I sat flipping through a magazine, bored to death. The club didn't open for another fifteen minutes and I was already done setting up. Right now, I was reading top ten big buys for this summer. This page was pitifully worn out and crumpled from the amount of times I had read it. That dress. If I had all the money in the world, it would be the very first thing I'd buy. The simple swirling bright flowers set in contrast to the cool cream colour was gorgeous. It was without a doubt the prettiest dress I had ever seen. But, as always, it cost too much for me to afford on my miserable bar salary.
I sighed and let the magazine flop to the bar top. Almost time to open. I could hear the noises of impatient crosses outside, waiting to be let in from the freezing winter air. No nought would be allowed in here, except for the staff and there was only two of us. This place was so upmarket that most of the staff were crosses. The manager was reluctant to let 'our kind' join. The club was sleek and modern with a huge dance floor and stage for the weekly performers. The flashing disco lights, the glistening bar and the latest music gave Harvey's that edge over all the other bars in town.
"Alright everyone!" Harvey's voice boomed, ending my surveillance of the room. "We're opening!"
Everyone rushed around, squeaking and squealing, making sure everything was perfect. I straightened my uniform and checked my reflection on the small mirror that Callum had got me for my birthday two years ago. I smiled to myself as I traced the lines he had carefully scratched out on the surface, closely resembling 'Lynny'. Mum had gone crazy when she found out he'd used (and broken) a kitchen knife to do it with.
Seeing that my make up was perfect and there wasn't a hair out of place, I plastered a fake smile onto my face. It would be hard pressed to keep it there until we closed. As I was mentally preparing myself for the night, the customers surged in like a wave, crashing through the doors and heading straight for the bar.
"Hi, what can I get you?" I asked, smiling sweetly.
"She can get me a white wine spritzer," the woman said, jabbing her finger towards the cross girl who worked here.
I sighed and moved back to let her get through. Every night there was always one. Usually, two. Typical cross attitude. My skin was white so they wouldn't get what they wanted. As the night wore on, I had a few more customers like that woman but the majority were too drunk to realise or care. Jude had better be damn grateful for this. All of this, I did for him. He was annoying, stupid and bad tempered at the best of times but I still wanted him to go to school. He deserved the education that I never got. If it wasn't for Mum's job with the Hadleys and my job here, he would probably end up like me. Low wage job, treated like scum.
"Uh, hello?" A man sat at the bar waved a hand in front of my face, bringing me back to the present. I was worried that he'd be annoyed at me but he was actually smiling.
"Sorry, I was miles away," I said with an apologetic smile. "What will it be?"
"A beer please beautiful," he grinned like an idiot.
I turned away quickly to hide my blush. Drunk. Great. When I was sure that all traces of redness had left my cheeks, I laid down the beer and collected his money, expecting him to walk away. But he stayed put.
"So what's it like working in the hottest club around?" He said in a sarcastic voice, causing me to giggle.
"Not too bad," I said. "Pays the bills, I suppose. I haven't seen you here before. New?"
"No just never really enjoyed the company of pompous Crosses," he smirked, making me laugh again. "I'm Jed by the way," he added, outstretching his hand.
"I'm Lynny, no, Lynette," I corrected myself, shaking his hand.
He was nothing like the man I thought he would be. When I took a proper look at him, I saw how handsome he was. Jet black hair that flopped over his pale grey eyes, making his brown skin look even darker. His smile was friendly, his stance casual and he seemed entirely at ease around me. Jed spoke to me like a person rather than the invalid that I was usually treated like. We talked for the rest of my shift before he offered to walk me home.
"No, it's fine I can walk on my own," I politely declined.
"I insist. It could be dangerous out there for a young woman like yourself."
That was true. Being the lowest, most hated class in society was bad enough but being a young, vulnerable looking girl left me open to all kinds of abuse. It would be nice to have someone walk me home so I could actually feel safe, even if there were few crosses to be found once I got to the edge of the nought neighbourhood. Yet the danger of being escorted home by a cross stranger was much worse than the possibility of running into one. Plus, my brother would kill me.
"Honestly it's fine, my brother's coming in a bit. He always walks me home after work," I lied with a smile.
I must've been convincing because after a long look, he nodded and left, promising to be back tomorrow. I'm not quite sure why but my stomach gave a little flip at the thought. Why was he being so nice to me? The majority of customers at the bar wouldn't even let them me serve them yet here was Jed, laughing along with me for the entire evening and then saying he'd be back to see me again. It was sort of flattering.
"Lynette, that's the last customer. We're closing up now; you need to leave," Harvey called impatiently from across the room.
I quickly grabbed my bag, flashing Harvey a smile that he ignored as I rushed out the door. It was drizzling slightly outside and I looked up to see the stars completely blotted out by a dark curtain of rain clouds. If I didn't get home soon, I was going to get soaked. Pulling the tatty old coat that was a hand me down from mum tighter around me to keep out the sharp wind, I begin walking speedily home. Keeping your head down was essential walking around these sorts of places. White on white crime was very uncommon, as was black on black, but it still happened sometimes.
