I can’t get out of work quickly enough. I’ve surrendered to the cause only to find I’m actually excited about this part of it. Good thing, because it’s happening anyway. Steph meets me on Michigan Ave and we shop. Generally, I’m a lazy shopper – I hate trying things on, won’t wait in lines and end up returning half of what I buy. But this time, Steph is leading me like the Charge of the Light Brigade. We go into every single store and try on what seems like every single item of clothing. She won’t let me buy anything – we have to finish the block then go back for whatever we liked the best. By nine o’clock I’m exhausted and my feet ache, but I’ve got some really good stuff. We practically fall down in an Irish bar on a side street and I try to stay awake until beers arrive.
“The only thing we didn’t buy is lingerie,” Steph says.
It makes me giggle like a seventh grader in health class. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
“Right. Because the minute he starts pulling off all these,” she waves at our pile of bags, “you’re gonna stop and make a run to Victoria’s Secret.”
“If that happens, I will not care what I’m wearing underneath.”
Steph puts her beer down emphatically, like it’s the period at the end of her sentence. “Oh it’s happening.”
When I finally get home, she makes me do a full fashion show. I have to admit that we did well – there are a lot of slightly sexier versions of things I would normally wear. Not that all my clothes are horrible, they’re just function over fashion. Most of these new things are both, with a few notable exceptions.
“You really like this?” It’s a silver sequined dress with spaghetti straps and a lot of structure to it, like the piece for every body part was made separately then sewn together. It’s sexy and pretty short, maybe too flashy. “I feel like a Christmas ornament.”
“If Jon can manage a coherent thought while you’re wearing that dress, then he’s gay. And not fashionably gay.”
I go through the rest – a few pairs of updated jeans, a couple of clingy tops and another dress. My favorite is a simple black cashmere v-neck sweater. “I can’t stop touching this,” I say, running my hands along my arms.
“That’s the idea,” she smiles. “Jon will be thinking about what you’re wearing until he’s thinking about what you’re not wearing. By then, he’ll be up nights sweating and saying your name in his sleep.”
“Jeez Steph, I don’t want to kill him,” I say. “Maybe just make him beg a little.”
She collapses into giggles. Steph loves to mastermind this kind of stuff and she’s always on the prowl, usually dragging me along behind her. I’ve just never been very good at it. I can be sassy, which doubles as flirting, but this past week with Jon has me doubting my ability to read the right feeling from any situation. I’ve dated my fair share, but it’s always come about in a more organic way. Like someone starts talking to you in a bar, or on the bus. A friend introduces you. You get drunk and don’t remember what happened.
“That’s not gonna work,” Steph points out. “Officer Toews probably gives Kane a breathalyzer before every game and tickets people for drunk and disorderly on road trips.”
We make fun of Jon for fifteen minutes, until I really do miss him. He’s barely been gone a day! I must be making a mooney face or not laughing at the right time because Steph wings a shirt at me.
“You’ve got it bad, Kat. I am surprised that you never liked him before.”
“I explained this to Dave today – he had a girlfriend before and the thought never even crossed my mind. Of course he’s always been gorgeous and believe me, every girl in Chicago fell a little in love with him during the Playoffs last year. But he’s my friend, has always been my friend and I guess I just didn’t see it.”
She leans forward on the couch. “Wait, you talked to DAVE about this? As in YOUR BOSS?”
“I had to! He’s one of three people who know for sure that this is still fake. He started the whole thing! Just he, you and Pat are in on the secret – everyone else thinks we’re lying about lying, or that we were never lying... obviously I’m confused about what’s real and what’s not! Who knows what Jon is thinking.”
She lays herself out on top of my new wardrobe. “He in bed, in wherever – Nashville? – thinking about if you’re thinking about him. And he’s probably thinking about lingerie.”
We watch the first game of the road trip at work, crowded around takeout and TV in our conference room. It’s a fun crowd – everyone knows the guys, feels personally connected to the game. And they all look at me every time Jon touches the puck. I just roll my eyes and eat my chow mein. The guys play well, but Nashville gets a messy rebound goal and going into the third they’re still winning 1-0. Jon is the intermission interview, which makes everyone look at me again.
