“Wait, wait! Let’s stop before we go any further,”
Charlie fell against the back of the chair and sighed. She kept her eyes closed, bracing herself for what she knew was coming.
“He surprised you with dinner, stayed all night ‘talking’—”
“Don’t do that!” Charlie groaned, smacking down the hands of her best friend, “Don’t do the air quotations. We really did talk!”
Tori rolled her eyes, “Yea, ok. And I’m a princess,”
“Baby, you’re my princess!” her fiancé, Andrew, called from inside their family room.
Charlie stuck her finger in her mouth, like she was gagging. “Oh hush!” Tori chastised before continuing on her rant. “And you’ve only met him once?”
“Well technically twice, but the second time was for like a second—”
“Didn’t he walk you home once?” Charlie nodded yes. “Jesus Charlotte, I never thought you were the type of girl who would put out on the first date,”
“Tori!” she could feel her cheeks reddening. “I did not sleep with him, do anything with him! Thanks for thinking so much of me, ‘best friend,’” she mocked her using air quotations.
“Oh, you know I’m joking,” Tori got up to make another pot of coffee. “But seriously, you met in a grocery store and he shows up at your place? That’s kind of weird, if you ask me.”
Charlie had to admit, she was a bit shocked at first. James had shown up with dinner out of the blue, and ended up staying over until almost 2 am. But all they did was talk, and it was actually really relaxing and fun. Charlie couldn’t remember the last time she enjoyed talking with someone as much as she had that night—the conversation flowed so easily.
“I don’t know, he was…” Charlie paused, trying to sum up his laid back attitude and charismatic personality.
“Damn girl,” Tori said, leaning up against the counter with a new cup of coffee, warm in her hands. “Look at you, you can’t stop smiling,”
Charlie blushed as her best friend gawked at her.
“When do you see him next?” she asked excitedly.
“I’m not sure. He had a business trip he was going on—he left today, I think. He said that’s why he surprised me, he didn’t want to wait until he got back to see me,”
“Um, swoon!” Tori gasped and placed a hand to her heart, making Charlie laugh. Andrew yelled from the other room, “Now that’s gag worthy,”
Their plan landed in Toronto late Friday afternoon. Though November was just a few days away, when the sun went down the Canadian air dropped until it felt like the middle of a harsh winter.
James entered the hotel with his teammates, whose bombastic, loud voices quickly filled the silent lobby. “Whoever wants to grab dinner, lobby in twenty!” shouted Flower.
He looked around for his roommate on the road Paul Martin. To make things easier he always grabbed both their sets of room keys—it meant for a quicker escape from the masses downstairs. He spotted the blonde defenseman by the elevators and weaved his way through his teammates, just making it inside the elevator before the doors closed.
James followed Paul into their room, throwing his suitcase on the bed by the window. He took a seat on the edge and pulled out his phone.
No New Text Messages.
He sighed, tossing the phone beside him.
Since when did I become one of those guys—the kind that checks their phone every 5 seconds to see if she’s texted? I’ve known this girl for what, two weeks and I’m already hooked.
The banging on the hotel room door snapped James out of his daze. He glanced over at Martin who was lying down and about to pass out. James grabbed his phone and room key and headed to the elevator.
James met up with a couple of guys in the lobby, mostly the younger players—Sidney Crosby, Geno Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Flower and Tyler “TK” Kennedy. They bundled up before heading out to a steakhouse just a couple blocks from their hotel.
He lasted almost 15 minutes once they sat down without having to check his phone. But an empty mailbox was all he found.
When he left Charlie’s that night, he made sure to exchange numbers with her. He didn’t want to have to track her down again—though she said having his number wasn’t as charming as him stalking her.
Now she’s just making fun of him. He pulled her in for a hug and held her close, kissing her cheek softly before saying goodnight.
Slow and steady wins the race, he repeated over and over.
“Nealer, quite looking at your damn phone,” Jordan chirped from across the table. “Fuck off, I was just checking the time,” James shrugged.
“Either you’ve got fucking early onset Alzheimer’s or you’re waiting for someone to hit you up,”
“Jamesy, you got girl waiting for you?” Geno said as more of a statement than question. His broken English made it seem less annoying than Staal’s. “She have friend for Geno, no?”
He just shook his head and took a sip of his beer. Staal leaned forward to fire back when Kris jumped up from his seat beside him yelping, throwing a lobster head he found in his suit pocket on the table. As always, all eyes turned to Flower who was howling.
“Vraiment des putains de drôle!” Letang yelled at his fellow Frenchman.
Just as James slid his phone back into his pocket, it buzzed. He looked up to make sure all the guys weren’t looking in his direction, especially the tall, lanky blonde. Using the tablecloth to dim the bright light of his iPhone, he pulled it out as secretly as he could.
