Nothing Gets Through Ch. 07
Nothing Gets Through Ch. 07
(C) 2009 All Rights Reserved

"Oh, wow," said Dee, throwing her head back on the sofa. "That was great. I'm so glad they won."

Lani grinned. It was Monday night and Dee had invited her over to watch the first game of the road trip. They'd won, four to two. Even over the television, they could see Dom's frustration. He had been screened on the first goal, but the second had been a bit soft. Lani hoped that the victory would dull his anger at letting those shots through. When the cameras had shown the team skating off, she had seen the absent nods he'd given his teammates as they all gathered around to tap his pads or pat his helmet. He was thinking about the ones that had gotten away, she was sure.

"You studied up on the rules," Lani observed. She stretched out in her chair, putting her feet up on the coffee table that was covered with the debris of game-watching. Bowls of popcorn, glasses of soda, and the remains of a half gallon of cookie dough ice cream from when the tension had gotten bad in the middle of the third period.

"I did," said Dee with a grin. She'd learned enough to argue--knowledgeably--with the refs when they'd made calls she hadn't liked. Then she blushed slightly. "Karl taught me a lot."

"Did he now?" Lani raised her eyebrows inquiringly. "Let's hear about it."

"No," said Dee, now embarrassed. She started fidgeting, piling up the dishes. "You haven't told me about you and Dom, so I'm not sharing first."

"We could draw straws," Lani suggested. Truthfully, she'd wanted to talk to Dee, but she'd spent all Sunday with Dom and had only rushed by Dee's early this morning to get her computer. When Dee had suggested getting together to watch the game, Lani had jumped at it. The idea of Cherie watching a hockey game was laughable, and she didn't have a TV in her room. Then the game had started, and conversation had fallen by the wayside.

"It's my apartment," Dee pointed out, "and my food you scarfed down. So you can go first."

"Oh, all right." Lani sighed and helped gather the dirty dishes. They dumped them in the sink, filled two glasses with some celebratory wine and returned to the living room. Dee stretched her body out on the couch, and Lani curled up in the chair. She was jealous of Dee's height and figure only for a minute or two.

"Okay, spill," said Dee. "I didn't hear from you all day Sunday. You must have been having a lot of fun." She winked suggestively.

"I did," Lani confessed. "It was great, Dee, really great." She sighed. "After you left, we took a cab back to my place." She made a face. "I tried to keep him from coming with me but he did anyway and when he saw the show Cherie was putting on, he asked me to come back to his place."

"Which you did," Dee observed. She was curious to find out just what Cherie had done, but put that on the back burner for a moment. It was fun to see Lani, who was usually so methodical about everything, including relationships, go gooey over someone.

"He said 'please,'" Lani told her, as though that explained everything.

"So, what? Then you had sex?" Dee asked. Now it was Lani's turn to blush.

"Dee!" She fidgeted in her chair, couldn't hide a grin. "Yes."

"Oh, you . . . you didn't tell me!" Dee grabbed a throw pillow from the floor and launched it at Lani. "How could you not tell me?!"

"I'm telling you now," Lani protested. She settled the pillow on her lap and rested her glass on it.

"It doesn't count," Dee pouted. "You waited more than twenty-four hours. It's like being out of the loop completely."

"I was hardly going to call you while things were in progress," Lani said dryly. Dee let out a deep, hearty laugh at that.

"So it was good then?" Dee asked, her tone somewhere between anxious and dreamy.

"Yes, it was," Lani said thoughtfully. "It really, really was."

"Good," said Dee decisively. "You need something like that. Someone like that." She paused. "You are going to see him again, right?"

"He said I would," Lani said with a smile. "He has my number, I have his. I don't want to crowd him, though."

"How could you do that?"

"Oh, I don't know." Lani shrugged. "He's a goalie. He's different, like I said."

"He's a guy," said Dee. "He can't be that different from other guys." Dee began to suspect that Lani would use "he's a goalie" to excuse things when she shouldn't. I'll keep an eye on that, she decided.

Lani shrugged again. Although the day spent with him had been wonderful, and more fun than she'd had in a long time, a few things weighed on her mind. She thought about talking them over with Dee now but decided to wait, as she wasn't entirely sure what she thought herself. If she tried to set it out now, she'd only confuse herself, or think in circles.

"Okay, I talked," Lani said, changing the subject. "Now tell me about Karl. You must have spent your day with him to learn so much."

"He's too good for me," Dee said, and Lani scoffed. They'd covered this ground before.

"You're a queen among women, Dee," Lani said. "The question is whether he's good enough for you."

"He was such . . . such a gentleman," Dee said, her voice soft. "He let me talk, he listened to me, he asked me questions . . . " her voice grew almost wistful. "He'll find some girl and sweep her off her feet one day, I know he will."

"Sounds like he already did," Lani observed. The one frustrating thing about Dee was her lack of self-confidence. She never felt she was quite good enough for anyone, which was completely ridiculous. She'd worked her way, with long hours and lots of effort, out of a bad family situation. Although Dee was rightly proud of what she accomplished, it seemed that she let her origins hold her back, especially in relationships.

Lani remembered when they'd met in college. Even with her, Dee had resisted friendship. Lani had been in the student center checking her mail, and turned to find herself hemmed in by a circle of swaggering freshman guys. Dee had muscled her way in, casting an evil eye on each one of them, and they had suddenly decided Lani wasn't worth their time. Once they were gone, Dee had changed; her eyes slid to the floor and she barely acknowledged Lani's words of thanks.

