“Hey Toby,” Fiona says suddenly.
Toby jumps and looks up. Fiona’s popped her head around the door and is grinning at him.
“I’ve just made myself some dinner.” She says, “Let’s go up to my room and we’ll start practicing while I eat.”
“Ok,” Toby says quickly, “Yeah,”
He shoots to his feet and heads towards the door. He pauses in the doorway and turns back to these people he’s just met.
“It was nice to meet you all,” he says, smiling and waving awkwardly.
“You too mate,” Marco says, his eyes glued to the TV screen, “Come again soon.”
“It was lovely meeting you Toby,” Carrie says, smiling at him from her place on John’s chest, “I hope to see you again soon.”
“Same Toby,” John says, glancing at him and waving a hand, “Catch you later dude,”
Toby grins and waves. He shuffles in the spot for a moment before he finally ducks out of the door. He feels so awkward around these guys, not because they’re new but because they’re so cool. He just feels like a kid, a small geeky kid, around them. Fiona is stood on the stairs, waiting for him. She’s propping her head up on one arm, leaning against the banister and smiling at him fondly.
“You’re adorable,” she says softly. Then she straightens, “Come on. Practice isn’t going to do itself you know.”
Toby bounds up the stairs after her. He finds himself watching her arse as he walks. She really has an amazing bottom. Toby finds himself wanting to reach out and touch it. He has to fight the urge and his hands grip so hard on the banister that the knuckles turn white. He follows her in to her bedroom and hovers in the doorway uncertainly.
It’s definitely a girl’s bedroom. The walls are white, stark white, but the bed is covered in pillows and blankets, all different shades of purple. There are things sparkling all over the place, pieces of jewellery that Toby couldn’t name if he had to. There are skirts and dresses tossed all over the place, a dresser that’s covered with bits of make up and a mirror stood in one corner of the room. The front of Fiona’s wardrobe is covered in photographs, not a single shred of the wood beneath coming through. Toby steps closer as Fiona settles herself on the bed and starts eating. He knows that she’s watching him as he examines her photographs.
One of them is of Fiona, slightly younger, with a couple that are probably her parents on either side of her. She’s got a baby in her arms and another younger kid stood next to her. The house behind is boring and plain looking, not that different from Toby’s actually.
“That’s my parents and little brothers,” she says fondly.
Toby turns and looks at her.
“They’d finally brought that house from the council a week before I left,” she says, smiling fondly. “First house they’d ever lived in as a couple and they finally bought it after almost 20 years. They were so happy.”
“Oh…” Toby says stupidly, “I thought…”
“That I was some rich middle class snot?” Fiona asks. She laughs, “Most people do and I don’t bother correcting them.”
“Why?” Toby asks, walking towards her.
She pats the end of her bed and Toby perches himself there. He watches her as she continues to eat.
“That’s quite off putting you know,” Fiona says when she glances up and catches him. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you that it’s rude to stare?”
Toby blushes and looks away. He really was being quite rude then. He’s just finding it a bit hard to believe that he’s actually here.
“Sorry,” he mumbles. “Didn’t mean to.” He pauses, “So why do you seem all middle class?”
“Just the way things happened I suppose,” Fiona says with a shrug.
Her voice sounds different. The words are more relaxed, less short and sharp and clipped. She sounds like the other girls that Toby knows, her accent is the same as Emma’s now and it sounds completely natural. It’s just a little more refined.
“Dangers of private school I suppose,” she says with a shrug eventually, “If you’re surrounded by the middle classes sooner or later you start to pick up their way of speaking.”
“So how’d you manage to go to that arts school then?” Toby asks bluntly, “I mean, if they didn’t own their own house then your parents couldn’t have been that well off. Hell, my dad owns our house and he can’t afford to send us to fancy schools or stuff.”
“I got a scholarship,” Fiona says, putting aside her empty plate, “Apparently the scholarship people saw some sort of promise in me and decided that it was worth taking a chance. Of course the others at school didn’t see it that way. As far as they were concerned I was just some poor kid from the wrong side of town trying to horn in on their territory. They didn’t take kindly to me starting.”
“Shit,” Toby says blankly, “How did you manage to keep going then? I bet they were right little pricks.”
“Oh they were,” Fiona says with a laugh, “But once I started focusing on the lessons and ignored everything else they started to realise that I was a pretty decent actress and apart from the money thing I was just the same as them. There were a few hold outs of course, some kids with old school parents and old money who’d always been taught to think a certain way, but they were few and far between. Once I proved my worth I think they all just backed off though. I might not have been rich but I definitely had the talent.”
“Wow,” Toby says.
“But enough about me,” Fiona says firmly, “Let’s get started on this practice.”
