A Long December
A Long December
Everything around him sparkled; the decorations, the club, the guests, all shining perfectly. It was something he had gotten used to in his life. The glitz and glam of being a superstar had blinded him. Sucked him in, like a whirlpool, round and round. A continuous stream of perfect parties, perfect women. It all had jaded him.
This year was no different. The party decorations all shined, the sequins and sparkles and diamonds throwing off light, projecting it across the room of perfect people, as if trying to prove their worth through their money. Last year he had been part of it, this year it made him sick.
It had only been a night, nothing at all in the great scheme of things, but it had changed everything.
He had been at a party, almost identical to this one, downing glasses of expensive champagne in time with his teammates, trying desperately to avoid the pitying looks of relief coming off of his closest friends in waves. He was an idiot, he should have known, he should have never let it happen to begin with.
He could clearly remember the disappointment in his mother’s voice as he had explained his engagement over the phone, the thinly veiled sigh as Jon had explained that it was time for Lauren and him to take the next step in their relationship. The silence on the other end of the line should have been enough to send him running, but he pretended to ignore it and explained that Lauren wanted a Christmas wedding in New York City, like the movies.
Lauren was dependable, attractive, and revolved her social calendar around his hockey schedule. Sure, she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, but neither were a lot of the other WAGS. Point was, Jon wanted someone to come home to, someone who would raise his children and be there for him after a long road trip, and as long as he kept the designer hand bangs and clothing coming, Lauren fit the bill.
He had left her to the wedding planning, not exactly caring about what the centerpieces looked like or what kind of cake they would cut into, and instead threw his focus into hockey. They were lucky this year, with only one game against the Rangers in between Christmas and New Years, leaving Jon in the greater New York Metropolitan area right before his wedding.
It was being held in the Grand Ballroom at the Plaza Hotel, just like in the movies, and was scheduled for the 27th of December. He had done nothing in preparation for it but sign off on the extraordinary bills on decorations and food that Lauren had ordered for the event. Christmas Eve both of their families flew in and they spent the night out to dinner, making small talk while Jon tried to avoid his mother’s unimpressed stare as Lauren spoke about what kind of ridiculous house they were going to buy once they were settled back in Chicago.
The next morning Jon half watched as Lauren opened the diamond tennis bracelet and matching earrings, her eyes widening in appreciation at the sight of the signature light blue box. Their parents had joined them at the hotel restaurant for breakfast and Lauren spent the entire meal gushing over her present and pushing around the egg whites on her plate.
As they said goodbye to their parents Lauren started to fidget, trying to get Jon to go for a walk, even though they were both still clad in light clothing and it was snowing outside. By the time they had gotten back to their suite the small woman was shaking, eyes watery as she avoided his gaze.
“Lauren, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
She sniffled and shook her head. He put his hands on her shoulders, desperately trying to get her to look at him.
“Do you need to go to the hospital? Do you want-“
“I slept with someone else.”
The words were whispered but Jon heard everyone of them as if they had been shouted into his ear through a megaphone. He stepped back, hands repelling off her body as if it had burnt him, disgust rolling off of him in waves.
“I’m so sorry baby, I… it just happened once and you’re so amazing and I don’t know how I could do that to you. But all you’ve been focused on is hockey and you didn’t even care about the wedding planning… it didn’t mean anything Jonny I swear. And I love you so much…”
He took another step back from her, his head shaking.
“You love me… you love me and you let some other man fuck you! That’s rich Laur.”
Lauren choked out a sob and shook her head, pleading with him as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed.
“Hi Mom, weddings off.”
Lauren let out a wail and tried to embrace him, easily being shrugged off as he listened to his mother’s concerned voice telling him she’d handle everything before he hung up the phone.
“I’m going for a walk. When I get back I expect you to be gone. We get back to Chicago on the 3rd, all of your shit better be out of my apartment by then.”
He grabbed his winter coat and shook his head at her.
“Do not follow me.”
And with those parting words he was out the door.
After that Jon had changed hotels, not thinking he could be around the swanky Plaza without constant reminders of his almost wedding being thrown in his face. True to her word his mother had taken care of everything, waiting patently at breakfast for her son to explain the cancelation of his nuptials. Jon tried to ignore the look of utter relief on her face throughout the ordeal.
