Ghost story: Runner-up in 16 and over category - A Winter’s Journey

From broken bones to new beginnings

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Sue Moore is the runner-up in the 16 and over category of our Christmas ghost story competition.

Sue loves writing - and she’s now inspired to come up with more stories after her spooky tale was picked as runner-up in the 16-and-over category of our Christmas ghost story competition.

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT ...A gift for a ghostly apparition

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT ...A gift for a ghostly apparition

Sue, who receives a £25 gift card to spend on books at Waterstone’s, said: ‘I’m delighted. It’s a confidence boost as I’m just about to do an Open University course on creative writing.’

The deputy manager at the University of Portsmouth, who lives in Cranleigh Road, Fratton, explained: ‘I used to write a lot as a child. But then you go to work and have a family and you don’t have much time for it.’

Married to Dave with a two-year-old son Ollie, Sue, 30, said she was a big fan of Charles Dickens, in particular A Christmas Carol. She added: ‘I want to write some more short stories now and eventually it would be nice to complete a novel.’

Bus journey with a spooky twist for Mrs Winter...

RUNNER-UP Sue Moore

RUNNER-UP Sue Moore

Mrs Winter huffed and puffed as she climbed awkwardly on to the bus with three bags of Christmas shopping, her handbag and walking stick.

She shuffled between the other passengers towards the only empty seats at the back. No-one offered her their seat. They all stared forwards silently, lost in their own worlds and worries.

‘Not much Christmas spirit here,’ thought Mrs Winter, sadly.

Just then, a little boy of about eight hurried forwards to meet her from the long back seat of the bus where he sat with his mother and sister, and where there was space for an extra passenger.

‘I’ll carry those,’ he said, holding out his little hands to take the bags from her.

Mrs Winter smiled gratefully down at the kind boy.

‘Thank you,’ she said.

‘That’s very kind of you.’

She looked pointedly around at the other passengers, who continued to stare obliviously ahead, and handed him two of her bags.

‘Are you sure you can manage those?’ she asked.

The boy nodded and dashed back to the back seat, placing Mrs Winter’s bags ever so carefully in the opposite corner to where he sat with his family. Mrs Winter got to the seat shortly after him and sat down heavily with relief, placing her other bag on the seat and propping up her walking stick against the side of the bus.

The boy’s mother looked over at her with a smile.

‘We couldn’t just watch you struggle through the bus with all that shopping on your own,’ she said.

‘Stephen couldn’t believe no-one was letting you have their seat.’

‘There’s a definite lack of Christmas cheer around this year,’ Mrs Winter agreed, smiling back, making the lines around her mouth and eyes come alive.

‘But, I’m happy to say, not in this family. You’re all very kind, thank you.’

She ruffled Stephen’s hair and he ducked and grinned.

‘I’m Mrs Winter,’ she continued, with her kind, crinkly smile, to introduce herself properly.

‘Mrs Winter!’ exclaimed the mother.

‘What a seasonal name.’

‘It is indeed,’ replied the kindly old lady.

‘I’m Julie,’ replied the mother.

‘And you’ve met Stephen already.’

‘And I’m Sarah!’ piped up the little girl sitting on the other side of Julie, leaning around her mother to give Mrs Winter a cheerful little wave.

‘Well, it’s lovely to meet you,’ Mrs Winter replied.

‘Are you all looking forward to Christmas?’

‘Yes!’ cried Sarah and Stephen in unison.

‘We are,’ Julie agreed with a smile.

‘You should,’ Mrs Winter said, more seriously.

‘It’s such a magical time for them at that age, but they so soon grow out of it. Enjoy the magic while you can.’

Julie nodded in agreement, with a wistful smile.

‘Are you looking forward to Christmas, Mrs Winter?’ asked Stephen.

‘Yes,’ replied Mrs Winter.

‘Very much. I’ve just finished my shopping for my grandchildren. I will be visiting them on Christmas Day.’

‘How old are they?’ asked Sarah.

‘I have three,’ continued Mrs Winter.

‘Ethan is six, Michael is four, and Lucy is three. They’re all very excited.’

‘Lovely ages for Christmas,’ agreed Julie.

‘They’ll have a lovely day, I’m sure, and will love seeing their grandma too.’

Mrs Winter smiled her crinkly smile.

‘Oh,’ she said.

‘This is my stop just here.’

She rang the bell to stop the bus, and then stood up slowly, collecting all her bags together.

‘But before I go,’ she said, rummaging through the bags, ‘I’m sure I have something in here for you.’

‘Oh, you don’t need to do that, Mrs Winter!’ exclaimed Julie.

‘Here, let Stephen help you back down the bus with your bags. There’s an empty seat near the front now, we’ll sit there. Our stop is the one after yours.’

‘Thank you, dear.’

Mrs Winter handed Stephen two bags and he hurried forward to the seat at the front of the bus where he waited for Mrs Winter to catch up, followed by his mother, with Sarah following behind her.

Mrs Winter continued to hunt through the bag she was carrying as the bus slowed down and pulled over at the stop.

‘Here,’ she said, handing Julie two chocolate snowmen.

‘One for Stephen and one for Sarah. Merry Christmas!’

Mrs Winter gave them a cheerful wave as she stepped off the bus with some other passengers. The driver began to pull away.

‘Wait!’ cried Julie.

‘We need to get off here too.’

The driver grunted in annoyance, but opened the doors again.

‘Come on,’ Julie said urgently, beckoning towards Stephen and Sarah to hurry off the bus, and they followed her quickly.

‘Mrs Winter!’ cried Julie, looking up and down the busy street, finally spotting the elderly lady when she turned on hearing her name.

Julie ran up the street to meet her, followed by Stephen and Sarah.

‘Mrs Winter,’ said Julie, breathlessly.

‘The snowmen!’

‘Whatever is the matter?’ Mrs Winter asked in concern.

‘There are two,’ Julie said, ‘one for Stephen and one for Sarah.’

‘Yes,’ nodded Mrs Winter, looking over at both of the children.

‘One each.’

Julie looked at her and an anguished look crossed her face.

‘I only have Stephen here,’ Julie whispered tearfully.

‘Sarah… Sarah died when she was just a few months old.’

Julie gave a heaving cry and covered her face with one hand, as Stephen held her other one tightly.

Mrs Winter looked at Sarah, who smiled back at her sadly, and the elderly lady put a comforting hand on Julie’s shoulder.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she said, through tears of her own.

‘But I can tell you that she has grown into a beautiful young girl, who is always with you.’

Mrs Winter removed her hand and began to walk away. Julie hugged Stephen and they both looked up to speak more to Mrs Winter, but she had disappeared. They looked at each other in amazement, and after a moment began to make their way silently, slowly home.

Sarah followed closely behind.