Lara looked at Ryan over the top of her latté. "You guys fought over a tour again?"
"Well, we didn't exactly fight," Ryan said with a rueful smile. "I got out before it became a fight. But there was definitely a difference of opinion."
"I already told you. Brody got upset when he realized I would be gone the rest of the summer. Then I got upset and left. I just knew if I stayed and we kept talking, it would get ugly." Ryan stopped and took a drink of her coffee. She'd gone to Lara's mom's after leaving Brody's place the other night; she couldn't take the idea of being around a happy couple, even if it was Lara and Trout.
"Have you talked to him since?" Lara asked.
Ryan stared at the table. "I texted him to let him know I was at your mom's, and I called yesterday and left a message. I don't know what else to do."
"How about going to see him?"
"Maybe. I do want to talk to him, I just don't know what to say. I'm going on the tour, obviously. I'm sorry it messes with his plans, but I can't help it. I didn't ask him to stay in Virginia."
"Hey, relax." Lara raised an eyebrow. "You're getting defensive, and I'm on your side."
"I know, I know. I don't mean to, I'm sorry. I just—" Ryan took a deep breath. "I guess I'm kind of scared. I'm not sure if we can fix this."
"Sure you can, Ry, it'll just take—"
"Lara, it's okay." Ryan gave her friend a half-smile. "I want it to work but I know it might not."
"Don't interrupt," Lara admonished.
"Anyway, yes, it'll take work and I don't know what else from the both of you. But I can't believe Brody would let you go over a business trip."
Ryan laughed. "A business trip?"
"Sure, why not?" Lara shrugged. "My aunt works for a multinational whatever, and she's gone on trips that lasted two and three months. Or think of it as TDY."
"A temporary duty assignment? Come on, we're not working for the government."
"Don't be so literal. You're doing that to avoid the subject."
"Yeah, I guess." Ryan slumped in her chair. "I'm serious, I don't know what to say. He wants me to go and doesn't want me to go. Where does that leave me? It's not like I can leave half of me here and half go on the tour."
"Maybe you need to pick a new point and start from there," Lara suggested.
"I guess, but it's going to come back to the same thing. Him traveling for the team is fine. Me traveling for music isn't. Sports wins, as usual." Ryan felt sick as she said the words.
"You don't know that's true," Lara said. "You were both upset and you've had a couple of days to calm down. You really should talk. It's not going to go away if you ignore it."
"Come on, Ryan. You know I'm right."
"I know. That's why I keep you around." Ryan's smile was small but genuine.
"That and my fabulous singing voice." Lara tossed her hair back and Ryan had to laugh.
"Yeah, yeah, that, too." Ryan finished her coffee. "I will talk to him. I just don't know what to say."
"Don't worry. You'll figure it out."
Brody didn't know what to do. Once again, he was in a place he'd never been in a relationship. They hadn't broken up, but he wasn't sure what to do that would mean they were back together. It was a kind of limbo and he didn't like it.
What had happened to him, he wondered. When had he gone from not wanting anything serious until after he retired to wanting to fix things with Ryan as soon as possible? And worse, why did it seem unfixable?
They'd talked after Ryan had left but they never got anywhere. She was leaving in just over a week and he did not want her to go with things unsettled between them. He rubbed at his temples and went to get some medicine for a headache. Luckily this was a normal headache and not anything left from his concussion.
The phone rang and he debated whether to answer, but he picked up when he saw Bax's name. "Hi, Bax."
"Hey, Langer. How's your summer going?"
"It's going. How's Boston?"
"Actually, we're all down here. Doreen and I decided to bring the kids down for part of the summer. We'll head back to Boston in a couple of weeks." Bax sounded relaxed and happy, no doubt pleased to be reunited with his family.
Brody ignored the jealous feeling that rose up. "That's cool. What do the kids think of it so far?"
