Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chapter Five

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Jon's out two weeks with an upper body injury - bummer!  I'll try to get you through it with this story.

“I talked to Jon’s mom today.”

“MOM!” Callie said sharply. “I told you not to! Let me get there, get settled and then I’ll text him… ugh!”

Her mother was having none of it. Even internationally via long-distance she could still give Callie a piece of her mind. “Absolutely not. Jon is your best friend. You were in love with him for years, Cal! For crying out loud. I don’t know what happened to you guys but you are not moving to a city where he is the only person you know and not calling him.”

Callie looked at the movers putting the last of her things in the truck to the storage unit. It would all follow on the company’s dime once she found a place to live. “I will call him when I get there,” she protested.

“The hell you will. I asked his mom to give you the day, but after that she’s telling him. Andree agrees you two have been apart too long.”

“It’s not that Mom, it’s… different. He’s different, he won’t want me hanging around like some loser with no friends. In case you don’t get the news in Singapore he is a superstar now!”

She heard her mom sigh, exasperated. “The only person treating him like a superstar is you, Callie.”

For the last time, Callie drove herself to Santa Monica, tied her sneakers tight and ran down the Venice Beach boardwalk along the Pacific Ocean. It was crowded with tourists and transients but it always helped to clear her mind.

The decision to move had been easy – a simple yes, right away. She wanted the promotion, and her job in LA would be downgrading anyway. Some of her college friends had left and the rest were caught up starting their own real lives. The guy she’d been dating, Brandon, had taken a job in New York two months before and Callie hadn’t really even missed him. LA had been fun for four years but she was ready to go.

And plus, it was Chicago. It wasn’t like Jon was waiting for her – he was the toast of the town now and she was just some old girlfriend. None of her college friends ever talked about their high school sweethearts, and every single one of those long-distance freshman year relationships had ended long ago. Still, you never know, she couldn’t stop thinking.

Callie stared at Jon’s name on her phone screen for a few minutes before calling. It was the first time ever she heard herself think: please don’t pick up. Her wish was granted.

“Hey. Leave a message and I’ll call you back.” Since becoming THE Jonathan Toews, he’d taken his name off the voicemail. As if people couldn’t recognize his voice.

“Jon, hi. It’s Callie. I’m uh… I’m moving to Chicago. Surprise! My work is transferring me and I’ll be there in a few days. When I get in, maybe I could buy you dinner? It’s, um… well I don’t actually know anyone there so even though it’s been a long time I thought maybe I can at least take you for a drink to celebrate all the amazing things you’ve done. So, give me a call. Or I’ll call you when I get there. Okay? Bye Jon.”

“Holy shit,” Jon said out loud. He’d been at practice, skating hard and working on drills. Repeating for the Stanley Cup was nearly impossible in the NHL but Jon and the Hawks were trying to reach that goal. The season was two weeks old and things had not started out well.

“What?” Patrick Sharp said, dropping in next to him on the locker room bench.

“My, uh… wow. Callie is moving here. To Chicago.”

His teammate leaned back a little. “Callie, Callie? The ex-girlfriend?”

Jon shook his head. He’d never, ever called her that. “No, well… we were together for a long time. But we grew up together, next door neighbors since we were tiny. Before she was my girlfriend she was my best friend. Ever. First kiss, first… everything.”

Jon blushed as Sharpie slapped him on the back. He’d gotten married over the summer and the guys teased him for becoming a romantic softie. “Why’d you break up?”

“Never got to see each other. Too far apart.”

Sharpie raised an eyebrow. “Not anymore, eh?”

A million thoughts flooded Jon’s mind – like his life flashing before his eyes. Touching her lips for the first time during that basement party, Callie holding his hand at the movies when Katie McKenna dumped him, kissing her to stop her crying when he left, watching her sleep that New Year’s weekend. The last time he’d seen her, waving as he drove away.

“What about Tara?” Sharpie broke through his daydream.

Crap, Jon thought. Tara was the girl he’d been dating, more for company than anything else. She was nice enough and the sex was distracting if not memorable. It kept the guys from dragging him around the clubs and throwing a steady stream of puck bunnies in his path. Tara was… well, he hadn’t thought of her first, so she really wasn’t.

“I don’t know that Callie and I are still anything. It’s been a long time,” Jon admitted, as much as it hurt to say that to the love of his life, he might be just another guy. Don’t jump to conclusions.

