Continuing my monthly publishing of short stories, this month sees the September effort inspired by my visit last year to Wembley to see the NFL International Series game between my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings. Sadly the result went against me, but it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the experience.
So, sit back and enjoy!!
Graham sat on the tube train with his head in his hands, the carriage itself was crammed full of fellow NFL fans that had left Wembley Stadium at the completion of the game. He’d seen his favourite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, fall just short of an unlikely comeback having seemingly done their best to lose, thanks to poor decision-making and general all round sloppiness. He wanted to take off his replica shirt with the number 7 on it and fling it away, but as elbow room was non-existent, he retreated into his own thoughts and reflected on his weekend.
It had all started so well. He had come down on the train with his cousin, Tom, and Tom’s girlfriend, Sally. Tom was a fellow NFL fan, and also the same age as Graham, having been born just three months earlier. This had enabled them to form a close bond, having gone through school together, and both being only children, they almost had a brotherly relationship. Whilst Graham was a Steelers fan, Tom had decided to support the Miami Dolphins, apparently because he liked dolphins and the colour turquoise. Sally was very much an NFL widow, only coming along for the chance to come to London to do some shopping. They were planning to stay with Tom’s mate from University, Charlie, who had a flat of his own down near the Olympic Park in Stratford. Charlie was in quite an emotional state having recently separated from his partner of five years, and this weekend was as much about American Football as it was about keeping Charlie’s chin up. And shopping, if you were Sally.
They reached Charlie’s place at around half past one, and after a little bit of lunch, headed off into the City centre where Regent Street had been cordoned off for quite an extravaganza to promote the NFL to anyone that happened to be there. Much to his surprise, Graham was able to make out quite a plethora of different nationalities. From German to Swedish, Spanish to Dutch, it was quite the melting pot, but, as Charlie explained, they were in London after all. And to add the authenticity of the experience, there was a healthy representation of Americans too. It didn’t take Sally long to tire of the endless NFL talk and noise, and seeing as Charlie wasn’t particularly bothered, the two of them went off to wander around the shops, and left Graham and Tom to enjoy the experience – which included mascots, a mobile shop, and a close up look at the Vince Lombardi trophy, which is what the winners of the Super Bowl get as ‘World Champions’. Tom bought himself a foam hand for the occasion, whilst Graham, who had saved up for this weekend, splashed out on a replica Steelers top with the name and number of the Quarter Back, Ben Roethlisberger, and proudly wore his shirt for the remainder of the afternoon. Tom was not the type to nail his colours to the mast, and shot Graham a wry smile and allowed himself a pitying shake of the head.
They met back up with the other two in a pub just off Regent Street, called The Clachan. Tom was quite taken aback at the mountain of bags that accompanied Sally, and Graham could sense a hint of an atmosphere between them as Sally gave a summary of her purchases. Each one being met with a sterner , stonier look on Tom’s face. Graham and Charlie got into a discussion about London-life, comparing Graham’s quite sheltered Country life with Charlie and his cosmopolitan hustle and bustle lifestyle.
Eventually, after a few more drinks and a few more pubs, the consensus was to get some food before it got too late. Charlie offered to cook them something, and then take them round to his local to see out the night. This was met with universal agreement, so they headed back on the tube to Stratford. Graham, who was experiencing a drought on the girlfriend front (it had been three years since his last relationship, and not much less longer since sexual activity of any kind), and seemed to be permanently horny much to his own frustration, was keeping a keen eye out for any promising looking women to prey on. What he was going to say to them hadn’t crossed his mind yet, but he didn’t feel like dwelling on this too much right now, for fear of losing all confidence in the heat of action. On this particular trip, there was nothing much to see for all Graham was looking. There was some promise with a girl that got on at Waterloo and stood almost right in front of him. She was blonde, about five foot six, clad in a black mini-dress, funky diamond pattern tights and black leather boots to her knees. From behind, she was mesmerising, and also from the side too – curves in all the right places – but when she started talking to one of the other passengers about the space on offer in this particular carriage, the harshness of her London accent killed off the semi-erection that Graham had been nursing. In fact, he was not upset when she got off at North Greenwich.
