As You Please


Toronto was the coldest it had been all month. Winter was officially around the corner, but the weather was a few steps ahead. Once the sun dipped down below the metallic skyline, the air howling through the city hit a bone chilling -3 degrees. For many of the city dwellers, this was normal for this time of year.

Growing up and living in Canada, the cold weather was always welcoming. It brought the holidays, warm coffee and festive smells. People around the city were in a better mood. Lights and decorations danced across the sky, a feeling of togetherness swept through the air.

Today, as I walked through the nearly vacant city at 10:30pm, I didn’t feel the holiday warmth I usually did. The store fronts were dark. The groups of people had dwindled to a few here and there, and the air was cold and unwelcoming.

For the last three hours, I had been sitting in my office, dialing my long-term boyfriends phone number over, and over, and over again. Worry had ripped through me and dissipated. Annoyance had swelled in my stomach and retreated. I had run the gauntlet of emotions until I had finally accepted the fact that whatever had happened, had happened.

Hunter and I had been dating for nearly six years. We had met in our senior year of high school and somehow lasted through college and into the real world. After graduating, we both got well paying jobs in Toronto and moved into a loft right outside of the heart of the city.

To sum it up, everything was perfect.

Until today.

We had spoken nearly all morning and afternoon through texts. He had agreed to pick me up from work around 7:30pm, so I didn’t have to brave the cold. We agreed on dinner, a movie, and a bottle of Cabernet.

At 4:00pm, he stopped answering after sending me a quick note that he was home. From 4:00pm to now, I had run through every emotion I had in my brain. I went through every scenario and finally stopped when acceptance rushed through my body.

A heavy sigh left my lips in the form of a white cloud as I stopped at another street corner. Cars sped past me as I looked up toward the velvety sky, wishing that the night would just end. I was exhausted from the stress. My chest hurt from the near panic attacks I had over what could have possibly happened to him. Every extremity was trembling from the cold. I had not walked out of the house in my winter coat and accessories. I was in a patagonia zip up, a pair of low boots and a knit scarf.

When I had hit the Queens Street Bridge, I knew I had only another fifteen or so minutes before I would reach the lobby of my apartment building. I wasn’t ready to face whatever was behind my apartment door. I wasn’t ready for the fight.

When I had reached the center of the bridge, I took a moment to lean against the rail and look off into the city. Small snowflakes were starting to dance down from the clouds. Every few minutes, a strong wind would howl across the water and send the small flakes flying in different directions.

It was captivating. All the time I had lived in Canada, every time I had walked through Toronto in the winter, I had never taken the time to stop. I always had a meeting, a class, a mark on my calendar. Always rushing, always thinking, always planning.

Now, all I had to do was exist.

A vibration knocked me from the picturesque view. The cell phone in my jean pocket was buzzing. A small wave of shock rushed through me before I exhaled a long sigh and pulled the phone to my eye level.


My fingers were nearly numb as I swiped the green circle across the screen and put the device to my ear. “Hello?” I blinked hard as the man immediately started talking. The burst of sound to my ear caused my teeth to grind together. Scrunching up my face, I pulled the phone away from my face until the man stopped speaking on the other end.

“Where have you been?” My voice was hoarse as it echoed through the night. “I’ve been trying to call you for nearly six hours, Hunter.” The anger I had tried so hard to suppress started to bubble up inside of me again. A warm rush filled my veins.

“I… I had just… Put my phone down and I-”

”When do I have to get out of here, babe?”

My lips parted as the woman’s voice hit my ear. The rapid heartbeat in my chest slowed. The tremble in my fingers, the warmth in my veins, the rage in my eyes settled.


I was in shock.

“How… could you?” Was the only sentence I could form as my eyes drifted from the street back to the velvet sky above me. “After… Everything?”

Hunter’s voice was a higher pitch than normal as he rambled on excuses. He tried telling me it was only once, that he had a happy hour at work and was drunk, he tried every excuse in the book.

I let him talk. I let him ramble on for nearly five minutes before he shut himself up. Once the silence had lasted a good minute, I cleared my throat and turned myself from the river. “I want you out of the apartment by midnight.”

“No, no, no, Tessa, listen, we can work-”

“Midnight. Leave the key under the mat.” I repeated as my limbs started to move under me. “If I come home and you’re there, I’m calling the police.”

“Tessa!” Hunter barked into the phone, “Please, I don’t have anywhere to go.”

“Oh!” I screamed, my feet planting themselves against the cement, “No place to go? Why don’t you go stay with the girl you’ve been fucking behind my back!” I roared into the phone as I slammed the heel of my boot into the sidewalk. “Sounds like a great place to stay. You get to fuck her whenever you want, not just when I’m at work making money to pay for everything!”

Hunter stayed silent. My body was trembling from the outburst.

