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Cabin Fever

Caught in the middle...

By Caroline CravenPublished 11 months ago 18 min read
Cabin Fever
Photo by Phoebe Strafford on Unsplash

I hide in the toy cupboard and put my hands over Mr. Rabbit’s ears. I’m used to it, but he gets scared when he hears the screaming. And even though I’ve jammed the door shut, we can still hear their raised voices in the kitchen below.

But now it’s quiet and I wonder what’s going on. I nudge the door open and peer through the crack. Mr. Rabbit says we should stay where we are, but I heard them shout my name and I want to know what’s going on.

I slide out of my hiding place and tiptoe across the room, the carpet tickling my bare feet. It’s completely dark on the landing and I feel my way along the walls. I hope Mr. Rabbit isn’t leaving any sticky marks on the paintwork as mummy gets so cross when that happens.

I creep down the top three stairs and we lean up against the wall. Shhh! I whisper to Mr. Rabbit resting my finger against his mouth. I hold my breath and we take another step closer to the kitchen. Silence. I’m beginning to wonder if they’re still in there when daddy yells: “Well, I guess we’ll see what the judge says tomorrow.”

I hear mummy cry as the back door slams shut. That can’t be right? Surely daddy can’t be leaving. He promised he would come upstairs and read me a bedtime story.

We dash upstairs and I throw myself onto the bed, pressing my nose up against the glass. My bedroom lights up as the beams from the car headlamps shine through the window. I wave, but I’m not sure if daddy can see me.

“He’s driving very, very fast,” I tell Mr. Rabbit and we both squeeze our eyes shut when we hear the tires squeal on the road.

I slump down into my bed and pull the covers over my head. Normally I sneak the torch in with me and read some of my Harry Potter book, but I don’t feel like it tonight. Mummy hasn’t come up to see me either. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep, but Mr. Rabbit says I should at least close my eyes.


I don’t know what time it is, but my eyes don’t want to open and it’s still very dark. Mummy shakes my shoulder again and says that we need to leave.


“Come on Isla. Hurry up! We haven’t got all night; we need to go. Your father wants to take you away from me, but I’m not going to let that happen. Do you understand?”

I don’t understand. I really don’t. I spend most of my time with mummy and only some weekends with daddy since he left. I love it when I’m at his place because we go to McDonald’s, and I have two cheeseburgers and large fries and a large strawberry milkshake. Daddy laughs and asks if I’ve got hollow legs. I don’t know what he means, but I giggle because I know mummy would be so mad if she could see me eating this stuff.

But I realize I’m not listening to mummy and she’s yelling that I need to get a move on and put some of my favorite things into the case. I grab my Harry Potter books off the shelf and search for my torch which has fallen down the other side of the bed.

When I put Mr. Rabbit into the bag, mummy picks him up and throws him onto the floor. “You’re eight now Isla, way too old for cuddly toys.”

As she struggles with the zip, I bend down and tuck Mr. Rabbit into the front of my coat, ramming his floppy ears down so she won’t see him.

“And you can leave that behind too,” said mummy, reaching for my hand.

I freeze because I think she’s talking about Mr. Rabbit, but she’s pointing to the iPad I’m holding.

“But I want to play…”

“Leave it on your bed, Isla. End of discussion. Now come on, let’s go.”

She grabs my hand, and we rush down the stairs. It’s so cold outside and I can see my breath dancing in front of me. I giggle as I stand on the doorstep and puff out the air in my cheeks. It looks like I’m smoking.

“Isla, will you stop messing about and get in the car.”

Mummy bangs my car door shut as I finish buckling my seatbelt. It’s strange being out so late when there isn’t anyone else about. Oh, that’s not true. There’s Sampson on the wall. He’s the fattest cat I’ve ever seen, and he belongs to Mrs. Watkins who lives next door. I like Mrs. Watkins. She gives me chocolate hobnobs and orange juice when she sees me in the garden. I wave at Sampson, and he waddles along beside the car.

“Where are we going?” I ask as we pull out of the driveway and into the darkness. I look around and there isn’t a single light on in any of the houses on our street.

“We’re going on an adventure. Aren’t you excited?”

“I’d be more excited if I knew where we’re going. Why can’t daddy come with us?”

“I’ve told you. Your daddy wants to take you away from me. That’s why we need to get away. Do you understand, Isla.”

She glances over her shoulder, but as she turns back, she screams and the car lurches to a stop as a fox runs out in front of us.

Mummy rests her head on the steering wheel, and I can hear her breathing in and out slowly and loudly. The fox darts behind some bins and along a narrow path between two houses. I stare out of the window until I can’t see him anymore.

