‹ Prequel: A Summer Romance

Forgive and Forget


Pulling to a stop in the otherwise empty driveway, Elina put the large car in park before pulling her keys from the ignition and climbing out. The cold December air attacked her from all angles and if felt like the chill went straight to the bone, despite the warm winter jacket and the furry boots she was wearing. Closing the driver side door she grabbed her purse along with a wrapped gift from the backseat before jogging up the slippery pathway.

A slight smile playing on her lips, she walked up the stone steps and crossed the front porch before reaching up and grabbing the intricately detailed, old-fashioned brass knocker, banging it down some three times. Taking a step or two backwards, she studied the large wreath that was securely mounted to the white painted front door as she waited. It was beautiful, made out of Nordmann Fir, holly and even some ivy and a big red bow was fastened at the top of it. Come to think of it, it was very Christmas-y.

Appropriate considering that it was still Christmas...

Shaking her head slightly as she could hear the sound of the lock being undone, she broke out in a happy smile as she came face to face with the familiar blonde Spaniard who had once again managed to worm himself under her skin, break down some of her walls and penetrate her heart.

¡Feliz Navidad!” she told him happily as he let her inside the warm house.

¡Feliz Navidad!” Fernando replied with an equally bright smile as he wrapped her in a quick, one-armed hug.

“Well, don’t you look all comfy,” she told him with a smile as she put don her gift and her purse on a chair and took in the loose jeans and the v-necked, long-sleeved t-shirt he was wearing. “Nice goal the other day, by the way,” she added as she quickly shrugged off her jacket and unwrapped her scarf before pulling off her knee-high boots.

“You watched the game?” he asked surprised as he slipped his hands into the pockets of his loose-fitting jeans and watched as she straightened out her own jeans along with her loose, off-the-shoulders sweatshirt before picking up the wrapped gift she’d brought with her.

“Well, we are a footballing family,” she smiled innocently at him before walking down the wide hall like she’d done so uncountable number of times before.

“As far as I remember, you could barely kick a ball, much less score with it,” he retorted playfully as he followed her into the sunken living room where the decorated Christmas tree was standing by the bay windows, watching as she placed down the wrapped box on the oak floor beneath the tree, next to a larger, more elaborately wrapped box.

“It’s a good thing other’s can then,” she looked over at him, before standing back up. “And there wasn’t much else on,” she added with a cheeky smile that made him laugh, causing her insides to tingles slightly like all those years ago.

She was walking a fine line and she knew it. Bur for some reason, a reason she couldn’t phantom, she just didn't care.

Giving a positive response to his question of whether or not she wanted something to drink, she followed him into the kitchen which much like the rest of the house still emitted the spirit of Christmas. Leaving work that afternoon some two weeks prior, the day she’d driven a car she’d only ever thought she’d possibly drive on an enclosed track, she’d returned to the very house she was now in. Simon had already gotten there, Fernando having picked him up from the academy and she’d spent most of the afternoon avoiding his curious looks. She wasn’t stupid, she knew what the whole thing looked like and whilst that was far from what had really happened, it didn't mean she wanted to discuss even that with her baby brother.

Pepe and Yolanda had turned up a while after she’d gotten to the house and they’d brought their daughter Grecia who was just the cutest little thing.

The six, or rather the five, of them had had dinner together that evening and even Elina had to admit that she had a really great time. Though what she was most surprised by was how good of a cook Fernando was. But she was pretty sure that that said more about her than him.

For obvious reasons she’d been reluctant in letting her guard down around the person whose betrayal had hurt more than it should have, but she had a good time and the conversation flowed easily. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to her, but it did. During their weeks on Menorca they had become pretty good friends and it was a friendship that had grown and evolved as they kept in contact once they returned home. That they had chemistry was still obvious, no matter how much she denied it, and as long as she relaxed around him, it was equally as obvious that they could still have a good time together.

The renewed friendship continuing to form after the night was over and she and Simon had headed back to their apartment, Elina was pleasantly surprised at how easily it was hanging out with him. No matter what she told him, they already knew each other, at least somewhat, meaning that there were no awkward pauses and uncomfortable silences like there can be when you meet someone knew.

