Sunday, August 21, 2011

chapter four

I can't resist telling some parts of this story from both points of view.  So there's a little overlap, but I think it's fun.

I cannot believe I am alone in a Chicago sports bar on game day.  It’s like the real Santa showing up at Macy’s on Black Friday.  I draw my hat as low as possible and grab the table farthest back.  It takes two seconds for the waitress to recognize me and two more for her to proposition me.

“If you’re here alone, I could keep you company,” she says, like she’d quit her job right now to take the empty chair.

“I’m meeting someone,” I tell her.

She just smiles.  “If it’s Toews, I’ll keep you both company.”

My first drink arrives with her phone number on the napkin.  I crumple it away, glad Kristen isn’t here to see it.

If Kristen is here to see anything, that is.  I seriously doubt she will come at all.  Last night was hard for her - the more I thought about it, the more I felt her discomfort.  Why would she want to do that again?  Even if her problem had nothing to do with me, it was obviously still very important to her.  I had been a perfect gentleman though, and held myself very high for it.  Maybe she would be charmed.  Or maybe she’d come because she felt like it was owed.  Do I want her to be there just because she feels she owes me something?

Then she arrives.  I swear I can feel her walk in the door, this girl who doesn’t want me but
agreed to meet me anyway.  If Kristen’s plan is to tease me she’s well on her way to success.

A bright blue Cubs t-shirt is currently the luckiest thing in the room, hugging her curvy bust and flat stomach.  The barstool wins second place when she sits her perfect ass down.  That long dark hair is kept from her face by a baseball cap.

Her beer comes and I watch Kristen pass the first test - the waitress.  A little attitude slips into her voice, cutting this nosy intruder off at the pass.  Once it’s done it’s done, but Kristen can’t keep her eyes off the other girl.

“The waitress is trying to kill me with her mind,” she says.  A hint of smile accompanies the accusation.
Better get used to it.

I drink slowly so we won’t have to order another round.  Kristen relaxes a little, laughs her cute laugh and carefully selects her stories before she tells them.  Somewhere in that timeline is a big smoking crater of pain, but she skirts the edges with nimble feet.  As the beer in her glass gets lower, her comfort level improves.  I can’t risk it being ruined by another encounter with our waitress, who Kristen notices edging closer as the crowd begins to thin.  Her eyes dart over my shoulder more often, she sits back in her chair to put more space between us.  It’s slipping.

I have the urge to kiss her.  Well, an even stronger urge than usual.  It would back that waitress off for sure, and let Kristen know that she’s the only person I even see in this room.  The old me would take the risk - hell, her glass is almost empty, it’s not like she could throw much in my face.  But the way she bites her lip is fear, not seduction.  So while I have to pry my eyes from the soft, plump rise that dents beneath her gentle pressure, I do.

“Kristen,” I say probably too suddenly.  “Let’s get out of here.”

The seats are fantastic, as always.  I keep my head low but hear the ever-present whisper of people recognizing me.  Jon didn’t even wear a hat when he was here a few weeks back.  Amateur.

Everyone who looks at me then looks at her.  It takes her a few minutes to figure that out, and then she sits up perfectly straight in her seat like there’s a clear box over her, not touching me at all.  But once the game starts she forgets about that.  This must be what it’s like for people sitting along the glass at hockey - the game is in our laps.  It’s like we hit every line drive or throw every out ourselves.  Players come and go just a few feet from us.  I gently touch my knee to hers and Kristen doesn’t flinch.  The next time, I leave it there.  On a close call I lean in to bump against her.  She bumps back.  And then...


She’s watching the old-fashioned scoreboard change in the outfield when we come up on the Jumbotron.  The crowd bursts into applause that really, honestly do make me feel special.  Almost as special as I feel sitting next to her.  On the screen her dark hair looks black, her skin perfectly clear.  The cut of her Cubs t-shirt is just enough that every guy in the stadium is instantly jealous.  I couldn’t keep the smile off my face if I tried.  

Kristen gasps and looks at herself for a moment, frozen.  In that second I know she is the kind of girl I’ve been looking for.

“You should wave,” I suggest.

She does - a tentative little flick of her hand.  The audience loves it, they send up a cheer worthy of the Madhouse.  Kristen buries her face in my shoulder.  My arm puts itself around her like armor and I take the chance to whisper into her ear.

“You are beautiful.”

It’s like a rubber band snapping - every muscle in her body tenses.  She goes completely still, as if her next move will be to bolt.  With my arm around her back I turn her slightly toward me.  To my surprise, she lifts her head.

I’m going to kiss her.  Judging by the noise, the entire sold out baseball stadium wants me to kiss her.  But what I really care out, the advice I’d really follow, is the look in her eyes.  They’re still wide except this time the surprise is for another reason.  She knows I’m going to kiss her. She doesn’t know if she wants me to, but she’s not going to stop me.  I try to lean in but everything is slow motion.

“Now batting, number....”

