The sun was burning down without mercy during those days. The vastness of the sky presented not a single cloud. The soles of the feet felt as if they would burst into flames any second.
Franky looked upwards and wiped her forehead with the sweatband positioned around her wrist. She stood in the center circle and wondered how much time was left until they finally finished the training for the day. She was longing for getting rid of her sweat-soaked shirt, a cool shower and an ice-cold beverage afterwards together with her team mates. At least it was Friday and the summer break of the season. Most of the exams were already done anyways so she was looking forward to spend the evening with her friends.
Suddenly the long awaited whistle echoed through the stadium. Boomer was running past her, slapping her bum teasingly.
„Oi Franks, dreamin‘ bout a hot chick, hey?“
Franky rolled her eyes and grinned.
„Piss off, will ya!“
Boomer turned around towards Franky and kept on walking backwards in front of her.
„Awww, dry patches always make ya so sulky!“
Franky flipped her the middle finger and ran after her. When she caught Boomer, she jumped on her back, her arms wrapped tightly around her shoulders, and gave her sloppy kiss on the cheek.
„Ewww ya lezzo, get off!“
Will Jackson was clapping his hands when the girls came closer.
„Alright ladies, that‘s it for today. Almost. And I have some good and bad news for ya.“
He was actually their fitness coach but had to take over when their actual coach, Matt Fletcher, was involved in a bad car accident. He had been injured really badly and nobody knew at that point if he would ever come back.
Someone in the back mumbled: „Bad news first!“
Will grinned and spoke: „I know it’s Friday and summer break but unfortunately you’re not getting around some casual workout running. Three laps it is. And some stretching after not to forget to relax your muscles!“
Murmurs and groaners went through the team instantly.
„Ladies, I want you to take this seriously!“
Will was a nice guy and the girls actually respected him. He was already working with the team for five years now. The problem though was that he didn’t have the required license to coach them through the championship.
„What’s the good news then, Mr. J?“, Allie was shouting.
Will rubbed his hands together and raised his eyebrows.
„Well, it‘s a pleasure to tell ya that we were finally so lucky to engage a new coach!“
Handclapping and oh‘s and ah‘s could be heard in excitement.
„I won‘t tell much more at that point. You‘ll meet the new coach as soon as possible yourself. And now workout, ladies!“, he continued and blew his whistle.
Disappointed groaners sounded amongst the group again before they started running.
A few minutes later Franky was bent over stretching, her palms touching the ground between her feet. The other girls gathered around her were chatting quietly about random blokes or the last exams when she heard heels clacking down the stony stairs of the stadium. The girls suddenly went quiet. It sounded like a metronome and echoed through the whole stadium. Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack.
Franky, still upside down, stared through her spread legs towards the strange person who instantly had everybody’s attention. She got up from her position, turned around and heard Boomer next to her blowing a low whistle through her teeth.
Will Jackson retreated from his chat on the sideline with the physical therapist of the team, Liz Birdsworth, and greeted the newcomer with a firm handshake.
Franky couldn’t make out from her spot what they were talking about. She simply stood there, mouth agape and surveyed the blonde woman in her tight black skirt which ended right above her knees. As if that wasn’t sexy enough, she was also wearing what looked like a black silk singlet beneath her white blazer.
Boomer closed her mouth with a soft slap under Franky‘s chin and leaned in: „Oi Franks, but ya gimme a heads-up before ya soak through, alright?“
Franky gave her a dig with the elbow.
„The fuck, Booms!“
In this moment Will Jackson and the blonde woman focused their attention on the team, taking a few steps forward.
„Alright, ladies, although sooner than expected, this is your new coach Bridget Westfall!“
And finally when the strange woman smiled and opened her mouth to speak, Franky was a total mess.
„G‘day, ladies. I‘m absolutely happy to finally meet you and looking forward to a good cooperation!“
That voice. And those piercing blue eyes. How should Franky ever kick a ball straightly again with this woman on the sideline?!
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It took a few moments until Franky‘s brain could work properly again.
New coach? The fuck!
And how was it again? Brittany? Brittney?
Franky saw the new coach‘s mouth moving, but her brain couldn’t connect with what she was actually saying. The newcomer took a step backwards then, her arms hanging casually in front of her body, hands folded.
Will took over again and said something about training schedule and that he and Bridget - ah, Bridget it was! - would work something out together. With the next things he said Franky already wasn’t following again when she watched Bridget’s gaze wandering over the team.
And there it was. Their eyes met briefly, Franky blushed and looked down. As if she didn’t see that coming. Idiot!, she scolded herself. Bridget caught her staring at her. How embarrassing!
„Alright, ladies. That’s all for today then. Grab a shower and have a nice weekend. See ya all back here on Monday!“
The teammates slowly made their way towards the locker room. Boomer half embraced Franky around her shoulder.
„Gonna be a long shower for ya today, hey? Ya know I could shoo the girls out early if ya wanna do the Meg Ryan?“
Boomer wiggled her eyebrows and made a fast-twitching gesture with her fingers in front of her shorts. Franky pushed her away playfully and rolled her eyes. Boomer and her fucking big mouth. Did she really have to babble this out in the moment when they were passing by the coaches?!
„Franky?“, suddenly Will Jackson called her back.