The days passing quickly, Christmas descended upon them and Fernando managed to fly home to Madrid, even if it was just for two short days, whilst Simon and Elina opened their apartment for their family. Their parents and Johan along with Elina’s grandmother all made the trip over to celebrate with them and they’d only left the same morning.

Picking up their drinks, the two of them walked back into the living room and sat down in the same couch they’d been sitting in and talked properly for the first time when she’d picked him up from the training grounds because he was sick. Pulling up one of her legs as she sat a bit sideways, she hooked her foot behind her other knee and focused her blue eyes on the man sitting next to her.

Living up to his nickname he didn't look much older now than he had a couple of years earlier, unlike herself. She’d grown into her features, she’d grown an inch or so in height and her hips were slightly wider, further accentuating what had been an hourglass figure ever since she first entered puberty. For good and bad, she was the first one to admit; good for attracting boys, bad for jeans shopping.

Obviously she could see things that had changed in him, a few more wrinkles around his eyes whenever he smiled, slightly less youth in his features and his dark eyes shone with more knowledge than they had the last time she’d known him.

“So how did you end up here?” she asked as he sipped his warm drink. “In Liverpool, I mean,” she elaborated, curious as to why he’d choosing that particular club. As far as she knew and she’d actively tried to not read anything about him, he’d peaked the interest of many other clubs before the summer.

“I like the club and what they stand for, their philosophy,” he answered honestly. “England wasn’t really ever in my thoughts and then when I was starting to realise that I had to move if I wanted to evolve as a player, Liverpool was one of the first clubs that approached me and they really appealed to me.”

“So what was all that talk about ‘You’ll never walk alone’ being on the inside of your captains armband at Atletico about?” she asked with a slight smile, she’d been unable to avoid seeing those particular pictures in the papers and having visited Anfield, she’d heard the song they called the Torres Bounce.

“That was totally blown up out of proportion,” he sighed softly, reaching up and running his fingers through his messy hair. “It’s something my friends have said for a long time, that we always have each other’s backs and all that,” he shrugged slightly, in all honestly all the attention those pictures of when his armband had come undone and had revealed the words he’d requested be put there ever since he’d been selected as captain, had taken him by surprise. At first the pictures had only fuelled the rumours about an impending move to the British club and then when he’d actually signed with Liverpool...well, ‘Pool fans all over just decided that he’d always been a fan of the club that was number 1 in their hearts and that it was a match made in heaven.

“I didn't know that,” she noted simply, taking another sip from her own mug before leaning forwards and placing it on the coffee table.

“It’s like you continue to point out,” he smiled slightly at her, not knowing the kind of butterflies that smile caused in her belly. “We don't really know each other.”

“Left myself wide open for that one,” she agreed reluctantly, laughter sparkling in her blue eyes. She really didn't think that they knew each other, but what she did know about him only made her want to know so much more about him.

“You did,” he confirmed, the smile across his lips growing slightly wider.

“Well, I can find out pretty much everything about your career by just logging onto the internet, so...” she trailed off, licking her lips slightly. “What do you want to know about me?” she asked softly, knowing that she was pretty much leaving herself wide open to him. In all honesty it felt like stripping off naked before him right then and there would have left her feeling less exposed than that one question made her feel.

“What have you been up to since you flew home from Menorca?” his question was immediate, like it had been on his mind for a long time.

“Wow,” she breathed, letting out a slight laugh as she glanced away from him and out through the large bay windows overlooking the surprisingly large backyard. “That’s a very unspecific question.”

“And I want your answer,” he said honestly, fighting the urge to reach out and run his fingers through her hair that looked just as soft as he remembered it to be. Or at least brush away the strand that was continuously falling into her eyes, eyes that were just as blue as he remembered them. “I want to get to know you,” he pointed out. “I want to know everything there is to know about you.”

Unable to keep a blush from spreading across her cheeks, she ducked her head slightly as she tried to ignore the way he was looking at her, the way it felt like he could see straight through her.

