Nick sat in Twickenham’s South Stand, the ground empty, floodlights dimmed. He closed his eyes, remembering being here as a young kid, watching his heroes play, dreaming of doing what they did, playing for England. He rubbed his tired eyes, despair weighing him down. It was all so long ago. But fast forward in time and here he was again, sitting in the same place.
He’d achieved what he set out to do—there should be no regrets. But it was so damn hard to let go, so hard to unplug.
Rugby lads were tough men, and Nick felt frustrated by his inability to suck it up and get a grip.
Ren-shaw! Ren-shaw! Ren-shaw!
He could still hear the fans cheer and sing. He could hear the studs from thirty pairs of boots echo through the tunnel as the players walked out to the field, the coach giving his pre-game speech, the victory song being sung after and drums thundering as the team celebrated.
All memories he’d never forget.
I’ll never replace this. Rugby is under my skin, it’s in my blood, it flows through my soul.
A place like Twickenham brought back so many emotions. He knew that every player went through the transition, wondering what was next, but that didn’t make it any easier.
The underlying question had to be answered in his own mind: if I’m not Nick Renshaw the Rugby star anymore, who am I? What’s my purpose?
If he was honest, not knowing who or what he was, it scared him.
I can’t let Anna see me like this.
But Nick was too late.
Anna didn’t know what she’d find. She didn’t know if Nick would want her there.
Making her way toward the South Stand, she saw him.
He was sitting in the shadows, elbows on his knees, staring out at the empty stadium, staring out at the silent turf. His gaze was distant, lost in the past, and Anna wondered what he was seeing, what he was hearing. Did the echoes of long gone games ring in his ears? Was the roar of a long lost crowd making his heart pound with ghostly reminders of past greatness? Was he seeing the moment that he stole the ball from the air and ran half the length of the field to score his most famous try? Was he reliving the moment when 82,000 fans leapt in the air, chanting his name?
For a moment, she studied his profile: the nose that had been broken twice, but still retained its fine outline; the strong chin, covered now with a neat beard; moonlight casting shadows across his sharp cheekbones.
His stillness frightened her and he seemed so lost, so very far away.
She walked toward him, her nerves jumping, and sat by him, stiff and silent. He knew she was there, she could tell by the gentle tilt of his head.
And then, without looking at her, he held out his hand toward her, and she took it, gratitude and relief filling her eyes with tears.
His skin was cool, as if he’d been sitting here in the dark for a very long time.
They continued in silence for several more minutes, simply sitting, their hands joined.
She waited for him to speak. And waited, and waited, her heart sinking a little more with each second that passed.
“I missed you,” she said, at last.
Not just today. I’ve missed you so much for so long.