We’ve been running a Creative Writing Competition with the students of our local school, Kensington Aldridge Academy.
We asked for students to write to us with their experiences of lockdown. It could be in any medium; poetry, script, video, audio, etc.
Below is the brilliant winning entry from year 7 student Olivia Festinger…
When I wake up, I forget for a second about how life is. That everything changed under these new, uncertain circumstances.
As soon as I see the beams of sunshine slipping through the cracks of my curtain with my sleepy, half-opened eyes, my first thought is that I’ll spend today, Saturday, in the park with my friends, getting ice cream and maybe going shopping if there’s time. But before I reach for my phone to text my friends about this plan, it hits me. There’s no going out, no seeing anybody, no doing anything anymore, no holidays, no hang-outs, nothing. Absolutely nothing. But I guess it’s only for our own safety. All of this because of coronavirus, COVID 19, taking over the world like some new, invasive alien.
I get out of my room, limbs heavy with sleep, trudge down the corridor, and stumble into the bathroom where I do my daily routine of washing my hands fiercely with a couple pumps of soap until my hands feel numb with rubbing.
It’s been a couple weeks since quarantine started, and I guess I’m still not used to it. You don’t realise how bored one can get without friends around or, well, The Outside. When was the last time I went there? Maybe it was for a run? Well, I’ve lost track anyways, so nevermind. All these thoughts overload my mind as I undress and step into the shower. These thoughts are a big jumble in my brain, twisting and knotting. However, as soon as I let the warm, fresh water splash onto my face and eyes and roll down my back, my head feels immediately clearer, and the stiffness in my joints vanish.
I’m wrapping my towel around me when I hear the inane pounding on the bathroom door for the first time. Gingerly, I open the door to see my sister, Kate, staring back at me with deadly eyes that seem to pierce into my soul. Her mouth, with its corners turned down, curl into a snarl when she sees me.
‘What have you been doing for the last past hour?!’ Kate growls, shoving past me and walking into the bathroom, ‘I need to shower!’
‘Well, so did I!’ I say back, as I step out of the bathroom.
‘It doesn’t take that long to shower; we only have one bathroom and you have to stop hogging it now that we are stuck here together.’
She says ‘stuck’ like it’s a bad word, so bad that she almost seems to gag when she says it.
Kate, my sister, is 16, only 3 years older than me. She was always a little sassy, always had a comeback, but these past few months have been particularly bad. Maybe it’s a teenager thing, as mum would say. She saunters around, unsmiling, giving everybody the stink eye and dirty looks and, overall, negativity. Mostly, though, Kate seems to absolutely hate living with her family 24/7 which I guess makes sense but doesn’t.
I spin around and walk swiftly to my room to get dressed as I hear the click of the bathroom lock behind me.
When I get to the kitchen to have breakfast, my mum is there, washing the dishes from the previous night. She seems lost in thought, looking through the window, scrubbing the same plate for minutes in a circular movement.
She turns to look at me, bewildered, ‘Sorry hon, didn’t see you there. Just washing the dishes.’ and then she turns back round and starts rinsing an already clean bowl.
‘Mum, seriously, stop. That bowl has already been washed. I’ll take over. You lie down.’ I say.
She starts to protest, but I’m already easing the sponge out of her hand and picking up the soap. I talk to her like you would with a frightened animal; in a soft, kind yet steady tone. Mum nods and sits on the sofa, reading the news on her phone.
My dad had to leave us and live in a motel room near to the hospital where he works. He’s a nurse, so he cares for the patients, including the ones diagnosed with COVID 19. Every day he is in potential danger, every day there’s the possibility he could contract the virus. But I know better; I’m thinking rationally. Not only does he wear protective equipment, but he’s had medical training so he knows what he’s doing. Anyways, my dad’s a healthy man, so even if he were to get it…
Although, my mother, she’s getting very stressed and worried. She misses him, as do me and my sister, but it’s like she’s already mourning him or something. I hate it. Everything’s changing in front of my own eyes, and it’s too fast for me to keep up. It’s all a mess.
