The Apprenticeship

Vienna Barnes is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she is offered an apprenticeship to work for her favourite football club, Sunderland AFC. Sunderland AFC are one of the biggest clubs in the North East. After pulling off the greatest escape in Barclays Premier League history, the Black Cats are back in action, and sitting nervously towards the bottom of the table. Just as Vienna arrives at the club, a bombshell is dropped, and owner Ellis Short sells the club to a mystery new owner. This new owner is determined to keep themselves a secret from the footballing world, and the media are therefore forced to keep possibly the biggest secret and scandal in footballing history. Soon, all begins to fall apart at the club, and the new owners drive Sunderland into the ground. Thinking on her feet, Vienna steps in to offer her help in any shape or form. With problem after problem unveiling, will Sunderland AFC still remain intact by the end of the season?

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17. The Away Day

"What's the shop like anyway? I've not really had a chance to go in?"

"It's proper done up and that" June replies, "I've been in there a few times but I have never seen it look that good, honestly"

June, Sophie and I take a different route to work this morning, walking along the narrow road that the coaches come through on match days to get towards the club shop. To make the journey to the stadium less boring and dull, we all decided to meet up in the town centre near where they live.

"What you thinking about today Vienna?" Sophie asks, "You know...you'll probably have to work with James, or at least see him as some point"

I knew I would have to work with James at some point, and yes I'm not happy about it at all, but that's life. I just need to focus on what I'm hear for and ignore that fucking idiot.

"Fine! Can't wait" I sarcastically comment.

"Have you told your boyfriend?"

"God no. He probably wouldn't do anything anyway. He probably wouldn't know what to do" I sigh, as the shop finally comes into view.

Stood just outside the shop I notice Margaret stood talking to Jared, Francis and Anna, Jared does he signature hand raise and smiles. Behind him are Dean, Zoe, James and Chris, who look much like one of those really annoying 'popular' groups in a typical American high school.

"Don't worry mate. He won't be saying two words to you if I've got anything to say about it" June comforts, squeezing my hand gently.

Even with all the shit that's been going on, it feels quite comforting to know that I have a couple of friends that have my back. Deep down I really do want to sort this mess out with James, because knowing that I have issues with people I'll eventually be working pretty close with...well it sucks. But to be honest I know I'll probably end up giving him another chance, and he'll fuck up again. Even Henry is mature than that twat, and Henry's give years younger than him.

"Morning girls" Margaret greets us, "How are you all this morning?"

"Pretty good aren't we guys?" Sophie chirps, looking towards June and I who both mumble and nod in agreement.

"Wait" Jared smirks, walking towards me, "Where's my hug work buddy?!"

Anna gasps as Jared wraps his arms around my shoulders, his heavily tattooed arms squishing the majority of life out of me. Out of the corner of my eye I catch James glaring at me and relish in his displeasure. Although I shouldn't stoop to his level, it feels good to piss him off for once.

"It's lovely to see how close you guys have gotten!" Margaret cheers.

We all break out in nervous laughter, and I breathe a sigh of relief as Jared finally lets me go.

Just as Margaret engages in conversation with Francis and the girls, Anna tugs gently on my jumper and indicates away from the group. I willingly follow after her, stopping just outside one of the programme selling booths. She turns towards me and takes a deep breath, looking back towards the group.

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay" Anna deepens her tone and places a hand on my arm, "I never really got the chance to ask last week after what happened, and I feel bad that I didn't back you up. But I guess June took that role for me!"

"Oh no don't worry, I mean of course this is a bit stressful and I don't know what his motive is, or why he's doing this. I'm just gonna stay away from him, if he talks to me I'll be pleasant but I just cannot be bothered with him at all" I groan in frustration, "Deep down I do want to sort things out with him because we did get on before things turned nasty, but I don't know...I just...oh god I really don't know"

"I just wanted to offer some advice, obviously cause I used to be quite close to him, but James is bad news. Please do not under any circumstances go there. I know you have a boyfriend and you don't seem the type of person to you know...do that, I'm just trying to warn you. It's clear as day that he fancies you and he will do everything in his power to get you, even if that means splitting you and your boyfriend up"

"Woah, James said that you were obsessed with him..." I pause briefly, rethinking my next phrase, "Well he's full of shit so he was probably lying"

"No fucking way did he say that! I was working in a bar back in Chicago and he practically forced himself on to me, and out of pity I gave him my number. He would not stop harassing me I ended up changing my number!" Anna angrily whispers, trying to make sure the rest of the group don't hear.

"Wow" I scoff, running both hands through my hair and letting out a deep sigh, "Let's just both stay away from him, hey?"

Anna nods in agreement, and we make our way back to the group who are deep in conversation.

"Okay guys shall we head in?" Margaret announces, "This way!"

We follow Margaret into the shop, and stood just by the tills are three important looking staff members, talking amongst themselves. One of the girls looks younger than I do, and looks as if she has the whole No. 7 makeup counter on her face.

