Friday rolled around faster than anyone expected. Liam had set off for his interview which was a couple hours drive away and Harris gave us a tour of one of the most expensive hotels in the world. He was not joking when he said this place was top notch. The drinks had already started flowing and we were reminiscing about old times.
“I want to watch Liams interview before we head to the bar.” I flicked through the channels looking for the sports ones and my heart raced when he appeared on my screen looking absolutely breathtaking. Tia and Harris joined me on the sofa.
“We are joined here with Liam Maines who has just been signed onto California’s top soccer team during his first year at Stanford University. We welcome Liam and we think that he will prove to be a great asset to the team. So Liam, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you learn to play soccer?” A lady with a short black bob and too much red lipstick smiled brightly at the screen, Liam looked incredibly nervous and seemed closed off. I felt a twang of guilt eating away at me. I choose to come here with Harris instead of supporting him from the sidelines.
“As a young child I met a group of friends at the park, they were more fortunate than me and attended these fancy soccer clubs. When I first spotted them playing soccer I didn’t even know how to play but they quickly accepted me into their friendship group and taught me. We played soccer from sunrise until sunset, most days.”
Liams nervousness didn’t subside but I could see the spark of happiness on his face when he spoke about his friendships. It made my heart swell.
“Ahh, so you didn’t attend any soccer clubs. Were you on any of the school soccer teams?” The lady asked with bouncy facial expressions.
“Yes, I went to Chestington High and was on the soccer team from freshman year all the way until I was a senior. That’s how I got scouted for a scholarship to Stanford and then from Stanford obviously I got signed.”
“That is a huge achievement Liam, there’s not that many people getting signed as young and as fresh as you. What do your family and friends think of your success?”
“My friends are my family and they couldn’t be happier for me.”
“No hard feelings then? No jealousy?”
I could see the interviewers face harden like she was looking for some sort of story from him and I didn’t like it.
“Of course not, we have been friends for a long time and we will be friends for life. We live in different parts of the state, attend different universities but the night I got signed everyone came to congratulate me. They are literally the best people in this world and something so materialistic would not falter that relationship.”
“And you have brought your girlfriend here with you today?”
My heart pounded inside my chest as the guilt crippled me but then the camera angle changed and Lola’s face was on the screen.
“Oh My God, that’s Lola. What the fuck? Why is Lola there? Are they even that close?” Tia said without catching a break.
“Shhh.” I whispered.
Liam looked out towards the audience and started laughing, shaking his head. I couldn’t help but mimic every facial expression he made. I could see he was holding himself back, not fully committing himself to this interview. Questions and answers were not Liams thing, he struggled during a game of truth or dare so I would say he was holding himself pretty well and I was insanely proud of him for that.
“No. She wishes.” Liam joked. “My actual girlfriend is currently in a hotel room with another man, so that is how my Friday night is going. That’s just my friend.” The audience laughed and my smiled dropped.
“Oh shit.” Tia muttered slowly.
“So why is soccer important to you?” The lady asked.
Liams whole stance physically changed before my eyes. His body visibly stiffened and he reached up to rub the back of his neck. His moments of hesitation told me he was struggling and I could see his eyes scanning the audience, looking for the reassurance to continue. From behind my television screen I could not see if his irises had turned silver but I knew if I was up close they would shine in the brightest metallic grey. I grabbed hold of Tias arm, needing the support from her myself. She looked down at it bewildered by my reaction.
“He is going to say something about the abuse.” I explained.
“How do you know?” Tia asked, looking back at the TV like I was insane, clearly seeing something she was not.
“I didn’t have a great childhood. I was abused, physically, emotionally ... sexually. Soccer for me was an escape. It was the only way I could close off from what was going on at home. I would play the game and lose myself in the competitiveness and for that short amount of time I didn’t think about what I had endured. Only the game mattered.”
He struggled a little, stammering over certain words and he spoke fast, wanting to free his truth as quickly as possible. His voice was shaky, raw with emotion and I could see his chest heaving up and down.
“Damn girl, you know him well.” Tia uttered.
“Liam was abused?” Harris asked.
“I didn’t know he was going to do that. I should be there with him.”
The audience had become stunned into a silence and the interviewer didn’t really know to approach the situation, then she offered her condolences and swiftly moved the interview on after commending him on his bravery. The rest of the questions that followed were strictly about soccer and Liam answered them with complete ease. I was thankful the interviewer didn’t make things too hard on him by bombarding him with questions about the abuse. But now that the truth was out there I knew it was only a matter of time before those questions followed.
When the interview had concluded I kept ringing him until he finally picked up on the fourth ring attempt.
“Hey, I’m so proud of you Liam. I should have been there.”
“Did you watch it?” Liam sounded genuinely shocked.
“Of course I did, If I knew you were going to talk about all of that I would have come to support you.”
“Liv don’t be silly, you are enjoying your night out, I’m fine. Lola was here.”
“You don’t even get along with Lola most of the time.” Liam laughed down the phone and I could picture his smile, his perfect straight white teeth enclosed inside that boyish grin that he wears so well. I wanted to be with him, to see that smile in person.
“Go have fun Liv, I’ll see you tomorrow. I Love you.”
“I Love you too.”
The line went dead and I turned back to Tia and Harris who had already opened a new bottle of gin and was pouring too much into the martini glasses. All alcohol was complimentary from the hotel and we planned to fully utilize that. Liam seemed fine on the phone and I needed to take comfort that he had Lola with him, even if she was not the most supportive person in the world. There was nothing I could do about it now, what is done is done. Liam was over two hours away from me and I had his blessing to have fun.
Tia switched to the music channel and craned the volume up loud enough to rake in some complaints but we none of us cared. We were living the best life this evening, pretending to entitled, rich people who did as they pleased.
The night had only just begun.