Chapter Twenty Six: Written All Over Her Face
Running laps were one of Matthew's most favorite things to do. Each practice he would try to complete more in the time given. It was like he could outrun all his problems if he went fast enough.
Having passed Nathaniel twice, Matthew slowed down as he saw the younger player look and motion him over.
"What's up?" Matthew asked.
"Nothing...have you seen Mia lately?" Nathaniel asked.
Tensing up a little, Matthew shook his head. Does he know? Matthew asked himself. No one other than Oliver knew about his apparent feelings for Mia.
"I saw her at the coffee shop with Ryan..." Nathaniel admitted.
Biting on the inside of his cheek, Matthew struggled to contain his discontent. Mia doesn't drink coffee...Matthew remembered. Oliver had asked her once, and she had said no. Something about how one of her friends had reacted badly to coffee and had been taken to the hospital.
"Do you think their going out?" Nathaniel asked.
"I don't know...why? Were you planning to ask her out?" Matthew tried to sound like he was teasing, when in all honesty his insides were starting to knot.
"No! It's just that you told me about Ryan..."
In one sense Matthew was relieved. At least Nathaniel had no intention of asking Mia out. On the other hand, Nathaniel had brought up a valid point...Ryan had been one of the many resident players with a certain reputation...not that Matthew didn't have a record...it was just in comparison Matthew looked almost angelic. At least he thought so...
"It's not our place..." Matthew mumbled, if it was up to him, he would have been at Mia's office right now.
"Since when do you care if it's your place or not?" Oliver's voice piped up.
"Were you listening?" Matthew asked, annoyed. Oliver gave him a grin, running beside him.
"I was. So what are you talking about? What's not your place?" Oliver asked.
Before Matthew could stop Nathaniel, the younger player had blurted it out.
"I think Mia's going out with Ryan...I was just asking Matt-"
"Do you two always plan to interfere in her life?" Oliver interrupted, pointedly. Matthew winced...he wasn't always interfering in her life! Was he?
"We're not interfering...just advising." Nathaniel mumbled.
"She can make her own decisions." Oliver chastised them.
"Alright, alright." Nathaniel muttered raising his hands in defeat, before speeding away.
Confused, Matthew turned to Oliver.
"What the hell! Usually you're all defensive. 'Matt be good or else!'" Matthew mimicked the older player's voice. "Suddenly, you're telling me it's okay to let her do whatever she wants. It's Ryan...he's almost as bad as Jason!" Matthew said heatedly. "Are you punishing me?"
Oliver burst out laughing.
"No, I'm not punishing you. Though you know you should be for how you treated Mia." Oliver told him, as they continued to run.
Nearing the end of the track, Matthew veered off on to the grass with Oliver following. Having completed their time, they grabbed their water bottles and towels. As they stood catching their breaths, Oliver put a hand on Matthew's shoulder.
"Look...as much as I want to try and keep Mia from meeting losers like Ryan...I can't. She's old enough to figure it out. All of us can only try to keep the idiots amongst ourselves away from her. The more you try to isolate her, the more you risk her hating you." He tried to reason with Matthew. "Although...you are one of those guys who should be hated."
"Ha...ha..." Matthew said dryly.
"Sorry, Matt. Just be good to her. Let her see it on her own. All she needs is time. Besides this should take your ego down a notch or two." Oliver said, messing up Matthew's hair.
"Funny." Matthew muttered darkly. "I'm glad one of us is enjoying this."
Rushing to put on her earrings, Mia appraised herself in the bathroom mirror. Wearing a deep blue frock, and black heels; Mia thought she looked alright. Putting the finishing touches to her eyes, lining them with black eyeliner, Mia hoped she hadn't over done it.
Stacie had been shrieking with joy, when Mia had told her that for once she was going out on what would seem like a date. Though she did seem a little down when Mia had told her about Ryan. Who was she hoping I'd go out with? Mia wondered.
Hearing the door open, Mia left the bathroom only to see Matthew and Oliver step in. Right...match in two days, Mia thought, just my luck!
As she looked over at them, she couldn't help but think that Matthew had seemed a little subdued over the last two weeks. Mia couldn't figure out why. Usually he wasn't so brooding...well apart from the first few months, Mia corrected herself. Lately he just seemed distracted.
"Heading out?" Oliver asked her, as they caught sight of her. Matthew stared at her with what seemed like longing. I'm just imagining things, Mia thought clearing her head.
"Yea." Mia replied.
"Where?" Matthew asked.
Mia sighed. Between the two of them and Nathaniel, they had the protective act down to a science. Nathaniel had already asked her the exact same thing.
"Dinner...and a movie." She told him. "Do you two have plans?"
"I have to meet Ariana...she has dinner at her friend's house. I'll be back tomorrow. Matthew is staying." Oliver told her.