They start to run through the script. Fiona stops him every now and then and encourages him to think about how Toby’s playing the role. He starts to explain how he came to make certain choices and why he is choosing to play certain emotions rather than others. She looks suitably impressed when Toby mentions watching all the interviews and talks with Rooney that he could find to try and get his character down. She reluctantly admits that she did the same thing with Coleen’s role, read and watched anything that she could find about the woman. She seems embarrassed at first but Toby encourages her and soon they’re talking to each other about how different things can affect a person.
Fiona doesn’t want to admit it, barely to herself, but she’s actually impressed by how sensitive Toby actually is, as well as how intelligent. She thought he was just some dumb footballer but as he talks about the role and how Rooney was shaped by his life she realises that there’s a lot more to Toby than just that. And the way that he spoke to her about her family, drew out more information from her and sympathised with her about school, makes her realise that there is a lot more to him than she first thought. He’s passionate, talking with his entire body about acting and football, he’s compassionate and empathetic, feeling her emotions and playing off them, understanding why she’s the way she is and not judging her. He’s also driven and determined, traits that she really never expected to see in a trainee footballer from the North.
Toby is also realising that he was wrong about Fiona. She’s not actually that different to him and the arrogance and snobbishness that she first showed him melts away as they spend more time together. He thought she was snobby, stuck up, but as they talk, both about acting and life in general, he realises that it’s just a way for her to cope with people, to keep them at a distance until she decides that she can trust them. Given her past with the art school he really isn’t that surprised. She’s driven too, determined to get where she wants to go and Toby completely understands that. But she’s also funny, willing to have a laugh even at her own expense. Toby finds that sometimes he has to stop practicing a scene because she’s making him laugh too much to continue.
They practice and practice, running through the scene over and over until they know each other’s lines as well as their own. They don’t need the script and Toby’s almost got all of the nuances of his performance sorted.
“Don’t get cocky,” Fiona warns him when they take a break, “Getting one scene sorted is one thing, but you’re trying out for an entire movie and when they’re filming you’re not going to be able to spend days learning a single scene. Sometimes you won’t even get the script until the morning that you’re due to shoot it.”
“Seriously?” Toby asks sharply. He winces when his voice squeaks, “Is that even allowed?”
“It happens all the time,” Fiona says with a shrug, “They’re always changing the script. It could be worse though. Have you ever seen the behind the scenes documentaries for Lord of the Rings?” Toby shakes his head and pulls a face, that sort of thing isn’t really his cup of tea, “Well you should watch them, and the films too. You’ll learn a ridiculous amount about actually being involved in a massive film and a lot of the actors talk about the choices they made when creating their characters. They used to get new pages of script ten minutes before they filmed the scene and they’d have to learn it all.”
“I’ll look in to that,” Toby says doubtfully.
He raises his hand to brush his hair from his face and freezes when he spots the time on his watch.
“Shit!” he shouts, shooting to his feet, “I’ve got to get back or my dad’s going to go mental.”
“You still live at home?” Fiona says, “I thought you lived in a flat or something,”
“I’m seventeen,” Toby says, “I can’t even get a decent paying job yet, let alone afford to rent my own place. Besides, my little sister would go mental if I tried to leave her yet.”
“Aww that’s sweet.” Fiona says.
Toby blushes and rubs the back of his head, looking at the floor. Fiona’s smiling at him like he’s her younger brother or something, a look of fondness in her eyes. She walks him to the door and they arrange to see each other again, to go over his other acting skills. Fiona has a few old scripts that she wants him to practice with. He pauses right in the open doorway, just as they’ve said goodbye. He quickly darts up the steps and kisses Fiona on the cheek. Her skin is soft beneath his lips and she smells like vanilla and flowers. Toby quickly breaths in her scent before racing off down the road. Fiona watches him in shock and raises a hand to touch the spot where he kissed.
Toby tries to let himself in to the house quietly. He’s just hanging up his coat when his dad appears down the hallway.
“Where’ve you been?!” Anthony demands, “It’s gone 11, I’ve been waiting up for hours! You’ve got training tomorrow!”
“I’m well aware of that thanks,” Toby snaps, “I’ve just been out with a friend.”
“You could have at least told me!” Anthony says. “Emma’s been calling the house all night, apparently she couldn’t get through on your mobile. And then when I try and ring you too I get no response.”
“I guess I didn’t have any signal,” Toby says, checking his phone.
He rolls his eyes when he sees that Emma’s called him eight times and left him two voice-mail messages. He shoves his phone back in his pocket. He starts to head towards the stairs.
“Where’ve you been that doesn’t have any signal?” Anthony hisses. “All of your mates live in places with decent signal.”
“I told you,” Toby says, shaking off his dad’s grip, “I was at a friend’s house.”
“Which friend?” Anthony snaps, “They better not be distracting you from training, I won’t have you throwing your career and your dreams away.”
