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Captain of Her Heart

Chapter Eighteen – A Leader of Men

It was only when he was back into the swing of pre-season training that she realised how much the uncertainty of the winter had unsettled them, how much they’d missed the comfort blanket of their old familiar routine.

At least now the insecurity was over, life could resume its soothing tempo and she could appreciate once more the romance of their everyday existence: the long walks in the Dales, the way he’d lovingly hold her gaze whilst she removed a dog hair from his eye and the feel of his body against hers as she carried him up to bed after he’d fallen asleep in front of Premier League Darts. He was the Brad Pitt to her Angelina Jolie once again, although, if she was honest, she doubted Brad would ever discuss the best way to worm a Labrador whilst her family were trying to watch the Queens’ Christmas Day speech.

The hard grind of preparing for the new season also reminded her of the native cunning he’d always shown – one of the first things that had attracted her to him.

‘He’s nobody’s fool,’ she’d thought whilst administering the dead-leg that would prevent him from taking part in the physio’s dreaded bleep test later that morning. A sly smile crossed his face and tears of pain warmed his cheeks as he limped towards the car. She stood there waving him away for what seemed like an age as he pulled out of the driveway and down the road at an uncertain 5 mph – the maximum he could manage with a leg numbed to the point where it could barely press down on the accelerator pedal.

From the vantage point of their house on the hillside she watched as he inched his way down the narrow country lanes near their village, the ever increasing tailback of traffic behind him a testament to how severe a blow he’d taken and how hard it would be for the club physio to deny his injury. That was the genius of Martin; he had avoided ten minutes of agony by inducing just a few days of extreme discomfort.

But this early personal triumph was soon to be forgotten, as Martin’s role as club captain, and his determination to diminish the intensity of the players physical conditioning to “something my bleedin’ knees can cope with,” had brought him further into conflict with the club physio.

It had started when Martin downgraded the traditional early season cross county run into a three-legged race and in response the physio has ensured Martin was partnered with the clubs diminutive batting prodigy, little Jamie Tyler, county crickets first registered midget.

As Martin struggled his way down the roads surrounding the club’s training ground, trying in vain to keep his one stride in step to Jamie’s two hops, he vowed that the physio was to pay for this humiliation. A determination that increased all the more when he was stopped by a police patrol car alerted to reports of a man dragging a small child away across the fields.

As Jamie tried to explain he’d left his identification behind when they had changed clothes, a phrase that did little to calm the situation, Martin, handcuffed and with his face pressed hard against the outside of the police car’s rear passenger side window, reflected that being a county cricket captain was going to be harder work than he first anticipated.