Chapter 1: the news is not good
Tom hated his parents fighting. It had gotten so bad lately that as soon as he got home from school and soccer practice he would go straight to his room and close the door. He would peel off his soccer clothes, especially muddy now that it was rainy season, throw his dirty boots into the cupboard, and then jump into a hot shower. He would shower for ages, not because he was so sweaty and dirty, but because the sound of the water drowned out his parents yelling.
‘Maybe they will get a divorce,’ he would think to myself, terrified at the thought of it. The fighting had got especially bad lately and he was worried. How would he ever cope? How would mum cope? And Dad? He was Tom’s whole life and hero. They shared everything together but especially shared a love for soccer. Their soccer club was FC Chiefs, and there wasn’t a single game that they ever missed on television. The captain and striker Leonardo was their hero. Their passion did drive mom a little bit mad although sometimes she joined in with their soccer madness!
After the shower Tom lay on his bed, staring at the pics on his walls. They were all of soccer stars. Gosh, he really wanted to be a star one day If he could keep practicing like he did every single day, then maybe there was a chance. His school coach Harvey believed that he could do it. He and his Dad would sit together, scheming and talking about soccer colleges and potential scholarships. Tom played every single day, before school, after school and even in his bedroom.
Soccer was his dream.
But it was pretty hard now to focus on his dreams with the constant yelling. He was sure he could hear his Mom accusing his Dad of some pretty bad stuff. He didn’t think it could all be true.
‘You’ve got us into this financial mess,’ she was yelling. ‘You should never have quit your job just like that. Now I have to work like crazy while you just take Tom to and from soccer. You don’t leave a job without having another one, what where you thinking?’
‘The job was really bad Mally. I didn’t leave, you know that, they forced me to to quit. I’ll find another job, I’m out there looking. And yes, I love Tom’s soccer and I’ll watch every game if I can, but I am looking for more work. I know how hard it’s been for you..’
‘You don’t care about anyone except yourself,’ Mally was screaming at him.
Tom pulled the covers over his head. His mother could be extreme and he knew his Dad was trying to find work; it wasn’t easy for him. Tom didn’t like it that mom had to work so hard. And he knew that his Dad was doing his best to find work, he was sure of that.
Tom felt a bit bad for loving that his Dad had all this time to play soccer with him. They would play every single day together, practicing skills. His dad took him to club soccer and school soccer and he never missed a match.
Tom had to get away from this noise; it made him feel bad. He got off his bed, left the room and quietly shut the door. He tiptoed downstairs. He could see his parents out of the corner of his eye, in the kitchen, still yelling. They had no idea he could hear. They also didn’t seem to care. Tom went outside and jumped the fence to next door. Of course he was agile, that was from his soccer!
Once he was across the fence he picked up a stone and aimed it at Lindsay’s window. He knew her parents didn’t let her go out in the evenings, also that she was supposed to be studying for exams.
Lindsay came straight to the window.
‘What is going on?’ she asked. ‘I can hear your parents from here, this seems much worse than usual. I am so sorry, it’s just horrible for you.’
‘Yeah. I had to get away. Hang on, I’m coming up…’
Tom really was agile. He climbed his way up the ivy, using the gutters as steps. Lindsay let him in.
‘Shhhh,’ she said. ‘’If my parents hear you, you’re out quicker than one of Ronaldo’s goals..’
Tom laughed. Lindsay also loved soccer. She was the perfect neighbour. They could hear Tom’s parents still shouting and arguing in the distance. Lindsay put on some music. In the same way Tom was passionate about soccer, Lindsay was passionate about Justin Bieber. The two of them hung out for a while. Once the arguing ended, Lindsay gently suggested that Tom go back home.
‘Your parents probably need you around right now. Go home. And if I don’t study my maths my mom will kill me!”
Tom slid down the ivy and went back home. His parents were waiting for him in the lounge. But it was not to welcome him back with a hot meal or some good news.
‘I’m so sorry Son,’ his dad said. ‘We won’t be watching the game tonight. I have to leave for a while. It’s a hard time for your mom, well, your mom and I have some things to sort out . I’m going to give her some space and move out for a few days. But I’ll come to every one of your games this next week and we will catch up then.’
