Winners of this year's Word Festival writing competition for secondary pupils, sponsored by 'The TESS', were announced on Sunday in Aberdeen. Reproduced here is 'Sticks and Stones', by Evie Watson-Brown, 12. Illustration: Hashim Akib
I walk along the corridors, dreading every step I take. I'm getting nearer and nearer to what they think is hell for me.
They have no idea.
I walk into the girl's bathroom, just like I do every day, and just as usual I see the writing on the wall. Everywhere around me there is graffiti. There's little imagination in what they write. In fact, there's none. Slag. Slut. My name with names of any boy in any year they can think of, even though I've never been near any of them. In some cases, they've scratched out the names of girls before me, years before me, and written mine on top. That almost makes me laugh. There must be one like me every year. The girls who write these things - what sorts of lives do they have?They think their words hurt me - but there are more painful things in life. Do these girls go home at night to their Mums and laugh about making fun of me?
There are worse things to be scared of.
The fear of not knowing what waits for me when I get home every day.
The fear of me having to tell yet another person that my Mum has walked into a door.
The fear of visiting my Mum in hospital.
The fear of her saying it was her fault, that he's a good man, that he's promised to never do it again.
The fear of keeping myself alive.
That's what scares me the most. When will he start on me? I know that my Mum protects me. There are times when he puts his fist in her face, his foot in her stomach, that I know she has put herself between him and me. He has hit me. Of course he's hit me. But if she wasn't there as his punchbag ... I don't know what would happen.
So, why would the writing on the wall even compare to that? I come into this place where I have no friends (how can I have friends? how can I take them home?) and people don't even realise that I'm glad to see them. They don't have to talk to me, all I need to do is see them because it shows me that I have survived another day. I see girls with their boyfriends doing their make-up and making fun of me. I walk through the corridors. Everyone stares at me. I go to the toilets. I see the graffiti. This goes on all day as the knot in my stomach gets tighter with each passing minute. The school bell rings. Home time.
I don't want to go home. I eventually step onto the bus. I feel sick. The bus draws up and I see Dad's car in the drive. Hopefully he's not been there long enough to hurt Mum. I cautiously open the door. No screams, no crying. I sigh with relief.
The walls are covered in family photographs from when we were all happy together.
Were we ever happy together?
They say the camera never lies - but it does. I know it does.
Five years old.
A photo at the beach.
Five years old when I started to notice the bruises on her face.
Seven years old.
A photo from Disneyland, spinning around on the teacups, laughing.
Home and hearing him smash teacups in her face, no laughing.
Ten years old.
A photo at the local bonfire night, me holding a sparkler.
She hadn't burned herself on that fire.
Twelve years old.
A photo of us all smiling at Christmas.
I know she isn't just clumsy.
Suddenly, there is noise coming from their bedroom. I storm inside. He's standing over her. She's covered in cuts and old bruises. I scream at him, telling him to get away. He doesn't listen. He gives my Mum one final kick, and as she lies there, he moves onto me.
He slaps me with such force that I fall down, smacking my head against the floor. He doesn't stop there. He finally storms out, leaving me to pick up the pieces. I drag Mum onto the bed and tell her I'm calling an ambulance. She begs me not to - he's a good man, it was her fault, she let his tea get cold, he'll be back soon with flowers, he doesn't mean it. The same old story.
I try and cover up the bruise on my face the next day. I don't want anyone's sympathy. I just want my Mum to be strong and have the courage to leave him. Another day at school, terrified of what might be going on at home. I can't concentrate, can't think straight, and the writing on the wall of the toilets doesn't even register in my mind. All I think about is my Mum.
I get home and open the door. Terrified. There's no noise. Nothing. I slowly walk up to Mum's room and that's when I see her. Lying there. Unconscious. I get out my phone and take a picture of the state she's in. I clean her up and she finally wakes. I tuck her up in her bed and print out the picture I've taken.
I know that my Mum needs help. I rush to school the next day and run through the corridors. Straight past all of the idiot boys shouting, "Hey we should go out sometime ... in your dreams." Why would I want one of them? I know what boys turn into. They turn into men like my Dad.
I run straight to the teachers' toilets, terrified something will go wrong. I quietly step inside. I pin the picture on their wall. I write in red marker pen beside it, "Please - help me."
I walk out and past the line of girls waiting to shout at me, calling me names for not being one of them.
They're not the only ones that can write on the wall.
Evie Watson-Brown, S1, Mackie Academy
Rowan Flint, 13
Meldrum Academy, Aberdeenshire
The Writing on the Wall
Hannah Esson, 15
Portlethen Academy, Aberdeenshire
Euan West, 16
Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeen
The Blood on the Wall
Nick Cronin, 14
Westhill Academy, Aberdeenshire
Written on the Walls
Paul Butcher, 17
Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen
The Mirror's Secret
Bryony Harrower, 15
Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen
The Writing's on the Wall
Kenzey McAdams, 15
Bankhead Academy, Aberdeen
Just Another Name
Rebecca Finnie, 14
Northfield Academy, Aberdeen
The Writing on the Wall
Rachel McLullich, 13
Albyn School, Aberdeen
An anthology of last year's winners, 'Oor Wey o Spikin', a Wordfirsts publication, is available, from email@example.com pound;5; T 01224 346029. An anthology of this year's winners will appear in 2009.