Heathdale flower 09th December 2021

Winning Book Week Short Story for Werribee Secondary

Atricia was our Werribee Secondary Short Story winner for Book Week in 2021. Hers is a compelling story about race, wealth, privilege and friendship.

Heathdale flower

The most common compliment I’ve received is that I speak very good English, which is strange since I’ve lived in Australia for my whole life. I first began noticing it when I started going to school, especially all the teachers who try to speak with loving and compassionate voices. But something that Mum told me is that you can tell who a person really is by their eyes, and when I pay attention to their eyes sometimes I see that teachers are just saying this because it’s their job. But I understand them – being a teacher is very hard work. I guess people compliment on my English because of my accent. Both my parents migrated here years ago and they only learnt English then, so their accents aren’t as perfect. It seems like that has passed on to me too, since I speak with a half-American, half-British and some Asian accent mixed in between. Some days I wonder why my brain hasn’t picked up on the local accent I’ve become used to hearing plenty of times. My parents also come from different Asian backgrounds, and along with my accent it means that I can really come from anywhere. And because I can come from anywhere it means that when people see or hear me, they either look with confusion or brush past me as if I don’t exist.

“You’re ready for school boy?” Mum said. We’d just moved to a new town because of ‘financial issues’. It didn’t really affect me though, since I never really had many friends anyways. The only close friend I did have was Mum’s boss’s son, Marcus, from the video store that she worked in. We both loved movies and would scan the shelves each week, messing them up and then stacking the tapes back onto the shelves after Marcus’ Dad shouted at us. If we still lived there we would’ve gone to see Back to the Future that weekend. Obviously not.

“My big boy is now in year 7!” She exclaimed, taking a picture after she shoved a hat onto my head. I wasn’t smiling. “Ah – please smile! I only have two shots left.” I forced a smile as the camera flashed, then instantly let it down.

“You got the keys, Ichiro?” Dad asked. I hate it when he calls me by my Japanese name. Apparently it means ‘first son’, which is weird since I don’t have any siblings. It gets weirder because my Mum is Chinese and gave me the name ‘Didi’, meaning ‘younger brother’, again making no sense . It then gets confusing because I have two names, so I decided that everyone else I meet should call me Max, even though it has no relation to Ichiro or Didi. I rolled my eyes – both my parents were working so that meant I had to walk home from school. For normal kids they wouldn’t complain about this at all, in fact it made them look ‘cool’, but it gets kind of tiring when you’ve had to walk home from school every day for the past seven years,.

“Can’t you just pick me up?” I said, heaving my bag onto my shoulders. “It’s a new school anyways.”

“We’ve talked about this already.” Dad replied with absolutely no inflection in his voice. “Both of us have got work to do.”

And with that they both rushed into the car and sped onto the road, leaving me standing there on the dirt pathway to our old rental house. Leaving me for the millionth time in my life. Standing. Alone.

I sat on the bench in front of the school gates as it began to rain, water seeping into the hole in my shoe and my broken bag. I almost slipped in unnoticed into my new school until the teacher called on me to answer a question, which I answered. I saw a few of the students make faces, they clearly hadn’t noticed me before, but after that everything went on as normal. As I sat there, kids started pulling out umbrellas and shielding their faces with jackets while rushing into cars and buses, none of which I had. I was pretty much soaking wet already, although I wasn’t the only one. Some guys decided that it would be a great idea to start jumping through the puddles like toddlers, making girls scream from the splashes as they walked past. I caught my eye on this one boy in a branded jacket and new-looking shoes, not a part of a group like everyone else, fiddling with a headlight on his bike. It was strange to see a well-to-do boy stand carelessly in the rain choosing to fix his bike instead of hopping into a vehicle like the other well-off kids. Surely he cared about dirtying his clothes, especially expensive ones, didn’t he? My Mum would kill me if I came home looking like that. I soon realised that we had made eye contact and turned my head around, keeping my gaze at a growing puddle on the ground. Not long after, I heard a clickety-clack from behind. Looking back, I certainly did not expect the boy to be standing right there.

“Hey.” He said giving a small wave. I waved back. “New kid huh?”

“Yeah.” I replied nervously.

He hopped onto his bike. “I have to ride back in the rain. What about you?” He looked at me again, this time noticing my lack of fancy equipment.

“Walking.” I nodded. The boy paused.

“Oh, that’s unfortunate.” He said. He turned towards the road stretched out in front of us. “You know I have a spare bike at home. If you want.” He continued

It took me a few seconds to register what he said. Was he making a friend request? Nobody had ever done that to me before. I looked into his eyes – I don’t know why he was being so nice to me. He probably was just being kind – after all he does look the type who’d parents will give them anything.

“Um, sure.” I said hesitantly. I thought for a moment, “My parents won’t be home till the evening anyways.”

He lifted his eyebrows, then laughed. “Well that gives us more time, especially with the rain. You know it’d be cool if we could go back in time and somehow stop the rain. My parents would kill me if they saw me like this.”

I laughed. He seemed – different. A lot like me. “Like that movie, Back to the Future?”