Tom sat, stunned. His dad was leaving? It had really come to this. He suddenly couldn’t stand up. And he certainly didn’t feel like watching tonight’s game on his own. Even if Leonardo was playing.
Chapter Two. Sorry Tom.
Life had changed dramatically and quickly for Tom. His dad had moved out and it was devastating. But no sooner had his dad moved out, did his mom’s new ‘friend’ move in. His name was Sebastian, he had no interest in soccer and he was the most boring and awful person Tom had ever met. The only thing Sebastian had, and Tom thought that was why his mom liked him, was money.
Sebastian was strict. Tom’s parents had been strict with him but never too strict. But Sebastian was a bit of a control freak. He didn’t get that Tom was a teenager and had a life over school. He didn’t get that Tom not just wanted to play soccer every day, but he needed to play soccer every day. He didn’t get that Tom loved FC Chiefs more than anything.
‘Sorry Tom,’ Sebastian would say. ‘You’re going to have to skip school soccer today. There are leaves all over the yard and they are not going to sweep themselves up.’
‘But it’s the school final,’ Tom would say. ‘There’s no way I can let the team down. And I’m the captain!.’
But Sebastian would just shake his head and say again, ‘Sorry, Tom.’
Sebastian was not sorry at all.
Tom would go to his soccer coach and beg him to help.
‘Harvey, please can you do something. I miss my dad so much. And my mother’s new boyfriend, he’s mad. He’s never heard of Manchester United or Liverpool. He’s never watched a soccer game in his life. He doesn’t know the different between a goalie and a left back. And he won’t let me play more than once a week. Even then, he tries to stop me. And today, today is the final and he won’t let me play.’
Harvey, the coach, was pretty angry. But he was also realistic.
‘Tom, he is the ‘new parent’ in your life. I am not allowed to interfere. I would like to interfere, to be honest I would love to smash Sebastian in the face with a soccer ball, but I am not allowed to do that. I’ll have to replace you today. The problem is, nobody is as good as you. And we’re playing St Johns, we have to beat them.’
Tom phoned his dad. He had to borrow Lindsay’s phone to call him as Sebastian had taken his own phone away. Sebastian believed in punishment when the leaves weren’t swept clean enough.
‘Hi Lindsay,’ Diego had answered the phone. ‘Everything okay? I imagine you’re calling me about Tom?’
‘Dad, dad, it is Tom. Why haven’t you come to visit? Dad, this is so bad. Sebastian is a right tool. He’s taken my phone and he won’t let me play soccer. He’s never even heard of FC Chiefs. He thinks it’s a wast of time. Dad, today is the school final. Our team is relying on me and he won’t let me play, Dad…’
Diego tried to interfere. His blood was boiling. The truth was, he was two hours away and had no money to come into town to see his son. And his wife was not making it easy for him.
‘Tom, calm down. I think for now it’s best you listen to Sebastian. I know he’s an idiot. He’s not hurting you is he? If he ever raises a hand to you, I’ll kill him, I will personally come over and kill him.’
‘No Dad. He’s never hurt me physically. And I don’t think he means to hurt me with this soccer thing, I think he’s just an idiot. Still, I can’t play. And if I don’t play I am never going to get a soccer college scholarship. People will forget all about me. It is so unfair.’
Diego’s heart was breaking for his son. He had a job interview in the morning and if he got the job, his life would change. It was a brilliant paying job, and it was at the college that Tom wanted to go to. And of course Tom would get into that college. He was bright and he was brilliant at the beautiful game . But not if Sebastian didn’t allow him to play. He couldn’t believe it.
‘I’ll talk to your mom this evening,’ Diego promised Tom. ‘And I’ll have a word with Sebastian. He needs to change his attitude. To be honest, I am not sure what your mother is doing with him, but I don’t want to badmouth him.’
‘Oh come on Dad, you can badmouth him. He is a fool.’
‘FOOL,’ they both shouted out at the same time. Diego promised to have a chat with him.
‘In the meantime, go home and sweep the stupid yard. Keep Sebastian happy. I’ll have a word with Harvey too and explain to him what’s going on. I know he’ll be understanding.’