I don’t say another word until we’re on the big road. A huge lorry rumbles past making the car shake. There’s nothing to see and I’m so bored. Now I wish I had my iPad. I huff several times, but mummy doesn’t notice.

I ask if we can have the radio on, but mummy said: “Shhh. I need to concentrate.”

After a while, my eyes start to feel heavy, and I think I see a big blue road sign that says THE NORTH on it. I wonder where that is. I pull Mr. Rabbit out of my coat and cuddle up to him.

As my eyelids flutter open and closed, he whispers that at least we’re together and everything’s going to be okay.


My eyes snap open as I feel the car bouncing around. I squint through the window but all I can see are trees. Giant trees that tower over our car and they’re packed so close together I can hardly see the sky. I don’t like it at all. I hold Mr. Rabbit tightly in my arms.

Mummy must’ve heard me moving because she turns round and in between yawns said: “Nearly there, sweetheart. You’ve been asleep almost the entire journey.”

She’s got big black circles under her eyes and there are two plastic cups wedged into the space between the seats. And there are some chocolate wrappers too! I can’t believe she didn’t get me anything.

I’m just about to tell her how hungry I am, when we pull up outside a house. I didn’t even see it at first. It’s made from big logs, and it looks like it’s hiding amongst the trees.

“Where are we?” I asked, unbuckling my seat, and climbing out of the car.

Mummy stands alongside me, stretching her arms over her head: “We’re home. This is our new home now…

“Oh Isla,” she says looking down at me, “I can’t believe you brought that tatty old toy with you.”

I narrow my eyes and clutch Mr. Rabbit against my chest: “Daddy bought him for me.” I kick the dirt scuffing my shoe. “I don’t understand why you’re so mad at him.”

Mummy is reaching into the boot and pulling our cases out. She doesn’t look at me, but I hear her mutter something about me being too young to understand.

“I’m not a baby,” I tell her, stomping my foot. As she turns round, she points to Mr. Rabbit and shakes her head.

I’m so mad, but I don’t know what to say, so I just stand there watching as she scrabbles about in the stack of wood by the front door. She pulls out a large log from the bottom and pulls it apart. It’s hollow and there’s a key inside! It’s a secret hiding place!

As we step inside, there’s no light at all and I stand there blinking in the gloom. Mummy moves around the room, opening all the shutters and she strikes a match to light the lamp by the fireplace.

The fireplace on the back wall of the room is gigantic. I can literally walk into it and stand up on my toes. I reach over my head to touch the stone, but mummy snaps at me to get out as it’ll be dirty. I don’t know why she’s so worried. The whole place is dusty and smells funny.

The wooden steps make a scary creaking noise as mummy climbs upstairs. I wait in the light by the fireplace as this house gives me the creeps. I wish I was back home. I miss my bedroom, especially my toy cupboard. This isn’t even like the place we stayed at in Spain which had a pool and a slide and loads of things to do.

“Isla. Isla come up and see your bedroom.”

I grasp the banister and look down at my feet as I take each step. The staircase groans and doesn’t feel very safe. Mummy gives me a hug when I get to the top and pushes open a door. The room is tiny and there’s just enough space for a bed.

“And this is my room,” says mummy, pointing to the opposite side of the corridor. Hers looks just like mine, except the bed is just a bit bigger.

I think she wants me to smile and say something nice, but I’m not sure what. Even Mr. Rabbit is silent.

“How long are we going to be here for? And how did you know about this place?”

“So many questions,” said mummy stroking my hair. “Why don’t you go outside and play whilst I get things set up in here. But don’t go too far, Isla, I want to be able to see you.”

She needn’t worry. There isn’t anywhere to go. I walk down the track a little way, but it’s so dark and scary. I feel like the trees are whispering about me. Mr. Rabbit and I run back to the house as fast as we can.

As I crash open the front door, I ask mummy if I can ring daddy to let him know I forgive him for not reading me a bedtime story the other night.

Mummy’s face goes all blotchy and red and she leans down so her eyes are level with mine. “I’ve told you Isla. We aren’t seeing daddy anymore. Now I don’t want to hear another word about him, okay?

“And besides, I left my phone at the old house in Ipswich…”

I don’t listen to what else she has to say. I slam upstairs and throw myself down on the bed. The sheets feel damp, and they smell strange. I hate it here. And I hate her too.

I decide I’m never coming out of my room again. But after I’ve been up there for hours, I can smell something cooking. I creep downstairs and mummy is stirring a pan of soup on the gas ring and there’s a loaf of bread on the table.

“I thought you’d come down eventually,” said mummy, pulling me into a hug. “It’s going to be okay sweetheart. I promise you.”


