Page 52 of The Keeper

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“It’s okay, Logan, it’s a hard one. We can work on it again next week.”

Logan nods once and tries again before sighing heavily and putting the guitar on his lap. I give the kids a handout of things to work on during the week, and then we all exchange our tradition of high fives before they’re off to their next activity.

I work on cleaning up the space, hoping to see Billie appear in the doorway as she usually does at the end of my sessions.Except for today.It’s fair to assume she’s ghosting me since I haven’t heard from her since her dad’s party last weekend.

I’m not sure how to deal with the situation or what to do to make things better. I’ve started several texts, but honestly, the whole situation gives me anxiety. I feel like no matter what I say, it’ll be wrong. I don’t want to upset her more than I already have.

Still, I linger longer than normal, hopeful she might come down to see me. Finally, I pack up my guitar and shut off the light as my phone buzzes with a text message. My stomach flips, hoping it might be from Billie, but instead, I see Emily’s name, and hope turns to instant dread.

Emily: When were you going to tell me you were cheating on me?

Cal: What are you talking about?

Em responds instantly with a screenshot, a grainy photo from a Montreal-based tabloid. The headline reads:MAKING THE MOST OF THE MOVE.

I peer at the photo, trying to drag the screen to increase the size. When I realize what I’m looking at, I lean back against the wall, breathless and sick. It’s hard to make out, for sure, but I know that it’s a photo of Billie and me on the beach. I’m behind her, hands on her hips.Fucking her.

My phone rings, and I answer it quickly, looking around to make sure no one is within earshot. Emily’s already yelling into my ear the instant I accept her call.

“There is no excuse you can give me that will make me believe that you weren’t screwing some bimbo on that beach in that picture.”

“I’m not making an excuse.”

“So, you admit you were screwing some bimbo on the beach?”

“We agreed to a break. At your request, Em.”

“Taking a break doesn’t mean you can just go out and have sex with whoever, wherever, Cal.”

I pinch my nose between my thumb and forefinger. “I think it does mean that, actually. We’re not together, remember?”

“We also didn’t discuss seeing other people.”

“So that guyNick, from your office that you were messaging when you were here to visit? I’m pretty sure you’reseeinghim even if you won’t admit it. Can you truthfully tell me you haven’t fucked him?”

To my surprise, Emily is quiet for a long moment. I hear her take a deep breath before she says, “I think I’m in love with him.”

A bitter laugh escapes the back of my throat. It’s not like I didn’t know, down deep in my heart, that this was happening. That we were ending.That you’re in love with someone else yet rang me in anger.It’s completely illogical.

“What’s so damn funny?” she asks sharply.

“Nothing’s funny. It’s pathetic that you would come raging at me like this when you’ve been seeing someone else since, when, like the minute after I left?”

“I didn’t realize what was happening, what I was feeling.”

“Oh, you didn’trealizewhat you were feeling. Okay, Em. So, when you said you wanted to make this work? What was that?”

“Cal, you said the same, but here we are. Who is she?”

“None of your business. She’s a friend.”

“Well, I don’t do that withmyfriends.” The sound of her voice is giving me a headache. Why have I never noticed how annoying her voice is before this?

“Don’t you.” It’s not a question.

An awkward, heated silence stretches between us for several moments, and then she starts talking.

“It was exciting, at first…being with you. You’re one of the hottest players in hockey. You make a ton of money so being with you means financial stability. It felt like a dream come true but then…”

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