Twenty Two - The Brains and The Balls

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Luis Connors grew up in South London. He had lived with his mother and his grandma on an estate not too far from the recreational centre where they both worked. He had always wondered about his father, but had learned to stop asking when he realised the topic only upset his mother. He had lived 12 years without learning anything about his father when Cheryl finally decided to tell him the truth about her past.

She'd been hired as a receptionist at the local Rec centre - her first job in 3 years - and she was just finding her feet after divorcing her husband of only 4 years. It was a small centre, nothing fancy; a few studios, a handful of courts and an extension featuring a boxing ring. She had only been there for a week - barely enough time to become used to the computer on her desk - when he walked in. It was like electricity running through her veins when he zeroed in on her, lifting a sensual mouth into a smile of epic proportions. Ricardo Santos. He was a force to be reckoned with; tall and broad, with an aura that simply demanded attention. Attached to his leg was a small boy with a head of unruly hair, big brown eyes and a surly frown.

He was there to enrol his son into the boxing programme. He was clearly wealthy; it was evident by the tasteful gold chain he had tucked into his open necked shirt, in the million dollar smile he wore like a charm, in his expensive tailored clothes. She couldn't help herself: didn't they have boxing in the upper echelon?, she asked. He laughed and said: "The coach here is an old friend of mine - best damn boxer I ever saw. I'd only trust him with my only son."

She tried to talk to the boy as she filled in an application for him, asking his name, his age. He stayed quiet, occasionally mustering up the courage to shake his head or nod his answer but otherwise mute. He didn't release his father's leg once, not until Ricardo finally shook him off out of irritation. She could barely breathe when she found those dark eyes were on her again, like molten lava, melting her brain. "What's a beautiful woman like you doing working in a hovel like this?"

He had the trace of an accent, and it gave all his words an exotic edge - she found herself struggling to concentrate on the content. She blushed, because no one had called her beautiful for years, certainly not her arse of an ex-husband. She had still been attractive then, when she had the energy to look after herself, when she still had a shred of self esteem left. Pretty, her mother had always said, with long, auburn hair that had always been just a little too curly for her own tastes, wide almond shaped eyes and skin that betrayed her Irish ancestry - creamy rose and almost translucent.

Ricardo wasted no time in taking what he wanted. Their affair began almost immediately. He was a smooth talker and he managed to make her feel as though nothing else mattered when it was just the two of them. She knew of his wife, of course, and of his two children - but he seemed unhappy with Raquel and that was enough to reassure her that she was not making a mistake. He took Cheryl to places she had never been, showed her riches she had never experienced, gave her gifts she had only ever dreamed of. He would drop Ricardo junior off at his session and whisk Cheryl away to 'discuss bookings', and they would sit in the cafe and talk for the whole entirety of his son's class.

A few months after they began seeing each other, he took her to San Luis where they spent two amazing weeks together, walking hand in hand through street markets, tanning on the beach, cooking for each other in the kitchen of his condo. It was there that Ricardo told her that he loved her, and she cried out of happiness. He promised her that they would be together when they got back to England; that he would finally divorce Raquel. Ricardo Junior liked her and though she hadn't met Andrea, he was certain they would love each other as well. He had it all planned out, assured her that it wouldn't be long before they could be together.

They returned to England and Cheryl began to pack all her things. They would buy a house, somewhere new, a fresh start. She wanted to be ready - he wouldn't delay; Ricardo was an impatient man. But a week passed and no word cane from him. She had never dared to contact him because of the nature of their relationship but after another week had gone by without so much as a text, she grew worried. She tried to call his personal number but his secretary informed Cheryl that he was in meetings all day. She checked the bookings at work to see when his son was next coming in for a but Ricardo Jr wasn't scheduled in at all. The temp told her that the boy's mother had called whilst Cheryl was on holiday and cancelled his membership.

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