Prudence got out of bed and hurried to the bathroom, she just couldn't be late today, there would be hell to pay if she wasn't on time. After a quick shower she went over to the bathroom mirror to put the brush through her long dark tangled hair. "Oh no!" she said to herself as she gazed in the mirror and saw yet another angry red spot on her chin to match the three fading ones she already had. Taking some zit cream out of the cabinet she gave her chin a liberal covering of the sticky ointment. Pru got dressed, pulling on her old faded blue jeans, black sweater and grubby trainers. She added her thick warm jacket and knitted bobble hat as she headed out of the door.
Pru had to be at Farbrook University at 9am to meet her friends. Today there was a guest Professor at the Uni giving a lecture on Equality and Pru's group had decided to demonstrate as their leader Sara thought it was a good idea, plus it would get them on the social media pages so they would get noticed. Pru was to meet the others in the grounds of the Uni and she arrived to see Tom, Angie, Sara, William and Jasmine were already there waiting for her. "About time!" Sara barked at Pru. Prudence looked down at her feet and mumbled "Sorry" to the stick thin Sara. Even in her battle dress of jeans and a grey hoodie, Sara looked immaculate, her long blonde locks framing her pretty heart-shaped face with her perfect zit-free complexion, blue eyes and luscious pouty pink lips, she was a stunner. The boys were in awe of Sara and she knew it, she was a natural leader and the rest of the group followed her orders like little faithful lambs.
The plan was to head over to the lecture hall and get ready to slip in through the back door before the security people got there. Once the guest speaker started his talk they would spring into action. Pru, Will and Jas were to hold up the long large banner they had made after they jumped onto the stage in front of the guest speaker. The banner had 'Equal Rights For Women and Minorities - Stop The Bigots' written in bold red letters on it and they had to hold it up for the audience to see. Angie and Tom would run down the aisle in the auditorium towards the stage behind Sara who would shout out "Equal Rights for all, stop men's dominance!" Tom would be filming the whole thing on his mobile whilst Angie threw their 'Equal Rights' leaflets into the audience. Well that was the idea anyway.
They managed to get into the hall and crept to one of the side rooms off of the main area where they quietly waited for the hall to fill up with people and the guest speaker to start his lecture. The lecturer, Professor Jon Meartson, was an expert on equal rights, he had the opinion that equal rights should include everyone, but explained that individuals had to be happy with their real abilities and that people shone in different ways, so certain careers would not suit everyone if there was to be a content and smoothly running society. Pru and her friends had never listened to one of Jon Meartson's lectures, but they knew they didn't like him because they didn't think anyone had the right to argue against their own idea of what equal rights was all about.
The talk began, Meartson sat opposite one of Farbrook University's Professors who introduced him to the audience. Just as Meartson was about to speak Pru, Will and Jas ran up onto the stage from the stairs at the side and held their banner right in front of the guest speaker. Sara, followed by Angie and Tom, made their attempt to run up to the stage with Sara shouting out her statement as planned. The audience sat in silence, these outbursts were getting boring. Four security officers leapt into action, two of them stopping Sara, Angie and Tom and the other two wrestled with Pru, Will and Jas to get the banner off of them. Sara and the others were led out of the hall with Sara still shouting at the top of her lungs. Pru, as she hung onto the banner, refusing to let go, was swung around and fell off the stage, landing with a thud in front of the amused audience. Will and Jas let go of the banner and ran off leaving Pru to fend for herself. Jon Meartson hurried down the steps to the auditorium and offered Pru his hand to help her to her feet. He smiled kindly at her and she was deeply embarrassed as she took his hand. "Thank you" she said weakly looking up into Jon's smiling face. "Would you like to join us on stage?" Jon asked Pru. Blushing to the roots of her hair, Pru didn't know what to do. "Errr, I err..." she muttered. Jon called up to the Professor on the stage to get another chair for Pru as he led her over to the stairs. Pru was horrified as she spotted lots of people in the audience filming her with their mobile phones as she took the seat next to the Professor on stage. "And what is your name?" Jon asked. "Prudence" whispered the frightened girl. "Give Prudence a hand for being brave enough to join us!" Jon told the audience. The audience clapped their approval. Pru smiled limply and held a hand over her chin to try to cover her spots which glowed bright red under the stage lights.
