We asked you to send us your short stories beginning with the sentence: 'When she awoke that morning, she knew it was going to be a summer to remember… ' Here's our favourite entry...

Only One Winner by Christine Collinson

When she awoke that morning, she knew it was going to be a summer to remember… but, perhaps, not necessarily in the way she might have hoped.

The forecast app on her Smartphone had predicted a spell of balmy weather, but before she had even drawn the curtains, Katrina knew it was a soaking wet world outside. She could hear the gentle, rhythmic thrumming of rain on the window pane. For early summer, it was not looking very promising. Not only that, she still had no holiday booked to provide something to look forward to. The weeks stretched before her with a monotonous predictability.

Reluctantly, Katrina heaved herself out of her warm, crumpled bed and contemplated her morning plans while showering and dressing. A quick stroll into town to run some mundane errands beckoned, and she couldn’t put them off again, rain or not. Letters needed posting, essentials needed buying. She fleetingly considered browsing for a new pair of pretty sandals, but decided against it. Pay day was still one long week away.

After a comforting breakfast of poached eggs on toast, Katrina wrapped herself in her favourite tatty raincoat, slung her bag over her shoulder, and set off on her usual short walk to the high street.

The old part of town was full of character; side streets brimming with charming boutiques and quaint tea rooms. Dodging the puddles, Katrina crossed a cobbled street to her favourite antique shop, eager to look in the window. She very rarely bought anything here, but even just perusing usually brightened her mood.

Behind the rain-soaked glass Katrina spotted an exquisitely detailed musical box, decorated with swirls of silver and deep, midnight blue. It appealed to her at once, as she loved collecting unusual trinkets, but it would just be something else to save up for.

Taped above the box, a handwritten sign stated: ‘Guess the value of this item for £1 and win a weekend in Paris! Closing date: 30th June.’

‘Wow, that’s a decent prize.’ A tall, fair-haired man under a sturdy looking black umbrella had appeared beside her.

She sighed. ‘Isn’t it? I would so love a trip like that.’

‘You should enter then!’ he laughed, easily. ‘I think I will. Paris is one place I’ve never been to.’

Still staring at the enchanting box, she asked, since he seemed friendly, ‘Have you travelled much?’

‘Yes, a great deal,’ he smiled. ‘My work regularly takes me abroad.’

‘You’re lucky,’ she replied, sadly, ‘I don’t think part-time sales work is likely to get me further than Dover.’

‘Don’t be defeatist yet.’ He gestured to the sign. ‘In that, everybody goes in equal. A little bit of luck’s all you need. Oh, and some knowledge of antiques!’ He laughed again.

Katrina tucked a wayward ginger strand back inside her hood. Raindrops were beginning to trickle down her neck. ‘Ah, but there can be only one winner.’

He appeared to notice how soaked she was. ‘Let’s go inside out of this rain and enter the competition then,’ he said, jovially. ‘And may the best man, or woman, win!’

She smiled a little then. ‘Yes, good luck!’ Following him into the familiar shop, she was just relieved to be somewhere dry.

A week later, on a slightly less rainy day, Katrina was passing the antique shop, so she called in. She was on her lunch break and had escaped the stuffy office on a whim, craving some fresh air.

The assistant was busy sorting a pile of books on the counter. ‘Hi. Has the Paris competition closed?’ she asked. ‘And the winner informed?’

‘Yes, we notified the winner a couple of days ago, madam,’ the assistant said, pleasantly.

He appeared to be studying Katrina carefully which unnerved her slightly. ‘Is there a, er, problem?’ she asked.

‘No, not at all. Is your name Katrina?’

‘Yes, it is…’

‘Well, the man who won said that if a red-haired lady comes into the shop enquiring about the competition, then I should give the prize to her. He said her name is Katrina.’

Katrina stared at him incredulously, rendered speechless.

‘So, madam, I guess that must be you?’

‘But how did he know my name!’

The assistant laughed. ‘I guess he may have peeped at your entry form.’

Katrina smiled at this deviousness. ‘Ah, of course.’

It had come about in the oddest way, but Katrina had a feeling that this currently uninspiring summer was about to become rather special. Or at the very least, a window of opportunity had opened which hadn’t existed before today. ‘Who knows what awaits me in Paris?‘, she thought, her mind racing ahead. Also, it was after pay day, so she could consider buying the new sandals for her trip.

‘Can I leave a note, to thank the gentleman?’ she asked.

‘Of course, he’s a regular customer, so I’ll make sure he gets it.’

Katrina absorbed this information. Perhaps then, she thought, she might be spending even more time in this shop in future. She needed to thank him in person; a mere note was not enough. More than that, she instinctively felt that she wanted to meet the generous stranger again.

 

© Christine Collinson