Chapter Seventeen

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Mel squeezes my hand. "Miss Nicholls?" "Call me Bev. When we're outside of school." "Bev?" "Yes?" "I can't do this." I look at her. "You don't have to. But I don't want to take all of the credit myself when half of it is your doing. Don't do this to yourself, you deserve recognition for this thing that we've created together." "I can't do it. There's not only your photographer friend out there, there are official paparazzi and they're going to take photos of celebrities with me in the background, everyone in school will know that I worked on this too." "We can keep you out of this but I don't think we should. But Mel, it's your choice." She bites her lip, fighting with herself. "You don't have to do this. But I really think you should. We've created this together, a lot of people want to meet you, you're going to show them what it means to be confident and that one aspect of your life doesn't define you." "How much time do we have?" "An hour." "Shit." "I'll be right back."

I get off the couch and exit the dressing room in the back, stepping out into the huge room with food and drinks and tables and the red carpet is visible outside. What have we gotten into? Not too long ago, I had just become a teacher, I have no money and I have never done anything like this before but somehow, people I look up to are coming to this event, people are going to support us after this if they believe in it, people that I think are amazing with what they do, supporting charities. And ours could be one of them. This is so important. I look around and my eyes meet Mason's. He stops talking to the waiter and comes over to me. "Everything okay?" he asks. "Mel's freaking out a little and I don't really know what to do." He raises one eyebrow. "We need her out there. People are expecting a student to be half of this organisation, that's one of the most interesting things about this project and you know that." I look at him in disbelief. "I can't make her." "Then try to convince her." I bite my lip. He's gotta be kidding. "I don't know if I can so I'm just letting you know" I say, a bit louder this time. He lowers his voice. "Look, I'm sorry" he says, looking around. "But you know that I only have the best interest for this at heart." I'm starting to doubt it but I don't say that out loud. "I'll do my best to get her out here" I reply instead and step outside where the paparazzi are already lining up, just like Mel said. This must be a lot for her, hell, it's a lot for me so how must it feel for her?

I pass by Oli as I walk around the corner who's fumbling around with his camera at the backdoor of the building. "What are you doing out here?" I ask. "Smoking" he jokes but then lifts up the camera and takes a photo of me. "Oh, no" I sigh and he lowers the camera again. "Something wrong?" "Mel's freaking out and I have no clue how to get her out, Mason says it's kind of essential to our whole story though." "Well, I see where he's coming from and I also think she should take the credit and stand for what she's done, I mean, it's amazing." "That's what I told her. And I don't know what else to tell her, if I'm honest." "Can I try and talk to her?" "Do your best" I say and he follows me back inside to the dressing room.

He steps in and walks over to Mel, kneeling in front of her as she's sitting on the sofa still as if she hasn't moved since I left. I stay by the door and lean my back against the wall, watching Oli and Mel. "Hey" he says quietly. She looks up at him but her face doesn't change. "What's the matter? Are you scared?" She bites her lip, then nods. "I don't think I can do this." "Why not? What could possibly happen?" "People are going to laugh at me." "I think you know yourself that what you're doing is amazing and honorable and nothing that could possibly be made fun of." "People in school don't see it that way. They can take the piss out of anything." Oli pulls a funny face as if he's giving up and Mel smiles a little. He picks up on that and nudges her shoulder, smirking. "Come on, you know you can do it. Just like Bev can." "But she's confident and she knows what she's doing."

They both turn and look at me. I take a few steps towards them and sit down with Mel again. "Let me let you in on a little secret, most of the time, not even us adults know what we're doing." Oli grins, pushing his glasses up on his face. "And sometimes, I'm sure that someone your age knows what they're doing while I don't. You just have to pretend, it's all about that" he says. "Everyone will laugh at me, I don't fit in here. It's fancy and you look beautiful" she says to me. "And you're dressed really well too" she says to Oli. "So are you, your dress looks really pretty" Oli says with an assuring smile. She sighs and a tear escapes her eye as she rests her elbows on her legs and her chin in her hands. "Do you want me to get your mum?" I ask. "I'm not a baby" she scoffs. Oli laughs. "You don't have to be, I am screaming on the inside to have my mama tell me it's gonna be fine." That gets a little smile out of her again. "You're gonna rock it. Who's gonna say anything to you once there are photos of you and everyone's favourite celebrities online? Come on, Mel."

While Oli keeps talking to her, I walk over to my bag and get out my iPod with my earphones. "I'll let you in on another little secret" I tell her, handing her the device. "This playlist is my confidence playlist. You know, I used to and still a lot of the time feel self-concious about my weight. But it's not just for that, it's to make you feel strong and confident in any situation, like you're the boss of it and everybody else. It helps, I promise that it will." She looks at me in disbelief but puts the earphones in anyway. "Come out if you feel like it, we both believe in you and you're part of this just as much as I am. And there are tons of people rooting for you, looking up to you, wanting to meet you, you should not let this chance pass. I'll wait outside and we'll go out there together once you've made the choice to jump over your shadow, alright?" She nods but she's already listening to the music too so I pull Oli out of the room with me and we make our way outside.


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