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Chapter 19

Joe

The national anthem came to a stop and puck drop was getting underway, and for the first time, in a long time, I didn’t care. All I could focus on right now was the woman sitting across from me. Cassie Lewis, the most beautiful woman in the world, and the one who just told me she loved me. I pulled back though. I wasn’t sure, I’d been hurt, and I didn’t want to be hurt again.

“Cassie, about Tammy, I should explain.” I started but she cut me off.

“Joe, you don’t have to say anything. I hurt you bad, and then you found an incredible woman who wasn’t as blind as I was. I don’t blame you, or her, I blame myself. I already said I should never have let you go, and whatever you did after that I can’t blame you for. I don’t want to spend the game talking about Tammy, and how great she is. I want to talk about us, and if you can forgive me, and give me another chance.”

I thought for a moment, could I give her another chance? She seemed so sincere, but I was here now, and things were going good, and I was kind of happy. Who the hell was I fooling, I hadn’t been happy since I was with Cassie. I was stable and content, but never happy. I did miss her and I worked night and day to try and not too.

“Cassie, I want to believe you, but how can I not know this is just you missing a friend and saying what you think needs to be said to get a friend back. I can’t just be a friend anymore, I need a girlfriend and someday a wife, and I don’t know that you want that with me.” I explained hoping like hell I was wrong.

“I know, but I can show you how serious I can take this. I brought references.” She said pulling out letters from a legal pad she had on the table.

“Cassie, letters from old boyfriends is the last thing I want to read.” I said getting angry.

“Please Joe, just look at them. Please!” she begged so I looked at the five letters and grabbed the one on top.

There was nothing on it but my name. I opened it and pulled out the paper that was inside. It was from Mark and the letter read as follows;

Joe, I don’t know what to say. Cassie asked us to write letters to try and convince you that she loves you. How can a man tell that about another woman who isn’t his own? I know when you left she shut herself off to everything and everybody. I know when she got out of the hospital the only thing on her mind was you, and the day she saw you on TV, well, I saw the look in her eyes, and I wouldn’t have wanted to get in her way. I don’t know if that is love, or what, but at least hear her out, and make your own decision.

Your Friend

Mark

I folded it up and put it away and then looked at her and she seemed nervous. “Do you know what was in the latter?”

“No, I asked them to write you after talking to each one, and I swore that I wouldn’t read them. I would leave them closed and let you be the only ones to hear their words. All I can hope is that they help sway your opinion of my seriousness for you in my direction. Joe I would do anything to be together again.”

I just nodded and reached for the next letter. This one was from Cindy. I was sure this one would point me toward Cassie, she was her best friend after all.

Joe,

After you left Cassie and I were upset with each other, me for what she did to you, and her for me not listening to her. I know it seems childish, but I was mad at her. We just wouldn’t speak unless we were at work, and it was business related. I watched her throw herself into her work to forget you and while she did that she forgot about herself. She stopped eating and it looked like she hadn’t slept in forever and she was always on the verge or right on the tip.

I explained to Mark how hard it was watching Cassie destroy herself and he told me that maybe it was time to walk away. I wasn’t sure, we had been friends for so long, but watching her kill herself was not what I could see every day. We hadn’t told Cassie about the engagement or wedding plans so I went into her office and told her, and for the first time she seemed genuinely happy. The I told her I was quitting to spend more time with mark. She screamed and fell and ended up in the hospital.

I was there when she woke and we talked, and I finally listened. She was distraught over you leaving. I wouldn’t talk to her, so she kept it all in, and it was destroying her. When I told her I was leaving her too, well, it was too much.

Joe, she told me so much about how she loved you and the things she missed about you, and they weren’t just friend things. I think she came to that realization too, and it scared her, but I think she honestly loves you and would do anything to prove that to you. I know I can be a bitch sometimes, but she warmed my heart again, and I think she can yours too.

