Future Writers 2020 Winner

She had never known a world like this. A world that was controlled by an illness, influenced by fear.

The shops were closed, parks empty, her friends and family had never felt further away.

But it got easier, the feeling of uncertainty had become more familiar over time. It was like a feverish dream, the state the world was currently in. It was like life had stopped, as though the universe needed a time out. But she began to feel as though she was mastering the art of quarantining. 

But this was her first time outside, it was like a whole new world. Everything had changed in the last few months, but it felt like she had been kept in the dark and left out, unaware of what was considered the new norm. But the discomfort was worth it, she would get to see her. Her favourite person, her safe place.

Gingerly, she opened the door… and stepped out. The sun was shining, birds singing a lilting melody, a soft breeze rustling her hair. It seemed like a normal summer day, but it was far from that. She began to walk, the way was familiar, she knew the path like the back of her hand. They always went there – before the whole country locked down – it was their place. It had been so long, she forgot what fresh air felt like, it was freeing. Then, she began to run, she needed the exercise, the wind knotted her hair and the beaming sun made her squint. But she was nearly there. 

She rounded the corner, off the footpath, through the gate, into the field. The overgrown grassland stretched as far as the eye could see, with a few towering trees dappled across its landscape. It was getting difficult to see now, the sun was ready to set and was low in the sky, like a blinding light. It was ok though, she knew the way. She strolled straight across the field, to the large, secluded tree right at the end. Finally, she got there.

The tree was old and grand, with thick branches perfect for climbing. Her initials were still engraved into the base of the trunk from all those years ago. She rested her foot in a small groove in the trunk and used it to boost herself up and she began to climb. As she was slowly making her way up to her usual spot she thought she saw a flash of familiar chestnut hair. Before she knew it she had reached her branch. It was worn and slightly flat from all the time she had spent walking and sitting and balancing. She sat down near the end and looked across from her. There she was; long brown hair gently swaying in the breeze, worn trainers with flapping soles (from many failed attempts at skateboarding), and those familiar big brown eyes smiling at her.

Almost instantly, the tightness in her chest – that she hadn’t even noticed was there – fell away. She was overwhelmed by a sense of security and safety. It was then she knew she would be ok; this pandemic wasn’t the end of the world. She smiled, for the first time in a while, a genuine smile back at her best friend as they watched the sunset disappear under the hill.

By Poppy Larkin

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