Thanks to Ariaboo for the feedback; glad you enjoyed chapter seven! Thanks to Hubby for the edit, and input in this chapter - it wouldn't be half as good without your advice! <3
The traffic crawled forward at a frustratingly slow pace, and I glanced at my watch again. I had fifteen minutes to get to the studio.
Fuck. I hate London.
Me and Brownie had been there less than a day and I was already sick of the place. The advert for the new training gear had been okay, I guess. My sponsors seemed happy with the results, so that was one thing sorted. All I wanted now was to get home to my bed.
Just a few more hours and it’ll all be done with, I told myself.
I looked out the window, and saw we hadn’t moved an inch in the last five minutes.
“How much longer is this gonna take, mate?” I asked the cabbie.
He gave a non-committal shrug. “You know what London’s like.”
“Fine, just let me out here.” Without giving him chance to argue, I shoved a twenty pound note in his direction, and jumped out the taxi. If I hurried, I’d still make it on time.
I shoved passed the crowds, and made my way down the street to the studio. I had an appearance on a sports talk show to promote my upcoming fight with Matthews. I’d only done one of these things before, but I knew how important they were. The show would be shown around the country, so hopefully it’d encourage more people to buy the pay-per-view.
After what’d happened with Bagley, and my promise to Doug Taylor not to fuck up again, I wanted to make sure this interview went off without a hitch. If I could come off well on TV and get more people interested in what we were doing at Ferrum, that’d put me back in the promoter’s good books.
I walked into the studio, and strolled straight up to the reception desk, where a highly madeup woman sat at the computer.
Talk about first impressions.
“Alright? Kian Murphy, here for an interview with Elliot Johnson.”
“Hello, Mr. Murphy. Please take a seat while I let the crew know you’re here and call a runner to take you to the green room.”
I dropped down onto the leather waiting room sofa, as the receptionist made a couple of phone calls. A few minutes later, a pretty young girl arrived, and I flashed her my most charming smile, as I scanned her name badge.
“Alright, Amy?” It always paid to be nice to the staff.
Her eyes widened in recognition as they fell on me, and she blushed. “Right this way please, Mr. Murphy.”
She led me down a corridor to left of the reception. In the lounge area, I was ushered into a seat, and given a coffee while I waited. I’d only been sitting a couple of minutes when another girl appeared. Her red hair reminded me of Ruby, and I hoped they didn’t have any other similarities.
“Hey, I’m Lindsay, the makeup artist. If you’d like to follow me to the prep room, I’ll get you all set up.”
“Sure.” I stood, and placed my half empty cup of coffee on the table.
The first time I’d done a photoshoot, and had to wear makeup was weird. Not just from a guy’s perspective either. It was odd having someone in my personal space like that when I wasn’t in the cage, and the results were … different. I don’t know how better to explain it. I was still recognizably me, but I didn’t quite look right. Like my face has been covered in a plastic film or something. I hadn’t looked any different in the pictures, and after a few more photoshoots, I got used to it.
“You enjoying London?” Lindsay asked as we walked to the prep room.
I thought it best not to offend her with the truth. “Yeah, it’s a nice change from Birmingham.”
I dropped onto the makeup artists’ stool, and Lindsay got to work, smearing whatever crap it was on my face, then dusting me with some shit. She even combed my beard.
“All right, you’re all set. If you want to head back to the green room, the director should be in soon to talk you through the interview.”
As I walked the corridor back to the waiting room, the door over from the prep room opened, and a small guy in glasses walked out. He was so busy checking his phone he didn’t notice me, and we collided as he crossed to the makeup artist’s area.
He looked up and his eyes narrowed. “Watch it, idiot.”
My heart rate increased, and I clenched my fists.
“Sorry mate,” I said, continuing on my way.
He mumbled something and walked off. As he left, I clicked who he was. It was Elliot Johnson off the telly; the same guy who was interviewing me in a bit.
Fucking London, eh?
Guys like him really got under my skin. Sponsors and advertising guys were cool, mostly. They respected what I did and we always had a laugh working together. But for some reason, media people had some sort of superiority complex. Like, because I earned a living from fighting, and they didn’t, they were somehow better than me. They saw me as some tattooed thug.
