Status: Contest Prize for LDW Choice

Just Maybe

Shannon

It had been years since Shannon had been in the Toew’s beautiful home. No, years didn’t even cover it – the last time she was here had been for Jon’s eleventh birthday party, and even then the two of them had hardly spoke. She’d always had a crush on Jon, even though she was sure he didn’t even acknowledge her existence. They never spoke during high school, and then he of course went on to become an NHL player, captain of his team and win a Stanley Cup. She finished a degree in education and had flown thousands of kilometers away to teach at a school in Brighton. So now, to be back here, was almost surreal.

And then Jonathan had shown up – adding to the confusion and the mix. Nobody had told her that he would be here, and now she was going to be a jumble of nerves, just like she always was when he was around. David she could handle – he was sort of like a little brother to her – he was outgoing and loved to be the center of attention, and his words never held the seriousness that Jon’s always did. That was why she found it so easy to talk and joke with him.

She didn’t miss the way Jon’s eyes flicked between her and David before he’d left the room to help his mother out. It was then that she realized what it might look like to him; David had known all about her being in England, and the way he had his arm casually around her shoulders might be enough to put together that assumption. She couldn’t decode the expression on his face though; Jon had always been a brick wall as far as his emotions and thoughts were concerned. If he didn’t say it out loud a person was hard pressed to know what was going on in his head.

“Come on out, dinner’s ready,” Mrs. Toews called, and everybody filed into the dining room where she had a full spread set out on the beautiful oak table. Mashed potatoes, roast chicken, dill baby carrots, home made gravy, assorted mixed vegetables, fresh rolls and probably more was arranged around the giant table, and awkwardly Shannon took a seat, trying not to blush when Jon took the seat to her left. He managed a tiny grin for her before their attention moved to his father saying grace, and then dinner had captured everybody’s attention.

David cleared out about twenty minutes after dinner had finished; a few of his friends had been calling and texting him to go to some sort of party, and after apologizing for leaving early he said goodbye and left. It was unbelievably awkward to Shannon; sitting there on opposite ends of the couch from Jon while their parents talked, and about a half hour later she excused herself as well. She had driven in with her parents, and so started the twenty-five minute walk home. It was beautiful out, the sky just beginning to be streaked with light pink and orange. Sunsets had always appealed to Shannon; they held some kind of immeasurable beauty that she could never find the words for.

“Shannon! Wait up!”

She whipped around at the deep voice, feeling her heart stop for a second or two as she took in his long, lean frame quickly covering the distance she’d just walked. Once he was a few paces away he slowed his jog down to a walk, not even the slightest bit out of breath.

“I, uh, figured I’d walk you home,” Jon mumbled, and she nodded before stuffing her hands in her pockets and slowly restarting her journey. Jon matched pace with her, copying her by putting his hands in his own pockets, and she saw him chew on his lip slightly. A few minutes of that silence had both of them on edge, and while Shannon wanted to she couldn’t figure out how to break the silence.

“So, um, where are you planning to teach next?” Jon blurted, and Shannon’s words seemed to get stuck in her throat.

“Well… I don’t really know yet,” she hated having to admit that she had no real plan past this summer. There was maybe one job available close to home, and after having been gone for so long she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to be elsewhere. Worse than that she hated feeling lost and ridiculous, and appearing that way in front of Jon made her more embarrassed and ashamed of her lack of direction as of yet.

“Really?” he asked it nonchalantly, but she was sure that there was a shocked undertone.

“Yeah, um, there isn’t much for teaching jobs around here right now,” she nodded, kicking at a small rock on the asphalt. They were quiet for a few more minutes, before Jon cleared his throat.

“Have you looked at going elsewhere?”

“I don’t know… I mean, I was gone for two years, I thought maybe I’d like to be close to home, you know?” Jon nodded, turning his dark, intelligent brown eyes to her.

“Yeah, I know. Sometimes I wish I was closer to home too,” his voice was soft, the deep baritone sending a shiver down her spine. Jon’s family had always meant the world to him, even as a little kid.

“It must be hard, being so far away for so long,” Shannon allowed. Jon let out a bark of a laugh, his expression softening for the first time all evening.

“It is sometimes. But then I’m home for more than two weeks and I realize that I really like being on my own too, you know? To do my own thing and all… but when I’m gone I do really miss everybody,” he explained.

“I know what you mean. I was homesick for two weeks before I fell in love with being in Brighton. Then it was to the point that I missed everybody, but it wasn’t as bad, if that makes sense. It sounds terrible but—”

“No it doesn’t. I think it’s part of going your own way,” Jon shrugged, and continued with his eyes focused on the street ahead of them. “I think that when you grow up you have to do that, you know? Otherwise nobody would ever leave home or become their own person. I don’t think it’s terrible at all.”

“Thanks Jon,” she managed a small smile for him, and then felt him lightly bump his shoulder against hers. That brought a laugh from her lips, and soon Jon was laughing as well.

