Kellie and Brad Ch. 02bydrteetho©
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the second chapter to a multi-part story, I would suggest reading Chapter 1 before this one to understand the whole story. Please enjoy.
She seethed in anger, again.
Anita Morriss had just pressed play on her remote control. She had already watched her DVD copy of the local access cable channel`s broadcast of last year`s provincial curling finals, during which she suffered the heaviest defeat of her professional career, more times than she cared to count. Yet here she was watching it again. She heard the announcers say how much her team had defeated Kellie Ferguson`s team over the years, and she couldn`t help but shake her head at just how different the outcome was that time around.
As difficult as it was for Anita to accept losing at all, never mind to a team from some Podunk little town she thoroughly dominated many times before, there were many reasons for the loss that she could rationalize in her mind, if she wanted to. Kellie and her team were just on that day. Anita`s team did not play well, herself included. They were probably overconfident, having beaten Kellie so often in the past. Sometimes the old law of averages just catches up to you. Just one of those days, really.
Except, none of them satisfied Anita. There was something else going on, maybe just under the surface, but it was there nonetheless.
Not that she thought Kellie cheated. That was impossible. The game and its competitors were too honest for that, though Anita wasn`t above playing some old-fashioned mind games to help gain a competitive edge. Besides, even if subtle cheating had any sort of "wink-wink" acceptance in curling, Kellie was far too naïve and clueless to do anything like that.
Perhaps it was better training, new coaching, something along those lines. Wrong again, Anita thought. Her information gathering network would have gone into overdrive if that happened. Her coaches and extended support group kept track of all her main competition; they charted everything about their training, their strategy, their coaches... anything and everything having to do with how they played the game. If one of them sneezed during a training session, Anita knew about it.
So while she knew Kellie`s team had played well leading into provincials, better than they had before, she also believed it was insufficient explanation for what happened that day. And no matter how often she watched this DVD, no matter how often she thought about what that missing element was, she had not yet discovered the answer. And that bothered her in a way nothing else ever had.
Anita fast-forwarded through much of the actual match play, stopping only where she thought she might see something that would solve her problem. As of yet she had gained no new insights. She continued fast-forwarding to the end. Usually she would shut it off at this point, often so angry she wanted to throw something across the room. But this time she kept watching, thinking there might be something, anything, that she could learn.
She watched the camera focus on the Ferguson team celebrating, the perfunctory handshakes her own team exchanged with theirs, their moving to the stands, all of them appearing to embrace loved ones...
Anita`s eyebrow raised up as she paused the DVD. As far as she knew, Kellie was single and had a difficult relationship with her family; they rarely if ever attended her matches. So if there was a special new person in Kellie`s life, this would be an unexpected development. She wondered why she didn`t notice it then, and then thought back to the anger and bitterness she tried to suppress at that time. No, Kellie could have stripped naked right there on the ice, and Anita would not have taken notice, so consumed with the defeat she was.
Now, however, she realized this could be the final piece of the puzzle she was looking to solve.
She stopped the DVD and ejected it from the player, and went to her computer to view it on her monitor. She fast-forwarded to the same point, hit pause and took a screen grab picture of that frame. She zoomed in the left corner, where Kellie was hugging somebody. The picture quality was fairly poor, but she could tell it was a man Kellie was with. He looked around her own age, and appeared to be reasonably handsome.
In order to confirm her growing suspicions, Anita went to the stack of DVDs she kept next to her TV, and pulled one which was still unopened. Her coach had written on the packaging, "Watch this, for motivation for next year!", but she had left the package alone. She knew Kellie`s team had won the Canadian title as well, but she could not stomach to watch even a second of that tournament.
And, technically, she still wouldn`t. For what she was interested in was not the game itself, but the celebration afterward.
Anita fast-forwarded this DVD until she found what she was looking for. The professional camera work was much sharper than what the volunteers with ancient equipment could provide. So there was no doubt this time that Kellie`s celebratory embrace was with an attractive, muscular man.
