The next day Toby is like a man possessed, like a completely new player. He feels like he’s found his excitement for football all over again. He’s running faster, scoring more, playing harder than he has before. A new wave of confidence is racing through him. He imagines himself as Rooney, just like he did at the read through. He’s no longer the gangly seventeen year old who happens to be good at football. He’s the stocky twenty year old who’s the star of Everton and soon to be the most famous footballer in the world. He doesn’t have a younger sister, a demanding father or a WAG wannabe for a girlfriend. He’s got a family who supports him and a girl who will love him no matter what. All the doubts are gone, he’s there to play football, his role in life is to play football and he’s going to go right to the very top, no matter what.
When confronted with difficult decisions during the training matches he looks around and asks himself what would Rooney do, he tries to think back to what Rooney has done in similar situations. He makes the right decision again and again, passing when he needs to, racing forwards when it’s safer. He sees the open spaces, sees the holes in the defence like they’ve got a great big arrow pointing at them. He can tell that the other players are looking at him funny, that they’re whispering to each other behind their hands. Some of them even mock him to his face. But he doesn’t care. He knows that they’re just jealous because he is Wayne Rooney, the world’s finest, and they are just amateur football players hoping to make it to the big time. He doesn’t have to worry about it. He’s already there.
The football flies towards him, right at the perfect overhead height. It’s set up exactly for Toby to score the best goal ever, just like Rooney did. He sees it all happening in slow motion, like it’s already happened. It plays out in his mind and he knows that he can do this. The ball comes closer and closer. Toby watches it, eyes wide open. He launches himself in the air when he knows that the ball is close enough. He somersaults through the air, sure that he’s headed the ball away. Then he crashes to the ground and the ball bounces along the pitch behind him.
Suddenly Toby isn’t Wayne Rooney any more. He’s just Toby, just a teenager training to be a footballer but wants to be an actor. He sits on the ground and shakes his head. He feels disorientated at the switch from famous footballer to amateur, just like last time. He can hear the other players laughing at him. Scooby is jogging over.
“You alright mate?” he asks, a little concerned.
Toby nods and slowly climbs to his feet. Scooby pats him on the back of his shoulder.
“Did you think you was Rooney there?” he asks laughing, “Sorry mate but you’ve got a way to go yet.”
The others hear that and start laughing. Toby chuckles, self conscious, and rubs the back of his neck.
“Yeah, you might be right,” he admits, “I think I got a bit ahead of myself there.”
“Hey I know you were great at that audition but that was imaginary,” Scooby says, a little quieter. The laughter is continuing, covering his words, “Maybe you just need a little more practice with a real ball to be as good in real life as you were there.”
Toby nods and begins to jog off. He returns to his place and as he stands around, waiting for the next part of training to start he realises the truth. He isn’t Wayne Rooney, he isn’t a superstar of football, known the world over. He’s just an average football player who happens to be better than most. He has the potential to be great but so do all of the other players at the Academy. He isn’t special, he isn’t extraordinary, he’s just Toby.
As they carry on playing he looks around and sees at least 10 other players who are far better than him, even when he’s pretending to be Rooney. Scooby is one of them but that’s no surprise. Toby knows though that if he’s going to stand even the smallest chance of making it as a premier league player then he needs to be in the top 5 to get noticed in the slightest. It’s high stakes and unlikely to happen but he’s going to try. He shoves the thoughts about the futility of making it to the big leagues to the back of his mind. Like Scooby says, focusing on the bad isn’t the way to go. He needs to pay attention to the present if he’s going to succeed. He knows that he can do it, he has to do it. And he has to do it to make his father proud. There’s no question in his mind.
“So how’d your audition go?” Scooby asks when they’re outside the training grounds.
Toby looks around quickly and pulls Scooby to one side. There are still other players walking around, some too close to the pair for comfort. Toby remembers the way that they took the piss when he mentioned the auditions last week, he doesn’t want to bring any more grief down on himself. They’re already giving him funny looks because of his earlier Rooney impersonation. He shushes Scooby.
“Keep your voice down,” he says quietly but harshly to his friend, “I’ve not told anyone I even went to the audition yet.”
“Oh right,” Scooby whispers back, “So how did it go? Did you get the role? I’d be surprised if you didn’t, you were amazing out there.”
“You can’t tell anyone,” Toby whispers, “I got the role as the stunt double. They asked me to come back the next day though, to help with a read through. I’m thinking about auditioning for the actual role, not just a stunt role.”
“Aww mate!” Scooby cries, grabbing him in a hug, “That’s amazing! Way to go!”
