EMMA'S BIG DAY by Hermoine Ford
‘Wake up, wake up!’
Gemma tried to shut out the sound. She wanted only to sleep.
‘Give me five more minutes, Mum. I just want to think about today.’
‘Just five more minutes, then and then you will have to start getting ready.’
‘Ok, Mum,’ said Gemma, snuggling back into the bedclothes.
A short while later Gemma’s Mum called up the stairs ‘Gemma, Anna is here, are you going to hurry downstairs?’
‘Ok,’ said Gemma, hurriedly putting on her dressing gown and racing downstairs to see her friend.
‘Honestly, Gemma, I thought you would be up at the crack of dawn,’ said Anna. ‘Such an exciting day for you, wish it was me. We have all tried so many times to get on the programme and then you were chosen.’
‘I know,’ said Gemma, ‘I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. ‘I just wanted to lie in bed and dream.’
‘Gemma,’ said her Mum,’ you had better get stuck into your breakfast. You cant go out today on an empty stomach.'
Gemma sat down and tried to eat, but the scrambled eggs were making her choke; she would much rather just have a small drink, but there was no way she would be able to get away with that. She pushed the eggs all round her plate, trying to make it look as if she had eaten most of itl ‘I know, Mum, but I just cant eat today, I am so excited.’ ‘And I have to get ready and do my hair and that will take ages.’
‘I cant make you eat, sweetheart, so you had better just get upstairs and put on all your finery and make yourself the loveliest you can.’
PAMPLONA BULLS by Barbara Shean
My sister had always had an eye for a bargain. I sighed as we trudged through the colourful alleyways of this Spanish town at 8am that Saturday morning. She had seen a beautiful ceramic bowl in a corner shop, and nothing would deter her from going back to find it.
Today, the whole atmosphere of the town seemed emptier, if that was the right word, although there was excessive noise coming from the central area. I’d heard a rocket exploding only moments ago. Had we missed a football ground with a match playing today, or overlooked the bull-fighting at the arena? We had been uncertain about actually going to seeing a bull fight; we hadn’t really found out what was ‘on’ here, as we didn’t speak Spanish.
We found the shop but it was closed.
”Oh, would you just look at that!” Grace angrily stamped her foot. “Just my luck someone else will spot it and it will be gone!”
“Don’t worry,” I said, reassuring her. “If it was meant for you, it will still be there tomorrow”
We sauntered toward the central shopping area but hadn’t gone very far when shouting broke out and quite a few people streamed past us, some running, everyone shouting and pushing against each other. Startled, I looked at Grace in shock. This wasn’t normal behaviour and a fission of fear went through me. Our steps quickened, foolishly running against the flow of human traffic. We came onto the main road just as a second rocket exploded above us, then all hell let loose.
Young men were running for their lives and behind them, catching up very fast were half a dozen powerful and angry looking bulls. They were huge beasts with rings in their noses and sweat dripping off bulging brown skins.
Hooves clattered on the cobbled stones, heads rolled and pointed dangerously sharp horns at the men in front of them. They were charging at them, trying to toss them out of the way. We froze in fear.
Blind to us, the young men kept running for their lives getting nearer and nearer, stumbling as they ran, some holding onto each other for strength, shouting in exhilaration and fear. The sound behind the bulls was deafening, townsfolk jeering, drums beating, horns bleating.
In moments it would all be upon us, but mercifully, thankfully, a door opened behind us and a man dragged us inward out of harm's way as the hoard thundered past us in a cacophony of sound, deafening, frightening.
Grace and I clung to each other, cold reality washing over us, so grateful not to have been a part of what was going on outside.
Feeling extremely foolish, we accepted the glass of red wine from our saviour while his grandson told us, in English, that this was a Saint’s Day and the beginning of the bulls running through the town, which would happen for the next few days as traditionally it did every year. As tourists we must be aware that this would happen from 8am in the morning, and not to venture out from our hotel until after 10am for the next few days.
Chastened, we thanked our hosts and returned to the street to continue our way into the centre and find a coffee shop to recover.
‘Come with me, Anna and help me get ready. I have new hot pants and white boots; everything is new and should look great with my new haircut.’
‘Wow, Gemma,’ said Anna, ‘you are going to look fantastic. Wait til I tell the girls at school about your lovely clothes.’
The girls came downstairs later to hear Gemma’s mother say ‘You look absolutely stunning, don’t you think so, Anna?’
‘It is a good job that we live in Reading, Gemma and it is not too far for your Dad to take you into London. He is having time off from work and will be here very soon.'
No sooner had her mother spoken than she saw her Father’s car roll up outside and she ran out to him. ‘Gem, you look absolutely lovely, I am so proud of you. Come on, lets get going, no time to lose’.
‘Bye Mum ‘said Gemma giving her a huge hug and then giving Anna a bear hug. ‘Wish me luck.’
They got into the car and gently drove to London. Before too long the BBC headquarters came into view and Gemma could feel the butterflies racing in her 14-year old tummy.
They walked inside and gave their invitation to the receptionist. The receptionist looked at Gemma and gave a broad smile. ‘So good to see you and I am sure you will have a wonderful day. Your Father can stay in the waiting room. Just go through the second door on the left and down the corridor until you come to the door that says "Jim’ll fix it". Mr Savile will be waiting for you.'
A CHILD GOES MISSING by Barbara Shean
The view from the top of the man’s shoulders was awesome, but it was too hot. Ruby paddled the carrier’s shoulders with her feet and shouted ‘ice cream’ at the top of her voice, not in the least concerned her mother and father couldn’t be found. This was an adventure and if she made enough noise she just might get her ice cream. It always worked at home with mummy.
