Toby climbs off the bus at the stop closest to Emma’s house. He’s already picked up the pizzas he promised and they’re still really hot against his hand. He makes his way towards the house and his phone starts to go off. After quickly checking he realises that it’s from Emma. It’s the third one from her in the last fifteen minutes. She knows he’s on his way but she still keeps contacting him.
“There you are!” a female voice shouts, “I was getting worried.”
Toby looks up and spots Emma on her front doorstop. His heart leaps a little, it always does when he sees her. She’s a beautiful, bubbly blonde and they’ve been together since they were 14. As he gets closer he realises that she’s wearing more make up than normal, her skin is almost orange and her clothes look brand new. He sighs. Ever since he got in to the Academy she’s been talking about how she’s going to become a WAG at last. Now it seems like she’s finally taken those steps to becoming the WAG that she’s always had in mind. He sighs but hurries up, it won’t do to keep her waiting more than he needs to.
“Sorry!” he calls as he gets closer, “The bus got stuck behind a tractor.”
“Oh phew,” Emma says as he makes his way up the steps to her door, “For a moment there I thought you’d found a new girl and run off to Gretna Green or something.”
“Would I do that to you?” he asks.
He leans forwards to kiss her on the cheek but she moves her head and his lips end up meeting hers. He tries to pull back, aware that her parents are probably around somewhere like they always are. But she won’t let him go, she wraps her arms around his neck and starts to kiss him hard. She presses herself against him and worms her tongue in to his mouth. He falters, arms flying out to keep his balance and to stop the pizzas getting squashed. It’s an unpleasant kiss, wet and sloppy with too much tongue and teeth. She shoves her tongue against his over and over, practically trying to taste the back of his throat. She gets too carried away at one point and he gags in his mouth a little. The bitter acidity of bile comes up, burning his throat.
She still wont stop though, she just keeps kissing him harder and moaning in the back of her throat. Toby thinks that she sounds like one of those girls in a bad porn film, the ones he always turns off before the action really gets going. He can taste her lip gloss, tacky and bland with a hint of too much sweetness. Eventually he has enough and he places a hand on her chest, just between her breasts. She groans and reaches up, grabbing his wrist and pulling his hand over to cup one plump mound in his palm. He drags himself away and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. His lips feel sore and sticky, tacky from her lip gloss. He looks at Emma, confused. She’d never acted like that before. She’s scanning the street, looking up and down, searching for something. Whatever she is looking for though she doesn’t find judging by the frown of disappointment that covers her face quickly. She looks at him and smiles brightly.
“What the hell was that?!” he cries, “You nearly knocked me down the steps.”
“I was just saying hello,” Emma says playfully.
She’s standing weirdly, hands behind her back, one leg in front of the other, chest pushed out. She’s got her head down and she’s looking up at him through her eyelashes and fringe. Her hair is way too blond, and it’s clearly a bad job. The roots are showing and some of it looks practically yellow.
“What did you do to your hair?” he asks.
“Oh do you like it?” Emma asks brightly, fluffing it up with her hand and bouncing off inside, “Me and mum did it this morning. We thought it would look better, what with me being on the arm of a footballer and all that. Brown is so last year.”
Toby doesn’t respond, she’s too happy with her new blonder than normal hair. He just follows Emma in to the house and in to the living room. They take a seat on the sofa, pizza between them.
“I can’t believe you got me a stuffed crust!” Emma says as soon as she opens the box.
Toby looks at her, trying to work out if she’s happy or angry. There’s no difference in her voice when she said it, no change in pitch that normally lets him know that he’s done something wrong. She raises her eyebrows and stares right back at him. Clearly she expects him to know what she’s trying to say. Toby hasn’t a clue though and he learned a long time ago that it’s better to stay quiet rather than guess.
“I can’t eat stuffed crust!” Emma finally says, throwing her hands up in disgust. “I shouldn’t really be eating pizza either.”
“Why not?” Toby says, shoving a piece in his mouth and talking around it, “You always love pizza.”
“I’m on a diet,” Emma says as though it’s obvious, “You don’t want a fatty on your arm do you? All the other footballers will laugh at you.”