Some of the other players look at them a little strangely, their eyes flicking between the hugging pair. They raise their eyebrows and wiggle them up and down. Toby glares at them until they sneer and walk away. Toby and Scooby walk towards the town centre, the weather is nice and they can’t be bothered with the bus yet. Besides they’ve got lots to talk about and the bus isn’t a good place to avoid being overheard.
“So what the hell happened to you?” Toby asks suddenly. Scooby looks at him and he rolls his eyes, “On Monday? When you froze up during the audition?”
“Oh God,” Scooby moans, “I seriously can’t believe that happened. I just went all funny in front of the camera. Everyone was looking at me and staring. I just… eurgh!”
He shivers dramatically. Toby laughs but quickly becomes serious again.
“You’re like the most confident person I know though,” he says, “Why would you get weird about having a camera pointed at you? I’d have thought you’d love it.”
“I’ve always been weird about cameras,” Scooby reluctantly admits, “Even when my mum’s trying to take a photo I’d get funny. Guess I’m just camera shy. Then, of course, it got worse at the audition because literally all eyes were on me, there was nothing else for them to look at. It just got way more intense than I could deal with.”
“Aww mate,” Toby says, patting Scooby on the shoulder, “That sucks.”
“Tell me about it,” Scooby says, rolling his eyes. “But you though…! Mate you were on fire! I’ve never seen you like that before. It’s like you were this whole other person and nothing could stop you.”
“I guess,” Toby says, shrugging.
He hadn’t felt like a different person, just a more awake, alive version of who he was.
“Seriously!” Scooby insists, “You were amazing. I’m seriously impressed and massively jealous. What’s your secret?”
“What’s yours?” Toby counters. “I’ve got an idea.”
“I’m listening,” Scooby says.
“I want to be better at football right?” Toby says, “And you want to be better in front of the camera right?” Scooby nods, “Why don’t we sort of trade skills?”
“You mean I teach you some of my football skills,” Scooby says, pointing between himself and Toby, “And you teach me how to be less of a dick in front of the camera.”
“I teach you to be less camera shy,” Toby corrects. “You weren’t a dick, you just froze. Being a dick would have meant being a complete moron and over acting completely.”
“Instead I just didn’t act at all,” Scooby says. He sighs, “Great…”
“Hey I think that was the better choice,” Toby admits, “I bet David’s well sick of seeing arse holes coming in and giving it way too much. And they probably get well stroppy when they don’t get the part. You handled it like a man.”
“I did, didn’t I?” Scooby says proudly, “I took it all and didn’t throw a tantrum,”
“Exactly!” Toby points out, “You didn’t leg it, you didn’t demand another go. You accepted that you didn’t do that great and then left when asked. To be honest I think David wanted to kiss you for that.”
“Oh shut up!” Scooby says, jokingly shoving Toby in to a bush.
He runs off as Toby pulls himself out, laughing his head off. Toby races after him, also laughing. For a while they’re just a pair of ordinary teenage boys without a care in the world.
Toby knocks on the door of Emma’s parent’s house and waits. He’s arranged to see her but he really doesn’t want to. He’s completely exhausted from training and really only wants to lay down and relax. But then again he’s also brimming over with excitement and really wants to tell her about his new life plan. He hopes that she’ll be as excited as he is. The door opens and Toby smiles, expecting to see Emma. But it’s her dad instead.
“Toby!” Eric cries, “Good to see you mate!”
He drags Toby inside and slings an arm around his shoulders. Toby doesn’t particularly like it, it’s a bit overly familiar for his tastes but he bears it anyway, smiling politely at Eric.
“I’ve been telling my mates down the pub all about you,” Eric says conspiratorially, “And about how my daughter’s dating and will soon be marrying a Skelmerage Academy member and soon to be a Skelmerage player. They’re so jealous I just want to laugh. They can’t believe it really, that I’m going to have a proper football player for a son in law. But we both know that it was always going to happen don’t we mate?”
“Yeah…” Toby says quietly, “Is Emma here?”
“Oh god,” Eric says, hitting himself in the forehead with his free hand. He turns towards the stairs and shouts, “Emma! Toby’s here.”
Emma comes bouncing down the stairs and throws her arms around Toby’s neck. She kisses him, hard, but he tries to wriggle away. He hates kissing her in front of her parents, it just feels wrong. Debbie walks in to the hallway, pulling her coat on.
“Are you ready to go Eric?” she asks, checking through her hand bag. She looks up and smiles widely, “Oh hello Toby! Good to see you!”
“Hi Debbie,” Toby says awkwardly.
