Saturday 18th December.
Richard made a list of chores he hoped would make the day quicker. He made swift work of it until he reached the final one.
“Go for a run.”
He warmed up as he got changed. He left the house and was at the park quickly. Running along the path and weaving his way through other people, he turned a corner and continued around the pitch. He glanced down and tripped as he stopped.
“It’s just below the height of the grass,” he whispered.
The day was clear and cold as he examined the best he could while running. Richard ran laps off the pitch before making his way home.
Later in the afternoon, he joined his friends on a video call, and they watched the last ten minutes of the football for the day. As they finished, Richard sat back in his seat.
“That was a decent afternoon of football,” said Richard.
“Yeah, I agree,” said one of his friends. “And Richard, you seem more upbeat than usual.”
“Mate, in a good way. After what happened with her, on calls, you’ve been a bit quiet. Nice to hear the real you coming back.”
“I know. Sorry. She just…well. You know what she did,” said Richard.
“She let you down, mate. You’ve been friends for years, and then she gets a boyfriend two months ago and ignores you? I expected more from her.”
“Yeah, so did I,” Richard said.
As a lump built in his throat, he let his friends talk for a while. He went to exit the call.
“Rick, is that football anniversary coming up? I read something the other day.”
“It is. Tomorrow. I might pay my respects.”
He spoke for a while about the tragedy and the match before stopping.
“Mate, keep talking. We’re just glad you’re getting back to your usual self.”
An hour passed by before they signed off. Richard decided against walking to the takeaway and cooked something himself. He walked into the park afterwards. The fog had grown and was now covering the pitch. Only the trees closest to him were visible.
He sat down on the bench, and all the while, the mist did not move.
“No training the night before,” he said.
Sunday 19th December.
Richard smiled as he took his morning walk. A few passers-by sent funny looks his way, but he continued on. He stopped to check the weather on his phone.
“All the fog. All the time,” he said.
Richard stopped and surveyed the mainly white and almost smoky view in front of him.
“I’ll come back later,” he said.
Richard lost track of time as he settled into this settee and caught up with his family over the phone. He laughed and talked as he walked around his house. The night drew in as if a curtain had sharply closed on the day as he looked out of the window. He finished his last call with his Mum before opening his French doors to his back garden. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Only the sound of cars from nearby filled his ears and he smiled. He checked the time.
He slammed the French doors shut behind him, locking them quickly and went upstairs to get changed. He double-checked he had everything, and he took a few moments to shut the front door as he left the house. As he approached North Park, he checked his watch.
“Not long,” he said.
Richard slowed and rubbed his cheeks to get some feeling back into them. The fog arched over the path and got lower as Richard made his way towards the pitch. As he had hoped, the entire pitch but not the park, was hidden beneath a thick, white mist.
“Five to midnight.”
He looked around and could see no one else. The houses surrounding the park were masked by the cloud, with only a few lights peeking through.
“Just watch. Just appreciate,” Richard said as he sat on the bench.
His eyelids became substantial as he took a deep breath of the cold night air before shoving his hands into his pockets. As he did so, his eyes closed. The fog cleared as they reopened. A rich, green football pitch with thick white lines to mark its dimensions lay before him. Richard looked behind, and the fog made a wall around him and the field. The referee, the only man in black amongst the twenty-two players, eleven in blue and eleven in red, brought the captains of each team to the centre. He flipped a coin, and the red captain motioned that he wanted to stay on his side. All three nodded, shook hands, and the captains joined their teams. Just before he blew the whistle, the referee looked over at Richard, nodded, and put a finger to his lips.
The smile across his face rarely faded as Richard watched the game. He looked to each face, some with long sideburns and mops of hair to others with quiffs and combovers. Each face was lit up with a smile or a laugh. Richard did not fail to notice that some of the goals were spectacular. Multiple passes strung together, coupled with decent positioning and an incredible piece of skill that ended with the net rippling with satisfaction. The goalkeepers were making the occasional save as Richard sat back and laughed as the players bantered. The referee blew his whistle as another goal nestled in the back of the net.
“Full time, lads.”
Each player shook hands and spent a few minutes chatting and hugging. Then, after each player and the referee had spoken to each other, they all returned to their starting positions on the pitch. Richard stood up. The players turned to him and gave a slight bow. He felt his bottom lip quiver as he bowed towards each team in reply. The referee walked over and put out his hand. Richard reached out, only for the referee to point at a non-existent watch. Richard frowned before falling back. He opened his eyes. The mist had returned, and the players were gone.
“Thank you,” he said, as the tears fell down his cheeks.