The whistle blew, sounding the end of the match. Standing up from her seat, Mia started to walk along side Calvin and Kevin towards the tunnel, as they followed the rest of the team. Looking back, she saw some of the players from her roster still on the pitch, exchanging their shirts with one of their friends from the other team. A few were talking as they walked along the sidelines.
"So how are you feeling?" Calvin asked as they neared the entrance of the tunnel.
"I'm just happy to be back." She said, smiling.
"I bet your roster is too." Kyle spoke, with a grin. "Never have I met such a bunch of whiners."
"You haven't seen both your rosters without you." Mia retorted, as Calvin laughed.
"Fair enough." They mumbled.
"Hey Mia!" She heard from behind her. Turning around, Mia saw a man with glasses waving at her.
"See you on the bus." Calvin told her, before he and Kyle walked in to the tunnel.
As the man came closer to her, Mia finally recognized who it was.
"Hi Alex." She said, remembering that they had met at one of the team dinners.
"It's nice to see you again." He said, smiling.
Wearing black pants, and a white long sleeved shirt; Alex came to stand in front her. A DSLR camera around his neck, Mia saw the press card pinned to his shirt.
"Yea, it is. So you're on duty then?" She asked.
"Not right now. But I was. I'm glad you're alright." He told her.
"Maybe I'll see you later..." Alex said giving her another warm smile, while leaving the words hanging between them as he walked towards the other members of the press.
"Maybe..." Mia mumbled.
Walking inside the tunnel, Mia's thoughts were interrupted as her cell phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, Mia smiled.
"So, you've finally decided to wake up, or was your hibernation interrupted?" She asked, smirking.
"Shut up...I called didn't I." Came the reply from a disgruntled Stacie.
"You told me, Mia we're going to hit the town on Monday. I only need a day of sleep. Do you realize it's Wednesday? You slept for two whole days." Mia said, laughing.
"Don't remind me...I'm appalled at my own actions, Mia. I thought coming back to England would be as easy as going to Australia...it didn't feel so long then. I bet my students are wondering if I died...then again they might just be hoping when I will return. I'm sure Garland's scared them half to death." Stacie said, as Mia laughed.
"You let Garland take care of your group while you slept?"
"Well, he said he would need a week to get to know their cases and figure out where they fit best with our old research group...so I took it as a week off. Besides those little monsters are lucky they got rooms on campus. I don't think my parents would have liked five black holes at the dinner table." Stacie retorted.
"Aren't you the least bit worried they'll get in to trouble without you?" Mia asked, questioningly, as she walked down to where the team was supposed to meet after changing. It was a short walk from the change rooms, and close to where the bus would be arriving to take them back to the team complex.
"Not really. Garland said he would tell them the rules. But I'm not stupid enough to take chances. I'll be staying with them next week. Are you done questioning me so that I can tell you why I called?" Stacie said, sounding annoyed.
"Alright, go on." Mia said, looking around to see who else was around. There were a few senior staff scattered around, and some players chatting about the game. Other than that, Mia didn't see any of her guys or the other two doctors. They were probably still catching up on plays, Felix was most likely with them.
"So, we are hitting the grad lounge tonight! Are you ready?" Stacie said, sounding excited.
"Honestly? I am ready to relax." Mia said, getting a surprised gasp from her friend.
"Ready to leave work already? What gives?"
Laughing Mia, shook her head.
"Don't get me wrong, I love work. But I think seeing my best friend after a whole year puts me in the mood to play hooky today."
"How many painkillers have you taken today?"
"You've never ditched work for me before!"
"You weren't in Australia then." Mia said, pointedly.
"Good answer. So, I'll see you at six?" Stacie asked, after laughing at Mia.
"Yea, sure. I'll pick you up." Mia said, smiling. Though she wasn't up for going to The Grad Lounge, she was more than happy to see Stacie in person.
"Alright. Make sure you bring the Ferrari." Stacie teased. Not like I have a choice, Mia thought.
"Urgh...just for you." She said, as she saw Oliver, and Nathaniel coming in to view. "I'll see you then."
Hanging up, she smiled as the players approached her.
