They were going to have a poetry competition, Claire had decided. She had things to say.
“Can I paint a picture instead?” Ethel said, picking up a particularly appealing piece of paper from the pile. “I don’t like writing at all.”
She didn’t care for people correcting her spelling, which they did all the time. It was so rude.
“No!” Claire said. “It’s a poetry competition. And besides, we’ve only got pencils.”
She brandished them like knives.
“But a painting’s a kind of poem,” Ethel said.
“It is not,” Claire insisted. “Who told you that?”
“Anna,” Ethel said. “And she’s a student!”
“Well, she’s wrong,” Claire told her sister. “If you paint a picture you’re disqualified.”
“Can I write a story?” Daniel asked.
“Only if it rhymes,” Claire said. “But it still isn’t going to win.” She took her hairbrush out of her pocket and held it like a club. “My poem’s going to win.”
“Poems can’t win,” Tina said. “They don’t work like that.”
“Everything works like that,” Claire said.
“It does not.”
“It does,” Claire declared. She began brushing her hair with such intensity it glowed. “Anyway, I bet you don’t even know HOW to write a poem!”
“Of course I know how to write a poem,” Tina said. Upstairs, in the box beneath her bed, were 973 neatly filed poems, at least one of which was over a hundred pages long and written in the alliterative style. Even Tina knew that this was a bit much. “I’ve written loads!”
“Well, I’ve never seen any of them.” She looked at Ethel and Daniel. “Has anyone?”
“No,” Ethel said.
“Yes,” Daniel said.
“No you haven’t, Daniel! No one has.”
Tina never showed her poems to anyone, especially not Daniel. Not because she was embarrassed, or that they were private. She simply didn’t like to see anybody cry.
Especially not Daniel.
“Anyway, I’m not playing,” Tina said. “It’s wrong!”
“You’re only saying that because you’re going to lose,” Claire said with a wild stare. “You and your stupid poem.”
“Poems can’t lose, either,” Tina said, shaking her head and slowly fading away. “It’s not what they’re for.”
Claire stamped her feet, and then turned round to glare at the others.
“You better not be giving up!”
“But the room was empty. It was so empty it gave the impression that it had always been empty. Even Lucas seemed to have left his usual spot down the hall.
“I win, then,” Claire said sullenly. She sat down on the chair between the bookcases and looked out of the window. “I always win.”
Outside, she could see Daniel and Ethel playing on the swing. Claire threw the pencils on the floor and stamped on them, then picked them up and very tidily put them all away.
1. Written on April 28th and April 29th, 2021
2. Please see the cast of characters for more information about the protagonists
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