Tell A Tale in 500 Words

A Cup of Sweet Tea By Olivia Gwyne

Driving through wintery countryside Julie talks to the boy sitting beside her in the passenger seat, who smiles and nods. A shy smile, an agreeing nod, as though he isn’t quite sure what it is he’s agreed to, filtered as it is through a language he barely understands. Outside the sun hangs low in the sky as though it too is tired after a long journey.

Arriving at the house they go up to a first floor room, the boy still clutching a small case he’s been holding onto since he first disembarked.

“This is your room,” Julie tells him. She holds up both her hands, fingers spread wide. “We’ll see you downstairs in 10 minutes, OK?” She smiles and nods and the young boy smiles and nods in return. It’s all they have to breach the space between them.

Sitting on the bed he looks at his hands, made dark and rough by the cold, and wonders if they will ever return to normal. Distance and time have distorted, altered the world. Through the window he sees the same grey cloudy sky he could see in France. France already seems a long way away. When he thinks of home, it seems close. For now. In the dark before he falls asleep, and in his dreams, everything will be topsy-turvy. Fear, a wall of dark grey cloud, will surround him, his home will be so far away that it is beyond his reach.

He goes down into a warm kitchen full of smells he doesn’t recognise. Can’t detect even a hint of the herbs and spices of his mother’s cooking. Julie smiles and points to a chair by the table and he sits down. He doesn’t like the drink she’s made him but smiles after each hot sip. A bowl of sugar with a little spoon in it is put beside him. He adds sugar to the milky tea and it isn’t so bad.

Sadness drips out in drops of salt water that fall onto the kitchen table. She comes and sits beside him. He’s in a home but not his home and he wonders if he can ever feel safe again, anywhere. When his journey began he could not have imagined how long or hard the journey would be. Had started to believe change wouldn’t come for him, would pass him by, like a swollen river that he was unable to cross. Ahmed smiles at Julie and nods, and she smiles back and gets up to carry on making dinner.

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