All the players had reported for duty after their Christmas break in good form. Bradley’s foot had completely healed and he was likely to be included in the team to face Osasuna at the weekend.
He had excitedly told all his team mates about his engagement to Jessie and everyone was pleased for him, including his manager. He threw himself into training with a renewed passion. The break had clearly done him a lot of good and it would show against Osasuna.
Much to his disappointment, he was named on the bench for the game, even though he was raring to go and was full of confidence. When after sixty minutes the score was still 0-0, with the crowd growing impatient, the manager relented and told him to warm up.
A huge cheer went up as he tagged hands with his aging team mate who was making way for the new pretender. Within five minutes, Bradley had hit the cross bar with a bending shot from thirty yards out. This got the crowd going even more and it wasn’t long before Bradley went on one of his mazy runs through the Osasuna defence before slotting the ball home with a neat side step. 1-0 Barcelona!
Ten minutes later, Barcelona were awarded a penalty after Bradley was tripped in the box going on another of his trademark dribbles through the defence. The captain normally took penalties, but he was carrying a bit of a knock and asked Bradley if he fancied it, which of course, he did.
He wasn’t one for penalties normally, but he was psyched up for this one and rifled the shot with some venom low and to the left of the Osasuna keeper. 2-0 and the crowd were now singing his name with gusto.
By the time ninety minutes were up, Bradley found himself feeling very tired which surprised him a bit. The manager explained that this was why he wasn’t brought on earlier as he knew that Bradley’s stamina would run out after so long out with an injury. He understood what the manager said and thanked him. A manager who understood footballers and their limits. A rare quality indeed.
This result was the start of a ten game winning streak in all competitions that put them eight points clear at the top of La Liga and through to the quarter finals of the Champions League where they would face Paris St Germain. Everything on and off the pitch was going splendidly for Bradley and he was loving life in Barcelona.
His mum’s relationship with Carlos was going extremely well. She was seriously thinking about moving to Mijas permanently as she had had enough of Dunfermline and it’s cold climate, as well as the persistent rumours that would fly around the local press and supermarkets from time to time. It was time for a new start for her and she had asked Carlos if he could find a suitable apartment for her to buy in the area. She figured she might as well stay near to Bradley’s place so she could see more of him and his fiancée, but she would also be closer to Carlos which was probably the main reason for upping sticks.
Carlos had enjoyed his few days staying with Martine as she showed him around Edinburgh and spending lots of time together. They liked nothing more than snuggling up under the duvet watching old films with a glass or two of wine, although she knew the risks of being an alcoholic when the odd glass turned into the odd bottle, but Carlos was there to make sure that didn’t happen. He never understood how people became addicted to wine; it was such an unusual thing to do in Spain where children were given wine with their dinner from a very early age. They never became alcoholics.
He was delighted when Martine told him that she would like to move permanently to Mijas and asked him to find her a suitable property. Scotland was nice, but he had no intention of moving there; he had too much going on in Mijas to uproot, especially at his age, and he wouldn’t want to be too far from his wife’s grave which he visited daily and tended lovingly.
Eventually, he found her a nice two bedroomed apartment that was in the centre of town and not too far from Bradley’s villa. The price wasn’t cheap at €400,000, but Martine told him it was within her budget and she would like to see it, so she immediately booked her flight to Malaga, leaving in a few days.
She was like an excited schoolgirl at the thought of seeing Carlos again; it had been a few weeks since they last saw each other and she found herself missing him a lot. When she told Bradley about her plans, he was delighted for her. He thought a lot of Carlos and knew how well they were getting on together. He kept her on the straight and narrow, made her happy and watched out for her, which was all he wanted for his mum.
Sam wasn’t upset either. Like Bradley, he was pleased she had found happiness after everything she had been through. It was a good excuse for him and his girlfriend to pop over to Spain for the odd weekend as well. On a teachers’ salary it was difficult to be able to afford a proper holiday as they had to go away in the school holidays when travel companies hoisted their prices alarmingly. Gone were the days when they all flew off to Orlando for the October half term as a family. They were happy days, but as it turned out, not so happy for their parents. They had hidden their problems well.
Jessie’s parents also liked the fact that they could pop over to Mijas at any time to make use of Bradley’s villa. They had never travelled abroad before so Christmas was a big eye-opener for them. Bradley liked them coming over as well as it meant the villa wasn’t empty all year round and Carlos loved looking after them when they visited.
So, everything was going swimmingly for Bradley and his families. Apart from his dad who had seemed even more distant the last time he and Bradley spoke on the phone. He obviously had some more problems that he wasn’t keen on discussing with his son, and that worried him. He knew his dad well enough and could tell when something was up.
