This is a fictional short story, in 1170 words.
Little Roy didn’t have many friends. Being called Little Roy didn’t help much, even though he would be the first to admit he was smaller than all the others in his class. When they went out to play in the break, he never got picked for any of the teams. Standing at the side watching got boring after a while, so he would retreat into his own fantasy world, one where Royston Hill was the most popular boy in school. A world where he had so many friends, they used to trail behind him, waiting for him to say or do something great.
Mum insisted on walking him to school, and waiting for him at the end of the day too. You couldn’t fail to notice that she was older than any of the other mums waiting at the gate. A lot older. When she tried to chat to the other parents, even Little Roy could sense their awkwardness.
Then there had been the awful embarrassment of his eighth birthday. Mum bought some fancy invitations, and handed them out at the school gate. She prepared loads of food, and made dad hire a bouncy castle, and a big canvas gazebo, in case it rained. The house was decked out in bunting, and she put a sign on the front gate. It read ‘PARTY HERE’, and had a big arrow pointing at their street door.
After that, he had been able to munch his way through all the sweets in thirty party bags, and play with the tiny toys inside them too. He had to have a serious talk with her, on the way to school that Monday. “Please, mum. No more parties”.
She nodded. He was happy that she understood.
That summer, the long holiday was going to be pretty dull for Little Roy. He spent some time over at the unfinished building site, getting in easily through a broken wire fence at the back. He had no idea why it had never been finished, but the half-built houses that had fallen victim to a depression in the housing market provided the perfect playground for a lonely boy.
Roy created a world in miniature; walking the streets that he named, and sitting inside roofless houses pretending he owned them all. The piles of unused bricks and wood had been scavenged by some enterprising local men, but there were enough left for him to build an assortment of dens and hiding places. Inside those, he imagined he was a special forces soldier, or a mysterious hermit. He spent those first couple of weeks in ‘Hill Town’, mum complaining that he was dusty and scruffy when he came home in time for dinner.
He told her he was out playing with his gang of friends.
It was what she wanted to believe.
In the best and most complete house, he created a sort of furniture from planks and bricks. He took books from home, and bottles of lemonade, as well as packets of crisps. By the third week, he was up at the site by nine every morning, and stayed until the time mum had decreed he had to be home. Then one morning, he was startled to see someone in his house.
Number One Royston Street, as he knew it.
She was sitting on one of his brick and plank sofas, reading one of his old comics. An empty packet of crisps was between her feet, and one of the big bottles of lemonade was half-empty next to it. He expected her to jump up and apologise, before running away to wherever she came from.
But she didn’t.
Her name was Samantha, but she said he should call her Sam. She said she was ten, so a fair bit older than him. He asked her where she lived, and what school she went to, but she said he had to guess. And after six guesses, he still didn’t get it right.
When he had given her a tour of his kingdom, she seemed to be impressed. Lost in thought for a moment, she suddenly looked up. “I will be your friend, if you want. And this will be our town from now on”. Despite feeling reluctant to give away half of his creation, the thought of someone to share it with was too tempting. “Okay, Sam. That’s a deal”.
Her imagination was almost a match for his own. She arranged things in the various houses, pretended to cook meals, and told him to wait outside and imagine that he was coming home from work. She brought things too, household things. They soon had a collection of pots and pans, some chipped mugs, and even a knife and fork each. They would sit at a table made from plasterboard and bricks, and Sam would serve up pretend meals of sausages and chips, or burgers and beans. If it rained, they sat under a plank roof in one of his dens, and talked about how they would one day live in one of the houses for real, once they were finished.
Sam said they would always be together, as soon as they were old enough.
Mum complained about the scuffs on his shoes, and the dust on his shorts. But she wasn’t really angry, as she was secretly happy that he had friends to play with.
Then one day, Sam wasn’t there. Roy wandered over the whole site, and looked inside all his dens. There was no sign of her anywhere. For the next five days he had to get used to being alone again, and made the best of it by extending what he had already built, and making Number One into something resembling a real home.
On Saturday morning, she appeared just before eleven. Though not remotely apologetic, she told him that her dad had arrived, and taken her and her young brother for a few days away at a caravan park. That was all she was prepared to say, and she didn’t even mention all the hard work he had done on the house. They slipped back into their routine, with her telling him that he should mow the lawn soon. He looked out at the rubble-strewn back garden, and nodded. “Yes, that grass is getting a bit too long”.
That morning, mum gave him some pocket money, and said he could get a sausage roll and a cake to eat at lunchtime. He headed off to the site, not bothering to stop at the bakers. He had lots to do, and Sam would be waiting.
He moved the pile of planks that she was under, and waved his hands at the flies covering the congealed blood on her face. Propping her up on some bricks in the corner, he smiled at her glassy eyes, and matted hair.
“I thought I would build some bookshelves and a TV stand today, Sam. Is that okay with you?”
She wasn’t going to reply of course. Serve her right for leaving him last week.