“Are you bringing Lana along tonight for the Movember event?” I heard Carly ask as I walked out of the showers. I turned to see if he was talking to me, almost as if it was a habit for me whenever Lana’s name was mentioned, but Brooks answered, which made me stop in my tracks.
“Yeah, I’m picking her up at 6:30, do you want me to just bring Faith along?” Brooks asked John, completely ignoring me despite the fact that I knew he had seen my reaction because he almost bumped into me when I came to a halt.
“Nah, I’ll pick up my girl. I’m sure you won’t mind having some alone time with Lana anyway,” John chirped and waggled his eyebrows.
Brooks laugh and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any longer.
“You cheating on Carrie?” I asked loudly. A couple of the guys in the locker room stopped and looked up.
Brooks on the other hand didn’t stop, almost acting like he didn’t hear me. “We broke up almost a month ago,” he answered in the even tone that always annoyed me when I was pissed off at him for something.
“So you move in on Lana right away?” I asked, even though I spoke it more like it was a statement.
“No moving had to be done. Lana was there for me just like I have been there for her, so it’s been more of a progression of sorts.”
“I knew you had the hots for my girlfriend,” I snapped.
“Fairly sure you never treated her like your girlfriend,” he challenged, finally looking me in the eyes.
“Excuse me?!” I growled, feeling my temperature rise.
“You heard me,” Brooks answered before turning back to his locker. His nonchalant demeanor was the flame igniter. My temp hit boiling point and I lunged at him. Jay Beagle and Hendricks quickly jumped in and pulled me back before I could land any punches.
“Get your fucking act together, Alex!” Brooks roared. “Instead of worrying about me, start worrying about yourself and your fucking business here at the rink!”
“I’m the fucking Captain!” I yelled back.
“That’s right, you are, so start fucking acting like one!” somebody called out, only starting a slew of one-liners from several of the other guys in the locker room. Some calling me out, some sticking up for me. A minute later Hunter came in and called us all out.
“Are you sure I look okay?” I asked nervously as I looked down at my outfit. This was my first time going to an event as a WAG and after hearing some of the war stories Faith and Becky had filled my head with in the last couple days, I was really feeling self-conscious.
In one breath Faith would say how nice the other women were, but in the next she was talking about how I was going to need to make sure I had the latest fashions, something I never worried about before. Of course I was always keen on looking good, but getting out to the store every week was not on the top of my priority list. I sighed and bit my lip. Brooks had said the event was a casual event. So I had decided a pair of dark jeans and a classic, black, turtle-neck, sweater with plain black boots was casual, yet chic.
“I’m fairly sure Brooks wouldn’t care if you showed up in a pair of your flannel jammy pants and one of your worn out rodeo t-shirts,” Becky giggled. “You have that boy wrapped around your finger!”
“Whatever,” I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “We are just good friends,” I defended for the hundredth time.
“No, I’m fairly sure Brooks sees it as more, Lana,” Faith interjected. “I mean this is an event that the WAG’s are involved in.”
“Exactly,” I sighed. “And that’s why I’m going along, so he doesn’t have to go stag.”
“But didn’t he go stag before when he was with Carrie?” Becky asked.
“Well that is different,” I mumbled, immediately chewing on my lip. Anytime they brought up the “Brooks situation” I’d go into a nervous lock-down of sorts. I never wanted to talk about it, for the simple fact that I wasn’t even sure how I felt about it. If anything, it seemed we were both feeling out where we were going with things. His relationship with Carrie had been long and involved, so jumping into something quickly didn’t really seem like the smart idea. As for me, frankly, I was gun shy. Obviously Brooks was nothing like Alex, but he was still a hockey player and I was still learning what that exactly meant. It was nothing for people to come up to us while we were out for a walk or eating at a restaurant and ask him for his autograph. Plus, don’t even get me started on the terrible looks I would get from women who thought that we were a couple. This fact was another reason I was worried about the looming event. How many looks would I get tonight and what kind of wrong ideas were people going to get? What kind of wrong ideas am I going to get?
“No, pretty sure it’s not,” Becky pushed.
“He hasn’t even kissed me,” I announced, which caused Becky and Faith to stop in their tracks and stare with open mouths.
