Chet took my hockey bag and dropped it in his trunk before slamming the lid down.
“I don’t approve of you missing practice on Saturday,” he said.
“The dress fitting is at nine on Saturday morning, Chet,” I sighed as I climbed into the passenger seat. “I have to be there.”
“Hockey is more important, Lacey. You made a commitment to the team.”
“We aren’t supposed to have practice on Saturdays.”
“There was some extra ice available, so I took it. We have a big game against Harvard Sunday night, and I want us to be ready.”
“I made a commitment to my friend to be a bridesmaid, so I have to go home this weekend.”
I crossed my arms and stared out the window.
“You aren’t going,” he said, his voice rising.
Sweat trickled down my back, my hands trembling as I summoned the courage to stand up to him. I was a tough girl, who would not be told what to do. Channeling my inner bitch to the surface, I stared at him defiantly. “Try and stop me.”
“You are being very disobedient, Lacey,” he warned as he pulled up to the curb in front of my dorm.
I continued glaring at him, his eyes illuminated from the streetlights. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or horny.
A half smirk spread across his thin lips. He reached for me, pressing his lips roughly against mine while he grabbed the back of my head, pulling hard on my ponytail. He shoved his tongue in my mouth, almost choking me before biting my lip.
“Ow!” I cried, trying to pull away, but he had a firm hold on my head.
He kissed my neck, sucking hard on my flesh.
When he finally let go, I reached for the door handle and got out while I had the chance.
“I love you, Lacey!” he shouted as I walked up the steps.
He had never said those words to me before, and I didn’t feel compelled to say them back.
I was unlocking my door when my phone went off, the cat call text tone announcing Chet.
Chet: “Hey, babe.”
Me: “What’s up, Chet?”
Chet: “I miss you.”
Me: “You just saw me less than five minutes ago.”
Chet: “I meant what I said. You are not allowed to go home this weekend.”
Me: “I’m going. There’s nothing you can say to change my mind.”
Chet: “I told you I love you.”
Me: “Okay. That doesn’t change anything. I’m still going.”
Chet: “Fine. Go. But know that I am very displeased.”
Me: “Okay. See you Sunday.”
Chet had been well-behaved since the episode at the restaurant. It seemed as though that night was an isolated incident, and I put it out of my mind.
I was relieved when he pulled a muscle in his groin during a hockey game in his men’s league. Sex had been off the table for a couple of weeks.
He had become angry and demanding over the past week. With his groin injury resolved, he was pressuring me to spend the night at his place.
When he found out I was going home for the weekend, he tried to come up with a way to keep me in Boston. That was the only reason he scheduled a practice on Saturday. When that didn’t work, he tried to forbid me from going.
I grabbed my cosmetic bag containing the items I needed for my bedtime visit to the washroom.
Sharing a bathroom with sixteen other girls was annoying at times. But I preferred the dorm over sharing a house. I didn’t want the aggravation. As an only child, I had limits to how much socialization I could take. And I didn’t get into MIT so I could party every night of the week.
I pulled out a face cloth, wetting it under the warm water. As I washed my face, something caught my eye in the mirror. I leaned in to take a closer look.
Chet gave me a huge hickey!
How was I supposed to hide that?
I hated turtlenecks. I didn’t even own one. I would have to try and conceal it with makeup.
Why would he do that when he knew I was going home for the weekend?
I picked up my phone, typing him a nasty text message. But I didn’t send it. It would just encourage him to harass me about my trip home.
The wind whipped across the pavement while I filled up my gas tank. November was my least favourite month of the year, with most days cold and dreary. That Friday was no different as I prepared to head north, home to Maine for the weekend.
After I paid for the gas, I embarked on my three-hour drive. If only Carla had scheduled the dress fitting for the weekend after Thanksgiving, instead of the weekend before. Then I would’ve had an excuse not to go to Chet’s house for the holidays.
Why did I agree to do that?
