Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Not Sorry

Not Sorry

Yasmine Webb

Year 9, Henry Kendall High School

You could almost see the sweet perfume of the flowers

Shimmering in a thick fog,

Clouding in sweet, rolling, swirls over flowers,

Poking foggy fingers in foggier thoughts,

Making them feel fuzzy around the edges.

Head pressed into hands,

Elbows propped up on plastic countertop,

I idly watched the drifting clouds.

It had been a busy day for business,

The famous second Sunday of May,

The famous Mother's Day,

But it had been a lazy day for everything else.

I tilted my head side-to-side,

The small room swinging around wildly,

In impossible ways,

My own personal Helter-Skelter.




A bell?

The bell!

The bell that signified someone opening the door,

That someone generally being a customer.

A customer.

A customer I'm meant to be serving.

I jolted my head up,


I yelped,

Too fast, and too shocked,

To fit the Customer Service Formula.

And there,

In the middle of the small shop,

Was my customer,

Doubled over,

Hands pressed on knees,


He was young,


Younger than me.

If I had to guess,

6 or 7.


Not my usual customer.

I initiated round 2:

“How can I help you?”

This time,

Audibly and legibly.

In response,

He nodded quickly,





He patted over to the counter,

Over to me,

Placing a white-knuckled fist on the counter.

Out of it,





Of cents.


I looked at them,

One glance said it wasn't enough.

I looked back at him.

He was,



looking at the buckets of bouquets next to the counter.

His gaze turned to meet mine,

And I fwip-ped my gaze back to the coins,

To the pile of not enough.

The second Sunday of May.

Mother's Day.


I got up from behind the counter,

Deftly stepping over discarded piles of leaves.

Towards the displays near the door,

Plucking up,

A bouquet of tulips,

Light peach stained petals,

Against rich-ly dark green leaves.

Back to the counter.

I lightly place the news-paper-wrapped bundle on the counter,


Meeting the gaze of the boy.

He picked it up,

Admiring it's simple beauty,

As I counted out the coins,

Sliding them into the check-out machine,

With light clacks of silver.

The amount flashed up of the screen in light green:



The machine spat the receipt onto the counter,

With an air of distaste,

I smiled at the boy,

Who was still still spinning to bouquet in awe.

He ran his fingers along the paper,

Stroking a small slip of paper,

That was tied to the neck of the bouquet.


It suddenly erupted across his face,

And his wide eyes met my confused face.

He'd suddenly jumped up,

Almost dropping the bouquet.


His voice shook.

He lightly placed it on the counter,

Almost scared of it's beauty.

“Uhmmm... sorry,” He muttered.

He turned away,


I caught his wrist.

“Not sorry.”

His head cocked,


I handed the bouquet and receipt to him.

“Not sorry,” I continued, “Thank-you.”

He echoed softly,


Still timid,

He gripped the bouquet,

And walked towards the door.

Just before he left:


I yelled.

He turned towards me,

Like he expected me to rip the bouquet from him,

Slap him,

And kick him outside.

“Ah-ppreciate it.”

I continued, softer.

He smiled at me,

And he left,

A thick swirling roll of perfume following him.

Appreciate what?

His Mum?

His parents?

The flowers?

The gift?

All gifts?

None of them?

All of them.

Just appreciate it.

Because that's what matters.