“What do you mean he hasn’t even kissed you?! What do you two do when you’re downstairs in your room?!” Faith squeaked.
“Watch movies…” I said slowly and truthfully.
“Oh, my god, she’s telling the truth!” Faith scowled at Becky, who just shook her head slowly back and forth in disbelief. “She is actually downstairs watching movies with him and not making out with that beautiful specimen.”
“Come on guys!” I cried. “He just broke up with his girlfriend and I just…whatever with Alex, you can’t expect us to just both jump into something!”
“So you doooo like him that way!” they yelled together.
I bit my lip and tried to hide my smile, but it was useless. “He’s really sweet.”
“And beautiful!” Becky swooned as she feigned fainting onto the lazyboy.
“But this just feels a little awkward…” I admitted. “I mean with Alex and all…”
“Fuck Alex!” Faith practically screamed.
“Poor choice of words,” I mumbled, slapping my hand across my face, wishing I could get the last memory of us together out of my head for good.
Faith frowned for a second and continued on her rant. “He really is just a big piece of poo who totally used you for whatever reason. I too am still disheartened at the fact that I thought I saw something there between you, but now with all the facts in our basket, I have to conclude that he is just one hell of a smooth talker and player.”
I slowly nodded my head in agreement and sighed once again. She was right. All I could do was hope to get that one memory out of my head. The memory of how he looked at me when he was above me as I laid on the hood of his car. It was a raw look, a look that told me I was getting the real Alex, the one who wasn’t always as good at hiding his emotions as he thought he could. The several times we had spent together I had seen that look more than once and I knew that it was special. I was sure that there was a side to Alex that very few knew and I had been privileged to see it. That was the only thing that was keeping the tiny sliver of hope alive in my mind and heart. Of course I would never admit that to the two girls in front of me or even myself except during pure moments of insanity.
“Something troubles you my dear son,” my mother said quietly as we sat at my kitchen counter together. She and my dad arrived this afternoon from
and were planning on staying
thru the New Year. I was glad they were
here. They always made me feel a little
more grounded, plus I confided in my mother about everything. She was the only person who knew the real me,
the man who wasn’t always strong. Russia
I shrugged my shoulder and placed my head in my hands. “It’s long and complicated,” I answered in our native tongue.
“It’s a woman,” she said in a simple, knowing tone.
I peeked at her through my fingers and blinked.
“And it’s not Maria,” she continued.
I chuckled sadly, “No, it’s not Maria.”
“Then why do you play such games with Maria? Playing house with her only confuses your heart.”
“Because Maria fits what I always pictured.”
“So what you are telling me is that you are finally ready to settle down, but because the girl you truly like is not the perfect paper doll, you settle for something less? This does not sound like the things your Grandmother and I have taught you,” she scolded.
“But she’s American, Mother.”
“Is she a good girl?”
I laughed at this for a moment, picturing how perfect and innocent Lana really was. “A good Southern Girl to be exact.”
“Do you love her?”
I knew the question was coming. In fact I had rehearsed this answer a hundred times but it still came out wrong when I opened my mouth. “Yes.”
“Then I do not understand your whimsical ways,” my mother grumbled, throwing her hands up at me before turning to walk away. “Is this why you have been playing so terribly this season?! Is it because of this girl?”
“Not all because of her…”
“Is it because you are finally seeing that you need love in your life to actually be satisfied with everything you have?”
I sat quietly for a moment and thought about it. As simple as it sounded, it made a lot of sense. Of course I would have never been able to see it myself. Only my mother would be the one to point out the obvious.
“Seems you have some things to fix,” mom said quietly before wrapping an arm around me. It made me jump because I didn’t even realize she had walked back over to me again.
“I don’t know where to start,” I breathed, holding my mother close to me.
“You will figure it out. You are strong headed like me, so I know you will figure it out.”