I couldn’t let Johnson and his complex screw this up for me, though. I had to play nice with him, even if it killed me.
And this is why I hate London…
Taking a few deep breaths, I waited for the director to arrive. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before he greeted me with a friendly smile.
He looked down at the clipboard in his hand then up at me. “Kian Murphy?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
He smiled again as he dropped into the seat opposite me.
“A pleasure to meet you. I’m Nicholas Bennett, and I see Lindsay’s already prepped you for being on camera. Okay, have you done any TV interviews before?”
“Only once, but I’ve done plenty of photoshoots and adverts.”
“That’s brilliant. At least you’ll know how the studio works.”
Bennett talked me through how he’d count me and Elliot “the cock” Johnson in, and showed me the questions that’d been prepared so I could get a feel for them and plan my answers. He said there was a secondary feed, that would be broadcast in parallel to my interview, showing clips of me in the cage, and that I’d be able to see those clips playing on a screen between me and Johnson. He advised to always act as though the camera was on me, even when the clips played, as often the production department liked to cut to the interviewee for their reaction.
Everything seemed pretty straight forward, and I gave the questions a couple of read-throughs. My only worry was Johnson. He’d already rubbed me the wrong way. But the questions seemed pretty standard, so that should keep things on track. I just had to remain cool.
I was left alone again for a short while, as the set was prepared, and then Amy came back to the green room.
“They’re ready for you now, Mr Murphy.”
I followed her back through to the reception area, and then she led me along a corridor off to the right. We reached the end of the hallway, where some heavy black doors stood. A sign on the wall read: ‘quiet on set,’ and above it was red light saying ‘on air’ that was currently dulled out.
“Just through there,” Amy said.
“Thanks for everything, darlin’.” I flashed her another charming smile, and she blushed.
I headed through the double doors to find a small set with two leather chairs, a TV screen between them, and the show’s logo forming the back drop.
Johnson was seated on the left chair. I ignored him, and turned my attention to Bennett, who was perched in a director’s chair next to the camera. He nodded towards the right leather seat, and I moved forward to take my place.
Johnson took a sip of water, and then Bennett counted us in.
“Five … four …” He held his fingers up for three, two, and one, and the little red light above the camera blinked on.
The interview started in the standard way; Johnson summarized who I was as clips of my fights played on the screen between us.
I took a deep breath, running through the questions Bennett had shown me in my head. The first few were standard openers: How was training going? Was I having a nice time in London?
Johnson then asked what my pre-fight diet consisted of. That one hadn’t been on the sheet Bennett had shown me, but I answered it quickly, ready for the next. Johnson wouldn’t trip me up that easily.
“How old were you when you started cage fighting?” I swear Johnson said that with a sneer on his lips.
“I’d not long turned twenty. I’d been going to Davi Silva’s gym to work out for a few years, and I was thinking of getting into boxing, like my dad. Then Davi told me the local MMA promotion was looking for fighters.”
“That’s Davi Silva, former light heavyweight boxer and now the owner of the most successful gym in the Midlands?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“And your dad was a boxer too, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah, Brien Murphy. He was big back in Ireland.”
“So you didn’t think of following in either of their footsteps?”
“Sure I thought about it. But I wanted to make my own path, ya know?”
“How very ambitious of you.” This time I knew I’d seen a sneer. Fucker.
“And now I’d like to get your thoughts on your last fight against Matthews.”
On the screen between us a clip of when Matthews had dislocated my shoulder played, and Johnson mentioned how I’d broken my collarbone in a bike accident.
I winced, remembering how much it’d hurt, and how pissed off with Matthews I’d been. I knew getting injured was part of the job, but Matthews had been so smug about it, the tosser, and god damn it, having a dislocated shoulder fucking hurt!
It wasn’t just the physical pain, though. Being away from training was torture. Sitting around my flat playing video games, and eating pizza all day was great at first, but after a few weeks, I became restless. I didn’t do well left alone with my own thoughts, and with them bouncing around in my head, and no way to let the frustration out, I started going stir-crazy. Being bored, and on edge mixed into a dangerous combination, and soon I was drinking just to stop the chatter in my head. Before I knew it, I couldn’t get out of bed without having a bottle of beer first.
