The final group game was against Russia in the same Melbourne stadium as the Cameroon game. Logistically, that was a bonus for Scotland as the supporters didn’t have to up sticks and travel to another city. An added bonus for the bars of Melbourne was that this meant the five days in between the Cameroon and the Russia game would be packed with Scots celebrating and singing about their country’s heroics.
It had all passed good-naturedly though and the locals enjoyed joining in with the Tartan Army, especially as a lot of them were first or second generation Scots as well.
There was an air of excitement going into the Russia game, if they won, Scotland would top the group, as expected. This would ensure that they played the runners-up in Group D which could well be England who needed only a draw against Nigeria to make sure of second place. Scotland loved playing England lately as they always came out on top which hadn’t always been the case.
Bradley did his bit in making sure the Scottish fans could continue to party by helping Scotland to an easy 3-0 win over the Russians condemning them to last position in the group with no points. Their manager got sacked and the team were preparing to fly back to Moscow with their tails between their legs. Cameroon made sure of finishing in the runner-up spot by beating Chile 2-1 in a tense game and would now face Germany in the first knockout round.
England, as predicted, got a 2-2 draw against Nigeria which saw them finish second and set up an appetising game against Scotland in four days’ time which all the boys were excited about. Rory MacMillan tried to make sure the team weren’t getting carried away with the prospect of sending the Auld Enemy home early doors, but it wasn’t easy.
The draw caused much excitement back in Bistro Lucia when the final whistle went in the England Nigeria game. Brian knew straight away that this could cause problems hosting boisterous England and Scotland supporters in the same room, but was relieved to find out that the game would be played at 3 a.m. UK time, much to the annoyance of the UK population who would all have to stay up late on a Monday night to watch the game. Efforts to have the game switched to a breakfast time kick off fell on deaf ears with FIFA unwilling to accommodate the Brits. Lucy was doubly relieved that FIFA hadn’t changed the time as she would not like the prospect of all those hooligans in her restaurant. On the other hand, it would have had the tills ringing like Christmas with dozens of boozed-up punters coming in to watch the game.
They had already had cause to call the police once that week when Poland played Germany and after a contentious penalty decision in Germany’s favour riled the local Poles so much that fights broke out. This hadn’t done their reputation any favours and word had got around as the place wasn’t so busy for the following couple of days.
Still, business had been excellent so far, and Brian and Lucy discussed the possibility of getting away somewhere for a holiday after the tournament had ended and they had got Delroy’s replacement started. Obviously, it wouldn’t be anywhere they had to fly to, Brian had given up trying to appeal his ban, but it wouldn’t stop them taking a cruise somewhere nice. Maybe the Mediterranean where they could stop off at Malaga and see Bradley and Jessie for the day. Or even the Caribbean if they had enough time. They certainly had the money to do it now and after putting in seven day weeks since the restaurant started they owed it to themselves to take a well-earned break and it would be a good chance to see the family without having to fly.
Jessie and Martine were getting closer lately. Her initial misgivings about Bradley’s mum were being replaced with good thoughts about her. She was, at the end of the day, just another normal woman who wanted certain things out of life which her husband wasn’t giving her which made her turn to the drink and other men. Bradley had forgiven her, even Brian had accepted he was partly to blame, and she was settled down with Carlos who had been a wonderful influence on her which meant that she was now a warm and caring future mother-in-law and Jessie liked that. Her mum got on really well with her also as they came from the same area and shared similar views.
They were still getting over McNair’s unwelcome appearance earlier that week, but Martine had helped her over it and been a great support. She hoped that awful McNair would never set foot near them again. She was dreading telling Bradley when he returned home; hopefully Archie would speak to him first.
For the game against Russia, Carlos rustled up huevos rancheros for breakfast made from a recipe he got from a chef friend of his who had gone to work in Mexico City. They went down a treat with everyone declaring them to be fantastic, if a little spicy for such an early meal.
They watched the game while demolishing the huevos rancheros and although it wasn’t as exciting as the previous two games, a win was a win and everyone was happy, especially Deepak who was learning an awful lot from watching the games and listening to Archie with his tactical nous and Barry whose view was one from the unqualified supporters. They usually were the more critical voices and Deepak had heard similar from the stands at Tynecastle when playing for Hearts.
The level of excitement grew when they realised that Scotland’s next opponents would be England which led to much banter between Archie and Barry who had to explain the whole Scottish/English thing to Deepak who found the impromptu history lesson invaluable and fascinating.