"Huh, amazing," Anita said out loud to no one in particular. "That nerd Kellie managed to snag herself a man!"
And that had to be the answer, didn`t it? Anita knew from personal experience that when she was getting some action in the sack, everything else in her life was much better. While she was, for now, happily single, she had achieved more than her fair share of sexual conquests; men could never resist her blonde hair and blue eyes, her tight yet curvy body, nor her assertive (to the point of being aggressive) sexuality. In between these "trophies", she had no shortage of "friends-with-benefits" when she needed to scratch that itch.
Anita breathed a sigh of relief. It wouldn`t erase the past, of course, but there was at least a small slice of bitter satisfaction at having cracked the proverbial code. She sat back on her couch, deep in thought.
She knew this coming season would be pivotal in her curling career. It had been two years since she had been to the national finals. The first year she had to take time off from the game so she and her mother could help her sister, who was seriously injured in a car accident, raise her spoiled brat of a son. And, of course, there was last season`s debacle. So motivation was definitely not an issue. She would train and practice harder than ever, and she would drive her team to do the same. She would increase her film work on her competitors, and meet more with her various coaches to go over every possible strategic detail she could encounter.
Even with her control-freak tendencies, however, Anita knew that there were some things she could not make bend to her will. If Kellie Ferguson really did have a boyfriend, and if that really did help make her, and by extension her team, become a more formidable curling rink, there wasn`t anything Anita Morriss could do about it.
They were deeply in love.
The past 18 months had been a whirlwind for Kellie. Brad`s courtship of her was sweet, like everything else about him, and his support and love for her helped her become a happier, more confident person. Without him, she was convinced there would have been no way she could be the kind of player and skip needed to lead her curling team to win the Canadian championship. It was the best period of her life in every possible way, and in truth it wasn`t even close.
The same kinds of feelings held true for Brad. Though he did not have the level of personal challenges over which Kellie had to rise, he did have the sense that his life was drifting away from him before he took a chance and asked her out for their first date. No longer; now it had structure and purpose, he had a reason to get up each and every morning and be the best he could be.
They had both found their best friend, their lover, their soul mate. Someone to share life`s highs, someone to lean on for support during its lows. They talked plenty about curling, but they also spent a lot of time talking about other things. Getting married. What their future might hold. Current events, and love and life in general.
Kellie and Brad expressed their love for each other in many ways. They said I love you to each other often. They made other simple gestures, like Brad holding doors open for Kellie and other such acts of chivalry, and Kellie helping to straighten Brad`s tie when they were going out for a fancy night out, and other such caring touches. They held hands in public almost constantly. Certainly anyone who saw them together could see how much they loved each other.
And, of course, they also spent many nights making sweet, passionate love to each other. They enjoyed the process that all new lovers go through of exploring each other`s bodies, finding out what the other likes, what turns them on. Kellie loved running her soft hands over Brad`s powerfully muscled chest, and thrilled to feel his strong hands touching her all over. Brad loved how Kellie sighed blissfully when he gently nibbled on her earlobes, and of course took every opportunity he could to touch her ass, marvelling at how perfectly each cheek felt in his hands.
There was no doubt Kellie and Brad were deeply, madly in love with each other. They were absolutely convinced that, while there would be difficulties from time to time as life intruded, there was absolutely nothing that could stop this most perfect love.
It all started so innocently.
The late summer sun was powerful in the sky, and the heat and humidity hung heavy in the air. It was one of those days that you broke into a serious sweat just thinking about moving, Brad thought to himself. He was returning home after another hard day`s work. The curling club was embarking on a major maintenance program, so Brad`s days were extremely busy, both in helping Russ to oversee the project and in rolling up his sleeves to take part in some good old-fashioned manual labour. He was returning to an empty house for now, as Kellie was at a training session with her teammates and wouldn`t be home for another couple of hours. He looked forward to doing little more than grabbing a quick sandwich and an ice-cold beer and moving as little as possible until it was time to sleep.