And Franky froze. Seriously?! Boomer kept on walking clapping her hands and laughing out loud.
Franky swallowed the lump in her throat and turned around slowly. She would blame the heat that her mouth was so fucking dry but she knew much better that this wasn’t the only reason. Her legs felt like jello and she had a hard time putting one foot straightly in front of the other.
She stopped barely two meters in front of them when Will spoke to the new coach: „Bridget, this is Franky, the captain of the team. I’m certain she wouldn’t mind to show you around the complex.“
Bridget smiled and reached out her hand. Franky shook it hesitatingly and looked directly into those beautiful blue eyes. They were ever more gorgeous up close. It felt like all blood of her body was shooting into her head at once to turn it into the color of a ripe tomato. Has she ever been touching such soft hands before? Silky was really an understatement.
„Would that be ok?“, and there was this voice again.
Franky was fucked. And her brain wasn’t working either. Bridget. Blonde. Beautiful. Blue.
„Franky?“, Bridget broached the subject again when she didn’t react.
Bridget. Blonde. Beautiful. Blue. BREATHE!!! Get a grip, Doyle, damnit!
„We don’t have to do it now. It‘s your well deserved Friday evening!“
Bridget tilted her head and giggled slightly.
„Franky, you ok?“
„Huh?“, Franky paused, wiped her nose nervously with her sweatband and continued: „Yeah yeah, the heat is just getting to my head!“
„No problem at all. Let me know when it suits, ok?“
Bridget was about to turn around and leave when Franky called after her: „Gidget?“
Bridget turned back and crossed her arms over her chest.
„I know but I prefer Gidget!“, Franky countered and stuck out her tongue slightly between her teeth.
Bridget took a few steps closer, arms still crossed, and leaned in slightly with a warning tone: „And I prefer you call me Miss Westfall like any other student does!“
Franky’s cheekiness was literally falling off her face. She jutted her chin backwards a little and raised her eyebrows, her hands moved upwards on autopilot, her palms directed towards Bridget in a defensive gesture.
„Whatever ya say, coach!“
Bridget gave her a narrow-eyed glance before turning around to leave. It was a warning one which said 'play your games with someone else'.
„I‘m here every Saturday morning around 9 for my usual running!“, Franky called after her.
She didn’t get a response, though, neither physically nor verbally.
It didn’t suit Franky at all that Bridget had put her in place before. Franky usually had game and girls rarely were able to resist her charming attitude. One thing was clear as the blue of the sky when all the clouds were gone, though: Bridget Westfall was something else. Speaking about the blue of the sky? Or better speaking, no thinking!, about the blue of this woman’s eyes. Franky couldn’t get them out of her head since their first meeting.
Franky didn’t care about boundaries. If she wanted a girl, she got it. It was as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. And the girls fell for her. Hard. And Franky broke their hearts nonetheless because Franky Doyle didn’t do relationships. It wasn’t really seldom that this got her into trouble from time to time. Every couple of months there would be a poor girl who just wouldn’t accept that Franky didn’t want commitments.
Why would she? She was raised as a child who couldn’t rely on anyone. Her dad left her behind early with a mother who gave a fuck about her. A mother, who was more drunk than sober. Who used to yell at her and blame her for her father leaving. And if that wasn’t enough there came a time when she started to abuse her daughter not only verbally.
Franky used every single chance to sneak out of their house with her old football when her mum slept it off on the couch. Her football which she once got from her dad. The old worn leather thing became her best friend. She practiced juggling in the backyard or tried to hit a small target, which could be a can or a bottle, from a bigger distance. And she got better and better.
„Play the ball precise“, her dad always told her. She didn’t remember much about him but this was one of those tiny memories she kept in mind.
At school she sometimes overheard the other kids arranging a match in the afternoon in their neighborhood and she would be there if her mother - or better said her condition - let her. The older boys usually laughed at her when she told them she wanted to play with them. But then she simply took the ball and showed them her best juggle movements. She finished her performance by kicking the ball at the inner post and with that into the goal. When those idiots were standing there, mouths agape, she ran, took her ball and simply stated: „Let’s choose teams then!“
That’s how she learned playing football. Mostly by herself. And playing against and with boys was the best practice she could get. She had to run faster, she had to pass more precisely and she had to kick the ball harder to shoot a goal. And damn she was fast. Even though she was lanky and taller than most of the girls in her age. She refined her strengths and worked hard on her weak points. One of the latter was her defensive play. She wasn’t the best in headers and was even more afraid of them since one of those stupid boys gave her a cut at the eyebrow. Her mum freaked out when she came home on that day because her shirt was covered in blood. This was the day when she started to burn her daughter with cigarettes.
As bad as things were on an almost daily basis she finished school and knew she wanted to study law and become one of Australia‘s best female football players. Her school grades put obstacles in the way though. It wasn’t that she wasn’t smart, is was rather the lack of resources and her temper. Teachers mistrusted her and never really gave her a chance.
It was her last year of school when they had the task to submit applications for a random job or university. She finished this already days before because she knew exactly what she would write. When she wanted to leave home for school on the day of the deadline she found her application shredded on the dining table of the kitchen. She tried to explain it to the teacher who simply laughed at her and kicked her out of class. Franky lost her temper once more, threw the books laying on her desk in front of the teachers feet and slammed the door shut. The teacher forced her to stay on campus until class was over to speak to the principal.
