Reasons Not To Fall In LoveKirsty Moseley
First off, a huge thank you to Anna Baggaley, my editor at CarinaUK for believing in me right from the very start of my career. You’ll never know how much that belief means to me. Secondly, for the CarinaUK team for making this whole process so easy. And thirdly, to everyone that has followed me and continues to read my work. You all rock my world, so thank you.
For three people whom I’ve never met but consider dear friends: Irvana, Hilda and Rebecca. For Irvana, because of her never-ending support and encouragement; for Hilda, because of her beautiful soul; and for Rebecca, who still smiles through adversity and is one of the strongest women I know. Love you all.
Wriggling my toes, I let my cheap white plimsoll drop off, trying to relieve the ache that was getting worse in the ball of my foot. My eyes fluttered closed and the sounds of the busy café washed over me. The smell of burnt bacon lingered in the air as I leant against the counter waiting for Dave, the fry cook, to finish plating up the order for table seven. I could have done with not working today, if I was honest. I’d been bartending at my local pub until just before midnight last night, so the five o’clock wake-up to come and serve food to hungry patrons wasn’t something that I needed. Right now it was the mid-morning brunch rush at the greasy spoon café that I worked at, so I still had another three hours to work before I could go home and wash the fried lard smell out of my hair. My tiredness was only going to get worse as the day went on. The thing was, as a mother of a five year old child, my duties didn’t even stop once I clocked off.
“Order up,” Dave announced, setting down four plates onto the serving counter.
Without speaking, I slipped my foot back into my shoe and picked up the orders, balancing the four plates along my arms. I sighed deeply, pushed myself away from the counter and struggled across the busy café towards the table. As I got halfway to the desired table, a pinch to my behind had me gasping and whirling in shock, almost dropping the customers’ food all over the floor.
“We’re ready to order when you are, little darlin’,” Rex purred, winking at me.
I forced a polite smile even though I wanted to grab the greasy fry-up I was holding and shove it into his face. Rex was a regular; he also left a nice tip, so I couldn’t afford to be rude to him. “Sure thing, I’ll be right back,” I replied, sidestepping his hand that was dangerously close to my backside.!
He smiled his predatory smile and I tried not to cringe at his teeth – permanently stained a yellowy-brown colour because of too much coffee and smoking. Before he could say anything else or flirt with me again, I turned on my heel and delivered the food to the waiting family in my section.
After a round of pleasantries and telling them if they needed anything to call me, I headed back to Rex’s table and tried not to act like I would rather be shovelling horses’ poop than working here. Rex was with his brother and his friend today, they all had the same flirtatious smiles on their faces as I stopped at their table and pulled out my order pad.
“What can I get you today?” I asked, trying not to let any of the frustration leak into my voice. I put on a smile, pretending that I didn’t resent waiting tables in a pink uniform that was made from cheap, scratchy polyester, and that I didn’t think I had wasted my life.
Instantly I was pulled down into the booth next to Rex and his heavy arm slung across my shoulders as he smiled at me. “When you gonna accept my offer to take you out, Bronwyn?”
I laughed and secretly tried not to envision grabbing his face and smashing it onto the table. “I’m married, Rex. Not gonna accept any time soon. Maybe you should stop asking?” I suggested.
He grinned and shook his head confidently. “Nah, one day I’ll ask and you’ll say yes.”
Yeah, and one day pigs might grow wings and fly off! “So, what can I get you guys today?” I repeated, pushing his arm off me and standing up, straightening my awful pink uniform.
Rex sighed, and the guys he was with reeled off their orders to me one at a time. I really wasn’t in the mood for this today. I shouldn’t have even been at work today at all, Fridays were my day off from the café because I worked at the pub on Wednesday and Thursday nights, but a shift had come up this morning and I’d needed the money too badly to refuse.
After I’d put their order in to the cook, I smiled at Marina and motioned with my head that I was going to take my break. On the way through to the back room, I poured myself a strong black coffee and then almost fell onto the uncomfortable iron chairs because I was exhausted. It just seemed never-ending; every day was so long that, by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was go to bed. That couldn’t happen though, I had responsibilities after all. No one ever told me that life was supposed to be this hard; even if they did I’m sure I would have thought they were exaggerating.
