There’s something inside you –
It’s hard to explain
They’re talking about you, boy,
but you’re still the same…
When the sun rises after a night of darkness, Alex’s time has come, and as soon as her time has come, she goes out for a run.
Her favourite sports didn’t come along with classes, yet she had to learn many things about running. Fiercely, she inhabited anything there was to know, fell in love with Nike, and every second day, she went for a run, to run and run and run… she found a passion she never knew she would, and it suited her pretty well. It gave her peace.
Peace was what she needed; freedom of mind. In every-day life, her spirit was controlled enough. Running gave her the possibility to let loose. It was a sport she knew she couldn’t compete on with anyone else, and with heavy breaths she realised that she didn’t had to. She wasn’t athletic, at least not yet, but she had persistence, and persistence was everything she needed to complete her will.
It was never her mindset that was in her way, only her capabilities. When she was too eager, she didn’t recover from injuries, and she got over it on her own every single time.
Her academic track however filled itself with sticks and stones. Unable to find what she was looking for, Alex struggled with her decisions all the time. Although she attained university far from home, she still had to face the feeling of not being grown up enough, and realising that the eagerness of her younger years, setting school as the number one priority, gained her nothing on the long run. She felt like going to university and studying law was the only thing she could do, as she believed to have no other skills, hence she struggled with learning and completing courses and exams – a battle she never had to face before. The reason why she went on merely was that the status of being a college dropout frightened her more than ending up with dead dreams.
She didn’t like to remind herself of her past, when she was so different from whom she was that day. She didn’t like to remember the time she had been mistreated by her friends which she had also chose different things over. Or the shortest possible relationship she could ever have with a boy she didn’t love but to be counted as her only one. She had fallen in love though, in the summer, just as every year, but that one time, she found that one person anybody else would be competed to for the rest of her life.
When Alex became older, her memory was like an anchor that kept her the way she was but weighed her down all the time. As a result, she changed, when no one looked, when no one took any notice at all, and she kept her struggle hidden like always, as she was used to it. This was just how things went for her. She complained about little things, yet shut up when her problems had a bigger scope.
It is summer again, and Alex runs, and it makes her feel strong and fierce and it is the only thing that she is able to do at the moment. Forcing herself to go for a run at least every second day, she enjoys half of her runs, and the other half is work on her body that she needs. The runner’s high that makes her feel all the endorphins and the adrenalin at once blinds out the depression that haunts her from time to time and in winter.
There are no words to explain what makes a runner whose pain is written on their faces coming back to their track every single time, and Alex feels the urge to run out of the need to feel alive. It is the sport that defines her in so many ways. After having started, it transformed her body – and also her mindset, as she came to calm with her body image. She maybe didn’t correspond with the norm of beauty, yet she found that her body had more curves which were exactly what enabled her to run ten miles once and again and not be blown away from a slightest breath of wind.
Alex is happy, from time to time, and she is happiest when running.
At the end of the day, one question remains to be solved; the thing that keeps her mind spinning when it is long dark outside and she really needs some sleep; the one aspect of her life that she cannot help but questioning subconsciously with every heartbeat of her existence. Despite of the fact that she is very self-aware of her personality and her traits, she can’t even pinpoint a detailed life goal. All the ideas that come to her mind are revisable and her visions never turn into plans. For such a long time now, she has wanted to get a tattoo and still can’t decide on one.
No matter how eager she appears to be when being hit with a new idea, the wish fades on its own, because Alex knows: she won’t make it anyway. Just like getting old. She can’t phantom herself becoming of age and reaching a stage where everything is settled and no questions are open and it does not matter how much closure she seeks in her life right now. What she wants seems not very relevant to her.
