If you want to read more of “Quick Study”, www.read-it-first.com will be posting excerpts all next week in anticipation of its release. Their copy, unlike this one, will be fully copyedited and proofread. 🙂
“I don’t know who you are, but I love you!”
The voice was deep, rough, and heavily inflected with the accent of one of the outer boroughs, and it belonged to the guy sitting in back of me at Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Rangers, my favorite professional hockey team. And the comment, which was directed at me, was made even more interesting by the fact that I was sitting beside my best friend, Max, who had packed her one-hundred-pound frame into a size two slinky black cocktail dress, her cleavage prominently and proudly displayed for all to see. She’s tiny but she’s got a great rack. It’s a veritable “rack of ages.” Nobody, and I mean nobody, had ever noticed me when Max was around. And we had twenty years of friendship on which to draw on, proving this point. I was not in a cocktail dress, having opted instead to wear my new Mark Messier jersey (he was number eleven and the sole reason for the Rangers’ Stanley Cup win in 1994, thank you very much), a pair of jeans that I had purchased in the last millennium, and sneakers that had seen their fair share of painting projects. My hair was pulled back into a ponytail, I had a smear of ketchup on my cheek and now, after jumping up to take umbrage at a call, a glass of beer soaking my chest. I don’t even like beer, but when in Rome…you know the rest. But apparently, when I yelled, “Shit, ref, you’re killing us! That’s a bullshit call!” after a bogus hooking penalty, I had forever pledged my troth to Bruno Spaghetti, as Max had dubbed him when we arrived, seat 4, row D, section 402.
He ran his hands through his spiky black hair and grabbed me in an embrace, his silver hoop earring brushing my cheek. Max, who had been standing for the better part of the last period and who thus had incurred the wrath of everyone behind her—many of whom had missed said bogus penalty because their only view was the back of her well-coiffed head—fell back into her seat, her cocktail dress riding up on her yoga-toned thighs. But Bruno didn’t notice; he only had eyes for me. See, we were sitting way up high in Rangerland, a place that used to be called “the blue seats,” and in which only the hardest core hockey fans sat. Now they’re teal, which doesn’t lend them the same menacing air. A gorgeous woman in a slinky black dress with spectacular boobs had nothing on a five foot ten college professor with a pot belly and beer breath who loved hockey and who could curse with the best of them.
It was my birthday and my boyfriend had given me the jersey and the tickets. Crawford—Bobby to the rest of the world—was a detective in the New York City Police Department and working overtime that night, hence my birthday date being Max. He had stopped by school on his lunch break to wish me a happy birthday, appearing in my office doorway at around one; I was preparing for my next class, a two o’clock literature seminar, and was delighted to be distracted from the critical essay on Finnegan’s Wake that was putting me to sleep. I’m a Joyce scholar but even I recognize that obscure is not the same thing as exciting and that makes my relationship with the subject of my doctoral dissertation tenuous at best. I love a challenge, though, and had spent the better part of my academic career trying to figure out if Joyce was laughing with us or at us. I was slowly coming to the conclusion that it was the latter.
I could tell that Crawford was excited by the items in the gift bag he was holding behind his back. He leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek; although he is a seasoned detective and an all-around good guy, he gets really nervous around the nuns I work with at St. Thomas University, my employer. Whenever he visits me at school, he looks like he’s on his way to detention, even though I’m sure he’s never done anything more scandalous than passing a note in class. He took the bag from behind his back and set it on my desk, settling himself into one of the chairs across from me, a self-satisfied smile on his handsome, Irish face.
I love the guy but there’s one thing that bugs me: every time he gives me an item of clothing, it’s always extra-large. I’m extra tall but not extra fat, so this concerns me. Is this how he sees me? Or does he think women should wear tent-like clothing? I still hadn’t figured it out. I held his gift aloft and spread my arms wide to examine it, full width: a Messier jersey. Despite the size, I couldn’t have asked for a better present. “Crawford! I love it!” I said and came from around the desk. I kicked my office door closed so I could give him a proper thank you, sitting on his lap and putting my arms around my neck. “Now the best present you could give me would be your undivided attention tonight,” I said, hopefully, although I guessed this wouldn’t be the case.He shook his head sadly. “I can’t. I pulled an extra shift so I could go to Meaghan’s basketball playoff Monday night.” Meaghan is one of his twin daughters; she was banking on a basketball scholarship to get her through college. I had come to realize that basketball was like a religion in that family; what teenage girl would count former New York Knick Bill Bradley among her crushes if it wasn’t?
Quick Study is available now for pre-order at Amazon.com