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Authors: Whitney Boyd

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BOOK: Iced Romance
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No thanks, Emily. I don’t need a friend like you right now.

I glance at the next email. Please be something better, I whisper with my fingers crossed.

Crap. It’s from [email protected] The hockey man himself. Todd. I know I shouldn’t read it. I should just delete it. In fact, not only should I delete it, but I should also block his emails so I never get another one.

But part of me wants to see what he has to say.

I want to see the words
I’m sorry
written in ink on my screen. Especially since Emily’s email did nothing to boost my vulnerable spirits.

Ignoring my better judgment, I double click on the email. I hold my breath and shut my eyes. Slowly breathing out through my nose, I peek at the screen.

It’s short. Probably only a paragraph in total. Which is fine. People don’t have to talk forever in order to say they’re a jerk and were in the wrong. I’m sure he was very eloquent in his apology, just, you know, brief.

I open my eyes all the way. Okay, let’s see what he has to say.

Babe—tried to call you earlier but your phone was off. Doc says I got a concussion after the game last night. What an ass that guy was to hit me from behind like that. So I need you to cancel my appointment with the photographer from Nike. I want to hold off until the swelling in my nose goes down before I get more pictures taken. I’ll be home on Sat. Buy wine and a sexy little number from that girly place you like and we’ll have a party. T-dawg

Wait, what?

I read the email a second time. I feel almost numb in disbelief. Okay, so he seriously didn’t even
mention
it? I mean, I know he’s selfish and arrogant, but to be this far out of the park is incredible. And he thinks I’m going to go buy some wine and lingerie as a welcome home gift for him? Yeah freaking right!

I read it a third time and have to restrain myself from throwing my laptop across the room.

Not even a “we’ll talk about it when I get home” or a “sorry about all this. I’ll explain everything.”

Does he seriously think he can just ignore this and it will all go away?

Not this time. He’s gone too far this time.

I feel a swell of emotion build up inside me. I debate between crying and shouting. Finally, I settle on letting out a low moan and curling up into a ball on the queen-sized bed. I bury my face in the covers and let the tears flow.

I must be running dry on liquid in my body though, because after a minute I realize I’m not crying anymore. My head aches and my eyes burn, but the tears have stopped. Maybe that’s a good sign? Or maybe it means I’m dead inside.

I roll onto my back and stare at the ceiling. This is enough moping. I’m going to show him. I’m going to show everyone.

I turn back to my laptop and type into a Google search: apartments in Kissimmee. I hit the search button and wait. I’ll show Todd. I’m not going to go crawling back to him. No way.

All right, what have we here? I pull up the first few entries and nibble on my fingernail while I scan the information.

The first listing is located by a state correctional facility. Hmm, although an inmate is a step up from Todd, I don’t want to aim that low in my dating prospects. Besides, isn’t there a danger of these men escaping? I’ve watched that movie
Fugitive
quite a few times, you know. And although Harrison Ford is innocent, I’m sure most people in real life are not.

I move on to the next one. Let’s see, this apartment seems okay. It does caution that anyone allergic to lead paint and cockroaches should keep their distance though. What the heck? Who says that in an advertisement to lure people in? And while I’m not allergic to lead paint or roaches (that I know of), this doesn’t seem like the best omen. Do I really want to start my new life in an apartment where cockroaches are a selling feature?

All right, maybe not that one.

I click on the third and raise an eyebrow. Oh my gosh. It’s beautiful! And it has furniture included! It’s super cheap too! And—wait a minute. I read the small print at the bottom.
Estate sale. Federal investigation ongoing but available immediately.
Hold on. Doesn’t estate sale mean that someone
died
there? And if the FBI is investigating, that means it might be murder, right?

I can’t live there.

I open up the next one, feeling more and more discouraged. What happened to the flowers and cookies and beaming alligators of Kissimmee? Why are the only places listed here manky dung heaps with bugs and dead bodies?

I read the next one without much hope but then stop and read it again. Nothing in the listing jumps out at me as being a horrible place to live. It is ten minutes from the historic downtown area. It has one bedroom and one bathroom. Non-smoking, no pets, and available immediately.

