Synopsis and Opening of Taunted By Dreams Novel
Synopsis for Taunted By Dreams – By Rob Watson
This book follows four characters, each of them is blessed and cursed by having a great desire to live out a dream. Darla and Jack first feature in the book 'Immortal Dreams'. Darla is the stylish Belgian tennis player whose unbelievable work ethic help her get to the brink of making her ultimate dream of winning a major championship a reality, only for a sickening knee injury to cruelly deny her. This book follows her as she tries to make her comeback, gradually she is getting back to somewhere near the standard she once was, just when she is close to happiness the injury happens again. Not as bad as before, but still bad enough to bring back all the memories and send Darla spinning into a wild, hedonistic and degrading breakdown.
Jack is the golfer who had caused a massive upset to win the US Open, achieving his ultimate ambition. Now we follow him as he tries to repeat that success or at least play well enough to stop people calling it a fluke and him being labelled the worst player to ever win a major championship. Now he's achieved his dream he desperately wants his life to be about more than one glorious championship. Getting back to that level of performance and any sort of consistency prove to be incredibly difficult for Jack.
We are also introduced to Valery and Larissa. At the start of the book Valery is a 15year-old from Wigan, the only child to parents who treat her with alarming neglect - often referring to her as 'the biggest mistake of their life'. She finds solace from this terrible upbringing by spending countless hours whacking a tennis ball against the house wall. It's only when she's fifteen that a PE teacher spots her talent and puts her on a tennis court for the first time. Soon it becomes clear that Valery is something of a tennis genius. She overcomes a heart breaking personal loss to continue with her career and make it to Wimbledon as a seventeen year old. That first taste of the big time turns out to be a far from dream like experience for the shy Valery who absolutely despises the spotlight being on her. She clearly has the skills and the dedication to make it at the top level, but her fear of the limelight could well hold her back.
Larissa is in her early forties, with a mysterious background. She'd had her dreams when she was younger, but they were crushed. Now she finds herself working for 'The Syndicate', a worldwide, underground firm that attempt to corrupt sport by offering stars bribes and drugs. Larissa is first briefly introduced to readers in 'Shared Dreams', from that we know she is good at her job, from this story we find out just how much she loathes herself for the job that she does. Caught up in a life she doesn't want, Larissa is taunted by a former life that she wishes she could live again.
In their own way all four of them are battling their own inner demons, caused by setback after setback. All of them though deep down are driven by dreams that will never die.
‘Taunted by Dreams’
By Rob Watson.
Darla Van Der Wolfe.
I’m lying by my swimming pool, sipping a divine tasting cocktail, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, my luxury Californian Villa behind me, Ferrari on the drive, sun beaming down on me and my bikini, topping up the near perfect tan on my body that so many magazines pay top dollar to photograph and I’d just had my third orgasm of the morning. I’m utterly unhappy. Once you commit yourself wholeheartedly to one dream, then living that dream becomes the only thing that can make you happy.
I can’t help looking down at my legs, those limbs that are lusted after by so many, I can’t look at them without feeling a little sick. Despite all the cosmetic treatment money can buy, you can still make out the scar. Cicatrice sounds a much more pleasant word than scar, but whatever I called this one, I’d still feel nauseous. It’s impossible for me to look at my left knee without clearly recalling the moment of its snap and the shattering of my dreams.
Early this morning I had made myself get up and watch it, I couldn’t not watch it, but I knew watching it would be tough. Like seeing a pile up of cars, you don’t want to see the mangled bodies, but you find it so hard to divert your gaze. I turned my television on and watched it alone. The ladies French Open tennis final would forever send a shiver down my spine. Played out on the Roland Garros centre court, that was the scene of my greatest agony, when so close to my greatest triumph. Knee ligaments snapping caused indescribable physical pain, yet that was nothing compared to the emotional trauma. A set up and three points on my own serve for a five games to two lead in the second set. Undoubtedly it was the best performance of my short career, had it been a boxing match it would have been stopped to save my opponent from more punishment. Instead all the punishment was heaped on me, lying on the red clay, screaming and crying from the pain and distress. My opponent that day was Lauren Fisher, she had just become world number one and was the ultimate American sweet heart, girl next door and poster girl. Lauren rushed round to me as soon as I hit the floor, took one look at my knee and frantically waved on the medical staff. She was one of my first visitors in hospital, bringing the trophy with her and letting me hold it. Undoubtedly she’s a sweetie and I can’t imagine anybody handling the situation better, she still checks on my progress even now, two years on. During those two years she’d gone on to establish herself in the number one spot.