“No way!” He responded. “You’re interested in that movie? Everyone else here thinks that they’re too cool for it. I think they’re nonsense.”

I smiled. I think I just found a new friend.


I am a rich kid. I have to admit that. I don’t like to admit it, but there’s no denying it otherwise. My Dad owns a few businesses which he hasn’t disclosed to me yet, although I secretly found out that one of them is a shipping company. My Mum decided to play with Dad’s money and gamble in the stock market, at least that’s the best way that I can explain it. The result? A clearly spoilt family that lives in a mansion and rocks up to school in a Mercedes Benz every day. At least they do, my sisters; I decided long ago that instead I’ll ride my bike to school, which also happens to be one of the most expensive bikes on the shelf. I never wanted to be rich, I was just born into it. Naturally my parents buy me whatever I want even when I don’t necessarily want it. One day I was walking home from school instead of riding because the wheel had broken off. I told Mum that I wanted to fix it myself since I like fixing things. Well the next day I was just about to head off to school when I found a brand-new bike next to my newly-fixed one – a new bike with an actual headlight, which I had to attach myself on the other bike because it kept on falling off. So now I have two bikes sitting in my house that nobody ever uses except myself along with all the other useless pieces of junk that I’ve gathered over the years. Normally being a rich kid would make you fairly popular at school which would be every child’s social dream. Turns out that too much wealth can lead to jealously, and too much jealousy is never a good thing. Everyone thinks that I’m a ‘spoiled-brat’ since I have fancy clothes and hang out by myself most of the time – but that’s only because nobody approached me in the first place.

“Look, I’m not hopping into that car.” I said firmly. Mum sighed.

“Honey, it’s the first day of school. You’ll want to make a good impression as a family.” She replied.

“No, you want me to look good.” I pursued. “Everyone already knows that I’m such a loner that there’s no more impression to make.”

“Don’t say that you’re a loner!” She exclaimed. “You belong to one of the wealthiest families in the state!” I looked across at Kay, the oldest sister, sitting at the wheel of the new, sleek Mercedes Benz. She was now old enough to drive and was chewing gum while picking at her nails. She was the definition of what this family should be.

“Can’t I just go to school like a normal person? I have two bikes that I’ve been using for years and they work perfectly fine.” I responded, arms crossed.

Mum sighed. She put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t you respect your mother?”

It was really hard to respect her when she focuses on ‘gambling’ half of the day, the other half planning on which restaurants to go to for the week. I put up with a fake smile.

“Excellent!” She said in a really posh way, then shoved me into the car as she waved goodbye. A few seconds after we disappeared from the driveway I asked to Kay to stop, scrambling out of the car.

“Go.” I said. She stared at me blankly. I rolled my eyes, pointing dramatically at the road. “Just go!” She shrugged, then drove off without saying a word. Then I snuck back home, got my bike with the rickety headlight and sped off to school.

It broke again. It now became a normal thing to fix the headlight on this bike before riding home. I don’t know why it always detaches but it does, and the rain didn’t help one bit. I was getting to the important part when a bunch of girls started screaming behind me, making me jump back and letting my fingers slip. After seeing that it was just some boys splashing in puddles I resumed fixing again, only to catch my eye on the new kid looking at me – the same kid from class that the teacher had called out on. I hadn’t noticed him before this which was a surprise considering that he was really smart and spoke with a strange accent, but I was focused on the looks that the other classmates gave. I could tell from their eyes that they weren’t very nice people. Before I knew it I found myself walking up to him.

“Hey.” I said. I didn’t know what to do with my hands so I waved. “New kid huh?”

“Yeah.” He replied nervously.

I could tell he was nervous from the way that he jiggled his foot. It was never my thing to talk to people, so I knew what it felt like when I saw this nervous boy sitting in the rain. Maybe I could make a friend for once, before the other kids take him in. Which they won’t. I hopped onto my bike.

“I have to ride back in the rain.” I said, remembering the headlight that still needed fixing. “What about you?”

I noticed how he only carried a small bag, unzipped because of a broken zipper, standing with a hole in his shoe filling with rainwater.

“Walking.” He nodded. I looked down at my headlight, then at the road. It was surely a long way to walk. I was about to ask how long before I stated, “You know I have a spare bike at home. If you want.”

I wasn’t sure why I was suddenly being so kind. Maybe it was because I was rich. Maybe it was because of the exact opposite – because he’s not rich. Rich people don’t usually do that, but I never wanted to be rich anyway.

“Um, sure.” He hesitated. “My parents won’t be home till the evening anyways.”

I lifted my eyebrows, then laughed. He seemed – different. Like a lot more like myself. “Well that gives us more time, especially with the rain.” I commented, remembering my headlight. “You know it’d be cool if we could go back in time and somehow stop the rain. My parents would kill me if they saw me like this.”

“Like that movie, Back to the Future?” He added.

I was shocked; as far as I’d known nobody except me would ever consider seeing that movie around here. Especially my family. “You’re interested in that movie? Everyone else here thinks that they’re too cool for it. I think they’re nonsense.”

He smiled. I smiled. I put out my hand. “I’m Erik.” I said.

He shook it. “You can call me Max.”

I think I just found a new friend.