Authors: Whitney Boyd
It’s three o’clock in the morning, two days later, and I am dripping wet, standing in a towel and staring at myself in the mirror. I am due at the airport in two hours for the six o’clock flight to Orlando, but that’s the last thing on my mind right now.
I don’t like the girl staring back at me. I don’t like what I see.
My eyes are red and puffy from crying. My bland, brown hair looks almost black with the wetness from the shower. It clings to my head, dripping icy drops of water down my neck. I shudder and grab a second towel from the rack, wrapping it turban style around my hair.
I’m not a model. I know that. I’ve never been the hottest or the sexiest or anything. I’m the girl next door, the one with the sprinkling of freckles on her nose, the one with the boring brown hair and eyes, the type of girl that people confide in, the type who is everyone’s best friend.
And typically I don’t care that I’m not the hot, blonde Playboy chick. But right this instant? I do care. All because of that stupid dream.
I was walking in the door of a changing room, underneath the hockey arena in some unknown city. I distinctly remember the sweaty smell of the locker room, a smell that was soothing for me even in dream form. I was looking for him—he was supposed to meet me there. But I waited and waited, and he didn’t come. I panicked. Where was he? And then I saw him, in full hockey gear, stepping out onto the ice. People cheered and threw roses and teddy bears onto the rink. He threw back his head, laughing, so sure of himself. He looked handsome. Perfect.
The next thing I knew, I ran toward him, happy to see him. And then he turned and I threw my arms around him.
“Todd!” I had shouted and tilted my head up for a kiss and he frowned.
“Do I know you?” he asked. And he turned away and waved again at all the fans screaming his name. I kept groping for him, as he got farther and farther away.
I woke up crying, reaching out across the pillows and covers to his empty side of the bed.
I frown at myself in the mirror. No, I’m not a model. I’m not the blonde, beautiful girl with a perfect smile and a massive chest. I don’t know what he saw in me to begin with, to be honest. He could have chosen anyone.
But the thing is, he chose
. For whatever unknown reason, he picked me. Of course, that was back then. Back before he became a household name, before he started making his million dollar paychecks and getting massive endorsement deals. Back when he came into the night club in Boston on a Friday night as a hopeful hockey player, trying to make the cut, and saw me hanging out with a girl in my English Lit class.
Our eyes met from across the crowded room, and with music pumping loudly around us, he came over and introduced himself. The rest gets blurred from there.
Things happened so quickly. We started going out, and a month later he signed on to the Edmonton Oilers as a defensive player. He announced one night that he was moving to Canada and asked on the spur of the moment if I’d come with him. I agreed. I was so in love with him and with the idea of dating an NHL player it didn’t matter that I still had a semester left before I graduated. Who cared about that?
Besides, senior year at university was a lot more difficult than I had pictured it. Plus, with my parents gone and the trust fund they’d set up for me almost depleted, the idea of running away from it all was brilliant.
And our lives became so happy. Sure, he was gone a lot. Sure, I lived in freezing cold Canada. But things were good. For the first time in my life, I had someone who cared about me. When we were together, details like the weather and his travelling didn’t matter. After a year, he got traded to San Jose, and from there we went to Denver. His paychecks got bigger and bigger and more and more companies wanted him to be the face for their brand.
More and more women threw themselves at him.
What happened last week wasn’t the first time there were allegations of cheating and affairs. Not by a long shot. Among many other indiscretions, there was that picture of him and a bimbo in a club that was plastered all over the San Francisco paper when he was there alone a couple years ago. And that one time I phoned his hotel room when he was on the road and a woman answered.
But Todd had an answer for everything. The woman in the club? His cousin. Why she was kissing his lips? He’d slipped when she gave him a hug and someone had taken a picture right at that moment. The lady who answered the phone in the hotel? A maid who happened to be walking by and heard the phone ring, who got flustered and hung up when I asked for him.
I grab my mascara and apply it liberally to my tired eyes. Come on, shape up. Stop thinking about Todd, I command myself.
But wait, a small voice in my head calls out. What if I am making a huge mistake by running away? Maybe I should stay. Todd will be back in a few days bringing flowers and chocolates. He won’t have bought them, definitely not. But he’ll have them. He’ll hug me and kiss me and tell me he was wrong and he is sorry and he won’t ever do it again.
