The Good Luck Charm Page 47

“Is she part of your pregame ritual?” one saucy reporter asks.

Ethan laughs, maybe a little high on the win and the attention. “I don’t rub her like a genie in a bottle, if that’s what you’re getting at, but I see her before every home game, and I talk to her before every away one.”

“And you think she’s the key to your successful season?”

Ethan shrugs but smiles. “Every game she’s been at has been a success. I play better when I know she’s with me.”

“Isn’t that the sweetest?” Ashley sighs.

“Yeah, totally.” Except sweet doesn’t seem like the right word. I want to be flattered, but the reality is, I’m not sure I am—not the way it’s intended. Because if what Ethan is saying is true, if he believes I’m some kind of charm that’s making him play better, how much of what’s happening between us is real, and how much is based on superstition and pregame rituals? He’s carried them through his entire career, and he’s had them since high school rep hockey, and back then I was a part of it, too. Even if it is authentic, how am I supposed to cope with being the center of his success?

Panic makes my chest tighten, like I’m trapped in a small space with no exit. What happens if the team shits the bed come playoffs? What if the pressure is too much and it all falls apart, or they don’t even make it into the first series, let alone past it? Will that be on me? Will he harbor resentment? Will I feel some level of culpability, especially if I can’t be there to attend games, to give him what he needs and be what he needs? But what about what I need? How much of myself am I supposed to give up?

In an instant I’m transported back in time, to those nights when Ethan would stop by to see me before a game for a good luck kiss. Or when he’d beg me to come to a practice, saying he played better when I was there.

I hadn’t connected it until now, or maybe I hadn’t wanted to—how he’s been doing the same thing for home games. We’re always together the night before. It doesn’t matter if I’m out with Carmen, or at class, or whatever; as soon as I’m home, he shows up at my door.

Sometimes he’s even there before I get home, having taken Merk to the dog park so we’ll have more time together. Inevitably there’s sex. And I’ve fed right into it, encouraged it even, high on being needed this way. He’s made me feel special, wanted, essential.

I run a hand down my face, scared to look too deep. Like a lot of players, Ethan is a slave to his pregame routines and rituals. And now I worry that I’ve somehow become part of that routine in a way that’s no longer innocuous but unhealthy.

I tune back in to the interview in time to hear the next question from a male reporter, who seems far less interested in Ethan’s relationship status.

“Trade talk has started and a lot of rumors are flying. You’re on the top of the list as a valuable trade player. Do you think you’ll be moving teams again, or staying with Minnesota next season?”

“That’s hard to predict. There are some great players on the team and some amazing talent moving up the ranks, so we’ll see how it all comes out in the wash. I’ve been traded the last three years, so I’m ready for that possibility.”

My throat constricts. We’ve skirted this conversation up until now, and here he is talking openly about it in a very public forum. My head aches with the sudden slap shot of reality, and my anger balloons. I feel like a crutch he’s using to get through the season.


I realize the interview is over. “Hmm?”

“Will you go with him?”


“If he’s traded, would you go with him?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry. That’s none of my business.”

I smile. “It’s fine. It’s not something we’ve talked about. Anyway, I should start my rounds.”

“Okay, sure. I’ll see you at lunch?”

“Yeah. Definitely.” I take my stack of files with me, flipping through the first one, not really processing anything through my anger.

If Ethan had done this interview eight years ago and said all of the same things, I would’ve been ecstatic. Being his good luck charm would’ve been romantic. But I’ve spent the better part of a decade trying to get past the fact that I wasn’t important enough for him to keep in his life the first time around—so much so, that I pushed the man I married away and ultimately destroyed that relationship.

Being on the flip side of this coin is just as stressful, if not more so. If he fails, if things don’t go the way he wants them to this season, where do I fit in? Do I cease to be important again? More than that, do I want my entire identity wrapped up in what I am to someone else? Being needed is one thing, but it has to be for the right reasons.

I spend my entire day bombarded by coworkers and colleagues talking about the interview and how sweet Ethan is, and aren’t I lucky to be dating an NHL player. All it does is frustrate me more.

The highlight of my day is a checkup with Emery, who’s become my new favorite patient. Unfortunately, she’s also seen the media circus and can’t stop mooning over how romantic Ethan is. I don’t rain on her romance parade, because her naïve joy is the only positive to my day.

She claps her hands as soon as I peek my head in the room. “You’re pretty much famous! Should I ask for your autograph? Oh! Can you get Ethan to sign something for me? He’s soooo swoony!”

I roll my eyes. “Not you, too.”

She scrunches up her nose. “What do you mean not me, too?”

“Everyone’s all over me today about the—” I glance at the TV screen, where that kiss plays out on an entertainment reel recap. “Oh, for fuc—” I cut off the swear before I can finish it.

“Well, someone was all over you, that’s for sure.” Her grin is wide. “You failed to mention how hot he is. I mean, dude was super sweaty and still smoking.”

I laugh. “It’s the uniform, I’m sure.”

“Not hardly. That man is crazy hot. Like, way hotter than Dr. Lovely, and that’s saying something, because he’s a smoke show, for sure. Is he super romantic, too? I bet he is. Does he bring you flowers all the time? Do sweet things for you?”

“He can be, when he wants to,” I admit, thinking about breakfast and the flowers he left for me this morning and his sweet notes that are always encouraging, whether they’re wishing me luck on a test or assignment or just telling me he’s thinking about me. Most recently, he hired a housekeeper to stop by every week to clean from top to bottom so I don’t have to. But his not respecting what I need and want is definitely the opposite of sweet.

“My parents are like that. Like, my dad buys my mom flowers all the time, and sometimes he’ll pick wildflowers and bring them home for her. They are, like, always snuggling and cuddling and making out. It’s kinda gross, actually. But still sweet, right? But so much PDA. They hold hands wherever they go.”

“They sound sweet.”

“Gross, but totally,” she agrees. “I guess that’s kind of what I want. Someone to love me that much.”

I smile but don’t say anything as I check the most recent X-ray.

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