It had taken weeks of persistence on Lani's part for them to become friends, but it had been well worth the effort. Seeing Lani cornered had gotten Dee's protective streak in gear, but in most situations, Dee tended to fade into the background. Dee did, however, have an unexpected adventurous streak, and started dragging Lani to all kinds of things that she never would have tried on her own. Dee would happily jump from a bungee cord, but she recoiled from relationships with men whenever it seemed like it would move beyond friendship.

"Karl's sweet," Dee admitted. "He's handsome, and funny and . . . oh, he's too good for me. But that's all right. Friends is good."

"You sell yourself too short, you know," Lani admonished.

"Karl's a famous hockey player. He can do better than someone who came out of the projects," Dee said dismissively.

Lani sat up straight as her anger flared up. "Stop that, Dee. Stop that right now. You know it isn't where you come from. It's where you go, it's where you are." Her eyes flashed. "You had a lot of obstacles and overcame them; I don't know why you keep seeing that as a bad thing instead of the testament to your strength that it is."

"Celia called me," Dee said quietly, sipping at her wine. Lani's anger fled immediately, was replaced by concern.

"What did she want?"

"Money." Dee shrugged. "What she always wants."

"What did you say?"

"I told her no." Dee stared at her wine and Lani exhaled silently in relief. "But she'll just ask again, you know how she is." Lani did indeed. Celia was Dee's cousin, raised next to her in the projects, and had taken the exact opposite path. She'd been involved in drugs and prostitution and in and out of too many rehabs to count. Celia continually came to Dee when she reached bottom, knowing Dee was often a soft touch.

"I know," said Lani, "and you know you should tell me if she calls again. If she keeps it up, you should call the police."

"It's hard to call the police on family," Dee said, but she wasn't angry. "It never helps anyway. She doesn't need jail; she needs counseling, therapy, things like that."

"I just worry," Lani said gently, and reached over to pat her friend's leg.

"I know," said Dee, with a grateful smile. "I won't help her, Lani. I refuse to give any of my hard-earned money to her when I know it'll just go to her next drink or next fix."

"There, see," said Lani lightly. "You're doing great."

"But can you imagine if I did date Karl?" Dee said, abruptly sitting up and nearly spilling her wine. "Celia would know right away. She always does. If she knew I was seeing someone with money . . . " Dee shook her head. "She'd never leave me alone."

"I'd help you," Lani said seriously. "You know that. And I don't think she'd scare Karl off. You need to give him a little more credit, Dee. Yourself, too."

Dee shook her head more vehemently. "No, I wouldn't expose him to that if I could help it. He doesn't deserve that."

"Neither do you," Lani said.


"What are you waiting for?" Karl asked.

"What?" Dom looked up. He'd been resting, listening to some music on his iPod. Nothing relaxed a person like Avenged Sevenfold.

"Why haven't you called Lani?" Karl persisted. He reached down and pulled the earbuds out, earning a glare from Dom.

"She's probably busy," Dom said, grabbing his earbuds back. "Not everybody works our hours, you know."

"I thought you liked her," Karl said.

"I do," Dom snapped. He sat up. Sometimes best friends can be a real pain in the ass, he thought. "And she could call me, you know."

"Sure," said Karl, "she'd be so anxious to interrupt a practice, or a video session. She must know all the travel itinerary, right, so she doesn't call while we're flying?" He shook his head. "Come on, Dom, I saw you the next day." He had never seen Dom in quite that mood. He suspected it involved happiness, but Dom was so closed off sometimes, it was hard to tell.

"So what?" Dom grumped.

"So call her," Karl said.

"And I suppose you've been calling Dee all the time?" Dom said.

"Yes, I have," his friend said. "I'm about to call again now." With that, Karl left the room.

Dom snarled and threw a pillow at the door once it was shut. Karl was right; he should call. He wasn't sure why he hadn't, and even he knew that blaming Lani was just ducking the issue. The truth was that Lani had gotten to him in a way few people ever had, and that had all his red flags waving. She was adorable, smart, had a great laugh, and he was missing her fiercely.

So why didn't he call?

Because, he had to admit, in the light of day and when she wasn't right next to him, he had time to think. Thinking led to worrying. He worried about himself because if he didn't know better, he would think he loved her, or at least could. She had made him feel so relaxed, and even . . . oh hell, she'd made him feel happy, and that hadn't happened in a long time.

He had immediately felt concerned for her, protective of her. When he'd seen her reaction in her apartment, he hadn't even hesitated about inviting her to his place. The idea of her going to a hotel hadn't even entered his mind until she said it, and then he knew he simply couldn't do it. He had needed her with him and that was a scary concept.

Other people he had needed or cared about had left. His parents were the prime example. He was extremely grateful to his grandparents, who had managed to extricate him from the foster care system and had supported his efforts to play hockey. Other than that, he'd had very few people in his life who'd cared and stayed. He'd been engaged once, but even that girl had gone, claiming he didn't trust her because he wouldn't talk to her about the important things.

"You won't share yourself with me," Vicky had told him. "If you can't do that, then there's nothing between us."

Dom hadn't protested when she left, hadn't argued or fought over her words. It had hurt his heart to see her go, and his pride that he had let himself be so hurt. He had vowed never to do it again. Lani had him dangerously close to breaking that vow. So close that he considered not calling her at all, and just letting things wither.

Oh, damn it, he thought irritably and sat up. He dug through his pockets looking for his cell phone.

He couldn't let her go like that.

To be continued ...
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