As if to aid my already complete memory of that sickening day, Lauren was in this year’s final. What’s more she was playing a Belgian, Holly was my country woman and was the defending French Open Champion. Fate was none to subtle, showing me a Belgian player becoming the best player on red clay, a surface that was always my favourite. Lauren was determined to win a French Open without a forfeit, Holly was equally determined to defend her crown. Something had to give. Lauren was the better tennis player, but Holly had quickly made herself into a clay court master. In three long sets Holly eventually found a way to win.
At times the match was so good I was able to get absorbed in it, the way normal tennis fans would have been. Never for more than a few minutes at a time though, then the “should be me” thoughts would hit me like a sledgehammer. I’d had a year of no tennis at all, which resulted in me losing myself in a crazy hedonistic and damaging lifestyle. Since being dragged out of that by my two closest friends, I’ve had a year of rehabilitation. Not an addictive celebrity type of rehab, but the retraining and strengthening of my knee. Two things had become clear during that year, one being that I’d be able to try playing tennis again, the other being that I would never be quite the same player. That’s either a delightful blessing, or an incredible cruel piece of taunting me with the shadows of my dream.
After the tennis was finished I was left in my lonely world, wondering how to occupy my time. As is increasingly often lately, I end up on the internet chatting to strangers. I never go on there as “myself”, always playing a role of some character in my head. In cyber world even the disappointments and heartbreaks aren’t real.
People all over the world dream of one great moment, the moments being dreamt of vary as much as the person doing the dreaming. I have dreamt as much as anyone, what makes me stand out from the crowd is that I have actually experienced the moment for real. As I lie awake at night I wonder how many people ever dream of what happens after the moment. It was the night before the first round US Open Golf championship and I couldn’t sleep. As defending champion maybe I had just as much reason to be nervous as anybody. What was keeping me awake was not the traditional sort of nerves. It was the thoughts of the year that had passed since my win that had shocked the golfing world to Francis Ouimet proportions. I’d come from nowhere to win, almost nobody had heard of me before hand and even now most golf fans would struggle to pick me out of a line up. The six months that followed was an enforced lay off from the game as I nursed an injured wrist back to full health. Amongst many other things my win had granted me fully exempt status on the PGA Tour, the place to be for any golfer. I could enter any golf tournament in the world and breeze into it because of my status as US Open champion.
The first five and a half months of this year have proved that one thing past performances don’t help you with is current performances. Amount of prize money I’ve won since the US Open? None. No cuts made, let only a sniff of a creditable finish and winning seemed an immeasurable distance away. As the weeks went by the negative talk about me increased. In every tournament I played in I could hear the crowd murmuring about how they couldn’t believe I’d won a US Open. Press and golf fans like to put tags on professional golfers, most of the tags are somewhat of a double edge sword. Ones meant as a compliment often have an inbuilt criticism. To label a player ‘the best putter on tour’, suggests that the rest of his game must need some work. Someone known as ‘longest hitter on tour’ has people wondering why his scores aren’t better than they are. The ‘best player never to have won a Major’ is freakishly talented and desperately underachieving. Conversely the label I’m increasingly being stuck with is ‘worst player to have won a major’, either I’m useless and lucky to have won one, or have to be admired for making the most of my ability and grasping my one big chance with both hands.
I look around the soulless hotel room I find myself in, knowing that my caddy and best friend Sunny is in the room next to me. Sounds crazy but I find myself longing for the days when we shared a camper van. We’d travel around, living in far from luxury, playing in mini tour events and chasing my dream. I don’t even know what my dream is anymore. Maybe I should be thinking of the day I’d be known as the ‘worst player to have won two majors’.
