Chapter Sixteen: The Decision
When March came rolling around, the players at the training camp had been whittled to twenty. Dallas was thrilled that he had made it so far. He was one week away from knowing whether or not he would be on the team, and he had been working like a mad man.
He would pick Natalia up, drop her off at the library, attend practice, practice on his own, and then drive them both home.
Luckily the weather was improving, so he no longer played in snowy surroundings. Not that Dallas minded, he was just happy that the start of spring was near.
Natalia, for the most part, had not comlained when he picked her up late at the library. Although there were days when she preferred watching him play than sitting in the library finishing her assignments.
Dallas suspected it had something to do with her second encounter with Nathan. Apparently Natalia didn't like Nathan's pessimistic attitude towards Dallas, so she avoided the part of the library that might bring her into contact with him.
It amused Dallas to watch her avoid someone other than him.
Dallas was sitting on his bed, looking at the clock. It was two in the morning. He still couldn't sleep. He was nervous. This week was it. All or nothing. The pressure had been driving him crazy. He hadn't been able to keep his nerves at bay. At meal times, he could barely eat, he stomach would be squirming with tension.
Dallas sat up on his bed, and clicked on the reading lamp. He needed something to take his mind off of the task that was at hand. He ran his hand through his hair. Losing sleep is not going to help me play, he thought unhappily. But what could he do?
He got up, and left for the living room.
Natalia sat on the couch watching televison quietly. She wasn't in the mood for sleeping. She had just finished her essay for English class, and the sleep from her system had vanished. Her essay had been based on the play Oedipus Rex, which the entire class had had to read. Although they were only required to read the first part of the text book, Natalia had read the entire thing. She had been bored one day in the library last week.
Natalia was watching an old episode of Top Gear, she had managed to find Derek's DVDs. She watched as Richard Hammond ate the picture of the BMW M6. A laugh escaped from her lips.
“What are you watching?” A voice quietly asked her. Natalia looked up to see a rather dishevelled Dallas standing in the hall. “Top Gear.” She told him, putting the DVD on pause. “Mind if I watch with you?” He asked. “Sure...” She shrugged.
Dallas sat on the couch opposite to her. She pressed play on the remote. “So why aren't you asleep?” Natalia asked after a few moments. “My mind was whirring...” He told her. “Why are you here?” He asked her. Natalia looked at him. “Didn't feel like sleeping after I finished my essay.” She told him, before returning her attention to the screen.
“You look like hell, Dallas.” Natalia commented, when the next episode started. She turned to look at him. “I feel like hell.” He told her. “Why?” Natalia couldn't help but ask. She had never seen him in this state of mess. He looked like he would fall on his feet at any given moment. She could hardly belive how he had been playing so well.
Dallas looked as though he was searching for an answer. Natalia turned back to the show. When he finally decided to answer her, his voice was low. At first Natalia couldn't tell if he was talking or not, so she put the television on mute.
“I don't think I could take it if I don't get on the team.” He said slowly. Natalia didn't know what to say to that. “I need this. This is my last shot, I don't know how well I can handle failure.” Natalia sat stunned, she couldn't belive what she was hearing. Dallas was afraid of something? It seemed surreal.
She searched for something to say. “I know you're going to make it...I believe in you.” She said at last, knowing full well how lame she sounded. She didn't know what else there was for her to say.
When neither of them said anything, Natalia un-muted the TV. It was a few moments before she heard Dallas say anything.
“Natalia,” Dallas said. She looked over to him. “Thank you.” He told her.
Natalia watched from the bleachers as Dallas scored another goal. He was really creating problems for the other team. She was surprised to see how little players were left. There were only days left before the big annoucnement. Lately some of the girlfriends of the players had started to show up. Natalia stayed away from that lot.
As Natalia watched, it seemed to her that some part of the old Dallas was finally back. His love for the game seemed to be stronger. In fact he was one of the more impressive players on the feild.
Natalia had come with him after school. Luckily she didn't have any major homework to do, and there weren't any assignments due this week. She had decided to enjoy herself. She knew her teachers were going to hit her hard with assignments the week after, since it would be a week before March break.
She watched as the practice ended and the players left the feild. There was one player left, he was shooting the ball in to the net.
Dallas, Natalia thought. She heard her name being called. It confirmed what she had thought. Dallas was calling her onto the feild.
Natalia walked down the bleachers and walked over to where Dallas was standing. “Play with me?” He asked her. Natalia wasn't so keen. “I don't like playing.” She told him. “Come on, it'll be fun.” Dallas insisted.
