‹ Prequel: A Summer Romance

Forgive and Forget


Knowing that was she was late, Elina quickly shrugged on her black duffle coat that was pinched in slightly at the waist before checking her purse to make sure that she had everything she would need and pulling her softly curled hair from beneath the collar of the coat. Slipping her feet into the black high heeled, suede booties that had been a present from a friend, she grabbed a cowl-necked scarf from the dresser in the hallway and wrapped it around her neck, giving her hair one more fluff before grabbing her bag along with her keys from the table and heading towards the door.

Literally a hand on the doorknob, one foot out the door, the ringing of the house phone stopped her.

Debating whether or not to answer it, looking back into the flat before throwing a glance at the watch around her arm, knowing her friend was going to chew her out for being late to their meeting, she surrendered with a sigh and turned around, walking back into the apartment.

There were only a handful of people who had the number to that phone, like the club, their brother and their parents...

Worrying that something had happened, she jogged into the kitchen and snatched up the cordless phone from where it had been charging and answered without bothering to look at the display. “Hello?”

Hi, my name’s Rachel, I'm a receptionist at the Melwood Training Grounds and I was wondering if I could speak to Elina Berglund,” the caller who had a thick Scouse accent, replied politely.

“This is she,” Elina frowned slightly, her mind going over all the conversations she’d had with her brother the past couple of days. She couldn’t recall him even mentioning the reserves, much less training with them that week. “Is this about my brother? Simon Holmgren?”

Oh, no,” Rachel sounded surprised at the question which only caused Elina’s frown to deepen. “It’s about Fernando Torres.

“What?” Elina could honestly say that she was rendered speechless upon hearing that name come out of the woman’s mouth.

A few weeks had passed since that disastrous night at Red Room, during which she hadn't seen, much less heard anything from, or even about Fernando, unless it was on the telly concerning his games, which was absolutely fine with her as she was a fan of the club. During those weeks it felt like her equilibrium had returned, she didn't feel jumpy whenever a blonde man was within twenty feet of her, she didn't feel like she was walking on the edge of the cliff about to fall down if she made a wrong move and she didn't feel the need to constantly not think about him.

Because she didn't think about him...much...

But apparently all things must come to an end.

He’s come down with something and he’s isn't allowed to train today, the doctors’ has actually ordered him home to rest, but they don’t want him driving on his meds,” Rachel explained with a practiced smile in her voice.

“I see,” Elina nodded slightly even if the other woman couldn’t see her. “What I don't understand, though, is what this has to do with me?” she questioned, immediately closing her eyes as the words passed her lips and realization dawned on her.

Fernando was asked if there was anyone who could come pick him up on such short notice and then stay with him for a while, and he mentioned you,” Rachel explained even though Elina could clearly hear the confusion in her voice. Which she sort of understood; clearly the woman was under the impression that the two of them actually knew each other.

“Right,” Elina sighed softly under her breath, reaching up and massaging her temple. This was so not shaping up to be a good day.

So can you come pick him up and check on him when he gets home?” the practiced, overly perky receptionist tone was back.

“Now?” Elina found herself saying, causing her to frown at herself.

As soon as possible,” Rachel confirmed quickly. “The doctor wants him to get as much rest as he can and we don't want him to infect the rest of the team,” she added with a smile.

“Voy a matar a ese hombre,” Elina mumbled softly as she ran her fingers through her loose hair.
{I'm going to kill that guy }

What?” Rachel asked clueless.

“I said I’ll be there,” Elina forced herself to say as she glanced at the watch on her arm; Nikki was going to kill her. “It’ll take me some 30 minutes to get there though.”

I’ll tell them and we’ll be expecting you,” Rachel replied perkily.

“Great,” Elina replied sarcastically before moving the phone away from her ear and ending the call. That man was going to be the death of her, she knew it.

Taking a moment to collect herself, to calm down the urge to smack him, maim him, kick him or something equally as poetic once she laid her eyes on him, she walked back through the apartment and out the door, locking it behind her.

Jogging down the stairs, she walked across the ground-level garage and slid in behind the wheel of the silver coloured Audi. Fishing out her phone from her purse, she connected it to the Bluetooth system before dropping the bag in the passenger seat.

Hesitating for a moment, she sighed before dialling the contact she really didn't want to talk to right then.

Hey El,” Nikki’s voice came through the speakers of the car as she slowly reversed out of the spot and equally as slowly drove through the garage and out into traffic.

