Mike sat next to Brooks on the charter flight for their west coast road trip. They’d be gone through New Years, leaving the girls behind to party in their absence.
“St Thomas? Nice,” Brooks said when Mike told him about the gift. He didn’t need to mention the Olympics. “I’m taking Amanda to Key West for a few days, she can’t take too long off work.”
“Coming back early with her?”
Brooks nodded. “She’s on the whole girlfriend track like white on rice these days. Don’t think I could swing a few days in paradise without pissing her off.”
“So you went for it?” Mike asked.
“Not yet - I’m gonna let it run until she’s ready to have the big talk. The more time she takes, the more time I have to be ready.”
Mike leaned back in the seat - thinking about this gave him an instant headache. “Don’t you already know?”
A little shrug lifted Brooks’ shoulders. “I’m not going out alone, man. Call me old fashioned, the girl’s gotta want it worse than I do.”
For the rest of the flight Mike wondered what Halley wanted. She never pushed, never dropped hints or asked for things. She just answered when he called, made him laugh, let him wake up next to her. He had no reason to doubt that she felt the same way he did, but he really had no way to be sure either. And it wasn’t old-fashioned sensibility that kept Mike from wanting Halley to make the first move. It was fear.
Halley put her head down on her desk. It was 12 PM on December 30 and Steve Yzerman had just announced the 2010 Team Canada Olympic roster. Mike was not on it. Her heart broke for him, not just because she cared but because she believed he had earned a spot on the team. Her emotions ran from anger to disappointment and back again a hundred times. She was still sitting like that five minutes later when her phone rang.
“I’m so sorry, Mike.”
He took a deep breath - he’d prepared for this but now he was really, really sad. “It’s okay,” he said unconvincingly.
“Are you by yourself?”
“Yeah, leaving for practice in half and hour.” They were still at the team hotel in San Jose, and due for a morning skate before the night’s game. “None of our guys got picked for Canada.” Halley could picture his sad hound dog face. “I wish you were here,” he said quietly. He wanted hear her say that he was the best thing in the world, if only to her, the only thing she wanted even though she could have it all. Mike wanted Halley to love him, because right then it felt like the world did not.
Halley tried to keep the tears in her voice quiet, because she was afraid to upset Mike any more than he already was. She crushed a sheet of paper nearly to dust in one hand. “Me too.” They talked quietly for a few more minutes before Mike had to leave.
When he disconnected, Halley put her head back down on the desk and cried. She’d never felt someone else’s sadness so acutely.
“Love you,” Mike said after the line had gone dead.
Halley invited Amanda and Anya to her friend Daniel’s New Years Eve party at a rented loft downtown. Halley was excited for Girls Night Out, she just hoped Mike was okay after yesterday’s bad news about the Olympics. The girls came over early to get dolled up together.
“I talked with Brooks before they left,” Amanda said, curling her eyelashes, “about us being exclusive.”
Halley looked up from her seat on the floor. “Aren’t you already?”
“Well, yeah I think so. But who knows with guys? I’ve been dropping hints like grenades since Thanksgiving but he was either dense or ignoring me,” she stopped what she was doing. “They’re on the road all the time... I mean, Brooks is a great guy. Still they’re pro athletes and plenty of the guys think they’re entitled to a little something extra for their efforts.”
Anya was nodding. “Nicky doesn’t like to gossip but a lot of the married guys - there are plenty of stories from their trips.”
“That’s sad,” Halley said. “I know what the reputation is, but these guys seem so nice.”
“Nice, yes, but will that keep them from being stupid?” Amanda asked. Then she quickly backpedalled. “I don’t mean Mike. I’m not saying he would, I just mean in general....”
Halley looked at the two blonds in the mirror, dressed to the nines and about to paint the town. There was nothing the guys could do to stop them either, if they wanted to misbehave. Everyone seemed to the think the money would keep the girls in line. But what kept the guys in line? Her boat was sailing smoothly and she didn’t want to rock it - most guys were commitment-phobes and telling them not to do something meant they would immediately want to do just that.
Halley smiled. “I am not worried about Mike. If he wanted to be with someone else, he would. No matter if I called him my boyfriend or not.”
