A young child’s heart
Is easily impressed
By memories now distant
Of freedom, love
The warmth of summer
A young child’s heart
A young child’s heart
Is easily impressed
By memories now distant
Of freedom, love
The warmth of summer
my mind can only hold so many memories
but there is a woman in there that sorts them
keeping each memory neatly filed away
she gets a bit annoyed with my untidy habits
particularly when I wilfully throw new memories in there
without regard for her neatly arranged cabinet of curiosities
I told Mum the bruise on my face was from a soccer ball. Later I found out the nurse had rung her that day and told her all about it, but I never told Mum about the fight or the teasing, or how much my chest still hurt from that punch.
It was still sore when I went for a ride on my bike the following weekend, particularly when I was breathing hard as I rode up the hills. But I tried to ignore it and just kept on riding.
I loved being on my bike on the open road, where I was free from the taunting faces of those girls at school or the expectations to be good at anything. All I had to worry about was my breathing and the rhythmical way my legs turned the pedals over as the road rolled past underneath me.
I had a favourite ride that I liked to do on Saturday mornings. I got out of bed before anyone else was awake and set off in the cool morning air while there was no traffic around.
Leaving the yard, I turned right as I came out of the shadow of the trees at the end of the laneway and followed the road up to the railway crossing. There was a small hump where the railway line crossed the road and I walked my bike across the tracks so that my tyres didn’t slip on the rails. Just after the railway line was the stable where the school bus stopped, but of course there were no kids outside the stable because it was Saturday.
I could hear galloping hooves in the paddock behind the building and as I rounded the corner there were men training horses to run faster and faster. As I rode past, they snorted with the effort and steam came out of their nostrils. For a few moments I pedalled hard as though I was a racehorse, but that made me breathe hard and it hurt my sore chest so I backed off a little bit.
Then I started the long climb up the hill that took me amongst apple and cherry orchards. The spring blossoms on the trees made me feel like I was riding through a fairyland and I slowed down so that I could enjoy the pretty blossoms and breathe in their sensual perfume. The roadside sheds on the orchards were all closed but I knew during fruit picking season they would be bustling with men and tractors.
At the top of the hill, the road turned and I was able to look back across the wide valley below. Most of the houses were still in shadow but I could see the sun’s fingers slowly creeping across the landscape. I could also see my house clearly as it stood on its own amongst the apple trees with its white walls reflecting the sun. From the top of the hill it looked like a tiny doll’s house. There was a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney and I guessed that Mum was probably up and cooking breakfast.
Thinking of Mum made me feel sad again. I wished I could tell her what school was really like, and how much I missed Stephen and how lost I felt. But I could never find the words and I always got teary whenever I tried to talk to her about it. Besides, I didn’t want her to know that I was a failure and make her ashamed of me.
I turned away from my house and rode over the crest of the hill. There was a long descent into the valley at the foot of Mount Canobolas in front of me. The mountain sat watching over the surrounding countryside. Beside it was the smaller peak of the Pinnacle and it was down the slope of that little mountain that I found myself speeding.
I kept my hands hard on the brakes most of the time because it scared me if I went too fast, but I really loved the way the wind whooshed through my long hair and flicked it around my face.
As I reached the bottom, there was a slight uphill run to an intersection and I pedalled as fast as I could so that my momentum would take me up the rise. I didn’t want to lose any speed so I gave a quick glance to my left to make sure there was no traffic then sped out onto the road that followed the creek along the valley floor.
The road was more undulating now, with lots of little ups and downs and I was back amongst apple and cherry orchards. There was a farmer sitting on his tractor at a gate and he raised his hand as I sped past. I took one hand off the handlebar for a moment and waved back then quickly grabbed hold again.
There was only one more climb and then the descent back into town. I could see the water tower at the top of the hill and I kept my eyes on it as I counted my pedal strokes and worked my way up the slope. The water tower disappeared behind some trees for a moment, but as I came around the bend it was there again, all tall and concrete against the surrounding cherry blossoms.
