Ruth Howell

Winner, 2015


Excerpt from The Tale of Penelope Cupcake

People said the oddest things to Penelope Cupcake.

‘Have you always been overweight?’ they asked.

‘Over what weight?’ she would reply, for she walked lightly, like a cat, and she knew for certain that her footprints were no deeper than anyone else’s.

On the day she moved into Orchard Cottage, Penelope wandered between the ancient fruit trees, where the pears and apples hung heavily from the branches and rejoiced in their abundance. Her village friends had wished her well. ‘And of course, you’ll have the Gingerbreads next door: Teddy and Serena. Such a glamorous couple, the Gingerbreads.’

However, standing on Serena’s doorstep that first morning, a basket of freshly-baked muffins on her arm, Penelope saw that she and Serena were not destined to be friends. Serena’s front door disturbed her; in its bevelled glass she saw herself splintered into shrapnel, transformed into a hard-edged puzzle. The doorbell tinkled. A smiling Serena appeared. Her gaze took several moments longer than necessary to circumscribe Penelope’s outline, and the hand she extended felt, in Penelope’s, like a bundle of sticks...