“That’s a lot,” she commented before reaching up and feeding her burning cheeks.

“So start from the beginning,” he suggested simply. “Or just tell me about that scar on your knee or why you don't play the piano any longer.”

“So you remember that,” she nodded with a smile. “I don't play the piano any longer because when I began high school I just didn’t have time for classes any longer. Everything else I was doing was taking up too much of my time so I had to quit,” she revealed as she looked over at him.

“I know that you graduated,” he told her, remembering the trouble he’d had when choosing if he should send her a gift or not, knowing that if he did, he would most likely blow his cover as a simple Madrid student. “You studied economics, right?” he checked, glad to have gotten it right as she nodded with a smile.

“I did,” she replied, annoyed at the level of surprise she felt as he remembered that.

“What did you do then?” he asked, genuinely interested. “I remember you saying that you didn't want to work with money or numbers or things like it after you’d interned somewhere.”

“Yeah, I still don't want to work with numbers,” she admitted with a smile. “I...” she hesitated slightly. “Obviously I spent most of the summer with my family, but a week after graduation a friend of mine, Johanna, and I went to London for two weeks and then later in the summer I went island hopping in Greece with my boyfriend along with Johanna and her boyfriend,” she revealed, feeling surprisingly uncomfortable talking to him about an old boyfriend.

“So you followed your dream,” he smiled at her, almost proudly.

“And then some,” she agreed with him.”

“What do you mean?” he frowned confused.

“I’ve spent the past two winters over in Thailand, working as a charter guide,” she told him as she glanced down at her bare shoulders. “Which is why I can’t help but feel a bit pasty right now,” she added with a slight laugh.

“You’re beautiful,” he told her softly, once again causing her cheeks to flush pink, this time however she managed to play it off a lot better.

“And then I’ve also travelled a little all over the place,” she added with a shrug. “I went to LA for a while, brought my mum to New York for her birthday, I’ve stopped over in Australia twice, I backpacked through Europe with a couple of friends and one of my cousins,” she ticked off, her smile falling slightly. “Also when I learned about your real career,” she commented simply, most of the betrayal she’d felt gone from her voice.

“I'm sorry,” he apologised sincerely.

“I know,” she replied simply. “Anyway, I spent my weeks off in Thailand visiting neighbouring countries with a couple of my co-workers,” she continued telling him.

“Was it everything you hoped it to be?” he wondered curiously.

“And more,” she confirmed softly, smiling slightly at him as she remembered all the travels she’d managed to squeeze into the past couple of years. “I loved every minute of it,” she told him honestly. “Even all the things that went wrong,” she added with a soft laugh, there were a lot of things during all her travels that had gone wrong, or at least that hadn’t gone the way she, or they, had planned.

“What is the favourite place you’ve ever visited?” he inquired.

“I don't have one,” she answered immediately, having been asked the same thing numerous times before. “I’ve liked all the places I’ve been, some more than others, for varying reasons, but I just can’t pick one place over all the others, because they’ve all taught me something, some life lesson I didn't know before and they’ve all given me unforgettable memories.”

Watching her talk about her travels, Fernando couldn’t keep a soft smile from spreading across his lips. He could see her passion for travelling and even more so he could see that she’d really loved what she’d done.

“So how did you end up here?” he wondered after a moment. “I mean, Liverpool doesn’t exactly stack up against Thailand this time of year.”

“My brother needed me,” was her simple answer as she leaned forwards and picked up her mug with now lukewarm liquid. “Our parents didn't want him out here on his own, so of course I was going to go with him, this could be the thing that takes him closer to his dream,” she pointed out simply.

“He’s lucky to have you,” he noted observantly.

“I think he and Johan might disagree with you there,” she laughed softly.

The conversation continuing to flow between them, they learned more and more about each other, both new things and things they’d most likely already knew from the last time they’d spent time together. Time passed quickly as they talked and soon darkness had fallen outside.

Christmas having taken place just days ago and New Years now knocking on the door, Fernando had been the one to suggest that the two of them should exchange presents just like they did with other friends and most importantly with their families.

