Authors: Lila Moore
“What? No. I didn’t leave you for anyone, you idiot.”
Not quite believing me, Sledge turned his gaze to the crowd. I could see him sizing up every guy, trying to figure out if I was sleeping with any of them.
“Wait a minute… you two know each other?” Astrid asked.
“It’s a long story. I promise I’ll explain later.”
“I’ll explain later. Please?”
Now was not the time to get into an argument about this. Astrid understood and shut her mouth. Chick walked back over carrying a drink in his hand.
“What did I miss? Are you guys fighting? I hate that. Sledge, don’t pick a fight with Bobbi. You two love each other.”
For once Sledge looked uncomfortable. Svetlana fumed. I stared at my feet then I looked to Astrid for help, but she looked as bewildered as I felt.
“C’mon guys…” Chick put an arm around my shoulders and pulled me close. “Can’t we all just get along?”
Sledge’s eyes narrowed. “It was you, wasn’t it?”
“What are you talking about?” Chick said.
“You fucked my girlfriend.”
“Who? Svetlana? Never.”
“I’m talking about Bobbi.”
It was then I realized Sledge was drunk. He never drank when we were together. He said it interfered with his training. I guess he’d had a change of heart when it came to alcohol.
Chick laughed. “I would never sleep with your girl.”
“You’re drunk,” I said. “And you’re being stupid.”
“Get your hands off of her,” Sledge said to Chick.
“Dude, what’s your problem? We’re all friends here.” Chick stepped away from me, closer to Sledge. “Let’s just sit down and have another dr-”
Sledge punched Chick in the face, sending him reeling backwards. Chick is a big guy and he’s used to taking blows. He managed to stay on his feet, but his lip was split. Blood ran down his face. Sledge must have hit him pretty hard. Chick would probably lose another tooth- and he didn’t have many of those left to spare.
Trying to prevent Sledge from hitting Chick again, I jumped between them. Sledge lunged forward to grab Chick at the exact same moment. We ended up colliding together. I was knocked off my feet landing hard on the dirty club floor. Astrid jumped down to help me. Sledge also fell at my feet.
“Bobbi, Christ, are you okay?” he drunkenly slurred. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. It was an accident. I was trying to get to Chick. How could you fuck him? Was I that bad to you? I thought we had something special?”
I stared at him in confusion.
“Get away,” Astrid said.
She helped me to my feet and led me to the bathroom. Once we were in the safety of the women’s room, I relaxed a bit. When I first saw myself in the mirror I didn’t recognize the person staring back. My red hair was long and wild; my tight dress was bunched up around my waist, nearly revealing my underwear. Astrid helped me straighten my dress.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I was grateful she didn’t bombard me with questions about Sledge.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
She turned on the water and started to clean the smudged mascara under my eyes. When I looked up into the mirror, my face was clean, but a devil was standing over my shoulder. Svetlana stood behind me. Her sharp angular face was icy. She stared at my reflection in the mirror. The girl was impossibly skinny, but somehow she managed to be physically intimidating.
“Can we help you with something?” Astrid asked. The tone of her voice clearly said I am not interested in your bullshit.
“You are Sledge’s girlfriend?” she asked with a heavily accented voice.
“We used to date in high school,” I replied. “I haven’t seen him in a while.” She continued to stare at me, as if she didn’t quite believe me. “I’m not sleeping with your boyfriend.”
“No, you are not. Nor will you ever again. If you do…” She spoke in Russian. I had no idea what she was saying, but it did not sound pleasant.
“What’s your problem?” Astrid demanded. “Since when are you concerned about Sledge fucking other girls? All those hoes at the table were hanging all over him.”
She was out of line, but I couldn’t help smiling.
“Those women are only toys for Sledge,” Svetlana replied drily. “They are no threat.”
Did that mean she thought I was a threat? I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or scared.
“You’ve got nothing to worry about. Sledge’s ego was wounded when I broke up with him. He thinks I cheated on him and now he wants revenge. Other than that he has no interest in me,” I said.
At that exact moment, Sledge came barreling into the ladies’ room. “Bobbi, are you okay? Do you need a doctor?”
