Chapter Two - He Saw Her Again
Shocking but we're nothing
We're just moments
We're clever but we're clueless
We're just human
Amusing but confusing
We're trying but where is this all leading?
'Never Know'-Jack Johnson
Two days later, he ran into her again.
When he purposely left his car at home and took the train again, to another training session.
By now, all of England was buzzing with the newly announced squad for the World Cup. There were criticisms, praises and somewhere between those two extremes. Jonathan was just glad he had made it onto the team.
He had looked around for her before boarding the train. He knew it was stupid to come back to the very spot that had gained him much unwanted attention from the media. Newspapers all over the country had carried much-exaggerated, yet candid stories relating to the incident. Amateur photographs, taken by witnesses in the vicinity, had captured the desperation he had felt at the time.
Today though, much to his disappointment, she didn't seem to be around. He had come prepared for the media this time. A hooded fleece covered most of his face, and several layers of shirts along with baggy, torn jeans completed his outfit. He had a day's stubble covering his jaw and the scruffiest trainers he owned firmly planted on his feet. Instead of his usual huge duffel bag, he carried an oddly-shaped book bag. Inside were his prized football shoes he couldn't afford to ruin by using for walking purposes.
All in all, he looked like a bum straight off the streets.
He sat down next to an empty seat, feeling strangely let down and as if he'd been stood up. The man on his right was sleeping with his head lolling back and drooling slightly. Jonathan shifted onto the empty seat, which was right next to the window and unfolded the newspaper he had bought minutes ago at the station. Much to his surprise, half the sports page was allotted to him.
By Julie Meyers
The woman was out to get him, Jonathan was sure. This was the latest article in a list of many degrading ones she had written about him.
If he missed a team practice, she made up some absurd story about a fight between him and the captain, John Terry, that had resulted in several blows being exchanged. He had actually gone to visit his seriously ill grandmother.
If he should god forbid, get carded in a match, Ms. Meyers decided he was in dire need of anger management classes. He had actually been shoved into the player by another team mate accidentally and all parties involved had shaken hands after the match and moved on.
If he didn't make an appearance at a press conference because he busy training, she declared he had something to hide and had an aversion to the media. Jonathan liked the paparazzi as much as the next celebrity; that is, he wasn't necessarily fond of them but he accepted them as part and parcel of playing football at such a high level.
He just had an aversion towards one pesky reporter in particular. And with good reason too, if today's sports page was anything to go by:
"England and Chelsea star defender Jonathan Conrad just can't seem to stay out of the media's eye. Just recently, he was spotted boarding a train to King's Cross. That might be highly normal for most people but then again, Conrad is not most people. His place on the England team for the Germany World Cup has recently been announced. And it seems like Jonathan Conrad craves attention the media is only too ready to give him.
Why else would an insanely rich football player need the use of public transport when the purchase of a brand-new Porsche by said footballer was in the papers only last week?
What is even more extra-ordinary is his conversation with a pretty brunette, also on the train. Several passengers on the train who were witness to the event reportedly said that Conrad asked her to wait and tell him her name. A woman also volunteered, 'I couldn't hear what she said. But he seemed frantic and she just walked away.'
Picking up his latest conquests aboard trains must be Jonathan Conrad's latest hobby. Too bad there are some women yet left in Britain who are not susceptible to his charms and boyish good looks.
Whoever this mystery woman is, this reporter salutes you in recognising what Conrad really stands for; a contemptible mark on the beautiful sport that is football.
She had caught his attention. And he wanted to see her again. It was as simple as that, really. But of course there were more Julie Meyers out there who liked nothing more than to blow everything out of proportion.
All the train doors began to close and the train began its journey once more when someone sat down next to him. He subtly moved the newspaper closer towards his face, shielding his face.
'So I'm your 'mystery woman' now, eh?'
Very slowly, Jonathan lowered the newspaper. Sure enough, it was her. 'Well, if you told me your name...'
She laughed. 'Nice try, Mr. Conrad. Not going to happen.'
'What's it going to take?' Jonathan rolled up the newspaper, crossed his arms and looked at her. 'You don't look like the sort who'd go for cheesy pick-up lines but I'm beginning to run out of options.'
She had parked the pram in front of both of them and she played with the baby, before she replied, 'Don't even bother trying. Sleazy pick-up lines don't work on anyone. I fail to understand why every guy seems to think they do, but believe me, they don't.'
'Okaaay, then.' Jonathan couldn't remember the last time a conversation with a pretty girl had unnerved him to this extent. Come to think of it, it was mostly the other way round.
She picked the baby up and hugged her close. The baby, an adorable little thing with big green eyes, promptly wrapped its arms around her and began babbling happily. To her credit, she listened, as interested as if the little girl was making any sense.
Jonathan had to quell the urge to ask if the baby was hers, but that not only would that have been overly rude but she would probably stop talking to him altogether. Instead, he tried to be patient and wait for her to initiate some conversation when she was ready.
After a long while, the baby slid down into her lap and cuddling close, sleepily stared at Jonathan. He didn't know what to do, so he just grinned at the child. She blinked back and then rewarded him with an adorable smile.
'Aw, she likes you.'
He kept looking at the little girl, who was still looking at him with immense interest and answered her mother. 'Yeah, I guess.'
He didn't want to seem too desperate- even though he knew he really was- so he stayed silent and waited for her to say more.
'You know, your attempts at disguise have improved. I almost didn't recognise you.'
'What gave me away?'
'I can't help but wonder what you're doing back here again...' She chose not to answer and changed the subject instead. 'This is the last place you should be if you want to escape the media, after all the stories in the news.'
He rubbed his neck awkwardly. 'I was kind of, maybe, you know...'
She looked expectantly at him for a response, with an amused expression on her face. Jonathan decided he might as well say what was really on his mind when someone's mobile went off. Apparently, it was hers because she immediately looked around for her bag. She had slung it on her left shoulder and her left arm was wrapped around the baby in her lap protectively.
'Can you hold Michelle while I get that?'
He lifted the baby up quickly. He hoped she wouldn't start crying but she amazed him by grabbing at his face and planting a wet kiss on his cheek. Then she plopped down in his lap and closed her eyes.
The phone conversation was short. She hung up soon enough, placed the sleeping child in the stroller and then turned her attention to Jonathan. 'You never answered my question.'
'I was kind of hoping to catch you around here. You know, since I don't even know your name.'
She smiled at that and then looked past his shoulder, out the window thoughtfully. 'Lauren.'
'My name is Lauren.' She said, enunciating every word
'Right then. I'm Jonathan.'
There was a pause and then he asked lamely, 'So...do you live around here?'
'No, about an hour or so away' She replied vaguely.
'And I reckon that's all you're going to reveal about yourself. Am I right, Lauren?'
'Where in Sussex?' He persisted.
The train reached its first stop and Lauren stood up. 'Careful, I wouldn't want to lose the whole 'mystery woman' charm.
She pushed the stroller out the doors and then stood on the platform amidst a crowd of people rushing past her. Smiling playfully, she gave him a cheerful little wave as the train left the station.
Jonathan slumped down in his seat, head rested against the cool window pane.
A/N: I know this hasn't been updated in forever but I've been really busy with exams and studies in general. I don't know when the next chapter will be up and this chapter isn't exactly up to par either, but it's the best I could come up with right now.
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who reviewed the last chapter!