Toby whistles as he walks through the front door and plonks his kit bag on the floor. He’s still whistling as he walks in to the kitchen and grabs a glass of water. Rebecca stares at him like he’s a lunatic but she quickly starts smiling again when he races over and begins to tickle her and smother her with kisses. They have a small wrestling match for a few moments, nothing too boisterous as Rebecca is in the middle of doing some of her summer homework. Eventually they calm down and Toby sits behind his sister on the bench before the kitchen table. His arms are around her shoulders and he’s leaning his head on her shoulders as he watches her do her homework.
“You’re in a better mood today,” she says slyly, “Manage to score a good goal?”
“Something like that,” Toby says. He smiles at the memory of the morning, “Definitely something like that.”
“Well I’m glad,” Rebecca says as she wiggles free. She sounds like a forty five year old rather than a twelve year old. “When you’re happy it makes me happy. You were really sad this weekend, I was worried. But you’re happy now and smiling and laughing so it’s all good.”
“So you’re happy because I’m happy?” Toby says, “Nice to know.”
Toby jogs out of the kitchen, passing his dad on the way out.
“Evening dad,” he says brightly, his smile wide.
He waves at Anthony before jogging past and heading up the stairs to his room. Anthony watches him go before shaking his head and smiling. He’s flooded with relief, please to see his son smiling again. The week before had been worrying, with how quiet and almost sullen Toby had seemed. But now though, the second week in, Anthony is glad to see that Toby seems much brighter and happier. It was probably the settling in. It’s always hard and Toby had always struggled a little to cope with sudden change. He’s almost expected Toby’s bad mood to continue for a few more weeks until he finally found his rhythm but apparently Toby is learning to cope and adapt much better than before.
For a little while Anthony has been worried that Toby didn't want to be a footballer any more. The way that his son sometimes shuts down when they talk about the Academy or what football teams to play for made Anthony worry. The few times that he’d mentioned finding Toby an actual agent, his son had stormed from the room and raced off to exercise. Anthony knows Toby has talent, he doesn’t want his son to waste it and he also knows that sometimes he can be a bit harsh as a father. But it’s all for the best interest of his children, even if they don’t realise it at the time.
It was Anthony that pushed Toby to apply for the Academy, Anthony that encouraged him and nagged at him to practice, it was Anthony that drove him to the trials and cheered him on from the sidelines. Anthony knows that he might have pushed a little harder than some parents but he’s proud of his son, and of how well their hard work has paid off. And now Toby seems as happy at the Academy as Anthony is. He’s settled and from what Anthony’s heard from Rebecca Toby is even making friends. He just hopes that these friends don’t distract Toby too much from the reason he’s there. Namely to train at football and to catch the attention of some premiership club or other so that Toby can finally take those few small but difficult steps to becoming a world famous, top class football player.
Dinner is nowhere near as quiet as it was the week before. Toby’s asking Rebecca question after question about anything that he can think of. Anthony is asking Toby about the Academy and their training. This time Toby’s actually answering the questions.
Toby can’t wait for dinner to be over though. He’s spent most of the evening before dinner was ready researching Rooney, learning more about him and his past. He wants to know Rooney, to understand where he comes from and what is probably still pushing him to play. He’s trying to figure out and understand Rooney’s mannerisms, the way he talks, verbal and physical ticks that can make all the difference between pretending to be Rooney and actually being Rooney. Toby’s been doing some other research as well, looking up acting tips. He knows that he needs to understand a real person if he wants to portray them. The tiniest details about someone, even the way that they brush their hair off their face, can make a massive difference to the performance. Toby wants to know these things about Rooney, figure them out and get them down.
But more than that he needs to know when the audition is, where it is, so that all the research actually pays off. He had been just about to google it before Anthony called him and Rebecca down for dinner. Now he wants to get dinner over and done with so he can get his answer and start preparing for the chance of a lifetime.
Even though Toby’s plate is empty he’s not allowed to leave the table. Anthony has a rule in place and Rebecca is still eating. He jiggles his legs, bouncing around while he waits. He sort of wishes that he hadn’t asked her so many questions during dinner. If he hadn’t she would probably be done by now.
As soon as dinner is over Toby shoots upstairs, barely taking the time to rinse his plate and put it in the dish washer. He scrambles around, trying to find his laptop underneath the pages of the script and newspaper clippings of amazing football games. He finally finds it and within moments he has fired it up and is on Google. He types in ‘Wayne Rooney Audition’, slowly, one letter at a time. He doesn’t spend much time on the computer, not like his friends do, so he’s not a quick typer. He knows people who can type dozens of words a minute, their fingers flying over the keyboard. But he can’t do that and he is, in truth, a little jealous.
