A Short Story
20 January 2024
In a break from our usual programming, I'm publishing a short story I wrote a few years ago, working with a group of twenty Year Seven students at Ark Boulton Academy in Birmingham. This was part of an EU Partner project called, Read On, encouraging children and young people to read.
The theme, love, was provided by Read On, the ideas, characters, settings, etc, were worked out in a workshop run by me at the school, and then I was sent away to write the story.
The idea then was that I would return to the school, and present them with the story and show them how I wrote it. But, that first workshop happened in February 2020, and do I really need to say more? I refuse to mention the C word.
They still got to read it because the story was published in an anthology, and all students in participating schools received a free copy.
I would have loved to have returned though, and read the story to them.
One last aside before you read the story... Those young people in that workshop were all Muslim faith based. I returned home that day thinking, If I write them a story with the usual white kid as the protagonist, I will have let them down. So this story is written from the point of view of a Muslim teenage girl.
Probably my most difficult writing project ever, one I couldn't have managed without the help of my friend Pardip Basra and his grandmother.
My father’s a loser.
That’s the only thing you need to know about him.
Well, maybe there is one other thing, but we’ll get to that later.
My name is Shahzana. Most everyone calls me Shaz, except my mum. She says she called me Shahzana for a reason. She says that Shahzana means Princess, because that’s what I am, her princess.
My mum’s pretty cool, yeah? I mean, she’s a heart surgeon, which is amazing. Unlike my father, who is a complete and utter loser. Did I mention that already?
But as cool as my mum is, she still named me wrong.
Cos I ain’t no princess.
Mum brought me up on her own. That’s because my father, The Loser, left us when I was only six months old. Just disappeared.
Mum told me she was scared out of her mind at the time. She thought he’d been murdered or had an accident or something. But then he took all our money out of our account (not that we had much) and Mum had to close it and open up a new one. And the police never found a body or anything, and it was just like he’d walked out of the house and decided not to come back.
Wait a minute, I’m telling this story all wrong. But it’s difficult sometimes to know where to start.
Maybe I should start with Grandma, and the intruders breaking into her house and attacking her.
She’s The Loser’s mother, but unlike her son, she’s pretty ace. After The Loser left Mum, Grandma looked after us both. She looked after me while Mum continued her studies at medical school, and when Mum started working.
She’s still looking after us now.
But wait, Grandma didn’t get burgled. That turned out to be a lie.
And now I’m telling the story all backwards.
So I’m going to start with the first time I met Lenore.
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