“Hi Nik,” Elina forced herself to smile, not wanting her friend to catch on to the emotional turmoil that was taking place inside of her right then. “Listen...” she trailed off, hating letting people down.

What is it?” Nikki asked softly. “Is something wrong? You should have been here by now,” she noted, though not accusingly just as a mere statement of fact.

“I can’t go shopping today,” Elina reluctantly said. She’d looked forwards to their shopping trip for days, she loved shopping, even more so with her friends. But her conscience, and her inability to leave wounded animals, or people, to their own fate, had forced her to say yes to help even the very man she wanted to hate.

Why not?” Nikki questioned. “I mean, it’s our day off.

Hesitating for a moment, Elina cleared her throat uncomfortably; she was good at it but she didn't particularly like telling lies to people, at least not to people she genuinely liked. “Well,” she wavered for a moment, not sure what she should tell her friend. “Melwood called just now; apparently Fernando thought it was a good idea to volunteer me as his personal driver and nurse.”

Say what now?” Nikki asked confused.

“Apparently, Fernando has fallen ill and doctors don't want him training and has ordered him to go home,” Elina began telling her friend. “But they don't want him to be alone and because of the med’s they’ve given him he can’t drive,” she continued as she drove through the familiar streets of Liverpool. “And he conveniently mentioned my name when asked about who would have time to pick him up.”

Fernando Torres?” Nikki asked surprised, she’d seen their fight, she knew the blonde Swede hadn't heard from the Spaniard since, this development was unexpected, to say the least.

“Yeah,” Elina confirmed simply.

Why?” the brunette frowned confused.

“How the hell should I know?” Elina snapped, only to regret it the moment after. “Sorry, didn't mean to take it out on you.”

Don't worry about it,” Nikki replied simply. “So what happens now?

“I'm on my way to Melwood,” Elina told her simply. “After that is anyone’s guess really, but I'm probably taking him home since that was what the doctor ordered and then maybe, I don't know, check that he doesn’t choke himself to death in his sleep or something,” she shrugged slightly.

Good luck with that,” Nikki grinned amused. “Don’t take too good a care of him,” she added with a smirk, and the blonde instinctively knew that she was wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

“Oh, shut up,” Elina glared at the phone in the centre console, despite the fact that her friend clearly couldn’t see her.

Half of Liverpool’s female population would give an arm, maybe even a leg to be in your position right now,” Nikki retorted. “I'm saying go for it.

“I'm hanging up on you now,” Elina stated, her thumb hovering over the button on the steering wheel that would end the call.

Okay, sorry,” Nikki replied quickly. “All I'm saying is that to fight like that, you have to have passion. And hate is always just a smidge away from love,” she reminded the blonde who really didn't want to hear it.

“Are you ever going to let this whole thing go?” Elina asked tiredly. She’d heard it many times before, at least since the brunette and their other friend Caroline learned about her past with the Spanish striker. They were both so sure that she was still smitten with him and that she should just let go of the past and snatch him up before someone else got her claws into him.

She usually tuned them out when they started down that road, but they were relentless.

He kissed you!” Nikki snapped, causing her to shut up. “In front of people who all could have gotten a picture of that and sold it to the highest bidder,” she reminded her friend. “He’s clearly serious about his feelings for you.

“And I'm serious about my non-existing feelings for him,” Elina insisted stubbornly.

Fine,” Nikki sighed softly. “We can go shopping another day,” she easily changed the subject. “So just, you know, call me later or we’ll see each other at work tomorrow.

“Great,” Elina smiled softly, feeling guilty for snapping at her friend. Her feelings for Fernando were erratic at best, and she just didn't want to talk about it, or them, until she knew exactly what was going on.

Saying goodbye to her friend, she ended the call and it didn't take more than a few moments to reach the gates to the training grounds. Going through the same procedure as she always did to get through the gates, she was happy that the guard gave her a friendly smile, clearly starting to recognise her as someone allowed into the grounds.

Parking outside the entrance to the building, she pulled her key from the ignition and grabbed her phone before climbing out of the car and rounding the vehicle. Walking in through the large glass doors, she was about to approach the reception desk as she saw a tall, somewhat sickly form coming down the hall to her left.

“You promise to take good care of our investment?” Dr Waller joked as he too emerged from the corridor and walked straight over to her, shaking her hand before handing her two different bottles of medicine along with one, elaborate, prescription.

