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‘Youth Centre SOS’ Part 2, by Mary Lou Fletcher

by / 0 Comments / 13/07/2014

Click here for Part 1

The next morning found Beth in her living room looking around at the rest of the occupants. Kelly had turned up just after twelve grumbling about how she was missing out on precious sleep for her night shift as she led another three women into the room, all of whom had made an immediate beeline for the kitchen. After waiting another fifteen minutes and cradling a rapidly cooling cup of tea in her hand, Beth began to accept that all the people who were going to turn up were there.

Smothering the feeling of disappointment at the lack of numbers, she cleared her throat in an attempt to draw the attention of the room. Two of the elderly women seemed to be having an enthusiastic debate over ‘the youth of today’ while the third member, a quiet woman who appeared to be in her thirties, wandered about the room, looking at the various pictures on the walls.

Beth tried again. “Excuse me!”

Chatter continued to fill the small room. Kelly raised her voice. “Hey!” The noise stopped as all three women turned to face her. “Zip it!”

Equally amused and embarrassed by her friend, she cleared her throat again. “Thank you, Kelly. As you are all probably aware, we are here to talk about how we can stop them shutting down the youth centre. For any of you who don’t know, my name’s Beth.”

Seeming to take the hint, the woman who had been looking at the pictures offered a small smile. Her eyes flickered to the other faces in the group. “I’m Linda- I’m Kelly’s manager.”

Kelly grinned at the woman causing the corners of Linda’s mouth the curve upwards at the reassurance.

Beth turned her attention to the two women fighting over the plate of biscuits between them. Seeming to sense eyes on them, they looked up, blinking at the sudden attention.

After a momentary pause Kelly spoke up, irritation barely concealed from her voice. “What are your names?”

“Oh,” The woman on the left adjusted herself in the seat, her pale blue cardigan shifting with the movement of her wide hips. “I’m Joan and this is Edna.”

The woman next to her gave an enthusiastic nod before picking up another biscuit. Once Joan seemed to have accepted that she had said all that was required of her she soon joined her.

Beth tilted her head slightly and lowered her voice attracting the attention of the grumpy blonde at her side. “Where did you find them?”

Kelly rolled her eyes before replying in an equally low voice. “Bad luck- I was talking to Linda on the way here and they decided that they were going to come along.”

“Well, the more the merrier I guess.”

“Oh yeah, that’s one way of looking at it. Joan and Edna are the biggest gossips in the village.”

Beth set her shoulders back and forced a smile to come across her face. “Right then…” Kelly’s eyebrows were high and she seemed to be fighting back a smirk. “OK,” Forcing herself to focus, she placed her mug down on the coffee table next to her. “Does anyone have any ideas?”

Edna straightened her back against the rickety wooden chair that she’d claimed. “We heard that you were going to chain yourself to the building.”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “I didn’t mean literally.” Her eyes quickly met Beth’s. “You didn’t mean literally, right?”

“No, of course not!” She saw Kelly and Linda visibly relax at the news. Edna and Joan looked disappointed. “Actually, I was thinking of doing something like a petition. If we get enough people to sign, the council will have to take notice.”

Linda chewed on her bottom lip. “What makes you so sure?”

“They can’t ignore it if a bunch of people want the centre to stay open. They’re meant to represent us after all…”

She said nothing in response, merely nodded her head and diverted her gaze to the rough blue carpet. She didn’t seem very convinced.

When no one else seemed to offer any suggestions, Beth gave a small nod. “Right then, I’ll go to the library and get some sheets printed off. I’ll drop some copies around yours later and I’ll look into setting up an online page for it.” At the murmurs of agreement in the room, she ran her sweaty palms against her thighs, a relieved smile breaking out across her face. “Great, we need to get as many signatures as we can- I think that we need to aim for about two hundred and then I’ll get in touch with Mr Daniels and show him the names.”

Linda spoke up again. “Who’s Mr Daniels?”

“He’s our local councillor.”

After a quick pause, Edna cleared her throat and began to manoeuvre herself out of the chair. “If that’s everything then we’d best leave.”

Joan quickly followed her lead. “Yes- we’ll speak to the ladies in our knitting club and get them to sign.”

“Brilliant. Thank you for coming.”

Edna tilted her chin slightly. “Not at all, this is the most exciting thing that has happened around here since that police officer was caught having an affair with Mrs O’Donovan.”

Bemused, Beth watched them leave, quietly chuckling as they went. Linda stood up a little straighter. “I’d best go myself, I need to check on my kids and make sure that they haven’t driven my sister too crazy.”

Kelly rolled her shoulders and stretched her neck. “Thanks for coming, Linda. I’ll drop the forms off at yours when they’re done.”

“Thanks- I’ll see you later.”

With a quick wave, they watched her go before Kelly turned to her. “So, what do you think?”

“I can’t believe that only three people turned up!”

The blonde shrugged a shoulder. “People seem to think that you’re fighting a losing battle. They’re not going to bother if they don’t think that they can win.”

“Well, we have to at least try.”

