The New Season: Joie's Story
by Kim (KP) Pritekel



Disclaimers: Though these lovely ladies may resemble women you know that belong to RenPics, well, they're not, so ha! These two belong to me.

Subtext: Yeah, it's in there, so if you don't remember Parachute pants, Richard Marx, or Laser Tag and big bangs, then your childhood probably consisted of a partially shaved head, rap, and cell phones, and you're probably not old enough to be here. So out with you!!!!

Language: Yeah, there is some, but probably nothing your grandmother hasn't heard.

Note: This story is kind of sort of a sequel to The New Season, but not really 'cause it's the exact same story, just from the perspective of Joie. This is her side of the story, if you will. Reading The New Season I'd say is a must before you read this one.

Note #2: This is a work of fiction, and I have no idea if Washington State University, or that of Minnesota have a girl's hockey team. If they don't, well in my world they do. If they do, well in my world they're different. So please don't email me telling me that I have the wrong mascots, or anything. Just pretend. : )


If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at:


I slammed the door of my truck shut as I stuck the key in the ignition, staring out the windshield at the post office, the business sized envelope in my hand. I glanced down at it, its white plainness almost a mockery to me. With a sigh I slid my fingers under the corner of the flap, and ripped the sucker open. Just as always. A check for two thousand dollars for me, and then another already made out to the University of Washington for next semester. To my surprise there was also a letter. I tossed the checks on the seat next to my Oakley's, and unfolded the piece of my father's office stationary.



I talked to Dean Walker yesterday, and he tells me that your grades have been slipping all semester, and that you ended the semester with 3 B grades. That is unexceptable! He also mentioned your accomplishments on that hockey team you play on. You know full well that your job is to earn your degree with a respectable GPA, and not that athletic foolishness. I thought you would have learned that lesson from Thomas. You are not upholding your part of the bargain.


Your Father.

I balled the neatly typed letter up, and threw it out the window.

"Asshole." I muttered as I started the engine.

As I drove I thought of my parents down in Florida, in their nice, big, two million dollar beach front house with its six bedrooms, and absolutely useless space that they filled with their priceless collection of sculptures, and art work. A family friend that still deemed me worthy enough to talk to, told me recently that my mother had managed to get her hands on a rare Picasso. Good for her.

I drove away from the drive-up window at my bank, my monthly stipend neatly in my account, and went in search of a good place for my daily run. I drove around for a bit, not sure where to go. I wanted to go somewhere different, see some different scenery for a change. My life had become so stagnant. I spotted a path that led behind one of the older neighborhoods, and decided to give it a try. Parking my truck in a make-shift dirt parking lot, I stretched my legs and arms, locked the truck, and headed out.

My mind began to wonder back to that pompous letter from my father. Now, just what part of the bargain am I not holding up, exactly? I live here in Washington state, as far from south Florida as you can possibly get and still be in the United States. I don't let the Peterson secret out of the bag that, oh my god! The daughter is gay. I mean, that would be such an awful thing, right. I take their money, never ask for more, and stay out of their country club, yacht owning, golf playing hair.

I shrugged my thoughts off as I ran, feeling like a child pouting. I liked my life, and had no room to complain. My grades were good, not great, but certainly not bad. I was able to get out on the ice and do what I loved best everyday, and actually got recognition for it. I smiled as I rounded a steep dip in the path. I thought of my brother, Tommy. He had played on the men's hockey team at UW, and I had been so proud of him. He had been older than me, and I had been his biggest fan, and he was mine. Until the accident, doing what he loved best. The doctor counted a total of thirteen cracks in his helmet. Thirteen. Bad number.

I cursed myself for not bringing any water, so I'd have to stop instead, and rest. Up ahead I spotted a bench with intricate designs carved into the cement legs and back. The path ran right in front of the bench, and on the other side was a small pond, probably man made, complete with a bunch of giant gold fish. It would do. I sat, and stretched my legs out, my arm running along the back of the seat. I leaned my head back. It felt so good to sit. My breathing was finally beginning to return to normal.

I stared into the murky water, watching as the fish swam on as if they weren't being watched at all. I looked up into the intense blue of the sky, enjoying its beauty before the rain clouds started later in the evening. I should have brought my journal. This would have been the perfect place to write.

I heard someone approaching, and I glanced up the path. A woman. She had long, dark hair pulled back in a tail, the end whipping back and forth as she ran. She was tall with long legs, well muscled, beautiful. She glanced at me as she passed. I looked up into her face, her features sharp, well defined, her sunglasses kept her eyes hidden. She was incredible. As she passed I glanced back to the fish, then watched her as she ran on. Hmm. She looked really familiar. Had we dated before? I drew my brows as I watched her backside. No. I think I would have remembered her.

With a shrug I stood and stretched my arms over my head, and bent at the waist, my chest grazing my thighs before I stood again, my body thrumming with the familiar feeling of active muscle, the blood pounding through my legs and arms with the stretch. I closed my eyes, and smiled, a sigh of contentment escaping my lips. I opened my eyes, and followed the path that the woman had just run.


I threw my keys on the table by the door as I entered my place, a large old Victorian split in two, top level and a bottom level. I rented the entire bottom level. I removed my sweaty black tank as I went, wondering around in just a sports bra and my shorts. I tossed the shirt on the counter, and opened my fridge, craving a Gatorade. I downed half the twenty ounce bottle in one gulp. Breathing hard, I glanced out the double sliding glass door that led to the backyard, the cold bottle against my forehead. As much as I loved this stuff, it never tasted better than after a good, long run.

I walked into the living room and switched on my stereo. Hmm. What to listen to... Finally deciding on a Melissa Etheridge CD, I pushed the play button on my answering machine as the first strands of "Ain't It Heavy" started.

"Joie, this is Kelly. Umm. I'm kind of confused. Why haven't you called me back yet? We really need to talk. Give me a call."

I plopped down on the couch with my black book and pen, and leaned against the arm. I thought about calling Kelly, but decided against it. She would figure out soon enough that I don't promise women anything, because I generally don't keep promises. I don't like to be tied to anything, or anyone. Why bother. They never stick around long enough to deal with it. I opened my journal to today's date, and uncapped my pen.

"Soooo, are we still on for tonight, baby?" Erika purred into the machine, a chill running up and down my spine.

"Oh, yeah." I grinned, as I thought of Erika's pouty red lips, her long, wild red hair that I loved to run my fingers through. Erika Bennett was nearly ten years older than me, and came through town with her job every few months. We had met at a bar when I was still in high school, and whenever she came into town, she gave me a call. No ties, no heartache. Just lots of fun. That's how I liked things. Keep it simple, was my motto. That was the end of the messages, so I turned my attention back to my journal.

Tuesday, June 13...

Today was like any other, I suppose. I went to the post office to pick up the mail, and wasn't disappointed. Father's bribe check was waiting for me, as was a pompous letter. Bastard. I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. I understand a little more every year why Tommy left home as young as he did.

I found a new trail to run today. Very scenic, tranquil. The trail is lined with huge, old trees, hundreds of birds singing and chattering. I enjoyed it. The houses looked so old. I'd say nothing had probably been built in the neighborhood since the forties or fifties. I love old houses.

I'm thinking this entry won't be too long today. Well, at least not right now {grin} I have a date tonight with Erika, and I'm sure after that I'll have plenty to talk about. {evil grin}



P.S. Today during my run I saw a beautiful woman. Yeah, so I see them every day; this one was different. I think I've seen her from somewhere, but can't place where. Maybe I'll see her again.

I closed the journal, and laid back on the soft couch, an arm over my forehead, and stared up at the ceiling, and all the little glow in the dark stars that I had put on it when I had first moved in. I love to watch the constellations I built come alive at night, glowing out all the sunlight they had sucked up during the day. With a sigh I stood and grabbed the cordless on the way to my bedroom to pick out my clothes for tonight, and dialed Erika's cellular phone number from memory.

Wednesday, June 14,

Erika's in the shower, so I decided to scribble out a quick note. We had fun last night. We went to Scones again. That woman loves to dance. I sigh as I lay here writing. Erika is heading back to L.A. later today. I think we're going to try and spend a little time together, but I just don't know. She's not much for a conversationalist, so I don't know what we'll do. Maybe spend the day in bed. Who knows.



P.S. I had the weirdest dream last night dealing with that woman I saw running on the trail yesterday. I wish I could remember it, but, alas, it eludes me...


"Okay, guys. Round up. Cameron, Jordan, come on. Join your team." I clapped my hands together to get the attention of the two nine year olds that were standing near the far goal, comparing skates. Finally I had sixteen pairs of eyes looking at me. Not necessarily listening, but at least they were all here. "Okay, you guys did real good today. But remember what I said about keeping your sticks on the ice?" a murmur of yeah rippled through my young audience. I couldn't help but grin. "Okay, good. Now go take off your gear." Thirty two little skates scrambled away, leaving a fog of ice chips as they raced in the direction of the locker room where their parents could help them out of their bulky pads.

I watched as my kids, as I liked to call them, hobbled off the ice. They were still a little rough, but we had just begun the camp. I knew that when they graduated in six weeks, they'd be little mini Gretzky's.

"You're doing a fine job with the little guys, Joie." I turned to see the UW girls hockey coach, Jim Maron standing at the side of the rink, his arms resting on the top of the wall. I glided over to him, still staring after the few stragglers.

"Thanks. I really enjoy these kids." I smiled up at the man who had been my mentor as well as my coach now for going on three years. I had almost come to see him as the father that mine refused to be.

"Some of 'em are still a little shaky, though."

"I know. I think next week we're going to concentrate more on balance then technique."

"You're so good with kids, Joie. Maybe some day you should have one or two of your own."

I drew my brows in surprise, an impish grin on my face.

"Yeah, right. Can't you just see me as a mother." What a joke.

"Yes." I met his gaze for a moment, his blue eyes held amusement. He quirked a brow in challenge to my smirk.

"Whatever. I don't know what you've been smoking, Coach, but can I have some?" he chuckled and slapped me on the arm.

"I'll see you later, Joie. I just came by to see if that shipment of new uniforms had come or not." he turned to head back up the center aisle.

I watched him go, then turned back to the ice, pushing off with my left foot, and whirling around the rink. I loved to skate when the ice was deserted, and the entire thing was mine. I closed my eyes, and drew in a deep breath, the cold, heavy air filling my lungs with the familiar comfort. Freedom to be whatever it is that you want to be, fly like an eagle if you so desire...



The rest of June had flown by so fast that the next thing I knew, we were already in the middle of July. My kids were doing great now, and were coming to the middle mark of camp. They no longer ran into each other on the ice, and I think the last time one of them fell on another player from the other teams they played, was in late June, early July.

Initially I had been wrangled into heading the hockey camp. I had had absolutely no reason, or desire to want to teach a bunch of clumsy kids the art of skating, and following a little black round sliding thing with bent sticks. But when I had seen their faces when they were able to stay upright, and then actually move around on those two blades, priceless. I was hooked.

I stood in the box for our team as my little Wild Cats flew around on the ice playing the Prosser Wart Hogs, and a smile slowly spread across my face as Hendricks sped his way with the puck mostly in his control, heading for the goal. He's almost there, he may make it. The goalie for the other team. sees him, but looks worried, he's almost there, almost... I stood from the bench, clip board in my hand forgotten.

"Go! Come on, Hendricks! Go, go, go! Yes!" the puck flew into the net with a satisfying plop on the ice under it. The team went crazy, as did the parents in the stands behind me. Little Ricky Hendricks turned to me, and with a toothy grin, the front two missing thanks to the Tooth Fairy, he waved at me. I can't help but grin from ear to ear at his success. That put us up one, with only five minutes left in the game. It takes them two minutes just to get on the right sides. Yes. Looks like another victory for the Wild Cats.

Friday, July 17

I am beside myself I am so proud of my kids. They showed those Wart Hogs what they were made of, and beat the crap out of them! The Wart Hogs are the leading team in the league. Well, they were. {grin} After the game I took the whole team out for pizza at Rupert's. Rico was there, and gave all sixteen an ice cream cone. He may be a queen, but he's a great guy.

Okay. Those little squirts really took it out of me. I'm going to bed.



I turned the corner and glanced at the small, neatly kept houses that I passed along the way. The Hendricks family lived in a nice enough neighborhood, though I knew that Mr. Hendricks didn't make much money working in a vineyard outside of town. His wife was bedridden now, the MS rendering her legs useless, and her speech was nearly unintelligible. The camp was coming to an end, this weekend was the last game, and I had promised my little buddy Ricky that I'd take him out on a "date" before we had finished up. He was such an adorable little guy with big, curious brown eyes, his dark hair always mussed no matter how much his father told him to comb it. Ricky had been my shadow since the second week of camp, and I was going to miss him.

"Hello, Joie. Come on in." Mr. Hendricks smiled as he stepped aside from the open door to let me in the small house. Ricky's younger brother, Mikey was sitting on the floor in front of the television watching the Teletubbies sing and dance their way into his little heart, a scattering of different colored cars and trucks surrounded him.

"Joie!" Ricky called out as he ran in from a hallway that I assumed led to the bedrooms.

"Hey, kid." I grinned, catching him as he flung himself at my middle, his arms encircling my waist, his head resting against my stomach. I smiled down at him, ruffled his already messy hair. "Ready to go?"

"Yup." he smiled up at me, adoration in his dark eyes. I smiled up at his father.

"Well, I guess we better get. I should have him back in a couple of hours."

"Sounds good, Joie. Here you go." Mr. Hendricks handed me a twenty dollar bill that I knew he probably couldn't afford to part with. I put my hand up to stop him.

"No, no. This dates on me." I smiled at the little guy who was starting to extricate himself from me.

"Thanks alot, Joie." Mr. Hendricks said. I could see he was trying to hide the relief in his eyes, dark like his son's. "You be good, Ricky, or you're not playing in the game on Friday." he warned, wagging his finger at the little guy.

"Okay, dad. I promise."

"Don't worry, Mr. Hendricks. If he gets out of line, I'll hang him by his toes."