Jon gave his talk about equality and the pigeon-holing of society to actually split groups up and that everyone in society had their part to play and singling out certain groups was orchestrated to alienate people and turn them against each other. Pru sat there transfixed as Jon's calming tones washed over her. Suddenly he turned to her. "Now Prudence" he said "What was this demonstration all about? Do you feel that life is unfair at the moment?" he asked her. "Well..." Pru stammered "Our group leader Sara told us that men have always kept women as slaves and that we should fight back..." she tailed off miserably, knowing that she couldn't explain further on the subject as she had lost her train of thought. Jon looked at her kindly, though a little wearily. "So do you think it's a good idea to demonstrate and to stop the discussion about equality Prudence?" he asked her. Pru was aware of the slightly sneering audience who sat silently waiting for her to answer. Pru suddenly found her voice "No Professor, I think that although demonstrating is a good thing sometimes, we still need to talk about the subject" Jon smiled at Pru "Then we have a breakthrough, someone who demonstrates, but is willing to hear what the lecture is all about" he declared. Prudence smiled back at him "Yes sir" she answered, continuing "what you said made a lot of sense" On that note Jon closed the lecture, thanked the audience for coming and turned and shook Pru's hand telling her that she was most welcome to attend any more of his lectures if she so desired.
The next day Pru got a text from Sara asking her to meet the group in their local pub at noon. The group were in a deep discussion and watching a You Tube video on Sara's ipad when Pru arrived. She got herself a glass of lemonade and sat next to Will, eager to see what they were watching. "So our star of stage and screen has arrived" declared Sara nastily. Pru peered at the ipad only to see a video of herself falling from the stage and landing in a heap as the gallant Professor Jon Meartson ran down from the stage to help Pru to her feet. "What did you think you were doing Pru?" asked Sara. The others looked on quietly, letting Sara ignite into her social justice warrior mode. "So you let Meartson treat you like a helpless female and accepted his hand and his invitation onto the stage!" she screamed at Pru. Pru shuffled uncomfortably in her seat as she stared at her glass of lemonade, trying to avoid Sara's angry scowl. "I didn't know what to do" Pru said shakily. "So you thought you would grab all the attention" screamed Sara "You had a real chance on the stage to put our points across and you just let everyone down" Pru looked up at Sara and the others and she wanted to cry "I'm sorry Sara" she muttered. The rest of the group looked embarrassed, they had never seen Sara so angry and so scary, her beautiful face contorting with fury. The situation was tense, but for some reason Tom laughed nervously. Sara turned on him "This is no laughing matter" she barked, but the laughter was infectious and the others started to giggle. "I'm sorry" Tom said "but Pru looked so funny in the video when she fell off the stage and at the end of the day it got us some publicity" he told Sara. In their hearts the others knew that Sara was really annoyed because Pru had grabbed the limelight. Sara always assumed that she should be the spokesperson in the group, the one to speak for the rest of them. As Sara turned away, Tom winked at Pru and smiled, Pru felt a little bit better as Sara calmed down enough to talk about their plans for coming invents. It was a busy week at the Uni, there was a Charity Ball tomorrow night and Sara wondered if they should wear some sort of badge proclaiming 'Women's Rights' as they should carry on with their equality agenda.
After she left the others Prudence walked home wondering what to wear to the Charity Ball. The group had decided they should all wear sombre black outfits, as if in mourning for women's rights and Sara said she would make some small laminated badges to wear just in case they had a chance to speak to the media attending the Ball; They all agreed that they couldn't make one of their usual loud protests because it was a charity event for children in Africa. Pru looked through her not very exciting wardrobe when she got home. She had an longish baggy black tee-shirt that she could wear with some black leggings and she decided that her black Converse trainers would complete the outfit; After all she didn't want to look 'Glam' as their whole point was to make a statement that women shouldn't have to dress up to be noticed. The other girls in the group had the same problems, they put together whatever outfits they could to show their unity and the boys had black trousers or jeans and black tee's that would fit the bill for Sara's 'mourning for women's rights' idea.
The following day, after her usual timetable of lectures and studying Pru headed home and got ready for the Ball, slapping lots of concealer over her now fading spots and emphasising her eyes with some thick black eyeliner. She'd washed her long dark hair and it fell softly over her shoulders, always critical of her own reflection though, she didn't spend too long in front of the mirror and pulling on her black trainers she set out for the Ball.
