How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 40

It had been an exhausting few days, physically and mentally, so Bradley didn’t want to do much once he had arrived home from Madrid. That was it; the season was finally over and what a successful one it had been, apart from the FA Cup defeat. He reflected back on it and was well pleased with his progress both for Arsenal and for his country. He now had a World Cup to look forward to in the US and only three weeks off before he had to report for duty in Glasgow. He needed to keep himself fit without over-doing it so he would be in good condition for what should be a gruelling competition against the world’s best teams. If they made to to the final, he would have to play another seven games in what would likely be high temperatures. Then, once back in Britain, he would almost immediately go into pre-season training and friendlies so he wasn’t going to have much time off with his family in Florida. Maybe a week at most. He also wanted to see Jessica again in that time.

He thought about calling her there and then but decided the rest of Sunday was going to be doing nothing. Nothing except calling his dad. He couldn’t put it off any longer.

‘Hi dad, how are you? Sorry I haven’t spoken lately, I’ve been really busy. Did you watch the game yesterday?’ Bradley asked cheerfully.

‘Hello, son. Good to hear from you at last. I was beginning to think you were ignoring me after the latest embarrassment.’ Brian replied testily.

Bradley was now on the back foot. He hadn’t expected that reaction.

‘Well, I could have done without another episode like that frankly. What the Hell was all that about anyway?’

The line remained silent for a few seconds before Brian replied.

‘It was what you read in the papers. Lucy was indeed a stripper when I met her and someone at work got upset when I told them their fortune after bad-mouthing her. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.’ He said. ‘Their problem, not mine.’

‘Well actually, it was my problem as well as it affected my performance in the cup final having to worry about what you were going through and how mum would take the news. You and mum are beginning to make a habit out of embarrassing me for some reason.’

Brian exploded.

‘It’s all about you, isn’t it Bradley? How it affects you, not how it affects your mum and me, or Sam. Well for your information I’ve lost my job as well because it affected my boss as well as you.’ Brian shouted.

Bradley didn’t know what to say. He wanted this conversation to be like those in the past when he and dad talked about the game, what they liked best and how proud he was of his son. He wanted to tell him about Jessica but it didn’t seem the right thing to do now. No wonder he had put off calling him, he thought.

‘Sorry you lost your job, dad. Are you appealing against it?’

‘I’ve got a lawyer on the case. He thinks I’ve got good grounds for unfair dismissal but it’s going to take ages to settle if I win. Don’t worry about me, I’ve still got the cash from when your Mum bought me out of the house. I’ll use that to get by until I get another job.’

Bradley felt awkward now. If he offered him money then it would hurt his pride, but he wanted to help in some way, even though his head was saying no.

‘Well, if you need anything, let me know dad. I’m worried about you.’

‘Thanks, but like I said, don’t worry about me. Have a good World Cup, I’ll be watching on the TV.’

Before Bradley had a chance to see if his dad wanted any tickets, Brian had hung up. Well, that didn’t go to plan. He now had a few weeks to get over it but it looked like dad was coming off the rails a bit. He would wait and see what happened and let him settle down before making contact again.

It didn’t sound like he was going to the US to attend the World Cup or meet up with the family for a break in Florida. It would have been awkward anyway, he thought to himself. He would speak to his mum and see what the plans were to meet after the tournament.

‘Hi mum, how are you?’ Bradley asked, pleased to hear from Martine.

‘I’m okay, how are you? Congratulations, by the way. I think you had a great game.’

‘Thanks mum. It was a great day, winning that one was the highlight of my career so far. Just need to win the World Cup next!’ He laughed. ‘Are you and Sam and grandparents still planning on coming out to Florida after the cup?’

There was a slight pause at the other end.

‘Well, it looks like it might not happen. Grandad isn’t well enough to travel right now and Sam has a lot of work on during the summer holidays. Maybe next year.’ Martine replied.

This came as a blow to Bradley; he was looking forward to spending some time with his family, or what was left of it, in their favourite place. He tried to hide his disappointment and changed the subject of conversation. He told her about Jessie and how they met, about her family being normal working class people, while secretly wishing his family could be like that again.

