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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(6) by Samantha Young|
Her mouth trembled. ‘Will you go get me some?’
‘No.’ I never would and I’d forbidden Cole from getting alcohol for her as well. ‘I have to get ready for work anyway.’ I braced myself.
Her lip immediately curled up in disgust, her bloodshot green eyes narrowing hatefully. Her accent thickened with her venom. ‘Cannae even get yer mam a f**kin drink! Yer a lazy wee slut! Don’t think I dinnae know what yer up to oot there! Whorin around. Spreadin those f**kin legs fur any man that’ll have you! I raised a whore! A goddamn whore!’
Used to my mum’s ‘split personality’, I shuffled out of the room, feeling Cole’s fuming anger as I passed the door to the sitting room and wandered into the kitchen for a sweeping brush. Her voice rose, her insults coming quick and fast, and I glanced at Cole as I passed, saw his fist crumpling around a piece of paper. I shook my head at him to let him know I was okay, and continued on into our mum’s room.
‘What are you doin’?’ she stopped her tirade long enough to ask me as I bent to clean up the broken bottle.
I ignored her.
‘You leave that there!’
‘You’ll cut yourself if I leave it, Mum.’
I heard her whimper again and felt the change. I’d been dealing with her long enough to know which side of her I was about to be subjected to. There were only two choices: the pitiful sweetheart or the acerbic bitch. The pitiful sweetheart was about to make an appearance. ‘I’m sorry.’ Her breath hitched and she started to cry quietly. ‘I didn’t mean it. I love ye.’
‘I know.’ I stood up. ‘But I can’t get your drink for you, Mum.’
She sat up, her eyebrows drawn together, her fingers trembling as she reached for her purse on the bedside table. ‘Cole will get it. I’ve got money.’
‘Mum, Cole’s too young. They won’t serve him.’ I’d rather she believe that it didn’t have anything to do with him being unwilling to help. I didn’t want him having to deal with her bile while I was out at work.
Her arm dropped. ‘Will you help me up?’
This meant she was going out herself. I bit my tongue to stop myself from arguing with her. I needed to keep her sweet if I was going to be gone. ‘Let me get rid of the glass and I’ll be back to help you.’
When I stepped out of her room, Cole was already waiting by the door. He held out his hands. ‘Give me that.’ He nodded at the glass. ‘You help her.’
An ache gripped my chest. He was a good kid. ‘When you’re done, take your comic book into your room. Stay out of her way tonight.’
He nodded, but I saw the tension in his body as he turned away from me. He was getting older and more frustrated with our situation and his inability to do anything about it. I just needed him to get through the next four years. Then he’d be eighteen and legally I could get him out of here and away from her.
When Joss discovered the truth about my situation, she’d asked me why I didn’t just take Cole and leave. Well, I hadn’t done that because Mum had already threatened to call the police if I ever did – it was her guarantee that she’d have us around to keep her fed, to keep her company. I couldn’t even petition the courts for custody because there was the risk I wouldn’t get him, and once the social services found out about our mother, they’d probably put him into care. Moreover, they’d have to contact my dad and I really didn’t want him back in our lives.
I spent half an hour getting Mum into a decent enough state to leave the house. I didn’t have to worry about her wandering in and out of the pubs or restaurants on our busy street, because she seemed to be just as ashamed of her condition as we were. The need for drink was the only thing that compelled her to go out, and even then she’d taken to buying it online so she didn’t have to go out for it too often.
By the time I was washed and dressed for work, Mum was back in the flat with her bottles of gin. She’d sat herself in front of the television, so I was glad I’d told Cole to head into his room. I popped my head around the door of his room and told him, like I always did, to call me at work if he needed me.
I didn’t say goodbye to Mum when I left. There would be no point.
Instead, I stepped out of the building and braced myself for the night, compartmentalizing my worry and anger so I could focus on my work. In the mood to walk, I’d left the flat early. I marched briskly down London Road, turning the fifteen-minute stroll into ten, but as soon as I got to the more familiar Leith Walk, I slowed. The wonderful smells coming from the Indian restaurant beneath our old flat along with the crisp, cold night air woke me up a little. I strode up the street, the busy, wide street with its restaurants and shops, passing the Edinburgh Playhouse and the Omni Centre, and wished I was dressed up for a night out at the theatre or the movies. I crossed the street near the top of the Walk, turning on to Picardy Place and as I headed towards George Street, I prayed I could put the scene I’d left back at the flat behind me.