Ricky and I sat in the dark theater as we waited for the Disney movie to start. I listened as he told me about school starting in early September, and what he thought about his teacher, Ms. Grinwould, and all the stories he'd heard about his upcoming forth grade teacher. I laughed at his antics, and marveled at how a child saw the world around him. Children are so simple, not knowing to be complicated, or obstinate, or judgmental. I was totally charmed by his wonder as he watched the vivid images come to life on the screen. I finally came to the realization that kids are truly amazing creatures. Pretty damn cool. I felt a peace wash through me, a peace of just being who I was, and not having to pretend, or entertain with wild stories. Ricky looked up to me because of what he saw, not what I tried to be.

Friday, August 30


I'm lying here on my bed, on my stomach watching my fish swim around in their glass house. Rocky and Bullwinkle seem to be doing fine. I can't imagine the life of a fish. Eat, poop, swim, procreate, and then float, belly up. Wow. How sad. Hmm. Anywho...

Tonight I have a party to go to. It's some friend of Stephanie's named Lori. I don't think I've ever met her, but what the hell? School will be starting in just a few days. I might as well. I'm not much in the mood to party tonight, though. sigh

In interesting news, today my little Wild Cats kicked ass, and took names! It was the last game of the camp, and I am so utterly thrilled with my kids. They really proved themselves a worthy bunch of nine year olds. What can I say, just a chip off the old block. {grin} Ricky's parents got together with all the other parents, and had a huge plaque made for me. I was so stunned! It has a brass plate in the middle that says: To the best coach in the world, Joie Peterson. All my little guys' names are enscripted below it, and then the team picture that we took last week. Sneaky, sneaky. I will always treasure this. God, I'm becoming a softy!

Okay, better go. It's time to get ready for the party. It's an all 80's party, so I should at least like the music. But then, you can dance to just about anything. {grin}



I glanced into the full-length mirror that ran the length of my bedroom door. Cut-offs with a green tank, and flannel. Typical Joie wear. I grinned at my reflection as I grabbed my Seahawk's hat off the hook on the wall, and plopped it backwards over my blonde hair. Why bother with hair when you only wear hats anyway? I shrugged, and walked toward the front door.

As I walked up the driveway of this girl Lori's house, I realized that things were just now getting started. I had decided to come a bit earlier than I normally would. Usually ten or eleven was the time I started to hit a party. By then it was in full swing, and immediate fun awaited you with a beer in hand, and a sexy smile on her face. Tonight I decided to show around eight-thirty. The sooner I got here, the sooner I could leave.

"Joie! You're here early, hon. I didn't expect you for another hour at least." I turned to see Stephanie sitting in the front seat with some girl. Guilty red marks lined her neck. I grinned.

"So I see. " Stephanie looked away sheepishly. Stephanie Norman was a wing on our girls hockey team, and a good friend, well, actually I didn't have good friend's per se. Mostly good partying buddies was more the word. She struggled to get her shirt back in place, but I stopped her with a wave of my hand. "No, stay there, Steph. I'll be fine on my own." her comment was muffled as her front seat companion started where they had left off.

The house was on the largish, if not messy side. From what I'd been told, Lori and a bunch of other girls rented the place, all fellow students at UW. I glanced around to see if I knew anyone. I was surprised to see many of my acquaintances here. I guess this Lori chick and I hung out in similar circles.

"Hey, hi. Who are you?" I turned to find a short brunette smiling at me.


"Oh, yeah. Stephanie's friend. I've heard about you." she said with a grin. I smiled back. God only knew just what she had heard. "I'm Lori. Where is she anyway?" I pointed out the front door with my thumb. She smiled. Apparently she knew Steph pretty well, too. "Okay, well get whatever you want. There's a table set up in the kitchen. If you want anything mixed, we have a mixer under the sink." and she walked off to join the quickly gathering crowd. I looked around for a moment longer, then headed toward the kitchen, trying to dodge happy-feeling-no-pain partyers as I went.

An hour went by and I stood in a corner with one of my teammates who had showed up to my surprise and relief. I sipped my beer and listened to her talk about her summer.

"So are you still running that hockey camp during the summer?" she asked.

"Yeah." I took a long swig. "We just played our last game yesterday. Those kids are so amazing! Okay, picture this. We've got a handful of nine years olds, all dressed in these huge bulky pads that make these kids look like they have no legs, very little for arms, and absolutely no neck." I took another drink, also allowing Melissa to catch her breath as she had started to laugh. "So these guys are plowing down the ice at break-neck speed, no grace whatsoever, hell, they're just trying to stay upright because all their gear is working with gravity, and against them! It's hilarious. I'm really going to miss those little shits, though." I noticed that Missy's attention had been grabbed by something else.

"Oh my god. it's the Minnesota Wall." she breathed. I drew my brows as I felt eyes on me. I turned and saw her. Whoa. Sure enough. That's who she was. The best defensemen this sport had ever known, and also the woman who I had seen running two months ago. I knew I had known her from somewhere. Any dyke in her right mind had a crush on Jennifer Carlson, or better known as the Minnesota Wall.

She looked lost as she was alone, and was looking for a friendly face. She was taller than even some of the guys here, so she wasn't hard to spot with her long black hair, swept back over her shoulders. She wore a t-shirt of some kind, and jeans. She met my gaze, and I was startled at how beautiful her eyes were; they were the most brilliant blue I had ever seen. Whoa. I raised my beer to acknowledge I had seen her, and feeling more than a little confident with three and a half beers running through me, I smiled at her, those little smiles that made many women tremble, the kind that was usually reserved for the bedroom only. I saw her suck in a breath, then with a small grin I turned back to Melissa.

"You lucky bitch!" Melissa hissed, her eye still on the tall woman who had been approached by some guy.

"What?" I asked innocently.

"What, my ass. God, she is a goddess. I wonder what she's doing here."

"Who knows." I shrugged, and took a sip of my beer. We began to talk about other things, but my mind was completely on that beautiful woman who was no more than twenty feet away from me. What was she doing here?

The night was getting late, and I was beginning to get tired, and wanted to get home. I had had a bit too much to drink, and Melissa had gone off with some woman an hour ago. With a sigh I decided to go, but as I was making my way through bodies dancing, and grinding together, I noticed Jennifer Carlson dancing with Billy, who I knew was trouble. He had his hands all over her. I decided that if someone was going to have their hands all over that incredible body, it was going to be me.

I walked up to them, standing behind the tall beauty. Billy noticed me.

"Hey, Joie." he said, a half smile on his lips.

"Go." was all I said. He knew better than to argue with me, so he leaned in toward her ear and whispered something, then walked away. Jennifer turned around, and I could see the surprise in her face when she saw me. Good sign. I grinned at her again. I noticed that Winger was playing. I had always liked this song, "She's Only Seventeen." Her daddy says she's too young, but she's old enough for me. Yeah, my kind of song. I placed my hands on her waist, and pulled her to me. She sucked in her breath, and then we were body to body.

As the song went on, I began to move us in an extremely erotic dance, one of my legs easily sliding between hers. I could see the indecision running through those incredible sapphire eyes, and she placed her hands tentatively on my shoulders. I looked up at her; god, she was so incredibly beautiful. I have never in my whole life seen eyes that color of blue. I needed to feel her hands on my bare skin, so I took my hands from her waist as we continued to sway to the heavy beat, and whipped my flannel off before she even knew what had hit her. Without missing a beat, the shirt was on the floor so now I only wore my tank, her hands were on my bare shoulders, and I put my hands back on her body, moving them down to her hips.

I stared down the long length of her, taking her in. Magnificent with slender hips, but had enough curve to make her all woman. Her t-shirt was loose, but she had been sweating from the immense body heat in the room of the dancing bodies, and it clung to her full breasts that were heaving with every nervous breath she took.

I began to sing along, moving us even closer together as I moved my hands around her body until they rested on her butt that fit so snugly in those jeans of hers. I pulled her into me. Her eyes were becoming cloudy and unfocused, and I knew she was really drunk. I wondered if she would remember this tomorrow. No matter. I knew I wouldn't forget it.

The song was winding down, and then ended all together. I slowly drew my hands off her butt, around her hips, catching in the belt loops before I let her go all together. She took the warmth of her hands from my shoulders, but I wasn't ready to let her go just yet, so I caught one of her hands, and brought it to my lips, never losing sight of those eyes as I kissed her knuckles. She met my gaze, then I let her hand drop, and walked away, feeling just a bit light headed for some reason. Whoa. Too much beer, maybe. Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that, Joie.



I spent most of Saturday morning sobering up, and then began to clean up my place. I knew that with school starting on Monday morning, and then practice on Wednesday afternoon, that I would have no time to do the deep cleaning that this place needed. This was going to be a hectic semester. Only one more year to go, then I could start on my life. Thank god.

I stood in the middle of my living room, stared at the mess that was all around me. The clothes that I had worn last night were scattered in a line from the front door to my bedroom, as I had started striping as soon as I was in, and hadn't stopped until I had been snug in my bed, the sheet wrapped around my naked body. I didn't believe in sleeping with clothes on. Too restricting. I body needed to be free.

I followed the trail, and threw everything in the hamper in the bathroom in my bedroom, and then made my bed. I really loved where I lived. The rent was pretty steep, and if I hadn't been getting money from my parents, I would never in a million years been able to afford to go to school, and try and work, and still pay for this place. Maybe there was some good in the situation. Well, if I didn't have their love, respect, and acceptance, then at least I had their money. I chuckled ruefully to myself, and began to pull out the cleaning supplies that had lain dormant since my last cleaning binge, which hadn't been that long ago. I had a thing about a clean home. Messy was one thing; it happens, you get busy, things get strewn around, but dirty was an entirely different thing all together.

An afternoon of cleaning done, I decided to work out. I had a second bedroom that was my computer/weight training room. I had a plethora of different sizes of free weights, as well as a bag for my kickboxing. With hockey just around the corner, I had to get my cardio back in shape, though my running pretty much kept that going, but also I needed to build my arms, and quads. During breaks, and in-between seasons I let myself just tone, but bulked up again during the new season.

I laid on my bench, my legs off on either side, tennis shoes planted flat on the floor as I brought the bar down to my chest, my breathing kept even as I stared up at the ceiling, my mind a million miles away, body on auto pilot. Jennifer Carlson kept trickling into my thoughts, no matter how much I tried to change the mental subject. My subconscious was determined to keep those blue eyes floating before my eyes. I wondered if we were going to play the Minnesota Wild Cats much this year. They were a damn good team, and always gave us a run for our money. Our last meeting with them hadn't been pretty. They had cleaned the ice with us. I couldn't believe that I hadn't recognized her right away that day running. How could I forget the Minnesota Wall? If not in an athletic sense, then that of a woman. She had caught my eye before, her streamlined body, exuding natural femininity even through her muscular body, and tough playing style. There was no doubt that she was all woman. Rumor was she was straight. But somehow I didn't think so, even if she didn't realize it.

Finally exhausted, I plopped down on the floor in front of the t.v. as I watched the news, and opened my journal.

Saturday, August 31


Well, the party went well last night. I tried not to drink as much. I've really got to behave myself. Yeah, that'll happen. {grin} Steph met some girl that she just had to leave early with. Damn her. She drags me to a party that I really don't even want to go to, then she takes off on me! Go figure. Oh, well. At least Melissa was there. Oh, but the best is yet to come. The Minnesota Wall. Mm, mm. She was the beautiful woman that I had seen running way back in June. God, she is incredible, and she was there. She has got to be the most beautiful, sexy woman I have ever laid eyes on. If she ever comes back to Washington, I just may have to see how far I can get. {evil grin} I wonder if she is from Seattle? That's pretty far from Minnesota. She certainly wasn't in Kansas anymore. sigh

Well, I was productive today. I got my end of summer cleaning done. School starts on Monday. I'm glad, actually. I am ready to head back, and get it done. Especially I am ready for hockey to start up again. Makes me have some meaning in my life again. I don't know what I'll do after school. Maybe I can find a weekend league somewhere. Who knows.



I drove to school Monday morning ready to go, happy to get back to it. This semester I was finally getting into my major which was English with a minor in Mass Com. I was so glad that I had gotten all those absolutely pointless classes out of the way last year. What the hell was I supposed to do with Biology as an English major? Go figure.

The next week flew by, and I knew I had my work cut out for me. On Friday after practice, Coach pulled me aside.

"Yeah, Coach? What's up?" I stood in the doorway of his office, my bag slung over my shoulder, ready to go home and change. I was going out tonight.

"We're getting a new player." he said, leaning back in his chair, rolling a quarter through his fingers.

"What? Why? Who? You kicking someone off the team?" I was starting to get pissed now.

"No, no. Calm down, Joie. We've got a great group of girls this year. This is more out of a favor for an old friend of mine. And this will be good for the team, too."

"What, getting some flunky that can't hang on his team?" I leaned against the door frame, a smirk on my face.

"Not exactly. She's someone we all know, and under other circumstances, dread. Jenny Carlson."

"What?!" I dropped my bag at the unexpected news. "The Minnesota Wall is coming here? She's on our team now?"

"Yup. She's back in Seattle for personal reasons, and wanted to play. She's enrolled in UW, and is now a Panther."

I stared at the coach for a moment, the information taking its time sinking in. Shit. She was playing here now? Is that what he had said?

"Are you attempting to catch flies, Joie?" I closed my mouth, he chuckled. "Go home now. Knowing you you've got some party to go to."

I drove home quickly, my mind processing what I'd been told. So that's why Jennifer Carlson had been here. I was thrilled to have her on the team. As the captain, it was my job to make our team the best it could possibly be, and no doubt The Wall would be an asset. Now I just had to get over the fact that with the hockey player also came the woman.



I sat in the locker room in practice gear, my helmet in my hands. God. I leaned my head back against the wall, my eyes closed. Why did I get so drunk last night? Why, oh why?

"Let's go, ladies!" Coach yelled from the door. I closed my eyes even tighter as his words bounced around my skull over and over again.

"Come on, slugger." Steph muttered, grabbing one of my hands and pulling me up. I opened my eyes and glanced up at her. "You know, it was your damn party that I got so drunk at. " I growled. She grinned.

"Whatever. Come on, captain."

