Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chapter 20

They built you a cage of diamonds and gold
most beautiful place for you to grow old
They brought you the moon and served you the lie
and all that you wanted was freedom to fly

Harness your rage, take a leap of faith
to claim back your soul before it's too late
Show them no fear, sing them goodbye
Leave all but your heart and you're free to fly

(lyrics from “Heavy” by Laurie Ylönen)

“You know it’s supposed to be bad luck to be together the night before the wedding.” Her hand was pressed to the center of his chest and her back was pressed to the front door. She looked up into Jimmy’s blazing blue eyes and did her best to smile and look flirtatious when what she was really feeling was more akin to nauseous.

“This born again blushing maiden thing is cute, but you’re about to be my wife,” he told her, his grip on her wrist a little too tight. Chelsea could feel the beginning of pins and needles in her hand. 

“It’s traditional to spend the night before the wedding separately,” she told him, forcing herself to relax the hand she had pressed against his chest and to toy with the buttons on his shirt instead and felt him ease up as she went up on tip toe to press her lips against his. She closed her eyes and waited, as she had every night when he’d kissed her goodnight, for the butterflies to erupt in her stomach. Tonight, as they had every night, those butterflies stayed dormant.

“Alright,” he agreed with a smile, his hand lifting her hair up and over her shoulder, “but tomorrow night,” he began, leaning in to press another kiss to her lips. 

“Yeah, I know,” she agreed knowing that she was dreading it and trying to hide the annoyance of being reminded, again. “You get the old place all painted?” He’d been working on the house in the high meadow for years. He’d been working on it in earnest over the last year. He’d been putting the last lick of paint on it this week. 

“Might still smell of wet paint tomorrow,” he smiled, wrapping one of her curls around his finger, “but our little house is all ready for the honeymoon,” he added, leaning in to whisper in her ear.”I even put a fresh coat of paint in the nursery.” Chelsea took a deep breath and fought the urge to shudder. This was part of the choice she had made. Jimmy wanted children and lots of them. He’d always been clear on that and she was just as clear that it was how he’d tie her here and of course he would want to start right away. “What should we have first?” he continued, sliding his other hand down over her stomach, “a boy or a girl?” 

“I...I don’t think we get to decide that,” she mumbled, wriggling uncomfortably like a fish on a hook out of water. She knew her father was inside and she genuinely wished that he would flash the porch light on and off as a warning, just as he had done when she was younger. Back then she’d been mortified. Right now it would be a relief.

“Is my little firecracker getting nervous?” she heard him ask playfully, his lips brushing the curve of her neck. “Big day tomorrow,” he reminded her again. As if she needed reminding. 

“Yeah, you’d better let me get some sleep so I don’t have a snooze at the altar.” She reached for the door handle behind her, twisted it and felt it give. “See you tomorrow,” she said, blowing a kiss as she ducked into the house and slammed the door behind her. 

“If you don’t want to go through with it, all you have to do is say the word darlin’.” Chelsea froze. It took her a moment to realize that the voice she’d heard wasn’t Jimmy’s, but her grandfather’s. The old man sat at the table staring down at the cards he’d lined up as he slowly tapped his fingers on the rest of the deck with only the light of an old kerosene lamp to see by. The hiss the lamp made as it burned the fuel brought back so many memories and made her want to crawl in his lap the way she’d done when she was small, and help him pick out the mates to the cards in his hand. Hanging her head and pushing off from the door, she made her way slowly to the table and dropped heavily into the chair opposite him. 

“I’m pretty sure it’s just nerves,” she told him, or was it herself, as she overlooked his cards and then tapped on an open ten of spades.

“Are you sure about that?” he asked her, putting the nine of hearts up but not looking up at her, “because you’ve been biting everyone’s head off for the last couple of days,” he added and that’s when he looked up at her, one bushy eyebrow raised.  

“Mmmm, yeah,” she mumbled, reaching for one of the Oreo cookies he had on a plate, pulling it apart and rolling the gooey white filling into a ball which she then popped into her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. 

“Well that sounds definitive,” he replied, a sarcastic lilt to his voice as he added an eight of clubs to the line of cards in front of him. “You sure you weren’t happier when you were seeing that other young man?” he asked, again without looking up at her. He shuffled through his cards and began again. Chelsea licked her lips reached for another cookie but her grandfather pulled the plate just out of her reach. “Chelsea Abigail Dobryak, do you want to marry Jim tomorrow or don’t you?” The same leaf green eyes she’d inherited stared back at her and she knew she could lie to herself, that she could lie to Jimmy and even Mike, but she could never, ever lie to this man.

“No Gramps. No, I don’t.” 


Mike lay staring at the ceiling of his bedroom. He couldn’t sleep. Not knowing that tomorrow he was going to lose any chance at getting her back. 