Their game against the Rangers on the 29th had been disastrous on his end, but his team had managed to rally around him and pull a win out of their ass. They had a game against the Islanders on the 2nd of January and so the team was set to stay in the Big Apple for New Years Eve.
Jon had already commandeered a bottle of Goose for the night, and planned to drink himself to sleep before the ball even got close to dropping, but the appearance of Kaner and Sharpy at his hotel room door put a stop to his self-pitying plans.
They had secured the VIP section of some club by Columbus Circle and had dragged Jon out of his hotel room practically by his hair. Drink after drink had been pressed into his hand and after an hour or two, he could say he was decently buzzed. He caught a glimpse of the TV in the corner of the room, which was currently playing the standard pre-ball drop programming and sighed.
One hour until midnight.
It was if all at once he couldn’t breathe, as if all the walls were closing in on him, the roar of the club ricocheting in his ears like a gunshot. He slammed his glass down on the bar and starting heading towards the nearest exit, being stopped briefly by Kaner and mumbling something about needing fresh air before bulldozing his way out of the club and into the freezing New York night air. He hadn’t had the sense to grab his coat but couldn’t seem to care as he started out at a brisk walk, his legs taking him as far away from the loud nightclub as humanly possible.
The streets were filled to the brim with people laughing, drinking, and kissing. No one apparently caring that it wasn’t even midnight yet. He continued walking, letting the cold seep into his bones until finally he had to stop in somewhere. He couldn’t imagine very many places besides bars would be open on New Years Eve but when he glanced across the street a cozy looking 50s style diner still had its lights on.
The bell over the door rang out through the almost empty eatery, an elderly couple sat in a booth toward the back and a lone occupant sat hunched over the bar. He slid onto a vinyl barstool a few places down from the woman and picked up the plastic menu that was placed in front of him.
Without asking, the elderly waitress filled his mug up with steaming hot coffee.
“What can I get for ya?”
“I, uh, I just need a minute if you don’t mind.”
“Take your time, we’re open all night.”
Jon gave the older woman a small smile and glanced down to study his menu. The waitress reached across the bar and refilled the cup of the woman sitting next to him.
“No problem Colleen, you figure out what you’re havin yet?”
“I think I’ll go with the Nutella and Banana French toast. Thanks.”
Jon watched as the woman down the bar from him smiled at the waitress and handed her back the menu. He cleared his throat and motioned the waitress over.
“You know what that sounds good, I’ll have the same.”
Because fuck his diet, it’s New Years Eve and he’s alone at a diner, he can have whatever the hell he wants.
The waitress, or Cheryl as he now knows, smiled at him and came over to take his menu away.
“And you know what can I also have a vanilla milkshake? Thanks.”
Cheryl nodded and headed into the back. He caught a sad smile from the woman down the bar from him.
“You know that’s the best thing on the menu.”
The woman smiled and shook her head.
“The Nutella and banana French toast. It’s out of this world.”
Jon smiled back, lifting up his cup of coffee in a silent salute.
“Well, thanks for recommending it.”
The woman gave him a small nod and went back to looking down at the book in her hands. She had on black yoga pants and a slouchy sweater, her feet adorned in snow boots and her natural curly blonde hair pulled back from her face by a knit winter headband. It was hardly a New Years Eve outfit fit for New York.
“It’s rude to stare you know.”
Jon ducked his head and averted his gaze as it met her mirthful blue one. He could feel heat flood his cheeks and he cleared his throat awkwardly.
“You know you could get beat up for a lot less in this city.”
“I’m sorry. I just… you didn’t seem… um… “
She outright laughed and shook her head in amusement.
“Yes, I’m the only person in New York that didn’t have plans on New Years, pathetic, I know.”
“That’s not what… shit. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. You on the other hand, look like you are dressed for a party. What on earth are you doing here?”
“I, uh, just wasn’t really in the mood anymore.”
His gaze was met with a sympathetic smile and a small nod.
“I can understand that.” Her statement was followed by an extended hand as she leaned over the two barstools in between them.
Jon took her hand, her grip surprisingly strong as he shook it.
“Nice to meet you Jon.”
“So you know they say that misery loves company. Feel like keeping a pathetic New York girl company for a little?”
“As long as you don’t mind keeping a Chicago guy company as well.”
“Chicago huh? Is that where that accent is from?”