Covered in sweat and happily exhausted, she opens up the front door and greets her parents from afar. She’s staying with her family for the summer holidays. Meeting up with old friends lets her see that some are exactly where they want to be, while others take gap years she’s now very envious of. She always was the type of enjoying holidays for being able to plan the whole day according to her needs – as soon as she had free time during school, she lived a life so much healthier and balanced. She knows that a year of doing nothing would be exactly what she needs, to reset her mind to what is really important to her or finding out about it in the first place. Again, that is a thing simply not possible.
Alex climbs the stairs to her room, gets rid of her clothes and takes a shower. Still in the rush of her workout, the water washes her skin without being able to calm her pulse.
Just like always, she doesn’t dry her hair. Drops of water search the way down on behalf of gravity and get soaked up by the short jeans and loose shirt she puts on. Simply like that, she meets her parents in the living room for dinner.
When being with them or with people she is close with, she tries to speak up nowadays. She used to be more of a listening person, which does not exactly mean that she changed so far it isn’t a part of her personality anymore, but as an act of attainment, she tries to have a closer look and own thoughts about life. Her best friend Jolana taught her to not take any spoken word for granted, as she always challenged Alex to be better than she has already been. From her, Alex learned that it is necessary and alright to have an opinion on your own and to defend your integrity. She had to fight being intimidated all the time.
It is also Jolana that gives her a call that night. Alex picks up her phone with anticipation and she feels her own eyes sparkle when talking to her again.
“Hey you”, Jolana grins. Alex knows her well enough to know, to hear. She has a high level of empathy, so that even when they are only talking on the phone, Alex gets Jolana very well in what she might do at that moment.
“How are you?” Alex wants to know and sits down on her bed.
“Alright; I’ve been working today…” Jolana sounds a little exhausted. “But I wanted to call to let you know I’m free on the weekend! You should totally come over!”
“Okay, let’s do that. Any plans already?”
“Nope, open for suggestions.”
Alex thinks. “Could I ever make you go running with me?”
Jolana laughs: “Never! Having a job now keeps me busy enough, I just want to chill and relax…”
“Right. Let’s go for a walk then.”
“Agreed.” Jolana sighs. “How comes you’re doing all that sport lately? Seems like you really found a pattern to stick to…”
“Hmmm” Alex mumbles. “You know me. I just need it.”
“Yes, I do. I always wondered why you don’t do anything else before getting yourself a real life.” Jolana still grins, Alex can feel it. And maybe her best friend is right about her once more.
Jolana made mistakes so much different from Alex’s that she still asks herself how they could ever be so much the same in their personalities. They had already figured that they were soul mates, both of the girls just knew. Yes, maybe she had taken the same awful advanced courses in school so that they suffered together, yet Jolana’s priorities had always been the opposite of Alex’s. The most important aspect of Jolana’s life was to have fun with her friends, and this was a thing to look up to. As Jolana did take a gap year, Alex found that Jolana was eager to go back to education after having found what really evoke her interest. Jolana is very special in getting what she wants and as soon as her attention is drawn, she sticks to her goals. This is the reason why Alex by no means has doubts about Jolana’s intelligence and her ability to become extremely successful in whatever she will do.
“I know…” Alex responds lamely.
“You’re so eager to become better, no matter what you start to do”, Jolana adds. “I can already guess you’re in top form!”
Alex snorts. “As if.”
“No, really! I mean it. Now listen: My dad will train girls in the next season. You should totally ditch university and join the team for the next season…”
Alex shakes her head and can’t believe what she just heard. “It sounds easy when you say that.” Then, Alex sighs. “I could really use some time for myself… but you know I’m already too old to join any team. Especially football! They won’t take a newbie to experts and I don’t think I can do it.”
“Well, maybe not”, Jolana agrees. “But you know what? You can also become a referee there and I know that sounds crazy, but just consider the possibilities for one second… Doesn’t that sound amazing? For real, as soon as I heard my dad talk about it, I thought that that was sick!”
Alex laughs. “Oh god… so what you want to say is that I would be the perfect referee?! Can you even imagine me running around on the field in coloured clothes and being taken serious?!”