1 New Text Message.
His thumb swiftly pressed ‘Open.’
I wish you were here…
James couldn’t keep the grin from stretching ear to ear—that is until he realized that there was more to that text.
I wish you were here to witness the awkwardness that just occurred with my landlord
I do have a love for awkward situations *shoop shoop shoop*
I was just interrogated about the ‘devilishly handsome man’ that left my apartment late the other night
You don’t have to put that in quotes, I know that’s what you think of me
You’re right, your beauty just astounds me
I get that a lot. I wouldn’t blame you if you just fell at my feet and did as I told
Ah, if only that dream of yours would come true…
Don’t they say ‘dreams can come true’?
Yes, yes they do. But then again we live in Pittsburgh, not Disney Land
Damn. I’ll have to request a transfer to Anaheim
Tell Bobby Ryan I say hi! He’s a dreamboat
He has a lisp!
James, don’t be mean! It’s cute! Kind of sexy… in a way
I worry about you
As do I, as do I. Hope your trip is going well
I’m surrounded by a bunch of boys who pull pranks with lobsters… I wish I was back in Pit with you…
Before he could read what Charlie said back, his phone was snatched out of his hands. TK held his phone with his left hand, furthest from James.
“Who are we texting Nealer?” he said loudly.
“A-ha! I knew it, fucking Nealer!” Staal barked, his blue eyes glaring at James.
“Woah, Charlie? Uh, dude, are you gay?” TK stared at him, wide eyed. “I mean, not that that’s a problem,”
“What?! No!” James panicked. “No I’m not gay! Charlie is short for Charlotte. Tell ‘em Kris!” he stuttered.
Kris had been with James when he ran into Charlie at the coffee shop. When they were on their way out Kris just gave him a look—a look that said ‘tell me who she is or I’ll embarrass you.’
Naturally, James was quick to fill him on their brief relationship. He knew that he’d lose to Kris if he had gone up to Charlie, that man has a way with women. James felt that he was man enough to make the statement that he was one good-looking guy, with an amazing head of hair.
“’I wouldn’t blame you if you fell at my feet and did as I told’? Jesus Nealer, does that actually work for you?” TK asked, scrolling through the conversation with Charlie.
James reached for his phone but the forward was too fast, pulling away. He started to text on his phone and James began panicking again.
“Kennedy, don’t,” he growled.
“What, I’m not going to embarrass you or anything,” His evil grin said differently. TK made sure to emphasize when he pressed ‘send’ before handing back the phone. James took it hastily, scrolling through his phone for any damage. His eyes about popped out of his head when he saw what TK had texted Charlie.
Why do boys play with their food… I’ll be sure to pay you back for dinner the other night when you get back in town
I know how you can pay me back. It involves playing… but not with food
“What the hell, man!” TK dove out of his seat before James could hit him.
He chuckled as he moved to the empty chair on the other side of the table, “Just trying to help your game bro,”
James’ thumbs couldn’t move fast enough to type out an apology and an explanation. Charlie beat him.
I think you owe me a couple more dinners first to equal to that Mr.
“Alright boys, hand ‘em over,” Sidney took off his beanie and threw his credit card in, passing it around for all the guys to do the same. It was their way of picking someone to pay for dinner. Throw everyone’s credit card in a hat and have the unbiased (usually) waiter them out one by one until there’s one left—the sucker who has to pay for the meals of multiple 200 pound hockey players.
“Excuse me, miss? Brittany?” he politely called to our waitress walking by.
She stopped dead in her tracks and slowly walked up to him at the end of the table. James couldn’t hear him from a couple seats down, but he couldn’t miss the rush of redness that appeared on her cheeks when he spoke to her.
Either she’s that star stuck or he told her he was going to take her to a bed & breakfast on the beach—with no plans of seeing the ocean, James thought.
One by one a credit card was pulled… first it was Flower, Staal, and then Crosby—who gave her a quick wink.
It totally was rigged.
Geno stood up and raised his arms Rocky style when his card was pulled before Staal’s. It was down to TK and Kris, and the boys gave a drum roll as Brittany pulled out the runner up.
“Kristopher Letang,” she announced quietly. Kris gave her a wink.
I like to call that the panty dropper.
She called his name and TK slapped the edge of the table with his palms. “God damn it!”
James couldn’t help but laugh. Karma’s a bitch TK!
He stayed behind to pay while the rest of the guys filed out of the restaurant and back towards the hotel. While they stood outside in the cold air Sidney looked over to James.
“I thought that was good enough payback,” he giggled his high-pitched laugh, and bumped James in the shoulder.
What a great captain.