“So,” Hunter said. “What’s the verdict on hockey? Thumbs up?”
I put both thumbs up. “It was really fun. Thank you for inviting me.” I actually couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so excited about something. I recalled how Hunter looked at me weird when I shouted my support for our team. I thought that was pretty funny.
“Thanks for coming. It’s been a fun night,” he said giving me a brief hug and a rub on the shoulder. When he took his hand away, I felt strangely bereft, hoping for a longer contact.
“Agreed. I hope you didn’t mind teaching me about hockey.”
“My pleasure.” The last word rolled slowly off his tongue or maybe it was just my imagination. “You picked it up pretty fast.”
We stood for a minute in the cold, staring ahead at the line. It was moving, but not very quickly.
“So you said you didn’t play hockey,” I started. “Do you play any other sports? Or is it just MMA?”
He looked off in the distance as if thinking. “Just MMA. I started boxing when I was pretty young and did wrestling in high school, but now it’s just MMA.”
“Those all sound violent.”
He stared at me for a second, then laughed quietly. I felt like he was trying to figure out if I was being serious with that observation. “Yeah, they’re all violent.”
“Why do you do it? You don’t seem like a super angry guy. Or maybe I just don’t know you well enough . . .”
“I’m not an angry guy.”
“Why not?” His tone indicated his response was a genuine question.
It was my turn to laugh. “Most people don’t volunteer to get punched in the face!”
He shrugged. “That’s true. I guess I like training, I like the guys at the gym, and I really like testing myself against someone else. It’s one-on-one, ya know? When you get into the ring with a guy who’s been training just as hard as you and you beat him, it feels pretty awesome.”
“There are plenty of other one-on-one sports,” I said. “Like tennis.”
“What, so I can get beat by some prick named Davis whose parents got him lessons at the country club when he was four? Fuck that.” He looked at me, a fire in his eyes I’d never seen before. “Fighting’s what I did growing up and it’s what I’m good at. That’s why I do it. Getting punched in the face sucks, but so do a lot of things.” His chest moved in and out as he took a deep breath. “Plus the money helps with school and stuff.”
The passion in his voice startled me; I would give a lot to care about anything as much as he cared about fighting. It felt like he thought of the world in terms of us versus them. For now, I was happy to be considered part of the “us.”
“I guess it also gets you a lot of girls,” I said, noticing that a few girls were stealing not-so-secret glances in our direction.
His eyes narrowed and a small smile crept onto his face. “Are you still thinking about Catelyn and Melissa?”
My chest tightened and I could feel my pulse quicken. “You know the other one too?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, she’s just quiet most of the time. Why does it matter? You can’t seriously be jealous of them.”
“Of course not!”
“I’m not jealous, Hunter,” I said as convincingly as I could. “I was just noticing how there’s girls around here that look like they’d be down for a threesome with you as well, maybe even a moresome. It reminds me of the fan girls I saw during your fight. It seems like you have quite a fan club.”
“Does it bother you that girls watch me fight?” he tried once more, a sly grin on his face.
He watched me for a moment as I tried to keep a straight face. “Okay,” he said finally. “Yeah, girls like to watch me fight. I guess that’s a perk.”
I kept my silence since any interest I had in the subject seemed to be interpreted as jealousy. Why was it so hard to be just friends with a guy who was attractive? Okay, Hunter was a little more than just attractive and maybe that was the problem. The line moved until we were just inside the door. I rubbed my hands together to warm them up. It was cold outside and it was cold inside as well. I was beginning to question why we were getting ice cream in the middle of winter but then remembered that the taste of Clyde’s ice cream was awesome in any season.
“I don’t really get close with them, though.”
I blinked. “What? Who?”
“The girls who watch me fight. I don’t really get close to them.”
Why would he need to? I wanted to say there was no point since he could sleep with whichever girl—or girls, apparently—he wanted, but I managed to bite my tongue. Instead, I kept it simple. “Yeah, I noticed you like to keep on the down-low. But why not get close to them?”
“I don’t know, it all feels like bullshit. Like they just want to sleep with me so they can say they’ve slept with a cage fighter. I don’t know, girls are complicated.”
“I have to admit, sleeping with a cage fighter is not one of my fantasies.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, you seem different.”
My face heated. I put my head down and the hood on my sweatshirt up as if I was cold, hoping he wouldn’t notice. He’d mentioned before that he thought I was different and a weirdo but I didn’t know what he meant exactly. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know, you just seem different.”
“Like I’m not complicated?”
He scoffed. “I didn’t say that. If anything, you seem even more complicated!” He chuckled lightly. “Maybe that’s one reason why I find you so interesting.”
“I guess I’ll take that,” I replied, musing his response.
Finally, we were at the front of the line. I ordered a banana split and Hunter got a milkshake.
“Together or separate?” the cashier asked, smiling at Hunter. She wore her hair back and had horn rimmed glasses.
“Together,” Hunter said before I could speak.
I wanted to argue with him, but I didn’t want to make a scene and hold everyone else up, so I just glared. He seemed oblivious as he gave the cashier a twenty-dollar bill and got his change back. We spotted a couple leave their table in the back and we dashed to take it before anyone else could.