Brody was quiet as he sat on the team bus the next day for the ride up to New York, still mulling over seeing Ryan the night before. This was one relationship area he had no experience with—the post-breakup phase. In the past, when he'd broken up with someone, they had stayed broken up. There'd been no apologies.
Bax dropped into the seat next to him. "Well, you look like a barrel of laughs. Someone kick your dog?"
"Funny, Bax. I don’t have a dog."
"Right. You must still be missing your girlfriend."
"She's not my girlfriend." Not anymore
, he thought, and the thought was depressing.
"You haven't talked to her at all?"
"Remember the part where she went ballistic on me and walked out?"
"I figured that would blow over. It's been over a week or whatever, right?"
"Christ, you aren't going to leave this alone, are you?" Brody shook his head. "Fine, I saw her last night. She apologized."
"And what happened?"
"Nothing. She said she was sorry, I said okay, and she left."
Bax gave him an exasperated look. "You know, a lot of times when people are going out and have a fight, one person says they're sorry and the other person forgives them and they resume the going out part of things."
Brody shrugged. "Yeah, well, I don't know if that will happen. If she's going to be mad about me playing hockey, then it's probably better if we don't start going out again."
"So that's it?"
Brody felt defensive. "What the hell do you want from me? She bitched about how she hated sports; that's not a good sign given what I do for a living."
"Yeah, but she apologized. She knew going in that you were an athlete. That probably isn't even why she was mad."
"How would you know?"
"I've been married for fifteen years. You learn a few things. People will be mad about one thing and fight about another. Teenagers are masters of this, believe me. I never know why my daughter argues with her mother or me."
Brody shrugged. "I guess. I'll have to take your word for it." He was glad when someone leaned across the aisle to talk to Bax, and took advantage of the break to slip his earbuds in and turn on his iPod.
Brody flipped the player around in his hand while he thought. He missed Ryan, and her apology only intensified the feeling. She had admitted being mad about her parents and taking it out on him, so maybe it had nothing to do with him at all.
He went over the dinner with her parents and remembered how tense she'd been. A couple of times she'd clenched her jaw so tight he'd thought it might lock. It couldn’t have been easy to hear her parents go on about her brothers like that, and then be so dismissive of what she was trying to do. He recalled the look on her face when she'd looked into the box containing her music awards; it was as though she'd been slapped.
Her explosion had taken him by surprise at the time, but it shouldn’t have. He'd known her long enough by then to know, as Lara had said, that Ryan tended to keep things inside. He just hadn't paid attention, and that wasn't fair. When he got back to Virginia, he promised himself, he'd go see Ryan and apologize, and hope that what Bax had said about going out again wasn't out of the question.
The Caps lost and although he wasn't pleased, he was more preoccupied with seeing Ryan. The day dragged as he waited for her to get home from work. After a morning practice, he came home and talked to his parents and then ran some errands, but when he was finished it was still early afternoon. Video games were no distraction, nor was the Food Network. At last it was six o'clock, and then he made himself wait another fifteen minutes to make sure she had time to get home.
Brody knocked on her door and waited, still not sure what he wanted to say. He decided to start with "I'm sorry" and wing it from there. Ryan opened the door and looked up at him with a startled expression.
"Hey, I—" he began, but she held up a hand and he saw that she was on the phone.
She recovered from her surprise and gestured for him to come in, mouthing an apology as she went back to her conversation.
"Sorry, Evan. So, are you sure? You have plenty of time to think about everything, you don't have to decide now." She listened to her brother and paced the room; Brody wondered what was up. "You sure you want to tell Dad, though? You know what he'll say. You could save yourself a lot of stress." She paused again, then laughed. "Well, maybe you can move in here. Lara's going to move in with Trout so I'll be looking for a roommate one way or another. Be a hell of a commute for you, though." Another pause. "Okay, Ev. Good luck and take it easy. Yeah, thanks. Bye."
She disconnected and rubbed a hand over her eyes before turning to Brody. "Hi. Sorry about that."
"No problem. Everything okay with Evan?"