She spent the remaining time on the school’s football field when she noticed a woman sitting on one of the seats for spectators. It was a small, friendly looking woman with blonde curly hair. She had already watched Franky for a while when their eyes met and the strange woman smiled. Curious as Franky was, she went closer.
„Ya waiting for someone?“
The woman nodded and explained: „My daughter attends this school. I‘m waiting for her to pick her up!“
And so Franky got to know Liz Birdsworth. They were chatting for a while and Liz wanted to know where Franky had learned to play football so well. It was the beginning of a great friendship and Franky also found some kind of mother substitution in Liz. On that day, which started so badly and turned out to be one of the luckiest in her life, the foundation for Franky’s scholarship was laid. She would be able to study law at Wentworth College and play football in a real team, Wentworth United. Even years later Franky still didn’t know how she could ever thank Liz enough for giving her such a chance. Out of nothing. It was just one simple fucking lucky day.
* * * * *
It always painted a smile on Franky’s lips when she remembered that day. She glanced at her watch. Last lap. Hang in there. She sped up once more. Thick drops of sweat were running down her face and back. She felt her lungs tightening. A few more meters. And finally. She crossed the line and slowed down. What a feeling.
She laid down on her back close to sideline of the playing field. The grass was tickling her bare arms and legs. She pulled one bent knee against her chest for some stretching and looked up into the sky. It was blue and clear. Simply beautiful. Exactly like a certain someone’s eyes. Franky closed her own ones and inhaled deeply when she felt a shadow expand above her. Unsuspectingly she opened them again and almost choked on her own spit when no one less than Bridget Westfall was leaning over her.
Franky coughed and rolled on her side before she sat up.
„Fuck, you scared me! Do ya always creep up on people like that?“
Bridget made an amused grimace.
„Sorry, I thought you heard me coming!“
I want nothing else than hear you coming, Franky thought.
„You‘re late, Gidge!“
Bridget ignored the fact that Franky - despite her warning - called her by her new given nickname again. She would tolerate it this time because she was indeed late.
„Let’s go then, I’ll show ya around!“
* * * * *
Franky gave her the grand tour. It took them around half an hour. A rather quiet half an hour. Locker rooms here, showers there, equipments in here, bla bla bla. Franky did what she was asked for and Bridget mostly nodded in acknowledgment but stayed silent besides that. Last destination was Bridget’s office. Franky wasn’t sure if someone had shown her before so she would do it anyways.
Bridget took a seat behind her desk and took in her new surroundings. She opened one or two of the drawers, just because and to find them empty when Franky jumped up and sat down on the edge of the desk directly next to her. She clapped her hands once, her tongue poking out slightly between her teeth.
„That’s it. What now?“, she spoke and wiggled her eyebrows.
„Franky...“, Bridget responded in a serious tone, prolonging the 'y' of her name.
Franky leaned forward and said quietly: „I like your lipstick by the way. How does it taste?“
Bridget leaned in closer. If she would’ve stretched out her arms, she could’ve wrapped them easily around Franky‘s neck. The air was thick. The room was quiet except the ticking of the clock on the wall and their breathing.
Bridget lifted her chin slightly and didn’t blink. She narrowed her eyes, stared straightly into Franky‘s and let a few seconds pass before she spoke barely above a whisper:
„I suggest you get off that desk instantly or you have been captain of the team for the longest period of time!“
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Franky stormed out after Bridget’s rejection. How could she have been so stupid to really believe Bridget would make an attempt to kiss her? She tore the office door open and it crashed against the adjoining wall.
She found herself in the locker room. She stripped down to nothing. Angrily. She needed a hot shower to calm her nerves. Showers usually gave Franky time to think and bring herself back down to earth.
She bent forward slightly and steadied herself with her palms flat against the cool tiles. The warm water poured down in the back of her neck when soft hands tenderly grabbed her by the hips and stroked further over her stomach. Franky tensed initially but leaned back into the body behind her immediately. Those welcomed hands went further up and palmed her breasts, massaging them possessively, pinching rosy nipples between thumbs and index fingers. Franky exhaled sharply with her increasing arousal and threw her head back, her hands still lingering against the cool wall. She wished there would‘ve been something she could‘ve held onto tightly when soft lips left kisses over and over between her shoulder blades.
„I‘m sorry I snapped at you before, baby!“
Franky had to turn around to find out that she wasn’t dreaming. She wrapped her arms loosely around Bridget’s shoulders and grinned like an idiot. Her tongue licked at the corner of her mouth when she cradled Bridget’s neck.
„I knew ya wouldn’t resist me forever!“
She was back in the game. If Franky Doyle wanted a girl, she got it. Sooner or later.
Bridget winked seductively. Their naked bodies pressed against each other built a perfect match. They smiled coyly and both pairs of eyes narrowed almost simultaneously.
Bridget wrapped her arms around Franky’s neck when Franky’s hands moved down confidently from Bridget’s hips to the back of her thighs. Franky implied she wanted to lift her up and Bridget’s legs instantly twined around Franky‘s waist.
When the coolness of wet tiles met Bridget’s back she gasped intensively.
Franky attacked her neck without hesitation. She sucked and bit down thoroughly. A high-pitched moan left Bridget’s throat.
