Featured Story

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Hidden Smiles

by Caitlin Beardsworth

aged 16 from Blackburn

We never used to be this way. Once upon a time we were… something else. Not quite lovers—yet not quite friends either. Friends didn’t look at each other the way I look at him, or the way he looked at me. 


I wish fate would’ve been different for us. I wish it would’ve turned out like one of my endless daydreams—him holding me close enough that I can feel his breath ghosting along my neck. Or with him staring at my from the end of the aisle with laughter in his eyes and a smile on his face. Instead he’s staring down at me with a sneer cruelly twisting his lips and hate dancing through his eyes. When did we get this way?


Tears fill my eyes and I blink them away with fierce determination. He’s already had the satisfaction o breaking my heart. He doesn’t get to see me cry. I keep my head bowed and stare resolutely at the cracked grey stone beneath his feet. I’m aware this position makes me seem weak. Submissive. Despite this I’d rather appear submissive than stare into those beautiful azure eyes which are clouded with hate. Pathetic. I’m utterly pathetic. Pining over a man who made it abundantly clear he didn’t want me. 


It was a beautiful spring day. The grass shimmered like emeralds and flowers were in full bloom. The beauty of the palace gardens didn’t hold a candle to his ethereal beauty. He looked like a god. Streaks of sunbeams shone through his curls, making the beautiful golden locks glow softly like an angels halo.


The light shone through his stunning eyes making them look like glittering sapphires and his lips were curved up into a soft smile that was reserved only for me. How could I not fall in love with him? I blurted out the truth I had carefully kept hidden for years, too caught up in his soft smile and angelic face to think about the disastrous consequences. His smile froze and something vulnerable flashed through his eyes. It was gone as quickly as it came and was replaced with a guarded look. His cheeks were flushed red and he avoided my eyes as he stepped away. In that moment I felt like Icarus. I had flown too close to the sun. 


I’m snapped back to the present by the sound of his laugh, still angelic despite the mocking tone. He smiles a patronising smile that didn’t belong on his angelic face. I stare into his eyes and for a moment I swear I see the hate clear and something else ash through. It disappears and the hate comes back with full force. I quickly look away.


“It has come to my attention,” he began in a careful, even tone as if he was discussing the weather.  “That you have been plotting against me.”


I remain silent, not trusting my voice not to break. 


“What do you say in regards to that accusation?” he questions coldly. 


Again, I remain silent. Evidently, he already knows exactly what I have been up to. He doesn’t need me to admit anything. 


He yanks my chin up roughly l, staring at me with calculating eyes. 


“Answer me,” he growls in a low, dangerous voice. 


I have only ever heard that voice once before. His father, the king, had accused me of using his son for the money as I was a 'lowly stable boy.' 


My princes eyes had become slits of ice and his voice dropped a few octaves as he hissed angry, defensive words to his father.


The king had merely stared before spitting, “We’ll talk about this later.”


After giving me a once over he sneered and stalked off. My prince had turned to me with apologetic eyes before babbling apologies  a voice softer than before. I blinked before assuring him it was okay, after all he wouldn’t be the first to assume that. He nodded with a sigh before engaging me in a conversation about something else yet it didn’t manage to distract me from the way his eyes danced nervously to the direction his father had stalked off to. I brushed it off however when he shot me a dazzling smile. I wish I hadn’t.


“I would say that the accusation is true,” I admitted, staring into his eyes. 


His hand was still on my chin and his touch made my cheeks flush.


“Why?” he whispered, barely loud enough for me to hear.


I glanced away, unable to hold his gaze as I whispered back, just as quietly, “I couldn’t let you ruin this kingdom in a desperate attempt to please your father.” 


I hear a sharp intake of breath and I dare to take a glance at him. His eyes are wide and his lips are parted in shock. He looks so young and so lost that I feel the urge to wrap my arms around him while whispering promises to keep him safe. But I don’t. Instead I turn my gaze back to the stones beneath our feet. His hand is still on my face and his touch is burning and oh so intoxicating. 


Finally, after what seems like an eternity, he moves his hand away shakily. He takes a stuttering breath before standing gracefully and facing the court. 


“The traitor has admitted to treason.” He takes another breath, evidently composing himself, before continuing, “I sentence him to death.” 


I feel arms come around my waist as I’m hauled away. I writhe and scream his name, his title, his childhood nickname. The last one makes him pause for a fleeting moment, before carrying on as though he hadn’t hear me. I scream and desperately try to make him understand that I never plotted anything on his life, merely his court. I scream until the words blend together. Yet he never turns around.