Ryan bit her lip. "I hope so. He's decided he doesn't want to play pro ball, and he wants to tell Dad sooner rather than later."
"That's not going to go over too well, is it?"
"Like the proverbial lead balloon." She dropped onto the couch and Brody sat as well, but took care not to sit too close. "I told him he should wait and tell Dad later. He could avoid a lot of stress that way, and he might change his mind. He says he's as sure as he's going to get, and he doesn't want to fake it with Dad for the next few years. He still wants to play ball and keep his scholarship, he just doesn't want to go pro."
"It's his decision, and like you said, he may change his mind." Brody studied her as she stared up at the ceiling. She looked tired and not a little stressed; he suspected she'd even lost a little weight.
"I know. Which is why I think maybe he shouldn't tell Dad. Trust me, I know what it's like when Dad's plans are thwarted." She was quiet for a minute, then turned to look at him. "Don't take this the wrong way, but what are you doing here? I had the definite impression we were done."
"Yeah, I can understand that." He leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees as he tried to get his thoughts in order. "Look, I've been thinking a lot. I'm not used to this."
Ryan's lips quirked up in a smile but she didn't say anything about him not being used to thinking, and he was grateful. "I mean, before, if I was seeing someone and there was a fight, that was it. Fight, break up, move on. For both people.
"It's a common progression."
"Yeah, it is, but it's not the one I want. Look, I'm sorry. I didn't realize how hard that stuff with your family is for you." He raised his eyes to hers.
She shrugged and averted her eyes. "Too hard, really. I should be used to it. And it doesn't matter, because I shouldn’t have taken it out on you."
"I'll give you that, but it's okay. I take harder hits on the ice." He reached over and squeezed her hand. "And it does matter, and I should have seen it, but I didn't have the inside track on reading you like Lara does."
Ryan gave him a tired smile. "So she told you about the music, huh?"
"Yes, but I should have at least realized you were upset. Look, Ryan, I can't do anything about the hockey. It's my job and I love it. I want to fix this, what's between us, but I can't change that."
"I know, and odd as it may sound coming from me, I wouldn't want you to. It's obvious you love playing as much as I love music." She met his gaze. "I'd like to fix things, too, Brody. I've really missed you."
"Then let's consider things fixed." He moved closer to her and slid an arm around her shoulders. She turned and rested her head on his chest and they were quiet for a while until Brody tipped her chip up. "Have you eaten?"
She made a show of pondering the question. "Specify a time frame."
"Have I had dinner? No. I didn't have a chance."
"Did you have lunch?"
"I think so. I remember eating a bag of chips at some point today; we were really busy trying to meet a deadline." She laughed at his expression.
"It's a good thing we've made up," he told her, "because otherwise you'd die of malnutrition."
"Please." She gave him an arch look. "Do I look like I'm malnourished?"
He took his time looking her over. "No, no I don't think so. I think you look pretty good, myself."
"That's good to know." She thought for a minute. "You know, I'm not sure what happens next. I've never done the fight-and-make-up thing."
Brody responded with a sly grin. "Really?"
"Never got to that point before. I've read about it, though, and Lara's had the odd spat with Trout, so I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the possibilities."
"Lara and Trout have spats?"
"Yes, even they have their difficulties."
"And how do they handle the make-up thing?"
"Oh, please. Like I want to know that."
Brody laughed and hugged her again. "Fair enough, I'm not sure I want to know either. So, do you have plans for tonight?"
"No. I was kind of beat and Lara's out. I was thinking I'd get some ice cream and call it a day."
"Hmmm. I wonder what I can make that would beat out ice cream."
"It's mint chocolate chip."
Brody pretended to concentrate. "That's a tough one. I might have a chance against rocky road, but I don't know . . . ."
Ryan looked at him, serious now. "As much as I love ice cream, I'd rather be with you."
"Well, it's your lucky night, Ryan Bancroft." He grinned and lowered his lips to hers. "You get to have ice cream and
"I guess I'm all forgiven, then?"
"Depends on what you let me do with the ice cream."
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