Page 32 of The Keeper

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What the fuck did you do?

Billie’s gone now, of course. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. She did say she wanted to forget about it afterward. But when she fell asleep so peacefully, a part of me thought maybe she would stay. Maybe she wouldn’t run.

But then, it’s probably best that she did take off before I woke up. What was I even thinking? Yeah, I realize there’s been this instant chemistry thing happening between us for a while. And maybe not consciously, but Iwasabout to get in that cab last night, even without the direct invite from Billie.

When Em texted, asking for a break, something just snapped. My decision was made even easier when Billie asked if we could just forget it ever happened afterward and just leave the experience behind us.Why yes, Billie. Yes, we can certainly do that. Like passing GO and getting the two hundred dollars, plus a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card, all on the same roll.

And I never texted Em back.

Emily Marshall and I have been together for more than two years. We met at a college party. I was the interloper, as always, not a college student. Already playing in the NHL, but there with a high school friend, sticking to the sidelines. I was watching the fun, as per usual, nursing my beer and saying every wrong thing to every young woman who came up to talk to me.

Emily had just graduated college and moved to Montreal to start her master’s program. She was pretty and petite, and she seemed just as uncomfortable at the party as I was, so we took a walk outside, sat on a deck bench, and started to talk. She didn’t seem bothered by my awkwardness, by the directness of my communication style. I relaxed a little more each time we hung out, and suddenly we were a thing, a couple. We had melted into a routine that had her staying at my place several nights a week.

She’s never been much of a hockey fan, though she would come out periodically to watch me play. Our relationship wasn’t built on what I do for a living or what she studies. For me, it was built on a sense of comfort. I felt comfortable with her.

Lately, I’m not sure what she saw in me. When Evan asked me what I loved about her, I found it hard to find the words to answer.

Still, I don’t feel great about what I just did. I slept with another woman. And I liked it. A lot. I like Billie a lot, to be honest. She has a wild spirit about her that she keeps mostly contained, even though it’s still clearly visible. Like the wild strands of her purple-tipped hair, slipping free of their braid here and there in a kind of defiance. Intriguing…

I chew on this, these new realizations, as I stare at my phone. I should call Emily.

It takes me maybe fifteen minutes to psych myself up to make the call, and when I do, she answers, “Yes, Cal,” as if I’m annoying her.

“Hey, I wanted to call and talk. I got your texts last night.”

She’s quiet on the other end of the line. “This isn’t really a good time.”


“Just…because. I’m researching.”

“Do you miss me at all?”You shouldn’t have to ask her that.

“I just saw you last weekend.”

“That’s not an answer, Em.”

“Look, I’m just really busy. It’s a weird time. School is busy. You’re in another city. It’s hard right now, and that’s why I suggested a break.”

“A breakup you mean.”

“I mean…I guess…it is technically, but you don’t have to classify it like that if you don’t want to. Just…let’s back off. You try to settle into Vegas. Make more of an effort. Stop clinging to me. I can’t help you there, Cal, because I have to attend to my life in Montreal.”

“I’m not clinging.” A rising tide of anxiety fills my head with fuzz. “We’re a couple. We’re in a relationship. You’re supposed to be my partner and I’m far from home. Expecting a little of your attention doesn’t seem like that much to ask.”

“My attention isn’t going to fix this. You want what you had before. You want routine surroundings, routine schedules. My paying attention to you on the phone or whatever isn’t going to make that happen.”

“But you have to putsomeeffort into trying to make it work, Em. I was willing to try because you understand me and that’s hard to find.”

Emily laughs, and it’s a bitter sound. “Well, I imagine it is hard to find a partner who can live with your undiagnosed Asperger’s.”

My stomach sinks. “I don’t have Asperger’s.”

She laughs again. “Okay. Whatever you say.”

A heartbeat passes. Two. I can’t be on this call anymore. “I’m gonna go. Call me if you want to talk later. Maybe. Whenever.”

She doesn’t even bother to reply before the call disconnects.

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