He tries to dislodge Emma from around his neck but it doesn’t work.
“We’re off to the shops love,” Debbie says to Emma, “Mind the rules and stay in the living room, ok?”
“No sneaking off up to the bedroom,” Eric says, pointing a finger at Toby. All joviality is gone, “I like you Toby but I remember what it was like being a seventeen year old boy. I don’t want you going upstairs at all while we’re not here apart from to pee, ok?”
“Yes sir!” Toby says firmly, “I understand.”
“Glad to hear it,” Eric says, smiling now. He pats Toby on the shoulder and kisses Emma’s cheek, “Be good and see you later.”
They head out of the door and as soon as it shuts behind them Emma is wrapped back around him.
“Let’s go upstairs,” she says huskily, “They’ll be gone for ages now.”
“I don’t know,” Toby says, a little reluctantly. “What if it’s a trap?”
Emma bursts out laughing and Toby feels himself going red. A part of him is shouting at himself for breaking Eric’s rules. But most of him is really enjoying the feeling of Emma being pressed up against him and wants to feel and see her completely naked.
“We won’t be long,” she whispers in his ear, taking the lobe in her mouth and nibbling it gently, “Besides, they’ve been planning their shopping trip all day, they’ve got a massive list. We’ll be done and tidied up before they’re even half way done shopping, I promise.”
“Well…” Toby says, drawing the word out, “When you put it like that…”
He leans in for a kiss but Emma darts out of his arms and starts to race up the stairs. She’s giggling the entire time and Toby briefly watches her bum as she runs. Then when she pauses on the landing and looks at him seductively his heart gives a jolt and he’s racing after her. He catches her in the door to her bedroom and kisses her. Still kisses he slowly walks her backwards until the back of her knees hit the bed. He pushes her gently and she falls back. Within seconds he’s on top of her, kissing her hard and one hand is making its way up her top. She hums with satisfaction and wraps her arms around his neck.
A little while later, though not too quickly, Toby pulls his shirt back on and sprays himself with some of his body spray. Emma comes out of the bathroom, touching up a few rogue strands of hair. She’s smiling with satisfaction and Toby sits back on her bed, propping himself up on his elbows as he watches her pull her clothes back on.
“That was amazing,” he says, “Almost worth getting caught.”
“Just be glad that we didn’t,” Emma says to him in the mirror, “Dad would have clocked you one and thrown you out completely naked.”
“Remind me not to do this again,” Toby says.
He walks up behind her and wraps his arms around her waist. He kisses the crook of her neck, where her shoulder and neck meet, a few times. He rests his chin on her shoulder and looks at her in the mirror.
“You did enjoy it right?” he asks, self conscious and worried, “I mean.. You did have an…”
“Yes,” Emma says softly. She turns in his arms and kisses him, “I did have an….”
Toby smiles proudly, puffing up his chest and standing straight.
“Right,” she says, patting his bum, “Let’s get downstairs and in the living room before they get back.”
“I thought you said they’d be gone hours?!” Toby shouts as she walks away.
“I lied,” Emma says, smiling at him slyly over her shoulder, “Now come on, living room.”
Toby shakes his head and grumbles but follows her anyway. He’s a little annoyed about how easily he had been lead, he knows that some of it is his own fault for being a teenage boy but still, she had clearly found it too easy to lie to him and he had clearly believed her like a gullible fool. He wonders what else she might have lied to him about. In the living room he sits down, and crosses his arms. He knows he’s pouting but he doesn’t care. Emma walks over and sits beside him. She throws her legs over his and snuggles up against his side. She lays her head on his shoulder.
“Oh stop sulking,” she says, “I was only a little white lie and it wouldn’t have caused any problems.”
“You said we had ages!” Toby cries, “And you said your dad would have beat the snot out of me!”
“I said he would have clocked you and thrown you out,” Emma points out. “Not the same thing. Besides, that’s a worst situation, not for sure.”
“Oh that makes me feel so much better!” he says sarcastically. “He might have clocked me and thrown me out or he might have just thrown me out and banned me from ever setting foot back in his house. That’s fantastic. Thanks a lot Emma!”
“It’s not that bad,” Emma says, throwing herself on to Toby’s lap, “We’re practically married now, it doesn’t matter that much. So how’s the Academy going?”
“It’s going fairly well,” Toby says, leaning his head back, “But I think I want to try something new.”
“Like what?” Emma asks, curiously, “Modelling or something?”
“I was thinking…” Toby says “I want to try to be an actor.”
“What?” Emma asks, laughing, “You’re joking aren’t you?”
