Sad, that was how Natasha would describe her life. Whilst she didn't want to throw anger and resentment at Torrie onto Bo, their attitudes were so similar that she couldn't see anything but him breaking her on the horizon. She'd avoided getting to close to anyone, other then Steph and her Nana H before she died, no one knew her. Not really. But Bo Holding had changed that, crashing into her life head on and throwing everything on it's head.
She had enjoyed that, loved being with a man who desired her so openly, wanted her so desperately, but it all came with a price, and that price was him walking away when he got what he wanted – the chance to go back to his life.
She was merely a means to an end, a way to ensure that he enjoyed his time here. she'd known and feared that from the start, before he was so dismissive, treated her in such a derogatory way. That was the catalyst, the sign she'd needed to withdraw, and when she asked him, almost begged him to tell her that he was willing to stay around, 'see how things went', he couldn't. And that was it, the stinger.
The front door to the apartment had closed a while ago, and as the tears had dried up, thought the shame, regret and anger would last a long time, she managed to drag herself out of the room.
The folded paper, inscribed with her name sat on the small dining table in her open plan living area. She didn't read it for a long time, instead she cleared dishes, loaded the washing machine, planned her menu for the week, all the time, the letter seemed to grow bigger, flashing from it's position on the table.
She didn't want to read it, didn't want the guilt from his face, his reaction to influence her resolve.
But she couldn't ignore it.
I cannot apologise enough. You are the only good thing that I've found in this country. I admit that I have been difficult, ungrateful and selfish, that I haven't been the best back to you. But I want to be, I want to change, I want to appreciate life more than I have today.
Please don't tell me I've blown everything, let me at least be a friend? We're away at the end of the week, but tomorrow evening, I'll be at that Mexican across town, that place we went to, from seven.
I'll wait. I hope you'll come, just to let me talk. I want nothing more than that at the moment. If you don't come, I understand.
Just know that at worst I am self-centred, I never intended to be so awful to you.
I hope you'll give me a chance, but I know I don't deserve it.
She felt warmth at that, there was a level of genuineness to his words, but she wasn't going to bend, not now...not yet, anyway. Blowing her hair out of her eyes, she carried on with her chores, ignoring the large American man shaped hole in her life.
Bo had a shit Monday, college day. He didn't find the course all that inspiring, business and sport. One thing he loved the other, not so much. His first assignment had gone in, and he'd passed, but now it was hard core homework, two assignments due in the next couple of weeks, and a mind that couldn't concentrate on anything beyond the woman he'd pissed off.
He hit the gym late afternoon, but when he couldn't focus, he swam a few lengths, then got a massage. None of it worked, and he was anxious as he headed home, then showered, even thought he'd showered at the gym. Nothing made him feel ready for what felt like along walk, a lonely evening. His head was full of so many analogies, and whilst he was trying not to over dramatise his life, suddenly everything felt like it balanced on a knife edge.
Leo Flores, the proprietor of his favourite Mexican place was behind the counter when he entered.
"Mi amigo!" the older man greeted him like a great friend, "what can I get for my greatest customer?"
Bo shrugged, "I'm not sure yet."
"How is that fiery woman of yours?"
He grimaced, amazed that was opening up to someone who was almost a stranger, but he was, "hmm, who knows? I may have blown that...or she might arrive in ten minutes."
Leo nodded knowingly, "women, the most complex part of a man's life."
Bo rolled his eyes, "true, but this is all on me."
And it was, he was the one who didn't know what he wanted, he was the one who changed his priorities, he was the one who'd messed her around, a game he hadn't realised he started.
He took a beer, then sat at a table in the back. The first thing he'd done since leaving Natasha's had been to open twitter, Facebook...all his old social media, things he'd not looked at in more than a year. Life had gone on, colleagues were still playing, friends were still partying, a few had new children. Things he'd missed out on.
Nathan was the last person he looked up, he was very active on twitter, tweeting half a dozen times a day. He was engaged to a woman, someone he didn't recognise. Not Daniele, and looking at her no one he recognised from the model scene.
As he sat on a plastic seat in the Mexican fast food place, and looked at the updates. The first being a message from Nathan. He'd noticed his the change in his profile.
Bo. You disappeared. Love to see you man. I know we haven't spoken since that day, but I really want to see you, talk to you. You never gave me the chance to say sorry. Think about it?
He stared at the words, he'd had almost forgotten about Daniele, and the thought of Nathan sleeping with her had no affect of her, he almost laughed at the anger he'd felt for years because of that. Then he thought of Natasha, and the thought of anyone getting close to her, and he felt sick, desperate. He'd never cared for Daniele, not really. He knew that now, but Nathan had still slept with her, not knowing that he felt that way. He wasn't about to just forget that, but he wasn't going to let his disdain for that dictate his life any more. He was done with that.
He had to get over it.
So he thumbed a quick response.
Of course I disappeared. I caught you fucking my girlfriend. Not sure what you expect me to say or do, but I wasn't about to compare notes over a beer. My life was fucked, and you did that to me. Not really best mate traits.
He didn't comment on whether he was willing to open the door to his friend, but he wasn't going to hide any more, Nathan Price wasn't going to screw up his life any longer. And frankly it was up to him to decide what he wanted to do about his offering.
Bo leaned back in his chair and smiled, this was it, this was him changing. All he needed was to have another chance with Natasha.
At that moment a text appeared on his phone. Two words.
Tears prickled his eyes at the thought that he'd blown it, he couldn't let her go. But he didn't have a clue how to change things. He had laid as much of his heart on his sleeve as he could, and it wasn't enough, he'd done more bad than he could undo. And that was painful.
