“So, are you going to tell me why you needed to see me, or are we just going to throw this ball to each other for another hour?”
Pete held onto the rugby ball while he asked the question and looked at his friend with concern. Andy had asked to meet him round the back of the church. Said he had something he needed to talk about. It wasn’t like Andy to want to talk about stuff so Pete knew it must be important.
They were an odd pair. Andy was built like a brick shit-house, as the locals would say. That he had chosen rugby over football made him even more of an outsider in the nowhere town where he and Pete lived. Football was the town’s religion, as was the way up North, and anyone who didn’t bow down and worship at the altar of The Beautiful Game was regarded with suspicion.
Pete was of average height for his age, and perhaps a little underweight. And he was clever. Very clever. That he’d rather spend time with his head in a book than kicking a ball around the football pitch didn’t sit well with his school-mates. His friendship with Andy saved him from being bullied by all but the very stupid. Andy ensured that even the very stupid quickly learned to leave Pete alone.
Like many in the town, Andy and Pete had been raised by just their mothers. Teenage pregnancies had resulted in a lot of single-parent families in the area. In Andy and Pete’s case, however, they had each lost their father to illness before they had reached their teens. Their mothers had met at a grief counselling group and formed a friendship which had passed on to the two boys.
“Andy!” Pete had waited for an answer but Andy just stood there staring at the ground. “What’s going on?”
Andy raised his head slowly and let out a long sigh. “Sorry mate. This is hard for me.”
Pete nodded in what he hoped was an encouraging way. “No worries. Take your time.” He pointed to a couple of nearby headstones. “Let’s sit”.
They sat facing each other, their backs resting against age-worn marble. Details of who lay beneath were long since vanished.
Andy took a deep breath. “I’m not really sure how to…” he trailed off. “It might be easier if I just show you. Pass me the ball?”
Pete threw the ball to his friend. Andy crossed his legs in a semi-lotus position and placed the ball gently on the ground in front of him and simply said, “Watch.”
Pete unconsciously tilted his head slightly to the right, in that way that he does when something has aroused his curiosity, and looked intently at his friend’s face. For the briefest of moments he thought he saw Andy’s blue eyes turn orange but he dismissed it as a trick of the light from the setting sun.
Andy’s unblinking stare was fixed on the rugby ball. A rugby ball which was no longer resting on the ground. Pete watched in disbelief as it slowly rose into the air until it was at chest height. It then began moving forward, stopping in mid-air when it was a foot away from him.
Pete reached out and took the ball. He sat silently looking at it for a minute, his mind racing. When he finally looked up he saw a mixture of uncertainty and hope on Andy’s face.
They shared a nervous laugh. “Not quite what I was expecting,” said Pete “So, what else can you do?”
Andy looked confused. “ I…I don’t know. I haven’t tried to do anything else…”
“Yet.” Pete smiled, a hint of mischief showing in his eyes.