Poles apart, p.3
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       Poles Apart, p.3
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           Kirsty Moseley

  into the eyes I had stared into tonight.

  I reached out a hand and, being careful not to wake her, stroked the side of her face. “I love you, Sasha,” I whispered.

  She was my reason for living, my motivation for getting up in the morning, my incentive for going on with each day when all I wanted to do was break down and sob. Sasha and Rory were my reasons for working in that horrible place, for wearing that nasty uniform, for almost crippling myself in those cheap shoes. Both of them were so totally worth it, though.

  I sighed and decided to go to bed. Sadness started to build inside me, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I broke down. Grabbing the pillow from the empty side, I hugged it tightly as the tears I knew would come started flowing silently down my face. Climbing into the bed, I pulled the quilt over my head to muffle the sound, and then I did what I did every night after seeing Carson: I sobbed until I fell asleep.

  IN THE MORNING, I woke to the sound of cooing and the covers being gently pulled near my feet. When I opened my eyes, they stung so much I actually hissed through my teeth. My gaze settled on the clock, seeing it was just after six-thirty. This was the downside of working nights in a club: the getting up in the morning with your almost two-year-old after having around four hours sleep.

  Pushing myself up, I crawled to the foot of my bed, looking at the best thing I’d ever done. She was sitting up in her cot, her big blue eyes just looking at me, a beautiful smile around her dummy she had in her mouth.

  “Hey, Sasha,” I whispered, sticking my hand through the bars.

  She smiled and took the dummy out of her mouth, placing it in my hand, still smiling. “Mummy, up, up!”

  I smiled at her latest attempts to speak. It was so cute and every word melted my heart. “Want to get up, Sash?” I asked, sitting up and rubbing a hand over my face. She pushed herself to her feet, standing at the bars, her arms outstretched. I smiled and plucked her out of the cot, sitting her on the bed next to me. “Hungry?”

  She didn’t answer, just pushed herself up, climbing over me and plopping down onto the floor, looking at me expectantly. “No,” she stated confidently.

  “Drink?”

  “No.” She shook her head, turning to walk out of my bedroom. We shared my bedroom because this was only a two-bed flat and Rory (being a fifteen-year-old doing his GCSEs soon) needed his own space, so she’d moved in here with me when he came to live with us.

  “Can’t you say something else?” I teased, grinning.

  “No.”

  I laughed and followed her out of the room, grabbing a nappy and baby wipes on the way past. Sasha was just learning how to speak. She was a little under two years old; her birthday was in two months. She knew about fifteen words which were understandable to a stranger, but her favourite, by far, was ‘no’.

  I scooped her into my arms as we approached Rory’s bedroom door, heading past quickly so she didn’t bang and wake him up. There was no point in both of us being awake at stupid o’clock on a Sunday morning. After changing her nappy, we settled onto the floor to play dolls for a little while before I made breakfast. I had money to go shopping today so there was no need to just eat cereal this morning. I boiled two of the four eggs, leaving two for Rory.

  While Sasha and I were sitting at the table, Rory graced us with his presence, stretching like a cat and yawning as he walked up the hallway. “Morning,” I greeted, smiling at his dishevelled appearance. He was still in yesterday’s clothes he’d fallen asleep in.

  He grunted in response. Rory wasn’t a morning person.

  “Raw-ee!” Sasha cried, holding out her arms for him. She adored him. He was more like a dad than a teenage uncle. I was lucky to have him.

  Three years ago, when my parents kicked me out of the house, Rory was the only one who stuck up for me. Then, when I got pregnant a few months later, my parents disowned me even more, if that were possible. From what Rory had told me, when they found out I was pregnant at sixteen, they took down every single picture of me and literally pretended they didn’t ever have a daughter. It didn’t surprise me, though; I had always been a disappointment to them, even before everything that happened. I was a disappointment to them from the day I was born, it seemed.

  They were very strict, very religious, and I guess once I hit my teens, my natural rebellious instincts kicked in, and I started to go a little wild. Well, that wasn’t strictly true. I was never wild, but I’d snuck out to parties, I’d tried my hand at smoking, I’d gotten myself a boyfriend – and all the other normal things a teenage girl did.

