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by Jack Fisher

Alison zips her jacket up to her neck. She looks down at her daughter beside her, wishing she had insisted on a coat. Lucy is as stubborn as she is. I want people to see my shirt, she had protested. Alison watches her tug absent-mindedly at her scarf, legs dangling off the edge of the seat, eyes glued to the pitch. She can feel her excitement, the pride of wearing the uniform, of being among the crowd, the thrill when it erupts in noise. The inclusivity, the pleasure at being part of the rituals. She would have felt the same at her age, she thinks, if her parents had allowed her to go. Too dangerous, her dad used to say. How come he can go? she would cry, pointing at her brother.

There were uniforms and rituals in the courtroom too. But exclusive, not inclusive. Gowns for the judges. Suits for the lawyers. Sombre, monochrome. Sir, ma’am, m’lord. Two sides, but different rules. A different playing field.

An attacker bursts through on goal. Bodies swell and rise in anticipation. A roar builds. The goalkeeper charges out. Alison cranes her neck to see over the heads in front. Lucy leaps up, the seat slamming behind her. The ball rolls past the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net. The tension explodes into a wall of noise.

“Yes!” shouts Lucy, hopping from foot to foot, her smile beaming, hands clapping wildly. Over her shoulder, Alison sees a man in the row behind, face contorted in excitement, body swaying, then losing balance, lurching forward. She reaches instinctively to pull Lucy towards her. The man catches himself and shouts down an apology. The players walk back to the centre-circle, congratulating each other. Alison reaches down for her seat and pulls Lucy onto hers.

Two minutes left to play. Fans begin to leave their seats, walk down the gangways and assemble at the foot of the stand. Stewards line the edge of the pitch, a thin wall of fluorescence. The referee blows the final whistle. The crowd rises as one, standing to applaud. Fans begin to hurdle the advertising hoardings, bursting past the stewards and onto the pitch. The last match of the season and they want to celebrate. As she watches them charge around the grass, carefree in their excitement, she thinks back to the courtroom. Matches, seasons, they come and go, but their victory, that knowledge, the vindication, will last forever. Yet the feeling could never be the same. There is something simple, uncomplicated about football. She can see it in Lucy, and in the other faces around her. A purity of elation or despair. Almost a simulation of emotion. Perhaps it’s because there are no real consequences. At least there shouldn’t be. There should never have been.

She feels a tugging on her sleeve.

“Mum!” shouts Lucy. “Can we go on too?”

Alison shakes her head, her eyes still on the pitch. She will think of her brother for a few moments more, then they will go.

Born in Rochdale in the U.K., Jack Fisher became a chemical engineer. At 35, as an antidote to facts and numbers, he began to write. First came an account of a journey through Mongolia, published as an ebook, Hold the Dog! 16 Days in Mongolia. Then, after a short course in creative writing, he tried fiction, and nowadays he is experimenting with short stories. You can find more about him at jackfisher.org.uk.