Pucked Page 5

I make a real show of digging around in my bag for my eye drops. By the time I finally find them, his focus is on the game again.

The excitement seems to be finished for now, so I take out my book. Two paragraphs in, the buzzer sounds, drawing my attention away from the story I’m half-heartedly reading. Waters hurdles out of the time-out box, helmet and gloves on. I’m rather impressed with this move. I couldn’t do it in a pair of sweats and a T-shirt, let alone a whole ensemble of body armor.

A blur of black comes to a halt as Waters’ stick smashes into the ice. He pivots in a move that’s both graceful and aggressive and barrels toward Atlanta’s goalie, dancing with the puck as he goes. He pulls back his stick and slaps the puck across the ice like it’s a rubber meteor. It goes right between the legs of the goalie and ricochets off the net.

Waters has been on the ice for all of fifteen seconds.

The hockey hookers behind me lose their minds, screaming their annoying banshee heads off. The rest of the crowd get to their feet and yell with them. As do I. It seems reasonable, more so than my enjoyment over face bashing. The game is fast paced and the bodies rush by. I’m like a cat following one of those laser lights around. Suddenly an arm smashes into the plexiglass in front of me. I startle, spilling beer on my coat.

At first I’m inappropriately excited at the possibility of another fight. Instead, I’m met once again with the same stunning eyes. I swear Waters smirks as I wipe beer off my chest. I frown and give my boob a squeeze, for what purpose I’m unsure. I doubt he catches it. He’s off like a slingshot, skating after the puck.

Buck’s team crush Atlanta 6-1. I clap and cheer, my enthusiasm authentic. I attribute it partially to the amount of beer I’ve consumed. Once the players leave the ice, we file out of the arena. Crowds make me nervous, so I want to wait until most of the people have cleared the stadium, but Sidney is anxious to find Buck.

“Come on, Vi.” He slings an arm around my shoulders, protecting me from the masses.

My mom hooks her arm with mine, sandwiching me between them. “Did you have fun?”

“It was okay,” I say as Sidney maneuvers our way through the crowd.

“Just okay? You were cheering with the rest of them.” Sidney gives my shoulder a squeeze.

“I think she liked the fight!” my mom yells above the noise.

“It wasn’t just the fight,” I reply.

Sidney chuckles. “We’re finally turning you into a hockey fan.” As a scout and coach for one of the best minor league teams out there, he’s highly respected in the hockey community. It affords him major privileges and some cool perks, such as front-row seats at games.

The hallway to the locker room smells of perspiration and stale equipment. I imagine the odor inside is infinitely worse with all the naked, sweaty guys milling around, snapping at each other’s asses with wet towels.

Buck ambles out of the locker room with a towel draped across his bare shoulders and his hockey pants on, thank the Lord. The amount of fur he sports makes him resemble a matted yeti.

I stay close to the fringe of the crowd to avoid appearing in photos. The paps snap pics of Buck in his hair shirt while Sidney looks all proud and manly off to the right. They ask Buck a few poignant questions. His answers are stock; likely something his agent coached him on. That guy gets paid well with all the fuckery Buck gets into.

When Buck goes to the locker room to shower, we head out. Traffic from the stadium to the hotel is horrendous. Sidney orders a round of beers as soon as we get to the bar. I gladly accept the drink, my mild buzz having worn off during the lengthy drive.

The team’s arrival is closely followed by a stampede of puck bunnies. I’m surrounded by scantily clad, too-warm bodies, and high-pitched chatter. While Buck regales Sidney with the finer details of the game—as if he wasn’t there—I seek out the red EXIT sign. Rooting around in my bag, I find my smokes and make my move toward the beacon of temporary freedom, excited for my reprieve from social discomfort. Buck notices my attempted escape and grabs my arm.

“Where you going?” Buck shouts.

I hold up the pack of smokes; I’d have to yell in order for him to hear me otherwise.

He wrinkles his nose in distaste. “You really shouldn’t smoke. It’s bad for your health.”

I’m irritated by the attention he’s drawing to us and my fake bad habit, so I fire off an insult. “So are venereal diseases. You don’t hear me lecturing you on your whoriness.”

He ignores the comment and drags me to his team’s table. It’s covered in heaping plates of food, which the guys inhale at an unprecedented rate. Half-dressed women flit around like fruit flies near wine.

Seeing as I’m here, I’ll try and make good on Charlene’s request. All I need to do is figure out who Westing-what’s-his-face is so I can snap a pic, feign a headache, and get out of here.

I find an empty seat; the chairs on either side of me are vacant, aside from a jacket carelessly tossed across the one on my right.

A random chick snags Buck before I can ask after Charlene’s crush. The smile slapped across his face might look friendly, but I’ve been around him long enough to know better. I enjoy his growing frustration as she snaps selfie after selfie. When she grabs his junk, I take pity on him.

“Hey, beefcake, enough with the soft-porn photo shoot. Grab a chair!”

Both his head and the girl’s snap in my direction, as well as those of half the team. I may have raised my voice too much. With the way Buck is smiling, I must be the color of a tomato. His relief and the girl’s incredulity are rather satisfying, so the awkwardness is worth it. The slut-bag mumbles something, and Buck grows grim. “That’s my sister.”

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