The Sun Goes Down
“Hey, Ellie!” Marc Staal yelled across the locker room to the Rangers beat reporter.
“No,” She said, not even turning around.
“C’mon, Elle. Just listen to me,” Marc pleaded. Marc always had to beg Ellie to talk to him. He knew it probably wasn’t attractive, and everyone made fun of him, but Marc couldn’t help himself. He needed to talk to Ellie. The problem was, Ellie wasn’t very interested in talking to Marc.
“No,” this time Ellie turned around, sending Marc her finest death glare. “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?” she asked, gesturing to Derek Stepan, who she had been in the middle of interviewing.
“It’s alright, Ellie. You can call me later if you need anything else,” Derek suggested. Derek and Ellie had met at the University of Wisconsin, where they both had gone to school. Derek also knew about Marc’s crush on Ellie and constantly antagonized her about it.
“I hate you,” she whispered at Derek before grudgingly walking over to Marc’s stall. “What do you want?” she asked.
“How come you never interview me?” Marc pouted.
“Maybe you should give me a reason to. Go score a game winning goal or something. Is that all you wanted?” Ellie was tired. It had been a long half season, her first as a reporter. She was living her dream, but she might have reconsidered if she knew how much energy her dream job would cost. At this point, Ellie just wanted to go home and begin enjoying the All-Star break.
“No. I wanted to ask if you wanted to come to my place tonight. Everyone’s coming over to celebrate the win.”
“Absolutely not,” Ellie responded immediately.
“Please?” Marc wasn’t discouraged. “You can even finish your interview with Derek if you need to.”
“I have an article to write,” Ellie lied.
“No you don’t. It’s the All-Star break. And I know that you already wrote your article during the game.”
“Stalk me much, Staal?” Ellie asked, even though it was pretty common knowledge around the dressing room that Ellie liked to get all her thoughts down during the game, mostly because Derek had complained that she never really watched them play.
“Just come, Elle. It’ll be fun, I promise,” Marc wouldn’t let her change the subject. He knew that Ellie broke up with her boyfriend a month ago. Girls like Ellie didn’t stay single for long. Marc thought maybe he could convince her to give him a chance, especially if Ellie had a few beers in her.
“Fine,” she finally caved. “But I’m not staying for long. And it’s Ellie, not Elle,” she huffed, letting the locker room door slam behind her. As she walked out of the historic arena known as Madison Square Garden, she couldn’t help noticing how bright the stars seemed against the dark blue, almost black backdrop that was the sky over New York City.
“Hey dude, I heard you convinced Ellie come over, huh?” Dan Girardi asked Marc and hour later. They were in Marc’s living room, the party goers scattered around the house. Marc had been reluctant to leave the living room. He wanted to open the door when Ellie got there so no one else would whisk her away. “How many times did you ask her out?” Dan asked with a smile.
“I don’t know, a couple,” mumbled Marc. He wasn’t very proud of his track record with Ellie.
“More like a couple dozen,” Dan snorted. “And how many times has she turned you down?
“Everytime,” Marc sighed.
“So why should tonight be any different?” Dan continued to interrogate him.
“God, Dan. I think that was the best pep talk I’ve ever heard,” said Marc sarcastically.
“Just don’t get your hope too high.” Dan clapped Marc on the shoulder before leaving the living room, most likely in search of a drink. Marc was left alone with his thoughts. He decided he would tell Ellie how he felt, once and for all. He couldn’t wait forever. But then, Marc’s thoughts took a negative turn. What if, despite his best efforts, she turned him down? How would he be able to face her at work? Even though he was a handsome professional hockey player, Marc was a pretty shy guy, and he didn’t think he could handle the embarrassment of seeing the only girl who turned him down every day. Marc had to stop himself before he chickened out. “All that counts is here and now,” he told himself “not whatever happens after.” No matter what would happen that night, Marc’s life would never be the same. Whether that would be good or bad, he had yet to find out. Finally, there was a knock at the door.
Just like Marc had hoped, it was Ellie. Marc thought everything, the pleading, begging, loss of pride, it was all worth it because he got to see Ellie in something else besides her usual work clothes. He couldn’t speak, mystified by the way Ellie’s hair, which usually looked a nondescript brown when it was pulled back, took on a more auburn appearance as it fell on her shoulders.
Marc stood aside to let her into the house.