Upon seeing our precense, one of the older looking men walks towards us, shaking Margarets hand. They both turn around and our hushed talk dies down.

"Good morning everybody! My name's Harry and as you know during the away weeks you'll be working in here with me for the week. In normal cases you will spend a week preparing for the home games in your designated areas, whether that be the food courts or with the stewards, and the following week you will spend in here with me, Jenny and Oliver" He indicates towards the young girl and the middle aged man behind him, "Now I know June and Francis have already learnt how to use the till so I would like you two to be out here for today, but if the rest of you follow me into the stock room and we will start teaching you the basics"

Sophie and I say our goodbyes to June as she heads off to stand behind the till, and we follow Harry around the shop and through a door in the corner of the room. I've never seen this part of the shop before. There's a short corridor with doors on each side, and Harry leads us through the room on the far left. There are piles and piles of cardboard boxes that have writing on the sides, rails of different shaped and coloured clothes hangers, and all sorts of different rota's, lists, everything.

Harry explains that this is the main base for the shop, and that deliveries will come through the main entrance to the shop and be placed in here to be arranged accordingly and then placed out on the shop floor. We're taken to the room across the hall and into a much smaller area of the shop, where according to Harry, the shirt printing takes place.

"I only need two people in here, so..." He briefly pauses to scan the remaining volunteers, before pointing towards James, "You, what's your name son?"

"Oh...I'm James"

"Alright then, and err" Harry searches for a partner for James in the crowd and I immediately feel nauseous.

I feel Sophie squeeze my wrist as Harry calls upon Anna to work with James. She willingly obliges and gives me a reassuring look as she goes to stand next to James. I don't know whether to feel glad that I have not been partnered with James, or scared shitless now that Anna is. With the look that James gave me earlier whilst I was talking to Anna, I know something is going to happen.

"The rest of you can follow me back into the main shop" Harry announces, "Jenny will be along in a minute to teach you guys what you need to do"

We head back into the shop and Harry drags Jared, Sophie and Dean in to keep watch of everything that goes on, and report back on anything that needs restocking. Finally, the last group consisting of myself, Zoe and Chris are set with the task of handling the online orders, and informing the Anna and James of any shirt printing and sorting out the stock to be sent off.

"So the orders come through on here, and if they want anything printed on a shirt, you just report back to Anna and James. Anything else that you can put together with the stock back here you're more than welcome to, and just box them up and put them in the mailing bags over in the corner" Harry explains to us, pointing over to a box full of familiar looking blag plastic bags - I can't count the amount of things I've ordered from this shop, "You'll also need to print off the customers address and attach that to the package"

All three of us nod and mumble in acknowledgment, and Harry points to a window on the computer screen. It is titled with a woman's name and has a whole list of what she's ordered. I've never even heard of half of these things...so this should be fun.

"Right so if you click on the woman's name" Harry pauses briefly whilst Zoe obeys his orders, "Now click print in the top corner and there you go!"

The printer jiggles and crackles before printing out a Mrs Frederick's address, and I hand it over to Harry.

"Right if Zoe stays here with me, can yous go and find what we need?" He asks, "We also need a shirt printing, Vienna can you tell the other two and they can get started on that"

Yes of course, nothing would make me happier than being in a room with that putrid, vulgar excuse for a human being. I would love to do that.

"Yeah okay" I mumble, "What does she want on it?"

"Mannone, and the number 25"

With that I nervously make my way across the hall, and out of habit, I knock on the door. To be honest I couldn't look much more of a twat.

I make my way into the room, and to my utter surprise, Anna and James are laughing away to each other. His cheeky grin falls sour as his eyes meet with mine. Anna however, jumps to her feet to come and greet me, her overly exaggerated smile still intact.

"What's up babe?" She smiles, "Do we need a shirt printing?"

"Err, yeah. Mannone, 25"

My eyes catch James' once again, and he scoffs at me, shaking his head in disbelief. Annoyingly Anna notices, and rubs her hand against her forehead and I can already sense an argument brewing.

"Come on you guys!" She groans, "This is fucking ridiculous! You two just need to sort out your differences, because you guys are gonna have to work together at some point. If this is how you're going to react around each other then you'll both get fired I can guarantee it"

Anna's gaze shifts from James to myself, and she repeats this sequence four or five times, before James finally speaks out.

"Can you give us a minute?" He quietly asks Anna.

Without a single word, Anna nods her head and exits the room. For the first time in quite a while, I feel anxiety creeping in and my mouth feels as if I've eaten a hundred odd dry crackers.

I don't think either of us know what's going to happen next. James probably expects me to kick off at him, and call him all of the words under the sun. With me I kind of expect him to try and come on to me at some point, because every time we've spoken he does just that. Or he'll either seem really kind and genuine, and then he'll turn on me instantly.

Fuck knows what's going to happen.

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