When he’d taken Nicky and Brooks to the airport both of them had encouraged him to buy a ticket and get on the plane with them. He’d been tempted but in the end even the thought of all the short skirts in the windy streets of D.C. couldn’t entice him to leave, yet. 

He’d expected at least Brooks to have a good laugh at his expense when he’d told them his plans but both men had surprised him by offering to stay and back him up. He’d turned them down. This was something he needed to do on his own. 

Not that he knew what he was going to say. He thought he’d already said everything he could and she’d made it pretty clear that she’d made her choice and it wasn’t him. 

But there was one more thing he could say and as he lay on his back in the dark, he was amazed that the thought of saying it didn’t make him sick to his stomach and send him running for the Pepto Bismol. A brief few weeks ago he had been happy to have a different girl every night and he knew that Mike, the old Mike, would have laughed at the very idea of carrying out the plan that had formed in his head. But that Mike hadn’t known Chelsea and new Mike didn’t want to imagine going back to D.C. without her. 

“I am so fucked,” he told himself, not for the first time since he’d met her. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do if his plan didn’t work. When Brooks had asked him what plan B was he’d had to admit that he didn’t have one. Plan B was coming back next summer and probably seeing her at Stampede with a kid in her arms watching Alan Jackson chasing baby cows around and that thought did make him want to pray to the porcelain god. 

Reaching blindly Mike felt around his bedside table for the family heirloom he’d astonished his mother by asking for. It had been his grandmother’s. It wasn’t anything fancy. It was just a thin gold band with a tiny diamond and it was nothing like the one she was wearing now, but this one meant something. It would mean the world if she’d agree to wear it.  

Mike turned it over in his hand and then held it up to the catch the light of the moon. It was tiny but it sparkled. It reminded him of Chelsea’s eyes. 


“Can I just say I am so going to enjoy telling him to suck it?” Chelsea didn’t even look up from stuffing her clothes into the almost full suitcase that was open on her bed but she did allow herself a quiet chuckle at her friend’s enthusiasm.

“I know you will,” she snorted as she shoved a handful of panties down one side and then reached for another handful. 

“He is gonna be so pissed,” Shan added, sounding pleased with the idea and Chelsea had to admit to herself that she was no longer worried about upsetting Jimmy. It seemed pretty amazing the difference a few hours had made. 

“Well just make sure my dad and Gramps are standing behind you when you tell him,” she instructed. Not that she was worried Jimmy would take a swing, not in front of God and everyone, but it she knew that their presence would not only add proof that what Shan would be telling him was the truth, but it would discourage him from making a scene. 

“How’s your Gran taking it?” Shan asked, stilling Chelsea’s frantic packing by closing her fingers around her arm. The two women’s eyes met and the only thing that had stopped her from leaving in the middle of the night brought tears to her eyes now. 

“She’s disappointed,” Chelsea admitted. 

“It’s this place, right?” Shan asked and Chelsea nodded. “It’s not like you won’t come back, right?” her friend added with a look that said she too was asking the question and Chelsea smiled and rolled her eyes. 

Always, of course I will and even if...if things do actually work in’s not like I won’t be back but it’s not the same.” It hadn’t been the same since her mother’s death. Everyone knew it and no more so than the woman who’d been running the ranch ever since. Her father couldn’t bear to enter the stables and now the only other blood relative she had would be gone. 

“No, I guess not,” Shan sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed reaching out to slide her fingers over the satin of the dress that hung on the back of the door and it would stay hanging there. “And I guess she’ll have to get a new hand. But, on the bright side, at least the next time you’re back he won’t be here and hey, maybe you guys will wanna rent the house in the upper meadow?” 

“Why, you wanna move into it?” Chelsea asked, pausing as she stared down at the diaphanous white gown her grandmother had bought her to wear on her wedding night. She thought about leaving it in the drawer, and then decided against to bring it with her. 

“I dunno,” Shan replied, lifting her eyebrow as she watched Chelsea fold the gown carefully onto the top of the pile of clothes in the suitcase. “Maybe when you come back next summer Mike can bring his friends again and I can have my own harem up there. Whaddya think?” The two women looked at each, both trying to keep straight faces, and then both lost the fight and they fell apart into a fit of giggles. 

When the giggles had subsided, their gazes met and Chelsea saw tears glimmering in her friend’s eyes.
“You’ll come visit,” she told her seriously. 

“You bet. When are the Pens playing in Washington?” They both smiled, but they were smiles tinged with sadness. 

“Now you’re sure Nicky said they’d all gone to the airport?” Chelsea asked, changing the subject, or rather bringing them back to the subject at hand. 

“Yeah, that’s what he texted last night,” Shan replied, digging out her phone to show her friend the evidence. Chelsea stared at the text and felt those butterflies stirring in her stomach at last.

“Am I stupid for doing this?” she asked. Shan just grinned and shook her head.

