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Chapter 3: THREE
Ellington was a dead man. It was about five degrees Celcius, and Evie was freezing her bloody arse off – literally. The cold metal of the bleachers she was sitting on was seeping through her jeans. It hadn’t been much at first; just enough to be slightly uncomfortable, to make her shift around a bit. But as time wore on, her bum grew steadily and steadily number, until the point where Evie could no longer feel it. Oh yes, Ellington was dead.
It was her bloody day off, after all! The last place Evie wanted to be spending it was sitting high up in the stands at the Wright Center, watching the English Quidditch team practice. Well, actually, it wasn’t the watching-the-English-Quidditch-team part that got her – that part was amazing. It was the whole sitting-in-the-stands thing that had her blood boiling. Why did Ellington insist she had to watch practice? Why couldn’t she have just come afterwards to interview the players? She could have been nice and cozy inside her little flat right now if it weren’t for her demonic editor and his need for this piece to – what had he said? Blow everything else out of the water?
Hugging her thick winter coat tighter around her, Evie glanced down at the notepad she had perched on her knees, glancing over the notes she had written so far. Honestly, it wasn’t much. She wasn’t close enough to hear what anyone was saying, and without the roar of the crowd or the loud voice of the announcer that was usually present at matches, it rather seemed like watching Quidditch with earmuffs on.
Evie hadn’t dared go closer, though. Ellington had probably assumed that Evie was going to go and sit down right next to Coach Wood on the bench on the side of the field. But that was just so, so – forward! Evie didn’t want to interrupt their practice or anything. She was rather content to just sit right here and scribble notes about how their passes looked crisp and other complete rubbish.
Taking a deep breath, Evie flipped a few pages in her notebook, to where the pages were suddenly filled with line after line of her neat print. There was a page or two on each player, their name underlined neatly at the top, with some basic facts and questions for Evie to ask them underneath. There was a pretty good chance that she was going to completely freeze up the second she entered the locker room, so she was counting on her ability to mechanically read a list of question off of her sheet even with her knees knocking together under the table.
But despite the fact that she was so nervous that she couldn’t even eat breakfast that morning, Evie was thrilled. She was going to be interviewing some of the top Quidditch players in the world – and some of her favorite players. She had been a fan of the Harpies since she was little, when her older brothers Alston and Brandon first starting getting into the sport. They had told her that girls couldn’t play Quidditch. The old manager of Quality Quidditch Supplies, where they had been at the time, couldn’t help but overhear them, and much to Evie’s delight, showed them the entire section of posters and gear devoted to the Harpies. She had been cheering for them ever since.
And in just a few hours time she would be talking to one of the best Keepers in the league, Amelia Brand! Evie couldn’t believe it. If she thought about things logically, the interviews shouldn’t actually be that bad. Almost everyone on the team was known to be pleasant – she was lucky that Tony Maddox didn’t make it, because he was just a generally unpleasant bloke. As long as she didn’t do something stupid like forget what position someone played, she’d be fine.
She glanced down at her watch. An hour left until practice was over. She huffed, the hair around her face flying up with the puff of air. She really didn’t want to watch another hour of them repeat the same drills over and over. She watched as the players, most clad in the red and white of England, but some wearing kits from different teams, landed in a sloppy circle around Wood, who had moved out to the center of the field. Evie grabbed her quill from behind her ear, flipped back to her page of notes as she readied herself to write down whatever drill they would run next.
But then, much to her surprise, the players all dismounted! Was he going to have them run or something? Do push-ups? Evie was already surprised at the turn of events, so it was hard for her eyebrows to fly much higher up her forehead when the team, broomsticks in tow, trooped towards the locker room. Where were they going? Practice wasn’t supposed to end for another hour! Were they finished? Should she go down to the locker room now? Frantically, Evie looked around, wishing for the first time all day that she had been sitting next to Coach Wood all practice, simply to hear what was going on right this minute.
“Oh, bugger,” she cursed, Tucking her quill and notebook back into her bag, Evie stood up. “Ah!” She cried, her arse protesting as it moved for the first time in two hours. “Bloody bleachers.” Grumbling under her breath, Evie began the trek down the three flights of stairs to the ground level.