“You clearly wrapped this yourself,” Elina laughed softly as Fernando returned to the couch after grabbing the two last presents from under the brightly lit tree and handing her the one that had been there before she arrived. It was quite large, wrapped in green mirrored paper with a large elaborate bow on top and considering it size it was surprisingly light.

“I can’t be good at everything,” he replied with a cheeky smile as he sat down next to her once again, holding the small gold wrapped gift she’d brought over with her.

“Oh, so cheeky,” she rolled her eyes at him, her words dripping with sarcasm.

“Do you want to go first?” he wondered as he shook the box in his hands slightly, a small attempt at getting a clue to figure out what was inside of it.

“Sure,” she agreed after a moment’s consideration.

Carefully undoing the large bow of red and gold ribbons, she dropped them in a neat pile on the coffee table before quickly ripping off the beautiful wrapping paper.

Crinkling the paper into a ball, she let it roll into the couch between them and studied the large, white rectangular box now sitting in her lap. Glancing up at Fernando, who was looking back at her expectantly, she bit her lip slightly before reaching out and carefully removing the lips from the box. Pushing away the black silk paper, she let out a slight nervous laugh as her blue eyes landed on the contents of the box.

“Wow,” she stuttered as she put down the lip on the floor and carefully picked up the familiar-looking bag from the box. There was no way he was giving her that bag, there just wasn’t...

“Do you like it?” he asked, sounding almost hopeful as she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the bag she’d drooled over for so many years.

“Like it? I...” she struggled to find the right words as she twisted and turned the dark brown, chequered bag around, her fingers taking in the feel of the expensive leather. “I love it,” she glanced up at him, “but you don't give your friends Louis Vuitton handbags for Christmas,” she added softly. “Girlfriends, yes, but not friends. This costs...” she trailed off, her head spinning with the numbers she’d always been greeted with whenever she dared to venture into the stores selling those particular bags.

“Don't worry about it,” he told her seriously. “I didn't know what to get you, so I asked my sister and she mentioned that those are really popular,” he added as he watched her continue examine the bag in her hands. “And I was thinking about getting you a similar one back when you graduated, but...” he trailed off as he realised he’d once again brought up the lie that had robbed him of close to three years with her in his life.

“I love it,” she said honestly. “I really do, but this makes my gift look really cheap,” she laughed slightly a she reluctantly placed the bag back into the box, struggling to ignore the almost guilty feeling she got for getting such a gift, it was more expensive than anything she’d ever gotten. It probably cost more than the presents she’d gotten during the past couple of Christmases combined...

“Don't say that, I'm going to love it,” he assured her. “It doesn’t matter what it is,” he added as he undid the red ribbon on the box, not about to tell her that he knew he would like it no matter what it was, not because of what it was, but because it was from her.

Not replying, she simply watched as he undid the wrappings, revealing a black square box. Removing the lid, he smiled slightly as he caught sight of the familiar pieces of metal laying there.

“I really didn't know what to get you;” she began rambling, suddenly feeling self-conscious, worried that he wouldn’t like the gift, worried about what he would think about it. “I mean, you wear suit all the time and you can’t’ have too many of those, or at least so Eric says and I mean, even I wear simple ones if I dress up.”

“I love them,” he interrupted her as he removed one of the Paul Smith cufflinks from its velvet confines, running his thumb over the characteristic design and brand name along with the purple and white stripes at the bottom of the silver square.

“You so better not be just saying that,” she told him with a slight smile.

“No, I really do love them,” he assured her as he tucked the cufflink back into its place and sat the small box down on the coffee table. “I promise to wear them at the next game,” he surprised her by saying.

“Yeah, don't promise that,” she shook her head quickly. “I wouldn't want to disturb your mojo or whatever you players call it,” she rolled her eyes slightly.

“I'm not superstitious,” he smiled at her.

“You're not?”

“No, I'm not,” he shook his head slightly.

“Huh,” she nodded her head slightly as she watched him closely, that she wouldn't have expected.