1st Place Category 4: The First Step
Winner Category 4 (Ages 9 to 11)
by Alice Ward, Age 10, Australia
The First Step
We’re back at the beach. I lick my creamy, delicious, strawberry ice-cream as I watch John play with mum. They’re jumping over the salty white-water waves. I feel the soft white sand brush over my toes and the waves lapping up over my feet.
Could I be ready to go in the water?
I haven’t swum since it happened. Why was today right? It’s almost been 2 months, and John is still asking questions like ‘when is daddy going to come back to life?’ But I feel like today is the day.
I stand up, and stare out to sea. There are surfers scaling the waves, their bleached blond hair making its own waves behind them. I can smell the salty water and I stare at the turquoise waves of the surf, white bubbles of foam soaring down the front, ready to be part of the mist of foam that flies through the air as the waves break. I stand up, kicking the white grains of sand off my feet. The sand is so white that the beach looks like it is scattered with grains of salt.
I step forwards, but as the foamy water hits my toes, I sit back down.
I can’t do it.
I finish off my creamy ice-cream, and start to relax on the beach. But as I look out to sea, I notice something different. Mum is walking up the beach to get John’s swimming goggles, but John is nowhere in sight. I stand up and look around, and to my horror I see John in the deep water, not moving.
“Mum!” I yell, looking around.
“What?” Mum asks.
“It’s John!” I reply. “He’s drowning!”
Mum runs along the beach, heading for the water, and races through the waves, but as she almost has John, she trips and yells out.
“My ankle!” She cries. “I can’t move it! Hope, help me!”
At the sound of my name, I reach for the surfboard that John enjoys paddling around on and grasp the edges with my clammy hands. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears.
I can’t do it.
You see, two months ago my dad died in a shark attack. Things have never been the same since. I used to love surfing, but now I can’t stand the water. But as I stare out to mum and John, helpless in the water, I hear dad’s voice on the morning of the attack: ‘Are you sure you don’t want to come, Hope? I’ll get you an ice cream before we surf.’ It was all my fault. If I’d gone with him, we would have been eating ice cream, nowhere near the shark. Then dad would have been safe. Now I want to make him proud.
I grab the board and run into the water. I paddle out, scooping the water with my hands. I slice my board through a wave, feeling the water soak into my hair. It feels good to be back in the water.
I reach out for John, feeling his cold arm slip through my fingers. I manage to haul him onto the board, and I madly paddle back to shore. I pull John onto the beach, and I’m just in time. I yell out to the lifeguards and they run over. One helps John and one helps mum, who is still in the water, clutching her sore ankle.
I can’t believe I just saved John. No-one else, not even the lifeguards, could have saved him in time. It had been up to me. And I had done it. Dad would be proud.
We sit in the hospital as mum waits for the cast on her ankle to be removed. John was fine after I rescued him and he is back to normal, running around the hospital causing chaos. Now that I love surfing again, we enjoy our time much more. This is what dad would have wanted.
My inspiration for the setting of “The First Step” (the beach) came from my love of visiting the beach and surfing there. The story itself was inspired by the shark culling debate in Western Australia at the time. Sadly, we have had many shark attacks here. Sometimes when I surf, I feel scared that a shark will come, so I wanted to write about overcoming that fear. I chose to write from the point of view of a child who had lost her father, because two of my friends lost their father in a traffic accident two months before I wrote my story.
I am 10 years old and I have always loved reading and writing. I wrote my first story when I was 4 years old (titled “In the Jungle”), and I have wanted to be an author ever since! My bedroom is full of books and piles of paper containing stories that I have written. Currently, I am reading Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.