If You Could Only See
“I’m just not comfortable with you sitting alone tonight Roni” Sam stated for the hundredth time today since I had told him that Kate and Alex were unable to attend the game. It was Wednesday afternoon and we were standing in Sam’s kitchen, still debating over my attendance of the game that he would be playing that evening in Windale.
“I’ll be fine Sam, I’ll stay close to the front so you can see me and I won’t talk to anyone, I won’t even look sideways or make a peep, I just wanna see my baby play” pouting my lip and looking up at him with my best puppy dog eyes that I knew he couldn’t resist.
“Alright but I’m leaving you with my keys and if trouble breaks out you are to go straight to the truck and lock the doors” He gives me strict orders and I nod my head.
“I promise, first sign of danger and I’m out of there”
We hear the front door unlocking and a few moments later Nick has joined us in the kitchen, looking exhausted after a full night of working on call at the hospital followed by a full day working at the free clinic. His shoulders are slumped, eyes bloodshot and his hair ruffled, his long sleeved shirt is rolled up to his elbows and his tie hangs loose around his neck.
“Hey kids” He greets us, making a b-line for the kettle, setting it up to boil water and scooping two teaspoons of grounded up coffee into the French press. This was an afternoon ritual for Dr Lions that he performed after work every day without fail, sometimes it was only one scoop of coffee but on days like today where sleep had been robbed from him he would do two scoops and I’m not talking about the cheap, nasty ground coffee that you’d find in my Mother’s pantry, oh no, the Lions had the top shelf fancy coffee that tasted like it was awakening every sense inside your body with just the first sip.
“Hey” Sam and I responded in unison.
“I’m glad I’ve got you both here, I wanted to run something by you” Nick said as he poured the boiled water into the French press and waits. He’s not facing us but I can easily detect the nervousness in his voice.
“We’re listening” Sam says, playful smile spreading across his face, I get the feeling he knows what Nick is going to say.
“It’s about your aunt Celeste” Nick explains to me and I catch on to where this is heading.
“He fancies her” Sam laughs, “Look at him, he’s like a teenager, plotting his move to ask the girl he fancies out”
“Ah yes, I..ummm...well, I found her to be quite interesting when we met last weekend and we’ve been talking since. I wondered if it would be alright if I...ah...asked her to accompany to dinner one evening” Nick stutters, looking from me to Sam for permission.
“Well I have no problem with you asking her out” I tell him over Sams fit of laughter.
“Sam? What are you thoughts, I wouldn’t want to do anything that would upset you or make you think that I’m trying to replace your Mother in any way” Nick solemnly tells his son.
“I have no problem with it at all Dad, you deserve to be happy and if Celeste makes you happy then I say go for it” Sam answers his Father seriously, all the laughter gone from his tone, “But if you two hit it off and get hitched, then that would make Veronica and I-”
“Cousins” My eyes going wide with realisation as Sam breaks out into another fit of laughter, this time Nick joining him.
“Only you Samual would find a way to turn my worry about asking a woman out into something else” All the tension that was built up in Nick has been washed away, “You’re really alright with this?”
“I am, Dad” Sam draws his Dad in for a hug, patting him on the back. Standing side by side I actually see the similarities between father and son, Nick looks exactly like an older version of Sam and in the past few months I’d gotten to know Nick well enough to see where Sam got his wittiness and charm from so it was no surprise that Nick had captivated to attention of Celeste.
Sam had given me more instructions for watching tonights game on the way to my house, for me to change clothes, these included not dressing in anything that resembled team colours, not cheering or reacting if the Bears scored a goal, won or lost the game. Do nothing to draw attention to myself at all.
We arrived at Windale oval just before 6pm, Sam explained to me that the school played all their home games here because they didn’t have access to a playing field at the school. The oval was dishevelled, the goal nets both had numerous holes in them, the wooden seating area was cracked and splintered, plus it, along with the fence surrounding the oval was covered in spray painted tags and foul language.
I was genuinely scared to be here but I didn’t want to show it in front of Sam and make him worry. He took hold of my hand as we were walking towards the field.
“Harrison” Sam called out, catching me off guard, I watched ahead of us as a boy with a long, blonde mullet and torn, faded opponents Jersey turned around, smile spreading across his face once he saw Sam. I recognised the boy too, he played on Sam’s weekend team for the Crushers but I didn’t recognise the petite, redheaded girl standing next to him. Unlike Harrison, she was dressed in what appeared to be a brand new, black skater dress with a dark jean jacket over the top and brown boots, her long red hair styled into two neat braids with minimal make up that complimented her gorgeous features.