The road descending into town was steep but it was short and straight so I just stopped pedalling and let my bike pick up speed as I freewheeled down the hill. My eyes started to sting from the wind and my legs were tired but I felt good. I had even forgotten about how much my chest hurt.
When I got back home I wheeled my bike into the shed and went straight into my bedroom by the side door so that I didn’t have to speak to anyone. I put my helmet on the chair and then noticed there was a present sitting in the middle of my bed. Puzzled, I sat on the bed with my legs crossed and started to unwrap it. The present was wrapped in pretty pink paper that sparkled when I moved it. I carefully slit the sticky tape with my fingernail so that I didn’t rip the paper while unwrapping.
Inside the present were three books and some pens. I picked up the first book and read the cover – ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I opened it up with a little frown on my forehead and read a few sentences inside. The language seemed mysterious and different from anything I had ever read before and I felt a thrill of excitement about exploring this new book. I put it down and picked up the second book.
It was handmade and the cover was quilted fabric. The words ‘For Molly, with love from Mum’ were hand stitched into the fabric. I turned the cover and there inside were all the pages of my writing journal. Mum had ironed them flat and sewn them together. I felt moisture spring into my eyes as I looked at those pages with all of my precious words written on them.
The third book was a new writing journal and I stroked my fingers over its smooth blank pages. I sat there looking thoughtfully at it for a few minutes, then picked up a purple pen and started writing on the first page.
The Leo moon watches me,
catching autumn leaves,
like when I was a child,
delighted by their changing colours,
myriad shapes that sparkle
as brightly as stars in the sky;
for a moment I study the leaves
gathered in my tiny hand,
the changing seasons
pass me by so quickly,
I long to name each leaf
as I once did, as old friends,
tracing russet memories
through each wrinkled vein;
some leaves spread
like the palm of a lover’s hand
but it is the cordate leaf
over which I linger,
fallen like my lovers heart;
behind the trees
the Leo moon
shines onto my face
People from the past
are seen through layers,
blurred like ghosts
crying in stillness;
hidden in dark corners
of my restless mind;
will I know you
when we meet again?
how changed with time
will those memories compare
to the beauty of the twilight
that lives in my dreams
Extracted from Molly’s Dreams which is available on Amazon
When I first started school I felt very important as I got dressed in my new school uniform, although my feet hurt from those shiny black leather shoes. I was wearing a pale blue checked pinafore and I had a little school port to carry my lunch and a big smile on my face as I walked out to the car with my leather shoes creaking. Mum took a photo of all us children standing beside the car before we headed off to school, all lined up in height from Stephen down to me with the sun shining in my eyes.
As we got closer to the school, the smile started to slip from my face and I began to feel sick in my tummy and my head ached. Mum said it was just butterflies and they would soon go away.
A teacher met us at the school gate and Mum introduced me. ‘This is Molly,’ she said smiling at the teacher. ‘Molly, say hello to Mrs Mills.’ But I didn’t want to say hello. The butterflies had flown away with my voice and I just wanted to hide behind Mum’s legs.
‘Molly’s a bit shy,’ said Mum.
‘That’s okay,’ Mrs Mills replied in a stern voice, ‘We know how to deal with shy children. Come on Molly,’ she tried to take my hand but I started to cry and pulled my hand away from her; I didn’t want to go with this strange lady with the grey hair and glasses. Mrs Mills was determined though and soon I was marching through the school gate to join all the other children starting kindergarten.
I was scared and kept my eyes on the ground, trying to stop the tears in front of all these strange children. ‘Look at the little cry baby,’ yelled a boy in long shorts scornfully.
‘Leave her alone Darren,’ a tall girl said. She came over and asked me my name.
‘M – Molly,’ I tried to say in between sniffles.