He pushed Svetlana out of the way and wrapped an arm around my waist, as if to keep me from collapsing. I hadn’t been hurt in the fall. I’d probably have a bruise on my ass this next day, but other than that I was fine. I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t like the way Sledge’s strong arm felt around my waist. I leaned into him for a second, resting my hand on his chest. I could feel his warmth and strength through his shirt. Then the smell of alcohol hit me and I was reminded that he was drunk. I pushed away from him.
“I’m fine,” I said. “No thanks to you. What the hell were you doing starting a fight with Chick? He’s one of your oldest friends. You know he would never betray you like that.”
Sledge looked down guiltily. It was nice to know he still had a sense of shame.
“I’m sorry sweetheart.”
It had been a long time since he’d called me sweetheart. It left me feeling a bit breathless.
Svetlana cleared her throat. “Am I interrupting?”
He glanced at her over his shoulder. “You should wait outside.”
Svetlana looked shocked. Her surprise soon gave way to anger. “You are dismissing me?” she asked sarcastically. “Like I’m a servant?”
“No, I just- look, this has been a rough night. I had a little too much to drink. Right now I want to make sure Bobbi gets home safe.”
Svetlana had murder in her eyes. “You think you can just dismiss me?”
“I’m not dismissing you. I just…” He sighed. “Can we talk about this tomorrow?”
“If you are not careful, there will be no tomorrow.”
She turned on her heels and stormed out of the bathroom. Astrid raised her eyebrows and gave me a look that said: what the hell was that about? I shook my head. I had no idea.
“I’ll take you girls home,” Sledge said, swaying on his feet.
“No way,” I said. “You’re wasted. You’re not driving us anywhere. Besides, we don’t need your help. Astrid and I will be fine on our own. Right?”
Astrid shrugged. I grabbed her hand and started to pull her towards the exit.
“Wait, what’s your number?” he said, chasing after me.
“None of your business.”
“It’s 555-0997,” Astrid said.
I could have slapped her. “Astrid!”
Again she shrugged.
“0997…” he slurred.
Sledge was probably too drunk to remember it. I doubted I’d ever hear from again. Before she could give away our address, I grabbed her arm and dragged her through the club. I heard Sledge calling after us, but we lost him in the crowd. As soon as we got into my car, Astrid hit me with a barrage of questions.
“Please, not tonight,” I said. “I’ll tell you everything tomorrow. Tonight… I just can’t.”
Astrid crossed her arms and pouted. “Fine.”
“Good. Let’s go home and go to bed.”
My cell phone screamed like a siren from my bedside table. I groaned and reached for it. I glanced at the clock. It was six AM. Who was calling me this early? The caller ID showed my aunt’s name.
“Shit!” Astrid mumbled from her bed on the other side of the room. “Turn off the alarm,” she said, sounding half asleep.
I stared at my phone. I’d completely forgotten about my aunt. She was probably wondering why I didn’t show up last night. I answered the phone.
“Hello?” My voice was scratchy. The smoke from the club had left my throat dry and sore.
“Bobbi?” She sounded as if she didn’t recognize my voice. “Are you sick, dear?”
“Uh… yeah. I’m sorry. I should have called you last night. I came down with something a couple days ago and it’s only gotten worse. I was too tired to drive out to your place, so I decided to stay here.”
“Oh, no… Have you seen a doctor? You sound terrible. You need to drink tea with lemon and plenty of orange juice. You need vitamin C.”
“Do you need me to come by?”
“No, I’m fine. I’m going to go back to sleep, then when I wake up I’m going to make some tea. Then maybe I’ll-”
A sound in the background caught my attention. A baby was crying somewhere in the distance.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“At home. Why…” She sounded funny. My aunt was usually very sweet, but she sounded like she was hiding something.
“I thought I heard-”
“That’s just the TV. It’s too loud. I’ll turn it down.”
I heard the sound of a door closing then traffic. It sounded as if she’d stepped outside.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“I’m fine, Bobbi. You take care of yourself. Remember: lots of rest and lots of fluid. I’ve got to run now. Bye.”
“But what was that-”
The line went dead. I stared at my phone. Did my aunt have a secret? Her life seemed so dull. It was hard to imagine she was hiding anything from me. Maybe she was being honest and the noise I’d heard really was the television. It was probably one big misunderstanding. I put the phone down and pulled the covers up to my chin.
