Sunday, September 4, 2011

chapter thirteen

I wake up to the sound of my phone ringing.  The clock says it’s two minutes before my alarm, so I know it’s Jane.  Only she has that kind of precision - and an early morning job.

“Now I know why you didn’t call me at lunch yesterday.”

“Whaaaa?” I yawn.

“Get the Red Eye on your way to work,” she says, referring to the free tabloid-size freebie paper the Chicago Tribune gives out at El stations.  She works as a nurse, which explains the sirens in the background.


“You’ll see.”

I throw on a dress that doesn’t need to be ironed, push my hair back with a headband and brush my teeth.  I’m halfway to the door when I stop and force myself to go back and spend five minutes putting on makeup and ensuring I don’t look like a zombie.

If Red Eye contained something bad, Jane would have said.  Her playful tone leads me to believe I’m about to see my own picture in the paper.

A little eyeliner and mascara helps me look like I at least tried to get out of bed.  It’s probably undone by my half-jog to the El.  I snag a paper from the rack, hustle onto the train and swing into the first empty seat on the left.

Deep breath.  Then I open the front page.  And right there on page three, with the headlines, gossip and odd stories of the day are featured, is a large color photo of me and Patrick in the park.

I scrunch down in my seat and peer over the top of my paper: surely everyone is looking at me.  My heart pounds.  But not a single person has noticed me.  Few are even reading the paper.  Most are blithely ignoring other commuters while playing their iPods too loudly and trying not to get pick-pocketed.

Flipping the corner of the page back up, I allow myself to take in the photo - actually two photos.  It’s the “Eye Spy” feature, where Red Eye readers send in a photo of something interesting they saw around town.  I guess we qualify.  In the first shot, Patrick and I are sitting with open containers of food in our laps, talking.  He’s leaning in and I’m smiling - it’s a nice picture, considering it was taken by some random person in the park.  In the second, a smaller inset photo, we are on the ground, Patrick over me, just about to kiss.  It’s not salacious but it is a bit invasive.  My stomach churns.  I remind myself not to kiss people in the park if you don’t want anyone to see.

When I get to the office, four cut-out copies of the photos have been hung around my desk.  These jerks are hilarious.  A few people clap, but they’re good-natured about it.  I silently thank Patrick for coming by here yesterday - he’s somehow taken the surprise out of this and made the whole ‘Oh my God, you’re dating Patrick Kane!’ thing less scary.

Dating, I think to myself as I pull down all but one of the pictures.  I guess we are dating.  Five dates in five days to be exact, including tonight.  Now that makes me nervous.

Luckily, work is a blur of actual business that distracts me from the rest of my life.  Just before lunch my phone beeps.

Patrick: You look so good you make me look good.

Me: It’s a tough job but...

Patrick: You’re promoted.  See you tonight.

Before I’ve had time to obsess over what tonight might bring, I’m home and changed and I’ve been sitting on the stoop for five minutes, the front door locked behind me.  If I’d so much as let him ring the bell we wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I want to spend the night with Patrick but not have sex.  I want to wake up in the morning next to someone new and still have something left to give.  There’s power in that, and comfort.  I believe he’s not here just to get laid, but that doesn’t mean doing it won’t change everything.

Patrick’s car rolls to a stop in front of my building.  

“You are so hot,” he says as I climb into his truck.  I laugh and kiss him, thinking that only he could make that sound sweet.  It’s like saying ‘I could have any girl but I still want you.’  In his long dark khaki cargo shorts and black button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, he looks pretty hot himself.

I know Patrick won’t wait forever.  Judging by the way my hand trembles and my brain calculates the square footage of the backseat, I won’t either.  After all, I shaved my legs.

“Sorry about the paper,” he says without looking at me.

I reach over and rub my fingers along the back of his neck.  “Don’t.  You looked hot enough to be seen with me.”

We arrive at Jane and Tommy’s building.  The roof deck is full of people wearing party hats - you’d think there was a birthday kid around.  Everyone turns to see Patrick.  Jane must have been telling people to act normal because no one looks surprised.  Aston Martin runs over to sniff us, licks Patrick’s hand and trots away on impossibly spindly legs.  He is wearing a birthday shirt.

“That is a weird looking dog!” Patrick whispers, sliding a hand around my back.

“Be nice or he’ll pee on you.”

Jane greets us with two red plastic beer cups from a keg in the corner.  A folding table has been set with chips and snacks and a big birthday cake shaped like a dog’s bone.

“That’s for us,” Jane says of the cake.  Then she points to a covered Tupperware container.  “You can give Aston a piece of bacon if you want, that’s his present.”

Patrick holds out the green paper party back in his casted hand.  “This is for him too.”

If Jane wasn’t already Team Patrick, she’d be making up a dance routine right now.  She hugs him then gives me a look: you’d better be sleeping with this guy.

“Tommy, come here!”

Inside the bag is, I swear to God, a tiny dog-sized Blackhawks jersey.  It’ll probably still be huge on Aston’s freakish frame, but Jane beams like Patrick just gave her a sparkly crown.