“Emma,” Toby says with a sigh, “We’ve been through this before.”
“I know, I know,” Emma says, waving a hand in the air. “You’re not a proper footballer yet, blah blah blah.”
She focuses on her pizza slice and picks off practically everything but the mushrooms and the peppers. Toby watches her, his brows rising higher and higher. She tentatively takes a bite and chews it furiously.
“It’s just,” Emma says, swallowing the tiny mouthful after what feels like too long chewing. “I want to look good for you and we all know you’re going to end up being a proper famous footballer sooner or later. I just figure that if I start getting myself looking like a proper WAG now then it’ll be easier to get everything ready later.”
“Get everything ready for what?” Toby asks, picking up another slice.
It hasn’t escaped his attention that Emma’s on her second slice already and she’s not picked off any of the toppings this time. She’s just biting in to it with relish.
“Ready for the wedding of course,” she says.
Toby chokes on his pizza and spends the next short while coughing to get it out of his lungs. Finally he can breath and he stares at Emma, eyes goggling and watering.
“What wedding?” he asks, gasping a little.
“Our wedding of course,” Emma says, matter of fact. She glances at Toby and sees his shock, “Oh come on Toby! We’ve talked about this. We both know that sooner or later you’re going to ask me to marry you and we both know that I’ll say yes. You should stop fannying around you know and just ask me the question already.”
“We never talked about this!” Toby cries, his voice going high and cracking, “I would remember if we’d talked about this.”
“Of course we talked about it,” Emma says. She bites in to another slice of pizza, “We’ve been discussing it for months, ever since you applied to the Academy. You just said it wasn’t the best time right now to get married, that we’re both too busy and we don’t need any more stress. I said ok and agreed to wait. Now you’re at the Academy and on your way to becoming a famous footballer, I figured that now was a better time to talk about it.”
“I meant in maybe three or four years time if we were still together!” Toby cries, “Not when I’m in the Academy! I’m still really busy and going mad with training. Besides! Coach said that it’s likely that only one of us is going to go on to the premiership. The rest are going to end up as support or not even playing football.”
“Oh he’s just saying that to scare you,” Emma scoffs, “You’re a brilliant player and you know it. So, when you do propose I expect you to have a ring and I really hope that it’s somewhere public, maybe at a restaurant or something. And I need to look amazing so maybe give me a little hint. Oh and make sure that there’s a photographer there! I want pictures for everyone, so I can show off my handsome and lovely future husband.”
Emma trails off in to a long discussion about wedding venues, cake combinations, guest lists and dress. Toby mostly tunes her out, only nodding her and there when it sounds like she expects some sort of response from him. He can’t believe this. He’s not even finished at the Academy and already Emma’s going on at him to marry her. There is no way, in Toby’s mind, that either of them are ready for marriage and to be honest, from what Toby has seen of other families it might be better if they didn’t marry. But Emma doesn’t seem to care about any of that, she’s so completely focused on becoming his actual official WAG before he goes big and is surrounded by girls. She won’t stop talking and Toby gets an idea to make her shut up.
Slowly he moves his pizza box on to the seat beside him and slides off the sofa. Emma isn’t looking at him, she’s examining her pizza and trying to pick up some of the previously removed toppings so she can eat them. Of course she’s still talking away. Her voice sometimes gives Toby a headache and this is one of those times. He slides off his seat and kneels on the floor. He lifts up one leg, setting his foot on to the carpet and clears his throat. Emma stops talking and stares at him for a moment. Her mouth drops open and then she smiles and makes a small squealing sound.
“Oh my god yes!” she cries.
She throws herself at Toby, knocking him on to his back and covers his face with kisses.
“Yes, yes, yes,” she says over and over, “Yes I’ll marry you.”
Toby lays there, taking it. His mouth moving like a fish, he’s trying to get the words out but they won’t come. Emma sits up, straddling his stomach and looks down at him.
“Where’s the ring?” she asks. Before Toby has a chance to answer though she springs up and drags him with her. “Oh never mind that. Come on! Come on! We have to tell mum and dad the good news.”