When I wake up, Mummy is perched on the edge of my bed, holding a plate with two slices of toast and peanut butter. Yum! I love peanut butter. This is my first breakfast in our new home.

After we’ve cleared away the dishes, I ask mummy what we’re going to do today. And she says she’s glad I’ve asked because we are going to do something really fun.

She says as we’re on a proper adventure, we should change our names and how we look. Change our names? I don’t understand. Why would we do that?

Mummy pulls me down to sit next to her on the couch and says that from now on, I’m no longer Isla Kennedy. She says that my new adventure name is Phoebe Hall.

I wrinkle my nose. I hate that name. Phoebe sounds like she won’t want to my read Harry Potter books or be friends with Mr. Rabbit.

I think I’d rather be called Hermione if I can’t be called Isla. But before I can suggest it, mummy reaches for the pair of scissors and starts to cut my hair. Great clumps tumble from my head, and I lean over the edge of the seat to see how much is on the floor.

“Keep still Phoebe,” mummy snaps and for a second I wonder who Phoebe is and then I remember, and I feel the tears roll down my cheeks.

“All done, now go and look at yourself in the mirror,” said mummy, kissing my forehead.

I gasp. It doesn’t look like me at all. I look like a boy with my short, dark hair. I pull my tongue out at the person in the mirror and then I start to cry again. Mr. Rabbit tells me that it’ll be okay, and it’ll grow back soon.

I’ve spent so long looking in the mirror that I didn’t notice mummy coming into the bathroom. She’s cut her hair too and now she’s got this strange stuff over her head. She said she’s going to have dark hair just like mine. I liked her blonde hair. I don’t know why we both need to look different.

Mummy makes us both a drink and we sit outside on the bench. I ask her what we’re going to do now as there’s no television and I haven’t got my iPad either. And just when I think the day can’t get any worse, she says she doesn’t want me to miss out on school so she’s going to teach me instead.

“I used to be a teacher before I married your father,” she said. “I wish I’d kept my career.” This is news to me. I didn’t know mummy did anything other than look after us. Even after daddy left, she stayed at home. I can’t imagine her as a teacher like Miss Cracknell.

“We’ll go for a walk in the woods first and I’ll teach you all about the different plants. We might even see a badger.

“And then later, we can do some maths together. How does that sound?”

I don’t say anything. I like the idea of seeing a badger, but I wish I was at school with my friend Daisy. Miss Cracknell said it was our turn to look after Voldemort, the class hamster and now I’m going to miss out. It’s not fair.

Mummy stands up and holds out her hand: “Come on, let’s get going. It’ll be fun.”


Days go by and mummy isn’t a very patient teacher. She gets angry when I get the maths problems wrong. I keep telling her that we haven’t done these weird sums with letters in, but she says I’m eight and I should be able to do them at my age.

I’m relieved when mummy goes out in the afternoons. I’m not sure where she goes, but she comes back with our food and sometimes a newspaper that she spends hours reading from cover to cover. She never lets me look at it and burns it on the fire when she’s finished.

Whilst she’s out, Mr. Rabbit and I explore the woods. At first, we didn’t go too far, but then we got used to the sounds of the forest and even the trees didn’t seem so scary. I pretend I’m Hermione venturing into the Forbidden Forest.

I meant to say that mummy and I didn’t see a badger the first day, but we stumbled across a whole family one evening and it was amazing. And today I’ve already seen a deer and a fox running along the path. It makes me think of home. And daddy. I wonder if he thinks about me too.

I’m still thinking about daddy when I hear voices. There are two women walking up the trail towards me. They look very hot, and their faces are red. I don’t think they’re used to the steep climb like me and Mr. Rabbit.

I think about running back to the house, but the shorter woman calls out to me. “Hi there. Are we on the right track to get to Waterdown Lake?”

I shrug my shoulders: “I’m sorry, I’m not sure. I haven’t lived here long.”

The pair of them sit down on a fallen log and take out bottles of water from their rucksacks. They both seem terribly thirsty.

“It feels like we’ve been walking for hours,” said the lady. “I’m shattered and I wasn’t expecting it to be this warm in October!

“Oh, I’m Jane and this is my friend Karen,” she said indicating the taller woman with glasses sitting next to her.

“This is Mr. Rabbit and I’m Isla. I mean Phoebe. I’m Phoebe Hall and I’m eight-years-old.”

Karen takes off her glasses and stares straight at me. I’m a bit worried I told them my name was Isla, but I show them the acorns I’ve collected and tell them about the fox I saw earlier so I don’t think they noticed. Grown-ups are easily distracted.