“Anytime,” he assured her, and they lapsed into silence once more. This time, however, there was a sense of camaraderie in the gentle silence that engulfed the two of them. Shannon nearly lost consciousness when she felt the large, rough callouses on Jon’s palm close around her own hand. His hands were work-worn, and yet to Shannon they were still soft and gentle. All of his movements were measured and careful, as everything he ever did was.

“Um… look, uh, you should… you should give me a call when you get your job organized; let me know what’s going on,” he finally said, and Shannon nodded.

“Yeah, for sure,” she replied, and they paused on the doorstep of her parents home. Jon pulled her in for a hug, and she wrapped her arms tightly around him, closing her eyes and letting the teenage version of herself freak out that the boy of her teenage dreams was hugging her.

Shannon would have never imagine what happened next. It was a moment not unlike the ones she read about in Nicholas Sparks’ novels; time seemed to slow down around her as Jon’s eyes slowly searched her face, settling on her lips. He leaned in slightly, pausing to gauge her reaction before closing the distance between them and pressing his lips to hers.

Fireworks played across the inside of her eyelids as she wrapped her arms around his broad, muscular shoulders. When they pulled away Jon rested his forehead against hers, the two of them breathing in synchronization, neither wanting to move or ruin this moment that they’d somehow found.

“I’ve wanted to do that since the eighth grade,” he whispered, catching Shannon completely off guard. She floundered for words, before they seemed to come against her will.

“I’ve wanted you to do that for a long time,” she blurted, before burying her face against his chest in embarrassment. Her held her tighter, softly rubbing her back before pressing a gentle kiss to her temple.

“So what do we do, Jon?” finally she managed to force the words past her lips. This was the kind of thing she’d dreamed of but had never even hoped would have happened to her. After all of that she didn’t want to have to let him go.

“I don’t know Shannon. Um… well,” he started to stutter, getting himself flustered. That was the Jon so little people knew or got to see, and Shannon felt privileged that she was seeing the real Jon that she’d known as a young child, rather than the ‘Captain Serious’ the hockey world knew him as.

“What is it?” she couldn’t keep the giggle out of her voice, which put Jon slightly more at ease.

“There’s tons of teaching jobs in Chicago,” he whispered, swallowing hard. The suggestion sent Shannon reeling. It was one thing to pack up and leave to work elsewhere, it was another thing entirely to do that because of one particular person.

“Jon, I—”

“I know that seems like an outrageous thing to suggest – I’m not saying you have to drop everything and go to Chicago,” he told her, his fingers dancing along her skin as he rubbed her arms. “I’m just saying that it’s an option, that’s all.”

“I’ll think about it, okay?” she promised, turning her blue eyes up to meet his chocolate colored ones. He nodded, and she felt relieved at his easy acceptance of her non-committal answer. They stood there for a few more minutes, before she moved to open the door. Jon stayed where he was, until Shannon invited him in. They went downstairs to the den, and after putting in a movie the two of them curled up together on the couch, unable to believe the fact that in a matter of minutes their entire relationship had changed. Jon’s arms were wrapped around her, the musky scent of his cologne filling Shannon’s nostrils as her head was on his chest, his chin on top of her head as they watched The Social Network.

The movie ended and Shannon found Jon’s lips on hers once again. She turned slightly in his arms to face him fully, and sighed as he deepened the kiss.

It wasn’t until they heard the front door close upstairs that they pulled apart, settling once again to just curl up together. They were twenty-four, so it wasn’t like Shannon expected her parents to reprimand her for having Jon downstairs with her without asking for their permission. But there was something about not wanting your parents to think poorly of you that had her apprehensive.

“I should… probably head home,” Jon sighed, making no move to actually get up or leave. It took several more minutes before they did so, and Shannon walked him to the door.

“So, I’ll see you around?” he asked, and when she nodded Shannon saw Jon’s expression light up. An easy smile graced his full lips, and made his boyish features even brighter.

“For sure,” she agreed, and he pulled her in for another hug.

“Dinner, tomorrow night,” he told her, and she cocked her head to the side.

“Just us this time,” he winked, and chuckled when her cheeks heated up. He cupped her cheeks and pulled her in for the quickest, most chaste of kisses before pressing his forehead to hers.

“I’ll pick you up at six,” and with that he began his walk back home, the sun already having sunk below the horizon, leaving few streaks of orange, purple and yellow in the sky, and letting the street lights illuminate the asphalt. Shannon watched him go, grinning when he turned at the end of the block and waved before walking out of her sight. At that she closed the door behind her and leaned against it, letting out a slow breath.

Chicago. Who would’ve thought that would ever have been an option? Was it even an option?

Shannon took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to start freaking herself out now… there was a whole summer ahead of her, a whole summer for things to take shape or change. The time was there, so she would take advantage of it, and who knew? Maybe by the end of the summer there would be something worth moving for.