Pucked Page 25

He sends an email the same night, apologizing for the content of the card and asking the rest of me out on a date, as well. He’s beginning to wear me down with the cuteness. It takes me a good hour to compose a response. I remain evasive by saying I’ll check my schedule.

The next day I receive a giant tin of coffee from a Canadian diner called Tim Horton’s. It’s named after a famous hockey player. Sidney tells me it’s like Starbucks, except cheaper, and if I won’t drink it, he sure as hell will.

The gifts aren’t the only thing I receive from Alex. Daily texts and emails follow, checking to make sure my packages have been delivered. They’re always thoughtful, often explaining the nature of the gift he’s sent. At the end of each email, he offers to take me out for dinner when he returns to Chicago. I don’t give a definitive answer.

The day before Buck is scheduled to come home, I open a box to find a stuffed beaver wearing a Blackhawks jersey with the number eleven and WATERS embroidered on it. It was accidentally delivered to the main house, so my mom stands beside me as I open my newest gift. She giggles like a teenager over how cute it is. She thinks he sent it because the beaver is Canada’s national animal. I don’t correct her.

I miss Alex’s call that night because I’m watching the game highlights at Charlene’s, and her basement apartment is like a cellular signal black hole. Solace comes with knowing Alex will be in Chicago tomorrow. My excitement is a problem.

I arrive home from work the following evening to find Buck on my couch, drinking my beer and eating my leftovers. I should’ve anticipated this; he does it almost every time he comes home from an away game. It’s his way of scamming a meal while he waits for a truckload of food to be delivered to his house since he doesn’t do his own shopping.

“Where’s your car?”

“A friend dropped me off.”

I drop my purse on the kitchen table and head straight for the fridge. If Buck is home, Alex is, too. His voice mail from the previous night is the last I heard from him. It’s disappointing to have Buck taking up space in my living room yet hear nothing from my sometimes-stalker.

“Wow. You sure don’t waste any time.” By friend, I’m assuming Buck means one of his puck bunnies. Buck doesn’t “date” in the traditional sense of the word. He does, however, have a rotation of women he sleeps with in Chicago. He calls them his “regulars.” One of these days he’s going to contract an STD and put his parts out of commission.

“What can I say? My ladies miss me when I’m away.” Buck sets up the Xbox with a lecherous smile.

“You’re disgusting.”

“I have needs.”

He regales me with the finer details of the last four games while we play NHL hockey. Buck plays himself, and I have my own awesome avatar which I created. His phone keeps dinging with endless messages while we play, so it’s easier to kick his ass.

“You’re popular tonight,” I say after the eight-millionth text comes through.

“Some of the guys are picking me up in twenty.”

“Didn’t you spend the last two weeks on the road with them? How aren’t you all sick of each other?”

Buck shrugs. “I’m new to the team. We need to talk strategy for the next game since we’re facing our biggest competitor in the league.”

“Oh. Right.” I try not to perk up, curious who might be coming to get him and if Alex is among his buddies now.

Ten minutes later, he gets a call from some girl named Honey. All the puck bunnies who call him are named Honey. Probably easier than remembering their real names. He pauses the game while he sets up round two of puck bunny lovin’ for later in the evening, inviting Honey to the bar. He even goes so far as to suggest she bring some friends. This is where my beliefs about the habits of hockey players originate from. Once he hangs up, Buck makes another call, this time to a teammate. He kindly informs whoever it is that he has bunnies lined up and primed for action. He really is a dog.

Buck pockets his phone. “The guys’ll be here in two—you cool if we rematch later?”

“You would’ve lost anyway.” I turn off the Xbox and flip through the channels, looking for some crappy reality television show to watch. Might as well turn my brain into sawdust seeing as I don’t have any other plans, because I’m sure as hell not waiting for Alex to call.

“Don’t forget to bathe in bleach later,” I say, just to get a dig in.

“Not all the chicks I hang out with are dirty.”

I drop the remote and slow clap. “Congratulations. You said it with a straight face.”

He flips me the bird on his way out the door.

After five minutes of reality television, I want to poke my eyes out. I surf through the music channels and stumble on a station dedicated to The Tragically Hip. I’ll have to tell Alex about this station since he seems to love the band. When he texts me. If he texts me.

Annoyed I’m being such a girl, I decide it’s time to change into jammies and prep for my meetings tomorrow. I give the Waters beaver a rub under the chin as I pass him on the way to my dresser. Of all the gifts I’ve received from Alex, the beaver is the most bizarre. It’s found a special home on my bed, between my pillows. I regret to admit I snuggled with it last night. The stupid thing is cuddly.

Once I’ve changed into boxers and a V-neck tee, I grab a stack of client portfolios and the box of Godiva and settle on the couch again. Two paragraphs into the report, I’m interrupted by a knock at the door. Buck probably forgot something, such as an industrial-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. He’ll need it after he sleeps with whatever puck bunny he’s called upon this evening. I shove my pen in my hair and push my ill-fitting spare glasses up my nose, ready to yell at him for making me get up.

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