The doorbell rang, and I was not ready.
“It’s open!” I shouted. “Shit, Carey, I’m sorry, hold on.”
“It’s all right.” He called back. “Take your time.”
I checked my watch. We were already late. I finished my make up, stepped into my dress and zipped it, and sprayed on my perfume. I quickly checked my reflection. Navy blue tea length dress with short sleeves, hair curled and let loose. Black suede wedges. A warm winter wrap.
I grabbed my clutch and walked out into the living room, where Carey was standing and looking at my movie collection.
“Hey, sorry.” I said. “Hope you don’t mind being late.”
He turned and smiled. Tonight it was so obvious that he was a hockey player – the black eye and the stitches. But he still looked great. Black suit and tie, black overcoat.
“It’s okay. You look beautiful.”
I blushed. “Thanks.”
He held a bouquet of flowers out to me. “These are for you. An apology.”
“What for?” I asked, taking them and smelling them. I smiled. Beautiful.
“Not listening to you.”
I laughed. “Well I sort of got you into the situation in the first place. Let me put these in water and we can go.”
Carey waited for me to put the flowers in water, pet Mercedes goodbye, then led me out the door and to his car. He opened the passenger side door for me and snapped it shut once I was settled. A gentleman.
At Sainte Jean’s, the waitress didn’t even have to ask. She just said, « Vous êtes avec Les Habitants, oui? »
« Oui. »
« D’accord. Suivez-moi, s’il vous plait. »
We followed the waitress to a private banquet room where the entire team and their wives, girlfriends, or dates were assembled. Carey led me over to a table where PK, Debby, Andrei and Svetlana were sitting. Andrei and Svetlana seemed to have made up, as Andrei was quietly saying things to her in Russian that were making her giggle, blush, and swat him with her napkin. PK and Debby were holding hands under the table.
Carey pulled my chair out for me and shuffled it forward as I sat.
“Did they know who you were?” Debby asked.
I rolled my eyes. “They took one look at his face and knew that we just [i]had[/i] to be with Les Habitants. The girl probably didn’t even watch the game and she knew.”
“My face doesn’t look that bad.” Carey protested. “I’ve had worse.”
“We’ve all had worse.” PK interjected.
I sighed. “Carey, you have bright blue stitches above a black eye. That is pretty bad.”
Carey shrugged and Pyatt and his wife came over and sat with us.
“Did you hear about Price here defending your honor?” Pyatt asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, I heard all about it. Please, let’s talk about something else.”
“I think it’s cute.” Anoushka put in. “A knight in shining armour.”
I gritten my teeth and Carey smirked. “Come on Sarah, lighten up. It could have been worse.”
After dinner was served, Carey and I decided to go on a walk along the river before he dropped me off at home. I pulled my wrap as tightly around me as I could as we slowly walked and looked out over the black water.
I paused and held onto the railing meant to keep me from falling in. Carey stood behind me and rested his hands on my hips.
“You look beautiful tonight.” He said softly. “Really.”
I smiled. “I’d say you look nice, but your face is a mess.”
“My face isn’t a mess.” He said calmly. “It’s just not as pretty as it normally is.”
“Oh, so you think you’re pretty now, do you?” I laughed, spinning around and leaning against the railing to look up at him.
“I think I’m moderately attractive.” He said indignantly. “And who are you to say I’m not?”
“I’m Sarah.” I laughed.
He just smiled and shook his head. He brought his hand up to my face and gently stroked my jaw line with his thumb.
“Sarah, I’m completely in like with you.” He said softly.
I looked away. “Carey, the last hockey player I dated got shitfaced every time he lost and cheated on me multiple times with the same skank. I just, I don’t know. It sets a bad precedent.”
“I’m not like Towes.”
“I know, but – “
“Then don’t think of me like that.” He said gently. “Don’t think of me as the hockey player. Think of me as the guy you met in a bar one night who picks up your dry cleaning and cleans your house for you, who now finally has the nerve to ask you out.”
I half smiled. “Do you really think that will work?”
He shrugged. “Personally, I think it’s worth a shot.”