Chapter Eighteen

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"She'll make it" Oli says, putting his hand on my shoulder to comfort me. "What if she doesn't? I'm counting on her." He chuckles. I roll my eyes. "Yeah, how sad is that? That I am counting on a teenager to make me feel better, so I'm not gonna be out there alone. This is our baby, we did this together, she can't let me down. On the other hand, I could totally understand it if she said she didn't feel confident enough." "But that's what this is all about and Melanie knows that, doesn't she?" I sigh. "Of course she does."

"I do. And I'm ready" I suddenly hear a voice behind me and spin around. My lips curl into a big smile when I see Mel. "Are you sure about this?" I ask. She nods. "I've never been more sure. I want to show all of them what confidence is and what kind of role model or help would I be, what kind of impression would I make if I didn't show?" "You won't regret it, Mel. And remember that you're helping a lot of them out there, showing that people your age and people like you are so much more than what happens at school." She smiles and I squeeze her hand. "We're gonna do this together."

And then it all happens so fast. It doesn't take long for the room to fill with guests, some of which I know, some of which I don't. Out of nowhere, Mason appears and leads me and Melanie outside, through the backdoor so we can walk down the red carpet. He really was serious about that. Oli takes out his camera and positions somewhere I lose him out of sight. "Bev, Melanie first, then you and me" Mason instructs and my heart flutters at the thought of me and him walking down the red carpet together. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about it until now because I didn't want to think it through too much. But now it's even better, it's a pleasant sort of surprise that I don't have to do it alone but with him by my side and suddenly, it only seems half-bad. Also not having to worry about Melanie and her setting an example for hundreds of girls and boys her age out there makes it a whole lot better.

She walks down the carpet like a professional childhood actress and I have no idea why she was ever worried about anything because she looks really cute, she poses right and just shows herself as she is. Mason links arms with me and just leads me down the carpet. I smile for the cameras but feel like I'm completely overshadowed by him. Flashes come from everywhere and I don't know what direction to look in. But it makes me feel a little better that Mason seems to know exactly what to do and it doesn't take as long as I thought until we're inside and there are all kinds of people lining up somewhere near me, thinking I can't see them waiting to talk to me but then they're forgetting that I've never done this before either so I'm not used to it. I also spot the occasional celebrity, unable to believe that those people are actually here.

Mason told me pretty last minute that a speech would be better if I held it and not him so I have prepared a little something that's currently in my bag. But I won't have to go up on stage until everyone has come inside so I make my way over to the buffet and get some champagne and a little bit of the different kinds of salads that are lined up on the beautifully decorated tables on the side. The whole room looks amazing, the decoration is in pastel colors, balloons and some signs with our logo but very discreet and it's definitely not too much, as I expected it to be with Mason.

"Excuse me?" I hear a female voice behind me and turn around, trying to swallow as quickly as possible so I can reply. "Yes?" I ask. "You're Beverly Nicholls, right?" I nod. "I am indeed" I smile. "My daughter has been chatting on your website and at first I thought it was just another social media site that wants to spam our computer with ads and all that but when I had a look at it myself, I really came to love the concept and I told her that and we've got a three hour drive behind us." Warmth spreads around my heart as I hear the first person saying this to me in person. My lips curl into a smile. "You have no idea how happy that makes me. What's your name?" "I'm Betty Willamson." I shake her hand. "It's really nice to meet you. And I'm glad we can help your daughter." "The platform just spoke to me, I mean, it's helping her more than a counsellor or a therapist, you know? I love the concept and that it's free but still such a great community." I smile. "That's why we're having this pompous event" I laugh. "Not exactly my idea but we want to keep it free so we actually do need advertisement, etc. to invest in us. We're already got a very generous investor who put this whole thing together but honestly, I don't want to depend on one investor forever." "I understand that. But even this event, as big as it is, it was such a big deal for my daughter, getting dressed up, Becca loved it. I've barely ever seen her so happy, especially lately she's not been feeling well so this was an amazing gift." I smile. "Thank you" I say. "For coming up to me and telling me this. I mean, teenagers have been leaving these kinds of messages but hearing it from you really makes a difference for me."