He had once admitted to me, back when we were young and bright eyed, that he would never use the death penalty. We were curled up together giggling as we told each other secrets. 


He had gone quiet for a few minutes before murmuring, “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just...it seems...I don’t want.” He took a few breaths in an attempt to calm himself. “I just don’t want to be the reason why a family goes without their sister, mother, father or brother. Whoever it is I don’t want to be the reason why their lives are ruined forever.”


My heart lurched and I rushed to reassure him that he would never do such a thing. He’s too good, too kind, too humane. Seems like time can taint even the sweetest of things. 


I’m thrown in a dank dungeon carelessly, as though I were a rag doll and not a human being. My head smacks against the floor and I groan as black spots dance through my vision. The guards laugh cruelly before slamming the door. I sigh and lay down, staring at the grime on the ceiling. I don’t know how long I stayed there, staring at the ceiling blankly while a million thoughts ran through my head.


Eventually I hear a door being unlocked and the room is suddenly bathed in light. A silhouette stands at the door, looking like an angel as the light curls around them. I blink blearily and sit up as the figure gracefully strides towards me. Their strides are confident yet they’re betrayed by the air of nervousness surrounding them. 


I stare up at the figure, feeling an odd mix of desperation, relief, resignation, fear and hope. It’s quiet for a few minutes. The only sounds are the sound of our quiet breaths. Eventually the figure speaks in painfully familiar voice. 


“Get up,” he says quietly.


I scramble to comply, apologies falling from my lips and tears appearing in my eyes. He holds up a hand and my babbling stops.


“I should be the one apologising to you. And the kingdom I suppose for the terrible job I’ve done at ruling. However considering you’re my entire world I think I’ll just apologise to you at the moment.”


I remain silent, blinking in confusing. He sighs wearily.


“I should not have rejected you so harshly. I admit I was scared. My father—” he shook his head quickly, blonde curls falling into his face. “I made a choice between you and my father. It was the wrong choice. I didn’t want to admit I loved you. Love you. It was so hard not to though. With your black curls and your whisky coloured eyes. With your dazzling crooked grin and warm laugh. I was too scared of ruining my fathers life that I completely disregarded my own. I don’t—I don’t know if you could ever forgive me? I know I don’t deserve it. But believe me I will try everything to make it up to you. I love you and I –” 


I cut him off quickly, throwing my arms around him and sealing our mouths in a passionate kiss. I smile softly against his lips and whisper, “I forgive you.”


He rears back before murmuring brokenly, “You shouldn’t.” 


“It’s mine to give. Let me forgive you.”


He stares at me a moment, an unreadable look in his eyes before nodding. I grin before realising that we’re still in the dungeons. 


“So,” I begin. “Are we getting out of here? Or are we waiting until the guards come to execute me, so we can perform a tragic Romeo and Juliet style romance?”


He rolls his eyes before he smiles. “Well we could stay here, if it’s your thing. Or you could run away with me? And we can start again.”


He looks so hopeful, his eyes open and vulnerable in a way that made my knees weak.


I pretend to think about it, before smiling and pressing a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth. 


“Well where you go I go, my love, so by all means lead the way,” I say softly.


He beams and it’s so beautiful and warm and I want to keep the expression on his face forever. 


We quietly sneak through the dungeons before making our way to the stables. I look around fondly, memories weaving through my mind.


He gives me a look before smiling and murmuring,“We’ll make new memories.”


I smile and mount my horse. Riding into the sunset with my happily ever after. 

Featured stories still to come. 

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Anxiety by Maahum Nazir aged 17 from London

How The Stars Weep by Megan Kruger aged 15 from London

Time is Ticking by Johana Pusuluri ages 14 from Devon 

The Storm in the Glass by Poppy David aged 14 from London

Black and White by Valerie Anireto aged 13 from Abuja, Nigeria

The Talent Show by Ana Cuseta aged 11 from Valencia, Spain

Sir Arthur Canoon Doyle and the fairies by Loveday Lock aged 11 from South Wales

The Burglary by Matthew Wong aged 11 from Hong Kong

Beatle-weetle by Niall Hamilton aged 6 from Doncaster 

Small and Beautiful by Katie Bates aged 10 from Newton, USA

Temptation by Tommy Bustard aged 10 from Portballintrae, County Antrim, N Ireland

The Journey Across London by Jacinta Khadouri, aged 11 from London