I watched as my fellow teammates stumbled around, hanging onto the wall as they walked onto the ice. I chuckled to myself. Steph had had a back to practice party last night, and we were all paying the price. Luckily for me once the cold air hit my face, I was fine. I did my laps with my usual grace and speed, leaving my struggling teammates in my wake. I could tell coach was not happy, his scowl deepening with every lap around the rink.

"Okay, gather around." coach called out, blowing his whistle, which I knew he was doing on purpose. Every girl present, including me, winced at the shrill sound echoing through the rink. We all cut across the ice, and skidded to a stop in front of the box where the coach stood. "Okay, ladies. Today is going to be a particularly rigorous practice. Our first game is coming up, and I want us to be in tip top shape. Understand?" we all nodded, knowing exactly what coach's accusing eyes were telling us. I looked down as I hid my grin. "Okay, I'm going to split you all up into two teams. Here's the roster."

Once everyone got out on the ice with their positions, and were facing each other, it seemed that all hangovers were gone. A few of the players were a little slow on the take, but nothing major. Oh shit. Natalie, no!, I mentally yelled. Get your damn stick down.

"What are you doing! Stevens, get over here, now!" the coaches voice boomed in the large rink. We all stopped in mid-play as Natalie skated over to the side of the rink by coach. "You do that high sticking crap again, and I'll bench you for half the season, you got that?"

"Yes, coach."

"Good. Now get your ass out there!"

I bent over to resume starting position when I stopped, my gaze locked on the woman walking slowly up to coach, a large duffel over her shoulder, a smile of anticipation on her face. She got the coach's attention, and then she headed off toward the locker room. I followed her progress with me eyes.


"Yeah. Let's start." the puck was dropped, and Denise Gibson scuttled for it, but I was already long gone, puck in tow. People complain about being short, but I find it an asset. No one expects the speed, and no one sees you coming. My thoughts were interrupted by the coach's whistle again. Damn it, I am going to shove that damn thing down his throat!

"Okay, girls. Round up." we all left our positions, and skated toward the coach and our new teammate. I could feel the hostility oozing from the other girls as they eyed the Minnesota Wall. Uncertainty was in abundance as neither I nor Coach had told anyone of our newest arrival. Jennifer Carlson looked around somewhat nervously, and when those baby blues landed on me I had to stifle a smile. They nearly bulged out of that beautiful face. I could see she recognized me, but an internal battle was going on. What was she thinking? "Okay, this is Jenny Carlson. Most of you probably remember her from Minnesota State when they wiped us off the map last year? Well, this is their Minnesota Wall. Nothin' gets past this one. So I want you all to welcome her. She's a transfer." I could hear the girls around me whispering to each other. Come on, ladies. We are not in high school, for crying out loud! Jenny Carlson glanced at me again, and I met her gaze for just a moment, then turned and skated back out to my position, and tapped my stick. Come on, Carlson. Let's see what you can do.

I watched out of the corner of my eye as Carlson blocked one attempt after another. She was great, and she genuinely seemed to love what she was doing, showing great enthusiasm for the game. Good sign. I caught Coach's eye, and he winked. I winked back. Agreed. She was staying.

"Okay!" Coach blew his whistle. "Good job girls. Hit the showers!"

I glanced over at her as I made my way to the side. I nodded, quite pleased with her performance. She seemed to deem this as important, and nodded back.

As was my usual custom, I quickly showered, and split.

Saturday, September 7


Practice went off great today. We were introduced to our newest player, the Minnesota Wall herself, Jennifer Carlson. The girls aren't thrilled by the prospect; they feel threatened, as they probably should. Carlson is the best. We need her.

I sit here and I think, staring up at the ceiling of my bedroom. I don't know what it is about her. She's incredible. This is going to be a tough season I think. I want her, but something in my gut deep down is telling me that it isn't going to be that easy, and that I don't want it to be. I don't know. Too much to think about. I'm tired.



Sunday, September 8


Carlson wasn't at practice today. Coach didnt' seem pissed, or even surprised. I wonder what's up?



We were all suited up and on the ice when Carlson decided to waltz in. What, one day of great playing, now she's queen of the rink and can do whatever, whenever? Fuck that. The other girls obviously felt the same as they began to whisper to each other, sometimes being less than nice. I glared at them simply because it was unsportsman like.

Once play got started I was completely baffled. It was like invasion of the body snatchers all over again. Who the hell is this girl, and where is the real Jenny Carlson? She was all over the place, missing block after block. It was more than obvious her mind was not on what she was doing. Apparently coach agreed as the shrill sound of his whistle cut through the air.

"Carlson! What the hell position you playin', anyway?" he bellowed.

"I know, I'm sorry, sir."

"I don't give a horses ass if you're sorry! Don't apologize, just improve!"

I could hear the girls behind me whispering again.

"The Minnesota Wall, huh? I'd say more like the Minnesota Guerilla."

I glanced around to see how Carlson would handle this. If she was to make it, she would have to learn to take the shit from the other players, especially catty ones like Martinez. Carlson turned and stared at them, evil intent burning in those fire blue eyes.

"And you, two? Are you a wing, Martinez?"


"Then what the hell you doin' over there!" Coach was being pushed to his limit. I looked back to Carlson who turned her eyes to me. I'd say she didn't like the look of disgust she saw on my face because she turned away pretty quick.

The other girls headed off the ice, but I stayed out there on the rink for a moment trying to get my anger under control. Jennifer Carlson comes in here after the practice season starts, late, interrupts a perfectly oiled machine of a team, and then pulls this shit. No way, not my team, not on my watch. Finally I headed for the locker room.

As I headed in I saw Carlson trying to sneak out. She stopped when she saw me heading for her.

"Hey, Carlson," I said, my voice loud, angry. "What the hell was that today? I know you can do better than that! Jesus! You were pathetic today! You looked like a goddamn circus clown! What, you got a hot date your minds on, or what?"

I could see the transformation of her face before my eyes. A tiny spark of fear passed through me as she dropped her duffel, and walked to me. I stood my ground. No way was she going to get the best of me, not when the entire team was watching, breathless to see what I would do. What Jennifer Carlson would do. She reached me, and took two handfuls of my jersey in her hands, and I felt myself being slammed against the wall. She was in my face. I could see the tiny trail of freckles that crossed the bridge of her nose. Her blue eyes were filled with electric heat that flowed from her in waves. I knew she could see the shock in my eyes, but I was determined to hold it together.

"Tell me, have you ever had to watch your mother as she slowly died from AIDS?" she growled through clenched teeth, her voice low, dangerous. "No? Well, yesterday my mother lost that battle." I realized what she was telling me, and I felt my heart fall to my knees. She stared into my eyes for just a moment, but in that moment I could see the pain swirling around, filling her like death itself.

She released my shirt, and turned to see the girls staring at her, no one daring to say a word. The silence was almost palpable. She walked back over to her duffel where she had dropped it, picked it up, and walked out of the locker room. I stayed where I was against the wall, my mind whirling. Tommy immediately popped into my mind. I could feel her pain, deep in my gut. I wished that there was some way I could help her, comfort her. Something. Anything.



Tuesday found me sitting in the grass under a tree on campus. It was chilly, but actually the weather was quite beautiful for mid September. I leaned against the massive trunk, my legs stretched out, and my journal balanced on a denim clad thigh.

Tuesday, September 10


I feel like such an ass for what I said to Jennifer yesterday. God, how insensitive can I be? Yeah, so I didn't know. Doesn't matter. I still feel awful. I wonder how her mother got AIDS? Pretty serious stuff. I just wish there was something I could do to make her feel better. I wish I could take her in my arms, rock her until she falls asleep. Hold her. Whoa! I have got to stop thinking like this. I do not even know this chick, but damnit I feel so protective of her for some reason, like she could break. Get over it, woman. Just chalk it up to watching what I say, and leave it at that. sigh If only it were that simple. I


My pen stilled as I noticed a shadow fall over me. I looked up, squinting against the glare of the sun's halo around the person who stood over me.


"Hey, Coach. What's up?"

Coach Maron sat next to me, taking the perpetual baseball cap from his head and running his hand through his thinning brown hair.

"Wow. You mean that thing is removable? Hell, I thought you were born with it on." I grinned, tapping the bill of the worn, red cap.

"Funny girl. I could say the same for you." he smirked, and replaced the cap. "You look lost, kiddo." he said.

"Lost, huh? 'Fraid not. I think I know exactly where I'm at."

"Think so, huh? Look, Joie I heard about what happened in the locker room yesterday. And if I didn't know better, I'd say you were beating yourself up for it."

"Look-" I began, starting to get angry. He cut me off.

"Listen, Joie. I know you don't want to go into this. But I thought you might find this interesting." he tossed a folded piece of paper on my lap, then noisily stood. "I'm getting too old for this." he muttered as he walked away. I watched him for a moment, then glanced down at what he had thrown at me. It was a newspaper clipping. I unfolded it, and realized it was the obituary for Carlson's mother. It gave her age of only 47. God. So young, as well as the funeral time and place. With a sigh I glanced in the direction that the coach had just went, though he was long gone, and then stared back down at the paper in my hand.



I loved the familiar hush of the cemetery. So peaceful. It always amused me to think that the resting place of the dead could be restful for the living as well. The weather was absolutely beautiful, certainly seeming to mock the sad occasion.

I easily followed the map given to me by the woman at the main cemetery office. I could see the line of cars parked in a row at the curb, the long black hearse in the lead, followed by a single black town car, then the line of the cars driven by the other mourners.

I wondered what was I doing here? I had no place here among these people who didn't know me, and I didn't know them. Though my intentions were good, I wasn't sure how Jenny would take my being here. The last time she had seen me had been during one of my thoughtless tirades. I sighed as I continued on.

I could hear the minister's comforting words as I made my way around the crowd. Some people glanced over at me with curious eyes, then turned their attention back to the center of attention. I walked around to the far side, about twenty yards away, trying to keep a respectful distance away. I saw the casket with it's shiny black finish interrupted by a large bouquet of roses. Then I saw her. An older African-American woman stood just to her right and behind, a reassuring hand on Jenny's arm. My eyes fell once again to Jenny. She looked beautiful in a fitting black dress, her hair loose about her shoulders.

I felt a sudden heaviness settle over me as I watched her, not able to take my eyes from her. She was pale, her eyes seemingly empty. I must have stood there for perhaps five minutes when suddenly her eyes met mine. She took in my black pant suit, then met my eyes that were hidden behind my sunglasses. Our gazes met and locked. I longed to hold her in my arms, kiss those lips that seemed to tremble, as if she were trying to hold herself together. I wanted so badly to ease her pain. My heart began to ache, and I felt the need to escape that intense stare. To my relief she looked away, back to her mother's casket, and that's when I took my leave.

I sat in my truck, tore the dark glasses from my face, and threw them on the seat next to me, and covered my face with my hands. I was breathing fast, my chest rising and falling as I attempted to get myself under control. God, what is wrong with me? Why do I feel like I could cry? I hated to cry, and never, ever did it in public. Not since the funeral of my brother. That had to be it. Being here, so close to where he rested, and seeing the anguish of the mourners; that was it. Had to be.



I sat on the back patio, my feet curled under me as I stared off into space, not really concentrating on anything. My roommate's dog, Zephyr was playing, running around and chasing a ball that Carla was throwing for him. He was beautiful, a chocolate lab, only about 6 months old, yet to grow fully into his huge paws.

"Go get it, Zephyr!" she called out, which drew my attention. I chuckled as I watched the big dog run after the rubber ball, and over estimate the distance, slamming into the fence. He shook his head, then grabbed the ball in his mouth and began to run back to his "mom", but instead made a detour and headed toward me. His half-hearted bark was muffled by what he carried.

"Hey, boy." I said, rubbing his head, and down one of his ears. I dropped my hand, and stared back out into the yard, but that wasn't good enough I felt his cold nose nuzzle my hand.

"Come here, Zephyr. I don't think Joie's in the mood to play." The dog ran to his owner, dropping the ball along the way. "Maybe you shouldn't have gone, Joie." Carla said as she made her way to the patio, and sat in the lawn chair next to mine.

"Yeah." was all I said. Carla and I weren't exactly close, but she always seemed to be able to tell when something was wrong, and had gotten the whole story out of me last night, and had offered to go to the funeral with me. Nah. I need to do this alone, had been my answer, and was usually my answer for everything.

"Did she see you?" again she threw the ball for the puppy.

"Yes. I left right after that."

"Oh." she stood and called the dog to her. "Well, it was a really nice gesture, hon. I'm sure she appreciated it. I'll see you later. Work calls."

"Have a good one." I said absently, still staring into the yard. In the distance I heard the back gate open and close, Zephyr's whines fading as Carla led him up the outside staircase on the side of the house that led to her apartment. Carla worked the graveyard shift as a security guard for an office building that housed the headquarters for many of Seattle's top businesses. With a sigh I stood, and went inside to make something to eat.

Wednesday, September 11


I'm sitting here trying to concentrate on the news, to no avail. I can't get my mind off of things. Do I agree with Carla? Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the funeral this afternoon? Hell, I don't know. I know that I did miss a couple of classes for it. Was it worth it? God, I am awful. I didn't go for the recognition, in fact, I almost would have preferred that Jenny had no idea I was there. But I couldn't stay out of sight. I had to see her, to let her know that I cared. I don't know why. I can't seem to get her off my mind, and this is something that I would not dare to say outloud, or even allow myself to think in a casual way. What is it? Why has she captured my interest so much? I do not know her, and something is telling me that it would be better to just keep my distance from her; watch and admire from afar. I think my heart will thank me for it later.





I groaned as the shrill beeping of the alarm woke me from a really good dream. I rolled over on my back, and reached an arm out to shut the damn thing off. Silence. I opened an eye, and groaned again at the despicable hour of three-thirty am that glared at me with its red numbers.

"Time to make the doughnuts." I mumbled, then giggled at my own joke. I sat up, and reluctantly gave up the warmth of my large bed, and made my way to the bathroom.

It was just before five when I reached the school. I saw the bus at the curb, engine rumbling as it idled, waiting for all us walking zombies to board. I parked my truck, then drug my two bags with me, one hung on my shoulder, the other nearly dragging on the ground behind me. I was not a morning person.