Jon finally called Callie later that night. He didn’t want to wait but he didn’t know what to say. If she was moving, she couldn’t have a boyfriend, right? That was getting ahead of himself – he hadn’t seen her in five years. Maybe she had changed. Hell, his life had certainly changed enough. There was a good chance that she was over him, way past what they had and wouldn’t want to be part of his circus anyway.

But still, it’s Callie.  If it was possible to be nervous pushing a single button, he was. She didn’t answer.

“Callie, hey, it’s Jon. I can’t believe this! You definitely owe me some dinners. In exchange, I’ll let you wear my gold medal. Call me when you get here. Do you need any help moving stuff in? I know some pretty big guys… okay. See you soon, eh? Can’t believe I’m actually saying that again. Bye.”

I know some pretty big guys…

Callie laughed at Jon’s message, but it also twisted her stomach. He would be nice. He’d be unfailingly polite and friendly because he was a good solid Canadian kid whose mom had raised him right. And that mom would be asking about Callie. So Jon would fulfill the obligation borne of growing up next door. But his world was so much bigger now, his life something Callie couldn’t possibly comprehend. Surely there would be no place for her there.

But still, it’s Jon…. She saved the message anyway. Two days later, she got on a plane to Chicago.

Callie had her map out and her head down somewhere in the warren of downtown Chicago streets, looking for a computer store her office recommended. The wireless router in her short-term corporate housing wouldn't pick up the card in her laptop. She didn't know an N router from a G and was one service call away from throwing it out the window. She lifted her eyes to the street signs; surely they were on this map somewhere.

Patrick Kane had been watching her for half a block. He never missed the approach of a pretty girl. She wore black jeans on shapely legs, high brown riding boots and a lightweight, oversized white cable knit sweater with a bright green scarf wrapped once around her neck. Long dark hair was caught beneath the strap of her messenger bag and held off her face by sunglasses. She stopped on the corner, four feet outside the fence that contained the outdoor table where half the Chicago Blackhawks were having lunch.

Pat leaned over the low railing, still in his chair. "Can I help you find something?" A few of his teammates turned to see who he was talking to.

Callie looked up to say yes, please, thank you. The words were already on her tongue when she saw his face. Sound caught in her throat. Patrick instantly smiled, proud to be recognized and prepared to be adored.

Jon barely flicked his eyes from the menu. He'd seen a million Kaner conquests and couldn't care less about one more: another long-legged, long-haired girl. His brain barely registered anything before his eyes went right back to her, wide.


She recognized Patrick, of course. It nearly stopped her heart to see him, smiling like the Cheshire Cat. Instantly she realized he was with a group, sensed the size of his tablemates. They could only be... her gaze shot a bull's-eye without even trying.

"Jon!" she gasped. It wasn't a scream or a question. It was like someone opened the airlock in a sci-fi movie and the entire world went completely silent and still. She was weightless, jettisoned into space.

Jon didn’t hesitate – he was a man of action now, a tried-and-true winner, up and moving before his name was off her lips. He wore a gray collared t-shirt and black cargo shorts, every part of his body twice the size she remembered. His hair was short, his skin tanned but the smile, that aw-shucks baby-faced smile was like a time machine back to home.

They both thought it. They were both embarrassed and tried to push it from their minds. They both failed.

Please don't be in love with someone else.

Jon wove behind Seabs’ and Duncan’s chairs and stepped over the railing like it was a curb. Callie's mouth still hung open, just an inch. She looked like a memory, a face he'd seen only in dreams for five years. That beautiful face.

Callie's brain did nothing. Or something. It shot 1s and 0s; binary code for some equation that would not compute. An error message kept popping up: Jon. Jon.

He was on the street in no time, Chicago's most recognizable face on a busy sidewalk in the middle of the day. His arms went around her like she was poured into a mold. Before he could slow down, Jon buried his face in her soft hair. "Callie."

"Wow," she whispered. "Hi."

They hugged for an hour. A day. Maybe a month. Callie inhaled the scent of pure, clean boy: soap and deodorant and fresh laundry. Jon was massive in her embrace, like a wall or a sculpture; solid, heavy and warm.

"Ahem," Kane had to say three times before anyone heard.

