Pucked Page 52

The only message I’ve received from Alex since then is a nonsensical drunken text. As a result, I’ve been on edge all day. A tabloid magazine and a well-read newspaper taunt me from the empty table beside us.

I used to be one of those people who stood in line at the grocery store and made fun of all the people who spent their hard-earned money on those garbage rags. Now I’m the person who feverishly flips through, checking to see if Alex’s pretty face is anywhere inside. He’s absent from the pages more often than not, but the fan websites are full of his pictures. I’ve also been actively avoiding searching my bookmarked websites today for fear of what I might find.

Charlene’s phone dings for the eleventy-billionth time since we sat down. She recently set up a profile on an online dating site. She narrowed the field by limiting it to hockey fanatics. Her phone has been chiming all day; lots of guys are into hockey, most of whom wouldn’t be considered viable dating material.

No longer able to restrain myself, I perform an image search for Alex on my phone. A slew of new pictures appear. Often I send the photos to my email and save them in my Beaver Button folder. These aren’t those kind.

Alex looks gorgeous as usual except his arm is wrapped around the shoulder of a blonde. She’s kissing his cheek. He’s all smiles and dimples. It’s possible she’s just a fan. I scroll down to find more pictures of the two of them. She’s tucked into his side with his arm thrown protectively around her.

I want to knee him in the balls and smack his monster cock upside the head. The hockey hooker in me wants to kick her ass and knock out all her teeth for kissing him anywhere. Reality punches me in the boob—I’ve started to think of Alex as my boyfriend. We’ve only been on one real date. The flowers and the presents don’t mean we’re exclusive; he’s extravagant with gifts. I feel so dumb.

“Violet? Why are you breathing like that?”

I slide my phone across the table. “She’s kissing him, and he’s touching her.” As if she can’t see what’s in front of her.

“I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation.”

“Sure there is. He’s a whore, and I’m stupid. I should know better.” I grab my phone and close the browser. I can’t look at him anymore. This situation is proving detrimental to my emotional wellbeing.

“You should call him. There must be a good reason for this. If he’s not texting, emailing, or calling, he’s sending you gifts. It doesn’t make sense,” Charlene says in her most rational, gentle tone.

“It does if he’s a player. I’m sure the whole I’m-not-a-whore line he gave me is the one he gives all his repeats—or whatever the hell I am. It’s probably some elaborate ruse. Look at Buck; he’s got all these girls wrapped around his giant yeti finger, pretending to be nice when he’s really a dog. Alex is probably the same, except smoother.”

I must sound like a lunatic. I’ve been paranoid all week, and now there’s justification.


“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I need to do something other than sit in a bar with hockey on in the background. I push away from the table, almost spilling my beer. Char doesn’t try to stop me from leaving. I’m too deep into one of my neurotic episodes to be rational.

I listen to angry gangster rap on the drive home. I’m too upset to sit around, so I decide to do something productive. A jog seems like a smart way to burn off some of this negative energy and get perspective. The first sign my idea is flawed occurs when it takes me forty-five minutes to find my damn running shoes. Armed with more angry beats, I adjust my earbuds, and hit the sidewalk.

It’s cold out, so I start with a light jog. Two minutes in, I’m already winded but also determined to make this work. I need to do something beyond crying or calling Alex. I push on, and by the time I’ve gone a block, I have a stitch in my side and I’m wheezing like an asthmatic. On the positive side, I can see the fast food sign glowing in the distance. I check all my pockets and find a magical ten dollar bill in the little one meant for a lip balm or keys. The Arches of Indigestion aren’t too far away. I can make it. More than this jog, I need a milkshake.

I’m panting and huffing by the time I reach the door. The familiar smell of fried food greets me as I step inside. It’s like coming home except I don’t have to cook anything for myself. I order fries and a milkshake and hole myself up in the corner. Prying off the lid, I carefully coat each fry in frozen vanilla-flavored mock-dairy product. Fucking Alex, literally, is the reason I’m stuffing my face with this crap. Tomorrow I’ll end up with the moops thanks to the fake dairy and grease.

The mild sugar and trans-fat high is destroyed by the cold walk home. I avoid checking my emails or phone messages. I don’t want to talk to Alex tonight. I don’t know him well enough to discern whether or not he’s hosing me. Talking to him may confirm his lying bastard status, and I’ll be crushed. It’s too much to manage. Nyquil is my sleep aid of choice otherwise I’ll never shut my mind off.

The Waters beaver stares at me from my pillow. I shove him off the bed and get under the covers. I must go in search of him in the middle of the night because I wake up clutching him.

Charlene is sitting on my desk when I arrive at work the next morning. She’s becoming a fixture there.

“You haven’t called him yet, have you?”

“Good morning to you, too.”

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