“Hey mate” Harrison greeted Sam, shaking hands before nodding politely at me, the redhead looking uncomfortable as she waited to be introduced. “You’re brave, bringing your girl here”
“I could say the same to you” Sam laughs, holding out a hand to the girl, “I’m Sam, by the way and this is my girlfriend Veronica.” The redhead smiled brightly as she shook his hand.
“I’m Penny” She introduced herself.
“Not my girlfriend, just a friend” Harrison clarified and Penny rolled her eyes indicating to me that there was more than just friendship between the two. Sam stood behind me, wrapping his arms tightly around my waistline, pulling me in against his chest protectively as more spectators and players began to arrive.
“Do you want to sit together Veronica? I don’t go to school here so I don’t actually know anyone and if I’m being honest I’m a little bit nervous about being alone, after the stories Harrison has told me about the home games and the violence that can erupt” Penny addresses me as she attempts to step closer to Harrison, who in turn shifts further from her. Clearly another Lucas in the making.
“That would be fantastic because I know no-one else either” My own nerves subsiding a little knowing I’ll have someone to talk to and by the look on Penny’s face, this girl needed to spill what was going on between her and Harrison.
“I have to go warm up, remember what we talked about” Sam said before kissing my lips softly and placing his keys in my hands. “I love you bunny, stay safe and where I can see you.” He unwrapped himself from around me and ran off towards where the rest of his team were warming up. I turned my attention back to the redhead in front of me, just in time to see her go to kiss Harrison on the cheek but he ran away, leaving the poor girl looking pained and rejected.
“Boys can be dicks sometimes” I scoffed, linking my arm in hers and leading her over to the wooden seats, taking our place in the front row.
“He’s not always like this though, it’s just when we’re out in public but when we’re alone he is all loved up, giving me kisses and calling me cutesy names like strawberry” Her story sounding oh so familiar to the relationship I had escaped from with Lucas. “I have this thing for bad boys, believing that I can tame them and make them fall in love with me, like I’ll be the one who they want to change for”
“How’s that working out for you so far?”
“So far not so good and I think it’s best after tonight that I just cut my loses with Harrison and start respecting myself more. I’m a smart girl and I’m wasting my time trying to impress a guy who can’t even spell respect, let alone show me any in public” She laughs, instantly making me like her, she’s not like the Petra or Kristen’s of the world who spend their time throwing themselves at boys and social climbing, she actually recognises that a change needs to happen.
“My ex, before Sam, was just like Harrison, he’d treat me like shit around his friends but behind closed doors he could be super sweet so I stayed with him, hoping he would one day wise up and see my value” I explained, thinking back on how stupid I truely was.
“He never did though, did he?” She asks.
“Nope, he just kept cheating on me with ever girl that threw herself at him and when I broke up with him he chased me and tried to get me back but I realised I was too good for him, that I deserved better.” I feel a lump in my throat, just thinking about all those years I wasted on Lucas, even long after we had broken up I still allowed him to take up space in my mind.
“What about Sam?” Penny asks and my attention is drawn to the handsome dark haired boy out on the field, the boy who helped me believe in love, who showers me with affection and never lets me down. I turn my head back to the redhead sitting next to me, unable to wipe the smile off my face.
“I never saw him coming, I never knew how he felt about me until I stepped away from my ex and when I did realise it, I stupidly tried to run from it and I almost lost him completely because I was convinced that he would hurt me but he didn’t, he healed me, made me stronger, happier”
“Yep, that’s it, I’m ending whatever it is with Harrison tonight, he can call me strawberry all he wants but if he can’t kiss me in front of his friend or even hold my hand in public then he’s no longer getting any of this” She runs her hands up and down the length of her body, “In private either”
“Don’t chase boys, like you said, you’re a smart girl and the right ones will be willing to see your true worth” I wrap my arm around her slender shoulder and give her a squeeze. It’s funny, even though we’ve just met I feel like Ive known this girl for years because I’ve been her.
The ref blows the whistle to indicate the start of the match, Sam and Harrison shake hands as their teams get into formation and the game kicks off, with the Bears gaining control of the ball and running it down the field to score the first goal of the game. I sit there muted, not wanting to react in any way as the crowd around us boos and a glass beer bottle goes flying past my head, landing on the sidelines. I reach into my pocket and place my hand on the truck key, ensuring that I still have it if I have to make a dash.
Sam looks over to where we are seated, fear and panic in his eyes as he sees the bottle not far from where Penny and I are. Stupid Veronica, he tried to warn me that it could get dangerous just being here but I convinced him that I’d be alright, I thought if I could survive living in a house with Carson for all those years how bad could a school soccer game be?
