Emily Broadhurst’s winning Upper Secondary Prose entry in the Geraldton Regional Library’s 2016 Randolph Stow Young Writers’ Awards. Emily represents Geraldton Senior College.
On three sides, a two-metre-high fence looms over me. On the remaining side, a dull, concrete house. The sun has dropped behind the fence, but the colours of the sky don’t amaze me. I look in the sky and find no stars. I didn’t expect to. A constant roar of cars surrounds me. One thing is familiar — the half-dead grass scratching my back. I lie. In the backyard. Trying to breathe. All I get are fumes.
This isn’t home.
I look at the moon, trying to believe it’s the same one as home.
As far away as it is, I close my eyes and feel I’m there. Far away from the sky-scrapers and noise. I feel free. We were always free to do what we wanted: me, Ranger and Axel (my younger brother). We’d jump off the bus and fall onto our quad bikes. Off we sped, the wind pulling strands of rusty hair free of my ponytail. As we whizzed past the house, we'd meet Pop at the front door. A bag for a bag. One full of boring school books and bare lunch containers, the other with a change of clothes, overflowing snack containers and a two-way.
Pop persuaded Mum to relieve us of chores and homework. He’s the best.
We can’t do that now. There was nothing he can do to prevent it.
Imaging myself there, I almost feel like I’ve escaped this place. It works, then I hear tyres screeching and a car horn, and I wake from my daydream.
It happened only a few days ago. It happened so quickly.
A summer storm had moved in during the afternoon. Usually, I enjoy them — the smell engulfing me — but today’s seemed different. Sombre clouds made the gold-brown landscape dreary. Drops trickled down withering trees, bringing a slight freshness to their leafless skeletons.
The rain couldn’t stop the wheels throwing up dust like the plumes of smoke which trailed the flames only a month prior, destroying our only hope. Drops of heat fell onto my face as we pulled up to the house. No Pop.
We sat there on our bikes for a while, every now and again tooting the horn. Having given up, I entered the front door, two young gumboots following. Walking up to the front door, I could hear Ranger whining. He hadn’t been let off. Inside the house, I heard shouting. Quietly, slowly, I opened the door, creaking at every move. I slithered up the hall, stopping before the kitchen.
“There's a perfectly good house near Mum’s!”
“Huh, yeah right!” interrupted Pop, “Perfect! As perfect as this one I suppose, huh! Love, do ya realise how long this farm has been in this family.”
Mum and Pop have always been at war. Dad would always smooth it over, but I couldn’t hear him. I peered around the door frame and saw him sitting at the table, staring out of the window, his head resting on his folded arms.
“And howdya think the kids’ll like this?!”
“Like what?" my brother’s little, chubby figure blew our cover.
Dad broke out of deep concentration, “Hello little man, do you have company?” I revealed my hiding place, “Come and sit up here, we have, ” he paused, “we have something to tell you.”
“I can’t witness this, ” Pop sighed, leaving for the backyard.
“We have something exciting to tell you, ” Mum beamed. Dad didn’t display the same expression. “We’re moving house!”
“You’re building a new house on the farm!" Axel declared, looking around in excitement, “That’s so cool!”
Mum laughed, “Not quite. We’re selling the farm!”
Those words sent me spinning. “What!” I slammed the table and kicked the chair back. Axel began to cry. I don’t know if it was the shock of news or of my reaction. “This is not happening!”
“I’m so sorry, love, ” a tear ran down Dad’s cheek.
That caused tears to gush from my eyes. My feet moved — left, right, left, right, one after the other. I ran out of the gate, distressed barking coming up behind me, clinking chains following. Heavy breathing pulsed through my ears. Rain slid down my skin. Shaking hands found a strong trunk. A scream escaped from my lungs. Sodden fur soothed my ankles. I looked up and saw safety. Up I climbed, the canopy protecting me. Hours I sat there, the rain calming me. It wasn’t long enough.
The rain now falls here, sliding down artificial, vibrant green palm leaves. As if almost on cue, a lightning bolt strikes in the distance, echoing my thoughts. I hear the back door open, so unfamiliar to the creaking hinges of home. Someone’s out here with me now, I know it, but I keep my eyes closed. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone since it all happened.
A joyful shriek is heard over the now pounding rain, “Puddles!”
Laughter fills the courtyard, something that hasn’t been heard for the past few days. I can feel a puddle forming under my back and I have to sit up. My body starts shivering as the cold rain seeps into my skin. If only I could return home as quickly as the feeling does, sitting in the rain like this.
The giggles grow louder. Slowly, I open my eyes, revealing a chubby, soggy child stumbling towards me, arms wide open. The sudden danger of my body collapsing under my brother’s happy soul forces me to smile and welcome him onto my lap. We sit there, hugging each other in the pouring rain.
* Copies of the 2016 winners booklet can be purchased from Geraldton Regional Library for $12.
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