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And then there came the inevitable time from deep within my misery when I realized I had probably played it all wrong. I had cut ties with him as a means of punishment—both to him and myself—but after a few weeks of reasoned thought, I knew I had made a mistake. I missed him so damn much and I had to believe that he knew I didn’t mean it when I told him I didn’t love him. Surely he knew that wasn’t really me. Surely he understood that people don’t just love one day, and the next it’s gone.

So I called him and left a voicemail, asking him to please call me so we could talk. I waited two days before I called again. Left another message.

I never tried to call back after that. He was making it clear he didn’t want to talk, but that didn’t mean I was giving up. So I sent him an email and then I waited patiently, because Hawke wasn’t much of an emailer. In fact, he tended to eschew all social media, so there was no telling when he might ultimately see my email.

But he never wrote back.

And then I gave up.

I went through a period of self-castigation for ruining something that may have been built on young and unsteady love, but it was love all the same. And I got very low. So low, I wasn’t sure how to exist. I didn’t hang out with my friends—except for Avery, who refused to let me shut myself fully away. So she would hide in my bedroom with me while I listened to sad music, and when I got really depressed, would pelt me with gummy bears from the other side of the room. I dropped out of the local community college I was attending and I even took up writing morbid poetry. Nothing tasted right. The sky always seemed gray. I was broken over everything I’d lost, solely due to bad judgment and decision making.

It finally took one—or maybe several—stern lectures from my father to get me going again. He wasn’t about to watch me wallow in self-pity forever, and after about a month, he practically dragged me out of the house and to the arena with him. For the first time ever, I actually watched my father do his job. Sure, I’d been into hockey, but everyone in Sydney was into hockey. We’re Canadians, after all. I’d gone to Oiler games both before and after I started dating Hawke, although they were more thrilling having a boyfriend on the team. But I never really knew what my dad did day in and day out to bring home a paycheck.

I found it fascinating watching him have a very close and personal hand in an athlete’s prowess. I started spending my days with him there, watching him rehab injuries and build muscle and core strength. I watched young men come to him for advice, and I watched him improve play.

And then I decided that’s what I wanted to do as well.

“I assume your lack of acknowledgment means you don’t want company,” Hawke says, and I shake my head slightly. He grins down at me, and because I know his face like my own, I can only imagine those two perfect dimples he sports underneath his beard. I miss those dimples, but the beard is a mighty fine look too.

I wave a hand to an empty seat. “Sorry. Was woolgathering.”

He plops down and unwraps a large Italian sub on his tray. “Thinking about your dad?”

I quickly shake my head because I’m not now, nor will I probably ever be ready to tell him what I had been thinking. It was too painful to think about the night of the party. Just talking about it would lead to more hurt feelings, mostly likely an argument, and I was enjoying this truce with him too much.

“No,” I say with a smile. “Actually just thinking about how good that beard looks on you. What made you decide to keep it after the play-offs?”

“Lazy groomer, I guess,” he says before taking another bite of his sandwich.

I dip my head so he doesn’t see my smile get bigger, because that was always Hawke. While he was fastidiously clean and always smelled amazing, he hardly ever paid attention to his appearance. Usually a quick brush of his fingers through his long hair or a shave once a week was as good as it got with him. I loved that wild, untamed look about him, though, and the beard definitely suits.

Hawke swallows, takes a sip of his bottled water, and tips his head at me. “What about you? You’ve changed a lot.”

I cock an eyebrow at him, seeking elucidation.

“The piercings,” he prompts.

“Oh,” I say in understanding as I absently run a finger across the bridge of my nose. “Well, turns out those aren’t the best things to be sporting when you’re trying to get a job. I got rid of them before I started my master’s. Tried to polish up my image just a bit.”

Hawke gives a gruntlike chuckle and then dives back into his sandwich. We eat in silence for a little bit and it’s not the slightest bit awkward. I’m wondering if that’s because we’ve shared hours of silence together before, and know the safety of it. Or maybe it’s just that we have nothing to say to each other and that’s okay too.

That’s probably it. So much time has gone by, feelings have died and we’re not who we were all those years ago.

Except, have feelings really died? There’s been anger and defensiveness on both of our parts for sure. He wronged me, I wronged him, he wronged me again. All things that we should wisely confront and clear the air because we were mere kids back then and we’re adults now. All things that will probably never happen because this peaceful little truce is safe and stress free.

“Your dad says you’ve been busting your ass with work,” Hawke says out of the blue. I look up from the remnants of my tuna salad and he’s eyeing me with concern. “Two jobs. You came home pretty late last week when I was visiting and I saw your dad yesterday. Stayed until around eight p.m. and you still hadn’t come home. Is that par for the course?”

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