Back at Charlie’s flat, they watched television while Charlie busied himself in the kitchen, making pizza with plain bases, but adding his own toppings. The drinking continued, and so did the little digs from Tom at Sally. It got to the point that Sally disappeared into the toilet and didn’t return for some time. Both Graham and Charlie were feeling on edge and uneasy at such a development during what was supposed to be an enjoyable weekend. Finally, in an effort to patch things up, Tom went to try and talk to Sally, leaving Graham and Charlie washing up in the kitchen. Before long, conversation turned to ex-partners. Graham recounted his tale of woe – how Gemma had basically cheated on him with numerous men over a three month period before finally coming clean. Then Charlie told how his ex-partner, Billie, had got a new job in Berlin without telling him and had offered him an ultimatum: either Charlie went with him, or it was over.
Graham, who was putting the plates away in the cupboard, paused at this point. He was pretty sure Charlie had used the word ‘him’ when referring to Billie. Tom hadn’t really mentioned whether Charlie was gay or not. Not that it was an issue. Certainly not. It was merely that Graham had never met a gay man before. Charlie finished the washing up and while Graham finished drying up, he went to get ready to take them all to his local pub. Graham idly pondered whether it was going to be a gay bar, and how he would handle that. Not surprisingly, he’d never been in a gay bar before.
Finally, they were all ready to go. Tom and Sally had obviously come to some sort of resolution because the atmosphere had lifted, and they were all smiles. If he had known better, Graham would have guessed that they had engaged in a cheeky bout of make-up sex at some point.
Off they went, down to the Duke of Wellington pub at the end of the street. The weather had turned a little, a wind had kicked up and there was definitely some moisture in the air. In the pub, the drinking continued apace. Rounds came with whiskey chasers as standard, and laughter permeated the air around the four of them. It wasn’t a really old pub, but there were no comfy bench seats, it was all wooden stools and round tables along the wall. A jukebox sat in the corner, pumping out the seventies soft rock standards, largely ignored, other than a quiet middle aged couple who swayed with the music. They were the only other punters in there. Graham got up and meandered over to the jukebox, giving the couple a friendly smile, which was returned by both. As he stood there, rotating through the choices, Graham heard the door open and the scrape of heeled shoes on the wooden floorboards. He heard Charlie welcoming the new arrival and offering them a seat with their party. He also heard the responding voice, a sort of Mediterranean lilt to it, accepting the invitation and also the offer of a drink. As he made his final selections, he turned to see Charlie stood at the bar with Tom, getting the drinks in. Graham’s eye caught Charlie’s and he got a nod and a wink for his trouble. He made his way back to where they had been sat, and was confronted with a vision of a stunning woman. Sat in the seat that he had vacated was a lightly tanned woman, with caramel coloured hair that sat just past her shoulders. Her face was mostly obscured by a pair of sunglasses, but her full lips glistened in the dim light and sparkled whenever she spoke. Graham pulled up another chair and sat himself down between Sally and where Charlie had been sitting, so he was directly across from this new addition to the party.
Upon Charlie and Tom’s return with a tray of drinks, Graham soon discovered that this girl was Anna, she was Spanish, from Bilbao, and was living in London and working as a Spanish teacher at an International Language school, and also in a bar to save up enough money to return home to Spain. She lived in the flat three doors down from Charlie, and they were, in fact, also running buddies. Graham was mesmerised by Anna, and it seemed clear to the rest of them that this was the case. Even Anna could sense it, because she kept looking at Graham, or at least it looked like it, considering she was still sporting the glasses. At one point, Anna got up to go to the ladies, and Graham was able to finally appreciate the rest of her. This appreciation included her black skinny jeans, red patent leather heels, and her shapely bum and thighs – clearly the byproduct of an active runner. Immediately Anna was out of earshot, there was a unanimous consensus that she was a ‘stunner’. Sally jokingly commented that as Tom was taken, and Charlie was gay, Graham was in pole position to get lucky. Graham let out a nervous giggle, stating that Anna was so clearly out of his league it wasn’t true. Tom and Charlie tried to build his confidence and protested the opposite. In fact it, Graham got the distinct impression that he had been set up for this.
Strangely enough, no sooner had Anna returned from the toilet, than Tom and Sally seemed to come over all tired. Charlie offered all too readily to let them back in the flat, and this left Graham all alone with Anna. They chatted awkwardly initially, before getting on to the subject of Spain. Graham told her of his trips to Barcelona and Madrid, and she teased him as to why he had never visited Bilbao. Slowly growing in confidence, Graham reasoned that if he knew Anna had existed, then of course he would have gone there. This seemed to open her up a bit more, and Graham finally started to believe that he could actually charm this girl.