Kelly’s response was interrupted by a quiet knock against the hallway door followed by a small muffled voice. “Can I come in now?”

Fighting back a smile, Beth called out. “You can come in now, Jamie.”

The door opened slightly before the young girl crept into the room. She craned her neck upwards to look at her sister. “Why were you talking to those people?”

“It’s grown-up stuff.” Kelly pulled a face. “Very boring grown- up stuff.”

When Jamie pouted, Beth leant forward to meet her gaze. “I tell you what, why don’t we watch a film? You can choose which one we watch.” Her face lit up before she ran off, singing loudly as she went.

Kelly laughed quietly as she shook her head. “She’s got you wrapped her around her little finger, you know that right?”

“Of course, I do.”

Kelly smirked before her features fell. “What does your Mum think about all of this?”

She pursed her lips as she thought over her words. “She thinks that I’m crazy to try but she’s letting me get on with it.”

Jamie ran back into the room and thrust a DVD at Beth’s chest. “This one!”

Grimacing slightly at the bright pink case, she opened the plastic. “Good choice.”

***

They’d actually done it. Beth counted the signatures again. They’d actually gone and done it. Perplexed, she looked up to see Edna and Joan sat in the chairs opposite, smugness radiating off them in thick waves. “How did you,”

“It was easy really,” Joan began. “We just had to convince the people at our clubs that it was worth signing.”

Edna gave a muffled hum of agreement through the slice of cake she was eating. “Once people started no one wanted to be left out.”

Kelly opened and shut her mouth a few times before being able to form a sentence. “But don’t they all think that the kids are just a nuisance?”

“Well, yes they are.”

“Then why would,”

Joan waved a hand at them. “Don’t you see? If they shut down that centre, how long do you think it will be before they shut down ours?”

Beth felt her eyebrows rise at the logic. “They’ve got a point, I guess.” Dragging herself out of her thoughts, she turned to the group with a grin across her face. “This is fantastic- we’ve got a really good chance of making them listen.” Kelly sucked in her bottom lip, her eyes wandering to the far wall. Beth caught her expression. “What?”

The blonde sighed quietly before reluctantly meeting her gaze. “Look, please don’t take this the wrong way but don’t get your hopes up too much, alright? The council will do what it wants and it’s going to take a lot to convince them otherwise.”

Beth felt her brow furrow. “I know where you’re coming from- honestly I do- but we’ve got to give it a shot. If no one takes a stand, if no one at least tries then what’s going to happen to those kids?”

Kelly looked at her for a long moment before giving in. “Ok, just… whatever happens, don’t take it too personally.”

Unnerved by the warning, she pulled her phone from her pocket and tapped the number that she’d gotten from the library into the device. The scrap of paper was unsteady in her left hand as she copied the digits across but as soon as it began to dial, she stuffed the piece into her pocket.

Feeling suddenly nervous, she wiped a sweaty palm against her jeans and went over what she was going to say in her head. A smooth feminine voice broke her train of thought. “Good afternoon, Mr Daniels’ office, how can I help?”

“Oh, erm, hi. My name’s Beth Carlson, I was wondering if I could speak to Mr Daniels?”

“May I ask what the call is about?”

Feeling a lump merging in her throat, she swallowed heavily. She could feel the stares of the room’s occupants on her face. “It’s about our youth centre, it’s meant to be closing soon and we really need to speak to,”

“I’m sorry but I’m afraid Mr Daniels is in meetings for the rest of the day. Would you like me to pass on a message?”

“Why would you ask what the call is about and then say that he’s in,”

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid that unless the matter is urgent I will have to ask that you ring back another time or I can take a message.”

“Well, is there an email address I can contact him on?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Why?”

There was a momentary pause and a badly concealed sigh before she spoke again. “I’m sorry but I’m afraid that you’ll either have to leave him a message or try again tomorrow.”

Beth struggled to form words. Her stomach clenching, she stood up and made her way to the other side of the room, keeping her back to the others. “If there is just some way that I can speak to him- we’ve gotten over two hundred people to sign this petition…”

“I’ll be sure to pass the message along, Miss Carlton.”

“It’s Carlson.”

“My apologies, I’ll be sure to tell Mr Daniels that you’ve called.”

The dismissal was clear and after an uncomfortable silence, Beth ended the call. Biting the inside of her lip, she glanced over her shoulder to meet Kelly’s gaze. Kelly frowned. “Well, damn.”

 

 

About the author:

Mary Lou Fletcher has been writing for as long as she can remember- one of her earliest memories of writing is sitting in a chair for three days scribbling out a story about a couple of runaways who find somewhere they belong. Mary’s main focus is to write about life- or more specifically, human emotion and how we interact with the world around us.

– Would you like to see you work published on Shout Out UK? Check out our submissions guidelines at www.shoutoutuk.org/creative-submissions

 

Ali is a Law undergraduate at the University of Portsmouth with an especial interest in Constitutional Law. He is a keen musician playing mandolin, guitar, drums and keyboards. He also enjoys writing music and poetry.

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