„What do ya think I’m about to do here?“, she mumbled against reddened skin.
She stopped what she was doing though all of sudden, pulled back and surveyed Bridget.
„What is it?“, Bridget groaned in frustration.
„Do I still have to call you Ms. Westfall?“, Franky teased.
Bridget rolled her eyes.
„Would be a little kinky now, wouldn’t it?“
Franky shrugged and pulled her bottom lip between her teeth.
„I barely know ya. How should I know what you’re into?“
Bridget arched her hips into Franky in anticipation.
„Why don’t you shut up and fuck me?“
She didn’t need to tell this Franky twice. She was pressed harder against the wall for more support so Franky could let go with one hand and sneak it between their bodies.
„Fuck, Gidge, you‘re so wet!“, Franky moaned against the same spot of her neck where she‘d stopped before.
She filled her completely with two fingers and it felt like she was drowning into Bridget.
„Baby-“, Bridget groaned and leaned her head back against the tiles.
Franky fucked her properly, exactly how she wanted it, how she liked it. Her grip around Franky’s neck tightened. Their movements harmonized quickly without any effort.
„The fuck?“, Franky snapped when she opened her eyes.
Liz was leaning above her.
„Sorry love, I didn’t wanna spook you. You seemed to have dozed off.“
Franky was laying on the lounge on Liz‘s veranda. She indeed had fallen asleep. She went to Liz right after the incident with Bridget in her office. She needed some distraction and since it was noon on a Saturday she was toying with the idea to get a proper lunch at Liz’s place.
„Just wanted to tell ya that lunch’s almost ready.“
Franky buried her face in her hands and sighed.
„Was a really intense dream ya just had, hey?“, Liz worried.
„Nuh. Not worth mentioning at all.“
Monday came sooner than expected. Franky had a hard time with herself over the weekend to get Bridget out of her head. And what strategy usually helped her best? Laying someone! And so it happened that she called Kim Chang after leaving Liz‘s place and they spent the rest of the weekend together. Kim‘s flatmate hasn‘t been home for some time since it was summer break so they had the apartment completely to themselves and profited from that - and how!
Franky was absolutely sleep-deprived when she appeared to the training unit on Monday. She was late and trotted down the stadium stairs with Kim at her side and her arms wrapped around Franky’s waist. The girls, the coaches and Liz were already there warming up. Franky felt their eyes on herself instantly, especially Bridget’s. Her expression didn’t give anything away though. Franky returned Bridget’s look sternly, telling her nonverbally I could give a fuck!
She gave Kim an over-enthusiastic good-bye-kiss, their tongues deeply in each other’s mouth. Franky slapped Kim‘s arse when she started to walk back upstairs, turned around, hopped the remaining stairs down in feigned happiness and greeted the girls. She felt Bridget’s gaze boring into her back.
„Ok ladies, let’s start, now that we’re finally complete!“, Will shouted and blew his whistle.
They did some running exercises and practiced special tactical formations in the first part of the training unit. The remaining time was completed with a match seven against seven in one half of the big playing field.
Franky’s team was in the lead and clearly superior, when Franky ran towards Vicky Kosta, the goalkeeper of the opposing team. Franky made a double stepover and let Kosta come to nothing and kicked the ball into the empty goal. The whistle was blown and Franky turned around confused, her arms stretched out on either side of her body.
„What?!“, Franky spat.
Will and Bridget stood on the sideline, their arms crossed over their chests, a scowl on their faces.
„Franky, could you come here please?“, Bridget stated unemotionally.
Franky rolled her eyes in annoyance, inhaled deeply and trotted over. She raised her eyebrows when she stood in front of her coaches.
„Franky?“, again Bridget prolonged the 'y' in Franky’s name with a warning attempt and rested her hands against her hips.
„This is a team play. Meaning you play with others. How about passing the ball more often?“, Bridget asked in a serious tone.
„A good player has to be egoistic from time to time“, Franky snapped back and crossed her arms over her chest.
„That‘s true, but only to a certain extent. And if you run one on one towards the goalkeeper there’s always the risk you stumble or she catches the ball.“
„I never stumble!“, Franky laughed.
And there it was again: Franky’s tongue was slightly poking out between her teeth. And it drove Bridget crazy. She knew exactly that Franky wanted to tease, no provoke her with that - in Bridget’s opinion annoying - habit. She couldn’t deny though that she was some kind of drawn to that gesture.
„Let me demonstrate you something then“, Bridget looked towards Will and nodded. He took a ball in his hands and waited for Bridget‘s instruction.
„I want you to run towards the goal as fast as you can. Will is going to kick the ball and you have to reach it before it passes the goal line.“
Franky puffed through pursed lips but got in position anyways.
„Go!“, Bridget shouted and Franky ran as fast as she could. Will let the ball drop to the ground an kicked it purposefully. Franky didn’t have a chance at all to reach it before the ball entered the goal.
„Ok, come back“, Bridget imposed and continued when Franky came back: „Again!“
They did the same three or four times and Franky failed big at each fucking attempt.
„Did you get that the ball always will be faster than you? Meaning passing the ball is much more effective most of the time. Allie was absolutely free next to you in that situation before hence pass the freakin’ ball the next time!“
Franky felt humiliated and became furious about the way Bridget treated her in front of the team. Who did she fucking think she was? Franky had enough of that arrogant attitude.