"Oh," Jon said, remembering his lunch companions. He blushed, putting his chin on top of Callie's head as she too opened her eyes. He unfolded and opened toward the table. "Guys, this is Callie. Callie, this is...." Eight sets of eyes sized her up, the woman on their captain's mind.

She rolled her eyes. "I know who they are, Jon."

The guys laughed while Jon's heart squeezed hard. If she knew who they were, then she'd been watching. Not just Goggling him once in a while.  She'd been watching.

"Join us, we haven't even ordered yet." Jon stepped over the fence and reached out for her. Sharpie slid his chair away from Jon's, making room for another. Jack Skille asked the next table if they could spare an extra.

Callie took Jon's hand, cleared the railing and moved around to the newly arrived seat. "You guys don't mind?"

"Tell us embarrassing high school stories about Tazer and we'll even pay," Duncan said.

Jon could not believe that just like that, one moment from nothing, Callie was sitting next to him. After waiting so long that he almost forgot he was, she was right next to him. Not over the phone, not on Skype. She wasn't a once-in-a-blue-moon text message or a heartbreaking surprise photo on his iPad. She was here.

Callie took a sip of water, smiling at Seabrook telling a joke. She half-listened, half-reeled. Jon sat beside her like a radio tower, emitting a constant buzz of energy that made every hair on her body stand up. He was right here, right now. She reached out and squeezed his forearm. Bad idea, she thought. It was like squeezing carved marble.

"Just making sure you're real," she whispered.

"Where are you staying, Callie?" Kane was asking.

"Oakwood corporate apartments on Silver, while I look for a place. My job moved pretty quickly so there was no time to find a one first." The guys tossed out suggestions about neighborhoods, making Callie smile. As if she could afford what they liked! But she listened, noting places that were young, had nightlife, were near the El. And where not to live.

"How do you like it so far?" Duncan took his turn at 20 questions.

"It's great. I've only been here two days."

"So you haven't been to...." A hundred suggestions came at once. The general consensus was they had a lot to show her.

"Starting tonight," Seabrook said. "Jon’s place at eight, don't eat first."

Callie looked at Jon, who nodded enthusiastically. "And here I thought I wouldn't have any friends!" she laughed.

"Isn't Jon your oldest friend?" Kane asked. "Or has he been going on about some fantasy he made up."

She giggled. "Oldest, definitely. The boy next door."

Jon was blushing uncontrollably. It didn't match the glare he tried to give Pat, shaking his head almost imperceptibly. Having spent so much time together, Jon knew when Kane was about to misbehave. And when he was about to ignore a warning.

"We heard you were Jon's first kiss," Pat went on.

"My first too," Callie put a hand to her face. "Spin the bottle strikes again."

The guys erupted - Jon had left out the part about the game. "You had to win it, Tazer? You didn't tell us that!" Skille howled. Jon sent him a look like if you want to survive your rookie season, shut the fuck up.

"Ooooh, no. I was so awkward - Jon was bailing me out. Showing me how it was done." She squeezed his arm again.

Kane snorted. "Right - you're awkward, he's cool. We also heard...."

"Pat, I'm going to murder you," Jon finally broke his mortified silence.

Callie rescued him. “I knew you two stayed up late telling secrets. Bromance!”

And just like that, Callie and Jon were having lunch together. His heart pounded and her brain sizzled. Every time one caught the other looking, they would both blush and turn away.

Callie had the unmistakable urge to kiss him: those lips formed the same smile by which she’d judged her own happiness for nearly 20 years. She wondered if they were still soft, who bought him Chapstick now, who got to feel the warmth of his body while he slept.

Jon snuck a thousand glances at her. Some she caught, most she didn’t. Judging by the looks on Kane and Bolland’s faces, they saw every one. He was drunk on the smell of her hair, the fall of it down her back and over her shoulders. Her sweater had been soft in his hands. He wondered what she’d left behind, who was missing her now. Surely a girl like Callie did not go unloved.

Lunch ended too soon. There were 6 hours before Seabrook had suggested that Callie meet them for the evening. “What are you doing now?” Jon asked.

“Finding the computer store to sort out my internet connection.” She patted her bag. “I have lost patience I didn’t even know I had.”

He stood up and pulled out her chair. “I’ll go with you.”