She met the others on the steps leading to the main hall. Sara, for once, was late. They decided to go in and Sara would have to find them later when she arrived. They looked more like a bunch of Goths than people who were going to a formal dance, but they didn't care, they would get noticed and Sara would be pleased. Jas got a text from Sara telling them that she would be a few minutes late. They entered the hall and made their way over to the bar, people glanced at them and then looked away, no one was surprised that the small oddball group of students had decided to dress differently to everyone else, they were used to their antics. The room was full of posh frocks and tuxedos and the University students' press group were there recording it all. There were also a number of special guests invited along for the evening, Professor Jon Meartson amongst them, he spotted Pru and her friends and smiled to himself that they were still doing their little protests.
Pru and her friends picked a table near the bar, sitting away from the dance floor and they waited for their leader Sara to arrive. Will noticed that a camera crew from the local media were also there and he told the others. They all looked a bit scruffy and had to admit to each other that they felt a bit out of place, maybe this was not one of Sara's best ideas. Angie suddenly spotted Sara making her entrance. "Look" she pointed "Well! What a bitch!" she exclaimed. They all turned to look where Angie had pointed and there was Sara, she looked fabulous; Her blonde hair was swept into an 'updo' style of shiny curls, her make up was perfect and she wore a tight fitting black full-length gown which had a split to the top of her right thigh. She walked gracefully in her black stiletto-heeled sparkly shoes, drawing admiring glances from everyone, as she spotted Pru and the others and made her way over to their table. Sara took a seat between Will and Tom, crossing her legs and posing elegantly. The other girls were furious "What's all this Sara?" Jas asked "You said to dress down and wear black" Sara feigned surprise "But I just said wear black, I didn't mean not to wear formal clothes" She continued "It really doesn't matter, if the media want to interview us, I will be the spokesperson, so you don't have to worry about being seen on camera." The others were stunned into silence. Sara opened her dainty black silk clutch bag and took out the small 'Women's Rights' badges she had made, passing them round to everyone in the group. Pru took the badge, but didn't pin it on, she placed it on the table next to her lemonade; She was horrified that Sara would play such a trick on them.
There was still a vacant table over where the reporters from the Farbrook Gazette were sitting and Sara suggested that the group move over there so that they could be seen more clearly. The others felt deeply embarrassed now, but they agreed to move, they didn't want to risk Sara losing her temper again.
After they moved tables the group sat there in silence, Sara used her time trying to make eye contact with the young good looking Farbrook Gazette reporter at the next table. The reporter just ignored her, speaking into his mobile phone and looking at the dance floor where lots of people were having a great time. Suddenly Professor Meartson came over to the group's table, Sara smiled sweetly at him as he approached, but Jon Meartson's target was Pru and he extended is hand warmly for Pru to shake it. He said how good it was to meet her again so soon. "Would you introduce me to the rest of your group Prudence please?" Jon asked. Pru leapt to her feet and smiling, introduced each of her friends to the Professor. Sara could hardly contain her anger, "Pru's group!!!" she thought, how dare he think it's Pru's group! However Sara shook Jon's hand and gazed into his grey eyes, she wanted to make an impression as he was famous and he must have realised how pretty she is. Jon asked the group if they were enjoying the Ball and if they had any more protests in the offing. Sara spoke up saying that there were always good causes to pay attention to and if the Professor wanted to discuss their plans he was very welcome to meet them anytime to hear about their concerns. Jon nodded his head at Sara "Thank you Sara" he said. Then turning to Pru he asked "Would you care to have this next dance with me Prudence?" Pru blushed and smiled at the Professor "Yes please" she replied, as she left the others and walked with Jon to the dance floor. Pru and the Professor made odd dance partners, Pru in her baggy tee-shirt, black leggings and trainers and the Professor in his smart dark grey suit, but they chatted away like old friends. The Professor talked about his family, his kids who were nearly Pru's age and his heroic wife who put up with him being away from home lecturing all the time. Pru told Jon that she missed her family who were back in London, but she did like living in the university town and doing her own thing without her Mum and Dad forever watching her as they worried about her all the time. "You know Pru" he told her "I see something in you that may help you decide on your career later on" Pru looked at him puzzled. He continued "I think you have a naturalness, an unspoiled friendliness that means that you would make people feel at ease." He continued "What would you think about helping me with my lectures as my junior assistant? I've been asked to join the Uni on a 6 month contract to do some research on today's youth and the process of equality in their lives, and with your interest in women's rights you could assist me by interviewing some of the students after my lectures to get their feedback." "I could pay you a wage for your time, it won't be an awful lot, but it may help you with your expenses while you are studying." Pru beamed at him, she could hardly believe her luck! "I'm so flattered Professor!" she exclaimed "Yes, I would be very interested, thank you" Finishing up their dance, Pru left him and walked back to the table where her friends looked both surprised and curious about Pru's dance partner.
