This is a work of fiction, a short story of just over 2000 words. Following my recent story ‘Down by the tracks’, this attempts to tell a different side of a similar event.
As they walked into the bar, Carl was feeling pretty good. He had kept out two certain goals that afternoon, and the eventual win of four-nil was their best result of the season. It might only be Division Two, but being the leading goalkeeper of the town’s team earned him enough to rent a nice flat on the new development, and to lease his treasured BMW car. In a small place, it also bestowed the status of minor celebrity, especially here, in a town where almost nothing happened. If they kept doing well, they would be promoted next season, and he was sure that the scouts would start taking him seriously then. He had many good years left, and hoped that he might finish them in the Premier League.
They had promised themselves a night out if they won, but when it came to it, only four could be bothered. He got a lift with Farid. He was a Muslim, so didn’t drink. He liked to party though. Angie’s Bar was the only up-market place around. The queue outside showed how popular it was, but Terry the doorman knew the boys, and had been at the match earlier. He moved the rope to let them in, winking as they passed him. They had their own spot reserved, a semi-circular booth, with nice soft seats. When the pretty waitress arrived to take their order, the men teased her; asking for her number, giving her compliments, and trying to stroke her hand. She didn’t mind. The footballers were known to be big tippers, so she smiled and flirted back.
Looking around, Carl spotted another player standing at the bar. It was Leroy, the oldest member of the team. He was chatting to two girls, leaning in close to make himself heard above the music. One of them was a real stunner. Light-brown hair, slim and attractive, in a white dress that was very short indeed. The other girl was hefty, squeezed into a red velvet dress that she was brimming over at the top. Leroy wouldn’t mind that at all, Carl knew. He wasn’t fussy, and always said he preferred bigger girls. Not for the first time, Carl wondered why it was that every gorgeous girl always seemed to have a fat friend. Perhaps it was to make them look even better? If so, little white dress didn’t need any help.
After a few beers, the lads were feeling relaxed and happy. Leroy appeared next to the booth, with his arms around both the girls he had been chatting to. “Carl, meet Kirsty. Kirsty, meet Carl.”
He sat her down next to Carl, then wandered off to the dance floor with the big girl. Her dress had looked even tighter close-up, and her blue-black hair was shining in the lights from the disco.
“Let me get you a drink”. Carl offered, waving over the smiling waitress.
The girl shifted closer to him, her dress even shorter when she was sitting down. It was also plain to see that she wasn’t wearing a bra. Carl reluctantly forced his eyes back up to her face. It dawned on him that he had seen her around before. One of a group of girls who usually stood about outside the football club. They would wave at the players as they drove in, sometimes ask for autographs if you stopped the car. They never seemed to be in the ground on match days though. Maybe they didn’t like football, just the players.
She told him that she knew he was the goalkeeper. He was well-known in the town, and her Dad always said how good he was. When he asked why she didn’t come to the matches, she told him that she worked in the big supermarket on the ring road, and always had to work on Saturdays. She was good company, easy to chat to, and very friendly. Carl had a good feeling about this one.
Long before the club was due to close, Kirsty had already got very touchy-feely. They had a few kisses, and it was obvious to Carl that she wasn’t messing around. When he suggested that they leave, and get a taxi back to his flat, she agreed straight away. She wasn’t in the least concerned about her friend, who was happily still writhing around with Leroy on the dance floor. Carl had a quick word with Farid, telling him he wouldn’t be needing a lift home.
As soon as they were outside the club, Kirsty dragged him into the small alley that led down to the storeroom. She was all over him; pulling at his trousers, unbuckling his belt, leaving no doubt about what she wanted. She raised her dress, pulling her panties over to one side, then pushed back against the wall, and wrapped her legs around his hips, lifting her body onto him. It was all over pretty quickly. Carl was excited, and it had been a while since he had been with a woman. He felt a bit silly, but Kirsty didn’t seem to mind. Still, he felt he should say something.
“How about coming back to my place anyway? We could have some more drinks there, and I am sure that I will be ready to go again before you know it. I promise it will be better, the second time.”
“S’okay.” She sounded a bit slurred. “Some other time. I’ve got to get home now.” He walked her to the taxi rank, and gave the driver two twenty-pound notes. “Make sure she gets home safe, mate. Right into the house, before you go.” The driver nodded. Carl went back inside the club. He wanted to make sure that Farid didn’t leave without him.
