‘Paper’ by Katie Hyland, Age 15

The girl has a piece of paper in her pocket.

There is no ink to mar the fresh sheet, nor any words to linger on the pages, and yet the girl guards it with a protective clutch. The piece of paper is nothing important, but it will be. Soon, the girl promises herself.

The paper is folded neatly in two, the way she was taught by her mother and her mother before that. Her family prioritises order and system, and the girl’s childhood has been full of it. With these values in mind, her mother organised her garden, with its sharp corners and even rows of vegetables. Much like that garden, the girl had been given a system: follow the rules, write inside the borders.

Everything her mother had instructed; the girl had once followed like a religion. She had stretched these teachings into her own life. Following her mother’s stride, she had pulled out weeds from the garden and skimmed through the factual textbooks in her mother’s library.

With each black-and-white book she read, full of numbers and science, she longed for poetry and art. The kind of art with feeling – not scientific diagrams she was accustomed to. The girl had become desperate for creativity. Deep within her bones, snaking around her heart and seeping into her veins was a desire for passion. Sometimes, in her most lonely of hours, she would kneel at the side of her bed and pray for a gap in her mother’s strict routine. Yet God, or whoever heard her prayer, must spite her. The control persisted, and the girl had continued to write within the borders.

Now, the girl is grinning in anticipation. Despite her flushed face and the nerves that settle in her stomach, her eyes are alert. Her skin, kissed by the golden sun, glows with an energy she has never seen.

She is sat upon a blooming field, where she lightly twiddles with the long stems of the wildflowers. They are marvellous blues and yellows with light greens. The colours surround her, bold and new. The girl, unknown to such brave splashes of colour, finds it curious. She holds the petals up to the sun, trying to find some fault. Despite feeling the spiking grass beneath her legs and the sun’s heat on her face, the girl wonders if this field is just a dream.

The girl pulls out her piece of paper. The folded lines are out of place, and so she takes the paper in her palm and scrunches it tightly. She pauses for a moment, breathing in the light spring air. The girl knows exactly what she wants to do, but she has never had the bravery to do it until now.

Writing outside the border, the girl writes a story about the weeds and the wildflowers.