"So, who got stuck with press duty?" She asked, noticing Matthew was absent. Though he wasn't playing yet, the press had always pushed Felix to get his words on the match.
"Felix, Ivan, Lucas - the man of the match of course...and Matt. He's probably pulling out his hair. He hates Lucas' detailed answers." Nathaniel snickered.
"So are you going to come out with us for the celebration?" Oliver asked.
The team had won three-nil as they played against Wolverhampton.
"Sorry guys, but I am meeting up with my friend. She's came back from Australia for some work. She's been planning a night out for the last few months." Mia said happily, as more of the team started to appear.
"Wow...you're going out without anyone dragging you. Who are you and what have you done with my doctor?" Nathaniel asked.
Shaking her head, as Nathaniel teased her; she saw Matthew come down at last.
"So how did it go?" Oliver asked, before she could.
"We are not speaking of this ever again." He said, rather viciously.
"That bad, yea?" Nathaniel asked, as Matthew glared at him.
"I didn't play, and I was being asked about the strategy. It was insulting."
"Don't worry, you can drown your sorrows in a bottle." Oliver said, as Mia and Nathaniel stifled their laughter.
"Let's go." Matthew said, moving towards the exit. The bus had finally arrived to take them back to their own grounds.
Filing on to the bus, Mia knew better than to sit near Matthew. He was not in an approachable mood it seemed. Instead, she sat next to Nathaniel before Oliver could choose. Smiling apologetically at the older footballer, she saw him grin. 'You owe me.' He mouthed, taking a seat next to Matthew.
Turning back to her seat mate, she saw Nathaniel looking outside.
"So how was it while I was away? You never told me what went on." She asked.
"It was alright. But you know, having a doctor like you...it's kind of hard having to go to the other ones." Nathaniel said, with a grin. "I'm glad you're back, Mia."
"Glad to be back." She said, smiling.
"So did you meet Matt's new G-F?" Nathaniel asked.
"Nevarra? Yea, she came by for dinner last week." Mia replied, careful to keep her emotions at bay.
"Do you know, Matt ambushed us at the movies? He calls to ask where me and Oliver were and then told us he was coming. We had no idea she was coming with him." Nathaniel said, sounding rather annoyed.
"He did that to me, Leon, and Lina too." Mia said, she didn't understand why Matthew had surprised all of them. From Nathaniel's tone, it sounded as though he hadn't pulled that move before.
"She's something, though. I guess, I'm just irritated with Matt." Nathaniel said, looking out through the window once more.
"What did you think of her?" He asked.
"She seems interesting." Mia said, making sure she didn't hesitate. No one needed to know that she harboured feelings for Matthew.
"I guess..." Nathaniel reluctantly agreed. "Time will tell."
Not wanting to discuss Matthew's choice in girlfriend, Mia thought of something to do for the rest of their ride home. Pulling out a sheet of paper from one of the folders she had brought with her, Mia took a pen from her pocket and drew an enlarged number sign.
"Want to play?" She asked, Nathaniel.
"Sure." He smiled.
"Was press duty really that bad?" Oliver asked, sitting beside a fuming Matthew.
"Bad? They kept asking me my opinion on the plays, and how I thought the game needed to be improved. I wasn't even playing!" Matthew vented.
"Yea, but that's never stopped you from having a strong opinion before." Oliver grinned.
"Funny." Matthew sneered.
"I know. So how was the whole family dinner with your new girlfriend?" Oliver asked.
Having spent the days leading up to the game at hydro & physiotherapy; Matthew had yet to fill in his best friend about the ill fated dinner.
"Lina wanted to kill me and Nevarra." He told his friend.
"Oh, so she too didn't appreciate being forced into meeting your new girl?" Oliver snickered.
"I didn't force you to meet her." Matthew said.
"Not telling me and Nate she was coming counts as force." Oliver retorted.
"Well I didn't force Lina...I just told her last minute." Matthew admitted.
"So what happened?"
"Nevarra confused Lina and Mia as sisters...and called them cute. She just asked them a lot of questions which didn't go down well with Lina. She would have told me off if she had the chance." Matthew told him. The fiasco dinner had been couldn't be put into words.