“I promise,” Elina forced herself to smile politely at the doctor who’d been nothing but nice and polite the previous times they’d met. “Don't worry about it,” she added softly as she scanned through the paper, noticing that not much would be required from her. He needed his meds, maybe some food in a couple of hours and sleep, that was it and all she would really have to do, was make sure he didn't choke or something in his sleep.

“My car’s right outside, so...” she trailed off as she placed the paper in the pocket of her coat and balanced the two bottles in one hand as she had her keys in the other one.

Bidding Dr Waller goodbye as Fernando was suddenly finding his sneakers to be very interesting; she rolled her eyes at him before motioning for him to follow her.

Holding the heavy glass doors open for him, she unlocked her car and left him to climb into the passenger seat on his own device as she walked around to the other side. Her blue eyes landing on a familiar black SUV with Spanish license plates she’d seen a handful of times before, she decided to not ask and simply climbed inside, not saying anything to the man strapped in next to her as she reached for her bag and dropped the bottles into it before quickly starting the engine and driving out of the parking lot.

The drive across and out of the city was filled with thick, uncomfortable silence that was only broken whenever Fernando mumbled directions towards his house and when Elina drove through the wrought iron gates that had parted as she entered the code the man next to her had given her, it couldn’t end fast enough for her liking.

Parking in the driveway, outside the double garage, she killed the engine and glanced up at the house that was a lot smaller and a lot less grand than she had always imagined footballer’s homes to be. It was nice; it was the kind of house you couldn’t help but like and from what she could see of the front yard it was well kept and all-around inviting.

Grabbing her bag, she climbed out of the car and easily caught up with taller Spaniard as he walked up the steps and proceeded to unlock the white-painted door where a wreath with a big red bow was hanging. Pulling the door open, he motioned for her to step inside first and not feeling up to arguing, she did just that, taking in the decor as she was hyperaware of the man standing just a few feet away from her.

Dropping her bag in an upholstered chair, she pulled off her scarf and draped it over her purse before shrugging off her coat and reaching down to undo the zippers on her booties before pulling them off as well.

“So....” she said uncomfortable as she looked around the house which she found to be a bit too inviting for her liking. It was the kind of place she could see herself living in, and that was a bad, very bad thing. “You should probably get to bed, or whatever,” she cleared her throat uncomfortable after she watched him sneeze twice and then proceed to have a bit of a coughing fit.

“Yeah,” he agreed without much protest, not sparing her another glance as he headed towards the stairs and she had to swallow to push away the spark of hurt that flashed through her body. “You can just,” he began as he stopped a handful of step up the stairs, turning to look at her with slightly glazed eyes, “make yourself at home.”

“Thanks,” she managed to squeeze out as she watched him climb the rest of the stairs and then disappear out of view.

Licking her lips slightly, she pushed her fingers into the pockets of her jeans and slowly wandered forwards in the unfamiliar house. Despite being invited, it felt a bit like she was trespassing and finding her way into the sunken living room; she wandered around, glancing out into the garden where a few patches of snow were still covering the ground and taking in the quite cosy interior.

A few Christmas decorations were already out and she couldn’t help but smile softly as she saw a couple of decorations that were clearly made by young children. Reaching out she ran her fingers over one of them before continuing her improvised tour.

Finding the kitchen, another sitting room where numbers of gaming consoles were hooked up, two bathrooms, the laundry room and a study as well as a large dining room, she checked the time on watch before slowly inching towards the stairs.

The doctor had been very clear, she had to check up on him from time to time and that meant that she had to go upstairs, and find his bedroom...

Slowly walking up the wooden staircase she knew that Nikki would have so many dirty comments to drop to that statement and she blushed slightly without even having to hear them. She’d always felt like there was something so utterly personal about someone’s bedroom, it was a place where you let your guard down completely and even trusted someone else with your entire being, your body, mind and soul, maybe even your heart.

But that also mean that she wasn’t really sure she wanted to see that part of Fernando, or rather she was pretty sure she wasn’t ready for it.

No matter what she told her friends, and constantly tried to convince herself of, she knew that there were still feelings there. Feelings that she was nowhere close to sorting out.

Reminding herself that he was sick and that he needed her help, she began poking her head into the rooms she passed, there were a couple of guestrooms along with a few bathrooms and she shook her head as she reached the last door. Obviously he would pick the room furthest away from everything.