‘He is amazing, Dad, he is totally understanding. But if we lose today I will feel so guilty. And anyway, I just want to play. And watch the television again!”
They said goodbye. Tom gave Lindsay her phone back.
‘Thank you my friend, ‘ he said. And then he inexplicably started crying. This thing with his mom and dad was taking its toll on him. And Sebastian really was a fool.
He walked next door and picked up the rake. Sebastian was watching motor racing on the television. Who watches motor racing, Tom thought to himself, as he raked the leaves. Also, how many times can anyone rake leaves. It’s autumn, they’re just going to keep falling.
Still, he decided he would listen to his dad. Which meant he would have to listen to Sebastian. Even if he hated them.
That night as he was going to sleep he heard a stone bash against his window.
It was Lindsay.
‘What’s up?’ he asked.
‘Sorry Tom,’ she told him ‘I felt I had to come and tell you. We lost the game.’
And Tom felt completely and utterly devastated.
Chapter Three - Tom writes to Leonardo.
The next morning Tom tried to talk to Sebastian. He asked his mom and Sebastian if they could have a quick meeting before school. He was being exceptionally mature and grown up about this.
‘Mom. Sebastian. I need to talk to you both. Do you have ten minutes?’
Although he was outwardly calm and cool, Tom was actually terrified. He was after all only fifteen years old and about to take on two adults. He knew his mom was on his side, but also that she really depended on Sebastian for money. Not that he was overly generous with his money. Not that he was generous at all.
Tom was sure that his mom knew she had made a mistake. He thought she missed his dad, Diego, as much as he did. But she was in a mess and didn’t know how to get out of it.
‘Sebastian,’ Tom was saying. ‘I am not sure if you really understand how I feel about soccer. It’s my life, my one passion. I get that you don’t like soccer or understand soccer but…’
This was not going well. Tom did not mean to be patronising to his mom’s boyfriend. But, he was an idiot, and..
‘Tom, I understand perfectly well. I just think it is silly to waste so much time with a ball. There are so many other things you could be doing…’
Oh my gosh, really an idiot.
‘Sebastian, why? It’s not a waste of time. Motor racing is a waste of time but you love watching it. At least I also play soccer. And I have real potential, everyone thinks so. Please talk to my dad so he can explain to you. Or talk to my soccer coach, Harvey. This is my life. Everything I have worked so hard for. I want to be a soccer star one day. I can be a soccer star one day. I’m good, I am really good. I want to play for FC Chiefs. My team lost yesterday because I didn’t play. It’s not fair, IT’S JUST NOT FAIR.’
Tom did not mean to lose his temper but he could see he was not getting anywhere with Sebastian.
His mom interrupted.
‘Sebastian. What about if you try and compromise. Do your chores and when you’re finished, play soccer. What about if you only watch one match a week?’
‘But mom, I do that. I always do my chores. He still doesn’t let me play. I haven’t touched a ball for weeks. This is not fair.’
‘Get to your room now, ‘Sebastian bellowed. ‘There will be no soccer for you for the rest of the term. And until you learn some respect, there will be no soccer at all. You won’t talk to your dad and you won’t talk to your soccer coach. Or your friends. Now, scoot.’
So this is what it was about. Sebastian didn’t really want respect because, apart from this fight, he had it. But he was jealous of dad and of Harvey and of Tom’s relationship with Lindsay. Tom was only 15 but he had it all figured out. Sebastian was insecure. But his insecurity was spoiling Tom’s chances of soccer stardom.
Tom went to his room. He had no phone and no way to get hold of his dad or his coach. He lay on his bed, staring at his posters. At least Sebastian couldn’t take those away from him. As he was looking at pics of Leonardo, an idea started swirling around his head. He could write to Leonardo. He was a good creative writer. He would write to him and ask him to talk to his dad. He wasn’t connected to his school or his family life. He would be allowed to interfere.
He jumped off his bed and grabbed a piece of paper. It was an old piece of stationary but it had FC Chief’s logo on it. It was perfect.
My name is Tom. I am fifteen years old and I live in South Melville. My dream is to play for FC Chief’s one day. I’ve the left back and the captain of my school team.
