CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627EPILOGUE

Toby sits in a different pub, looking around and watching all the different people enjoying themselves. There are couples here, old friends, new friends, families. All of them are wrapped up in their own little worlds and Toby is just looking in. He sighs and looks down at his pint, still a little surprised that he was actually served and not asked for ID. He must be looking older than he used to. Then again a sleepless night will do that to a person. The door opens, letting in a burst of cool air and he looks up. Emma has arrived at last. He’s been waiting for a while. She walks over but today there’s no smile on her face, no welcoming softness or arms held out.

“Took you long enough,” he says when she’s close enough, “What took you so long?”

“I was busy,” she says frostily, taking a seat opposite Toby, “I have a life you know,”

“Really?!” Toby cried out, “I thought your life revolved around me becoming a footballer so you could be a WAG and spend all my money. Guess I was wrong.”

“Whatever,” Emma says harshly, “I’ll take a white wine spritzer.”

Toby stares at her for a few minutes. She won’t look at him. He sighs, rolls his eyes and heads off to get her the drink. She’s on her phone when he gets back, tapping away and glaring at the screen. He plonks the drink down in front of her, ignoring the liquid that sloshes out of the glass and on to his hand and the table cloth. He just sits down opposite her.

“You’re cruel,” she says suddenly, “I can’t believe that you said those things to me. How dare you talk to me like that?!”

“How dare I?!” Toby cries. People look over and he quickly lowers his voice, leaning towards Emma, “How dare I? Are you seriously asking that? Your life dream revolves around me being successful and making all the money. You just want to ride along on my coat tails and spend it. How on earth is that me being cruel? I was telling you the truth.”

“All our life you’ve been focused on being a footballer,” Emma says, “It’s all you’ve ever gone on about. What else was I supposed to dream of being? I wanted to be with you and you’d be rich enough for the both of us. I don’t see the problem. You’re the guy, you’re supposed to support me.”

“That’s pathetic,” Toby says with a sneer, “You just want some rich husband to take care of you. Why wouldn’t you want a dream for yourself? Why wouldn’t you want to make a life for yourself doing your own thing?”

“Well I’m going to have to now aren’t I?!” Emma hissed, “You’ve got that stupid idea in your head about being an actor. I guess it’s going to end up being me that supports us,”

Toby says nothing. He just glares at Emma for a few minutes, sipping at his pint. Finally he clears his throat and puts his drink down. He leans forwards again.

“I don’t think that you’re going to be supporting me,” he says slowly. “Let’s face it. We’ve been arguing for weeks. The smallest thing sets us off and it’s not getting any better. Clearly we’re never going to agree on this and I’m starting to think that you only want me because of the chance I might become a professional footballer and make loads of money. Maybe we should just forget about the engagement for a while and take a break from each other.”

“What?!” Emma asks harshly. “You can’t be serious!”

“I am,” Toby says simply, “I’ve never been more serious in my life. The arguments are doing my head in. I think taking a break could be really good for us.”

“But I love you,” Emma says quietly, sadly, “I might have got with you for the chance of being a WAG to begin with but I really do love you. We can’t break up, we’re supposed to be together.”

“Emma,” Toby says gently, “I’m not saying that we break up for good, honestly I’m not. I’m just saying that maybe we should just take a break for a while, like a trial separation. This way we can think about stuff, you know, try and decide if we’re what each other really wants, if we’re really right for each other. We’ve been together since we were fourteen, we’re not the same people any more. And I think this could help us realise if we still feel the same way for each other.”

“I do!” Emma says quickly, “I don’t need time to think, I really don’t. I know that I love you, I’ve always loved you. I don’t need to be away from you to know that.”

“I’m sorry Emma but I can’t say the same,” Toby says quietly, “I can’t be in a relationship that I’m not one hundred percent invested in and I want to be sure that you’re the one I want to be with. I don’t want to hurt you or break your heart, that’s why we need this break.”

“I won’t let you break us up,” Emma says quickly, “It takes two people to make a relationship and it takes two people to end it.”

“For god’s sake!” Toby cries out, “I’m not ending the relationship! I’m just… pausing it for a while. So I can be sure. Just… leave me alone for a little while, give me some space and let me think.”

Toby doesn’t wait for her response. He just drains the rest of his pint and gets up from the table. Emma calls his name as he walks away but he ignores her. He walks out of the door and doesn’t look back.

 

 

Anthony sits at the kitchen table, staring at the white envelope in front of him. It’s 5:30 and Toby should be home by now but he isn’t. Anthony found the envelope on the doormat when he got home and even though it says Toby’s name on the front he opened it any way. With everything that’s been going on between Toby and himself, with how secretive his son has been Anthony wants to know what this mysterious letter is so he opened it. The contents made him boil with anger for a few moments, he is still angry but it’s simmering within him. He knows that he looks calm from the outside, like there’s not a problem in the world. But inside he’s raging, the urge to break something, to hit something is burning in him, higher and higher. He needs to talk to Toby about this but his son just isn’t here.

