CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627EPILOGUE

Saturday dawns bright and clear and Toby really doesn’t want to get out of bed for a moment.  He is sore all over from training so hard and what his body is telling him is that he should just lie in bed and watch films. Then his phone beeps with a message from Scooby, reminding Toby to get out of bed and get to town. Toby groans as he rolls out of bed. He can already hear Rebecca singing in the shower. Hopefully she won’t take too long.

Scooby’s already waiting for him, parked on a bench and playing some brightly coloured, happy sounding game on his phone. Scooby looks up as Toby draws closer and his face breaks out in to a bright grin. Seconds later, before they’ve even had a chance to say hello to each other, the bus appears and they climb on. Scooby takes his seat and Toby sits just in front of him, twisting on the chair to look at his friend.

“So what’s the plan then?” he asks quietly, mindful of the people on the bus.

“It’s simple,” Scooby says as he lounges back, spreading himself across the two seats. “We go to the shopping centre and look at all the sports shops. I wanna keep an eye out for any of the latest footy gear. I’ve heard there’s been a new release and I wanna see if I can find it cheaper. And while we’re at it we can look at all the ladies that are around. Once we’re done in the shops we can try and actually get talking to some of them, maybe see how far we can get.”

“I’m not gonna try and get anywhere Scoob,” Toby says firmly, “I’ve got a girlfriend remember.”

“Fine, fine,” Scooby says. He waves a hand as he speaks and looks out of the bus window, “We can talk to them and I’ll chat them up. You just look and see what you’re missing out on.”

Toby grins and turns to look at the front of the bus. Today could be better than laying around and watching films after all.

The two friends wander around the shops, seeing all the new sports gear that’s on offer. For some reason they can’t actually find anything new that’s for football. Everything new that the shops have in their windows are centred around tennis or cricket.

“Do you ever wonder?” Toby randomly says as they leave yet another shop, “I mean, do you ever think to yourself about what you’re going to do if you don’t get to make it as a footballer?”

Scooby looks at him and then away. His face is blank and then bemused, a strange twist of the mouth that makes him look like he’s sucking on a lemon.

“You know…,” he says slowly, “I never even thought about it. I mean, why would I bother. I’m a great footballer, I’ve always figured I would make it.”

“So no back up plan then?” Toby asks.

“Nah,” Scooby says as they wander through the shopping centre, “I mean what’s the point. I’m going to make it as a footballer, people are always telling me I’m going to. There’s no point making any other plans. I’ll just end up distracted if I try that.”

“Is that smart though?” Toby asks. “Like, should you just focus everything on one job and not even think about what you’re going to do if you can’t manage it? I mean, it could take a while to actually get to be a proper famous footballer with loads of money, shouldn’t you get a job in the mean time so that you’ve actually got money?”

Scooby stares at Toby for a minute. His eyes narrow and he looks at his friend closely, as though he’s examining something new that he’s never seen before.

“Are you sure that you really want to be a footballer?” he asks, “All this talk about what if you don’t make it and getting a job in the mean time. Doesn’t sound like someone who’s set on being a footballer to me.”

“Of course I want to be a footballer!” Toby cries, shoving his mate a little. “But I’m being realistic too. I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was younger and that was all I thought about until I found out that I get sick in planes. I was so sad after that because I realised that I couldn’t be a pilot if I was throwing up every few minutes. That’s why I got in to football. I just can’t help but worry about what I’m going to do if I can’t make it. It’s like coach said, only 1 out of all of us is going to end up being a proper premiership player.”

“Yeah and it’s going to be me!” Scooby said, laughing loud and pushing Toby to one side. “I leave you all behind in training, run rings round you with that ball.”

The two boys start running a little and laughing loudly. They slow down eventually and walk side by side towards the market.

“All this talk of what if is boring me now,” Scooby says after a while. “Come on mate, I know you’re worrying about it but just stop. We’re both young remember! We can’t even buy a pint for fuck’s sake. We’ve got loads of time to make mistakes and fix them when we’re older. For now I just say fuck it. Put your all in to doing one thing and doing it really well and then face the consequences of your failure or your success in the future. Live while you’re young and all that crap.”

“Have you been watching day time TV again?” Toby asks with a laugh, “You sound like Oprah or something,”

“Hey, what can I say?” Scooby says with a cocky smile and a shrug, “I’m wise beyond my years.”

The two boys laugh and fall in to silence as they slowly wander the shopping centre side by side. Toby wonders whether Scooby is right. Maybe worrying so much about the future is distracting him, taking his mind away from the here and now so he’s not doing his best. Could it be that by not focusing on the football, on improving his game or anything like that he’s actually screwing up his own chances? Toby figures that Scooby makes a good point, in a weird way.

“Hey!” Scooby says sharply, nudging Toby, “Check out that blonde over there!”