THIS WAS NOT GOING TO WORK. Tom crumpled up the piece of paper. He started again.
I am writing to ask you for help. I know this seems very strange. I am fifteen. My dream is to play for FC Chiefs one day. My soccer coach thinks I have potential, my dad thinks I have potential and I believe I can do it.
But that is not why I am writing you. I am writing to you because I have a huge issue with my mother’s boyfriend. He won’t let me play soccer. And even if I didn’t want to play for FC Chief’s one day, this is an issue of human rights. Every boy should be allowed to play soccer.
THIS WAS MUCH BETTER. Tom carried on writing. He explained what had happened. And then he ended it off by writing:=
Leonardo. I do not want your help to get into FC Chiefs. That would be unfair and I believe all soccer players must work hard for success. Just like you. But I do want your help in talking to Sebastian. He won’t listen to me and he won’t listen to my mom. All I want to do is play soccer. And I wouldn’t mind watching the occasional game on television, just like I used to.’
He signed the letter with his name, Tom De La Cruz. He wrote his address under his name and his phone number.
And then he had to scheme how to find Leonardo’s address and how to send the letter.
Lindsay of course, would save him.
When he thought his mom and the awful boyfriend Sebastian had gone to sleep, he crept downstairs, quietly unlocked the door and dashed next door. Lindsay let him in.
‘It’s not fair,’ I know, she was saying. ‘And now it’s school holidays so you can’t even get Harvey to help.’
‘Lindsay, here’s a letter. Please, please, find an envelope and use google to check Leonardo’s address. Maybe you can send the letter to him care of FC Chiefs. Don’t laugh at me but I’ve written to Leonardo, the greatest football player of all time, to ask him for help.’
Of course Lindsay would never laugh at Tom.
Tom hugged her. He didn’t mean to kiss her but he did. A quick kiss. Maybe she isn’t just a friend, Tom thought. Maybe she’ll become a really good friend. But then, she already was.
Chapter Four - Tom Runs Away
Tom felt that he was slowly going mad. It was school holidays which meant he couldn’t go to school to see his friends, he couldn’t play school soccer because anyway Sebastian wouldn’t let him, and he had to rake the leaves instead of playing club soccer. He was stuck at home and nobody cared.
Lindsay was away with her family and he couldn’t even sneak out to see her.
Sebastian was never mean to him but he was strict and he was cold. He had issues and Tom was not sure what they were. But he knew that he didn’t particularly care anymore. Soccer was his life. FC Chiefs was his life. And how dare anyone think they can come and take that away from him.
Tom didn’t really mean to run away. But before he knew it, he had packed a small bag. He thought about leaving a note for his mom; he knew she would be worried sick about him. But he was so angry that she hadn’t been able to intervene. He was so angry with her for throwing out his dad. He was so angry with her for bringing Sebastian into their home.
Tom was a big boy but he knew he couldn’t get far if he was carrying too much stuff. In the end he packed a change of clothing and his soccer stuff. A pair of soccer boots, his club soccer uniform and his most loved possession, his FC Chiefs shirt. He’d got it when he and his dad went to their first match. He tucked his soccer ball under his arm, put his FC Chief’s scarf around his neck and he walked outside. There was nobody to stop him. Well, Sebastian could have stopped him if he cared but his nose was too far in the motor racing on television. And his mom wasn’t home.
At the last minute he decided he would leave her a note. It was short and sweet.
‘I’ve taken my soccer gear.’
That was all he needed to say. His mom would understand completely that he couldn’t live a life without soccer.
Tom wasn’t sure exactly where he was heading. He had no plans. He stopped for a while at the edge of town, watching some kids play soccer in the field. What the hell, he thought, as he went to join in. He wasn’t exactly rushing. He laced up his boots and ran on to the field.
‘Mind if I join you guys?’ he asked, already tackling the kid who had the ball.
‘Hey, sure, we always need more players. You’re on the red team.’
Tom joined in the game.
‘Wow, you are good,’ the one kid said, ‘who do you play for?’
They were all about the same age as him. And they were pretty good soccer players too.