“No,” Toby says firmly, “I’m serious. I want to try being an actor.”
“Why?” Emma asks, “That’s a bit airy fairy.”
Toby looks at Emma, she’s really not impressed. He supposed that him becoming an actor doesn’t fit with her grand scheme for her life. She’s fixed on the idea of being a WAG, his WAG, married to a rich football player. Still though, he wants to try and get her to understand him, what he loves and why he wants to change his life plan.
“I just… I just love it,” he says, struggling to get the words out. “I really got a buzz when I stepped up and played the part of Rooney for that stunt double audition.”
“When did you do a bloody audition?” Emma asks sharply, “You didn’t tell me that,”
“I didn’t?” Toby asks, “I thought I had.”
“No!” Emma says firmly, “You really didn’t.”
“Oh well,” Toby says, “I went for an audition that the coach at the Academy mentioned to us and suggested we try, for the good of the club, you know. Anyway, I did really well and they gave me the stunt double role!”
“Oh… that’s ok,” Emma says, “But when did you play the part of Rooney? I mean, didn’t they just get you to pretend to be any player?”
“Well they did at first,” Toby admitted, “But then they needed to do another audition for Coleen’s role and asked me to stand in. And I loved it, like, really loved it and I nailed it I think. I seriously got into the role of Rooney. I’ve never felt like that before, I’ve never felt so buzzed, I’m telling you.”
“You sure it wasn’t because you were thinking that you were Rooney?” Emma says, “You know how you get sometimes.”
“No!” Toby insists, “It was because of the acting. It was like I was Rooney for a while. But I loved the limelight. All of those eyes on me, watching me, seeing me as someone else.”
“But you get the limelight when you’re playing football,” Emma says, not understanding, “Isn’t that enough? Everyone’s looking at you when you play football, shouting your name when you score. That’s limelight.”
“Yeah I know,” Toby says reluctantly, “But it’s not the same. They watch the match and then they forget all about me. Football limelight, it’s just not the same.”
“I know!” Emma says urgently, “It’s better!”
“Not really,” Toby says “It’s not the same at all though.”
“But acting isn’t you!” Emma insists, “You’re a footballer, not an actor.”
“I can be a footballer and an actor,” Toby says, holding his hands out. “It’s not that much of a problem.”
Emma climbs to her feet and starts pacing across the living room floor. She’s wringing her hands and truthfully her face looks a little frantic. Toby watches her pace, her speed increasing, faster and faster.
“It’ll get in the way of your training,” she says quickly, turning to look at him, “You’ll be acting all the time and you’ll miss your training.”
“No it won’t get in the way,” Toby says, he’s already had this argument with himself. “I can put the hours in to my training when I’m not acting,”
“But the hours will clash,” Emma points out, “You’ll be trying to train and act at the same time but it just won’t work. What if you’ve got a match when you’re supposed to be filming?”
“I’ll work around it,”Toby says sharply, “People work two jobs around each other all the time. Anyway you should be pleased that I’ve found something that I really like. Aren’t you happy for me? I’ve found something that I love more than anything and that makes me really happy.”
“Of course I’m not pleased,” Emma cries out, “The training program, the Academy, that thing you’ve worked so hard to get in to, you need to give it one hundred percent! Hell you need to give it one hundred and ten percent, everything that you can give! You’re putting your career at risk, you’re putting our life together at risk all because you’re chasing some dream that probably won’t work.”
“It shouldn’t matter what I do babe,” Toby says, “If you love me and I love you we can be happy regardless of whether I’m a footballer or not.”
“I want you to be a footballer,” Emma says sharply, “I need you to become a professional footballer, not some part timer. I want you to become a professional footballer so we can be rich.”
“Yeah I know,” Toby says with a sigh, “But what about what I want? You want me to be a footballer so we can be rich, but what if I want to be something else so I can be happy?”
“You’ve always wanted to be a footballer,” Emma says, shaking her head, “It’s what you’ve wanted since you were a little kid. Everyone knows that.”
“No, I haven’t wanted to be a footballer for years,” Toby says, “My dad wants me to be a footballer. I went along with it, to keep the peace. I just agreed that I wanted to be a footballer to please my dad, that’s all.”
“Oh give over,” Emma cries, “That’s not true! You’re just changing the past to fit the present. You’re twisting everything to suit how you’re feeling now, not sticking to the truth. We all know you’ve always wanted to be a footballer. You’ve got all those pictures of yourself in football kits since you were a little kid remember?! Why else would you have those unless you really wanted to be a footballer?”
