Part Forty Four
Chapter Forty Four
"This is what?" Bo thumbed the woven fabric that now half covered his sofa.
Natasha rolled her eyes, "that's a throw, and those are the matching cushions, you are not a heathen, Mr Holding."
He tried to hide the smirk as he looked around at the transformation. His small dining table now had a patterned 'runner', or that's what Natasha called the narrow cloth that ran along the centre of it. Then there was the glass vase, that held some greenery, leaves more than flowers, but it did brighten up his home. She had filled a couple of photo frames with the only snaps he had brought with him, and a large stock beach image sat on one of the walls.
Everything coordinated, in a way that he would never have managed, and he had to admit, whilst it was a long way from cosy, it was a lot more inviting than it had been. He wasn't sure it would ever feel like a home, but it was no longer sterile. And he could appreciate that.
"So when are they coming? Your parents?"
He was unloading some groceries in the small kitchen when she asked that.
"They were talking about in the next couple of weeks..." he dropped his head for a moment, then looked back up at her. "But I've had more headaches."
She dropped everything...immediately, and rushed over to him, "you never said. Have you told Coop? Do you need to see the doctor?"
He shook his head, "I'm keeping a record of them, and I am being honest, but it probably means it'll be another four weeks at least before I can play a game, so I'm trying to put them off until then." When she looked at him earnestly, he added, "what else do I have to show them? I've not exactly branched out here, and other than work, and spending time with you...I do nothing."
She ran her hand up his arm, "that's bullshit, but I'm not going to argue with you."
She stayed, which he loved, but he knew he had to take things slowly. Last time they went from nothing to spending almost every night together in a few days, time, maybe a little distance, would help her realise he was serious?
After an early breakfast, he messaged Matt, the team doctor, and he replied with an appointment with his specialist neurologist at nine thirty. As he dressed, he called Coop and explained, there was no training on a Monday, but that didn't mean he wouldn't have seen his coach. On the way to the hospital, he called to Heaven and Hell. So much for distance!
He drank a coffee, perched next to the counter, and chatted to Natasha as she served the early customers.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come with you? I can get some cover."
He shook his head, part of the new Bo Holding, was standing up and facing the reality. He had to do this alone.
"I'll call you afterwards?"
The doctor was a little more optimistic than he had imagined, still early days, delay your activity. All more positive than you'll never play again. He was finally able to separate this injury from the hell that his knee had been. But it still meant more time with nothing to do. Reduced training, more time sitting and dwelling.
Maybe he could 'take up a hobby' as Natasha suggested. But he literally had no interests, he wasn't happy to spend twelve hour days playing his Xbox and watching TV box sets. He wasn't able to play any other sports, even golf was too taxing according to the consultant,
Lunch time, he found himself in a small shopping centre, and grabbing a coffee, he pulled out his phone, the obligatory twice weekly social media message that the club insisted on.
Absolutely devastated to hear that I've got to step off ice for at least another two week, means I'm unlikely to play for another month. Know the lads will keep up the momentum and I'll return to a team fighting at the top. #postconcussion #delayedreturn
He hated tweeting, instagramming...all of it. But as he sat there, immediately messages of support popped up on his screen, mainly fans, punctuating their responses with sad and tearful emojis. And that made him smile, people taking time to offer him, a virtual stranger, best wishes for their recovery. It was incredibly warming. As he read the messages, he realised that his social media blackout when he had his knee injury, meant he missed out on this kind of support, and he was sure that the fans of his NHL team would have been equally as vocal. But he'd closed that door and felt sorry for himself, took the whole burden alone, not helpful for anyone.
He sighed as he thumbed through his notifications, until a private message came through on a group chat. Anders, his old roomie, best team mate after Nathan.
Can't believe you're injured again, caught the assault on YouTube. Looked bad. If you aren't playing, then think about coming to the All Stars game? You must have read about it? European and Russian players, versus Canada and USA. A special one off game in Helsinki. Next month. I'm playing...you have to come.
A few others added into the message, people he'd played with, all wanting him to come and see them. To meet up for beers after the game.
It was almost two years since he'd seen any of them, and they were all so keen to see him again. He knew he was smiling, a little manically, but there was no other reaction that he could have.
Despite the smiles, he was anxious, nervous. Jumping into his car, he drove straight to Natasha.
The day had dragged for Natasha. Other than an update by text from Bo to relay the more positive than expected doctor report, he'd been decidedly quiet. Which was what she wanted. She'd asked him for space and time. But that for her also signalled time to think, or rather over think, and over analyse everything that had happened.
And this was never a good thing. Fortunately, the cafe was busy, and between baking, supervising, cleaning and answering calls, taking orders, the day passed, albeit slowly.
Then at four pm, as the afternoon was winding down, the door bell rang, and she looked up to see the door opening and Bo stepping inside.
It seemed like an age since she'd last saw him, and he was a vision, beaming as he crossed the room, swiping her into his arms, uncaring of the patrons in the cafe, and kissing her as she'd imagined him kissing her all day.