‘I’m Stephanie, Molly, and we’re going to be friends,’ she said bravely. ‘Don’t worry about Darren, he’s just a boy.’
I gave Stephanie a little smile as the teacher told us all to line up. We then had to march to a classroom holding the hand of the person next to us. I was glad I had Stephanie’s hand to hold; it felt warm and soft while mine was all cold. Stephanie had a nice face with straight brown hair that hung past her shoulders. She seemed to be much more confident than I was.
Once I got inside the classroom, the morning was spent colouring in a piece of paper that had our names on it. I already knew how to recognize mine — M – O – L – L – Y — and I coloured it in like a pretty rainbow. We had some time before lunch so I started drawing a few butterflies on the page, when Mrs Mills came past and looked over my shoulder. ‘That is a lovely drawing Molly, but try to keep it neat,’ she said. ‘You left-handed children are always so messy!’ I was still not sure if I liked Mrs Mills so I didn’t answer and kept my head down. I didn’t think my drawing was messy at all.
As I looked around the classroom, everyone else was busy working on their pictures. The sun looked nice shining through the windows and it threw shadows across the room. One wall was lined with a bookcase, full of colourful books that I longed to explore and as I stared at their different shapes I wondered what exciting things were inside. The wall had some posters on it; one showed a fox jumping over a dog that was on the ground sleeping. Other posters had pictures of animals with words written above them. Alongside the doorway was a picture of a tall giraffe. It reached nearly to the top of the door and had little lines and numbers on it.
I lifted my head and stared at the ceiling which was painted white and had long bars of fluorescent lights shining down. I looked at them until my eyes felt dazzled and when I blinked I could still see those strips of bright white light against the back of my eyelids. I kept my eyes closed for a few seconds until the white strips began to go blurry and then slowly turned black.
There was a clock above the door and I could hear it ticking loudly in the quiet classroom. Tick, tick, tick, it went as I watched the little hand sweeping around so fast and I wondered why the other hands didn’t seem to be moving at all. I thought about Mum and what she would be doing right now. Probably vacuuming and dancing around the house to the radio. If I was home right now I could be playing with my dolls in my bedroom. Tick, tick, tick… I watched the clock and started to feel myself yawn. The door was open beneath the clock and I could see the playground outside. I was starting to get bored and I wriggled around in my seat to get comfortable. I wished I was out in the playground and running around in the fresh air.
I looked around the classroom again and saw heads bobbing up and down all over the place and other children wriggling in their seats. The desks were arranged in squares, with four children to a table, and these were spaced around the room like the petals of a flower. My desk was brown and had a little hole in one corner. Underneath the hole there was a small shelf and I started to amuse myself by poking my coloured pencils into the hole.
Sitting at the desk with me were Stephanie and two other girls, but I couldn’t remember their names. Stephanie was concentrating hard on her drawing and I watched the way her eyes moved up and down with the pencil. She had a little frown on her forehead that made her look grown up and wise. The other girls were also busy with their drawings. One of them had blonde hair tied up in a pony tail that swished around as she coloured in her name. The other one had straight brown hair that was cut short to just below her ears. She had her head down on her arm and was staring intently at the pencil dancing across her page. Every now and then she yawned and I could see the redness at the back of her mouth.
At the front of the room was a blackboard and Mrs Mills’ desk. She was sitting at her desk and reading a book. ‘MRS MILLS’ was written in huge white chalk letters across the blackboard. I wondered if she would smile more if she had used coloured chalk to write her name. I looked down at her desk which had some books and other important looking things on it in black containers, all neatly stacked in rows. They looked like little soldiers ready to march as soon as Mrs Mills gave the command. She was wearing a brown skirt that covered her knees and she had thick black shoes that clomped on the wooden floor when she walked. Her hair was pulled back very tight from her face, making it look like her eyes had been stretched so that she could watch the whole classroom at once. She looked very scary when she was sitting at her desk and when I saw her eyes watching me I quickly looked back down at my drawing.