We all saw on television when you talked about the other girl and the look you got in your eyes when you thought someone hurt her. Joe I don’t know who she is, but I do know this, if you don’t at least give Cassie a chance, you will regret it. I almost lost her too, and I can’t help but feel that it would have been one of the greatest losses of my life. I don’t want that for you, Mark and I both care about you and want what is best for you, I hope it Cassie, but if it’s not we will always be your friends. Please give her a chance;

Cindy

I folded up the piece of paper and put it back in the envelope. Cindy’s words touched me, and I didn’t know my leaving hurt Cassie that bad. She was just so mean that night, was I just as mean for what I did? Probably not, but right now I had so many emotions flowing that I couldn’t be sure.

I looked at the table and there were three more letters. Besides the first two I couldn’t think of anyone else that knew us both that would write a letter to me about Cassie.

She was sitting there looking scared as hell so I decided to let her off the hook a little. It wouldn’t change anything between us, but it might make her feel better knowing.

“The first letter was Mark’s and the second was Cindy’s. They are good friends and they both want what is best for both of us. Cindy elegantly told me that if I didn’t give you a chance I was a jackass.”

Cassie snorted. Oh my god how I missed that noise. I laughed as she covered her mouth and then she smiled and it was like a ray of sunshine made its way into the stadium. I motioned to the other three letters. “Who do we both know that would write me a letter?”

“I don’t know what order they are in, but one is from Thomas that he gave me today, one is from Mamma Jade, and the last is from Rhapsody.” She said scared with the last one and I had a pretty good idea why.

I missed Rhapsody and mamma Jade. I wanted to ask Cassie how they were, but it seemed wrong at this point. Maybe the letters would tell me more. I was impressed that she asked each of them to write me. Did they still think we were friends? How could they? I explained before I left, well for the most part, and they both knew.

“You saw both of them?” I asked.

“The whole family,” she said not breaking eye contact with me.

“Why?”

“To explain what an ass I had been, or in Rhapsodys’ case, a real bitch. I didn’t ask for their forgiveness; I knew better than that. I just told them how I felt about you, and what I was coming here to do, and asked for their help. I don’t know what the letters say, so I don’t know if they helped or hurt my case, but I wanted them to know because they were and are so close to you.” She said.

“Is there anyone else I should know about that you talked to?” I asked not imagining there could be anyone else we both knew together.

“Um well, I didn’t ask for their help, but I did speak to the team?” She said a little skittish.

“What team?”

“The Tailwind team. The trainer guy got them all together for me. I told them what I did and how much I hurt you, and that I was the reason you left. I could tell they were pissed at me, but that couldn’t be helped. They really care about you, and I took you away from them, so they had a right to know. I told them I was coming to get you back because I loved you. I didn’t ask them for a letter because, well, I didn’t really know any of them. I just wanted them to know.” She said then she took a drink.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You faced down the entire team and training squad, told them what happened between us, told them you loved me, and that you were coming to get me back?”

“Yes. I figured they were adults so the truth was the best. No reason to sugarcoat it and I told them how stupid I was, don’t forget that, because they certainly didn’t. I could see it in their eyes and the nods of the heads when I kept saying how stupid I was. The funny thing was, to a man, they all wished me luck, as I left. Well, except the trainer that I called. He seemed to be calculating my chances. He is definitely someone who analyzes everything I think.” She said taking another drink.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure Todd is Thomas’s eyes and ears in the Tailwinds when I’m not there.” I said and something clicked in place.

“You told them you were coming here, to Oklahoma City?” I asked.

“Yeah, at the impromptu meeting. I was just letting them know I was coming after you.”

Todd knew and then all of a sudden I’m heading to Tampa on a goose chase and then to Europe to meet with players that it would normally be another month before we talked. Thomas was a sneaky bastard.

“You said one of these letters is from Thomas?”

“I’m not sure which one, but he gave me one to give to you, when I told him how I was going to approach you.” She said nervous.

“You told Thomas why you were here, and what you were going to try and do?” I asked in disbelief.

“He made me. He said we had to put all our cards in the table if we were going to help each other. Besides when a man likes that tells you to do something, well, you just do it.” Cassie said.

“How long have you been in town?”

“Since Monday. I flew in on the company plane when they brought Henrik in. It saved me plane fare, which was nice.”

Holy shit. That bastard got me out of the way before Cassie got here. It was a goose chase. “You talked to him before flying here then.”

