How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 21

Lucy Green had a miserable Christmas. Since leaving Brian in Los Angeles in the summer, she had struggled to get a job back in London and was still dossing down on a friend’s couch as she couldn’t get her own place. She had saved a few quid from her time in LA, but those funds had run out already and she was getting desperate. Her friend had gone away for Christmas to her family so she had left Lucy to look after the flat while she was away.

She had gone back to Toppers where she used to strip before meeting Brian, but they weren’t looking for someone of her age. Mid-thirties was over the hill as far as exotic dancing goes. No other strip pub was interested either, despite her knowing most of the other girls who did a turn at the numerous pubs in the Shoreditch and Hackney area.

Once or twice at the ‘interviews’, she was asked to perform sexual favours which would help her application. Naturally, none of these actions managed to nail a job for her, she was just being used, even though she had kept in good shape and her body was as attractive as any twenty-five year old.

So, Christmas Day was spent lounging about in her friend’s flat watching TV and eating ready meals. By three o’clock, she couldn’t hold back any more and started sobbing uncontrollably. She questioned whether she had done the right thing by leaving Brian, imaging what a lovely family Christmas he was having at his son’s place in Spain which she had found out from one of his occasional emails. What she would give to be there with him now. Okay, he was boring at times, but he earned enough money to keep her happy and she hated herself for blowing it all away. They had kept in touch now and again by email once Brian had got over her departure, but she wasn’t expecting anything other than friendship would come out of it.

She picked up her pay-as-you-go phone and searched for Brian’s number. Would it be a terrible mistake if she wished him a Happy Christmas? They hadn’t spoken since they broke up. It would seem like a desperate act if she was to contact him again, she thought, although deep down she missed him and would do anything to get back with him. What else could she do? She couldn’t get a job anywhere, not even pulling pints in a local pub as they were letting staff go because business wasn’t so great.

There was also the matter of her body clock ticking away the years. She had always wanted children and at thirty-five years of age, time was running out. Of course, Brian might not want any more children so that might not be as good an idea as she first thought. They could always have an ‘accident’ and find herself pregnant though.

She threw the phone back on the chair and dismissed her thoughts as wishful thinking. It wasn’t going to happen. He had probably got another girlfriend by now and she was too proud to crawl back to him and apologise.

Instead of the phone, she picked up the TV remote and scanned the hundreds of channels looking for a film to match her mood. Settling on Four Weddings and a Funeral as the nearest she would get, she poured herself another glass of cheap wine and opened a bag of crisps. Her diet and healthy lifestyle had gone out of the window since she got back, and she didn’t particularly care.

Brian hadn’t got another girlfriend and wasn’t particularly bothered right now. The taxi dropped him at Bradley’s and he walked straight round to the back of the villa where the pool area was. He found everybody on the terrace enjoying the warmth of a Spanish winter, dressed in shorts and t-shirts, drinking wine and nibbling tapas.

‘Hi everyone!’ Brian exclaimed, just a little bit tipsily. He sat on one of the sun loungers and promptly fell off of it which set everyone off laughing at his demise. He tried to join in with the conversations, desperate to let it slip who he had been drinking with in Fuengirola earlier. Eventually, the beer and sunshine caught up with him and he nodded off.

The rest of the party carried on enjoying themselves, watching the sun go down below the nearby mountains which prompted the temperature to get much chillier, at which point they decided to all head indoors for some coffee and a game of Monopoly, leaving Brian to sleep it off on the terrace with a beach towel covering his body.

He had always enjoyed Christmas in the past; this one just topped the lot. Brian had dreamt about Lucy and wondered what she was up to. He figured she would be having a great time with all her old friends in London and wouldn’t be giving him a second thought. It had been good while it lasted, but he never worked hard enough to make it last forever, which he regretted in lots of ways. Maybe he should text her and wish her well for Christmas. Then again, maybe not. He snored a loud grunting noise which woke him up with a start. He was disorientated for a few seconds until he realised where he was and picked up his towel and joined the others who were in the middle of a heated game of Monopoly, laughing and having fun.