I finish eating, chat with her a little, then Oli pulls me away from the crowd a little bit. "Is everything okay?" I ask. He grins. "Bev, have you looked around? This is amazing. I'm so proud of you. Also, I've just met Rita." "You have?" "Yeah, she's over there, see Daley with her and Wesley?" I laugh. "Okay, my turn" I announce because I also want to meet Daley's date. He laughs as I make my way through the crowd towards them. "There you are!" I hear next to me and Mason puts his arm around me. "Um ... hi" I stutter but keep walking. He follows me. "I was about to meet your sister." "Great, I'm coming with you." I wave at Daley and they meet us in the middle. We all look around until Wesley is the first to talk. "Rita, this is Bev, finally you two meet." I laugh and shake her hand. "It really is a pleasure to finally meet you, you're the reason your brother got to support us, it's all turned out so amazing." "The party is great" she replies with a smile. "It was all Mason." He grins. "Don't be so modest, Bev." I turn to Daley and we grin at eachother before he gets serious again. We're so familiar with eachother and everything else around here is so unlike us and so strange that I feel ultimately calmed down with him there now. It's like I'm not the only one that's out of place. And I'm so thankful he's there. "This is Helen" he introduces the blonde girl in his arms and I shake her hand too. "I've heard so much about you" she grins. "It really is a great party." "Thanks" me and Mason both say, then laugh. Helen seems nice enough, not slutty, not posh, a little bit punk-ish but she's pretty and can pull off the cocktail dress despite her full sleeve.

Slowly, Mason pulls me away and leads me to the stage. "It's time for your speech, I've put it together. Here you go" he says and hands me a few pieces of paper. I raise and eyebrow and frown at him. "Are you serious? I thought I should write my own speech." He looks back at me just as confused. "Have you ever done that before, Bev?" "No but I mean, this is mine and Melanie's event, I thought I should say a few words about our organisation." "It's only possible because of me" he says a little louder now but trying to keep quiet. No one could hear him over the music anyway. I take the cards from him and look through the words he's written. It only takes skimming a few words to give them back to him. "I am not saying that. It's so general, not at all personal and it's not going to win anybody over, no offense but it won't attract any investors if it doesn't have belief in the project and most of all, the passion. I've put something together and I think you'll like it too. Trust me" I say and because I don't want him stopping me since I'm already nervous enough, I climb up the stairs of the stage and make my way to the center, the music stops and the spotlight hits me. All eyes are on me and I gulp. I can do it. I clear my throat and just do it.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, children, teenagers, parents, supporters, thanks to all of you for attending the launch party for Make Believe." The whole crowd claps and I have to pause but I also feel encouraged. I try to find Melanie in the crowd and see her right at the front. "First of all, I may be the face of Make Believe but I never would have been able to do this on my own so please give a special round of applause for my partner, Melanie Ray and our main investor and the one who this would not have been possible without, Mason Remford!" There are another few seconds of clapping and the spotlight hits Mel and Mason for that time. "Also, thank you to everyone who helped put this together. Miss Ray and I, we've poured our hearts into this because it's very close to us and means very much to us which is why this evening is even more incredible and I think it's safe to say that I speak for both of us when I say that we never believed it would get so much recognition so quickly. But that also means that we're helping a lot of people. So far, we have chatrooms and hotlines where you can't only talk to us but also other people who also feel excluded, bullied, or just need someone to talk. We all need a little confidence at times, don't we? We want to expand, we want meetings, we need spaces to do this and for that, to attempt to help more people and more importantly, help more effectively, we need support and tonight, we want to show you how much this project means to us and how far we're ready to go with it. I feel like we're different from other organizations who only provide hotlines and chatrooms, we're about the community that grows together and helps every part of it!"

There's more clapping and I smile. "When I was in school, there was a time when I got bullied and I focused my whole life on it, I wasn't able to see that there were other aspects of my life that had nothing to do with it and that what happened at school didn't define me. And we're here to show you that. We don't want to force you to talk about your problems, if that's not what you want, we're the distraction, we want to assure you that there's nothing wrong with you and that you can be confident and cool outside of school because school is not everything and I think everyone who has gone through it knows that. We're there to show you that there's more out there and to push you in the right direction. So please, enjoy yourself and thank you for the support."

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