„Leave me the fuck alone!“, she spat and trotted off the playing field.
„See you in my office later!“, Bridget called after her. It wasn’t a question.
Franky made a waving gesture over her shoulder when she climbed the stairs of the stadium like I don’t care!
Bridget was leaning backwards against the edge of the desk when Franky entered her office. She flopped down on one of the lime green arm chairs and bent forward, her elbows resting on her knees, her hands clasped tightly together, her foot tapping nervously in an unsteady rhythm. Bridget scrutinized her, biting down on her bottom lip. She honestly didn’t know what to do with Franky.
„What the hell is your problem?“
Franky stopped tapping her foot for a moment. Was Bridget only playing dumb? Because Franky really couldn’t believe that she was that clueless.
„Isn’t that clear? It‘s you! You’re my problem!“, Franky answered harshly.
Bridget scoffed, shook her head slightly and crossed her arms over her chest.
„Just because I don’t give you what you want?!“
Franky blew some air through her pursed lips and rolled her eyes. At least partially Bridget was right but Franky would never ever admit it. So she continued tapping her foot and leaned back, her arms folded over her chest now either.
„Since you had arrived here you take any given chance to criticize me and what’s even worse: you made me look like a fool in front of the whole team half an hour ago!“
Bridget inhaled deeply through her nose, her chest rising, and exhaled heavy-heartedly. Did Franky really not see it? She moved forward into a standing position, now barely a few meters away from Franky. Her serious expression changed into a more relaxed one. Almost soft and friendly. Her arms hung loosely down by her sides. She looked at Franky as if she felt sorry and wanted to apologize. Apologizing what for exactly, though?
„What can we do to make this work between us, Franky?“, Bridget almost pleaded. As if she was making another step towards Franky, only this time it was an imaginary one.
Us? How ridiculous!, Franky thought.
„Well, don’t you have the answers to fucking anything?“, Franky scoffed, stood up and rushed past Bridget towards the door, their arms slightly brushing against each other. Bridget wanted to reach for her wrist and hold her back but she couldn’t. She stood there paralyzed and couldn’t move. She couldn’t cross this line.
„You certainly figure something out, Gidget!“
And with that Franky was gone, the door left open.
„Franky...“, Bridget called after her with no success. Franky was long gone.
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(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The following days went by without any change. Franky did what she thought was best and Bridget tried to teach her otherwise. Bridget told herself to stay patient over and over again, eventually Franky would hopefully realize that all she wanted was Franky improving the quality of her skills. In Bridget’s eyes Franky was a precious stone which needed to be polished into a diamond. Only that Franky just wouldn’t see it. Franky’s arrogance and ignorance drove Bridget crazy. She had a hard time keeping her annoyance about Franky’s attitude under the surface. And Bridget wasn’t dumb. Quite the contrary! She knew that Franky was testing her boundaries and how far she could go until things would escalate.
The first two friendly matches under Bridget’s lead were planned for the following week. The girls were sitting excitedly and changed into their playing attire in the locker room waiting for the coaches to arrive and announce the lineup. A knock on the door silenced their chatting and laughter. Bridget entered first, a clipboard under her arm, followed by Will and Liz. Bridget told the team what she expected from them in their first match. She gave tactical intrusions and clarified them by showing different turns on her clipboard.
„Last but not least let’s come to the lineup“, Bridget spoke and turned the page on her clipboard to read the names. She had already given away ten positions when she finished: „...and Allie, who‘ll also be captain of the team today.“
Franky’s jaw dropped. She thought she had gotten off at the wrong station. She wasn’t in the starting line-up?! What a joke. She scoffed quietly and all eyes were suddenly fixed on her except Bridget’s. Bridget turned coolly around to leave the locker room and spoke on her way out: „See you outside in five for the warm-up!“
Franky was beyond pissed. How ridiculous! She was in the starting line-up every single fucking game since she joined the team. She certainly knew that Bridget had a problem with her attitude since she arrived and this was the payback now. Franky would never admit it and give in, though. She was the best player of the team and they wouldn’t win without her, that’s the way it was.
She distanced herself from the team during the warm-up and did her own thing. She fulfilled the exercises instructed by Will rather halfheartedly and finally flopped down on the substitute‘s bench with a huge pout on her face, her arms crossed in front of her chest, offended, her foot tapping on the ground. Liz sat down next to her, her upper body bent forward, her elbows resting on her knees. She gave Franky a pitying look when the whistle blew for the kickoff.
It was 2-0 for the opposing team when the whistle blew for halftime. The teams retreated towards the locker rooms whilst the substitute players took balls and kept moving on the playing field to warm up once more. Franky was beyond mad because the offense of her team absolutely sucked and she knew that in one or the other situation she would have succeeded. She was the top scorer of her team at least.
Ten minutes later the teams returned to the playing field. Bridget didn’t look satisfied at all when she sat down at the substitute‘s bench and spoke with Will. Franky couldn’t make out what they were saying when she watched them out of the corner of her eye. She noticed Will‘s gaze directed towards her all of a sudden. Bridget nodded and Will got up and made his way towards Franky. He waved her nearer.