‘Check that goal,’ yelled the other kid. ‘Wow, you scored from that free kick. Brilliant shot. Absolute scorcher.’
‘This is such fun,’ Tom told them. ‘I haven't played for a few weeks now, I’m out of practice.’
‘Mate, you could play professionally you know. I mean, we’re all in our A team and you are so much better than us. Stay and play a while longer, buddy, please.’
‘I’ve kinda gotta get going,’ Tom replied. ‘But thanks for the very cool game guys. Maybe we’ll play again one day.’
‘You okay?’ the one guy asked. ‘You suddenly look a bit sad.’
Tom felt sad. But he wasn’t going to vomit out his life to strangers. And he didn’t have time. He needed to get to his destination before it got dark. Even if he wasn’t sure where his destination was.
All the time he thought he would head to his Dad. Go and live with him. Start a new school, a new life, and a new soccer club.
But suddenly he had a different idea.
He picked up his bag. He was clear about his goal. He was going to head to the national club, FC Chiefs, to their home ground. Maybe they would recognise his talent and maybe he could still get a scholarship. Then he would tell his dad. He could sort stuff out without his dad, he didn’t want to worry him.
He didn’t think that his mom would already be worried sick about him and would have told his dad that he was missing. He didn’t for a minute think that what he was doing was crazy.
Tom vaguely knew where FC Chiefs were based, or at least, he knew their stadium. He’d been with his dad a few times to watch them. It had been amazing. That was where he was going. He would try and find Leonardo. He was his FC Chief’s hero. He could talk to him, play with them, maybe even tell him he had run away. He was sure Leonardo would understand.
I think it’s this way, Tom muttered to himself. The road was long and quiet. A few large trucks whizzed past him. Tom put out his thumb. He’d never hitch hiked before but maybe it was time to get adventurous. And he did want to put as much distance between him and his mom and Sebastian as possible.
The first truck whizzed by and so did the second. The third truck stopped. A huge man sat behind the wheel with long red hair and a long red beard. He was covered in tattoos.
‘Hop in sonny,’ he bellowed. ‘Throw your bag in the back. I’m headed to Edinbarg, what about you?’
‘Edinbarg is good,’ Tom replied. He actually did not have the faintest idea where Edinbarg was. But he seemed to recall the stadium was close by.
He jumped in the truck and slammed the door shut. It was good to be inside and off his feet. He’d been walking for about five hours and he was tired and hungry.
And also very sad.
‘You okay?’ the truck driver asked the same question that the soccer kid had asked. He clearly did not look very okay.
‘Yip, I’m good,’ Tom replied. ‘Going to start my soccer career. It’s a pretty exciting time for me.’
Tom was kind of lying but at the same time, he was kind of telling the truth.
This was a new beginning for him. He straightened his shoulders and took in a deep breath.
New beginnings. Sebastian would be sorry he’d been so nasty. He was never going home.
Chapter Five. Diego, Sebastian, Mally and Harvey come together
Mally got home that evening and called up to Tom.
‘Hey sweetie, dinner’s nearly ready. Come on down.’
Sebastian replied instead. ‘I haven't seen him all day, the lazy bugger. I’m guessing he’s gone off to play soccer somewhere. He hasn’t done of his chores either. We’ll have to ground him when he gets home.’
‘You’re very hard on him Sebastian,’ Mally said. ‘I keep meaning to talk to you about it. He’s just a kid. This time has been so difficult for him. His Dad lost his job. His Dad left home. Well, I threw him out and maybe that was impulsive of me. The two of them were like peas in a pod. It’s been a huge loss for him. And I…’
‘You what, Mally?’ Sebastian asked.
‘Well. I rushed things Sebastian. His Dad had hardly left when I invited you into our home. I did it very quickly. To be honest, we didn’t really know each other. Forgive me, I am just being completely honest with you now. I am not sure that we should be together. I am so sorry, I am starting to think this was all a terrible mistake.’
Sebastian was quiet for a while. And then to his credit, he walked over to Mally and he gave her a hug.
‘Mally, I have not been perfect I know. I came here on the rebound too. And I think I have felt, ridiculously, a bit jealous of your son. You love him so much and I knew you would never love me in the same way, the same amount.’