Eventually though the door opens and shuts, rattling a little in its frame.

“Hello?” he hears Toby call. “Anyone home?”

Anthony says nothing, he just sits there, glaring at the kitchen door and willing it to open. He can hear Toby making his way down the hall, heading towards the kitchen, still calling out for people. When Toby opens the door to the kitchen he stops and stares at his dad.

Why is his dad just sitting there, staring at him? Then his eyes fall to the table and see the envelope. He stares at it for a moment before he looks at his dad.

“Sit down Toby,” Anthony says.

Toby does so, settling himself and trying to look casual. His eyes keep flicking to the envelope and he sees his name on it.

“What’s this?” he asks, “Why is it open?”

“Read it,” Anthony says quietly.

Toby pulls the letter towards him. His hands shake as he pulls the letter from the envelope, discarding it to one side. He’s still shaking as he unfolds the paper and he instantly sees the letter head. It’s from the National Association of Performing Arts. He reads through it, his eyes getting wider and wider. He lets out a small whoop when he sees the final sentence. ‘We are pleased to accept you at our college and a welcome pack is on its way to you.”

Anthony’s been watching Toby as his son reads what is written. He already knows but he wants to hear it for himself, right from Toby. He looks pleased though, a smile spreading across his face. Anthony’s lips tighten and his brows pull together. His anger is boiling up again. He clenches his fists together so hard that his knuckles turn white. He rests them on his knees, trying to hide the depth of his anger from Toby.

When Toby looks at dad Anthony’s face is red with anger. His eyes are stern and glaring. Toby swallows fearfully and he slowly puts the letter down. For a moment he wonders how bad it’s going to get. He knows that there’s going to be an argument of some sort, his dad looks far from happy. He sighs and let’s himself relax, ready to take it.

“So…” Anthony says slowly, his voice shaking slightly, “What is it?”

“It’s from the Performing Arts School,” Toby says slowly, “I’ve been accepted on to a crash course in acting.”

“Acting?” Anthony snaps.

“Yeah,” Toby says, “Acting,”

“Since when have you wanted to be an actor?” Anthony snarls out quietly.

Toby thinks for a moment. He’s never been asked that question, he’s never really thought about it. But the more that he thinks the more that he realises that deep down he always knew that something was missing, that he was somehow incomplete. Now though, since he got the stunt role and then tried for an actual audition, he’s felt more complete than he ever has before. The answer is so clear really, when he thinks about it.

“Forever,” he admits with a shrug, “I’ve always wanted to be an actor.”

He feels lighter somehow, saying those words. It’s like a weigh has been taken from his shoulders. He’s finally said the words out loud, to someone who’s opinion has always mattered to him. He doesn’t have to hide it any more, he realises, he doesn’t have to sneak around any more and keep telling lies to his father. He smiles when he realises how much of a burden keeping all of this inside has actually been.

“Stop smirking,” Anthony snaps. “What about football? We’ve worked so hard for this and you’re just going to throw it all away?”

“I want to be a footballer as well,” Toby says quietly, “I love football, I don’t want to give it up. But I love acting too and I’m actually really good at it. I got in to the National Association of Performing Arts for God’s sake. Do you have any idea how hard that is?!”

“I don’t care how hard it is,” Anthony snaps. “You can’t do both!”

“Says who?” Toby asks defiantly

“Says me,” Anthony snarls, “You need to be determined in what you do if you want to be the best but you can only be determined in one thing at a time. Splitting your attention and your passion between two things never works, believe me.”

“That’s rubbish,” Toby says with a sneer, “It might be like that for you, but it isn’t for me. I’m going to do both and I’m going to be good at both.”

“It’s not just me who thinks it,” Anthony says, “I saw Terry the other day, you know, the manager of Skelmerage? He says -”

“He says what?” Toby interrupts, “That football is the only real path to take?”

“He said that you aren’t showing enough determination,” Anthony says harshly, “You’re not showing the coaches that you really want this. And I guess I know why!”

“So you went behind my back?!” Toby cries out, quickly getting to his feet and looming over his dad, “I wasn’t being the good little boy you wanted so you went behind my back and discussed me with Terry?! I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t do that? We agreed that you’d let me do this my way.”

“Well I wasn’t getting anything out of you,” Anthony says, “You weren’t telling me anything about the Academy. I had no choice, I had to do it.”

“You didn’t have to do anything,” Toby says harshly. “You chose to.”

He looks at his dad. Toby’s entire body is shaking. He keeps unclenching and clenching his fists. He can feel hot tears prickling in his eyes. Toby asked his dad to do just one thing, one thing and he ignored it. Toby wanted to get in to the Academy on his own, get through it on his own and he asked Anthony not to use his personal relationship with Terry to discuss or influence what happens at the Club in any way. But Anthony had done it anyway, gone behind his back and broken the promise that he had made. Toby realises that he’s been betrayed, that his dad only really cares about one thing, just like Emma. The realisation burns, makes him feel sick.