When Kate comes to the kitchen, she hovers around a little, searching for her favourite white bread.
‘Mum,’ she says in a gentle tone, more gentle than she’s ever used with me, ‘Do you know where my bread is?’
Before my mum can answer, I say: ‘it’s out of stock, Kate. Instead we have delicious chia-based brown loaf. It’s healthier too!’
Either she’s trying to melt my brain or is trying to intimidate me with her eyes that seem to bore into my skull; either way, I stare back, smirking, waiting for her to say something. But then I see her head turn slightly to where mum is sitting, scrolling through her phone, and so Kate narrows eyes and smiles back at me.
‘You’re lucky.’ she says menacingly, as she begins to reach for the cereal.
I walk off, slightly terrified, but I would never show it. Kate’s like a wolf: as soon as she smells even a little bit of fear, she won’t back off. I make myself a fruit salad of apples, bananas and um…nothing else due to there being nothing in stock because of certain circumstances. But it’s still good.
Nothing else really happens for the rest of the morning. We all go into separate rooms (luckily, Kate and I have separate bedrooms) and go and do our own things. I draw, which, for me, is a gateway to getting out of reality. I grab a piece of paper and let the pencil in my hand take charge, sketching an outline for whatever it is I want to draw today, but I’m not quite sure what it is yet, though my hand keeps moving. Soon enough I’m outlining what I’ve drawn with a thick, black marker and adding splashes of blues and greens and greys here and there. I hold up the picture in front of me. I’ve drawn myself in a cartoonish way, with my curly brown hair and bright blue eyes, inside of a cage. Outside of the bars, I have drawn an awful beast circling me: its name is The COVID Creature! It’s grey and red and crawling with rough skin and spikes jutting out of its tail and head. I’m quite proud of it. I place my artwork on my desk so that whenever I sit there I can marvel at it.
We eat lunch in silence, wash up and all disperse in separate ways again. I go downstairs where the guest bedroom is, step into the bathroom, and pull open the shower door, and pause to look around. In this shower we keep all the snacks and food that don’t need refrigeration or anything like that. And because we always want to make sure there’s food available, we order a LOT at a time and store it in here, just in case we can’t access this food in the future. This includes biscuits, cereal, crackers, crisps. At first it was strange, and it still is, but I like the fact that anything can be turned into something else. For example, you know, a shower into a cupboard. I grab a granola bar and rush back into my room.
For a couple of hours I call my friends and we chat about all the things we will do when we are out of quarantine. There’s Mark, Aya, Lillian and Charlie. I miss them so much. They were my plans, my jokes, my comfort, if you can understand that. But it will only be a matter of time until I see them again. Yeah. That’s what I keep telling myself. Soon enough, the whirring hurricane of thoughts begin to take over my head as I lie on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.
What if I never see them again? How long will it be until I hear another human’s voice? How long will I be trapped here with Kate and Mum? Most of all, when will I see dad?
I almost laugh at myself; I am supposed to be the realist, logical one in the family. But the thoughts tumble through my mind, plummeting at my brain, and I feel like I’m going to explode with all the anxiety I’m holding. I close my eyes and breathe, just as I hear a knock on my door.
‘Yeah?’ I say, heaving myself out of bed. I open the door to see Kate standing there, looking almost as surprised as I am.
‘Umm,’ I say, ‘You did mean to knock on my door, right?’
‘Uhh, yeah.’ she stammers. We stay there for what seems like hours.
‘Do you wanna come in, then?’ I ask, stepping back to allow her to come in. She stares into my room, looking at the posters and photos hung up, eyeing my desk with its new lamp and stationary.
The last time Kate was in my room must have been months ago, so I guess she’s looking at all the things I’ve changed. As she grew older, she also grew more distant. Then, before I knew it, she simply stopped coming into my room, stopped hanging out with me.
