“Alright so… did you ask Emily yet about tonight?” Brooks asked, glancing over at Mike who was staring back at him.
“Her price for tonight?” He replied back slowly, unsure as to what they were talking about. When Brooks didn’t say anything Mike looked back at the TV.
Sighing, Brooks got up and crossed the living room floor. He was getting really sick of the snide remarks coming out of Mike. Of course he didn’t bother getting angry at him, 99% of the time Mike didn’t even realize what he was saying anyway.
Instead Brooks headed out into the hallway and turned right, walking until he reached Emily’s apartment.
He knocked on the door and stepped back, waiting for her to answer; which she did, quickly.
She pulled it open and smiled at him, like she had been expecting him. Her smile soon faded though, when she appraised Brooks. “Oh hi… what are you doing here?” She glanced past him, her eyes darting to the stairwell.
“Umm…” Brooks turned and followed her stare, seeing nothing but the empty hallway. He turned back to her and found she was smiling up at him. “I was just wondering if you could watch Cosmo tonight… we have a game.”
“Oh sure. I just have a meeting in a minute but… it shouldn’t take too long… I could be over there in an hour and a half?” She turned the last part into a question, leaving Brooks to nod as he heard footsteps.
There was a man coming up the stairs; a man who was smiling at Emily.
He was wearing a tight brown Abercrombie shirt and a pair of ripped jeans. He was wearing a hat backwards and couldn’t have been more than Brooks’ age. “Holy shit… Brooks Laich!” He commented as he came down the hallway towards them. He extended his hand and Brooks shook it, tightening his grip as much as he could in order to inflict pain on this strange man.
“How are you?” Brooks said through a clenched jaw. But the guy had already turned his attention towards Emily.
“I gotta tell you… I am really looking forward to this.”
“I’m glad!” She said, smiling up at him. “Come on in. I’ll see you in a bit.” She added to Brooks before ushering the guy into her apartment and closing the door.
He stood there, completely at a loss for words – something that was apparently becoming a new habit – staring at her door and wondering what he was suppose to do.
He had the unnatural desire to kick the door down and pulverize the guy, or, go to the landlord and pay off her rent so she wouldn’t have to do this anymore.
No, they were both good ideas but right now the first one was sounding fantastic.
It wasn’t until he could hear Cosmo giggling from the living room that he unclenched his fists and walked away. He was a father now. Whatever Emily wanted to do was her business, but he couldn’t go around getting into fights over it.
If she wanted to be a whore, then that was her problem.
Brooks could hear Emily before he could see her. She was walking down the hallway, giggling with the guy she’d just slept with. He felt himself stiffen as she came to a halt in front of their closed door. She wished him a good night and then walked into their apartment.
Mike waved, completely oblivious to any emotional change Brooks had suffered since he’d gone to see Emily; and Brooks liked it that way.
“Em-me!” Cosmo squealed. She reached up as high as she began to wave her arms around in hopes of drawing Emily’s attention.
“Hi Cosmo!” Emily cooed back, obviously just as excited as the little girl was. She scooped her up and turned to smile at Brooks and Mike. “So what time are you guys leaving for the rink?”
“Now-ish.” Mike answered as he continued to flick through the channels.
“In a bit…” Brooks explained further, studying Emily intently. “How about you and Cosmo come down and watch the game?” He added suddenly, causing Mike to smile at him and Emily to crease her brow.
“I guess so… if you want me to take her to a hockey game… are you sure it won’t be too loud?” Brooks shook his head, knowing he’d been even younger than Cosmo the first time his dad took him to see the Moose Jaw Warriors play; a team he’d eventually play for. There was nothing wrong with bringing your child to a hockey game, especially when you wanted to keep an eye on her.
The thought made him disgusted with himself. He knew the kind of person Emily was, and she wasn’t bad. He didn’t want what she did for a living to change that.
There was just some paternal instinct in him that was forcing him to make sure that his discovery wouldn’t affect his child or the quality of life she had.
“Yah, it’d be nice to you have you both there.” Brooks said absently, not really realizing the emphasis he had placed on ‘both’, until he looked back at Emily to meet her gaze.
“Well this just got awkward.” Mike sighed, pushing himself off the couch, taking Cosmo out of Emily’s hands, and heading down the hall. “Come on Cosmo, let’s leave Edward Lewis and Vivian alone for a bit.” Mike said, as he carried Cosmo into her room.
“Edward who?” Brooks asked, turning around to look at Emily, hoping she had some kind of answer.
She stared quizzically after Mike, but answered Brooks. “Edward Lewis… that’s Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman.”
“Oh…” Brooks exhaled, his voice higher than usual. “Well… we should go.” He had seen that movie a million times with his mom, and if Emily had actually seen Pretty Woman - which she obviously had - then she could probably pick up on the fact that Mike had just called her a prostitute.
“Finally fucking the neighbour then?” Ovechkin shouted as he came up behind Brooks, who was standing in the walkway, waiting to be told to go on the ice. He turned around to stare at the laughing Russian. “I saw her up in the family and friends section with the rug-rat.” He added, explaining how he had discovered her presence.
