Competition Entries - Romance Story Winners

Romantic Short Story Winners Announced

After we recieved loads of entries, the judging panel met and finally decided on the winner of the 
Milton Keynes Romantic Short Story Competition.

The original task was to write a romantic short story (up to 1,000 words) that must be set in or around Milton Keynes or have Milton Keynes as the main theme.

The judging panel, which included Katie Fforde, bestselling romantic novelist and chair of the Romantic Novelists Association, had a difficult decision to make but a winner had to be chosen.

WINNER – Twenty Million Trees
Author: Kathryn Lougheed, Henley-on-Thames

2ND PLACE – Bronze Torc
Author: Tracy Buchanan, Milton Keynes

3RD PLACE – Making Things Happen
Author: Austin Guest, St Albans

HIGHLY COMMENDED – Tiptoe Through the Bluebells
Author: Maggie Cobbett, Ripon, North Yorkshire

Our winner will receive £500 and a romantic weekend for two in Milton Keynes. All our runners up will also recieve a family season pass to Bletchley Park, the famous home of the WW2 codebreakers who broke the German Enigma code.

You can read the full winning entry below. Many congratulations to all our winners and many thanks to all those who entered. You can download all the entries to read by clicking here

TWENTY MILLION TREES by Kathryn Lougheed

“Don’t move an inch,” Carl said.
A butterfly had alighted on my shoulder and was stretching dusky wings. Carl slowly raised his camera.
“A Wood White,” he said. “Very rare.”
The shutter clicked and Carl circled me, biting his lip in concentration. I felt my cheeks flush. In two years working in the same office, he’d never looked at me with such intensity before. Then I reminded myself that it was the butterfly he was interested in, not me.
 “I hope you’re not getting me in these photos.”
He lowered the camera and grinned at me, narrowing his eyes at my no doubt crimson face. “I’ll crop you out later.”
The butterfly took flight into the hazy streaks of morning light creeping through the canopy. It came to rest on the carpet of bluebells and Carl hurried after it. 
I took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes. Watching me from the trees was a smiling Buddha carved from a tree stump.
“Don’t know what you’re looking so smug about,” I muttered. 
Carl glanced up at the carving and pursed his lips. “Shall I give you two some space?”
Great. Now he thought I was an idiot. I checked my watch. “We should get back to the conference.” 
“Spoil sport.” He looped the camera around his neck. “I was hoping we could check out Howe Park Wood too.”
“Is that also part of the wood that covered all of England after the last ice-age?” I teased, repeating the spiel he’d used to encourage me to play chauffeur for him. 
“There are 20 million trees in Milton Keynes,” he said in a mock-serious voice.
“And 21 million roundabouts!” I added.
We headed back towards my car with the sounds of the wood surrounding us. The bark of a Muntjac deer, the intermittent drilling of a woodpecker, the screeches of birds flitting between the trees. We passed a small pond which reflected the early morning sky and teemed with croaking frogs and brightly coloured dragonflies. It was easy to forget we were in the middle of a town better known for some amusingly misshapen concrete cows.
“Worth getting up early for?” Carl said.
“If you like trees,” I muttered. Admitting the real reason I’d got up at 6 a.m. would only make the rest of the conference extremely awkward for both of us.

The conference, a fairly boring affair on selling medical equipment to hospitals, was being held in the indoor ski-slope meeting rooms. I was definitely not looking forward to the team building exercises which would no doubt involve me sliding down the snow on my bum while Carl snapped numerous photos of my indignity. It also seemed too much of a coincidence that my most recent project had been on providing splints for the emergency services – the kind used to immobilise broken bones.  
Carl sat on the opposite side of the meeting room, laughing with his friends in conspiratory whispers. Was I the subject of their amusement? On top of that, I was stuck with Greg from the third-floor, who spent the entire morning edging his chair closer to mine in an attempt to touch my knee with his. I stoically ignored his leering knowing that, if I caught his eye, he’d take it as a declaration of lust. Then I’d have to spend the day trying to gently turn him down while he followed me around, oblivious to my indifference.
I caught Carl’s eye across the room and he raised an eyebrow at me. I mouthed ‘help me’ but he simply shrugged and went back to taking notes with a smirk on his face.  
At coffee, Greg approached with a half-eaten bourbon in one hand and a whole fistful of misplaced affection in the other. “So, I was thinking about din—”
“You know there were twelve ‘User-centrics’ in that talk?” Carl interrupted. “What does that even mean?”
Greg rolled his eyes, puffing himself up in an approximation of the morning’s carved Buddha. “I thought the talk was extremely informative and enjoyable,” he said, eying the chairman who was loitering nearby. “Any way, Lisa. There’s a nice Italian restaurant down the road and I was thinking...” He tailed off with what I can only presume he believed to be a seductive lick of his lips.
“Sorry mate,” Carl said, smacking him on the back. “But she’s already agreed to drive me to the park later. Everyone else I know came by train.”
Wonderful. Rescued from dinner with the company letch only to be unpaid chauffeur for a guy who’d rather look at the world through a view finder than notice my clumsy attempts at flirting.

We wandered through the park as the daylight began to fade, Carl occasionally pausing to photograph a passing bird or interesting species of tree. 
We finally made it to the peak of a small mound in the park, pausing to stare out across the entire park.
“Good view, right?” Carl said.
“It’s great,” I said. 
In the distance were the gently sloping fields outside the town, dotted with dark trees silhouetted against the evening sky. I turned around, finding that Carl had produced a picnic blanket from somewhere. 
He held up a bottle of conference wine, plastic glasses and a few muffins. “Hungry?”
We ate the pilfered snacks and watched the last of the sunlight glimmer over the pond as the sun edged below the horizon. When Carl wasn’t looking, I picked up his camera and flicked through the pictures he’d taken. The butterflies in Linford Wood, the carved statues and a good sampling of his 20 million trees. Then I came to one of me. And another. 
“What’s this?” I said.
He looked particularly sheepish. “You think I’m weird, right? Sorry. But you’re a good subject.”
I narrowed my eyes at him and tried not to smile. “Better than the butterflies?”
He broke into a grin and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “20 million times better,” he said.