“What do you mean, not old enough.”
“Not big enough, either. You’d get flattened.”
Jon was looking at his mobile. “Two players short and it’s tomorrow.” He continued to glare at the phone and then Mum had something to say.
“Well, if you’re short you ought to give Sally a try. She’s good in the school team, scored a goal last week.”
At least Mum was sticking up for her. Jon, however, had not finished. “She’s too young – they won’t want some kid playing with them – they’d be scared she’d get in the way.”
Sally remembered the young farmers’ disco. She had taken Ruth from school and they had enjoyed themselves with her brother’s friends. Now Ruth kept asking for another invitation.
There was a tap on her door and Jon eased it open. “Got a minute?” Before Sally could answer he was standing there with his mobile in his hand. “I thought they’d got someone, but they’ve not turned up. Can you get your stuff together – bully-off in half an hour.”
“Oh, good enough, am I now?” He stood by the door and she saw that he was shaking his hand as he always did when he was running late.
“Yeah, Sal. Just get your kit.” He didn’t wait to see how she would respond.
There was time. Ruth answered her call immediately. “I’m playing. Can you get down there? The others’ll be there.” She wanted one of friends there and Ruth couldn’t wait. From under her bed she dragged out her sports bag. Soon Jonathan was calling from the landing and then they were off.
It was cold, colder than she had ever been on a hockey pitch. Sally was pleased that she had kept her track suit on, like most of the players. There had been no score during the first half but now she watched from the wing as the other team attacked the young farmers’ goal. Jon was there with a couple of his mates, tall, heavy-looking guys. No chance for her against hulks like them. Suddenly the other side broke away, along the other side of the pitch and Sally ran back to help the backs. In front of her a four young men were losing control of the ball and she stood her ground, focussing on that ball and trying not to think of what might happen next.
As the first opponent roared up to her she trapped the ball with her stick – there was no one to pass to. As he reached her he tripped and tried to steady himself. From behind another large play ran into the back of him and Sally moved the ball to one side, but into the path of the two other enormous players. She ducked and wriggled and nudged the ball forwards. There was light and another shove and she was free, free to pass the ball now, to an older team-mate who set off up the pitch.
And that was it, the only goal scored in the match. As they walked off the pitch and back to the changing rooms there was an arm around her shoulder. It was Jon.
“You were fantastic, Sal. Like watching a rugby scrum – no idea what was happening and then, there you were. Easy-peasy, thanks to you.”
Ahead of them their supporters waited to congratulate them, among them Ruth, chatting excitedly to one of Jon’s friends.
How did Jon’s attitude towards his sister change?
What do you think Ruth enjoyed most about the game?