Along with half the street I couldn’t help over hear the row my parents were having. Not anywhere close to being their first blazing row, not even their first today. I could hear things being thrown, but I’m not sure which of them was doing the throwing. Years ago these arguments would leave me in a tearful wreck up in my room. At the grand old age of fifteen I had long since become resigned to the fact that my parents would have more rows in the space of a month than the house of commons has seen in it’s lifetime. I’m still up in my room as they argue, that’s just because when I’m in the house I spend as much time as possible in my room, wanting to minimise the contact with the two creatures that created me. Both of them are always too drunk, hung-over, high, worn out or lacking in decency to care where I am and what I’m doing. For as long as I remember they’ve made it clear to me that I was a mistake. Keeping me under their roof only so they can squeeze every last bit out of the benefit system, a system they abuse so much.
As it becomes clear that this row is going to be a long lasting one I roll my eyes, get up off my bed and then reach under it. Reaching for the one thing that I can rely on to provide me with some escapism, a tennis racquet, a cheap one from Tesco’s and a tennis ball that had been hit far too many times for its own good. Living in the end house of a terrace, in the rough area of Wigan, didn’t have many obvious advantages. One thing I was eternally grateful for was that it meant I had a wall to hit against. The area didn’t lend itself to tennis clubs and Pimms, but I didn’t care I just loved to whack that ball. I walked down the stairs with a slight smile on my face, a smile of anticipation of the pure joy I was about to get from repeatedly smashing that ball. My parents were in full on scream mode by this stage, making it loud a clear just how much they hated each other. As I left the house I was virtually certain that they would be having sex tonight, far from certain that it would be with each other.
I know there are millions of people in far worse situations than me. But as I play against the wall, I can’t help thinking how different my life could have turned out. Where would I be right now? What would I be doing? What would my prospects be, had I been born into a family who gave a shit?
Whoever said “youth is wasted on the young”, probably wasn’t a PE teacher, but had they been they would most definitely have come to the same conclusion. So many great sports to play, yet so many of them only do so only a computer game. Others only ever play one sport, even when it is clear their physical and or mental attributes are massively more suited to another. A disgustingly large amount give up playing sport “properly” at a sickeningly young age, simply because they’ve come to the conclusion they are “not good enough.” Then there is the smaller group, who are not just equally annoying, but even more so, immensely talented, yet with no true desire to make the most out of what they have been born with. That is such a slap in the face to those of us who had a fraction of their talent and a million times more desire.
I sometimes wonder if working as a PE teacher is the wrong thing for me to be doing, making myself be so close to these masses of people that irritate the hell out of me. Yet I know I can never leave the job, because I know it only takes one extra-ordinary pupil to make it all worth while. Putting up with the mass of underachieving mediocrity is bad, missing out on one diamond in the rough would be far worse.
I suppose it was my fault for leaving it there in the first place. I’d come in from a couple of hours of hitting against the wall, without thinking I’d left it in the living room whilst I went to the kitchen to get a drink. When I enter the kitchen Mum comes down the stairs and into the living room, quickly followed by Dad. As is increasingly often the case I have no idea what they are arguing about and no desire to know. Dad gives Mum one too many verbal insults and she snaps, she grabs the nearest thing to her and takes a swing at him with it. To my horror it’s my racquet, to my utter despair Dad sways out of the way and Mum smashes my racquet into the wall. I know straight away that it’s broken, my heart skips a beat. After I let out an exasperated scream I quickly walk over to Mum and grab the racquet out of her hand.
‘You stupid fucking cow!’ I scream at her without ever making eye contact. My first ever outburst towards either one of them stuns them both into silence. I run upstairs, racquet in hand. Throw myself and the racquet on the bed and cry. The racquet had been a present from an auntie who had since emigrated to Australia. I knew there was no way Mum or Dad would buy me a replacement one, and I had no money to call my own. Buying even the cheapest of racquets would require me to get some sort of job. At fifteen the most likely was a paper round, something I had so far managed to avoid.
To take my mind of the horrible incident and the thought of the impending paper round, I watch the recent French Open final between Lauren and Holly. I’d recorded it off the television in my room and this was the third time I’d watched it in the space of a fortnight and I knew it would be far from the last.