“Midnight?” The man’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Midnight.” I confirmed and without another word, ended the call and slipped my phone back into my pocket.

I wanted to fall onto the sidewalk and cry. I wanted to pound my fists into the cement until my skin was pushed away. My chest was tight, my fingers were numb, and my limbs were vibrating. Every inhale was a wheeze. Every exhale was a knife in my lungs.

The weight of my purse and laptop bag started to rip through the skin on my shoulder. An ache started in my shoulder blades and trickled down my spine. I felt like I was on fire, but I was shivering. My eyes were full of tears, but they refused to fall.

My mind was screaming, but I couldn’t make out any words.

I felt myself start to disassociate as my legs started to move. My eyes wandered around the familiar buildings. I knew where I was, I knew where I was going. I was on autopilot. Something inside of me had picked a place to go, and my limbs listened.

My brain was lightyears away.

I headed to a bar a few blocks from my apartment. I had been there countless times with some acquaintances from work. A few times with my friends that would come and visit the city, and once or twice with Hunter.

I felt my stomach flip at the thought of his name.

“What can I get you?” The bartenders voice ripped me from my thoughts as I pulled myself onto the bar stool. Blinking a few times, I smiled at the man and shrugged a shoulder.

After the man smiled back at me and lifted an eyebrow, I huffed and started to shrug my jacket off. “Whisky, neat.” I glanced at the man, a wide smile on his lips.

“I’m impressed.” He nodded and headed off into the bar. As he grabbed a glass and started making the drink, I surveyed the bar once and then directed my eyes back to the section of the bar in front of me.

I let myself get lost in the wood grain beneath my fingers until the man came back with the drink. Setting a coaster down, he gently set the glass down and then drummed his fingers. “Tab?”

Nodding, I turned to reach into my purse when a presence next to me cut off the light, casting me in a shadow. “Hey, can you-“

“You can put her on mine,” the man said, his voice overpowering my request. Once he had handed the bartender a card, he sat down at the stool next to me. I turned back around, my shoulder brushing against his for a moment.

I took a sip of my drink before turning to the man. “Hey, thanks.” I offered as I brought my eyes up to his. Once they landed on his face, I felt a wave of nervousness wash over me.

It had been six years since I had let anyone of the opposite sex make any kind of move on me. I didn’t know what to say or how to act anymore. I may have only been 23, but I felt like I was 60 when it came to any kind of mingling.

“I saw you on the bridge before,” the man gave me a warm, caring, apologetic smile before continuing, “seemed like you may need a free drink.. or two..”

I opened my mouth to speak, but as I managed to line up a few words, a wave of embarrassment washed over me. This man, this complete stranger saw me, heard me, essentially find out I was being cheated on and dump my boyfriend. He knew I was vulnerable, defeated, maybe even desperate—which, I was absolutely not.

“Not ill intentions, swear on my mother.”

“And how do I know that’s a promising swear?” I questioned, my muscles relaxing as the man leaned back. The light spread over his features, making the edges of my lips tug upward.

Shrugging his shoulders, he brought his glass to his lips and took a sip. “My mother was a hockey mom, need I say more?”

A laugh escaped my lips as I watched the brown-eyed man smile at me and set his drink down. Placing both large hands around the glass, he looked up at me from under his long lashes.

Hockey moms in Canada were a dime a dozen. Every mother seemed to be a hockey mom at some point, but that never changed the meaning. Up at 4:00am, kids to the rink by 5:00am, freezing cold until 7:00am, and then your normal day gets to start. To most players, moms were in the same categories as saints.

“Understood.” I flashed the man a smile and then looked back at my drink. For the next few minutes, we sat in silence. The noise from the other people and the TVs overhead filled the void. I didn’t mind it. I enjoyed his presence, the casual brush of his shoulder against mine.

It was nice to know someone was there.

It was nice to have my mind on something else.

“Hey,” I broke the silence between us. The mans ears perked as he turned to look at me, surprised I started a conversation. “I really needed something like this,” my fingers danced around the glass, “it means a lot, thank you.”

The brunette’s honey glazed brown eyes held mine for a while before a soft smile surfaced on his lips. Giving me a small nod, he picked his glass up and held it toward me.


Clinking my glass to his, I took a quick sip and set it back down on the coaster. Peering up at the man, a light blush crept onto my cheeks.

“Tessa,” I gave him a nod, “pleasure to meet you.”

“Auston,” he held out his hand. Pressing the palm of my hand into his, I sucked in a sharp breath. The skin to skin contact sent an explosion off in my brain.

The whisky I had almost finished was soaking into my brain. The events of the night were starting to fade into the back of my brain. I didn’t want to deal with him now. I didn’t want to deal with reality. I couldn’t.

“So, do you like whisky or are you just trying to impress me?”

When my eyes met his big brown orbs, I felt my brain start to shut down.

Hello distraction for the night, goodbye reasonable thinking.