She drags him after her and bursts in to the kitchen where her parents are having a quiet conversation.
“Mum!” she cries, “You won’t believe it! He’s finally popped the question!”
“Oh my darling!” her mother cries, “That’s so wonderful. Oh congratulations.”
Debbie, Emma’s mum, rushes to her feet and hurries over to them both. Toby quickly finds himself wrapped up in an almost smothering hug. Then Eric, Emma’s dad is in front of him and shaking his hand hard. The couple congratulate their daughter, hugging and kissing her before they start to do the same to Toby. He really wants to tell them it was a mistake, that it was just a joke, but it’s like his throat is closed up, he can’t get the words out. He simply stands staring, unable to say anything. A small knot of cold hard dread settles in his stomach as Emma and Debbie start to talk about wedding plans and Eric pushes a glass of champagne into his hand with a cheeky wink that just looks creepy.
‘What have I done?’ Toby wonders to himself.
Training had been hard that Monday, both Toby and Scooby were exhausted. They had pushed themselves twice as hard as the other boys, working to get everything learned properly in their heads before they left. At 2pm they’d rushed over to the coach and he’d nodded at them, simply waving them towards the showers. The other boys had cheered and cracked jokes as they raced off, but Scooby gave them the finger and one of his usual cheeky grins and disappeared in to the changing rooms. Toby just shrugged and waved a hand before he too headed off in to the changing rooms.
They reach the studio buildings well before 3pm, at 2:45pm in fact and Scooby is practically vibrating with excitement. Toby really doesn’t understand what happens next, it’s all a blur of activity as they’re asked to sign a few release forms and then hurried off to an empty room to change in to their football gear. A young woman is waiting for them outside the room and she leads them towards the stage, through winding corridors and past bustling offices. The entire time Scooby tries to chat her up but she’s having none of it and just laughs at his attempts. At one point she even goes so far as to ruffle his hair and tell him that he reminds her of her brother. Scooby looks affronted and horrified by the idea and Toby laughs at him.
The studio itself looks like an indoor sports hall, like the ones that Toby used to do PE in at school. Most of it is filled with filming equipment, a maze of cameras, lights, leads and other stuff that he has no idea about. But the woman, Zoe she says her name is, leads them through it like she was born there. The stage is a small square of artificial turf with a green screen background. Toby wonders why they didn’t just do it on the fields at Skelmerage FC but realises, as he looks at all of the equipment, that the weather outside just wouldn’t have worked. Everything would have ended up ruined.
“This is David,” Zoe says, stopping just beside a tall man who’s talking to a cameraman. “He’s the producer. He’ll tell you what to do.”
Zoe walks off and Scooby looks after her, eyes blatantly staring at her arse with a look of longing across his face. Toby laughs at his friend and then hits him on the arm as David walks over. Scooby quickly turns back around and straightens up, smoothing his face down into blankness. Toby has to fight to hold back a grin.
“Ok,” David says, looking them both up and down. “Which one of you’s first?”
“Me of course,” Scooby says, grinning at Toby, “Gotta have the best got first after all. Don’t want you thinking Toby’s right then having to let him down when you see how amazing I am.”
“Shut up,” Toby jeered, smiling the entire time.
“Ok, whatever,” David says.
He’s not even looking at either of them, he’s just ticking things off on a clipboard which he hands back to one of the many people wandering around. Finally he looks back and stands beside Scooby.
“Right,” David says, “What I want you to do is stand on that turf there and mime out a few goals. Doesn’t matter if they’re ones you’ve seen on the telly or ones you’ve scored for yourself. We just want to see you pretending to score. Goals you’ve done before might be easier though, that way you know how the body actually went.”
“Got it,” Scooby says. He turns and smirks at Toby, “Eat my dust Arnold.”
Toby shakes his head and rolls his eyes as his friend walks over to the turf, a cocky swagger in his step and a confident smirk still plastered over his face. Scooby stops on the turf, takes a deep breath, shakes his body out a little and turns around.
