The standard of entries for this year's ELLE Talent Competition was higher than ever which makes us pretty excited about the new and the emerging writing talent out there.
Make sure you read Alice Blackhurst's winning entry in the January issue of ELLE on sale now.
And come back every week to read the entries from our four runners up.
Highly Commended - Frances Tillson
Let me tell you about my first love
The end began on 4 July 2005 with a taxi to Newcastle train station in the driving rain. My body heaving and trembling: violent tears interminable. The cabbie, a felt-tip blur of sympathy, scooping up my luggage and placing it in the car with care: There, there pet everythingll be alright youll see.
It began with hungry eyes fleetingly met. Nick was just another student. I was busy obsessing over Oscar, a budding DJ deficient in the art of mixing. Oscar and I had nothing in common and he played Drum and Base in lieu of conversation. When Nick finally got me alone, spiriting me off from a Planet of Sound club night, he told me it wasnt a friend he was looking for.
Nick invited me home to Eastbourne for New Years Eve. We couldnt stay with his parents because they were redecorating his bedroom into a guest room. They took one look at me, this tiny drenched creature on their doorstep, and told us we could stay. They left the room to mix us a drink. I was in love. He stayed at mine the following week in a sleeping bag on the sitting room floor. He kept a vigil for me to come downstairs while I slept obliviously in my childs single bed.
We were inseparable over the Easter and summer terms. He told his love on a scrap of paper. When I uncurled the fragment it read, When you laughed in your sleep last night I realised I had fallen in love with you. We carved that our love would last forever with a stick in the snow. Watching fireworks out of the attic window, a two-headed chrysalis wrapped in a blanket. We were upgraded to the honeymoon suite in a rickety old Georgian hotel in Bath by a middle aged landlady with a keen sense of romance. He sang to me - his voice velvet gravel. The golden explosion of daffodils on our desk reflected my incandescent joy.
I went to a party without him once. An hour later I was sprinting across the cobbled streets of the Viaduct and Market Place, heels catching and scraping in the gaps, out of breath, heart pounding, hurling myself up the spiral staircase to his attic room. I missed you so much.
Id never been in love before. He had been in love already, at least twice. He wore the brand of cynicism only a twenty year old who has lost their virginity at twelve can. He set up a desk for me in his bedroom and we studied our English and Philosophy degree from the same book. His intelligence was jagged and lacerating. It hurt to be with him. He made me cry with casual cruelty toward my easily injured feelings.
Everything living thing has a shadow. My love had a black shadow of paranoia and insecurity. Irrational quiet envy surged when someone ordered the same food as him in a restaurant. A more plausible but vociferous jealousy when other girls stroked his arm or thrust themselves at him in a club.
The day of graduation: we were balloons cut loose, drifting from gravity. Our families had lunch together, smiling knowingly, visualising our future together. I love you, I love you, I love you, I said. The evening of graduation: one of his friends took a photo of my cleavage and all the boys stood there laughing at the photo on the digital camera. I felt alone - he wasnt looking after me, he was laughing at me. I separated, floating somewhere above, watching myself shrieking below. I wanted to go home but my legs were glue and could only walk in one direction. I was in his house and we were screaming at one another. He punched the wall next to my head and his knuckles bled.
The next day we had dinner at La Spaghettata - bolognaise, garlic bread, salad and a glass of wine for five pounds. I was supposed to go to Tenby with him and his boys. I would go down separately. We kissed and said see you soon. He hadnt apologised. A nagging voice in my head I need an apology, I need an apology. I texted him and said, If you dont apologise then you obviously never loved me. He replied saying, If you believe that then this isnt going anywhereif you dont come to Wales this is over. I took a train to London not to Wales.
The end of the end happened four years later we met up again. His jeans were patched up at the crotch. We took a bus together from Central London to East and he pointed out on the journey the various different locations where he had made girls cry. When we finally got to his house he said he wished he could lock me in the basement and I realised he used to say things like that all the time and make me cry. He put on a DVD and started stripping off. At that point all of the windmills I had created came crashing down. He was diminished. I probably hadnt loved him at all. I had just wanted to fall in love and it happened to be with him.