Monday, 22 December 2014

SUMMER'S CHRISTMAS GIFT...

A special Christmas story written from Summer's point of view by reader Gemma… with a few extra touches from Cathy Cassidy...

Christmas will be better this year, now that Honey's back. The Christmas tree glints in the corner of the living room, next to the TV where the cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland is playing. It's all perfect, exactly as it should be, but I cannot settle. There are butterflies in my stomach and my heart is racing, as if I am about to step on stage in a dance school show; as if something amazing is going to happen. I can't work out why I feel so strange, so anxious. I sneak away, wrapping myself in a warm, fluffy coat, not bothering to pull shoes on over my Christmassy woollen socks or change out of my floaty pink skirt. I open the back door slowly so nobody can hear me leave, but it creaks just the same. Typical Tanglewood. Skye comes to see what's going on.

'I'm going out for a bit,' I tell her, and she nods, a little confused, and goes back to watch the end of the movie. I step out into the freezing cold snow, the icy wetness seeping through my socks. I head down onto the beach, even though it's definitely not beach weather, and then I hear footsteps behind me on the sand.

'Hey,' I say, turning to see my friend Jodie. 'Long time no see! I've missed you!'

'Hey,' she smiles. 'I've missed you too!' Neither of us say that this is because Jodie is away during term time, at the boarding ballet school we both auditioned for. Jodie got the place I had to pass up because of being ill, and although I have come to terms with the loss now it's not something I find easy to talk about. I know that Jodie does, too; it's as if she took the chance that was meant for me, but I can't blame her - it was my own fault. I couldn't handle the pressure. It dragged me down into a very dark place.

We hug and Jodie tells me she was on her way to visit when she noticed me coming down to the water's edge. 'I have a surprise for you, Summer,' she says. 'Come with me!' She leads me across the beach and through into the lane, where a car is waiting, engine purring softly in the falling snow.

'It's just Mum,' Jodie tells me. 'Come with me, please?'

'I'm not really dressed for an adventure,' I protest, but Jodie just laughs and tells me the car is warm, and that it will all be worth it. 'I want you to talk to someone,' she explains. 'And it has to be now… will you come?'

I find myself in the car, my frozen feet thawing out a little, huddling into my coat, chatting to Jodie and her mum about Rochelle Academy. 'And how about Christmas?' Jodie's mum asks. 'Are you all ready? Are you hoping for something special?'

I smile and shrug, because the things I want most in the world are things I just can't have; there's no point hoping for the impossible. After a while, the car approaches Minehead and parks outside the Exmoor School of Dance. It's the school Jodie and I attended together for years; the school I still take classes at, even though Jodie has moved on.

'I can't go in,' I argue. 'Look at me! No shoes! People will laugh!'

'There are no classes today,' Jodie says. 'Trust me… nobody will mind…'

Jodie leads me inside and knocks on the door of Miss Elise's office. The door opens and there in the warm sitting-room office is my dance teacher… and her friend, the once famous dancer Sylvie Rochelle.

'Ah, Jodie!' Miss Elise says. 'You found her! Thank you for coming in, Summer. You remember my friend Sylvie, yes? We've been having a chat about you. Summer… you are an exceptional dancer; gifted. But you and I both know you are not strong enough to be a professional dancer…'

There it is, the plain, painful truth, washing over me again. I shiver, and it has nothing to do with the cold.

Sylvie Rochelle takes up the story. 'Well, as Elise says, you may never be a professional dancer,' she tells me. 'It is a pressured life. It is not for everyone. But I believe you have a gift for teaching; Elise says you're wonderful with the younger ones. Rochelle Academy has an opening for someone wishing to train as a teacher. I wondered if you might be interested?'

***

Half an hour later, Jodie and I stand together on the pavement outside the dance school, the snow falling softly around us. 'Worth it?' Jodie asks, and I fling my arms around her and hug her tightly.

'Worth it,' I say. 'Thank you, Jodie. This is the best Christmas present ever…'

Cathy says:
I've never worked on a story with a reader before, but adding a little bit here and there to Gemma's story was a LOT of fun! I hope you like the result… don't forget to COMMENT BELOW to tell us what you though!


11 comments:

  1. Wow! I loved it! Gemma seems like a really good writer! Méabh.

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  2. Another story well written Gem :)

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  3. A lovely piece of writing Gemma (and Cathy) - the cold, snowy description creates atmosphere and reflects Summer's mood well. C x

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  4. Good stuff Gemski!

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  5. Well done Gemma especially and Cathy. That is a lovely Christmas story.

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  6. Well done Gemma! You have a natural talent for writing that you should continue to share your beautiful work.

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  7. Good job, Gemma. :) I love the ending. ps you are really pretty

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  8. A really good story I love all of the Chocolate Box Girls books so this is really enjoyable

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  9. Gemma you have always been an amazing writer keep it up

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