One look at Matthew told her he wasn't too happy about it. For a second Mia feared he was back to his former self. Luckily Matthew put that thought to rest.
"Have anything good to watch?" Matthew asked her, staring at the ground. His voice wasn't cold, Mia felt slightly relieved.
"All the Harry Potter movies, I think I have a few TV series on DVD...umm there's Flashpoint, Gossip Girl, The Vampire diaries, and The Big Bang Theory...just check the drawer there are a few others." She told him, motioning to the drawer under the television set.
"So who are you going to dinner with?" Oliver asked her.
"Ryan...we went out for coffee...well hot chocolate...we met up a few times." She told him, squirming. She hated it when anyone asked her questions pertaining to her dates, although she was sure both of them already knew who she was going with.
"Okay." Oliver didn't sound like he minded, on the other hand Matthew looked like he minded it very much.
"You have my cell number, right?" Oliver asked her.
"Yes." Mia answered, a little confused.
"Do you have Matthew's and Nathaniel's?" He asked her.
"No...why?" Mia finally asked.
"In case of emergency, we should be able to reach you and you – us." He told her, as-a-matter-of-factly. He motioned for her to hand her phone over. Mia reluctantly gave it to Matthew, who put in both his and Nathaniel's number. After prattling off her own number, Mia stood there a little annoyed. This is just so they can check up on me, she suspected.
As she got out her favorite knee length black trench coat, Oliver put his stuff in their room, while Matthew flipped through channels on the TV.
"I'll be seeing you." Oliver said, as he walked out of the apartment.
Mia waved to him, before heading to the kitchen to find something to drink. As she got out a glass, a knock sounded on the door. Matthew was too quick for her, reaching the door before she could.
"Hey...Matthew. Is Mia there?" She heard Ryan ask hesitantly.
"Yea, she'll be right out." Matthew replied, opening the door fully. Mia saw Ryan walk in.
"When you told me you were in the North West wing...I thought you were joking." He told her.
"Nope...the East wing was full." She told him.
"So you're her roommate?" He asked Matthew.
"Yea. Me and Oliver."
"Oh...I saw him walking in the parking lot. Wow..." Mia cringed as she heard the interest in his voice.
"I'm ready...let's go." She said, coming towards him.
Tuning to Matthew, she saw him look away.
"See you later." She told him, before rushing out of the room with Ryan in tow.
Checking his phone once again, Matthew couldn't keep himself from hoping that Mia would call. It had only been half an hour since she had left, and here he was hoping she would come back.
I'm pathetic, he told himself.
Finally deciding to watch 'National Treasure' Matthew settled himself for a long night. But it didn't stop him from checking his phone again.
"How long have you been working with Felix?" Ryan asked her.
"I just started this season." Mia told him, wondering if they had already covered the subject during one of their coffee dates.
Picking her way through her spaghetti bolognese, Mia considered telling Stacie to pick her dates next time. It was obvious Ryan wasn't her type...he had spent most of their dinner talking about his house in the Cotswalds, his dog, his career, and his ex-girlfriend. He sounded as though he was still hung up on her.
Although Mia didn't mind not being asked about herself...she wasn't one who enjoyed hearing about how her date had met his ex-girlfriend.
"So how is it living with Oliver and Matthew?" Ryan hadn't forgotten about her living situation. What a surprise...Mia thought darkly. He hadn't asked about much else but her work.
"It's fine. They have their own places now and they only come two days before a match." She told him.
"That must be nice." Ryan commented.
Mia didn't know how to take his words, so she stayed silent.
"So...is Matt seeing anyone?" Ryan asked, all of a sudden.
Caught off gaurd, Mia could feel her stomach knot. She hadn't ever thought that Matthew could be going out with someone. Someone who wasn't her. She had no idea if he was or not...but a guy like Matthew...there was no way he could be single? Was there?
"I don't know...I don't ask..." Mia mumbled, hoping that he would change the subject. Ryan did, he changed the subject back to him. Telling her about the time when he played against London FC after his transfer.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Mia returned her attention to her food.
I've got to find something to do, Matthew thought for the millionth time. He was bored out of his mind. He had stopped the movie halfway through, and had been staring at his phone for the better part of the last hour.
Please ring! He couldn't stop himself from hoping.
Getting off the couch, at last, Matthew moved sluggishly towards the kitchen. Rummaging through the cupboards, he found a bag of chips and one of M&Ms. Walking back to the couch, Matthew put the phone on the coffee table and turned the TV on once more.
Flipping through the channels, Matthew found a documentary on the life span of the sun. This is as good as its going to get...Matthew thought with a shake of his head. He glanced towards his phone once more, before returning his attention to the screen.