Knocking softly on the white door, she nudged it open and carefully stepped inside the calmly decorated room where a large king-sized bed dominated most of the space. A bed where Fernando was currently out cold, looking like a sleeping boy.

Not wanting to disturb him, she backed out of the room and headed back downstairs, needing to find something to do whilst he was using the world of dreams to get better.

Finding that day’s morning paper in the kitchen, Elina ended up wandering into the living room and taking a seat in one of the large couches. Sitting curled up in the corner, reading the paper, she suddenly felt someone watching her and glancing up, she smiled slightly as her blue eyes landed on a dishevelled-looking Fernando who was standing in the doorway dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt. And before she could stop it, the thought that he was looking very sexy in that ‘I-just-rolled-out-of-bed’ kind of way, flew through her head, causing a slight blush to spread across her cheeks.

“Hi,” she said softly. “What are you doing up?” she asked as he slowly wandered down the steps into the living room.

“I can’t sleep,” he replied, his stuffed nose and sore throat obvious in his tone of voice.

“So listen to some music, read a book, count sheep,” she suggested as she watched him walk even closer and then all but falling into the same couch she was sitting sideways in.

“I don't want to sleep,” he told her simply as he lolled his head to the side and looked at her.

“You need to sleep,” she retorted with a knowing smile.

“Are you a doctor?” he arched an eyebrow at her.

“No, but you have one over at Melwood,” she pointed out. “One who made me promise to make sure that you got plenty of sleep and that you take your meds,” she reminded him. “Not to mention, one of my best friends is a nurse, trust me when I say that you need to sleep when you're sick,” she smirked at him.

“You're such a know-it-all,” he pouted at her, tired eyes gazing back at her.

“I know,” she smiled back at him. “So how are you feeling?” she asked softly as she folded up the newspaper and gently tossed it onto the wooden coffee table.

“Not quite as bad as earlier,” he said honestly as he stretched out his legs before him, crossing them at the ankles as he continued watching her, silence spreading between them thought this time it was neither uncomfortable nor awkward.

“Why did you mention me when they asked you for someone to drive you home, check up on you?” she softly asked the question that had been gnawing on her since she picked him up at Melwood.

“I couldn’t really think of anyone else,” he admitted softly, not able to fully look her in the eye as he did. “I don't really have anyone out here, there’s my teammates’ wives, but I didn't...I didn't want to bother them.”

“But you had no qualms of bothering me?” she arched a brow at him, amusement shining in her blue eyes.

“Did I keep you from something important?” he asked worriedly as he looked back at her.

“Not really,” she shook her head slightly. “I was going shopping with Nikki,” she revealed, practically seeing the gears turning in his head. “Yeah, the short brunette who threatened you,” she confirmed with a nod and a slight smile.

“She wasn’t serious about that, was she?” he checked, sounding almost worried.

“I don't know,” she said honestly. “But I’ve learned one thing during the time I’ve known her and that is to never underestimate her.”

“Right,” he nodded slowly, having a feeling that that meant she was more than serious about her threat.

“You should really get some more sleep,” she observed him; noticing that his eyes were still slightly glazy and he looked slightly feverish.

“I can’t fall asleep,” he announced frankly. “I’m not tired.”

“So go lay in bed, watch some TV and it’ll come to you,” she teased him slightly.

“I don't want to,” he whined, refusing to get up and do what she said.

“Fine,” she sighed before untangling her legs and getting up from the couch. “Get up,” she ordered him as she walked across the room and continued towards the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” he hurried after her, a slight frown across his forehead as he realised just how at home she seemed to be in his house, and how much he liked it.

“I'm going to make you some hot cocoa,” she told him as she reached into the fridge and pulled out some milk.

“What is it with girls and chocolate?” he questioned seriously as he leaned against the island as she busied herself at the other counter. “You all seem to think that it solves everything.”

“Do not question the hot cocoa,” she glared back at him for a moment. “Especially not the hot cocoa with liquor in it,” she smirked slightly as she showed him the bottle with amber liquid in it before pouring a handful of drops into the mug she’d previously gotten from one of the cupboards.

“Are you going to try and get me drunk?” he smirked right back at her as he watched her move about the kitchen like she’d been there many times before.

