Monday, August 22, 2011

Chapter 14

­just gonna stand there and watch me burn
that’s alright because i like the way it hurts
just gonna stand there and hear me cry
that’s alright because i love the way you lie
i love the way you lie

you ever love somebody so much you can barely breathe
when you with em you meet and neither one of you even know what hit em
got that warm fuzzy feeling
yeah them chills used to get em
now you’re getting fuckin’ sick of lookin’ at em
you swore you’d never hit em, never do nothin’ to hurt em
now you’re in each other’s face spewin’ venom in your words when you spit em

(lyrics from ‘Love the Way You Lie’ Eminem)

“Is anyone else creeped out by the shit eating grin on Greener’s face?” Brooks didn’t even look up as he stood over the dimpled white ball on the tee. He shuffled his feet, steadied his shoulders and then gazed down the fairway. “I feel like I could play in the fucking dark by the light of that thing,” the big man added, bringing his iron up and back and then, with grace and force, brought it down in a perfect arch, sending the little white ball up and out. They all shaded their eyes to watch it go. All except Brooks who just turned and headed back to the cart. 

Mike sent a sheepish look towards the gray haired, paunch over his belt business man who stepped up to the tee next. Everyone, just as they had the last eight holes, held their breath while he bent over and stuck the tee in the ground. They had a bet going on how many holes it would take before the seam on his pants gave out. 

“I’m just surprised that he’s not hungover and leaning on the car for dear life,” the other businessman who’d paid to play with the two hockey professionals knew Mike, had worked with Mike on setting up this event and shot him a shrewd look as they stood back, waiting for the old guy to take a swing. “How many times have I met you now Mike, and every time it seems to me, you’ve been hung over.” 

“That’s just my face,” Mike gulped as he tried to defend himself. “My mom says I just look tired all the time. I can’t help that I look that way,” he added, shading his eyes to follow the arc of the ball as it headed directly for the sand bunker ahead of them. He winced. The banker was his partner. Shooting a quick glance over his shoulder to where Brooksy was leaning against the cart told him just how far behind he and his partner were. This was going to end up being an expensive game. 

“Except for today,” the Encana oil exec and Brooks’ partner pointed out as he took his own ball up to the box and bent to neatly place it and the tee in front of him. “Today you look well rested and like you’ve won the lottery,” he added as he straightened, gazed down the green and then settled himself over the ball. “So are the rumours true,” he added as he bent his knees and squared his shoulders over the tee, “are you getting traded to the Leafs?” 

Mike had lifted his water bottle to his lips and now spewed luke warm water towards the oil executive’s back. Luckily Grant hadn’t begun his swing and was able to step back from the tee as he shot Mike a dark look. Mike offered a towel from his bag as he sent a questioning looks to Brooks, who only shrugged and made a face as if to say ‘it’s just a rumor’ and one he obviously hadn’t given much thought to.
“I fucking hope not. I’ve just gotten my place in DC the way I like it,” Mike muttered as Grant handed him back the towel. 

“There’s always rumors this time of year,” Brooks called helpfully, closing his eyes as he tilted his face up towards the sun. “Besides, now that I’m about to sign a big motherfucking long term contract with the Caps, Mike can’t leave.” 

“You are?” Mike had the sudden urge to run and jump into Brooks’ arms. He’d been dreading the first of July for that one reason alone, loosing Brooks to free agency. Brooks nodded but continued to worship the warm rays of the afternoon sun. “You never said,” Mike added, to which his teammate’s only reply was to shrug his wide shoulders. 

“You never asked. All you’ve talked about since you picked us up at the airport is Chelsea this and Chelsea that which,” he added with a mischievous grin, “I’m assuming is what the big fucking shit eating grin is for. You get lucky last night Greener?” Mike felt heat effuse his entire face. He wasn’t much of a duffer but he was glad to step up to the tee box, if only so that he could turn his back on Brooks and the smug look on his face. “I don’t know why I’m asking,” Brooks called catching Mike on his downswing, “Nicky said he heard you two love birds whispering sweet nothings in each others ears when he went back to bed.” 

Mike checked his swing and dropped the club on the ground as he turned to Brooks with murder in his eyes. It was one thing to talk about this kind of stuff around the dressing room. It was something else altogether to talk about his private life in front of complete strangers. 

“Oh c’mon Mikey, he’s just teasing you,” Grant tried to offer Mike his club back but he shook him off. If he took it right now he might wind it around his friend’s throat.

“Yeah, Mikey,” Brooks grinned, nonchalantly marking his score on his card while he grinned like the Cheshire fucking cat, “if you wanna get tied down and get married to some hometown cowgirl and have a whole mess of brats, I’m super behind you buddy.” The flash of humor in his friend’s blue eyes suggested what he was saying was harmless but Mike didn’t believe it, not for a minute. He knew as well as anyone who had spent any time with Brooks how much he enjoyed being free, sampling the wares, playing the field. 

