Free Aftershock by Bernard Ashley

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Authors: Bernard Ashley
team they were against, as if Mr Hersee had decided that this match was important enough for a full sheet of paper instead of the usual half-sheet.

    And pinned to the wall next to the notice-board was a red shirt from a sports shop, still in its boxed creases. The next morning Mr Hersee gave a talk in assembly about it – ‘Pride in the School Colours’ – holding up the new shirt.
    â€˜Bet he’s only bought ten,’ Denny Clarke moaned. ‘If anyone don’t turn up, I’ll ‘ave to wear an ol’ vest.’
    Makis stared at the shirt again. Its smell of newness was special. It made him catch his breath, and he was sorry it had been taken down to be shown in assembly. He wouldn’t admit it, but every time he passed by, he made sure he got close enough to sniff it.
    Saturday morning the sixth of March! Cup Final! Makis knew his mother wouldn’t be going to Regent’s Park to see him play, but he’d tell her all about it afterwards – and perhaps somebody would take a picture of the team, if they won. It might even be in the paper. And…
    But he stopped himself thinking like that. Apart from an old grandmother in the north, there was no one back in Kefalonia to send the picture to, and that would have been the best bit of it – buying two or three copies of the paper for the village friends he no longer had.

Chapter Twelve
    The red football shirts were given out to the team during Friday assembly, when the twelve players on the teamsheet – including reserve Denny Clarke – were called out to the front. Mr Hersee presented the shirts with two hands as if they were military honours. And when Makis got his, he only just stopped himself from giving it a good sniff.
    â€˜Take these home and wear them tomorrow with pride!’
    Brian Cooper the goalie didn’t get a new jersey – his old green roll-neck jumper would have to do. And Denny Clarke had been right: he didn’t get one, either. The looks he gave Makis as the school sang ‘Glad That I Live Am I’ poisoned the meaning of the joyful words.
    â€˜Eleven o’clock tomorrow, Regent’s Park. Imeson Street will be in action.’ Mr Hersee waved a hand at the line of players as he jutted out his chin. ‘Let’s have a good turn-out to support the lads.’
    And that afternoon, Makis ran home with his face buried in the brand-new Cup Final shirt in Imeson Street red.

    The night before the big match he hardly slept. He kept touching the shirt lying folded on the chair beside his bed. In his head he passed the ball with the insides and the outsides of both feet, and in a glorious jiggling run he beat four players before slotting home a cunningly deceptive winner. But that was day-dreaming; he turned this way and that, trying to get off to sleep and mostly, he turned to the red shirt side; but he was still awake. Why were nights so long? Why couldn’t life be all days without these great waits in between? He wanted to be at Imeson Street, meeting up at ten o’clock for the team bus journey to Regent’s Park – not having to lie here in bed.
    In the end, he was deeply asleep when he felt himself being shaken.
    â€˜Wake up, Makis! Wake up! It’s half-past nine.’
    He was woken by his mother – but what mother was this today? It wasn’t the Sofia Magriotis who had bravely brought him to England. It wasn’t the woman who had found ten green bottles to line up on the living-room table. And it wasn’t the laughing woman who had invited a giant squid to jump up at Sally in her paddling pool. It was the red-faced and tearful mother Makis had found clutching his father’s mandolin, weeping and rocking herself in her bedroom those weeks back.
    â€˜What is it?’ He forced himself up to see his mother clamping a hand across her mouth as if she dare not speak. ‘
    She turned her face away and went from his room. He

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