And for that long moment, she forgot everything, just felt and enjoyed his desperate yet passionate kiss.
James, the assistant working with her as she closed up, nudged her, "get a room, you two."
Bo lifted his head, resting his forehead on hers, "get told that a lot, don't we?"
She sighed, "you keep sweeping me off my feet."
He grinned, "I hope I can keep doing that."
Smiling she pulled back and looked up at him, "you've had a good day? Thought you'd be grumpy, what with the playing delay."
He shrugged, watching her as she filled a coffee mug for him, "posted my current situation on social media, and I've been inundated with messages."
"See, the fans may not number those in the US, but they love you just as intensely."
He nodded, "you are right about a lot of things, I pulled away from all that, last time, shut down all my accounts."
"...along with your family, friends...your heart."
He cupped her cheek and grinned at her, "how the hell do you know so much?"
That made her chuckle, she was the worst at dealing with things, but it was so much easier to be objective of other people's lives.
"I was giving you a wide berth today."
She nodded, she'd guessed as much, "so what happened?"
He swigged at his coffee, then offered, "well, you know how the NBA and NFL have been playing games in London...trying to spread the love over here, well the NHL is having a demonstration game in Helsinki. A purely a flagship, promotion thing, an advert for the league. An All Star US and Canada team versus Europe and Russia."
She cocked her head to the side, "I thought you were avoiding all things NHL."
He laughed, "I was, but Anders, on old roomie...he invited me to go, and then a few other teammates and old friends...who'll play on both sides, they want me to come too."
"So you should go." She watched him and spotted the anxiety wash over his face, "you're nervous?"
He shrugged, "they all still live the dream, I don't."
"But they want to see you, miss you. It'll be difficult initially, but imagine how much fun you could have."
He groaned, and she stared at him.
"What is it?"
"Nathan will be there, so called best mate. Now engaged, but not to the woman I was dating when he decided to screw her."
She placed a hand on his arm, "so he saw her for all she was too."
The laugh that escaped his mouth was ironic to say the least, "chucked away my friendship for nothing. Makes it even worse. It's the worst betrayal, some friend!"
She agreed with a nod, "but you have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to live up to."
He nodded, "I know, I have pulled things up, turned it around. I finally feel happy, content, I didn't think I would...but to see them all..."
"What would make it better? You came here to put something past me, didn't you?"
Rolling his eyes, he shook his head, "can't believe you, you see things I don't even know are there...I want you to come with me."
She gasped, not expecting that, "really?"
He nodded, "I feel I can do anything with you by my side."
Bo Holding had made a full U-turn. It was official. The distant and resistant man, resenting everything, had become the most romantic man in the world. She swooned for the zillionth time at his side.
The practicalities were far harder than just saying yes, she had her business to think about after all. That wouldn't run itself, and she couldn't just close up. But there were a couple of weeks to plan things, and she didn't want to disappoint him.
"This is a big thing for you."
It was statement not question, and he nodded, "you could say that. The NHL hasn't done anything like this before, it's a great thing. And a good chance to see old friends."
"And seeing old friends, would be better with me?"
He nodded, as enthusiastically as a puppy, "you on my arm would give me the confidence I've lost, I promise...then there's knowing that you've got my back. I know you'd be with me one hundred percent."
It was so sad that his self-assurance had ebbed to such a low, the betrayal by that woman and his so called friend and wiped out any confidence he had left. If she could help him she would.
"It's going to be a stretch trying to man the cafe, I have to keep it open, we're still too fledgling to close for a long weekend."
"I'll do whatever I can to help. I promise."
An hour later they were at Coop and Freya's, Bo still had to run the trip past his coach. Whether it was normal and he'd have let any injured player off on this jolly, Natasha wasn't sure, but he smiled at Bo almost excitedly.
"I think it will do you the world of good, I know how hard this time out is, and I have to say, I am amazed that you were so honest last weekend, about the headaches. I'd have bet this house that you'd do anything to get back on the ice."
Bo laughed, then glanced at Natasha for a split second, "maybe I've finally grown up and realised how important these blood and bones are."
Coop nodded knowingly, "that is a definite plus."
He swung an arm around Natasha's shoulders and gave her a squeeze, "and that is all down to you young lady."
As she rolled her eyes at him, she heard a growl escape Bo's lips, and laughed out loud. "Are you jealous, Mr Holding?" She turned to him, pointing at the middle of his chest, "Mr Cool?"
Bo tried to brush it off, but was definitely territorial in the way he sat between her and Coop.
Freya came back from settling the kids, "so you need help in the cafe? Could I help? It's a long time since I've worked front of house, so to speak."
"You've got a lot on," Natasha offered, not wanting them to think that she'd come for that purpose.
Freya shrugged, "you've got staff, get them in, but I'll just try and keep things running smoothly. Plus I cold come help you prep earlier in the week?"
"It's too much to ask."
Freya shook her head, "no. It's not. I promise. We can wok out the details, and my parents will help with the kids...they love it."
So it seemed they were going to Helsinki.