‘Your bedroom’s changed.’ she remarks.
‘Yeah,’ I sigh, ‘Kate, what’s wrong? Are you coming in or not?’
‘I’m here because you took my headphones yesterday and didn’t give them back.’ Kate says, pursing her lips.
Oh. Her headphones. Kate has these super nice, scarlet headphones that are really comfortable and have great sound quality. I used them today, yesterday and the day before when talking to my friends, and never gave them back.
‘Ok, I’ll just get them now.’ I go to my bed where I last used them. They’re not there. So I swiftly walk to my desk. Not there either. Maybe they’re on the shelves! I rush over to them. Nowhere in sight. I panic, knowing very well what Kate would do if she knew I had lost them. But it’s not like I left the house with them or anything.
I go over to her cautiously, looking down at the floor. ‘Sorry, I can’t find them right now. I’ll keep looking though.’
She scowls, and rolls her eyes. ‘You’re kidding right? Fine, let me in and I’ll look.’ Kate groans, pushing past me and then searches my room; everywhere that she looks ends up being a mess. Maybe her precious headphones are under the bed? Oh, just shove those notebooks and pens that are under there aside carelessly, I don’t mind (I definitely DO mind). She does this a few times and I can’t seem to hold my tongue.
‘Can you be a little more careful with my things please?’ I ask gently, fake grinning.
‘Well,’ Kate replies, ‘If you didn’t lose my headphones, I wouldn’t have to move your stuff. Your room’s a mess, by the way.’
She then pushes a pile of clothes off my chair, just to annoy me. ‘They aren’t under here, either.’ She says mockingly.
‘Stop. it. Please.’ I whisper, clenching my fist.
‘It’s ok, chill. I’ll help a little more though.’ Kate approaches the stacks of drawings on the desk, her fingers lingering above them.
‘Get out! Please! I’ll find your stupid headphones, just stop messing up my room.’
‘Fine. You better find them though.’ On the way out Kate intentionally elbows my water bottle which I forgot to close, and the water goes spilling all over my desk, drenching a few of my drawings, including the one I did today of the COVID Creature which is now a dripping, mushy mess.
Kate’s eyes are wide and her mouth is open in shock. ‘I’m so sorry, sis, I didn’t know the bottle was open and-’
But I’m not listening anymore. I pounce at her knowing full well that she’s stronger and bigger than I am, but I don’t care. I tackle her but she immediately pins me down on the floor, and we are screaming and grabbing and wrestling. When was the last time we fought? Thinking back now, I can’t even remember the last time we did.
I feel a hand ripping me away from Kate and I look up to see mum. We didn’t hurt each other, and we weren’t going to, but we are both breathing heavily, our faces red and flushed.
‘Girls! What are you doing?’ My mum hisses, grabbing both of us by the arm.
‘Kate-she ruined my artwork!’ I gasp, glaring at her. I don’t realise that I have tears streaming down my face, and so I dry my cheeks with my sleeve. After all, those drawings took time and I really loved them and now they are gone.
‘Well, she was the one who attacked me!’ My sister shrieks, staring at mum with pleading eyes.
‘Girls, girls, please stop! You can’t be fighting over something this small during these circumstances!’ My mum whines, taking a deep breath, ‘Especially when your father might be-might be- It’s just your father has a fever and a-a cough,’ Her voice is hoarse and full of worry, ‘We don’t know if he definitely has it, but we are pretty sure. He’s ok, just a little ill.’
I am in shock. I don’t know what to say. Mum nibbles her lip she always does when she’s nervous. We sit there for a minute in silence, drowning in our thoughts. I watch my family, suddenly so grateful that I have them here, that we are all here to support each other. I turn to Kate and watch as she lets out a heavy breath. She sees me watching and smiles supportively, and grabs my hands and holds onto it, squeezing tight. I squeeze it back.