New start competition - Runner Up

Roy Peach

Runner Up
Elisha's New Start
New start competition


Roy Peach is a youth worker in Oxford. He has always enjoyed writing and performing and is currently editing his debut novel which he hopes to publish next year. His work with children and teenagers provides many funny or thought-provoking situations for stories and he is developing a non-fiction work around this. Recently, his debut theatre play All at Sea was performed to critical acclaim. He is keen on telling stories that have strong or complex characters, often with a mental health theme or subtext, and following the successful design of a writing course for a mental health recovery college, he now tutors on this several times a year. Roy has previously worked freelance for his local newspaper, currently edits newsletters and websites for three local groups, blogs when time permits, and runs storytelling and relaxation workshops. More information on his ventures can be found at   

Elisha's New Start By Roy Peach

I mean it doesn’t get any more exciting, does it? Results day. I mean, like, OMG, literally. This is actually it. How long’s it been? Ten, no, eleven years. Wow. That’s like a lifetime. That’s, like, all my life so far. That’s crazy. Eleven years and this is it. That’ll show that cow. Miss Alcock never believed in me. Year Seven she was like ‘Elisha, you ain’t ever gonna make anything of your life if you keep behaving like you are. You can’t just quit and start over’, but what Miss Alcock don’t know is I have made something of my life cos, like, I’m stood here now, so what did she know? Miss Alcock always thought she was best but she didn’t know that we knew she was sucking off Squeaky Grant from DT. I mean come on. He wasn’t exactly pretty. She didn’t like us calling her out on it. ‘Here Miss Alcock, how’s the man with all the wood? Easy screw?’ I mean, like, everyone ripped into her after that and kept on calling her Miss Alcock-and-no-balls, or even just No-balls. She hated that. Well, love, two can play the hate card. You hated on me, I hated on you, and where are you now? Not here, and me, well, yeah, I am, so suck on that. She never came back.
Five to ten. That’s like an hour I’ve been here. That’s well weird. When do they release the results? Five minutes? Ten o’clock. Yeah, five minutes. Miss Robinson was well pleased to see me this morning. I mean she was shocked, but she’s what’s got me through the last year. She’s mental and all but she’s alright. It’s crazy cos, like, all the other classes in the year group have had the same tutor all the way through but we’ve had, like, five. That’s, like, one a year. But Miss Robinson was the best. She’s young so she was like a sister, and she actually cared about us as though we was real people, not children that didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives.

Miss Robinson was amazing. She helped me through all the crap of Year Eleven and now she’s actually bothered to show up, in the summer holidays too, and she said hello which is sort of, like, pretty cool, although it’s not really cool talking to the teachers, but it’s cool because we’ve finished school now so it don’t matter.
There’s Bethany Dixon. Look what she’s wearing. She’s, like, dressed up in a business suit thing. Always thought she was better than the rest of us, always brushed her hair a hundred times and had, like, twenty lipsticks in her bag. I always thought she must be well loaded. Who wears a suit like that to school? She looks lush though, like, proper smart. It’s really nice. Wish I had something like that, but then it’s a bit over the top just for opening an envelope, but then she reckons she’s taking over her dad’s business so she’s probs got loads of money, like inheritance, so it’s not really hers, it’s just, like, a daddy’s girl thing, and I’m not like that. Huh, he probs bought it for her. It’s well nice though. She’s showing Katie the label. It’ll be Gucci or something.
Three minutes. It’s mental. So many people here. I thought I’d, like, sneak in early or something, get it out the way, but everyone’s come early. This is like the whole year group. It’s like the first day of school again when we didn’t know what we was doing and we all just walked around lost as they shouted our names out. That was crazy. I’ve known these people for five years. Wait, I’ve known some of them longer, like, since primary. Wow. I’ve shared my life with them, and actually, I don’t really know any of them, not anymore anyway.
There’s Tommy Pratt. He’s always smiling, and has all his mates around him. He peed himself on the first day here. Nobody let him forget. They laughed and called him Peeing Pratt for five years. Peeing Pratt! The things you remember. I bet that was really hard for him. He kept smiling but it’s, like, bullying ain’t it? Five years. Five years we all called him that and he just smiled. Christ, we were actually really horrible to him.
Oh no. Mr Bennett’s standing up on stage. He better not make a speech. He’s got the most annoying voice ever. His assemblies used to drag. He wasn’t bad though, apart from excluding me. Two days last time. I was only smoking in the toilets. It’s not like the alarms went off. It wasn’t nothing. He said it could have been more as it was my last exclusion. One more day and I’d have been out. Year Eleven. He wouldn’t have kicked me out. He couldn’t have. Suppose he sort of protected me in a way. That was my last chance. He’s alright. Oh, here we go.
Yeah, alright, we know we’re Year Eleven, and what school it is. Get on with it. One minute he says. Why be all formal about it? I could have been home by now if they’d have given them to me when I got here. Miss Robinson says it’s just cos government tell them when they have to do it. It’s always government. What do they know? Bet they never even went to school. Don’t see any of them coming here to help us when we didn’t have any pens or books or nothing. They just sits in London talking in posh voices. They don’t know what this area’s like, or what the school’s like. They should have come down here when Miss Robinson was helping us. Hundred and fifty quid she spent, of her own money, just so we could get through the last year. Seamus Callaghan’s shoes broke at Halloween and his mum couldn’t afford no more, specially as we only had a few months left. Miss Robinson bought some for him. They weren’t cheap but she did it. Said she wanted them to last him through school and prom and his first interview. He’s wearing them now. He’s really proud of them.