“It just makes me feel better. We didn’t settle on it, but I’m glad I brought it up. It’s like a promise and I think that Brooks would keep it. Will keep it, when he makes it,” Amanda shrugged. “You and Mike really haven’t talked about this? Everyone else calls you his girlfriend.”
“Mike and I are great. I don’t care what we call it.”
The conversation had no right answer and they could go around about it all night. In an effort to distract, Halley set up a camera, posed everyone for a photo and sent it to the boys. Phones started ringing like a chorus.
“No. Go put on some snowpants and one of my jerseys. And a helmet.” Mike said. There was some muffled fumbling and arguing, then Alex came on the line.
“Halley, you have Mike’s credit card? Buy more dresses like that one.”
Mike wrestled the phone away and dodged Alex to get out of the dining room. “Are you trying to kill me? I’ll be a wreck knowing you’re out like that and I’m 3,000 miles away.” He was laughing, but he knew full well that Halley could have any guy she wanted.
Halley put on her best sexy voice. “Are you wearing a button down shirt? With your sleeves rolled up? And a pair of those pants that leave nothing to the imagination?”
“Uh, are my pants too tight?” Mike asked her, hoping she was kidding.
“Send us a picture and I’ll decide if I should be worried about you out with the boys tonight.”
“Brooks! Take a picture of my ass.” The fact that Brooks did so without question made Halley laugh. He left the line open so she could hear them talking.
“Turn a little. More. Two steps forward. Okay, good lighting,” Brooks’ voice was clear in the receiver. She heard the shutter noise and Brooks came on the line. “Okay Halley, you asked for it.”
“Forget the girls, I’m more worried about Mike being with you!”
Brooks scoffed. “You got Amanda, I got Mike. I lose AGAIN.” He gave the phone back.
“I wish I was with you! Call me later?” Mike said.
That is not a guy who is running around on me, she thought. I don’t need to put him on a leash if he’s staying right beside me. “We can video conference you and Brooks kissing at midnight.”
“If it meant you and Amanda making out, he would do it,” Mike said.
When they disconnected, Halley couldn’t help but smile. Mike was not over the Team Canada snub, but he was putting it aside and having a good time for New Year’s Eve. His confidence had steadily increased because he was playing well, and she liked to think she had a little something to do with it too. The Olympic team was a bump in the road, not enough to derail a train.
It helped that January and early February were a blissful blur of wins. The Caps won 17 of 22 games, including 14 in a row. Points piled up like snowbanks and Halley had never had more fun. Mike marveled at the way she had made herself part of their little family - everyone loved her and she loved them back. She’d even become good friends with Alex, which Mike had worried about a little in the beginning because he was so flashy. But Alex seemed different with her, and she was the only real female friend he had. They hung out all the time and everyone was in high spirits. It kept Mike in a good mood, even as people were leaving for the Olympics. The Caps’ last game was February 13, and Mike raced home from the airport in the middle of the night.
“Shhh,” he said, climbing in next to Halley’s sleeping form. She barely stirred. Eight hours later they woke to the alarm clock ringing. Mike’s big hand silenced it with a single slap.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.” He had been excited for and dreading this day in equal measure. It was the first day of Olympic hockey, thousands of miles away, with no place for him. It was also the first day of eighteen straight that he would spend with Halley. She and Amanda had been together a lot lately and Mike hoped Halley might have gotten some ideas about what she wanted from their relationship. Two weeks on the beach might bring the reassurance he was looking for.
“Time to go to the airport?” she murmured. Her soft lips found his shoulder, kissing across the tattoo on his collarbone. Three road games in the last four days were no match for how much he wanted her.
“No, I set it early so I could do this.” He slid one hand right down the front of her little cotton short. She giggled, squirming as he worked his way into the cleft between her legs. He wet a tiny spot on her neck with his tongue and blew cool air across it, making her shiver. Halley responded by opening her legs and pulling his mouth onto hers. Mike hooked one of his knees over hers and worked himself against her thigh as he played with her honey pot. Soon his fingers were slick and his cock was hard. Halley pulled at his shorts and rolled him on top.
He slipped inside her exquisitely tight body, moving slowly to spread her wetness along his length. Halley moaned softly, somewhere between half-asleep and totally aroused. Mike pressed her into the forgiving mattress. She took her time coming around, opening one eye and then the other, looking up at the man who filled her completely.