“Ah, originally from Canada.”
“A little outside of Winnipeg. Ever been?”
“When I was younger my friends and I used to do spring break up at Mount Tremblant in Quebec. But that’s as far as my Canadian experience goes, and something tells me staying at a ski resort doesn’t really count.”
Jon let out a little laugh.
“Well at least it’s something.”
“This is true. Is this your first time in New York?”
“Ah no, not really. I’ve been here a couple of times before.”
“For business or pleasure?”
“Business mostly. How about yourself? Have you always lived here?”
“I grew up out on Long Island and moved into the city after college. Been here ever since.”
Jon didn’t know if it was the alcohol running through his bloodstream or the sadness that was palpable behind Colleen’s gaze but he found himself wanting, no needing, to know why she was alone in a diner on New Years Eve.
“So, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you by yourself on New Years?”
Colleen kind of glared at him a little and took a sip of her coffee.
“You know I could ask you the same question Jon.”
Jon winced a little at her tone.
“Fair enough. How about this, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours?”
Colleen snorted into her cup and let out a laugh.
“You’re quite the stubborn little bastard aren’t ya?”
Normally Jon wouldn’t appreciate some stranger calling him stubborn, or a bastard for that matter, but he found himself grinning and nodding along. Colleen sighed and turned her barstool to face him.”
“Fine, so tell me what an decently attractive Chicago slash Canadian man dressed in a designer suit is doing by himself in a diner in the greatest city in the world an hour before midnight on New Years Eve?”
Jon laughed a little, a stupid giddy feeling coursing through him at her backhanded compliment.
Jeeze, he thought at his face flushed, I must have drank more than I thought.
A giggle escaped his mouth and he about died of embarrassment. He didn’t giggle!
He finally composed himself and took a sip of the delicious milkshake placed in front of him. Colleen was trying hard not to blatantly laugh at him, but was failing miserably.
“Well, I was supposed to be on my honeymoon.”
The smile fell from her face.
“Actually I was supposed to be married a couple of days ago at the Plaza.” He exaggerated the name in a pretentious voice and turned his nose up as if he were looking down on the world causing a small giggle from Colleen. He rolled his eyes and took another draw out of the straw.
“So, I’m guessing that the wedding never happened.”
“Nope!” He took another sip of the milkshake and tried desperately not to count the calories he was sucking down. “She fucked someone else.”
“Yeah. Women suck. No offense.”
Colleen barked out a laugh and held her coffee cup up to clink against his milkshake.
“None taken. So what’re you still doing in New York?”
“I have to be here until the 2nd for work.”
“Well, I’m sorry that your fiancée screwed you over, but I am a little happy that it means I don’t have to be totally alone on New Years.”
Jon laughed and raised his milkshake glass in a salute.
“So I’m assuming you were out before this? Or do you make it a habit of wearing thousand dollar suits everywhere you go, big shot?”
He normally steered away from anyone that talked his financial status with him but he could see the mirth in her gaze and made a show of straightening out his lapels on his suit jacket.
“Actually this is a two thousand dollar suit.”
Colleen laughed and bowed her head.
“I’m sorry sir, us peasants don’t know our way around designer clothing.”
“Well, we can’t all be as cultured as I am.”
“I’m disappointed you didn’t show up in your Canadian tuxedo.”
Jon snorted and shook his head.
“Oh god, that’s not actually a thing!”
“Mhm. I’m sure it’s not. You’re just jealous because all your country has is denim and snow.”
“Oh please. I’ll have you know that we also have moose, geese and hockey.”
Colleen let out a loud laugh and before she could respond their plates were placed in front of them. Jon looked down at the gooey mess in front of him and his mouth started to water. Thick slices of French toast were on the plate, sandwiched in between the bread was a thick layer of creamy nutella and cut bananas, the creation was topped with chopped walnuts, powdered sugar and caramel glaze.
“Oh my god your face!”
Jon managed to tear his eyes away from the heaven in front of him and gave Colleen a grin. He cut a giant piece off and stuffed it into his mouth, completely unable to contain the groan at the flavors that exploded over his tongue. Colleen laughed at his joyous face before digging into her own plate.
“Bet you don’t have anything like this in Chicago, or Canada.”