Before they realised, the barman was calling last orders. Having already consumed a substantial amount of alcohol already, Graham declined Anna’s offer of one last drink, and intimated that he had better be getting off because he had a busy day ahead of him. Seeing as they were going the same way, Anna walked with him down the street. Evidently, the fresh air went straight to Graham’s head and as they approached the block of flats, Graham stumbled and sort of fell in a crumpled heap on the floor, right outside the garage entrance. Anna, instantly concerned, bent down to help him up. This she did with only a little trouble, and she steadied him whilst she fished in her bag for her keys. In through the door, and up four floors in the lift they went, Graham leaning against the walls of the lift car, surreptitiously admiring Anna’s reflection in the mirrors. Then out into the corridor and down the hallway towards Charlie’s door. Anna left Graham knocking on the door, and went off into her own flat. The door opened slightly, and Tom poked his head out. Upon seeing Graham, he whispered a question as to how things were going. Graham told him exactly how things stood – he was here, and she was in her flat. Tom told him to get a grip and closed the door again before Graham knew what was happening. He started knocking again, quietly, as he was fully aware that it was late, and there were numerous other flats in the vicinity. With things looking increasingly desperate, to his relief, Anna’s door opened, and she appeared at the door, minus sunglasses and skinny jeans, instead she was wrapped in a silk dressing gown that only just covered her bottom. She was carrying a black bin bag and she walked up to Graham and asked if there was a problem. He explained the difficulty he was having in raising an answer, leaving out the crucial point that Tom had refused to let him in. She suggested he went with her to take the bag of rubbish down to the refuse area, which he did. They talked a little more about themselves, with Graham’s own brand of self-deprecating humour working wonders to the point that Anna was now stroking his arm in the lift when he called himself an idiot for not guessing at Gemma’s infidelity. They were soon back up at Charlie’s door again. Anna suggested that rather than spend all night trying to get in, he could sleep in her bed until morning, and then get in when she went running with Charlie. Unsure whether it was just her command of the language, but Graham read that as an offer to sleep with her. His brain was slightly confused and hesitant, but down between his legs, there was no confusion whatsoever.
He accepted the offer with a thankful smile and followed Anna into her flat. It was a lot smaller than Charlie’s, being just a one bedroom version, and the kitchen was just a cooker, a washing machine, and a short worktop in the corner, designated by the change from carpet to tiled floor. Anna offered him a drink, to which he replied in the positive, but only a glass of water to help with the rehydration to fend off the inevitable monster hangover that was threatening for the morning. This was duly supplied, and Graham sat himself down on the small two-seater sofa. He took off his trainers, and waited for Anna to retire to her bedroom so he could get comfortable for sleep. But she didn’t go. She hovered by the living room door, as if waiting for something. Graham wished her a good night, expecting this to signal his own wish to sleep. She nodded and then gestured for him to follow her. By now, tiredness and hazy drunkenness were taking over, rendering him nothing but compliant, so he got up and followed her down the hallway past a slightly ajar door that turned out to be the bathroom, and into what was Anna’s bedroom. She pointed to the bed, told him to make himself comfortable and went again. Graham did just as he was told. He stripped to his t-shirt and underpants and after turning out the main light, lay down on the bed. Sleep came quickly.
It was quite early in the morning that Graham woke up. The sky was already turning from black to grey, and he could hear the birds chirping away in the trees. Initially, he didn’t know where he was, but then the realisation hit him that he wasn’t in Charlie’s flat. He could smell the scent of hairspray and perfume that is indicative of a female’s residence. He turned over in bed and was confronted with the back of Anna’s head. He racked his brain for memories of the previous night, and came up empty apart from his understanding that she had let him sleep in her bed and she was going to sleep on the sofa. He peeled back the quilt (it had turned out to be quite a warm night), and was even more taken aback to notice that Anna was naked bar a pair of white cotton panties. Whether it was just usual morning matters, or triggered by what he was faced with, but there was quite a bulge going on. Graham stealthily slid out of the bed, and tiptoed round to the bedroom door. He went into the bathroom and emptied his bladder. His head was a little fuzzy, but on the whole, he had survived quite well. He wasn’t sure what to do next. Should he go back to bed, or sit in the living room and wait for her to wake up? Momentarily he looked for his overnight bag, so he could read the game programme that he’d bought online with the tickets. Then with a silent cursing, he remembered that he had absolutely nothing with him. His dilemma was solved promptly, as Anna was stood in the bedroom doorway, still in the same state of undress. Graham looked at her, trying not to stare at her bare breasts and flat stomach. He was also highly conscious that his morning erection had not yet subsided. Anna called him back in to the room, waving away Graham’s protestations. Apparently, when she was younger, her parents had been quite poor, and with her being the only girl amongst four children, she had been