by Olivia Wakeford. Shortlistee of the Best Short Story for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

Mum paced from door to window and back again, her dress billowing behind her. Three steps. Turn. Three steps. Turn. The sound of her slippers slapping reminded Amy of a waddling duck.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Squeeeeeak. Slap. Slap. Slap. Squeeeeeak.

Mum had been pacing for the last forty-three minutes according to the clock on the wall. It was making it really hard for Amy to concentrate. Not to mention the smell of over-boiled cabbages and sharp disinfectant which was drifting down the corridor.

‘Where is she?’ Mum said for the thousandth time, eyes on the driveway. Thick iron bars framed the long window, cutting the view of the lawns and craggy Welsh mountains into strips.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Squeeeeeak. Slap. Slap. Slap. Squeeeeeak.

Amy, her brow furrowed in concentration, traced the outline of a giant caterpillar on the paper Nurse Lydia had found her. She sat cross-legged on the lumpy mattress, the blanket scratchy on her bare skin. The drawing was laid flat in front of her and it was going quite well, if she said so herself. Once she’d finished tracing, she was going to colour the caterpillar’s body green and face red, like the book. Then she was going to add something Mum wasn’t expecting which would make her smile.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Squeeeeeak. Slap. Slap. Slap. Squeeeeeak.

They didn’t have many children’s books in Ward Five because everyone was a grown-up. It was either the caterpillar book or the one about the cat stuck in a well, but Amy had drawn that one six times already.

She picked up the green crayon and started work on the caterpillar’s body, careful not to go over the lines. The one she’d drawn last week hadn’t been as good as this. It’d been her first try and afterwards she’d realised she’d left two legs off and an antennae.