„Ok, Franky, your turn! Striker as always. Turn the fucking match around!“
Franky grinned smugly and ran motivated over to the substitute‘s bench. She pulled her hoodie over her head and threw it next to Bridget on the bench and mumbled: „About time!“
It didn’t take long after the second halftime had started that Allie passed the ball to Franky who was positioned near the penalty line. She trapped the ball, made a body swerve and entered the penalty area. The opposing defender didn’t have any other chance than stopping her with a foul. The referee blew. Penalty!
Franky didn’t even bother to look at the coaches if she was allowed to kick the penalty. She confidently took the ball and put it on the mark. She made a few steps backwards and waited for the referee’s sign. She kicked the ball precisely and hit the inside of the left post. The ball crossed the goal line. The keeper didn’t have a chance at all.
Franky turned around and the girls came running towards her, embracing her in a tight hug. Surrounded by her teammates she could look inconspicuously over to Bridget who actually wore a small smile on her face.
There were only ten minutes of the match remaining and the opposing team was still 2-1 in the lead. They were obviously running out the clock now. Franky became impatient and nervous because there wasn’t so much time left. A situation gave away that Franky could win the ball at the halfway line. She turned around quickly and sprinted towards the opposing goal. The clock had just struck the 91st minute - injury time - and Franky ran one on one towards the last opposing defender. She noticed Allie running next to her about 10 meters away. They did a swift one-two right out of the book and Franky volleyed the ball directly into the net.
The final whistle was blown and the girls seemed more than happy with the draw. They celebrated Franky as the player of the match by giving her high fives and hugging her. They players of both teams were about to meet in the center circle to say their goodbyes when Franky took a detour towards the sideline, walking self-confidently parallel to it for a few meters, her chin raised, her gaze sternly directed towards Bridget. She was staring insistently at her until Bridget noticed her and their eyes locked. Their exchanged glances seemed to linger forever. Franky didn’t need to use words in that moment to tell Bridget: Here! Did you see that, huh? Did you see ME?!
Bridget looked away instantly. She didn’t like that Franky continued playing her games. She was so fed up with it.
Franky wasn’t in the starting line-up for the second friendly match that week either. Altough she wasn’t satisfied with Bridget’s decision once more, she knew that they would bring her on at some point. Well, she figured wrong. Franky already left the stadium when the clock struck the 85th minute. She was sitting at the substitute’s bench next to Liz and neither Bridget nor Will made the slightest attempt to introduce her. The opposing team was 3-1 in the lead and it was too late for her to do anything anyways. She had enough and Liz figured instantly what she was about to do.
„Don’t, Franky! Please!“, she pleaded. But Franky wasn’t even interested in Liz‘s opinion at that moment anymore.
Usually Liz was having a good influence on Franky. She was able to comfort and convince her most of the time and Franky respected her. But this time things were different. Franky felt needless and worthless.
Bridget was sitting at her desk in her office and was pondering about the training units for the following week when the door was torn open and Franky rushed in, enraged, and slammed the door shut. Bridget was startled at first, but then she leaned back in her chair, crossed her legs and folded her hands on top of her thigh. Her expression stayed unemotional and she mustered Franky from head to toe. Bridget’s posture drove Franky crazy. How could someone be so calm and controlled?! Franky slammed her hands flat down on the top of the desk and bent forward but Bridget didn’t flinch the slightest. Her beautiful blue eyes stayed locked with Franky’s. Franky narrowed her own ones and spoke quietly yet sternly:
„The fuck ya think ya doin‘ here, huh?“
Bridget considered if she should answer this question since it was rather a rhetorical one so she decided against it. Whatever Franky wanted to say to her she would let her. She was well aware that Franky only needed a bogeyman to blame for her own failing. Unfortunately Franky interpreted her non-response as another impuls of arrogance and ignorance.
„You act like ya own the place and ya know what? It‘s pathetic. Do ya even get what ya doin‘ here? I won‘t let ya destroy what I‘ve fucking built here!“, Franky spat.
Bridget inhaled deeply through her nose. It hurt her that Franky was really thinking that bad about her.
„Are you done?“, Bridget asked defensively. Franky did neither move nor respond.
„Good, because firstly it’s a question of politeness to knock before you enter a room...“
„Spare me the bullshit!“, Franky interrupted her and slammed her fist down on top of the desk once more.
Bridget’s gaze wandered towards her hand and the pen holder besides which had just been overturned by the shattering. Her eyes were following one pen which was now rolling towards the edge of the desk and fell down to the floor shortly after with a clank. Her gaze returned painfully slow towards Franky. She could see remorse in Franky’s eyes and that she was more than uncertain what was about to happen.
Bridget huffed sharply through her nose but spoke calmly: „This isn’t achieving anything, Franky!“
She was desperate to explain to Franky why she took all those decisions. But right now it was senseless because Franky wouldn’t see it. Franky’s temper was the one in control in this moment and not Franky’s smartness and rationality. Damn, Bridget already knew her better than Franky would even begin to imagine. They didn’t know each other for long yet but Bridget was already looking right through her. And this, only this, was the key for Bridget to stay that patient, to hold herself back that much because eventually.... eventually Franky would see it, too.
„You know what? Fuck you, Gidget!“, Franky scolded and continued: „Sort things out by yourself from now on. I‘m done!“
She tore the door open once more and rushed down the hallway before tears over tears started running down her cheeks.