The announcer’s voice breaks the spell.  The crowd says, “awwwww” in disappointment they’ve been robbed of a TV highlight.  Color pools back into her dark eyes, almost amber at the edges.  That single amazing, terrifying moment is gone and she cannot believe that I didn’t take it.  I know how she feels.

The old me riots inside his prison.  It’s somewhere between my heart and stomach, right where a well-placed kick knocks the air from my lungs.  He wants out now more than ever, wants to make this happen immediately because he’s not used to waiting.   New me takes a beating for that one.

“You are beautiful,” I tell her again because I mean it, and because I don’t want to start over.  

I’ve never seen this smile before.  Her bottom lip slips under her top one, both flat, and it’s more like relief than pleasure that crosses her face.  Even her long eyelashes flutter across her cheeks for a second as she sighs.  Then she puts her head back on my shoulder and lets me leave my arm around her.

It’s less of a suggestive move and more of a comforting one as Patrick adjusts his casual embrace.  I slip into it and rest my cheek against his shoulder.  It’s been years since another man held me like this and goddamn if I don’t like it.

I should have guessed that Patrick would figure me out.  It’s not too hard to connect the dots - girl freaks out at blind date, cries in the yard and yet strangely agrees to see you again the next day.  That girl is not stable.  That girl is not available.  And of course that’s why guys love.

Being with someone long-term is a life changing experience no matter how it ends.  I learned more about myself than him.  I did things I hated and things I was proud of.  I became hyper-aware of every action because it had so much impact on someone else.  Sometimes I forgot to consider how it impacted me.  For the last four months, I have been slowly regaining the feeling in my own life.  So maybe I just want a damned hug.

The game goes on - we can’t stay like that forever.  The Cubs score two and give up three.  We do the wave.  I pick the winning car in the Jumbotron race and do an excellent victory dance.  In the fourth inning, he excuses himself to the bathroom.  Morbid curiosity makes me watch him leave.

Every single person in our section does the same.  Then, as one, they all turn toward me.

I swing around and face the field like I’ve never seen grass before.  A thousand pairs of eyes size me up from the back.  On the jumbotron they were looking at my picture, and so was I.  Now it feels physical, like they’re invading my space.  And they all wait for him to come back.

“Thank God you’re a boy,” I say as he hands me a fresh beer.


“You’re fast.   When you’re not here, they look at me.”

Patrick leans forward onto his elbows, gazing down at his beer. “Sorry, Kristen.  I should have brought you somewhere there would be less... attention.”

I’ve done it again.  Like when I said that Toews’ date looked more Patrick’s style, I have stuck my foot in my mouth.

“No, no, I’m having fun.  I didn’t mean that.  I just…,” my voice trails off.

I should say that I just got run over by a shitty relationship and I’m used to people looking at me with pity.  They see the girl he cheated on, the girl who had to catch him fucking someone else before she realized it was over.  The girl who didn’t know.  Even my friends feel sorry for me... and I just feel sorry that I wasted my time.

“It’s just a little new.”  That’s the best I can do.

Patrick seems to take it as enough.  “I thought it might be easier, with a lot going on.  You wouldn’t have to, er... talk to me.  Not like last night.”

“Oh God.”  I want to shrink into my chair.  “I am so sorry, Patrick.  Last night was unforgivable.  I was so rude to you, and Miranda and Jane wanted to kill me...,” I have to turn now to look at him, so he can be sure I’m telling the truth.  He may be Patrick I-Get-Around Kane, but no one deserves to be treated like that.

“I promise you it’s forgotten.  And don’t keep going out with me because you feel bad about it.” He raises his eyebrows like I cannot deny it.

Mother of... this guy knows everything!  Am I that transparent?  Does he feel like we’re on a pity date?  And when I am the most pitiful one!  I cover my face with one hand and really pray for the Rapture to call me up immediately.

His arm goes back around my shoulder.  My brain instantly fires a flare: he’s playing you.  He’s manipulating the situation: saying don’t feel bad so you do feel bad, so you will go out with him again.  Or home with him tonight.  This is Patrick Kane we’re talking about and he hopes they serve beer in hell.

“Kidding, I’m kidding!” he swears.  “I have a one date mercy rule.  It’s like tee ball - I won’t ask you out again unless I think you’re having fun.”

“I am having fun!” I say with a little too much enthusiasm.

“So you want me to ask you out again?” He doesn’t miss a beat.

“No, I... I mean, if you... then I....”  Sputter, stutter, stammer.  “Oh my God.”

My head is against his shoulder again, seemingly the perfect place to hide itself as I blush hard.  The heat rolling off his body doesn’t help, nor the proximity to his alarmingly large bicep.  Patrick just laughs and gives me a squeeze.


  1. So cute! Once again, you are managing to perfectly build up the tension and keep us readers EAGERLY awaiting the next update. Which I desperately hope is S-O-O-N!!

  2. I really like the overlapping! It's cool to see each situation from both points of view. Patrick is just so cute in this story, I can't get enough

  3. "This is Patrick Kane we’re talking about and he hopes they serve beer in hell."... did you just compare Tucker Max and Kaner? BRILLIANT! I'm loving this so far :)