forced to share a bed with her little brother, Miguel. Therefore, for her, there was no embarrassment about sharing a bed with a man. She added that the panties were in his honour, normally she slept completely naked. In his head, Graham heard Tom’s voice screaming at him to make a move before it was too late. Graham spluttered into action, jokily telling her not to mind him, and pretend he wasn’t there. This brought a smile to Anna’s lips. She stepped forward and took Graham by the hand, leading him back into the bedroom. Wordlessly, she got back into bed and gestured for him to join her. Hesitantly, he complied. He lay down beside her, but was tensed up. Anna sensed this, and urged him to relax, she was not going to hurt him. Graham laughed nervously. Anna went on to tell him about her childhood, and how she had grown up unaware of her sexuality. It had only been when she moved to Madrid to go to University, that she realised she had a great figure that drove men crazy. She then related the tale of her one true love, Fernando, who had been killed in a motorway crash. Since then, she explained, she hasn’t been able to commit herself to another man. Graham sort of understood this, and told Anna how he had not had a partner since Gemma. Feeling comfortable, with his guard down, he also confessed his sex drought to Anna. She took this in her stride, and confided that she had had sexual partners since Fernando, but had not had so much as an orgasm during sex in that time. Graham was taken aback at such candidness, and in reflex, he pushed her hair off her face and stroked her cheek. Now Anna was clearly a woman of the world, because her next question was whether he ever masturbated. Sensing his hesitation, she admitted that she did herself, purely to release tension that built up over time. Graham matched her admission with his own, and they both laughed. Graham then noticed a change in Anna’s mannerisms, in that she was more forward, and tactile. In fact, she was literally more forward, as the distance between them in bed was now negligible. He could feel her breath on his cheek, and she took his hand and placed it gently on her waist, as they lay on their sides facing each other. Then, in one swift movement, she rolled over and they were spooning in the bed. Anna guided Graham’s hand on to her stomach and up towards her breasts. There was nothing he could do to prevent his erection pressing into her lower back, and she must have noticed this as she wriggled herself so that it was now slipped between her legs. Things were certainly moving along nicely, Graham thought to himself, as they lay there together.
Graham was almost nodding off again, when he felt a nudge. He forced his eyes open, and saw Anna’s hazel coloured eyes staring at him. Her lips had lost that sparkle from last night, but they were still full and inviting. With a wink and a quick movement, she flung her panties at him. Graham was now pretty sure where this was going. He slipped his t-shirt off and draped it over her head, and while she fought it off, he slipped his own underwear off, leaving them both completely naked under the quilt. Not wanting to make the first move for fear of getting this all completely wrong, Graham waited, before Anna took the initiative and climbed on top of him. She sat there, towering over him, her caramel hair cascading over her shoulder, but tousled with sleep. Her breasts hung down within easy grasping reach of Graham’s hands. Still in control, Anna rocked back and forth on his pelvis, gyrating her own body in circular motions. Graham reached up and teased and massaged her breasts with his hands, trying to guide them towards his mouth. Without warning, Anna leant forward, just as Graham was rising up, and she caught him full in the face with her chest. They both wanted to laugh, but were too deep in the moment. Anna reached down behind her back and took hold of his penis, and guided herself down on to it, gently rising and falling in a rhythm. She sat right back as she did so, now completely out of Graham’s reach, so all he could do was grab her waist and try to wrest the control from her. The soft warm skin of her inner thigh rubbed up against his hips, and this sent him to the point of no return, coupled with Anna’s quickening motion up and down. She then leant right over him, her hair in his face, creating a tunnel of blackness through which he could just make out her facial features, deep in concentration, biting her lip. He could now grab hold of her and thrust his pelvis up, taking over the momentum of the intercourse. He quickened his pace now, his face set in its own mask of concentration, as he looked for signs that she was enjoying this as much as he was. And then it was over, for Graham anyway, and the energy was coursing through him uncontrolled until he lay back covered in a sheen of sweat.
And this was the exact point he woke up, the sunlight pouring in through the window of Charlie’s living room window. He got himself to the bathroom and emptied his bladder as he usually did. He then lay in his sleeping bag and read a few articles in the game programme. His head was fuzzy, but not as much as expected, and he was soon joined by Charlie himself, resplendent in black running shorts and a black t-shirt with the Nike logo emblazoned across the front. He had his headphones draped round his neck and was filling a water bottle from the tap. He said hello to Graham before any further conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door. Charlie disappeared and reappeared briefly to put his running shoes on. Graham sat up and wondered who was at the door. Then Anna appeared at the door, herself in a fluorescent yellow running vest and black lycra leggings. Graham waved hello, to which she waved back. Then they were gone, off for their morning run together, and Graham lay back thinking of Anna running.
