A Change In Weather
The forecast was just as optimistic as I was. Mist had settled in exchange for the earlier drizzle. I wore my knitted dress as I had planned since Ric hinted to keep this whole day free. The leggings, unsurprisingly, were a good call since my stubbornness wanted nothing to do with changing outfits. I walked out of my house and embraced the minty atmosphere. My vital signs were steady from underneath my knitted cap to the soles of my boots. Both my hands were inside the pockets of my wool coat and J.Crew delivered its promise of double-cloth warmth. I was excited more than anything. The sun was just starting to peek and I couldn’t imagine a better way to start a weekend.
I was blowing apparent steam out of every exhale I took. Beyond the cloud I see this gorgeous car parked out front. Ric stepped out of the vehicle and looked his usual self – cardigan, shirt, jeans, and weathered boots. His wardrobe matched his car and the two things coincided perfectly. I had immediately forgotten what his bike had looked like. The more I approached him the more he smiled and I was certain my reaction was doubled. I wanted to run to him but instead I did the opposite; I slowed down and took narrower steps. His eyes never left me and mine never left his lips as he whispered, “Hi.”
I greeted him, “Good morning.” During which I tiptoed for a kiss on the cheek and complimented him, “Nice car.”
Without skipping a beat, he added, “Beautiful passenger.”
He always had the last say.
I followed Ric around his car to my side while I admired it. The water droplets that were currently residing, some trickling down the side, only gave it a better effect on the metallic brownish grey paint. I was curious of what make it was as I took the opportunity to check while we passed the rear. My fingers glided smoothly on the watered four rings and read the model: A6 S-Line. He opened my door and made sure my coat didn’t get wet as I entered. I snuggled in comfortably on the leather seat; my eyes were drawn to the detailed interior. It wasn’t silent, it was sound.
I immediately thought he was very much out of my league. He was beyond my years. His intellectual capacity had been overtaken by wisdom while I’m still trying to grasp mine. He practiced and taught what he preached. He’s well off earning more in a month than I do in a year. What was I doing there? This notion began to irritate me just when Ric jumped in and started the engine.
“Are you ready?” He genuinely asked.
“Mm-hmm.” I composed myself in an obvious manner.
He must’ve noticed my deep thought and before we departed, Ric reached across the middle console and turned my hands over so to study the lines of my palms with his index finger. I stared at him while he gradually held my hand for the first time. I squeezed it to confirm I was alright. All irritant thought was definitely out the window.
I didn’t know what he had planned nor did I expect anything big. It was seven-thirty in the morning and my mind had been grinded enough for the earlier thought. I was just grateful for this chance to be proving him wrong and that being together wasn’t such a bad idea. We detoured to grab coffee and Ric had asked me to stay in the car. I assumed he knew the order already, as well, his extra four shots of espresso. I observed through the window of his movement and it seemed as though we’re in a hurry.
“Are we late for something?” I asked in concern while he handed both cups.
“Sort of, but I think you’ll be better off with your Macchiato during this time.”
“Hmm. Drive away then.”
“No problem.” He smiled as to thank me.
He proceeded on to the road while I took a sip of my coffee. Living in the same city was a benefit. The closer we were to our destination the more I realized where we were headed. We entered Riverport, an entertainment complex at the edge of the city, and parked right by the ice rink.
“Let’s go.” His enthusiasm was contagious.
“Ric, wait.” I hesitated a bit. I withheld my question and changed my reaction, “How do I look?”
He opened the trunk and took out a hockey duffle bag and a couple sticks. I followed him inside and he told me to take a seat of my liking. I told him to not worry about me and do what he needed to do. I found a spot where parents had nestled in. The crowd was in a few clusters as to find out who knew who. I decided to avoid segregation and smiled at the friendly faces. They didn’t seem to pay attention as I took a higher ground on the bleachers where I could see the open ice without the interference of the fiber glass.
“First game?” A woman of good age sat right beside me and didn’t mind to trespass my personal space.
I somewhat didn’t mind either. She looked friendly and I thought if Ric would see me chatting with someone that he really didn’t need to be worried. I replied honestly, “Yes.”
“Well it doesn’t seem so. You picked a good spot and you have coffee to wake you up. Trust me, it does get boring. Even as a parent I find myself yawning at times.”
I smiled politely but was very confused. I probably looked the part but just then the announcer started to speak and players started to spring out of their designated locker rooms. It was a little league game. The two coaches started to appear at the end of the rosters and Ric was one of them. I felt my heart drop as I held on to my chest. It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.
“Rachel, by the way.” She introduced herself as if it was on cue and pointed down to the bench, “That’s my man.”
“Oh.” I felt a lot colder. Ideas and emotions exploded in my frontal lobe: Have I wedged myself in between a family? Why did Ric put me in this spot? I managed to utter my name and shook her hand, “Paula.”
“Oh.” That was all that was left to say. I froze.
She might’ve noticed my awkward response and she corrected herself right away, “Well, I didn’t exactly know your name. I know you’re here with Ric. And his nephew is the little guy sitting right in front of him; my son.”