‘Oh Sebastian, it is all a bit of a mess. We need to sort it out. And I am sorry, but I do think the first step is for you to talk to Tom. Could you go easier on him, no matter what we decide to do. Maybe apologise to him. Tell him you felt you were competing with him for my attention. Or, whatever you were competing for. And maybe tell him you were wrong and that of course he can play soccer.’
‘Mally, of course I will do that. I can see now how ridiculous I have been. But I don’t know where the boy is. He should be home by now.’
It was already dark. Tom never stayed out so late on his own like this.
‘Perhaps he is at Lindsay,’ Sebastian said. ‘I’ll go check next door.’
They didn’t realise that Lindsay was away.
‘Their house is in darkness,’ Sebastian said when he came back. ‘Maybe Tom is with them all, with the family. Do you have a number for Lindsay. If yes, you could call her.’
They couldn’t exactly call Tom. Sebastian had confiscated his phone ages ago.
Mally went upstairs to see if she could find Lindsay’s number. Sebastian was busy in the kitchen when he heard a series of piercing screams.
‘Oh my, oh no, oh dear, help, help, Tom what have you done, where are you?’
Mally had sunk to the floor and was sobbing her eyes out.
Sebastian rushed in and rushed over to Mally. He read the note.
‘I’ve taken my soccer gear,’ he read aloud.
‘This is my fault,’ Sebastian said. ‘Mally, I am so sorry. We will find him, don’t worry, of course we will find him. First off, call his Dad. we need to get hold of Diego and find out if he’s heard from Tom. He needs to know that Tom is probably coming to find him.’
Mally was already on the phone and dialling Diego’s number. He picked up after two rings.
‘Mally, so good to hear from you. I miss you. I was going to call you today to let you know I have a new job. A fantastic job. It’s at St. John’s College, the exact college that Tom wants to go to. I know its going to work out..’
Mally interrupted him. Diego could hear the break in her voice.
‘What is it, Mally, what’s wrong?’
‘Diego, Diego, Tom is missing. I think he’s heading to you. We need to find him Diego. He’s run away. Tom has run away and it’s all my fault.’
Diego was silent for a few seconds.
‘Why has he run away, Mally, what has been going on?’
Mally told him everything. And then:
‘I’m calling the police, Diego. Please will you call the police in your area too. And maybe go out and look for him. We’re going to do the same. Contact anyone you might know who could help you. Or anyone who might know anything.’
They both put the phone down. Sebastian was already on the phone with the police. Sebastian may have been an idiot but he was certainly taking Tom’s disappearance very seriously.
He called the police and asked them to be on the look out for Tom.
And then he found Lindsay’s number, called her and left a message for her to be on the look out. And to call them if she heard anything from Tom.
And finally, he got hold of Harvey, the school soccer coach. He knew that Harvey was a kind of ‘father figure’ to Tom and that if anyone knew anything it would be Harvey.
Harvey was shocked when he heard the news. Or, maybe he wasn’t so shocked. He knew how unhappy Tom had been with his mom’s new partner.
‘He’s gone missing?’ you say, Harvey was saying. ‘Wait for me right there. I’m coming over now.’
Sebastian put the phone down. He was suddenly overwhelmed at what he had done and the awful way he had treated Tom. He was just a child.
‘What have I done?’ he sobbed to himself, ‘what have I done?’
And when Mally looked at him and asked the same question, he replied;
‘We will find him Mally, I promise you. We will find him and I will fix this, I will really fix this.’
And then they held each other tight, not quite sure what to do. It was getting darker and colder and they did not know where Tom was.
And here’s the thing. Tom did not know where he was either. The truck driver had dropped him off on the outskirts of Edinbarg. Nothing looked familiar to Tom. He had little money and he was really hungry. He wished he could phone his mom to tell her where he was. He wished that he had headed to his dad. In fact, he kind of wished he had never run away.
‘Excuse me,’ he asked a homeless person. ‘Do you know where the FC Chiefs stadium is? Is it nearby?’
‘Haha boy, you wanna be a soccer star?’