Sure, the alcohol numbed the anxiety, but it also muted my other emotions, too. I became even more reckless than usual, the alcohol convincing me I was invincible.
That’s when the bike accident happened. I was still rehabbing my shoulder, but I was mobile, and my return to fighting was inching closer. The knowledge I’d soon be back in the cage, mixed with my drinking fuelled confidence, made me feel unstoppable.
One of the reasons I love MMA is because it gives me a rush like nothing else. I get this clarity when I’m inside the cage, where everything in my life makes sense, and all my worries melt away. Without that, I was craving the same adrenaline buzz, and started pushing the limits of what would be considered safe; still convinced either by the alcohol or my desire to fuck my life up more than it needs to be that nothing could hurt me.
I rented a bike, and took it out into the countryside, where no one else was around. Riding above the speed limit, the wind whipping around me, I felt truly alive for the first time since losing to Matthews. It was just me, and the power of the bike. Nothing else mattered. Until I lost control, hit a tree and broke my collar bone.
Davi covered it up in the media, claiming it was an accident, but the truth was, I was drunk driving. I ended up with a £2,500 and an eighteen month driving ban. Davi also insisted I see a therapist for my alcohol and anger issues, but that only lasted a couple of months before I got bored and jacked it in.
That time in my life was hard to relive, and all the negative feelings surged to the forefront as I watched the clip. My chest tightened, and my breathing became heavy, as warring feelings raged inside me. I could hear the blood rushing in my ears, and my head started to throb.
Taylor had been irate when he found out I’d re-injured myself. He reckoned me not being medically cleared to fight would lower the card’s value, and he’d lose money on the event. He threatened that if didn’t break even, he’d fine me the difference in compensation.
The upcoming fight with Matthews had backed me into a similar situation, and as punishment for breaking Bagley’s arm, I’d been fined an amount that equalled my winning fight money; meaning I’d end up paying Taylor ten grand.
The vein in my temple throbbed, and the overhead studio lights suddenly seemed too bright.
When can I get the hell out of here?
“Maybe you should have a few more of those muscle drinks.” Johnson said.
Not funny, arsehole.
I forced myself to smile. I wasn’t letting this fucker get to me. “Yeah, maybe that’s it.”
“So Kian, what is it about you that makes you so susceptible to injury? I know you lost a lot of fans following the accident, how did that affect your career?”
Oh, here we go … Well, two can play at that game, pal. “Did I lose a lot of fans? I made a full recovery so it’s…”
“Yes, but injuries never really heal do they?”
Tosser. At least let me finish before you jump down my throat. “Doesn’t that depend on the…”
“There are plenty of fighters who’ve suffered an injury and just don’t have the drive to get back to 100 percent. There are people out there who think you can’t ever get back to full health.”
One … two … three. Not gonna punch him. Not gonna punch him. Four … five … six. “Ah, it’s like that then? Okay, well I’ve been training non-stop for the last...”
“But is that enough-”
My nostrils flared and I cracked my knuckles. “You cut me off again I swear I’m going to fucking hurt you. If I get injured, my goal is always to get fit, then get back into fighting shape. That’s the same with anyone who’s suffered an…”
“But can fighters ever really…”
For fuck’s sake! “You think ya funny mate? You trying to make a joke? Let’s see how pissed off you can make Murphy on your shitty little show?”
“No, of course not. But answer me this: Aren’t you worried someone much bigger and tougher is going to come along and end your career? The last time you faced Matthews, he dislocated your shoulder.”
How fucking dare he. I bared my teeth in a snarl. “You think I’m scared? Do I look fucking scared?”
I stood up from my chair and stalked towards him, stopping just a few inches in front of him. Close enough to see the sweat beading down his forehead.
“Kian, please. I’m just doing my job, please take a seat.” Johnson shuffled back. Doing his job my arse, he’d hated me since the moment we met.
“Yeah? And how about I do what I do right here, right now?” I jabbed my finger into his chest.