More than that, Mike knew how terrified Brooks had been when a girl had shown up one night with a positive pregnancy test in hand, saying it was his. It hadn’t been, but that scare had been enough to make Brooks a confirmed bachelor for life and it was a lifestyle that most of the guys on the team had bought into. Today had been the first day of his life that Mike had actually thought about a future with someone. It hadn’t seemed scary at all. 

“It gets us all some time,” the banker laid his hand on Mike’s shoulder and gave him a friendly pat. “In my experience it’s not so bad,” he added and gave him an encouraging smile before heading towards the cart. Mike finally took his club from Grant’s hand and took his frustration out on the ball, sending it wide and aiming for the same trees that his partner’s ball had disappeared into. 

“Hey babe!” She felt his arms around her middle, his cheek press against hers and then he was gone, taking something off of the plate she’d just put down on the table and walking away. Chelsea watched him go, feeling bereft. 

“Look at him, king of the fucking castle,” Shannon hissed, coming up behind her friend and staring daggers at Mike’s back. 

“Well there are a lot of people. I guess he has to be the ‘hostest with the mostest’,” Chelsea muttered. She’d said that a couple of times now and she knew she was trying to convince herself more than anyone else. 

Another complete stranger who looked like he’d seen too much sun today reached past her and grabbed a devilled egg from a plate, stuck the whole thing in his mouth and then smiled around it so that the filling seeped out between his teeth and gave her a thumbs-up before disappearing back into the crowd. 

“Has he introduced you to anyone? Or did he just leave you with a shopping list and expect you to be the hired help for the night? To be seen and not heard?” Chelsea didn’t look across the table to where her friend Mandy had appeared with yet more beer to stick into the tub of ice near the door. 

“I’m his girlfriend. I...I don’t mind.” She didn’t believe it when she said it and a quick glance at both of her friends told her they clearly thought it was crap too. 

“I say you go over there, sit on his fucking lap and make out with him in front of all of these people so they know that you’re not the fucking caterer,” Shannon snapped. The same idea had already occurred to her but Chelsea had decided against it. Instead she was still waiting for Mike to take two minutes and do something for her other than eat the food she’d spent all day slaving over while he was at a golf tournament. 

“It is for charity,” she mumbled, reminding herself why she’d volunteered at a weak moment to do this when he’d realized he’d forgotten to hire an actual caterer. His friends did seem to like the food she’d prepared.

“No, the golf tournament was for charity, these are just his friends,” Nicky corrected her, appearing at Shannon’s side as if he’d just been transported there out of thin air. He cradled her friend’s waist and looked down at her as if she was one of the chocolate cherry filled cupcakes on the table. Chelsea felt a pang of jealousy. Shannon had helped, of course, but only Nicky seemed to be grateful for it. Or maybe he was just grateful for her friend’s recent wax job. “And I will go remind him that he should be including you in his friends,” Mike’s teammate added, pressing a quick kiss to the top of Shannon’s head.

“No, no don’t do that,” Chelsea shook her head while giving him a grateful smile. “He’s busy. I mean he hasn’t seen some of these people in months,” she began but Nicky shook his head and held up a hand to silence her. 

“I love Mike like a brother but he is being very ungracious.” As if that was all there was to say, he turned and was immediately swallowed by the crowd. Chelsea watched one of the only friendly faces she knew disappear and then turned back to the table. They were running out of crackers. 


“I’m telling you buddy, treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen. Have I ever steered you wrong?” Brooks squeezed his shoulder and grinned. Mike shook his head but he wasn’t sure that he was doing the right thing here. He’d actually been excited to introduce Chelsea to his friends and the last time he’d zoomed by her she’d looked so disappointed that he hadn’t stuck around. “Thattaboy. Gotta keep them on their toes.” 

“What about you last night man?” he asked, noting that the curvy little teacher from Pittsburgh had shown up unannounced and even now was keeping a sharp eye on the two of them from where she was sitting out on the deck. 

“Exactly my point man!” Brooks grinned like he’d just won the lottery and threw up his hands, sending beer suds to the carpet. “She came all the way here for me. I had her screaming last night, left this morning without saying a god damned word and she’s still here, can’t wait to get her hands on my knob. I’m livin’ the good life my friend.” Mike didn’t think that the very stormy look on the young woman’s face said that she was keen, or that she was eager to do much more than cut Brooks’ balls off and cook them. 

“I dunno man,” Mike mumbled. 

“Listen to your good ‘ol Uncle Brooks, I know what I’m talking about.” Mike felt the sting of his friend’s hand on his cheek and then he was suddenly alone in the middle of his own house party. 

“You tell her you love her but I don’t think she’s very convinced.” Mike turned toward Nicky who was holding out a bottle of Pilsner. “She did a lot of work for you tonight. The least you could do is say thank you.” Mike hung his head. Why did the advice have to be so different?

“Man...I practically cut off my own nuts and handed them to her last night. I’m freaking out a little bit here.” He looked up into his friend’s thoughtful expression and waited. 

“You were very happy this morning,” Nicky reminded him and Mike had to agree. He’d felt like he was floating when they’d left the house. 