  The last straw for them was when I gave my virginity to the boy I was dating whilst drunk at a party. When they found out about it, they went crazy. Screaming about how I had brought shame on the whole family, how they were going to be punished because of my disgusting and disgraceful actions. Having sex outside of wedlock was strictly prohibited in their eyes. They gave me two options: either I join a convent – which is not something a sixteen-year-old girl wants to do – or I move out on my own and lead my life of shame without them.

  Obviously, I chose the second option. They gave me access to my savings account which they had been paying into since my birth, signing over to me just under £3,000. With that money I moved out to more central London and registered for school. I was fine for a little while, but then very quickly I started to run out of money. I’d looked for a job for weeks but nowhere would employ a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl who could only work weekends. Thankfully, the last-resort place took a risk on me. Angels Gentlemen’s Club. The place saved my life because without it I would have lost my flat, and I would have either been sleeping on the streets or in that convent my parents wanted me to go to.

  Technically, I was too young to work at the club at the time, but Jason took pity on me and gave me a shot. Up until I was eighteen, I had to be careful because I was underage, but I never got into any trouble for it. Angels was a respectable ‘members only’ club, so the police didn’t come round very often to check staff IDs.

  When I first started working there, I was a shy, naïve, little sixteen-year-old girl who blushed when the girls started taking their clothes off. On my first night working, I met a handsome boy who was out celebrating his eighteenth birthday with some friends. I’d been attracted to him immediately.

  As time passed, I fooled myself into thinking he liked me, too. He kept coming back every week, sitting in my section, asking me for dances all the time. Rather naively, I let myself fall in love with him, forgetting it was just a job and he was just a client. I gave him my heart – but it never went anywhere. Sure, he continued to come to the club every week, but it was just a night out for him, a bit of fun and a laugh.

  After a couple of months, his racing career took off; he was signed by a good team as a second driver. He, of course, came to the club to celebrate with his friends that night. We’d been messing around, flirting back and forth as usual; that was when his friend suggested he pay for Carson to go to the backroom with me as a congratulations gift. I’d had a little to drink that night, so I’d agreed to it because I was already crazy about him by then – even if he wasn’t crazy about me.

  That night was the most incredible night of my life; it was beautiful and tender and was better than anything I had ever experienced. Every kiss and every touch was perfect and special with him, not like the one time I had been with a guy before. From that night on, every week would be the same. He’d flirt and behave like an adorable guy, and we’d go to the backroom after. We never had anything other than those nights, I never got his phone number, and I never saw him outside work. We were just two separate people who had sex in the backroom of a club for money once or twice a week.

  Three months later, I missed a period.

  I never told him about it. His dreams were just starting to take flight. The team he was driving for were becoming more impressed with him, and he was climbing higher and higher up the leader board, travelling here, there and everywhere. The press were start
ing to pay him attention, people started asking for his autograph, and he started wearing designer shoes. Everything was rosy for Carson; his future was bright and shiny.

  I couldn’t take those things away from him, so I said nothing. I loved him too much to trap him with a stupid sixteen-year-old girl he didn’t care about. So I let him go. I told Jason about being pregnant, and as soon as I’d started to show, at around four months, he moved me to another club they owned, promising not to tell Carson anything about it.

  Because it was totally obvious I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait tables and dance anymore, so I’d cleaned the clubs instead, doing their paperwork just to earn money. It was hard, really hard. I was alone and depressed. It was the darkest time of my life.

  The only thing that pulled me out of my slump was seeing Carson do so well, reading the articles about him being the new protégé of MotoGP, and seeing pictures of him in the paper holding up his trophies. No matter how hard my life was, I genuinely believed I was doing the right thing by letting him live his dream.

  When Sasha was born, I immediately climbed out of my slump and started to rebuild my life. With the help of a good friend I had met at the club, another single mother, I was able to carry on studying. About a month after giving birth, my body was near enough back to normal, so I went back to work at the club, waiting tables and dancing. I needed the money because cleaning just wasn’t enough to support a child.

  To this day, my parents have never once seen Sasha; they maintain the act that she doesn’t exist, just like they do to me. Rory, on the other hand, would skip school once a week and would travel two hours on the bus just to spend the day with us.