By the time she got to the bottom, she had completely regaining all feeling in her body and was sweating underneath her coat. Coach Wood didn’t need to make his team run any – all he had to do was ask them to get something he had forgotten at the top of the bleachers! Gasping for breath, Evie unbuttoned her coat, fanning at her face – which was sure to be bright red. As much as she loved Quidditch, she had never been the athletic sort. She much preferred watching sports to playing them.
“Alright, then,” she said faintly, hitching her bag strap higher on her shoulder. She was standing at the bottom of the staircase, still under the stands themselves, on a rather attractive patch of concrete. She remembered this from where she had come in. There was two doors leading into the building on either side of her – the training center seemed to sprawl out from circular pitch, and this patch of concrete only seemed to be a slight indent on an otherwise behemoth building.
“Damn it all,” she said crossly. She had remembered that the man who had lead her here – some assistant to the assistant of someone vaguely important – had told her which door to take, but she couldn’t for the life of her remember. Had it been left? She had some vague recollection of someone saying left. Or maybe that had been her, trying to remember not to go left. Taking a deep breath, Evie willed herself to calm down. She usually prided herself on a being a fairly practical person, but it seemed as if all logic had gone out the window the moment she arrived at the Wright Center.
“Alright, think Evie,” she mumbled under her breath, turning from one door to the next as if the mere sight of the correct one would jog her memory. “Let’s see, I was sitting more towards the left side goalposts,” she pointed towards the left, just to keep things in line, “and came straight down. The players all went into the locker room on my side at midfield.” She pointed her other hand towards the right. “So I have to go right!” Giving a little breathless laugh at the joy of finally figuring it out, Evie rushed towards the right-hand side door and grabbed the handle.
“Oof!” She grunted, leaning back on her heels and she struggled to open the thing all the way. It was a lot heavier than it looked! Making sure not to slam her fingers it in as it closed, Evie took another deep breath and looked around. She was in….a hallway. Splendid. It had white walls and cement floors and looked like any other hallway in the world. How the hell was she going to find the locker room?
Figuring that there’d be a map somewhere, Evie hurried ahead. After all, she had spent quite a bit of time climbing down all those stairs. She wouldn’t want to be late for her first really big interview. Even though since they ended practice early and no one bothered to tell her, it would really be their fault.
She passed her first door after a few seconds of a brisk walk, and much to her relief there was a little nameplate next to it. Sure, this one simply said “Storage Closet”, but that meant that the locker room would be marked! Buoyed by this thought, Evie settled into a bit of a calmer pace as she headed through the corridor. Her green eyes flicked over every door she passed, but most of them were boring things like “Management Office” and “Cleaning Supplies”.
Cor, the Wright Center was a really big place! Evie had just passed her third storage closet, and still no sign of the locker room. She was pretty sure she hadn’t been sitting that far from the center of the pitch, which worried her slightly. Had she passed it? A seed of doubt began to worm its way inside her mind, growing larger and larger the more wrong doors she passed. The white walls and the persistent beat of her shoes against the ground only added to her anxiety, and by the time Evie finally spotted the man as she rounded a corner, the fear of never finding the locker or being horribly horribly late was at it’s peak.
“Oh!” She gasped, hurrying forward. It was the first person she had seen all afternoon, and she couldn’t be happier. “Excuse me, sir!” As she got closer Evie realized that he was holding a mop, nudging the bucket at his feet forward with his foot so he could mop the bit of ground underneath it. “Excuse me? D’you know how to get to the locker room?” Her question came out breathless, and her face was flushed from her long walk. The maintenance man looked at her for a moment, his lips pursed underneath his thick black mustache. Then suddenly, he raised an arm.
“There’s the man ye’ll be wantin’ to ask right there,” he told her, pointing down the hall. Evie, who was gripping the strap of her bag tightly, turned around to find another man coming down the hall behind her. Where had he been? He hadn’t been behind her the whole time. He must have just come out of the one of the doors, she reasoned. How funny that after so long without seeing anyone, she ran into two people in the space of a minute!