We all stood around waiting for the rest of the team to show up. I noticed Jenny wonder up to the group, though as usual, she kept a slight distance. She always seemed to be by herself. I wondered if she liked it that way, or if she was just shy. I noticed that she looked well rested. It had been a week since the funeral, and neither of us had spoken of it. Actually, we hadn't spoken at all since that day she rightly laid into me in the locker room. This morning she wore a pair of baggy chords, and some sort of shirt under her jacket. Her hair was lose, and blew slightly in the early morning breeze. It was a brisk morning, as it was early October. This was supposed to be a cold winter.

"Okay, ladies. Here's who you'll be shacking up with. Listen up!"

"We can't pick our own?" someone asked. I looked around and saw the perplexed look on Stacy Eaks' face. God, woman. You know better than that. I rolled my eyes.

"No, you cannot pick your own. This is not summer camp. Listen up, now. I do not want to repeat myself." Coach said. I grinned as I stared down at the sidewalk waiting to see who I was going to be stuck with. "Stevens and Martinez. Gibson and Waller. Braden and Norman. Carlson and Peterson..."

I groaned inwardly. Damnit, Coach. Keep your nose out of things. Then I had to silently chuckle. I should have expected this. Shit. I removed my Seahawk's cap, and ran my hands through my hair, then put it back on. This was going to be an interesting trip. Then I felt a pair of eyes on me. I glanced up in time to see Jenny look away.

"Okay, ladies. On the bus. We've got a thirty two hour trip ahead of us. We're going to stop for the night, though. So let's go!" Coach clapped his hands together to try and wake us up, and stood by the door to the bus.

As the darkness of early morning began to give way to the sun, and the day to come, I sat with my teammates, and we joked, and we talked, and I told them outrageous stories; some made up in my overly fruitful imagination, others true trials and tribulations to the more humorous side of life, all the while I watched over Jenny. She sat by herself in a seat half way up the bus from where I was situated near the back. She watched out the side window, her forehead against the cool glass, seemingly lost in thought. At one point I nearly got up and sat with her, but stopped myself. No. I'd stay where I was, in this life that I had built for myself, and felt comfortable in. Eventually she drifted off to sleep.

Finally after hours of talking and laughing, the girls decided that they wanted to do their own thing, which usually meant sleeping or reading. I was grateful. It gets old sometimes being expected to be the entertainment. I loved to tell stories, but there were times when I just wanted to be alone, not entertain the masses. And today was one of those times.


The jostling of the bus as it pulled into the parking lot of the hotel woke me from a peaceful sleep. I looked around disoriented, not realizing that I had even drifted off. Most of the girls around me were still asleep, including Steph who sat next to me, as usual, her head resting on my shoulder.

"Wake up, Steph. We're here." I said as I raised my arms over my head, and stretched. She mumbled, and rubbed her eyes like a child.

It was close to eight when we finally all got off the bus, and our stuff together. I noticed Jenny headed for our room after she was given the key, and I followed.

"God, you're so lucky." Melissa whispered in my ear as she headed off toward her room. I glared at her, and continued on. I drew my brow as Jenny opened the door to the room, then stopped dead in her tracks. What, did we have a dead man lying on one of the beds, or what?

"Are you going in?" I grinned, standing just behind her. She glanced at me over her shoulder, then walked into the room, setting her bag on the table in front of the large picture window. When I entered the room, I saw what had captured her interest. One bed. Shit! Yeah, this trip would definitely be interesting. Jenny headed off into the bathroom, and I plopped down on the bouncy mattress, and reached for the phone. I was hungry!

"Yeah?" Steph said into the phone. I could hear her portable radio blaring in the background.

"Hey, you guys ready? Wanna do Denny's?"

"Yeah. Kim is in the bathroom. As soon as she gets out-"

"Wait a sec." I covered the phone when I heard Jenny open the bathroom door, and head toward the door. "Hey, Carlson, some of us are heading over to Denny's. Wanna come?"

She stared at me for a moment, as if not sure what to do, then she seemed to come to a decision.

"Well, actually I was just heading over there myself. But I was going to study. you know, with the transfer and all, I'm kind of behind."

For some strange reason I felt the hand of disappointment grip me, but I managed to keep my face in its usual expressionless state when around her.

"Yeah, I understand. Okay. I guess we'll see you there, then." I watched as she grabbed her backpack, and slung it over her shoulder, almost as an afterthought, I found myself saying, "Hey, Carlson?" Jenny glanced at me, her hand on the knob. "I'm sorry." I said quietly. It was the best I could do right now. Understanding washed through those magnificent eyes, and she smiled, and left the room. I stared after her for a moment, wishing that she'd come back. "Yeah. I'm here." I said into the phone once I realized that Steph had been calling my name.

It took awhile, but finally all eight of us met in the hotel parking lot, and headed toward the restaurant.

We were all still laughing at Risa's red face as she had stumbled over one of those cement things in the parking lot that prevent a car from rolling on into the grass. She had fallen on her face. After making sure she was okay, the laughter just bubbled up, and had quickly spread out of control until all of us were red. I think being cooped up in that bus for so many hours had nearly driven us all crazy.

The place was pretty busy, and I was grateful that we didn't have to wait long for a table. I was still somewhat chuckling to myself as we were led to our table... right next to Jenny's. Poor thing. There was no way she would get any studying done with us so close to her. I wasn't sure what I thought about this, but I did make sure that I went to the chair closest to her booth. That way I could keep the noise closest to her down to a dull roar.

"Hey, it's the bookworm." I smiled down at her as I plopped down into the chair. She smiled, then turned her full attention back to the book she had been reading. I glanced at the title: Modern Chemistry. I grinned, and shook my head as I picked up the menu.

I decided not to stay too long at Denny's. I didn't like to stay out late the night before the first game. That first game of the season made the first impression of the team to our opponents, and it was imperative to me that it be a good one.

"Okay, ladies. I'm going." I threw some money on the table, and grabbed my jacket.

"Ah, come on, woman. Stay just a little longer." Steph pleaded.

"Nope. See you in the morning."

"Yeah, if I had Jennifer Carlson for a roomy, I'd want to go to bed early, too." Melissa laughed. For some reason that really pissed me off. How dare she talk about it that way.

"Watch your mouth, Missy. It's not like that." I said, my voice low, warning. The smile slid right off her face.

"Sorry, Joie. Damn."

I walked out of the place, and slowly made my way back to the room, enjoying the brisk night air on my face. The night sky was clear, and beautiful. I sighed, my breath sailing through the darkness on a white cloud of steam.

I emerged through the small cropping of trees, and saw the parking lot just ahead, the big blue bus parked off to the side, out of the way. The door to the room was unlocked, which I was glad of. Chances were good that Jenny had already gone to bed, and I didn't want to wake her anymore than I already had to, but to my surprise the bed was still made up, though her books were scattered near the pillows by the headboard on the side of the bed nearest the door, and I could hear the shower turn off just as I sat down in the chair next to the door.

I grabbed a paperback from my bag on the floor by the table, and opened it, but couldn't get into it, so I decided to sit and concentrate, and get into the zone for tomorrow's game. It was so important to me that I did good. My mind flew back to previous games, mistakes I had made, tricks that I had used, that were legal, and certain plays that Coach and I had gone over and over. We were up against a tough team tomorrow, and if we lost right off, it would temper our playing for the rest of the season. Start out strong, then it gives you some latitude later on. If you-

I jumped when I realized that someone had spoken. My head jerked up to see Jenny sitting on the bed in a pair of comfortable looking flannel pants, and an old Wild Cats tee.

"The bathroom is free." she said, almost in question. I had to swallow as I realized that I was staring at her chest. She had just gotten out of the shower, her hair hanging in dark, wet strands around her head, and it was slightly chilly in the room. Her breasts were outlined by the thin material of the shirt, her nipples erect, and taunting.

"Oh, okay." I managed to say, then jumped up from the chair, and hurried around the bed. God! What if she had seen you staring! I hurried into the bathroom.

I closed my eyes as the hot water of the shower ran down my body, like tiny little fingers touching my skin that was already on fire. I couldn't get the sight of her out of my head. I felt like a school girl who had never been touched, nor touched before. I really needed to get a grip. The last thing Jenny needed was my lust.

As I got myself under control, and began to wash my hair, I thought of the look on Jenny's face. If I didn't know better, it looked to me like something was wrong. She looked so sad, her eyes were so expressive at times. Sometimes I felt as if I could read her like any book. Tonight she was having a hard time, her emotions were resting on the surface. I had always been so good at reading other people; they could just never read me.

I opened the bathroom door, clad in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. Jenny was in bed, her back to me. I reached down to pull the covers back, but movement caught my eye. I stopped for just a moment, still bent slightly, my fingers curled in the material of the soft blanket. There it was again. Jenny's shoulders seemed to be shaking a bit, as if she was trying to hold in a breath. I raised a brow, and got into the cool sheets.

I laid on my back, staring up at the ceiling and the strange orange hue that covered it from the sign outside our window. There it was again. I looked at her, her dark hair splayed out behind her, brushed behind an ear. Now her whole body was shaking, and I could have sworn I heard something, like a muted sob. Realizing that she was crying, all of my previous thoughts of Jenny's body were gone; now all I could think of was comforting her, holding her, letting her know that someone was there, and cared. As if my brain no longer controlled me, my body and emotion took over. I rolled over, and scooted my body over until I was directly behind her, my chest pressed to her back. I slid my arm over her hip, and rested my hand against her stomach, needing to feel her close, sensing that she needed to feel it, too. The body heat that seeped through the shirt on Jenny's back, and met my body was immense. I felt her body stiffen at the contact, so I moved my hand back and ran it along her forearm that laid against her body. She relaxed, and then the final walls that held her emotion in check disappeared, and she really began to cry. I wondered if she had been holding all this in for awhile.

I closed my eyes and held her tighter as her body wracked against mine with the release. I wanted to turn her around, and hold her to me, her face buried in my neck, but I didn't dare. Finally, some minutes later, she began to calm, and then with a deep sigh she fell asleep. I laid awake for a short time, my fingers continuing to run along the soft skin of her arm. My mind was clear of thought, now only feeling existed.



I awoke to the feeling of warmth surrounding me. A smile of contentment crossed my lips as I snuggled the body that lay in my arms even closer to me, feeling an arm resting over my mid-section, a leg over one of mine, and the softness of a cheek against my neck, soft, warm breath against my skin. I began to tumble back into sleep when suddenly my eyes flew open. I glanced down and saw the top of a dark head. Uh, oh. I began to try and move myself out of Jenny's nocturnal embrace, but immediately her embrace around me tightened.

I closed my eyes as I felt my body beginning to react to the contact. I could feel the heat between my legs turning into wetness. I looked down at Jenny again, and she sighed as she readjusted the position of her head on my shoulder, her face tilting up just slightly. I studied that sleeping face, now so relaxed, peaceful. Beautiful. I couldn't help it; I leaned down just slightly and placed the lightest of kisses on those full lips that were parted a bit. Relieved when she didn't wake, but knowing that I had to disentangle myself from her all the same, I gently removed Jenny's arm from my waist, and scooted out from under her. She grasped the pillow I had been laying on, and sighed again, still deeply asleep. I sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, waiting to see if she would stir before I stood. Nope. Good to go. I stood, and stretched my arms above my head. I glanced out the window, still dark. It must be pretty early still, and glancing at the alarm clock on the night stand told me that it was only five-thirty in the morning. Hell, yeah that's early. Well, I could always sleep on the bus.

I went into the bathroom and did my morning thing, then went back out into the main sleeping room, stood by the bed, and watched the sleeping form. She was stone still, and looked very peaceful. I moved around and sat in the chair by the door, curling my legs up under me. I rested my elbow on a raised knee, and my chin in my palm, and sighed.

I aimed my thoughts toward the game we'd play today, but Jenny kept appearing before me, throwing my concentration. Finally I gave it up, and gave in, watched her. Who are you, Jenny? Why have you come into my life now? I don't have a place for you, yet I can't seem to keep myself away from you.

My thoughts went on, words rambling around in my brain until finally the sun began to rise, its rays shining through the window. I decided I wanted to write, so I dug through my bag until I found my journal. I uncapped my pen, and balanced the book on my knee.

Saturday, September 21


I'm sitting here in this hotel room in the middle of frigging nowhere, our first game of the seasons is to be played tonight. I can't seem to get into the right mode, the right frame of mind to play. Hmm. How strange. I don't like this, because it makes me nervous, not knowing how I'll play tonight. Usually I have a game plan totally played out, and I follow it to the margin. sigh

I'm watching Jenny as she sleeps. I wonder how she would react to the news that she slept in my arms all night? Hell, I'm not real sure how I'm handling the news! I don't like things to have a control over me like this. Erika says I'm full of shit, and that I just hold people off to compensate for the lack of love and trust that I get from my parents. Is she right? Hell, I don't know. Seems I don't know much of anything these days. And it is way too early to try and analyze myself.



I laid my pen down, and gazed over at Jenny again, when someone knocked on the door, scaring the shit out of me. I tossed my journal onto the table next to the chair, then walked around to the door to see Coach standing there. He grinned.

"Love the hair, Joie."

"Yeah, yeah. What do you want?" I grumbled.

"We're out of here in just over half an hour."

"Okay." I softly closed the door as Coach walked away, headed to the next room. I went to the bathroom and combed my hair, having to spray some of the more wild strands with water, and brushed my teeth. As I pulled on my jeans I watched Jenny sleep. She rolled over onto her other side, her back to me, but I saw her flinch as the bright rays of potent, early morning sun reached her closed lids. I turned my back to her, feeling suddenly, and unusually shy as I stood by the bed with only a pair of jeans, and a sports bra on. I held my red t-shirt in my hand, and raised my arms to pull it over my head. I turned as I lowered the shirt over my mid-section, and noticed Jenny laying on her back, her eyes open.

"Hey. Coach came by a little while ago. We're out of here in a half an hour." Jenny gazed into my eyes for a moment, then began to sit up.

"Oh." she said as she rubbed her eyes. She looked so tired, so wiped out. I had no doubt that her eyes burned like crazy from all that crying.

