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Across The Miles

Distance never separates two hearts that really care

Summer was and always had been my favorite time of year. Although lasting only a few weeks, the sixty degree weather was what I looked forward to. Especially now. Those were the only weeks that I got to see Evgeni. Four weeks out of the entire year. Up until this past September we had never been apart for more than a day. Although the distance killed me and tore me apart most days, I was happy for him. He was doing what he had always wanted. He had made his dreams come true. He moved to the States for ten months out of the year to play professional hockey. Evgeni had talked about going professional for as far back as I could remember like many of the kids here in Russia.

I remembered the year he got his first hockey stick. The way his eyes lit up as he unwrapped the paper from the blade. He ran his fingers across the shaft examining every inch of it before running over to his mom and wrapping his arms around her neck. From that day on he had practiced every day for long hours, sometimes practicing right through dinner. I always admired his drive and determination. And it had paid off for him.

Now he was in some town on the East Coast of the United States of America, doing what he loved. Though it tore me up inside to not have him with me every day, I was glad he was happy.
We still talked on the phone whenever he had time, but with practice, work outs, games, traveling and the time difference, it was rare to hear his voice on the other end of the line.

But in two days he would be here, in Magnitogorsk. I could only hope that things would be the same between us.

"Hey Geno!" team mate Sidney Crosby hollered over to me as I was getting in my cab.


"Have a safe trip back and good luck with Annlie," he said waving.

"Thanks, have fun in Halifax. I'll see you in a couple months."

I closed my door and rested my head on the head rest.

"Air port please," I told the taxi driver.

As I sat there I thought about Annlie. This was the longest that I had ever been away from her, and it was torture to not be able to hear her voice every day. I missed that voice of hers. My voice of reason I always told her. She was who helped keep my sanity most of the time, it was a wonder that I hadn't gotten in to trouble without her. The truth was I missed her terribly.
Only one more day until I would see her beautiful face again and hear her soft voice in my ear welcoming me home.

Just then my thoughts were interrupted by the taxi driver saying, "We're here sir."

"Thank you," I replied gathering my things together and heading through the revolving door that led to the air port.

As I made my way through security and then to my terminal, my mind raced. Truth be told, I was nervous. Sure I was excited to be going home, but how would Annlie react? Would she meet me at the ariport? Would she be mad at me for not staying in touch with her as much as I should have? Would she still be the same Annlie, my Annlie? All of my answers were just a plane ride away.

I paced the floor in front of Terminal 7A of the Magnitogorsk Airport, awaiting Evgeni's arrival. Would he still look the same? The tall, lean sweet boy who had stolen my heart from the first day I met him? Would he recognize me or had it been so long that he had forgotten about me entirely?

Before I could torture myself with my own thoughts, the doors to the terminal opened and people came flooding through them. I was beginning to think that he had decided to stay in the States when at last I spotted him.

I noticed him before he noticed me, allowing me a few seconds to take him all in. America had done him well. He had toned up and had even managed to grow a little bit of a stache that suited him. But mostly he was just as I remembered, his hair tousled just so, his crooked grin and loving eyes. Seeing him again made all my feelings for him ten times stronger and I knew that he had stolen my heart once again.


"Attention all passengers, we are making our decent now to Magnitogorsk, Russia. We will be on the ground in about five minutes, and as always thank you for choosing JetBlue Airlines."

This was it. The moment of truth. Would she be there? I gathered my things and headed to the front of the plane and through the terminal. I made my way through the doors and scanned the crowd. There she was.

Standing by the far row of chairs was Annlie, waiting with a smile on her face. Her brown hair fell to her shoulders and she wore a pair of jeans and a t-shirt to cover her petite figure. She was even more beautiful than I remembered.

"Hello beautiful," I said dropping my bags and scooping her up.

"Hello yourself stranger. How have you been?"

"I've been good, but I have missed you."

"I have missed you too," she said wrapping her arm around my waist as we headed to the luggage carrier to find my suit case.

"What have you been doing since I left? How is your job?"I asked waiting for my bag to come around on the belt.

"Well, I haven't been up to a whole lot. I try and help my mom out at the house to pass the time. As for work, it's the same as always. Creating advertisements and selling people's businesses."

"How is your mom doing anyways, I know the last time we had talked she wasn't doing so well,"I said grabbing my bag and heading towards the exit.

"She's doing better. She still cries a lot and neglects to go in Vlad's room."

Feeling a pang of guilt shoot through me I answered, "I'm sorry I could not be here with you. You shouldn't have had to go through that alone." Annlie's father had been non-existent since the day she was born and in May Annlie's brother had passed away while I was away. He had been hit by an oncoming vehicle one day on his way home. It was an obstacle her mother couldn't get over.

"It's okay. You had other things to take care of. How is the team?"

"The team is good. Look Ann, I am sorry that I couldn't keep in touch with you as much as I should have."

"It's alright. Really. To tell you the truth I have been super busy as well, so I am just as guilty."

There was something about the way she said those words that told me she was lying. There was something that she wasn't telling me. But what was it?

I loaded my bags in the back of her car and sat in the passenger seat. I was determined to find out what she was hiding, even if it meant staying here in Russia instead of traveling back to the States.

We drove to my house in silence. The truth was, it had hurt me not to hear from him after Vlad passed away. It hurt me that he had rushed me off the phone when I called to tell him about the accident. I knew that he was getting ready for a big game, but he could have stayed on the phone for a few minutes. Vlad was just as much a brother to him. It was the last time I spoke to him before he came home, he hadn't even called afterwards.

"Here we are," I said shutting the car off and taking the key out of the ignition.

"Wow, this is a nice place. Much bigger than your other apartment."

"Yeah, I like it a lot," I said trying to disguise the pain I felt inside.