The tabloids will calm down in a few weeks and things can get back to our version of normal.
Normalcy is what I crave, but not the “normal” life I’ve been living.
I angrily shove the mascara brush back into the tube and snatch at my lipstick tubes. Do I want to go back to waiting by the phone, hoping he will call? The sleepless nights when he doesn’t come home? The embarrassment of facing his teammates and their wives and girlfriends when I know that they know he’s cheating?
Seriously, what is my problem? It’s as if I like to punish myself.
I choose a bright red shade of lipstick and apply it to my lips, blotting off the excess color with a Kleenex.
I can’t believe I am even considering staying.
I’m done with this.
Forty-five minutes later I have dried my hair and finished getting myself presentable. I’m wearing my Givenchy pants, a black shirt from Tod’s Collection with gorgeous silver threadwork on the front, and my red high heels to match my lipstick. My hair is dry and wavy, pulled back into a silver clip. I feel okay. I’m still not a model, but I’m okay.
I stand awkwardly in the living room. My two suitcases are packed with all the designer clothes I could fit, my jewelry (sans my engagement ring that I’d cashed in at the jewelers), four pairs of shoes, make-up, and the blanket my Nanny knit for me years back. I called a cab twenty minutes ago and it should be here shortly. This is it.
I reach into my wallet and take out my various cards. Credit card, debit card, and check book go onto the coffee table along with the apartment key and my cell phone. I don’t want Todd to track me down easily, nor do I want anyone from my old life to get in touch with me. I’ve already cleaned out my half of the accounts. The bank note for eighty thousand dollars is folded and carefully placed in my purse between my eyeliner and a tampon. And the fifty thousand dollars in cash from the jeweler’s is in an envelope, hidden in the toe of one of my shoes in my suitcase.
I’m leaving. I am either a genius or an idiot. I haven’t decided yet.
I peer out the penthouse window, down onto the black street below. No sign of the cab yet. I feel edgy. I want to scream, to trash the apartment and unplug the fridge and do all kinds of damage. I want to leave Todd a nasty note, telling him that I’m gone forever. But I’m not the type of person to kick walls in and break mirrors.
I reach into my purse to make sure the bank note is still there. It is. Good. I root around with my fingers, feeling for the pack of gum I threw in a few days back. I pull out a piece and tear off the wrapper, tossing it on the floor.
Yeah, that’s right, I just littered. I’m a tough girl now. I should go out and get a tattoo and a motorbike.
I stare at the wrapper on the floor and with a sigh I bend over and pick it up. It’s only the cleaning woman I’m annoying if I leave that there. Todd wouldn’t notice.
I cross the room, drop the wrapper in the garbage bin under the sink, and sigh heavily. So much for getting back at Todd. I really want to do something to him though, to hurt him the way he’s hurt me.
I wander back into the bedroom. I can hardly believe this will be my last time here. This has been home. It’s been my refuge from the tabloids. I have so many memories here, so many good times.
My eyes take in everything, from the dainty African violets on the window sill that the cleaning lady waters, to the framed and autographed Alexander Ovechkin jersey that Todd’s had since his twenty-first birthday, his most cherished possession. I’ve always found that odd. Ovechkin is an incredibly talented guy, but he’s on the Washington Capitals, a rival team. However, Todd loves this jersey. I’ve even seen him kiss the frame for good luck before he starts an away-game stint.
Wait a minute. I stare at the jersey, my hands beginning to shake a little.
What if I took it with me? It’s not stealing. This is my apartment too, after all. Lots of times in breakups people end up with stuff that wasn’t theirs in the beginning. It’s been five years. How would I be able to remember that the jersey belonged to Todd and not to me?
I sneak a guilty glance over my shoulder, half expecting to see Todd come striding in the door, his blonde hair tousled from a team practice.
I am alone with my conscience.
With an uncharacteristic burst of boldness, I climb onto a chair and carefully lift the frame down. With trembling hands, I crack it open and remove the jersey. It is stiff to the touch after having been behind glass for all these years. I carry it to one of my suitcases, open the zipper, and before I lose my nerve, shove it in. I sit on the suitcase to close it again and pull the zipper shut with a flourish.