Mike stared at the raised up four by four pick up with the streamers and rosettes taped to it parked in front of the church and rolled his eyes. There was just no way she could marry that yokel and yet he hadn’t been able to make himself open the door of his car to climb out and do something about that; at least not yet. 

He’d watched the guests going in, wearing their best summer dresses and light weight summer suits and every time he’d watched a couple walking up the steps he’d told himself he would go in right after them, or after the next couple, or the next couple for sure. And yet he was still in his car with a death grip on the steering wheel, listening to Kanye and trying to work up the courage. 

He needed a drink. 

No, he needed to grow a pair. He could hear the guys in his head. They’d be laughing at him and calling him a pussy and probably, no, definitely, worse. He didn’t need to actually have them here to know that they’d be taunting him. Well it was easy for them, he decided as he watched another car pull up and yet another young couple get out and walk up those stairs and into those doors. It was easy to talk the talk but he knew from walking out on to the ice during the play offs that it was an entirely different thing to actually walk the walk. 

It was the old Rolls Royce with the streamers tied to the hood ornament that stirred him to action. That would be her, he knew, or at the very least her grandparents, which meant she wouldn’t be far behind. 

Now or never Greener’, he told himself as he pulled the keys out of the ignition, pocketing them and pulling the ring out. 

“Here goes fucking nothin’”, he muttered under his breath as he stepped out onto the sidewalk and started to head towards the car as it pulled up to the curb. His heart hammered hard against his chest and all he could think was ‘what the fuck am I gonna do if she says no?


His heart leaped in his chest but he knew, even before he turned around that it wasn’t her voice he’d just heard. He did know the face of the woman with all the dark curls in the burgundy halter dress though and he was glad she didn’t look pissed that he was here. That was something anyway.

“Ummm Shannon right?” he said, palming the ring and trying to look cool and calm. He was sweating like a pig in his best, most slick silver suit but he’d been told by a lot of women that he was pretty irresistible in it and if there was a time he needed to be that, it was now.

“What are you doing here?” Okay, so maybe she wasn’t happy to see him, Mike thought as he looked around at the quickly emptying sidewalk. He obviously wasn’t the only one that sensed that the bride’s arrival was, if not already at hand, at least close by. He wondered what she was going to look like. She’d be beautiful, of course, but then she always was but... “Hello? Earth to Mike...what you are you doing here?” 

“Oh...yeah, well I know it’s like...weird or something but...I just have to talk to her y’know?” he began, that tiny rock in his pocket suddenly weighed about a ton. ‘Get a grip Greener’, he thought as he realized that there was a really good chance he was about to totally bottle it. 

“Yeah, you two definitely need to talk but not here,” her friend hissed at him, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him out of earshot of her grandparents who were getting out of the Rolls. Her grandmother sent him an evil glare. That woman really did not like him. 

“Well it’s kinda gotta be here ‘cuz she can’t marry him,” Mike tried to explain, wondering if maybe it was the shades. Was he trying to go for too cool for school instead of desperate? He went to pull them off but when he turned back to her friend, his hand just sort of stayed there, mid air, while she shook her head and laughed. “Wha..what? What’s so funny?” he asked, while she held onto her stomach and bit her lip; her full, ripe red bottom lip. No wonder Nicky had been sneaking her into his house in the middle of the night, Mike thought as he waited for her to gather some semblance of control. She was definitely doable in the ‘I would pick her out at a bar and take her home’ kind of way. Not that he should be thinking about women that way with a ring in his pocket, Mike scolded himself. 

“It’s just... well, she’s there and you’re here,” Shannon smirked and shook her head again. 

“There?” Mike looked up at the church. 

“No, dummy,” Shannon made a grab for his pocket and pulled out his iPhone. The ring fell on the ground. They both stared at the ring and then stared at one another and then she really started to laugh. 


There was no answer. Chelsea tried the buzzer again, and waited, but there was still no answer. 

“Great,” she moaned, and went back to sit on her suitcase. She’d come all this way, came straight here from the airport even though she felt like she needed a shower, just to surprise him and he wasn’t even home. “He’s probably out with some floozie,” she mumbled, pulling out her phone, not for the first time, and considering whether or not to text him that she was here. It would ruin the element of surprise, for certain, but it sure as hell beat the pants off of sitting outside looking like she was begging for spare change. 

She had just slid the unlock bar from left to right on her phone when a text appeared. 

Nicky’s on his way with a key

Chelsea’s free hand flew up to cover her mouth as she let out a happy little squeal. 

Stay there, don’t move the next text said simply, I’m on the next flight. 


  1. Thank God she's not marrying captin crazy!


    YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! YAY! :)

    Please update soon!

  3. woooooo so glad shes not gonna marry! him!!
    Go Mike go!!

  4. SO glad she's not marrying Jimmy....too much of a control freak!

    Update soon! :)