She’d only been off by one street. Happiest accident ever, she thought. The idea of seeing Jon had made her so nervous and she’d built it up into something impossible. He was so famous, so successful – he was a real life idol. But the moment she saw him she also knew he was just Jon, the same guy she’d been in love with all her life. He walked with hands in his pockets – she was grateful, or she might have tried to hold one.

Thank God, Jon said to himself. He thanked his mom and Callie’s for making sure they were in touch and he thanked his lucky stars that Callie seemed to still be the girl he’d always known. He was desperate to put an arm around her waist or pick her up or something, anything, so he tucked his hands into his shorts.

“You look great, Cal,” he said, reaching for some way to break the ice.

“Thanks, Jon. You too, but I cheated by watching you on TV all the time.”

“I saw your pictures on Facebook when I was home – Dex showed me.” He wanted to ask why she hadn’t come, but he didn’t want to put her on the spot. She’s here now, he reminded himself. That’s all that matters.

“I saw your lake.” They both laughed at that, sharing some memories about times they’d visited that spot when all this winning was just a dream. Callie noticed people noticing Jon, but no one approached or said anything. Until they were in the store. Callie put her bag on the counter and began pulling out her laptop. The clerk stood with his mouth open, staring at Jon.

“Hey man,” Jon said nicely.

A woman from another part of the store came over. “Oh my God, Jonathan Toews!” She introduced herself. That sparked the clerk to life and he did the same. Then another employee. Pretty soon six or eight people were around them and none were interested in Callie’s computer. Jon looked at her apologetically.

“I think I’ll go,” he offered.

“Or I’ll never get this done! Text me the place.”

“See you at 8.”

Jon left, and all the onlookers turned toward Callie. As if they were memorizing her face for when they saw it in the newspaper.

Callie got her electronics sorted out, and the clerk gave her a big discount for no reason other than she obviously knew Jon. When she finally left the store, she went right past her apartment to the neatest street of stores.

I was fine until I saw him, she thought. Now she knew there was still something, at least on her part. And that called for an outfit. She couldn’t go out with the Blackhawks in some wrinkled work clothes. Callie searched through the stores, relishing the raise that had come with her transfer and thinking of it as a gift, which she would spend for this special occasion.

Jon is my friend, she reminded herself. Surely over five years she’d lost of the privilege of anything else, especially with someone like him. The world was at his feet and she was just old news.  She’d stay there, just to be near him. But already she knew this was going to hurt.

Jon wanted to run home - anything to make 8 PM come as soon as possible. Adrenaline and hormones flooded through his system.

Please please please, his brain chanted. Jon’s heart did not share the optimism. The more he thought about it, the more he knew that Callie was out of his reach now. He had the chance but it had passed – maybe if he’d gone to her sooner, made an effort to prove what she had meant to him. What she still meant. But he’d let it go far too long and that would cost him. A girl like that… you don’t get a second chance, he thought. Still he would take whatever he could get, a tiny little slice of her life would be better than what he’d lived without for five years. But it wouldn’t be easy.

He wasn’t inside ten minutes before his phone rang.

“I’m coming over at 7,” Kane said. “I think you need a drink or you’re not gonna make it through tonight.”


  1. This new story is fantastic!
    i Can't wait to see how it plays out!

  2. sooo good. AWWWW. I love it! Can't wait for more!!

  3. SERIOUSLY!!! can't not wait for more and Jon needs to dump that girl and get back with Callie!!! and get it on the go :D :D :D :)

  4. Aahh!! I love this story so much, and love your other stories, too. This one, however, is my favorite by far. If you have the next chapter already written, please put us out of our misery and post it now! :)

  5. This is so good! If I was Callie I would have attaked his mouth on the spot, but thats why im not callie lol Yes and I agree with Anonymous, if you have a chapter already written, please put us out of our misery and just pos it! But i you dont its cool, I'll just wait. I cant wait for your updates, even though its extremely hard!

  6. More? Soon? Please! :)

  7. Thank you for a wonderful fanfic! I have read every one of your stories and have loved each one, but I think this one may be my favorite. I cried happy and sad tears throughout each chapter, somewhat recalling my own experiences when I was Callie's age. Since finding this story, I think I have reread at least six times. Thank you again for generously sharing your stories. You are a gifted writer and I envy your ability to write and create such complex characters that your readers can relate to around a plot that is equally intriguing. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Keep writing! You have a fan waiting for more stories!