Wrote this for my English GCSE 0_o:
The girl sat at the bench with her legs curled beneath her and stared hard at the nest on the branch above her. The tweeting came again and a small meadowlark landed on the rim of twisted twigs to feed her young. The girl smiled as she heard the squawking of the young birds fighting over the food. There was a pause and then with a frantic flapping of its short wings, the meadowlark soared out of the nest to find another meal for its fledglings. The girl continued to stare at the nest, listening for the occasional chirp, but her mind was elsewhere.
America was so… different from what she was used to. She missed the small house in England that she had called ‘home’ for the first fifteen years of her life, with its small, well-kept garden and warm, wallpapered walls. She craved for her small, musty, fuchsia bedroom, with its creaky old bed that really wasn’t very good for her back. The move had been sudden and unexpected, and she hadn’t been sure how she should take it.
“Elizabeth,” her mother had said in that consoling tone usually reserved for young children, “this is a great opportunity for your father, and for all of us. It won’t be for long, so just bear with it, okay?” Elizabeth had nodded absentmindedly and murmured something about trying harder. She knew that was what her mother wanted her to say, and she understood that this was her fathers ‘dream job’; she also understood that this move would not be a short-term thing.
So many things had changed. The new house was lovely, Elizabeth couldn’t deny that. New and spacious, with the latest technology and en-suite bathrooms connected to all of the bedrooms, the kitchen her mother had always wanted, and an office for her father to work in. She had a large room, painted blue, her favourite colour, with lights that could be activated by clapping, a balcony, her own bathroom; a lot of space that she wasn’t used too and didn’t really want. Her small, well kept garden had been replaced with a large, sprawling one that had a professional gardener to tend for it.
Her mother had always home-schooled Elizabeth, but now she had been enrolled into ‘tenth grade’ at the local ‘high school’. As far as Elizabeth was concerned, Americans spoke roughly the same language as her, and that is where the similarities ended. She had skipped the first day, preferring to wander around the nearby park and watch the birds. She was unsure of just how long she had spent watching the meadowlark. The strange birds had caught her eye quickly. Their speckled brown backs reminded her of the small sparrows that had inhabited the hedge outside her old home, and their bright yellow breasts which were just as beautiful in her eyes as the red-breasted robin that had always perched on their washing line during winter.
Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth saw a flash of brown hair as a tall figure ran passed. She turned her head quickly, making her neck click from the sudden movement, and blinked at the receding back of the tall girl. Glancing down at her watch she realised for the first time that it was getting late, and the lukewarm, spring sun was receding behind tall buildings, leaving echoing shadows. With a soft groan she pulled her legs out from beneath her, noting that they were slightly numb from being sat on for so long. It was colder now that she was no longer curled up, and there was a strong wind but, comparing it to the spring weather she was used to in England, she found it strangely pleasant. With a sigh she rose and, with one last glance at the meadowlarks’ nest, she headed in the opposite direction to the other girl, walking leisurely through the boulevard of trees and past the swings with faded paint that were squeaking in the wind; towards her new house.
New Grove High School was a large, modern school, bustling with students wearing their own clothes, chatting and just ‘hanging out’. Elizabeth hated them. In fact, she had decided that she hated everything about the school, from the bubbly, disorganised pupils, to the large, whitewashed corridors or ‘halls’, as the headmaster had described it. As far as she was concerned, the school was full of idiots, including the ‘principal’, who had smiled pleasantly when Elizabeth had proclaimed that she found the school “rather pretentious”. Worst of all was the idea of sitting at desks and tables for the whole day, without any chance of getting out, or going for a walk, or listening to the radio.
Her parents had accepted her story that she had been unable to make it to school for her first day because she had become lost on the way and ended up wandering around for most of the day, before a kindly old man had directed her home through a park, where she had seen the most incredibly beautiful-looking birds. They had no reason not to trust her, all her life she had been responsible and reliable. Back in England, if she had decided she would like to go for a walk, she would ask for permission first, wrap up warm, even if it was not an especially cold day, give a time by which she would return and even invite her parents to join her, and she had always been back on time, sometimes early if she thought her parents would worry.