Toby watches as the smile slides off Scooby’s face. He looks around at everyone nearby like a rabbit caught in a trap. There’s a camera pointed right at him, dozens of people staring and watching him like a hawk. Toby can practically see the beads of sweat rising up on Scooby’s skin and he’s sure that his friend is shaking. There’s a look of sheer terror in his eyes, all traces of confidence are completely gone and the colour seems to be draining away. Toby hisses at Scooby to move under his breath. David looks at his watch. Some of the people look at each other and try to cover up their grins.
“Come on boy,” David shouts, “Try and do something, anything!”
Scooby jerks and then gives a shaky nod. He tries to act like he’s scoring a goal but it just makes Toby wince. Scooby looks like he’s a puppet, his limbs are jerking all over the place and he almost falls over a couple of times. All Toby can do is watch, as his normally amazing footballer friend trips and stumbles as he tries to pretend he’s scoring a goal. Within minutes Scooby stops moving completely and just stands there, his head hanging and eyes fixed on the floor. He’s breathing heavily and Toby can hear a bit of sniffing.
“OK,” David says, “I think that’s enough from you.”
There are a few sniggers from people who are hiding in the shadows and Toby cranes his neck trying to look for them. How dare they take the piss out of Scooby, it wasn’t funny, it was sad and a little upsetting. It wasn’t his fault that he froze.
“Toby, it’s your turn next,” David says.
Scooby nods and walks slowly towards where Toby has been standing. Toby tries to look his friend in the face as they pass each other but Scooby’s eyes are fixed on the ground. All traces of confidence is now gone from Scooby. Toby shrugs and works his muscles loose as he slowly jogs in to place.
“Let’s hope he’s better than the other one,” someone whispers.
“Yeah,” another person whispers, “I don’t think I can watch that again.”
“It was just painful,” someone else whispers, “What was he thinking?”
A surge of anger rushes through him but David coughs and catches his attention.
“Whenever you’re ready Toby.” David says.
Toby looks around. He can’t see much beyond the lights that are shining right at him but he can see a few people watching him, the cameras pointed right at him. What feels like a surge of electricity rushes through him, making his fingers and toes tingle. He wants to move, he wants to run and jump and race around. The eyes on him don’t bother him, in fact they just fill him with a confidence that he’s never felt before, a surety that every move he may make will be the right one.
“Ok,” David says impatiently, “Go!”
Toby grins at the camera and starts to do a few imaginary dribbling steps, he starts to act out some of the goals that he’s scored in the past, at matches and in training. He can hear Scooby whooping in the background somewhere, cheering him on and it just spurs him to move faster. He acts out goal after goal from his past and then moves on to famous goals from the world cup. He never knew that he knows so many goals, could never have imagined it. But he does and he pulls them all off amazingly. He does his favourite goal of all time as his final one, the goal that Beckham scored right from the halfway line, the goal that’s famous the world over for the sheer amount of skill that it needed. He can’t help but do the celebration afterwards as well but eventually he stops and looks towards the producer.
“Was that alright?” he asks tentatively “I mean, it wasn’t too much or anything?”
“It was fine,” the producer says, his voice strangely blank, “Do you know any of Rooney’s famous goals?”
“Of course I do mate!” Toby says with a laugh, “What kind of footballer would I be if I didn’t?”
“A crap one!” Scooby shouts out from behind the camera.
Toby laughs as he hears various people shushing his friend. It looks like Scooby’s got his confidence back.
“Well can you act out a few of those goals too?” David asks, ignoring the sounds from behind him. “Pretend you’ve got an imaginary ball and just act like you’re scoring some of them.”
“Sure,” Toby says, nodding.
He stands there for a few minutes, breathing in and out and trying to get himself calm enough to act out the goals. But there are people everywhere, watching him, the camera men, the producer, the runners, the sound guys, the casting team. Everyone involved in this project is here and each and every one of them is looking right at him. He doesn’t freeze though, he just gets a surge of adrenaline, the same surge he gets when he can take a wide open, clear shot at goal in important matches.
He begins to act out a few goals, not saying a word. But he gets bored of that pretty quickly. It feels weird without saying anything, like he’s stuck in some strange silent world surrounded by statues. He can hear whispering from somewhere as he mimes dribbling and kicking, it almost makes him stumble but mostly it just makes him feel a little angry. They’re supposed to be paying attention to him after all.