While I sipped my coffee, my mobile phone buzzed in my apron pocket. I frowned and pulled it out, hoping it wasn’t going to be Finn, my husband, telling me that he was going out gambling with his friends again tonight. I was pleasantly surprised to see my mum’s picture on my screen.
“All right, Mum?” I greeted, taking another sip from my mug, letting the caffeine seep into my system.
“Bronwyn, guess what?!” she chirped without even saying hello.
I raised one eyebrow, curious about what had put her in such a happy mood. “What?”
“You’re now an auntie!” she practically screamed.
My body jerked as my heart leapt in my chest. A little squeal escaped my lips at the news that my older sister had given birth. “Oh my God! What did she have? When? Is Skye OK? What time, weight?” I jumped from my seat, grinning from ear to ear. It was a little early for this, Skye was only just over eight months pregnant, but they had told her she was carrying low last time she went for her midwife appointment.
“Little girl. She went into labour in the early hours of this morning, but there were some complications, so she had to go down for an emergency caesarean. She’s such a dear little thing; she’s only six pounds and two ounces. They’ve called her Evie Lou. Skye’s awake already and laughing so she’s all good too.”
A happy sigh left my lips at the news. “Evie Lou Hanklin,” I tested out the name. “I love it!”
My mum giggled like a giddy little girl. “I know, it’s perfect!” she agreed. “So, when are you coming? They’re going to be in the hospital for a few days at least. Why don’t you all come stay with me for a couple of days? I haven’t seen you and Theo for months.”
My mind was already whirling with thoughts of that. I had to go there as soon as possible, visit the baby and give my big sister a hug. But that meant I had to get tomorrow off work at the café. It shouldn’t be too hard though, after all, it was extenuating circumstances. It wasn’t every day that your big sister gave birth to a baby that she’d been trying for five years for.
“That sounds great. I’ll definitely come tonight. What time’s visiting?” I could barely wait. My heart ached with happiness and excitement. Being an auntie was something I was going to kick arse at for sure. I loved kids.
“Seven until nine.”
I nodded, committing it to memory. “I’m so excited I can barely stand still!” I laughed at myself and bit into my bottom lip. “I’d better go call Finn and get things arranged. I’ll speak to you later and see you tonight up the hospital.” I ignored the distasteful little sound my mum made in the back of her throat at the mention of my husband’s name.
“Bye, Bronwyn, see you soon.”
My coffee and the much-needed caffeine boost were long forgotten as I practically skipped out to speak to Dave. I was going to need to flutter my eyelashes a lit
tle to get the day off tomorrow.
As I leant on the counter and grinned over at him, he looked up at me and raised one eyebrow in question. “What you giving me that sweet smile for? You can’t have another advance on your wages; you’re already two weeks ahead. Sorry, Bron,” he said, shaking his head apologetically.
I grinned happily; nothing was bringing my happy mood down right now. “No, no, I don’t want an advance,” I assured him. “My mum just called. Skye had her baby!” I chirped excitedly. He grinned too. “I really need to go there. I’m supposed to be working the morning shift tomorrow. Is there some way I could get the day off so that I can stay over with my mum?” I asked, pleading with my eyes. Dave was a bit of a soft touch, so I was praying that the begging would work.
He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “I need a waitress.”
I winced. “What if I asked someone else to cover?” I begged.
He frowned and then rolled his eyes. “As long as I have a waitress then I don’t care who comes in and who doesn’t. Just sort it out amongst yourselves then, all right?”
I squealed and nodded, immediately grabbing my mobile and calling Karen to ask her to trade shifts with me, tomorrow for Sunday instead. It took a little convincing, but finally she agreed, so I was now free to go.
Next, I put in a call to Finn to tell him the good news. “Hey, buttercup,” he greeted as he answered. The sounds of a video game in the background only meant one thing – that he was round his friend Doug’s place. I sighed. Sometimes, Finn was like an overgrown man-child.