"I didn't wake you because you looked like you were pretty peaceful." I suddenly felt the need to explain. "I know sleep is hard to get on these road trips." I gave her a look that told her I understood, but could not hold the gaze. So instead I sat on the edge of the bad, my back to her as I loaded my overnight bag with all my clothes from yesterday.

"Yeah." I heard her finally say, her voice was soft, almost weak. She sat there for a moment, then got up and headed for the bathroom. I sat there, my hands dangling between my legs as I stared at my bag, my eyes unseeing. I wondered what she thought of my comfort tactics now in the light of day.



I spent the remainder of the bus trip concentrating on the upcoming game, or at least trying to. The girls knew better than to bug me during this time. More than one of them had had their head bitten off for intruding.

We reached the school in just enough to time to get changed, and for Coach to give us what he calls a pep talk, but in actuality is him threatening us with our lives if we lose. I knew his tricks well.

We were kicking ass, though it was a hard battle to fight, and we were tied when I happened to glance back and saw Jenny looking off into the stands while the best of the Wild Cats was headed right for her. What the hell was she doing? Shit! She's letting her get through the line.

"Score! That brings our Wild Cats up one on the Panthers!" the crowd was on its feet, and the buzzer sounded. Saved by the bell, Carlson, I thought ruefully. I could tell she knew she had screwed up as she hauled tail off the ice.

I was the last into the locker room, but even as I rounded the hall to walk through the door, I could hear a barrage of voices that I knew were aimed at Jenny. The last comment pissed me off.

"Minnesota Wall my ass!"

"Enough!" I shouted, and immediately every eye was on me, the locker room suddenly stone still. Jenny looked at me; she looked so miserable, like she wanted to find a hole in the floor, and climb in. I grinned at her, that smile that she seemed to get a lot lately. I nodded to her, almost inperceptively, wanting her to know that I still stood behind her, I understood, and it was okay. Nothing broke can't be fixed.

I sat on a near by bench and waited for Coach. Within seconds he was pouncing.

"What the hell!"

The second half of the game went off with an explosion, we were back, and we were kicking ass.


I was glad the game was over. I was tired from waking up so early, and we had had to fight hard to regain our lead, and ultimately win. I was beyond pleased.

Some of the girls had managed to talk me into abandoning my usual back of the bus seat so I could sit with them. Sometimes I felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of teenagers, all fighting for attention, and place on the team. I felt all this had to be earned, but hey, what did I know, right? I grinned to myself at my thoughts.

I turned to my seatmates, and we all began to recount the game. I could see Jenny out of the corner of my eye. She was across the aisle, and a few seats back, her headphones securely in place. I wondered what she was listening to.

I glanced out the window for a moment, the dark night passing us by, the lights from the bus the only light to slice through the inky night. This was going to be a really long ride home. Sometimes this was my favorite part of the trip, but not this time. I felt I had no patience for it, like I felt a need to escape this close confinement. My feet felt the urge to run, to lose some of the restless energy that was built up in my body since this morning when I had woken up with Jenny. Maybe I would get lucky and Erika would be in town; she often was this time of year.

I glanced in Jenny's direction again with a side glance, and noticed that she seemed to be flushed, slightly readjusting herself in the seat. A small grin quirked my lips. My overheated brain conjured up all sorts of reasons why she could be blushing. Then suddenly her eyes raised, and found mine. I quickly lost the smile, just staring back. I saw her slightly draw her brows in confusion. I knew she couldn't read me, and I liked it that way. I looked away, back out into the night.


Life marched on after that first game, and life was busy; filled with school, parties, practice, games, more parties, and an occasionally missed class or two. One day I got home from school to find my machine blinking.

"Hello, Joie. I'm sorry to call you at home, I know you're a very busy young woman, but this is Ricky Hendricks' father. Um, Ricky's mother has had a set back, and was put into the hospital yesterday. My boy is having a hard time, and um, well, I thought that maybe you could talk to him. I can't seem to get through to him. Um, thank you, Joie."

I stood there, my hands on my hips as I stared out the back sliding glass door. Why was he calling me? What could I possibly do to help the little guy? It wasn't that I didn't want to, or that I didn't care, but I have a hard enough time on my own dealing with loss, let alone give some impressionable kid advice.

I ran my hands through my hair as I headed into the kitchen for a Gatorade, and thought of what to do. I could hear the hope in Ricky's father's voice. I did think that deep down I could get Ricky to listen to me. Just what would I say?

I had called Mr. Hendricks back, and we had decided that I would show up at the hospital in an hour, surprise Ricky, and take him to dinner. This whole thing made me nervous; I didn't want to let the kid down...

I hated hospitals with a passion. The only times I had even been in them were when I would get hurt playing hockey, or during the time I had sat here with Tommy for three days until he had died. A shiver passed through me as I walked down the hall on my way to Martha Hendricks' room. I had stopped in the gift shop on the way up and had bought a plant for her, and a teddy bear for Ricky. He might be a little old for that kind of thing, but I didn't care. Give him something to hold onto when he couldn't hold onto his faith.

The door to the single room was open, and I quietly stood just outside, and glanced in. Jonathon Hendricks sat by the side of the bed, holding his wife's pale hand. Ricky sat in a chair against the wall across from the bed, his little feel not quite able to touch the ground. He had his small hands resting on the scarred arm of the chair, his chin rested on his chest. I could tell he was awake.

"Ding, ding! The doctor is in." I said quietly, a huge smile plastered to my face. Jonathon glanced over his shoulder, his sad eyes smiling. Ricky glanced up, his eyes wide in surprise. I could tell that he was happy to see me, and wanted to jump into my arms, but that stubborn part of him wouldn't allow him to move. I walked into the room, handing the plant to Mr. Hendricks.

"Thank you, Joie." he said, not meaning the plant. I smiled.

"How is she?"

"We don't know yet. She's resting now." he both looked at his wife who seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Jonathon noticed a bit of saliva that had began to seep from the corner of her mouth. He quickly moved to the bed, and wiped it away with a Kleenex. I turned my attention to the little guy.

"Hey, you." I said, kneeling down in front of his chair. Ricky refused to look at me. "Look what I brought for you." I said gently, setting the soft, white teddy bear on his lap. Ricky curled his fingers into the fake fur, and glanced shyly up at me. I smiled.

"Hi." he mumbled.

"Well, that's a start. But don't I rate a hug?" suddenly his little arms opened up, and I raised myself on my knees, pulling his little body into me. He laid his head on my shoulder, and I could hear his breathing in my ear. Strong little guy. Just like his daddy, holding all those big emotions in that little body. I rubbed his back, then pulled away. "You know what I saw down the street that has your name written all over it?" he shook his head, dark hair falling into his eyes. I smiled, and gently pushed the strands back. "A Happy Meal. Want one?" his eyes brightened, and he nodded with a touch of enthusiasm. "Annnnd," I crooned, standing, "I'll bet they'll have a Pokemon toy for you." Ricky stood, and grinned up at me, and grabbed my hand.

The restaurant was busy as kids were getting out of school, and people out of work. Ricky and I found a table in the play area, and sat down to eat our lunch. He didn't eat much of his hamburger, plain with only mustard and pickles, and only shoved his fries around the tray. I watched him closely as I ate my Big Mac.

"How you doing, kid?" I asked, chewing on a fry.

"Okay." he muttered.

"Do you want to go play?" I asked, flicking my eyes at the rowdy kids that were crawling all over the play area with loud screams and giggles following in their wake. He shook his head. "You sure?" he nodded, keeping his eyes on his little Pokemon toy on the table. I took a deep breath, not quite sure what to say next. My heart was breaking for the little guy. "Do you want to talk about it?"


I stared at him for a moment, then an idea struck me.

"Tell you what. Let's play a game, okay?" he glanced up at me with quizzical brown eyes. "You can ask me a question, any question, and I have to answer honestly. Then I get to ask you any question, and you have to answer honestly. Okay?" a small smile spread across his small, pouty lips.

"Okay." I smiled at him. "I get to start?" he asked.

"Yup. Sure do."

"Why aren't you married?"

I nearly choked on my Coke. I swallowed, and set the cup aside.

"Well, I guess I just haven't found anyone I want to marry." I said honestly. He nodded, seeming to be satisfied.

"My turn." I leaned back in my chair and looked at him through half-hooded eyes. "Why do your bangs always fall into your eyes?" Ricky giggled, his new front teeth in partial view as they had begun to descend from his gums.

"I dunno."

I smiled. "Your turn."

Suddenly Ricky's smile fell, and his little shoulders slumped.

"Why does God make people die?" Here we go. I took a deep breath, and leaned forward in my chair. That didn't take as long as I had thought it would.

"Well, that's a good question, Ricky. God doesn't make people die, sweetie. He, well," Ah, the god conversation. I wasn't sure what the Hendricks family beliefs were, so I knew I had to be careful on this one. "You see, everyone has a time to be born, and they have a time when they're supposed to die." I glanced at him to see if he was understanding what I was telling him. I had his rapt attention. "You know how you have your little brother, Mikey?" he nodded. "Well, once I had a brother, too. But he was an older brother, like you are to Mikey. Tommy and I were really close, always. One day something terrible happened, and he got hurt really bad while playing hockey. He was in a lot of pain, Ricky. I didn't want him to have to live in all that pain. Do you want to see your mom in pain?" he shook his head, once again, his dark bangs falling into his eyes. I smiled, and swept the hair back. "God won't let her live in a lot of pain. And, she may not even die." I smiled.

"But my daddy said that she might. The doctor said so, too." I could see his big, worried eyes begin to well up.

"Oh, sweetie, come here."

"No." he angrily swiped at his eyes. He held his breath, trying to get the tears to stop pushing at his eyes. I leaned in, lowering my voice so just he could hear it.

"You know, Ricky, it's okay to cry." he looked up at me with pained eyes, his lower lip sticking out and quivering. I just tried to give him the most reassuring smile I could, and that's all it took. He jumped up from his chair, and ran to me, throwing his small body into my arms. I held him as he cried, whispering soothing words to him.

A short time later I dropped Ricky back off at the hospital. I hope that he felt better after our lunch, but I didn't know. I felt so sorry for the little guy. Martha had woken up, and as Ricky talked to his mother, his father took me out into the hall.

"Well, the doctor said that the medicine is kicking in, and she's doing better. Hopefully she'll be able to go home. Thank you Joie." he took my hand and patted it with his own. "Ricky just thinks the world of you."

"Well, the feelings mutual." I grinned. I left the hospital, and as I walked out into the early evening air, I took a deep breath, filling my lungs. I felt happy for some reason. Like I had accomplished something, had made a difference. Who knows, maybe I had.



Thanksgiving break was upon us, and I was glad for the reprieve from school. I felt the need for some alone time with just me and my writing. A break from school, and even practice. Jenny and I had not really spoken much since that road game, but I had noticed that once we got back to Seattle, and back in the routine of things, she had seemed to change almost over night. She now walked with a certain confidence that I'm not real sure even she realized she possessed. But I noticed, and I found it irresistible.

I wondered what Jenny was going to do for the holidays, where she would go. I didn't know if she had any other family. The obituary for her mother had stated that her father was long dead. I worried about her.

I decided that just incase she was leaving for the holidays, maybe going back to Minnesota or something, I'd stop by Rupert's and wish her a good time. I had been told by a reliable source that she was the assistant manager there, and that same reliable source, nameingly their chief pizza maker, that she was working this afternoon.

I pulled up in front of the pizza place, and sat in my truck for a moment, my heart beating erratically in my chest. I took a deep breath, and felt my confidence build anew with each breath I took. Finally opening the door, I hopped down to the pavement, and made my way inside.

Rupert's was a largish place with colors done in reds and blacks. Tables were scattered throughout with hundreds of video game machines lining the outside walls on three sides. I glanced around, and didn't see Jenny anywhere, but did see the Mortal Kombat machine pulled out near the corner. Might be a good place to start.

As I neared the machine I could see a pair of long legs sticking out the side, ending in white Nikes. I grinned to myself. Bingo. Though I have to admit I was surprised to find her on the floor behind a video game. I stood there with my thumbs in my belt loops, waiting patiently for her to notice me. I'm not sure why. Usually I would more than make my presence known. Maybe I just liked to watch her work. Suddenly I saw a dark head peek around the corner of the machine, and blue eyes scanned up my body from my boots to my eyes. I shoved a shiver down, and raised a brow in amused question instead. A quick, nervous smile crossed her lips.

"Might I ask what the hell you're doing?" I asked.

"Uh," she pulled her arm out from behind the machine, and it was covered with grease from her fingertips to her elbow. I chuckled softly. She stood, bringing a towel with her. "We'd have a major crisis on our hands if these machines don't work." she grinned. God, she looked so cute!

"Well, I'd say you've got something on your hands." I nearly purred. She stared at me for a moment, then stared down at the gooey mess.

"Yeah." she met my gaze again, hers unwavering. I had to glance away. I felt like an idiot. I wanted to ask her if she would like to get some coffee some time, or what she was going to do for the holidays, but every thought I had in my head flew out my ear, and I was struck dumb.

"Well, I just wanted to tell you that you really kicked some serious ass these last couple of games. We couldn't have won without you." I found myself saying, mentally slapping myself. God, how lame.

"Thanks." she said quietly. I could see the surprise of my comment in her eyes, as if that's not what she expected to hear, either. But she looked genuinely pleased.

"And, I wanted to tell you that I hope you have a really good Thanksgiving." I said, trying to stall the inevitable time when I'd have to leave. Gee, Joie. Some writer you are. Can't think of a damn thing to say! I watched as she wiped her arm and hand with the towel she'd been holding, turning the sucker black. I grinned. "Well, I guess you must be as good with your hands as you are with your feet."

"Yeah. They seem to think so here anyway." she indicated the restaurant with a jerk of her head. "And, thanks, Joie. You have a great holiday, too. You've probably got some big thing to go to, huh?" she asked, her eyes curious. I didn't feel like going into my plans, or my situation, so I just said,

"Just the norm." I felt like there was just nothing more to be said plus the more time I spent near her, the more like a child I felt, so I turned and walked away.

