Saturday, 20 March 2010
05:26:17 PM (GMT)
Max stood under the hot, bright spotlight and took a deep breath. The crowd was
quiet, waiting patiently for her to begin. The technician flicked the switch on the
stereo and the music to ‘Hallelujah’ began to blare out of its speakers. Max
hesitated slightly, and then started singing. Her voice was quiet at first, but her
confidence kicked in and she gradually started to get louder. Her voice was like that
of an angel. It was soft yet strong, and sounded heavenly. After 3 minutes, the music
ended and the crowd gave Max a huge round of applause. She stood still and waited for
the feedback off the judges. She looked straight ahead, into the crowd. Simon looked
up from his sheet of paper and smiled towards Max. “Piers.” He said
“Well Max, in my opinion, that was absolutely stunning. How old are you again?
14?” Max nodded and smiled. “Well, that was amazing for someone so young. I think
you’re in with a chance of winning this competition. Amanda.” Amanda looked up at
Max and grinned. “Max, that was amazing. That’s the only way I can explain
today’s performance. You’ll definitely be coming back! Simon?”
“Well. I must say I agree with Piers and Amanda, but you started off a bit quiet.
If you boost your confidence a bit in the start, you could make it big. It’s going
to be a yes from me.” Piers and Cheryl both agreed and Max ran off stage crying
with happiness, and into the welcoming arms of her mum. The television camera focused
on her delighted face as Ant and Dec interviewed her. Her mum hugged her and together
they made their way out of the backstage area of Britain’s Got Talent.
Whilst all this was happening, Max’s best friend Chris was watching from his living
room. At the point she started singing, his mum walked into the room and sat down
next to him on the leather sofa. “Isn’t that your friend?” she inquired.
“Um, yeah I guess. I’ve never heard her sing before though. She’s really
“Yeah, and she’d make a great girlfriend for a certain little man, eh?”
“Mum! I’m 14. I don’t call that little. Also, she’s my best mate. I
couldn’t go out with her.”
“Suit yourself.” She remarked and picked up their laptop. Despite what he’d
just said, Chris did have a crush on Max. Max however, didn’t know that, and as far
as Chris was concerned, she wasn’t going to.
6 weeks later, Max was called back to the BGT headquarters. She was standing in the
same room as a few other acts, when the judges sat down and spoke to them. “I’m
very sorry to say,” began Cheryl, “that none of you will be going through to the
finals.” Max looked down at the floor and started sobbing. Simon felt sorry for her
and came over to give her a hug. After a quick hug and a chat with Simon, she made
her way out of the room to her mum where she broke down completely. A few minutes
after being comforted, Simon, Amanda, Piers, Ant and Dec came out of the room she’d
just been standing in and went to have a private conversation with her mother. They
sat around a table in the corner and Max went to look out of the window over the city
of Cardiff. A short while later, the celebrities were gone, and Max’s mum was
standing behind her once again. She was holding a sleek black notebook with
Simon’s, Amanda’s, Piers’, Ant’s and Dec’s autographs in. In her other
hand, she held an envelope with Max’s name and BGT number on it.
Chris was watching this on television’s More BGT, and felt the same pain that Max
had felt when she found out she didn’t get through. A tiny tear appeared in the
corner of her eye, and Chris’ dad, who was home from the Army on a fortnight’s
leave, noticed. “Oh look Chris, isn’t that your girlfriend? I haven’t seen her
since she was this small!” He said, drawing an imaginary line in the air with his
finger. “How is she?”
“She’s not my girlfriend Dad, and she’s fine anyway.”
“Whoa, sorry mate, but last I heard, you two were together!”
“I don’t know where you heard that then Dad, ‘cus we were never ‘an item’
and we will never be, we’re just mates.” Saying this made Chris feel upset, but
he choked back his tears and rested his head on his dad’s shoulder. This was his
last day on leave, and he was due to go back to Afghanistan early tomorrow morning.
Chris turned the laptop on and logged onto msn. Max wasn’t there; it was late
anyway, so she was probably sleeping. He’d call her tomorrow afternoon sometime,
see how she is and whether she’s home yet. He gave his dad a quick hug and made his
way upstairs to bed- he needed to be up early tomorrow to say goodbye to his dad.