“Nice place,” Ellie said, and she meant it. She told herself she was going to be nice to Marc. She didn’t have the energy to push him away. God help her if he asked her out again. Ellie had a sneaking suspicion she wouldn’t be able to say no. It’s not that she didn’t like Marc, she did. She just knew hockey players. Her best friend was one and she worked with twenty of them on a daily basis. She knew they could have any girl they wanted. And even if one of them wanted her, Ellie didn’t think she wanted one back. For example, Marc was good looking, alright, hot. But what would happen when the so called ‘puck bunnies’ found out that the ginger Staal had a girlfriend? Ellie had a feeling that wouldn’t make her many friends. Then there were the long road trips, the stress of practice almost everyday, and the pretty good chance that his team would be eliminated before they were able to achieve the ultimate prize. Next came a quick two month break before he would be right back at it, whether he had won the cup or not. Finally, what would everyone think of her? Ellie had enough trouble as it was, being a female in a predominantly male industry, much less if she were dating a hockey player. She would be a puck slut. They would think she only became a reporter to get a hockey player. Was it really worth it? Mostly Ellie didn’t think so, but there was a reason she avoided Marc all the time. He had a funny way of making her rethink her answer.
“Thanks. Want a drink?” Marc asked when he had finally broken Ellie’s spell and regained the power of speech. He led Ellie to the kitchen which was empty, most of the guests having gravitated to the basement where most of the food was set up. Marc was reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the kitchen after he handed Ellie a beer. There was no one there, and he didn’t want to share Ellie with anyone.
“Nice game, by the way,” Ellie spoke, mostly to fill the silence.
“Not good enough for an interview, though,” Marc responded, eyes twinkling.
“We all need dreams,” Ellie responded with a giggle. Marc was surprised. Usually, Ellie was yelling at him, making fun of him, or maybe even ignoring him. He had never heard her giggle before, but he knew he wanted to hear it again. The conversation flowed easily from there, ranging from sports to movies to food. But not once did either Marc or Ellie mention hockey. Bringing up their jobs would be like throwing a needle at their little bubble of happiness. The conversation was interrupted about an hour later when the lights went out.
“God dammit, not again,” Marc swore. “Sorry, Elle, this happens all the time. Bad circuit breaker. I should go fix it before everyone freaks out.”
“Well don’t just leave me here!” said Ellie, surprising both of them by reaching for Marc’s hand. Marc led her through the dark hallways, trying not to bump into anything and praying that his hand wasn’t sweaty.
“Hey Marc, I don’t know if you noticed, but the lights went out!” yelled Ryan McDonagh from the basement.
“I’m working on it!” Marc yelled back. Finally, he found the closet where the circuit breaker was and flipped the switch on flooding the house in light. They let go of each other’s hands, feeling slightly awkward now that the light was on. “You want another drink, Elle?” Marc had noticed that her cliché red solo cup was empty.
“No thanks. It’s getting late. I should probably get going,” she sighed. Ellie didn’t really want to leave, but she didn’t trust herself in a combination with Marc and alcohol.
Marc couldn’t believe how late it had gotten. He felt his last chance with Ellie slipping away, just as the time had. He grabbed Ellie’s hand again. “Don’t go yet?” he said, making it sound almost like a question.
“Why?” asked Ellie. She thought maybe she could stay a little longer, but she was going to make him work for it.
“Well, I was wondering if maybe, you wanted to, um…” Marc sensed this was his chance, but the words weren’t coming out. He hadn’t been this nervous since draft day.
“Spit it out, Marc,” said Ellie, but she was smiling. And Marc noticed she hadn’t called him Staal.
“Wanna get dinner or something some time?” Marc said as quickly as he could, trying to make the eventual rejection as painless as possible.
“Yes,” smiled Ellie. Maybe it was the beer talking, but she was tired of avoiding Marc. Plus, she had a thing for gingers.
“Really?” Marc’s face lit up.
“On a couple of conditions,” Ellie said quickly. “I pay half the bill. I don’t care that you’re the guy or whatever. We split the bill.”
“No sushi. I hate sushi.”
“Great. No raw fish.”
“And finally, I don’t kiss on the first date.”
“You heard me,” grinned Ellie. She didn’t really intend to stick to her guns on this one, but she figured she might as well make Marc sweat a little.
“Not even for a hockey player?” asked Marc. He had a feeling Ellie was bluffing, but he would play along.
“Especially not for a hockey player.”
“What about before the first date?” suggested Marc with a smile, moving closer to Ellie. She just continued to smile, so Marc stooped down to bring their lips together.
Ellie had kissed her fair share of guys, not too many, but enough. She wouldn’t admit it for years, but her first kiss with Marc was probably the best. Although, the ending wasn’t ideal. With a flicker the lights went out again.
“I have one last condition,” said Ellie.
“Yeah?” Marc was distracted by Ellie’s fruity perfume which he hadn’t noticed before.
“You get the stupid lights fixed.”
Marc smiled as flipped the circuit breaker again. He led Ellie back to the front door still holding her hand. She was halfway to the drive way when Marc called her name.
“Yeah?” she continued walking. The last thing she wanted was Marc to think everything was going to be easy from now on.
“I’m glad you came!”
This time, Ellie did turn around. “Me too, Marc.” A week ago Ellie never would have believed it, but she was. “I’m glad I came, too.”