At the Young Adult Author Rendezvous, we believe in fostering a love for writing in young people. One of our own, LJ Higgins, had the pleasure of judging a teen writing contest in September. We’re going to showcase each of the three winners. Enjoy the first story below.
A bit about the contest:
In September, Calliope, a small town in Central Queensland, Australia, held it’s annual Country Carnival. As part of the Carnival, YAAR Author L J Higgins was invited to judge a writing competition. She was blown away by the amazing entries, and along with two other judges, they chose one winner from each age category.
City Girl, Country Boy
By: Charlie-Cherie Zorzan
“Harper!” My grandmother exclaimed as I got off the train from Perth to Kalgoorlie, a little town in WA that my grandparents call home, “Oh look at you! I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since we last saw you! How are you?”
“Great thanks, grandma, it’s good to see you too.” I smiled to see my grandparents after so long. We lost all connection after my parents divorced, but my Mum decided that it wasn’t fair to my grandparents that they never got to see me, but really, Mums always had a soft spot for my Dad’s parents.
I turned to see my grandad holding my luggage with a huge grin on his face. I ran over and wrapped my arms around him. I didn’t realize until I had finished, but I had started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I loved my grandad; I remembered when my parents used to take me down there every summer, he would read me a story every night and ride the horses with me, and take me in the tractor. That didn’t happen anymore.
“Well, how are you darling?” he said with a smile, “No boyfriends, I hope?” I laughed at that and told him that I was planning to be single for the moment.
“Good,” he grunted, “I better keep my gun on me, just in case. With a pretty face like yours, all them boys are going to be tripping over their tongues.” That little comment made my face turn tomato red. My grandmother chuckled and suggested that we head home.
As soon as we arrived at the little, yellow house I grabbed my bags and ran in, eager to see what had changed. It was mostly the same, with the exception of the spare room which had been repainted my favourite colour, aqua. I smiled, set my bags down and went back out into the kitchen, where grandma announced that dinner was already prepared and that she just needed 10 minutes to heat it up. So, I set the table for three and then poured grandmas homemade lemonade for everyone.
As I was eating my sausages, my grandmother said, “I just can’t believe you’re 17 Harper, you look so much like Conner.”
I shifted uncomfortably, my dad was a weird subject for me because I hadn’t seen him in about 6 years, after my mum won full custody of me when I was 11. It was true though, that I looked like him, we shared the same curly brown hair and bright blue eyes, as well as naturally tan skin. The only feature I shared with my mother was my smile, we both had identical smiles and dimples, with perfectly straight teeth. But the similarities ended there because my mother was fair skinned, had long, blonde hair so straight it looked like she straightened it and soft brown eyes.
“Yeah, I’m told that I look like him often.” With that, I excused myself and went to bed; I was exhausted.
I woke up at about 3 AM to sound of a truck engine roaring and a man cursing. I opened the window and found myself looking down at a muddy mess of a 17-year-old boy, trying to get his truck out of the muck.
“Hey, you!” I called out to him, come to think of it, that probably wasn’t the best decision, but I needed my beauty sleep, “What are you doing?”
“Oh, you know, just hunting elephants.”
I rolled my eyes at that one.
“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m trying to get this stupid truck to start!” He moaned, motioning to a rusted up ute.
Rolling my eyes, I called down, “Do you need a hand?”
“That would be very much appreciated.”
I quickly pulled on my boots and crept down the hall, careful not to wake my grandparents. I reached the door and in a quick motion, I was out of the house.
I made it to the ute and tapped the guy on the shoulder, he turned around, and, well, I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t attractive. He had a mop of messy black hair and navy blue eyes.
He held out his hand and I shook it, “The names Tom, and you are?”
It was at that moment that I realised I had forgotten how to breathe. As though he could read my mind, he smirked and said, “You’re checking me out.”
I turned tomato red and in a desperate attempt to regain my pride, I replied with, “Was not.”
“You were too!”
“Yeah, you were.”
“Was- Ugh, never mind.”
