If Only Tonight

Unfamiliar Territory: Chapter Twenty One - Can't Stay Away

Unfamiliar Territory

Chapter Twenty One: Can't Stay Away

"Wow...that is major progress. Who would've thought you'd be friends with the cold one?"

Mia laughed, holding the phone with one hand, and drinking her Coke with the other. Her break couldn't have come at a better time. It had been a while since she had spoken to Stacie.

"Yea...I was surprised too."

"So how goes it? Has he fallen for your beauty and charm?"

Feeling her cheeks heat up, Mia wildly glanced around to see if anyone was outside the door of her office.

"Stacie! Shut up! I'm at work still!"

"Aww, come on. Dish!"

"Nothing's going on. We just went to the movies with Nate a few days ago. Then there was the match, and he scored the goal that won the game and he was man of the match. Big surprise! It's not like we talk all the time now." Mia clarified for her friend's benefit. She consciously touched the glittering heart around her neck. She still hadn't told her friend about the gift. Stacie would freak if she knew, Mia knew her well enough to assume.

"Okay fine...nothing happened between you two. But you can't say you weren't hoping!" Stacie had always known how to get a rise out of Mia.

Blushing even more deeply, Mia counted to three and waited for the colour to disappear. She steadied her breath before replying, in the meantime she figured out what to say to Stacie.

"I'm not hoping for anything. I don't even know him properly yet. Besides what would he ever see in me. He's a footballer, I'm just there to make sure his precious limbs are functioning properly." Mia burst out. "He dates girls in magazines, not people like me."

"And yet you say there's nothing there...Seriously Mia, I think you need to go out a little bit. How long has it been since your last date?"

Pondering over the question – Great, just great... - Mia knew Stacie was right.

"See what I mean. If you can't even think of an answer quickly enough, it's been too long." Stacie was winning.

"Case in point, if I don't hear about you going on a date in like two weeks from now...I will post your profile on some random dating sites." Stacie threatened.

Mia's jaw dropped.

"No! You can't do that to me!"

"You watch Mia...I will!" Mia heard Stacie cackling. She sighed deeply as Stacie talked about her plan, and drank the rest of her Coke.

As she ended her conversation with Stacie and returned to the papers in front of her, Mia couldn't help but think how right Stacie was. It has been a while since I went out, Mia thought, it couldn't hurt to go out now that I have the place to myself. The more Mia thought about it, the better it started to sound. At least it'll get Stacie off my case, Mia contemplated.

Returning to her laptop, Mia checked her email. She scrolled down and clicked on a team email in her inbox. 'London FC invites you to join us for a night to remember at the 'Autism Awareness Dinner' ', it read. Not completely reading the email, she exited her email. It was the perfect opportunity. Mia sighed as she realized one small problem. I'll probably need a date for that...so I will think about that later, she promised herself. Stacie would be thrilled had she known about the event. She would have probably found Mia a date and forced her to go. Mia shuddered at the thought.

Finishing the rest of her day's appointments, Mia walked to her apartment. At the beginning it had been exciting to be alone, soon she had felt deserted. It was a little less lonely these days, since she had become somewhat used to it. Still there were days when she preferred having Oliver or even Matthew there. At least then there was someone around, now it was just her.

Since the guys had left, Mia had thought about combining all three beds to make a super bed, but instead had put her spotted elephant on Matthew's bed and the bear Oliver had gotten for her on his bed to keep her company; having remembered that they would be staying for training camps.

As she stepped into the apartment, Mia placed her laptop bag and files on the coffee table, work would wait until after she relaxed. She wasn't a fan of typing up her notes and reports and sending them in...but what needed to be done, needed to be done – at some point, she thought darkly.

Getting some food, Mia put in a DVD and turned on the TV before plopping on to the sofa. She had been looking forward to watching 'Australia' for a while, but hadn't been able to get to it until now. As the movie started to play, Mia settled in and ate her food.


Walking down the corridor, Matthew knew his excuse was weak. Yet it was the truth...hopefully she wouldn't give him a hard time.

