Last Christmas Together

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Boy Girl on Bench in India

‘The Last Christmas Together’ by Manya Agarwal - Age 13, from India.
Illustration by Bertie.
Audio edited and proofed by Jana Elizabeth.
Read by Richard Scott.

Veena was not at all girly. Any gossip, talks about makeup and crushes used to annoy her. She never used to get along with most other girls. There was another thing different about her - her birthday was the 25th December.

Veena and her parents used to visit an orphanage every few weeks to donate her old clothes and money. There Veena knew a boy named Ryan. They were best friends. She always looked forward to meeting him. Whenever Veena went to the orphanage, they both used to spend the entire day talking, playing, and having fun.

This year, Veena's parents had been busier than ever. It was in the month of December, when they told her that they would be moving to another, faraway city after her term had ended. So the visits to the orphanage would have to stop. Veena protested, but her parents' decision was final. She behaved a bit grumpily with them after that.

One day, Veena said to Ryan, "You know, Mom and Dad told me that we'll be moving to another city."

Ryan simply said, "Oh."
Veena said, "You won't say anything else?"

"What can we do?" he replied.

She didn't know what to say to this.

Two days before Christmas, Veena asked her mom, "Mom, what are you getting me for my birthday?"

"It's a surprise," her mom said with a huge smile.

"I want to celebrate it with Ryan, our last Christmas together," she muttered.
"We'll see."

On Christmas morning, after finishing breakfast and stuff, her parents told her to get ready.

"Where are we going?" Veena asked excitedly.

"It's a surprise," her dad replied.

They took her to the orphanage, much to her excitement. They started talking with the adults at the orphanage.

"Hello sister," she heard Ryan say.
Sister? Ryan had never called her sister. Though she would love to have him as her brother, she thought.

After they had finished talking with the orphanage managers, her parents turned to the children, "Merry Christmas, Ryan and Veena. And Happy Birthday Veena. Ready for the surprise?"

Veena nodded.

"You two don't have to part. He is officially your brother now."

Later Veena realised that her parents had been extra busy because they were in the procedure of adopting Ryan. It was the best present either of them ever got!
And that was ‘The Last Christmas’, by Manya Agarwal, age 13, from India.
Manya has entered our competitions in the past, but this is the first time she has won! There’s a lesson there, isn’t there Bertie?
Bertie - Yes of course, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. Thank you Manya. We liked your story last time, and considered it seriously, but I’m glad that we didn’t pick it because now you’ve sent us this one which is even better.

Richard - Bertie what did you like about this story?
Bertie - It’s quite a touching and emotional story but nonetheless, the plot unfolds in a simple and direct style. Our older writers - and I’m talk about 12 and up, do tend to get a bit more complicated in the plots, and the style gets more flowery as they experiment with words and I can see why this is natural - you have to learn to use language - but sometimes it packs more punch just to be simple and understated.

The dialogue here says a lot in very few words; like when Ryan says, “Hello sister.” And that’s the turning point of the story and I thought that was very clever.

Richard - And from me, Richard.
And from me, Bertie, goodbye!