“I’ll text her for you,” he said, and brought the phone up to his face.
I almost agreed to that until I remembered the last text Ada had sent me, about an hour ago. It said, “Are you guys humping like bunnies yet?”
Horror filled me with a jolt and I lunged for the phone while a “Nooooooo!” escaped from my mouth. I nearly knocked Dex backwards. He looked pretty shocked at my outburst and quickly tossed the phone back at me.
“OK, OK. No need to go apeshit here. Save that for the game.”
I quickly stuffed the phone into my jean pocket for added security.
“Just promise that you’ll just use your phone for texting and to stay in touch with your family.”
“Why do you care?” I asked, grabbing my purse and coat.
“I just do,” was his answer. I could tell he wanted to say more but he kept his mouth shut this time, for whatever reason.
Soon we were out on the streets and heading towards the game. It was a bit darker here than it was in Portland and people were out and about, milling on the streets, a mix of early–bird party brats, homeless people and all–around weirdos. It reminded me a lot of home.
The hockey games were housed at a large arena downtown and judging by the number of people in blue jerseys as we got closer, it was the place to be tonight. Without knowing much about the game or the team, I could see that hockey fever in this town was a very contagious and highly flamboyant disease. By the time we reached the steps that led us up into the building, I couldn’t help but feel as excited as everyone else seemed to be.
We made our way up to the level where our seats were (I got a few random high fives from overzealous drunk boys) and Dex immediately made a beeline for the concession stand, where he was hell bent on getting us beers.
“As long as you’re buying,” I said, eyeing the prices. Eight bucks for a beer seemed like highway robbery but I figured it was all part of the experience. And since he was paying, I wasn’t arguing. Dex and I never really got drunk around each other, so it was nice to actually just be real people and have a fun Friday night instead of worrying about ghosts showing up to spoil the show.
Dex handed me my beers – yeah, we got two each, stocking up you know – and walked up through the entrance until we were overlooking the arena.
He said he had gotten the tickets from his boss, Jimmy Kwan. Or should I say, our boss Jimmy Kwan. I’d only met Jimmy the one time when Dex was trying to sell him on the show and I hated him immediately, thanks to his terribly rude personality. He pretty much called me fat and ugly and laughed me out of the office. Well, I might be exaggerating but it was enough to reduce me to tears. But Jimmy also had a million connections and apparently hockey tickets were one of those perks. I probably shouldn’t complain too much about the guy who is paying my meager hourly wage but, hey.
The seats were in the nosebleed section of the arena but luckily from the way the place was laid out, it seemed even the cheap seats got a pretty awesome view of the hockey rink. The seats were also on the aisle, which meant we didn’t have to squeeze past the fans with our overflowing cups of beer in hand.
The tension and excitement in the air was thick and kinetic. The arena smelt like a mixture of ice, chemically cheesed nachos, and stale beer. The people around us were shit–talking the Rangers, which took precedence over the terrible anthem music blaring from the speakers.
“Good thing you’re not a Rangers fan tonight,” I told Dex as he flipped through the game leaflet some kids at the door were handing out.
He shook his head and placed the leaflet in my free hand. “You should probably read up on this, get to know the roster.” He jabbed it with his finger.
I eyed it briefly. “Are you sure you weren’t a teacher in another life?”
He laughed at that. It was nice to see it reach his eyes.
“We would all be doomed.”
I shrugged. “We pretty much already are.”
“Kiddo, I’m afraid you’re the only person who actually listens to me,” he said, peeling the lid off of his beer cup. I knew that wasn’t true. Jimmy seemed to cave into whatever Dex asked of him, and my own parents were somehow shown the light within minutes of meeting him.
“And you barely listen to me at that,” he added. “Not that I blame you.”
“I’m listening now,” I said, leaning in closer to him. We were already quite cozy in our seats and I couldn’t help but want to make it cozier. He brought his eyes to mine and let them slide lazily down my face. “Tell me something,” I said with a soft voice.
He grinned with a boy–like awkwardness that I rarely saw on him. “Yes, m’am.”
And then he proceeded to explain the entire game to me, from what “icing” and “offside” meant, to who did what on the team, who were the best players and what constituted a penalty. If I were a hockey player, I know I’d be in the penalty box for most of the game. I’d wanna just hip–check the fuck out of everyone.
By the time we were at the intermission before the third period, I was heavily buzzed on four beers and trash–talking the Rangers with the couple next to me.
Dex was beside me being strangely silent. Not that he didn’t lapse into his quiet spells from time to time but considering how enthusiastic he was (and damn loud) every time the Canucks scored, almost scored or made a save, it was a bit strange. When I wasn’t talking to Jim and Trudy (the couple who were next to me) I was stealing glances at him. He was engrossed in his phone and from the way he was chewing on his lip instead of drinking beer, I knew it wasn’t something good. I also knew enough to leave him alone.