Putting his keys into the lock, Matthew took a deep breath, and turned them. Opening the door into a darkened room, Mia's outline glowed from the light of the TV. He heard her sniffling.

He turned on the light.

"Hello." He spoke tentatively.

He watched as Mia scrambled for the remote and paused whatever she was watching. She quickly wiped her eyes with her sleeve, and looked up at him with a guilty expression on her face. She cries during movies? He wanted to smile, but kept his face blank.


"I didn't disturb you, did I?" He asked, unsure why as he clearly had come in the middle of something.

"No...I was just watching 'Australia'." She told him, getting up and taking her plate to the sink.

"With Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman?"

"Yea. Have you seen it?"

"No, my cousin wanted to watch it." He told her.

"It's really good. I'm halfway through."

They were quiet for a moment. Matthew watched as Mia took in the bag slung over his shoulder.

"So, what's up?" She asked him.

"I'm just staying here until the match. My cousins are driving me crazy, plus they have a dinner at the house the night before...and I usually like quiet and going to bed early the day before the match." He told her.

"I see. You're the silent and brooding type." She said to him. It wasn't really a question, it sounded more like a statement from experience.

"I guess...it's kind of a tradition me and Oliver have. We always stayed two nights before a match." He wasn't making it up. Oliver had started it after one blundering match, both he and Oliver had been up at night for separate reasons and it had affected their performance. The team had lost the game, and both had felt responsible, so Oliver had implemented the idea. A way to relax and focus before the match without any outside disturbance.

As much as they loved their families, neither Matthew nor Oliver liked the feeling of defeat. Matthew had a habit of sulking for three days if he thought he performed badly or if the team lost a match. Oliver was not a sulker, he usually went to the gym to burn off his anguish.

"Is it okay with you?" Matthew asked, unsure if he was pushing his luck. It was one thing to go the movies, another to be completely alone with her for two days.

"It doesn't make a difference to me. It's still your place." She told him with a shrug, turning away to grab a bag of chips and returning to the sofa.

Sitting down, Mia looked up at him.

"I hope I'm not bothering you." She told him.

"Nope, Oliver and I used to sit around and watch movies the first night and then go to bed early the day before the match." He told her, as he put his bag next to the door of their shared room.

As he turned to take his jacket off and hang it, he heard Mia's voice.

"You can watch with me, if you like." She told him.


Mia didn't know what she was hoping for. Happy that she wouldn't be alone, Mia had blurted out the idea. Should he accept, it would be hard for her to watch the movie. I must be the only person who cries a million times during a movie, she berated herself. If he declined, Mia knew a part of her would feel rejected while the other one would tell her she was stupid for offering.

"Okay." Her heart skipped a beat. She stared at him, unbelieving, before turning to her chips.

Watching as he walked over to the other end of the sofa and sat down, Mia offered him some chips and put the bag in between them.

Getting up Mia flicked off the lights, and sat down once more. She pressed play and started to watch.

It wasn't long before Mia's eyes started to water. Hoping Matthew wouldn't notice, Mia tried to rub the tears away, trying to make it seem as though her eyes were strained and she was trying to relieve the stress.

Careful not to glance at him, Mia watched the movie intently. She loved the storyline.

Reaching over some for chips, her hand brushed against his, the electricity crackled between them. Just like when she had taken the hotel card from out of his pocket, but it seemed to be more amplified. She could feel it. Mia pulled her hand away. Had he felt it? She wondered.

Stacie's really getting to me, Mia thought with irritation. There was no way he could like her – I've got to stop listening to Stacie's rants on true love and Matt ever liking me, Mia thought, trying to shove the thoughts away.

Returning her attention to the movie, Mia watched in horror as the building Nicole Kidman's character was standing in, blew up. Tears started to well up once more. Soon, Mia forgot who was sitting across from her. Leaning her back against the arm rest, Mia put her feet up, not noticing that her toes rested against Matthew's leg. Throughout the remainder of the movie, Mia had her fist bunching up her sleeve, each time tears rolled down her cheek, she would wipe them away with it.