This could probably be the last update for some time now. I have some crazy weeks of work ahead and I‘m afraid I won’t be able to write something during that time. Therefore the same goes for „1000 times“. If I manage to put something on paper you‘ll be the first to know but I can’t promise anything. Stay safe:)
I actually managed another chapter. Well, I go with the flow as long as it lasts. Thank you again so much for your lovely reviews.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Franky didn’t show up to the training units the following week and Bridget somehow expected it after their encounter in her office. But she wasn’t about to grovel either. She still believed that Franky would come to her senses eventually and if not, then so it be. The key to success was not at least a good team spirit and morale. And this wouldn’t work if she preferred certain players over others. It was more than important to make no exceptions. She had a really hard time to stay true to her principles though when it came to Franky Doyle. It wasn’t only the fact that she knew that the team needed her. Franky was a leader, she was able to carry the others along, and she was one of the best players she had ever met. Franky was irreplaceable if they wanted to win the championship. The other point was something entirely different though. And that was the actual inner conflict Bridget was facing: she felt absolutely drawn to Franky. And with that she ran directly into the danger of a clouded objectivity.
It was Friday at noon when Franky finally decided to have lunch with her flat mates. She avoided them over the last few days to dodge uncomfortable conversations. Fortunately they didn’t study in the same department so Franky wasn’t much at the risk to run into them during the day. And since she knew their practice times she knew when she could arrive at home without bumping into them. So she spent most of the time in the library of the law department doing research for the remaining exams and essays. When she finally came home in the evening the girls had already left for training. Franky hurried preparing dinner and eating. She retreated to her room afterwards and when she would hear the front door open some time later, she would pretend to already be fast asleep.
Boomer and Allie left a note for Franky on the kitchen island that Friday morning which was asking: „See you at lunch?“. A smile crept up on Franky‘s face and she decided to give in. At least she couldn’t avoid them forever.
They sat at their usual spot in the college’s canteen and tucked into their food. Boomer spoke with her mouth full: „Franky, if you can’t eat your dessert, I‘ll have it.“
Franky smirked and shook her head whilst chewing. Some things never changed.
„So when will ya come back to training?“, Allie suddenly asked. Of course they would mention the elephant in the room at some point.
Franky halted briefly, shrugged and swallowed her food: „Don’t feel up to it right now!“
Boomer looked down at her plate and countered ironically: „Certainly!“
They continued eating their meals in silence. A few minutes passed by until Boomer addressed the issue upfront: „It‘s Miss Westfall, isn’t it?“
Franky’s glance shot up. She felt caught.
„I just can’t stand her and her arrogant attitude!“, Franky stated defensively and continued: „And apparently she thinks I‘m not needed anyways!“
When did she actually start to bath herself in self-compassion? Franky scoffed at herself inwardly. It wasn’t her to do something like that. And Allie and Boomer knew that, too.
„Don‘t think so,“ Boomer disagreed. „I actually think she‘s the best coach we ever had and she wants ya in the team as much as we do!“
Franky leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. She blew some air through her pursed lips.
„Well, she doesn’t really do much to show it then. And anyway she‘s so ignorant and offish!“, Franky spoke, her jaw clenched accompanied by lowered eyebrows. She felt pathetic. She only made all those things up to convince herself. Convince herself about what exactly? That she didn’t need Bridget Westfall! But she did need her. At least if she wanted to play football again.
„No, Franky, not at all. If ya really got to know her ya wouldn’t say that. Quite the contrary, ya should‘ve seen her this week during training. She can be so fuckin‘ funny.“, Allie defended Bridget.
Franky looked at Allie in mock surprise.
„And maybe I should tell Bea that ya have the hots for our new coach recently!“, she shot back.
Allie gave her the middle finger. She was sad anyways that she didn’t get the chance to see her girlfriend much often those days since she was in Sydney for two exchange semesters.
„I‘ve fallen somehow for her either and I‘m not even a vageterian, hey!“, Boomer tried to lighten up the mood and giggled.
„Speaking of the devil“, Allie added and jutted her chin towards a certain direction.
Across the canteen Bridget was sitting and laughing with another woman, a brunette. Franky observed them for a while, she couldn’t help it. They were deep in conversation, laughter here, forearms touching there, soft nudges against each other’s shoulders. Franky was absolutely drawn to Bridget‘s gesture when she chuckled and threw her head back. She had a weird feeling in her stomach like going over and pulling Bridget away from that other woman. She wanted Bridget to laugh for her the way she did over there. To say it was a beautiful appearance would’ve been an understatement Franky thought.
„Oi Franky, that’s Vinegar Tits over there with Miss Westfall!“, Boomer chortled.
„Who the fuck is Vinegar Tits?“, Allie pried.
Boomer and Franky exchanged glances before bursting into laughter.
„It’s Vera Bennett. She‘s the English professor here“, Franky explained. „And she got this nickname when Booms once at lunch spilled her cucumber salad all over her blouse. Shit, Booms, that was rough!“, Franky giggled.
„Fuck, she smelled like vinegar all over, Allie, you should’ve seen or better said smelled that!“, Boomer added.
Allie crinkled her nose and shook her head with a closed lip smile.
