Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hat Trick by A.J. Bray

When I got downstairs, she was looking at me quizzically, her head cocked to one side. "I don't think it's Mr. Torontofan," she said, disappointed. "I think it's just a friend of yours."

I didn't know what she meant, so I looked out the small window in the front door. There, staring back at me, was my husband's best friend's little brother. And, man, did he ever look amused. "Oh, shit," I murmured, but Maggie was already opening the door.

He brushed past Maggie into the foyer and dropped a very large bag with a heavy thump. He didn't even turn around before he said, "Hey, Emily, how's it going?" Having been to my house before, with Mike, it didn't exactly take a lot of brains to know I was there. Busted.

I tried to act cool and play it off, hoping deep down inside that he just dropped by to say hello. He was now facing me, a grin plastered over his face. "Ummm ... hi, John. So, you wanted to see Dave?" I asked, cringing at the sound of my own nervous voice.

"Ahh, no, Emily, but funny you should mention him. So, where is the Big Guy? I thought he was working today," John said, looking around mockingly. "Someone really should tell him how much you love that new wireless network he just had installed. You sure do like to surf the 'Net, eh?" he added with a wink.

My stomach dropped into my knees. He was going to tell on me. Rat me out before I ever even had a chance to have my fun. I narrowed my eyes at him, glaring as hard as I could, which only seemed to make his grin widen. "Don't you threaten me," I growled, but he just laughed.

"I'm not here to do anything of the sort. I just stopped by on my way from the school library, and since I don't have to be at the firehouse until six, I thought we could all have some fun."

I looked over at Maggie, who stated, as if reading my own mind, "I didn't know you are a fireman."

"Yup. And I'm also an EMT, but I don't do that too much any more. But, I try to stay busy. That's why I still play hockey every weekend," he said, as he stooped to unzip the mammoth black bag at his feet. He pulled out a helmet, not a little worse for wear, and a blue and white jersey. I looked past him into the bag, and saw it was crammed full of gear: gloves, hockey pants, shin guards, stockings, skates, shoulder pads. Everything a dedicated player would need, except one thing.

"Where's your stick?" I asked, reflexively.

He looked thoughtful for a moment, and just as I was going to ask again, he stood up with an athlete's agility and looked me straight in the eye. He looked so serious, his jaw squared and set, giving his handsome face an impassable air. "Right here," he said softly.