The next day whilst in a PE class I noticed the collection of new looking tennis racquets in the equipment room. I’m sure they weren’t top of the range models, but they were more than good enough for me and probably better than the racquet I had been using. I’ve never stolen anything in my life, determined not to use the lousy upbringing as an excuse to be a lousy person. But there were those racquets, just lying there, I knew they would hardly be used and here I was desperate for a racquet that I would use until it was worn out. After PE it was dinner time, I spent all that break time and the following double History lesson persuading myself that stealing one of those racquets wouldn’t be a bad thing. The bell sounded to signal the end of the history lesson and the school day and I had convinced myself to go and get one of those racquets.
Kids are heading to the exits from all directions and I sneak unnoticed into the gym area. I’m pretty sure they keep the equipment room open, so my plan is simply to walk in there, take a racquet and sneak out with it. By the end of all the thoughts about justifying my own actions, I’d convinced myself that this theft wouldn’t be a problem for me. Now I’m walking down the PE corridor, past the changing rooms, my heart is racing and I’m sweating as if I’m about to attempt a massive bank heist. Looking round me all the time, I know that if any PE teacher see’s me they will be extremely suspicious of my presence here on a day with no after school clubs. I make it into the gym without noticing anybody notice me. Quietly walk over to the open equipment room, still looking all around me as I walk, into the room and straight to the collection of racquets. They all look the same so there’s no choice to be made, I grab one and head out of the room and back into the gym. Two steps into the gym, the sight of Mr Wooden staring at me makes me jump out of my skin and stops me in my tracks. Now my heart is racing as if the police have caught me in the middle of Jackbing the crown jewels.
‘Valery isn’t it?’ I’m stunned he knows my name, in our school male PE teachers teach boys and female ones teach girls.
‘Yeah, how do you know my name?’ I manage to mutter, heart still pounding and sweat increasing.
‘We PE teachers do talk to each other you know. I saw you playing hockey in a lesson late last year and was so impressed by your movement that I asked Miss Jackson who you were. Hockey technique was lacking but movement was fantastic.’
‘So are you going to explain what you are doing with that racquet, or are you going to wait for me to ask for an explanation?’ He looked at me in a way that gave me hope that he wasn’t going to be completely horrible about the situation.
‘I’m sorry Sir. It’s just that I had a racquet and it got broke yesterday. I spend hours and hours hitting against my wall at home and I really need another racquet. But I can’t afford to buy one right away and there’s no chance my parents would buy me one. When I saw all these racquets earlier today I thought it was stupid for all of those racquets to be just lying there and hardly ever getting used,’ I did my best to portray a sweet and innocent young girl, if I’d planned ahead I could’ve put my hair in bunches and had some braces put on my teeth to complete the look.
‘I agree, it is stupid that so much sports equipment lies around unused. Not sure if you’ll believe me but had you come to me with your story and asked if you could have one of the racquets then I would have let you have one. You see I’m actually one of those PE teachers that above all else wants to see young people play sport. However I can’t let your stealing actions go unnoticed. If you want this racquet, then you’re going to have to prove you deserve it. Come outside with me and hit a few balls against a wall,’ he grabbed a tennis ball and set off walking.
I followed him outside the sports hall. Completely taken aback by his words. Could he really be a PE teacher whose main goal in life was to encourage kids to play sport? We went round the side of the building, almost completely out of sight of any kids still heading for the bus or waiting to be picked up.
‘Off you go then, hit away,’ he tossed me the ball.
I caught the ball, threw down my school bag and looked at him, waiting for him to tell me he’d been joking all along and was about to give me a month’s worth of detention. Only he didn’t say anything, he just moved his head in the direction of the wall. I bounced the ball a few times, heart was still racing from being caught stealing and now nerves were kicking in too. Exactly how good did I need to be to deserve the racquet? Took a deep breath and hit a forehand against the wall, back the ball came, another forehand, and then three backhands. Soon enough I was in my comfort zone, or at least close enough to it to relax. This was the first time someone had watched me hit tennis shots, unless I count the creepy old guy in number 138. I just focussed on the ball and whacking the hell out of it. The concrete surface the ball was bouncing on wasn’t completely true, a few dodgy bounces had to be met with a timid, guided stroke, rather than my preferred full blooded swing. No idea how long I was hitting against that wall, suddenly though I became aware that school uniform was not the best outfit to be wearing for this activity in June. Around the time I first noticed the sweat I heard Mr Wooden calling my name loudly, as if it wasn’t the first or even the second time he had called it.