“God he’s boring,” I say, thirty seconds into another sports cliché about being cohesive and blah blah blah. Everyone laughs, so much that I almost miss Jon’s next line.
“Hopefully I can contribute tonight, maybe get a point. I’d like to get at least three points on this trip.”
I almost choke on my drink and have to cover it up like water just went down the wrong pipe. Jon looks at the camera and I swear he knows he’s looking right at me.
In the third, Sharp scores, then Jon scores the game-winner. We cheer and clap and inside I just laugh.
“One down, two to go,” he says when I pick up the phone.
“And a big one, unassisted.”
“Technically I should get three points – the goal and both assists.”
I laugh. “Let me call Toronto and see what they think of your official scoring.”
I wonder if he’s in his room. As the captain, he gets his own on the road but I think it makes him a little lonely. There’s camaraderie in having a roommate, though there’s also snoring and the very real possibility of waking up to Kaner and at least one girl not even trying to be quiet. The thought of Jon calling from bed makes me a little weak.
“To Atlanta tomorrow?” I ask, before making him promise to bring me a Coca-Cola fresh from the bottling plant. He agrees to bring a six-pack if I’ll share it with him. As if he drank soda.
“Okay, time for bed,” he says. I hear him rolling over and know that he’s alone, between clean sheets, probably wearing – or not wearing – STOP, I tell myself. You’ll make yourself crazy again when you’re doing so well.
“Sweet dreams, Kat.”
The next afternoon I get a text in the middle of the day. It’s a photo – a huge wall display of what looks like a hundred thousand Coca-Cola bottles. The message reads: I’m going to need some help carrying this. Then another photo comes through – Jon drinking a Coke, or at least pretending to.
I reply: Photoshopped!
Then I call Steph and agree to go lingerie shopping.
Steph makes me go to a sports bar near our place to watch game 2 of the road trip. She’s meeting a guy there and she’s pretty sure he’s bringing friends. “Put on some of those new jeans, let’s see how they work!”
Her guy is Pete, and he brings Sam. Sam definitely looks at my jeans before he looks at my face and I wonder if I’m going to have to be nice to a jerk all evening. We take a table near the biggest TV in the place and Sam sits next to me. As the pre-game show runs, Sam talks about the Hawks and hockey like I would obviously know nothing. Steph forgets to be helpful when she starts talking to Pete. I let Sam run for a few minutes till he finally takes a breath.
“I actually work for the Hawks. Charity and community events department.”
“Oh, wow. So you already know…” and he goes on to talk about trades they made in the off-season, lineup changes and whatever else the commentators can think of to fill two and a half hours. It’s like sitting with Rain Main. He’s still trying to impress me when the game finally starts, with comments on the plays and the coaching. Five minutes in, the Hawks make a sloppy line change and get dinged for too many men on the ice. Jon was just finishing a shift, so he goes to the box to rest.
“Toews should know better than that! If you’re gonna be the captain, you’ve gotta know your guys. Cup or not, maybe 22 is too young…,” he says. I am half-listening, biting my tongue, when another guy approaches.
“This is my friend Aaron,” Pete introduces us. I breathe a sigh of relief – company! Aaron quickly takes a seat across from us so as not to block the view. He meets Steph, then turns to me.
“Shit,” he says, then backtracks. “Sorry, that was impolite! You surprised me. You are…”
“Kat,” I answer, shaking his hand. Pete just told him my name.
“Yeah, I got that. But you’re also….”
I nod once, smiling, like it’s not a big deal. Sam looks confusedly between us. “You’re also what?”
A tiny smile crosses Aaron’s face as he reads the situation. Sam must be like this all the time, because Aaron’s eyes are apologizing for whatever Sam’s been going on about for ages. “Kat is Toews’ girlfriend. Don’t you read the paper?”
Sam goes pale. Aaron and I let him panic for a moment, then Aaron slaps him on the shoulder. “I think we need more beers!”