Monday was practice day, and he was trying out penalty saves when the assistant coach came to get him. There were three police officers in the changing room. Carl thought something terrible must have happened. They said he was needed for questioning at the police station, and they would wait while he got changed. They wouldn’t tell him what it was about, so the club’s manager phoned their solicitor to meet him down there. During the short drive, they refused to answer any of his questions, and just stared out of the windows. He was taken in through the back, shown into a small room, and told that they would wait for the lawyer to arrive. The lawyer told him to say nothing without conferring with him. Then two detectives came in. One of them was a woman, and she seemed to be in charge. She started up a tape machine, and recited a caution, warning him that anything he said could be used in evidence.
She slid a photograph across the table. It was of a young girl in a school uniform. Her hair was tied back, and she was wearing glasses. “Do you know this girl?” The woman asked, her tone flat.
He picked up the photo and studied it. “It looks a bit like Kirsty, maybe when she was a lot younger” He replied honestly, wondering if something had happened to her. This girl claims that you had sex with her on Saturday night. What have you got to say about that?” Her tone stayed the same. The lawyer touched Carl’s arm and shook his head. But Carl ignored him, he had nothing to hide after all. “Well, yeah. We met inside Angie’s, got on well, and we ended up doing it in the alley at the side. She started it all. She was well keen.” The lawyer put a hand to his head and rubbed his brow. The detective slid another piece of paper across to him. This time it was in a clear plastic sleeve. “Read this, Carl”.
He read it, then read it again. It was a birth certificate. Kirsty’s birth certificate.
The woman leaned back against the chair. “That’s right Carl. She’s fourteen. Two years under the legal age for sex. Even if it was consensual, it is still a criminal offence. No better than child abuse. And you have just admitted it. Oh, and that photo, it was taken this morning.” It all happened very fast after that. He was charged, fingerprinted, swabbed for DNA, had blood taken, then had to appear in court the next morning, to be bailed. He had to tell the club manager, who suspended him immediately. His parents went into shock. They shook their heads in dismay. How could he be so stupid? They just kept repeating that, over and over.
At the next meeting with the lawyer, he was told that he had no option but to plead guilty. They had his DNA from the girl’s underwear, and CCTV footage of them leaving the club together, then walking her to the taxi rank. The taxi driver would say that the girl was drunk, and by the time he got her home she was crying. There was no point Carl saying that he presumed she was over eighteen because she was already in the club when he arrived. Ignorance of her age was no defence in law, as it turned out. Also no point saying that she looked over eighteen, was dressed sexily, and wearing heavy make-up. The same rules applied there. As for the large lady in the red dress, she hadn’t even met Kirsty before that night. The girl had approached her outside, and asked to go in with her. As far as the club was concerned, they might get a slap on the wrist for allowing her past the doorman, and serving her alcohol. A fine at worst, and maybe Terry would have to be let go.
Carl felt as if he was in a dream, and hoped that he would wake up soon. His career in football, his good name in the town, and everyone he had ever counted as a friend. It was all gone, after one simple mistake. One that almost any young man could make, in the same situation. Most of all, he couldn’t understand why. What was in it for Kirsty, to go running to the police? He had been nice to her, kind even. He had hoped to see her again, perhaps become her regular boyfriend. And he really had no idea how young she was. That was something he could swear to. How had she come to tell her parents? What had snapped inside, that would make her want to destroy him like this? There was no option but to sign the statement. The lawyer was adamant that the court would be lenient if he explained himself, and expressed genuine remorse.
That was only half the problem. Mum and Dad told him that they would have to sell up and move away. Anywhere that they could find work. This was a small town, and they had long memories. Someone had already smashed the glass in the porch door, and the word ‘Paedophile’ had been painted on the garage door, though they spelled it wrong, daubing ‘Peedofile’. His younger brother had to be kept away from school due to the other kids bullying him, and local shopkeepers were reluctant to serve goods to any of the family. Reporters camped outside the house, and TV news cameras kept a vigil too. Carl had been forced to stay in a small hotel miles away, and his family had moved in with his aunt, in the next town.
When he was sentenced to three years, he fainted in the dock. That meant at least eighteen months before he was considered for release, and then he would be added to the Sex Offenders Register for life. Kirsty didn’t even have to appear in court. But her family was there, and they cheered when sentence was pronounced.
Prison was noisier than he had expected. It was full of strange smells, shouting and clanging. The officers made him strip, then examined him. They read out from some paperwork, and asked him if he understood. Carl hadn’t really understood anything, not since the day that the police had come to the football ground to take him in. He felt as if he was going to be sick, but he nodded anyway. He was given some things to take to his cell, before being approached by one man, who seemed to be senior.
“If I were you son, I would apply for Rule 45. Go in the special wing, with all the other nonces and rapists. Kiddie fiddlers like you don’t last five minutes otherwise.”