When he asked me, I still thought he was a sweet, loving guy, and I was excited at the prospect of meeting his family. Now, I wasn’t so sure. I was definitely having second thoughts about our relationship.
Light flurries danced around when I reached the state line, crossing the Piscataqua river. As I continued north on the turnpike, the flurries changed to fat snowflakes. By the time I reached my exit, the wind had picked up, and I could barely see through the blowing snow.
Welcome to life in Maine.
I grew up in the small town of Marlo, just north of Lewiston, where the winters were long and cold.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I pulled into my parent’s driveway. It had been a harrowing drive up Highway 202.
My mother came running from the kitchen when I opened the front door.
“Oh, baby! I’m so glad you’re here.”
I dropped my bags and pulled her in for a hug.
The smell of gyros permeated the air. Elena Jones immigrated to America from Greece when she was sixteen-years-old. My father was American, but I inherited my mother’s dark complexion and olive skin. Despite coming at a young age, she still embraced her Greek heritage. My mom was always cooking something.
“Please tell me you’re staying for the holidays, Gelasia.”
My mother was the only person who called me Gelasia, other than Marty.
Gelasia was a Greek name that my mother inflicted upon me. I don’t know why my father agreed, but it didn’t matter because everyone called me Lacey.
“Mom, you know I can’t. I have to be back for a game Sunday night, and I already agreed to go to Chet’s house in Rhode Island.”
“Ahh. The boyfriend. Do we ever get to meet him?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine, Mom.”
I walked past her into the kitchen, before she had a chance to analyze my face and discover I was lying. Thank goodness I was able to cover up my hickey with concealer.
I climbed the steps to Whitney’s front porch with a heavy sigh.
What were the odds that she was actually ready to go?
My best friend was terminally late for everything.
Whitney’s father answered the door in his bathrobe, his red hair standing on end. “Come in, Lacey,” he said. “Whitney is in the shower.”
“We need to be at the dress shop in ten minutes. I’m going to run up and tell her to hurry.”
Mr. Nelson shrugged and picked up his newspaper as I bolted up the stairs and banged on the bathroom door.
“Whit, hurry up. We’re going to be late!”
My friend emerged from the bathroom in a pink robe, her long red locks wrapped up in a towel. She hugged me briefly before heading into her bedroom. I flopped down on the bed fired off a text to Carla.
Me: “Gonna be a few minutes late.”
Carla: “Whitney isn’t ready?”
Me: “How did you guess?”
“How’s school going?” Whitney asked as she rifled through her suitcase.
“Good. I’m doing a lot of freelance web design. Making lots of dough from that. Hockey is great. I get to start every game.”
“And what about the new boyfriend?”
She narrowed her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Is everything okay?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I’m not so sure he’s the right guy for me.”
“So, dump him.” She shrugged her shoulders as she started to brush out her hair.
“It’s not that simple.”
“Because he’s my hockey coach, for one thing.”
“Hm. That is a problem. I guess just string him along until the season is over.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
Carla and her sister were waiting at the dress shop when we finally arrived.
“I hope you know you can’t be late for my wedding, Whitney,” Carla warned.
“I won’t,” Whitney sighed. “I promise.”
The bridesmaid dresses were persian blue, a fitting colour for a January wedding.
Why on earth anyone would want to get married in the middle of winter, was beyond me.
But that was Carla.
Always in a hurry.
She had no desire to go to college, or have a career. All she wanted to do was have babies and be a stay at home mom. She had hooked herself a fourth-year surgical resident from Mercy Hospital in Portland.
I stared in the mirror, tugging at the bodice of my dress. My bust was the one thing I had, that was better than Whitney’s.
I smiled to myself when the seamstress added some padding to her dress. Whitney was smarter and better looking, but when I finally got around to growing breasts, I surpassed her by two cup sizes.
“So, how’s the new boyfriend?” Carla asked, spinning around in front of the mirror, admiring her wedding gown.