Sitting in the darkened theater, Mia moved away from Ryan's roaming hands. He took every opportunity to take her hands, or put his hand on her leg. It was getting on her nerves.
As he tried to put his arms around her shoulders Mia got up.
"I'm going to get a drink." She told him.
Walking out in to the light, Mia moved slowly towards the counter and asking for a Coke. As she paid for it, Mia could feel herself dreading her return to her seat.
Taking her time, Mia sipped on her drink before entering the room. Ryan had picked an action movie. Mia couldn't even remember the name of it. She had lost interest within the first five minutes. It was finally nearing it's end...she would finally be able to go home.
As soon as she had taken her seat, Ryan's hand crept up her leg. Cringing, Mia pulled up her legs on to the seat.
Once the movie finished, Ryan led Mia out. It was past midnight. They headed for his car.
"So, did you enjoy the movie?" He asked her, with a sly grin.
"It was something..." Mia said, hoping she wouldn't hear from him ever again.
Sitting in his car, Mia waited for him to start the engine.
"Do you want to come back to my place? We can have drinks." Ryan asked her, his hand starting to move towards her again.
"I don't drink." She told him, seriously.
"Well, there are other things we can do."
"I think I should get home. I have to be up early for work." Mia shuddered at what he was implying.
"I'll drop you off in the morning." He pressed on.
"No...I don't think so." Mia said, hoping he would leave the subject alone.
"What are you worried about? It's just a bit of fun." He pushed.
Mia froze, his words were all too familiar. He knows! Mia thought with repulsion. Wanting nothing more than to punch him, she controlled her temper. It's not a bit of fun...at least not for me!
"Look, I'm really tired...I just want to go home." She tried once more.
"You can rest at my place." He told her, starting to get impatient.
Clearly, she wasn't getting anywhere with Ryan. Checking for her purse and phone, Mia opened the car door.
"Where are you going?" Ryan asked, sounding angry.
"Home." She answered.
"The only way you'll get home is if I drive you."
"Good luck with that." Mia scoffed, slamming the door shut, she started to walk back to the theater. I am so not going on another date...for a long, long time! Mia thought darkly.
"Come back here. I'm not done with you yet." Ryan called out after her.
"I'm done with you. Have a nice life Ryan. Don't cry too much when our team flattens yours once again." Mia retorted, keeping her impulse to slap him in check. You sick jerk...she thought angrily, there's no way he wasn't one of HIS friends...she thought vehemently.
As she walked in through the glass doors, Mia saw Ryan's car speed away. That was close, Mia thought with a shudder. Definitely not going out again!
Pulling out her phone, she looked for a number she could call. Who would come to get her at this time of night?
He had just turned off the lights and gotten in to his bed, when his cell phone rang. Matthew fell off his bed as he grabbed it from under his bed, having put it there so he wouldn't check up on it constantly.
"Hello?" Matthew answered it, without checking his caller ID.
"Hello...are you still awake?" It was Mia's timid voice on the other end.
"Yea...why?" Matthew asked. Wasn't she supposed to be with Ryan right now?
"Can you pick me up? Please." She asked him.
"Yea. Where are you?" Matthew said without hesitating. It was obvious that something had gone wrong. He would ask her later.
"At the theater." She gave him the directions.
"I'll be there in a few." He told her before hanging up.
Jumping out of bed, Matthew pulled on a t-shirt and pants. Rushing to put on his shoes and grabbing his jacket and keys, he headed out the door in speed.
Ryan is a dead man, Matthew repeated as he drove to where Mia was. He could only guess what had transpired between the two, and with each possibility Matthew found himself clenching the steering wheel harder and harder.
Parking in front of the theatre, Matthew watched as Mia walked towards him. She was upset, that much was written all over her face. Opening the door for her from the inside, he watched as she sat in the car.
Fighting the urge to pull her in to his arms, Matthew returned his attention to driving them home.
"Thank you." He heard her quiet voice.
"You're welcome." He told her, taking a glance at her.
As the street lights passed over head, Matthew could see her jaw was clenched.
"Want to talk about it?" He asked, a little hesitant. She didn't say anything. Thinking that it would have been better to stay quiet, Matthew was surprised when he heard her voice.
"He was expecting something I wasn't about to give." She whispered.
"I'm sorry." He told her, meaning it. His dislike for Ryan growing with every second that passed.
"Whatever..." Mia shrugged it off.
They drove home in silence. Shutting off the engine in the parking lot, Matthew unbuckled his belt and waited for her to get out, before getting out himself and locking the car.
"Do you want to watch something?" He heard Mia ask as they walked towards the building that was looming over them.
Knowing that she probably needed a distraction, and figuring that he wouldn't be able to sleep now that he was fully awake, Matthew knew what he wanted.
"Sure...what do you have in mind?"