Jon could barely manage to shake his head and couldn’t be bothered to defend his homeland while he was digging into the most amazing food he had ever tasted. He ignored Colleen as she continued to laugh at him and managed to clear his plate in a few minutes, even managing to scrape the remainder of the nutella off the dinnerware with his fork. He only managed to breathe after there was nothing left on his plate and groaned before putting his hands on his stomach.
He was thoroughly impressed when he realized that Colleen had cleared her plate as well.
“Oh my god. That was unbelievable.”
She couldn’t help but smile at the unadulterated joy on his face.
“Pretty good break up food isn’t it?”
Jon couldn’t even get upset at the mention of his wedding that would never be and simply nodded his agreement.
They continued to make small talk as they digested and Jon finished his milkshake. He found himself telling a complete stranger the inner workings of his failed relationship and listening intently as she offered him advice.
“Well it really boils down to one thing.”
“And that is?”
“Is she the one?”
Jon scowled at the question.
“Well I asked her to marry me.”
“That’s not what I asked. Did you know, deep in your gut, that she was the woman that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? The one that you imagined getting old with, who would be there for you whether you were richer than Bill Gates or the poorest man in the world?”
Jon stopped and contemplated for a minute. Was Lauren any of those things? Would she be with him if he weren’t rich and famous? Could he imagine getting old with her? The answer was clear and annoying him to no end, but from the look on Colleen’s face is was as if she knew what he was going to say before he did.
Colleen simply nodded and sipped her coffee while Jon sat, a little peeved that she had been able to break down his relationship so simply, as if she knew from experience and had all the answers.
“How do you know, who the right person is?”
Colleen gave him a sad smile and he watched in fascination as she played with the gold band on her left ring finger. It was the first time he had noticed it.
“You just know.”
They sat in silence for a bit, Jon contemplating her advice and Colleen staring into her coffee. He broke it with an obvious glance at her left hand.
It was more of a statement than a question. Colleen’s answer was a small sad smile and a shake of her head as he literally watched her throw up walls.
He could tell that he had hit a sensitive topic and sat in silence until she was ready to elaborate. She continued to sip her coffee and glance at the television. He took a deep breath and swallowed down the fear of upsetting her.
Colleen let out a deep breath and took another sip of her coffee before turning and facing him, the haunted look in her gaze knocking the breath from his lungs.
“He was killed.”
“I’m so sorry Colleen.”
She managed to placate him with a small smile and shook her head.
“It’s okay Jon.”
He took a gulp of air and met her gaze.
“What happened? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Ah, um, well we were out on Long Island visiting my parents for New Years and we were coming home from a party when we were hit by a drunk driver.”
“Oh. Wait, New Years? Like today?”
“Two years ago tonight actually.”
Suddenly her appearance and lack of plans for the holiday made sense.
“I’m sorry,” she let out a hollow laugh and shook her head.
“You said that already. Really, it’s okay. I’m fine now, it’s taken a while but I’m okay. This night just always brings back bad memories you know?”
He nodded even though he didn’t. He had never had anything in his life happen as traumatic as that, his almost marriage to a woman he didn’t even love paled in comparison.
“Look, I don’t want this to come out the wrong way but, do you want to get out of here? I have a bottle of vodka back at my hotel room and if you don’t like vodka we could always raid the mini bar? We can go ring in the new year with a couple of drinks?”
Her blank stare had his palms sweating, realizing the way the proposition came out of his mouth, he quickly stuttered out the rest.
“I just figure it beats spending it in a diner?”
The last word came out like a question, his voice squeaking embarrassingly and causing her to laugh out loud.
“Sure, why not. I could go for a drink.”
Jon nodded and paid the bill, regardless of her protests and left Cheryl a tip that was double what their food cost. They headed out and he shivered as the frigid night air hit him. They chatted during the short two block walk to his hotel and up to his room. He had a suite on one of the top floors, her face when she saw the view it offered well worth its price.
“Wow, this is amazing.”
To be honest he hadn’t really noticed the view before she pointed it out, but now that he was looking it was pretty spectacular. The bright city lights were dulled by the falling snow and he could see one of the rivers in the distance, tiny bright specks adorned it.
“Those people are nuts.”
“A ton of people bring their boats up the Hudson every year to watch the fireworks they let off at midnight.”
“Seriously? That’s insane, it’s freezing out!”
