I signed up for an online story-telling course this week and was asked to write a story that evoked an emotion. Here is is…

“Hands, hands, handkerchief!” The woman demands in a Scottish accent. She’s standing next to the chocolate brown painted hand-rail at the top of the stairs and blocking the route down. Ahead of me there’s a queue of girls dressed identically in green and white plaid dresses. Each girl dutifully shows the fronts and the backs of her hands before reaching into the cuff of her sleeve and flashing her white handkerchiefs. With a nod the woman stands aside and one by one the girls head off to breakfast.

All the girls show their handkerchiefs. I don’t have a handkerchief. Mum didn’t pack any. No one mentioned that I’d need one. I can feel tears prickling at my eyes and my heart hammers in my chest. I want to go home.

I break away from the queue that snakes behind me all the way back to sick room and make a dash for the dormitory. I fling myself on the faded bedcover – the one that took me three attempts to smooth down enough for Matron’s approval – and begin to sob in earnest. It’s only the first day at school and already I’ve got it all wrong.

Hours and hours later my sister finds me.

“What are you doing here?” She asks.

“I don’t have a handkerchief. I can’t go downstairs.” I sob, “and I’m hungry!”

“You’ve got a whole box of tissues right here.” She points to the jumbo box of Kleenex Mum bought me in preparation for coming to school.

I sniff and wipe my nose with the back of my hand.

“Those are tissues and she asked for a handkerchief,” I mumble.

“She just says handkerchief but she means a tissue. Everyone uses tissues here.”

Together we re-join the queue.

So what emotion did it evoke in you?