Bend it like Beckham
Screeching of tires and bright flashing headlights jolted me awake. I was drenched head to toe in sweat with the echo of screaming ringing in my ears. This is how I've been waking up pretty much every night for weeks. I just prayed I hadn't woken up the whole house by screaming out loud.
I reached over to the bedside table to grab my phone and read the time. 6:03am. Ok that's not too bad, I lasted pretty much the whole night which was an achievement. Sighing in defeat I pushed myself out of bed, throwing my pyjamas on the floor and pulling my running leggings and top on. I quickly brushed my teeth, trying to ignore the haggard look that was staring back at me in the mirror and threw my hair into a pony tail.
I hoped Lindsay and Simon wouldn't mind me leaving the house at this time of the morning. They've been putting on a pretty good brave face but I know they're worried about me. Every so often they give me a look like they're staring at a precious fragile ornament on the edge of a cliff, waiting for me to slip over the edge and crack into a million pieces. So far though I've done pretty well at staying rooted to the spot.
Running always clears my head when I've got a lot going on and you can't beat the feeling of your feet pounding on tarmac as if every step is pushing a stressful thought away. Plus, it helps the restlessness.
Marley poked his head up as I came down the stairs, his tail wagging in excitement at getting a friend this early in the morning.
Marley was the households Labrador. He literally looked like the dog out of Marley and me and I already told everyone that I wasn't that impressed with their lack of imagination over his name.
I would take him out with me but I wasn't too sure on Lindsay's schedule. As far as I knew she quite like taking him out for his morning stroll and I didn't want to get in the way of anyone.
I gave him a loving pat on the head. 'Not today bud.'
I was about to leave the house when I realised I probably should leave a note. I had my phone with me if they wanted to get a hold of me but I didn't want them to think I'd gone missing. I quickly scribbled a note on the shopping list pad attached by a magnet to the fridge and vacated through the front door.
It was already pretty mild outside, the sky a deep shade of purple as the sun was starting to rise. I took a deep breath in still not used to the dusty smell in the air here. At home the air smelt like damp and leaves but here it was a strange heat smell.
I used to run a lot back at home. Not so much in London because it was way too busy and chaotic there but when were we back in Surrey it was an everyday occurrence. We had some land behind our house and a lake so I used to make my way out there on a crisp morning to help clear my mind. Obviously, my stresses back then seem stupid to me now in comparison.
On the odd occasion my dad would come out for a run with me. Those were the best days. He was always so busy with work obligations as he was a politician. I didn't get to see him a lot because his days were so packed but when I did that time was precious.
He always used to say how he hated being away from his girls so much and I hated it when he'd leave on a Monday morning knowing I'd have to wait till Friday night to properly spend some time with him again. When he was home though he was the best dad in the world.
Right now, with my feet pounding on the pavement even though I was thousands of miles away it was hard not to be reminded of him. I could feel my vision going blurry but I angrily pushed back the tears. I knew if I started it would be like a floodgate and I didn't want to have a break down in the middle of a housing estate in California.
After what didn't feel like long enough, I decided to head back. I still didn't know the area that well here yet so I stuck to a loop that I knew I wouldn't get lost on.
When I eventually ran back up the driveway, I could see the majority of the lights on in the house signaling that they were awake.
'Morning sweetheart.' Simon called as I came through the front door.
'Did you have a nice run?'
I walked into the kitchen finding him sat at the counter reading a newspaper and a cup of coffee in his hand.
'I'd did thank you. It's beautiful out there this morning.'
'We're very fortunate that most days are beautiful. Let's just say on the odd occasion when it does rain everyone looks up at the sky with confused faces as if they've never seen rain in their lives before.'
Both of us chuckled. Simon told me yesterday that he went to university in London so he knew all too well how temperamental our weather can be.
'It's the other way around at home. The sun comes out and we wonder what the big ball of fire is doing up in the sky.'
I grabbed a bowl and started pouring myself some cereal. As I was adding the milk James came yawning into the kitchen wearing nothing but Spider-Man boxers.
'Erm, son we have company.'
His head snapped up with his eyes wide at me as his face went a beetroot colour. Faster than Usain bolt he ran out the room and thundered up the stairs.
'I guess he's still getting used to me being here.'
Simon chuckled as he got up to put his mug in the sink.
'Yeah that's it.'
Soon enough it was time to get ready and leave for school. The morning was almost an exact repeat of the previous one minus me launching myself onto someone. People stared, I tried to catch up as much as I could in class and my new friends told me more embarrassing stories about each other.
Now I was standing on a field in the schools coloured t-shirt and shorts as we attempted to play baseball. I didn't know what was going on nor have I ever played it before but it reminded me of rounders so I just used those rules instead.
'Of course the soccer team would have practice at the same time as the girls Phys-Ed class.' Zara grumbled.
