Beth was tired. She couldn’t seem to shake off her disappointment and frustration over the call to the councillor’s office. Kelly had warned her not to take it personally but she couldn’t help but feel guilty over the lack of progress she’d made- especially after her insistence that she’d stop them from shutting the place down.
An insistent tug on her sleeve drew her attention down to look at her little sister. Jamie’s piggy tails swayed as she fidgeted. Her eyes kept on flitting to her friends hovering at the centre doors nearby before returning to her face. “Beth, can I go now? Please!”
Forcing a smile through the feeling of nausea, she released the small hand that she was griping tightly. “Yeah, you can go.”
A big grin lit up her sister’s face as she hurried to join the other girls, her flimsy carrier bag swaying as she ran. They were making cakes and Jamie hadn’t stopped talking about how excited she was to be baking.
Her chest tightened as she watched them rush into the building. Abby made her way over to her side. “Are you alright?”
Beth shook her head. “Not really.”
The other woman frowned. “What’s up?”
Suddenly finding herself emotional, she turned herself away from the people hovering nearby. “I swore I would do something- I swore that I would make sure that this place stays open and I’ve gotten nowhere! This place shuts in three weeks and I’ve done nothing about it.”
Abby cut off her rant. “Hey, pack it in. You’ve done a lot- you and the others got all of those signatures and made people realise what was happening. At least you’ve tried, Beth.”
She shook her head and took a deep breath. “It doesn’t make the situation any better, does it?”
Abby said nothing and Beth rubbed a hand over her face. She was about to leave when Abby stopped her. “Beth, remember what one of the youth workers used to say to us when we came to this place? She said that it isn’t over until you gave up completely.” The woman’s brow furrowed before she continued. “Look, I don’t know whether this will help or not but I heard from one of the parents that the councillor is opening a restaurant on King’s Street tomorrow, maybe you can find a way to use that.”
Beth nodded. “What about you, what are you and the others going to do?”
She gave a small bitter laugh. “Pray? We’ll continue letting the parents know and see if there are any charities willing to take a chance on us. In the meantime we’ll do our jobs and make sure that the kids are happy and stay out of trouble.” She glanced at her watch. “Anyway, I’d better get inside. I’ll see you at eight?”
Abby offered one last parting smile before slipping inside, the glass door clanging shut behind her and leaving Beth to her thoughts.
She was crazy. It was the only explanation she could come up with as to why she was stood among a small crowd of people that were clapping as Mr Daniels cut a thin strip of ribbon across the extravagant restaurant doors.
She couldn’t have stood out more. Pulling the sleeves of her ratty jacket over her hands, she hunched her shoulders against the finely dressed people round her. King’s Street was notorious for being on the edge of the ‘better end’ of town and her village seemed like a distant memory as she watched cameras flash while the flimsy material fluttered to the ground. As Mr Daniels straightened and grinned at his audience she couldn’t help but feel a slither of resentment.
Passing the scissors to the man next to him, he briefly wiped his hands against his suit jacket before eagerly shaking hands with, what Beth assumed to be, the owner. As more lights flashed she could feel her patience wither.
The middle aged man beamed as a few local journalists asked him and the owner some questions before a loud voice overcame them all. “Mr Daniels, is it true that you’re in negotiation with a major betting chain to take over a closing youth centre?”
Beth’s breath caught in her throat as the councillor’s mouth set into a thin line. “I am not here to answer any questions other than those about this new restaurant.”
He didn’t deny it.
Beth couldn’t bring herself to move as more questions were asked until the man gave a parting nod to the reporters and began to walk away. A man, seemingly his assistant, quickly stepping forward to join him.
Pulled out of her shock by his departure, she pushed through the throng of people and dashed to his side. She struggled to catch her breath as she came up to his side. “Mr Daniels!”
He glanced at her but continued to walk with long strides. “I am not taking any more questions. Should you wish to speak to me you will need to get in touch with my secretary.”
She shook her head quickly, still gasping. “No, no Mr Daniels, I’m not a reporter. My name is Beth Carlson I tried to ring you office the other day about the youth centre that’s closing down.” She wet her lips and tried to ignore her dry mouth. “There’s a petition- one on paper and one online, we’ve managed to get over two hundred signatures.”
“Ah, Miss Carlton- my secretary mentioned that you’d called. I’m afraid that there is nothing I can do. The council only receives so much money from the government and unfortunately, due to the times that we’re in, we can’t afford to keep certain services open.”
“But why isn’t it a priority? Do you know how many kids- how many parents rely on that place?” He glanced at his watch and walked faster, her legs ached with the effort to keep up. “This is important!”
“It must be a wonderful service. I am afraid, Miss Carlton, that I am late for an appointment. If you wish to discuss this further then please ring my secretary and we can arrange an appointment.”
“It’s Carlson and I tried that before- she didn’t want to know.” She could feel her frustration bubbling over and as he had another look at his watch she snapped. “What was that journalist going on about anyway? When they mentioned a ‘betting chain’ taking over the youth centre? How is that by any stretch of the imagination OK?” Her voice became bitter. “Or are they sneaking you money under the table?”
His walk slowed and she could see his jaw tighten. His eyes were narrowed. “I would be very careful about making such accusations, Miss Carlton. If you call the office again, I am sure that my secretary will make an appointment.”
Marching away once more he, and his very flustered assistant, got into the back of a car. She shook her head in annoyance as it drove off before shouting at the top of her lungs after it. “It’s Carlson!”
The murmurs from the group in the distance quietened as people stared at her. Annoyed, she scuffed a trainer against the curb, scattering a few rocks in the process and tried to blink away the sting of tears in her eyes.
What was it going to take for these people to listen? What was it going to take for them to take her seriously?
Clenching her fists, she tried to stop the shaking in her hands as she looked over at the reporters. They were speaking quietly to each other as they packed away their equipment, their dictaphones and cameras being hastily pushed into cases.
One of them was stood to the side and scribbling notes onto a notepad, her dark eyes fluctuating between the paper in front of her and Beth. It took her a moment to realise that she must have seen the entire confrontation.
Seeming to notice that she was being watched, the reporter looked up. Her eyes were wide and her cheeks quickly reddened before she strolled over. “I’m sorry, are you one of the youth workers at the centre?”
Still dwelling on the conversation with the councillor, Beth struggled to catch up. “What? No, I used to go there when I was younger- my sister goes there now. I’m sorry, who are you?”
“Oh,” She gave a sheepish grin as she stuffed her notepad and pen under one arm and offered an awkward hand. “I’m Daisy, Daisy Hopkins- I’ve been trying to catch Jeff Daniels out for a while now.”
Beth hesitantly shook it. “I’m Beth Carlson- I’ve been trying to stop them from shutting down the youth centre.” As she looked at the frazzled woman, a small smile flickered across her face. “And I may just have an idea…”
Please come back for part 2 next Saturday, or just go ahead and download the ebook here.
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.
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