I left the place, and sat in my truck again, glancing back into the place through one of the numerous, large windows. Jenny was looking back at me. I broke the contact, and drove away.

As I drove home I thought about this. The strange thing was that I now realized that Jenny held a calming influence over me, whenever I was near her, I felt at ease, at peace with myself. Now if I could only feel at ease with her. How can someone possibly instill calm, and yet such severe agitation in the same breath? I didn't understand it.


Monday, November 21


I officially started my Thanksgiving break today. Yeehaw! I need this break. I talked to the girls yesterday, and told them that I really had no intention of partying this week. I wanted a nice, quiet, and low key Thanksgiving. I plan to do my normal on Thursday. Never deviate from that.

I went to see Jenny at Rupert's today. She looked so beautiful with her arm covered with grease, looking like a child with it's hand caught in the cookie jar. I think the thing that makes me so nervous when I'm around her is the fact that even though we may not say a word, she makes me question myself, look deeper into who I am, am I worthy? I'm afraid I may not like what I'd see.



The next three days passed quickly, until finally it was Thursday, Thanksgiving. I had a love/hate relationship with this day. Part of me felt I really had nothing to be thankful for, yet a different part of me. the part of me that I didn't allow others to see, knew that I was alive, had my passions of writing and hockey to keep me, and I should be grateful everyday that I walked this earth.

I stopped on my way at Subway, and got my usual: a foot long on harvest wheat with turkey breast, ham, cheese, and all the veggies she could pile on there, and Mayo. A 36oz Gatorade, and I was on my way.

The grounds looked good, like they'd been kept up nicely since I'd been here last, a few months ago. I just got too busy sometimes. I saw a few people walking around, some carrying flowers, others just looking, or staring at all the what ifs, and where would you bes. I glanced at all the neighboring plots as I made my way like a frequent sleep walker. My smile was bitter/sweet as I read allowed.

"Here lies Thomas J. Peterson- Beloved son and brother." I shook my head sadly. "Beloved, my ass. When was the last time mom or dad was here, Tommy?" I asked quietly. I sat just off to the side of the grave, and spread out the small blanket that I had brought. There were just too many bugs here last year without the blanket. I took a long drink of my fruit punch Gatorade, then started on half of the sandwich. "Happy Thanksgiving, bro." I said as I swallowed the large bite, and took another. I stared off into the numerous trees as I ate, the few birds that remained in late November chattering amongst themselves. I smiled. It was so peaceful here. There was a time when I would come here to do my homework, or to read, or write. Or just to do be. I finished the half of the sandwich, and glanced down at the other half, still wrapped. Usually I could finish one of these babies off in mere minutes, then down a bag of chips. But today I just wasn't in the mood to eat, my stomach tight.

I stretched my arms out behind me, leaning on my hands and raised my face to the clear, blue sky, my eyes closed as the sun shone down on me. I reached up and took my Oakley's off, tossing them on the blanket next to me. I took a deep breath, suddenly to my immense surprise, I felt like crying. I sat up, raised my knees to my chest, crossed my ankles, and hugged my thighs. Almost as if I thought I could protect myself from the world with just my body. I rested my chin where my knees met, and closed my eyes. I didn't want to cry, damnit. But I feared it just might be inevitable today. My throat tightened, and I felt a single tear run lazily down my cheek, spreading, then soaking into the material of my jeans.

I thought back over the years. I had been fifteen when Tommy had been killed. Though I had still been living with my parents then, I had felt like I would die right along with him. He had been my hero, and I did everything I could to emulate him. He had been eight years older than me. So now as I sit here, missing him, and only a year younger than he had been when he died, I still feel the loss; still almost palpable after seven years. Tommy had made me feel so safe, and so much better about myself. He had been one of the only ones to make me lower the walls that I had so successfully built over the years because he had believed in me, accepted me for everything that I was. I didn't need to crave his attention, because he gave it freely. He-

My brow knit as I felt someone behind me, a presence watching me. Suddenly I knew it was Jenny. Don't ask me how, I just knew. Then I realized that that was what drew me to her so much. She had the same energy, yet peace that my brother had. I've felt drawn to her like any moth to a beautiful flame. It's just that this moth was terrified of getting scorched.

I brought up a hand, and wiped that single tear away, then stood. I glanced down at the monument that was my brother, kissed two of my fingers, and gently placed them on top of the stone.

"Until next time, Tommy." I whispered. I took a deep breath as I stared off into the trees again, the late afternoon sun beginning to descend, it's dying light shining into my eyes. Isn't it ironic that the dying rays of the sun seem to be brighter than that of the sun at mid-day? I gathered my blanket, and my Oakley's and did not even glance back to see where Jenny was, and headed out of the cemetery.

Friday, November 25


I think I figured it out. Why she scares me so much; she makes me want to feel again. Dare I?




School was back in session, and Christmas was swiftly coming. I was not particularly looking forward to the holiday, but again, the break would be nice. The hockey season would be over in about a month and a half, and we only had five games left to play.

Since Thanksgiving, I had pretty much been keeping to myself. I felt like a bear, going into hibernation for the winter.

I sat on my couch trying to get into the movie, Braveheart, I mean, who can resist Sophie Marceou? No one with the slightest bit of human blood in them, anyway. But I just could not lose myself in the incredible story like I usually could. I think I watched that movie about once a month or so. For some god awful reason my mother was on my mind. I wanted to talk to her, hear her voice. I have not had the inclination to jump off this bridge in a couple of years.

I glanced over at the cordless that rested on the arm of the couch. Finally with a sigh I paused the movie, and grabbed the phone. I took another sigh as I slowly dialed my parent's Florida number. I wondered if they'd be home, or if they would have gone somewhere for the holidays? Perhaps to their cabin in Colorado? The line began to ring, my heart increasing tenfold with each shrill ring. Finally on the fourth ring, someone picked up. My mother.

"Peterson." she said, her voice held its usual rigid timbre.

"Hello, mom." I said quietly, grabbing my pen from the end table, and running my thumb along the cap. She was silent, I could hear the surprise breath she took.

"Josephine." she said, her voice expressionless.

"Mom, you know how much I hate being called that." I said, beginning to rub my temples as a headache started behind my eyes. Maybe this had been a mistake.

"Well, I certainly hope you don't expect me to call you Joie."

"Whatever. I didn't call to fight with you." I said, trying with every fiber in me to keep my voice calm.

"Did you not receive your allowance this month?" she asked. I could almost picture her, blond hair, so much like my own, piled into a tight bun, the ever present crease between her eyes from years of worrying about other's business, her hands playing with some stack of papers on my father's desk, straightening, cleaning. I was stung by her question.

"So you think I called for your money." this more a statement than a question.

"Well, I just thought-"

"Have a happy holiday, mother." I said, and carefully hung up the phone. I walked to the back sliding glass door, and stared out, my arms crossed over my chest, the material of my flannel soft against my skin. I closed my mind off, my thoughts would only be bitter ones, anyway.




"Come on, Knutsen! If you're going to be a fucking center, then play like you are!" I raged, smacking my stick on the ice for emphasis. Marla Knustsen just stared at me, not quiet sure what to say. "Let's play." I bent down to position again, eyeing her caustically.

"Jesus, Joie. Calm down." she whispered over the puck. I just glared at her, and at the whistle pushed past her across the ice, around Reva Martinez, faking Lily Romani on the right wing, then slamming that bitch into the net with a force that entangled the puck into the netting of the goal. A hush swept over the rink, every player's eyes fixed on me. I lowered my eyes, and skated off the ice.

"I'll be right back." I muttered to a stunned Coach Maron who only nodded. I walked into the bathroom, and tore my helmet off, tossing it into the sink, and stared into the mirror. My green eyes were dark with fury unchecked. I knew that had been a mistake to call my mother yesterday. Why do I put myself through this shit! Too many fucking years of anger!

I turned on the cold water, and splashed my face, rubbing my hands over my eyes, then grabbing my helmet and heading back onto the ice.

"Let's start again." I said quietly, not meeting Marla's eyes.

Everyone filed into the locker room murmuring quietly. I knew that everyone was wondering what demon had possessed me, but I was not in the mood to explain or apologize. I quickly dressed, not even worrying about a shower. I just wanted the hell out of there. I turned from my locker to see Jenny buttoning her shirt. She looked up, and for just a moment our eyes met. I saw sympathy pass through those incredible blue eyes, and compassion, and understanding. I could only stare. Though it was just for a moment, it felt like an eternity. God, I would have done anything just for her to be close to me right then. She wouldn't of had to say a word. Thunk. I felt a piece of the wall that surrounded me so tightly fall away in that moment. Then I quickly picked it back up, and put it back into place, my stubbornness the mortar. I walked away.



Christmas break came, and then Christmas came, and then it went. I was glad. I really wasn't much a fan of the holidays. Carla insisted on putting lights on the outside of the house, so I let her. I have to admit, coming home at night I couldn't help but grin at the bright lights that twinkled on and off. It was charming.

Coach was having his usual New Year's party, and I was actually looking forward to it. I hadn't partied in awhile, and I adored Coach's wife, Sally. She was just too much fun.

I dressed carefully in tight black pants that I knew showed off the shape of my thighs and butt. Lingering in my closet for awhile, trying to decide on a shirt. Finally I came up with a sleeveless, silk number that was an intense green color, and set off my eyes. I ran my hands through my hair once, and out the door I went.

True to form, I showed up at Coaches four bedroom rancher late. The driveway was loaded with cars, and I noticed Jenny's Outback. I smiled, and went in. I could hear U2's Angel of Harlem blaring through the speakers as I walked into the house. I looked around trying to see who all was here, and then I spotted Jenny. I was taken slightly aback when I saw some guy standing with her. It looked like they had just gotten there, too. Jenny was looking around, and when she saw me, her eyes stopped. I walked toward her, and that idiot next to her placed his hand on her lower back.

"Hey, Carlson." I said, my voice low, only wanting her to hear. "You look beautiful." I was nearly breathless as I took in the tight fitting sleeveless dress that matched her eyes perfectly. Her dark hair and bright eyes were set off by subtle lip stick in a shade of drop dead gorgeous red. Wow.

"Thank you, Joie. So do you." he words brought me from my reverie, and once again I noticed the guy standing with her, looking me up and down. Yeah, dream on.

"Who's this?" I had to really fight to keep the bite from my voice.

"Hi. I'm Jenny's boyfriend, Ron." I almost snickered when I saw Jenny close her eyes, and I could have sworn I heard a groan somewhere. Perhaps she found this parasite as annoying as I? But, still. I was surprised, and I didn't like to be surprised.

"Oh," I said, looking at Jenny, as usual, my face expressionless. "I'm Joie. Jenny and I play together." I quickly glanced at Jenny, the tiniest of smiles quirking the corner of my mouth at her expression, and walked away.

"Strange chick." I heard Ron say.

"You have no idea." I mumbled as I joined the party.

Coach cranked up the volume on the music, and people started to dance.

"Come here, Joie. Dance with my." Coach said, grabbing my arm, pulling me away from the group of girls I was talking to.

"You got it." I smiled as I allowed him to lead me to the center of the large game room where furniture had been moved to the sides, the pool table still down at the far end.

"So how do you like the party so far?" he asked, as we tried to keep up with Savage Garden's "Affirmation". "I thought you were going to bring a date?" he asked, his brows raised in question. I patted his arm lightly.

"Now, Coach, if I brought a date who would dance with you? 'Cause I know your wife sure isn't going to." I said loud enough for Sally to hear me, and winked at her grin.

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Jenny sure looks beautiful tonight, doesn't she?" we both glanced over to see her dancing with that guy, what's his face.

"Yeah. She sure does."

I spent most of the party ignoring Jenny, trying to convince myself that she wasn't even there. I knew I was being childish, but I couldn't stand that sight of her standing there talking to that guy, or watch him lay his hands on her, rub her back, pat her thigh, or make her smile. I could almost see my journal entry for the night in my mind now,

I acted like a child because I was jealous. So sue me...


I danced with some of the other girls on my team, and actually did have a great time, downing one beer after another, and then finally one glass of champagne after another.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Ron and Jenny talking, and she was obviously trying to convince him of something, if his drawn brows were any indication. I looked away, glad to see that he didn't look like a very happy camper. Then when I looked back again, my eyes bulged. He was leaning over, and kissed her on the mouth. She pulled away from him with a hand on his chest, and for a moment I was really tempted to rush over there and tell the asshole to back off. She looked over, our eyes met for just a second, then my hurt got the best of me, and I looked away. Hurt? Did I just say hurt? Hot damn. Suddenly I realized that I was hurt; hurt that Jenny had come with someone else. How crazy is that?

I turned my back completely on them, and gave my attention to the girls, mostly Adrienne Wilks, a cute assed wing that was new on the team this year, and had made it more than a little obvious all season that she was interested. She was just a couple inches taller than I with long, medium brown hair, and steel blue eyes. Why not have a little fun?

I was suddenly being slammed against my truck, a hot mouth on my neck, and finally on my lips. I squeezed the tight butt that was beneath my hands, not entirely sure who's it was. Didn't matter, not in this severely drunken state.

"God, I've wanted you all season, Joie." was breathed in my ear, before my lobe was immersed with wet heat. I closed my eyes, and pressed my breast into the palm that was fondling me. "Come on, baby. Come back to my dorm." my legs were parted with a knee, and a thigh was pressed to me; I groaned at the contact. "Come on." the whispered voice begged.

Suddenly Jenny's face flashed before my eyes, her eyes smiling at me, inviting. I sobered quickly as I realized what was about to happen In Coach's driveway.

"No," I stammered weakly, trying to pry the mouth from my throat. "No," I pushed a little harder. "Stop!" I shoved Adrienne away, feeling guilty, but irritated at the same time. "We can't do this here." I mumbled.

"Like I said, let's go back to my dorm." she took a step closer, but I held my hand out to stop her.

"No. I'm sorry, Adrienne, but I need to get home."

"What the hell?" she asked, her eyes turning angry.

"I'm sorry." I said, my voice gaining a bit more strength as I dug my keys out of my pocket. "I can't do this." she gave me the once over, a rueful smile on her face.

