Chapter 6 (Part 1)

December: Prospect Park

“I’m just glad that Putin is doing an investigation into this blizzard. If this damned storm could’ve been prevented, I’d be there, right now, creating gorgeous things with Rada!”

Nora declared while she and Paulie, wrapped in wool Pendleton blankets, lounged blissfully on the tiny patio just off of the bedroom. The dry sunny December day was a welcomed change from the recent wet and slushy weather.

“Of course you would agree with Vladimir Putin!”

“What?” Nora asked surprised.

Paulie sat up and said squinting, “Never mind the 155 people that died, you don’t get to make pretty clothes!”

“You sound just like Jackson!” Nora complained.

Behind the duo, where his head just cleared the patio’s threshold, stood Jackson, sipping on a beer.

He joined, “Oh God! Is she still going on about not being able to go to Russia? Sweetheart, those poor people are without heat and you’re worried about some stupid couture or whatever.”

Nora threw her blanket to the ground, grabbed her cigarettes and pushed past Jackson. Stopping only to light her cigarette, Nora blew through the house like the blizzard in Russia. In the kitchen, she poured herself a glass of vodka and drank it quickly. She poured herself another and shot it just as her new fiancé, with Paulie in tow, walked into the kitchen. Paulie joined her on the other side of the counter and faced Jackson, who placed his empty bottle onto the counter then scratched his mop of hair.

Breaking the silence he said, “Sweetheart, I know you had your heart set on this little trip but…”

“Wow!” Nora interrupted, “Do you know how patronizing that sounds?”

Jackson shrugged then sauntered to the fridge and pulled out a beer and asked in what way was he patronizing her. Nora did a third shot then blew back onto the patio. Jackson and Paulie stood across from one another. Jackson smiled, scratched his mop of hair and then laughing shook his head.

He asked Paulie, “Do you think I was being patronizing?”

Backing up slowly Paulie said, “Oh no you don’t, do not drag me into a domestic row. No way!”

“Oh c’mon it’s not a row, we’re just disagreeing,” he tried to convince his fiancé’s friend.

Paulie grabbed a beer from the fridge and tried to leave the kitchen. Unsuccessful, Jackson cornered him again.

“It’s really not a big deal, do you think I was unfair or patronizing?”

“Jesus, you idiot, yes!” Paulie finally admitted.

Jackson looked to the ground and was quiet. When he looked up again, Nora stood behind Paulie, wiping her tears. Jackson immediately rushed to her and tried to console her.

Nora pulled away from him and spoke to Paulie, “You want to go back on the patio? It’s still sunny.”

Paulie nodded and the duo headed back to the patio.

“Nora,” Jackson shouted after her.

She stopped and gestured to Paulie to go ahead. Jackson stood silent and scratched his head.

“Where’s your engagement ring?” Jackson asked randomly.

“I had to get it sized down and cleaned, remember?” she answered.

Nodding he remembered her nearly losing her ring down the garbage disposal only days before. He wished he could return to that day – she was happy to be staying home with him. He only had a few days to spend with her before heading back onto the road. Her trip getting cancelled, at that moment was a blessing but today it was like looking down the barrel of a gun.

“Look Jackson, you don’t have to like or be into what I do, but disrespecting it, is not an option,” Nora stated then joined Paulie on the patio.

They looked down on the sun depraved coffee drinkers and watched them cram onto Park Slope’s trendy sidewalk café. Nora confessed to Paulie that she was happy to not have to resort to sitting down there with that pathetic lot. Laughing, he toasted his old friend then quickly looked around to make sure that the coast was clear.

He carefully asked, “Look, you want to get outta here for a little bit?”

Nora sipped her cocktail and shrugged. Paulie unwrapped himself and faced Nora.

“I was invited to a football or soccer, match this afternoon, you want to go? I figure you could use a break from hearing his shit.”

Nora’s black and gold Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses glared at him. Paulie, realizing that he had offended her, offered her another bone. He had started seeing someone new, a bloke he’d met in Woodside, and said bloke had invited Paulie to watch his brother and his football team kick arse at Prospect Park. Paulie insisted that he’d wanted to introduce Nora and him as this new bloke too enjoyed the joy of cooking.

“What do we need to bring?” Nora asked standing up and folding the blankets.

Sprawling at least 5 yards along the sidelines, amongst the oversized antique picnic basket – loaded with assorted cheeses, hard salami, champagne, crisps, cookies, baguettes, and water; Nora and Paulie, still wrapped in the Pendleton blankets, lounged eternally. Across the field, Ian pissed on what would be the 10-yard line. He strained his eyes and tried to identify the lounging strangers.

To George, a teammate, he asked, “Who the fuck are they?”

George squinted against the setting sun and watched the duo. Paulie let the blanket ease onto the lounge chair then pulled himself up, stopping briefly, he used his hand as a visor and searched the field.

From behind he heard Nora ask, “Which one is he?”

Grabbing the bottle of Taittinger from the wicker basket, Paulie hushed his girlfriend and stood by coyly while a tall, strawberry blonde player dressed in white track bottoms and a red jersey, rushed up and embraced him. Paulie’s loud chortle gave the other spectators room to pause.

Another, clad similarly to the tall strawberry blonde player, jogged over and asked, “Is this Paulie, then?”

Like a Mafia bride, Paulie stood trapped on the sidelines while the assembly line of teammates, friends and spouses, welcomed and congratulated him. Still watching from across the field, or pitch, Ian and George stood – Ian, still taking a piss listened to his teammate.

“I know he’s your brother mate, but to come out onto the Holy Grail and play pansy with his new boyfriend, it just ain’t right, is it?”

Holding himself firmly, Ian shifted himself left, and pissed down the front of George.

“You filthy Irish mongrel!” protested George.

Nora stood from the lounge chair, also letting her Pendleton fall beneath her, and watched George’s face bounce off of Ian’s fist. Startled, she quickly rushed to the assembly line and informed Ian’s new boyfriend. Releasing himself from the small crowd, Evan, witnessed his brother beating his fellow teammate and started across the pitch. Like sheep, spectators, teammates, and spouses followed Evan across the field begging the attacker to cease his attack. Ian sat atop of George and beat him until his blood soaked his jersey. Before the crowd reached George, his pleading mixed with Evan’s carried across the early afternoon.

Before the ambulance arrived, Nora overheard teammate after spouse after spectator beg George to keep his mouth shut and to ‘you know, blame it on the game.’ Nora wondered if that was how she had sounded a few hours before, when complaining about her cancelled trip to Russia. Covered in another man’s blood, his knuckles busted opened, Ian sat defeated in the cold grass. Evan decided that now was as good a time as any to introduce Paulie to his little brother. Grabbing onto Nora’s arm, Paulie dragged her with him to meet the fighter.

“He say some shit about me? Is that what set you off?” Evan asked matter of fact.

Finally raising his clear green eyes from the shame and guilt, Ian peaked through his overgrown matted ginger curls and identified his stranger.

Evan continued, “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

“Hot mouth,” Ian said.

Nora threw her hands over her face and laughed loudly.

Confused, Evan asked his brother again, “Ian, are you okay?”

George’s dried blood sprinkled Ian’s fair skin generously. Rising to his feet, he reached out, took her by the arm and left the field.

“Nora?” Paulie called after her.

“So that’s your name, huh?” he asked her.

“Where are you going?” Paulie called out again.

“With me,” Ian answered.