Fitz looks at our hands, then at me, and he smiles.
My heart trips over itself with happiness.
And sadness too, since this is all over tomorrow.
Time takes on a surreal quality as we walk along the river.
The clock ticks louder with every step, but I also can’t escape the sense that I’m living in a cocoon of time. That I’m wandering through a dream state of what it’s like to live one perfect day.
The blue sky above blankets us, the river rolls beside us, and the sun warms my skin. It feels as if this could last, as if this could be my life.
Here with him.
I want so badly to believe in this illusion as we walk past the Tate and the Globe and I tell him about growing up here, as he tells me about California and New York. When we stop at the railing, elbows resting on the stone, watching the boats glide by, the illusion feels wholly real.
He loops his arm around my lower back, yanking me a little closer to him as we stare at the water.
“Do you ever get tired of this view?” he asks, gesturing to the Thames.
It’s a murky brown, but that’s beside the point. It’s not the color of the water that matters. It’s the way it weaves and bends through the city, how it’s the city’s highway, bringing fame, fortune, respite, and certainty.
I shake my head. “No. But I do think sometimes I take it for granted. I walk by, head down, lost in my own world, and don’t even bother to glance up, because it’s too familiar.”
Fitz nods as he stares at the water. “You’ve got to remember to look up. To see what’s around you. I try to do that in New York.”
“Yeah? How so?”
“Just try not to spend all my time on my phone as I walk around. To look at the restaurants and stores, the people, the buildings, the parks. To pay attention, you know?”
“I do know what you mean.” I glance around. No one notices the hockey star, or us. We are anonymous. “Do you get recognized there?”
“Sometimes I do. Sometimes people come up to me on the street.”
“Does it bother you?”
He shakes his head. “No. It’s cool, actually—kind of a dream. My whole life, I wanted to be a pro athlete, and now I am. Having fans is a gift. So, when someone stops and says hi or asks if it’s me, I try to chat for a minute. Unless there’s some reason I can’t, like I have a raging boner, as I did at that softball place with you.”
“Fair point. And I can see that. You interacting, sans erection. So, if some fan came up to you here, you’d chat for a bit?”
Fitz glances around at the throng of people passing by, at the families, the fathers carrying young children on their shoulders, at the men and women in suits marching past us, at the couples—men and women, women and women, men and men—walking along the river.
“Absolutely,” he says. “But I’d make sure he wasn’t giving you sex eyes. If he was, I’d be all possessive and mine, mine, mine.”
I crack up. “Yes, exactly. No doubt loads of gay men are giving you sex eyes.” I hold up a hand. “Wait. Don’t answer that. I don’t want to think about all the guys who’ll be hitting on you in literally a day when you return to the States.”
He squeezes my waist. “Jelly, much?”
I roll my eyes. “Jealous a lot,” I mutter, but I don’t say what’s tangoing on the tip of my tongue. What happens when you meet someone else? What happens when you want to go home with someone else?
Those thoughts curdle my stomach.
“Hey,” he says, regarding me closely. “What’s wrong? You look like you just swallowed a jalapeño.”
“I like jalapeños.”
“Yeah, me too. Wrong analogy, then. You look like you swallowed a cockroach.”
I pretend to retch.
“Exactly,” he says. “So, what is it?”
Fitz pinches my waist. “It wasn’t nothing. What was it? Talk to me, babe.”
I sigh, running my hand over the back of my neck. “It’s stupid.”
“It’s not stupid. What is it?”
I shrug, then tell myself, Why the fuck not? “I was just thinking about when someone does want to take you home in a week or a month or whatever.”
His smile downshifts then disappears. “Won’t happen.”
“Please. It will happen,” I scoff.
“First, I’ve got the pact with my guys, and I’m sticking to it, so it won’t happen.”
“But the pact ends eventually. In a month or something, right?”
“About a week or so into the start of the regular season.”
“So, that’s the only reason?”
“You ass. The reason is you. I fucking want you. I don’t want anyone else.” Fitz turns to face me, looping both hands around my waist, tugging me against him. I wrap mine around his neck.