Walking her dog in the forest, Grace has a chance encounter that will present her with a dilemma. 

20

Tuesday

Going through the forest is my favourite part of the walk. Benji loves it too. There are rabbits to chase and old leaves to smell. Benji’s my dog, by the way, and I’m Grace. I live on a farm with my parents and take Benji for a walk most days after school. Dad doesn’t approve of me walking through the forest. 'Don’t talk to strangers,' he says. Though the truth is that there’s never anyone here. Just me, Benji and lots of rabbits and birds.

While Benji runs ahead, I stop and take a photo of a butterfly that’s resting on a flower. A new Facebook photo? Maybe, but my friends at school already tease me with the nickname 'Nature Girl', so perhaps not. As I put my phone away, I hear Benji barking along the path. Benji barks to say hello, he’s scared of cats and wouldn’t hurt anyone, but, of course, other people don’t know that. Benji’s barking and jumping round a boy. The boy’s about my age. He’s holding some wood in his arms and looks worried. 

'Benji, stop! Come here!' I yell. I reach into my pocket for Benji’s ball. I’m about to apologise to the boy, but he’s gone, vanished between the trees. 

Wednesday

I’m out with Benji again. It’s cold and rainy today and I’ve got a mountain of homework to do, so we’re going at a brisk pace. No admiring butterflies or photos today. As I’m coming through the forest, I feel the first drops of rain so I start to run. Suddenly, I’m slipping and falling and, before I know it, I’m flat on my back. Ouch! That hurt. Then there’s someone there and a voice says,
'Are you all right? That was a bad fall.' I look up and see the boy from yesterday. 
'I’m OK, I think,' I say uncertainly. The boy helps me up slowly and then Benji arrives to check on me. The boy pats Benji on the head.
'I haven’t seen you at school. Do you live near here?' I ask.
'No, I’m from Manchester,' he says. 'Listen! I have to go. Are you OK to walk home? Do you need help?'
'No, I’m fine. Thanks!' I say, as the boy sets off.
'Hey, I’m Grace. What’s your name?' I call, but he’s already out of sight.

Back home, Mum’s watching the news on TV.
'Hi Grace. Have you heard about this boy, Mark?' she asks.
'No, what boy?' I say.
'A boy from Manchester. He’s run away from home. Look! This is his dad.'
I look at the TV and there’s a man in tears sitting next to a policeman as cameras flash around him. A man who clearly hasn’t slept for days and is worried out of his mind. Then they show a photo of the missing boy. I know him. It’s the boy from the forest. He’s Mark. Should I say something? Should I tell Mum?
'Poor man,' says Mum. 'I just hope they find his son soon.'
No, I can’t say anything. If I tell Mum now, the police will come and find Mark in the forest. What if he’s run away for a good reason? I have to talk to him first. 
'Mum, I’m going to do my homework,' I say, counting the hours till I can go back to the forest.

Thursday

I’ve looked and looked but I can’t find Mark in the forest. If I’m not home soon, my parents will worry. So I take a chance and shout, 'Mark, Mark, where are you?'
Nothing, no answer, just birds singing.
'Mark,' I yell again, 'I know about you.'
After a moment, I hear his voice behind me.
'What do you know? How do you know my name?'
I turn and there he is. 'Your dad was on TV last night. Half the police in the country are out looking for you.'
He looks shocked and asks, 'Did you say anything? Have you told them?'
'No,' I say. 'I wanted to talk to you first. What’s happened? Why have you run away?'
He looks at the ground, then up at me. 'I had an argument with my dad. A bad one.'
'What about?' I ask. It’s not my business, but the question just comes out. 
Mark gestures to a fallen tree and we sit down. He’s quiet for a while, then he takes a deep breath.
'My mum died four years ago. It was very tough. Tough for me and for Dad. He was sad for a long time, but then he met someone new at work. Mel’s her name.'
'Oh, and don’t you like her?' I ask.
'No, not really. She’s not a bad person, but well, we just don’t connect. She wants my dad for herself and isn’t interested in me. I don’t think she wants me around.'
'But, what about your dad? Have you talked to him?'
'He keeps telling me to make an effort with her, but I just can’t. She’s not my mum. The night I ran away, he came to my room and said that we’re all moving to London. Mel’s from London, you see. And then he told me that he and Mel want to get married and have a baby. We both got angry and I told him I’m not moving to London. I took my tent and a bit of food and left in the middle of the night.'
'But what will you do? You can’t live in the forest,' I tell him.
'I know, but my school and my friends are in Manchester. My grandad’s there too. I don’t want to move to London. I’ll lose all my friends.'
'You might make new friends,' I say.
Mark sighs, 'That’s what my dad says too.'
I feel sorry for Mark, but I think of his dad crying on TV and feel sorry for him too.
'What are you going to do?' I ask.
'I don’t know. I need time to think. Grace, can you bring me some food tomorrow? I’m starving.'

Friday

Mark’s waiting for me in the forest. I’ve only got a couple of apples and some biscuits for him. My parents were in the kitchen at home so I couldn’t bring much. I’ve also got some news.
'Mark, Mum says the police came to the farm this morning. They’re going to search the forest tomorrow.'
Mark puts his head in his hands, 'I didn’t want this. My dad on TV and the police and everything. I don’t know what to do.'
'I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you live with your grandad in Manchester? Let your dad and Mel move to London and visit them in the holidays.'
Mark doesn’t answer for a while, then he nods his head and smiles.
'Can I use your phone?' he asks. 'I need to call my dad.'