“Yes?” The man asked, raising an eyebrow. He spoke with a thick Scottish accent, and as he drew close enough to make out his face Evie gasped. It was Coach Wood! She hadn’t recognized him without his puffy jacket, which he apparently had taken off given the much warmer temperature of the building. Evie, on the other hand, had done no such thing, and now she was sure to have sweat stains on her shirt underneath. Blast! She had been so worked up over being late that she had forgotten to do the stupidest things.
“This here lady needs to find the locker room,” the maintenance man replied, jerking his thumb in Evie’s direction. Trying not to be obvious, Evie reached up and smoothed down her light brown hair, which she was sure was a bit wild from the being outside. Hopefully she didn’t look like too much of a fright, otherwise Coach Wood would probably throw her out on her now perfectly un-numb arse.
“Ah,” he nodded, giving the man a grin. He had dimples, Evie noticed. She hadn’t seen them in pictures of him before. “Thank Mitch, I can take it from here.” The maintenance man – Mitch – nodded, picking up mopping where he had left off. Evie shifted from one foot to the other, her gaze drifting down to the floor.
“You must be the reporter then,” Wood said casually, sticking out his hand. “Coach Oliver Wood.”
“Evie Pierce,” she replied, grateful that she hadn’t choked on her own name. “It’s a pleasure.”
“Well alright then, Evie Pierce.” He set off down the hallway again and Evie hurried to catch up. In the back of her mind, she was rather pleased that she had been going the right direction after all. “You’ve got good timing.”
“Really?” She couldn’t help but ask. How did he figure that?
“We just got out of our strategy meeting, so the team’s just finishing showering up,” he explained. Aha! Strategy meeting! They hadn’t ended practice early after all – simply moved it to another location. Well, Evie rather wished someone had let her in on the plan. It would have saved her a lot of worrying. No matter – at least she wasn’t late.
“How perfect,” she replied, trying to give the coach a bright smile. Inside, however, she was reeling. This was it. They were done practice; they were waiting for her. No more directions to distract herself with. It was, as Ellington often liked to refer to it, game time.
“Now, Evie,” Wood was saying as he steps slowed, drawing to a stop outside of a door – just like all of others – with a nameplate that read “Locker Room”. “You’ve got nothing to be nervous about, okay?” He gave her a kind smile, a twinkle in his eyes, and Evie grimaced.
“Is it that obvious?”
“Unless you always look like you just got hit by a Bludger when you smile,” he grinned, and Evie laughed. Trust a Quidditch coach to make a Quidditch analogy. She couldn’t imagine what his meetings were like.
“Not that I’ve been told, no,” Evie replied with a grin of her own – one much less forced.
“That’s more like it,” he told her. “Now, don’t let them push you around, you hear me? They may like to play tough, but at heart they’re all pretty much ten-year-old boys. Well,” he added, “except for Amelia, of course. But don’t let Bradley or Clarke put you off, alright?” At the mention of Bradley, Evie paled a little.
“Alright,” she agreed, though he voice hadn’t come out quite as strong as she wanted it to.
“You’ve got brothers, Evie Pierce?” Wood asked shrewdly, staring down at the girl.
“Three, sir,” she replied with a small smile.
“Perfect. Just treat each one of those goons in there like a brother – well, again, except for Amelia – and you’ll be fine.” He grinned.
“Just like my brothers,” she repeated, giving Wood a much stronger grin. “Thanks, Coach.”
“Not a problem at all, my dear.” He flashed her another one of those dimpled grins. Merlin, Wood must have made all the girls melt when he was younger. “And when you’re finished with those nimwits my office is the next door down, yeah?”
“Sounds good,” Evie replied. Wood gave her one last nod before taking a few more steps and disappearing into his own office. Evie stood alone in the hallway, which was now dead silent, facing the door. It seemed innocent enough – it was a slightly off-white color, a shade darker than the walls, with a standard metal handle. The nameplate was just a piece of thick plastic attached to the wall which someone had charmed to say “Locker Room” in neat, square black letters. It was a just a room, she told herself. And inside of it were just people. Just like her brothers. With a deep breath, Evie squared her shoulders and went in.
AN: Lots of filler - sorry about that. Next chapter is the actual interview and the first meeting between Evie and Noah! Please leave a review! Thanks!