‘Shit, what do we do?’ These men had guns. Who were they? What did they want? And why had this romantic surprise turned into a night from hell?
It all happened so quickly and Alison was scared. Yvan squeezed her hand tightly. He would give himself up before he’d let anything happen to her and she knew it.
As they crouched down behind the seats of Stamford Bridge in the very early hours of Christmas Day, a dozen men in heavy leather jackets were checking the stadium row by row. Their shouts were getting closer. Time was running out and Alison was relying on Yvan to decide on an escape plan for them.
She had always trusted Yvan to know what to do, ever since they met on a Kibbutz ten years ago.
Alison had only known about the Kibbutz because her mother had wanted to teach her the value of hard work, just as their neighbour’s son had done so. Alison didn’t really follow worldwide politics and she didn’t really care for free labour even if its purpose was utopia. The only reason Alison agreed to become a volunteer was because she was bored.
She was bored of the same old clubs and bars in London; she was bored of visiting the hairdressers every six weeks for another trim and if she was feeling daring, something experimental like a fringe; and she was bored of dating a bad boy from Surrey just to annoy her parents.
No, life at the age of 19 had become predictable and Alison needed a new challenge that would make her feel alive again. Little did she know, 10 years later, that she would be staring death in the face – and for the second time round.
The first time Alison had crossed death’s path was on an Israeli mountain. She was on the back of Yvan’s off-road motorbike and Yvan was taking her to a place where he would regularly go to escape the paranoia that defined his war-torn world. But as Yvan took a corner, the brakes malfunctioned and the bike skidded along the gravel. Alison and Yvan flew off and hit the ground, skidding across it. They were both lucky. They both survived but just about.
Crouching down behind the seats of Stamford Bridge, Yvan knew that the same people who had sabotaged his bike were the same ones looking for him right now.
Yvan needed to protect Alison. He couldn’t let them know that she meant everything to him. But just as he tried to stand up, she pulled him back down.
‘What are you doing?’ she pleaded. ‘You can’t.’ Yvan shrugged her off. He looked at her. He couldn’t lie. Then again, he had never told anyone why these men were after him. He had never explained to anyone why he had to escape in the middle of the night and flee to South America. He had never told his family where in the world he was and he’d been gone for almost ten years now. But finally, he could share his secret with someone. He knew he could trust her. He owed her that, at least.
Yvan leant towards Alison and whispered, ‘l killed someone – when I was in the army.’
Alison looked at him strangely. ‘But isn’t that the point of the army?’ she thought. She didn’t understand.
Yvan continued, ‘he was a friend.’
Yvan didn’t have to say anymore. The guilt was written all over his face and Alison knew there was another side to this man; a darker side, that she hadn’t met yet. But she didn’t care. She wasn’t going to lose him. Not again. Alison took Yvan’s hand and told him, ‘you’re getting out of here and I’m coming with you.’
Alison pulled Yvan to his feet and dragged him towards the stairs. She could hear the men getting closer and their shouts getting louder.
Alison ran down the stairs with Yvan holding on to her hand tightly. They ran along the corridor and towards the nearest gate when one of the heavies stepped out onto the corridor and stood still, waiting for them to run straight into his path. The Heavy smiled; his job couldn’t be any easier. But Yvan pulled Alison in the opposite direction and dragged her through another open gate. All around them the heavies were encroaching yet all they had to do was reach the front of the stadium where there were hotel guests and the stadium’s staff lingering around.
Alison and Yvan pulled each other along but they weren’t fast enough. One of the heavies stopped still and aimed his gun carefully, pulling the trigger. And in an instant, Yvan flew forward and across the ground.
Alison screamed. She couldn’t lose Yvan now; not after everything they’d been through. Alison dropped to Yvan’s side and tried desperately to pull him up but he wasn’t moving. Alison knew she was risking her life by not running away but she didn’t want to leave Yvan lying there.
Alison bent down to Yvan and whispered, ‘Please, I love you.’ Suddenly, Yvan’s eyes opened as he quietly asked, ‘Are they gone?’ Stunned and trying to maintain her compsure, Alison carefully looked around to discover that the heavies had disappeared. Alison nodded as she watched Yvan miraculously sit up. Yvan opened up his jacket. He had been wearing a bullet proof vest all this time.
Alison didn’t know what to say when suddenly Yvan grabbed hold of her and apologised, ‘I promise, I will never put you through anything like that again.’ But all Alison could think about was that she and Yvan now had a future together; and that she wasn’t going to let anything get in their way.