Jolana snorts. “Awesome!”
Both girls keep quiet for a moment.
“You really should try. Or try something else; anything. Make a change. I know that you’re not happy with what you’re doing right now…”
Alex sighs. “Let’s see. I just don’t see myself as anything else than a student…”
“I know”, Jolana says. “Life sucks.”
A wide smile spreads across their faces. “I love you. See you tomorrow, then.”
“Love you too!” Jolana flutes. “Come over at 2 pm, alright?”
“Sure thing. See you!”
Jolana’s Dad is cool. He is football coach at the local football club and trained boys and girls for several years now. Alex loved to hear that he will train girls again as she loves to see girls participate in traditional male sports (just like she liked seeing boys riding horses). When she walks around Jolana’s parents’ house, she finds them all sitting in the little garden that surrounds it.
“Hey, Alex!” they call out and welcome her as if she were their own daughter. It has always been like that, also with Alex’s parents treating Jolana and the girls feel like sisters even more. Both of them are an only child – a trait that they easily bonded over.
“Hi! How are you?”
Jolana’s parents smile and positively answer her question. Jolana gets another chair and directs Alex to sit next to her. A fresh strawberry cake stands on the table, and Alex can’t wait to taste it.
After Alex has heard what exact plans Jolana has for the semester after summer, Jolana’s parents ask Alex how she is doing in university. Used to enlighten the good bits, Alex very much talks about her new friends and the town she has moved into. She avoids mentioning that she lost all the passion she thought she would have for her subject. Yet, Jolana sticks to her goal of talking to her dad about Alex becoming a referee. Alex blushes and quickly adds: “That’s quite unrealistic, isn’t it?”
Jolana’s Dad shrugs his shoulders. “Season has already started, of course…”
“But, Dad”, Jolana interrupts, “doesn’t she only have to join the club, do a little training and stuff, maybe, and just sign up for a trainee programme or something?”
His eyes wander from Jolana’s face to Alex’s and back. “Hmm. I could try to get in touch with someone who has better knowledge. But, Alex, do you even have time for that?”
Alex feels how her throat tightens. “I don’t know. Maybe I can just get a little bit more information, maybe meet the person you were talking about… At least, I am free for the whole summer and I’ve already started to regularly do sports again.”
“I think this is a good start. Let’s see what I can do, I will definitely find out more about that.”
“Thank you so much”, Alex says, smiles brightly and thinks that he will only waste his time.
When Alex finally hears from Jolana’s Dad, the excitement that runs over her skin as a chill astonishes her. She did not think that there might even be a way where she never saw an open space to walk into.
Jolana calls her, again late after returning from work, and tries to convince Alex to change her mind once again. Jolana’s opinion towards Alex’s study choice is clear, and as much as she is against it, she is in favour of Alex starting a sports career. Alex shrugs with her shoulders because she doesn’t understand the sudden vagary of her friend. Yet Jolana tells her that her dad talked to his colleague about a 20-year-old’s potential to be a referee. As it seems, the training for becoming a referee can but does not necessarily start at early age. The youngster referees have to do the proper referee trainee programme afterwards anyways, and this is exactly what Alex is allowed to do if she wants to. The requirement is easy – she has to be a member of a football club. Jolana’s Dad has however arranged a meeting with his co-worker to get Alex to know him and speak to him in person. Without letting her know, Alex knows that for once, her joy about the whole topic is bigger than Jolana’s. It doesn’t show, but Alex feels like she is able to take a chance. Inside her mind, she is reaching for the stars… and tells Jolana to give her all contact details she needs. Jolana grins, Alex can hear it. “Do you need company?” Jolana asks and tries to not sound too hyper. Alex realises how happy this would make Jolana, so she agrees – she is her best friend after all.
