Introducing our STELLAR Short Story Winner: Apples By Brian L. Cummins

Read the full story right here.

Hundreds of you entered our STELLAR Short Story Competition, we recently shared snippets of the stories our six finalists submitted. Now, it’s time to share the wonderful winning story with you. Thousands voted, and Brian L Cummins’ story Apples was the clear victor. Here, read his fantastic short story in full. Thanks to everyone who took part, and well done to all of our six brilliant finalists!

I can’t remember how to count anymore. Once I get to the number eight my mind goes blank. Six is my favourite number because it’s my age, I wonder how long I can be this age for. Hopefully a bit longer. I wonder when my birthday is.

I haven’t been to school since my Daddy stopped paying the bills last summer. I don’t miss school, because every time I went I would be itching to come home and be happy. I never had friends and nobody ever liked me and the teachers were too hard to understand and it was such a long, long, long day that I didn’t enjoy and, and so much more!

Now I can sit in my treehouse all day and count my eight, and more, apples in my picnic basket. Sometimes I get bored though. It isn’t easy having nothing to do other than sit in my treehouse all day and count my big basket of orange apples. It is definitely a lot better than being in school, but I wish there were more things to do. I wish we had neighbours. Daddy’s wellington boots are making a loud squelching noise underneath my treehouse, which means he’s coming to tell me to come inside before it gets dark.

“Anna! Come down and don’t forget your basket of oranges or they’ll go off!” he orders. I find it funny how Daddy calls my apples ‘oranges’ just because they are orange. I love my Daddy.

We live in a cottage on an old farmland, but we aren’t farmers. It’s a small cottage with no upstairs and it is just for the three of us, nobody else. As soon as I walk through the wooden back door I can smell Mam’s favourite drink again. It smells like nail varnish remover and I don’t like it. Daddy has made dinner for us; a shepherd’s pie with cheese on top, my favourite. I eat it in less than seven minutes – Daddy timed me – but Mam hasn’t touched hers at all. She has sat on the end chair with a huge upside-down smile on her face and purple around her eyes the whole time. She starts to look like this when the day gets dark and it is starting to get late. Maybe she gets tired very easily in the evening. Nobody is ever happy when they’re tired.

Daddy shares a chocolate bar with me for dessert and Mam runs into the toilet after her first bite of the pie. She even drops her favourite glass with her favourite drink on the way. It sounds like she is getting sick. Probably because the pie is cold, and nobody like to eat cold food that is supposed to be warm. Daddy looks sad and it makes me a little sad because I loved his dinner, but Mam didn’t appreciate it. “Don’t worry Daddy. I loved your dinner so, so, so much!”

“Why don’t I tuck you into bed? It’s getting really late sweetheart.” I nod even though I am not even a tiny bit tired.

He tucks me in even more gently than normal and kisses my forehead. “I love you, don’t ever forget that.” His face doesn’t seem either happy or sad, so I close my eyes and wait for him to leave. I stare at my picture wall for hours and let my mind wander. All of my drawings on the wall let me imagine all of my favourite imaginations.

Drawing is one of my favourite things to do – other than counting my apples, obviously. Daddy loves all the drawings that I make. I see pictures on my wall of crazy huge houses (with stairs and three floors!) And even a swimming pool and a TV. My imagination is too distracting to sleep. Daddy always says imaginations can sometimes be a very bad thing, so I try to stop looking at my wall.

I picture me and my Daddy in an even bigger home, with a huge treehouse in the back garden and no mucky grass to get my only runners dirty (because Mam doesn’t like when I get my two runners dirty). Oh that’s right, Mam would be there too, I just nearly forgot about her for a second. It puts a big, big smile on my face and I giggle a little bit.

Mam and Daddy are fighting again. I don’t know what about, but Daddy sounds scarily angrily, and he’s never angry, so Mam must’ve done something bad. I don’t know why Mam starts fights all the time, it doesn’t make me, nor anybody else happy at all! They’re both shouting quite loud and my door is shaking on its hinges from the noise. I can’t make out what they’re saying, but imaginations can be dangerous so I don’t imagine.

I sneak out of my bed and slip my mucky runners on. It must not be that late because the sun is only setting now. I climb out of my little window, bringing some paper and crayons with me. I want to have something else to fo other than count my basket of apples. I reach the treehouse and my mucky runners are even dirtier than before, Mam is going to be so very upset with me. I wish I had another pair. I begin to climb up the ladder on the few steps that aren’t broken, and I get so excited to draw on my paper that I climb really fast! I don’t really think what to draw on my paper, I just do whatever I want because I can.

It is nighttime now. A dirty, wet, black night. Daddy always says summer in Ireland is worse than the winter. I’m way too happy with my crayons and silence to go back, so I decide to stay out until morning. They won’t wake up until late anyway.

I wake up and water is dripping on my nose from the holes in the roof. It’s very annoying. My drawing got ruined from the rain and I get very upset. I want to make a new one to show my daddy, so I leave my treehouse and head home. I climb back into my little window as quick as possible to avoid the rain. It’s a lot quieter than it was a few hours ago. I can’t tell what time it is, but it’s probably around breakfast time because I’m very hungry. I’m a lot more tired than I am hungry, so I get into my freezing cold bed, with my damp socks on to keep my feet warm obviously, and go to sleep for a few more hours.

After a while, I get up and go into the kitchen to see if there’s anything to eat for breakfast. Daddy is sitting in the kitchen at our dinner table. He doesn’t turn to look at me, weird. I go about the presses in search for food and find a handful of cereal in a box. The milk is a day out of date, but it isn’t curdled so it is okay to drink.

I sit beside Daddy on the table and I start to eat my breakfast. He smells like Mam and I don’t like it. He hasn’t said ‘Good morning’ to me yet, which is weird, but I continue to eat anyway. He’s holding one of Mam’s favourite glasses and he has the exact same upside-down smile that she has when she holds her glasses. They obviously are bad luck or something. I will make sure to never touch that glass.

I finish my cereal and still feel hungry, so I take an apple out of my basket, bring it into my room, and begin drawing again for my Daddy, because I love him.

I don’t know what to draw yet, so I look out of my little window for some help to get ideas. There’s a new pile of muck and a shovel at the side of the house and it looks ugly, so I just decide to draw me and my Daddy in our big imaginary house with more than two bedrooms and a big treehouse.

I finish my drawing, but I don’t forget Mam this time! I draw her in her bedroom, asleep, because that’s where she is right now even though it seems really, really late in the morning. Usually she would be listening to the radio in her room with the door locked at this time. I don’t know how she can sleep for that long.

I peel the orange skin off my apple and smile the happiest smile I’ve had in ages. I love apples!