  When Sasha was a year old, Rory asked if he could move in with us. So, just like that, I was seventeen, a single mother, a student, a part-time waitress/lap dancer, and sole guardian of a fourteen-year-old boy. How we managed I really don’t know, but we did. We got through it, and it made me a stronger person. I was incredibly lucky to have such an amazing brother and an incredible friend because without them I surely wouldn’t have made it through.

  While I was gone for those six months, apparently Carson had asked about me a lot. Jason told him I had family issues and I didn’t work there anymore. According to Jason, Carson came in once a month and asked about me, but he stopped visiting the club weekly like he used to.

  Exactly seven weeks after giving birth, I was working at the club on a Saturday night when the door opened and the love of my life walked in. His eyes had scanned the room, a hopeful, almost-pleading expression on his face I can still see when I close my eyes. His gaze had settled on me and a beautiful, dimpled smile had spread across his face – and just like that, we were back to normal. Except now, we were parents… but he didn’t need to know about that. As long as he, my baby girl, and my little brother were happy, then that made me happy.

  I looked up at Sasha who had her arms wrapped around Rory’s neck, probably choking him, while he just laughed and tickled her like crazy. I smiled happily and got up, grabbing the cheese and eggs from the fridge and looking at Rory expectantly. “Omelette or fried eggs?” I asked.

  His mouth dropped open. “Really? I thought we were on a strict ‘cereal for breakfast’ diet.”

  I shrugged. “Not anymore, kiddo, not anymore.” I smiled at the thought of having it easy for a couple of weeks. Carson’s money would pay for Rory’s trip, so that meant the wages I had slaved for last week would pay the rent and the bills for the next month. I would even have money left over for nice food for a change. Usually, toward the end of the month, Rory and Sasha were eating cheaper things like jacket potatoes and beans or egg on toast. That was about the time of the month I would start to go hungry. I couldn’t afford to feed three of us for the month on my wages alone, so as long as they both ate three times a day, I was fine with once.

  Rory set Sasha down in the highchair again and kissed the side of my head. “Emma, how did you get the money then? Did you get paid early?” he asked, eyeing me worriedly. He knew we were tight on money. I didn’t tell him how bad it got sometimes, but he knew we had a budget we stuck to rigidly. I smiled at the concern on his face; he was so old in some ways, yet so young in others. He was my little brother, but there was actually nothing little about him. He was just under six-foot tall and had a muscular build.

  I shrugged, not really wanting to lie to him, but I didn’t want him to know what his big sister had to do to look after him and keep him in trainers. He thought I was a waitress at the club and nothing more. “Yep, got paid early for all the extra shifts I did last week. And there was a big party last night so I got a big tip.”

  A grin split his face. “Well, in that case, I’ll have the omelette!” he replied, flicking on the kettle to make a cup of tea.

  THE WEEK PASSED QUICKLY. I went to university during the day, and Sasha went into the nursery funded by the university, so I got it at a discounted rate. In the evenings, once I had done the whole ‘running a house’ thing, I did my motherly duties before putting Sasha to bed and then either studied or went to work at the club. I never got time to just chill like a normal eighteen-year-old, but I wasn’t sorry about it. As hard as my life was, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Well, apart from maybe making Carson fall madly in love with me, but that was nothing more than a fairy-tale pipe dream.

  The following Saturday, I was practically bouncing in my seat waiting for the time to come when Carson’s race would be finished so I could turn on the TV. Rory was just watching me curiously. He knew I knew Carson. I’d told him I met him through the club and we were friends, but I didn’t tell him anything else. The only people who knew the truth were Jason, my friend Lucie, Mr Wilkinson, my boss and me.

  “So, how’s this guy gonna work fried chicken into a conversation?” Rory asked, glancing at his watch. “By the way, you so should have gone for something cruel like ‘I wanna kick a puppy’ or something. That would have been so funny.” He laughed and shook his head.

  I wrung my hands together nervously. What if he forgot to do it? I would have made myself look like a complete and utter twit sitting here waiting and he was too busy getting it on with one of his little fan girls to remember something he’d said to me a week ago.