At lunchtime we were allowed to sit on seats on the verandah outside the classroom to eat lunch. I had some sandwiches with vegemite and Stephanie had fish paste. We swapped half our sandwiches and I was sharing my little packet of sultanas with her when Mrs Mills came out of the classroom and told us that we could play on the grass for a little while until the bell rang.
There was lots of noise coming from the boys running around and chasing each other, playing one of those rough games Stephen had told me about. Stephanie and I walked down to the playground and lay on our backs on the grass, looking up at the ribbons of cloud floating by and talking about fairies. She told me there were fairies everywhere in her garden at home and that she liked to talk to them, but only when no-one else was around. I told Stephanie that I would like to be a princess one day and she said that her fairies could turn me into a princess if I liked. I was smiling to myself at that thought, when suddenly the clouds disappeared and some boys were standing above us.
‘There’s the cry baby with funny hair,’ they taunted.
‘Leave us alone,’ said Stephanie.
‘Make us,’ one of the boys replied.
‘I’ll make you all right,’ said Stephanie as she stood up and pushed one of the boys. ‘I said leave us alone!’
‘Look, the cry baby is crying again,’ said the boy named Darren. It was true, I wasn’t as brave as Stephanie and I was ashamed to find my eyes were full of tears again because these rough looking boys scared me so much.
‘Go away Darren or I’ll tell Mrs Mills,’ Stephanie warned. The boys ran off laughing and she put her arm around my shoulder. ‘Don’t worry about them, Molly. Darren lives near my house and he’s really just a big chicken.’ Just then the bell rang and we had to go back to class. I rubbed my eyes so they didn’t look so red but they still felt wet.
After lunch we were allowed to sit on the floor on little mats while the teacher read us a story about Harry the Hairy-nosed Wombat and his fight against men who wanted to build a new road over the top of his house. Mrs Mills let us lay down as she read about Harry’s burrow in the desert. My eyes felt heavy so I closed them for a minute while her voice droned on.
It was nice at the end of my burrow, all curled up in a ball sound asleep. From far above, I could hear the distant sounds of daytime, birds singing and the wind in the trees. A human voice could be heard from far away, but I was so snug that I ignored it. Then I thought I heard my name being called — ‘Molly,’— but that couldn’t be right when I was away out here in the desert. It got louder: ‘Molly! Molly, wake up.’ Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder and I sat up on my reading mat, blinking my eyes against the bright sunlight. Some of the boys were giggling behind me and I could feel my cheeks getting hot. I wished I was back in my burrow.
After reading time, Mrs Mills took the class outside for a photo. The boys were pushing each other and being stupid until Mrs Mills yelled at them to stop it. She lined us all up in rows, with some of the boys standing on a bench at the back and a row of children standing in front. I stood with Stephanie but I could feel Darren’s knees digging into my back. I tried to ignore him and stood really still because I didn’t want Mrs Mills to yell at me, but I didn’t feel at all like smiling for the camera.
Eventually school finished for the day and I ran to the front gate to find Mum waiting under a big pine tree talking to some other mothers. ‘’Bye Stephanie,’ I called, waving my hand.
‘See you tomorrow, Molly,’ she yelled back.
‘Looks like you found a friend,’ said Mum. ‘How was your first day of school?’
‘It was horrible,’ I pouted. ‘Some boys were mean to me’.
‘Oh Molly, that’s not very nice. I’ll talk to Mrs Mills; I’m sure tomorrow will be better. The second day always is.’
‘Do I have to come back?’ I whined. I couldn’t see how it would ever be better.
‘Of course you do, Molly. You’re a big girl now’. I didn’t feel like a big girl anymore. I could feel hot tears welling up in my eyes again and I just wanted to get as far away from the school as I could.
When Christmas Eve came I could hardly get to sleep. Mum sent me to bed early but I just lay there trying to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh on the roof. Every now and then I would sneak out to the lounge room to see if Santa had been yet. ‘Molly! Get back in bed!’ Mum would yell at me.
