How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 29

After a few days of sunshine and rest, Bradley was beginning to feel like his old self. He was getting over his parents’ split and enjoying time catching up with Jose and another couple of Premier League footballers who were staying at the same resort. He still hadn’t got round to contacting his parents or Sam; he would try at the end of his holiday but he didn’t want to end up having another row with them.

Martine had completely withdrawn into herself, refusing to go out of the house even though the press had long gone. She had started to hit the bottle quite hard in the vain hope that it would ease the pain, which of course it did temporarily. Without bothering to get dressed or put on makeup, she had let herself go, she thought as she looked at herself in the bedroom mirror. There didn’t seem any point in making herself look attractive right now.

Neither of her sons wanted to talk to her, indeed neither of them had returned the numerous texts and calls she had sent. Her marriage was over and she didn’t even know where her husband was. What a train wreck. One of her lovers had been named in the press as Stuart and he hadn’t denied it when questioned by the reporters. That showed how much he couldn’t care less about her. She thought they had something good going on.

She poured herself another large glass of Chardonnay and lit up a cigarette as she typed out another text to her sons. She hadn’t smoked for years but this had made her say hello to an old friend, so to speak.

Brian walked into the office with a spring in his step. He hadn’t got over his split and he knew he should be miserable, but Lucy had made him happier than he had been for ages. He had entered Lucy’s number into his phone and fully intended to give her a call that day. Not wishing to rush into anything, he treated his relationship with her as purely friendship. If it got any more serious and it got back to his boss that he was dating a stripper, then there might be problems. His boss was very religious and wouldn’t be happy about his marriage ending, without making it worse.

He spent most of Monday looking for a flat to rent. He had pinned down an area or two to look at; Isle of Dogs and Wapping, both of which would be handy for his office in Canary Wharf. He arranged to see three properties that evening in the Isle of Dogs within his budget.

The first one was too small, second one was better and the third one was okay. He decided to go with his second viewing in Millharbour which was a few minutes’ walk from his office and the Docklands Light Railway into the City. It was going to cost him £1,200 per month which was within his budget and it was a one year contract so it gave him time to settle the divorce, split the assets and see how much he was left with to buy a property. Of course, he still hoped he and Bradley would get back to a normal relationship and he might be able to help him out with a place to buy.

The next day, he called the letting agent and told him to go ahead with the Millharbour property. He would need to find a hefty deposit but that shouldn’t be a problem. It was going to be strange living on his own, he hadn’t done that since leaving home at eighteen to go to university.

All being well, he could move in at the weekend.

Bradley’s two weeks in the sun had gone quicker than he had hoped. He felt very relaxed and recharged ready for the new season. He said goodbye to Jose who was driving back to Valencia and had dropped him off at Malaga airport.

He still hadn’t spoken to his parents, but he had texted Sam to say he was okay and enjoying the Spanish sunshine. Sam had replied that he should call his parents urgently as they were having a difficult time and they needed to know Bradley was there to help them. No other comments other than that, which Bradley thought was a bit serious. He resolved to call them when he got home.

His plane landed at Gatwick on time where there was a car waiting for him to drive Bradley back to his north London apartment. It would be good to get back to his new home and prepare for the new season. As Geraldo had retired, his manager told him he would be starting most games and it was now up to him to put in the effort to justify his inclusion. The club had made a couple of signings in the summer, mainly squad players who would be cover in specific position, his included.

Emptying his bags on his bed, he looked at his phone and checked through the messages. Most of them were from his team mates and his manager letting him know when to report for training. Then he saw a text from his Mum and opened it immediately. She sounded sad and desperate to talk to him so he phoned her number straight away.

‘Hi Mum. Just got back from Spain, how are you?’

There was a few seconds silence at the other end. ‘Hello Bradley, did you have a nice time?’ Martine replied nonchalantly.

‘Yeah, it was really nice. Very relaxing, not like Florida. I’ve missed you all. How’s dad and Sam?’

‘I’ve no idea. Sam is staying with a friend in Edinburgh and I think your dad is in London somewhere. You need to talk to him about his plans; I haven’t heard from him since you left.’ Martine replied sadly.

‘I’m really disappointed with you, mum. Why did you do it? You’ve broken up the whole family because of what you did. Why, mum?’

‘You wouldn’t understand, Bradley. Maybe one day you will, but right now even I don’t know understand why. I didn’t want it to end like this.’ Martine started to cry. ‘I’ve got to go, Bradley. Thanks for calling and take care.’ The phone went dead leaving Bradley to worry about her state of mind. She was obviously depressed about the whole thing, but then it was her fault. He tried not to blame her, but it was difficult.

He scrolled through his phone and found his dad’s number. As he would still be at work he thought he would just text him for now and ask him to phone back when he had a minute. In the meantime, he would pack away his stuff and reply to all the other messages he had received.

