I smiled as my phone rang the minute I stepped out of work, and I picked it up with a smile in my voice, “You’re not waiting around for me to call you, huh playboy?”
Nicolai chuckled, “Am I that obvious? In any case, I miss you, Sabs. When can I see you again?”
I shrugged, despite the fact that he couldn’t see me, “I dunno. I think we need to let this cool off a bit, Nick. I told you I wasn’t looking for serious, and this is feeling a little more serious every time we hang out. I like you, but I’m not ready for commitment yet.”
With a sigh, he hung up, promising to call back every day until I said yes. I shook my head and turned the corner to the parking lot. I pulled out and made my way into town. I had been dying for them to finish the construction on the new roller rink in the park. When I got there I pulled out my skates and made a beeline for the rink. I knelt down, glad no one was around before touching the glossy smooth surface, not yet roughened up by hundreds of skaters. After a moment, I slid out onto the rink. I was pretty shaky at first, but it soon came rushing back to me. When I was seven or so, Maria, my ex-mom, used to bring me to the roller rink of the guy she hooked up with. Of the rotating door of men in her life, this guys wasn’t so bad. He was still scum, but he was less scummy than his predecessors. He was the one who taught me to skate, teaching me all the little tricks and turns. I got pretty good, but then, like most things in my early life, it came to an end when my mom stole the money from the cash register. If I hadn’t been there, I’m sure she would have been in jail.
I was so focused on my stroll down memory lane, that I had barely registered another skater on the rink. They came colliding into me, sending us both sprawling on the ground. It was not one of my finer moments. “Watch where you’re going,” I grunted as I stood up. I turned around to face them, stopping short when I saw it was a giant of a man. I began chuckling uncontrollably, before helping him back to his feet. He rolled his eyes, but I saw a grin playing at the corner of his mouth.
He stuck out his hand, “I’m sorry for running into you, ma’am.”
I shook his hand, “It’s alright. I’ve been hit worse. Call me Sabrina, ma’am is too weird.” He nodded, “I’m Justin.”
The conversation hit one of those awkward lulls, until I nodded towards his obviously new skates, “You learning to skate?”
He gestured to his feet, “Can’t you tell? I’m a professional,” he laughed, “Nah, I’m learning so that I can teach my little girl when she comes out to visit.”
I nodded understandingly, “How old is she?”
He smiled, pulling out his phone and showing me a picture, “She’ll be six next month.”
I shrugged uncomfortably, not wanting to pester this stranger with questions, so instead I began to skate slowly, “Well, Justin, we have a lot of work to do before you’re able to skate safely.”
He cocked his head to the side, “You’d really help me? You don’t even know me.” I just shrugged and we began to go over the basics. Eventually we made it to the middle, not using the bars at all. I held his hands with mine, ignoring the thoughts of how strong his hands seemed. He looked down at me, “Thank you for being so kind. My daughter is going to love this.”
I nodded, before pushing on with the question that I had been biting back all day, “If I might be so bold, or nosy if I’m being honest with myself here, why don’t you have your daughter living with you?”
He nodded thoughtfully, “No worries, I’d tell you if you were being too nosy. My wife and I were married right out of high school, six years ago. Last November, and awful storm caught us on the tail end of a road trip out to see my folk in Bridgeport. The car tumbled over and over, killing her almost instantly. I was in a coma for several weeks, unsure whether I was going to live. Cassidy, my daughter, was miraculously unharmed somehow, minus a few scrapes and bruises. My wife’s parent kept her with them, while I was in the hospital. Once I was released, we lived in Twinbrook with them until about two weeks ago. I moved here to help us get a fresh start while Cassidy finishes the school year in the same county. In two weeks, she has spring break coming up, and I’m going to bring her out here to show her our new home.” He had tears in his eyes as he finished, and I bowed my head, unsure of what to say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m so sorry for prying.”
He gripped my hands, “Nonsense, ma’am-er Sabrina, you are the first person out here to show me the slightest bit of warmth. Thank you.” I nodded my head before I noticed the time, “I’m so sorry, Justin, but I have to be heading home soon,” I handed him a card with my number on it, “If I am to be so bold, if you ever need a friend, please don’t hesitate to call. I’d love to meet your daughter.”
We parted ways, and I left with a spring in my step, happy to have made a new friend. when I got home, my mom planted a kiss on my cheek before handing me several handwritten notes. I flipped through them hastily, “What are these?” My mother sighed, “Those are phone message taken by me, your father and Ethan, several times from lover-boy, Nicolai.” I shook my head, “I’m so sorry, Mom, I’ll get him to stop calling here, okay?” She nodded before putting her hands on my shoulders, “Hon, I know you’re a sweet girl and afraid of being hurt….but is there a possibility that you’re stringing this guy along? He clearly cares for you.” I shook my head, “No way. In fact, I ended it today, I told him that we needed to cool off for awhile. I’ll talk to him again.” She hugged me before going back to the kitchen, “I’m here if you need to talk, hon.”
I sighed heavily as I flopped onto my bed, why did this casual dating thing have to be so complicated? Suddenly feeling very exhausted, I fell asleep while trying to push thoughts of my talk with Justin out of my head.