But being in bed didn’t help. I felt like running around or jumping up and down before I burst. How could anyone sleep when they knew Santa was meant to be coming? After a while, I thought it sounded quieter in the lounge room so I tried to sneak out again, but as soon as my feet touched the floor, Mum was in the doorway. ‘Molly, are you still awake? You need to go to sleep, sweetheart.’
‘I can’t sleep, Mum. I’ve tried really hard, but I just can’t.’
‘All right then, why don’t you come out and lay on the lounge for a bit,’ said Mum.
I hopped out of bed with my pillow and snuggled up on the lounge next to Mum, listening to the television. I don’t know what was on. It was just some boring grownups movie with a man in a grey coat walking in the rain. Every now and then he would start singing something about silver bells.
The next thing I knew I was lying in bed and could see the first rays of morning sun light coming through the window. I lay there for a moment just staring out the window, trying to remember something important, when suddenly I realised what it was and I looked at the end of my bed to see a pillow case full of presents. I jumped up and quickly opened my Santa sack to find out what was inside. First there was a book; I love books but I put it aside to look at later. I reached in again and pulled out a doll in a pretty dress. I bent her legs at the waist and sat her down next to the book. Next was something large and soft, and as I pulled out a princess dress I squealed in delight. ‘Santa did make me a princess!’ I yelled excitedly. The last thing in the sack was a princess crown which I quickly put on my head and bounced up and down on the bed with delight.
I jumped out of bed to see if anyone else was awake yet, but the house was still and quiet so I went back to my bedroom to sit on my bed and look at the book, pretending to read a story to my new doll. ‘Once there was a princess,’ I said, ‘She was the prettiest girl in the whole kingdom with beautiful eyes, but a nasty witch had locked her in a tower.’
Eventually everyone else woke up and the house was soon filled with Christmas carols and the smell of bacon and eggs cooking on the barbecue. I went and sat in the lounge room and looked at the mountain of presents under the Christmas tree, trying to guess which ones were mine and what special surprises were waiting for me inside the colourful wrapping paper that rustled excitingly when I touched it.
While everyone else was having breakfast in the kitchen, I played with my new doll under the Christmas tree. There was a scent of pine needles in the air and when I touched the tree the needles were spiky and a little bit sticky. It made my fingers smell. I showed my doll the sparkly tinsel and pretty fairies and other decorations on the tree while the stereo sang about having a white Christmas.
I lay down on the floor and closed my eyes as I wondered what a white Christmas would look like. There would be a castle covered in snow, high on a mountaintop. I am a tiny thing wearing my princess dress and standing at the bottom of the biggest Christmas tree in the world. My curly red hair is poking out from under my princess tiara as the lights on the Christmas tree sparkle in my eyes and make the decorations shimmer. There are angels and fairies playing amongst the green, red and golden tinsel, laughing and squealing like young children and I want to climb up there so that I can play with them. There are so many presents under the tree that they block my view and I start to climb on top so I can see further and reach the fairy children. I held my new doll tightly in my arms. ‘Molly,’ she called to me. ‘Molly, wake up. It’s time for Christmas.’
The bell rang at the end of lunchtime detention and I packed my bag and joined the rush in the hallway to get to class. It was maths again. I wished I didn’t have to do maths on my birthday, but I opened my book and tried to listen to the teacher explaining something about algebra until I couldn’t stop my eyes from wandering to the window again and watching the birds standing on the window sill. I wished I could fly away like the birds. I would just float in the air and circle round and round and not have to worry about anything.
I rode my bike home slowly after school that afternoon and stopped in the park for a while. I sat on the swing and read a few pages of my book as I gently swayed back and forth but I didn’t really feel like reading. I wished I felt like I did when it was Christmas when I was young, all warm and exciting.