“Hey, where are you?” I enquired, leaning up against the wall of the staff room.
He laughed. “You keeping tabs on me again? I’ll be home later, don’t you worry about that,” he replied, skilfully deflecting my question.
I sighed and closed my eyes. I hated my life. It was so hard not to resent Finn, it really was. I was holding down two jobs, on my feet all day practically every day, and yet he was still ‘looking for a new job’ after he got laid off a couple of months ago. I knew jobs were hard to find, I knew that he tried, but that didn’t stop me from getting angry with him that he was sitting at his friend’s house fooling around instead of doing something practical. Even just something small like running the hoover around our small, tired flat would take some of the pressure off me. But no, things like that didn’t happen.
“Skye had her baby. A little girl. She’s called her Evie,” I announced.
Finn, as I expected, wasn’t overly bothered by the sound of his response. “That’s nice.” He was still playing the game in the background; I could hear guns blazing and Doug shouting things at the TV.
I frowned, trying not to let him ruin my happy mood. “Yeah. So, can you go home and pack up some overnight things for the three of us? That’ll save some time. I finish work at half past two so I’ll go pick up Theo from school, and you can meet us just outside the school gates. I’ll snag us some food to eat in the car. It shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half to get there.”
“What, car, what you talking about?” he asked, now obviously tuning in to what I was saying.
I sighed deeply. “Visiting hours start at seven tonight. Mum said we could stay at hers for a couple of days, but I’ve just switched shifts with Karen so I need to be back here for Sunday morning. We can stay there tonight though and then drive back tomorrow or something,” I explained.
“That sounds like a great plan,” Finn replied. I smiled and nodded, but the smile fell from my face as he continued, “But I’ve been drinking so I can’t drive.”
My heart sank. “You’ve been drinking? Seriously? It’s not even lunchtime!” I stated incredulously.
“I’ve only had two beers, but I’ll be over the limit. I can’t drive. Plus, I have plans tonight anyway,” he answered.
I scowled down at the floor at the word ‘plans’. I didn’t need him to tell me what his ‘plans’ were, I would bet last week’s pay cheque that it involved him getting drunk, losing money at cards and, if he was drunk enough, sleeping with some slut who happened to look in his direction. I tried to keep my cool and not shout at him. I was used to things like this; he’d been cheating on me with anything that moved for the last four years. At this point, I genuinely couldn’t care less. I was with him because I didn’t want to be on my own and because Theo deserved a dad.
Of course, I’d broken it off once. Three years ago I got it into my head that I didn’t deserve to be treated like that, and I’d left him. I was strong for a while, and Theo and I coped on our own for almost a month. Then the unthinkable happened. One night, while Theo and I slept, a man broke into the poky little flat that we lived in. I’d woken to find him raiding my living room, looking for cash or anything that he could pawn to buy drugs if looking at him was anything to go by. He hadn’t hurt us; he’d actually looked just as startled as I had felt when I stumbled upon him with my handbag in his hand and my mother’s china figurine in the other. He’d run out of there as fast as his legs could carry him, barely getting away with anything – but that encounter had struck a deep terror into my heart because I knew, deep down, that if he’d wanted to hurt us, he could have done. If hurting us had been his intention, I would have been powerless to stop him. I hadn’t slept right for days after; nightmares of me being unable to protect my defenceless young baby plagued my mind. That was when I made the decision that I regretted almost every day – I took Finn back. But, admittedly, having a man there at night time gave me that safe feeling back that I so desperately needed after seeing someone force their way into my home. Having Finn there kept me and my son safe, and stopped me worrying about things that would have played on my mind otherwise.
There was no longer any love between us; hell, we barely even tolerated each other at times. Sometimes I even struggled to remember what it was that I saw in him the first place. Usually I convinced myself that it was his looks that I fell for, though even those had lost their appeal to me because I knew he’d rather be off sleeping with other girls than me. Ours was a marriage of convenience, even though it was inconvenient most of the time. Another reason I was with him was because I didn’t have the energy to find anyone else. I’d been young when we’d gotten together, merely seventeen, and I knew that the dating scene had moved on pretty rapidly since I was last a part of it. In my opinion, I was too old to be single again, so I’d just have to suffer and grin and bear it. Many women went through their lives in an unhappy marriage. I was no different to any of them. Not everyone found their Mr Darcy and lived happily ever after, some people just had to take what they could get and be thankful. Clearly I was one of those people.