Whilst Boomer continued gossiping, Franky’s look slowly returned towards Bridget. And there was the dull feeling in her belly again when Bridget‘s hand covered the other woman’s forearm once more. Franky was fucking jealous! She watched Bridget leaning closer and telling Vera Bennett something which was probably not meant to be heard by other ears. Vera instantly covered her mouth and giggled, feigning to be shocked. Franky was so lost in Bridget’s appearance that she needed a moment to realize that Bridget was staring right back at her. It was like someone wiped Bridget’s smile off of her face all of a sudden though when she spotted Franky watching her. Their eyes stayed locked for a few seconds until Franky looked away quickly.
Franky woke early on Saturday morning. She realized how dirty the window panes had gotten during the semester when she faced the sunlight shining through them. Normally it was almost time to get up and get ready for her Saturday morning run in the stadium, she decided against it this time though. She still had to do some research for one essay which was due the following week. She got dressed and grabbed a towel, two necessary books, a notepad and a pen, a bottle of water and an apple, packed it all in her backpack and left the apartment.
Franky loved the peacefulness of an empty stadium. She was sitting cross-legged on her towel in the middle of the playing field an read in one of the books, the end of the pen tapping against her bottom lip. She always preferred sitting on the lawn instead of sitting in the spectator area. The playing field was her second home. It made her focus and calmed her senses. She always came here when she was on edge or struggling with things.
She turned the page of the book and scribbled something down on her notepad which was laying next to her on the towel when she noticed another person’s presence.
„What do you want?“, Franky snapped without looking up.
„Do you mind?“, Bridget asked calmly if she could sit down. Franky only shrugged and feigned being focused on her book.
Bridget sat down and leaned back, her upper body propped up on outstretched hands behind her. She closed her eyes when she tilted her head upwards and inhaled deeply. Franky observed her out of the corner of her eye. She realized that there was someone else who felt as comfortable as she sitting there. Bridget looked peaceful and absolutely beautiful. If Franky could capture Bridget’s side profile in a picture right now, she would absolutely do it.
„I knew I would find you here. You haven’t been at the training the whole week and I still knew you would certainly be here in your free time“, Bridget suddenly spoke, cutting the silence between them. Here eyes were still closed and her face directed towards the sky. She continued in a relaxed tone: „It obviously is important to you being here. It’s like your very own holy place, isn’t it?“
„Stop psycho analyzing me! Someone might think you’re a shrink!“, Franky responded sharply.
„Why do you take offense all the time by the things I say to you? Is it because I said you acted predictably?“, Bridget questioned with a slight raise of her voice. Silence fell between them once more.
„You really don’t know, do you?“, Bridget continued anyway.
„Huh?“, Franky looked up from her book.
„I actually have a degree in forensic psychology. And I‘m teaching here since I started coaching the team“, Bridget‘s eyes met Franky’s.
„Fuck, so you really are a shrink?“, Franky responded dumbfounded.
„I prefer psychologist, but yeah.“, Bridget countered with a tight-lipped smile.
„Yeah yeah, you prefer a lot of things!“, Franky reminded Bridget of the day when Bridget warned her calling her anything else than 'Miss Westfall'. Did Bridget actually see a slight grin in Franky’s face in a fraction of a second in that moment?
„I‘m actually here because I wanted to ask you if you’re still going to join the team for the training camp the week after next? Although Matt Fletcher planned it, I‘d be happy if the team gets some time to spend together. I think Matt would’ve wanted this, you included.“
Franky puffed initially but Bridget noticed her thinking it through. She didn’t expect an answer right away. It was rather a first step into the right direction that Franky hadn’t refused instantly.
All of a sudden Franky was having a look at her watch, rolling the tip of her tongue against inside of her cheek. She grinned devishly to herself, got up, tucked her belongings into her backpack, grabbed her towel and strolled towards the sideline. Bridget’s eyes followed her confused when Franky turned around, kept walking backwards started singing: „I want to let the rain come down...“
Bridget felt messed around once again. Franky stood there, laughing, her backpack thrown on the substitute’s bench. She continued singing, her hands clapping rhythmically to the song: „...make a brand new ground“.
And indeed, all of a sudden small holes opened everywhere in the playing field and countless lawn sprinklers appeared. Before Bridget could even realize what was happening the water was already pouring down on her. And what was about to follow Franky would’ve never expected in a thousand years. Bridget remained sitting, her head thrown back and she was laughing with all her heart. Franky bursted out in laughter either and adored the probably most beautiful sight she had ever seen.
A moment later Bridget slowly stood up and walked over to Franky. She brushed a few wet strands of blonde hair from her forehead when she came closer. She gratefully took the towel which was offered to her. She rubbed the wet hair dry and wiped her face before giving it back to Franky with a nod.
„I‘m sorry“, Franky giggled. Bridget shook her head and smiled. Her expression suddenly changed into a more serious one though.
„Take the next week to yourself and think about it?“, Bridget tilted her head until their eyes met.
Franky looked at the ground and nodded, her lips pursed.
„You can’t blame me for thinking there’s a connection, Franky.“, Bridget winked and left. Franky‘s gaze followed her until she wasn’t seen anymore. Maybe, in some way, they were much more alike than Franky would ever assume.
The song Franky was singing is one of my most favorites. It‘s „Let the rain“ from Sara Bareilles and I heard it the other day and somehow felt the urge to include into this chapter.