The young man and his friend had found Ruby wandering alone down the alleyway by the shops and were now slightly concerned that their beach time was slowly ticking away. They had walked up and down the shopping area in the hope that the little girl’s parents would spot them and come forward to collect their child. They spoke enough English to ask Ruby where she was staying, but the child could only tell them it was in a house by the beach. Since this area was all hotels they had shrugged their shoulders and elected to hoist Ruby aloft and see if the lost parents could be found by walking around.
An ice cream was bought for the child, the sun immediately liking the ice enough to melt it, dripping great dollops of vanilla atop of the man’s hair, while sticky fingers were wiped on a silk shirt.
Impatient now the man looked round for an escape and saw a group of small children waiting in a queue beside a bus. He lowered Ruby to the ground and hurriedly spoke to her in his Basic English. “Wait, stay here, your mother will come. Wait.”
With that, the relieved man turned around and walked away toward the beach. His friend glanced back, a worried look on her face but inwardly relieved their involvement had ended and they could get back to enjoying their holiday.
Ruby finished her ice cream and looked around at the small group of young people, all about her height, waiting in a queue to board the bus. The little girl in front of her had long plaits and was carrying a doll. Ruby thought that doll was the most beautiful thing in the world and reached out to caress its silky hair. The owner of the doll turned and smiled, liking the look of the little blonde haired girl so much that she held out her precious doll to Ruby who clutched it to her chest, and shyly nodded her thanks. A rapport sprang up between the two girls and they held hands as they were ushered aboard the bus, Ruby unconcerned as to what was happening. She clutched the doll to her, loath to part with it, as she knew she must. It didn’t belong to her and mummy said you had to give things back even though it hurt sometimes.
The bus ride was short, as they go, coming to a stop outside a small school building. Everyone started to get off the bus at once until a commanding voice was heard and a line was formed. The children filed off the bus quietly into the school, through the corridor to a large hall where mums and dads waited to collect their offspring.
Names were called and the children ran toward their collectors, hugging and chattering excitedly, to be led away. Slowly the hall emptied until Ruby was the only one left standing there. Where was her mummy? Why wasn’t she being collected? Her lips trembled and tears ran down her cheeks.
‘Oh dear’ said the ladies in the doorway. Ruby couldn’t understand what they were saying until a new lady came forward to kneel down in front of her. “Hello little one. What’s your name? How did you come to be on our bus?”
Slowly, bit-by-bit the sorry tale was pieced together. Ruby was taken to the front office to sit down with juice and biscuits and a rather nice looking teddy bear was given to her to hold. She took an instant liking to him. She just wanted her mummy now, why hadn’t her mummy come for her?
Several hours had passed, and the young couple standing by the desk in the Police Station had aged since their daughter had gone missing, their backs stooped, lines of worry etched on their tear stained faces, fear constricting their breathing.
The British Consulate had been asked to represent the parents who did not speak this local language, offering them any assistance they could. Ruby had wandered off; she had done this before, but had always been found and scolded for doing just that and worrying her mummy.
The local community had grouped together; proven when children are involved. Shops and cafes and some hotels had searched their premises while the police had informed lifeguards on the beach to look out for lost children. No stone seemed left unturned yet this was a holiday resort, a very busy one with many nationalities and lots of small children.
It was mid afternoon when the call came. A young child fitting the description of Ruby had been found at a local school, safe and well, several miles away. The police organised a car to take the parents to the school, re-assuring them, yet at the same time asking them to be wary: this girl was most probably their lost child, but they must see for themselves.
The young mother did not relax for a moment; hope was not allowed to swell her heart, or warmth to spread from spoken words. Her sightless eyes would see only her daughters’ face and empty arms be filled with joy when she was safe and sound.
And yes we had a happy ending, a rapturous mother, a forgiving, grateful father and all the rest, but a contrite and dutiful daughter? Until the next time!
SHE'S FALLING by Judith Kelman
It had been a while since my last visit to the nature reserve.
I stood at the edge of the wood and listened. A wood pigeon rattled the tree above me and flew off with a warning call. Then all was silent. Just the distant sound of voices from the other side of the river.
Straining my ears I could hear the water moving fast over mud as the tide came in, and the rustle of little creatures under the leaf litter at my feet.
The scent of the rich earth reached my nostrils. I breathed deeply and relaxed. I found a spot to sit on the ground and from my position could see myriad tiny ground creatures, busy doing their work, and the first green shoots of bluebells pushing through the cold soil.
A buzzard call somewhere above me brought me to my feet and out into the open. I scoured the clear blue sky trying to see where he was. That’s when I spotted the climbers. A group of them was climbing on the opposite river bank and I watched them for a bit as they made their way, inch by inch, up the steep cliff. I was very glad to be standing on my relatively safe viewing point on the ground! Rock climbing was not something that appealed to me!
I briefly took my gaze from the scene as my attention was caught by a pair of graceful buzzards soaring above me, enjoying the up draught from the river valley.
Suddenly there was a scream.
She was falling!
One of the climbers had slipped and had fallen to the rocky bank below. What should I do? How could I help? Would one of the other climbers know what to do?
I fumbled for my mobile phone, but found I had left it at home! With heart in mouth I wondered what to do next. I could run back to the road and find somewhere to ring the police.
Seconds felt like hours. I could hear my heart beating very fast.
I strained my eyes to see what was happening on the cliff. The other climbers were carefully moving; one to the road above and the rest down to the river bank. I shouted at the top of my voice, “Can I get help?”
I waited for what seemed ages for a reply, then the climber at the top called down that it was O.K. and he had already called the emergency services.
I breathed a sigh of relief and sank to the ground to recover myself until my heart stopped pounding in my ears.
The buzzards carried on soaring in the blue sky regardless.