by Liz Powell
As a professional footballer it looks like Adam Hunter has it all, but when the secret of his affair with midfielder Louie Jackson begins to leak out he’s plunged into the depths of misery – prompting a desperate series of manoeuvres to conceal the truth. Injured, distrusted by his team-mates and plagued by personal tragedy, Adam goes from hero to zero – and by the time Louie’s transferred to a German side he’s running out of reasons to stay alive. If there’s any way back from the brink of suicide, it isn’t clear to him at the moment …
102000 words/366 pages
Publication 1 August 2014
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“Angsty – but not overwhelmingly so, emotive – but not dramatic, thoughtful and insightful – but not too heavy.”
Review by Sue at Boys in our Books 25 November 2014
It’s been a cold winter. Training is harder than usual, and I see the way the lads look at me. While nothing’s been the same since what happened in the summer – the few friends I had have dwindled to a number I can count on a single hand – it had been getting better. Until now, of course. We’re all the same as one another, and we all know what I should have done. It’s clear what I shouldn’t have done is this – the silence. What would have been better? Flat out denying it, possibly signing a new contract – mine’ll be up next year, and I can’t believe it’s already been five years. I can’t believe I wear blue every weekend rather than the red I had dreamed of as a boy, and most of all I can’t believe how much I do love this club. I really do.
‘All right?’ It’s Mads, my mate Mads, the Mad Dane. He plays centre half, looks like his face was smashed in with a brick when he was a baby, hair so fine he looks like he has no eyelashes, no eyebrows. Almost ghostly. He claps my shoulder and I chip the ball away, where Collinson the keeper snatches it out of the air.
‘Yeah, all right, Mads?’
‘Not too bad. Not too bad,’ he repeats slowly, pulling at his training jersey. I sigh.
‘They sent you, did they?’
‘What, who?’ he says, his eyes wide.
‘I’m not leaving, all right? I wouldn’t, mate. It’s the papers.’ I’ve been repeating this line for a while. It is infinitely better than the truth.
‘Nobody said you would.’
‘They’re all thinking it,’ I say, scuffing the ground. Mads’ hand lands on my shoulder again.
‘Mate, they wouldn’t blame you. What with the year you’ve had, and all.’
I wrinkle my nose, a weird, twisting pain in my chest. It flares up sometimes, when I’ve forgotten. When I’m having a good day, there’s always something to remind me of last year.
‘They haven’t exactly contributed to my year in a positive manner,’ I say, sniffing. Mads gives me a grim smile.
‘Water under the bridge, mate, let’s think of it like that.’
‘Yeah.’ I have a scar on my forehead that ensures it will never just be water under the bridge. ‘Not like they wouldn’t be glad to see the back of me.’
‘Mate,’ is all he says, and I note the tone of his voice, the slightly elongated vowels of someone who can’t say anything else constructive. There’s a small silence, which I interpret as his way of saying: Don’t push it.
‘Well I’m staying put, all right? I promise you.’
‘Good,’ he says, clapping me on the back, giving me a wonky-toothed smile. ‘Wouldn’t want to lose another legend, no?’
‘Course not,’ I say, and there’s a brief moment of nothingness before I realise oh god he’s going to mention him and then-
‘So I heard Louie is off.’
His watery blue eyes bore into me. The way he says it is so bloody nonchalant, I almost want to punch him.
‘Yep,’ I say, averting my eyes.
‘Nobody seems to know what’s happening.’ He’s waiting for me to fill him in, of course, since Louie and I are – or were, I suppose – like two peas in a pod. Thick as bloody thieves. I swing my gaze back round to Mads, with concerted effort.
‘He’s just going, mate, his time and all that.’
‘I never thought he would leave.’
‘Well, things change,’ I say, perhaps too heavily. Above us, the wintry January sky is pale as milk, and the air has the sharp tinge of snow to it. The ground is hard with frost, and it’s snowing in the north; the weekend’s games are an inch or two away from cancellation. I wonder what it’ll be like without him here, the stalwart, going away with a new roommate, learning a new person’s habits. Not looking up and aiming my cross for his movements, slippery as ice and fast as lightning. I feel another, different pain spread from my chest to my gut, and I notice Mads looking at me funny.
‘You’ll be O-K, Adam,’ he says, forcibly separating the letters with his heavy Danish accent. Oh-key. Oh, I do hope so.
I sometimes doubt it, though.
There’s a whistle from the other side of the pitch: the defensive coach wants all the defenders for their weekly meeting.
‘Maybe you can persuade him to stay, yeah?’ he says, starting to back away, winking at me.
‘That’ll be the day,’ I say weakly, thinking of Munich. I remember the night Louie called me, telling me he was getting German lessons, trying to make a joke of it. It wasn’t funny, not at all.
I remember thinking, I’m about to lose everything because of you, you bastard. I might have even said it to him. He had laughed at me. It still isn’t funny.