"Annlie, is everything okay. You haven't said a word to me since we got in the car," he said putting his bags down inside my front door.

"Yeah, I'm okay," I lied, going to the fridge and pouring myself a glass of water.

"Look," he said walking over towards me putting my glass down on the counter, "I know I haven't been here for you, but I'm here now. You don't have to be strong for me Anns, you can let it all out." He pulled me towards him and I held on to him as tight as I could.

"It's been so hard without you Evgeni. And the worst part about it was I couldn't even talk to you. It was as if you didn't want anything to do with me," I said pulling away and heading toward the couch. "For the first time in my life, you weren't there for me when I needed you, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Part of me wants to be mad at you and hate you for it, but the other part of me knows that you are busy and can't stand the thought of being mad at you," I said bursting into tears.


There it was. Her confession, at last.

"Anns, listen to me. I'm so sorry for not being there when you needed me the most and it tears me up inside knowing that I hurt you so much. Vlad was a god guy and it was terrible what happened to him, but you must know that he is in a better place now. He is watching over you every day and lives on in your heart. I'm so sorry that I couldn't be with you when you needed me the most. But look at me," I said taking her chin and lifting it up until her gaze met mine, "I promise that it will never happen again. Vlad was like a brother to me too and it killed me knowing I couldn't be here with you and to pay my respects to him. He was an amazing guy. But you were always in my thoughts and prayers."
She sniffled and looked away.

"How can I believe you?" she asked.

"Annlie, you know that I have never lied to you about anything," taking her hands in mine I looked in here eyes, "While we have been apart I have done some thinking and this distance from you drove me insane. It made me realize that you are more than just my best friend Annie Leslie. You are my soul mate. You stole my heart from the first time I saw you when we were five years old. The day that you hit Sergei after he told me I would never become a professional athlete, I had never loved you more. We've been through so much together and this last year has been hell without you. I'm sorry it took being thousands of miles apart to realize this, but I love you."


Speechless I looked a Evgeni with tear-filled eyes. Had he just said what I thought he did? Did he just tell me that he loved me? Had he just uttered the words I had longed to hear my entire life? My thoughts were interrupted by his voice.

"I mean it Annlie, I love you."

He had said it. Plain as day. There it was.

Taking a deep breath I answered him, "I love you too Evgeni, I always have."

He took my face in his hands but never broke our gaze. His eyes were almost glowing, a deeper brown than I remembered. He slowly moved forward and my brain could barely comprehend what was happening. My eyes shifted back and forth from his eyes to his lips; his soft, wet, warm and luscious lips – so inviting.It was taking forever for him to get close enough and I could hardly handle it. I lifted my hands and wrapped one arm around his neck and the other hand around his head then pulled him in and immediately our lips touched; and all at once everything didn’t matter. All the things I was worried about – being mad at him, wondering what he thought, Vlad – none of it existed at that moment. We were physically connected just as we were mentally and emotionally connected. Our lips moved together in sync. The moment seemed to last forever, but passed way too fast.

"Wow," I heard him mutter when it was through.

I blushed and looked away. That had been the most exhilarating feeling I had ever had, and I wanted to do it again. I wanted to kiss his lips all night. It felt so good to finally be able to kiss him for real and not just in my mind.


As I sat on her couch I kept replaying our kiss in my mind. The way she pulled me closer to her, she had wanted it to and it felt so good to know. Even though the feeling was overwhelming, the thought of what would happen come September haunted me. I looked down at her, nuzzled against my chest breathing softly. She was so beautiful and she was all mine, and I was determined to do whatever it took to keep it that way. I pulled her closer and drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the sunlight beaming through my front window of the living room and to the sound of the dishwasher. Looking up I saw Evgeni putting silverware on the table,he had made breakfast.

Thoughts of last night ran through my mind. It hadn't been a dream this time.
"I see you made yourself right at home," I said walking up to him giving him a kiss on the cheek.

"Yes I did. I hope you're hungry."

"Yes I am, thank you,"I said taking my seat at the table while he went to take a shower. *

He had prepared **blini served with sour cream and milk. My favorite.

I finished eating just as Evgeni emerged from the bathroom.

"So what would you like to do today?" I asked him.

"I would like to go visit your mom," he said wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me towards him.

"Okay, let me go throw some clean clothes on and we can head over."


Last night had been the greatest night of my life. It was greater than any game I had ever played in, greater than any hat trick I scored or trophy I won. Being with Annlie was where I belonged.

As we pulled up the familiar driveway I noticed a frail figure in the window. Mrs.Leslie had lost some weight.

Opening the door she greeted us.

"Hello Annlie, and hello Evgeni, it's been a while. How are things?"

"They are well Mrs. Leslie. Thank you for asking. How are you doing?"

"I'm alright. Every day is a constant struggle and most days I just don't have the strength to get through it. I wish I didn't have to do it all alone, if it weren't for Annlie I don't know what I would do," she said kissing her daughter on the forehead.

"Your daughter is an amazing woman," I said gazing at Ann.

"Yes she is."


Seeing the way Evgeni was with my mother reminded me of the old days when our families would sit and talk for hours. Since Evgeni had left and since Vlad had died, we hadn't seen the Malkin's and it saddened me that things had changed so much.

But all that was about to change now, we were together. Things were different now, even if it was only for the time being. I didn't want to think about when he would be going back to the States. We would figure that out when the time came. For now, I was his and he was mine, and I was perfectly content with that.


*There is a Russian saying that goes like this:

Eat breakfast yourself,

Share dinner with a friend,

But give supper to your enemy!

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. It should be eaten, not shared or given away. Breakfast in Russia is usually eaten at 8:00 A.M. and is very filling.

**Blini are like pancakes.


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