Martine looked at the phone and sobbed bitterly. She had let down her baby boy and she wasn’t happy about it. She needed company, she thought as she scrolled through her contacts list. The damage was already done; she couldn’t make it any worse.

Brian was hugely relieved to find Bradley’s text message on his phone as he came out of a meeting. He popped outside the office and called him back.

‘Bradley! I’ve been worried about you. How was your holiday?’

‘It was great. Very relaxing. Sorry I haven’t been in touch, I was a bit taken aback by what had happened. I’m still not happy about it.’ Bradley said tersely.

‘I’m not the one at fault here, it was your mum who played around, not me. Don’t take it out on me!’ Brian replied.

‘Even so, it was a major embarrassment to me and having the press all over me wasn’t pleasant. Don’t you and mum realise that everything I do gets into the papers? They love a story like this and I don’t need the publicity.’

‘Calm down Bradley! I just told you this was nothing to do with me. Why are you telling me this? Try telling your mum!’ Brian was getting annoyed at his son’s attitude. ‘Anyway, I’ve got to go into a meeting in a couple of minutes so I’ll let you get on. Call me when you’ve calmed down and perhaps we can meet up. Just so you know, I am moving into an apartment at Canary Wharf at the weekend. You’re more than welcome to come and see me there if you want. Until then, I’m in the Travelodge in City Road.’

‘You didn’t waste any time. I’ll speak to you soon then. Bye.’ Bradley hung up this time. What great parents he had, he thought as he threw the phone on the bed.

Brian was in need of company tonight. His conversation with Bradley hadn’t gone well and he didn’t want to brood over it on his own. After asking a couple of his colleagues if they were up for a few drinks and a curry and getting knocked back, he looked through his phone and found Lucy’s number. He sent her a quick text, dreading getting another knock back.

“Hi Lucy, thanks for the other night, do you fancy a drink tonight? I need a shoulder again! Brian xx”

Within minutes, Brian got the reply he was hoping for.

“Hi Brian, I enjoyed it too. Love to meet up. I’m working until 7, meet me at the Basing House after. Xx”

“Great! Look forward to it! Xx”

After work, Brian popped back to the hotel and got changed and freshened up. He was in a mixed kind of mood. Upset at his conversation with Bradley and his colleagues’ response to his suggestion of a night out, but glad in a way as it meant he could see Lucy again.

He wasn’t sure how he felt about her being a stripper. She was nice, pretty in a plain sort of way, but too nice a person to dance naked in front of a load of men. Knowing that Bradley wouldn’t approve was nagging away at him as well. There was no law that said he couldn’t have friends who worked as an exotic dancer, but he knew if the papers got hold of it then there would be another frenzy of scandalous headlines once again. Bradley would probably never speak to him again. Nor would Sam for that matter.

Despite his reservations, he left his hotel at 6:30 for the short walk to Toppers. He thought it might be nice to see her dance first before they went out. What he hadn’t realised is that she would probably be too embarrassed with him there which is why she suggested meeting at the pub after.

He pushed open the door to Toppers and ordered a beer. He couldn’t see Lucy anywhere and assumed she was getting dressed. Then he heard the DJ announce that the next dancer would be the lovely Becky and started to play a funky tune to accompany her onto the stage.

She didn’t see Brian at the bar, fortunately, but Brian watched the assembled men ogling her body as she cavorted across the stage provocatively. It left him with a strangely jealous feeling and suddenly he didn’t feel comfortable watching her. From what he could see, she did indeed have a gorgeous body; slim with a nice tan which he assumed had come from a salon as it was all over.

He left his beer and headed for the Basing House, as arranged. He felt himself getting hard at the sight of Lucy’s dancing, but tried to push those thoughts out of his head. She was just a friend, that was all. There were no sexual connotations at all.

Around ten minutes later, Lucy joined him in the pub, giving him a peck on the cheek and a quick hug.

‘Hi Brian, lovely to see you again. Glad you asked me out tonight, I’ve been wanting to see you again.’

‘I couldn’t wait to see you as well. I don’t want you to think that I only want to see you as a shoulder to cry on though. I like to think of you as a good friend, even though we’ve only just met.’ Brian explained.

Lucy laughed at him. ‘Don’t be silly! I’ve told you, I’m a good listener and I like you as a friend as well.’

They spent the next three hours talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s’ company. Brian couldn’t tell her who his son was, but did tell her about the awkward conversation he had with him earlier. When the time came to leave, they once again left the pub hand in hand like young lovers and walked back towards Pitfield Street, still laughing and joking.

This time, when they arrived at her flat and kissed, there was real passion in it. Eventually, they pulled apart and Lucy whispered to Brian ‘Do you think we could go back to your hotel for a nightcap? My flat isn’t very nice and I’m in no hurry to let you go.’

Brian found that he couldn’t deny her. She had definitely stirred something inside him and she could feel that pressing against her. They continued walking down Old Street and City Road, picking up a bottle of wine on the way back to the Travelodge.

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