The computer bleeps to tell him the search is complete and straight away he sees the information that he was hoping to find. The audition for the lead part of Wayne Rooney for the film England’s Finest is on Thursday, at 1pm, at the studio. He looks at it, stares at it really. He knows that he needs to be there, that he won’t miss it for anything. For the first time he feels the sharp burn of determination flowing through him. He feels like there are butterflies in his stomach every time he thinks of the audition, a thrill of adrenaline runs through him. He’s felt something similar before, like when he tried out for the Academy, but it’s never been as strong as it is right now. He knows that he has finally found something that he really, really wants, that he will do anything to get.
Even the fact that he’s meant to be at training on the day of the audition does nothing to stop him. He knows that he’s going to find a way to get to the audition, football has fallen behind in how important he thinks it is. He’s got the audition to worry about, the role of Rooney and the part as a stunt double. That’s what’s important, that’s what Toby wants to do with his life. He wants to be an actor and nothing in the world is going to stop him.
With that thought in mind he realises that he needs to practice for the audition. He might have nailed the stunt double part, and done well enough to act in a stand in, but he also knows that his performance today probably won’t be good enough for the actual audition. There are going to be guys there with years of acting experience, lads who had been to acting school, who’ve had lessons and drama teachers and whatever else their parents could throw at them to make them stop whining. Even though Toby knows the producer, has got a leg up in a way, he knows that it will very likely not be enough. He needs to be on top form and the only way he knows how to do that is to practice. It’s just a question of who to use.
Then he hears singing from the room next door and it’s like a light bulb goes off in his head. He walks to his door, out of it and stands in front of Rebecca’s door. He knocks twice and waits. The sound of singing stops.
“Yes?” she says.
“It’s me,” Toby says, “I need your help. Can you come to my room?”
She pauses for a moment, thinking probably.
“Ok,” she says, “Give me a minute.”
Toby nods, knowing that she can’t actually see him and heads back to his room. He lounges on his bed to wait. She’s inside within moments and shuts the door too. He hands her the script.
“What’s this?” she asks,
“It’s a script,” Toby says, knowing that it’s obvious, “I need you to read the lines for the character called Coleen for me and I’ll read the ones for Rooney.”
“Cool,” she says with shrug.
They start reading. Now and then Toby has to look back at the script, snatching it from his sister’s hands in his impatience to remember his lines. He keeps making her repeat it until he knows it word for word, even Coleen’s parts. Then he gets her to keep going. He needs to know the lines but he needs to know how to act them, how to ply them for the best affect. As he reads the lines he remembers Fiona, how easily she slipped from posh middle class girl in to Coleen’s character. He’s going to be up against people who can all do the same so he needs an edge, that extra something that will mark him out from everyone else. He asks Rebecca for her thoughts.
“Well it’s a big decision right?” she says, “Maybe you need to make that clearer.”
“I can’t spell it out Becky,” Toby says tiredly, “I have to stick to the script. So I need to figure out how to show it.”
“Well maybe try and sound like you’re really confused,” she suggests, shrugging, “Make it sound like you really don’t know what to do, that you want to do both but can’t?”
“You’re a genius!” he says.
He grabs her head and kisses it. She smiles and then they go back to reading the lines. This time Toby focuses on the performance itself, not the words. He thinks back to the videos that he’s watched of Rooney talking about the change to Manchester United from Everton, the way he had spoken about Everton when he talked to the press about the move. Toby needs to bring that to his performance, needs to make it even stronger because Rooney is talking to Coleen, the love of his life, not just stating facts to the press. He works and works at it, tries to stop being Toby Arnold and becomes Wayne Rooney. The more that they read the more he becomes this other person and eventually Rebecca is smiling as they finish the repetition of the lines for the last time.
“I think you’ve got it,” she says, “I really forgot you were Toby for a minute there.”
“And the accent?” Toby asks eagerly, “Did I manage to keep it up?”
“Didn’t slip for a minute.” She says, grinning even wider. Then she frowns, “What’ this script for anyway?”
“It’s for the Academy,” Toby says quickly, not really thinking, “Something to do with the football club itself and they wanted me to help out.”
“Oh right.” Rebecca says.
She looks through the script, clearly believing him. As they start to run through the lines again Toby feels a pang of guilt in his stomach, he feels queasy when he realises how easy it was to lie to Rebecca. She’s young, just young enough to believe in and trust the people that are older than her and that’s what’s happened. He doesn’t like the fact that he’s lied to her, that he’s getting her to do something that he knows his dad won’t like. But he also knows that this is something that he needs to do, he has to do, in order to be happy and its that determination that has won out. It quickly wipes away any feelings of guilt that he’s having. After all, it’s not like Toby’s hurting anyone, Rebecca isn’t doing anything wrong or illegal. He just doesn’t want to reveal the truth until there are results, until he’s got proof that this isn’t all just one big waste of time.