She laughed and nodded her head, laying her jacket across a chair in the living room. He went to the fridge and pulled out the bottle of vodka, holding it up for her and asking her how she took it.
“On the rocks is fine.”
He raised an eyebrow and then nodded before pouring their drinks and rejoining her in the living room. She had found the remote for the large TV that hung on the wall and tuned it to the local coverage of the ball drop.
Two minutes until midnight.
He joined her on the couch and they watched in silence, sipping their drinks as the crowd went wild as the ball started dropping. The roar could be heard from outside as people counted down from ten. He glanced over at Colleen, a small smile on her face as she took in the show. The glow from the television illuminated her face and he was glad to see that whatever traces of sadness that had been there were now gone.
If he had been asked a month ago where he would be at this very moment the answer would have been simple. He would have been celebrating his marriage to Lauren, probably at that swanky party with his teammates. As he took in the woman before him he couldn’t help but be thankful that his life hadn’t worked out that way.
“Three! Two! ONE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”
The television went crazy, the roar of the crowd drowning out everything. He could see fireworks exploding out of his window, everyone ringing in the New Year with a bang. Colleen smiled and clinked her glass against his.
“Happy New Year Jon. I hope it’s better then the last.”
He smiled and raised his glass in salute, downing the rest of the vodka before leaning over and capturing her lips in a surprised kiss. She squeaked as his lips covered hers, his hand threading into her curly hair, tilting her head as his tongue licked its way into her mouth. His other hand captured the glass in her grip, reaching out and placing it on the coffee table as he continued to kiss her breathless. Finally, needing air, he broke away.
Her startled gaze was accompanied by swollen lips and wild hair, her mouth slightly parted as she stared at him. He ran a hand through his hair and cursed.
“I’m sorry. That was out of line.”
She smiled slightly and shook her head.
“No, just unexpected.”
“I swear, I didn’t bring you back here for this.”
She let out a loud laugh, her head thrown back and eyes closed.
“Jon it’s okay, really.”
He nodded and watched her, a smile plastered to her face before she started laughing again.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re fiancée cheated on you and my husband’s dead, what an odd pair we make.”
He balked as he watched her chuckle before his lips twitched, a smile threatening to take over. He poured himself another glass of vodka before tilting it towards her.
“Cheers to that.”
She smiled and took a sip of her drink, eyes flitting to the fireworks that still exploded over the Hudson.
“So, was your husband it?”
“Was he the one, the one you couldn’t live without?”
She gave him a sad smile and nodded.
“How did you meet?”
She laughed, what an odd conversation to be having right after he had kissed her senseless.
“We met in college, he was the captain of the men’s lacrosse team and I was captain of the women’s team. Our team’s partied together a lot.”
“That’s pretty cool.”
She shrugged and took another sip of her drink.
“Normally lacrosse guys are such assholes. Most of them are the stereotypical ‘bro’ with an ever revolving door of laxstitutes coming and going.”
Jon barked out a laugh.
“What the hell is a laxstitute?”
“Lacrosse slut, the pretty girls that slept their way around the lacrosse team. You know, always wearing high heels and done up to the nines even though they were at a sporting event. I swear I never understood that, you’re at a lacrosse game for crying out loud! Wear jeans and a jersey, not a hooker dress and heels.”
At this Jon burst out laughing, picturing most of his teammates girlfriends, his ex fiancée included. He remembered winning the cup, family and friends coming onto the ice for photo ops and kissing loved ones. He had seen a picture of the whole team and their wags at a later point and was baffled at the fact that most of the women were in killer high heels, on the ice. How more necks hadn’t been broken that day, he didn’t know.
“I know what you mean.”
“Well, when I met Danny I just assumed that he was the same. Captain of the lacrosse team, he must have been a total asshole right? I called him out on his nice guy act the moment I met him and over the next year I found out that it wasn’t actually an act,” she sighed and took a drink.
“He was actually a really great guy. He looked at me as if he was the lucky one to be dating me.”
“So, you didn’t know right away that he was it for you?”
“No, he just grew on me and then one day I realized that I didn’t want to live my life without him in it.”
“Wasn’t like that with Lauren?”
Jon let out a laugh and took another sip of his drink.
“Not at all. I mean, part of me knew that she was just in it for the money, but I guess I just thought that was okay. A lot of my teammates marry women like that and they are happy.”