Consulting her parents is the hardest thing Alex has ever done in her whole life. Being able to change her career path with her parents’ permission – or even sympathy towards her decision – is very important to her. How could she ever do it without them? Of course she is still dependent on them, especially referring to her financial situation, but even more than that, her parents’ opinion is very dear to her. All the frustration caused by disagreements is equivalent to the relief she feels when they are in favour of what she does.
Alex is not surprised: As she confronts her parents with the truth about her feelings towards her current life situation – which they might have even guessed already, as they had been in touch all the time –, her mom and dad react with disbelief. It is far from what they know. Never has anyone in neither of both families ever made a living out of working in a sports occupation.
Alex tries to make them see that she really wants this. She explains which opportunities are within her reach and why she changed her mind. “You know how hard I am working out lately”, she says.
“Everyone needs distraction in their leisure time” her mother argues. Originally, Alex’s Mom is from Germany, and the family has lived in Frankfurt for the first six years of Alex’s life. Alex’s Dad however is English, and when he got the chance to go back to his job in England, the family moved there, and they began to only talk English at home, too.
“No, Mom, see; running is the only thing that currently keeps me alive.”
Alex’s Mom and Dad exchange a concerned look. “Honey, this doesn’t sound healthy…”
“It’s just how I feel. There is nothing I can imagine better than being the cross between a law student and someone in a sports profession! Jolana says I would be the perfect referee – and I am aware that you don’t really give anything about another 20-year-old’s opinion” – her Mom and Dad exchange a look again – “but somehow, I agree with her… somehow, I know that she is right.”
“It is a little farfetched to compare a referee with a lawyer, don’t you think?”
“It is indeed, Mom… but I think you know exactly what I mean. It’s not about the knowledge; it’s about the inner drive.”
Alex’s Dad sighs. “This might sound crazy, but I think I understand what you mean.”
“Paul?!” Alex’s Mom cries. “Seriously?”
He sighs again. “This is Alex, our daughter. We need to let her do what she wants to do, and this has nothing to do with spoiling her. Let’s be real… if she was a boy, we wouldn’t doubt her ability to reach her goal for one more minute. We were raised so differently, and the possibilities that Alex or any girl has today are so much more various. Why shouldn’t we let her take that chance? Why shouldn’t we let her find out what she really wants instead of going on pushing her to do a degree she doesn’t even want?”
Before her Mom recovers from her shock, Alex has already jumped out of her chair to hug her dad. “Thank you”, she whispers into his ear, and then she hurries out of the room before he can change his mind or to let him or her mother see her happy tears.
“They let you do it?” Jolana squeaks.
“They let me do it!” Alex voice cracks from delight.
“I can’t believe it! I am so happy for you, babycakes!”
“Don’t call me that… insulting the referee will earn you nothing but the red card.”
Jolana laughs. “Slow down, queen of sass! You’re not a referee… yet!”
Alex smiles. “Bitch, I might be.”
Both girls cry from laughter and wish they would actually have the possibility of hanging out together instead of sharing this moment via the phone – but the week is not done yet and they won’t be reunited until the weekend. Alex is happy to share those night calls still. She feels so close to Jolana, no matter the distance. Jolana just knows her so well, and Alex can’t believe that her whole life is changing entirely.
Joining a football club is just as very hard as Alex has imagined it to be. Since the start, Alex was aware that becoming a referee would not be easy and that joining the football team on the paper was not enough. At least she had Jolana to accompany her as she now spent her weekends at the edge of the football field, watching the boys and girls of the football team play. The matches of the U21 teams are the most exciting for Jolana, and Alex jokes about her finding a true companion in one of the teams. Many times Jolana snaps back some kind of ready wit Alex can laugh about, too.
“Don’t you find one of them appealing? Look at number nine, over there… You have to admit he’s hot!”
“Of course” Alex agrees. “They are perfectly athletic. But they seem to be half my age…”
“Agreed,” Jolana giggles. “But I would love to see one of them making you behave like a child for once…”
“Oh, shut up” Alex grins.