Max was walking down the street with her mum towards their hotel, when her phone
beeped. She reached into her bag and took it out of its little mock. It was a text
message off her dad, who had just got home from the Army for a weeks leave. They
walked into the hotel and let themselves into their room. Max slipped into her pjs,
got herself a glass of water and went to bed, while her mum logged onto their laptop
and started to chat to her husband on msn.
The next morning, Chris woke up at 6 to say bye to his Dad. He stood on the drive in
the crisp morning air, still dressed in his teenage mutant ninja turtles pjs. Him,
his mum and dad stood together on the drive waiting for the taxi to take his dad to
the airport to meet the rest of the army folks due to fly back today. After a while,
the taxi pulled up. Chris hugged his dad so hard he didn’t want to let go. His mum
stood on her toes and gave her husband a long, passionate kiss before helping him
with his bag into the minibus with his army friends. The taxi drove away and Chris
and his mum stood there waving to it, long after it had driven over the horizon into
the rising sun. After a while, they went back inside for a coffee and to get dressed.
Chris’s mum had work to get to, and Chris had to get to his Saturday job at the
newsagents down the road before 8. He ran upstairs and slid into some clean clothes,
and slipped a handful of change into his jeans pocket, along with his mobile phone.
By the time he’d eaten some breakfast and had a drink of coffee, it was time to
head out to work.
At 3pm, Max got back from Cardiff and helped her mum get the bags out of the boot.
She dragged her suitcase inside and burst into the living room, where her dad was
sitting. She ran up to him and hugged him, in much the same way that Chris had done
to his dad earlier that day. She opened the front pocket on her suitcase, grabbed the
still sealed brown envelope and ran upstairs to her room. Her parents stood together
at the bottom of the stairs and stared at her, before going back into the living room
and collapsing on the sofa together, happy to be with each other after almost 6
months apart. Max sat cross-legged on her bed, holding the envelope in her hands.
Before she opened it, she carefully peeled her id sticker from the back of it and
taped it into her scrapbook. She got her gel pens out and neatly wrote ‘Britain’s
Got Talent 2013’ in sparkly silver writing at the top of the page. She picked the
envelope up again and held her breath while she carefully unpeeled the seal. She put
her hand inside and took out a handwritten letter from Simon Cowell. She smiled and
carefully unfolded the lined paper. Enclosed were 3 tickets for the final of BGT
2013. She put the tickets to one side and started to read the letter.
You really were amazing in your audition. You should have got through, but
unfortunately there were too many singing acts in the competition already, and I had
no say in the matter who got through and who didn’t. I think you’ll agree with me
when I say that BGT is for people who have special talents, can do things that many
people can’t. In two years time however, you will be old enough to enter ‘The X
Factor’. Two years may seem like a long way away, but it would be wrong to pull you
away from school now, when you are so busy studying for your GCSEs. However, I was so
impressed by you, that I’ve decided to offer you a record contract that you may
work on at weekends and during school holidays. If you turn down this offer, I shall
understand that it is for the sake of your education, and I hope we can see you again
in the near future.
Max grinned, grabbed the tickets and ran downstairs. She showed her parents the
letter and the tickets. “That’s great dear! Are you going to do it, take up the
record deal? You could be a star!” Gasped her dad.
“No dad, I’m going to continue with my education. I know it could be a once in a
lifetime chance, but I’m going to enter the X Factor when I’m old enough, and
I’ll enter BGT again next year.”
“Ok dear, that’s fine with us; after all, it is your life!”
Meanwhile, Chris was left to look after the shop by himself during a quiet period of
the afternoon. He had just finished tending to a little boy and his mother, when his
phone started ringing. He took a quick look around to make sure his boss wasn’t
looking, and answered. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s Max.”
“Hey! I saw you on TV; sorry to hear you didn’t make it through.”
“Nah its ok, I’ve got a letter off Simon here, offering me a record deal.”
“Oh cool, are you gunna take it?”
“No, I’m gunna do my GCSEs first, then when I’m old enough, I’ll enter the X
Factor. Simon says I’ve got a good chance in winning.”
“Great. So you’re home now then?”
“Yeah, I also got given 3 tickets to the finals. My dad’s working that week, and
he won’t get anymore time before July, so I was wondering if you wanted to come
“Sure, that sounds great. When is it?”