“This is Rooney’s first goal he scored for Everton,” Toby says harshly.
He mimes it out, dribbling and doing a massive kick. The whispers stop and silence comes over the studio again. As Toby mimes a few more goals he’s struck with an idea. He’s heard Rooney speak, now he’s acting out the goals. Why should he be Toby, pretending to act out Rooney goals? Why shouldn’t he just be Rooney, even for a few moments? It’s likely to be the closest he will ever get to being as famous as Rooney, he should take the chance. So he clears his throat and jumps in place a few times.
“And this is the first goal I scored for my country,” he says, putting on a thick Liverpudlian accent and lowering his voice slightly.
He mimes doing a header and manages to catch himself before he falls to the ground, just like Rooney did.
“And this is my finest goal,” Toby as Rooney says, “The finest goal that I’ve ever scored in any game before or since.”
He throws himself up in the air and does an overhead kick. He lands heavily but is on his feet in moments, not even winded. He bounces in place as he tries to think of a few more goals and decides on the best one of all, the one that he remembers Rooney scoring the most clearly.
“And this is the goal I’m most proud of,” he says.
He acts out a kick and a few other motions that in the actual game made the ball go straight past the keeper from 40 yards away. Finally though Toby has run out of goal ideas and truth be told he’s knackered. He stands there panting for breath, his whole body moving with each inhalation and exhalation. The producer steps forward, clapping slightly. He has a wide grin on his face.
“I think you’ve done well there mate.” David says as he gets closer. He reaches out and shakes Toby’s hand. “You’d be a good stunt man for the film I reckon.”
David quickly walks over to talk to a couple of the casting crew who are gathered around looking at Toby. Toby watches them, a little confused. David seemed happy enough but there had been no mention that he’d actually gotten the part. Toby has seen enough telly to know that if someone has the part they get told straight away. Scooby wanders over with a smile on his face but when he sees Toby’s expression it drops away.
“You alright mate?” Scooby asks.
Toby doesn’t say a word, he just nods towards the whispering adults. Scooby looks over and watches as well. The casting crew keep looking at Toby and whispering to David. There are a lot of hand gestures going on, shaking heads and stabbing, pointing fingers. Toby gets more and more worried that his performance wasn’t good enough after all, that he let himself down somehow. But he couldn’t understand how, he gave it his all and even did a little more than they asked for. Perhaps that was it though, perhaps as a stunt man he wasn’t supposed to say anything and by doing the Rooney accent he’d just ended up cocking it all up. He says as much to Scooby who laughs. He’s about to respond but David rushes over.
“Ok lads, here’s the deal,” David says urgently, “You know we can only take one of you. And Scooby I don’t think it’s going to be a surprise to you that I’m asking you to go home. You might be an amazing footballer but not everyone’s cut out for standing in front of the camera. I’ve seen it a dozen times so don’t worry about it too much,”
Scooby nods but doesn’t say anything. Toby can see he’s clenching his fists though, digging his nails in to his palms and squeezing so hard that his knuckles are going white.
“What about me?” Toby asks, “You’ve not actually said that I’ve got the part even though you think I’m good.”
“We want you stay here for a little longer,” David says, “Just to sort a few things out and let you know what’s going on properly.”
Toby nods and turns to Scooby.
“Sorry mate,” he says, holding out a hand, “I know you wanted to do well.”
“Nah it’s good,” Scooby says dismissively as he shakes Toby’s hand, “It was for a laugh after all, I didn’t seriously want the part anyway. Just a bit embarrassed that I froze. Normally it ain’t a problem. You’re not going to tell anyone how badly I cocked up right?!”
“No way!” Toby cries, “It could just have easily been me that froze. Besides, you’re still the better football player.”
“Yes I am,” Scooby says proudly, his chest puffing out a little. He pulls Toby in to a quick hug, “Catch you later mate, take care getting home.”
“Will do!” Toby calls after him.