He walked up to the front porch of the modest house he and Kellie now shared. He opened the mailbox and pulled out a couple of official-looking envelopes. Probably just bills, he sighed. He went to unlock the front door and go inside when something on the patio table caught his eye.
It was an oddly-shaped package, wrapped in festively-coloured paper. This was curious, Brad thought to himself. No one he knew would be sending any special deliveries to himself or Kellie. Would they? Very curious indeed.
Brad brought everything inside and pulled a beer from the fridge. He took two long, satisfying pulls from the bottle, savouring the taste and coldness of the alcoholic beverage. His immediate thirst quenched for now, he returned his attention to the peculiar package. He took the card that was stapled to the top of the package. It read, simply, in a standard typing font, "To Brad". Nothing else was on the card; no indication who it was from, no return address, nothing.
Even more curious, he opened the package, and revealed a miniature flowering bonsai tree. It wasn`t what he expected, but then again what would he expect in the first place from such a mysterious delivery? He picked it up and studied it. It looked nice enough, and was a lot less "girly" than a gift of flowers, for example. He smiled, thinking that it could only be Kellie teasing him with some elaborate plan that would lead to a romantic, maybe even sexual, evening. He gave the plant a little water and left it on the dining room table, quickly preparing himself a sandwich before returning to the couch to eat and drink the rest of his beer.
He planned to thank Kellie for the thoughtful gift, but by the time Kellie got home and they got to talking about each other`s day, he forgot all about the plant.
He didn`t think to mention it to Kellie until one week later, when he returned home from work and found another package waiting for him. Brad wondered just what Kellie`s plan was. Like the first delivery, this package had a card reading "To Brad," but nothing more. Curious-er and curious-er, Brad thought.
He knew Kellie had curling practice and would be home late, so again he could open this package without interruption. He opened the plain box, and this time found an oversized silver old-fashioned key. He inspected it closely and found some engraving on it; it read, "Brad, you hold the key to my heart!"
He smiled and shook his head, wondering what Kellie would think of next.
When Kellie returned home, Brad leapt off his chair. He playfully grabbed her, lifted her up off the ground and delivered a deep, long and passionate kiss.
"Well hello to you too, Brad!" Kellie exclaimed, laughing and still slightly out of breath. "What`s gotten into you?"
Brad hugged Kellie tightly and said, "I love you Kellie."
"I love you too Brad!"
"I just wanted to thank you and show my appreciation for the gifts you got me."
Kellie`s brow furrowed. "I`m sorry, what did you say?"
"Thank you for the gifts."
Brad looked slightly incredulous. "What do you mean, what gifts?"
"Bradley Galenchuk, what on earth are you talking about?!"
Brad recognized the tone of Kellie`s voice. She usually only used the combination of that particular tone of exasperation and saying his full name when she was either annoyed with him, or just pretending to be. He figured, correctly, that this time it wasn`t the latter. He asked Kellie to wait a minute and went into the dining room where he collected both of the items delivered to their house.
Kellie watched Brad retreat and return with a small plant and a shiny silver object. He handed them to her and she heard him say, "The bonsai tree came last week, the key was delivered today."
She looked at them both carefully. "I wondered what the heck this plant was," she said. She then raised an eyebrow when she read the engraving on the key.
Brad asked, "So, you didn`t send these, then?"
"No. No I did not." Kellie was clearly irritated. "Who did?"
"I don`t know."
"What do you mean, you don`t know?"
Brad produced the two cards. "See? No identifying information or return address."
Kellie looked at both sides of the cards and nodded. "You`re right." She shook her head. "This is very weird."
"So, you`re not mad at me, then?"
"No, Brad, I`m not mad at you. But I am worried about who is sending these packages, and what that person`s intentions are."
"Maybe it`s the guys at work, playing a prank on me. They can be such jokers sometimes!"
