The Prodigal Daughter Returns #2

Ben a.k.a. Rien102 is back with the second part of his story.

A hotel lobby, Wednesday 7 July 2039, present days

When Penny Stiles arrived in the hotel lobby, she saw Max, her analyst, waiting for her.  Hey, minimax!

Hey, old hag! he shot back.

Jon isn’t there yet?

Nope.  Shouldn’t be long though …  As he said the last word, they heard the elevator bell.  Both turned their head. The elevator doors opened and Jon emerged from the car.

There you are you tardy! said Penny.

Here I am you limping harpy!  Still grumpy as usual I see! She offered him a smile in response.

The damn edge was so high that I had to sit on it just to be able to enter the bath!  Max looked at her, dumbfounded.

Your bath’s edge is that high?

There was no rail to hold on to…  Both Jon and Max knew Penny very well and could easily imagine her, swearing in the bathroom…

Jon Stead met Penny Stiles for the first time almost fifteen years ago.  She’s just been given the reign of Aston Villa and he had gotten an interview to become her Assistant Manager.  If the first thing he noticed was the crutch because it was unmistakable of course, the second thing was her eyes; they relayed determination and ambition.  The process took over one hour but in less than fifteen minutes, he was under her spell. Five days later, he signed his contract and since then, he blessed himself for accepting the call from the first woman manager in the Premier League. When she left for the National team, she convinced him to stay at Villa but also to be her Assistant Manager with the Three Lions.

For Max Gunn though, it was a different story.  He ignored her initial phone call for a job interview fourteen years ago; he was an analyst with Swansea at the time.  He wouldn’t do the same mistake twice when she called again three years after. Villa was solidly entrenched in third place on the table at that time, and she would get her place in the Champions League.  In the Europa League, she was in the Semi-Finals and, for what he saw, he thought she would reach the Final, and get her to win; Villa was on fire since January already. She effectively did got it, and with style too; a soul-crushing 6-0 win against poor Wolfsburg.  When she left Villa, she asked him to follow her, on FA payroll, fulltime with the Three Lions.

The trio started to walk toward the exit and they could see a minibus with the Arsenal logo waiting for them, with a tall man in his thirties right in front of it.  Once they exited the hotel, the man came to them at a brisk pace and with a wide smile. Hi! I’m Eric and I am from the team’s hospitality crew. Penny extended her hand forward to shake the men's hand.  Jon and Max followed.

Thanks, Eric.  I’m Penny, here are Jon and Max.

I hope all the accommodations are to your liking.  Penny decided to put her personal pride away.

Everything is perfect.  Shall we go? The man waved the trio toward the vehicle.

As they hit the road, Penny got her tablet out and started to sift through some pages of text.  Jon and Max stayed silent. They knew that she liked to re-read what she considers to be the main topics of future discussion.  Both men had talked at length during the flight from New York to London. Max had gotten a hold on every single report, about all the players in the main squad and, with Jon, they went through them while trying to make them fit, or not, with what they knew.  Penny, who was dead tired, simply withdrew from the talks by unfolding her sleeping seat; first-class flights have privileges.

As the trio was getting out of the aeroplane, Max gave the excerpt of the different conclusions Jon and he had come to.  At least, they knew four players very well. Domingo Ruiz, the goalkeeper, was bought by Penny seven years ago; he was among the top ten goalkeepers in the world.  Diego Pearce and Leon Smith were both former Villa Academy players she integrated to the main squad rapidly. Finally, there was Reuben Edge, a solid central defender they learned to know and like with the Three Lions.  They all thought, Penny first and foremost, that to have four players who had played for more than three or four years each for her in a club, would give leverage to her reputation. The fourth was a bonus; he knew her in a setting that was very different, where expectations are almost unbearable in England, whoever you might be.  She wouldn’t be able to use Reuben and Leon right at start though; they both got a respite after the World Cup. As for Domingo, the man would be playing the World Cup final in three days…

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