CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627EPILOGUE

Later that afternoon he is laying on his bed, watching a film. Everyone is still out, doing their own things. As far as they’re aware he’s still at training. He plays with Fiona’s card, twisting it between his fingers absentmindedly. He keeps glancing at the card, he wants to ring the number. He knows that he shouldn’t, that it’s a very, very bad idea. He has Emma, he doesn’t really need help with acting, not yet. But the other part of him wants to call her. He can feel the need to call her bubbling up in his stomach. It’s making him uncomfortable, making him unable to sit still and shift from side to side. The need to call Fiona is making his fingers itch, twitch and jut keep moving. He can’t even focus on the film, his gaze keep flicking to the numbers on the card. Finally he dials in her number. It rings.

“Hello?” Fiona says within a couple of rings,

“Fiona hi!” Toby says brightly, “It’s Toby, from the audition earlier.”

“Oh Toby,” Fiona says, “Hi. How are you?”

“I’m good, I’m good,” he says.

He searches for something to say, anything to breech the awkward silence that it threatening to take the call to a hang up.

“Did you want something?” Fiona asks.

“Oh! Yeah!” Toby says quickly. He stumbles over his words, his ideas floating around each other and banging against themselves, “I just wanted to say that I didn’t know that you were going to be there today. At the audition. I don’t want you to think I’m a weird creepy stalker or something.”

“Right,” Fiona says. He can practically hear her nodding, “Yeah, David wanted me to read the lines. He wanted to see me with the potential lead role actors so he could see how we fitted together and stuff.”

“Is that usual?” Toby asks, “Having the lead female with the lead male auditioning together?”

“Oh totally,” Fiona says quickly, “It’s actually pretty normal. Especially once they’ve cast one of the roles. They generally want to make sure that the two actors actually work together, that they have that chemistry with each other.”

“So…” Toby says slowly, “What did David think about me and you? Does he think we’ve got that good chemistry?”

Fiona laughs lightly.

“He said it could work,” she admits, “that’s one of the reasons why he put you through to another audition. But he wasn’t too impressed with your acting if I’m honest. It was a bit stiff and wooden, didn’t feel right really. But the chemistry was there at least. I think that you really need to work on your acting if I’m honest.”

“That’s why I was calling actually,” Toby says, “I was kind of hoping that you might do some practice. Like if you would be able to help me practice my acting and give me some pointers before I sign up to NAPA or what have you? I can come to you.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Fiona says slowly, “I don’t want you to think I’m leading you on or anything.”

“Oh come on,” Toby goads, “I’m asking you to help with my acting, nothing else, no funny business.”

“No,” Fiona says with a laugh, “Guys always say that and then one thing leads to another and things go really wrong. And then I never see them again.”

“I’m not like that,” Toby says, “I’ve already got a girlfriend. I’m not interested in that. I swear. I really want this role, I really want to act and I honestly really hope that you can help me.”

They keep talking for a little longer, Toby trying to get her to help him, Fiona repeatedly refusing.

“I’m serious Fiona,” Toby says eventually, all joking gone from his voice, “I really want to give this acting thing a proper shot and I really just want you to help me with my acting.”

“Ok,” Fiona says with a sigh, “I’ll help you. When were you thinking?”

“Tonight?” Toby suggests.

“Hmm,” Fiona says slowly, “Let me jut juggle a few things around. Can you come to me for about eight pm?”

“Yeah,” Toby says quickly, “Text me your address and I’ll be there.”

She gives him her address and promises to text it to Toby as well. He hangs up and smiles broadly.

As it gets closer to six pm, the time that Toby normally gets home from training, he races out of the house, kit bag in hand. He runs down the streets and around the block. He hides and waits, checking his watch for the time that he normally gets home. As the time finally clicks around when he would be usually arriving home he heads towards the house.

He lets himself in like normal. He hangs up his bag and slides off his shoes.

“Hey Dad!” he shouts, “I’m home!”

“Where the hell have you been?” Anthony shouts, storming down the hallway. His face is red.

“I’ve been at training,” Toby says. His heart skips a little and the fluttering returns to his stomach. This time though it isn’t nerves, it’s something else. “Where else would I be?”

“You’re a liar,” Anthony spits out, “You’ve not been at training at all.”

“Yes,” Toby says, “I have.”

He squares off with his dad, standing toe to toe with him. Toby stands up straight, shoulders pushed back and chest puffed out. He’s surprised to realise that he’s actually taller than Anthony now by a good few inches. He wonders when that happened.

“No,” Anthony says, poking Toby in the chest, “I know for a fact you haven’t been at training today.”

“Oh yeah?” Toby says recklessly, “How do you know that?”

“Because your coach called.” Anthony says.

Toby steps back a few steps, stumbling on his discarded kit bag. Anthony smiles maliciously, it’s a scary expression on his face.

“Oh yes,” Anthony says, “He called and asked where you were. Said you hadn’t turned up to practice. I asked if he was sure and he confirmed that you weren’t there. That you hadn’t been there all day. So, I’m going to ask you again. Where. Have. You. Been?”

“Just out,” Toby says with a shrug. “I wanted to get away from training for a while and do my own thing.”

“Toby!” Anthony cries out, “You’ve worked so hard to get in to the Academy! You’re just throwing it all away. Were you with Emma? Is that what you’ve been doing?”

“No I wasn’t with Emma,” Toby says, rolling his eyes.