After only a few minutes of conversation, Martine said she had to go somewhere in a minute so could she call back later? Bradley got the hint and told her to look after herself and bade her goodbye. His family was disintegrating fast and he was becoming estranged from both his parents. He was sure it wasn’t anything he had done, at least he hoped it wasn’t, but couldn’t help feeling responsible for the breakdown. If he hadn’t been so famous then none of this would have got in the press.

After the highs of Madrid, he was now feeling quite sad. He needed to talk to someone who could cheer him up so he looked up Jessie’s number and gave her a call. Her cheery voice was what he wanted to hear and she managed to improve Bradley’s mood no end. They arranged to meet at her house the following evening after she had finished work and they would go somewhere quiet for some dinner nearby.

Brian’s mood hadn’t improved after his call with Bradley. He was still bitter about losing his job because of some twat who tried it on with his girlfriend. That couldn’t be right, he thought and hoped his lawyer would sue them to pieces. Of course, it meant that he was unlikely to get another job in the City again with that reputation behind him, and at fifty his chances were going to be remote anyway. He would have to find another city to work in or change his career path. He was an experienced sales expert, so in theory he could sell anything. He just needed to find out what.

Lucy brought him in a cup of coffee and sat down next to him on the settee and held his hand.

‘You’ll get through this, Brian.’ She assured him. ‘We all get problems like this at some time in our lives, it’s just another challenge and you’ve got the skills to overcome it.’

Brian just sat there stern faced. It wasn’t just his job that he was upset about, his relationship with his family, Bradley in particular, was giving him cause for concern. He knew Bradley had offered him financial help if he needed it, but that wasn’t the point. Brian wanted to go and watch Bradley play in the World Cup and instead of cheering him on he was being forced to join the millions of other fans and watch it on TV. At least he wouldn’t miss a game because he was at work, he thought bitterly.

He squeezed Lucy’s hand and thanked her for her kind words. He had a good one in Lucy; she was genuine and kind, just what he needed to get him through this ordeal. Brian thought that his ex-wife, son and parents were all going to Florida after the tournament. He didn’t think he would be welcome there and frankly there would be a bit of a bad atmosphere between him and Martine so he should give it a miss. Perhaps Lucy would like to go on holiday somewhere; maybe a couple of weeks in Spain or Greece. That would cheer everyone up, he mused.

As it turned out, Lucy hadn’t been on holiday for years as they never had a lot of money coming in to their house when she was married. Even then, holidays were usually spent in a damp caravan in Norfolk, so she was excited by the idea of going somewhere exotic like Spain, although she didn’t have a passport so they would need to get that sorted before booking anywhere. He was glad that made Lucy happy, she deserved a bit of pampering after the life she had led.

He found a great deal for two weeks in Rhodes leaving in just over two week’s time which would give her enough time to get a passport. Lucy looked at the holiday Brian had found and started crying tears of joy. She was so excited at the prospect and promised to get down to the Post Office in the morning to complete the passport application.

That put a smile on Brian’s face after the stresses of the previous week. Bugger the World Cup. He didn’t care if Bradley played well or not if he was going to be like that. Deep down though, he knew it was Bradley who should be annoyed with Brian and not the other way around. He was just trying to justify his actions.

Martine got off the phone to her youngest son and wept. She had told him she had to do something when in reality all she was doing was preparing the Sunday dinner for her and Sam and his girlfriend. How could she be going off her son like this? He hadn’t done anything wrong and yet she was blaming him for her misdemeanours. Just like Brian. She was sorry they weren’t going to meet up in Florida but nobody really had the appetite for it this year, and she was once again thinking about selling their timeshare in Disney World as it was going to be unlikely they would use it again.

She didn’t know if she would watch Scotland’s games in the World Cup; she might glance at them but she had no real interest in how her son played. They were all becoming estranged and being pulled apart. Her and Brian should do something before the family fragmented and never spoke to each other again.

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