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Short Story Competition: WINNING ENTRY!

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We had some really brilliant entries when we launched our short story competition, making our decision on a winner especially tough! The winning prize was a Kindle Fire along with £100 of Amazon vouchers and we eventually decided on this story by Rachel Jepson, to be crowned the winning entry! short story competition winners

We loved the way it was written from all perspectives and the way it captures the stresses, worries and everyday emotions that working parents face daily. Here it is…..

 

Working Story by Rachel Jepson

Chapter One- Angela

I tried to make it, I really did. With each minute I drove, I pictured her kicking the ball and then smiling, looking into the crowd for me. I wasn’t there, I’m never there.

My Mum was there. Reliable, supportive, understanding. She never judges, never tells me I should be doing better. I know that I’m doing the wrong thing for Sophie sometimes. But we can’t manage any other way.

It’s such a double standard. John works all day, he’s here the odd evening and mostly on the weekends. He never feels guilty, he never feels like he should be doing more, it’s just accepted that he won’t be there.

Sophie won, her team beat The Bears by 2 goals, and she was so happy. She didn’t even ask me why I wasn’t there; she’s stopped doing that now. She’s learnt that there’s no point, she doesn’t want to feel disappointed, and so she’s given up.

That night, I put Sophie to bed and told her how proud I was of her, always. She hugged me and said ‘’I know’’.

Mum was sat in the kitchen when I went downstairs. I loaded the dishwasher, she sat in silence. I knew what she wanted to say, but she never said it.

‘’I can’t do this anymore, Mum’’. I collapsed onto the chair next to her. She pushed my cup of tea across the table to me.

‘’You do so much love. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Sophie knows how hard you work and that it means you can afford things.’’ Her kindness prickled me, made me cringe. The self-hatred I’d nurtured over the past six years had not served me well, but I needed it. I was so used to it, that it was like a friend to me.

When John got home that night, I told him we needed to talk. Maybe I could try and cut down on a day at work? Ask Susan, my boss if that would be a possibility? As soon as I suggested it to John, I knew it wouldn’t be. Sue was not the kind of understanding manager you would need with a proposition like this. She was getting more and more tired of my attempts to leave early, dash out half an before the end of work and making it up the next day. She wasn’t flexible or lenient in any way and my heart sank when John said ‘’sure, you can try and cut a day if it makes you less stressed’’. I could have killed him for that. Now the possibility of dropping a day, having one glorious day where I could do things, and then be on time to pick Sophie up was too much to take.

I asked Susan the next day. She said no.

Chapter Two- Sophie

I know she wanted to be there, but she wasn’t. She never is any more. Mum always says to me that she tried, and I know she does. When we scored the first goal, I looked for her. I saw Olivia’s Mum, and Mia’s Mum, but my Mum was missing. Nana was there, she was smiling and put her thumb up, I love her.

In the car on the way home, Mum said she was going to make chicken for tea and my favourite chips and ice cream. I could tell she’d been crying before she picked us up, and now she was trying to be jolly. I wish she wouldn’t be sad because it makes me feel sad too. They say that Mum has to work in her job so that we can afford nice things, like holidays and birthday parties. I like those things, but I like Mum being there more.

Chapter Three- Nana

When I got the call, I felt faint, I wasn’t sure what to do. I grabbed my bag and rushed out of the door without locking it. I accidentally stood on the cat’s tail; she was sleeping on the front step. She screeched and ran off. I walked really fast, and started to run. It occurred to me that Angela and John wouldn’t know and I needed to tell them. I left a message on John’s voicemail, Angela didn’t answer and I couldn’t leave a message.

I thought the ambulance would be there, from what they said at school when they called, but they weren’t there, they were already gone. I was relieved that one of the teachers had gone with her, she would be so scared. The school called me a taxi.

I tried to call them again on the journey, I left another message with John and text Angela, I hoped she’d get this soon; she’d want to be there.

It was all a blur, I couldn’t remember where I’d gone, but the nurses led me to where Sophie was and my heart was beating so fast, was she going to be alright?

When I got to the room, she was asleep and her leg was in a cast. I crept closer to her, so as not to wake her, and I saw her beautiful face, peaceful and grazed.

The doctor put his hand on my shoulder, which made me jump and he smiled sympathetically. He went on to tell me that Sophie had fallen off the climbing frame at school and they called the ambulance immediately. He said she’d been tearful when she arrived, but that the teacher who was with her had been comforting her throughout. I could see her hovering outside, I went out and thanked her, she left after five more minutes.

When Sophie awoke, she smiled and then started to cry. I held her and kissed her head. She asked where Angela was, I lied and said she was on her way, praying she’d gotten my message. I just kept thinking how upset she would be to have been absent, again.

I told Sophie a story about a fairy who was good at maths and had to do a project for class about counting marbles in a jar. Sophie was mesmerised, but then her eyes started to close. The nurse said that she’d feel sleepy because of the pain killers she was on and that they might have to operate on her leg. I immediately felt sick ‘please don’t do an operation on her without her Mum and Dad here’ I thought.

