The tan blonde was saying how unfair it was they had lost in overtime. She had watched him fight. Her fingers brushed his shoulder as she said how much she loved the physicality of hockey. Smelling her perfume, Martin thought of his elbow flying into the eye of Jeff Green, swelling it shut. The woman talked on, but Martin hardly heard her. Women with expensive blond hair and April tans came up to him all the time. For some reason, the sound of her voice made him feel as if he had the Arctic inside him: vast, frigid, and barren.
As the woman scribbled her home phone on the back of her business card, she was saying she loved hockey, never missed a Bruins game when she was in town, loved watching Martin skate, score, and nail his enemies. Martin had trained himself to keep his face neutral when people paid him compliments, and aware of his teammates watching, he accepted her card and tucked it into his pocket.
Touching Martin's hand, the woman told him to call. Thanking her, Martin settled back into his seat. He folded his arms across his chest, feeling the bruised rib where he'd caught a puck last night. He thought of his father, wondered whether he had watched the game on TV. Whether he'd seen Martin miss that easy pass....
Feeling his scalp tingle, Martin turned around. The flight attendant was talking to Bruno Piochelle, leaning against his seat back, but Martin looked past her, through the crack in the curtain. The little girl was still watching him. Sitting in the window seat, she seemed to be ignoring her mother, who was leaning over her to point at something on the ground. When the mother glanced up and saw Martin staring at them, she scowled.
For some reason, that made Martin smile. The mother looked ticked off at the very sight of Martin Cartier. The fact he was a big famous hockey player obviously made no difference to her. She looked slight and frazzled, no makeup and messy brown hair pulled back in a ponytail; she had one arm around her daughter, and it was clear from her expression that she just plain didn't like him on sight. Martin smiled at her, and when she frowned harder, he felt himself start to grin. He couldn't help it.
Copyright © 2001 by Luanne Rice
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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