“All I meant was-”
“All you meant was,” I mocked. “You don’t think I can beat Matthews, do ya? You asked if I’m worried someone much bigger and tougher is going to end my career. I ain’t fucking scared of no one. No one, you fucking hack.” I threw the microphone to the floor, and towered over Johnson.
“You’d fucking love that, wouldn’t ya, ya little snake? Seeing me get my arse beat. Get a kick out of it, wouldn’t ya? ‘Cos you’re too much of a pussy to do it yourself.”
Johnson tried to stand, but I shoved him back in his seat. No way. I ain’t done having my say. “You, Matthews, you’re gonna be disappointed, ‘cos when I face him, I’m going to fucking kill him.”
Bennett yelled cut, the camera stopped filming, and he stormed towards me.
“Kian man, chill. It’s okay. What’s gotten into you?
“Him,” I said, spinning around to glare at Johnson, who was scrambling away. “Did you not hear the digs he was making?”
“Who, Johnson? That guy’s a compete pain in the arse. This one time he yelled at one of the catering staff because his chips were ‘luke-fucking-warm!’ He’s a prima donna, don’t let him get to you, man.”
“I know I shouldn’t, but the guy was egging me on, what would you have done if you were me? That tosser’s had it in for me since I arrived.”
“Don’t I know it? Johnson’s hates you fighter types. He tried to get into boxing when he was younger, but between you and me, he couldn’t cut it. So anyone who can fight is automatically some sort of street-thug obsessed with violence to him. Still, you can’t be doing that on national TV.”
I took a deep breath. Fuck. Taylor would drop me if this got out. I needed to fix this pronto.
“Listen mate, I’m sorry, all right? Johnson got under my skin, but I shouldn’t have acted like I did. But we can reshoot, right?”
“Mate, this is brilliant. I can see the headlines now: ‘Killer’ Kian Murphey Snaps During Interview. We’ll send out some press releases to the online crowd and people will be lapping this up. Plus we’ve got the manager of Tottenham in here in thirty minutes, so this’ll have to do.”
Thinking on my feet, I said, “Well, it’ll get people pumped for the fight, at least. I mean, they’ll wanna see if I make good on my promise to ‘kill’ Matthews.” I was careful with my words, so Bennett knew my threat wasn’t serious.
It worked, too, as his eyes lit up. “Exactly. This’ll certainly make for some interesting viewing leading up to your fight. Okay, I’ll have a word with Ferrum’s PR department, and see if I can schedule a post-fight interview with you or Matthews as a follow-up. Then you can come back hopefully and not threaten to kill anyone.”
“Great. Cheers man.”
I made a quick exit before Bennett could change his mind, or I ran into Johnson again. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing him again in another interview coupled with Matthews, but this was better than Taylor dropping me for causing a scene. I just had to make good on my promise, and beat Matthews, so I could return here the victor.
When I got back to the hotel, Brownie was in our room packing his case.
“How’d it go?” he asked.
I told him what happened with Johnson, and he let out a low whistle. “Shit man. You better call Taylor and let him know. You don’t want this Bennett guy calling him before you’ve had a chance to smooth things over.”
“Yeah, good point. I’ll swing by when we get back. You ready to head to the station?”
“Just about.” Brownie shoved his shoes in the case and zipped it up.
Mine was already packed. In fact, I’d unpacked as little as possible, eager to be done with London as quickly as possible.
The train journey back to the Midlands was as dull as fuck. Brownie spent most of it texting his bird. I thought about texting Megan, but couldn’t think of an excuse to, and just saying ‘hey’ seemed weird. I wanted to know if she’d settled into the flat okay, and when the next midwife appointment was. Instead, I text Marie, asking if I could borrow her Step Up DVD, with the plan to send it to Megan as a surprise.
>>LOL! Sure. Pop round 2nite. Daz is on the late shift. You want some dinner? xxx<<
>>Hell yeah!!! Be there about sevenish.<<
When our train finally pulled into New Street Station, Brownie quickly flagged down a taxi, eager to get back to Stacey.
“See you tomorrow for training,” he said, throwing his case in the boot.
“Yeah, I’ll catch you in the morning, mate.”