He points blatantly at a group of girls sat on the fountain, talking and laughing amongst themselves. Toby grabs his arm and shoves it down. They start to walk past them.

“I would totally do her,” Scooby says, craning his neck to look at her amongst her friends, “She’s like an 8 or something. Proper good hair and fantastic tits! I mean look at them mate!”

“I don’t want to,” Toby says, “I’ve got a girlfriend.”

The girls are behind them now. Scooby turns and walks backwards, watching the blond and almost tripping over a woman with two young kids holding her hands.

“I bet she’s really filthy,” Scooby says, “Like proper, do me up the arse filthy. And I would you know, if it was her that was asking me.”

“She’d never go for you mate,” Toby says, grinning, “She’d take one look at your ugly mug and run off screaming.”

“Her mate’s fit too,” Scooby says, glancing at Toby and ignoring the last comment, “I’d do her too. Even if she is ginger. She’s got a great arse and I think her tits are actually better than the blondes. ‘Course she’s got a face like a cat’s arsehole but I don’t plan on looking at her face.”

He chuckles to himself and turns around, bumping Toby’s arm with his elbow as he does so. Then his attention is distracted by another sports shop and the display of football boots in the window. He drags Toby over and starts pointing out the flaws of each different boot. Toby looks at the boots, not really able to see any difference between them. He’s had enough of window shopping really, and of looking at girls. He likes the girl he’s got and even looking feels a little wrong. All this talk of football is starting to make him feel ill too. He wants to be around someone who doesn’t care about football for a while, who will talk about anything else, even if it’s just the weather. A light bulb goes off in his head and he pokes Scooby’s arm to get his attention.

“Hey,” he says, “Wanna go and meet a mate of mine?”

“Sure,” Scooby says with a shrug.

He turns away from the football boots almost reluctantly though and Toby just knows that he’s not really that interested in meeting someone new. They walk side by side.

“This guy is like my best mate from school,” Toby says, “He’s really smart and could have gone to college but he didn’t want to. He opened up a market stall and he’s doing really well actually. He sells mobile phone accessories, covers and charms and all that crap,”

“Ah cool!” Scooby says, suddenly cheering up a bit, “I need a new cover for my phone.”

They make their way through the people that are everywhere. It seems to be getting busier and busier the further that they get into the market. Toby finally spots his friend’s stall, the hand painted banner is bright and eye catching. He remembers making that with his friend before he had to start going to the Academy. There are a few girls at the stall, looking at the accessories and giggling to each other. Toby notices that they keep glancing at Arjan who’s lounging near the money box. Arjan catches Toby’s eye as they get closer and breaks in to a big smile.

“Toby!” he cries, holding out his arms, “How you doing mate?”

Toby steps forwards in to his friend’s arms and accepts the hug. He pats Arjan on the back and steps back again.

“I’m good mate,” he says, “Really good.”

Scooby nudges Toby in the back and he jumps.

“Oh crap!” he says quickly. “Arjan, this is Scooby, he’s a new mate from the Academy. Scooby, this is Arjan, my best mate and one of the main reasons I managed to get through school.”

The two boys look at each other, sizing the other up. Then they smile and shake hands. After a few words are exchanged Scooby wanders off to look at the things on the stall, examining some of the covers that catch his eye and grinning at the girls that are still stood giggling nearby.

“So, how’s it going Toby?” Arjan asks, “Is the Skelmerage Training Academy everything it cracked up to be?”

“Yeah, it’s alright,” Toby says, “They’re working us hard of course but then again, that’s not really a surprise is it?”

“Nah mate,” Arjan says with a chuckle, “I told you, you were mad to try and sign up. I don’t want to spend most of my time running around and getting sweaty with no pay out,”

“Always about the money ey?” Toby says with a grin, “How’s the stall going? Business good?”

“You know it,” Arjan says with a cocky smile. He glances over Toby’s shoulder and his smile drops away. “Oh shit, no! Why’s he here?”

Toby turns and sees exactly what’s bothering Arjan. His dad is pushing his way through the crowd, a look of thunder on his face. He stops right in front of his son and stares at him. Toby spots Scooby looking over with an expression of confusion. He shakes his head. Now is not the time to get involved or even to listen in. Scooby starts making his way over anyway though.

“So you’re still doing this then?” he says. Arjan opens his mouth to respond but his father cuts him off, “When are you going to learn? This is not the life for you. This is not the life I want for you. I taught you better than this. It’s not too late to get your life back on track.”

“Dad…” Arjan says slowly, warningly. “Not now, ok?”

Arjan’s dad bristles and Arjan looks away, a stain of red traveling up his face. He won’t meet Toby’s eye, or Scooby who is now stood just behind him. Instead he fixes his eyes on the ground.

“You should listen to me son,” Arjan’s dad says, “I am your father and I know what’s best for you. This is not it.”

