I can only apologise for my "skills" as an illustrator...
This week, I found a spider in my bathroom. Anyone who knows me will be aware that spiders are on my list of things I am liable to freak out over. It's a very common phobia, but one that I really don't want to pass on to any future children I may have, so I decided to write a story in which a spider is the unlikely hero!
Harrison's New House
All of Harrison's toys were sitting in boxes. His room looked bare and strange - almost too big to be the same place he used to play in. He sat on the floor and took one final look at his surroundings. It didn't feel real yet. Moving to a new house wasn't something Harrison had ever done before.
"Come on, Harri," his mum smiled, as she poked her head through his bedroom door. "Your sister's in the car already. It's nearly time to go."
A friendly looking removal man stepped into the room. "These are the last boxes," he confirmed. "The van's almost full!"
Harrison rose to his feet. "Will I like my new room as much as this one, mum?"
His mum ushered him through the door and squeezed his shoulders. "You'll love it," she promised. "And we can paint it any colour you like."
Harrison trudged down the stairs, not wanting to look back at his bedroom, in case it made him cry. He didn't really want to be moving to a new house, or going to a new school in a different town.
"My brother and I were allowed to decorate our own rooms when we were kids," the removal man told him, trying to cheer him up. "I painted mine blue and I stuck these amazing glow-in-the-dark stars all over the place, so it was like going to sleep in outer space!"
"That sounds cool," Harrison said, digging his hands into his pockets as he stepped through the front door.
"My brother had a mini beast mural on his wall," the removal man went on. "He painted snails and beetles and spiders on it!"
Harrison shuddered. "I hate spiders."
His mum headed to the car waiting in the driveway. She opened the back door and motioned for him to climb in beside his sister, but Harrison couldn't make his feet move. He turned back to the house. The house he'd grown up in. The house he'd held birthday parties in. The house he loved and didn't want to leave. He shook his head. "I don't want to go," he whimpered, before rushing back inside and up the stairs. Upon reaching his room, Harrison dropped to the floor and sat with his back to the door, pushing as hard as he could against the wood, so that nobody would be able to open it.
Within a minute, he heard his mum knocking. "Harrison, please come out," she pleaded. "The new house is lovely and there's a big park really close by, remember? You had so much fun playing there when we went to visit..."
Harrison squeezed his eyes shut. He clamped his hands over his ears. This was his home. And he wasn't leaving.
"Harrison," his mum went on. "Sweetheart, come on; Milly's in the car, waiting for you! I know it's a bit scary, moving to a new house and starting at a new school, but she'll be doing the same. She'll look after you and so will I."
Harrison unblocked his ears and opened his eyes. He stuck his lower lip out and folded his arms. "I want to stay here," he protested.
He heard his mum sigh on the other side of the door. She didn't say anything, so Harrison decided maybe he'd persuaded her. Perhaps that was all it was going to take! After all, they couldn't exactly move without him, could they?! But then, all too soon, Harrison heard her voice again. "Harrison, I'll let you stay in there for five more minutes, but then it's time to go. And I mean it." Her voice was firmer, this time.
Harrison groaned as he gazed around the bare walls of his room. "I'll stay in here forever if I have to," he mumbled to himself. He looked around, taking everything in; the little marks by the door where his mum had measured him every year on his birthday. The bit of paint missing on the back wall, where his dinosaur poster used to be. The big spider right by the window...
Hang on... SPIDER?!
Harrison's eyes widened and his heart sped up in his chest. He inched closer to the door, scrunching himself up as small as he could. Normally, when he saw a spider, he'd ask his dad to get rid of it. But he wasn't around anymore and mum was cross. Harrison thought about bolting out of the door, but if he did that, he'd have to get in the car and they'd move to the new house! He stared at the spider. "Fine," he whispered, through gritted teeth. "We'll have to share the room for now."
He watched it for a while. Its body looked black and it had eight legs that were too long and too crawly for Harrison's liking. The spider was moving, too. It was spinning a web from the top of the window, to the corner of the ceiling.
Harrison shuddered at the sight of all those legs moving at once. He didn't like it. He wanted to run away. But he couldn't. So instead, Harrison took a long, deep breath and, rather unsteadily, he rose to his feet. He tiptoed across the room and stood as close as he felt brave enough to stand.
The spider wasn't actually just black. It was black and brown. It had two little pincers at the front, as well as eight legs. As Harrison watched it spinning its web, he found himself transfixed. The thread was so fine and delicate. The web was strangely beautiful.
"How can something so lovely come from something so scary?" Harrison whispered.
But the longer he stared at the spider, watching it work, the less frightening it seemed to become. Harrison started to see it as an impressive creature, building a lovely new home all by itself. "You've chosen a good place to live," Harrison told it. "This was my room. And it's lovely." He smiled, as he looked out of the window. "In the mornings, the sun comes up and it shines right through the window. It leaves this big, square patch of yellow light on the wall, just over there," he said, pointing. "And the streetlamp outside means that it's never too dark in here at night, so you don't have to get scared."
The spider didn't answer of course. It just went on, spinning its web. And the longer it worked, the more fascinated Harrison became. By the time the web was complete, Harrison had even given the spider a name - Bob. In fact, Harrison was enjoying watching Bob so much, that he didn't even hear his mum opening the door and coming into the room. Bob scuttled into the centre of the web and hung there, perfectly still. And Harrison stood perfectly still too, just watching him.
"Harrison," his mum said softly, as she came to stand beside him. "We really do have to go." She followed his gaze and bristled when she saw the spider. "Shall I get rid of that for you?"
Harrison quickly shook his head. "No, that's Bob," he told her. "And he's only little, really." He swallowed hard. "He's going to live here, now. It's his room."
"I thought you hated spiders?" His mum asked.
"Not anymore," Harrison replied. "I want Bob to look after my room for me."
His mother nodded. "Well... You have a new room to look after, now."
Harrison looked up at her. "Spiders can go anywhere, can't they?" He asked.
"I suppose so," his mother replied. "They can just leave one place and spin a new web somewhere else."
Harrison sighed. "And they don't get sad about it," he said. "They just build a new home and start all over again."
His mum squeezed his shoulder. "Just like us."
Harrison smiled. "I'm going to paint my new room blue," he told her, as they started to walk out of the room and down the stairs. "And I'm going to get glow-in-the-dark stars, just like that man said he had when he was a kid."
His mum grinned as she opened the front door of the house. "Like I said, you can do anything you like with your new room," she promised.
"Great," Harrison replied. As he climbed into the car, he looked up at the house and smiled at his bedroom window. Bob would be happy there, he was certain. And if the new family who moved in decided they didn't like spiders, Bob could just crawl away and build a brand new web somewhere else. Harrison would miss Bob, in a funny way. Which gave him an idea...
Harrison's mum started the engine and began the drive to the new house. The children were quiet in the back. At least they were, until Harrison made an announcement:
"Mum, you know you said I can do anything I like with my new room? Well... I want a pet tarantula!"