"You know, she left with him." she said quietly, then walked away. I watched her leave, my mouth hanging open. What? I unlocked my truck, and sat there for a moment. God, was I sober enough to drive? I thought of Adrienne's words as I turned the ignition. Yes, she had left with him. I slammed my hand into the wheel, then drove home.



Monday, January 1


Well, once I was able to wake up from my total, and complete alcohol-induced 12 hour sleep, I was able to realize how bad I felt about Adrienne. I should never have led her on like that. At least the season is just about over, so I don't have to face her much.

I've made a decision; I am going to get Jenny out of my head. I knew better than to get interested in her. I knew it would be a huge mistake. Sometimes being right isn't cool. This is one time I wish I would be wrong. But I just don't think that's the case. I should have known Jenny would show up with someone, I just never honestly thought that it would be a guy! God, how stupid can I be? I'm a fool.





The holidays were now officially over, and we were starting the countdown till the end of the season. We had played our asses off, and had done well, but had not made the championships. That was okay. We were sort of a young team this year, so I knew that next year we would really kick ass; then everyone would know how to play off each other, and it would be my final year as a Panther, and I intended to go out strong.

I had started to avoid Jenny altogether, deciding that that was the better way to go. Then no one gets confused. Besides, it's not like I'd pledged myself to be her, or anything.

Practice had ended, and I quickly showered, dressed and was on my way out. Ricky had called, and wanted me to come to the welcome home party for his mother. She had been in and out of the hospital, and now looked good to go. So I headed out of the locker room, my bag slung over my shoulder as usual. To my surprise I heard Jenny call out to me.

"Joie?" I ignored her, and tossed my bag into the back of my truck, and unlocked the door to my truck. "Joie, wait." she said again. Please, please just go, Jenny. Please. I turned to her, my pride rearing it's ugly head.

"Yeah? Make it quick. I have to be somewhere." I could see she was trying to hide her surprise and hurt, and I immediately regretted my words, but I had to stay strong.

"What's the deal?"

"What deal? What, is there a sale somewhere?" Damnit, Joie! Cut it out. She stared at me, her eyes pleading.

"Why are you treating me like shit? What did I do?"

You came into my life, Jenny. That's all. I couldn't look her in the eye, so I stared down at the parking lot instead. How to answer this? I shoved my hands in the back pockets of my jeans, then met her gaze again.

"Why don't you ask your boyfriend." I said finally, my voice quiet. I wanted her to hurt as much as I did. I am such an awful person. I couldn't stand the look on her face, so I turned, hopped into my truck, and drove away. I stopped at the stop light at the corner, rubbed my eyes that were burning, the emotion like little pins prickling my eyes. Taking a deep breath, I stepped on the gas.



"So are we still on for tonight, baby?" Erika purred in my ear. I grinned. Her voice alone could turn me on. It would be good to get out of the house tonight. I needed to go have some fun, get drunk, get laid. The hockey season was over now, and I wanted to celebrate.

"You know it. How long are you in town for?" I asked, laying on my couch, staring up at the little stars that were just beginning to glow as the sun fell.

"Only for tonight. I'm going back to my offices in L.A. tomorrow."

"Well, are you sure you want to go out, then? I mean, if you have to go back so early-"

"No. I'm in the mood to dance. Scones?" she asked.

"Yup. You got it. Pick you up at your hotel around eight?"

I was feeling frisky, so I dressed in the tightest jeans that I owned, a black sports bra, and my sleeveless flannel, left open. I knocked on the door to Erika's room, and it was immediately answered. I grinned at her.

"Ready?" I asked.

"Yeah." she hungrily looked me over. "Where's the rest of your outfit, Joie?" she purred.

"Well, if all goes well, on my bedroom floor next to yours." I stepped in, and kissed lightly, but enough to maker her want more.

"God, you are bad." she said, patting my butt. I grinned again and took in her black, suede pants, and tight tank top. A half dozen bracelets jingled on her arms. Her long red hair was teased just slightly, and her pouty lips were red, sexy as hell.

Scones was already packed, the music pounding through my ears, making my legs itch to dance. I was here a lot, and always knew tons of people, and tonight was no different. We were invited to sit at a table with some girls I knew from UW. Erika was also well known, and we were having a blast when out of the corner of my eye I noticed Rico walk in.

"I'll be right back!" I yelled over the music. "A friend of mine just came in!" Erika nodded, and I grabbed my beer and walked in the general direction I had seen him go. I ended up at a small table near the dance floor, and nearly choked when I saw Jenny with him.

"You want anything, sweetie?" Rico asked her, nodding toward the bar. I couldn't help but step forward.

"Yeah, how about some rum?" I asked, looking at Jenny. For some reason Lori's party came back, and I remembered seeing her drink that there. I grinned at Jenny's shocked expression. To my shock, she gave me the once over, her eyes becoming very bright, almost electric. I wondered what she was thinking. But she was making me hot thinking it.

"Girlfriend, damn, if I already didn't have my heart given away to all those cute boys, you'd be in my bed!" Rico exclaimed, and pulled me to him in one of his massive hugs. When he pulled away, a slapped his arm.

"Hey, Rico, man. What's up?" the little shit proceeded to pat me on the butt.

"You are so yummy, sweetie. Anyway, oh, not much." suddenly it struck me that Rico was alone.

"Where's Todd?" I looked around; he wasn't at the bar like he usually was. I stared into Rico's dark eyes, and shook my head. "Not again."

"I'm afraid so. He broke my heart." I burst out laughing.

"Oh, I'm sure he did. Rico, you are such a slut!"

"Well, I'm a thirsty slut. You want anything, sweetie?"

"Nope." I showed him my half empty bottle of Corona. What can I say? I'm a beer girl.

"Okay. Be right back." he leaned into me. "Behave."

I chuckled and turned back to Jenny who had been watching our banter with interest.

"I must say, I'm a bit surprised t see you here, Carlson." I grinned.

"Rico thought it'd easier to pick up guys if he had a lowly woman on his arm." she said shyly. I raised a brow, and looked Jenny over, taking in her comfortable looking jeans, and UW tee, and then her long, dark hair that was pulled back. I liked it better down, but this way her graceful neck was exposed. She was beautiful.

"I wouldn't say lowly." I grinned, that little smile that she seemed to like so much, and I loved to give her. "So," I said, feeling extremely cocky. Jenny was in my element now, "Wanna dance?" she opened her mouth to answer.

"Here we go. Amaretto Sour for you, three shots for me." Rico's voice cut through the moment. Damn it, man. He sat down, and looked from one of us to the other. "Am I interrupting something?" he asked.

"No." I said, never leaving Jenny's gaze. For some reason tonight she seemed bolder, more confident, and I loved it. "If you change your mind...." I grinned at Rico, slapped him on the shoulder, and walked back to my table.

"Everything okay?" Erika asked as I plopped down into the chair next to her, took a long drink of my beer.

"Oh, yeah. Let's dance." I stood, and pulled her up. I needed to get rid of some of this excess energy. I led her to the dance floor, and pulled her to me as we began to move to the slow, erotic beat of a salsa.

"What has gotten into you , Joie?" Erika grinned, running a finger along my jaw. I shrugged, and led us further into the throng of moving bodies. I laid my head down on Erika's shoulder as her hands wondered up under my flannel, her nail scraping the skin of my back. A shiver passed through me, and then her hands were on my butt. I was on fire. I raised my head, and to my surprise, was looking right at Jenny. She was sitting in her chair, Rico talking to some guy, her legs crossed at the knee, the top leg swinging slowly, hypnotically back and forth. Our gazes met, and my body temperature went up at least ten degrees. So many feelings were flashing through those baby blues as she watched us dance, Erika's hands on me. I stared at Jenny, the fire that was gathering in my body shining through my eyes. I wondered if she realized that all that fire was for her. I wanted her so bad I could taste it. She watched us almost with voyeuristic interest. Then she stood, and I felt my heart plummet. She was leaving. I caught her gaze, and mouthed,

"I want to make love to you." her brows drew, and she mouthed back, what. I only grinned. It was better that she didn't know. Our gazes locked for a painfully short moment, then she turned to Rico, said something, then was gone.

God! I could scream, I was so turned on. The beer in my system, a warm body against mine...

"Let's go." I whispered into Erika's ear. I smiled at the shiver I felt run through her body....

As soon as my front door was closed, I slammed Erika against it, and began to attack her mouth, my hands running over every inch of her body I could reach. She was moaning into my ear, her thumbs hooked into my back belt loops. I tugged her tank out from the waistband of her suede pants, and pulled it over her head, tossing it to the floor.

"Oh, baby." she moaned as I attacked her naked breasts, her nipples hard, waiting for my tongue. While my mouth was busy, I began to shove her pants down her body until they lay in a black puddle at her feet. No underwear. That's my Erika. My hands trailed down her stomach until I reached her patch of fire red hair between her legs, and felt how wet she was, her excitement oozing down her thigh. I thrust two fingers in, quickly setting a fast, intense rhythm. "Baby, Joie, yes, yes." she panted, her eyes closed, nails digging into my shoulder. She was close. I continued to suck and bite her engorged nipples, as my hand mercilessly pumped in and out of her. Finally with a scream, she came, and I began to attack again, not ready to relinquish control just yet. "Wait, baby, wait." she whispered, gently pushing me away. I took a step back, my face flushed, eyes wild, chest heaving. "Baby, what has gotten into you?" her blue eyes were concerned. She reached a hand out, and gently pushed my bangs out of my eyes.

"Nothing is wrong." I pushed into her again, but she pushed me away. "What?" I asked, irritated.

"Baby, this isn't a race." I walked away from her, and tore my flannel off, tossing over the back of the couch. Erika pulled her pants back up, and walked over to me. She placed a hand on my shoulder, and I pulled away from her.

"Fuck off. " I muttered.

"Joie, what is it?" I turned my back to her, staring out into the dark night.

"I'm sorry." I said finally with a deep sigh, turning to face her. I smiled at the look of concern I saw there. "You don't deserve this, Erika. You didn't do anything. I'm sorry I attacked you like that." I said, gesturing toward the door, where just minutes before I had ravaged her.

"It's okay, baby. I like it wild, but come on, now. " she smiled, and I smiled back. "That girl at the club, was that Jenny?"

My eyes opened wide in surprise.

"How did you-"

"Well, sugar, she's all you've talked about for months. I know you well enough to know that you don't just talk about someone for the hell of it. For her to stay in your mind for so long, she must have made one hell of an impression."

"Yeah, I guess she did." I smiled, and plopped down on the couch. She joined me, tugging her shirt back on. "I'm really sorry." I said quietly, noticing a small tear in the fabric.

"It's okay, sweetie." she caressed my cheek, then grabbed my hand. "Want to tell me about it?" she asked, her sweet, southern draw running over me like honey. Before I knew what I was doing, I had relayed the last eight months events to her. She listened quietly, nodding, her eyes never leaving mine, her hand never letting go of mine. When finally I had finished my story, she brought my hand to her lips, and ran her lips along my knuckles. "Don't let her go, Joie." she finally said. I was surprised, not expecting to hear this from her.

"What?" she smiled, and released my hand.

"Don't let her go. This woman seems to have touched you deeper than anyone I have ever heard you talk about, and honey, I've known you a long time. Go with it."

"But she's straight, Erika!" I exclaimed, pulling my hand from hers, my heart hurting all over again. "I can't have her." I said, so much finality in my voice.

"Says who? If those looks she was sending you tonight mean anything, I'd say you're in the running, honey. You're just refusing to see the Forrest for the trees."

"But she's-"

"Not all of us came out of the womb a lesbian like you, honey." she smiled. "I can see a difference in you, Joie. She has affected you, gotten through some of that hard headedness of yours. I'd really hate to see it go to waste." she stood, and grabbed her purse off the floor where it had been flung when I had slammed her against the door.

"Where are you going?" I asked, still sitting on the couch.

"I'm going to go get some sleep, and you should probably do the same, honey. I'll call you when I get back to L.A." she walked over to me, kissed me softly on the forehead, and left. I laid my head back on the back of the couch, and stared up at the ceiling. What should I do? Tommy used to say, the worst that can be said is no, but in this case, would my heart be able to deal with that?



Steph called me up; the gang wanted to get together and get something to eat, so I suggested Rupert's. All decided, that's where we went.

March was coming on, and the weather was unseasonably warm, and pizza place was very busy. We all gathered at a couple tables they had dragged together to accommodate all of us. It was fun, we all laughed, and giggled. It was a much needed release for me. I was slowly building my confidence to go in alone and talk to Jenny. She worked almost every night, and she would glance often at our little group, sometimes smiling at some loud comment made by someone, or sometimes just looking, watching. I made sure we came in regularly for nearly the whole month of March.

As the month of April came on, I started to come in alone. I figured that this would be a good time to get caught up on my writing.

Wednesday, April 13


I'm sitting in Rupert's right now munching a heavenly slice of Canadian Bacon and Pineapple pizza. Rico has certainly found his niche in life as a pizza maker.{grin} Anywho, I haven't written anything in awhile. I think I've been afraid of the almighty pen. It is mightier than the sword, you know? This whole diary thing makes me look into my self, and that my friends is a scary thing sometimes.

Jenny is working tonight. She is a good boss; firm, but very kind, and pretty funny, too. I'd love to have her as a boss, and other things. But that's another story all together. I've given alot of thought to what Erika said. And I think for the most part she is right, but damn am I afraid to find out. What if I let my walls fall, allow Jenny to see into that deepest part of me that no one has seen, including me, and she rejects me? She laughs at me? I don't think that would happen. I think I'm just trying to talk myself out of this ruse. Is that it? Yes, I believe it is.

Hmm. She is standing there talking to Rico as she goes through receipts. I wonder what that little queen is telling her? God only knows! It looks serious, though. She is staring at him like he just told her to cut off her own finger. Hmm. Now he's looking over at me. What the hell are you winking at me for, Rico? Perhaps I should investigate....


I closed my book, capped my pen, and stood. Rico had walked back to the kitchen, and Jenny had turned her attention fully to the receipts. I decided on the subtle humor/ digging for info approach.

"So how's Ron"

Jenny looked up, seeming to be genuinely surprised to see me standing there. God, she was so beautiful, her sky blue eyes wide.

