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Nothing Gets Through Ch. 12

Another apology is in order.
Nothing Gets Through Ch. 12

© 2009 All rights reserved

"Hey." Lani looked up from her laptop, blinking as her eyes adjusted from the LCD display to the real world. She focused on Dom standing in front of her.

"Hi." Her mouth went suddenly dry.

"Mind if I sit?" Dom gestured at the empty chair. She shook her head. Dom sat and studied her. She was still beautiful, but she looked tired and a bit stressed. He didn’t know why—he hadn't been able to speak to her for about three days. Since the profile had come out. "You've been avoiding me," he said gently, making it almost a question.

"Yes." Somehow she found her voice. She put her hands in her lap so he wouldn’t see her fingers twisting together. "I'm sorry. It's not, ah, not very mature of me."

"Why?" he asked. His voice was still calm, but those gray eyes focused on her like lasers. She was silent, trying to figure out what to say. "Is it because of the profile?" he prompted. Part of him was already on the defensive, but he kept it at bay.

"Not because of it, exactly, but it has to do with it," she said, amazed she could keep her voice so even.

"Then what?" Dom was genuinely curious. He had missed Lani these last couple of days more than he had expected. He knew they hadn't been seeing each other all that long, but he'd come to be comfortable with talking to her and looked forward to being with her. When she'd suddenly stopped returning calls, he had been surprised.

First he'd assumed she was busy; then he got suspicious and called Dee. Dee wouldn't tell him exactly what was wrong, but had told him that it was likely—not certain, but likely—that Lani was back at the coffee shop. He'd immediately gone and the relief he'd felt when he he'd seen her at the table was almost scary.

"You didn't tell me," she said simply. He looked puzzled.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you didn't tell me," she repeated, feeling her heart start to race. "You didn’t tell me any of that." Tears of hurt gathered in her eyes and Dom sat back in his chair, utterly confused. "I didn't want to pry," Lani continued. "I didn't want to be one of those pushy girlfriends who turns every date into a counseling session. I just wanted to know about you, that's all, whenever you wanted to tell me, or whatever you wanted to tell me."

"Lani, I don't understand." His voice was quiet but anger and panic were dueling in his gut. He felt like he was in the limbo of watching a disputed goal during a playoff overtime. "We talk. I like to talk to you."

"You don’t talk about you," she said, her voice slightly unsteady. "You don't let me in." Dom stiffened as her words echoed Vicky's. "I've let you through," she said, almost pleading now. She even gave a small laugh. "That night I met you, you found out I was scared of rats. You know how I get scared during thunderstorms. You know how much . . . how much what happened with my brother hurts me."

"Yes, I know," he said woodenly.

"But I don't know anything about you that isn't in the media guide." A tear started to fall and she stabbed at it with her hand. "I don't think you've even told me your favorite color. But you sat down and told that reporter all of those things. I found out just like everyone else. Just like any other person who watches games and doesn't know you." She started moving mechanically, closing her laptop and putting it in her bag.

"I told you I don't like to talk about my family," Dom said, defensiveness tingeing his voice. "You didn't seem to have a problem with it."

"I didn't," she said, wiping at her eyes again. She snapped her carrying case closed. "I didn’t until I read the profile. Somehow you could talk about all of that stuff with a stranger, and let strangers read all about it, but you couldn't, or wouldn’t, tell me. Someone who cares about you. How could it be easier to let strangers know than to tell me?"

"If you have a problem with me talking to the press, you'd better get over it." He knew that wasn't the point, but he was angry.

Now Lani did laugh, short and rough. "Is that what you think?" She stood. Reflexively, Dom did too, although he didn't know what he planned to do next. "Is that what you do? Change the subject to divert someone when they get close to the truth? Close to you?" She shook her head. "I care about you, Dom. I really do. But I'm not . . . not a placeholder, not someone you can go to when it's convenient."

"I never said that!" he snapped. His gray eyes blazed with lightning.

"That's the problem!" she returned, now angry herself. "You never said anything!"

x-x-x-x

"Give my ticket to someone else." Lani didn't look up from her computer. She held the piece of paper out to Dee, who pointedly crossed her arms over her chest and refused to take it.

"You still care," said Dee.

"So what?" said Lani. "I don't want to go." It will hurt too much, she thought.