“Aston, here buddy, come here.”  The dog actually listens, probably because he’s been getting bacon all night, and Jane slips his shirt off and the jersey on.  Aston looks around like ‘that’s it?!’  Patrick appears with a strip of bacon and gets a lick on the leg for his trouble.

“Such a charmer,” I say as we lean against the railing.  Jane is excitedly pointing out the jersey to anyone who will listen.  Their deck, which they share with their building, is on the eleventh floor.  You can make out things on the ground while skyscrapers tower overhead.  The burnt orange sky cuts through in gashes between buildings as the sun closes in on the horizon.

“This is fantastic,” Patrick says.  Then he turns and without hesitation, kisses me.

There’s still a moment where Kristen is surprised when I kiss her.  Each time we’re together, the first kiss stops her in her tracks.  As if she’s not quite sure that I’ll still like her even though I keep coming back.

“Hey,” I ask quietly, aware that people are probably watching us from the corners of their eyes.  “You okay?”

She half-laugh, half-smiles as she ducks her head in momentary embarrassment.  “Yeah, I’m fine.  I just... sorry, it’s dumb.”


Kristen squares her shoulders a little and looks at me.  “I still get a little surprised how different it feels to kiss you.  You’re so... you’re so Patrick.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

She smiles and kisses me again, quickly.  “Good thing.”

I can tell she never meant to bring it up, and she wants to drop it now.  But I need to know more about what happened to her.  Whatever she’s willing to tell me.  In public might not be the best place, but the minute I get her alone we won’t be talking about ex-boyfriends.

“Tell me what happened, Kristen.”

Her face relaxes a bit, like she knew what I was going to ask.  Maybe she just wants to get it over with.

“I dated a guy named Tyler for two years.  He cheated on me once and I forgave him.  We lived together for the last year.  Then one day I walked in on him and another girl, in our bed.  I...,” she looks right at me now, and whispers conspiratorially, “I kinda flipped out.”  

“Well that’s understandable, he hurt you.”  I rub my good hand along her arm, thinking this guy should show his face at a Blackhawks game so I can kill him with my stick.  But she’s smiling a little.

“Really, Patrick.  Flipped out.  It was like an episode of Jersey Shore.”  Then she laughs.  “You should have seen me.  I made him get out of bed, stark naked, so I could punch him.  I tossed his laptop right out the window and it hit his car three floors down and went right through the sun roof!  The girl - that poor girl, I wonder if she even knew - she ran like I was a serial killer.”
“Oh my God,” I say, but it’s just a stall tactic.  My face scrambles to stay stright, rearranging features like chess pieces.  I feel it trying... and failing.

I burst out laughing.  It nearly doubles me over and probably draws the attention of the entire party.  Kristen sets her jaw, but the corner of her mouth quivers.  Two seconds later, she’s in hysterics.

“You punched him?  Naked?  Oh God, that’s awesome,” I gasp.

She’s holding on to the railing for support.  “I still can’t believe I hit his sunroof with the computer.  I should try that million dollar hockey shot at intermission.”  

I straighten up very quickly, managing a brief straight face.  “You can’t do Hawks contests.”

“Why?” she asks.

“Because you kissed me.  You’re disqualified.”

She stomps her foot in mock indignation.  “You kissed me first!”

“Well,” I shrug, “I already had a million dollars.  Didn’t have you.”

“And now you’ve just got everything, don’t you?”  Her voice softens a little, the compliment overriding the joke.

I put my good hand back on her arm.  “Everything but a sunroof.”

We both laugh and I pull her into a casually standing hug, my hands tied at the small of her back.  She rests her arms around my neck.  Couples stand this way all the time, and now I know why.

“So, Snooki, what happened after that.

Kristen sighs.  “It was the last straw.  Maybe I knew it was over before then, but either way it felt really good to get that mad.  Really good.  Then, of course... well, Miranda probably told you that the bad stuff came after.”

Miranda hadn’t, but her boyfriend did.  Miranda had suggested the setup dinner party - usually I run like hell from those things.  But I was feeling the need to change very strongly, before I could slip back into the ways that had gotten me in so much trouble.  Miranda seemed so... solid.  I needed some help with that.

So I asked her boyfriend Eric, since I knew him pretty well.  He told me Kristen had been cheated on by a long-term boyfriend, ended it and that she got pretty messed up.  Miranda was really worried and Eric had seen himself that Kristen was not pulling through on her own.  She really needed some help too.

“I heard some, the rest I just imagined.”

“It was not a good time.”

I pull her in a little tighter, reveling in the fit of her body against mine.  Her skin smells like summer nights.  I put my cheek to hers like we’re slow dancing.

“Bad stuff’s over now, babe.”

Even though Patrick only gets the highlight reel, it feels good to talk about what happened.  There’s a lot I don’t want to get off my chest - moments where I felt so worthless and humiliated that I will never admit they even took place.  But the overall story is still stamped on my life, and it’s only fair that I let people feel around the edges.

