Helen was nervous. Frank was due in at 10 with Xion’s answer to the contract issue and they were all on hot coals about it. Jonathan moved to take a seat but then leaped up again as the door swung back and Dana came in, her friend Shelley giggling madly in tow.“Good morning,” Jonathan managed.“Good morning,” Dana said back stiltedly.Shelley giggled again and deliberately nudged her friend into a seat at Jonathan’s side. The pair shuffled awkwardly, making sure not to touch, but Carol caught a sidelong glance between them and saw, clear as day, that this was more than just a spur-of-the-moment fling.Her heart soared for the pair. Dana was a good kid and she’d had it tough recently, so she deserved some happiness. Carol could see why the gossips were having a field day, but why should it not work? She’d been a machinist herself when she’d got together with Eddie, and he a copper already on the fast track to promotion. OK, they had both been local but she’d loved every minute of it. Eddie, too.“Right,” she said quickly to spare the young couple further embarrassment, “let’s have some tea. Dana, you pour, please. Anyone have anything to report before Frank gets here?”Jonathan pulled out his iPad and held it up.“This is the Facebook page and here is the Twitter feed. We’ve got quite a lot of interest already, mainly local, but my dad knows a journalist on one of the tabloids and if she picks it up the feed rate could soar!”“What does your dad do?” Shelley asked.“Shell!” Dana protested. “What’s that got to do with anything?”“Just asking.”“It’s OK, Dana.” Briefly Jonathan’s hand grazed her knee. “He’s an accountant.”“Is he?” Dana stared at Jonathan.“Yes. Didn’t I tell you?”“No.”“OK.” Carol stepped in. “Let’s get back to business. Shelley, any progress with the T-shirts?”Shelley reached down and produced from her bag a T-shirt in vivid lime green with Save Our Factory emblazoned in orange and underlined with a jaunty pair of bikini briefs. Everyone blinked.“Wow!”“Certainly eye-catching,” Jonathan said. “They’ll look great in photos.”Shelley beamed at him.“That’s what I thought. My mate had a lot of brightly coloured ones like this left over, for some reason, so he gave us them for free.”Carol stared at the lurid garment. Was she expected to wear one of those? At her age!“Right,” she said faintly, “well done, Shelley.”Thankfully, just as Shelley was about to start dishing out the T-shirts, the reception bell rang. Carol leaped up.“That’ll be Frank. Go and let him in, Jonathan.” She saw doubt flash across the graduate’s face. “Everything OK?”“Yes, sorry. Just worried what he’ll say. About, you know, the contract. I’ll fetch him.”He scuttled away and came back with Frank, who was wearing his usual dark suit and a flamboyant tie that looked as if it might be strangling him. The man paced to the window and stared out for a moment before turning to face the committee, looking just like a schoolboy who had been trapped into telling tales on his mates. “It didn’t work, did it?” Carol said. “They didn’t care about the clause.”Frank looked at her and for a moment, despite their long years as colleagues and, indeed, friends, he seemed like a total stranger. “They did care,” he said eventually. “They do care if it’s any consolation they care a lot. But ultimately it makes no difference to their decision. They still feel that the continued operation of the factory is not viable.”“You mean they’re shutting us down!” It was Dana, spitting with rage. “Just say it, Frank. And say it like you’re one of us, not one of them!”“It’s not a matter of . . .”Carol, however, was with Dana on this one and cut him off.“We make a profit,” she protested. “We make a profit, Frank! If they can’t sell the building what difference would it make to keep us open?”Frank shuffled.“They are saying Cardill’s doesn’t fit the Xion portfolio any more.” He looked at Dana. “That’s jargon, I know, but it’s how they are looking at it.”Dana snorted and Carol felt disappointment gnaw at her gut, along with something like shame. How could she have been naive enough to think that stupid clause would make a difference?