Tom was still clutching his soccer ball.
‘I do, I mean, I want to try and find FC Chiefs and talk to them, talk to the manager, get them to watch me play.’
Tom wasn’t sure why he was explaining anything to a stranger. Maybe he just wanted somebody to talk to.
‘That way boy,’ the man indicated. ‘End of the road, turn left and then you’ll see the bright lights.’
Tom turned left and headed up the road. He was exhausted and a little bit scared. He found the stadium. Of course it was locked, it was late at night and there was no game going on. Still, it was his dream stadium. He threw the ball over the wall and then hoisted himself up and over.
Wow. There he was, standing in the middle of the field. The exact field where he had watched Leonardo. He took his ball and drop kicked it, smash into the goal.
It felt a little empty with nobody there supporting him. And a little dark and cold.
Tom made his way to the stadium seats. He found a spot that wasn’t too cold, stretched out and fell into a heavy sleep.
And that was where he spent the night. In the FC Chiefs stadium. But feeling rather unhappy.
Chapter Six. Tom and FC Chiefs.
Sebastian, Mally, Diego and Harvey had searched for Tom all night. Sebastian and Mally went from house to house in their neighbourhood. Harvey went to all the school kids and all the soccer kids. And Diego waited at his house, just in case Tom arrived. He also had the police looking.
Nothing. There was not a single sign of Tom anywhere. The police had one lead, from a truck driver who said he had picked up a young hitch hiker. The trucker had told the police what Tom looked like and where he had dropped him off.
The police were combing the Edinbarg area but had not found him.
By mid morning, they were all despondent. Tom would be tired, hungry, money and scared. And maybe something terrible had happened to him. But they were at a loss where else to look and who else to ask.
Until Sebastian had a brainwave.
‘I’m going to call FC Chiefs,’ he said. ‘Maybe, just maybe, Tom is trying to get hold of Leonardo. Or maybe he’s going to watch a game. Or maybe, well, I don’t know what to think. But FC Chiefs are his passion and I’ve kept him away from them for the last few weeks. Maybe that is what he is trying to do.’
Perhaps Sebastian wasn’t such an idiot at all.
He was on the phone to the FC Chiefs admin staff.
‘It’s urgent’ he was saying. ‘Top top urgent. A young boy has run away from home. We have reason to believe he may be headed to try and find Leonardo. Is there any way we could talk to Leonardo, ask him to keep an eye out for him. His name is Tom. We are desperate to find him. We think he’s wearing his FC Chiefs shirt. He’s almost six foot, slim, dark hair and green eyes. He has his FC soccer ball with him…’
‘Hold on a minute sir.’
‘They’re telling me to hold on,’ Sebastian told Mally and Harvey. ‘I don’t think they’re taking me too seriously.’
And then a new voice came on to the phone.
‘Hello. Leonardo speaking. How many I help you.’
For the first time in his life, Sebastian was speechless. He handed the phone to Harvey, signalling that it was Leonardo on the phone.
‘It’s him, it’s really him,’ he was whispering to Harvey. It was almost like he was a fan of FC Chiefs himself!
Harvey introduced himself to Leonardo and explained what was going on. He told him every little detail, highlighting that Tom was mad about soccer, mad about FC Chiefs and also mad at his mother’s new boyfriend. He explained why he had run away and why they thought he may be heading to FC Chiefs.
‘We have no idea where he is. He hasn’t gone to his dad. And he hasn't been seen since yesterday morning. There is a chance that a trucker picked him up yesterday and dropped him in Edinbarg. At least, that is what the police have told us. And we know that Edinbarg is close to the FC stadium. So we are thinking he may be trying to find you. He loves soccer. He wants to play for FC Chiefs one day.’
‘Sir. I will do everything I can to help you find this boy. Perhaps I should go on the television and say we are looking for him. We can send him a message via TV.’
Now that, everyone agreed, was a brilliant idea.
Harvey and Mally immediately got on the phone to get hold of WKNP. There were a few frantic phone calls, trying to get WKNP, the television presenter and Leonardo together. And then at that moment Lindsay also came rushing in. She had heard the news about Tom being missing and insisted her parents drive her back home. She loved Tom. She had to help find him. He had to be found.