Hearing a familiar laugh, Matthew looked up to see Mia and Nathaniel huddled over something, scribbling.
"I win again!" He heard Mia exclaim.
"No! I had you there!" Nathaniel argued.
What are they up to? He wondered, as Oliver looked to where he was staring.
"So how did Mia react to Nevarra?"
"She didn't seem to mind." Matthew said, wishing she had.
"I don't understand why you're doing this? I thought - "
"Oliver, I'm not good enough. Just drop it." Matthew interrupted, still watching the object of his affection.
She playfully pushed Nathaniel to the window.
They were crouched over something once more.
"Anyway, where are we going tonight?" Matthew asked, finally breaking away and facing Oliver.
"Indigo, and then Nathaniel suggested going on a bar crawl."
"So who's driving?"
"I am. As well as Ivan and Lucas. Take your pick." Oliver grinned.
As the bus came to a halt at their team grounds, Matthew and Oliver moved to stand, lining up with the others.
As they moved off the bus, Matthew was standing where Mia and Nathaniel were still sitting and laughing. He finally saw what they were laughing at. They had been playing games. Tic-tac-toe boards had been drawn around the paper, scribbles, and doodles filled spaces. He felt a little left out...there was always a part of him that felt annoyed when he saw Nathaniel with Mia. They got along so well, Matthew couldn't understand why Nathaniel wasn't interested in dating her...I just don't get it, he thought again.
Once they had all gotten off the bus, Matthew saw Mia heading towards the Ferrari.
"Going somewhere?" He called out to her.
She gave him a smirk.
"Out. See you later!" She said, getting in to the car, before he could say anymore.
The engine roared to life as she started the car. Standing in the fading headlights, Matthew watched as Mia reversed the car and sped away.
"Coming Matthew?" Nathaniel called from behind him.
"Yea." He said, doing his best to put his thoughts about her away, as he headed for Oliver's car.
Stopping in front of Stacie's house, she saw the girl wave to her as she walked towards the car.
"Nice ride." Stacie complimented much to Mia's dismay.
"Never say that in front of Matthew." Mia warned, she could picture his smug face, it would thrill him to know that her best friend approved of his car.
"He must like you a lot to trust you with a car like this." Stacie smirked.
"No! He has more of these in that underground garage of his." Mia retorted, concentrating on the road.
The route to The Grad Lounge, was a familiar one. She could probably walk there blindfolded. Stacie and Mia had spent many nights laughing and talking at one of the tables in the lounge.
"So did you get rid of the bandages?" Stacie asked.
"No...I have a week left. Matthew was lucky to get rid of the cast early."
"It was a minor fracture. Really small. Plus I gave him some homeopathy."
"What did his doctors say?"
"I am his doctor. I said yes." Mia smiled.
"Cute. But seriously."
"They didn't know. They were surprised that it was gone. But I don't think it would have taken so long to heal. I saw the x-ray."
Driving along a winding road, they were quiet.
"Can you believe we're finally going back?" Stacie asked, excitedly.
"Honestly, no. I thought once our school days were over, we'd never go back. I didn't go there all summer when I worked at the university."
"That's because I wasn't with you. Or else you would have gone!"
"No..." Mia said, knowing Stacie was right. "So ready to meet Julian again?"
Glancing at Stacie, she could see her best friend starting to blush.
"You still like him!" Mia teased, enjoying the role reversal.
"No! It's been a year. I mean a lot can happen in that time." Stacie argued.
"Yes, I still like him. But he could be taken." Stacie said, giving in for once.
"Who knows..." Mia said mysteriously, as she parked the car.
Getting out and locking the doors of the Ferrari, Mia slipped the keys deep into her jean pockets. She wasn't keen on calling Matthew if she locked herself out of the car.
Lit with neon letters, they headed in to The Grad Lounge. Entering, Mia breathed in the familiar smell of the place. It looked the same as it had when she was working at the university. Still crowded with panic stricken or relaxing students; the place was abuzz.
From a corner Mia heard their names being called.
"Hey! Stacie, Mia, over here!"