“Brilliant idea,” she said. Her hands plied his smooth skin, tracing the hard curves of his flexed biceps and down over where his abs started at the small of his back. She gripped his hips and moved herself beneath his body, giving him the same push and pull she was enjoying. He nipped her earlobe and drove harder. A staggered breath came from her lips.
“Baby,” Mike said quietly, almost a subliminal message that convinced her body to just give in. She cried out softly as she came, spilling deeper heat into the space Mike occupied. He groaned with pleasure as his orgasm burst as well. When it had rolled itself out like a wave on the beach, his lips found hers.
Halley barely had to lift an arm to reach her Corona. Fat drops of condensation trickled down the bottle, sweating in the hot sun. She plucked the lime from its perch at the neck, aimed to her right and squeezed.
“Hey!” Mike said without opening his eyes. They lay side by side on two chairs in the middle of a wide white sand beach. Somewhere behind them was a bar, hotel, nightclub. In front was just the ocean. They’d arrived a day earlier and been laying around ever since. Halley hoisted herself onto an elbow and took a sip of her chilly beer, then slid Mike’s white Kanye West sunglasses on to gaze at the water. Mike shielded his eyes with one hand and took in the shape of her body.
“Best view in town,” he said.
She was about to agree, then realized he was talking about her. He hadn’t said a word about the Olympics even though they’d passed two bars advertising live broadcasts. Instead he reached for his own bottle and put on her black oversized sunglasses.
“Happy, Halles?” Mike knew she was, baking in the equatorial sunshine. But he meant in the bigger picture: Happy with me? Happy with us?
She tapped her drink against his, but didn’t ask the same question. She knew Mike was happy now, she just hoped it was enough to get through the Olympics.
Mike waited. Halley was as fun and sexy as ever, and it was the best vacation he could remember. But she never brought up the issue that continued to nag him - was Mike what she seriously wanted for her life?
Halley never had more fun. The more days passed the better it got, and Mike seemed genuinely okay with the Olympics. Sure they’d both rather be in Vancouver, but they were in a good place now. A great place, she told herself. Why am I worried about what Amanda is doing with Brooks? I’m happy, Mike’s happy - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“Are you sure this is okay?” Halley asked.
Mike took her hand and pulled her into the crowded bar. From the chatter, most of the crowd was Canadian. She was worried that someone would recognize Mike and make him feel awkward for not having made the team. His only concession was a black baseball cap pulled low on his head. They ordered beers and found a spot where they could see the Gold Medal game starting on no fewer than four TVs. Mike stood behind Halley, leaning her into his chest, and sipped his drink.
Jonathan Toews got a goal in the first period and the place went ballistic. Mike dipped his head a little, jiggling Halley around and laughing in her ear. She gave him an evil look. In the second, Corey Perry scored and got an even bigger cheer. They were three beers in and the smile on Mike’s tanned face was just shy of a shit-eating grin. He tried so hard to stifle it that he actually started coughing.
“Plenty of time left,” she threatened. And there was. Ryan Kesler brought the US within one and Halley yelled loudly enough to makeup for the lack of Americans in attendance.
“Uh oh, we got a Yank!” a guy near her joked. She bet him a round of beers they’d get a tying goal.
It wasn’t looking good through the third. As time slipped away and Ryan Miller stood on his head in the net, Mike’s grip on Halley got increasingly tighter. Of course he wanted the Canadians to win, but every second off the clock was like the tiny stab of a thorn in his side. Team Canada was within a minute of winning the Gold Medal. Then Parise struck.
Halley screamed so loud that Mike actually clapped a hand over her mouth. She wiggled free and continued freaking out. Everyone’s heart pounded in unison - you could almost hear a drumbeat over the commentators voices. The guys next to them made good on their bet and bought a round of beers.
In the brief intermission before overtime, Halley lifted onto her toes and kissed Mike on the lips. “If they had you, that never would have happened.”
Mike wrapped his arms around Halley’s waist and held her tight during the overtime. The whole place was balanced on a thin edge, people wringing their hands and gripping their drinks. They didn’t have to wait long: at 7:40, Sidney Crosby put one past Ryan Miller and made the dreams of an entire country come true.
An hour later, they escaped the bar still laughing. Halley had been playfully pelted with napkins and served free sympathy drinks while the Canadians celebrated their fairy tale ending. Mike had her by the hand and moved them toward the beach. It was hard to believe there were still sunbathers and swimmers who had just missed that epic event.
