Story Competition 2017 Winners - Aged 15 and Over

1st Place - Kathy Shand

The Beauty of Colour

Jenny was wilting and she had only potted up half the dahlia tubers. She wandered over to the garden bench, took out her mobile phone from her pocket and chose Number One Daughter from the list of contacts. Emma answered immediately.

“Hi love, I have some news,” Jenny said, trying to sound cheerful. “Harriet is getting married!”

“Oh, for goodness sake, Mum,” replied Emma, impatiently. “Some of us do use Facebook, you know. Harry posted the news five minutes after James proposed.”
Jenny sighed and regretted making the call.

“So, which outfit is it going to be this time, Mum? The fawn or the navy?” Jenny swotted a fly away from her face. “If you mean my biscuit two-piece or my midnight blue dress, I haven’t decided yet.”

“You really are dreadful, Mum. You’ve created a dreamy garden which is full of colour and yet you wear the most drab, boring clothes. Anyone would think you want to be invisible.”

Anyone would think I don’t have feelings either, Jenny thought.

“Just because you are an attractive, youngish widow doesn’t mean every letch in Duffield will pounce——-err——-sorry, Mum——- but I have to go, there’s another call coming in. I’ll call later. Byeee.”

The line went dead and Jenny felt like she had been crushed with a blunt pair of secateurs. Her heart ached.

Emma was irritating but right. Jenny was in a rut and she knew she could not hide in the back of the border forever.

She returned to the dahlias and as she buried the brown, knobbly tubers in warm compost, she mused how wonderful it was, that something so uninspiring had so much to offer. Tiny shoots were appearing and soon the tubers would explode into rich, burgundy foliage studded with dazzling sherbet lemon, tangerine and magenta blooms. She smiled at the thought of Emma’s expression if she turned up at the wedding wearing an outfit fizzing with such vibrant hues.

But Jenny was sensible and it would be unkind to Harriet if she attracted attention on the big day. Still, there was no harm in looking for some new accessories. She decided to go shopping - but not until the dahlias were finished.

The wedding overflowed with froth and romance. Jenny’s midnight blue dress looked smart and everyone said how well she looked. In fact, her sister said she glowed with a new, inner radiance. Even Emma conceded that her mother was making an effort and found it amusing that a pair of new patent shoes could make such a difference.

Of course, Jenny knew exactly why she felt good. I am botanically inspired, she thought and according to the assistant in Justina’s Lingerie Boutique in Derby, exotic florals were bang on trend. Who would have thought that dahlias could find their way into underwear? Not that Jenny said any of this to Emma. She just helped herself to more Champagne and joined in the fun.

2nd Place - Justine Horton

The Beauty of Colour

I suppose it started with the bike ride. Three reluctant boys, a wintry day; hailstones nestling at the sides of the road. They would rather have been in the warmth, playing some mindless game. But I was determined we would get out for that "blast of fresh air" as little Sophie had precociously put it.

Ben had insisted on wearing those cords of Sam’s. Way too big and flapping around his feet. Trying to be older than his 9 years; desperate to be big like his brothers. 

But 3 hours later, here we were, on some muddy path alongside an already swollen river. Thor’s Cave gaped menacingly above. Shame we didn’t think to roll Ben’s trouser leg up as, by the end of the ride and the scramble up to the cave, his right trouser leg was torn, muddied and ruined. “But they’re just so comfortable, Mum! Can’t you fix them?”

That evening, I found myself curled up with my sewing kit, wondering where to begin. Four sleepy children settled in their beds. I sipped my lemon tea and looked for some matching cotton. Sewing was never my forte, but at least with the right thread, it would look less obvious. I couldn’t quite find the colour I needed. “Why not see if there’s any in your Mum’s box?” Nick suggested. A little dusty after sitting on the window ledge for the 8 months since Dad had given it to me, saying he’d no use for it now that Mum had gone.

I took a deep breath and lifted the lid. At once, I was engulfed by memories. Neat collections of pins, all carefully tucked into the pincushions we’d presented her with over the years, on birthdays and Mothers’ Days. All loved and cherished. Little packets of every spare button from every outfit she’d ever owned. All colour-coordinated and organised.  A flurry of memories, falling like the snow had on that first birthday without her. Of her teaching me to sew on my first button; of the dress she’d worn to my wedding. Each package holding a hundred vibrant memories. 

I delved deeper. A little pink folded note from when I was about 14. An apology for some misdemeanour, perhaps. With the words, “I’m sorry. I love you”. It just needed the “I miss you” bit now. A tiny bottle of scent tucked away amongst the pretty curls of ribbon, I tentatively opened it. Her perfume, so potent, took me back to the age of 4 when I had opened her perfume bottle and dropped it. She’d always joked that the carpet in her room would smell lovely for years!

Tearfully, I selected the colour I needed for the repair job. Each tiny stitch splicing the past from Mum’s sewing box in to the trousers that Ben would wear next month, next year, probably. The past gently weaving into a future yet unknown. But safe in the knowledge that my beautiful Mum was with us, and that colourful memories live on.

3rd Place - Emily Morley

The Beauty of Colour

The young prince had never seen the sun. They wouldn’t allow it.

“The Prince’s desire to witness the beauty of colour will destroy the kingdom. When the prince sees the sun, the kingdom will fall,” the prophesy foretold. Since the day he was born, he only knew the nature of the night, the calm of darkness.

As his parents went about their royal duties, meeting lords and ladies and listening to the qualms of the people, he was left to wander the palace hallways. But before his bedtime when the sun had set, he was allowed out onto the gilded veranda to sit beneath the shimmering stars and listen to the noises of the night. The serenity of the chirping crickets, the swaying of the leaves in a cool breeze, and the iridescent glow of the moon. The shadows that danced after sunset were such a stark contrast to the gaudily painted wall frescos and oil paintings decorating the walls of the palace, depicting families strolling through a bright, green park.

The dark was not without its splendour. He knew during the day, the twinkling of stars, speckled throughout the sky, were not visible. The slink of the fox after its prey, and swooping glide of the owl on a hunt belonged to the night. Dusky shades blending into one, including himself and his palace. The distant blur of lights, glowing from the homes of his people calmed and comforted him. They whispered that even though he was unable to see it, the world vibrated with life.

Travellers visited often, seeking favour with his parents, and he loved to hear tales of the wondrous places they had visited. He grew jealous. How was it fair that he was royalty, possessing such riches, but denied the simple pleasure even the poorest of beggars received, to feel the warmth of the sun on his skin?

The hour he was allowed on his veranda before bed was the closest he got to freedom. But as his mother kissed him goodnight, the prince longed to go out once more. After the palace grew silent, he crept out of bed. Cautiously checking for guards in the hallway, he made his way to the veranda.

What did the world beyond the castle grounds look like? How green were the leaves and how rich were the earthy browns of the ground?

Time slipped away as he pondered this, and gradually a sliver of light appeared in the distance, as though a thousand lamps had been lit. The light grew, and the world around him brightened. The leaves on the trees became all kinds of greens, the flowers in the garden took on hues of yellows, and purples. The pond below began to sparkle, and the flittering shadows of koi became orange and white. And what was that on the horizon? He squinted and raised a hand to his brow. People marched with purpose towards the palace, wearing shiny helmets and breastplates, a sharp blade in every hand…