[16] eyes on the prize

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"lionel messi has conquered his final peak.
lionel messi has shaken hands with paradise.
the little boy from rosario santa fe has just pitched up in heaven."

"en el barrio, en la calle, en la vereda, en el pueblo, en la casa. y ese es montiel. somos todos montiel gonzalo, vamos. MONTIEL AL ARCO...


it's been 22 days since our second to last champions league group stage match, 19 days since argentina won the world cup, 12 days since christmas, and 6 days since the new year.

and that'll be the first time i've heard that voice since i heard it at it's worst over the phone after their loss to morocco, knocking them out the world cup.

now would be the first time i've seen them since.

i turn around and the image of my friends seems too good to be true.

i smile widely seeing as they were too. they're taking this way better than i would, but it's understandable when they have a game this sunday and a semi final for la supercopa a few days after.

it's all about winning the league now.

i run up to them once i saw balde take off and jump into his arms as if we were in a corny romcom. "god i missed you." he says as he slowly puts me down and the rest join. "missed you more." i tell him.

"what about me?!"

"and me!" i missed the rest just as much too. i don't know why they need me to make it seen, though. "how was mexico?!"

"filling." i ended up spending christmas with my parents... after coming back from qatar and watching the final.

i got an invite from leo and anto and i wasn't about to miss it.

and i say filling because my mom made sure i ate all the food she made and more. "and you didn't bring some back?"

"i'll just make it here!"

"have fun trying to get it as good as your mom's."

"what's the supposed to mean?!" i like to think i get them as close as possible. "uh, nothing." i squint my eyes at balde and take off my gloves. "you brought these back out?" he points at them as i take my time taking them off. "i play best in them."

"it would explain how you scored ten times while we were gone."

"you did what?!"

after my game from germany, we had eight more games till christmas break, and i knew i couldn't go home without something to be proud of. maybe some bragging rights considering some of my little cousins are real madrid fans, but still, i did it for me. "it's the leo effect."

"you've been watching highlights again, haven't you?"

"maybe." that or edits that had me sobbing at the thought that i was there to witness it all. "are we witnessing camile's prime?"

at seventeen and this early into the season is a bargain, but i can handle the pressure. "just don't get injured." that's actually one of my main focuses.

yes i want to get as many minutes in, but i also have to work outside of that in making sure my body can handle it.

"what about you guys, shouldn't you be focusing on your own league?"

"oh we are, trust us." that's hard to believe when they're talking to me instead of stretching, but i'll take their word. "can we train sometime?" ansu asks. "i'll see if you fit in my schedule." it's packed now that the quarter finals are approaching.

i won't take runner-up this year. not now or ever. "when's your next match anyways?"

"tomorrow against sevilla. champions league wise... not until march." i have more than enough time to get myself physically and mentally prepared again. that trip to see my parents also helped a lot too.

"don't you have a clásico next week?" i nod a little surprised that they know my schedule so well.

"good, we're gonna come out."


"every clásico you play you put on a show, i'm gonna be there for that." pedri says. "we're gonna be there for that." ansu corrects him and balde nods his head in agreement with the two. "don't break your promise."

"since when have we ever done that—don't answer that."

i guess they saw my mouth open to say something but it was too hard to get a word in if balde hadn't shut me up. "guys, just go stretch already."

"this is the first time we're seeing each other since november and this is how you treat us?!"

"i always treat you like this!"

"yeah well you think you'd have some sympathy on us!" i guess they're right. "then come here, already." another hug wouldn't hurt, nor would a prayer for the things xavi is gonna put them through.

"but seriously, check when you're free so we can catch up."

"just show up at my door like you guys usually do." i make sure to add the fact that they're in charge of dinner this time. but they agree because i, just like them, want to be told all about qatar.

they wave a goodbye to me, even gavi, but balde stays behind.

"you act like i don't know why you're at your best right now."

"excuse me?" he acts like i have a clue of what he's talking about. "camile, does being friends for eight years mean nothing to you?!" it means everything but i need more than a statement he just blurted out.

"you're sick of gavi... well, his name next to yours." god i hate him.

balde, not gavi.

my silence is loud enough and he breaks into a smile. "i knew it!" so what?! "can this stay between us, please?"

"of course but listen to me really quick," i don't have much of a choice either way. "do this for yourself. you guys are nothing alike and i get that you're trying to prove that, but take care of yourself, please. i don't want or need anything bad coming out of this."

i look up at balde, my face suddenly colder than it was before with the breeze that passed by.

"i will."

"promise me."

"i promise, alejandro." he puts his pinky out and i smile at the sight. "these'll never get old, will they?"

"not till we grow old."

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