Kick Off

The District Line # 1

by C F White

Kick Off - CF White - The District Line
Part of the The District Line series:
Editions:Paperback - 2: £ 2.99 GBP
ISBN: 9781980358893
Pages: 578

What happens when opposite sides of the track collide?

East Londoner Jay Ruttman has only ever wanted one thing― to be a professional footballer. But after a disastrous brawl on the pitch gets him released from his pro-Academy, he has to follow plan B and enrolls as university Sports Scholar. Head down, train hard and get scouted is his motto. Until he crashes into the man who might just shoot his dreams out of the park.

Kensington elite Sebastian (Seb) Saunders has only ever wanted one thing―to be a rock star. But his father has other plans for him, including taking the helm of his multimillion-pound new business venture across the pond. Live it up, chase the dream and rock out for as long as he can is his mantra. Until he crashes into the man who might just rock his world off its scale.

Jay and Seb live at opposite ends of London’s District Line, separated by wealth, status, family traditions and their own life-long dreams. This startling and gritty contemporary romance series sees them both having to overcome barriers, face fears and beat rejection to fight for the love they need to achieve it all.

NOTE: This is a revised edition of the previously self-published The District Line by C F White in 2016. This version has gone through major edits, including character name changes and new chapters, yet the overall story remains the same.

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November, 2004


“I was thinking we could all have a nice Sunday roast together this week. Me and your dad, Bryan and Cheryl, you and―”

“If you say Ann, I’m gonna have to punch somethin’.” Jay Ruttman scraped his floppy blond hair from his eyes and screwed the top on his sports bottle, trying not to imagine the neck was his mother’s.

Sighing, Barbara hung the tatty tea towel she’d used to dry her plastic Tupperware box back on the rail under their kitchen sink. “I wasn’t gonna say Ann at all. I was going to say you and, I don’t know, someone else.”

“Who, Mum?” Jay immediately bit his tongue. This route of conversation didn’t require further encouragement. “Actually don’t answer that. Can’t you just moan about the state of me kit instead?”


Barbara pointed an accusatory finger. “Oh, you’ll be picking up the mud you trampled all over the carpet last night before you leave.”

“Sure thing.”

Narrowing her eyes, Barbara yanked out a sheet of tin foil from the box, tore it off using the serrated plastic teeth and wrapped her delicately made ham sandwich in it. “You’ve been going to that university for a year now, you can’t tell me you ain’t met nobody. I know you was talking to a girl on the phone the other week. Are you embarrassed by us, Jay? Is that what it is? Because we don’t have lots of money like your university friends do, you don’t invite any of them to meet us?”

“No, Mum. That ain’t it. I’ve just not found anyone decent enough to meet you.” He hoped that flattery would suffice enough for his mum to just drop it, and added a peck to her cheek for good measure.

His mother tugged at Jay’s lightly golden-stubbled chin with her thumb and forefinger and jerked his face from side to side. “You think I don’t know a bullshitter when I see one, son? Bryan Ruttman came before you, remember? So who was she? On the phone?”

“No one, Mum. Just a girl.” Jay swigged from his bottle whilst stretching and twisting to warm up his tense muscles for his now crucial morning run. There wasn’t much room in the tiny kitchen, and he batted his mother with his shoulder. She fell against the counter and gave him a stern eyeful. Jay mouthed his apology.

“What’s her name?”

“Heidi,” Jay croaked out. “But seriously, there ain’t no point going on. We went out. Once. It didn’t work out.”

Barbara curled her hand around her youngest son’s arm and looked directly into his trademark bright-blue Ruttman eyes. “Maybe you need to talk less about football?” She grabbed her blue fleece emblazoned with the supermarket logo of the store she worked at and left their tiny terrace house.

Jay glared after her, full of his ritual exasperation.


Jay had forgotten his father was there at the circular kitchen table, flicking through the local morning rag that he only ever read the back pages of.

“That’s what your mind should be on.” John folded up the paper, slammed it onto the table surface and slurped from his mug of builder’s tea. “That’s where the money is, son. Not girls. You can get all the birds you want when you get back playing professional.”

With a hard slap between Jay’s shoulder blades, John grabbed his keys from the sideboard and left the house in much the same way Jay’s mother had. The low growl of the diesel engine from his father’s van masked Jay’s deep-throated one.

Clenching his fists into balls, Jay pelted out of the front door into the narrow East London residential street. He held up a hand in a reluctant wave to his father still warming the engine on his old van, and set pace for the three-mile trail into university. The mood I’m now in, I’m gonna do this run in half the bleedin’ time.

He swerved through the parked cars, bounded over the crossroads and careened through the people milling into Plaistow District Line tube station. Rush hour meant the High Street swarmed with those heading to work or performing other early rituals. Like the school run. Jay swerved through many a child in buggies and teens in uniform. Hoping to keep his head down for the next few minutes, he pumped his legs hard and passed the tower blocks and various shops opening up.

“Ruttman!” The striped-apron-wearing owner setting up the bistro tables at the corner Pie, Mash and Liquor haunt thwarted Jay’s chance of getting through the run in solitude.

“Reggie.” Jay tapped the bloke’s hand for a high five and hurtled on past.

“We’re still countin’ on ya, man!”