Just as Brownie’s taxi pulled away, another cab arrived and I jumped in. Ah, taxis that actually move. It’s good to be home. Back at my place, I had a quick shower, before making my way to the Ferrum offices. I clenched my jaw and grimaced at being here again so soon. Knocking on Taylor’s door, I waited for him to say I could enter.
“Alright, Kian, what can I do for you?” he asked, as I took the seat opposite him.
“I wanted to talk to you about the interview I did in London today.”
“Yeah, how did that go?”
I paused, thinking over my answer carefully. My mouth felt dry, and my foot jiggled impatiently, as I tried to get the words out. “The thing is, while I was there, something happened.”
I explained to Taylor what had happened, and he let out a sigh. He didn’t look disappointed, more like resigned, as though he was expecting me to have fucked up again.
“God damn it, Kian. What did I tell you the last time?”
“Listen man, I’m sorry. This time it wasn’t my fault. The interviewer was winding me up and I just flipped.”
Taylor’s nostrils flared, and a vein in his temple pulsated. “It’s never your fault, is it? What was it I said last time? One more fuck up and you’re out? I can’t have someone like you representing my company. I can’t cancel your fight against Matthews, but after that, I’m afraid you’re done here.”
“You can’t fire me. I’m the bloody champion.”
“You will defend the title against Matthews. If somehow you manage to retain it, when you’re done here, you’ll be stripped of it.”
“This is bullshit.” I stood from my chair, not caring that I’d knocked it over, and stormed around the desk, so I was inches from Taylor.
He stood too, getting right in my face, our noses almost level.
“No, what’s bullshit is your attitude. You’re a good fighter, but you don’t give a shit about your actions, or how they affect other people. You need to start taking responsibility for your life. You say you’ve got a baby on the way? Well man up, and start acting like a decent person, someone your kid will be able to look up to.”
My body trembled, and I clenched my fists at my sides. “Who the fuck do you think you are, telling me how to be a father?”
“A man who’s been around long enough to know you’re heading down a dangerous path, if you don’t sort yourself out, Kian.”
“You know what? Fuck you. You wanna strip me of my title, fine. I’m done. I quit.”
Without giving him a chance to argue, I stormed out of Taylor’s office. Fuck him. I didn’t need his crappy promotion anyway. There were plenty of places that’d pay thousands to have me on their books.
I got into my car and headed over to Marie’s. I wasn’t sure I still wanted dinner with my sister, but I knew if I bailed now, she’d be calling me up asking what was wrong. Hopefully I could pretend everything was okay, and keep her off my case.
“Hey,” she said, answering the door.
The smell of chilli cooking wafted in from the kitchen.
“Dinner will be about fifteen. Fancy a beer?”
“Please,” I said, heading through to the lounge and kicking off my shoes. Some random soap was playing on the TV, so I picked up the remote and flicked it to the sports stations.
“Hey, I was watching that,” Marie said, as she entered the living room and handed me a bottle of beer.
“And now you’re not.” I drained half the bottle in one long swallow.
“God, you’re such a brat. At least put the music stations on or something, I’m not watching this bollocks.”
I looked at the screen, where Birmingham City F.C were losing 3-0 to Burnley. She had a point. I tapped the buttons on the remote for the rock station.
“So, how was London?” Marie asked.
“Crap. Change the subject.”
“Fine, how are Megan and the baby?”
“They’re good. Meg had her first scan the other week, wanna see?”
“You’ve got a picture of my future niece or nephew, and you’re only telling me now? Of course I want to see. Do Mum and Dad know?”
“I told them about the scan, but I’ve been too busy to go round there and show them.” I pulled the picture from my wallet, and handed it to Marie.
“Oh my god, look at its tiny little hands.”
Grinning, I leaned over and pointed to the picture. “Look there, he’s sucking his thumb.”
“He? For all you know it’s a girl.”
Imagining my future son or daughter, Taylor’s words replayed in my mind. ‘Start acting like a decent person, someone your kid will be able to look up to.’
“He, she. It doesn’t matter, I’ll look after them and be a good dad.”
Marie smiled, and stood from here seat. “You will be…”
“Why does it sound like there’s a ‘but’ on the end of that?”