Brooks didn't bother to say anything else to Alex. One, he didn't like the guy so he didn't feel like he owed him any kind of explanation, and two, he didn’t really want to discuss anything that had to do with Emily and sex.
It didn’t even matter though, before he even turned around Boudreau was yelling at them to get going.
Brooks lifted up his feet and hustled towards the ice, jumping onto the slick surface and propelling himself away from Alex as fast as possible. Mike followed after him, and together they climbed into the team’s bench. “Everything… ok?”
“Fine, Mike.” Brooks replied shortly. He didn’t like being angry at Mike, but he was. None of this was his fault, but the idea of another guy shoving himself into Emily made him sick… in a concerned-neighbour way, of course. He couldn’t even think about it anymore, but he did still find himself turning around to see where she was.
She was pretty easy to spot. In her non-team coloured clothing and the fact that she had a baby jumping on her lap, she stuck out like a soar thumb. She saw that he was looking at her and used Cosmo’s hand to wave to him; he could see her mouthing things like ‘look there’s daddy’, and ‘say hi to daddy’.
He lifted his hand to acknowledge them both, feeling uncomfortable with the appropriateness of this situation. Isn’t this what the wives of his team-mates did with their kids? Brought them to games and acted like the proud parents there were?
Of course they weren’t like that. Emily wasn’t like that. People like her didn’t get married and have children.
But still, it felt like he was watching his own wife entertain his child; and for a minute, he allowed himself to believe it.
“She’s got nice tits!” Semin yelled as he squeezed in between Mike and Brooks; ruining the moment of make-believe and pulling Brooks into reality. Brooks didn’t even bother to take offence at the fact that Semin was commenting on Emily’s body.
In some weird foreigner way, he was probably telling Brooks that she looked like a nice respectable woman.
“Umm… sure.” He finally answered, taking one last glance at his daughter and his neighbour before he turned his attention to the start of the game.
Brooks wasn’t sure how he knew it was happening, but it was almost like some kind of gut instinct. He knew that someone was talking to her before he had even turned his head to seek her out through the crowd.
Cosmo was playing with what appeared to be a plastic straw; chewing on it and then waving it around her head. Yet it was Emily he focused in on, or, more so the man that was sitting on the stairs beside her.
The guy was young and obviously flirting with her. Brooks could feel himself heat up and he skated towards the glass, bumping Backstrom out of his spot so that he could keep a closer watch. “That your whore up there?” Someone chirped at him.
Brooks snapped his head around to see Carcillo standing beside him, and he lost it.
Whether it was the fact that he hated the Flyers, or the fact that Carcillo had actually called Emily a whore, he didn’t know… it didn’t matter.
Before he could make sense of what he was doing, his gloves were off and he was punching the smug grin off his opponents face.
Carcillo got a few punches in before he gave up and tried to turtle, but Brooks just went down with him; his arm aching from the force of the blows he was inflicting.
The linesman pulled him off and Carcillo stayed on the ground; injured but not as injured as he was letting on.
“Oh god! He just attacked me for no reason, I didn’t even say anything… I might be blind! He blinded me! We get a penalty right? We should get a penalty for that! Five minutes for blinding!”
“Shut the fuck up Carcillo.” The ref spat as he pulled the flailing Flyer onto his feet. “You!” He barked, pointing his thumb at Brooks. “Maybe you need to cool off hot-rod, take it to the showers.”
Brooks didn’t bother arguing, there was only two minutes remaining in the game and he just wanted to get the fuck off the ice. He glanced over at Emily and Cosmo as he let.
Emily was looking floored and worried, completely ignoring the guy beside her. That made Brooks sort of happy, at least she was watching the game now; however, those feelings were short lived when he looked down on her lap to see his daughter in tears.
She was reaching out to him as she sobbed ‘dada’, and he cringed, motioning for Emily to follow him as he skated off the ice.
He didn’t bother showering, and only stopped long enough to kick off his skates and remove the top half of his gear.
He headed down the back hallway in his Underarmour, hockey shorts and shin pads. “Are you ok?” Emily blurted as soon as he came into sight, Cosmo fighting against her arms to get to Brooks.
“Yah, yah… I’m fine.” He cooed, more to Cosmo than to her. He scooped his daughter up in his arms and held her close. “It’s ok baby, daddy’s fine, see? Just a boo-boo.”
He held her at arms length and saw a slow two-tooth grin spread across her face. “That’s my girl.”
Emily exhaled lightly and Brooks drew his attention back over to her. “Sorry if I interrupted you conversation.” He said, unable to keep all the bitterness out of his tone.
But she waved away his words, not noticing any anger in them.
“Just my cousin Craig, no biggie… I see him all the time anyway.” She explained, biting her lip as she turned her concerned eyes to Cosmo.
“Oh.” Was all Brooks could say dumbly as he glanced back and forth between the two women in his life, unsure as to whom he owed the bigger apology.