How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 40

Jessie’s cousin Caroline had come up trumps arranging the party on the Saturday night. She had even decorated the hall with banners and balloons to make Jessie happy. There were over thirty people there, mainly family, and one or two friends who hadn’t blanked her or had second thoughts. The look on Jessie’s face when she walked into the crowded hall was priceless and Bradley thanked Caroline for sorting everything out so well at such short notice.

Earlier in the day, they had both enjoyed London Zoo and a quick lunch in Kensington before hitting the Science Museum which Bradley loved. He wondered why his parents had never taken him there before, or in fact anywhere in London considering that was where they were from originally.

They only had a couple of hours in the museum as they needed to freshen up and get dressed ready for the party. Bradley had arranged for a car to pick them up and take them there but Jessie insisted on calling her dad’s friend Alan to take them in his cab. He would be more than welcome to stay for the party before running them back to the hotel later.

Bradley was skipping through the TV channels while Jessie hogged the bathroom getting ready and when she finally emerged Bradley whistled complimentarily.

‘Wow! You look gorgeous.’ He told her.

‘Thanks, didn’t want to overdo it though, just in case it got people jealous.’ She giggled.

Alan was waiting in the lobby for them and he also whistled when he saw her. He had known Jessie since she was a baby and you could tell he thought a lot of her. They got in the back of his cab (another tip for the doorman) and drew away into the weekend London traffic where they continued their conversations from that morning. Luckily, Alan knew all the back streets and rat runs through London and made sure they got there in good time.

Alan insisted in reminding Bradley about that Cup Final where his team was celebrating beating Arsenal until Jessie pointed out that that was where she and Bradley first met when she was in the crowd, so it wasn’t all bad that day.

When they got to the club in Woodford which was some ten miles to the east of their hotel on the edges of Epping Forest, Caroline was outside ready to greet them. There were the inevitable hugs and kisses as they entered the hall where they got a tremendous cheer. It was pointed out that they hadn’t had the chance to celebrate Jessie getting engaged to Bradley last Christmas so the numerous banners suspended around the room reflected that this was indeed an engagement party rather than just another family get together.

They had a great evening, the DJ played all their favourite tunes and the happy couple spent most of the evening talking to her cousins, aunts and friends in between some cheesy dancing and smooching on the dance floor. At the end of the evening a rope was pulled which allowed hundreds of balloons to descend from the ceiling, resulting in the younger members of her family rushing on to the dance floor for an impromptu game of football, dragging Bradley along with them, as kids do. It wasn’t every day they could say they had a kick about with the biggest footballer on the planet. Just think about the bragging rights when they went back to school.

By about midnight, the party was winding down and guests were getting their coats on having had a fantastic time. It had been a proper East End knees-up, just like old times. It was just a shame that Jessie’s parents couldn’t have been there. They would have loved it and her dad would have had everybody in stitches with his jokes. Still, it had been one of the best days of Jessie’s life and she kissed Bradley long and hard to thank him for arranging it.

They spent the next thirty minutes saying goodbye to everyone and promising to repeat it next year if possible, before getting back in Alan’s taxi to head back to Victoria. The traffic was quiet at that time of night so it should only take half an hour he assured them.

Bradley asked if it was possible to go via New North Road so they could drive past Brian and Lucy’s restaurant on the way back and Alan assured them it wasn’t a problem as he would go that way in any case at this time of night. Fifteen minutes later, they drove down New North Road and spotted Brian and Lucy tidying up through the window of the bistro. It seemed weird to Bradley seeing his dad like that. He still wasn’t sure what would happen the following evening when they visited the place, or whether he was happy reconciling with his dad. Still, he had to go through it whatever the outcome.

He looked Jessie in the eye and whispered that he loved her as Alan kept talking about the area, the rough estates being done away with and how much everything cost around there nowadays. Bradley and Jessie weren’t really listening and just sat snuggled up on the back seat making eyes at each other. Soon, they reached Hotel 41 where they said goodnight and thanked Alan, giving him a healthy fare and tip which again, he didn’t want to accept, but gave up in the end.

They took the lift up to their suite and collapsed on the bed, exhausted but happy. Very happy. They had enjoyed a wonderful evening and were about to enjoy a similarly wonderful night as Bradley started to undo Jessie’s stunning dress.

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