“But I need to go there tonight. That’s my sister and my niece,” I grumbled, kicking the toe of my shoe against the wall in anger.
Finn sighed dramatically. “If you really have to go there tonight then take a train or something. It’s a waste of bloody money but just do what you want. I guess I can cancel my plans and have Theo.”
I recoiled, shocked at his words. He never usually did anything for me, but now he was offering to cancel his plans and stay home with our son? “Seriously?” I hadn’t considered a train, but I could easily do that.
“Yeah, whatever. You’ve been banging on about this baby for months. I honestly can’t take the pouting and whining you’ll do if you don’t get to go there. I’ll get the blame all night long because I had a couple of beers to unwind.”
I smiled weakly. So he wasn’t suggesting that I go for me, he was suggesting that I go because I’d be complaining and blaming him if I didn’t. Typical Finn, something that benefitted him again.
“Will you come tomorrow and pick me up? Bring Theo so he can see my mum?” I asked hopefully. My mum would be upset if she didn’t get to see her grandson too.
He groaned loudly. “Can’t you just buy a return ticket?”
“Finn, please?” I begged. “My mum would love to see you two.” That wasn’t strictly true, she would probably rather not see F
inn. “Please? If you come and pick me up in the morning we can spend the day down there or something?” Finn’s relationship with my family wasn’t exactly a good one – they were amicable enough, but it was a polite front that they all kept up. My parents had never thought he was good enough for me after he accidentally got me pregnant when I was seventeen. When my father had died two years ago of cancer, Finn hadn’t even bothered to go and say a final goodbye, and had been drunk at his funeral. That hadn’t gone down well and would probably never be forgotten.
“Ugh, fine! I’ll spend three bloody hours in a car tomorrow, just to see your flippin’ family, does that make you happy?”
I gritted my teeth in frustration. “Yes, actually,” I admitted. “Thank you.” Silence rang out as I struggled to find something to say to diffuse the tension. My happy mood was now gone. “I’d better go see about a bus ticket or something. Make sure you pick up Theo from school at half past three because I won’t be here to do it.” I frowned, praying he wouldn’t forget to pick up our son. “And don’t drink any more if you’re going to be in charge of him,” I added as an afterthought.
“I’ll be there. Call me later.” He hung up before I even got to answer and drum into him how important it was for him to arrive at the school on time. Deep down, I knew that Finn would be there on time – although he was a terrible husband, he actually wasn’t a bad dad.
By the time I finished my shift, cleared my section after a particularly rowdy group of teenagers had been in, and clocked out, it was past three in the afternoon. I was now running late. The train that I needed to catch to Bath left in just over half an hour – and I hadn’t even packed yet.
After a mad dash home, I threw a few things into a bag, and then scribbled a note for Finn telling him that I’d put some beef casserole into the fridge from the café for them to have for dinner. After I’d written my note, I practically ripped off my work uniform and changed into jeans and a black, stretch t-shirt. Before leaving my flat, I headed over to the food cupboard, going up on tiptoes and reaching into the back. My hand closed around the jar of money that I kept there. As soon as I picked it up and heard the pitiful tinkle of the change in the bottom of the jar, I knew something wasn’t right. When it came into view, I groaned. It was supposed to be our emergency money, something I put into each week from my wages in case something went wrong. It looked as though Finn had had a few emergencies and had neglected to tell me.
After unscrewing the top and tipping the meagre contents out onto the kitchen counter, I counted out thirty-seven pounds and seventy-two pence. I’d already been told over the phone when I called about the trains that it was forty two pounds for an off-peak ticket from Paddington to Bath. I ground my teeth, picking up the crumpled notes and change, shoving it into my purse, before stomping over to the sofa and thrusting my hand down the back of