Sneak Peek – The Rookie

Sneak peek of the first chapter of The Rookie, the first novella in the new soccer series set in and around Elizabeth Creek.

Saving a four-year-old’s’ life wasn’t on Lindsay McAllister’s To Do list this morning, but she was glad she was in the right place at the right time for once.
She’d been spreading woodchip in the junior playground at the Lion’s Park by the river when a soccer ball careened out of nowhere and headed straight for a toddler on a spring-loaded seesaw. Without thinking, Lindsay took a stride to her right, stretched out her hand, and parried the ball away, saving the toddler from certain death, or what would have felt like it to the poor kid. His mother raced over, horrified and thankful, checking on her son who was still rocking back and forth oblivious to the danger he’d been in only moments before.
For Lindsay, it was instinct. Years of honing her skills in the goalbox of the clubs she’d played for years ago meant she’d made the save without thinking. After ensuring both the toddler and his mum were okay, Lindsay continued on with her work.
She spread the last of the woodchip, picked up the wheelbarrow and pushed it back to the trailer. As she pulled more woodchip into the wheelbarrow, her phone buzzed. She pulled it out of her pocket and jammed it between her ear and shoulder.
“Mac’s Maintenance,” she answered, leaning the shovel against the side of the trailer.
“Sorry I haven’t been answering,” her contractor, Rod said.
“I know you’re not busy,” Lindsay half-joked. “What’s happening?”
“I’m trying to get your pay together,” Rod said. “I’m sorry it’s late, it’s just the bank’s being a pain in my arse.”
“Third time,” Lindsay said, taking the phone with her hand and leaning on the back of her ute. “I can’t live on air, Rod.”
“I know, mate. Believe me, I know.” There was a silence on the other end of the phone. Lindsay could picture Rod in his office, raking his hands over his face. “Look, I can transfer some money this afternoon for you, a part-payment, just until I get paid next week. Is that okay?”
Lindsay pinched the bridge of her nose. Something was better than nothing. “Yep, fine.” She could hear Rod’s relieved sigh on the other end of the phone.
“Thanks, Linds.”
“You can thank me by paying your bills,” Lindsay said, and hung up. She pocketed her phone and picked up the shovel. It was days like today that she really wondered why she decided to start her own business. Chasing up creditors was not what she wanted to spend her time on. But at least she got to work outside in places like this.
“You’ve still got it,” a voice said behind her.
Lindsay spun around to see where the voice had come from.
“The stride, the reach. I’d know that form anywhere.”
Lindsay squinted. The voice sounded familiar but she couldn’t quite place the face. The face rolled her eyes.
“Oh my God, Linds. Really? You don’t remember your partner in crime from Sydney?”
Lindsay took a moment, but memories of her time playing semi-pro soccer in Sydney popped up. “Den?”
Den grinned and stepped forward, grabbing Lindsay in a hug. She stood back and held Lindsay at arm’s length.
“Sorry,” Lindsay said. “It’s just…”
“Been a long time,” Den finished.
Lindsay did some mental maths. Twenty years is what she finally came up with. She blew out a breath. “You cut your hair off.”
Den laughed. “Occupational thing,” Den replied, running her fingers through her messy crop. “I see you’re still cutting your own.”
“Clippers are cheap,” Lindsay shrugged. “What are you doing up here? Holiday?”
“Work,” Den replied. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard but we’ve got a pre-season game here tomorrow.”
“You’re still playing?” Lindsay shouldn’t be surprised. Out of all the players Lindsay had played with, Denise Hartley was the most likely to still be playing in her forties.
“Coaching,” Denise replied.
“Wow,” Lindsay said. That certainly didn’t surprise her. Den ate, slept and breathed soccer. So did Lindsay, once. “Pop did mention a game this weekend but I thought it was just locals.”
“That’s ours,” Den confirmed. “Are you coming?”
Lindsay turned away. “Nope.”
“Let me rephrase that,” Den said. “I’d like you to come and have a look at a ‘keeper of mine.”
“I don’t do soccer anymore, Den,” Lindsay replied. She shrugged. “Sorry.”
“That save back there says otherwise,” Den said, teasing.
Lindsay ignored her. Working outdoors had kept her fit, and the ball wasn’t that far away, so she would’ve been disappointed if she’d missed it.
“Just take a look at her,” Den said. “She’s something special.”
“They all are at that level,” Lindsay said. How many times had she heard that exact same thing said about herself? It was a meaningless thing to say. She picked up the shovel and pushed it into the woodchip on the trailer and dumped a pile into the wheelbarrow.
“Ellie’s just got that certain something,” Den said. “Like you did.”
Lindsay scoffed.
“No, really, Linds. She does. But there’s something stopping her from reaching her potential.”
Lindsay turned. “What’s that got to do with me?”
“I just want you to take a look tomorrow. Watch her play and tell me what you see. I can’t work out what’s keeping her back.”
“I’m busy,” Lindsay said.
“I thought you might say that,” Den said with a chuckle. “Here.”
She held out a DVD in a clear case.
“A DVD?” Lindsay joked. “You’re still living in the 90s.”
Den smiled. “I wasn’t sure you’d get an email. I know what you’re like with that stuff.”
Lindsay couldn’t argue with that. She only had social media because it was a necessary evil for her business. She took the DVD from Den. She figured Den would go away if she took it, but she had no intention of watching it.
Den checked her watch. “I have to get to training, but let me know what you think. My business card’s in there too.” She turned and walked away.
“I can’t promise I’ll watch it,” Lindsay called after her.
“Then don’t,” Den said. “But she could be better than you.”
Lindsay pulled a face at Den’s back. No-one could be better than Lindsay was at her best. It wasn’t something Lindsay was egotistical about. She was great back then. A potential superstar before women could even be such a thing. But she never got to reach her potential on the field. She’d made her peace with it and had moved on.
Lindsay dropped the DVD into her lunchbox. There was no way she was watching it, and no way in hell was she having anything to do with professional soccer again.