“Yeah, you weren’t answering any of my calls, and I had to see you, so I called him. We talked for a bit and I explained things to him and then he arranged for me to fly out here. You were on a scouting trip for the week so they put me to work with the guarantee, that when you got back, we would have plenty of alone time to talk.” Cassie said again and I was shocked at how far out of the loop I was in this little scheme.

“What work have they had you doing?” I asked afraid of the answer.

“Well, I’ve been helping Tammy with all her duties, from contracts and league requests to budgets and forecasting. I think they liked my banking background, it helped find a few things they were missing and I seemed to pick up the contract writing pretty quickly. That’s how I know how great Tammy is. We’ve been working together all week.”

“You and Tammy have worked together all week?” I asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I know it’s weird. Your new girlfriend and your old one working together, but it was the only way to see you.” She explained.

“Old girlfriend?” I asked.

“Look I was blind before. I know I said we were just friends, but I could never stop thinking about you, and it took me this long to realize why. So, we might not of officially names ourselves that, it was like that, and that’s why what I did was even worse, and I realize that.” She got up and went to the fridge and brought back another two bottles of Pepsi.

“Look, I know Tammy is great, I worked with her all week and had dinner with her just about every night, but I want this time to be about us. Can we do that Please?” She begged.

I nodded and took the next letter. I opened it and it was from Rhapsody.

Joe, I don’t know what she has said yet, but we have to talk. She hurt you bad, and because of that I hated her. Then she came here and I thought she was the biggest moron in the world. Why would you go to Joe’s family after hurting him the way you did? We’ll it was to explain. I’ll give her this, she didn’t sugarcoat it. She said it was all her fault and she had no explanation except that she made a fatal mistake. Joe she was a wreck when she came here, and she said we were her last stop before coming to find you. You were a wreck too when you left. Joe if this is what love is, I don’t think I am ready. I hope to see you soon.

Love

Rhapsody

“Which one was that” she asked watching me fold it up and put it away.

“Rhapsody, she has decided after watching the two of us that maybe she isn’t ready to fall in love yet.” I said taking a sip of Pepsi.

“Can’t blame her. I was in terrible shape when I walked into that house. I knew I had to explain, but it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I thought Rhapsody was going to kill me the moment I walked in. Oh Joe, the poor thing is all confused now because of me.” She cried a little and I could tell she was hurting, but I couldn’t console her, not yet.

I grabbed another letter and it was the one I wanted. Mamma Jade’s handwriting felt comfortable and soothing. I knew the words may not be, but for the moment just this piece of home was all I needed.

Joe, I know you are doing well, I saw you on television. We are all fine here. Tiny says he had to explain to a nice young gentleman that Rhapsody was not ready for dating yet. He says he would like to talk to you about that. Charles had one last week, and he mentioned the same thing. Don’t let that discourage you from visiting, I will keep them on a leash, and she is getting to that age. I won’t tell you what you should do about your present situation, but I will tell you this. I was here when Cassie called Thomas, and I was the one to explain things to Thomas so he understood a woman’s point of view. I won’t condone what Cassie did, but I do want you to know that she came here and faced down this entire family for you, and I don’t know if you know this or not, but we scare a lot of people.

Understatement of the year I thought as I read that part. Her family still scared the shit out of me on occasion, and they loved me like one of their own.

Thomas has his own agenda’s and I know he had been good to you, and to this family, but remember, you deserve to be happy as well. The restaurant is good and a lot of the customers ask when you will be back. I heard from Malcolm and he is good. He said to tell you that they will be wiping the floor with you at the last game of the season. Which is only a couple weeks away. I can’t rout for either of you, so I will just wish for an injury free game. Visit us when you can, and you could always send a letter young man.

Love

Mamma Jade

Just like Mamma Jade to yell at me before she was done. I folded it up and put the letter away. She didn’t say anything about Cassie really, but the fact she was with her when she called Thomas spoke volumes to me. I trusted Mamma Jade more than anyone else, and If she was willing to give her another try, shouldn’t I be?

Cassie watched me put the letter away and watched as I took a long drink from my Pepsi. She didn’t say anything and just watched me. I could tell she was ready to burst. I wasn’t enjoying making her wait but for some reason I still did it. I just wasn’t sure what to say.

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