Binding 13

My head was wrecked.

My body was in bits.

I couldn’t enjoy the win or truly celebrate with the team because I was sulking.

Sulking over something I couldn’t figure out.

Refusing the countless bottles of beer thrust in my face, I sat brooding on the couch in Hughie’s living room, with the Man of the Match trophy propped on the cushion beside me, my winners medal around my neck, biding my time until I could slip away, drive home, and drown myself in an ice bath.

It was my duty to be with my teammates after a big win like this. Being the captain, I was supposed to be leading the celebrations.

Dance music was blasting from the stereo in the corner, Gigi D’Agostino’s I’ll Fly with You, and I knew that stupid duh, duh do de duh foghorn chant would be stuck in my head all night.

The house was littered with the team and people from school, all drinking, eating, and dancing around the place.

Instead of joining in on the banter, I was icing my thigh because putting the ice on my balls wouldn’t be socially acceptable, shoving around a piece

of steak Hughie’s Ma, Sinead, had cooked me around on my plate, and thinking about a girl who couldn’t seem to get away from me fast enough.

That showed it all right there.

Everyone else was drinking and enjoying themselves, while I refueled on protein and drove myself demented over a girl.

Was this what rejection felt like? If so, it fucking sucked.

What possessed me to go over to Shannon, I’ll never know, but everyone was screaming around me, the crowd was in my face, I needed a reprieve, and I saw her standing there, all big-eyes and lonesome, and something just shifted inside of me.

In the moment it made sense to just go over and talk to her. Because I didn’t want her to be on her own.

Because I could hardly concentrate during the game, knowing she was watching me.

Because when she turned around to leave, my legs moved of their own accord, desperate to intercept her.

I can take you home when you have to go?

What the actual fuck?

I might as well have shouted, love me, fucking love me at the girl. I felt like a bleeding eejit.

What was I thinking inviting her to the party? Worse, what was I thinking expecting her to say yes? I was a glorified stranger to her.

Jesus Christ.

I was so disappointed in myself.

For the bones of two months, I’d been doing so well, so goddamn well, in my attempts to stay away from her.

I couldn’t get her out of my head, but dammit, I was keeping my distance.

One adrenalin pumped victory and I blew it.

Worse than blowing it, I dragged her into a picture with me.

And she looked terrified…

“You alright, lad?” Feely asked, sinking down on the couch alongside


Grunting my response, I dragged the cushion from behind my back and

set it down on my lap, covering the purpling spreading down my right


I was still in my kit, as were most of the team.

They were still donning their jerseys because they wanted to show off – and rightly so.

Five-in-a-row winners of the School Boys Shield was a new record for Tommen and some of the younger lads first taste of silverware.

I was still in my gear because I didn’t have the energy to tog off after the match.

If it didn’t look so appealing to the scouts, I’d throw the towel in on the school team and save my body for academy or club games.

“You know, Sinead would have a look at it for you, if you asked her,” Feely interrupted my thoughts by saying. “She’s a nurse, lad.”

I turned to look at him. “What?”

He gestured to my leg. “It’s giving you trouble again?”

Striving to reign in my irritation, I shook my head and said, “No, I’m grand. Took a kicking in the ruck, that’s all, lad.”

The look Patrick gave me was one of apprehension, but he didn’t push


I liked that about him. He didn’t push shite.

If it wasn’t his business, he didn’t ask to know.

“You not drinking tonight?” I asked him, steering the topic away from

my failings. “Big win for the school, lad. You should be celebrating.”

should be celebrating?” Patrick smirked. “What about Mr. MOM himself? If anyone should be kicking back, then it’s you.”

I smirked at the term Mr. MOM –meaning man of the match – and said, “I’ve academy training on Saturdays. What’s your excuse?”

“Not in the mood,” was all he replied.

Like earlier when he didn’t push me for information, I returned the favor.

“I’m actually thinking of heading off,” he added, standing up. “I was wondering if you could give me a lift home?”

Like a starving dog presented with a juicy bone, I snapped at his offer.

Tossing my plate and icepack on the coffee table in front me, I pulled myself to a stand and inhaled several steadying breaths through my nose before putting weight on my leg. “Ready when you are.”

Patrick smirked but didn’t say anything about my over enthusiasm.

Reaching down, he scooped up my trophy from the couch and handed it to me – thank fuck, because if I had to crouch again I wouldn’t have been able to get back up.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Gibsie called out over the music, noticing my attempt at leaving. “Sit your ass down there, Cap,” he ordered, ploughing through the crowd towards me. “You’re not going anywhere yet.”

I opened my mouth to tell him to shag off, but two of the lads from the team, Luke Casey and Robbie Mac, came barreling towards me, dragging me back down on the couch before planting themselves down on either side of me.

I looked to Patrick who shrugged in resignation.

We both knew we weren’t getting out of here anytime soon, not when Gibsie turned the music off and announced, “I have a speech to make.”

“Sorry, Cap,” Robbie Mac snickered. “But you have to hear this.”

Resisting the urge to roar from the pain searing through my lower half, I shook my head and reached for my icepack. “For fuck’s sake, Gibs.”

With his championship medal still dangling around his neck, Gibsie dragged the coffee table over to the stereo and hopped up.

With his jersey wrapped around his head like a fucking bandana, he grabbed the remote control off the unit behind him and held it to his mouth like it was his own personal microphone.

The lads on the team threw their heads back and howled with laughter as he tapped the remote and performed a sound check.

Bleeding eejit…

With a shit eating grin etched on his face, Gibsie tapped his ‘mic’, and said, “How’s it going tonight?” He glanced down at the medal resting on his chest and grinned. “We could get used to this, couldn’t we, lads!”

A deafening burst of cheers and roars of agreement came from the room.

“Alright boys, jaysus, no need to roar at me,” he taunted. “For fuck’s sake, I’m in the same room as ya!”

His playful response drew an even louder response from the team and our friends.

“Anyways,” he chuckled, “Getting down to business, I have a little song I’d like to sing, for the special person in my life.”

Oohs and awwws came from a group of girls in the doorway.

I rolled my eyes at how easily the pretty-boy flanker could charm them.

Gibsie cleared his throat for added effect, and then said, “Without this special someone’s magical fucking hands, I wouldn’t be standing here today with this gorgeous piece of silverware.” He shook his head and pressed a hand to his heart. “Thank you, baby!”

From the looks I was receiving from the lads, and the snickering coming from Robbie and Luke, I realized Gibsie’s party piece was going to be at my expense.

“Don’t do anything stupid!” I warned Gibsie just as he reached over and pressed a button on the stereo.

Instantly, my shoulders locked tight with tension as the familiar sound of Dire Strait’s Walk of Life began to play from the speakers.

Immediately, I knew what was coming.

That fucker…

“Johnny, baby,” my asshole best friend called out with feigned passion in his voice, pointing his strapped-up fingers in my direction. “This one’s for you,” he snickered before bursting into song, crooning along to the lyrics that had become the bane of my life since I strolled onto a pitch with these culchie assholes in sixth class.

The lads around me all joined Gibsie in the loud, teasing chorus.

Chairs were thrown backwards as the lads all celebrated in our victory.

Robbie and Luke dragged me off the couch where I was then thrust into the air and held up by my teammates.

Feely, the turncoat, was inconsolable as he laughed his arse off at my expense.

Oh yeah, they could laugh all they wanted now, but I was going to bury those fuckers at training on Monday.

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