Finding my voice

Category A: Second Place (2021) Monash Short Story Writing Competition

Author: Prisha Rewal

Title:  Finding my voice

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I was suffocating. Drowning in an angry sea of thrashing voices. Voices like tidal waves, dragging me under and squeezing the breath out of me. I was an outcast. Lonely. Ignored. Discarded. I felt myself sinking down to the bottom of the ocean, so deep that even the sunlight wouldn’t be able to reach me. No matter how hard I tried, no one could hear my voice. I tried to form words, but when I opened my mouth, all that came out was a tiny squeal. The echo of my history teacher’s voice re-telling the story of Captain Cook discovering Australia and claiming it for the Crown rumbled in the background. But she hadn’t cared to mention that it was my people’s land and that Cook had taken away. I felt a wave of rage and indignance rise inside me.

“This is my people’s land and has been for millennia! Cook didn’t discover Australia, he invaded our country!”

The words fired out of my mouth like a cannon but had no effect. What should have been a firm voice was instead a muffled mumble. Everyone’s eyes were on me and I could tell they were thinking: “There she goes again muttering nonsensical stuff.” Their gaze hardened, but I was only a voiceless 9-year-old. Then bell rang.

I had P.E now. It was the only class I enjoyed because the teacher didn’t care who you were, only what you were capable of. I loved P.E because we did a lot of running and I loved running. I loved how the wind attacked my face and whipped my hair. I always ran barefoot because it felt good to feel the soft soil of the land between my toes and beneath my feet. But most of all, I loved how free I felt. At the end of class my teacher spoke to me about a sports scholarship. If my parents agreed, I could go to the sports institute in Canberra. So after class I ran all the way home with a huge smile.

It was just mum and I most of the time. Dad turned up occasionally, so I was surprised to find him home today. I ran to hug him, but I knew something was wrong. He wasn’t drunk and he had his shoes on…

I couldn’t sleep that night. I could hear my mum and dad arguing about not loving each other anymore. Dad wanted to take me to live with him to his part of country. Mum felt that I should go to Canberra. Once again, I had no voice in the matter. When I woke up in the morning, Dad had already left, so mum had won. I was going to Canberra.

2 years later, at the Canberra State Championships, I was standing on the podium, holding the Aboriginal flag high over my head. I felt my voice soar over everyone else’s. My land. My people. I had finally found my voice without saying anything at all.

 

 

 

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Last updated: 02 September 2021