‘All right that’s enough, you can stop now. Although looks like you wouldn’t want to.’
I caught the ball with my left hand and looked at him, with a look that acted like a question.
‘Yes, you can keep the racquet, and the ball for that matter. Which club do you play at?’
‘Not a member of any club.’
‘You’ve got that good by hitting balls against a wall?’
‘Only reading a Lauren Fisher book.’
‘Wow. Why haven’t I seen you at my after school tennis club?’
‘Can’t afford it.’
‘It’s only two quid a session.’
‘Two quid more than I’ve got. Beside’s I’m no tennis player.’
‘Trust me Valery, you are a tennis player. Tell you what, come along for free, just don’t tell the other kids you’re not paying.’
‘Really Sir, I don’t think its right for me.’
‘Valery there are millions of things that can stop a kid fulfilling their sporting potential, please don’t let shyness stop you.’
‘All right I’ll come, but the other kids better not be way better than me.’
‘They aren’t better than you at all, most of them are just living out their well off parent’s dreams. See you tomorrow after school.’
‘Have you missed your bus now?’
‘Yeah but it doesn’t matter, I usually walk anyway.’
‘How far away do you live?’
‘Only a couple of miles.’
‘Two miles?! You must really dislike school buses.’
‘Only problem with school buses are that they are full of school kids.’
I walked down the corridor towards the staff room with a bounce in my step. Close to breaking out in a full on dance, if somebody had played the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack right then I’d have been dancing before I realised it. Had I finally found the hidden gem I’d been looking for? There was only a smattering of teachers in the room when I got to it, but one of them was one I wanted to speak to.
‘Hey Joe you look particularly boisterous, has the sweet machine just had a delivery of Lion bars again?’
‘Something even better.’
‘Wow, no wonder you’re smiling.’
‘You’ve done some work with Valery in year ten haven’t you?’
‘Don’t know her surname, painfully shy, slim, long brown hair, blemish free and quite pale skin. Plays hockey for you I think.’
‘Oh Valery Law.’
‘How good is she at hockey?’
‘I’d say she’s actually one of my top three, maybe even the best, but doesn’t really put herself about enough to make the impact on games she should. Why you asking?’
‘That sounds about right. I’ve just seen her hit a few tennis shots, and oh my God it was one of those wonderful moments. For me it was like watching a young Mozart play piano, Joyce write, Picasso paint or Bradman bat.’
‘Seriously? Never heard you use your extravagant metaphors to heap so much praise on a kid before. Usually you save them for criticism and ridicule.’
‘Maybe I’ve over stated it a touch. But that girl was born to play tennis.’
As I lay awake, next to the sleeping, athletically built man who is half my age and clearly worn out from our activities the previous night, I wonder how my life has gone so horribly wrong. I detest my job and everything it stands for, I have no loved ones or even any close friends. My life has no sense of purpose, at least no purpose I want it to have. I’ve become a sports star junkie, sleeping with far too many of them for it to be healthy. The majority of sports stars have such big ego’s that they don’t make good lovers, they only want to please themselves. I came to that conclusion years ago, yet still I persist. As if I’m desperately trying to give my life some meaning and define myself in some way. Maybe being able to seduce young sports stars at my age is so flattering to my own ego, that I can’t resist it.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, nothing in my life is how it should be. I was supposed to do something great, be world renowned for accomplishing great feats. There was supposed to be something in my life that I did better than anybody and that would be what would define me. I honestly don’t think I did a lot wrong, but some how or another I find myself here. Depressed, lonely and hating myself. Do we really only get one chance at life? That seems so unfair, especially when the original fork in the road of my life was not created by my mistakes or wrong doings, but by wrong doings of others. Was I too far down the road to be able to turn back and get all the way back to that fork? Never say never but when I look back, that fork seems a hell of a long way away and the road is far from easily travelled.
Taunted by Dreams is available to buy on kindle and can be bought in paperback by following this link: http://www.feedaread.com/books/Taunted-By-Dreams-9781782991465.aspx.
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