You'd think she be like any of the other girls here that was happy to prance around in front of 15 guys. However, I quickly learnt that Zara was not what you would call graceful which meant sport was not her thing. Every time the ball came near her it either magically hit her or she fell over trying to catch it. Actually saying that, all she needed to do was stand still and she'd trip over her own feet.
I think Mrs Barnes was getting a little pissed off with how little her class were paying attention to the game. You'd think the girls here had twitches with how often they'd flick their hair or bat their eyelashes. Some of them looked like they're going to end up with some serious whiplash.
One girl, I think her name was Jess, was paying so much attention to the guys that the base ball landed right in front of her feet and she didn't even notice. Mrs Barnes threw her hands up in frustration and huffed something along the lines of 'hormones.'
I was actually starting to get into the game now that I understood how to play it when a football landed a few yards away from my feet.
I turned around and saw one of the guys motioning at me.
I smiled and kicked the ball back not thinking much of it before getting back into the game I was actually supposed to be participating in.
I turned around at the shouting voice to see a tall meat head of a man stomping towards me. If it weren't for the smile on his face, I would've been scared shitless. Actually scratch that, the smile didn't help, I still backed away from him.
I recognised him as the man who must've been the football coach as earlier on, he'd been shouting bloody murder over something one of the guys had done. He also looked like a guy that liked a whistle.
'Did I do something wrong?' I asked as he got closer.
'No little girl you did something very right. Mrs Barnes I'm borrowing your student for a second.'
Before she even had a chance to reply he was walking away leaving me standing there.
Taliah looked over at me with an amused expression and her eyebrows raised.
'Am I supposed to follow him?'
She shrugged whilst trying to hold in a laugh.
'I think so.'
I jogged to try and catch up with him as his hulk sized legs practically made it back to the football pitch in two steps.
When I did, he got one of the guys to chuck him a ball and motioned for me to walk over to him. I ignored the multiple pairs of eyes looking at me with amused expressions and did as I was told.
Placing the ball down on the floor he pointed at it and then at my shoe.
'Ball, foot. Try and kick it into the goal for me. Joseph you know what to do.'
Joseph smiled at me and shared the look of curiosity that the other players had. I didn't realise he was on the football or should I say soccer team, let alone the goal keeper. Like me I could tell he didn't know where this was going but he crouched down nevertheless.
'What's the catch?' I asked unsure as to why I was having to do this.
'No catch, just kick the ball.'
I frowned at him before turning back to Joseph who nodded to go ahead.
I took a couple steps back and then kicked the ball. Joseph threw himself after the ball but he obviously misjudged where I'd kick it because it landed in the opposite back corner of the goal to where he was. I smiled with satisfaction and turned to the coach.
'Where did you learn to kick like that kid?' He asked with a blank expression on his face.
'I played for my local team from the age of 8.'
Football, or soccer as Americans would call it, is quite a common sport for young girls back home. I started as a way to bond with my dad who watched football like it was his religion. He'd come to every Sunday match no matter how early or cold it was and encourage me from the sidelines for the whole game. After a while he got too busy with work to come to my games but I actually really liked the sport so I carried on with it. Plus, I loved the girls on my team so that helped.
'Good that's what we need. Congrats kid you made the team.' He said as if he'd just given me an Oscar for the best supporting actress.
'We practice a couple times a week. Make sure you're there.'
'But I don't want to join the football team.' I said before I could stop myself. I know I sounded rude but I was one of those moments when you think you've said it in your head but really it was out loud.
He looked over at me with a bored expression on his face. For one second, I thought I saw his cheek twitch as if he was going to smile but no. It was probably an itch or something.
'Well I'm not giving you a choice. Ok practice is over hit the showers guys.... and girl.'
He started walking off the pitch leaving me standing there staring at his back with my mouth wide open. It wasn't until the door of the sport centre slammed shut behind him that I said anything.
'What the fuck just happened?!'
I wasn't speaking to anyone in particular but a blonde-haired guy caught my attention as he started laughing.
'Nice new girl. I think that's the first time in months that he's actually cracked a smile.'
'That was him smiling?'
'It was indeed.' He chuckled and it suddenly occurred to me that I recognised his guy from somewhere but I couldn't place where I knew him from.
'I'm Tom the captain of this team and I think you've already become acquaintances with my co-captain.'
'Who's your co-Captain?' I asked before I realised it was a stupid question. I didn't notice him earlier but it was probably because I was ambushed by the hulk.
His green eyes gleamed at me as he looked me up and down.
'Well would you look at that London. Fate just keeps on bringing us together.'
I suddenly realised where I recognised Tom from. He was one of the guys sitting at Harrison's table at lunch yesterday. They must be part of the same friendship group. They certainly look close now.
'Eve hurry up.' Taliah shouted before I could reply.
'Fate or a stalker? There's a very thin line green eyes.'
I turned on my heel and started walking back over to my class but of course he had to have the last word.
'See you at practice London.'
Yeah right, there was no way that was happening! Little did I know the soccer team were more determined to get me to join than I thought they would be.