James sat staring at his hands. He checked his watch for the third time in a minute and then went back to studying his fingers. He touched each nail in turn, squeezing it hard, before moving on to the next one. The sensation concentrating his mind on the here and now. The distant sound of chaos could be heard coming from beyond his room; wild, terrifying screams that merged together except for the occasional voice that rose up above the rest. The butterflies in his stomach surging uncontrollably in response.
He looked up and noticed his three friends all going through a similar ritual of their own. Phil was making fastidious adjustments to his jacket, while Ray was sat on the edge of a table continually rolling cigarettes and Jack stood staring at his reflection in a battered mirror in the corner.
“Come on boys,” said James. ” Not long now.”
They each looked up from their own distractions and held eye contact with each other. There was a truth in the way they stared. A secret that only these four men knew.
“Let’s ‘ave it then,” shouted Ray as he jumped up from the table. “Come on, come on. Let’s just do it. Let’s go out there and ‘ave it. What we waiting for? If this is it, then so be it. Death or glory.” He grabbed hold of James and pulled him to his feet. “Come on mate. Look lively. We’re relying on you.”
“Eh!” interrupted Jack, “it’s all of us, Ray. It’s always been all of us. One for all and all for fucking one. That’s what I say. We’re a band of brothers. It’s not just about James, or anyone of us for that matter.”
“I know Jack,” Ray said. “I was just saying. He’s our Captain, isn’t he? He’ll be alright.” James winked at Ray with an air of confidence that calmed the room and gave the others the assurance they needed.
Phil finished polishing the buttons of his jacket and stood up next to James. He paused while the others looked at him, and then quietly said, “this is big, mate,” almost exclusively to James. “All these years, all that dreaming, and all of it was for this. Right now.”
“Fuck off, Phil!” joked Ray jabbing him in the ribs.
“You fuck off,” Phil said as he grabbed Ray in a headlock but then let him go just as quickly. “What I mean is that we’ve got to give it some.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Phil again. “But still. You know what I mean. We could die out there.”
“Fucking hell, Phil,” Jack blurted out. “Keep it happy, why not?”
“Alright, alright, but just so you all know. Whatever happens out there, whatever happens afterwards, I want you all to know what this means, I want you all to know what you mean, all of us together, even you,” putting his arm around Ray, “you twat. Come on, you as well Jack. Come here. Group hug.”
The four of them held each other tight and it seemed as though they would never let go. The anxiety, that had almost paralysed them earlier, seemed to settle immediately. They looked at each other from an inch apart and in that sublime moment, that would be recalled by each of them in twenty years time, they became one. Their souls lifted to another plain and entwined together in a bond that would be unbreakable.
There was a knock at the door, “It’s time guys. Let’s go.”
They followed each other through the door and along a thin corridor to a darkened cul-de-sac. There they waited, silently holding that energy between them. Suddenly a door opened in front of them, the expressions that each of them had practiced since they were children were highlighted for the first time, and the noise washed over them like a wave.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the announcer screamed at the top of his voice, “make a load of fucking noise, for… The… High… Nelsons.” The crowd roared and all four of them walked out into their destiny.