The next thing he knew, Tom came through and sat down on the sofa. He regretfully informed Graham that due to Sally being quite poorly, he couldn’t come to the game with him after all. Graham looked at him incredulously, looking for some sign of larking about. The look on Tom’s face showed that this was for real. Tom relented to going for some breakfast once Charlie was back from his run, just so Sally wasn’t on her own. Graham went for a shower and cursed his rotten luck – first the great sex that turned out to be just a dream, and then he was forced to go to Wembley on his own to watch a game that both of them had been looking forward to for almost a year.
They breakfasted in a café in the shopping centre, having gone to see the Olympic Park, only for it to be well and truly fenced off to all and sundry. Graham tucked in to a full English breakfast, while Tom settled for a bacon roll. They talked about plans to come again next year, finances permitting, until it came time for Graham to set off to Wembley and find a local pub at which fellow NFL fans were going to be meeting up. They were going to stay again another night and then head back up in the morning, hopefully giving Sally time to recover from whatever ailment she was suffering with.
On the tube to Wembley, Graham noticed that the closer his journey got to the stadium, the more people got on with random team shirts on. Graham struck up a bit of banter with some Minnesota Viking fans, actually from the Minneapolis area, admitting his fears of defeat based on the start to the season Pittsburgh had had – three defeats from three games. But as Minnesota had endured an identical start, they weren’t filled with much more confidence either. They were also headed to the pub, so they allowed Graham to tag along. Apparently they were keen to meet a British guy that had spent a season visiting all the stadiums for a game. He’d endeared himself to them at one game and they had promised that if ever Minnesota came to England, they would come over and say hi. As they walked away from the tube station into Wembley, they enlightened Graham about what Tailgating was and how it was part of the American culture. Then Graham proceeded to explain that at a football match (he refused to concede and call it soccer), the home and away fans are kept strictly separated at all times, for fear of aggravation. Also you aren’t allowed so much as a bus on the car park outside the stadium without permission, let alone a bloody barbeque grill!
Graham had one drink there and then set off for the stadium to try and offload the now spare ticket. Sadly it proved a fruitless exercise, so he gave in and went to find something to eat. Having bought and reluctantly consumed an overpriced, undercooked burger of some description, Graham went to find the merchandise shop to browse for something to take home with him. With kick-off still a whole hour away, he was rather surprised and put out to be told the shop was closed, and he would have to find a stand within the stadium if he wanted to obtain any souvenirs. Silently cursing, Graham made his way back towards his designated turnstile where once through the door he was met with a stern looking bloke ready to search him for anything he shouldn’t have. Safely through that, he made his way up to the concourse and to his seat ready for the pre-game festivities. The one advantage of the spare seat was that he could have the end seat and didn’t have to sit next to anyone – one side of him was empty, the other was the aisle.
Unfortunately, the entertainment consisted of some rapper bloke that Graham thought was rubbish, so that was a bummer. Then the game started and things went from bad to worse as Pittsburgh seemed intent on proving his fear of defeat was well-founded. There were moments of joy as they hauled themselves back into the game with a touchdown, but by half time, they were still down 20-10. A quick score in the second half looked to get the minority Pittsburgh fans going again, twirling their yellow towels round in the air, before yet more defensive ineptitude saw them down by ten again. Then came the killer blow – an interception – that resulted in the Steelers going 34-17 behind. Thankfully, another touchdown and a field goal got them back within a touchdown of forcing an overtime period. The game went right down to the wire, as Pittsburgh advanced to the Minnesota goal line with no time outs and needing to stop the clock on a regular basis. Then, in a manner that Graham was all too familiar with through his football team, right at the death, any chance of snatching glory was cruelly snuffed out thanks to the Quarterback being tackled and losing the ball in one fell swoop. With only eight seconds left, Graham took the decision to try and get out and over to the tube station before the manic rush. He was not alone, as the exits quickly became clogged with people with the same idea. Outside the stadium there were blokes trying to sell t-shirts and scarves, none of which looked particularly kosher to Graham. He eventually made it to the tube station and on to the platform. He was relieved that all he had to do was stay on the same train and he would end up at Stratford station and then just had the short walk to Charlie’s flat.