No sooner had I sat across the table from Chelley when Gilbert Snider flopped into the seat beside me. “I need your advice, man,” Gil said without preamble. “How do I get Lara away from that sleaze ball speed skater?”
“She’s with him again?” I looked around the cafeteria, expecting to see them sitting down to dinner together. I thought we had connected in the dance studio that afternoon and that Lara would forget all about Thomas Lamb, and Gil Snider for that matter.
“I was trying to find her so we could hang out tonight but her roommate said Lamb came by and asked if she wanted to go out for a romantic dinner and they left together.” Gil glanced across the table at Chelley, who shrugged and nodded.
“What?” I stood suddenly, nearly knocking half the food off the table in front of me.
“Dude, calm down,” Gil said in a placating tone. “It’s not like she’s your girlfriend or anything. You’re dating Chelley… right?” Gil pointed across the table.
Right. Chelley. I was supposedly on a date with Chelley. I chuckled and cleared my throat then sat back down. “It’s just that, um, Lara’s my partner. I don’t want to see her get hurt.” I smiled sheepishly at Chelley, hoping she didn’t see right through my lies.
I genuinely did like Chelley. We’d gotten to know each other on the airplane and while hanging out the previous night at the lodge. But even she had to know that what Lara and I had was deeper than anything either of us could have with anyone else.
“Do you know where they went to dinner?” I refocused on Gil.
“Nah, man, Chelley didn’t know.” Gil shrugged. Again, Chelley shook her head.
Pulling out my cell phone, I considered what to say so that I wouldn’t sound like a jealous boyfriend but also convey to her that I was worried about her. Maybe focusing on Gil wanting to find her would be best. I spoke out loud as I typed a quick text. “Gil is looking for you. He thought you were hanging out tonight. Where did you go?”
What felt like hours, but was probably under a minute, passed while the three of us stared at my phone, not talking. Finally, a quick text came through from Lara. Out to dinner.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to outright ask her to confirm if she was on a date. With Lamb?
Yes, with Thomas. He has a first name, you know.
Very aware. When are you coming home? I back spaced and changed home to back to the hotel. I hit send.
What do you care? You’re on a date with Chelley.
Whatever. See you on the ice. I set my phone on the table then turned to Gil. “Sorry, she’s not giving me any information. Maybe you can text her yourself. Do you have her number?”
“No.” Gil pulled my phone closer and looked at my most recent text to get Lara’s number. “Thanks, man.”
“Good luck.” I shifted my attention back to my date. “You ready to head over to the rink?” I pushed the rest of my food tray to the side, having barely touched any of it. My appetite was somewhere between nausea and stomach cramps.
Chelley grabbed the apple from her tray and pushed hers away as well. I took both trays with me toward the trash can. After brushing off any crumbs from my hands, I reached for Chelley’s and we strode from the cafeteria.
Neither of us talked on our way to the shuttle and we mostly sat in silence on the bus until I turned to her with a forced smile. “Want to show me your quad toe loop?”
“Only if you’ll teach me how to do a throw triple Lutz.” Chelley bumped my shoulder.
“Ooh, going for the big guns on your first lesson,” I teased her.
“In case you hadn’t heard—” Chelley leaned closer. “—I’m a really good skater.”
“I have indeed heard that you’re a really good skater.” Flirting with Chelley was fun and playful but there was nothing between us like the passion I felt for Lara. “Might be why every other woman on the ice is intimidated by you.”
“Eh, they’re just jealous.” Chelley waved away the praise with a flip of her wrist.
“Probably inspired as well,” I said with sincerity.
“Thank you.” She blushed at my praise and we rode the rest of the way in silence.
I held Chelley’s hand as we walked from the shuttle bus to the arena, excited to skate with the number one skater in the world. Holding open the door for her, all I could think about was how I wished she was Lara.
(As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. -Julie)
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