Aaron’s presence makes the night fun - Sam sits rather quietly, like he’s still embarrassed. The whole place cheers when Seabrook scores on a slapshot. Assist to Jon. I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting for Jon to get that third point. I really, really want to pick our costumes but that is easily outweighed by the desire to see him and the team do well. Unfortunately tonight is not the night and they lose 3-1.
“Two down, one to go,” he says, but not as happily as our last phone call.
“Sorry no W tonight. I give you permission to score 5 on Wednesday.”
He’s in a store or something – I hear a PA announcement in the background. It’s Target, he tells me he’s buying socks and looking at video games. A couple of the guys are there, they got a car service from the hotel to drive them since they can’t really go to anywhere in Chicago without being recognized. Kane yells something in the background.
“Pat says hi. And to tell you that I’m retarded,” Jon laughs without knowing why. I think how much I hope Pat is right. “Ooh, costumes!” Jon tells me all the Target options, even the little kids’ ones. We agree that Power Rangers and boring standbys like witches and devils are out. Creativity is key.
“A lot of these are…,” he snickers. “A lot of these are full outfits. Like pants and long sleeves.” He waits, like I’m supposed to encourage him.
“And you’re thinking… less?”
“Well for you! For me, a cape and helmet or maybe one of those inflatable Sumo wrestler costumes.”
The idea of Jon in an inflatable costume would be hilarious if I wasn’t stuck on the first part of what he said. Less costume for me. I double-check my brain to make sure that sounds suggestive, and agree with myself that I’m right. That was definitely flirting.
“No sir, Captain Boyfriend, I have already chosen your costume. And as much as I want you to win the scoring title this year, it will have to wait till next week to begin.”
“Tell me what your idea is,” he says, but I won’t. He begs and I won’t. I just laugh evilly and taunt him with red herrings. He claims to not have decided yet, despite being completely sure he’s going to win.
“One more goal and you’re all mine,” he says, like he’s talking about our bet.
“You’re already mine,” I reply then hang up before I can take it back.
I’m cackling in the dressing room. It’s all pink and stripes and leopard spots, overstuffed cushions and high-backed chairs – I feel like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. Next door, Steph is laughing too. I’m halfway out of a little white lace tie-back teddy with black ribbons that looks like a French maid costume. I actually wore it into the little hallway and burst into her stall, trying to dust around her.
“This is so not my style. Or his!” I’ve got something in every color, every fabric, every contortion of straps and clasps. None of this seems right. Despite her attempts to convince me that every man on Earth likes garters and bustiers, Steph is starting to give in.
“Maybe you should start slow,” she suggests.
At the bottom of my pile are a couple cute things from the Pink side of the store. I bypassed anything with the logo or a slogan like “kiss me” or “bottoms up.” I’m left with lace and cotton in an array of colors. I try the “cheeky” panties – they are cut a little higher across the butt and have tiny bows at the hipbones – and a simple, delicate lace bra, all in black. Steph barges in.
“Christ on a bike!” I’ve almost given up with knocking myself, since it seems so out of fashion.
“Oooh Kat, that’s hot,” she looks over my shoulder in the mirror. It’s no less revealing than a bathing suit, so I’m not too worried about my roommate ogling me. She sorts through the options and comes up with similar sets in red and light blue. As she adds white bra and panties to her armload, she cracks a huge smile.
“Okay, okay. JT is totally a white-panties-for-the-first-time kind of guy.”
I’m so nervous for game 3 that I stay home to watch. What a moron! I think, getting this worked up over a game in October. It’s guilt because I’m rooting for Jon not to score, which feels backward. Part of me wants him to win, so I can see how far he’s willing to take this bet. The rest wants me to win so I can make sure we take it far enough. I’ve got my laptop out and I’m scrolling through costume websites, though I already have a pretty clear idea of what I want.
The game against Carolina is tight. Everyone’s raring for a chance at the Stanley Cup Champs, so the Canes come out hitting. Between the pace of play and my own tension, I’m wiped out by the first scoreless period. In the second, Kane and Keith both get goals to open the game a little. No points for Jon. The Canes push back, but have no luck before the buzzer sounds. At the start of the third period, the camera shows Jon looking especially determined. I’m close to fainting when Steph comes in.
