Page 33 of The Keeper

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So, I guess this makes it official. Dumped by Emily Marshall a little over a month in to our new reality.

I stare stupidly at my phone like it might light up with Em calling me back, saying she didn’t mean it, but I know that’s not happening. The situation with her hasn’t been good for a while, if I’m honest…obviously…based on what I was doing last night with Billie, break or no break. It hasn’t felt right because everything was fucked the minute I got traded.Did I do this? Am I to blame for the failure of our relationship?Replaying our conversation—the way Em spoke down to me, her insinuations—makes my skin crawl, so much so, I want to scratch it all off.

This is not good for me.

I need to blow off some steam.

So, I dress quickly and head to the gym at the practice arena. One of the physical trainers, a guy named Dale, is there when I walk in. He’s got a weightlifter’s build and an affable personality, personified by the upbeat welcome I get as I walk in.

“Hey there,” he says as I toss my bag on the floor. “Thought it might just be me and the ghosts in here this morning. You’re up early, big guy.”

I head to the treadmill and start my run as a warmup without saying anything. He wanders over and analyzes my gait for a minute.

“Try to get that knee up a bit on your stride. And pitch forward just a hair. You’ll be able to get more power out of your stride that way.”

“I didn’t ask for your advice,” I growl, yet still trying to do what he advises.

He chuckles. “So, this is a mood-enhancing workout, then?”

“I guess.”

Dale pushes the tempo of the run up a notch and gives some more instruction. I have to admit I do feel better as I run, implementing his slight adjustments to my posture and gait. I run about two miles before he tells me to hop off. I let him lead me through a workout as he talks and gossips the whole time.

“You’re new here, so you probably don’t know all the stories. It’s so crazy. So, Evan Kazmeirowicz was a total ladies’ man a few years back. He was a strong player, no issues there, but not the leader he is today. He met his wife, and there was a non-fraternization policy designed to prevent players and staff from intermingling. But he fell hard for her, and management made an exception, which was good because it really straightened him up. He made all-stars and got team captain. Super solid now, two kids, kick-ass record.”

“He’s a good captain,” I admit as I test out the weight on a deadlift. This is not what I came here for. I don’t care about Evan’s relationship woes. It’s all white noise to me. As long as he’s a skillful captain, that’s okay.

“And Georg?” Dale whistles through his teeth and rolls his eyes. “What a hot-ass mess. Seriously. He was a total drunk, only sober to play. He’d come in here and practically throw up, sweating out last night’s alcohol. Shitty contract. He was not in good shape, but then he met Pam, and it was like he turned into a new man.”

I open my mouth to say I haven’t properly met Georg Kolochev yet. I mean, I’ve seen him at practice, and I know he’s good from seeing him play in the finals, but we haven’t had a real conversation. Dale coaches me through the deadlifts, though, and the thought is forgotten as we switch out the weights for back squats.

“Then Viktor came and got with Scarlett and now they have a baby,” Dale continues chattering. “Next, the new guy, Boris comes in and,bam, he’s in love and settled down, too. Meanwhile, holy shit, Tyler? Have you met that guy? Most obnoxious dude I’ve ever met. Total hound dog behavior with the females. And who does he end up with? Friggin’ Kolochev’s little sister. And I mean little. She’s barely an adult, seriously. But he’s all moony and on the straight and narrow. It’s like the old men’s club around here now. Hey, you got a girl?”

I finish the reps on these squats and wipe the sweat from my forehead with the sleeve of my shirt. I’ve tolerated the team gossip, as it’s pointed me away from thoughts of Emily and my situation with Billie. I mean, I guess there isn’t a situation with Billie, per se. We agreed it was a one-time thing and we wouldn’t make it weird. Still, I feel weird, because even though Emily said we’re no longer together—even though I know in my heart she’s probably cheating with her study partner Nick—I still feel like it was me who did the bad thing.

Now, though, here is the question. Do I have a girl?

“It’s complicated.”

“That’s a Facebook answer if I’ve ever heard one. What do you mean,it’s complicated?”

“I thought I had a girl, but she’s been distant since I moved here. She’s doing her master’s degree in Montreal, so she claims it’s just because she’s busy, but I’m sure it’s more than that. It’s been strained between us. She lacks her usual…tolerance. And she’s talking about this other guy—”

“Wait, she’s talking about another guy? To you?”

“Some guy in her program. He was DM’ing her while she was here to visit recently.”

“Did you read through the DMs?”

“No.” I shake my head. Dale has me do a series of sit-ups where he throws me a medicine ball and I throw it back each time I sit up.

“What the hell? Why not?”

“I guess I didn’t really want to know. I just want things to get back to normal. I’m a routine-oriented guy. I like things where they belong and nothing feels like it’s where it belongs right now, including me.”

“Well, moving to a new place and a new team can’t be easy. And as for your girl? If you really want her, maybe you should do some big, grand gesture to reignite the romance or whatever. Those seem to be popular around here, too. Georg’s lady came out in a playboy bunny outfit to propose to him, so…”

I cringe at the thought. I’d be so uncomfortable doing some big thing in front of a bunch of people. I’m fine just being the guy at the net, no eyes on me until a puck comes my way. Still, I find myself lost in thought about the idea of romance as Dale continues to talk his way through my workout. He says he keeps waiting for lightning to strike him, too, but that he has bad luck with women. The ones he likes are always taken.

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