Lily Tibbitts was the winner of the 12-16 years category. Lily is 14 years old and a pupil at James Calvert Spence College in Amble. Many people in the audience were quite emotional listening to her short story, which she read out so perfectly at our Celebration concert last Thursday.
I came back! Are you proud of me? I know I said I never would, but it’s been a year now. I thought it might be easier after all that time, but it wasn’t. It’s still so hard. I came, though, for you. To see you, although I’m not sure if I have the nerve. That’s why I’m writing this letter I suppose.
I guess I kind of did everything in a weird order, but it was the right order to me. The order of us. A little tour of our history. Druridge Bay beach first, where we used to play as kids. The dunes are nowhere near as tall as I remember, but that’s probably because we were so small back then. They’re still beautiful though, golden waterfalls of smooth sand. From the top, I could see so far. The sea stretched out before me; unending, unfaltering. I remembered the game we used to play- splashing in the shallows, pretending to be mermaids.
We always loved the beach, didn’t we? You know how bad I am at sticking to something, but I always loved going there. And you, you wanted to travel the sea. You used to talk about it loads, one of the only things you were confident enough to really talk about. The teachers used to think we were like opposites: Isabelle Mitchell, the quiet one, and Leah Davis, the one who never shuts up. They never knew how similar we really were. You were always a much better actor, good at hiding yourself.
I went to Holy Island, where we used to go for our annual trip. I winced as I got to the castle though. Memories from the last time we went come rushing back. I had my first boyfriend- Lee or something, not that it really matters now- and I was barely even talking to you, too busy texting him. I was so stupidly oblivious to the fact I was hurting you back then. That was only about... well, nearly two years ago now. It wasn’t long after that we broke up. I got the text at the fireworks show at Hauxley and ran off, crying. No-one really noticed, except you of course. You comforted me and I apologised for being so awful, for ignoring you. We promised we would always be there for each other. God, you were always there for me Izzy, even when I wasn’t there for you.
We were at Seahouses when I first realised something was wrong, walking across the powdery sand, warm between our toes. I’d been so lost in the briny scent of the ocean, I hadn’t realised you were acting off. I tried to ask but you refused to admit it. I should have pushed harder, but I didn’t. I didn’t for so long. I let you drift further and further away. I was confused and annoyed. I thought you hated me. And, like an idiot, I never asked you why. Only thinking about my own stupid interpretation of it all. You probably hate me- I would hate me. Especially after Craster, where I finally snapped.
You hadn’t said anything for the whole walk along the beautiful cliffs, the waves crashing on the beach down below. I shouted at you, actually shouted, and told you to talk to me or just leave. I remember the wind was howling in our ears, drowning out any rational thought in my head. The rain had just started, lashing down and drenching our thin hoodies. I sometimes wish that the sun had been shining down that day, as if the weather could change what I did. It can’t though. Everything that day was my fault. Not the rain’s, not the wind’s and certainly not yours.
You were crying, we both were. Our salty tears mixed with the pouring rain. You said the words then that broke my heart. Everything that I’d feared. That you were sick of me, you hated me, you didn’t want to be friends with me. I was pathetic. I was oblivious. The words were like bullets, Izzy. I’m not angry though, how could I be? You’re my best friend, you always will be. I was then though. Everything you said hit its mark. I never questioned it because I’m exactly as you said. Pathetic and oblivious. I should’ve known, should’ve remembered, that you were always the better actor. I screamed at you, insults I knew would strike you with the same pain you’d caused me. I knew because I knew you. That made it so much worse.
And then I haven’t seen you since. It’s been over a year since that day though. It’s been a year since your mum came and told me though. That you had had cancer for a while, a cancer that hadn’t been getting better. Only worse. Worse and worse and worse. You never told me- why didn’t you tell me Izzy? I loved you more than anyone and you didn’t tell me. I cried as I read the note you had left. You told me about how you’d been trying to separate yourself from me, so I wouldn’t be hurt when you were gone. You told me about how hard it had been, about how you still loved me. And you said sorry. Again and again and again.
It’s been a year since I first read that note and I’ve read it every day since. Only today have I came back though. I visited everywhere, except one. Amble’s quiet graveyard that faces out towards the sea, so you’ll always have the view of the beautiful blue waves that you wanted to sail so much. I’m sitting outside, writing this, and I can see it- your grave. I should go in, to say my real last words to you. Not those stupid petty insults.
I’m sorry Izzy, I’ll always be sorry. And I’m sorry I can’t come and see you. I’m not brave enough.
The judges really liked the sense of place and being that Lily managed to convey through her story, saying it had a maturity beyond her years.
Well done Lily!