Two Years Previous
Good old pond ice; was there anything better? Not a chance. I thought as I propelled myself around the perimeter of the ice. It was a flooded lake that I hadn’t been on for years, but it still felt natural, comfortable.
It was getting dark but; luckily the city had installed lights at some point - probably when Crosby came and hockey was cool again. I shook my head as I remembered the day I had just had.
Our team was lucky enough to have gotten a chance to practice at Mellon Arena; it was amazing. Some of the guys stayed after to meet the wonder kid but; I had had no interest. I laughed as I remembered the look on Mattie’s face - I won’t be surprised to hear he asked Crosby on a date, he totally had a man-crush.
Another plus of tonight, was the fact that playing in that huge stadium had given me another taste of the good life. I wanted, no needed, to play pro hockey… NHL or bust. At that thought I dropped the tip of my stick on the ice and started taking some shots on the tipped over garbage can - acting as a net.
“And it’s Simone with the shot, she feints to the left, back to the right; and it’s a beautiful shot in the 5-hole, as the crowd goes wild!” I screamed, bouncing down onto a knee in a mock-celebration. I laughed at myself as I hoped back up, realizing for the first time that I wasn’t laughing alone.
I turned quickly, towards the deep laughter, catching site of a towering man standing at the end of the ice. Ugh, that’s embarrassing… I sighed and skated over towards him, hoping to save some face. “Hey, how’s it going?” I said loudly as I came to a stop a few feet away; crap he’s big.
He let out a groan and shook his head, sadness on his face. “Are you ok?” I pressed, moving closer. He looked up to meet my eyes, letting out a huff. He pointed back down the ice at the puck.
“Hoo-kay?” He said in a thick accent; his deep voice resonating through the quiet December air. I gave him a smile; understanding the sadness on his face. The poor guys’ Ukrainian or something, he probably doesn’t know a word of English, I chuckled as I reached out my hand to him.
“You. Play. Hockey?” I said, making pictionary-ish movements with each word. He laughed and nodded, taking my hand and following me back towards the ’nets’.
He moved fluidly for a big-guy, and I was impressed with how at home he seemed on ice. We skated around a few laps, I was passing him easily but I wasn’t sure if it was because I could; or because he was letting me.
We started playing one on one; he was incredible. We chased each other around and I held my own; but there was no doubt he was a talented player. Who are you? I thought silently as he flashed me another crooked, boyish, grin.
There was also no doubt that he was loving this; my looks of appreciation and sincere wonder. I didn’t bother trying to hide the fact that I was impressed - it wasn’t like I could just come out and say it, I might as well let him know somehow.
We played until midnight - when the city turned the lights off - before calling it a night. We both stopped at the half buried picnic table to remove our skates. I dumped mine into my bag and zipped it up. “Ummm… bye!” I said for lack of anything else to say. Of course this was a lot of things that I wanted to say to the beautiful man that I had just messed around with for more than 4 hours; but it wasn’t like he’d understand it anyway.
He looked at me, like he had things on his mind too; but I gave him a last smile and turned to leave.
I was four blocks away when a car honked at me. I turned around to see a huge SUV pulling up behind me. The windows were tinted so I couldn’t see who was inside - against better judgement I walked over to it anyway.
I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as he pointed into his vehicle, “Hoam.” He said it smugly, grinning at me with that toothy charm I was becoming so accustomed to. I hoped in beside him then sighed; how was I suppose to explain to him where I lived?
A normally 20 minute drive turned into a 2 hour ordeal as he finally pulled into my drive-way, laughing endlessly. I whipped my eyes as the tears-fell from them; I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed this hard, I thought happily as I opened the door. “Ummm…” He sighed looking over at me.
Suddenly his face lit up and he motioned for me to get back in. I sighed and did as I was told, closing the door on the cold night air. As I looked back over I saw he was holding a cell phone to his ear. He mumbled a few words in his crazy gibberish, before hitting another button and holding the phone out between us.
“Hello?” A mans voice sounded out. The boy looked at me and nodded; excitement etched clearly on his face.
“Hi…” I said slowly, who the hell is this?
“Oh, oh… hi. My name’s Sergi and the guy you’re with is Evgeni… he doesn’t speak English.”
“You don’t say?” I laughed, looking up at the boy - Evgeni.
Evgeni said some more gibberish and Sergi spoke to me. “He wants to know your name…”
“Carlie. My name’s Carlie.” Evgeni smiled at me and looked back down at his phone.
“He wants to know if he can see you again.”
“Yes.” I said, almost forgetting that it was someone else, “yes…” I nodded earnestly at the smiling boy. He pulled the phone back up to his ear and spoke quickly. He hung it up a short-time later and smiled at me again.
I almost wanted to ask why we couldn’t do that for the directions but I laughed the idea away; I had too much fun to question anything, especially someone who had no idea what I was asking.
I took one last look at him across the seat and turned to leave. Evgeni grabbed my hand and brought it up to his lips, kissing it softly; before I ran into my empty house.
I flopped down on my bed and giggled; a foreign sound on my lips. It was after 2 now, and I wasn’t tired at all; what an amazing night. What an amazing guy.
I wonder who he is, where he came from, why’s he here?
There were so many things I wanted to learn about this guy. This was such a new area for me; I was use to guys but not guys in this capacity. Either way, I was sure tonight was going to change everything.
Eight Months Later
“Geno… I’m sorry.” I paced back and forth, unable to sit still anymore; how many times was he going to make me say this? “You know I care about you… you’re great, I just…” I sighed and turned to face him. He was sitting with his head in his hands, flopped on a bench in the Penguins dressing room.
“Why you go?” His voice was deeper than usual; husky, emotional. “I no… you no… no.” He shrugged his shoulders and looked up at me, his eyes pleading.
I dropped down on my knees in front of him. “This isn’t the end Evgeni… look at me.” He had dropped his eyes but he brought them back up at my request; he always did anything I told him to. “I need to do this on my own. I already get shit now… people already say that I’m only on my team because coach is dating my cousin. Geno, I need to do this. I need to get into the NHL… if I’m…” I let out another sigh and moved to sit beside him, resting my head on his shoulder. “Evgeni… say that I do get drafted; by some stroke of luck. I’ll be laughed back out if people find out that I was dating a pro-hockey player. They’ll assume I only got in because of you. Can you understand that?”
He turned his head towards me, “I no know…” I looked away again as the tears began to fall.
“I’m sorry.” I shrugged, pushing myself off the bench. “I’m so sorry, Evgeni.” I headed towards the door, stopping only when he called my name.
“If you in… we together?” I turned back around and nodded at him. “if you no in… we together?” I nodded again.
“If you still want me, then yes.”
“You no leave… new guy?”
I shook my head, “I’m not leaving for another guy; you’re my only guy.”
He gave me a sad smile and nodded, “I wait.”
“You don’t have to-” I began to say as he cut me off.
“I wait.” He said again, firmly.
I gave him a fleeting smile as I let the door close behind me. I had spent my entire life trying to get taken seriously in the game; it was my life, I needed to succeed.
Leaving Evgeni was an impossible task. I was serious when I said I would love to see him again, regardless of what happens; once my shot at the draft had come. I doubted he’d wait for me though; Evgeni Malkin shouldn’t have to wait for anyone.
Do I love him? No, I don’t think so but regardless… I was sure tonight was going to change everything.