Jay waved and sped up. Passing Plaistow Park, he breathed in the scent of freshly cut grass and stud marks impressed in the mud from last night’s game. A group of school kids, blazers as goal posts, were getting in a quick kickabout before the school bell beckoned the end of their enjoyment. Jay smiled. My youth, right there. One of the teens stopped their chance at goal and waved an erratic hand in the air, hollering the nickname that had become second nature in his neighbourhood. Jay saluted the best he could, but frowned.

After he’d chucked a left, his calves stiffened with the addictive stretch and burn. The grey clouds finally opened up, drizzling fine rain onto his already sweaty blond hair, and he pounded into the enclosed Greenway cycle route. Time to switch off and get moving.

He sprinted, the clear cycle path allowing him free rein to grimace, but he held in the scream wanting to burst out into the frosty morning air. The cathartic release would only be short-lived. He shut his eyes, pushing harder towards his goal, the way he always did. Blowing out the air gathered in his lungs, he bounded over the Docklands Light Railway bridge and reached the gleaming black entrance gates to the pristine glass-fronted modern campus. Gotta be a personal best!


Not getting the chance to check his sports watch, Jay held up a hand in acknowledgement of one of his fellow scholars queuing at the ATM. There was an army of them dotted around his university campus, all proudly wearing the navy and sky-blue tracksuits displaying the bold white SPORTS SCHOLAR across the back.

Jay spun a left at the riverside dock. Another yell of his nickname and Jay scanned the students cluttering the main campus square. Nathan, his teammate and captain, waved. Jay ran backwards, squinting through the now pouring rain, attempting to decipher what Nathan’s hand signals were all about. But before he could return any type of gesture, a hard collision sent Jay toppling to the ground and landing in a heap on the rough concrete.

“Shit!” Clambering to stand, Jay twisted to see who or what, if the impact on his lower back was anything to go by, had rammed into him so fiercely.

“Fucking hell, man!” The dark-haired fella splayed out on the ground, cradling a huge black leather guitar case, didn’t give Jay a second glance.

“Bollocks.” Jay flicked his hair away from his forehead. “You all right?” He held out a hand, but the bloke either didn’t notice, or care for it to help him up.

“Fucking great. You know, most people run forwards. Helps them see where they’re fucking going.” The man kneeled, wiping the mud and grit from the case.

Jay bit his lip, preventing a smile. The bloke’s posh Queen’s English, regardless of the overused curse words, wasn’t something encountered all that often in these parts of East London.

“Sorry.” Jay shook his head.

The bloke clipped open the case, revealing an elegant red and black electric guitar. The instrument appeared to be safely tucked into the foam inners, but it didn’t stop the fella from checking it over. Jay couldn’t blame him. That thing looked about as expensive as his Dad’s motor.

“Is it damaged?” Jay crouched and reached out trembling fingers to touch the paint work. Please don’t be ruined, I ain’t got the cash to pay for a replacement, and it ain’t like I can do a hit-and-run here.

The man batted his hand away with a grunt. “You play guitar?”

Jay shook his head and stood.

“Then leave her alone.”

“It’s a her?”

Chocolate-brown doe-eyes glanced up. Jay stumbled onto the curb, but his trainer slipped on the wet concrete and he fell back to road level, all the while those dark eyes widened with every bumbling movement Jay made.

“Don’t you people get expert training?” The man finally blinked, his thick black eyelashes entangling together as if in an embrace. “You know, teach you how to run the right fucking way?”

His lingering scrutiny made Jay swallow. Sweat and rain had soaked through Jay’s blue and white polyester mesh football shirt, and it clung to his clammy skin. Scraps of dirt splattered his legs, visible below his shiny blue football shorts. Scrubbing a palm over his face to clear the gritty moisture, Jay burst out a nervous chuckle.

“Maybe I should leave that to the refs, right?”

The man clipped shut the case and stood. “Excuse me?”

“Referees? In football? They run backwards.”

“Whatever.” The man hauled the case over his shoulder. “Maybe watch where you’re fucking going, hmm?”

Jay’s fixed-on smile faded. The man stomped away, skin-tight dark denim jeans hugging his slender backside, and joined the queue for the cash machine. Jay dejectedly kicked the heel of his running trainer against the curb, then legged it away towards the Sports Centre.




About the Author

Brought up in the relatively small town in Hertfordshire, I managed to do what most other residents of the town try and fail. Leave.

Going off to study at a West London University, I realised there was a whole city out there just waiting to be discovered, so much like Dick Whittington before, I never made it back home and still endlessly searches for the streets paved with gold; slowly coming to the realisation that it is mostly paved with chewing gum. And the odd bit of graffiti. And those little circles of yellow spray paint where the council point out the pot holes to someone who is supposedly meant to fix them instead of stare at them endlessly whilst holding a polystyrene foam cup of watered down coffee.

Eventually I moved from West to East along that vast District Line, and settled for pie and mash, cockles and winkles, and a bit of Knees Up Mother Brown to live in the East End of London; securing a job, creating a life, a home, a family.

Having worked in Higher Education for the most proportion of my adult life, a life-altering experience brought pen back to paper, having written stories as a child but never having the confidence to show them to the world. Now embarking on this writing malarkey, I cannot stop. So strap in, it’s a bumpy ride from here on in.

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