“Anyway,” He said, still smirking at me, “Are you going to keep staring at me or actually give me a hand? I can give you a minute or two to make up your mind if you want, I know it’s a hard decision.”
I blinked a few times and walked over to the back of the truck, he jumped into the drivers’ seat and started the engine. I pushed as hard as I could and we eventually managed to push his ute out of the mud.
He hoped out and smiled at me, “Thanks for that, I really appreciate it.”
We stood there in a comfortable silence for a few more minutes until I say, “Well, I should probably head inside.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to disturb any more of your precious rest, I guess I’ll see you around.” And with that, he jumps back into the truck and drives away.
The next morning, I woke up to the smell of bacon on the fry-pan. I jumped out of bed and raced into the kitchen, and there, much to my surprise, was Tom talking to grandad.
“Yeah Geoff, I reckon I could get to that today and maybe I could-” but he paused when he saw me, grandad turned to see what he was looking at and smiled when he saw me, “Ah, Tom, I don’t suppose you’ve met my granddaughter Harper, I told you she was coming yesterday.”
Tom nodded and said that he remembered.
Before I could decide what to say, grandma saved me and called out that breakfast was ready. At the breakfast table, my Granddad told me that Tom helped around the farm because he was getting too old to do it by himself. Apparently, Tom just lived down the road with his parents. Then, my grandmother suggested that Tom should show me around town, I almost choked on my bacon.
“No, its fine, I’m sure Tom is busy today, right grandad?”
“He can take the day off, I’m fine with that.” My grandad was not helping.
“But I was going to work with the horses today Mr. Harris.” Thank god, Tom was actually being useful.
“Then you can take Harper out for a ride, you remember the basics, right sweetie?” Ok, couldn’t grandma tell I was trying to get out of this?
“Then it’s settled, Tom will take Harper out for a ride this morning. Perhaps she can name our new horse.” Granddad said.
That got my attention, “New horse?”
“Yeah, we picked him up at the markets a couple of days ago. He’s young, about a year old, but he’s strong, needs a good rider.” I immediately warmed up to the idea of being with Tom for the day.
So we went outside, the awkward silence following us all the way to the stable. I didn’t know why, but he seemed to relax as soon as he was around the horses.
“What do you think?” Asked tom, spreading his arms wide gesturing to the stables.
“It’s beautiful, just as I remembered,” I replied with a huge grin on my face.
He took me to the back of the stables, where he introduced me to a beautiful light brown stallion with a white nose and legs. He said that this was the new horse and that I could name him anything I want.
“Peanut Butter.” I decided.
“What?” Tom questioned with one eyebrow raised.
I rolled my eyes and replied with, “I am naming him Peanut Butter, Peanut for short. Isn’t that clear enough?”
Groaning in frustration he looked me straight in the eyes and in a really sarcastic voice, said, “I know that, but why?”
I laughed out loud, wasn’t it obvious? As though he sensed he was missing something, Tom let his shoulders sag and frowned.
After I finished laughing, I managed to give him an explanation, “Peanuts coat looks like peanut butter, so he is now known as Peanut Butter.” I smiled proudly, Tom didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm though.
“That is by far the dumbest name I have ever heard in the entire seventeen years and 3 months I have been living in this world. I honestly feel bad for the horse.”
I laughed and in-between my cackling I managed to choke out, “He is Peanut Butter now, not horse.”
“Really, Harper this is ridiculous,” he sighed.
“You’re the one who said I could name him anything I want,” I reminded him.
He groaned and said, “Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d name the poor horse something so dumb.”
“He’s Peanut Butter now. Accept it and move on,” I replied, holding my still aching sides from laughing so hard.
I continued to laugh as Tom continued to grumble as he saddled up Peanut and another horse. He ran me over the basics, just to make sure I knew what I was doing, and helped me on to Peanut. He hopped on his horse and pointed me in the direction we were riding and then we were off.
I held on tightly to the reins as I enjoyed the feeling of the breeze in my hair. I looked at the beautiful scenery as I gained speed. Peanuts hooves kicked up the red dirt, the sun was high in the sky; even the dead grass was beautiful. I rode through the gum trees, laughing uncontrollably, adrenaline running through my veins.