"So far they think it's great. Not sure how much longer that'll keep up, but it's kind of fun doing the tourist thing. We've managed to avoid the worst of the crowds."
"Anyway, how are you? How are you feeling? Any symptoms still?"
Brody smiled. "Bax, I'm fine. I have my own parents who check up on me, you know."
"Oh, I don't care how you're doing. Doreen was asking. Just passing it along."
"Right. Tell her thanks for asking." Brody laughed.
"Doreen also wanted me to invite you and Ryan over for dinner tomorrow night. The kids are dying to meet her, especially Tara."
"I thought Tara had a crush on me."
"She did. Now she wants to meet Ryan. Get over it; teenagers are fickle."
"Yeah. Listen, maybe you should call Ryan and ask her yourself." Brody felt awkward; he couldn't commit Ryan to anything, not when he wasn't even sure if they were still talking.
"All right." Bax was surprised. "Is everything okay, Brody?"
"You know, Bax, I have no idea." He sighed and told his friend what had happened. "So there you have it. I'm sure Ryan would love to meet Doreen and the kids. I just—I don't know if I'm the one to ask her about it."
Bax was quiet for a minute. "Well, you're still talking to her, right? I mean, you didn’t break up, did you?"
"I don't know; I don't think so. I don't want to, but I'm just not sure what's going on. I know, you're going to tell me to talk to her, but the problem is we've been
talking and just don’t seem to get anywhere."
Bax chuckled. "You kids. Always with the drama."
"Gee, thanks, O Aged and Wise One."
"Don't be a dick. Look, come to dinner, okay? I'll call Ryan and ask her. We all want to see both of you."
"Sure, I'll be there," Brody promised.
The evening wasn’t as awkward as Brody feared it might be. He drove Ryan over; they had both agreed it was silly for her to rent a car when they were going to the same place. On top of that, he wanted to be alone with her for a little while, hoping he would find the right thing to say and break their impasse.
He didn't find it, but Ryan didn't seem to mind. She left everything alone, perhaps realizing that whatever they did need to say couldn’t be covered in the fifteen-minute ride to Bax's apartment.
Things were easier once they arrived. The kids were excited to see both of them. Tara asked Brody as many questions about hockey as she asked Ryan about music. Her brother, Adam, was fascinated by Ryan's guitar, which Brody had suggested she bring. He remembered being curious about everything when he was a kid, and had a feeling Bax's kids would be no different.
It was odd to see Bax with his family. Brody had met them before, but only quickly, when they'd been down for a weekend when the kids were off school and Bax wasn't traveling. Watching him interact with his wife and kids, Brody saw a different side of his friend. He was more relaxed; now that he had his family with him, there was a tension in Bax that was missing.
"How do you do it?" Brody asked as they stepped into the kitchen for a beer.
"Do what?" Bax opened a bottle and handed it to him.
"Manage with them so far away?" Brody took a drink. "I don't know if I could do that."
Bax shrugged and drank from his own bottle. "You do what you have to. I don't like it, but it won't be for too much longer."
Brody did a double take. "What do you mean? Are you going to retire?"
"Not yet," Bax assured him. "But I'm not going to be playing until I'm forty. I don't want to and let's be honest, I can't. Another year and then we'll see, but I'm on the down side of my playing career, we all know that."
"I guess." Brody frowned as he drank a little more.
"Relax, Langer." Bax grinned. "I'm not dead yet."
Brody studied him. "Looking a little pale, though."
"Smart ass. Give me back that beer."
"Bite me. Anyway, I was serious. I really don't know how you do it, all of you. I mean, Ryan was only gone for six weeks and I didn't know what to do with myself. And she's going for at least another two months. I can't help it; I don't like it."
"Sometimes," Bax said thoughtfully, "sometimes—you just have to wait for things and take what you can get while you wait."
Brody considered his friend's words. "That sucks."
Bax shook his head and finished his beer. "Kids today. You're so impatient."
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