Stacie led the way as they moved through the crowded tables towards the group of familiar faces.
As they approached the table, Mia recognized some of the faces from her group as well as some that she had met over the summer, along with those who worked with Stacie's group. There were also some new faces.
"We never thought we'd see you here again." said Mia's former group leader, Michael, as he got up to give Stacie and Mia a hug.
"Stacie dragged me here." Mia grinned, as some her old colleagues started to laugh.
"Nothing's changed then." said another familiar face.
"Sorry Colin, Mia will always be Mia." Stacie said, as they both pulled up chairs.
Sitting down, Mia looked over at who was present. Gina, the lab tech was there; as well as Austin who used to share her lab bench, Melissa who used to sit across from her, and Dexter who Mia had met over the summer, and had taken Mia's spot in the group when she left.
"It's been a while you two. What have you been up to?" Michael asked, as a server came to ask what they would like for drinks.
"I've been teaching first years and leading a research group in Australia. We're collaborating with Garland." Stacie said, after ordering herself a glass of red wine, while Mia ordered a coke.
As the group turned to look at Mia, she squirmed.
"I'm doing some work as an injury specialist." Mia said, vaguely.
"Oh, wow. So where are you working? A private clinic or something? Philipps never told us the details." Colin said, intrigued.
Before she could answer, the bar tender had come up to them bringing the drinks.
"I should have known it was you who ordered the coke." He grinned down at her, setting the drinks on the table.
"Mia! Stacie! How are you?" Julian said, pulling them both out of their seats to hug them.
A few feet taller than both Mia and Stacie, wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt that showed off his athletic build; Julian looked just like Mia remembered. His light brown hair swept away from his face; and his hazel eyes sparkling. The owner of the bar, gave them another warm smile.
"We're fine. How are you?" Mia asked, noticing a blushing and incoherent Stacie was unable to answer the question.
"Good. Business has been going great." Julian replied. "You know, Mia, I still get people asking about where the crazy singing girl is who used to study here?"
The group laughed, as Mia flushed with embarrassment. It was clear all of them were up to speed on her old antics.
"Come on, Mia we want to hear you sing!" Gina smiled.
Not wanting to oblige, Mia sat back in her chair.
"I didn't write any exams, so I guess not tonight." She said, trying to get out of it.
"Come on, Mia. You said you would." Stacie whined.
"No..." Mia tried saying forcefully, but her words were drowned out by the others telling her to get on the stage.
"Come on, Mia. I've kept an updated log with you're favourites...even those Canadian bands you liked!" Julian said, grinning.
To her horror, Julian walked on to the stage and took hold of the microphone.
"A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a student who used to sing here after her exams." He started.
"Please kill me now." Mia muttered.
"Tonight, she is back here, and I hope she'll give us the pleasure of hearing her lovely voice. Let's make some noise for...Mia!" Julian finished, as the others in the bar started to whistle and shout.
"No way am I going up there!" Mia said, crossing her arms over her chest. She hated being put on the spot.
"Come on, Mia." Stacie pleaded with her.
"Mia, Mia, Mia." Chanted her old research group.
"Come on up, Mia." Julian spoke in to the microphone.
"No! N-n-n-n-no! What would I sing?" Mia asked, feeling cornered.
"Pick a song! Anything. Just go!" Stacie said, as she pushed Mia on to the steps of the stage.
Not having a choice, Mia nervously walked up the steps to where Julian was standing with the mike and a huge book.
"I told you we missed you, Mia." He whispered, handing her the mike and book before stepping off the stage.
Racking her brain for a moment, she flipped through the book. Mia thought of what song she could sing, on such short notice.
"So what's the deal with this bar crawl? Do you even know where we're going?" Matthew asked Nathaniel, as Oliver drove along a narrow road.
"Yea, it's just along that street. It's a really nice place." Nathaniel said. "Besides, I haven't seen you for a while now that you're going out with Nevarra. How come she didn't come with you tonight?"
"She had some plans with her girlfriends." Matthew answered, he had almost forgotten about her.
"So where are we headed, Nathaniel?" He asked, not seeing any sign of a club or a rowdy bar.