All the people who loved Tom were gathered together to find him. If only Tom knew, he would maybe leave his spot in the stadium. He’d woken up and wandered around. There was no-one in sight. Not a soul. Tom thought that FC Chiefs may come and practice at the stadium later in the day. He decided to wait and see what happened in the evening. He could maybe sneak into the dressing room. Maybe he would even get to meet his hero. He decided to wait. Even though he was cold and miserable and lonely. And regretting his decision to run away.
He missed his mom. He missed his dad. He missed Lindsay.
The only person he did not miss was Sebastian.
And yet oddly, it was Sebastian who was working around the clock to find him. It was Sebastian who was racked with guilt. It was Sebastian who was getting everyone together. And it was because of Sebastian that Leonardo was about to go on the television, to make a live appeal.
Mally and Lindsay were in front of the television set. Diego was in front of his television set. And there he was - Leonardo.
‘I am here to appeal to everyone in the St. Johns and Edinbarg areas, or anywhere nearby, to look out for a young man. His name is Tom de la Cruz. He is just 15 years old and we think he is wearing a FC Chiefs shirt. He has gone missing from his home and his family are frantic.’
The cameras cut to Sebastian.
‘I am a friend of the young man’s mother. Tom, if you are watching this. I am sorry. We want you to come home. Your mother is worried sick. So is your Dad. Please please. We will sort out our differences. Call us now to let us know you are safe.’
And then, back to Leonardo.
‘Tom. I know you are a big soccer fan. Come home. Call your mom. And once everything is settled, perhaps we can kick a few balls around.’
A few contact numbers came up on the television. And then, normal programming resumed.
Nothing. No news.
Tom shifted in his stadium seat. He’d seen a few players walk on to the field. Yes! There were soccer players coming in to practice. He prayed it was FC Barcelona. He leapt up, excitedly. Was that Leonardo?
No. It looked like a local club who was having their midweek practice. It was just getting dark and then the lights were switched on. And with the lights being switched on, so were the large TV screens.
And there was his hero. Leonardo. What? What was he saying. It was - oh my holy goodness gracious me - it was Leonardo, then Sebastian, then what on earthy, HIS PICTURE. Leonardo was looking for him?
Tom was up and out of his seat. He was running wildly, on to the field where everyone was warming up and doing their stretches.
‘I need a phone, someone, please, I need to borrow a phone.’
He could vaguely remember the number that had flashed on the TV screen. He didn’t have a pen though and he didn’t want to make a mistake.
‘Wait a minute. Are you the kid who’s missing? The kid by the name of Tom. You’ve been all over the news all afternoon. Leonardo is looking for you. It is you, isn’t it. Here, use my phone.’
Tom took the phone and said ‘thank you, thank you.’
He was shaking so much.
He punched in a few numbers.
2 11 765 2232.
‘Hello,’ a voice on the other side side.
It was him mom. The first person Tom had called was him mom.
‘Mom. It’s me. I am so sorry, I am so so sorry. I’m at the FC Chiefs stadium. Can you come and fetch me?’
His voice was trembling.
‘Oh my darling boy, Tom, thank goodness you are okay. Yes, yes, we are on our way right now. Let me call your dad to tell him you’re safe. Hold on, wait there…’
Mally put the phone down, yelled to Sebastian that Tom was fine and at the stadium, and called Diego to tell him the good news. Diego couldn’t contain his joy and together they all arranged to head over to the stadium. Lindsay too.
‘I wonder if he called Leonardo?’ Mally said, on the way to the stadium. ‘We all knew that it would be Leonardo who could reach out to Tom.’
‘I think he called you first,’ said Lindsay, wisely. And it was true. Tom had called the people he loved. First his mom, then his dad, and then Lindsay. And they were all on their way to fetch him.
And then Tom had called Leonardo. He had apologised for the trouble he had caused. Leonardo was just delighted that Tom was safe and sound.
‘Shall we meet next week, Tom. Perhaps we can play a little ball?’
‘That sounds perfect,’ Tom had replied. ‘Thank you so much.’
Viva FC Chiefs, Viva.