“Dude...I cried,” he admitted in a hoarse whisper. That was something he could never have admitted to anyone other than Nicky but even knowing that his Swedish teammate wouldn’t laugh at him, he still found himself cringing as he waited for a reaction. 

“I understand that happens sometimes,” Nicky replied very quietly, guiding Mike to a less crowded corner, “when there is an emotional connection. I think this is a good thing.” Mike sighed and shook his head. 

“Yeah but now she’s gonna go all fucking hearts and flowers on me and the next thing I know she’s planning a fucking wedding and it’s all my fault because I fucking rushed everything.” Nicky’s hand felt heavy on his shoulder but when Mike looked up into his friend’s blue eyes, where he expected to see reproach he saw understanding.

“I think maybe you should speak to her about it. I think maybe she isn’t the hearts and flowers girl you think.” 

“Can I help with that?” 

Chelsea looked at the soapy platter in the sink and shook her head. Almost everything that could fit was already in the dishwasher and the rest, paper plates and plastic cups, where in the garbage. It was a bit late to be asking to help now.

“I’ll just finish up here and then I’m going home,” she told him, keeping her gaze on the platter as she rinsed it and then added it to the drying rack. 

“Don’t go,” he whispered, wrapping his arms around her middle and pressing a kiss to her cheek. 

“I think I should,” she replied coolly, pushing his hands away from her middle and shooting him a dark look. “You made it pretty fucking clear you don’t want me here.” 

“I didn’t,” he began and when she raised an eyebrow he capitulated and shrugged his shoulders. “Okay maybe I was a little busy but I really think you did a great job.”

“Fuck Mike, you avoided me all night. Are you ashamed of me or something?” She knew enough about professional athletes to know that they dated leggy models and actresses and she was just a cowgirl from his hometown. Of course it had occurred to her that he might not want to introduce her to his pals. 

“That’s not it, totally not it,” he replied earnestly as he reached for her. She backed away, holding her hands out defensively in front of her. The last thing she wanted now was to be coaxed into forgiving him. “Look it’s just stupid, you’d laugh if I told you.” He aimed that boyish grin of his at her like a spotlight. It made her stop and then it made her wonder if he could turn that thing off and on at will, and if he could, had she fallen for some golly gee shucks routine that wasn’t even real?

“I doubt I’d laugh,” she told him honestly, moving so that the island in the middle of the kitchen was between them. “I’m not really in the laughing mood right now.” The wattage of his smile dimmed until finally he was the Mike she thought was probably closer to the real deal. He nodded, leaned back against the counter and stared at the floor. 

“I guess I’m kind of freaking about last night or whatever,” he mumbled. Chelsea took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. He was going to take it back. All the things he’d said in the small hours of the morning, promises he’d made, he was going to take it all back and then he was probably going to ask for some space, do that whole ‘it’s not you it’s me’ routine. Then he was probably going to ask her to leave. Well her father had always told her that the best offense was a good defense...or was that the other way around? Either way, she wasn’t going to let him get the last word in. 

“Totally, right? That was like...the drink talking or whatever. NBD, I’ll get myself home and you can just call me if you want to or not, you know, whatever,” she ran her hands down her hips to dry them and headed out of the kitchen, her heart racing. She hardly made it three feet before his arms locked around her middle. 

“Okay, I don’t know who that was, but don’t bring her back here. That was just creepy,” he chuckled in her ear as he pulled her back against him. “And I said I was kind of freaking out not that I wanted you to go anywhere.” Against her better judgement, she relaxed back against him. “Better,” he whispered before turning her to face him and then wrapping his arms around her again. “I guess I’m more freaked out that you’d be freaked out,” he told her and she heard a hitch in his voice that suggested this really was the heart of the matter. 

“I guess things have been going pretty fast,” she sighed, wrapping her arms around him and leaning into the width of his chest. 

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on you,” he told her with his chin resting on the top of her head. “I’m pretty sure the girl I met was running away from that kind of pressure.” She smiled and slid her hand down to smack his ass. “What? Are you denying being an escapee from a shotgun wedding?” 

“I do,” she untangled herself from him and poked her finger into the middle of his chest. “I didn’t have a gun to my head then and I don’t now. And,” she continued, grabbing a handful of his t-shirt and pulling him against her, “I’m not holding one to your head. If you wanna cool things off for a....” His lips crashing down over hers’ silenced her altogether and as his lips moved over hers’, forcing hers to open beneath his, she got the distinct impression that he wasn’t in any hurry to cool things down at all. 

“Stay,” he whispered hoarsely, pressing the long, hard evidence of the reason for his demand against her stomach. “Stay tonight, we’ll go to Stampede tomorrow and I promise I won’t be such an ass.” 

“Promise?” she looked up at him, a warning that she hadn’t forgotten her treatment tonight blazing in her eyes. 

“Scout’s honor,” he smiled, holding up his hand and making some kind of signal with his fingers that she was fairly certain had more to do with either Mork or Spock than the boy scouts but either way it made her smile and nod her head in agreement.  

1 comment:

  1. awwwwww!!
    Nicky is such an amazing friend!
    loved the update!