Disclaimer: Any similarity to any person etc is coincidental. Real football players, clubs, stadiums and so on might be mentioned now and then. I do not own those. I DO own the characters, and plot however. No stealing.
Chapter One - I Caught Fire In Your Eyes
Of all the days for his car to break down, today had to be the worst, Jonathan Conrad thought anxiously as he locked up his car.
It was useless to call a mechanic on his mobile; by the time the car would be fixed, he would be late for the team meeting and the subsequent training session. His best option was public transport. The only family he had in London lived too far away; they were probably too busy to drop everything at a moment's notice to drive him halfway across town anyway.
He looked up from his contemplations to find a few people looking at him curiously. He hoped they didn't recognise him. Correction: he hoped the gaggle of girls, whose voices were getting louder and louder by the minute, didn't recognise him. He did not want to be hampered by fans. Not today of all days.
His car had chosen not only a bad day to break down but a very public street at that, too.
'Stupid car,' he muttered crossly at his new Porsche that technically should have known better than to go all kaput on him.
Across the street, his female fans were now pointing at him.
Uh-oh, this is not good!
After rummaging in the duffel bag he had pulled out of his car, he pulled on his club's official cap with the number ten on one side and a pair of dark sunglasses. Jonathan didn't care if he looked like a complete moron wearing shades on a rainy day, if it meant he escaped before those shrill-voiced girls got hold of him.
That should do it, he thought, rather proud of himself for averting the situation thusly.
Then he remembered what he had on and cursed at his stupidity: his old England jersey, atop his scruffy jeans, bore his surname rather prominently in white letters on the back.
He promptly delved once more into his bag, which he had dumped onto the hood of the car a few minutes ago, and took out his grey training windbreaker. Jonathan pushed his arms through the sleeves, zipped it up and prayed it would do.
It simply could not be helped if everything he had on while going to a training session was associated with either his club or the national team. He couldn't very well go in his pajamas, not when the England squad for the Germany World Cup was to be announced at the team meeting afterwards.
The meeting which he was not going to make if he didn't leave soon.
Picking up his bag, he jogged across the road to the bus stop. The schedule listed on a post clearly stated the next bus was due in 20 minutes. And Jonathan couldn't afford to wait that long. A quick look around told him the nearest underground train station was right down the street, with trains departing every 10 minutes or so.
Sighing, he headed there next. With his luck today, the station would probably be closed for some unforeseeable reason.
To his relief, it wasn't, when he entered. It sure was crowded though. He bought a ticket and hurried towards the waiting area.
The next train to King's Cross had pulled in as he arrived and before he knew what hit him, he found himself being pushed along with the crowd of people rushing towards its open doors.
He couldn't see where he was going and it was dark, but he daren't take off his glasses. There were posters featuring a probable England team, gearing the nation up for the World Cup and advertisements he had 'starred' in for some sponsors all around the place. However, the doors were looming closer so he didn't mind going with the flow, so to speak, since he was going in the right direction anyway.
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" A woman's agitated voice cried out, somewhere behind him. Probably got caught up in the throng of people, Jonathan thought. Nearly there...a few more steps and he'd be on his way.
Suddenly, something hard rammed into the back of his knees and caught unawares, he stumbled forward.
There was a gasp, a baby let out a loud wail and the same woman cried out, "Oh, I'm so sorry!"
Jonathan regained his balance quickly and turned around to face the woman.
Her troubled gaze met his. He took in her appearance: wide brown eyes, thick brown hair, a healthy figure dressed in black trousers, white shirt and a black fleece that was zipped halfway up and a ...baby she was pushing along in a stroller.
"It's just that there were too many people and she was crying," she began explaining, gesturing to the weeping baby. "I really had to catch this train, you see. Else I wouldn't be able to get Michelle home. And there'd be hell to pay. Then that woman shoved me and the stroller ran into-"
"Hey, hey," he cut her off, with a kind smile. "It's all right. No harm done."
Her face flushed. "Oh."
She found a toy rattle for the baby to play with and placed it in her tiny hands. Then she adjusted her large shoulder bag nervously, pushed the stroller with the now silent baby until it was right in front of the doors of the train and looked up at him. "Yes, well. Sorry anyway."
She bent to lift the stroller up and just then a familiar tune, that he couldn't quite place, rang out. Judging by her reaction, it was clearly her phone as she looked torn between answering it and trying to place the pram safely onto the train.
Jonathan solved her dilemma by picking the stroller up as she dug the phone out, frantically answering it. She mouthed a 'thank you' as she stepped on board too, once the baby was safe and sound. He guided the stroller to a vacant seat, and then stood around waiting for her to finish talking.
The glasses were getting him odd looks in the well-lit compartment, as well as making everything seem darker which made him bump into a lot of peeved people. He took them off hesitantly, and breathed a sigh of relief when he wasn't immediately mobbed. This media frenzy was not doing him any good; he was becoming altogether too paranoid.
He could hear her end of the conversation, despite the ruckus all around them. "Hello? Oh hey, Mel. No, I haven't forgotten. Look, I can't talk right now. I'll call you back, yeah? Bye."
She hung up and looked at him with a smile. "Thank you, Mr Conrad."
He gaped at her, sputtering, "How did you-"
Tucking a wavy lock behind her ear, she interrupted him, "Find out? It's the hair. Yours is the inspiration for the rest of the nation, you know."
He shifted uncomfortably. The train had just left the station, so he had grabbed onto the back of the empty seat for support at the sudden lurch. His grip tightened, his knuckles slowly turned white at her words.
Not her, too.
"Besides, your face is on every poster and billboard in the country. Once you chucked the shades, it's kinda obvious."
He expected her to either ask for his autograph, ask something football related or introduce herself. She did neither.
She gripped the stroller's handlebar, stuffed her mobile phone back in her bag and made to leave.
"Wait!" he called out, a little too loudly.
Several people turned to look at him. He barely registered the looks of recognisation on their faces, or the toy rattling as the baby babbled away happily. She was looking at him over her shoulder, her hair flung midway down her back casually. Her deep brown eyes locked with his.
She looked adorable, he realised. Not beautiful, or hot. Probably the first real girl he had met in years.
He couldn't look away. There was nothing hypnotic about her gaze, yet he couldn't stop staring into her eyes. It seemed like an eternity passed in those few seconds. Something about what he was feeling must have translated onto his expression because she frowned slightly. Jonathan could tell she was shying away as she bit her lip, her gaze intent on the baby now.
"What's your name?" he asked, almost desperately.
She glanced his way again and let out a laugh, a touch of cynicism tainting the otherwise mellow sound. "It doesn't matter. See you in another life, Mr. Conrad."
So saying, she left. And the mob he'd feared earlier, descended upon him.
And I don't think
I'll see her again
But we shared a moment
That will last 'til the end...
A/N: (1423 words. 4 and ¼ pages.)
Got to mention a few things, assuming someone is actually reading of course:
1- This is not one of those football stories that have sprouted up just because of the recent World Cup. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But most of them are severely lacking proper football terms that annoy me to no end. I assure you, I know my football.
2- This story is not inspired by James Blunt's song 'You're Beautiful'. I was listening to it while writing the ending of this chapter, and the lyrics above suited the occasion and link it to the next chapter.
3- Although I have been to London, I don't exactly have a mind map of the subway routes or the stadiums. I'll figure it out and change it accordingly. If anyone knows, do let me know :)
4- The upcoming chapters might be longer. And Author's Notes much shorter.
5- Lastly, reviews are always highly welcome!