Soul Crush

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Toni didn’t tell her Ant and his gang had come to watch again, so when Bree thought she spotted him in the audience her concentration catapulted out of her brain.  She turned to look back and check it really was him, and clipped the skate of a Heroine’s player behind her.  It was a rookie, cherry popper thing no fresh meat graduate would’ve done.  When she crashed to the track, she came off her knee and her hip went down so hard she bounced, sprawled on her hands and caromed straight into a group of Tuck Shop Ladies Arms fans in the suicide seats, knocking several of them over.

Oh f*ck!

She hadn’t had a fall like that in years and she’d hurt more than her pride.  She lay flat on her stomach while everyone around her scrambled to their feet.  She didn’t think anything was broken, but since even her teeth felt sore that wasn’t yet clear.  A hand came down on her back: a medic asking if she was all right.  He helped her sit, made her flex all her joints and looked in her eyes to check for concussion. 

“Are you hurt, Kitty?”

She rolled her neck and rubbed her hip.  She’d be bruised big time by the morning, but she was lucky it was only bruising and no broken bones.  “Only my reputation.”  She got to her feet and applause broke out.  The DJ on the sound deck played her personal theme song, Gin Wigmore’s Black Sheep, cutting in at the chorus.  She skated back onto the track to Gin singing about being a bad woman not here to please.  She tested her ankles and knees while playing up to the crowd and making a determined effort not to look towards where she thought she saw Ant.

They reassembled for the next jam and she tried to centre her thoughts past the sting still in her hip, a pain in her elbow, and the burning need to know if she’d skittled spectators for the heck of it, or because he really was there.  It would wait, she could ask Toni.  It would wait, the whistle, winning the next jam and the bout was more important.  She glanced to the side not expecting to be able to pick Ant out, but not being able to help herself looking.

There was a sea of faces and torsos sitting in the stands and one man standing, arms folded across his chest, staring her down.  He shook his head at her, mouthed something she couldn’t pick that had a sweary look to it, and was enough to tell her the jig was up. 

He knew. 

The whistle went.  She pushed off her toe and started forward, muscles complaining, heart thumping harder now than it had when she’d face-planted the track.  When Toni’s hand came out she took it and was whipped forward.  There was no time to think about anything but getting through the pack, becoming lead jammer, scoring and winning the bout.  She blocked the tide of panic squeezing her lungs and focused on staying on her feet and keeping her head because when Monday rolled around doing both those things in front of Ant was in a whole new league.

When Monday did roll around, it was on squeaky wheels with rusty spokes and a stiff chain.  Her body was thoroughly battered, though fortunately only from knee to shoulder, and she could cover all the purple and green patches and the waffle weave grid—the roller girl equivalent of gravel rash—blossoming on her hip, with a pants suit.  What she couldn’t disguise so easily was the limp.  One knee was so swollen it went on strike.  She had to lie on the bed and stick her legs in the air to get her underwear on.  But it wouldn’t be the first time she’d arrived in the office with more aches than enthusiasm for sitting for hours behind her desk.  Thankfully she felt better than the time she’d bruised her tailbone and had to invent excuses for standing up for a week because sitting was too painful.  That was the first time she’d noticed Ant could be a moody bugger.  He’d taken it as a slight she’d chosen to stand instead of taking the last seat around a meeting table next to him. 

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