“Oh its ages away yet. 30th May it says on the tickets.”
“Ok then, I’ll mark it on my calendar. I finish work at 4. See you then?”
“Yeah sure, see ya.”
The phone line went dead and Chris looked up at the clock. It was only half 3, and
this was the time of day when the shop had hardly any customers, apart from the
occasional tourist. A few seconds later, his boss came in from his break and ordered
Chris to “tidy the snack-rack out, recycle yesterdays newspapers and sort the ice
lollys into the correct sections of the freezer.”
Max put her phone down and slipped into some clean clothes, but a few seconds later
she received a text off Chris. “Argh the boss has come back and he’s ordering me
around like mad. Got to sort some stuff out, mite not finish till 10 past. Sure boss
won’t mind you hanging around for a bit though.”
Max laughed and replied, jeans still around her knees. “Ok then, I’ll get changed
then come down there and help you out. I need a Saturday job so I’ll ask your boss
if there’s any free.”
10 minutes later, Max pushed the shop door open and stepped inside, pulling her
beanie hat further down over her head as she did so. Chris’s boss looked up from
his newspaper and grunted. Max wandered around to the crisps and knelt down to talk
to Chris. “Hey,” she smiled, “need any help?” Chris looked up from stacking
the quavers together and grinned. “No, its ok. After all, you’re a celebrity now
Max!” He laughed. Max picked up a packet of polos from the snack-rack and went to
the counter to pay for them. “That’ll be 45p then please.” The boss grunted.
Max handed a 50p piece over and asked if there were any part-time weekend jobs going.
The boss leafed through a small diary and sighed. “Well, I’m not really supposed
to be in today, only Rob quit. You could always work here 8 till 4 like Chris ‘ere.
Then Miss Griffiths from down the road takes over till 10.”
“Yeah that’s grand. What’s the pay like?”
“Quid or two an hour. It depends how good a job you two do. You can start next
week.” He nodded towards Chris who was still kneeling on the floor. He turned
around and waved meekly to his boss, who sighed and glared at him.
“I’ll take it!”
By 10 past 4, Chris finally finished unpacking and stacking, and Max was halfway
through her pack of polos. Chris was given his pay, and the pair set out to the
“So how much do you usually get paid?” Max asked Chris.
“It’s normally about a quid an hour. If I stay behind and help Linda, that’s
Miss Griffiths, I can get a couple of quid more. I also come in on a Sunday morning
“Cool.” They sat on the swings in the children’s playground and continued
talking. Chris fished his phone out of his pocket and put some music on. Him and Max
got up and started head banging and playing air guitar to ‘That’s Why They Call
It a Union’ by ‘Less Than Jake’.
That night, Max sat on her bed on her laptop. Everyone that was online was messaging
her, saying how brilliant she was, how sorry they were that she didn’t get through.
Evidently she’d made an impression. She logged off and put her laptop on her
bedside table. Lying down and closing her eyes, she sighed and smiled. Although she
didn’t get through, she was happy so many people loved her. She was a local
celebrity. Then she frowned. If everyone in the village saw that performance, then
her music teacher did, and she would be forced to become part of the school choir, be
made to perform in school assemblies. She shuddered with the thought of performing in
front of so many people she knew, was friends with. She took a sip of water and went
to sleep, trying to banish that thought from her mind. Tomorrow she was being dragged
out to some mountain in the welsh countryside. ‘Just count sheep.’ She told
herself, giggling and settling down to sleep.
The second Max and Chris got through the school gates; they were surrounded by
friends, teachers, and kids that they didn’t even know. Max smiled and looked at
Chris in disbelief. He was as shocked she was at the masses of people surrounding
them, bombarding them with questions, treating them like celebrities. Chris took the
role of bodyguard and pushed people out of the way so that Max could reach the safety
of the classroom without being crushed. She was glad to reach the quiet classroom and
sit at her desk next to Chris as if nothing had happened. “This silence is music to
my ears…” Max giggled. Chris started laughing too, and their form tutor looked up
from marking some work and put his finger to his lips.