“So if I call her she won’t try and lie to me then?” Anthony says, waving his mobile phone at his son, “I told you it was a bad idea to get involved with her. She’s distracting you from your career and your training. You can’t let yourself get distracted. This is what you’ve dreamed of for years.”

“It’s not Emma!” Toby shouts. “I was just busy doing something else.”

“What?!” Anthony shouts, demanding, “Exactly what was so busy that you missed a day of training?! You’re going to be a professional footballer, you can’t just wander off when you feel like it and pick and choose when you train, it doesn’t work like that.”

“I had something important to do,” Toby says. He looks away and crosses his arms. He knows he looks like a sulking toddler but he just doesn’t care right now. “Something more important than training.”

“There’s nothing more important than training,” Anthony hisses out.

He grabs Toby by the upper arms and drags him away from the wall he backed himself up again. He shakes his son, hard.

“I’m not going to let this happen,” Anthony hisses, “I’m not going to let you throw away your chances of success for some ridiculous reason.”

“Let go of me!” Toby cries out, waving his arms around to try and break his dad’s grip, “I’m nearly 18, I’m an adult. I don’t have to answer to you any more!”

“Yes you bloody well do,” Anthony says. He lets go of Toby and steps back, crossing his arms over his chest, “While you’re living under my roof, eating my food and using my electricity you have to live by my rules. And right now my rules are that you go to training and nothing else!”

Toby says nothing. He just glares at his father. White hot anger runs through his body. Anthony just continues to stare at him, his face stern and commanding. Slowly though his body relaxes and a look of worry appears on his face.

“What’s going on Toby?” he asks quietly, “Is it drugs? Gambling? Sex? Just tell me and we can sort it out. I just want you to focus on playing football and doing well at the Academy.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” Toby mutters, “You never understand.”

“I might if you tell me,” Anthony says, “Are you on drugs? Have you started taking steroids or something?! Do I need to get you in to rehab? You can’t have a drug problem Toby, you’re too young and it’ll screw up your entire footballing career if you don’t sort it out. None of the major teams will take on a player who’s addicted to drugs! You’ve got to stay clean!”

“Jesus Christ!” Toby cries, flinging his arms up in the air, “That’s all you actually fucking care about isn’t it?! That I become a professional footballer! This is why you won’t understand. You never listen to me, you only hear what you want to hear.”

“Then tell me why you weren’t at training!” Anthony shouts, “You’ve worked your entire life for this opportunity and now you’re just throwing it away!”

“I give up!” Toby yells, “I can’t deal with this right now. I’m going out!”

He turns and throws the door open. It slams against the wall with a loud clatter and shakes in its frame. Toby storms through it, grabbing it and slamming it shut behind him. The bang is loud, it makes the entire house shake and there’s a finality to it. Toby walks towards the street, his long legs easily eating up the path between the door and the front gate.

Anthony stands there, mouth hanging open in shock. Toby has never spoken to him like that, never used those sorts of words and he’s certainly never stormed out of the house. Normally, when they argue, which rarely happens, Toby will storm upstairs and lock himself in his bedroom with the music blaring and a film on TV.  But today he’s actually walked off.

Anthony knows that something’s going on, that something’s not right with his son. But he can’t figure out what. Toby is lying through his teeth about something, not telling him the truth. Anthony wonders how long it’s been happening, how long Toby’s been lying to him. It was really only luck today that caught him out. The fact that Toby hasn’t bothered to set the record straight, hasn’t told him what is actually going on makes a cold knot of dread settling in Anthony’s stomach. He feels a little sick and just wants a cup of tea. Maybe a beer actually.

“Daddy?” Rebecca says quietly, “Where’s Toby gone?”

Anthony looks up. Rebecca is looking at him from the landing above. He wonders how long she’s been there, how much she’s heard. She’s too smart for her own good sometimes. He smiles but it feels forced, too big for his face.

“Your brother’s just a bit upset at the moment,” he says, faux brightness in his voice, “He’s gone out for a while to cool off. He’ll be back soon, don’t worry.”

“Oh… ok,” Rebecca says.

Her head disappears. She didn’t look convinced by Anthony’s excuse and explanation and he can’t blame her. He wants to know what’s going on. As he heads to the kitchen he trips on Toby’s kit bag. He glares at it before he eventually sighs and picks it up, taking it in to the bottom of the stairs out of the way - it clearly doesn’t need washing.

Toby wanders the streets for a while, his mind racing with thought after thought. It feels a bit like earlier, when he asked for Fiona’s number. And when he called her. It just feels weird, surreal, like he’s just floating around and watching himself doing these things without actually controlling them. His dad knows that there’s something wrong, Toby knows it, and Anthony’s not going to drop it until he finds out what. Toby walks around, his feet just leading him while he keeps his head down and hands in his pockets. He keeps trying to figure out what to do, where to go.

He doesn’t want to go home, not yet, if ever. He can’t go to Scooby’s house, that’ll just lead to questions about where he was today. He can’t go to Arjan’s, he still lives with his mum and dad and Toby really doesn’t want to be involved in another argument between father and son. At Arjan’s that’s exactly what he’s going to get. There’s really only one place he could go, one place where he knows he’ll be at least partially welcome, even if he is early. He pulls out his phone and brings up the text from Fiona. He scrolls through until he finds her address, brings it up on the Maps app and begins to head that way.

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