Patrick listens and then hugs me, like a good friend.  If good friends followed the hug with a tow-curling kiss that nearly made you fall from the eleventh story of a building.

“People are watching,” I whisper, my mouth barely apart from his.  I don’t want to stop kissing but I don’t want to be that couple either.  All these people have the same idea about Patrick that I had five days ago.  It feels like a lifetime.  Even if they’re wrong about him, I don’t want them being the same kind of wrong about me.

He takes my hand and leads us into the party where he proceeds to run for mayor of Chicago again.  He flirts just enough with the girls and man-friends the guys.  Aston runs around in that Hawks jersey like he’s auditioning to be the mascot.  People tell Stanley Cup parade stories and a couple of people were at Jimmy Buffett when Patrick brought the Cup on stage.  He works the crowd until they are all charmed.

“How am I doing?” he whispers as we’re filling cups from the keg.

“I’d vote for you.”

He gives me the acceptance speech smile.  Then he leans in with his body, reminding me how much warmer it is on the surface of the sun.  Something about being that close to him makes me skin prickle.  Patrick smells like a long, sleepy Sunday morning.

Those blue eyes sparkle as he confides in me.  “I want you to know I’m holding back a great one liner about letting you punch my ticket.’”

He delivers a wink with the punch line.  God he is such a flirt and I fucking love it.  Tonight feels like the final minute of a game with the clock ticking down.  I bat my eyelashes.

“I was going to say ‘I’ll let you stuff my ballot box.’”

He laughs so hard he almost spills his drink.  I take it from his hand, drop a little curtsy and help myself to a sip.

“Kristen,” he says, “can we please get out of here?”

Jane looks surprised that we lasted as long as we did.  We say goodbye to the whole party and they tell us to have fun fucking each other’s brains out.  Well, they don’t.  But the look is on their faces.  

One minute later, we shut ourselves into the car.  The silence is deafening.  It only lasts a beat.

Patrick one-armed hauls me onto the center console and I twist around so my back is to the steering wheel, knees up between the seats.  I throw my arms around his neck and kiss him.  He’s ready for it.  Our tongues twist, lips pulling.  His good hand reaches for my hip, then slips under my shirt onto bare skin.  I jump so hard my shoulder hits the horn.


I am so flustered and nervous I am about to explode.  It sets me off giggling and Patrick has to lever me back into the passenger seat so he can drive.  I just cackle like a madwoman to cover my insecurity.

There’s a part of being cheated on or dumped that no one ever talks about.  The sex.

There’s a hard, cold nugget of fear in my chest that it could have been the sex - particularly sex with me - that Tyler didn’t enjoy.  After all, he wasn’t really dating other girls as much as he was fucking them.  Maybe he was just a horny shithead with no moral compass.  Or maybe I am bad in bed.

Patrick has been with a lot of girls.  I’m not stupid.  I’m not going to be the best he’s ever had.  But there exists the very real possibility, fueled by the destruction Tyler left behind, that I will be the worst.

“Can you take me home?” I say suddenly.

“What?” he snaps.  “I mean, sorry.  Are you sure?  You don’t want to... come over?”

I open my mouth to answer but all that comes out is a shaky breath.  Patrick glances over, then pulls into a empty parking spot on the street.  He turns to face me.

“What’s wrong?”

“I....”  The truth is I cannot possibly say this out loud.  Not to him.  Because he’ll comfort me and change my mind and then I’ll never know, ever for as long as we’re together, if he’s only acting like he enjoys being with me.  If he’s only pretending for my sake.

The irony of Patrick Kane pretending to like getting laid is not lost on me.

“I just don’t want to move too fast.”  It’s a cop-out and he knows it, but Patrick brushes the hair from my temple.

“How about, you come over and we keep all our clothes on.  All night.  I’ll give you a jersey to wear over that if you want.  And gloves.”

“Patrick, I....”

“You won’t be able to resist me?” he purrs, trying to lighten the mood.  “Kristen, we don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.  I’ll take you home.  But if you think you can keep your hands off, I would really like you to stay with me tonight.”

His good hand cups my cheek so I cannot look away.  I wonder how many girls feel for sweet words from that mouth.  If they did, they weren’t trying very hard.  I don’t think his eyes can lie.  He will do what I ask.  He won’t ask for anything himself.

“Okay,” I consent before I can change my mind.  “Okay.”

I have to get over this fear.  It’s like an onion - beneath ever layer is another layer that just makes me cry again.  Five days with Patrick have felt like a long time, but each day has removed another layer of skin from my scab.  We’re getting down to the gory stuff now.  I just have to grit my teeth and keep going.

He smiles encouragingly, like he’s convinced a kid to visit the dentist.  “Okay.”


  1. So cute!!! Please oh please don't make us wait much longer for the good stuff! This tension is killing me as much as it is him!!!

  2. Ahh this story just keeps getting better! Kind of curious to see if they'll actually be able to keep their hands off each other. I have my doubts ;)

  3. I can't believe I'm obsessively checking for updates on a Patrick Kane story! Can't wait for more!