"I don't know. Why don't you ask his girlfriend." she raised a brow, the smallest quirk at the corner of her mouth.

"Well, aren't I?" I asked, my own brow quirked.

"No." she said, her voice low, and was that just the slightest bit of a flirtatious tone? I smiled, slow, and cute. Or so I'm told. I nodded slightly as if to myself, and began to turn away.

"Interesting." I walked back to my table, grabbed my stuff, and left.

...that was very interesting. So Ron is out of her life. She didn't seem to be too distraut over it, either. If I didn't know better, I'd say that she was sort of flirting with me tonight. I want to talk to her again, find a more interesting subject that Ron. But I think that maybe I should stay away for a couple of days, get some distance, clear the head. I laugh as I think what Erika would say. She'd call me a chicken shit, and with all right! I am being a chicken shit.


I awoke early, the warm sun making sleep uncomfortable. When you're used to nice, but still cool weather, an unusually hot day makes it a bit uncomfortable. Today was supposed to be a warm one.

I got out of bed, dressed quickly in a pair of shorts, and tank, and went for a run. Once I got back home I settled on the floor with an orange Gatorade, and watched the noon news. I had no classes today, and so tried to decide how to spend my day. My first thought was heading down to Rupert's, but I stopped myself. No. Space. Distance. Time to think.

I managed to while the day away cleaning, doing homework that had been ignored for a week, and then worked out. It was dark out now, and I decided to take a drive. I showered, dressed in a clean tank, jeans, and threw on my hiking boots.

The city was rowdy on this warm night. I smiled at the groups of gathered teenagers who roamed the major streets. God, I would not want to be that age again for nothing! Suddenly I realized I was headed to Rupert's. I thought about turning around, taking a different road, but changed my mind.

The place was clearing out, obviously closing time. They must have been busy from the number of cars leaving the lot. I parked my truck directly in front of the front door, not really sure why. I climbed out of the truck, staring up into the star-filled sky, the moon was full and brilliant. I jumped up and sat on the hood of the truck, my forearms resting on my thighs. I sighed. What the hell am I doing here?

Time slowly trailed by as people continued to leave. Some people I knew stopped and chatted with me, then headed out to the next party. I was invited to how many, I don't know. But that's not what I had on my mind this night. Tonight I felt as though I was ready to take a leap, no matter how blind it may have been.

After awhile everyone had left, and the parking lot was empty save for the Outback parked not too far from my truck. I saw the shades on the front doors go down, and then the doors opened, and Jenny backed out. I could feel my stomach lurch, my heart in my throat. She locked the doors, then turned and nearly jumped out of her skin. I smiled.

"Sorry if I scared you." I said quietly.

"That's okay." she folded her jacket that she had been carrying over her arm. She chewed on her bottom lip, then said, "Oh, did you forget something?" she indicated the restaurant behind her with her thumb. I smiled.

"No." I hopped down from the high truck, and leaned against the grill, my hands in my front pockets. I glanced up into the sky, gathering my courage. This felt so strange. I had never been lacking in confidence, in fact I often got myself in trouble for being too cocky. I looked at her once more. "To be honest, I'm not real sure why I'm here." I answered honestly. She said nothing. "do you ant to take a walk?"

"Yeah." she smiled. "Let me put this in my car." I followed her the short distance to her Outback, and watched as she threw the jacket in the backseat, then she turned to me with a smile. We walked for awhile in silence, neither feeling the need to talk. I remembered Swallow Lake that wasn't too far up the path, and began to head in that direction. Jenny walked on without question.

"It's such a beautiful night." I smiled, thoroughly enjoying, but was shocked by, the comfortable silence that I shared with her. "This is the kind of night that poets write about."

"Are you a poet, Joie?" I smiled up at her, and nodded. "So that must be what you write in that little black book of yours." again I nodded, pleased.

"So you noticed my little black book, huh?" I grinned up at her. We walked onto the bridge that covered the small lake, stopping half way and resting against the rail. It was so incredibly peaceful. I really don't think I could have written of a better one.

"Yes, I noticed." she said quietly. I glanced over at her, not sure what to say to that.

"Want to go sit down?" I asked instead, pointing to the little grassy hill that lined the lake.


We both sat, nearly grazing arms. Jenny stretched her long legs out, sighing in the relief of sitting after what I'm sure was a long, grueling day. Her hand gently wiped across the tips of the blades of grass. I pulled my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around my thighs.

"So why did you break up with Ron? He seemed like a nice enough guy, though he kind of dressed like an idiot" I smiled, she grinned back.

"Yeah, he did, didn't he?" I nodded. "We never were really going out, well, at least not in my mind. He had other ideas." she turned to look me in the eye. "I broke it off on New Year's eve." I stared at her. I knew that there was meaning behind that admission, that Jenny wanted me to know that he was gone, and it had been on a significant night. I felt stupid now. That had been the night when I had decided to let her go; she was out of my reach. "Why did you come here tonight, Joie?" she asked quietly. I stared into her eyes, mine no longer afraid to hold her gaze in a frank contemplation.

"I wanted to see you." I said finally, deciding that I was tired of games. I wanted to be honest.

"I was disappointed that you didn't come in today." she admitted. I could tell that for a moment she was surprised at her own words, but then seemed to come to the same realization that I had. Games were done and over with. Now was a time for truth, for better or for worse.

"I debated all day on what to do. I can't keep going on like this, Jenny." Jenny stared at me, and I could see a tempest of emotions and questions running through her eyes, but she said nothing. "Can I tell you something?" I asked, my voice just barely above a whisper.

"Yes." she said just as quiet. I felt my courage surround me, and fill me anew, like a was reborn.

"I think somewhere along the way these last eight months, I've fallen for you." I glanced down to my knees, then looked over at her again. "Pretty crazy, huh?" I grinned.

"No." she breathed. I felt my chest inflate as my heart seemed to grow to double its size. There was a look of such adoration and love in her eyes now that she took my breath away. "Joie." she whispered, her voice full of need and desperation. I needed to touch her, to see if she was really here, if I was really here. I brought a hand up and cupped the side of her face, her skin warm against my palm. Her eyes closed, and she leaned into my touch. I untangled my body from itself, and leaned over, moving my face closer to hers. I could feel her breath, so warm against my face. She opened her eyes, our faces now just mere inches apart. I searched her eyes for any sign of hesitance, or change of heart. There was none.

I leaned in slowly, her eyes closed, as did mine, and just barely brushed her lips with mine. More beautiful then I had ever imagined. I pulled away just barely, then came back for fuller contact, pressing a bit more, seeking. Suddenly one of her hands was tangling in my hair, and I suppressed a small moan. I brought up my other hand, and began to caress her neck, my thumb rubbing against her jaw. She was so soft under my touch. I eased my tongue out, and just barely brushed it against her lips, testing. She started ever so slightly, so I pulled back, but her hand in my hair guided me back, and I tasted her lips again, this time her mouth opened in silent invitation, and I tasted her again, deepening the kiss. God! I'd never experienced anything like it. This was all so new to me. Usually I didn't bother to ask. I knew the women I was with wanted me, and so I made sure they had their pleasure, but I did it my way, certainly not soft and gentle as I craved with Jenny. As her tongue met mine, a moan did escape my throat. I was on fire.

I needed to feel her against me, under me, so I gently pushed her back to lay in the grass, our bodies joining on the way down. Jenny ran her hands through my hair, over my neck, and finally to rest upon my shoulders as we continued to kiss. I could have just kissed her all night. She was incredible. I felt overwhelmed. I pulled back from her, and held myself up on my arms, looking down into the beautiful face below me. Her eyes fluttered open and she stared up at me.

"I've dreamed of this." I admitted as I ran my fingers through her dark hair that was laid out around her head, the strands like cool silk. Just as I had imagined.

"So have I." she said, her hands running down my back. My heart stopped at her words, and I leaned in again to kiss her, softly, just a touch, a promise. I moved to her neck, and began to taste the skin there, my body beginning to out weigh my emotions. Her fingers curled into my hair again, and I reached down to the waistline of her jeans, and slowly began to untuck her shirt. I heard her suck in a breath as my hand slipped underneath the material, and ran along the hot skin of her torso. I continued to kiss her throat, running my tongue along her collar bones. My hand made its way up until finally I felt the material of her sports bra, and moved up to cup a full breast. The nipple was standing erect, waiting for my touch. Jenny groaned as I played with the stiff tips, and she reached her hands down and cupped my butt, pulling me closer into her. I maneuvered a leg over, and spread her legs with my knee, slipping my leg between hers, pressing myself into her. God, she felt so good!

I slowly made my way down her body with my lips and tongue, pulling her shirt up higher as I went. I needed to see her, feel her. I pulled the red polo completely off. She was incredible. I moved back to her mouth, and tried to put everything that I was feeling into that kiss as I pulled my own tank from my jeans, and yanked it off, tossing it aside. I laid my full body ontop of hers again, and closed my eyes at the exquisite feel of her hot skin against mine. I kissed her again, and soon it became wild, passionate, hungry. I felt like I was sipping from a spring of life that I'd been searching for my whole life.

Jenny ran her hands up and down my back as she pressed her body up into mine, her fingers finding the back of my sports bra, and running them under the tight material. I needed to feel more of her, so I pushed up from her, kneeling between her legs, and pulled the bra over my head, now completely revealed to her. I watched her face intently as she studied me. For some reason it really mattered what she thought. I had never doubted my own body or ability before that night. A shiver passed through me as I saw the fire in those blue eyes intensify. She reached her hands out, and touched me, small, careful caresses. Then the touch became more sure, needing. She cupped my breasts, and I could feel my nipples harden immediately. I closed my eyes at the incredible sensation. I needed to be apart of the exploration, not just the recipient, so I placed my hands on the smooth skin of Jenny's arms, slid them up her forearm until I covered her hands, pushing myself even more into her touch. God, did she know what she did to me? Jenny sat up, and I readjusted our position, so I was straddling her hips. She kneaded the flesh, running her palms over the pebbled tips, then I swore I saw stars as I felt her tongue find me. I threw my head back, never knowing truly what pleasure was until that moment.

"Jenny," I breathed, almost a plea. Jenny really went wild then, her confidence in her own abilities increasing tenfold, and she began to suckle me, tease me. I couldn't take anymore. I reached down and pulled her own sports bra off, and rubbed our breasts together. Jenny closed her eyes, and moaned into my neck. I realized then that I was losing control of this. No, no tonight was about Jenny, Jenny's pleasure, not mine. I slowly pushed her back to the grass, still straddling her. I kissed her again, slow, gentle, full of promise of what was to come. My hands were itching to feel her skin, so I began to explore, touching her breasts, squeezing and pinching the rock hard nipples until Jenny's breathing had increased, and she was softly moaning. As one of my hands continued on her breast, the other trailed down her body, softly tickling the hot skin until I reached the rough material of her jeans. I toyed with the snaps for a moment, then slowly, ever so slowly, undid every one, feeling and caressing the skin along her lower belly as I went. As my hand got closer to its destination, I could feel the incredible heat that met my skin. I slipped down beyond the waistband of her silky underwear, once again teasing, avoiding where her slowly rocking hips were telling me she needed me.

"Joie." she breathed, her plea full of desperation. I smiled and kissed her again.

"Patience." I whispered into the skin of her neck, as I began to explore the hot flesh with my tongue. My hand slipped a bit further down until I was caressing her light she was the precious gift she was, but with each stroke, I added more and more pressure until my fingers were becoming slick with her need. I closed my eyes as I wanted so bad to taste her, drink her nectar. Soon.

I moved way down her body, my tongue working against her breasts, taking her into my mouth, loving the feel and taste of her salty skin. I made my way lower until I was running a wet path down the plains of her belly, stopping at her belly button until I reached my other hand. I knelt between her legs again, and pulled her jeans from her body, followed by her underwear. I stared into her beautiful face the entire time, watching all the emotions that washed through her eyes. I was transfixed. I slowly lowered myself until I was laying on my stomach, the blades of grass tickling my bare skin. I grazed her inner thighs with hot breath, then found what I had been dying to taste, feel. I used my mouth that night to show Jenny what she meant to me. I wanted to show her all the pleasure I could bring her. It seemed to me at that moment that all the other many women I had been with up until that point had all been teachers for me, teaching me what I needed t know for that one moment.

Jenny's hands shot down into my hair as she threw her head back, her hips rising to meet my tongue. I brought my hand back up to her, stroking her, until finally I slipped inside to fill her. Soon I had a slow rhythm that Jenny matched perfectly. I could tell she was getting close, so I picked up the pace until I knew she was about to explode, then slowed again until she was panting, moaning my name to the heavens. Then it was time. I used all the power I had within me to bring Jenny to the brink, and go over with her, holding her to me on the way down. Jenny cried out, and I could feel her body clamp my fingers within, then release, then clamp them even tighter.

I crawled back up Jenny's body, and rolled over onto my back, pulling her heaving body with me until she rested partially on me, partially on the grass beneath us, stroked her hair, her back until finally her breathing was back to normal, her heartbeat slowing.

I almost felt like crying. I had never in my entire life experienced anything quite like that. Jenny had reached in, and without saying a word, had changed me. Made me better, want to be better. Jack Nicholson's words to Helen Hunt in "As Good As It Gets" came to me just then when he said, "You make me want to be a better man." I smiled softly.

"Jenny." I whispered as I kissed the top of her dark head, "My Jenny."



I jumped into my truck, a long day as the head coach for the Panthers behind me. We were doing good this year, I was pleased with my girls. I glanced down at the seat of the Explorer next to me, and couldn't help the grin that spread across my face. The little box wrapped in sky blue paper to match Jenny's eyes, and a sea green bow on top. I couldn't wait to see the look on her face when she sees the ring I bought her. White gold band with a row of small emeralds and sapphires intertwined. Six years. God, it goes so fast. I loved her more today than I had on this day laying with her in my arms on the bank of the Swallow Lake. It grew everyday. I can't help but wonder what she got me. She is usually so much better at picking great gifts than I am. No matter. She is a gift to me; one that I am thankful for every day of my life.

The End

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