Robin Newton

Total votes: 112
Language level: 

Discussion

Did you like the story? Do you think Grace did the right thing?

Comments

SLMT's picture
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SLMT 18 June, 2017 - 17:01

I like this story.The flow of story is nice and there's a lot of up and down scene.I can exactly know how Mark would feel when his father decided to get second merriage,coz my family is also a broken family.But both of my parents don't want to get second merriage so far.The feeling of one of ur parents left u is just like tearing the heart.But Mark should have discuessd with his father about his second marriage before he ran away from home.If he acted wisely,his father wasn't on TV and no policeman and nothing.But on the other hand,Grace is smart and knows exactly how to deal with problems.She gave best advice to Mark.This story make me want to read more.I really want to read about friendship of Mark & Grace , how Mark solve his family problem.

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9 users have voted.
Lunanga's picture
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Lunanga 26 May, 2017 - 19:05

I decide I like stories 'cause of this one (=it's not ...). If I were Grace I'd act as she did.

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14 users have voted.
Ken's picture
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Ken 16 October, 2016 - 06:29

If I was Grace, I would behave like her. d(-_☆)
It was good to let Mark know first what actions the grown-ups would take against their lost boy - a hubbub.
Good Grace, she kept the calm in talking Mark round like an hostage negotiator!! :)
I couldn't do that so far...
Σ( ̄ε ̄;|||・・・
Also, Grace was lucky to find Mark again who didn't clam up on what was happening to him even in from of a stranger. Mark's communication ability may definitely save his life in the future!
Guys, do you have a little time talking out with your real friends?
(x_x) ☆\( ̄ ̄*)

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37 users have voted.
amawes's picture
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amawes 7 October, 2016 - 07:57

I did like the story and I think that Grace did the right thing but what I would have wanted most was for Mark's dad to dump Mel because I did not like that woman.

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33 users have voted.
jaknil's picture
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jaknil 27 September, 2016 - 12:30

I thought the story was a little bit boring because it had no action in it. I think that Grace did the right thing because you never know if the boy ran away from his father after for example child abuse.

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33 users have voted.
sona's picture
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sona 8 June, 2016 - 16:07

I loved the story,because it doesn't also have an interesting plot,but it is also an actual theme in our life. The most powerful thing in the world is communication. We shouldn't just let things go away even it has a bad effect in our life. However, running from the conflict isn't a useful choice. We should say what we think without being afraid,but in a calm way to let others understand our attidute.
In addition,I liked the end and the fact that the author didn't say everything what will happen,because despite the fact it was quiet clear,it even let our imagination free.

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46 users have voted.
tinymous's picture
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tinymous 12 February, 2016 - 20:22

a very interesting story with a open end. it´s very good,because you can creating the end on your own or think about how could the story end.

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46 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 2 August, 2015 - 03:32

Oops, one more thing!
The story also let me think about kids in different situations: there are kids who are at someone's (adults') back and call, while others grow up in the center of the family with much adults' attention. I can't say which is better or not, though.
Only I can see is that it seems Grace and Mark are contrasting on that regard. Did their encounter have any meaning? Will they become good friends?…
It's actually a thought-provoking story! ツ

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48 users have voted.
hadia's picture
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hadia 2 August, 2015 - 09:24

Yes! it's a very interesting and thought provoking story....I agree and the same questions were in my mind at the end!...............While thinking of these all questions I was just making the end of the story myself! ha ha ha! I wish i could write the end!

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50 users have voted.
hadia's picture
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hadia 4 August, 2015 - 14:10

Aww! Thanks for consoling Elsa...................You have always proved that you're a better friend than me <3

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48 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 2 August, 2015 - 03:02

So fascinating! Although, to be honest, I couldn't help laughing despite myself when I reached the last line!ツ
It seemed that the curtain dropped suddenly when I knew Mark was so quick on his feet...!!
Anyway, I like the story and am looking forward to reading future development. I'm interested in the process how Mark struggles to take into the unwanted situation and grows up, which can be everything to everyone in our teens... ツ
I think Grace did a right thing. She looks smart and seems to be an ideal friend to have because of her fair and sincere stance on the matter, though I don't know how her suggestion, which was one of the option, persuaded well for the kid… Apart from the last punch line (..sorry, Robin!! :)) I was on the edge of my seat, remembering my own attempt of leaving home when I was younger.

You must write a sequence to the good story, Robin! Thank you!ツ

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46 users have voted.
hadia's picture
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hadia 1 August, 2015 - 04:25

Yeah! It was a very nice story......Hm! well, parents should always ask their children before taking the decision of second marriage.........!! But, the thing Mark did, that he ran out from the house was also not a sensible decision....! T think he would have try to sit and persuade his father for not doing the 2nd marriage or tell his father about his disliking for Mel! Hm........Moreover, If he doesn't want to go to London he should have gone to his grandpa's home! It would be a lot better for him to live there rather than living in a forest which is no doubt a very dangerous thing! The crying of Mark's dad on the TV and searching with the police every where for his child shows his love for him! He might have listen to Mark if he would talk to him deeply about the matter! Well, in the whole story I think Grace was an intelligent girl! She did the right thing by saying him to live at his grandpa's home! Hm...he would be safe there than in the forest,where he was starving and in tension only!

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44 users have voted.