Katie enters a writing competition and wins a friend
|As soon as I saw the writing competition's prompt, I was eager to get started. I sat down in my white swivel chair, reached for a pen in an alcove of my desk and pulled my new writing pad towards me.
It was going to be tough. There were contests for flash fiction and poetry too, and they were open to everyone from novices like me to best-selling authors.
For an hour, I stared at the blank page, willing my mind to come up with something to write. In the end, I gave up and sat back in the chair, gazing out of my window. The rain was torrential, drumming on my sill and causing a mist that shrouded the distant skyscrapers across the bay.
I was brought out of my reverie by a knock and my mum popped her head around the door.
"Are you coming down for your dinner, love?"
I swivelled round so that I faced her, and smiled. "No thanks, Mum. I'm busy writing."
She opened the door wider and stepped over to me, her feet soundless on the pink carpet. She kissed me on the forehead and tucked a strand of my blond hair behind my ear. "Even award winning authors need to eat. And," she gave my blank writing pad a sidelong glance, "it might help you concentrate. Give you some ideas."
I thought about her words for a moment, then my tummy rumbled. I grinned. "You're right. I'll be right down."
I came to a halt just inside the archway that separated the living and dining rooms. The room had been transformed. Pale blue balloons swayed gently from their weights in the corners, and a matching cloth draped over the edges of the rectangular mahogany table. A cake in the form of an ink stand and quill took centre stage and was surrounded by platters of sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, and cheese and ham sandwiches cut into small triangles. All this, and it was just the two of us.
"Oh, Mum!" I gasped.
"I know it's not your 19th birthday for a few days, but I thought, with you being so busy with your writing lately... Sorry we couldn't have your friends around. But ..." She looked apologetic.
I hugged her. "I know. But this is perfect. Thank you."
We spent an hour at the table, eating, drinking wine and chatting. Then, I helped her tidy up and dried the dishes as she washed them. Finally, I kissed her on the cheek. "I've loved this little tea party, Mum, but I really must get back to my writing."
She patted my hand. "I know, love. And you're welcome."
Whether it was the small tea party in my honour, or pure coincidence, I'll never know, but the moment I sat down at my desk, I started to write and didn't stop until the light faded and I had the first draft of a story. I switched on my lamp and traded my desk chair for the window seat, watching the ships come in as I rubbed the writing cramp out of my hand. All that was left was to type the story up and send it off.
Five days later, it was judging time. I fought the butterflies in my stomach as Mum drove me to the hall in which the winners would be announced.
"Name?" Asked the security guard.
"Katie Bell," I replied.
The guard checked his paperwork. "Bell . . . Bell . . . Sorry, love, but you're not on the list."
I blinked. "What? But I must be! I have my invitation right here." I fumbled in my handbag. My hand shook as I retrieved my invite and handed it to him. He made sure to check it thoroughly, scanning it with a device underneath his podium.
"Hm. That's odd."
I was wide-eyed. "What's odd?" I could feel my throat tightening.
"It's a genuine invite."
Mum positioned herself between us. "Of course it's genuine! My daughter is no fraud. What are you trying to say?"
The guard ignored her and addressed me. "What's the name of your entry?"
He repeated the title again and again as he checked his ledger. "The Quill? That's been entered by a Lauren Clifford."
The world spun. Faces blurred into one with the red brick building as well as the sky and ground. My hand went to my forehead. It felt cold and clammy. People laughed. I was sure they were laughing at me.
"Katie. Katie, look at me." It was Mum, but she sounded so far away. "Can you hear me?" Her blurred features turned away from me, "Have you got a chair?" Then her soft brown eyes were once more pointed at me. "Are you okay, darling? Here," she produced a white plastic cup. "It's water. Just sip it."
With her help, I raised the cup to my lips and drank the cool, refreshing water. Feeling revived, I spluttered and took a couple of deep breaths. "I wrote The Quill. I have the proof here." I pulled out the original manuscript, thankful that I'd kept it.
The guard looked bemused. "I'd better fetch the judge."
Minutes later, I was sitting in an office in front of a desk. To my left was a woman in pale green, a pair of overly large sunglasses on her head. My mum was to my right, her arm draped in a protective manner along the back of my chair. Opposite us was the head judge.
"I apologise for the confusion," he said. "It appears we have two entries called The Quill. One," he indicated with his head in the direction of the woman to my left. "was a free verse poem entered by Ms Clifford here. And then there's your short story entry," he smiled as he looked at each of us in turn. "The judging is about to start. Would you like to take your seats?"
I was runner-up in the competition, but I won a new friend in Lauren Clifford.