In a way, it appeared that Elizabeth could not fit in, not that she tried too hard. People wanted to know about England, and her past life, and what she thought of America, and other questions that she couldn’t help but answer in a short, clipped way that made her classmates see her as a cold, harsh, antisocial girl who was best avoided. Elizabeth didn’t mind that much. It meant more peace and quiet for her; she hated being stifled.
The day passed too slowly for Elizabeth’s liking, the best part of it being lunchtime when she found a table to herself in the cafeteria, and was able to lay out her food. They didn’t have much food in the new house yet, they were still unpacking boxes, so her meal was lettuce and carrot sticks. She ate some of it, and then dumped the remainder of the carrot in a single lettuce leaf, trying to make her meal look like a salad she had seen on television once. Eventually, Elizabeth gave up and just stared into space, thinking about the meadowlark, and wondering if her fledglings had started to fly yet. She pondered if the young birds were yearning for freedom the same way she was.
She practically ran to the park when school finished and paused at the same bench where she had perched the previous day. She sat down and listened hard, trying to hear the reassuring chirp of the fledglings, hoping that they had not yet been given the freedom she yearned for so much. After five minutes of silence, which was only broken by the occasional faint giggle from the direction of the swings, Elizabeth decided to climb the tree. She moved around to the side that did not have the nest on, in order not to disturb the fledglings… if they were still there. The tree was relatively smooth, with high branches and few footholds, but Elizabeth climbed it fairly easily. She had lived near to a wood in England, and had gained more experience of climbing trees than most people do in lifetime. Moving carefully through the branches of the tree, Elizabeth was able to find a branch from which she could look down into the nest. Her hand flew to her mouth as her breath caught in her throat; she stared down at the scene in front of her in wonderment. She had almost been too late. From listening the night before, Elizabeth had estimated that there had been about four or five fledglings in the nest. Now there was only one. Elizabeth felt her heart sink as she realised what had happened; the smallest fledgling had not been able to fly on time, and it had been left behind. The bird was a smaller version of its mother, with the same speckled back and yellow breast. As Elizabeth watched, the small bird hopped up onto the rim of the nest and jumped off, flapping its small wings in a rather desperate way. It landed on the branch a short way from the nest, and promptly turned and hopped back to its nest. Almost immediately, the fledgling turned and jumped off the rim of the nest yet again. Elizabeth watched in amazement as the bird repeated this process again and again, even though it did not appear to be accomplishing anything.
“It’s not going to give up” Elizabeth thought to herself in wonderment. The bird, that she had imagined represented everything she was, contained a determination that she had lost, and as she watched, Elizabeth found herself feeling something she had not acquainted herself with since she had left England; Hope.
She continued to watch the bird’s efforts, feeling the mixed emotions within herself with a kind of unsuppressed awe, until she was almost daydreaming again. She was broken out of her stupor by the realisation that something had changed. The bird had missed the branch and was careening towards the ground. Elizabeth swung her leg off the branch she had been perched on, her heart beating wildly, and prepared to swing down. The bird had spread its short wings, trying to slow its descent. Then, in a single, sudden movement, it flapped its wings once, and soared upwards. At first it flew in large circles, as though marvelling at being able to accomplish such a feat, before climbing into the sky. Elizabeth gazed after it, elation filling her heart and soul. She felt as though she had shared in the meadowlark’s triumph, and it was a wonderful feeling.
‘Even when it was all alone, and under the most pressure, it never gave up, and in the end… it succeeded.’ Elizabeth thought to herself. ‘Maybe I can do the same…’ The thought filled her with a strange sense of optimism. She remembered when she was little and had complained to her mother about not wanting to do her schoolwork.
“Never forget, Elizabeth,” her mother had smiled at her petulance, “it’s pressure that turns a lump of coal into a diamond.”
‘Maybe it’s time to start trying,’ Elizabeth thought, as the meadowlark disappeared into the sunset. She jumped down from the tree and made her way home, thinking about all of the posters she could pin up in her new, larger, blue room, with its balcony and en-suit bathroom, and lights that could be turned on and off with a single clap. She was glad of the space now, because it was a space that she could have all to herself. A place for her to rise out of the pressure and to become a sparkling diamond.