I pick up the hotel phone on the night stand and dial the number listed for the realtor. After a couple rings, a perky woman answers the phone, and a few minutes later, I have it all arranged. I’ll see the place tomorrow at nine and if I like it, it’s mine. I can move in on the spot.

I lean back against the pillows as a smile spreads across my face.

So there, Todd. You’re going to get home on Saturday and I won’t be there in some black silk lingerie, holding two glasses of wine. I’m becoming my own person. Tomorrow I will have my own place. And soon you will just be a distant memory, you swamp donkey.

I reach into my suitcase to look for a pajama top, but instead my fingers close over something a bit stiffer. I pull it out and see the familiar colors, the white, the blue. Ovechkin’s jersey. I feel a slight sense of perverse satisfaction as I gaze at it.

I can do anything I want with this.

While I hold the jersey in my lap, I flick the television on with the remote on my bedside table. I flip through a few channels looking for anything vaguely interesting. The grey haired man on
NCIS
appears on screen, looking serious. I hesitate a moment. Might as well see what’s going on with this episode.

“They did it again. Another body part has shown up in the mail.” The grey-haired man frowns; a woman bites her lip and shakes her head in fear. “What is the world coming to? What kind of animal would torture his victims this way?”

Ugh. I can’t handle a body part episode. Disgusting. I’m a vegetarian for a reason, thank you. I change the channel again and hear the familiar laugh track of
Friends.
Thank goodness. Something I can chill to.

I watch Joey and Chandler run around their apartment, chasing a duck, and my fingers begin playing with the hockey jersey fabric again.

Suddenly it hits me. Thank you,
NCIS.

I know exactly how to screw with Todd’s mind and what I need to do with this jersey. Best idea ever. It’s even better than the harassing crank calls I plan on making.

I snatch my purse off the floor and fish around inside until I feel the cold, hard rectangular Swiss Army knife I’ve had since my Girl Guide days. I flip it open. Without stopping to worry about the consequences, I grip the jersey tightly with my right hand and with my left, I plunge the knife deep into the jersey.

Fabric rips, the knife gets a little stuck and I remove it and stab again, this time pulling down. And the jersey begins to shred.

I keep stabbing, pulling and thrusting over and over again. Pieces of the jersey fall onto the bed beside me and I stab again and again.

This is for my broken heart, I think savagely, plunging the knife in. This is for the nights I waited for your phone call but you just happened to forget. This is for all the birthdays you’ve forgotten. And this is for not even saying you’re sorry in that email.

I stop. I am breathing hard, my chest rising and falling as I stare at the mess around me. The jersey lies in pieces. Some are bigger than others. Some are mere threads, torn and unrecognizable. I pick up one of the largest portions and note with glee that the signature of Ovechkin has been neatly sliced in half.

This is the perfect piece to send to Todd as soon as I find a post office. I gather the rest of the slips of fabric and tuck them securely into the zippered pocket of my suitcase.

Then with the
Friends
laugh track ringing in my ears, I burrow into my covers, trying to ignore the nagging guilt that has sprung up like a little Jiminy Cricket conscience. I shouldn’t have done this. I destroyed a sacred thing, at least, sacred to Todd. But he destroyed our relationship, another tiny, internal voice reminds me, which is definitely more sacred than the jersey, right?

I push the guilt away. Todd deserves this. No remorse. No looking back.

Chapter Six

As the taxi drives along the main highway, I sit gingerly in the back seat, holding onto my purse and trying to keep from sweating any more than I already have. My face is dripping wet, my neck feels clammy, and my shirt is stuck to the seat. I’m disgusting and it’s not even nine o’clock.

“Are you sure your air conditioning isn’t working?” I ask again, leaning forward toward the cab driver. “Like, not even a little bit? Because I really want to make a good impression on this realtor and if I show up there all sweaty and gross, she may take one look and walk away.”

My cab driver shakes his head and changes lanes, swerving around a couple in a convertible, her hair blowing in the wind, his arm casually thrown around her shoulders. I look away quickly, feeling a strange pain in my chest when I see their happiness. Stupid Todd.

