Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2017 Finalist Entries

What Matters? Finalists 2017

2017 What Matters? TAS Year 11/12 Runner Up

Without Warning

Zoe Wunder

Hellyer College

The rough fabric of my scarf aggravated my skin. I manoeuvred it in an attempt to relive the itching. Other members fiddled with their scarfs and ties. No one spoke. It must’ve looked odd those observing, a congregation of teenagers wearing black. Only the bright green of ties and scarfs adding any colour.

“Her favourite colour is green,” one girl whispered.

“Was!” I am not sure who replied but one word was enough to stifle any further conversation for a few moments. We shuffled uncomfortably.

“It suited her well.”


“Matched her eyes.”


“Green”. The muttered conversation seemed absurd. I couldn’t quite reconcile the people, the mouthed conversation, the covert looks. I couldn’t bring together the rapid overload of incoming information over the last few days. There was a heaviness in my body, a twisting pain in my stomach and tightness of my throat that prevented eating yet permitted vomiting. My insides ached, my mind wouldn’t stop – God I missed her.

Separating myself from the group as a form of self-protection I peered around the corner into the building. Most of the rows of seats were full and a white box sat on a trolley at the front. No one had prepared me for that, for her to be here, at the front, where we couldn’t help but look. I dragged in shallow breaths and squeezed my eyes tightly. It’s okay, just breathe slowly, breathe, breathe.

The next hour was agonizing. Sitting in the third row from the front, I’m forced to hold it together. Don’t cry. You can cry when you’re finished singing. You need to do this. For Nicolle. How is everyone else coping? I wonder. A few have soggy, scrunched up tissues in their hands, others have bloodshot eyes and noses they attempt to wipe surreptitiously. How can we sing? Maycie turns to me and answers the question haunting my mind.

“We have to do it for Nicolle.”

And I know she’s right. “It’s her favourite song.” “Was,” I say and can hear the bitterness in my own voice. The music begins as we traipse in our orderly well practiced lines to gather around Nicolle. I reach for Talis’ hand and clap it tightly as we begin to sing. The first words lack their usual strength but as we sing the music swells and we give our grief to the music.

Nicolle’s face flicks up onto the substantial screen behind us. Laughing, smiling Nicolle. I remembered the girl with the fiery red hair. She had this way of extending her arms as if she would take off any moment and fly. She was like a bird. A delicate bird with an extraordinary voice.

I felt alone. Never had I lost someone who had such an impact on my life. The slideshow played on, showing photos of her and her family. I ached…because it didn’t make sense, because I feel so alone, because I miss her so much and it didn’t matter what I do now as it will never be enough.

The chorus still plays in my head from time to time. The notes rise and fall, swell and descend and I am back there, at the church with that white coffin and I struggle to find a reason in it all. But I am reminded that Nicolle mattered, that life matters and that life can be extinguished without warming. We must live wholeheartedly, forgive without reservation, love passionately and hold the memories of those loved and lost as a beacon to lead us into a worthwhile future.

“In my dreams I’ll always see you soar across the sky
In my heart there’ll always be a place for you, for all my life
I’ll keep a part of you with me
And everywhere I am there you’ll be
And everywhere I am there you’ll be
There you’ll be.”

Sung by Faith Hill. Written by Dianne Warren. Released May 1, 2001

Jenna Beck