“I knew I could count on you to be creative!” Brooks exclaimed with a broad smile when I showed him some of the items I had wrapped to put in his basket. For the fundraiser, the guys were supposed to make up a basket with their favorite things along with other things they thought people might like. The basket was then going to be raffled off to the highest bidder. All the proceeds would go to supporting prostate cancer research. He already had some cool things in it, including a signed jersey, signed puck, a pair of tickets to a game and a few of his favorite DVD’s but he said he wanted to add a couple other items. He mentioned that the idea was for the basket to be from the hockey player and their significant other and it was decided that since I was going to be his date, I should also donate a few items. So I wrapped up a few baked goods and put in a gift certificate for my bakery. I also donated the large basket that held all the items and decorated it with the team’s colored ribbons.
“It won’t look like a blatant advertisement move?” I asked.
Brooks laughed and shook his head, looking at the basket sitting on the counter. “No, in fact I’m thinking that once they taste those samples, they will be running into the bakery for more!”
I rolled my eyes and pushed at him playfully. “Yeah, ooookaaaay,” I said sarcastically.
“Obviously you forget how much business you got just from our team,” he reminded me.
I shrugged my shoulders in defeat and nodded. He really did have a point.
“So what should I be expecting tonight?” I asked quietly as I finished tying the cellophane around the basket.
Brooks leaned against the counter aside of me and stretched out his arms, cracking his fingers before speaking. “Uh, nothing much. It is more of a mingling thing with a speaker or two. They said something about having some carnival games set up for us to participate in with playing the donors…they might enlist your help if you don’t mind…”
I looked over at him and smiled easily. “No, of course I wouldn’t mind,” I reassured him before turning back to fluffing the bow. As I was reaching to fold the one end of the ribbon, Brooks’ hand stopped me. He threaded his fingers through mine gently pulled me over to him. The sparks of anticipation threaded through my body as silence fell between us. I couldn’t take my eyes off of his, allowing him to position me against him as his other hand rested at the small of my back.
“Lana…” he said hoarsely. All I could do was nervously bite my lip. Of course I had a feeling about what he was going to say next, but it still was nice to hear the words from him. “I have really enjoyed the last several weeks getting to know you better…” he paused, also seeming a little nervous, “and I don’t want to rush things, but this all just feels right,” he continued, his hand now lightly caressing my cheek.
I nodded my head, like the bobble-head version of Flo on that creepy guy’s dashboard in the Progressive commercials. There wasn’t much to say, especially since he was now leaning towards me. I willingly lift my chin-up and awaited his lips to touch mine. As expected, they were soft and undemanding. Everything about this kiss was different from the last first kiss I had experienced with his teammate. It wasn’t reckless or assuming, instead it was…just what one might consider your normal run of the mill first kiss and at the moment I was okay with that. A slight shiver went up my spine when he pulled back with a small smile gracing his thin lips, which in turn caused me to mimic it.
We were just about ready to leave for the fundraiser when Brooks’ cell phone rang. Sure, I could only hear one side of the conversation, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who he was talking to.
“I think we’ve talked enough,” he chewed into the phone, dropping my hand so that he could pace my living room floor. “No, it was your decision…You are where?! Jesus, I’m…I’m just about ready to head to a fundraiser…”
He looked over at me with a look that I couldn’t quite decipher. It was a cross between, “I’m so sorry,” and “we might have a change of plans.” I decided at this point to just head downstairs to my room and allow him some privacy to talk. It was obvious tonight was not going to go as planned.
A few minutes later Brooks came down the steps and found me flipping through the TV channels. “Hey,” he said quietly.
“Carrie?” I asked backed.
He nodded and frowned. “She’s taking a cab over to my house as we speak.”
“So she’s here?”
“She’s here to fix things?”
“I guess,” he sighed, sitting on the edge of my bed.
I crawled over and placed my hand on his shoulder and squeezed it. “Then go,” I said gently, not really sure what I was feeling at the moment.
“I meant what I said upstairs, Lana,” he said quickly, turning towards me.
“I know,” I said quietly. “But sometimes life changes things,” I smiled sadly. Once again my grandmother’s words easily came from my mouth.
“I’ll call you later,” he said in a questioning tone.
“Of course,” I nodded.
He leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. My first tear fell when I heard the front door close. I can’t say I was crying about Brooks. I’m fairly sure I was crying because I was fairly sure I had the worst luck ever when it came to relationships.