“What is wrong with you?!” she asks over me screaming at the TV.
I confess to her, very quickly during a play stoppage, about the bet. Her face lights up like it’s Christmas morning – she and Pat would be a great couple, they love to play games. That’s why I hadn’t told her before, she’d never let it go. Now she’s squealing alongside me, both at the game and the costumes she's finding online.
Halfway through the period, Kane breaks down the ice 3-on-2 on the power play with Jon and Hjalmarsson. My fingers are white from digging into the couch. Pat gets around the defenseman wide, then slows and draws back to the middle. Jon loops behind him for the drop pass, to where Hjarmarsson is open in the slot. Jon and Pat get clear as Hjarmasson wrists one in behind the goalie.
“Did he touch it?” Steph jumps to her feet. The puck went right past Jon, practically through his skates, moving so quickly I couldn’t tell if he tapped it or not. It didn’t really change direction, but Jon has soft hands. Soft hands, my brain purrs what little blood flow it was getting. The announcer calls the goal:
“Goal scored by number 4, Niklas Hjarmasson assisted by number 88, Patrick Kane…”
We're both standing stock still, mouths open.
“… and number 19, Jonathan Toews.”
Pandemonium. Our neighbors should have called the police. Steph leaps on me, I fall on the couch and Jon smiles, right there on ESPN for all the world to see. When we finally regain our senses, back on the couch with fresh drinks and having cleaned up everything we knocked over, Steph offers her opinion.
“At least now you’ll know what he’s into,” she points out. “I mean, he’s not gonna turn up with some bondage costume, but he might be hot for Lord of the Rings or something. Dress you up like an elf. Ooh, I bet it’s something like a pilot and stewardess. Something kind of uptight.” We toss around ideas as play continues. Then the commentator’s voice catches my attention.
“We have a scoring change on that last goal. The official ruling is Toews did not touch the puck as it passed him, so the goal is Hjarmasson from Kane at 10:34. No assist for Toews.”
I gasp. Steph’s eyes go wide, then she dives for the laptop and starts shopping again.
My phone rings twenty minutes after the final whistle. He can’t even be out of the arena yet. They won, so I don’t feel too bad, and I’m laughing as I pick up the call.
“I suck. I knew Nik was behind me and I didn’t want to redirect, so I didn’t even try to touch it. Then I realized what I was doing, and I almost went back for it! Oh my God,” he’s laughing mostly, but also feeling stupid. “The one time this whole trip I’m not thinking about our bet and I let it get right by!”
Thinking about our bet all week. That makes me bite my lip as I’m about to sass him. “When they announced the scoring change, I nearly died.”
“I thought you’d freak out, but I knew I hadn’t touched it. They usually get those right. But since they announced it… does that count? Just a little?”
I’ve been considering what Steph said – this bet being a little window into Jon’s mind. Does he think I’m sexy? Funny? Does he think I can pull of a skimpy costume? Does he want to look at me all night in one? Played right, Halloween is a chance to show off your date; that’s what I had planned on doing. The more I think about it, the more I feel like Jon will go for it on this one. He’s so white bread and aw shucks, but Halloween requires cutting loose. And since the whole team will be doing it, Jon won’t want to be left out.
“Okay, captain, you can have your third point.”
“WHAT?!” he nearly shouts. “Are you serious? Don’t mess with me, Kat.”
Woah, really excited. This was a good call. “No kidding. You can pick.”
He gives a little cheer then gets quiet. In a very serious voice he asks me, “Are you allergic to latex?” I burst out laughing. That’ll be the day. Jon crows in victory again and I know people around him are starting to wonder.
“Easy, killer! Remember that whatever you choose, your whole team is going to see me in it. Same for you – all the WAGs and all the photographers… choose wisely, grasshopper.”
The team gets called to the bus, they’re flying home tonight. “See you tomorrow? We can try on our costumes.”
“You’re going to buy them tomorrow?”
He laughs. “I bought them last week, dork.”