“You don’t know them,” Toby says quickly, “They’re a new friend, someone I’ve only known a little while.”
“And you went to their house?!” Anthony cries, “Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? I mean, how do you know that they’re not a crazy person? Or that they’re not some sort of predator trying to groom you?”
“You have got to stop reading those novels Dad,” Toby says, shaking his head, “Besides, they’re perfectly safe and I reckon that I’m big enough to look after myself. Now, I’m going to bed, like you said, I’ve got training tomorrow.”
He starts up the stairs again, putting one of his hands on the banister. Anthony quickly covers Toby’s hand with his and holds it gently but firmly. Toby stops and looks at his dad.
“Is everything ok?” Anthony asks, “With training I mean. You’ve not really told me a thing about the Academy, or how your training’s going. You just sort of sulk around the house or shut yourself in your room. You can tell me you know.”
“I told you, training’s going well,” Toby says, trying to pull free slightly, “It’s football training, there’s not much else to say.”
“You used to talk to me about your football training all the time before you got in to the Academy,” Anthony points out, “You’d break it down, piece by piece. Now you barely say a word about training other that ‘it’s fine’ and ‘it’s hard’. You don’t talk to me any more,”
“That’s because you used to ask me all sorts of questions,” Toby says sharply, “You’d ask me to break down the practice so you could analyse my performance and if I was giving it my all. I never told you of my own free will, you’d always ask for it. Now you’re just asking if I’m a famous footballer yet or if I’ve been signed up by anyone.”
“You can still tell me Toby,” Anthony says, his voice is a little harsh now, “You don’t need me to ask you questions about something in order to tell me all about it. I’m your dad.”
“I’m not going to talk to you about every little thing in my mind,” Toby says, “I don’t want to come home everyday and then tell you, step by step how my day was. That’s not who I am. For God’s sake, sitting around and telling your dad what you did today sounds like something out of primary school or something. I’m a freaking adult, I’m growing up and trying to do my own thing. That doesn’t involve talking to you about my life all of the time.”
“You’re seventeen!” Anthony shouts, “That doesn’t make you an adult. Just because you feel like one doesn’t mean you are one! You’ve still got a lot to learn about the world including how bad it can get. You can’t cook, you can’t wash your clothes and you don’t even know how to clean your room. You can’t look after yourself!”
“I can learn all that crap!” Toby shouts back, “You keep going on at me to act like an adult and look after myself but whenever I try to be an adult, do my own thing all you do is shout at me and want to know about what I’m doing!”
“Because I’m your dad!” Anthony shouts, “It’s my job to worry about you and want to keep you safe. I’m not just going to let you wander off and get in to who knows what sorts of trouble because I want you to be independent. We’ve been working all your life to get you in to the Academy and you’re not even taking that seriously! You’re skipping training, you’re staying out late. What am I supposed to think?!”
“You’re supposed to stay out of it,” Toby shouts. He wrenches his hand free of his dad’s grip, “You’re supposed to step back and let me live my life. It’s my life, not yours. I’ll do what I want and then deal with the consequences. By myself!”
“Not while you’re under my roof,” Anthony says firmly, “While you’re still living here you do as I say, as I tell you to. You don’t mess around and screw up your chance at the future! You come home at a reasonable time, you tell me about your day. End of story.”
“How about end of conversation!” Toby snaps, “I’m not living with your stinking rules!”
Toby doesn’t wait for his dad to answer. Instead he storms off up the stairs. He can hear his dad shouting things after him, making his own way up the stairs but Toby ignores it all. He stamps towards his own room. Movement out of the corner of his eye catches his attention. He looks over. Rebecca is stood in her doorway, her face pale and eyes wide. Her bottom lip is quivering.
“It’s ok,” he says quietly, “Just go back to sleep,”
“Why were you shouting at each other?” she asks quietly, her voice shaking, “You sounded so angry,”
“It just happens sometimes,” Toby says walking over to his sister, “Don’t worry, it’s nothing about you. You’re still brilliant,”
Rebecca steps forwards and buries her face in Toby’s chest. Her body shakes as he wraps his arms around her and holds her tight.
“I don’t like it when you two fight,” she murmurs, her voice muffled by Toby’s shirt, “It makes my tummy hurt.”
“I’m sorry ladybug,” Toby says. He pulls back and holds Rebecca away from him, holding her shoulders gently, “I’ll try not to shout next time, ok?”
“Ok,” Rebecca says quietly.
Toby leans down and kisses her gently on the top of her head. She turns around and goes back in to her room. He stands there and watches the door shut before heading towards his own. Anthony is watching from the top of the stairs. Toby says nothing, he just glares at his dad and shuts the door to his bedroom with a loud, final bang.