Harold built a castle once. He used leftover bricks from his aunt's patio, old shoeboxes generously donated by his sisters, and green sticky tape from his mother's craft room.
On the first day, his father came to look around dinner time.
'It's finished!' Harold said. 'Do you like my castle?'
'It's nice,' his dad replied. 'But are you really finished? You can still make it bigger, make it look like a real castle.'
The next morning, Harold went back to work on his project. He used his father's wheelbarrow to pick up more bricks from his aunt's garden. Around 2, his castle was already twice its size. He cut a door out of a cardboard box, and put two of his mum's flowerpots near the entrance of the building.
Mia, the daughter of his next-door neighbour, greeted him with a brown basket.
'I've brought biscuits and drinks.'
'Great,' Harold said. 'Thank you!'
While they sat inside the castle, they drank lemonade and talked about what it would be like to be king and queen of the world. They imagined how they would be riding horses every day and have a butler to serve them during dinner time.
'I'll take fighting lessons and will defend us,' Harold said, while mimicking a knight.
A knock on the gate distracted him from this fantasy.
'Hi paps,' he said. 'I worked all day on it, look how big it is!'
'Very nice Harold, but why quit now? You can still make it bigger.'
'You're right,' his son replied excitedly. 'Tomorrow I will!'
It took three hours the next day to go around the whole neighbourhood with the wheelbarrow. Harold collected bricks and stones and cardboard boxes and anything his neighbours wanted to throw away. Mia came to help, again, bringing biscuits and lemonade.
'I'm going on a schooltrip this weekend,' she said. 'I wish I could stay to help.'
'It won't be done anytime soon. You can help again next week.'
All the neighbourhood kids came to watch on the fifth day of Harold's adventure. Word had gone around that the boy on number 12 had been building a castle, which became bigger every day.
While the kids brought toys and sweets and started to invade his fortress in a friendly and playful way, Harold kept building. Some of his neighbours helped, others watched.
'Look at you, king of the castle!' his Father said when he came to collect Harold for dinner. 'I think some towers would be nice though.'
'I'm not done,' Harold said. 'It still needs a fence too, and windows and whatnot.'
'Good. Don't give up now.'
After the weekend the garden behind the house on number 12 transformed into a playground for the neighbourhood kids. Parents joined in too, all praising Harold for his castle.
'It's not done,' he told everybody. 'Not yet.'
Mia came over after lunch, and knocked on the gate.
'It's so noisy here,' she said, while looking at the twins from number 4, fighting each other with sticks.
'Excuse me,' the youngest boy from number 7 said. 'Do you have an appointment with the king?'
Mia looked at Harold and he shrugged.
'Do I need one?' Mia asked.
'You do. And you need to bring gifts, otherwise you can't enter the castle. Your watch will do.'
'I'm not going to give you that, my grandmother gave it to me.'
'Then you can't enter.'
Some other kids nodded, and stood in front of Mia and started to push her away.
'Hey, she helped building.' Harold said.
'We all did!' A girl replied. 'She's not more special than anybody else here.'
Before Harold could say something else, he saw that Mia had disappeared into the crowd.
For three weeks Harold's castle was the go-to-place for kids in town. While Harold enjoyed all the attention and gifts, the first leaves of autumn started to fall. With autumn came the first showers, and eventually, a thunder storm.
'We need to protect he castle,' Harold told a group of children. 'Half of it is built from cardboard. We need to put sheets over them and make the whole building stronger.' For a few hours some kids helped, but in the end, they all got bored of the hard work.
'I'm going to play on my new Xbox,' a guy said.
Heavy-eyed, Harold noticed the other kids decided to join the boy.
'Fine,' he said. 'I'll do it myself.'
When Harold complained at dinner about the rain, his father frowned.
'You should have thought about this before,' he said. 'It's hard to fix it now.'
To make matters worse, that night, lightning and thunder filled the night sky. Harold looked out of his window, and watched his tape-cardboard-brick castle slowly fall apart.
Nobody in the neighbourhood seemed to care that his castle was destroyed overnight. When Harold went door to door to find kids who wanted to help him rebuild it, everybody said they'd rather stay inside.
'Mum doesn't want me to go out now, maybe next summer?' the boy at number 7 said.
'We don't want to work in the mud,' the twins said.
Harold overlooked the house at number 14. He thought about Mia. Would she want to help if he asked politely? She probably would, but he felt too ashamed to knock on her door. Instead, he went home, and sat at the kitchen table. He didn't want to cry, because boys don't cry. He didn't want to give up either, because that would make him look weak and not much of a man. Hopelessly, he went outside and kicked a football. Harold thought about the first days of summer, and how building the castle was most fun when Mia was around.
'Someone left this for you,' his mum called from the kitching door, holding out a piece of paper. 'Come inside, I'm serving tea.'
Harold followed her, and took the letter from her. He recognised the handwriting.
I'm sorry your castle fell apart.
My grandfather has some old shelves we can have.
Let's build a secret treehouse instead. Don't tell your parents or anyone else.
Secret means secret!
Meet me at my grandfather's place around 3?
'Mum,' he said. 'Can I take those biscuits?'
'Sure, but where are you going?'
Harold smiled. 'That's a secret.'
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