I keep my expression neutral. God knows that I’velet enough people down in my lifetime.
He leans forward and folds his leathered hands infront of him. “Diego is leaving the team in January.”
I raise my brows in surprise. Diego Martinez is thecoach, and a great one at that. He’s helped bring theteam back from the brink all those years ago.
“Why?” I ask, trying to ignore the feeling insideme, like my chest is taking flight. I can’t get ahead ofmyself here, can’t dare dream of where this could beleading.
Pedro exchanges a tired glance with Antonio beforeturning his sharp eyes back to me. “He’s going to coachfor the Argentina team instead. We’ve known about itfor a while, we just weren’t sure what to do about it.”
I clear my throat and fight the urge to straighten thecuffs on my rolled up sleeves. “And Warren?” Warren isthe assistant coach, a Brit who used to play for Arsenalway back in the day. For a while there, with all thesemeetings, I had thought that perhaps I was beinggroomed to take his position. Now it has the possibilityto be so much more than that.
“We had hopes that Warren would be able to stepup. But the truth is, we’d all want a Spaniard in charge ofthe boys and one from the family.” Pedro pauses to takeanother sip of coffee and wipes delicately at hismustache before saying, “We want you, Mateo.”
I blink at him. “Me?”
“Yes,” he says with a quick smile. “Naturally yourealized we wanted to do business with you.”
I sit back in my chair, faintly aware that my heart ispounding loudly in my ears. “Well, yes, but there isbusiness and there is being a coach of an internationalfootball team. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but whatmakes you think this is something I can do? I haven’tbeen in the game for a long time.”
Pedro and Antonio exchange another look, and thistime Antonio speaks, slow and measured. “We thinkyou’ll do just fine. We have until January, of course, andwill put you in with Warren and Diego immediately.You’ll get a feel for it, what it’s like to be back. Believeme, Mateo, I used to watch you play religiously, and forsomeone like you, this is a natural progression.”
“Besides,” Pedro adds, “it’s always good to mixthings up. With Diego leaving, we want to ensure thatthe players and the audience are riveted as always.Having a player like you back in the saddle, so to speak,would attract a lot of attention to the team. Especiallysince you’ve been in the public eye again this past year.”
I swallow and give him an uneasy smile. He doesn’tseem too pleased about that, how the paparazzi went alittle crazy over my divorce, and the scandal of dating ayounger, foreign woman. I wait for Pedro to bring upVera, but he doesn’t.
“You don’t have to give us your answer now,” hesays smoothly, his face going from stern contempt to oneof a crafty politician. “We have plenty of time. Howabout you let us know by the end of the week and we’lltake the next steps from there? This will no doubt changeyour life, Mateo, but only for the better.”
Lunch is served soon after and their talks turn to thesport, to films, to the weather. I smile and nod but I amtrapped inside my head. One part of me feels ready toburst from happiness, from the prospect of fulfillment,while another part is digging its nails in, afraid to let go,afraid of more change.
We leave the restaurant together, and I tell them I’llgive them a call on Friday. They wave me off as if theyknow my answer already. Perhaps I know it too. Still, Ishare my life with Vera and would not act without discussing it with her, even if I wasone hundred percent certain.