A lot worse, that’s the answer. By half time the guy who had thrown the bottle was now threatening to punch the ref who red carded a Warriors player after he aggressively kicked a Bears player in the shin, eliminating him from game play for the rest of the match. Then there was the other Warriors player who had his ball blocked by the Bear’s goalie so he shoved the goalie hard, sending him flying back into the netting and another hole was produced in the already fragile netting.
As the two teams headed back out onto the field for second half, Sam once again looked over at me, panic spread across his face, the smell of alcohol was growing stronger around us and he didn’t want me sitting here for when the fuse was to really blow.
“I think we should go sit in Sam’s car” I suggested to Penny and she nodded in agreement, we both looked back at the dozen or so people behind us, all of them teenagers, more than half of them were drunk and no school authority present to take control of the situation. We climbed to our feet and began walking towards the truck when all hell broke loose, the mass of teenagers who were in the stands began storming the field, destroying everything and everyone in their path.
I knew I should run to the truck, I knew that that was our plan, that’s what I had promised Sam but my legs carried me out on to the field, right into the thick of the action, the dry grass crunching beneath my shoes as I surveyed the scene in front of me. Both nets were down and destroyed within seconds, two guys went after the Ref, one held him in place while the other threw a sickening punch into the Ref’s stomach.
I scanned the oval, looking for Sam, I have to find him, I have to know he’s safe. The Warrior players were working with the Bear’s to help take down the drunks but the drunks were strong, it was evident that they had no intention of coming to watch a soccer game, they had planned this.
I felt strong arms slip around my waist and hold me tight, a sense of relief washed over me thinking it was Sam but when I looked back my eyes were met with ones that were bloodshot and an almost toothless grin. I was held tight against the barbaric’s chest, unable to break free, forced to breathe in the putrid smell of stale beer and vomit.
“Sam” I cry out into the sea of teenagers in front of me, my call is desperate as I squirm against my captivator, attempting to break free but my efforts are futile and met with a sickening laugh, to him this is a game and there’s no telling what he will do.
I feel his hot breath on my neck, moving in closer, my heart is pounding in my chest and tears are streaming down my face as I anticipate his mouth touching my skin but I’m released from his hold before he can make his move. Falling to the ground in a heap, I look back to see 2 Warrior players holding back the solid mass of a boy and then I see Sam, my Sam, throw a punch that cracks across the guys face, causing blood to spray out from his nose.
Sam shakes his fist as he holds out his other hand to me, helping me up from the ground. Adrenaline racing through my body as Sam pulls me in tight and kisses my forehead.
We make our way in silence towards the truck, I unlock it and go to hand the key to Sam but he shakes his head and holds up his hand.
“I need you to drive Veronica” His voice laced with anger as he climbs into the passenger seat, slamming the door shut behind him. I start the truck and back out onto the main road
“You shouldn’t have hit him” My mind playing back what just happened, “You’re 18 now Sam, you could be charged with assault, Do you want to end up like Carson? That’s how this will end if you keep going, if you punch people. Everything that you’ve worked so hard for, no chance of university or beyond”
“I wouldn’t of had to punch him if you had just gone to the fucking car like I told you to do or better yet, if you hadn’t come at all” Sam yells at me, making me shake, “What were you thinking Veronica?You chased the thugs out onto the field, are you insane?”
The sound of his sharp, raged breathing fills the small space in the car. Fresh tears begin spilling from my eyes, turning the road ahead of me into a blurry mess, I pull off the main road and park the truck along the curb. I hang my head, covering my wet face with my hands.
“I was worried about you, I didn’t want you to get hurt” My voice coming out as a whimper, the combination of fearing for Sam and having him yell at me has taken its toll on my emotions. I feel his hand on my back, soothing me as I try desperately to gain control over my tears.
“I’m sorry baby, I’m so sorry, I should never have allowed you to be in that situation in the first place, I’m not angry at you, I’m angry at myself” Sam whispers through the dark, “When I saw that he had a hold of you, what he was doing to you, something came over me. I’m not a violent man, I’m not like Carson but it is my job to protect you baby”
“I love you, I don’t wanna fight anymore”I look at him, my eyes begging with him to let this go now, to let all the anger and fear dissipate.
“I love you too, I want to stay with you tonight, I need to hold you in my arms and know that you’re safe”
We slept together that night on my single mattress bed, having survived our first fight together, I wish I knew then that this fight was nothing compared to what was coming.