Finally, we stopped at the dam. We tied up the horses and wade knee deep into the water, we laughed and joked, and I honestly enjoyed just being with him. I turned to Tom to thank him for the ride, that I loved every minute of it, but before I could say anything, I realised he was already looking at me with an odd expression that I couldn’t read.
He took a few steps forward and bent down and whispered in my ear, “I had a lot of fun with you today Harper.”
And just like that, he moved away and went to get back on his horse. I followed him in a daze.
The trip back was a blur. All I could think about was the way he was looking at me. Why was he looking at me like that?
“Here,” I almost dropped the saddles Tom handed me. “Put these in the shed while I put the horses away.”
I watched him walk away and then went to the shed and hung up the saddles. Since I had nothing better to do, I went to the stables to see if Tom was done yet.
I walked into Tom brushing Peanut Butter. I come up next to him, grab a brush, and start on Peanuts left side. We worked in comfortable silence for about five minutes before I realised Tom wasn’t brushing anymore. I couldn’t see him anywhere. I turned around to look for him and found him standing in front of me.
“Breathe,” he murmured, as he started to lean forward.
His hands wrapped around my waist. I stood on my tiptoes and looked into his eyes. I swear a saw the trace of a smile on his lips as he continued to lean forward. His lips brushed against mine, ever so slightly, like a butterfly wings brush against a flower. He was about to press his lips to mine but I heard a person in the background clearing his throat.
We quickly pulled away, both our faces were bright red. There, in the entrance, stood my grandad.
He took a few steps forward, his face emotionless. He took a deep breath and finally spoke, “You know Tom, I have a fine collection of guns. Maybe I should show you them sometime.”
“Yes sir, I would very much like that.”
“I could show you now if you want, anything for a mate.”
“I would really like that sir, but I think it would be best for everyone if we went in for lunch. Harpers really hungry.”
“Yeah, I am.” I had to butt in, it was just getting too awkward to stay silent.
Grandad nodded and began walking towards the house, grumbling something about his guns.
A few weeks had passed, and I was with Tom nearly every day. One day, while we were eating lunch, Tom invited me to a family bonfire at his house. My grandparents let me go, so Tom went to help his parents set up, while I got ready.
He came round at about 5:00 PM to pick me up. I said goodbye to my grandparents and let Tom lead me to his rusted up ute.
When we arrived, I was full of nerves. I wondered what his parents were like. Would they like me? Why was I even worrying about this, it’s not like I was his girlfriend or anything?
He took me into the house and out onto the veranda. There, sitting in a chair, was a middle-aged woman with straight brown hair and navy blue eyes. It was clear that that was his mother, even though they didn’t share many features. He went over and gave her a hug and then introduced us.
“Ah, yes, Harper right? Tom hasn’t stopped talking about since he came back from Geoff’s the day he met you,” she said, smiling at me. “It’s great to finally meet you, I’m Ava.”
I smiled and shook her hand just as a man, a little bit older than Ava, walked up to us. He had black hair and brown eyes. Aside from the eyes, he looked exactly like Tom, that must be his dad. Once again Tom introduced us and the man said he’d heard all about me and identified himself as Toms Dad, Mick.
Overall it was a great night. I spoke to Tom and his parents by the bonfire until about 11:00 PM. I told them that I wanted to be an illustrator, and that my Mum wanted me to go to university and that I hadn’t seen my dad in 6 years. All in all, I felt more at home in front of that bonfire with these people I had just met, then I had since my parents got divorced.
At around 10:00 PM Ava and Mike went inside to grab some more drinks. It was just me and Tom in front of the fire, under the stars.
Tom took a deep breath and murmured softly in my ear, “Your eyes put all those stars in the sky to shame.”
I blushed a deep red and looked down at the ground. He gently put his hand under my chin and made me look up at him. I looked into his navy blue eyes and began to lean forward, he did the same. He pressed his lips to mine, and I’d have to say it was the best first kiss any girl could ask for.
In a few weeks, I had to go home, and I was dreading it. I didn’t want to leave Tom or my grandparents or Ava and Mike, who had become my second parents.