“Dad, really?” Arjan says, “Do we really need to do this right now? I’m trying to work.”

“Look son,” his dad says, leaning forwards and speaking urgently. It’s like he’s not even heard what Arjan is saying. “You still have time to change this. You can still enrol in college. I’ve arranged it all already. I spoke to the college today, I called them up and begged with them. They finally agreed and told me that they are willing to let you apply still, even though it’s technically over. As long as you apply before Friday you’re pretty much guaranteed a place on any course that you want.”

“Dad!” Arjan says firmly, “I’ve told you before and I’m telling you again. I’m not going to go to college. This is what I want to do, this is how I want to live my life.”

“I am going to talk to your mother,” Arjan’s father says firmly, pointing his finger at Arjan “We have to stop this, you have to stop this. This is bringing shame down upon our family! Others have sons and daughters who are doctors and accountants and solicitors and here you are, just a market trader.”

“Dad!” Arjan shouts, “This is what I want to do, this is who I am. Just because I could do something else doesn’t mean that I will or that I want to do something else.”

“You can be more than this.” Arjan’s dad shouts.

He throws his hands up in to the air and spins on his heel before he storms off. Toby watches the older man storm off through the crowds, shoving a few people aside. As he gets further away Toby can hear a few people shouting out in anger. Clearly Arjan’s dad is very angry and doesn’t seem to care about who gets in his way. Toby turned back to Arjan and saw him looking down at the ground, his face getting redder and redder.

“Your dad doesn’t look happy,” Toby says quietly, a little embarrassed on his friend’s behalf, “Does he get like that a lot?”

“He’s getting worse,” Arjan says after a moment, giving a heavy sigh. “He just doesn’t get it, he can’t understand it. This is just what I want to do, how I want to live my life. It’s just like you guys, you’re following your dreams, working hard to get what you want. I’m just doing the same, following my own dream. He wants me to follow his dream though, he wants me to do what he wants for me. But I’m not going to do it, no way am I going to do it.”

“I totally get you,” Scooby says from behind Toby. “I wanna do my thing, what I want with my life, not what everyone else says. Right Toby?”

Scooby nudges Toby and the other boy smiles tightly and nods. He lets the smile drop away quickly and turns away, pretending to look at all of the covers and charms that Arjan’s got on his stall. He wants to agree, he feels like he should agree but as soon as he started nodding, trying to agree, it just felt wrong, like he was lying to Arjan, to Scooby and to himself.

“Next time he gets on at you just remind him!” Scooby says suddenly, “Alan Sugar started out as a market trader, he left school and went straight in to trading on a stall. Now look at him! He’s like a bloody billionaire or something. And he’s on TV with dozens of businesses on the go at once.”

“Oh yeah!” Arjan cries, “I never thought about that. I’ve gotta remind him of that next time he starts going on,”

“I’d say do it,” Toby agrees.

Scooby steps away from the other two for a moment and goes back to looking through the phone covers that Arjan has on offer. Toby watches him, unable to find anything else to talk to Arjan about. He doesn’t know why but it feels uncomfortable right now, awkward and unusual, nowhere near close to how comfortable they normally are. He hopes that it’s just him, that Arjan doesn’t feel as awkward as Toby does. Arjan doesn’t deserve that and doesn’t need that on top of everything else that has already happened.

“This one!” Scooby suddenly shouts.

Toby looks over and sees Scooby holding up his choice. It’s a phone cover with footballs and a football pitch pattern. Toby laughs.

“Totally predictable,” Toby says with a chuckle. He turns back to Arjan, “How much mate?”

“Ah, take it,” Arjan says, waving his hand in the air, “They only cost me a few pence from China. I get to make a fair profit so you’re cool to have it.”

“Really?” Scooby asks, “Nice one.” He turns back to Toby, “I like your friend. He’s cool,”

“Cheers Arjan,” Toby says. “Take care of yourself, we’ve got to get going now.”

“Yeah see you,” Arjan says.

Toby reaches out and shakes hands with Arjan. Arjan drags him forwards for a hug and Toby laughs and hugs his friend back. Toby grabs Scooby’s arm and drags him away. His new friend doesn’t really want to go, he’s obviously staring at some of the girls nearby who are still watching at Arjan and giggling amongst themselves. They make their way through the market, weaving in and out amongst the people who are busy staring at the nearby stores.

“Why we leaving so early mate?” Scooby eventually asks as they get closer to the bus stop. “I’ve not got to go anywhere.”

“But I do mate,” Toby says, clapping Scooby on the shoulder, “I’ve gotta go and see Emma, my girlfriend. I promised her pizza tonight.”

“She’s got you by the balls mate,” Scooby says with a laugh. “Don’t think you’ll get off that easy next time. I’m making you stay out.”

“If you say so,” Toby says, shaking his head, “Just make sure I know first.”

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