In April I entered the Radio 2 500 Words story competition. My story, Hope, didn’t get through to the second round, unlike last year when I got onto the longlist. (You can read last years story here.) Here is my story:
Three long years, this war has been raging now. It’s funny. I can’t remember a time when there was no war. I can’t even remember what my family look like. It’s like my cousins are my brothers and sisters, and Auntie is my mother. Ayesha does think she’s our mother. But then, she was only 2 when we last saw our real mother. At least, that’s what Auntie says.
Every day, me and my oldest cousin Amani go to sell the mangoes that grow in Auntie’s garden. We make a stall of cardboard boxes outside a bombed out house. It was probably hit by a mortar shell. When the soldiers come, we scramble through a hole into the cellar. It’s cold, dark and full of rats as hungry as we are. But it’s safe.
Hardly anyone has money to buy the mangoes. So they tell us stories, or give us an earring in return. Auntie gets cross if we give them mangoes ‘for free’. But me and Amani don’t mind. We tell the stories to Ayesha and my cousins, and that makes them happy. It gives then hope. No amount of money can do that.
Sometimes Amani asks me what it was like living in the city. I tell her I can hardly remember anything, and she asks me what do I remember. I tell her I remember watching the sunrise over the tops of the buildings, eating freshly baked bread, and a fresh, minty smell. She asks me what smells fresh and minty. I tell her I don’t remember.
I know I have two brothers and one sister, as well as Ayesha. I keep trying to think of what they look like, but I can’t. I can only see Ayesha’s face. No one else’s.
Me and Ayesha were lucky. We managed to find Auntie, among the maze of rubble and abandoned houses. I recall hardly anything about that night. Except the noise. Everyone was shouting and screaming. Gunshots filled the air. Ayesha was crying. The soldiers found us trying to escape. They had hidden in the empty buildings, and ambushed us. That’s what Auntie says. When she found me and Ayesha, she took us to safety. All I remember is seeing Auntie’s house for the first time, and crying. I don’t know why I was crying.
Then I remember something. My mother’s face. She’s got kind brown eyes and dark hair. She looks a lot like Auntie. I start crying. And I realise that if I stay here any longer, I’ll end up like Ayesha, calling Auntie mother. I have to find my family. I need to know they’re more than just names on a family tree.
So now I’m going to find them. Ayesha, Auntie and my cousins are staying here. Amani thinks I’m crazy. But I’m still going. I wonder what my family look like now. I wonder if they’ll recognise me.
But I will find them. I promise myself I will.