“When do we get to meet him?”
“I don’t know.”
She studied me thoughtfully before changing the subject. “Do you ever see Marty at school?”
“Unfortunately. He has a membership at the MIT fitness centre, and he’s always hanging out there with the other muscleheads.”
“You probably won’t see him much once the snow comes,” Whitney said as she tried to squeeze her small breasts together to create some cleavage in her dress. “He’ll be on the slopes every day.”
“I can’t believe he’s going to the Olympics,” Carla said.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “He’s a jerk, but he’s talented.”
“He’s cute, though.” Carla’s sister shrugged when we all we gaped at her. “What? He is.”
“Ew,” Whitney said, wrinkling her nose.
“He’s probably going to be your brother-in-law,” I laughed, hip-checking my friend.
Whitney and Mitch had been going out since our freshman year of high school. It was awkward at first. After ten years of being friends, two of us became a couple, and I was the odd man out.
I had never harbored romantic feelings for Mitch, but it bothered me a little bit, that he chose Whitney to be his girlfriend. I assumed, since they had been together for six years, that they would eventually get married.
“Maybe,” she said. “I’m not sure if Mitch is up for life in Washington.”
Whitney was majoring in political science at George Washington University. She had already completed an internship at The White House and met Barack Obama, while he was still in office. We often joked that she would be the first female President of The United States.
“Mitch’s parents are out of town, so he is having a few friends over tonight.”
“Guess we better make a pit stop at the liquor store,” I said as the seamstress unzipped my dress and I stepped out of it.
The room was spinning.
How much beer did I drink?
My friends liked girly beverages like coolers and daiquiris, but the tomboy in me preferred a manly drink.
Whitney was probably still nursing her first drink. She was a lightweight.
I braced myself on the arm of the low leather sofa, pulling my body into a standing position.
Where was Whitney anyway? She was usually hovering, always the self-designated babysitter when one of us overindulged in liquid refreshments.
When I needed help finding the bathroom, she was nowhere to be found.
You’ve spent lots of time in this house. If you can’t find the bathroom, you’ve had way too much to drink.
There’s a powder room somewhere on the main floor.
That’s where it is.
I stumbled toward the foyer, grabbing onto furniture as I made my way to the front of the house. Thank goodness, the bathroom was empty.
After I relieved myself, I stared in the mirror.
Not a pretty site.
Why did I drink so much?
I had an important game the next day. Chet would be furious if I showed up hungover.
Who was I kidding?
He was already pissed that I went home for the weekend.
As I staggered back to the sofa, angry voices spilled from the kitchen.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!”
Marty was there. Mitch wasn’t expecting him to come home that weekend.
“I’m having a few friends over. Go to your room and mind your own business.”
“Go to your room and leave us alone!” Mitch yelled loudly, his voice trembling.
Mitch was afraid of Marty. Always had been.
“Everyone out. The party’s over.” Marty’s deep voice reverberated throughout the house as people grabbed their jackets and left.
I marched into the kitchen and poked him in the chest. “You had no right to end our party. You’re a big bully!”
He stared down at me with an amused grin. “Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it, Gelasia? You can barely stand up.”
“I could take you, Marty Dawson.” I placed the palm of my hand against his chest, pushing as hard as I could. He didn’t budge.
His dark eyes twinkled. “Is that all you’ve got, little girl?” he taunted.
“I hate you, Marty. You’re nothing but a big jerk.” I stood on my tip toes and glared at him, before losing my balance and stumbling backwards.
“C’mon, Lacey. He’s not worth it. You can sleep on the couch.” Mitch took my arm and led me to the living room. Whitney covered me up with a blanket right before I drifted off to sleep.
I opened my eyes, wincing when a pain shot through the back of my head.
Oh, why did I drink so much?
I pulled myself into a sitting position and glanced at my watch.
No wonder it was still dark outside.