I was preparing myself to go to Toms and talk about what he wanted to do since I was going to have to find a way to make things work. But then, there was a knock on the door, I opened it and speak of the devil, there he was.
“Hey beautiful, listen, I know this is late notice but I’m taking you to the town fair.” He gave me that smile that just made me melt inside and grabbed my hand.
He lead me to his ute and I hopped in. He drove us all the way up to the show ground where the town held its annual fair. It was amazing. I don’t think I had ever enjoyed myself so much in my entire life. We danced and laughed and talked the whole night away. I kissed him over and over again, it was perfect, everything was perfect. But, all good things must come to an end.
“Hey, Tom, listen, I know this a topic we have been avoiding, but we need to talk about this,” I took a deep breath and continued, “The summer will be over in about a week, I am going to be leaving. And before you ask, no, I don’t want to leave, but if I stay my mum will drag me by my hair back to Brisbane.”
“You’re going to be a legal adult soon, why can’t you stay?” he asked, he was upset now.
“I just can’t, ok? I just can’t.”
“But you can!”
“Please don’t make this any harder than it has to be, we can still keep in touch we can still work this out.” I was near tears now.
“No Harper, you’re being ridiculous, you can stay if you want, just stand up to your mum!”
“I’m sorry Tom, I can’t.”
“Fine!” He exploded, “But don’t expect to see me again!”
“Tom! Wait!” But he was gone.
He didn’t come to say goodbye. His parents did, but he didn’t. I was probably for the best anyway, I wouldn’t be able to contain myself if he came, I’d be a sobbing mess on the floor.
I ended up going to university, I got in on a full scholarship. It’s not like I wasn’t smart enough. But that was when things started going wrong.
I started dating this guy called Mark. At first, he was really sweet and supportive, he made me feel beautiful. But then things took a turn for the worst. He slowly started to change me, I became depressed and insecure. He was horrible to me in public. I lost all connection with family and friends, and he embarrassed me in front of people. It hurt, a lot.
Eventually, I got out of the relationship, but it was too late. The damage had been done. I had already dropped out of university for him, I lost all my friends because of him, and my dreams had been thrown out the window.
I was a twenty-year-old girl with nothing, no friends, no plan, no love life, nothing. I packed my bags and got on a plane and flew to Perth. I got on a little train to the small town of Kalgoorlie and went to visit my grandparents. I hadn’t seen them in three years, not because I didn’t want to see them, just because there was at least a ninety-nine percent chance I would see him.
When a saw my grandma and my grandad, I just cried and cried and cried. It felt good to see them, they took me to their little house and just let me cry, they just rubbed my back and let me cry.
The next morning, I took the car and went for a drive. I needed some time to think.
As I was driving, there was a huge bump and before I knew it, I was stuck. I got out and tried to push the car, but it wouldn’t budge. Cursing, I grabbed my phone to call someone, only to find that it was flat. I was cussing like a sailor, kicking the stupid thing and trying to get it to go. I was in tears by the time a rusted up ute pulled up next to me.
“Excuse, but do you need any hel- Harper?” That voice, it sounded so familiar, I looked up and there in front of me was Tom.
“Tom?” I couldn’t believe it.
All of a sudden his face split into a huge grin and he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tightly, “Harper! I am so sorry, I’ve missed you so much and I was such a jerk and-”
But he didn’t get to finish his sentence because I was kissing him, and it was like falling in love all over again.
About the author:
Charlie-Cherie Zorzan placed first in the 13-17yr category in the Calliope Country Carnival Writing Competition. She is thirteen-years-old and attends senior high. She is passionate about writing and desires to become a successful author. She also loves to read and enjoys a wide range of genres including action and adventure, history, love, and fantasy. Charlie-Cherie is a very enthusiastic and excitable person and enjoys getting out and being active. She plays netball and does boxing. Acting and drama are also her passion and she has been part of a small drama group for three years.
This post was created by Michelle Lynn
The contest was judged by LJ Higgins
Don’t forget to check out more posts by the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.