Sarah was the fourth reader at Story Shop 2016, the daily Edinburgh International Book Festival showcase of up-and-coming writers living and working in Edinburgh today.

Her appearance was on Tue 16th August 2016 at 3 pm in the Spiegeltent.

Story Shop performances take roughly ten minutes and are free and unticketed.
 

 

Sarah mainly writes for younger children but regularly dips her toes into the waters of other genres – if the tea is hot enough and she’s had enough sleep.

She is a a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and also co-ordinates the middle-grade and picture-book critique groups in South East Scotland.

She keeps a lot of short storie in her Great Big Jar website and you can find her on Twitter as @sarahpbroadley.
 

 

Blood on My Apollos
a short story by Sarah Broadley

Edinburgh, 1983.
 

My big sister’s roller skates weren’t proper skates.

They hadn’t come in a fancy box with WOW and AWESOME on the side, they had been bound together with an elastic band. Worn away heel to weathered toe, deep scuffs and scrapes confirmed their long life. Battle scars that went from the back wheels all the way up to the rubber stopper that jutted out from beneath the faded leather that had once been bright red.

If I held them up to the big light in the front room, the faint initials of my cousin could be seen on the inside of the heel. Ownership had been declared in a faint, black scribble – the initials O and K.

I saw these letters as a rite of passage. A sign that I wouldn’t get into trouble if I used the skates. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

O and K. Everything was OK.

Each skate had two leather sections that had seen better days. One part tied at the front over excited toes that wriggled around in flimsy school plimsolls. The wearer would attempt to tie the greying, frayed laces in as tight a knot as child-like fingers could manage. It was just aswell the soft material stretched to accommodate the smallest to the largest foot, because in our street, we shared everything.

A thin leather strap weaved its way through two metal slits in the heel, once the buckle was in place, thin ankles were held tight against the steel frame.

Every part of the preparation was usually done with a tongue sticking out the side of jam-covered lips and one eye closed to help with concentration. Desperation oozed from every pore. Tying them quickly meant more time to play before bath time. It also meant more time before they were handed over to the next in line.

It was widely agreed that they were the most cumbersome skates in the world. But they were all we had.

 

When allowed a shot, it was easy to get carried away with the excitement of it all. I would always end up going too fast, my toes slipping out of the foot-strap. My journey of great speed would come to a very abrupt halt and I would end up hopping on one foot and skating with the other until I finally managed to slow myself down or catch up with my remaining skate – whichever happened first.

Or worse, the freedom-seeking skate would burl round and bang against my opposite ankle, leaving deep, painful welts in my skin. Rendering me speechless for a few moments as I tried my best not to cry, I would check for any obvious damage and start the process all over again.

Bruised and sore from my adventures on the steel contraptions, I would head in for a soothing bath and then onto bed, where I would dream of having my own pair of skates.

Not cousin hand-me-downs or big sister left-overs.

Brand new. Just for me.

 

For months I had been looking at the same item in the Freemans catalogue.

I had already memorised the number and section (page 246, toy section) but it didn’t stop me flicking through all the glossy pages, wishing I could buy EVERYTHING I saw. I would heave the paper monstrosity onto my lap and lick the tip of my index finger to gently urge the pages over without them ripping. Gently leafing through, I would ignore the fact the circulation in my legs had gone and just continue on with my unobtainable shopping list. My idea of heaven.

I knew the order number off by heart. FM 545623.

I would say it over and over in my head and recite the product summary off as if it were a nightly prayer. Whenever the advert for my skates came on the telly, I imagined that the excited, booming voice spilling out into the living room, was my own.

“…Double laced, strong white leather, comfortable soles. Durable stoppers that compliment a solid titanium frame….”

 

It was enough to make me spill my strawberry Creamola foam. Fizzy carbonated globules that popped and banged in the glass were my second favourite thing in the whole wide world. It was rare that any spilling of the addictive e-filled drink ever happened but when it did, it just showed how much I wanted the skates.

Apollo 13, Ridge-back Gold Class Specials. To be exact.

They were what I wanted more than anything else in the world. More than getting my own room. And definitely more than kissing John McKinstrie at the P7 leavers’ dance.

Who needs boys when you can glide along the road with the wind in your hair and not a care in the world?

Not me.

 

On the morning of my 12th birthday, the present that sat on the dining table between the cereal and the burnt toast, was huge. The shiny paper gleamed, the pattern of red stripes with green bows was a bit garish for such an early start. I grinned as I noticed the edges had torn slightly where the corners had proven a bit tricky for my dad to get right. I smiled up at him.

He grinned back at me and nodded. Go ahead and open it his floppy black hair said as it bounced up and down.

The jaggy rips that had been smoothed down, confirmed that he had given up trying to make a perfect box-shape. The long strips of tape that had curled at the ends, indicated he still couldn’t master sellotape. I always just used my teeth.

I knew a lot of effort had gone into the wrapping and I wiped away a grateful tear.

“Mum would’ve done it better” he said as he shuffled around the kitchen drying his already-clean hands on the tea towel.

“You’ve done a great job, dad. Thanks.” I managed to squeak. My heart was beating so fast, I couldn’t quite get the words out.

I looked over at the chair mum used to sit in. The empty seat stared back.

Her death – one year, two months and fourteen days ago – was a shock to us all. A brain something or other they had said. They had said it had been quick.

Quick for who?

I quietly removed the paper, not daring myself to believe that my wish might actually come true. The same wish I had made every night ever since Ruth Donnelly got her new skates last year. She had pranced up and down the street, showing off her Pale Blue All Stars. Apparently, her Uncle in America had bought them for her, but I knew for a fact that you could get them in Woolies down the Kirkgate for fifty pounds. I could see the big W sticker on her soles too.

She can keep her All Stars though, the stoppers don’t last very long.

 

“Will you just open it!” dad said, as he ruffled my hair on his way back to the kitchen. More toast was burning under the grill, the smell made my stomach growl. I was starving but I can never eat on the morning of my birthday.

Presents first, food later.

I waited for him to return before I gave up being neat and tore the paper off. Squealing with delight, I couldn’t believe it. There, staring back at me, were the unmistakeable images of skates, wheels, laces…

But they weren’t just any skate parts.

They were an all-singing, all-dancing pair of Apollo 13 Ridge-back Gold Class Specials.

In Silver.

Breathe Beena, breathe.

My dad opened the door to find me covered in blood. My hand cupped my chin as a river of red ran between my fingers and down my arm, collecting in a pool in my inner elbow joint. A rush of tears had made my face wet and blotchy patches appeared like a rash on my cheeks. My nose was running like a tap which just added that little bit of extra fluid to an already wet situation. My brand new silver skates had splashes of ‘told-you-so’ splattered all over them. My face burned not just with embarrassment but also with a little bit of pride. I smiled and wailed at the same time.

My first battle scar.
 

(c) Sarah Broadley, 2016

 

 


 

Sarah Broadley reads Blood on My Apollos on 16 August 2016 at Story Shop during the Edinburgh International Book Festival.