“Every little boy likes football,” Toby says, standing up as a surge of anger fills him, “And every little boy played in football team because they like it and find the game fun. But not every boy wants to make it their profession. Just like kids play soldiers, it doesn’t mean that they want to become soldiers! And anyway, you’re not listening to me!”
“I’m listening!” Emma says, “But you’re talking complete and utter bollocks. I mean seriously? Where’s this coming from?!”
“It’s somethings that’s been building for ages,” Toby says, “I’ve just found another option now, something that actually makes me happy.”
Emma glares at him and then seconds later she starts to shout at him. It doesn’t stop. She keeps coming up with reason after reason for Toby not to go in to acting and stick with football. Toby’s already had most of these arguments with himself, thought of ways around potential problems. He wouldn’t have gone on to search for the audition if he hadn’t. He is that sort of boy, man really, who likes to make sure that everything that could go wrong is thought of. He likes to look to the future, plan for all eventualities and he likes to be prepared.
They just keep arguing and arguing though. The more into the argument they get the more Emma keeps throwing up problems that are related directly to her, how she wants to be with a footballer, how she doesn’t want to marry an actor who’s never actually had a starring role in anything. She points out over and over how actors never make any money unless they get really famous, how actors live in bed-sits and do all sorts of drugs. Toby tries to counter these ideas, insisting that even if that’s most actors it’s not him and tells her over and over that he wouldn’t do that. He tells her that he would get any job he could in order to support them as long as he got to act as well. But Emma isn’t having it. She yells at him, screams at him.
And then the front door opens.
“We’re home,” Debbie calls out, sounding a little tipsy, “How are you both?”
“We’re ok,” Toby says. He smiles but it feels wrong. “I’m gonna have to go now I’m afraid.”
Eric looks at him and frowns. Toby knows that he can tell there’s something wrong. He brings to mind a happy person, someone without a care in the world and gets in to character, calling on the memory of being Rooney to help him through. He tries desperately not to put on a Liverpudlian accent.
“You’re leaving?” Eric asks, sounding genuinely disappointed. “I was going to get us all chips.”
“Sorry Eric,” Toby says with an apologetic smile, “I’ve just had a really long day and I need to sleep. You know how it is with training.”
“Of course, of course,” Eric says quickly, “You need to keep your strength up if you’re going to impress those scouts I suppose. I hope we’ll be seeing you again soon.”
“Hopefully!” Toby says, smiling widely, “If things don’t get too busy with football and stuff. It really depends I suppose. The coaches are pushing us pretty hard.”
“Of course my boy,” Eric says.
He claps Toby on the shoulder and holds the door open. Toby smiles at him and waves as he walks out of the bottom of the front garden and on to the street. As soon as Emma’s house is behind him though the smile drops away. A knot of guilt settles in his stomach, making him feel uneasy about lying to Eric and Debbie. He’s not tired at all, in fact his entire body is humming with energy. But it’s angry energy, the sort he used to have when his mum first left. He wants to hit something, kick something, just do something violent to get rid of it.
He thinks of Emma and the argument that they had. She just doesn’t understand him, he realises with a sting and the rise of bile in his throat. He is really happy that he’s discovered acting and learned how much it means to him, but all Emma seems to care about is that she won’t be married to a footballer. He can’t believe that she is that shallow, that she could be that shallow. He thought that she was better than this, that she actually loves him and cares about him. She’s the one person that he expected and relied on to understand him and what he’s going through and now she’s turned around and shown that she actually isn’t that person. He can’t understand how he could have been that wrong.
He thinks back to the scene that he acted out with Fiona, of how supportive Coleen had been in it. Even if it wasn’t completely true, Coleen, as a character, had stood by Rooney whatever his choice, because she loves him, she’d even agreed to move to Manchester because it is what Rooney wanted. But Emma hadn’t shown any of that willingness, she’d not shown any of that support. Toby feels tears prickling at his eyes and wipes them away harshly with the sleeve of his jumper. He feels betrayed and let down.
Worst of all he feels like everything that he knew and thought was real has just been a complete lie. He has confided in Emma, told her things that he’s barely able to say to himself and she had mocked him for it! The memory of her words turns the betrayal in to anger, burning hot and raw in the pit of his stomach. He knows that he’s probably going to be on his own after this. He’s not going to have anyone there to back him up. Although maybe Scooby will, he probably gets it in some way. Arjan definitely will. Toby decides that he needs to talk to his best friend about this. He wants at least one person who will back him up, whether or not they agree with what he’s doing. Arjan knows all about following dreams and reaching for goals that make you happy