Our manager, Su, worked odd hours. She rarely worked the weekends during opening hours, trusting her long-standing staff members and the security guys to take care of the place. Sometimes she worked Monday through Wednesday at night, foregoing Thursday through Saturday, which happened to be the busiest nights. I didn’t mind. It was actually nice not to have a manager breathing down my neck, especially since my boss at my day job was such an irritant.
It didn’t occur to me not to give Su Cam’s number. He’d been an a**hole to me, but I couldn’t help but feel for him being out of a job. I guess fate felt the same way, because for the first time in a long time, I caught Su just before she left. We met on George Street, at the top of the steps to the bar, and I literally had to stand in her path to stop her escaping, she was so clearly desperate to be away from the club.
‘Jo, what’s up?’ she asked, almost bouncing on the balls of her feet as she tilted her head back to meet my gaze. At five one, Su was this tiny, curly-haired, energetic forty-something whose mind always seemed to be on anything but what it was supposed to be on. It amazed me that she managed Club 39, but the owner, some elusive person named Oscar, was one of Su’s closest friends.
I smiled down at her brightly. ‘Are you still looking for a bartender?’
Su sighed heavily, jamming her hands into her coat pockets. ‘Yeah, I am. I want another guy like Craig, so obviously I get a ton of girls applying and no guys as hot as Craig.’
It hadn’t escaped my notice that the bartending staff at Club 39 were all attractive, but to hear it put so bluntly without any regard to ethics in the workplace made me choke on a snort. I covered it quickly with a rueful smirk. ‘Well, I may have the answer to your problem.’ I pulled out my mobile phone. ‘His name is Cam, he has bartending experience, he can start immediately, and he’s pretty hot.’ A total dick, but a good-looking one.
Su took his number with a wide, infectious smile. ‘Sounds promising, Jo. Cheers.’
We bade each other goodnight and I hurried down the basement steps, smiling a bright hello to Brian, the security guy, and Phil, our doorman for the night.
‘Evenin’, Jo.’ Brian winked at me as I passed.
‘Evening. Did the missus forgive you for forgetting her birthday?’ I asked, slowing down as I turned to wait on his answer. Poor Brian had arrived at work on Saturday night in the worst mood. He’d forgotten his wife’s birthday, and rather than being angry, Jennifer, his wife of ten years, had been hurt. There had been tears. Brian, who looked like a grizzly bear but was more the cuddly kind, was distraught.
Not so much now, if his grin had anything to do with it. ‘Aye. I had that movie set up like you said. Worked like a charm.’
I chuckled. ‘I’m glad to hear it.’ I’d suggested that Brian talk to Sadie, one of the students who worked at the bar and was in the film club at Edinburgh University. I thought she might be able to get permission to use one of the uni’s projectors so Brian could take Jennifer to a private screening of her favourite movie – An Officer and a Gentleman – on the big screen.
‘You still dating that lottery winner, Jo?’ Phil asked, his eyes running the length of me. Not that there was anything to see – I was wrapped up in my warm winter coat.
I tilted my head to the side, my smile flirtatious now. Phil was just a few years older than me, single, cute, and perpetually asking me out to no avail. ‘I am, Philip.’
He sighed heavily, his dark eyes glittering under the twinkle lights around the club door. ‘You let me know when that ends. I’ve got a big shoulder here for you to cry on.’
Brian snorted. ‘Maybe you’d have a chance with her if you didn’t spew shite like that.’
Phil huffed and swore at him. As this was almost a ritual now, I laughed and left them to their bickering.
‘There she is.’ Joss grinned at me as I wandered into the empty club. She was leaning against the bar, and her expression changed when she saw my face. ‘Something happen?’
‘I had’ – I glanced around to make sure we really were alone – ‘a difficult time with Mum tonight.’ I took the steps down to the bar and ducked under it. After I brushed past her, I heard her footsteps following me into the small staff area.
‘What happened?’ Joss asked quietly as I shoved my bag in my locker.
I turned to her, shrugging off my coat to reveal the same uniform she wore – a white tank top with CLUB 39 scrawled across the right breast and black skinny jeans that made my long legs look even longer.
Joss stood before me in all her attitude. Her thick mane of blonde hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail and she gazed at me in concern with her exotic grey feline eyes, her full lips pursed. Joss wasn’t a traditional beauty, but she was sexy. I could see why Braden had fallen for her. Her cool smartassery was so at odds with her unintentional but overt sexuality, any guy would be intrigued.