“Oh, uh, yeah I play in a rec league with some guys after work, um, a lot of them are in the same boat as me?”
The last word came out as a squeak and Molly shook her head and laughed.
“You are a terrible liar, you know.”
She let out a laugh and nodded her head.
“It’s okay, I won’t press.”
They continued talking throughout the night about Jon’s failed relationship, the stress that his “job” laid on his shoulders and the pressure of everyone counting on him. Colleen spoke of Danny and his quirks, what she had loved most about him, and for some ungodly reason Jon found himself jealous of a dead man, jealous of the feeling that she had found with him, something he had never experienced himself.
It was well past three in the morning and he didn’t know if it was the exhaustion of the night or the buzz of the alcohol burning through his veins but when he leaned over and kissed her again she didn’t stop him. Her hands threaded into his hair as she kissed him back with as much ruthless abandon that he was giving. Clothes were quickly discarded and he watched her pale skin moving over him in the moonlight as she straddled him on the couch.
He groaned as she took him in and held her steely blue gaze as she moved on top of him, their eyes locked onto each other’s as she made his world come apart. He would later blame it on the alcohol but something about holding eye contact with Colleen as she brought them both to ecstasy changed something in him, made his chest ache in a way that it never had before.
Whether it was a good ache or a bad ache he couldn’t tell.
Afterwards when they had moved to the bedroom, and she lay sated and sweaty on his chest, his hand stoked through her mused hair, smiling at the wildness it held. She let out a sound that could be nothing other then a purr and he chuckled.
“Oh god, that’s my favorite feeling in the world.”
He continued to run his fingers through her hair, their conversation picking up again as he found himself once again opening up about things that he had never talked with anyone about, somehow trusting her to listen without judgment.
“Can I say something ridiculously cliché?”
She chuckled and nodded her head, hand tracing patterns on his stomach.
“Go for it.”
“I feel like I’ve known you forever.”
Her laugh rang out throughout the dark room, causing his cheeks to flush.
“That is pretty cliché, Jon.”
“No, please don’t apologize. I think that everyone’s life needs a little bit of cliché every now and again,” her lips landed on the underside of his jaw, kissing it quickly before her head fell back to his chest.
“If it makes you feel any better, I feel the same. I’m glad we met, even if I wish it were under better circumstances.”
He continued to stoke her hair and down her back until he felt her breath even out, only then allowing his eyelids to close as the first rays of sun peaked over the city.
He awoke to a bright ray of sunlight coming in through his window causing him to groan and roll over to pull Colleen towards him, only to find her side of the bed empty. Sitting up he listened for the sound of the shower, or movement from the living room, but the only thing he could hear was the faint sound of traffic moving down below on the street. He pulled on his boxer briefs, his heart falling to his stomach as he found the suite empty, no sign of her but the two glasses left out on the coffee table.
Sighing, he leaned his head against the cool glass of the window, looking down to the traffic below and knowing that would be the last time he saw her.
He hadn’t even known her last name.
Jon couldn’t contain his eye roll as yet another skank in a short dress sauntered past their group. Kaner bumped into him, spilling champagne over the side of his glass and onto Jon’s shoes.
“Dudee, I can’t believe we have to spend New Years in New York, again! The women here are so bitchyyy. None of them care about hockey. I actually have to, like, try to get laid! This shit suckssss.”
Jon rolled his eyes again as Pat leaned against him, eyes squinting as he struggled to focus on the TV.
“Only ten minutes till midnight! Who is gonna be my midnight kiss!” Kaner yelled as he stumbled away from Jon in search of more attractive company.
Jon sighed and watched the clock on the TV tick down.
Had it really been a year?
Exactly one year since he had seen her. The first and only time they had been together and only mere hours in her presence had changed him, as a person, as a hockey player. As he watched the clock count down all he could think about was that piercing blue gaze, the inherent sadness behind it, that waterfall of blonde curls, pushed off her pale skin by that lumpy knit headband.
The feel of her lips, the quick taste of her tongue tinged with the vodka she had drank. The way her eyes had lit up when she talked about her husband and the short time they had together, the love he had seen in her gaze and the jealousy he had felt at it.
The way she had made him come apart underneath her, the utter bliss of her body wrapped around his.