Mike swung Halley around and caught her up into a hug. “I am really, really glad that’s over.”
She give him a big, head-turning kiss. “Let’s go eat. I lost, so I’m buying.”
Everyone arrived back in Washington refreshed and focused. It was time to carry their pre-Olympic momentum into a playoff run. Brooks settled in next to Mike on a stationary bike in the gym.
“Good trip?” he asked.
“Dope,” Mike said. “Beautiful place, nothing to do. You?”
Brooks sported a little tan from his time in Key West. “We had the talk. The boyfriend girlfriend talk.”
“And she was pretty adamant. Amanda wants the title or she starts thinking about wanting out. It was kinda nice, actually, the all-or-nothing deal. None of this ‘if I say no she mopes around till I cave in’ stuff.”
“And?” Mike repeated.
“I said yes. Of course I said yes. She’s great. Plus, everyone else is shacked up and it’s no fun to be the lone wolf. Unless you’re Ovi.” They shared a laugh - no wingman in the world was a match for Ovechkin. “What about you? Gonna make an honest woman out of Halley?”
“I don’t know if she wants that. She never says anything, never pushes. Maybe she’s happy the way we are.” Maybe that’s why she didn’t say anything, not once, not in two weeks.
Mike wanted Brooks to say he was cray, obviously Halley loved him to the moon and back and he was just missing all the clues. Mike would rather be dumb than right. But Brooks just bobbed his head in agreement.
“Best of both worlds, man.”
“We are official!” Amanda announced as she sat down to lunch. Halley and Anya congratulated her. “It only took like four months of hints and shit. You’d think he was slow. I mean, a girl can only work so hard!”
Halley was happy for her friend, but really didn’t want to talk about this. “You did it!”
Amanda was all smiles. “I always get what I want.”
When will Mike know what he wants? Halley wondered.
It took a while for the Olympic euphoria to wear off the NHL - it could not have played better in a movie. Mike kept his head up and was genuinely happy for the guys who had gone; it wasn’t their fault he hadn’t been chosen. The Caps were still winning a lot and the pressure was starting to build. Just six weeks until the end of the season.
Mike was still waiting for Halley to state her case. Brooks and Nicky had been offhandedly chatting about the off-season, assuming it wouldn’t start until mid-June, and their plans included their girlfriends. Suddenly, Mike began to panic. A disastrous second round exit from the playoffs the year before had left him with a healthy fear of summer coming early and unexpectedly.
Summer. Anywhere from 3 to 5 months. He went home to Calgary, had a training regimen in place, relaxed and healed himself in preparation to do it all over again next season. But what about Halley?
Halley had a year-round job, her own apartment, her own life. He’d been a huge part of it, but he was not the main part. Halley was the star of her own show and Mike was starting to freak out about what his role for the summer would be.
She should come to Canada, he knew. But she wasn’t even officially his girlfriend. Why would she walk away from everything she’d worked hard to earn in DC for someone she didn’t even want to be exclusive with?
Every time he was with her, the conflict worsened. She was the same as always - it was great and it was terrible. He wanted to be with her , but every day that passed without her addressing about their future made him less sure they even had one.
The Caps were under a lot of pressure. The President’s Trophy race would come down to the wire and Mike wanted it so bad he could taste it. After that, the playoffs. He felt confident in the team and in his own game: they would go far. But his mind was wandering. A longer post-season meant more time with Halley, and more time before he’d know what the hell was going on.
Talk to her, he tried to convince himself. She laughed and smiled and kissed and whispered - Halley was Halley. His Halley. He should be able to talk to her about anything, especially to say he was falling in love with her. But the fear was stronger, the fear that even a little push would push her away.
Halley was not oblivious to the coming season. Summer would take Mike away and she had no idea if she’d be left behind. But he was so close, so far along in the pursuit of his hockey dreams that she was terrified to mess with anything. What if he bolted? What if he didn’t want to think about summer, or worse, didn’t plan to take her with him? Would she wait even 3 months for him to come back? Halley had been honest with Amanda - she wasn’t worried about Mike. But a 10 game road trip was different than a 100 day relocation.
