‹ Prequel: A Summer Romance

Forgive and Forget


Watching any sort of game at Anfield when you were a proper Liverpool fan is a dream come true, a Champions League ditto even more so but also something that only a few fortunate ones actually got to experience. Watching a second leg quarterfinal showdown with Arsenal in that very tournament, at that very arena was something that only a very privileged few were allowed to experience.

Elina knew that it was something some fans dreamt their whole life of doing and never got a chance to experience it, which was why when Fernando asked if she wanted to go to the game, she asked to get an extra ticket if she was going to say yes. Wanting her there, he pulled some strings and soon she had two tickets to the Champions League quarterfinal in her hand.

Apart from her own brother, there was only one person she knew would appreciate that ticket more than her, and that was Nikki, the born and bred Liverpool fan.

The match was the third one between the teams within a week’s time and the tension between them had been escalading with each game, this was being advertised as the biggest battles between them.

Given the different places she’d been seated during the number of games she’d gone to, she’d checked out the seats before inviting Nikki, for good reason she realised later when she stopped by the brunette’s place to pick her up. Personally she was wearing a jersey with Gerrard printed on the back, not that you could see it beneath her jacket but Nikki...she was decked out in jersey, beanie, scarf and mittens all bearing the familiar logo.

“You think you’re advertising your alliances enough?” Elina questioned amused as she was driving closer to the arena.

“I'm a die-hard fan,” Nikki needlessly reminded her. “This is how I dress if I ever get to go to a game.”

“Right,” Elina nodded slowly, she’d seen clowns look more discreet than her friend looked in that moment, but to each his own, she figured as she decided to not mention anything more about it as they closed in on the area where she was planning to park.

Finding a spot, they climbed out and walked the last bit up to the arena they were both familiar with. Showing their tickets to enter the stadium, Elina couldn’t help but make a quick prayer that Nikki would behave for the whole duration of their time there.

Walking through the turnstiles, they were soon swept up in the rest of the crowd but having been there before, sitting in the same part of the arena, Elina knew the way and nudging her friend before her, she could see that the brunette was having some troubles containing her excitement.

Stepping out into the stands, even she had to admit that it was an impressive sight, the whole place spread out before you, the perfect pitch, fans gathering in the stands... it was heaven on earth for any football fan. And their seats were good, real good. Close to the centre line, high up enough to have a good view of the whole pitch but still close enough to see the players sitting on the bench.

“Wow,” Nikki awed as she sank down in the familiar red seat, her eyes trained on the pitch before them. “If you don't want him, I can take him,” she said seriously as she turned to look at her friend.

“Shut up,” Elina rolled her eyes, refusing to acknowledge the spark of jealousy that appeared inside of her.

“I'm just saying,” Nikki smiled innocently. “If he comes with tickets like this, there’s no way I’d say no to that,” she added honestly, amusement sparkling in her hazel eyes. “And, for the record, if you two ever do end up working it out, can you please hook me up with tickets like these every weekend?”

“Yeah, I’ll work on that,” Elina replied dryly, watching as the players took to the pitch for warm-ups. She did not want to think about things like that, especially not after the previous week’s conversation as she helped him babysit Grecia. She was walking a thin line, she knew it, she didn't need to be reminded of it constantly.

The match started off as a careful, calculated affair but soon turned a little more excited, not that Elina really noticed as she had troubles keeping her eyes from wandering back to a certain blonde Spaniard. The fact that he was playing like the club’s whole future was depending solely on him wasn’t really helping her either.

Whilst Nikki kept bobbing up and down, screaming and shouting at anyone and everyone down on the pitch, taking every call against them personally, she had troubles remembering if they were in front or behind in the scoring.

Sports had always been something that was a large part of her life, and despite not playing it for more than a year football had always been a sport she loved above all else, to watch at least. And not being able to concentrate on the beautiful game just because of her inability to grow a backbone and just jump headfirst into something without thinking about it was driving her crazy.

As the second half started, she tried with all her might to keep her personal life from getting in the way of her experience of the game.

However, any successful tries of not only watching the talented striker went straight out the window when he scored a particularly beautiful goal in the 69th minute which put them in the drivers’ seat, for fifteen minutes at least till Adebayor scored the equaliser, not that she noticed that, or Gerrard's penalty two minutes after that.

As he scored, Fernando like he often did celebrated with his teammates in front of the corner flag, and then to slowly jogged back towards the centre circle. Only he didn't do just that, he searched them out in the crowd and threw a kiss in their direction, dedicating the goal to her.

There was one thing talking about feelings, and old relationships, and possibly trying it again, when they were in private. When it was public, and in front of a TV-audience of millions and some 45 000 people in the arena is as public as it gets, she didn’t know what to do.

Obviously no one knew that he was pointing at her in particular, just that he was pointing in her general direction, but it wasn’t that hard to understand what people who might possibly recognise her from one of those ridiculous tabloids thought of the exchange. It was conclusions she would come to too if she was the one watching that particular scene play out in front of her.