Weight was lifted off my shoulders instantly. I took a quick hard drink of the coffee and felt my throat burn. I had to say something, “He’s so cute. How old?”
“He’s six. He’s a handful. And cute as well.” She giggled.
The game had started and Rachel paid more attention to her son’s progress. In my own way, I cunningly studied her features. I could almost see the resemblance and the good looks purely ran in the bloodline. Underneath the turtleneck, it was obvious she was athletic. She must’ve played hockey when she was younger and probably still indulged in the sport now that her son had showed interest.
The game was, new to my knowledge, shortened for this age group for better quality and results. Ric casually looked up at our seats. He smiled at the fact that his sister hasn’t found me repulsive. I enjoyed the fact that he trusted me not to be. He gestured to the scoreboard and made a sad face to indicate they were the losing team. I wanted to laugh but kept it to myself. I smiled bigger and shrugged my shoulders to show support.
“He’s happy.” She spoke in a judgemental way.
I looked at her and straightened my posture. I was now aware of her role in this meet. She obliged herself to get to know me. She had every right to be. I found it very endearing and it was good to know Ric a little more as well.
“I think so too.” There was nothing to disagree about.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen him like this.” She took a deep sigh as if finally accepting good fate, “You think you could keep it like this?”
She had put a heavy responsibility on me and I had no answer either. My best reply was, “I would love to try.”
Rachel smiled and seemed contented with that. She stood up and asked me to accompany her in braving the stench in the locker room. Everyone was talking to one another once we’ve reached inside; parents to children, players to players, coaches to parents. The score generally didn’t matter.
“Sam, this is Paula.” Rachel introduced me to her son while she helped him get changed. He shyly responded, “Hi.”
“HI.” I smiled in awe. He was handsome. The bloodline line was dominantly strong.
“I see you’ve met my sister and my star player.” Ric had come from behind and messed with his nephew’s hair.
“I scored one goal.” Sam pointed out with disappointment.
Ric rolled his eyes and smiled, “You were the only goal!”
“Your uncle’s right.” I tried to sneak in my own encouragement.
“I guess so.” Sam finally agreed. Rachel looked back and showed appreciation to our attempt.
Almost everyone had emptied out into the parking lot while the arena prepared for the next scheduled session. Ric said goodbye to most of his players’ family while I said mine to Rachel. He then talked to her for a brief moment while I personally waved goodbye to Sam from where I stood at the entrance.
“We have an hour.” He mentioned before taking my hand to follow him.
“Hour of what?”
We moved about back to the rink where we came from. The Zamboni had just finished resurfacing the ice. Ric ran back to the locker room and came out with the same equipment he had brought out earlier in the morning. He took my hand again to bring me to the skate shop. He could lead me anywhere if he wanted.
“What can I do you for, Mr. Gardner?” An employee had asked as if to speak to an authority.
“Hey Dave, Dave – Paula, Paula – Dave.” A quick introduction, “Your best pair, please.”
“Six and a half.” I didn’t know why I was embarrassed to say it.
I did receive a very decent pair of skates and it fit snugged enough. We both readied by the rink gate and I worked on my composure. I knew what he had planned up to this point and I was vulnerable.
“You have to teach me how to skate.”
“Are you kidding me?” I panicked like my head cut off.
He smiled and nodded in his success of dark humour. I forgave him immediately. I learnt to skate during the times of public skating during winter from years ago. I was forced; rather I forced myself to learn so that I could skate with someone I wanted to be with. My adolescent productivity had finally paid off. We both stepped on the ice and for the first time I felt our relationship had been solidified.
We had the rink all to ourselves and we played hockey. He lent me the other stick to show the fundamentals of puck handling and the game itself. I enjoyed learning as much as the physical involvement goes. He let me elude him at times and other times he would defend me for good measure. We later just skated around to relax and kill the time left in the hour given.
“Did you play as a kid?”
“Yes, but only until nineteen.”
“Were you any good?” I kidded to ease my own tension.
“Good enough.” He convinced himself, “I had a scholarship at University of Michigan.”
“How come you didn’t take it?”
“Who said I didn’t take it?” He looked at me as if he was about say a smarter remark, “I studied Psychology while doing that.”
We both knew what the result was. We skated a bit more, this time he started to fill in the silence that lingered in the open space. He thoroughly hummed every note of ‘Just the Way You Look Tonight’. Who doesn’t know a classic Sinatra? He smiled with confidence to rest assure that was my best option for music. I bit my lower lip to hold my laughter. I was in wonderment in what had transpired.
The hour had passed and Ric was just packing the equipment back in the trunk. I took the opportunity, while alone, to promptly fix myself inside the car before he entered. I hoped he didn’t notice the abrupt movement. He turned the engine and gestured for my confirmation to leave. I smiled instead.
We went on the highway heading north to Vancouver for whatever else he had planned. I pulled my vision from outside the window and looked at my left hand being carefully held by his right.