“Yeah, that’s the plan,” she nodded sarcastically. “I'm going to get you drunk, get you into bed and then I'm going to ravish you. When I'm done with that, I’ll sell your organs to the highest bidder on the black market and end up making a fortune,” she humoured him with a slightly smile, causing him to laugh slightly before cursing as laughing caused his throat to hurt. “You’ve only got yourself to blame,” she smiled amused.

“Good to know how highly you think of me,” he rolled his eyes at her, a slight smile still spread across her lips.

“Well, you don't really know me, now do you,” she replied simply, missing the confused and slightly hurt look that passed over his features as she had her back against him, heating up the milk.

“I do know you,” he insisted as he watched her prepare two mugs of hot cocoa, though only one of them had alcohol in it.

“No, you don't,” she disagreed with a glance back over her shoulder. “You briefly knew me a couple of years ago, but you don't know me today,” she said softly. “You don't know what caused me to stay in Paris for weeks instead of just a couple of days, you don't know why I have a number of scars on my knee, you don't know why I don’t play the piano any longer, you probably didn't even know I played in the first place, because you don't know me,” she gave him a sad look before picking up the mug with alcohol in it and handing it to him. “Now take this and go back to bed, I’ll be up in a minute,” she told him frankly, nudging him towards the stairs.

Looking at her for a moment, as if seeing her in a new light, he nodded once before turning around and leaving the kitchen, his footsteps soon moving up the slightly curved staircase.

Taking a deep breath as she tried to keep her unsteady nerves under control, knowing that just being there in that house was bad for her bad for her resolve, she wiped of her hand on a towel before picking up her own mug and walking across the ground floor and into the sitting room that was more like an entertainment room.

Scanning the titles of the many DVD’s collected in a pair of bookcases, she soon found one she liked and pulled it out before walking up the stairs after him.

This time going straight for the room at the end of the hall where the door was left wide open, she slowly walked into the unfamiliar room and found him sitting in the large bed, leaning back against the headboard and sipping his hot cocoa. “I come bearing gifts,” she announced softly, holding up the DVD-case in her hand.

“What?” he asked curiously.

Only smiling secretively, she walked over to where the flat screen was mounted on the opposite wall to the bed and placing her mug down on a dresser; she removed the disk from the case and easily inserted it into the DVD-player. Grabbing the remote along with her mug, she walked around the bed to the side he wasn’t using and placed the two things on the bedside table before undoing the buttons on her cardigan and shrugging it off, dropping it in one of the armchairs.

“What are you doing?” he furrowed his brows slightly, curiosity shining in his brown eyes as they took her in, finding that he had a vague memory of the shirt she was wearing, whilst watching her climb into the other side of the bed.

“Well, you need to sleep,” she pointed out as she made herself comfortable on top of the covers. “And apparently you can’t, or you don't want to, so we are watching a movie,” she told him with a smile as she reached for the remote on the bedside table and turned on the TV.

“When I imagined you back in my bed, this really wasn’t what I had in mind,” he candidly revealed as he watched her set up the movie before picking up her own mug of cocoa.

Laughing softly, she glanced over at him, “Trust me, this wasn’t what I imagined either.”

Looking at him for a while longer, she forced herself to look back at the large TV-screen as she went through the menus, changing some of the settings.

“A black and white movie?” he questioned sceptically once he joined her in looking at the screen, having had to force himself to look away from her.

“It’s not black and white,” she corrected him with a slight eye roll. “And it’s Alfred Hitchcock, it’s a classic,” she pointed out. “It’s also one of my all-time favourites, ‘Rear Window’,” she revealed with a soft smile as she changed the subtitles to Spanish before placing the remote next to her on the bed.

Nodding slowly, he glanced over at her before turning his full attention towards the screen where the movie was starting with block of flats appearing on the screen.

Their mugs of cocoa soon standing abandoned on the bedside tables, Fernando found himself getting increasingly sleepy and before he knew it, he’d fallen asleep and ended up cuddled up next to her.

Glancing away from the screen as the movie’s leading man was getting increasingly worried about the life of one of his neighbours, Elina couldn’t help but smile as she saw that he had indeed fallen asleep. Tentatively reaching out, she slowly ran her fingers through his dishevelled hair and found it to be just as smooth as she remembered it to be.

Sighing softly she looked back at the screen. She was walking a fine line, she mentally noted as she continued running her fingers through his faux-blonde locks whilst continued to watch the movie.

In the end, however, she failed to see it through to the finish...
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