Somewhere my baby was sleeping. He was tucked warmly into his crib. I imagined him lying on his back while a mobile spun slowly above him, his soft curly blonde hair blowing in the breeze from a fan.
I turned onto my side and faced the wall. My eyes were filled with tears. I didn’t want Astrid to see me or hear me. I pulled the covers over my head and forced myself to think about something else. When that didn’t work, I grabbed the bottle of pills I’d relied on since my baby had been taken away from me.
I shook two out into my hand and swallowed them without water. Soon, the sadness melted away. I wasn’t happy. I simply felt nothing. It was preferable to the loneliness that haunted me.
The world around me stilled and I fell asleep. As I drifted off, I could hear the gentle sound of a lullaby playing in my head.
Before I opened my eyes, I could hear Astrid completing her morning yoga session. I laid perfectly still and listened to the familiar sounds of her movement. It was comforting to know some things don’t change.
“I know you’re awake,” she said.
I opened my eyes. “How did you know I was awake?”
“Your breathing changed- and your snoring stopped.”
I groaned and rubbed my face. “What time is it?”
“Was that your aunt that called you this morning?”
“Are you busted?”
“No, I don’t think so. I convinced her I was sick.”
“You sound sick.”
She tossed a water bottle onto the bed. “Drink.”
The cold hurt my throat, but I forced myself to swallow it down.
“Are you really sick?” she asked.
“No. I’m just hoarse from all that smoke in the club.”
“Not to mention all that yelling you did at your ex.” She raised an eyebrow. “I have been very patient. I’ve spent the last hour debating whether or not to wake you up and get the full story. I decided to let you rest.”
“How gracious of you.”
“You’re welcome. Now spill. I need deets.”
“There’s nothing to say. We dated briefly in high school.”
“And then we broke up. The end.”
She stared at me like I was nuts. “Okay, you are so obviously downplaying your relationship it’s ridiculous.”
I scoffed. “I am not.”
I’m not the best liar. I’d rather not lie to anyone, but there was too much at stake.
“If what you’re saying is true, and the two of you were just some high school fling, then why not tell me about it? Why keep it a big secret?”
“Because… it’s… well, it’s embarrassing.”
It was a clumsy lie, but I wasn’t sure what to say.
“Embarrassing? You fucked a hot hockey player and you’re embarrassed?”
“He’s a mess now. You saw him.”
“He was drunk and flirting with girls, all hockey players do that.”
“Exactly. Sleeping with him is nothing to brag about because scores of other women have done it.”
“How big is dick?”
I put the pillow over my face. She jumped on my bed.
“Tell me it’s big. I know it is.”
Astrid jumped up and down and tried to pull my covers away. “I bet he was good in bed, wasn’t he?”
“Yes! Are you happy? Leave me alone.”
Astrid cackled with glee as she fell down on the bed beside me. “Are you going to see him again?”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“He wants to see you.”
“No he doesn’t. He thinks I cheated on him and he wants revenge.”
“Did you cheat on him?”
“He said you broke up with him.”
“He was on his way to being a big hockey star. He was leaving town. There was no place for me in his life.”
This wasn’t entirely a lie. Even if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I couldn’t help wondering if we would have ended up broken up anyway. The girls presented temptation that was hard to ignore. They were everywhere. Women flocked to Sledge like a moth to the flame. Would I have been enough for him?
I waited for Astrid to argue with me, but she didn’t. She was a realist; she knew there was some truth to what I said.
“Did he cheat on you?” she asked.
“No. Not that I know of.”
I had no reason to suspect him of cheating. Girls were crazy about him when we were in high school, but for some reason he wanted me. Maybe I wasn’t being fair to Sledge. What if he was capable of being faithful in spite of the temptation? It didn’t matter. Thinking about what could have been only made me more depressed.
I remembered my pills. Where had I left them? They were sitting out in plain sight on my desk. My pills were a dirty secret I’d tried to keep from Astrid. She followed my gaze.
“Do you want to talk about that?” she asked, indicating the orange RX bottle.
“How many of those do you take a day?”
I shrugged. “I take one when I have anxiety.”
