Beth rubbed the back of her neck and sighed loudly at the end of yet another long day. The walls of the kitchen were only just illuminated by the faint light bulb that swung on the ceiling above; the vibrations from the neighbouring terrace shaking the walls and helping to form the beginnings of a headache.
Rolling her shoulders, she pushed her chair out and stood, ignoring the ache in her legs as she went to tidy up.
The young girl opposite swung her legs enthusiastically as she yanked at her tangled hair causing Beth to roll her eyes whilst she gathered the plates off the table and dropped them into the sink for later.
Jamie continued to tug at her hair. “It’s not working!” When Beth continued to clean up, her bottom lip stuck out and her voice morphed into a high pitched whine. “Beth!”
Unimpressed with the way her sister dragged her name out, she turned to face her. “What?”
The bottom lip seemed to be pushed out further as the blonde pointed a short stubby finger at her curls. Unable to help the laugh that escaped her at her sister’s petulant face, she stepped behind the chair. “Alright, hold still.”
Pulling some of the tangled hair out of the bobble, she smoothed it down and began the first plait. Jamie fidgeted and her hands paused. “Hold still!”
“You’re taking ages! Hurry up, Beth!”
Tugging on the braid, she couldn’t help but tease. “Don’t be cheeky.”
“You’re being cheeky!”
“Oh yeah, I’m the worst sister in the world me…”
As soon as she’d finished both plaits and made sure that they were level, Jamie was tugging at her hand. “Come on, we’ve got to go!”
“I’m coming! Jeez, why can’t you be this eager when it comes to getting ready for school?”
Her sister stuck her hands on her hips, the green jumper of her uniform stretching with the movement. “Beth,”
She matched her serious tone. “Yes, Jamie?”
“You’re going to make us late.”
Her eyes were narrowed and her lips were pulled in a thin line as she gave a heavy glare. Raising an eyebrow at her attitude, Beth managed to locate her shoes from under the table and slip them on. “Fine, I’m coming, I’m coming!”
After another persistent tug from her, surprisingly strong, kid sister they made their way out of the door.
The streets were eerily quiet as they made their way to the youth centre. Jamie was skipping along the pavement, her small Velcro shoes narrowly avoiding the cracks in the cement as she danced around the lampposts, the white CCTV box fixed permanently down.
“Jamie, stay close.”
The girl’s strides narrowed to gentle hops as she allowed Beth to catch up. Looking about, Beth tried to smother her unease as she gripped Jamie’s small hand in hers, her long fingers smothering the small palm.
Jamie looked about aimlessly, her blue eyes flicking about from house to house before Beth squeezed her hand to draw her attention. “So how was school today?”
The question was all that was needed for Jamie to start babbling. Her voice seemed especially loud in the overwhelming quiet of the streets but Beth continued to nod and make sounds of acknowledgement as her sister talked for the rest of the journey.
As they rounded the last corner, the large brick building came into view and Jamie cut off what she was saying to run towards the building.
“Jamie!” As the girl quickly joined a small cluster of her friends near the front gate, Beth shook her head before making the rest of the way to the centre. Closing the distance, she stopped beside one of the youth workers who were beginning to hustle the kids into the building. Beth watched her efforts, quietly laughing to herself as she saw some of them protest slightly when a notice on the glass of the doors caught her attention. Making her way around the children, she craned her neck to see the writing.
Shock drew her back before she made herself read it again. Her brow furrowed when the youth worker spoke over her shoulder. “No, you’ve read it right. We really are closing.”
Turning, she faced the other woman, her mind still struggling to understand the concept. “But, why is it closing? I thought that the council were making sure that you guys were staying open? I know that you’ve been having some difficulties but the councillor said,”
She snorted. “Cut backs apparently. According to the council they can no longer afford to keep us running.”
Becoming aware of a gaze at the side of her face, she glanced down to see Jamie looking up at her with wide eyes. Beth forced a smile on her face and crouched down. “Go on, Jamie, go play with your friends.”
She continued to look troubled before scurrying inside, the loud chatter of her friends soon smoothing the lines of worry from her face. As Beth stood back up, the youth worker was just finishing shooing some teenagers inside. Shaking her head slightly, she returned her attention to the other woman. “Look, I’m sorry Beth but I don’t know what else to tell you- all I know is that in one month’s time I’m going to be looking for new job and these kids are going to have to find somewhere else to go.”
“Yeah and where are they going to go, Abby?”
She shrugged a shoulder, her eyes fixing on one of the distant CCTV cameras. “I don’t know.”
A silence took over as both women thought. The distant sound of shattering glass and barking seemed to illustrate their fears.
Abby ran her hands up her arms, trying to fight off the chill of the autumn air. “Look, I’d better get inside. I’m sure someone will think of something.” A wan smile flickered across her face. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Beth said nothing as Abby slipped past her and through the door, the metal rattling in the frame slightly as the loud echoes of laughter and talking resonating through the thin glass. Biting the inside of her lip, Beth stared through the window into the building. She couldn’t help but think of her little sister and all of the kids that she played with, of the way that she’d light up whenever she spoke about her friends there and the games they’d play until Beth came back to pick her up. Where would she end up if she had to stop going- how would she end up?
Having another quick glance at the nearby CCTV camera, she felt her shoulders tense and walked away.
They weren’t going to close the youth centre because she wasn’t going to let them.
Hurrying back to the terrace, she found herself in front of her neighbour’s front door, her fist banging against the thin wood. After a moment, it was pulled open to reveal a bleary eyed woman. Using the heel of a palm to wipe one of her eyes, she frowned. “Beth, what’s up?”
“They’re shutting the youth club.”
“What?” Hearing a yell behind her, she glanced over her shoulder to see a young boy run past and quickly stepped outside, shutting the door behind her. The exhaustion had left her features to be replaced with shock. “Where did you hear this?”
“I’ve just been down there- they’ve got a sign on the door saying that they’re closing down in four weeks.”
A small frown caused a crease between her brows. “Well, are they going to open up somewhere else?”
“I don’t know- Kelly, we’ve got to do something!”
“I don’t know, just something.” Fisting a hand in her hair, she let her eyes wander down the street. Exhaling loudly, she tried to think. “We have to do something.”
Kelly raised an eyebrow. “Short of chaining ourselves to the building and singing ‘we shall not be moved’ there’s not a lot we can do.”
Beth paused. Risking a glance up at her friend she saw her eyes widen and her begin to shake her head. “Oh no, please tell me you’re joking…”
“Do me a favour; get as many people as you can to meet me at my house tomorrow morning at about twelve.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Please, Kelly- I really need your help on this.”
The blonde took a moment to gauge her face before sighing dramatically. “Fine but you owe me!”
Beth grinned. “I know!”
Waiting until the other woman had gone back into her house, she hurried back to her own. She had some planning to do.
Please come back for part 2 next Sunday, 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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