She got us all new pens and things cos, like, our class lost everything at Christmas cos we’re crap. She sorted us out with pencil cases that we could go into the exams with, and she just cared. She even bought toilet rolls when the school couldn’t afford to restock all of the toilets, just so we could use the one next to the classroom. She didn’t want us out the class long and she’d come knocking if we were. I was gone ages at the end, but she came and got me, and dragged me back, usually with a hug, telling me I could do it. ‘New start’, is what she always said. Each day was a new start, fresh start. And here I am, about to do it. This is it. That’s what she said when I walked in. ‘New start, Elisha’, and she smiled at me with that smile that I always remembered at the end of the day when I’d stayed late just to catch up and prove that even if you screw up, you can pull it back in Year Eleven. I pulled it back, for her, and for me. I’m going to prove I can do it, be the first in our family to get somewhere.
Why don’t he shut up? That’s past ten now. New starts is all he’s going on about. We know that, we just want to see what we got. What? Oh, that’s it. Quick Elisha, get in line. Bethany was quick. She’s already opening them. Got her little crowd round her. Tommy too. How’d they get up here so fast? Seamus is just with Luke but that’s normal. Cool, it’s all normal, so it’s all good. Right, that’s it, let’s go. Where? That corner. That’s it. OK. Here we go. This is it. Oh look. Tommy’s happy. Bet he got into Sports College. Bethany doesn’t look happy. Probably chipped a nail when she opened the envelope. Either that or didn’t get top marks like her dad told her she would. Her little crowd’s hugging her. Good for them. Oh my God. What’s that? That blazer’s from a charity shop! The label’s hanging out. Don’t say anything. That’d be really cruel.

Well, this is it Elisha. Bloody envelope. Why’d they use these ones if they’re only getting torn open? Can’t. Get. In...Right. Got it. OK. What’s that mean? Yeah, name, number, grade.
Look it’s probably a mistake. You tried hard. No. Look again. Yeah. Yeah, it’s right. Oh my God. No. I’ve, I’ve done it. I’ve done it. OMG. No way. What? I’m actually going. I’m actually going to go to college. How the hell? I’m going to college! Quick, who can I tell? Seamus? No, he won’t care. Tommy? Nah, he’s got all his mates. Maybe Miss Robinson will...oh, she’s with Bethany. What’s she saying? She didn’t get enough for sixth form? What? That’s got to be wrong. Miss, come over. That’s just like Miss Robinson. She’s trying to sort it out for her. Miss, come over. No, stop. She needs to help Bethany, but I want to tell her. She’s the only one who believed in me. She got me through this.
Bloody hell. I’m going to college. I’m not going to see her again, or any of them. No more Peeing Pratt, no Boring Bennett giving his speeches. Whoa. That’s weird. Miss Robinson kept giving me fresh starts each day, new starts. She wanted to me to do well. She was there for me. Who’s there for me, at college? Who’s going to chase me, keep me on track?
Miss Robinson, please stop with Bethany. I’ve got, like, the most important question to ask you. Can I come back to school? Start again? I don’t think I want to go to college. I want a new start. Here.

Judges Comments

Because everyone remembers that one exceptional teacher or youth worker who made a difference to their lives, there's a particular poignancy to Roy Peach's results-day story Elisha's New Start, the runner-up in WM's New Start short story competition.

It's all told through the voice of Elisha as she waits for the exam results that have the potential to change the direction of her life. We shown the bolshy front that Elisha puts on, snarking about her classmates and the school, before she (ie, her creator, Roy) reveals her vulnerability. She's evidently bright, and highly observational, but Elisha, it transpires, is someone who has never been viewed as a child who might succeed - until Miss Robinson. The teacher who believed in her and made a difference.

In Roy Peach's hands, Miss Robinson's 'new start' mantra is given powerful currency. It shows how one person's belief can make a transformative difference. Elisha the problem child is transformed into Elisha who, by her own efforts, has passed her exams and has the hope of a brighter future than anyone except Miss Robinson might have predicted for her. Shown through the eyes of Elisha, a person who might be used to being dismissed for anything except for when she gets into trouble, this heartwarming story shows a different perspective to narratives of children who don't thrive in the school system.

Anger about poverty (evident in the way Miss Robinson uses her own money to buy resources in an underfunded school) and a system that fails children through lack of understanding of their lives fuels this story with a narrative energy. The ending is happy and hopeful, but also feel authentically credible, as Elisha looks forward to her future but wonders if she can alter it to keep the support of the person whose belief in her changed everything.