"Yes, you do." Dee had given Lani some time and accepted her excuses for the past two home games. However, it had been about two weeks since Dom and Lani had had their fight, and Dee thought that was quite enough. "You spent good money on those tickets; you can't keep giving them away."

"They're mine," Lani grumbled. "I can do what I want with them." She felt every bit as petulant as she sounded.

"Have you given him a chance to apologize?"

"He hasn't tried."

"Maybe you need to go to him."

"I didn't do anything wrong."

"I know," said Dee, more softly now. "But maybe he needs to see you first. Karl says he misses you terribly. He says Dom is really irritable—well, more than usual—before games." She paused but Lani said nothing, just continued tapping her keyboard. "Karl thinks it may be messing up Dom's concentration. He's let in more goals than usual lately."

"That's not my fault." Lani went absolutely rigid and Dee realized what she had accidentally implied.

"I know, Lani, I know," she said quickly. "That's not what I meant. It's just that he thinks you were good for Dom; that the two of you were good for each other."

"I can't help it if he's in a slump," Lani said almost harshly. She knew, though. She'd been following the team and had seen the goals, tracked the goals-against average. Dom was definitely slipping compared to earlier in the season. Even knowing it wasn't her fault—that she couldn't stop the pucks getting through—she felt guilty. Just like with Jason.

"I know." Dee perched on the edge of Lani's desk. "But you haven't been yourself, either," she pointed out gently. "You've been disorganized, and you never are. You even forgot your keys yesterday. You almost lost your purse." She put a hand on Lani's shoulder. Lani dropped her hands and sighed.

"It hurts, Dee," she admitted. "I feel stupid now. I should have talked to him. He looked completely blindsided when he found me that day and I told him."

"Then come to the game," Dee said. "We'll meet them afterwards. You can go somewhere quiet—you can even come back to my place if you want—and talk it out."

"Okay." Lani gave in. "I guess it can't get messed up more than it is."

x-x-x-x

The game had been close, but the team had lost. Lani followed Dee out the door and down to the corner. Before the blow up, they'd taken to meeting there. It got them away from the crowds and noise.

Lani was nervous. Funny, she thought, I wasn't this nervous the first time I met him after a game.

She turned and hugged herself against the cold night. It was the end of January, much too early for even a sniff of spring, but a person could hope. Futilely. She listened with half an ear as Dee analyzed the game and wondered idly if her friend would look for a second career as a sportscaster. Then she heard Dom's voice as he and Karl approached. She froze in place, unable to turn around.

" . . . blame Lani for it," she heard, the words drifting over the air. "It was just a lousy game."

"Lani!" Dee shouted as her friend ran down the street.

x-x-x-x

"That's the last one," Karl said decisively. "I am not going into the All-Star break on a losing streak. I'll score all the goals myself if I have to."

Dom nodded, not bothered by the loss as much as he sometimes was. He knew he'd played well, it was just one of those frustrating games where nothing had gone their way. Greg had taken two undisciplined penalties, and Bobby had gotten a game misconduct, depriving them of their most effective penalty killer. Dom had been almost but not quite in the zone, and it had cost him saves he might normally have made. Tonight, however, it wasn't the primary thing on his mind.

He had decided he would find Lani and apologize. This had gone on long enough. Perhaps it was his fault, but even if it wasn't, he'd take the blame. Lani was right, he thought, that he should have told her, at least before the profile came out. It had never occurred to him how she might feel to find out about him from such an impersonal source. Karl had just rolled his eyes when Dom had complained about their fight.

How would you feel, Karl had asked after smacking him on the back of the head, if you'd found out about Lani from an article like that? Dom had thought about it and realized he wouldn’t care for that at all.

"You're right," Dom told Karl as they walked. "Whatever slump that I'm in—we're in—is done. We'll have a players' meeting before practice tomorrow and get everybody talking."

"Good idea." Karl nodded.

"I know some of the guys think I let things with Lani get to me. But I won't blame Lani for it. It was just a lousy game," he told Karl as they approached the women.

They both looked up, startled, when they heard Dee shout Lani's name. Dom's eyes darted around and saw a small green bundle hurtling down the street and knew it was her. Karl spotted her at the same time.

"What happened?" Dom demanded.

"I don't know—" Dee began but Karl cut her off.

"Just go get her before she gets hit by a car or something!" he ordered. Dom took off at a sprint.

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