And he knows that she’s mostly helping him because she’s finally getting to spend time with him. They used to spend a lot of time together, after school and at the weekends, but that was before Anthony started pushing Toby harder and harder to play football at a better level. As the times Toby had to practice increased the less time he was able to spend with Rebecca. She misses him, he knows it, he can tell by the way she’s always trying to get his attention, to sing to him, and how she was so eager to read the lines and not ask any questions. He wishes that he could spend more time with her, maybe the acting is a chance to do it. But football comes first in Anthony’s book, and Toby’s too, so he can’t really cut out football just to spend time with his kid sister, no matter how hard he might want to.
“Are we done now?” Rebecca eventually says, whining a little, “I’m getting kind of bored now.”
“Yeah,” Toby says after thinking for a few seconds, “I think we’re done for now.”
“Yay!” Rebecca says. She throws her hands up in the air and tosses the script around, “Can I sing you my songs for X factor now? Please, please please! Pretty please?”
“Fine,” Toby says, laughing. “Let me get comfortable and then you may begin.”
He settles himself on his bed, wiggling around until he finds some way of sitting that is comfortable and also allows him to watch Rebecca. She watches him, smiling and giggling, now and then bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. Eventually he waves a hand at her to begin.
She bursts out with her first song and Toby closes his eyes to listen. Her talent really is amazing, he realises, she’s just got this ability to take any song, no matter how good or bad and turn it into something amazing. She manages to make the song her own, every time. She can change the notes, the melody slightly and still have something amazing. He knows that it takes time to do that, he can almost always hear her singing the same verse over and over in different ways until she finds something that she likes. But she’s dedicated and determined to become an amazing singer and Toby admires her for that, for the strength of will that she clearly has to do what she wants.
“I think it’s a shame that you can’t go on yet,” he says when she’s finished, “You’re loads better than anyone else that they’ve had on before.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re my brother,” Rebecca says, pouting. But he knows that inside she’s beaming with happiness. “And besides, it’s not a big deal. It just gives me time to get it perfect.”
“Good point,” Toby says, hugging her, “Nice attitude. It’s not a bad thing you can’t go on yet, it’s good. You’re using the time to practice and get better. Why don’t you talk to Dad about singing lessons?”
“He won’t let me,” Rebecca says quietly, “He’s already paying loads for your Academy training, he’s not going to put out more money because of something that I want to do.”
“Maybe you should show him how good you are?” Toby suggests, “He might be more willing to help if he knows you’re so good.”
“Maybe,” Rebecca says, a little sad, “I’ll try I suppose, there’s nothing else I can do.”
Toby’s phone beeps loudly in the silent room. It’s a text from David. Rebecca glances at his phone and then smiles.
“I better get back to doing my homework,” she says.
“Thanks for helping me,” Toby says, climbing to his feet, “It really means a lot.”
“Thanks for asking,” Rebecca says, smiling now.
He hugs her impulsively, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pulling her to his chest. She hugs him back, her thinner smaller arms not really reaching all the way round but she still squeezes him with all of her strength. He smiles fondly and kisses her forehead gently.
“Now get to your room,” he says sharply but smiling. He pushes her gently towards the door, “If you don’t get to be a singer you need a back up plan. Good grades makes it easier. Besides, we need someone smart in the family and you’re it.”
Rebecca pauses in the doorway and sticks her tongue out at him. He throws a pillow at her as he lays back on the bed but she dodges it and runs away giggling. Toby chuckles to himself and looks at his phone again.
‘Toby, great news. You’ve got the part of the stunt double. I’ll send you a letter saying as much in the post so you’ve got it in writing. You were really great mate and I hope you keep it up. See you at rehearsals. David’
Toby stares at the text, his jaw dropping open. He’s been unsure about whether he got the stunt double role, especially after not hearing anything for so long. But now he knows and he’s satisfied. Even if the audition doesn’t go as smoothly as he hopes it will, even if his practicing turns out to be nothing there’s at least something that he’s going to be doing that’s on the right path for his goal. Finally, without even trying that hard, Toby is a part of the acting set and he’s already going to be entering the world of film. He hugs himself in excitement and throws himself backwards on the bed. He sighs happily and can’t keep the wide smile from his face as he stares up at the ceiling. Now, no matter what happens on Thursday, he’s already on his way to becoming a fully fledged actor.