My mouth was dry, my lips sticking together. I wandered out to the kitchen, heading straight for the fridge to get water.
“Good morning, Gelasia. Feeling a little rough?”
I jumped, dropping the bottle of water on the floor. “You scared the shit out of me, Marty. Why are you sitting out here in the dark?”
He shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee. “I didn’t want to wake you by turning on the light.”
“How thoughtful of you,” I snorted, retrieving the bottle from the floor before as I sat down. I downed half the bottle in one shot, soothing my parched throat.
He grabbed a bottle of Aspirin from the cupboard, placing it in front of me before sitting back down. “How much did you drink last night?”
I twisted the cap off and popped two in my mouth. “Not sure. Too much, obviously.” I folded my arms on the table and rested my forehead on them.
After a few minutes, I lifted my head. Marty was still there. He smiled and raised his eyebrows as his gaze travelled down to my chest.
I looked down. My hoodie was unzipped, my boobs spilling out of my tank top. I zipped it up and glared at him.
What a pervert.
The concealer must have worn off while I was sleeping. I tried to cover it up with my hood.
“Stop staring at my chest, Marty.”
“Sorry, but I’m a guy. If you put them on display, I’m gonna look.”
He chuckled. “I heard you have a new boyfriend. I’m guessing he did that to you.”
He shook his head, closing his eyes briefly. “How old is he?”
“Be careful. Some guys do that to make sure everyone knows that a girl is taken. They are usually the jealous, controlling type.”
Marty was right. That was definitely the reason Chet gave me a hickey.
How pathetic. He was worried I would hook up with some other guy while I was home visiting my parents for the weekend.
“I heard you’re quite the goalie,” he said.
“Oh yeah? From who?”
“Some of the girls on the Harvard team.”
“I didn’t realize there were any blonde bimbos on that team.”
He leaned back, folding his arms over his chest. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“The only girls I ever see you with are blonde bimbos.”
“You’ve never seen me with one at school.”
“Only cause there aren’t any at Harvard or MIT,” I muttered.
“Why do you hate me so much, Lacey?”
His dark brown eyes penetrated me with an intense stare that awoke every nerve in my lower body. He called me Lacey. Marty never did that. He always called me Gelasia to annoy me.
“I don’t hate you, Marty.”
“Good. I don’t hate you, either.”
“Why do you always make fun of me?”
He shrugged and pulled on his ear lobe. “Just an old habit, I guess.”
I studied his face. Something was different. He wasn’t preparing the next insult to fling at me, or getting ready to tease me about something.
Marty was a good-looking man, when you got past the arrogant bully. He had a dark complexion, with jet black hair and dark brown eyes, strong cheekbones, and a cute little dimple in his chin. His skin was always tanned, even in the winter time.
At six-foot-four, with well-defined muscles over every inch of his body, Marty Dawson ticked off every box on my sexy man checklist.
If we ever had kids, they would be little raven-haired beauties.
What was I thinking?
Had I gone completely mad, thinking about having babies with Marty?
I should not drink alcohol.
He stared at me, rubbing his chin with his thumb. “So, tell me more about this boyfriend. Is it serious?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure it’s going to last.”
Oh, why did I blurt that out to Marty, of all people?
I squirmed under his paralyzing gaze. It was the first time Marty and I had ever had a real conversation, and I felt like it might be a trap. But I needed someone to talk to, and my friends were all wrapped up in their own lives.
I broke eye contact, staring down at the table. “He’s really mean sometimes,” I said quietly.
He reached across the table and tilted my chin up, concern etched on his face. “Has he hit you?”
“No. Nothing like that. He’s rude to other people, like waiters. And he gets mad at me a lot and yells, but he usually apologizes the next day.”
“He doesn’t sound like a very nice guy, Lacey.”
“Sometimes he is. He can be very sweet. I’m going to his parent’s house in Rhode Island for Thanksgiving.”
“Just be careful, please. If you ever need help, call me.”