The next Saturday morning, she was glad to be away from her hectic school life once
again. She just couldn’t deal with being so popular. Hopefully it would die down by
next week. It was 6am and Max and her parents were standing at the front of their
house, waiting for the taxi to take her dad to the airport. These days, everyone’s
dads were in the army, or worked away. And so, many families spent at least 2
Saturday mornings a year standing on their drives saying goodbye to their loved ones.
Max spotted the minibus turn the corner by Chris’s house and leapt forward to hug
her dad goodbye. Her mum gave him a goodbye kiss that seemed to last forever. He
threw his rucksack into the back of the minibus and sat on a seat near the window.
Max and her mum waved goodbye, tears in their eyes, as the minibus pulled away and
drove up the road. Max went inside, dried her eyes, and got ready for work.
At 8 o’clock, she and Chris were standing outside the newsagents waiting for the
boss to open it up so that they could get to work. “Here’s the keys Chris, keep
an eye on Max will you? Bill will be here in about an hour to supervise ok?”
“Yes sir!” They replied in unison. The boss got back into his car and drove away.
As his car turned the corner, they collapsed in fits of laughter. Walking into the
shop, Max took her position behind the counter and Chris went into the back to make
The next week continued in much the same way, only school had died down a bit. Max
ended up performing in front of the whole school, and got roped into joining the
school choir. However, on Friday, Max and Chris received some bad news. An officer
from the army came round to Chris’ house while Max and her mum were there.
“Mrs Walsh I presume?” He said to Chris’ mum. He nodded towards Max’s mum,
“Mrs Williams?” They both nodded and Max’s mum went over to the front door,
where the officer motioned that they moved into the kitchen, ‘away from the
“I’m sorry to tell you both,” He began. Max and Chris were sat in the living
room, wondering what the officer wanted to talk to their mums about that he didn’t
want them to hear. “that, yesterday afternoon, while proudly serving their country,
your husbands were killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan. They were serving alongside
several other men from this village who were also either killed or will probably be
left seriously injured. I understand how upsetting this is for you both, but you
should be proud that your husbands had the courage to participate in this war and
support their country.” Max and Chris’s mums were crying now, their makeup
running down their faces and dripping onto their shirts. They nodded as a sign of
understanding. “Could you, break the news to our children?” Max’s mum said.
“I just don’t think we could bring ourselves to do it ourselves at the
“Ok. I’ll put the kettle on and then you can get yourselves a drink when you’re
ready.” He flicked the switch down on the kettle and went into the living room,
where Max and Chris were sitting on the settee together. “I think you can probably
guess what has happened,” the officer started explaining. Chris looked up at his
face, which was red, serious, and had a grave expression. “Oh my god. No. No. It
hasn’t happened. It happens to other families, it doesn’t happen to us!” He
broke down in tears and curled up. Max looked down and closed her eyes. She
couldn’t believe it. Her father, the person she loved, who had brought her up, who
without him she wouldn’t be here, was gone. And she hadn’t told him how much she
loved him. She leant against Chris and continued weeping. The officer looked down at
the pair and said a quiet little prayer, before going back into the kitchen to talk
to their mums, and opening the front door, no doubt going to break some bad news to
some other families in the village.
Max reached into her pocket and dialed the number of the newsagents to tell him that
they wouldn’t be able to come into work tomorrow, due to some upsetting news. She
choked back tears as she said this, but managed to stop herself from crying whilst on
the phone. Once she’d made the phone call, she sat back down by Chris and hugged
him. She couldn’t believe what had happened. She hoped it was just a dream. A very
bad dream. She pinched herself. Nothing. Just pain.
A week later, she and Chris were standing together in the churchyard, holding each
other and looking down into the two big holes in the ground. They stood together, not
seeing anything but death. Max had tears dripping down her cheek and splashing into
her black dress. Chris was managing to hold back his own tears, and comfort Max.
After about quarter of an hour, the two coffins containing the charred, burnt remains
of their fathers, were carried into the churchyard and lowered into the hole, while
Hallelujah played in the background. Max and Chris had prepared speeches, and after
their mums had said theirs, it was time. They stood together behind the gravestones
of their fathers. Max bit her lip, used her tissue to mop up her tears, and then
“My father, Brian, was the one of the best fathers anyone could ever have asked
for. I was so lucky to be his child. He was brave, strong, and a hero. He shouldn’t
Last edited: 20 March 2010