“So I guess we can rule out him not being serious about his feelings,” Nikki said in a whisper as she leaned over to her, both of them watching as he walked the final couple of yards to the middle of the pitch.

“I guess so,” Elina couldn’t help but agree as she swallowed hard, hoping to get rid of the panic that was threatening to bubble over. She could hear the murmur from the people around them, a number of them having noticed her sitting there and she could only pray that they wouldn't say anything, but she wasn’t going to be holding her breath for it.

Forcing herself to stay calm as the last minutes of the match was being played, she tried to enjoy the way Steven Gerrard converted his penalty and how Ryan Babel went on to seal Arsenals fate in the last dying minutes.

But with each minute that passed, the closer the game was to being over and the closer she was to the inevitable appearance she had to make up in the players’ lounge. Like she’d promised Fernando when he gave her the tickets...

A promise she was now starting to regret.

“Okay, no screaming, no jumping, no attempting to steal clothes,” Elina stated seriously as she looked at Nikki where they were standing outside of the players’ lounge after the game had finished.

“I am an adult, you know,” Nikki pointed out dryly. “I'm two years older than you,” she added, only to see the look Elina sent her. “Okay, fine, I promise,” she rolled her eyes. “No screaming, no jumping, and I will most certainly no try to steal anyone’s clothes.”

“Great,” Elina smiled sarcastically before reaching out and opening the door before slowly walking into the lounge, practically dragging her friend with her. She’d been in there before, if only once or twice, but the place wasn’t completely foreign to her.

Walking across the large room, she forced herself to smile a squeeze out an “Hola,” as they passed a few of the Spanish WAGs who all seemed to know exactly who she was the moment she stepped into the room, which still made her feel very uncomfortable. It was one thing meeting Yolanda as a friend of a friend, or being politely introduced to them at a party, and a complete different to talk to them in the kind of environment they were currently in.

“You know them?” Nikki questioned surprised as they walked further into the room. “I thought you said that you didn't really talk to any of them.”

“I’ve met them too many times not to say hi to them,” Elina replied uncomfortably as she glanced around the room, remembering the first time Simon had brought her there. It felt like it was ages ago, even if it was just a couple of months earlier.

The two of them keeping to themselves, Elina practically jumped as she felt someone walk up next to her, a hand landing on the small of her back and a familiar, accented voice reaching her ears. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she broke out in a wide grin as she turned to her left and her blue eyes met Fernando’s brown ones, before he leaned over and kissed her cheek in greeting. His hair was still a bit wet from his shower and he looked a bit tired, but he still managed to look good, which annoyed her slightly. “You played really well,” she heard herself say.

“Thank you,” he smiled back at her.

Unable to ignore the brunette woman’s looks any longer, Elina suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and simply took a breath. “I don't think that the two of you have been officially introduced,” she said politely. “Nik, meet Fernando Torres, Nando, this is Nichole Stevens.”

“Most people call me Nikki,” the brunette smiled at him, before glaring at her friend. “It’s very nice meeting you,” she added and if you didn't know her you wouldn't have noticed that she was nervous.

“It’s nice meeting you too,” Fernando told her with a polite smile.

“I'm going to go find a bathroom,” Nikki extracted her from the conversation before things got awkward as she could see the somewhat apprehensive look across her blonde friend’s face.

“So...” Elina licked her lips slowly. “That celebration of yours was a bit awkward,” she smiled sheepishly as she looked up at him.

“I'm sorry,” he apologised sincerely. “I didn't think, I just...well, I just sort of acted, really.”

“It’s not really that big of a deal,” she had to admit. “But it’s not exactly taking it slow,” she pointed out softly.

“I know,” he sighed softly. “I was just excited that you were there for me, and not just tagging along with your brother like usual and I...” he trailed off, blushing slightly which only made her want to know what he was going to say even more. “I wanted to play my best because you were here watching.”

“You would have scored that goal even if I wasn’t here,” she ignored the blush that spread across her cheeks as she looked away from him. “You would have made it into the semi-final rounds no matter if I was here watching or not.”

“Probably,” he nodded slightly, laughing softly at the look she sent him.

Nikki rejoining them a short while later, the three of them talked for a bit longer before Fernando took it upon himself to introduce Elina’s friend to her favourite players. Her meeting with Steven Gerrard went fine but when she got within five feet of Jamie Carragher, the brunette became a blundering mess.

It was highly amusing to watch, but she was Elina’s friend, so the blonde did her best to ease her nerves and help her through, knowing that Nikki was going to hate herself if she would let this chance of meeting one of her idols slip through her fingers.

Agreeing to help Fernando find a birthday present for a cousin of his the day after next, Elina grabbed Nikki and the two of them walked back out of the arena, to where they’d parked and she drove her friend blonde, realising that once again her feelings were all over the board.

The feelings themselves, or rather lack thereof, weren't the problem. There were plenty of feeling for him, both good and bad.

It was the trust that was the real issue.

And there she still had no answers. Should she trust him again and risk getting hurt or decide not to and walk away, risk missing out on something that could be truly amazing?
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