You guessed it.
Instead, enjoy this cutting from what I currently have marked as Chapter Nine.
Cutting: Chapter Nine
Pietr was confused by Harper’s Instagram post when he opened the app on the bus back to the hotel. He’d seen the notification that he’d been tagged in two photos. Then, he managed to find the intermission commentary. He listened to it through his earbuds, his jaw tightening. He wanted to punch the two commentators back in the studio. They were both giant assholes. Not only did they call his Harper fat, they called them she, which only he was allowed to do. He was glad she’d stuck up for herself. They had no right to make fun of her.
Then a nagging sensation settled in his chest. This was his fault. He should have been more careful. But…he was in love and wanted to shout it from the roof tops. Figuratively, speaking. He felt guilty the whole way back to his hotel room. He was sharing with one of the rookies; Guy Matlock. He ditched his stuff and changed into casual clothes to head for the hotel bar to celebrate their win with a beer.
“Take it easy,” Pietr warned him. “I will be on phone with my love, so also don’t hurry back.”
“Got it.” Guy gave him a sloppy salute. “Don’t interrupt the phone sex.”
“Is no phone sex,” he assured him. “We are watching Baking Show together until one of us falls asleep. Or phone dies. Whichever happens first.”
Guy laughed. “Yeah, okay Ivanov. Enjoy your date then.”
Pietr changed too then settled onto the bed with his laptop. He made sure he was connected to the hotel internet with his Netflix queued up before he called Harper.
“Hey.” She sounded annoyed when she answered. “Did you see my post?”
“I did. I had to go find commentary. You want me to punch, next time I see?”
“No,” she sighed. “Let’s just watch Baking Show and talk. What episode are we on?”
“Season Two, Episodes Three. Is bread week.”
“I love bread week.”
“Me too. Bread is best. I miss it more than I miss the Skittles during season.”
She laughed. “You eat bread.”
“Da, but I would eat loaves and loaves if I could.”
“You still have a lot of years to play hockey, don’t you?”
“I hope so. I’m only thirty-two. I have maybe…ten more good seasons, if I take care of myself. Eleven or twelve if I overstay.”
“Do you ever think about what you’ll do after hockey? That’s still a lot of life left.”
“I carefully invest most of my money,” he said. “I think I’d like to live simple, but comfortable life. I could do that without working much. If I did want to work, maybe I coach? But, that is still long in the future. Why do you ask?”
“Do you think you will write forever?”
“As long as I can. I don’t think I have a choice. Writing is like a compulsion for me. If I don’t do it, I feel lazy and disconnected. When an idea nags at me, I have to get it out. As long as I keep getting ideas, I’ll keep writing.”
“Are you ready to hit play?”
“Yes,” she answered. “One…two…” They both clicked the play button on their laptops.
“Where are you?” He asked. He slid the laptop across the bed, stretching out beside it.
“At home. In bed.”
“Under the covers?”
“Yes. It’s cold.”
“Turn your heat up then.”
“Do you have any idea what my electric bill will be like? I’m at a perfectly reasonable sixty-five degrees.”
“That not bad, but you are still cold?”
“It feels colder because it’s snowing.”
“Yeah, quite a bit actually.”
“I bet it looks pretty from your apartment.”
“What’s it like in LA right now?”
“Seventy-eight and kind of humid,” he answered. “Hotel room is okay, but I still prefer my own bed. Or yours. Your bed is comfy.”
“Tell me about the game. Did anything exciting happen that I couldn’t see on TV?”
“Not really. Did you see when Huckabee tripped on own feet and blamed Matti for a check?”
“Yeah, that was bullshit. The ref was completely blind.”
They chatted about the game, then about the show as it got underway. Pietr held back a yawn so he could keep listening. He looked up briefly as Guy entered the hotel room.
“Ignore me,” Guy assured him. He pulled his jeans and t-shirt off, sliding into his own bed in just his boxers. “I can sleep through anything.”
“Is your roommate back? Who are you with this time?” Harper asked.
“Da. Is Matlock. He says he can ignore me.”
“I don’t think I’ve met him.”
“He is nice guy,” Pietr offered. “I don’t just say that because he can hear me.”
“I am a nice guy,” Guy retorted from the bed. “Tell your girlfriend I say hey.”
“He says hey.”
“Same,” she answered. He heard her yawn.
“They return your greeting,” Pietr told Guy. “Now go to sleep and turn off ears.”
“Not sure it works like that, but I’ll put my pods in for you,” Guy offered. Pietr watched him pick up his earpods from the table beside his bed where they had been charging in their case. “Good night.”
“Good night,” Pietr grunted back. He waited until Guy had settled, earpods in, before he turned his attention back to Harper. “You are tired.”
“I’m sure you are too,” she said.
“I am, but I like this quiet time with you. Even if we have to be three thousand miles apart.”
“Me too,” she admitted. “When do you get back again?”
“Tuesday,” he answered. “In the afternoon, probably.”
“Are you busy?”
“My evenings are always free for you,” he promised.
“Dinner on Tuesday then? We can go to Swain. I think you’d like the food.”
“Okay, if you don’t mind. Then we go back to your place?”
They were quiet again, each watching or at least listening. Pietr felt his eyes close and his body relax. The show was just bright and loud enough to keep him from completely falling asleep. He heard Harper breathing on the other end of the phone and the echo of the show; a few seconds ahead of his own playback of the show.
“Harper, my darling,” he murmured. “Are you still awake?”
He heard her hum.
“I think it is time to hang up. My phone will die soon.”
“Mine too,” she admitted. “There’s just a few more minutes left in the show. Just wait until they announce Star Baker.”
“Okay,” he agreed. His eyes closed again and he listened more closely to the echo than to the sound coming out of his own laptop. He listened to star baker announcement, then the baker leaving the show.
“I guess that’s it,” Harper finally admitted. “Good night, Pietr.”
“Good night, Harper darling. I will call you tomorrow night too. Same time. Same show. New episode.”
She laughed in his ear; sleepy but genuine. “I look forward to it. Bye.”
“G’bye,” he said. He lifted the phone, ending the call –knowing if he didn’t, they would both just wait until their phones died. He closed out of Netflix on the laptop before turning it off and sliding it onto the bedside table. He plugged the phone in and then settled back into the pillows.
He definitely preferred his own bed. Especially with Harper in it.