Ayley

This time I answer the phone.

“Is that my boyfriend?”

“It is.”

Maybe he hasn’t noticed that I’m being a bitch or maybe he just doesn’t want to get into it. He starts to tell me about the game. He doesn’t ask why I wasn’t there. He knows why. He understands everything better than Mum. But still not well enough.

I want to care about the football, but there’s a song in my head and I need to catch it before it’s gone. Instead of his voice, I’m listening to its melody. I sit down at my piano and with one hand I play a first note, then a second. It’s only the sudden silence at the other end of the line that draws my attention back to the phone call.

“So, what do you reckon?”

I haven’t been listening. I don’t want to admit it. I don’t have to. It’s obvious.

Our conversation doesn’t last much longer.

I’m still at the piano when Mum comes in.

“Are you going to stay locked in here forever?” she wants to know.

It’s not like her to ask questions.

“I’m not locked in,” I snap.

There’s no need for me to be so aggro but I don’t want to be interrupted. That’s why I’m in here. Why do I need to explain that? It’s obvious.

“But this huge house…”

“What’s your point?”

I’m being mean. I know what her point is.

“I got it for you, Mum.”

Mum nods in a way that suggests confusion rather than agreement. I refocus on my piano and when I next look up she’s gone.

I pull out my laptop. I flick to the NO U IN FTRE website. It’s December and the event isn’t until the first day of next September, but it’s going to be the biggest coming together of my generation. It’s aimed at unifying, in as real a way as possible, all the people who really care about the planet and everyone who lives on it. The project has been mostly celebrated. There are those who feel the thinking behind it is too clunky, too clumsy, that no one involved really understands the political complexities blah blah blah. Mostly, though, that kind of criticism comes from the people who don’t want anything to change, the rich and powerful people who want to become even more rich and powerful.

The thought of so many young people – because it will be mostly young people – bringing all of their ideas and energy into one space is exciting. There will be music and speeches and collaboration. It feels like the chance to begin a new world. It’s as if everyone’s given up trying to shift the mindset of those in power and that NO U IN FTRE is something all of our own. We don’t want to battle against those people anymore. We’re just going to do our own thing, set up our own initiatives, lay the foundations for a future that will arrive eventually. We don’t have to break laws to do that. We just need to come together.

I want to be part of that experience and I don’t just want to be on the fringes. I’ve got nine months or so to work out a way of saying what I really want to say.

No, that’s not quite right.

I already know what I want to say.

I just need to find a way of getting people to listen.

How am I going to do that?

How am I going to convince anyone that – on such a big, important day full of so many big, important voices – I should be given a stage.

I don’t know.

But I do know that I want in.

Find out how Ayley got here. Start N-N-N-N-Nineteen from the beginning.