Dante’s fist sails past my head and slams into the metal with a satisfying crunch before he turns and stalks off.
The defenseman Tyler snickers. “What a little bitch.”
I don’t know if he’s talking about Dante or me. Well, what the hell ever. I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to do my job. But it certainly wasn’t the first day I expected.Nothing feels right, and probably won’t for a long time.
When I get home, I’m beat and lonely and feeling totally out of sorts. I’m very routine-oriented, and I’m nowhere close to figuring out a routine here in Vegas, which makes me feel comfortable. As a result, it feels a little like I’m wearing skin that doesn’t quite fit my bones. I need to talk to someone who knows me, so I call my girlfriend, Emily.
“Hey,” she answers.
“Hey, Em. How was today?”
“Mostly spent at the library,” she says. “Research day.”
“Ah, and how’d that go?”
“Sorry to hear that. I had about a thousand shots lobbed at my face in practice.”
“That sounds like a normal day in the life of Cal,” she says distractedly.
“Half of the guys seem like they genuinely wanted to slice my head off with a puck. Especially the second-string goalie.”
“Well, that one makes sense.”
“Do you like it there?”
“No,” I say sharply. “I hate it. It’s too hot.”
“And it’s unfamiliar. The people. The places. You’re not good with change.”
“All true. And I miss you.”
“Aw. I miss you too.”
“Can I fly you in for the weekend?” I ask. “Friday night to Sunday night maybe?”
“Sorry, babe,” she says. “This isn’t a good week. I’ve got a hard deadline for Monday afternoon on the first section of my thesis project.”
A long silence stretches between us. I can hear her fingers flying over the keyboard of her laptop. She’s multi-tasking. I’m used to the sound because she was always working on her laptop, often while we were in bed together at night. She’d be working, I’d be watching video replays. It was familiar, and the sound calms me a little even now when we’re so far away, but at the same time annoys me she’s working when we have only this small amount of time to talk.
“Maybe I’ll make a countdown clock,” I say to fill the silence. “Days until you finish your master’s degree and can move here to be with me.”
She lets out a vacant laugh. “Why would I move to Vegas? You just said you hated it there.”
“Okay, then, a countdown clock until this contract is up and I’m a free agent, then, and I can come back home.”
She doesn’t answer. Obviously, she’s focused on something else. I still hear the click of typing in the background.
“I know we can make this work, Em.” I say the words even though she didn’t do a thing to indicate otherwise. At least, not in this conversation.
It’s something I’ve been saying since we got the news of the trade.We can make it work. It’s only for a little while. We’ll figure it out.
The truth? Emily wanted to break up immediately. She said it would be too hard to make it work if we lived so far away from each other. Still, I was sure this wouldn’t be permanent, that I’d find a way back home again. I told her she was important to me, and I convinced her we should give it a go. Frankly, my travel schedule and her school schedule meant we hardly saw each other during the season anyway. And with my new contract, I’d be making enough to fly either one of us back or forth whenever possible. I assured her it wasn’t a forever thing, me being here in Vegas. That she needed me. That Ineededher.
And I do. She knows me. Knows my routine and my quirks. I feel more comfortable when she’s around. More…whole.