Brian rarely mentioned Lucy any more, preferring to just limit the conversation to his job and Bradley’s results. When Bradley asked how Lucy was he would just change the subject back to football or the weather in LA. Apparently, his job was still going okay, but wasn’t perfect. There were always issues going on that stopped him doing his job to the best of his ability, although he was used to that when he worked in London. There were always constant demands from Compliance and Legal to prevent business or not to enter into anything that could expose the company to heavy lawsuits which in his mind, were just ridiculous. He was forever arguing with them at meetings and steering groups and was getting more and more frustrated.
His relationship with Lucy was obviously becoming strained because of his pressures at work, but there were other reasons. Since being shot, Lucy had rarely left the house, preferring to stay at home and watch daytime TV or just look out of the window at the impressive skyline of Los Angeles. Her confidence had gone and that caused Brian problems whenever he had to attend an event with clients where the other half was expected to accompany him. He could only make excuses for so long before being made to feel guilty about not having an escort with him. Everybody else were couples at these events, except him, so he had asked his bosses if would be alright with them if he took someone else along instead of Lucy.
They had no problem with that solution and even suggested a couple of women that they knew of who would be happy to join him at these functions and dinners. When he mentioned his plans to Lucy, she understandably went into one and accused him of playing around.
Despite his protestations that this was purely a business relationship and there were no intentions on his part to take it further, she still raged at him that he shouldn’t be going at all if she couldn’t join him.
He couldn’t win. The job involved a lot of socialising with clients and it was important that he was there to woo them. If Lucy wouldn’t attend them with him, then he would be forced to take someone from the office. This obviously didn’t go down too well with Lucy who deep down, was looking for an escape route back to London. Since the shooting, she had become insecure and homesick. Nobody ever got shot randomly in London; of the rare instances when there were shootings in the UK it was usually gang related and had no impact on innocent people going shopping or to work, even in the edgier areas of London. No, she had had enough of LA and probably enough of Brian as well, if truth be told.
He was much older than her, spent all his time at work including evenings, and fell asleep in his chair every evening just when she wanted to talk to him. Bedtime nowadays was retiring early and reading a book rather than making love every night like they used to. This relationship had run its course and after Brian came home drunk and smelling of perfume one night, she decided she had had more than enough and booked a one way ticket back to London for the following week.
She decided not to tell Brian but to take the coward’s way out and leave him a note. On the day she left, she waited for Brian to leave for work before packing all her stuff into two suitcases and wrote that note.
You may have noticed that things haven’t been going well for us recently. I know you are having issues with me not attending work events and I don’t care if you have been taking other girls with you. What I do care about is that we never have time for each other, we never have sex, we never talk, and that’s something I can’t cope with.
I realise your job is more important than us, so I have decided to go back to London and leave you free to see whoever you need to share your life with.
It was fun while it lasted, but I can’t cope anymore.
Thanks for the good times, and I hope you find happiness.
Love from Lucy xx
She left the note on his side of the bed, collected her bags and left in a taxi for the airport. By the time he read her note she would be halfway across America looking forward to the rain and cold of London. Familiarity and safety. Old friends. Unhealthy food. It might not sound appealing compared to the sunshine lifestyle of California, but to her it was reality. California was false and plastic. People pretended they were your best friends only to talk about you behind your back. They were only interested in themselves and what was in it for them. She didn’t need that, but Brian obviously did and he was welcome to it.
Brian hadn’t seen it coming. He knew Lucy was unhappy and things had gone quiet in their relationship, but he never thought she was that unhappy that she would leave him. He read and re-read her note with tears in his eyes. Maybe he should have tried harder, but it was difficult with all this entertaining that he had to do. If only she hadn’t been shot and lost her confidence to go out. He was sure she would have loved some of the events and dinners he attended. Knowing that she was already half way back to London he resigned himself to the fact that she was gone for good. Against his better judgement he pulled a bottle of Californian Chardonnay out of the fridge and poured himself a large glass.
This all seemed familiar to him. His break up with Martine had been because he had taken her for granted and hadn’t worked at saving his marriage. Lucy leaving was just history repeating itself. The common denominator here was him, and him alone. He had two failed relationships on his conscience now and he realised that he was probably too old to change his ways which meant he was now destined to a life on his own which would involve work, sleep, eat, and work forever.
After he finished the first glass of wine, he topped it up and thought about calling Sam or Bradley to tell them what had happened. He checked the clock; it was 2am in LA which meant it was 11am in Spain and 10am in the UK. So Sam would be at school and Bradley would no doubt be training so he just texted them and told them that he loved them and hoped they were well.
He drained the bottle and opened a second one. Now he could see what Martine went through and how comforting getting drunk could be. Alcohol allowed you to escape the more hurtful aspects of real life, even if it wasn’t a solution. He cast his mind back to when they went as a family to Disney World and saw similarities there. A visit to Disney World was an escape from reality in much the same way as booze. It was temporary, but it was a fix. If he could keep his love of alcohol down to two weeks a year, then he would be fine, he thought jokingly, before he fell into a drunken sleep in his chair.