The first time I can remember Christmas was when I heard my sisters talking about it in the kitchen. Catherine said the year before I had been scared of Santa Claus and cried when we had our photo taken. I didn’t remember that at all but she showed me the photo in the lounge room and there I was on Santa’s lap crying my eyes out. That wasn’t going to happen this year because I was a big girl now.
‘What do you want for Christmas, Molly?’ Catherine asked. There was a tea towel over her shoulder and she was stacking the dishes away.
‘I want to be a princess,’ I replied.
‘Molly, you can’t ask to be a princess for Christmas,’ Samantha said, her hands making soap bubbles that floated in the air; I watched the bubbles drifting until they burst. ‘You get presents for Christmas, like on your birthday.’
‘Even better than that,’ said Catherine, ‘Santa brings you presents in the middle of the night and leaves them at the foot of your bed.’
‘Christmas is so exciting,’ Jasmine added with a big grin. She was waving her arms around with a pink tea towel and started bouncing up and down on her heels. ‘I can’t wait for all those lollys and yummy things to eat on Christmas day.’
‘I can’t wait either,’ I joined in, clapping my hands together and jumping up and down with excitement as well.
Samantha looked at me over her shoulder and said I should settle down or I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep.
Later that week we went Christmas shopping and Mum made us all get dressed up in our best clothes. I was wearing a pretty pink dress with ribbons in my hair and white sandals. It made me feel like something special was about to happen as I twirled around like a ballerina and watched the skirt of my dress float up.
When we got down town, Stephen held my hand as we walked around the shops in the main street. Wide shop awnings and wooden verandahs hung over the footpath to make it nice and cool in the summer heat. The main street was wide and the shops on the other side seemed so far away. Most of the shop windows were filled with Christmas decorations and the street was busy with cars driving up and down as they looked for somewhere to park. Every now and then a noisy truck went past and filled the air with dirty smoke that made me cough.
There were so many people walking around that I felt like I was going to get swallowed up by giants; all I could see were legs. I watched all the different shoes walking past and wondered what sorts of people were at the top of them. A pair of old lady’s shoes walked past; they were black and stiff and in a hurry. A group of white tennis shoes with long girls’ legs and little white socks went the other way with giggling voices. Some old brown boots with mud still clinging to them stepped aside as we walked along. We stopped and I heard a deep voice. ‘Good morning, Mrs White,’ the voice said, then my mother’s voice replied and I heard her talking about the weather and Christmas and some other things until I saw some pretty pink shoes that went ‘click click click’. I wondered what it would be like to walk in pretty shoes with such high heels, so I practiced by standing on my tippy toes until my feet started to get sore. Across the street I could see somebody wearing sandals just like mine. A girl with brown hair was walking with her mother and she waved when she saw I was watching her. I quickly looked away and hid behind Mum’s legs. When I looked back the girl was gone.
I tapped my feet as we started walking again. My sandals made a nice loud sound on the footpath. I tried skipping and that made an even better sound with a nice rhythm. Sometimes we stopped and the girls held skirts up against their waists before putting them back and moving on. Sometimes I had to stand there for ages while Mum and the girls flicked through every blouse on a rack. That is when my legs began to really ache. I tried to imitate the girls and held a dress out to feel the soft material before putting it back and flicking my hair over my shoulder. I got bored with that pretty soon though and started singing songs in my head. I stood in front of a shop window and watched my reflection pulling funny faces as I sang.
Whenever a pram went by I tried to have a look inside to see the baby. I wondered what it would be like to have a younger brother or sister to play with. I would try and be really nice to them all the time like Stephen was to me. Sometimes the babies looked back at me and smiled because they knew what I was thinking.
We walked on and on all morning until my legs got so tired I could hardly stand and my feet were hurting from the sandals. It was getting hot as well, even though we were still on the shady side of the street.
‘I want to sit down,’ I started to whine.