Then Karen nudges Jane’s shoulders and shows her something on her phone. Jane takes it and looks at my face. Turning it around, she holds it out in front of her.

“Is this you?”

I focus on the photograph on the screen. It’s me, but when I had longer hair and I’m smiling and holding Mr. Rabbit. Above the picture it says: ‘Isla Kennedy: MISSING’.

Jane smiles and asks me what my mummy’s name is and I tut and say: “mummy”. Honestly, grown-ups ask the stupidest questions.

But then she says I’ve been all over the news for weeks and that my daddy has been looking for me. Karen says she’s going to ring the police and we should all wait here together.

I start to cry and say mummy will be so angry if I’m not home when she gets back, but they promise I won’t be in any trouble. Jane rummages around in her backpack and pulls out something wrapped in silver foil.

“Oh, look! There’s a woodpecker in the tree up there,” she said, handing me a slice of her banana bread which tastes amazing.


Mummy throws open the door to the wooden house when she hears us arrive in the police car. I see her eyes widen and her hands fly to her mouth. I don’t think she can see me waving at her from the back seat.

The police lady says we should wait in the car for a few minutes whilst the policeman talks to mummy. I’m not sure what he’s saying to her, but she’s crying hard, and she’s dropped to her knees. I don’t like seeing her so upset.

Daddy was upset earlier too when I spoke to him on the police lady’s phone. He kept saying: “Oh Isla, oh Isla, is it really you,” over and over again and then he’d started to cry. The police lady said he’s driving up from Ipswich, but it’s going to take at least six hours.

Eventually she says I can get out of the car and go and say goodbye to mummy. I’m not sure where mummy’s going. It seems like somebody is always leaving.

Mummy runs over and crouches down in front of me, pulling me into a tight hug. She keeps saying she’s sorry and she only did it because she loves me. That one day when I have children of my own, then perhaps I’ll understand.

I’m just about to tell her that everything will be okay, when I see another police car bumping along the track. Mummy watches it pull up next to the house and sighing, she stands up and nods at the officers.

She gets into the back of the car and a different police lady sits in the back with her. As they drive away, mummy twists round in her seat and waves goodbye. I can see her mouth “I love you” and I shout “I love you too” but I don’t know if she can hear me.

I wave until the car is swallowed by the trees and then I bury my face in Mr. Rabbit’s fur which is wet from my tears.

“Don’t worry Isla,” he whispers. “Everything is going to be okay.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Caroline Craven

Scribbler. Dreamer. World class procrastinator.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (12)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock9 months ago

    Heartbreaking. And there's so much we don't know--which would be typical for a young child. Excellent writing.

  • Cathy holmes10 months ago

    This is great. Your telling through the voice of the child is so authentic, I can "hear" her speak. Really well done.

  • Kristen Balyeat10 months ago

    Oh my goodness, I'm over here in tears. This is absolutely brilliant- you wrote the voice of a child so perfectly, and your vivid imagery kept me engrossed from start to finish. Fantastic story, Caroline!

  • Ahna Lewis10 months ago

    I loved this, Caroline! You pulled me into the story from the start! Excellent job creating a convincing child-like voice for the narrator. I also loved how the plot is cloaked in mystery--it really kept me engaged!

  • Amelia Moore10 months ago

    Wow. Creepy and cool. I wanna hear more.

  • Donna Fox (HKB)10 months ago

    You have done a brilliant job of using descriptive language in way that pulled the reader into the story, by playing on our senses. Its really captivating and engaging! You have done a great job of capturing the realism of the opening scene but keeping it contained in the view of a small child. Such an enticing narrative voice to tell this tale. You did an amazing job creating Isla/ Phoebe/ Hermione as a believable and relatable child character! This was beautifully written Caroline!

  • L.C. Schäfer10 months ago

    Her voice is perfect. I was hooked all the way through.

  • L.C. Schäfer10 months ago

    But what happens next 😮

  • Naomi Gold11 months ago

    Amazing. My son is ten, and the child’s perspective of this is so accurate.

  • Donna Renee11 months ago

    Fantastic, Caroline!! You really nailed this one and I totally agree with Em Starr on your narrative voice too!! ❤️❤️👏

  • Test11 months ago

    This is an incredible story, Caroline. So vivid in imagery and emotion! Ugh, I just loved it. You had me from beginning to end. Your narrative voice was so strong, with all the wide-eyed innocence of a child (without being too babyish) and you maintained it solidly throughout. Just really great stuff. I am so glad Isla got her happy ending. Yes, even I like a happy ending when it's warranted haha. Terrific stuff, Caroline!

  • Chloe11 months ago

    Such a compelling story!! I love the perspective!

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