I wish I could see his face when he walks into the condo on Saturday night and realizes that his jersey and I are both gone. I wonder which one of us he will miss more.
I take another glance out the window. A pair of headlights is idling next to the building, the only lights down there except for a streetlamp. That must be the cab. I guess this is it.
“See you, condo,” I say as I grab my suitcases and head out the door. In a final act of defiance, I leave the door unlocked.
All right, Florida, here I come.
The airplane is silent and gloomy. My ears have stopped popping, thanks to the full package of spearmint gum I consumed. Most of the passengers around me have put their seats into reclining position to sleep; some snoring, and others tossing and fidgeting. Coming down the aisle, the flight attendant pushes a tray of drinks and those overly salty bags of peanuts.
I shift uncomfortably in my seat. I try to see past the woman sitting next to me, but she’s shut the blinds on the window and I can’t see anything.
Air travel is not much fun when you feel hung over. And I didn’t even drink anything! I guess the long nights spent crying into my pillow finally caught up to me.
The woman beside me moans softly and stretches her arms. “Ugh, are we there yet?”
I smile, the expression on her face matching closely to what I am feeling. “No, probably an hour left. But we get more orange juice.” I motion with my head to the flight attendant and her push cart.
“An hour? I can handle that.”
The woman reaches into the pocket in front of her and pulls out the latest copy of
magazine. Sandra Bullock beams from the front cover and the headline reads, “Has Sandra found a new man? Details of her secret engagement inside!”
“Is Sandra Bullock actually getting married?” I’m mildly curious, but mostly I want to talk to someone.
The woman smiles knowingly and leans back in her seat, turning to face me full on. “Oh yes, the article even talks about her wedding dress. Vera Wang, from what the sources are saying.”
I was going to have a Vera Wang dress. I examine my acrylic nails in an attempt to not think about the gorgeous dress I had picked out months ago. Wow, my nails are starting to chip. I make a mental note that I need to buy some new nail polish when I get to Orlando. “Vera Wang dresses are lovely. Who’s the lucky guy?”
The reply is instantaneous. “George Clooney, but everything is hush-hush right now. Nobody is supposed to know. And of course, their publicists are denying it, but what else
they say?” The woman is glowing now, talking about these people in such familiar tones.
“Poor Sandra.” I roll my eyes and lean out into the aisle to see how much longer until the flight attendant gets to us. I want that orange juice! “She should just keep her little adopted child and move onto an island somewhere. Escape before she gets locked into something she’ll probably regret.”
I sound a little bitter. I’ll have to tone down my hatred of men.
“What in the world do you mean?” The woman sounds affronted that I am not thrilled for the happy couple.
“I’m just saying if that article is true, good luck having the marriage work out. George Clooney is such a stud, no way is he going to be faithful.”
Okay, so I may be a bit biased and resentful. But still, don’t all celebrities cheat? Hockey players sure do.
She sniffs. “Of course he’ll be faithful. He’s not some Todd Marusiak. He’s better than that.”
Amazing that Todd’s name has already become synonymous with dirty cheater.
Time to change the subject. “Sure, you’re probably right. So what’s in Florida for you? Just a vacation or do you live there?”
The woman seems to be on a roll now, and leans toward me conspiratorially, brushing off my questions with a little wave of her hand. “Have you heard about Todd Marusiak? Believe me, that poor fiancée of his should dump him. All those hot shot sports stars, thinking they’re all that. Have you seen pictures of his fiancée? She seems like a real nice girl, you know. It just breaks my heart that she’s stuck with him acting like that.”
I feel a little glow inside my chest. She thinks I’m a nice girl! I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying thank you.
“Yeah, it’s a messed up situation. But I’m sure his fiancée will be okay. She’s tough and can move on.” The words sound hollow, even to me.
The woman shakes her head and flips through the magazine. She stops at a page around the middle and holds it up to me. The strangest sense of disconcertion floods over me. I am staring at myself. I’m not a celebrity, not like Todd. I’ve only been in magazines a couple times, always hanging onto his arm and looking like I don’t belong in those glossy pages. I’m not used to this whole being noticed thing, and I feel a twinge of fear. What if I’m recognized? I want to hide out, lay low. Feeling like a quasi-celebrity isn’t in my game plan.