Natalia rolled her eyes. “Alright, fine.” She told him. He kicked the ball towards her. Natalia fought the urge to avoid the ball. Instead she stopped the ball with the heel of her foot. She kicked it hard towards him. He stopped it with his toe, and shot it towards the net. It surprised her that he still had the energy to play, even after such a treachourous amount of time playing on the feild.
They played for a while. Soon enough, Dallas grabbed the ball and left to change. Natalia stood on the field waiting for him. He came back quickly. Natalia could see he had not changed. Instead he had carried his bag full of equipment and clothes. He motioned for her to follow. She did. Together they walked to the car, and left for home.
Dallas stood in line, waiting for the decision. His whole life depended on this moment. He looked over to the bleachers. He could see Derek and Natalia standing there, waiting for the result. He saw the gaggle of girlfriends and wives waiting to know whether or not their boyfriends, fiance's or husbands had made it on to the team.
Dallas felt queasy. The butterflies in his stomach had grown exponentially. He hadn't eaten since lunch, not knowing whether or not he could keep anything down, he had decided to abstain from solids all together.
Dallas watched as the coach walked in front of the straight line of players, and then walked around behind them. The tension was at breaking point. Dallas didn't know how much longer he could stand not knowing his fate.
Natalia and Derek stood in the bleachers watching Dallas and the others stand and await the results. Everyone was on tenterhooks. The tension was palpable.
Natalia desperately hoped that Dallas would be in the final five. She knew how hard he had worked. She was scared knowing that he might not have made it through. How would he handle that blow? She asked herself. Natalia didn't want an answer.
At that moment, the coach started to talk. Ther nervous chatter that had been growing louder by the minute, stopped at once.
Natalia strained to hear what the coach was starting to say.
“Well, now you have all played very hard. Don't think for one moment that my collegues and I have not noticed. Some of you have given up a lot to be hear.” The coach started to say.
Dallas could see he was trying to soften the blow for those who had not been selected. Please, don't let me be one of them...Dallas silently wished.
Dallas wiped his face of any emotion. He looked at the ground. His stomach was tied in knots. Each one tightening as the coach went on.
“As you all know, only five of you will have the oppertunity to play for the Toronto Football Club. This is one of those decisions that I must admit, I do not like to make. Here we have the best players from all across Canada, and I have to pick five of you. Five, whom my collegues and I think will be the best for the team.” The coach continued.
Dallas could feel the helplessness among the other players. Not being in control of their own future, a sobre atmosphere settled on the group.
“I'm going to call the five players that have made it on to the team. Once your name is called, please come here to collect the papers for your contract, and your team jearseys.” The coach instructed them. “In advance, I am sorry to those of you who did not make the cut. I assure you that if we had more spaces on the team, I would love to have selected all of you.” He told them.
Dallas was still. The others were quiet. No one moved. It was at last time for them to know who would be advancing.
“Jason Pollard, congratulations you have made it on to the team.” The coach announced. The boy at the end of the line up covered his mouth in shock. He walked up quickly and gathered his things.
“Matt Avon, you have also made it on to the team.” One of the boys in the middle of the lineup left to gather their things.
There was no word from the other boys, as the names were annouced. As the coach read out the third name, Dallas could feel himself giving up hope. There was no way he had made it into the lineup.
“Andrew Callum, you have also made it on to the team.” The boy next to Dallas moved to get the papers and jersey. It was over, Dallas was not going to make it.
Natalia watched as three boys had gotten selected. She unconciously chewed on her finger nail. She didn't know how much longer she could watch. Dallas still hadn't been called out.
What if I was wrong, what if he doesn't get on to the team; she worried.
There was only one spot left at this point. Fifteen other boys were vying for that very spot. Natalia hoped against hope that it would be Dallas who would be getting that spot.
Dallas could feel himself giving up. One spot left, there wasn't much else that could be said.
“The last spot on the team,” The coach began. Dallas stared at the ground, he didn't want to see who was getting it. “Is going to go to,” He didn't want to hear the name. Dallas sorely wished he could plug his ears.
“Dallas Owen.” Dallas blinked. It's not me, he thought. “Owen, get a move on.” He heard the coach say.
Dallas could hear his ears ringing. He couldn't decide whether to believe what he had heard or not.
Dallas looked up to the bleachers, only to see Natalia jumping with joy. He looked at the coach. The elderly man smiled, waiting for Dallas to move. “Come on, son. Get your things. Congratulations.”
Dallas felt a wave of relief washing over him. He walked up slowly to where another man held papers and his new team jersey. He couldn't believe he could walk, that his knees hadn't buckled yet.
“Congratulations, Owen. You're on the team.”
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