“There isn’t. It’s just, you know? You’re always so angry and stuff. It’s hard to picture you being this calm level-headed father-type.”
“No witty comeback? Well this is a first.”
I bowed my head. “Is that all I am, ‘angry and stuff’?” I followed her through to the kitchen, where the chilli was bubbling on the cooker top.
“Of course that’s not all you are, I was just messing, like we always do. Are you okay, Ki?”
I shuffled my feet, the back of my neck feeling like it was on fire. “I quit work.”
“You what?” Marie paused spooning chilli into a bowl and turned to face me.
I told her about what had happened in London, and then my showdown with Taylor. When I’d finished, she sighed and shook her head. “You’re a bloody idiot.”
“He’s the idiot. He can’t just threaten to fire me and strip me of the title.”
“He can if you go around assaulting interviewers. What the hell were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t thinking, I-”
“You never think. That’s your problem.”
I paced the kitchen, counting to ten in my head to stop myself screaming at Marie. “So what, I should just let everyone treat me like shit? I’m just standing up for myself.”
“No, you’re being a ridiculous baby, and throwing your toys out of your cot when you don’t get your own way. You’ve got a kid on the way, Kian.”
“What would you know? You and Darren haven’t even got kids.”
“Don’t you dare start on me, just because I’m telling you the truth.”
“Then don’t act like you know shit about me. You have no idea what it’s like to be me. You don’t know how hard it is.”
“Oh, is poor little Kian feeling upset because he isn’t getting his own way? Grow the fuck up. Life is hard. Darren and me worked ourselves to the bone, for a pittance, but you don’t see us throwing tantrums every other day. You’ve got it made, and you don’t even appreciate how lucky you are.”
“Lucky? You and Darren get to do whatever you want. You go to work, sure, but when you come home you can do what you like. You don’t have people watching your every move, waiting for you to fuck up. You don’t have sponsors telling you where to be, and how to act.
I have to train seven hours a day, five days a week, and be careful of every single thing I eat and drink, just so I can put my body through torture every few months without dying in the cage. I don’t even get the time to have a normal relationship like you guys do.
Why do you think I randomly hook up with so many girls? I wouldn’t be able to commit to anything else. And even if I could, how would I know they were really interested in me, and not just being arm candy to The Kian Murphy? Megan’s the first girl I’ve met who doesn’t make me feel like that.
But you haven’t got to worry if you’re going to be a good parents. When you have a kid, you’ll be with Darren, not living miles away, being grateful you even get to see your baby at all.”
Marie sighed, and handed me a bowl of chilli. “Jesus Christ, Kian. Have you even talked to anyone about all this? No wonder you’re flipping out at people.”
“I was seeing someone for my anger problems a few year ago. I got bored though, and stopped going. Bloody waste of time.”
“Have you ever thought about going back? Bottling this up isn’t healthy. You should speak to Taylor, too. At the very least, you’ve got to keep your promise and fight Matthews.”
I sighed and tried to roll the kink out of my neck. She was right, I’d formally agreed to the fight, I couldn’t back out now.
“I know. One fight, then I’m done.”
“And nothing. I’ll speak to Taylor. End of.”
Marie huffed. “Fine. Whatever. Don’t say I didn’t try.”
We walked through to the living room again, and ate in silence, as the telly played random rock videos in the background. When we were done, Marie took our bowls out, and fetched us another beer. She didn’t say anything else about my outburst, and instead started telling me about work, and how she’d seen some kid we’d gone to school with in A&E with a tube shoved up his arse.
I zoned out, and started thinking about what she’d said earlier.
I was still gonna fight Matthews. I wasn’t going to back out and give Taylor the satisfaction of just taking my title away from me. I’d destroy Matthews in the cage, retain my title, and then leave Ferrum on my own terms. If I quit, that’d look better to other promotions, like I wanted a new challenge, and they’d be jumping through hoops to have me after that. I could pick and choose which one I wanted to sign with. Taylor had done me a favour by backing me into a corner, and now I could move onto bigger and better things.
Bigger and better things that’d one day make my kid proud of me.