Chapter Four- John

When you hold your baby for the first time, it’s this beautiful, pure being. Its eyes look so wise, like it knows everything. Nothing’s happened to it yet, you haven’t messed anything up. It hasn’t developed anxieties or worries, it’s not aware when you do something stupid or say the wrong thing. It smiles when you make it laugh, and cries when it’s hungry. You want to protect your baby, and you know that even though that’s not possible, you’ll try your hardest to keep it from harm.

That day, I got the message from Angela’s Mum, and I dropped everything to be there. In the car, I called Angela, I knew what I was doing was illegal, but I had to try and get through to her. I text whilst at the traffic lights.

Angela has been so upset lately about missing out on Sophie’s games, Sophie’s ballet lessons, whilst her Mum does everything for us. Ever since Sophie was born, Angela has felt guilty about everything. She tries not to let it show, she didn’t want Sophie to develop anxiety due to her own worries. Motherhood has changed her. Parenthood has changed us both, but it’s different for Angela. I can go to work and work late in the evenings. I feel bad when I hear that Sophie’s scored a goal and I wasn’t there, but I don’t feel it’s my duty to be there all the time, you know? I understand that Angela does feel it’s her duty to be there, that every time she misses something, she’s failed in some way. I wish we could afford for Angela not to work, but we can’t. And anyway, not working at all would drive her crazy.

My little pudgin’ was asleep when I got there. She’s so beautiful. They said they might have to operate and I just thought ‘where the hell is Angela?’ I was angry at her. I didn’t know what to say. The doctor showed me the x-rays, it didn’t look good and there was no alternative really. Sophie would need pins in her leg as some of the bone had chipped and wasn’t supporting her the way it should.

I looked at my phone, no missed calls or texts. I called Angela’s office number, she was in a meeting and they’d make sure she gets the message.

Chapter Five- Angela

I was in meeting and I didn’t get any of the messages. Any decent person would have knocked on the door and got the message to me, it was important. But no.

In all my life, I’ve never been so angry. Angry at work, angry at John, Angry at my Mum for being there when I wasn’t. Angry at school for not watching her, making sure she didn’t fall. I was falling apart.

Like John said, this could have happened to anyone, working or not working. It’s true. I was looking for someone to blame. The issues weren’t with work, or with anyone else. I needed to talk to a counsellor and sort everything out in my head. I wanted to stop feeling guilty about every little thing. I wanted to feel like a good Mum, doing the right thing.

I found Neil on the internet, a counsellor in my area. Someone I could talk to. I could see him on Wednesday evenings at 8, once Sophie was in bed. No guilt.

As soon as I sat down, I started to cry. My thoughts and feelings had been bubbling at the surface all day, I was anxious about this session, about what I’d say, what he would think of me. He said he wasn’t there to judge, that he was sorry I was in pain, and he could see I was very upset. He offered me a tissue, a glass of water. He told me I was to look after myself, asked me where the guilty feelings had come from.

As I talked, I realised there was so much more to this than I thought. I had such deep feelings of self-hatred which were inexplicable to me, and I had cultivated this, even enjoyed it at times

The crux of the matter was that something had to give, I couldn’t go on like this, and I couldn’t cope. To admit this was a huge relief, it was empowering. Jeez, how did I mess myself up so badly?!

The morning after the session, I asked Susan for some time and I opened up to her. Everything was fresh from the counselling session with Neil, and I told her I couldn’t carry on. To say I gave an ultimatum wouldn’t be quite right, but I definitely made her see that there was a huge problem that would get worse if nothing was done. After half an hour, Susan agreed to give me Mondays off. I was so grateful; she could see the tears in my eyes. She even smiled.

Chapter Six- Sophie

I have metal pins in my legs. Dad said I’ll always go off at the airport and then he laughed. I didn’t know what he meant but I laughed too.

My leg hurt a bit afterwards, but it’s ok now. I’m back at school and they’ve taken out the climbing frame I fell off and put a pirate ship there instead. It’s really cool, it even has a flag.

Mum doesn’t work on Mondays anymore. It makes her happier and makes me happier too. She picks me up after school, and sometimes we even have friends over for tea. Last week, Poppy came for pizza and we played dress up with my new costumes. Mum hugs me a lot. I love her hugs and I love her being there, even if it is just one day after school. Nana sometimes goes out on Mondays now, and isn’t there when I get home. It’s strange, but she should see her friends too.

The other day, Mum picked me up and then we went to a café for tea. Dad met us too, and they told me that I’m having a little Brother or Sister in the summer. I can’t wait, I’ll be a good sister. I already have a list of things I’m going to show the baby when it’s born, and I’m going to kiss it a lot and take it for walks and push it on the swing.

Mum doesn’t get teary any more when she’s eating tea or helping me brush my teeth. She didn’t think I saw, but sometimes I did but didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to make her sad because I know she didn’t want me to see. I love my Mum, and my Dad and my Nana, I want them to be happy all the time.

When I’m a grown up, I’m going to work sometimes, but not all the time. I asked Doctor Simon about what it’s like to be a doctor, I want to be a doctor when I’m older and then I’ll be able to help everyone all the time. I like being me. Everyone should like being them.

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