“Okay, but seriously! Your job will earn you a boyfriend faster than you can pronounce goalkeeper!”
“Shh. That’s not what I’m here for anyways.”
“Yeah, I know. You’re not really a player’s wife kind of girl.”
“I take this as a compliment.”
“Hell yeah.” Jolana holds up her hand to give Alex a high five.
“Me, however…” she adds with a dirty grin. Alex pokes her in the shoulder.
Besides the football games on the weekends, Alex joins the trainings of all young football teams throughout the week. According to their age, the boys and girls train once or up to three times a week in the teams, and the trainers always remind them to doing sports on their own, too. Alex quickly learns everything there is to know about the football game itself. Only having seen football games on TV, she has to get a better idea of what is happening behind the scenes and of course she has to know all the rules by heart.
She does not realise it in the beginning, but after a while she finds herself thinking as everyone of the players. She judges them by what they do, where they go, how they accept the passes – was that a foul, what will she do next, was this pass offside? –, and more importantly, she begins to find a passion for this sport she never knew she possessed.
Alex does indeed lose her heart faster than she can pronounce goalkeeper – but it is a feeling towards the sport’s tension, the players’ suspense, the audience’s voltage. She wants to be a part of this, she wants to be a part of the whole process – from welcoming a new member into the junior team until they shoot or hold their first goal. Monitoring the training evokes her interest in the athletes’ process of improvement. Monitoring the matches from the edge of the field triggers her ambition to complete the referee trainee programme successfully. Only when the coach talks to her about how her formation would go on, she discovers that she will soon be a part of the world that happened before her eyes. She is given the unique opportunity to join the football club’s training camp. Alex keeps real – she believes that this has a lot to do with the fact that Jolana’s Dad will be there and that she is Jolana’s best friend. Still she is so excited she cannot talk about anything else for weeks.
In the end, she has to say goodbye to Jolana for a very long time. They meet one last time in Jolana’s garden to sit together eating strawberries out of a bowl. Until Alex returns from training camp, Jolana will be attaining university in a city nearby, so that she will no longer live in the same town throughout the working days and probably only return every second weekend or less when her studies get harder.
“Goalkeeper!” Alex spits out as quickly as possible. Their new inside joke makes them grin every single time.
“By the way, as you’re saying that… guess what I found out when Dad and I talked about the training camp today…!”
“Ha ha,” Jolana emphasises Alex’s lame joke. “Anyways. You know the football club’s men’s team, right?”
“Well I don’t know them personally, I just know about them.”
“I figured. But look forward to meeting some of them in training camp.”
“It’s true. Don’t leave your lipstick at home, babycakes.” Jolana makes Alex roll her eyes already. “You will definitely find an old man over th-“
“Shut up, you idiot! You know I meant someone who is more mature.”
Jolana laughs. “Right. But let’s be real: football players pass far too many headings to be able to make conversation on your level.”
Alex laughs and thinks that she won’t get one of them to talk to her anyways, so it wouldn’t even matter if it was true.
“They’re all fabulously built, if you know what I mean” Jolana continues. “You have to have a look at the website and search for Tom, Phil, Hero and Steve! I think none of them even finished secondary school yet, but you know what? Just have a great time…”
“JOLANA!” Alex laughs. “You know what? Maybe I should take you with me in my suitcase, so that you can do all the things you advise me to do yourself!”
“Aww, yes please! Count me in!”
Alex sighs. “I wish I could. I will miss you over there.”
Both girls pout – and burst out in laughter.
Hey guys! This was the first chapter of Fair Play. I hope you liked it! It’s a short story split in a few chapters and I’m looking forward to posting more.
Hallo ihr Lieben! Das war das erste Kapitel zu Fair Play, meiner Kurzgeschichte. Ich hoffe, es hat euch gefallen! Ich freue mich darauf, bald mehr davon zu posten. Ich wünsche euch eine schöne Woche und hoffe, dass mein Englisch lesbar war :)