Early in the season I never have food. It takes till Christmas for me to get a routine going and remember to shop. I reprimand myself all the way to the grocery store where I pick up the usual suspects – pasta, sauce, eggs, OJ. Turning into the equally important beer section, I nearly crash my cart into the Doritos display. Leaning over the cases stacked in front of the cooler, in cargo pants and a clingy sweater, is Olivia.
I’ve never seen her outside of work before, except the other night at the bar. And that didn’t count. Here she is just another woman in the supermarket. Instantly I know that she really is as lovely and beguiling as I think. The artificial constraint of work has disappeared.
Whenever I encounter a woman, a million questions immediately weigh on the situation. Does she know who I am? Does it matter? Does she like hockey? Does she know I make kind of a lot of money? Not Crosby-money, but still. More than your average Pittsburgh boyfriend. Olivia was always set apart, those questions answered. Yet here she is, just like everyone else. And I am staring at her.
“Hey Liv,” I say as I approach. I’ve picked up women in the store before. I don’t want to be a creeper watching her from the end of the aisle.
She’s genuinely surprised to see me. “Hi Max!” And excited. “Do you live around here?”
I idiotically point toward what might be east. “A couple miles that way.”
“I live the other way, just a few blocks.” She’s got a case of Yuengling in her hands. I take it and add it to her cart. A case is a lot of beer for one person. Maybe she has roommates.
“They sold out of six packs,” she explains like she’s reading my mind. “How am I going to drink all of that?”
Bingo. “You could come over for dinner. I’ve got all the food, but I haven’t picked beer yet.”
And now the moment of truth. Too bold? Too soon? I wait. She looks suspicious, then apprehensive and finally happy.
“Can you cook?” I’m surprised, like when she agreed to come to the bar.
“I make a mean pasta.” That part is true.
I try to hide the smile as I type her number into my phone. I hit send and let it ring, so she has mine. Then I text my address and tell her to be there in twenty minutes. My car breaks the sound barrier on the way home. Carefully checking the house, anything less-than-impressive gets hidden away. There’s not much. A couple of Maxim magazines in a drawer. Two DVDs go in the bedroom. Then I put them in the closet, thinking she might somehow ends up in the bedroom. Ditto condoms and lube and anything else racy. But not too hidden. Just in case.
I cannot go over there in these underwear. I mean, just in case. Right? Like emergency preparedness? I have a fire ladder in my room. I should have something lacy in my pants, Olivia thinks, zipping her jeans and running out the door.
When the doorbell rings, I already have the water on to boil. Olivia sweeps in carrying the case of beer and a pint of Haagen-Dazs Dulche de Leche ice cream.
“It was the only dessert in my house. And it’s my favorite.”
“Didn’t you tell Crosby you’re not supposed to give us ice cream?”
“Or watch you do pushups. Or probably have dinner at someone’s house.” She laughs and points a finger into my chest. “I’m such a rebel.”
“I promise to leave your honor unscarred.” I do Scout’s honor though I was no such thing.
“Boooooooooooring.” She heads for the kitchen.
She’s chopping garlic at my counter. She’s in my house, cutting vegetables, in her stretchy brown sweater. If I were an asshole, I’d snap a photo and send it to the whole team. Okay, I’m kind of an asshole. I cough to cover up the fake shutter sound it makes. But I don’t send it yet. If I did, half the guys would be over before food hit the table.
She dumps the garlic into my homemade pasta sauce. I can make five things – all different shapes of pasta topped with this sauce. Using the wooden spoon, she lifts a taste to her lips and smiles.
“You were not lying,” she confirms, licking her lips. Seven things flash through my mind – none of them deadly but all of them sins.
We laugh and talk while cooking. I learn a lot about her and probably tell her even more about myself. As she passes close, I’m nearly overcome by the urge to grab and kiss her. She’s in my kitchen. We’re cooking ourselves dinner. The way it would be if she were my girlfriend.
Women don’t cook here. They don’t hang out. Maybe they have breakfast. Girlfriend?!
Instead I pour her beer in a glass as she puts the last dish on the table. The food is really good. Olivia twists her spaghetti around her fork and asks me all kinds of hockey questions: if I like the traveling, what I do in the off season, what’s the best part about playing. I think she’s anxious to get the season underway so she can learn the ropes.
“What made you take this job?” I ask when she’s finished grilling me.
“Needed a change. A friend in New York works at the NHL’s public relations agency. She submitted my resume. I wanted a change from publishing and a break from New York.”
She was obviously very accomplished – she’d worked at big firms in big cities and was now Director of our department at 27 years old. But it had always been a young game, everywhere I’d played. The older guys, the ones who stayed forever, were in the front office or the recruiting system.
“And now that you’re here?”
She nodded as she finished a bite. “I like it. It’s just big enough. At first I was worried about not knowing anyone, but the job gives me the chance to make friends.”
“You didn’t mind signing that clause about not dating players? It might be hard to find a boyfriend with us around scaring the guys away.”
I think she looks almost relieved. A bad breakup in the recent past, or something else that didn’t go as she’d hoped. I wonder who it was. I wonder if I can kill him.
“Life is easy when you’re not allowed to make any decisions,” she answers.