Thankfully, I managed to make it to the front door before it began pouring it down as my umbrella was now sporting a rather large hole. Slamming the door shut to announce my arrival, I kicked off my shoes and shrugged off my coat in the entrance hall. Saying like that made it sound a lot more grand than it actually was. There was barely a square of space for the bucket that made up our umbrella stand, which only contained two, both looking a bit worse for wear. To the left was the stairs covered in a threadbare carpet that apparently had once been brightly coloured but was now a faded grey colour from all the feet scuffed over it through the years. To the right was the entrance of the sitting room, sparsely furnished with a few chairs and a sofa. On the shelf in the corner there were pictures of all of us in our younger years; a wailing Callum, a gap-toothed Jude and me in a summer dress on my dad's shoulders. We'd never really had much but I was thankful that we all had each other.
I fell back against the door as a mass of clothes and curls hurled itself at me. Laughing, I kissed Callum on the head and tried to pry his hands from around my waist. "Hey Callum. What are you still doing up, it's way past your bedtime?" I pretended to admonish him.
"I'm twelve now, I can stay up late," He insisted, pulling me by the wrist into the sitting room where the rest of the family were.
Mum was sat on the fraying old sofa that had books stuffed under one of the broken legs, dad's arm slung over the back. Jude was slumped in one of the chairs next to them, a sulky look on his face.
"What's wrong with you?" I asked.
"Mum's put this soppy crap on," he replied, arms folded tightly over his chest and expression darkening. I tried hard not to laugh at him. "And school was awful. Henry was being a bastard."
"Language!" Mum glared at Jude, slapping him lightly with a cushion. She turned her attention to me then, smiling. "How was work sweetheart? Callum, stop pulling at your sister's sleeve, you'll stretch it." He stalked away, sitting down at dad's feet.
"Same as usual really," I said, shoving Jude over from his place on the chair to make more room for me. He shoved me back and I pinched him.
"Ow! Mum did you see that, she pinched me!" Jude howled, though it couldn't have hurt that badly.
She sighed and looked up at dad for support. "Stop fighting you two. Try and be more angelic like our Callum here." He nudged him with his foot.
Callum put on a superior look then and Jude shot him the finger. "Jude! How many more times do I have to tell you? No swearing!"
I turned away from my bickering family to watch the TV. There was some old movie on with a woman clutching at a man's arm and crying hysterically. I was surprised that mum had managed to get any peace from either of the boys watching something like this. Jude loved action films with stuff that blew up in it - the gorier the better - and Callum liked anything animated but neither of them could stand anything remotely romantic. That was why these movies were usually reserved for mum and I, curled up on the sofa when everyone else was in bed. It was my favourite time of the day; I never got to spend much time with mum any more. As if she could read my mind, mum suddenly jumped up.
"That's it, you two are giving me a headache. Bed, now."
"What? I'm fourteen! All my friends can stay up way later," Jude protested. "It's not like I've got school tomorrow."
Mum used her 'no buts' voice and eventually Jude sighed and got up which was good as I was half off the chair with the arm digging into my back painfully. Jude was growing so fast, he already towered over me despite being three years younger. Callum was too, though he still had the cute face of a child, not the beginnings of a more defined jaw like his older brother. I kissed Callum goodnight and ruffled Jude's hair, to which he gave me a deathly stare, trying to rearrange it to its former unkempt style. Dad got up then with a stretch and a yawn, kissing my forehead and herding my brother's up the stairs to bed.
I was left alone downstairs with just my thoughts for company. They floated back to tonight and the cross man who didn't seem outraged or disgusted by my presence in the bar. Jed. His gorgeous grey eyes, the colour of rain clouds, staring intently at me like he was genuinely interested in hearing what I had to say, his jet black hair, carefully styled to make it look careless, his slight muscular build...he was completely gorgeous. And also from the other side of the social circle, my brain decided to remind me. I sighed. He was probably just being nice to try and get free drinks or walk me home alone.
"Lynny!" I jumped at the sound of my mother's voice. She smiled down at me. "You were miles away. Do you want a cup of tea?" I shook my head and she settled herself back down across from me, picking up her own cup and watching the TV which was now showing the credits to the movie. She shook her head. "Can't believe I missed the ending to that one, it looked good. Ah well, at least we have peace at last," she smiled over at me and I grinned back.
Not a moment later, as mum was about to take another sip of her tea, there was a loud crash overhead accompanied by the sound of Jude shouting and Callum crying. As I turned my head skywards mum slammed her cup of tea down so hard some of the milky liquid splashed over, staining the carpet.
"Oh for God's sake!"