Meanwhile, a few miles away, McNair ordered another breakfast beer and a whisky to celebrate Scotland’s latest win. Not to mention the money he made on predicting the correct score yet again. €25 at 6/1 gave him another €150 profit which would make up for the money he wasted on his date a few days before.
He had met Conchita when he was in hospital after getting beaten up, and they had texted each other a few times before he had the courage to ask her out for dinner. She was single, mid-thirties with a lovely smile and a nice manner; totally the opposite to McNair’s usual girlfriends which made a change.
They arranged to meet at a bar in Fuengirola, not the Bar Asturias for obvious reasons, and then go for dinner at a steak place nearby. He had managed to sober up enough after his drunken visit to Bradley’s, which he hardly remembered, and put on his best clothes with a splash of expensive after shave that women couldn’t resist apparently.
Conchita arrived a couple of minutes later than Bradley so he had already ordered a nice bottle of red wine and a bowl of nuts by the time she got there. They made small talk to start with; they talked about Conchita’s work as a nurse and McNair’s former career as a professional footballer, which she found interesting. Unusual for a Spanish women, he thought, as he told her all about some of the great games he played in, and won single-handedly.
By the time they had started on the second bottle, they were laughing at each other’s jokes, some of the patients Conchita had to deal with, and the differences between Britain and Spain. When they had finished the second bottle he took her hand and helped her out of her chair so they could walk hand in hand to the steak house. She didn’t resist, and snuggled up to McNair as they made the short walk to the restaurant in the warm breeze of a Fuengirola evening.
Settling into their seats and ordering two ribeye steaks, he ordered another bottle of red as they carried on chatting and laughing. She liked a drink, had a great sense of humour, was good looking and seemed to have taken a shine to McNair. He was getting a strange feeling that for once in his life he was dating someone who he could spend a lot of time with. Something he had never felt in the past, and this confused him. When he had taken girls out in Edinburgh it was purely with the sole intention of getting them back to his place for some consensual sex if he was lucky. With Conchita, he wasn’t sure how to play it. He wasn’t interested in a one night stand for some reason so he decided not to pursue it too much as it might put her off.
After they saw off the delicious steaks and another bottle of red, they carried on chatting over coffee when McNair felt a hand touching his thigh under the table. This completely threw him off and he wasn’t sure what to do next. There must be a catch, he thought as he returned the compliment and ran his hand along Conchita’s thigh until he got to the top of her legs and felt something familiar. She had a hard on! Shit! McNair quickly removed his hand from her crotch and went bright red.
‘Fucking Hell! You’re a bloke!’ He blurted out so all the restaurant could hear.
That would explain the slightly flat chest and the way she/he had come on to him. He knew there would be a catch as he stood up and put his jacket on before calling the waiter for the bill.
‘I thought you knew!’ Conchita pleaded. ‘I’m so sorry, I have completely misread the situation. Please sit down Kevin, I can explain.’
After a few seconds he sat down just as the bill appeared. Conchita told him how she was born a boy but was undergoing treatment to become a woman as that is what she felt she should be. It was the first time she had gone on a date since starting the treatment and she was in her own way confused about how to play the date, much like McNair, only for different reasons.
McNair finally calmed down and listened to her story. Although he felt sorry for her, this wasn’t how the night was supposed to end and he told her he liked her, but not in that way.
‘I’m sorry Kevin. It is a pity as we were getting on really well and I like you a lot. Are you sure you don’t want to come back to my apartment? We could still have some fun.’ Conchita suggested.
‘No, really, I don’t think I would enjoy it at all. Sorry Conchita but I think we should just call it a night. I wish you luck with the operation and thanks for a pleasant evening and all that, but I’m sorry. Good night.’ McNair replied as he settled the bill and fled from the restaurant into the cooling breeze which he needed right then to reduce the redness in his face. He saw the strange, mocking looks on the other diners’ faces as the secret came out and made him look stupid. Part of him was curious to see what would have happened if he had gone back to her place, but that part was overruled by the masculine side of him that insisted sex with men was just wrong.
He walked briskly back to Bar Asturias and sat at the bar. The barman came over to him with a beer and asked him how his hot date had gone. Had she dumped him already? McNair said nothing other than she wasn’t his type and could he get a large whisky as well as his beer. The barman smiled. He could never imagine McNair wooing a woman with any amount of dignity and wasn’t surprised the date ended early and so disappointingly for him.
He plonked the double whisky on the bar and left McNair to replay the evening’s events in his mind, shaking his head from time to time as if to say it was one of the worse evenings of his life.
Must have been a bad one, laughed the barman.