Scooby turns and walks away. Toby watches him go for a moment before he turns back to David. The producer has been watching them, smiling a little. It’s a bit creepy, Toby thinks and he unconsciously takes a step or two backwards.
“So, what’s up?” Toby asks, trying to be nonchalant.
Inside though his stomach is rolling around and he finds a loose thread on the sleeve of his top to fiddle with. He’s trying to keep his breathing steady and to stop his hands from shaking.
“Right,” David says, coughing a little, “We want you to come back tomorrow and help us out. We’re certainly interested in involving you in the film and we’d like you to come back a little earlier, probably right from the start of the day so you can help us with a couple of auditions for other roles.”
“Oh right,” Toby says, “Cool. I don’t know if the coach will let me but I can try.”
“Don’t worry about it,” David says, “I’ll ring him and let him know. Just make sure you ring him as well.”
“Cool,” Toby says, nodding his head. He doesn’t really know what to say, “So… what’s the film about anyway? The coach didn’t seem to know.”
“Oh of course!” David cries out, “It’s a film about the life of Wayne Rooney. We’re pitching it as the life story of the greatest footballer that England has ever known. Bit of a rags to riches thing you know, showing the world how Rooney built his career from the ground up without hand outs and stuff.”
“Oh!” Toby says, a light suddenly dawning, “That’s why you were getting me to do all of those Rooney goals.”
“Yup,” David says with a smug smile slowly dawning on his face, “And I’ve got to say, we were all very impressed with your Liverpudlian accent. If I’m being really honest,” he says, leaning in, “It’s actually far better than the actor’s accent, at least the one the main guy that we’ve got in mind can do. And that guy’s had training in doing accents, would you believe it?!”
“Thanks!” Toby says, “So what’s up with tomorrow?”
“Well,” David says, taking a step back, “We’ve got to do a second audition and we were hoping that you’d be able to act as a stand in. It’s basically for the role of Coleen Rooney and we want to make sure that we’ve got the right girl. And we’re kind of hoping to check her accent against yours. Up for it?”
“Yeah!” Toby says eagerly, “I’m totally up for that.”
“Glad to hear it” David says, clapping his hand on Toby’s shoulder. He hands Toby a few sheets of paper, “Here’s the script. We just want you to familiarise yourself with it enough that you don’t sound like you’re reading from the page. You’ll be allowed to have the script with you, we don’t expect you to be able to remember everything. And believe me, there’s going to be no pressure on you to perform perfectly or even perform at all. We just need someone for Fiona, that’s the girl we’re screen testing tomorrow, to work from.”
Toby flicks through the pages and sees line after line of dialogue. He wasn’t the best student at school, the sight of so much writing on one page would have made him panic back then, but as he looks at it now he’s just filled with a rush of excitement. His eyes catch on a bit of dialogue and he’s already working out how to play it.
“No problem,” he says, “I think I can do this.”
“Fantastic,” David says. He glances at his watch, “Well I’ll let you head off now, check through those lines and get ready to go for tomorrow. We’ll see you at let’s say… 9:30? You can have a bit of a lie in!”
“Cheers,” Toby says, holding up the script, “I won’t let you down.”
He races off to the room where he left his clothes and quickly gets changed. That was so much more fun than he expected and he could never have dreamed that he’d be asked to help with auditions. He’d have been surprised if they even offered him the part of the stunt man, now here he was acting as a stand in for screen tests. He pauses as he pulls up his trousers and realises that he’s still not been actually offered a role as stunt man, they’ve not even offered to pay him for standing in. It’s possible that they don’t even pay for that sort of thing, Toby hits himself on the forehead with the palm of his hand for being so stupid. It’s too late now though, he’s already told David that he’ll be here tomorrow and Toby never goes back on his word if he can help it.
As he sits on the bus, heading back home he realises that he’s going to need to watch videos of Wayne Rooney talking and playing and giving interviews. He wants to know what was going through Rooney’s head at particular times, what he was thinking, what was driving him forward. Toby knows that they’re not expecting an amazing performance from him, he’s just a stand in, but he’s decided that if he’s going to do it then he is going to do it really, really well.