They all looked up as Brian stumbled into the lounge with a smile on his face for no reason except that he was happy. He poured himself some coffee and stood next to the dining table where the game was being played. Archie and Barry had them all in hysterics with their banter and jokes. It really was pleasing to see everybody getting on so well.

‘You’ll never guess who I bumped into in the Bar Asturias, Bradley.’ He slurred, knowing he shouldn’t be spoiling the surprise.

‘No, who? I don’t know anybody down here except for a couple of the Barcelona players who have places near here.’

‘Someone you played in the same team with at Hearts. Go on, have a guess.’ Brian laughed.

‘Can’t be Alvarez or Jose, they would have told me if they were coming here. I give in, who was it?’

‘Kevin McNair! He’s moved to Fuengirola and Bar Asturias is his new local. Had quite a long chat with him. He’s well impressed with how you’re doing. Said it was partly down to him helping you when you were there.’

Bradley’s face dropped. Of all the ex-team mates to have as a neighbour, McNair would be his last choice. They never got on particularly well when they were together at Hearts and he had blocked his calls as Bradley had heard he was working for an Edinburgh gangster. He wanted nothing to do with him then, or now.

‘Great. I hope you didn’t give him my address. He’s the last person I want to see.’ Bradley groaned.

Bradley explained to his dad what a bad person he was and how he needed to stay away from him. Brian was hurt when he told Bradley he had passed on his address and apologised when his son shouted at him.

Once again, his father had let him down and caused him potential problems if his association with McNair ever became public. He had a squeaky clean image to protect and being mentioned in the same sentence as him wasn’t going to be good.

Archie apologised as well for given McNair Bradley’s mobile number all that time ago, but he also didn’t realise that McNair was not on Bradley’s Christmas card list. He stood up for Brian saying that nobody knew anything about his reputation, but he would do what he could to quash any rumours that came out in the press.

It kind of ruined the atmosphere in the house and the rest of the game was played in a more sombre mood. Brian just sulked quietly in the corner of the lounge watching Sky Sports News. He had done enough damage for now. He certainly wasn’t going to return to the Bar Asturias again in case he was in there. Hopefully, McNair wouldn’t surprise Bradley with a visit as he hadn’t told him that bit yet. Best to keep it to himself for now. He was heading back to Los Angeles in a couple of days and he could keep his head down until then.

When the doorbell rang around lunchtime on the following day, Brian’s heart sank. He knew who it was calling so he went to answer the door. It was McNair looking much smarter than he did the previous day.

‘Brian! Good to see you again. Is Bradley in?’ McNair smiled.

‘Er, no. They’ve all gone into town for some lunch. I wasn’t feeling too good so I stayed here.’ Brian lied.

‘That’s a shame. Mind if I come in and wait for him to return?’

‘Probably be ages, knowing them. Might be better if you gave it a few days, to be honest.’

‘Well, tell me where they are and I’ll find him in town. Which restaurant have they gone to?’ McNair persisted.

‘No idea, sorry. Look, it might be best if you don’t get in touch with him, there’s been a few stories going around about you and why you skipped the country. He doesn’t really want to be seen in your company. I’m sure you can understand.’ Brian explained.

McNair wasn’t happy.

‘What stories are they, then? I didn’t skip the country, I just fancied getting away from dreich old Edinburgh. I was fed up with getting rained on all the time. Still, if that’s how he feels, I’ll leave him alone. Give him my best wishes; he knows where to find me if he changes his mind.’

Brian promised to pass on his request and closed the door with a sigh of relief.

‘Who was that, dad?’ Called Bradley from the terrace.

‘Nobody, son. Someone looking for their lost cat. Told them we would keep an eye out for it.’ He lied.

With any luck, Bradley wouldn’t hear from McNair again. He had failed to notice the dark blue Seat parked outside the villa with two official looking men inside.

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