The End of the Season


The end of May

We don’t make it all the way to the Cup Final, but we make it out of the first round of the playoffs. And in each series, we push it to seven hard-fought games. 

We beat Toronto in round one, making up for last year.

We beat New York in the second, taking us to the conference final.

That’s where we’re stopped, in game seven, and it’s devastating, of course it is. But we’re battered and broken, and we lose at home, so we can fall into our own beds that night without having to take a miserable bus ride or flight first.

And some of us get to fall into the arms of the people who love us.

I’m one of them, which makes this end of season bittersweet, but manageable.

We’ll try again next year.

And in the meantime, I have a fiancée waiting for me in the private space behind the press room.

“You were amazing,” Kiley whispers as I take her into my arms. “Truly incredible. You’ll get it next year.”

Her faith in me, and in the team, is a balm.

Instead of arguing, I kiss her. And I keep kissing her until she’s breathless.

“Let’s go home,” she says.

“We can wait, if you want to avoid the crowds.”

She searches my face. “Do you want to avoid them?”

My heart aches. “No. It might be nice to…”

She presses her hands to my cheeks. “Then let’s go outside. If anyone gets mad at you, I can take them.”

I bark a surprised laugh. “Okay, tough girl.”

But nobody is mad. As soon as we slip out the side door, fans notice me. They call my name, and I stop to take pictures. Every single picture anyone might want. I sign signs and hats and jerseys. I shake hands.

Some people want Kiley in the photo. Some people want her to take it. She beams through all of it, telling people that yes, she’s so proud of me, yes, I did my best. And yes, it fucking sucks that we lost. Some say that, but it’s commiserating with me, nothing more than that.

I’m sure there are lots of fans who are angry, who will think we could have done more, but they didn’t linger outside the arena.

And then we’re free of the crowd.

I take her hand in my mine, our fingers lacing together in that familiar way, always the same now. Her engagement ring is cool against my skin.

“What do you want to do tomorrow?” she asks.

“Steal Puck and go for a hike.” I have a burning desire to see my fiancée spilling out of a sports bra.

Her fingers tighten around mine. “Deal.”

“And eat a hamburger.”


“Can I come with you to the theatre?” I shoot her a sideways glance. After her contract with the touring company, she focused on podcasting with Shannon over the spring. But then a local community theatre group advertised that they needed an experienced stage manager, and she accepted the position.

It doesn’t pay anything, so she angsted over that for longer than she needed to.

She’s mine. She doesn’t need to work to put food in her fridge or a roof over her head anymore. Her fridge is my fridge, my roof is her roof, and I like providing for us.

“I like watching you work,” I add when she doesn’t say yes immediately.

“It’s messy. These are volunteers, you need to remember.”

“I know.”

“It’s just that you have high standards.” She worries her bottom lip.

I tug her into the shadows of our apartment building and kiss that soft, captured flesh. “So do you. Are you worried I won’t think they’re good enough for your time?”

She laughs against my mouth. “I like the director. We’re going to get them there together.”

“I’ll be so quiet, I promise.”

“Okay.” She kisses me back.

And then I twirl her around and point her to the door. To the elevator that will carry us up to our loft on the top floor, where I can kiss her honeyed skin and lose myself in her lust-softened gaze.

I really do have the best fucking life. And it’s only going to get better from here.