‘Hush, Molly,’ said Mum, ‘We’ll stop for some morning tea soon, just hang on for a bit longer.’
‘But I want to sit down now!’ I was starting to sniffle.
‘Don’t worry Molly, I’ll give you a piggy back ride,’ said Stephen, crouching down so I could climb on his back. Suddenly I was one of the giants.
As we continued walking I could hear Christmas carols coming out of the shops. ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,’ I started singing. ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,’ over and over again as I kicked my legs.
‘The next bit is “jingle bells all the way,”’ said Stephen.
‘Jingle bells all the way, jingle bells all the way,’ I sang. Stephen held onto my legs tight to stop them from kicking, so I rocked my head from side to side in time with my song.
Eventually we stopped walking and sat down in a café that was nice and cool. Mum bought me a chocolate milk shake and a donut and I sat there watching the bubbles in my drink and listening to the girls talking about shopping for shoes. This didn’t seem like a very fun part of Christmas to me at all, but we were going to see Santa Claus next so that was exciting.
I finished my milkshake and lined up behind all these other children waiting to see Santa. Through the crowd I could see a little bit of red suit and his white beard and I could hardly stand still.
Stephen was still holding my hand and it was finally my turn. But suddenly I didn’t want to do it. He looked so big and red and scary that I started to cry. ‘Come on,’ said Stephen, ‘You’ll be right Molly’. I tried to stop crying and be brave but I couldn’t help it.
Mum picked me up and handed me to Santa. Suddenly I was on his lap with a big white glove around my waist. ‘So what do you want for Christmas, little girl?’ he asked in a big booming voice. I couldn’t answer or think of anything to say, my voice had disappeared. I just wanted to get away from Santa and back to Mum where it was safe.
‘She’s just a little shy, Santa,’ said Mum.
‘Ho ho ho,’ he replied, ‘Why not have a lolly from my sack then?’ I timidly reached into the bag and pulled out a red lollipop.
‘You should say “thankyou”, Molly,’ said Mum.
‘Thankyou,’ I said in the quietest voice ever. I don’t think Santa could hear. Then I was off his lap and back in Mum’s arms and we were walking away.
‘Mum!’ I said, ‘I forgot to tell Santa I want to be a princess!’
The clock on the classroom wall was ticking so slowly that I thought detention would never end. I tried to write about Stephen in my journal, but each time the pen in my hand shook and the words just stopped. Instead, I wrote about the book ‘My Friend Flicka’. I had started reading it when I was eleven years old and became completely absorbed in it and the other two books in the series. I still remember the way I felt when I read about Ken sitting on a horse, high on a hill and greeting the sunrise with a sense of freedom. It was just the way I felt when I was on my bike. Every page I turned drew me deeper and deeper into the story until I was living on the pages with Ken. At night when I lay in bed with my book I would get lost in the hills of Wyoming to escape the sadness wrapped around me.
As that year had progressed and autumn became winter, the bitterly cold days kept me inside, safe and warm in my bedroom where I could devour every word of my books while the wind blew outside. Life was hollow and empty, constantly changing under grey clouds as I was caught up in my thoughts, seeing nothing of the real world. During the day I would struggle through school, unsettled and uncertain, writing stories in my head, longing for the evenings and weekends when I could get back to those wild hills.
That year had gone by slowly until the sun eventually came peeking out from behind the clouds, getting stronger every day until it finally shone brightly on me as I lay in the long grass with the smell of spring in the air filling my lungs. By the time those first hints of spring came, I had reached the final page of the last book in the series. Closing my eyes and turning my face towards the warm sun, I felt like I was ready to be more adventurous and face the real world on my own terms.
But that seemed years ago now. Here I was on my sixteenth birthday sitting through lunchtime detention and still hiding from the outside world. I looked at the list I had made of all the books I wanted to read and wished I could get them for my birthday, but I had never told Mum about it so how would she know?
I picked up my pen and started writing again.