I send the photo to Crosby, Kris, Jordan and Geno as she scoops out ice cream. The message reads, “You are no match for a Jedi.” I ignore the replies vibrating in my pocket. Instead I take her beer and carry it into the living room.
Girls always like my house. That’s why I run everything past Vero when decorating. She says it’s ‘masculine but approachable,’ whatever that means. I just want it to look nice without being flashy. Some of these guys have no idea what to do with their money and MTV “Cribs” would call them tacky. Olivia goes right to the bookshelf. These are not for show, they’re books I’ve read. Wow, Max reads, right? It works on a lot of women.
“Can I borrow this?” she turns, a copy of The Three Musketeers in her hand.
“Do you read French?” I would give her a kidney if she wanted it.
“Not well, but with a dictionary I could get through it. It’s my favorite book ever. I’ve read it a hundred times in English.”
I didn’t know she spoke any French. Adrenaline freezes my system as I try to remember every time I said something crass about her in French, wondering if she could have understood me. Surely she would have called me out if she had. And she’s here, I'm not doing too badly.
“Read some of it to me,” I sit down. “Let’s see how your French is.”
She starts at the beginning. Her vocabulary isn’t very strong, plus the book was written in the 1840’s. Some of the words stumble. But her pronunciation is good and her accent is even better. Almost like she’s not trying at all.
“Your accent is perfect,” I say, genuinely impressed. She thanks me, saying she chose French in school because she can’t do a Spanish accent to save her life. She reads another page and I know she’s right about being a dictionary away from conversational French.
“Did you speak English growing up?”
“I did. My parents made sure my brothers and I learned. Plus, all the movies and music are in English. It was easier. But sometimes the accents are hard – I can’t tell the difference between a New York and a Texas, they sound the same to me.”
She laughs. “If you ever see me drunk you will hear a New York accent that cannot be mistaken.”
If I ever see her drunk she won’t be using her mouth to talk. I’m at the bottom of my ice cream, but I don’t want her to leave. It’s only 8:30 PM.
“Want to watch a movie?” I suggest.
She looks at me for a moment. This whole evening is obviously a come-on, I am no good at hiding when I’m hitting on someone. Why would I want to be? I think she’s considering how friendly she can be without crossing that line. She surveys the DVD shelf.
“Mystery Alaska, Miracle, The Mighty Ducks, Slapshot, The Cutting Edge…” she recites. I don’t own any of those movies.
“Too bad,” she laughs at her own joke. “I love The Cutting Edge.”
Olivia reaches into her purse on the armchair and tosses me a Netflix envelope. She brought her own movie. She brought her own movie!!!! I am too busy opening it and trying to contain my excitement to realize that she’s using her phone.
“Hmmmm…,” she’s pressing buttons. “Why do I have four text messages, all from members of your team?”
Oh my God the photo.
She laughs, loudly and suddenly. “Sidney says, ‘Max is terrible at keeping secrets. You should have cooked me dinner instead.’ She giggles at the rest and sends what I imagine are snarky replies. I have to look away. Those assholes! I should have known they would text her too.
“Liv, sorry. I was just giving them a hard time. I thought it would be funny.”
“It is funny. It was funnier when you thought you covered the sound of the camera taking a picture.” She smiles.
Damn! I’m such a dick! And yet she hasn’t run from this house, screaming for a restraining order.
“I… I have nothing to say,” I blush. I actually blush.
She rolls her eyes. “I’ve sent so many pictures of you guys to my girlfriends – you have no idea. God bless the iPhone. I could start a website and make a fortune.”
Her Netflix movie is Role Models, which is hilarious and inappropriate. Olivia and I sit on the couch, not touching but not miles apart like kids on a first date. I can still smell her clean laundry scent. She laughs the entire way through then says she’s seen it five times. When the film ends, it’s after 10 PM. I’m disappointed that she’s leaving.
“Thanks for dinner, Max.” She puts on her coat. “Next time, I’ll cook.”
Next time next time next time…. When she’s gone, I finish her beer.
Four booty call texts from one photo. I’m saving these just in case I get really lonely this winter. Jordan’s was the best. Olivia reads it again as she files them in her phone. “Come over now and I promise to buy you breakfast.”
She’s barely out the door before I’m running to the bedroom to find that lotion I hid. The cling of her sweater, the sound of her laugh, the sight of her on my couch in the dark… it’s almost enough. My mind turns it into a little porn – she’s wearing only white cotton panties in the kitchen, baking brownies. She turns toward me, licking the spoon, and a drip of batter falls between her breasts. I lick the chocolate from her skin, then taste the same in her mouth. I smear a dallop of it on her stomach and lick that off, then her thigh. The rest never makes it to the oven. I take her to the couch, where we were watching a movie, and instead I see her climb on top of me, straddling my lap. My pants are gone and she’s hooking the fabric of her underwear aside, holding my cock in the other hand. She flicks my head against her clit and coos appreciatively. She runs it over the length of her entrance, which is slick and warm. Then she rocks onto me, taking just the tip, then more, then all the way to the base. She cries out, thrusts twice, and then I come. Guess the brownies made me a little hotter than I expected.