How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 18

DECEMBER 2020

Christmas was once again approaching and as everyone had such a wonderful time last year it was going to be down to Bradley to host the celebrations once again, which he had no problem with. With his mum helping Carlos to prepare everything, he was looking forward to it.

Barcelona’s season was going better than ever; they had won every game since the opening day of the season, regularly scoring four or more goals in the process. Their Brazilian centre forward Denilson was in particularly good form with twenty-five league goals already under his belt, thanks to Bradley’s numerous assists. He was playing the best football of his life and had racked up eighteen goals by the time the Christmas break came around. They were completely unstoppable, as were Scotland who had demolished the opposition in their World Cup qualifying games so far, including a record 11-0 drubbing of Azerbaijan in their first game.

Jessie was enjoying life in Spain, the all year round sunshine and relaxed pace of life was much to her liking and apart from a couple of weekends visiting her parents, she hadn’t left the country. She busied herself looking after their villa and meeting with the other wives and girlfriends for coffee mornings and shopping expeditions which she enjoyed enormously. Loughton had nothing on Barcelona when it came to shops. She loved seeing the historical side of the city as well; Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s Casa Mila house, the Picasso museum (even though she wasn’t particularly into art) and Mont Juic with its stunning views.

The shops were all decorated with Christmas cheer which reminded her of when she was little and her parents used to take her to the West End to see the lights of Oxford Street followed by a visit to Hamleys toy shop in Regent Street to pick her present. Now, she was shopping for Bradley’s present in the more posher shops with her friends.

So far, it was going to be her and Bradley, Sam and his now fiancée Kate, Archie the agent, her mum and dad, Carlos and Bradley’s mum. She wanted Archie to bring a friend to make it all couples, but he said he didn’t like anyone enough to bring them to the party and he was quite happy going solo. She had also heard a whisper that Bradley’s dad might make a surprise appearance. That would be awkward with his ex-wife and Carlos there, she thought. She would discuss it with Bradley and see what he thought. No way was she going to allow any trouble to start.

Bradley’s dad had already bought his plane tickets. He was flying from Los Angeles to Madrid then on to Malaga on the 20th which was two days after Barcelona’s last game before the break. He and Jessie were planning on flying down on the day before.

Brian knew about Carlos and Martine; Sam had told him some time ago and to be honest, he didn’t have a problem with it, although he hadn’t spoken to his ex-wife for nearly a year. It sounded like she was happy with Carlos so he promised himself he wouldn’t cause any trouble. He promised Bradley as well.

Carlos and Martine weren’t exactly happy about it though. It had the potential to get a bit tense, especially after everyone had enjoyed a few drinks. At least they wouldn’t have to stay at Bradley’s as they only lived five minutes away.

In their final game before the break, Barcelona ran out easy winners at home against Deportivo la Coruna 5-0 and Bradley had bagged a brace of goals. He dashed home straight after the team had wished each other a Feliz Navidad to help Jessie with the packing. The club jet wasn’t available to them this time so they would have to take the scheduled Iberia flight down to Malaga for once.

When they reached El Prat airport the next morning, they were ushered through the VIP channel into the executive lounge where they had an hour to kill reading the papers and playing with their phones. A number of fellow passengers had approached them for selfies which Bradley was happy to oblige. He knew that the fans could be fickle and any snub would see his popularity brought into question. He didn’t mind the attention anyway. If he was a fan and he would probably do the same in their shoes.

They were last to board the plane and overheard the excited whispers among the other passengers. Some waved and smiled at him, and he smiled and waved back. The flight was a continuous line of passengers queuing up to get a photo with their hero. When they disembarked the plane first on arrival at Malaga, they were greeted with loud applause and singing which made him and Jessie giggle as they waved back.

The ever dependable Carlos was there to meet them and take their bags to his car parked outside. He looked relaxed and pleased to see them, as always. The conversation revolved around catching up on their news, football, and the impending Christmas celebrations for which Carlos had some reservations.

‘Senor Bradley. I understand your father will be joining us this Christmas. I think that will be a bit awkward as your mother and I are more than close friends. How do you think he will react? I am a bit worried there will be a bit of an atmosphere.’ Carlos asked.

‘I know, Carlos. It’s not ideal, but I think my father has got over their divorce and hopefully, he will behave himself. It’s a pity that he isn’t bringing his girlfriend with him, but they’ve broken up apparently. Don’t worry Carlos, I will speak to him tonight and warn him not to cause trouble.’ Bradley replied confidently.

When they arrived at Bradley’s villa, Martine was there to greet them with open arms. It had been a few months since she had seen her little boy and she had missed him badly. She smothered him in kisses and saved some for Jessie as Carlos took their bags inside.

They all spent the afternoon sitting by the pool and laughing, but they could see Carlos was troubled by Brian’s impending arrival. Bradley excused himself and went inside to make the call. His father was due to arrive the next day and he didn’t want him to have a wasted journey.

‘Dad? It’s Bradley. You all packed and ready to enjoy Christmas with us?’

‘Sure am, son. Been looking forward to it for weeks. Is everyone there yet?’ Brian enquired.

‘Everyone’s here waiting. Just one thing though. How are you going to feel about mum and Carlos being an item? Carlos is worried you might not take too kindly to seeing them together. I don’t want any bad feelings.’

‘Don’t worry about a thing, Bradley. I’ve got over it now. I’m pleased he’s making your mum happy and keeping her on the straight and narrow. Tell him I’m looking forward to meeting him in a couple of days.’

Bradley was relieved to hear this. They had now both moved on and it was time to act like grownups. He wished him a pleasant flight and told him he would be at Malaga airport waiting for him, before heading outside and telling Carlos that he had nothing to worry about and that his dad was looking forward to meeting him.

The relief on Carlos’ face was nice to see; it was going to be a great Christmas once more, although it would have to go some to beat the previous one when Bradley and Jessie got engaged.

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