"Well?" Sara asked Pru pointedly "What had the Professor got to say to you that he couldn't talk to me about?" "Err" Pru stammered aware of Sara's short fuse. Then taking a deep breath she explained to Sara and the others that the Professor had offered her a part-time job as his junior assistant. Sara's face crumpled, she was not only cross, but very upset, she had thought her feminine charms and good looks could win over any male; In reality she didn't give a jot about equality as she usually got her own way by flirting, so how did this plain chubby girl Prudence outshine her with the Professor? Just how could that be? but she wasn't sure that she really wanted to know. Bursting into tears Sara got to her feet and headed over to the ladies' rest room on the other side of the hall. "Oh dear" Prudence said to the others "I really hadn't meant to upset Sara" They all agreed that it wasn't Pru's fault, they liked Pru, she had always been one of the gang and she got on well with them all. "Shall I go and see if Sara is ok?" Pru asked. "No" Will said. "You wait here and I'll go and see if I can have a word with her." With that Will got up and made his way over to the other side of the dance floor to wait for Sara to come out of the rest room. Sara emerged ten minutes later, her eyes puffy and her face red, she had intended to leave quietly, but Will had stopped her, putting his arm around her shoulders and asking if she was ok. Sara didn't shrug Will off, she nestled into his shoulder, Will was good looking and she was touched that he had waited for her to see if she was alright. He was usually the quiet one in the group, but he watched everything and he knew Sara had a vulnerable side to her nature in spite of her bullying the others on occasions. "Fancy a dance Gorgeous?" he asked her. Sara didn't say no, she let him guide her onto the dance floor and then melted into his arms for the slow romantic dance. This is fun, she thought making a quick recovery from her previous humiliation. Sara and Will bonded that night, he had always fancied her and she found out what an interesting and clever person Will really was; He was also her knight in shining armour now, having saved the evening for her. She found that she quite liked his taking the lead to look after her.
Pru had felt a little bit guilty about stealing the limelight from Sara that night, but she noticed how quickly Sara had recovered when she received male attention, plus Will seemed to be getting on with Sara just fine. Sara was not quite the Social Justice Warrior that she pretended to be, thought Pru. The rest of the group decided to have a few beers and enjoy what was left of the evening, they had a laugh and considered that maybe their little protest group could be disbanded now and they should just have fun together from then onwards.
Pru's destiny was for her to go onto bigger and better things, Professor Meartson had been as good as his word and he got Pru involved in organising his lectures and interviewing the students just as he'd promised. Pru found that she had a whole new confidence and she loved her new media role. She had smartened up her appearance, buying some nice new clothes and getting her hair cut to a more manageable length. She even stopped eating chocolate so her spotty skin cleared up too. The Professor had written some articles for the Farbrook Gazette during his 6 month contract and he got Pru to liase with them regarding the publications. The Editor of the Gazette was so impressed with Pru that offered her a part time post as a reporter until she finished her studies.
A few years later Prudence had to laugh to herself as she thought about her college days. The clumsy girl who fell off the stage was now a sought after free-lance journalist selling her articles to the National Press. The rest of the group had gone their individual ways. Tom and Jas had teamed up to create an app for new students to help them contact other newbies at their Uni's for networking purposes, it had taken off really well; They were soon awash with money and internet fame. Angie had got her degree in Art and Design and she was lucky enough to be taken on by one of the big fashion houses. Sara and Will stayed together and he did well getting a position with a finance company. However, Sara had to postpone any career plans she might have had as she got pregnant and she and Will became the proud parents of a little baby boy. Sara was quite happy to be a Mum for a while, but those other new Mums she had met and made friends with at the coffee mornings seemed to need liberating a bit, they let their partners get away with not sharing the chores and not looking after the babies enough, maybe they needed organising and Sara thought she was just the person to tell them their rights.......