“How many a day?”
“Two… or three or four… It just depends on the kind of day I’m having.”
Astrid picked up the prescription bottle and looked at it. “Be careful with this stuff.”
“I’m serious, Bobbi. Don’t mess around with these pills.”
After an awkward pause, Astrid said: “Why don’t we go to the movies?”
“I don’t really feel like it.”
“C’mon… this is the one weekend you have free. Let’s take advantage of it.”
“Good. Get dressed.”
My cell phone vibrated from the desk beside my bed. Astrid grabbed it before I could.
“Who is it?” I asked fearing the worst. What if my aunt had told my parents I was sick? They probably wouldn’t believe it. Since getting pregnant, they never believed anything I told them. They had zero trust or respect for me.
“The number says Unknown. I bet it’s Sledge.”
“I doubt it. He was too hammered to remember anything about last night. I would be surprised if he remembered my number.”
“So answer it and find out.” I stared at the phone. “Don’t be a chicken. Go on.”
I rolled my eyes. “Hello?”
“Bobbi? Did I wake you?”
It was Sledge. I silently cursed. Astrid brought her head close to mine to listen in. I tried to push her away but it was no use.
“Uh… yeah. I mean no. I wasn’t asleep. What’s up?” I asked awkwardly.
“I was wondering if you’d like to come to my game tonight. We’re playing here in the city. I could get you tickets if you want.”
Astrid’s face lit up with excitement.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Astrid punched my arm.
“Are you busy?” he asked. He was doing his best to keep his voice neutral, but I could hear the underlying suspicion. He thought I had a date tonight.
“No, I’m not. I just…”
I was all out of excuses. Astrid stared at me from big, dark pleading eyes. She didn’t care about hockey, but now that she knew I was involved with one of the players she was dying to learn more. She’d never forgive me if I turned down a chance to go to a game.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be there.”
“Great. I’ll send the tickets over.”
“I told him the name of the dorm and my room number.
“Oh! Can you give me an extra ticket for my friend Astrid? You met her last night.”
“Yeah, of course.”
An awkward moment of silence passed between us. I felt the need to fill the vacuum with something, so I blurted out: “Are you playing tonight? I heard you got suspended.”
“No, well I was. It was only a temporary suspension. The coach has to make an example of me.”
“I saw the fight. Those guys jumped you.”
I bit my lip. I didn’t want Sledge to know I followed his hockey career, but it was too late now. The cat was out of the bag.
“Yeah, that douchebag Michaels can’t fight his own battles, so he had to get all his friends to jump me.”
“From what I saw, it looked like you jumped him and his friends were just sticking up for him.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I saw it with my own eyes.”
“Yeah, well, you don’t know the whole story.”
“I know you’ve got a bad temper, and I know you’re not above getting into fist fights in the middle of a game- even with your own teammates.”
“Listen to you. You’re lecturing me just like in the old days.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know it’s pointless. It never did any good. You’re too stubborn. You’ll never change.”
Astrid raised an eyebrow. She hit my arm again.
“Ow!” I said.
“Nothing. We’ll see you tonight Sledge. Bye.”
I hung up the phone before he could say anymore.
“Why did you hit me?” I screamed at Astrid. I grabbed my pillow and hit her with it.
“Because you’re being dumb. I told you he’s still into you. You’re blowing it.”
“I’m not blowing anything. I’ve been there, done that. It’s over between us.”
“Yeah? We’ll see about that.”
“Don’t try anything tonight. I swear I will leave you in the middle of the arena alone. You will have to find your own way home.”
“I’m so excited,” Astrid squealed.
“Why? You don’t even like hockey.”
“No, but hockey players are insanely hot. Maybe Sledge can hook me up with one of his teammates.”
“Am I going to have to babysit you tonight?”
“Nope. Tonight, you’re on your own. I’ve got my own plans.”
“Oh God… what are you planning?”
“To score a hot hockey player of my own.”
“You’ll regret it. Trust me,” I muttered.
“I never regret anything.”
“Famous last words.”
Astrid hit me with the pillow. “Let’s look for something to wear.”
“Already? The game’s not for hours.”
“Yeah, but we got to look our best. You need to show Sledge what he’s been missing.”