How he had opened up to her in a way that he had never done before, or since. The trust and respect that he held for a woman he had just met, who he had barely even known. His teammates would have called him crazy, would have said that he was just rebounding from his failed relationship, and he may have been inclined to believe them if he hadn’t thought about her every day since for an entire year.
When he had woken up and realized that she was gone the first thing he had done was go to the diner to see if she was there. To his utter disappointment she wasn’t and their waitress, Cheryl, wasn’t scheduled to work again until after they would be back in Chicago. Head down he left the diner, looking back at it until he turned the corner to his hotel, willing her to just magically appear at the counter.
She had made him realize a lot of things about himself that he hadn’t noticed he’d been struggling with. He had realized that he didn’t need to fit into the molds that his teammates had cast, he could be Captain Serious but still enjoy his life. He found himself not getting as bent out of shape when things happened that were beyond his control. Not all games were going to go their way and learning to roll with the punches had not only turned him into a better hockey player, but a better person as well.
When he had returned to Chicago he realized that he didn’t need a trophy wife to make him happy. He needed someone who would challenge him, someone with a brain that wasn’t afraid to call him out on his shit, someone who would be by his side through thick and thin. Because, one thing he learned from playing hockey, is that it can be over just as quickly as it began. All it would take is one bad hit and he would be waving goodbye to the fortune and the fame, and what would he be left with? A loveless marriage and a lifetime of regret.
He needed someone who would love him regardless of hockey, not because of it. He needed someone like Colleen.
As he watched the TV the sounds of the bar started to fade around him as he thought back to first meeting her in the diner and their short time together as he came to a realization.
He didn’t need someone like Colleen, he needed the real thing.
He looked at the clock on the TV and took off at a sprint out of the club and into the frigid New York night air. He ran as fast as his long legs would carry him, slipping on the iced streets and trying to avoid drunken pedestrians as he raced through the crowds. He pushed his way through the masses, cursing as the sounds got louder around him and people started to cry out.
“Three minutes until midnight!”
Breaking through the crowd he looked up at a street sign and cursed, trying to remember exactly the street his destination was on. Taking a chance he made a left on West 56th, the noise from the bars a dull roar as the final minute countdown started. He narrowly avoided being taken out by a taxi and skidded to a halt as the familiar lit diner appeared across the street.
Taking a deep breath he crossed the street, gaze fixed onto the head of curly blonde hair that he could see sitting at the counter through the window. Cheers when up around the city as people started counting down; five seconds until midnight.
He made it to the front of the eatery, yanking open the glass door right as the ball hit it’s mark and the city erupted in a roar, shouts of ‘Happy New Year!’ ringing out throughout the streets. Not breaking stride he walked up to the bar, spun the round barstool around and sealed his lips to Colleen’s in a scathing kiss, devouring her as people cheered in the streets around them.
When he finally did break away he met her startled gaze and broke into a smile, his hand cupping her cheek as she struggled for breath, her disbelieving gaze causing him to chuckle. He placed a soft kiss on her lips again and nuzzled his face into her neck.
Her breath caught in her throat and she pulled away from him, searching his gaze.
“You’re it for me. You’re the one.”
She shook her head, a smile on her face as she took him in.
“Insane for you.”
She laughed out loud, head back and voice ringing throughout the empty diner.
“And ridiculously cliché.”
His arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her close to him, smile still planted firmly on his face.
“Someone once told me that everyone’s life needed a little cliché now and again.”
“Did they now? That person must be pretty smart.”
“Mhm, smart doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. She’s also kind, passionate, beautiful and hopefully mine.”
Colleen smiled up at him and shook her head, rolling her eyes.
“I don’t know, I hear hockey players are kind of a pain in the ass.”
Jon’s eyes widened in surprise as she smirked up at him.
“Imagine my surprise while, in Chicago for business, I look up to see a thirty foot banner of yours truly hanging outside my hotel room window.”
Jon couldn’t help the blush and tightened his arms around her.
“What’d you say to letting me prove to you we aren’t all bad?”
“I say you have yourself a challenge Mr. Toews.”
Jon laughed and leaned down to hover right above her mouth.
“It’s Taves, but we’ll work on that.”
And before she could reply he leaned down the extra inch, sealing his lips to hers as the sound of fireworks and a New York New Years celebration rang in the distance.