  “It would’ve finished by now,” I said, ignoring how my voice shook a little as I spoke. What if I turned the TV on and he’d crashed? What if he was seriously hurt and I never got a chance to tell him I loved him? These thoughts went through my head every race day. I couldn’t bring myself to watch, but that didn’t stop me from imagining horrible things though.

  Rory flicked the TV on and we both sat there watching.

  “Here they come now. They’re just pulling in to the pits and then we’ll be able to have a quick word with them,” a grey-haired guy said as he practically ran toward the pit lane. The huge bikes roared past, making the microphone feedback for a second because of the vibrations from the engine. “There’s Stuart McCoulis,” the guy shouted over the noise as a driver dismounted his bike. He waved him over. “Stuart, can we have a word?”

  The guy called Stuart nodded and answered a few questions as he walked to the pits, his Scottish accent making it hard to understand over the roar of the bikes. The camera flicked to a light blue bike going around the track on its own, a guy in a blue jumpsuit and helmet was pumping his fist in the air as the crowd cheered for him.

  “There’s Carson Matthews. Another victory lap for the youngster. Can no one knock his winning streak? That’s a record-breaking eleven wins in a row. He just seems unstoppable at the moment. They really have their work cut out to catch him up!” the voiceover guy announced.

  As if he knew he was on camera, Carson raised both arms in celebration, seeming to completely forget he was driving. My heart took off in overdrive as my eyes widened. “Hold the bloody handlebars, you idiot!” I screamed at the TV, jumping out of my seat and gripping fistfuls of my hair. Sasha jumped, dropped the toy she was playing with and stared at me in shock, and Rory bur
st into hysterical laughter. My eyes were glued on the screen until both of Carson’s hands were firmly on the handlebars again, but I knew what was coming next. This was his thing lately, the damn show-off. He gunned the engine loudly and sped off, his front wheel lifting from the tarmac, doing a wheelie along the straight track, while the crowd just screamed and clapped louder and louder for him.

  Stupid flipping idiot!

  The camera angle changed and he was now driving toward the screen, into the pit lanes. The same interviewer was standing there with a smile on his face, waiting to talk to him for a couple of minutes before he went to be presented with his trophy and champagne. The bike pulled up and Carson climbed off, letting a couple members of his team push it off to where it needed to be.

  My breath caught in my throat. That really was one hot little jumpsuit.

  “Carson, got a couple of minutes?” the interviewer asked.

  Carson gave him the thumbs-up and fiddled with the strap under his chin, pulling off the helmet to reveal a sort of white balaclava he was wearing underneath. He pulled it off as well as he walked toward the camera, seeming to breathe a sigh of relief as he ruffled a hand in his sweaty hair, making it stick out everywhere.

  So. Damn. Hot!

  I mentally swooned, as did probably half the female population.

  “Win number eleven, Carson. How does it feel?” the guy asked him, shoving the microphone in his direction.

  Carson smiled his sexy little smile. “It feels great. You know like in that Disney movie with the guy who has the bluebird on his shoulder… yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel right now. Zip-a-dee-do-dah, what a wonderful day,” Carson answered, laughing quietly to himself as he looked down the camera lens. My cheeks flamed because it felt like he was looking directly at me.

  The interviewer laughed and regarded him as if he’d lost his mind. “Okay, that’s a weird analogy,” he jibed. “We’re over halfway through the season now, and you’re firmly at the top of the leader board. Your win today takes you twenty-one points clear of second place.”

  The guy shoved the microphone back to Carson, who smiled and nodded. “Yeah, that’s awesome, but I can’t let it drop now. There’s still plenty of time for someone to come in and steal the championship. I can’t get complacent.”

  “So, what are you doing tonight then? Plans for celebrating? Going out on the town?”

  Carson shrugged. “Not sure what I’m doing yet. We’ll probably go for a couple of celebration drinks. The only thing I want to do is get some fried chicken. You know anywhere that does good fried chicken?” Carson asked, grinning his secret little smile.

  I giggled in my seat, chewing on the knuckle of my index finger, trying to contain my excitement that Carson Matthews just gave me a little shout-out on TV like he promised he would do. I felt so special it actually made me want to cry.

  The interviewer laughed and shook his head, looking at him like he’d inhaled too many bike fumes. “Er, no, I don’t. Hopefully
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