“We’ve worked too hard for this,” Anthony says, “We’ve worked too hard for too long for me to let you just throw it all away. I’m not going to let you do that.”

“We haven’t done anything!” Toby snaps back, “I have done it all. I’m the one who went to training, I’m the one who played in match after match. It was me that practiced in the back garden, that watched videos of players over and over so I could figure out their way of playing. You didn’t do a thing.”

“I didn’t do a thing?!” Anthony asks harshly, “Who’s the one who fed you, who clothed you? Who ran you to training sessions? Who paid for those clubs, for your kit, for your boots? I’m the one who made sure that you went to training even when you didn’t want to wake up. I’m the one who kept you from playing all of those times that you hurt yourself so you wouldn’t make it worse! Don’t you dare say that you did it all by yourself because you know damn well I was there along with you.”

“Oh boo fricking hoo,” Toby says, “You did all of those things, all of the things you’re supposed to do because you’re a fucking father. It’s what fathers do for their kids. Besides, you wanted this for me, you’re the one who wanted me to be a footballer, who wanted me to do what you couldn’t. It was never a problem for you when it was working with what you wanted. Hell, you were more interested in me getting in to the Academy than I was.”

“Because it’s the only way for you to go pro!” Anthony snaps. “If you hadn’t of gotten in to the Academy you wouldn’t be spotted by any scouts, you won’t get the chance to become a premier league player. You had to get in to the Academy. I couldn’t let you fail and you got in thanks to me!”

“Oh…” Toby say. He pauses, realising something. “Oh my god.”

“Toby…”Anthony says.

He gets up and walks around the table, reaching out towards his son. Toby backs away, holding a hand up to his mouth. There are tears in his eyes. He thinks that he’s going to be sick. He doesn’t want his dad to touch him right now, not at all. The truth is finally there, out in the open and he can’t believe it.

“Oh… I… Don’t touch me!” Toby snaps when Anthony reaches out to him, “I get it now, I really do.”

“Get what?” Anthony asks quietly.

“I get everything, exactly what you’ve done.” Toby snaps out.

“I did exactly what I had to,” Anthony says, “I did what was necessary to get you where we’ve been dreaming of you going for your entire life.”

“I can’t believe you’d do that!” Toby shouts, “The only reason I’m even at Skelmerage Football Club, the only reason that I got in to the Academy was because you asked Terry. I didn’t earn my place, I didn’t show them that I belonged there. My place was bought, by you, because you’re buddy buddy with the manager. Someone else could have had my spot, should have had my spot. But you were so focused on me reaching your dream that you screwed up someone else’s life.”

“You deserved a spot!” Anthony snaps, “You’re a damn good footballer and you deserve the best training. If someone else didn’t get in it was because they weren’t good enough. If you were crap Terry wouldn’t have let you in, even if I asked. You did it on your own.”

“Bullshit!” Toby shouts, “That Academy is filled with players who are ten times better than I am, some of them are better than I could ever be. I got in on a favour. I didn’t earn my place and everyone at the club, all the coaches and the trainers, they all know it. Hell the players probably know it too.”

He stops and sighs. He tries to fight down the tears but it’s no good. They start to fall, streaming down his face. He shakes his head and wipes his eyes. When he looks up at his dad the anger inside him is burning white hot.

“I’m out of here,” he says quietly, “I can’t live with someone like you. I’m leaving.”

Toby walks away, shoving past his dad and storming upstairs. Anthony calls out after him but Toby storms in to his room and starts grabbing clothes. He shoves it all in to his kit bag, along with his now clean football kit. He has training tomorrow and even after all that he’s heard he’s determined to turn up and show people that he deserves his place on the Academy course, no matter how he got there. He storms back downstairs and stops to put his shoes on. His dad appears near him, between Toby and the door.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Toby says. Anthony’s eyes brighten with happiness for a moment but Toby continues, “I’ll get the rest of my clothes then. Once I’ve found somewhere to live I’ll get the rest of my stuff and I’ll be gone.”

“You can’t just leave like this,” Anthony says, “You’re not going anywhere.”

“I can and I am,” Toby says.

They square up to each other, glaring in to each other’s faces. Toby is set, his mind made up and every inch of him screams determination to leave the house that he’s known since he was a kid.

“You’re still a kid,” Anthony says, stepping forwards.

“I’m almost eighteen,” Toby says.

He darts past his dad and opens the door.

“Where are you going to go?!” Anthony shouts out, “Who’s going to be thick enough to take you in?”

“I’ll find somewhere,” Toby says over his shoulder. He doesn’t look back in to the house, “Despite your best efforts I do actually have friends that care about me as a person, not just because I’m going to help them reach their dreams.”

“You can’t go,” Anthony says again, weakly now.

“Yes I can,” Toby says, stepping through the door. He pauses on the front step and looks at the road in front of him, “Find someone else to live your dream. I’m done.”

He walks away. The door slams behind him and so does the gate. Toby makes his way down the street. He feels both heavy and light at the same time. It’s all a mess.

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