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In Front of the Whole World

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What had she been thinking?

Actually that was easy to answer; she hadn’t been. The only thought that had managed to break its way through all the adrenaline and joy at the time had been ‘WE DID IT!’

She hadn’t been thinking about the millions of people watching or the fact that there were cameras putting everything on permanent film. Even the medal hadn’t crossed her mind until one of the trackside interviewers had mentioned it, which had sent another wave of giddiness through her. But by that point she had already done it.

She hadn’t been thinking about the consequences but by god she was now. Now she was in the changing rooms alone with all those delayed thoughts crashing down around her ears. She was meant to be showering away the sweat, changing into her Team GB sweatsuit and sorting out her hair to look presentable at the presentation. Instead she was sat on the bench, staring at the wall and wondering what she was thinking and what the hell she was going to do now.

All because of one kiss.

Knock knock.

“Shania? Can I come in?”

Carl.

Well the world was going to flood in at some point, it might as well start with someone she actually liked.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, it’s fine, come in.”

He edged in looking wary but seemed to relax a little once he saw her. He’d probably been worried about her not being decent, and despite everything, the thought almost made her smile. Being in the changing rooms with a naked athlete; that might have been a little hard to explain to his boss.

“Shania - listen - about that kiss.”

“Shit.”

She didn’t mean to say it out loud but the sentiment stood. For a moment she was struck with horror that he had seen it, had hoped that in the rush of people and excitement it had gone unnoticed, but of course he had seen it. Everyone in the world had seen it.

“Listen, Shania,” he said, holding his hands out like he was trying to placate a wild animal, “I like you, I do, but that can’t happen again.”

“I know,” she said, burying her face in her hands. “I know, it was just the excitement-“

“Setting aside the fact that I could get fired-“

Wait what? He could get fired for her kissing another woman?

“-I have a boyfriend.”

What? No really, what? She looked back up at him, unable to stop her mouth from falling open in a gape. He… Oh!

“You mean our kiss,” she said.

“Yes,” he said, nodding far too gravely for a man who just had a snog from a pretty girl.

“When I kissed you.”

“Yes,” this one was said with a frown as if not sure what she was getting at despite the fact that it was perfectly straightforward.

“That kiss.”

“Yes, that kiss.”

“Oh that was nothing,” she said.

She’d been on a wave, so happy and there he’d been, this gorgeous man she was meant to have a crush on, and she had kissed him because that was what you did with gorgeous men you had crushes on after you had won great victories he had helped persuade you into fighting for. At that point she’d been so high she barely noticed it was her second kiss in just a few minutes. Or that it was nothing compared to the first.

“Okay-“

“No, really,” she said. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that really - I was just happy - I’ll explain that all to the bosses or directors or whoever if they ask.”

“Will you?”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding eagerly to hide her tenseness that he could mention the other kiss at any moment.

Go on, mention it. What are you waiting for? Go on! Didn’t you see it? Didn’t the world notice it?

Did Lisa even notice it?

“Happy to,” she said, “I just won a gold medal for fuck’s sake, I would have kissed anyone.”

Her laugh sounded awkward, even to her own ears, but Carl didn’t appear to notice. He just nodded. and said,

“Thanks.”

He was halfway to the door before what he had said really caught up with her.

“Wait, you’ve got a boyfriend?”

He stopped, one hand on the door, and turned around with a deep breath.

“Yes,” he said.

“You’re gay.”

“Problem?”

“No,” she said quickly, “No problem at all. I just thought-“ You were into me? “-I mean you never mentioned him.”

“It never came up.”

“What’s his name?”

“Merlin.”

She couldn’t help the snort. “What, like the wizard?”

His lips twitched into a small smile. “His parents were hippies.”

The words were laced with the sort of fondness she had heard when Trix talked about her family. Certainly she had never heard Tara talk about Daze, or vice versa, in that sort of tone.

“How long you two been together?”

“Since uni. He’s a doctor. He’s the one who encouraged me to become a physio. Although you wouldn’t think that with all the jokes he makes about me just being in it to feel up women.”

“He gets jealous?”

“Not usually. But you did just kiss me in front of billions of people.”

She looked at her knees. “Sorry.”

“And, let me tell you, it is not going to help that you look a little bit like my ex-girlfriend.”

That drew her attention upwards again. “Ex-girlfriend? What are you bi then?”

He shrugged, looking away. “I don’t know really - I could be - or maybe I was gay all along but in the closet.” He sighed. “Merlin’s the first guy I fell for so maybe I’m straight but with him as the exception, I dunno. Then again I’m not sure I was ever in love before. Not properly. Not like I am with him.”

“But,” she said, unable to stop herself from asking the question, “if you were only with girls before, how did you get together with him? How did you know he was special?”

Carl paused then walked further into the room and dropped onto a bench.

“Well for starters, I hated him,” he said. “He drove me mental. Got at me in ways no one else had ever managed. Every time we even glimpsed each other we couldn’t help but get into a screaming fit; sometimes we’d actually fight even thought he was a no ton weakling. But then - after months of this - it started to dawn on me that I would do anything for him. One time on the night before a meet I risked everything to protect him from a man who had been harassing him, only to knock him over myself when he was gone. It took me ages to realise that even though every single conversation turned into an argument, it wasn’t actually hate, not really. A different kind of heat altogether. When I stopped trying to hate him I found out we actually got along pretty well.”

“I kissed Lisa.”

It was out before she could stop it.

“What? When?”

“Out there,” she said, gesturing towards the door. “In front of the entire world.”

“Was that,” he said hesitantly, “like mine?”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “Not for me.”

“For her?”

“I dunno, do I?” she said, leaping to her feet, unable to contain herself any further. “I kissed her, I dunno what she wants. Maybe she’ll hate me for it. I did it in front of the whole bloody world!”

“If it helps, I didn’t see it.”

“Yeah, thanks, great.”

“Maybe you should go and talk to her.”

“But she’s hated me for months now, this’d just be another reason, yeah?”

“Well you won’t know unless you talk to her.” He frowned. “Shouldn’t you be out getting a medal right about now?”

“Probably!”

OK now she was getting hysterical. Get it together, girl! What’s the matter with you?

She started pacing, breathing hard. God what if Lisa hated her? What if she never wanted to see her again? What if people from home saw the kiss and bashed her head in? What if-

“Shania.”

At some point Carl had got to his feet and was now blocking her way. He grabbed her arms and squeezed.

“Shania, stop it. Listen to me.”

She tried to take a couple of deep breaths.

“You just won the gold medal.”

He grinned and she couldn’t help return it. “We did!”

“Now go get changed and go out there and get it. Then go out with the other girls to celebrate. Give Lisa the biggest glass of champagne you can find and tell her you want to kiss her again. If she says no then you will still have champagne and a gold medal. But if she says yes...”

He waggled his eyebrows suggestively and she found herself laughing.

“We just won the gold medal.”

“Yes you did. So hurry up and shower, I’ve got to call my boyfriend.”