Stories: The Stranger

Updated: Nov 16

Upon the family's arrival at their countryside estate, their youngest, Belle, ran up the stairs. Barely six years old, and small for her age, she struggled when opening her bedroom door. "Hey lil' nugget! Ya need help with the door?" His enthusiastic tone brought a smile to her face. Not a second later, she shot up like a pop tart and nodded her head eagerly. When her brother Adam opened the door, she energetically ran into the room and tossed her backpack onto the bed.

She walked around the room caressing the walls as she admired her little corner of the world. Belle felt like she was a princess in a tower while she day-dreamed of someday being rescued by a brave knight. A lovely french window overlooking the entire back garden was her favourite spot in the room where she would enjoy sitting on the window sill and playing with her dolls. As she did this that morning though, she noticed a strange figure crossing the garden who then entered the shed. Observing the shed for a few minutes, she realised the figure was not leaving. Curiosity consumed the small child as she hopped off the window sill and scurried down the halls of the enormous house. When she arrived at the kitchen, she grabbed her red wellington boots and slid them on before opening the back door that led straight to the back garden.

Belle stopped at the door to the shed and stared intently at it. After a few seconds of pondering whether or not to go inside, she placed her right hand on the door and it slowly creaked open with a light push.The shed was dark and nothing could be seen. Belle stepped inside and flipped the light switch. Scanning the room, she could see nothing of interest except for garden tools. Belle wondered whether she had imagined the whole thing; had she really seen a figure or was it just a figment of her imagination? Belle was turning around to leave when she heard a muffled voice saying, "I like your boots." It was barely audible, but she was sure she had heard it. She snapped her head around and froze when she saw a boy standing in front of her. Shaggy looking, with light brown hair that looked like it hadn't been combed for days, he had the palest skin which looked almost ghostly.

Belle didn't quite know how to react in such a situation. She had been told never to talk to strangers, but was the unusual boy in her shed considered a stranger? The silence was broken by the boy’s soft voice, “Griffin, because my dad liked birds. I like them too. What's your name?" Belle was stunned at his candour.

"I’m Belle," her voice shaking a bit. She was normally a very confident child but this situation was a more than a little disconcerting for her. Taking a breath before trying to speak again, she asked, "What ya doin' in my shed?" It took Griffin a few seconds before deciding he could trust her at which point he gestured for her to come closer. Belle did as she was told and slowly stepped forward. Griffin leaned down and whispered into her ear, "My parents aren't here anymore, so I kinda live here now." This new information left Belled dumbfounded. Perplexed as she was, she slowly took a step back and looked him straight in the eye, taking a moment to notice the storm in his light grey eyes.

"Belle, Mum's looking for ya!". It was Adam, shouting from the kitchen. Belle looked at Griffin, "It's time for lunch." Her new friend nodded towards the door. Leaning forward, she whispered, "See ya later,” before turning around and disappearing into the house.

Belle re-entered the house to join her family for dinner. Her unusual urgency to finish her food had her mother interested. “Belle, honey, don’t inhale your food,” her mother said with a soft giggle. Belle looked at her mum in the eye before looking back down and mumbling that she just didn’t want to leave Griffin waiting too long. Belle's mother furrowed her eyebrows and pressed her lips into a thin line, trying to process the familiarity of that name. “Ahh, he is the neighbour's child. I thought they had moved away after an unfortunate accident years back.” Belle simply nodded and ran out of the room, leaving her family chuckling at her antics.

When Belle arrived once again at the shed it was getting dark and Griffin was sitting waiting for her patiently. She took a moment to observe the golden wild-haired boy, who was so lost in thought that he didn’t notice the small girl until she cleared her throat. He got up and started running towards the meadow. He abruptly stopped when he noticed Belle wasn’t following him. He looked back before shouting, “Come on! it’ll be fun.” And then they were both running through the meadow's rich brown earthen hues to the stars that shone like sugar spilt over black marble glistening in the sun. The meadow was a three- dimensional wonderland for the eyes who were willing to absorb the light. It was the most beautiful art, like a song for the eyes reminding Belle of the fairy tales she had read, of all the magical kingdoms she had wanted to visit. None of them lived up to this one, her own magical kingdom.

They soon reached the lake, the starry night shakily reflected on the surface of its water like a brilliant Van Gogh, the stars bigger and brighter, blurred in the most striking way. “Come in with me!” he shouted as he jumped into the lake. Belle, shook her head and told him that she wasn’t allowed to go swimming without adults. Griffin insisted, “Come on, it's only scary at first, but it doesn’t hurt.'' Belle wasn’t sure what Griffin meant by that but she decided to join him. As she took a step forward, her foot got caught on the root of a tree, and she fell and everything went black.

Ringing in her ears is Griffin's boyish laughter. She stands up and looks at Griffin who is wearing the same clothes as before but they were not as shabby looking, his cheeks rosy and full of life. He runs towards her, through her, and straight into the lake. Belle notices that this isn’t night time anymore as a blinding sun bears down on her from above. She calls out for Griffin but it was as if he can’t hear her, as if she wasn’t there. She watches Griffin splash and laugh before going deeper and deeper and then she watches him struggle and then he is no longer in her view...

Isabela M, Year 12

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