Don’t mess this up for him, she told herself. Just be patient, be cool and be there for him. He needs you now. But every day that went by made the elephant in the room a little bigger.
Still he waited for her. And she waited for hockey, thinking she was waiting for him.
“Get your head out of your ass!” Coach Boudreau yelled from the bench. Mike felt Ovi’s stick make contact with his calf as the big forward skated by. His mind had wandered and he’d blown a drill. It was not the first time.
The night before, in the middle of hanging around doing nothing, Halley had said something that stopped his breath in his lungs.
“I can’t wait to see you this summer!” she said into the phone. He wasn’t sure who she was talking to, a girlfriend from college maybe. The remote nearly fell from his hand. “I know! We can go to that crab place and you can show me the gallery.” She went on talking, but Mike had gone deaf.
This summer. Halley has plans for this summer.
She went to sleep early. He sat on the couch in a mild state of panic. When he finally climbed into her bed, his body couldn’t do anything but hold her and his mind couldn’t stop turning.
“Greener! I will fucking bench you,” Coach was saying.
“Sorry Coach. Sorry.”
I will talk to her, he promised himself.
The Capitals lost three very close games in a row to close out the month of March. Only by the sheer force of will did Mike keep his growing concern in check. He had intended to finally just ask Halley what she wanted, but no time ever seemed right. There was never a moment where he would be able to handle hearing that she didn’t want him, wasn’t serious, didn’t think this was going anywhere.
Distantly, in some back corner of his mind, a little voice was probably saying that he was cray. A warning bell must have chimed that he was setting himself up for an epic fucking disaster. But he couldn’t hear it over the roar of the crowd and the silence about the summer.
Halley cheered. She stuck to Mike’s routines, tried to make sure everything was great and that he was happy all the time. A tiny part of her felt Mike pulling away, getting a little distant. But it was the height of the season and she just chalked that up to the game.
“Greener, your girlfriend’s waiting,” Erskine said coming back for something in his locker. The word ‘girlfriend’ made his stomach clench.
“Mike!” Halley said, throwing her arms around him. Her touch made him ache - she had become like Kryptonite. He wanted her so much, but it hurt increasingly to be near her. Mike tasted what he would miss, felt what he would lack all summer.
“Hey,” he responded slowly. Halley just hugged it out, kissing his cheek and consoling him on the overtime loss to Ottaway. Only 12 days left in the regular season.
Halley woke in the morning to find Mike gone. That was unusual, he wasn’t due at practice for another hour. Must have the jitters, she thought. She’s checked with Amanda and Anya - Brooks and Nicky were acting a little weird too, churning in the end-of-season storm.
“Hey, I missed you this morning,” she said when he called after lunch.
“Yeah sorry, I couldn’t sleep. I’m gonna stay at my place tonight. See if I can get a good night in. Big game tomorrow,” he said.
That was weird. Under normal circumstances, Halley would have questioned. But with just a handful of games between the Caps and the President’s Trophy, she wasn’t about to think she knew better than Mike.
“Okay, get some sleep. See you at the rink.”
Mike lay in his bed. He’d done the same that morning at her place, Halley breathing softly and trying to burrow into his side in her sleep. The Caps had lost three games in a row and it scared him to death. They weren’t blowouts, they were games that Washington should have won. Games of inches. The kind of games that get away from even the best teams, even in the playoffs, even if everyone thinks you should be winning.
If they weren’t winning, there was nothing. There was no reason for Halley to stay around because the summer would be a disaster. No reason for her to stay around because Mike’s team would be a laughingstock. No reason to stay around because she didn’t love him, not really, not the way he loved her. No wonder she hasn’t said anything.
There, in the dark, Mike felt like he finally knew the solution.
“Mike’s being really weird,” Halley said.
“I believe the scientific term is ‘scared shitless’,” Amanda offered. “Brooks is a fucking lunatic. Wakes up in the middle of the night saying ‘interference’ and ‘penalty box’. I think he’s actually losing it. Anya says Nicky is wearing the same socks every practice until they win the President’s Trophy. She makes him leave them on the porch.”
“Mike is a million miles away all of a sudden. He’s never been like this before. And he hasn’t said a word, like he doesn’t realize he’s changing.”
Amanda just shrugged like she wasn’t surprised. “Sound like he’s freaking out same as everybody else.”
3 years ago