The next morning was on ice training. Bo remained sad, disappointed, but he wasn't anywhere near as despondent as he had been as recently as two days earlier. Suddenly his life wasn't the pits of despair, Coop and Natasha were right in equal measures. He still rued all that he'd lost, but it was in particular Coop's words that rang true. He was building, planning and aiming to get himself back to the fringe of the NHL at best, no matter what he did he'd never be an NHL player, that wasn't going to happen. So he was choosing being an agent, or a coach, or something over playing a game he loved, and inspiring another generation of keen players to fall in love with it too.
He missed the money...though he'd made enough the last ten years, but not as much as he missed Natasha, and he didn't know how to deal with that.
Tomorrow was team breakfast at Heaven and Hell. He'd have to face her, and know that everyone in his team would see her distance from him, they'd all knew that he fucked things up. For the first time in a long time what they thought, what they said didn't matter. All that mattered was that he got another chance to show her, to tell her how he felt.
Blake was dressed first and as he bungled his training kit into his bag, he turned to Bo, "taking Nails to the golf course after this, me and Porno going to show him how to hit a par round."
Bo had seen their golf skills and scoffed, "if you hit anywhere near par, I will run naked across the ice in the middle of a game."
Blake's eyes widened, "as your captain I shouldn't want that so much, never more motivated to do that. You coming?"
He had nothing else to do, but he couldn't deal with that, going out. He wasn't good company, so instead he shook his head and took his time.
He was last to leave the locker room, his head hung, his bag heavier than ever as he lifted it over his shoulder. As he opened the door, Coop's office opposite was open and he could see his coach sat there at his desk, when he looked up he smiled at him.
"You OK Pen?"
"Suppose so, you OK boss?"
Coop rolled his eyes at the term, he hated being called boss, wanted more than to be one of the lads, before he replied, "good. You did good out there, Pen." When Bo could only shrug, he added, "the right attitude, you'll be a legend. You may not think that's important, but the team..." he shrugged again.
"Cool." Ridiculous answer for Bo, but there was nothing else to say. With a nod, he'd almost reached the exit to the locker rooms when Coop called out.
"I'm doing a Q and A session in a local school in an hour...if you want to come."
He'd have laughed, said 'what the fuck?' in the past, but suddenly, seeing kids having fun, getting the chance to talk about the sport he loved, inspire. He wanted that. He had time to make up for, all those self indulgent years where he was the centre of the fucking universe.
"Count me in."
If Coop was surprised, he hid it well, "cool. Give me ten minutes, go get some food upstairs? Oscar has the lunch choices in his office."
Normally he went home, had his own lunch, but up in the hospitality suite he caught up with a couple of teammates who were feasting on the platters of sandwiches and fruit that the owners provided whenever they trained at the rink.
After talking to two dozen nine year olds, signing pictures and posing for photos, Bo should be glad to leave, but he wasn't. For the first time in decades, he'd enjoyed an afternoon of publicity, PR, off the ice. The kids were enthusiastic, interested and fun. Coop was good company, and the whole day ad felt good. This was what it was about.
But as the afternoon ended, he and Coop headed back to their cars.
"You seeing Natasha later?"
Bo grimaced at that question, "not really..." He could only hope that it came across as genuine.
Coop gave a knowing nod, "if you need to talk..."
He could only nod a reply. He couldn't. But he appreciated the offer, he knew Coop was genuine, one of the most genuine men he'd ever met.
It had been a long few days for Natasha. Not meeting Bo two nights ago had taken every ounce of her self preservation. She's been so tempted to cross the town to meet him. But he had hurt her, and she wasn't about to throw herself back into that. She could survive without Bo Harding, of that he was sure. As long as he didn't get any deeper into her life, so distance...it was kind of essential.
But in just over ninety minutes, the whole of his squad were going to entering her place of business for breakfast, and she'd have to see him. Watch him.
Shaking her head she turned back to the porridge she was prepping, and the rye bread that was cooling on the counter in preparation for the onslaught of "healthy" breakfast requests. She had to pull up her big girl pants and get on with it, she was a business woman.
As she filled the display counter with cupcakes, the wall mounted TV in the corner of the room caught her eye, she only ever had a news channel on, without volume, and today was no different. But the local news station had the seven am bulletin on, and though there was no sound, the visual showed Hornets coach, the magnanimous and traffic stopping Coop on the screen talking. Reaching for the remote control she turned it up, glad that no early coffee seekers had arrived.
He was in a school, kids gathered in the background as he stressed the importance of exercise to children in this increasingly technical world, and then a few theories on the coming weekend and an important trip to London for two top of the table clashes.
As he talked, she froze, there in the background, playing some form on tag game with at least twenty kids was Bo, dressed with his playing jersey over his jeans, a baseball cap on his head, and he was laughing, belly laughing as he was chased across the yard in the distance behind Coop.
And her heart melted a bit more.
An hour later, the first Hornet players starter to arrive. Natasha knew who all of them were, and most to say hi to, she'd been hanging around the club in various capacities for a few months. Welcoming them by name, she smiled as she placed jugs of coffee and juice on their tables, smiling at their banter, all the time dreading the moment that Bo walked in and she had to face him.
Coop was one of the last ones to arrive, and he came straight up to the counter.
"Hey, you're famous! Can I get an autograph?"
He blushed, "oh don't. We were just going out to see some kids and someone tipped off the local media. Little embarrassed actually."
"All publicity is good publicity?"
He gave a shrug, then his face turned solemn, "Bo isn't coming."
A lump appeared in her throat and she managed a mute nod, so he added, "look I don't know what's going on, but he didn't want to put pressure on you, his words not mine."
She gave another nod, suddenly not seeing him seemed worse than the anguish him actually walking in and turning her world upside down again.