"I found this place last week on a bar crawl, since you left me to my own devices. I was all by myself." Nathaniel said, jabbing Matthew in the side.
"it's not my fault that you don't have a girlfriend." Matthew retorted.
"It's your fault you stuck me with yours during movie night. I thought if I asked you to come you'd bring her along." Nathaniel said, pointedly.
Ignoring the jibe, Matthew looked outside the window. Oliver had driven them to some tavern, or something. Parking the car, Oliver motioned for them to step out.
"What an original name." Matthew muttered, staring up at the neon sign.
Entering the bar, Matthew was surprised to see how full the place was. Music was playing, and the voice singing along to it sounded familiar.
As he looked up on to the stage, Matthew was shocked.
"Is that..." Nathaniel started.
"Mia..." Matthew finished.
"She has a nice voice." Oliver commented, as he grinned at Matthew.
Standing at the back, they watched as the girl they had known as their doctor, finished the song. It wasn't long before she stepped off the stage, making Matthew wistful that they had come earlier so he could have heard the entire song.
"I would never have guessed doctors had such an interesting night life." Nathaniel said, sounding highly amused.
"Maybe it activates around other doctors?" Matthew said, a little snarkily.
"Jealous that she's never sung for you?" Nathaniel asked, snidely.
"No..." Matthew said, with a little less conviction than he had intended.
"Uh huh." Nathaniel said, sounding sceptical. "Come on let's go say hi."
"What? No!" Matthew said. Nathaniel and Oliver ignored him, and walked towards her.
Sighing, Matthew followed. Trailing behind the other two footballers, he saw Mia chatting animatedly with a group of friends as they approached the table where she was sitting.
As they reached her table, Matthew noticed how relaxed Mia appeared to be as she laughed at something one of her friends said. Staring at her, he tried to memorize this apparently care-free side of the girl. As she turned around, she caught sight of him and the guys. Doing a double take, Mia looked surprised to see them. The people around her quieted down as they noticed Mia staring at the three footballers.
Matthew watched her expression change from surprise to suspicion as she got up.
"Did you put a GPS locator on the car you gave me?" Mia asked Matthew snidely, as she walked up to them.
Smirking, Matthew shook his head.
"Would I ever do something like that?" He asked, sounding far too innocent, he heard Mia sigh with exasperation.
"I wouldn't put it past you." She retorted.
"Why don't you introduce us to your friends?" Nathaniel piped up, interrupting their exchange. It was then Matthew noticed the group of people staring at them with an awestruck expression.
"Okay...this is my best friend Stacie, and these are some of my old research group friends. That's Colin, Michael, Gina, Melissa, Austin, and Dexter." She said, pointing them out, Matthew recognized Stacie as the girl Mia had met at the airport last year. The guys were still watching them with open mouths.
"Guys, this is Matthew, that's Nathaniel, and that is Oliver. I work with them." Mia said, looking at the floor. He should have known she hadn't told them where she was working. From his time with Mia, she never spoke about her accomplishments or her work.
"You work for London FC?" Said one of the guys, Matthew thought was called Michael.
"Yea..." Mia said, a little sheepishly.
He watched as the guys started to talk to each other in a frenzy. Oliver caught his eye.
"Yea?" Matthew asked.
"Let's continue the crawl." Oliver suggested. It was obvious he was of the opinion to leave Mia to her friends. She needed some space.
"Yea, sure. Come on Nathaniel." He said, catching the attention of the younger player. Nathaniel was talking to the guys.
"Alright. See you, Mia."
"You guys are leaving already?" Mia asked them, sounding shocked. "You just got here."
"Got loads of places to go." Nathaniel told her, as Matthew found himself staring at her again.
"What?" She asked, directing her attention to Matthew as he turned to leave.
Although he wasn't about to tell her what he was really thinking, Matthew was quick to think of a departing shot.
"Remember...be home by midnight." He said with a parting smirk, as Mia visibly fumed.
Turning to follow his friends out of the bar, Matthew had only taken a few steps when he heard Mia's friend squeal.
"Aww, that's so cute."