feel that gut wrenching emotion every time someone asked whether mum or dad was available to help out? The fact that dad was too busy or away. The way I feel about my best friends and how they tell their mums everything.

Overall I keep all these emotions welled up and confined, tucked away deep inside. I learnt over the years how not to betray feelings that won’t do anyone, including me, good. I know now that although six years have passed, these memories that I have written about will never be forgotten. At least I still have my dad and my new family.

Next year we are returning to Wellington to be closer to his girlfriend. I wonder if when I leave Nelson mum will stay with the house, keeping things a mystery for others until we return. If we return. But I’m sure that my memories will follow me everywhere.

What if she hadn’t died and my life hadn’t changed? Would I still have my wonderful life?

At six years of age it was impossible to let her go. But now every day I treasure the part of her that is with me and thank her for guiding me to be the person I am. They say time heals. Deep down I know that she will always be my guardian angel and time will never steal my memories.

Joy Cowley says: The winning story is an account of the death and funeral of the mother. The freshness of detail and the stoicism of the author, engrave the event on the sensibility of the reader. Old friends clambered around the small church that was lit with bright lights, their eyes raining with small water droplets ... I staggered to my feet to whisper in the microphone. “I loved my mum. She will always be around.” Then I spoke about the last happy moment that I had with my mother. I got up after that and returned to strangling dad with my sadness.

2nd place: A Breathtaking Experience, by Anna McIlroy, Tauranga Intermediate

The rustic blue van with its flowery interior bumped its way along the dusty, rocky road, leading up to into the dry mountains. The only lights that shone were the headlights from the van, meanwhile bugs and other flying creatures were getting caught in its brightness. Gazing out the window I noticed a lonely dog trotting along the grass verge. Being four in the morning the heat of the Fijian sun hadn’t set in yet. However, a gentle warm breeze flowed through the open window of the van. My parents had been very secretive on what we were doing, which created a suspense that my sister and I could not contain. It was only when we were picked up from the resort that they told us. We were going hot air ballooning!

Once we arrived at the take-off spot, the specialist team immediately started to roll the balloon out and blow it up with giant wind machines. The noise was overpowering. We were having to raise our voices in order to be heard. While this was going on the burners were being tested. It looked quite beautiful, purple fire in the dark, the fire rushing straight up into the air like a geyser exploding. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, the balloon and basket were ready. The basket was split into five compartments. Two on the sides and one big one in the middle for the pilot, where he could control the balloon with leaping gas fired flames. I mentioned to my mum earlier that it looked like a giant picnic basket with its brown woven straw, but she didn’t seem to hear me over the roar of the wind machines. The 12 of us in the group, including the pilot, tumbled into the basket. A few safety procedures later and we were off, the pilot sending up massive amounts of flame to lift us off the ground. Immediately when we rose up into the air, I wanted to come down. Looking at the ground from a birds-eye-view, rising higher and higher, made me freak out slightly, but before I knew it I was up in the air with no way down.

I felt like I needed more eyes. Everywhere I looked there was something different. Peering over the edge of the basket, I spotted canopies of lush, green trees everywhere. A small stream swerved in between the trees, leading back into the bustling city. By now the sun was rising over the hills, shining its way into every valley and crevice it could. As we made our way back into the city of Nadi, we spotted local people working in the cane sugar fields. People were driving tractors around with stacks of sugar cane on the back. Others were deep into the fields chopping the sugar cane down. Even though the farmers were hard at work, they all had smiles on their faces, shouting out to us “Bula” – the Fijian word for hello. It was evident that many homes were made poorly because of the tattered looking roofs. In spite of these living conditions the people were all friendly and cheerful to one another.

An hour up in the air and it was time to float back down to earth. I had expected it to be a soft landing, like on television programmes, but I was very wrong. The pilot had told us that he could not predict where we land, the balloon just floats with the wind. Turns out we needed to land on a farmer’s sugar cane field. It is customary in the ballooning world to give a gift to the land owner and this Fijian farmer was to receive a 20kg bag of rice as thanks for the use of his field.

The field looked very bumpy. It appeared that the area had just been cut and you could see stalks of sugar cane still in the ground. The pilot had told us to brace ourselves for the landing, “Keep your legs together and have them bent”. Closer, closer, closer ... bump! We hit the ground harder than I expected, taking me by surprise. The balloon skidded on the ground a short way, lifted back off the ground slightly, and thump! We were solid on the ground. A few minutes later and the back-up team swiftly pulled up next to the balloon and started to help us out of the basket. Packing up the balloon took half the time it did blowing it up. At least letting the air out was quieter, I thought. In the distance I noticed the old blue van waiting to drive us back. I didn’t want to get back in it. I wanted to jump back in that basket, fire up the burners again and fly for at least another hour. It had been an incredible experience that was just breathtaking.

Joy Cowley says: This detailed account of a hot air balloon ride in Fiji gives the reader the experience of a pre-dawn van ride into the mountains, the inflation of the balloon and then the ride in the basket – “it looked like a giant picnic basket” – over forest and plantations and then down to a bumpy landing in a sugar cane field. The writer is a keen observer of events and also her reaction to them.

3rd place: Earthquake writing, by Emily Wium, Heaton Normal Intermediate, Christchurch

I don’t know what told us but some instinct was alerted and we all stiffened, our nervous eyes scanning the surroundings. A deep low rumble escaped from the ground and echoed in my head. A sense of terror rose in my throat threatening to overwhelm me. I was screaming before the ground started to move.

The ground lurched and rolled beneath my feet as screams and cries rang out on the cold breeze drowned by the sound of sirens blaring across the city. I was fighting for my balance but the power of the movement was too much, my legs gave way to the shaking and I collapsed onto the cold grass. I clung to the long strands as panic overcame me and the violent shaking increased.

It was over as suddenly as it had started and there was silence as everyone climbed unsteadily to their feet. My legs felt like they did not belong to me and I stumbled uncertainly to the courts crying and bleeding. The screaming gradually ceased to sobs and cries as we shuffled into small groups for comfort. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I willed this to be a dream. Shafts of light flickered through the carpet of clouds that concealed the sun and ragged gaping cracks dominated the concrete. Liquefaction gushed and swirled down the gentle slope of our field forming pools of silt in the dips and holes that had formed. My heart was accelerating, my head was pounding and I was only half conscious of the chaos around me. Petrified parents began to stream through the gates, searching for their child’s face among the crowd of distressed children. They were then whisked away through the debris and devastation that surrounded the school.

My heart was aching with agony staring at the gates willing mum to appear. Every minute I waited my heart felt heavier until I dropped my head and resumed to tears. For several minutes I held my head in my hands. I flinched as someone touched my shoulder; I raised my tear stained eyes and froze, my heart lifted and my eyes danced. Tears slid down my face as I held my mum tight. At that moment I knew everything would be alright.

Joy Cowley says: There have been many personal accounts of the Christchurch earthquakes but this experience from a young person in a school field is action and reaction finely told moment by moment: The quake, the devastation, the aching wait for the appearance of her mother.