“No, no
señorita
,” my cabbie says, looking over his shoulder at me. “No, the air is broke. Still broke. But soon I get fixed.”

The car is heading toward the ditch and I clench my hands into a fist in my lap. “Um, sir, please watch the road,” I say, biting my fingernails again.

The man winks at me and turns to face forward. He jerks the car a bit to the left, narrowly missing a pedestrian crossing sign.

“You looking for work?”

I don’t feel comfortable sharing my intimate details with a stranger, so I simply shrug. “Kind of.”

“No much for small talk, are you?”

I shrug again, desperately trying to think of anything to say that doesn’t have to do with me.

“So, where are you from originally?” I ask, wincing at how forced it sounds.

“Puerto Rico, born there and lived there my whole life. Then I move here with my family.”

“Cool.” I scramble to think of anything else to say and come up blank.

“What was the address again?”

Finally, a question I can answer. I pull out the piece of paper and read it off to him. He nods his head and signals to get off the parkway. I try to keep track of the turns, but soon am completely lost.

This is it, I think. This is my new stomping ground, as my dad always used to say. Soon I’ll know where everything is, I’ll have neighbors and co-workers and all that. I look at the houses and apartments we drive past. Will I be friends with people that live in these places? All kinds of secrets and excitement seem to lurk behind the closed doors and shuttered windows.

I draw in a breath, breathing through my mouth so I don’t have to smell my cab driver’s BO disguised with too much cheap cologne.

Some of the apartments we drive by look incredibly decrepit, I notice. A pool in the center of one apartment complex has a barbed wire fence surrounding it. As we continue driving, I feel more nervous. Street after street of tiny homes with long grass and unkempt flowers, broken fences and bars on their windows. It is strange, seeing the gorgeous palm trees and below them, the falling apart habitations.

“Are you sure we’re going in the right direction? I thought the place I’d be living would be more, um, well, middle class than this.”

The cabbie grins at me in the rear view mirror. “No problem,
señorita
. This is shortcut. We get to your place soon.”

What if the cabbie takes me into the most gang, drug-riddled neighborhood and then mugs me and I get raped and killed and end up a Jane Doe on some morgue table and nobody ever identifies me and—

I should not have come.

I am an idiot.

I wish I had a cell phone! Why did I leave mine in Colorado? I can’t even dial 9-1-1!

Suddenly he turns another corner and my heart leaps a bit in my chest. A beautiful lake, with sandy beaches along the sides, picnic tables, and volleyball nets is right in front of us. The houses lining the lake are a lot nicer, larger, without the bars in the windows, grass mowed. I see a couple little girls playing on a front lawn, two mothers pushing strollers are jogging on the road, both tanned and toned and sweaty.

Maybe Kissimmee won’t be that bad after all.

And as we drive further, things continue looking more positive. I spy a couple gated mansions off across a field, and even the non-gated communities seem quite nice. We turn another corner and I see a sign saying
Welcome to Historic Downtown Kissimmee!
There are a ton of shops and restaurants, the delicious-sounding cookie place I had read about in the brochure, and flowers in pots on windowsills.

Another few minutes and the cabbie pulls over in front of an apartment complex. It’s big, made of brown stones, and has a cute, red tile roof. It’s only two levels and all the doors face outside. There is a small lawn and flowers line the walkway.

It looks nice. Not super rich, not super poor. No drug wars here, I think happily.

“This is it?” I ask, leaning forward with some bills in hand.

“This is it,” he confirms.

I pass him forty dollars and tell him to keep the change. I smile nervously at him, thank him for the ride, and climb out.

He pops the trunk and comes around to help me get my bags out. When both suitcases are standing on the sidewalk beside me, he waves, wipes his shining forehead with his sleeve, and climbs back into the sweltering cab.

I am supposed to meet the realtor at apartment 114. I squint through the sunlight to the closest apartment number. It’s 101, so mine mustn’t be too far away. I wheel my luggage up the sidewalk and soon am standing outside apartment 114.

BOOK: Iced Romance
4.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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