Story Contest 2020 #2 Highly Commended »

Highly Commended Story - The Family Treasure

“The Family Treasure” by Isha Rajeev Nair, Kings School Nad Al Sheba, Dubai, UAE, is the Highly Commended story in the sub-junior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.

Isha Rajeev Nair is a 7-year old student at Kings School Nad Al Sheba, UAE. An avid reader from a very young age, Isha believes in exploring multiple genres and has been an influencer on her peers regarding their reading choices. Her literary interests includes writing poems and has had her poems published on various platforms and is about to publish her first book on poems. She is the youngest winner of BSME Ed Goodwin award and has been recognized by as an Exceptional student. Isha is an India Book of Records title holder and also a two times winner of the Browzly competition - an International competition recognizing budding and talented English language readers / writers.

The Family Treasure

In any soul, change can sometimes be for the better. But for some, it can be an enemy… or a friend.

A home filled with gay laughter is always such a treasure, though Mariam, a young Arab girl. Its not that she was a philosophical one, but she was constantly thinking about her family and loved ones. She was a tall 9-year-old girl with hair as black as soot with big black eyes and a stubborn mouth. Mariam was a spitting image of her mother, Fatima – a miniature version as Hamza, Mariam’s father would jokingly say.

Well, after a busy day, it was finally night and Mariam slept peacefully, blissfully unaware of what was going on in the outside world. That morning while she was flitting around her house, getting ready to go to school, she saw a grave shadow creeping over Hamza’s face. As he beckoned her to come sit with him, he looked very worried and said, “A new virus has been detected in China and it seems to be spreading around the country like wildfire.” “But Aby, why should you be worried about something that’s happening in China?” asked Mariam while stroking Hamza’s hands comfortingly. “Its just that my company does a lot of business with China and I hope this will not affect my company in any way” said Hamza solemnly. “Don’t worry Baba” said Mariam, “I’m sure you and your company will be fine”. “She could be right, Hamza” said Fatima in her usual assured quiet way, “This virus could just be a common one and in any case, we are so far away from China.” Listening to his wife and daughter filled with hope and happiness brought cheer to Hamza and he too set off to his office.

Sadly, Mariam was proved wrong and the virus spread beyond China, all around the world and the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The UAE too was affected by the virus and slowly the number of infected people started to grow. Schools were closed and Mariam now spent all her time studying like all her other classmates and friends through e-learning. One day as she was finishing up her lessons for the day, she heard the front door closing and thought to herself, “I wonder who it is? Its too early for Baba to be back home from office and since the pandemic started, we have hardly had visitors.” Glancing through the banisters, she saw her father Hamza walking into the living room. The look on his face was one she would never forget. Her Baba, her hero looked as if he was on the verge of tears. Mariam rushed to the living room where Hamza had now collapsed onto the sofa. “What happened Baba? Why do you look so sad?” asked Mariam. “It’s nothing, my little treasure” said Hamza, “I’m just tired from all the work at office. Could you ask your mother to fetch me some tea? I would also like to talk to her, so if you need to finish your schoolwork, please do that.” Mariam rushed to Fatima “Baba’s home and would like some tea. And Oh! He looks very tired; I really wish he could get some rest”.

A couple of days later, while Mariam was getting ready to go to bed, she heard some murmurs from the living room. Against her instincts of eavesdropping, Mariam listened to her parents talking to each other. “What do we do Hamza? This is such a trying time – what with you having lost your job and all these unpaid bills,” sobbed the usually sober Fatima. “I have requested cousin Hamad for a loan. He is rich and should be able to help out, especially at a time like this.” said Hamza gently. “Let me give him a call now.”

A few moments later, Mariam could hear Hamza talking to Hamad though she couldn’t hear what was being discussed. “I guess if Baba has such hopes on Cousin Hamad, it must be fine.” Thought Mariam and went to sleep, blissfully unaware of the turmoil going through the house. Over the next few days, she could sense the sadness in Hamza, even though he pretended that everything was fine to her. She would watch him approaching all his friends pleading for help and almost always ending the day with no solution to their predicament. “How can I help Baba in such a situation? I’m too young to find work and in any case, I really need to finish school.” thought Mariam. “Perhaps the biggest gift I can give my parents is by studying hard and achieving good grades.” Days passed by and Mariam kept at her books, often toiling into the deep night. Soon it was the annual exams and Mariam knew she had done very well in her exams.

The day arrived when the exam results were declared. Mariam was not surprised to find that she had finished at the top in her class – but what surprised her was that she had been awarded a full scholarship by her school. This would mean such a relief to her father Hamza!! But what happened next took the Hamza family by storm. Mariam had also won the Dubai Academic Excellence Award which meant that all her education would now be sponsored and Hamza no longer had to worry about her fees and books. Hamza and Fatima felt as if they had stumbled onto the Fountain of Luck and after a very long time, there were smiles at home.

Soon, COVID-19 became history – UAE had found a vaccine that could destroy COVID-19 and slowly life returned to normal routines. Hamza found a new job and settled his debts. Mariam, who had watched her family struggle during this period was again happy!!

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