The movie ended, and Mia looked up to see Matthew's gaze upon her. His blue eyes glowing from the light of the TV. It wasn't long before they looked away, but Mia couldn't put a finger on what she felt. He hadn't said anything about her tears, for which she was grateful. It wasn't long before he got up and turned on the lights, before sitting back down and grabbing the remote. He surfed the channels, the volume low. He seemed to belong right on the couch next to her, Mia could picture it in her mind.

It was the perfect opportunity. He knew more about her than she did him. He was sitting so close yet so far. She was compelled to know him. He said they could be friends, didn't he? Uncharacteristically, Mia spoke without thinking it through.


"Do you ever get nervous before a match?"

Matthew turned to face Mia. She looked curious. Having sat near her during the movie, he couldn't forget the way she looked at him at the end, content with him at her side. He remembered her feet pushing at his leg every time she started to worry about the characters. He returned his attention to the question.

"Sometimes. It depends who we're facing and if I think I'm prepared."

"Who do you hate facing?"

A chuckle escaped Matthew, before he could stop himself. She sat there, her feet close to him but not touching this time. A sense of friendship had settled over them. He could laugh and talk to her, just like he did with his own friends, just like he had wanted to, it was just the two of them. Hadn't he told her they could be friends, right now he couldn't have asked for more.

"Manchester United and Chelsea..." He told her honestly.

"Why?" She seemed amused.

"They're both really strong teams, even when their having a bad day they seem to hold it together."

"Do you think we'll win the league this year?"

Where is she getting these questions from? Did she write a list or something? Matthew wondered.

"Are we playing twenty questions?"

Mia looked at him with a smile.

"I just wanted to know. You know my darkest secret...I was just...curious..." She trailed off, looking at the television screen.

She wants to know me? The question scared him. What if she didn't like the things she found out about him? What if his darkest secret scared her? Shaking his head to clear his mind, a part Matthew hoped she wouldn't delve too deep into his life. The other part scolded him. You should consider yourself lucky that she's even bothering with you, after what you pulled! His mind berated him.

"What do you want to know?" He offered.

"Are you always gruff towards the new staff?" The look on his face told him she had been wanting to ask him this for a while now.

"In general...most of the time...yea I am." He admitted, slightly embarrassed. Maybe it was time to make an excuse, he thought.

"The doctor before you kind of sold me and some of the other guys out. He'd tell the rags about our injuries before us."

He watched as she mulled over this.

"So you thought I would sell you out?" She asked him, looking a little hurt.

"I don't really know what I thought..." Matthew muttered, the truth would surely frighten her.

"Well, I wouldn't. I won't." She told him, heatedly. "That's a pretty lowly thing to do." She said softly.

They sat quietly, Matthew smothered the urge to tell her he trusted her. She might just die of shock, he thought.

"I know." He told her, looking away from her intense gaze.

"So...do you have any siblings?"

Shifting a little uncomfortably, Matthew hoped his face didn't give anything away. None that are living, he couldn't stop himself from thinking.

"I have two cousins that I live with. Leon and Lina." He told her, instead of answering her question.

"Do you like it here in London?" Mia asked him, changing the subject.

"Yea. It's a nice place, but I've started to like the country side more. It's quieter." Surprised that they were finally getting to know one another.

"What about you?" He asked her. They were both from different countries. England had become their adopted home.

"I'm not much for the city but it's alright. I like secluded places too. My parents' cottage is the best since its right by the lake and it's hidden by the woods."

They had something in common. Matthew wasn't surprised. He had noticed how she didn't bother to go out much. He watched as she pushed away the hair that had fallen in front of her eyes. The ring flashed at him. I still don't get that, he thought.

"What's that for?" He gestured towards the ring.

"Oh...it's just a reminder of a promise I made." She told him, her cheeks were starting to turn pink, she had moved the hand under her knees, pulling her legs towards her.

