T W O

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"Hi, Luca." A pretty girl in the year below giggled as she walked past, turning to her friends the second I was out of sight.

"Who's she?" Phoenix asked, furrowing his brows as I pushed the door to the changing rooms open, hitching my kit bag up my shoulder.

"No clue." I shrugged, yanking my locker open as Phoenix began to do the same. "Sam made me take her to the clinic again yesterday." I changed the subject.

Phoenix chuckled, his dimples deepening as he flicked his caramel hair out of his crystal clear, blue eyes. "Really? Again? Wow."

"I know." I huffed, ripping my leather jacket off before beginning to strip. "She's totally paranoid."

"Worth it though, right?"

I paused, watching him incredulously, "No. No fucking way. She's yours, dude. All yours."

He rolled his eyes as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, rearranging my scruffy black hair, and pulling it out of my almond eyes. I took a moment to admire my muscles, too - people called me arrogant, but I liked to see it as confidence. I glanced back at Phoenix and he sighed heavily, "She doesn't like me." He said sadly.

Phoenix has been my best friend ever since we were eleven. When I first moved to the UK, barely able to speak a word of English, most of the kids in my class didn't even make the effort to befriend me. But Phoenix was different - he was patient. And he taught me all the swear words I needed to know. The pair of us joined the football team together, made friends together, went to parties together. We weren't so different, he was just a milder version of me. A little less intense, less wild, less popular.

And everyone knew Phoenix was practically obsessed with Sam. He stared at her, drooled over her, tried to capture her attention whenever he possibly could. "Watch some porn." I suggesting, finishing changing into my football gear as I tied my laces into tight knots. "Maybe if you were better at sex, she'd wanna fuck you."

He rolled his eyes, "Fuck off, I'm not that bad."

"Alright, everybody listen up!" The coach had entered the locker room, silencing our chatter and the buzz of laughter vibrating through the sweaty room. He fed us strict instructions, told us not to fuck about and then left. We all filtered onto the field after him, talking amongst ourselves before training began, ready to drain our energy.

Winter was creeping up on the small town, shortening the days and casting a shadow over us. The sky had already darkened, despite it being merely four o'clock. The inky yellow rays from the flood lights spilled onto the pitch, glowing ominously above us as our breath fanned out to create small clouds of fog, my fingers trembling in the bite of the wind. It was hard to believe it was only the afternoon, it felt like midnight. Dark and quiet and cold.

Football was so easy to me. So natural. Panting and sweating and running. The hollers of the crowd filling the now eerily deserted stands, spikes sinking into the rough ground, muscles clenching as I ran at full force, the feeling of triumph drowning me as the football flew straight into the goal.

The coach had us running laps for the first ten minutes. Then stretching. Then talking tactics. Eventually, we actually played football. When I was out on the pitch, running and passing and scoring, it didn't feel like training. It just felt like living. Adrenaline pumping, mind blurring, world stopping emotions. Like it was just me and the ball. No one else. I wasn't preparing for a match, I wasn't refining my skills, I wasn't doing this for a purpose. I was doing it for me.

After a few pats on the back, we all headed back to the changing rooms, sticky with sweat. "Wanna come over tonight?" Phoenix offered once we had both showered. I changed back into my clothes, stuffing my sweaty uniform into my duffel bag.

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