“Hey Ryan, it’s just me. Um, call me back when you’ve got time; bye,” I stumbled through before hanging up. I hated talking to answering machines or voicemail, but I felt ridiculous leaving the second message on his cellphone, worried I was being annoying. I knew he was busy and might not have the time to phone me, but I’d hoped anyway.

I jumped as my cellphone rang, and didn’t understand the text message I’d received. I was sure it had to be fake, because while it said I’d won two tickets to see the Ranger’s pre-season opener, I didn’t remember entering any contest.

“Hey Lilah, what’s up?” Kate asked as she walked into our apartment, having just got off work.

“Apparently I won two tickets to the game tonight?” I replied, and she squealed, grabbing my phone to see for herself.

“Well get dressed! We’re going!” she insisted. I didn’t know why she would just accept it as a legitimate message, but I shrugged, going and doing as she asked. If all else failed we could go for dinner somewhere nicer than Dairy Queen.

We caught a cab and headed to Madison Square Garden, where sure enough two tickets were at will call under my name. I felt strange wearing my Rangers jersey, especially when they were playing Edmonton; I felt like I was betraying my home team a little bit, even though I was wearing a number ninety three T-shirt beneath the jersey.

The game was close and intense, both teams wanting to come out on top, and it went straight to a shootout, something I’d never been able to see at a live hockey game before. Kate and I both cheered as Callahan put in the winning goal for New York, but I’d lost some enthusiasm, knowing how disappointed the Oilers had to be with the loss. The preseason could set the tone for the rest of the year, and you always wanted to start off on the right foot.

“Miss Park? Can you come with me please?” Kate and I both jumped as the huge security guard approached us. I nodded, wondering what on earth could be going on, and Kate nervously mumbled that she would catch a cab home, before leaving. I followed behind the six foot something man, wondering what on earth I’d done that would need me to be escorted somewhere. I’d never so much as nicked a five-cent candy.

Soon I began to get curious, as we were headed away from the crowds and people, and soon we were going past offices, deeper into the building.

“Can you wait here for a moment?” he asked, and I nodded, my hands wrapped around myself. I stood there for almost twenty minutes, feeling awkward and out of place, before I heard a familiar voice that I missed so much.

“Dee?” I turned, feeling the smile grow on my face as I took him in. He’d put on weight during the summer – I’d seen how hard he’d worked at adding muscle to his body – but that smile and blue eyes were the same, although he’d finally ditched his comb-over hair.

“Ryan,” my voice was breathy, like I’d ran for miles. He opened his arms and I gladly ran to his embrace, holding him tight. I’d missed him like I’d lost an arm when I’d had to return to New York for my second year of university. Edmonton was just so far away, especially for a girl who’d hardly ever left her hometown of Red Deer.

That was where I’d met Ryan; he’d came to Red Deer to play hockey. To be honest at first I’d avoided him like the plague, just as I had any other hockey players. I’d heard too many stories, and so I’d wanted nothing to do with the cute,
blue-eyed boy who always sat two desks over from me in homeroom.

Then one fateful day we were assigned as partners for an English project; it was like somebody had aligned the stars. We got along perfectly, and when he asked me to the school dance I was blushing too much to do anything other than smile.

So aside from when he went home to BC for the very end of the school year we were in separable. We racked up ridiculous long-distance phone bills talking, and went on MSN and texted all of the time. We could talk for hours about nothing, something I’d never experienced with anyone before.

His second year in Red Deer was a little tougher on me; he was almost a celebrity, and while I wasn’t a very confident person on the best days all of the girls throwing themselves at him made it even harder on me. We’d nearly broken up because of it, but Ryan had proved himself for the hundredth time, showing up at my house in the middle of the night with a bouquet of flowers, throwing little pebbles at my window and playing our song, “Hey There Delilah” on a boom box until I came outside and talked with him.

That was our song – Ryan had decided that when we were driving out to my grandparents house. It had came on the radio and we’d both immediately started singing along without thinking about it. It had applied to our lives so much – two years until we were finished high school and didn’t have to worry about him living in BC and me in Alberta, about the distance, and as corny as it was our friends always made fun of us for being ‘too serious for high school’. It’s just how we were, and then when I ended up getting into Julliard in New York, the song just seemed like it was made for us. I’d always dreamed of being an actress on Broadway, and somehow I’d made it into Julliard with a scholarship. Ryan had always teased me that one of these days he’d get to brag up his famous girlfriend to all of his buddies, but it was a little known fact that he was just as musically talented. He could write; poems, scripts, songs, anything, and more than a few times I’d received poems or beautifully written letters from him that made me want to cry and jump for joy all at once.

He especially loved to re-write things, put his own twist on them. He’d always been able to crack everyone up at school by improvising new lyrics overtop of a popular song, and I loved how he could just think these things up. He’d done that once to “Hey There Delilah”, but then he hadn’t been able to remember it. I’d been a little disappointed because I’d absolutely loved his version, while it really wasn’t all that different from the original, but I’d loved it.

Over the past year and a bit, whenever we’d call, text or Skype and Ryan knew I was feeling down in the dumps, he’d find a way to get that song to me. Whether it was him goofily singing along at the top of his lungs over Skype, texting me “Hey There Delilah” first thing in the morning, one time he even wrote it out in a letter; complete with his doodles and scratched out misspelled words, and to this day it hung on the wall above my bed.

So not having been able to talk to him this week – he’d been on the road all week, having played the Bruins, Islanders, and the Devils before coming here, had been hard. But seeing him now and being in his arms made it all so worth it.

“I missed you so much Dee, I’m sorry I didn’t return your calls today, I just wanted to surprise you,” he murmured, before pressing a soft kiss to my lips.

“It’s okay, this is much better than a short phone call,” I allowed, making him smile. He rubbed my back softly, burying his face in my hair as we stood there and just enjoyed the moment.

“Coach said I can stay out past curfew tonight, but I have to be back at the hotel before we leave for the airport in the morning,” he whispered, and I nodded, glad for the understanding that Krueger had. And it wasn’t like they had a game to play tomorrow or anything – Ryan slept like a rock on planes.

“Do you want to get something to eat?” I asked, immediately thinking of the physical exertion he’d just put himself through for the game.

“No, I just want to curl up on the couch with you and relax,” he replied, making my face heat up with a blush.

“I think that sounds amazing,” I agreed, feeling him lace our fingers together as we began the walk to leave the arena. Eberle and Hall came around the corner, both of them smiling and greeting me; we’d met on a few occasions.

“So, are you stealing Nuge for the night?” Taylor asked, and I nodded.

“Yeah, we’re probably going to watch a movie or something,” I answered. They both nodded knowingly, and wished us a goodnight before allowing us to continue on our way. We caught a cab back to my apartment, which was surprisingly quiet. On the fridge was a note from Kate, saying that Michael had called and wanted to hang out with her so she wouldn’t be home until tomorrow.

“Movie?” Ryan asked, and I nodded, before going to the entertainment center and pulling out a random movie for us to watch. We curled into each other, as close as we could possibly get, but even then I didn’t pay any attention to the television screen in front of me, only trying to memorize the feeling of Ryan there with me, because it was going to be a long season again without him.