"A promise ring?" Matthew asked,

"No...it's just to remind me not to do anything stupid." She was turning red.

"What classifies as stupid?" He couldn't help but delve further, she looked adorable blushing.

"Getting drunk, drugs, one night stands...there's a long embarrassing list." She was the shade of a tomato, she gave a nervous laugh. Matthew stifled his own laughter.


Embarrassed couldn't begin to explain how Mia felt. She hadn't thought anyone had noticed the ring she wore. It had been something that she promised herself as she watched people around her in high school destroy themselves. Ironically, Max had given it to her for Mia's 13th birthday. Although it held sentimental value, to Mia it was much more. Later on in university, it had become her saving grace. The one thing that governed her life in areas where her parents could not.

"So what else is on the list?" His deep voice startled her out of her thoughts. She could feel the heat from her cheeks. How had the conversation quickly changed to her? She had wanted to quiz him, and now here she was on trial.

"You don't want to know." She told him nervously. Sneaking a peak at Matthew, she saw the amused look on his face.

"I answered your questions. I think we'll get third place in the premier league." He said, quickly ensuring that he had in fact answered all the questions she had asked. Mia sighed, there was no way out.

"It's lame and old fashioned...Max gave me the ring on my birthday, he told me to be good...I've pretty much covered most of the list. It's just my way of making sure I don't screw up before finding the right person." Mia wanted to melt in to the couch. The only other person who knew the meaning of the ring was Stacie, and here she was telling the one person who had up until Christmas, been on her 'People to Avoid At All Costs' list.

"Don't you have any rules that you follow?" She tried to sound nonchalant.

Matthew looked deep in thought.

"Just the whole no one night stands, and..." Mia had already known about this one. "No drugs. That's pretty much it."

"Interesting." She commented.

Mia glanced at the clock, it was late and he had practice in the morning while she had work. Still she didn't want to sleep, she wanted to ask him all the questions she had since watching him first play. She fought back a yawn, and glancing at the table, she knew her paperwork would have to be done during lunch tomorrow.

"I guess we should call it a night." He said, reading her mind, clicking off the television. They hadn't watched it since the movie ended.

"Yea." Mia got up, and headed for the bathroom to change.

By the time she got to their room, she saw Matthew sitting on his bed, holding the pink elephant in his hands, turning it over, seeing the spots on the ears.

"Lonely much?" He asked looking up at her, his eyes sparkled.

"Nope. They wanted some space." Mia told him, trying to sound indifferent. He was too sharp, quite aware of the fact that she liked company. Handing her the elephant, Matthew left her to go change.

Sitting on her bed, Mia placed the elephant on one side of her pillow. Lately, Matthew had been allowing her in to his life. It was almost as though he had opened a door for her, it was up to her to walk through it.

Pulling on the chain around her neck, Mia took out the heart. Holding it up to the light, Mia was entranced by the sparkles. There was something about Matthew that despite her better judgement she couldn't stay away from him. Like a moth drawn to a flame, she knew she could get burned. Ignoring the warning bells going off in her mind, Mia shoved all her doubts in to a corner and got up to turn off the lights.

Facing Oliver's empty bed and waiting for Matthew to return, Mia stared at the light that came in from the cracks in the curtain. She heard his soft footsteps come in to the room. The bed creaked under his weight. Mia turned over, resting her head on her hand, facing the silhouette that was Matthew.

"Goodnight." She said to him. It felt so familiar to have him around, yet so new since they weren't at odds any longer.


It was quiet in the room. Mia couldn't get herself to sleep. Remembering that she still hadn't thanked Matthew for his Christmas gift, Mia searched for the right words to say to him. If there was ever a time, it would be now.

"Matt..." Mia called out to him, searching in the darkness for any sign that he might be awake. She heard him turn.


"The locket, i-it's beautiful." She stammered, knowing it was the best way to say 'Thank you' without actually saying the words. He was quiet.

Mia was about to turn over when she heard his soft voice.

"It suits you."