I took my attention off of him and looked around at the large crowd. People seemed as lubricated as I was and the atmosphere was infectious.
“How are you liking the game so far?” Jim asked kindly, trying to keep me engaged while Dex was in texting land. He was an amiable looking man in his late 50s, with a shock of white hair and a leather jacket with the Canucks logo on it. He had been coming to games for almost as long as there had been a team.
“I think I’m hooked,” I admitted. “It’s fast, it’s fun and aggressive. Almost makes me want to take up the game myself just so I can beat the crap out of some people and not get in trouble.”
He laughed. “The small ones are the most dangerous. If you play against your friend here, I’d advise him to wear protection.”
I giggled and looked at Dex. He had been telling me earlier that he used to play hockey when he was growing up in New York, and I had a sudden fantasy of tackling him while he was in full uniform. He’d look very sexy.
Dex finally realized that we had been talking about him and looked up from his phone with a sheepish look. What a hypocrite. Even though it was constantly gnawing at the back of my head, this itch that people somewhere out there were talking about me, I hadn’t looked at my phone once this whole game.
“Sorry,” he apologized, putting the phone back in his pocket and eyed Jim. “Are you trying to convince her to play hockey against me?”
“She obviously has a lot of aggression to get out,” said Jim good–naturedly. “I’d be careful with her.”
Dex smirked at me. “Oh, I am. She’d show no mercy against me. She’s a tiny tiger.”
Our eyes locked. A wave of tingles rushed through me. My head felt weighted with the beer and it seemed like there was more than face value to what Dex was saying. Then again, it always felt that way. With us sitting so close to each other it was taking a lot of strength to blot away the impulse to straddle him right there and show him how aggressive I really was.
“Hey!” Jim exclaimed loudly, tapping me hard on the shoulder. It snapped me out of my mini daydream with a jump. He was gesturing up at the screen above the rink. The “Kiss Kam” was on (you know, when they film couples in the crowd and try and convince them to kiss for the cameras) – and it was on us. Us.
There was Dex and I, our big, stupid faces splashed across the massive screen in high definition for the entire arena to see, with hearts drawn around us and a gum logo. I knew what people were expecting. Everyone – and I mean everyone – was looking at us. I suddenly wished the two seats in front of us were occupied so I could hide behind them.
In what felt like slow motion, my head turned to Dex. He was grinning at me, borderline sleazy. He lifted up his arm and put it around me. He took his other hand and touched my chin with his long fingers, tilting my face towards him.
This was happening. He was going to kiss me. In front of thousands of people.
Despite the mix of surprise and anxiousness flooding through me, I coaxed my wide eyes shut, parted my lips, leaned forward and…
He licked my face – from my chin, over my lips and nose, in between the eyes and ending at my forehead. I grimaced automatically, pulling back from the sloppy wet trail of spit he just left. My eyes flashed open to see him laughing like a 12-year old, while everyone else around us joined in too. I don’t know why I thought for one second that Dex would have taken something like a Kiss Kam seriously. I couldn’t have felt stupider.
But to show I was a good sport, I sucked it up and made an even more disgusted face for comic relief. I eyed the screen and luckily it just flashed on to another couple. To satisfy the giggles of the people around us, I took my hand and smacked Dex squarely in the forehead.
“Thanks a lot, you doofus,” I said, rolling my eyes and trying not to sound as embarrassed as I felt. Oh, but he knew. He always knew. That’s why he did it. That jerk.
Jim leaned over me to Dex and said, “You should sleep with one eye open tonight, sonny.”
Dex nodded at him and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. His eyes were devilish, enjoying himself immensely. I had the urge to smack him in the head again.
He took his arm off of me and leaned in closer. “Sorry, kiddo,” he whispered in my ear.
I glared at him, hissing, “Would it have killed you to kiss me like a normal person?”
He smiled quickly. “Maybe if it was on a dare…”
I rolled my eyes again and sat up straight in my seat. I was relieved to see that the game was resuming in a few minutes, anything to save me from the awkwardness. On a dare? Or how about if we were about to die? Were those the only two reasons he had? That thought tugged at my heart a little bit, making me feel foolish all over again. I loathed this stupid school girl crush of mine.
He was watching me. I could see that out of the corner of my eye. I wanted him to get out of my head and go back to texting Jenn or whoever the hell he was so wrapped up in minutes earlier.
The players came out on the ice and all the attention was diverted their way. I needed to get wrapped up in the game again. And I did. I finished my beer, started cheering for a fight and slowly forgot about what had happened.
I didn’t say much to Dex, either, and kept my questions directed to Jim instead. He was in the middle of explaining how even though some seats in the arena were empty (such as the ones below Dex and I) that Canucks games had sold out consecutively for many years, when Dex’s phone went off. He snatched it out of his pocket and put it up to his ear.