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“Are you sure?” I glanced up from trying to catch a fish in a small net to look into Taz’s worried eyes. “I mean, why not just take the summer off and think about things. The team is willing to work with you and the PTSD, right?”
“It is more than the night frights. It’s the city, the arena, this place.” I waved my wet net in the air as moving men hustled around us. “I need to be far away from it all. Each room here? It reminds me of him. Home is good. Home will be far from the nightmares. Now please, hold the bucket still.”
He stood beside me, five-gallon bucket in hand, his sight flipping to Goog then to me then back to Goog then back to me.
“We don’t want to see you go. The team won’t be the same,” Goog chimed in, moving to the left to allow two big men carrying my sofa to wiggle past.
“The team will be fine. They have a new goalie already in the crease.” I netted up one of the live plants then dropped it gently into the water I had scooped from the tank. “One that does not wake up in cold sweats. One that does not flinch when a balloon pops. These are things, real things, that I am dealing with.”
“We know,” Taz was quick to interject. Goog sighed forlornly and nodded. “We’re just hoping to make you see that you’re important to the team and to us.”
I gave him a smile. They were rare things anymore. It was hard to smile when the man you loved had disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving you to struggle through mental issues and dark times alone. Even now I did not know what I would do if I ever saw Sacha again. Kiss him or punch him in his handsome face. Both were appealing. Not that it mattered though for the odds that he would appear on my doorstep were low. My lawyer thought he had been deported but could find no paperwork to substantiate his thoughts. There was no paperwork of any kind that showed that a man known as Sacha Ivanov had ever existed. I had searched diligently for six weeks after the killings. Sacha had ceased to be. I feared for his safety but had no means to do anything to aid him, if he were even still alive…
“Thank you, my friends. You are important to me as well but I must get my head fixed, non?” I tapped my temple with the fishnet. “Perhaps one day I will make an amazing comeback, but if not, then so be it. I will live happy close to my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. Life will be good once I am back in Quebec.”
They both bobbed their heads but I could see they did not fully believe me. There were moments – hell days – that I didn’t believe myself either. Where else would I go though if not home to the ones who cared about me? I had lost the man I loved. I had lost the ability to focus on the game I adored. Three long months had passed and I was still confused and jumpy.
And I was about to lose my fish if I did not get the tank drained and them into the bucket for the drive to their new home with Taz and Mike. My brother had laid out my route for me on the phone for I was shit with directions and he feared I would end up in Toronto and be more lost. Not that such a thing was possible. I was a man afloat. Family would pull me to shore safely. This was my life plan now. Settle into a small house in Quebec, attend therapy, play some hockey for fun, and try to rid my heart of Sacha. My counselor here in Carlisle said I had made a wise choice. She liked that I now did not speak of flying to Russia to find my lover. That, she had said, was foolish and dangerous. Sometimes, she had said, people leave our lives for reasons we cannot comprehend.
I thought that Sacha had come into my life to fill it with the love and control I needed. God knows I was looping wildly out of control now. Even the meds were only so good for so long.
“…sure you want us to take your fish?” Taz enquired as I netted one of my angel fish and gingerly lifted her out of the water.
“Yes. The drive is too long and they would be stressed. Also, to bring them into Canada was too much paperwork. They will be happy with you. If you do not tend to them well, or they die, I will come back and beat you into pulp, comprendre?”
That made my two friends chuckle. “Now you’re sounding more like our old Alfie.” Goog patted my back. I gave them a quick sort of smile then returned to netting my fish. How the old Alfie sounded was fading from my memory fast. Now all I knew was gunfire and blood and loss that flashed before me sometimes out of nowhere, leaving me unable to think or move. Yes, I had to leave this country and its guns. My homeland with its cold nights and warm hearts called loudly to my shattered heart.
Within an hour my home was empty. All my belongings were in transit to Quebec and the new house that I had bought just two weeks ago. It was a quaint house with big property and woods, a small pond that would freeze hard for the hockey player within me that loved a good shinny game. The tank was emptied and gone. There was no noise save for the heater coming on to run for a bit. It was April now, and the days were warming but the nights were chilly. I walked from one room to the other, checking to ensure nothing had been left behind. I touched all the walls in my bedroom, pulling the memories from them. The soft sounds of two men lost in each other, the firm commands of my dom, the smells of sweat and sex, the soft rustle of Sacha’s tender words of desire and love. It all dwelled in the paint and plasterboard.
The recollections made me feel shaky and displaced. Once more my thoughts went to Sacha, to where he might be. Then I shut them down. With a shaking hand I rubbed at my brow, hard, to exorcise the worrisome thoughts. I could not move forward if I dwelled on the past. Sacha would remain an unsolved mystery, a dull ache in my heart that would linger forever. Perhaps, given time I might find a new man but I was sure they would never know me as Sacha had. I heard the hinges on the front door creaking and patted the house keys in my front pocket. The realtor who was handling the sale was due to take the keys and some pictures. With a sigh, I padded out of my empty bedroom and stepped into my equally empty living room, taking the keys to the front door out of my pocket as I went.
Standing where my fish tank once sat was not a tiny black woman with a big smile. It was Sacha. The keys fell from my fingers to the thick carpeting.
“Alfie,” he whispered. My heart twisted inside my chest. To hear him say my name…to smell his cologne…to see him alive and well and so fucking beautiful…
“Sacha,” I replied in a reedy voice. He smiled a little.
I punched him as hard as I could right in the face.
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