"Maybe," Kellie said, though she was far from convinced.
Brad read the concern on Kellie`s face and kissed her forehead. "Listen, I`ll just tell the guys that the joke isn`t funny anymore and has to stop. I`m sure they`ll understand."
"What if it`s not them?" Kellie asked.
Brad thought for a moment and replied, "I don`t know."
He suddenly wished he could find a better answer for what was quickly becoming a most unusual situation.
The packages kept coming.
One on the Wednesday of each week, just like the first two.
A box of chocolates on the third week. A charm bracelet the next.
Brad had no idea what was in the fifth package. Kellie got home before he did that day, and when he returned he found her visibly shaking and upset. In a flash of anger, Kellie flung the box to the ground, and Brad heard the contents smash into pieces. After trying to calm her down Brad picked the card off the now damaged package and found it addressed exactly the same as all the others.
If he didn`t know before, he certainly knew now that this foolishness had to stop. He promised Kellie that he would call the courier company and instruct them not to deliver anything that did not at least have a return address, and that they would not accept anything unless they signed for it first. She apologized for losing her temper and agreed with this course of action, and they expressed hope that it would work.
Brad made the phone call the next day and was assured by the person from the courier company that they would comply with the request. When nothing else was delivered for two weeks in a row, both Kellie and Brad sighed in relief. They accepted that they may never know who sent these items and why, but it seemed that this mystery was over.
Except it wasn`t.
The following Wednesday, a rainy October day, Brad found another package waiting for him in his locker room at the curling club. He let out an exasperated sigh and picked it up. He examined the card, which was addressed the same as the others, with one major difference; it was written in ink instead of typed out, and the writing was a flowery script, almost certainly a woman`s handwriting. Not Kellie`s though; Brad recognized her handwriting and knew this wasn`t it.
Brad walked over to the office of Russ, his boss, and placed the package on his desk. Russ arched an eyebrow and asked, "What`s this?"
"I was hoping you could tell me," replied Brad.
Russ shook his head. "Did you open it?"
"Then how should I know?" Russ read the card and chuckled. "And this sure as hell ain`t my handwriting!"
Brad sighed. "I know that. I guess I was, maybe, hoping you saw or knew who delivered this."
"Nope. Sorry Brad."
Brad nodded and frowned. Russ noticed this and decided to dig a little further. "Something on your mind?"
Brad thought for a moment and then sat down in the chair across from Russ`s desk. "The last several weeks, Kellie and I have had a lot of similar packages delivered to our house. All addressed to me, with no return address. We figured out how to stop it a couple weeks ago so I thought whoever was playing this joke on us was done." He tapped the package on the desk and continued, "Until today, that is."
Russ stroked his chin, deep in thought. He asked, "You sure Kellie`s not playing secret admirer?"
Brad smirked, thinking of Kellie destroying the package delivered on the fifth week, and replied, "Believe me Russ, I know for an absolute fact Kellie has nothing to do with this."
"I see. Have you asked anyone here if they did it?"
"Everyone I could think of. No one has fessed up yet."
"Well if I get a chance, I`ll ask around, but I wouldn`t hold my breath."
Brad shook Russ`s hand and thanked him for trying. He took the package with him and stuffed it in his locker, not wanting to open it. The rest of his day passed by without incident, other than word getting around about his latest delivery and him taking some good-natured ribbing over it.
Another package awaited him the next week. He stuffed it in his locker and slammed it shut. Brad hated to admit it, but this whole scenario was bothering him, upsetting his usually calm demeanour.
That night, both Kellie and Brad were tense and on edge. Both hardly said a word to each other, and when they did talk it was in clipped, sometimes harsh one-word sentences. They were both feeling guilty about speaking to each other so unkindly, which made them feel even worse, except they were so riled up they were too proud to call a truce to their hostilities.
They both went to bed still angry. Kellie turned off the lamp and lay on her side. After a couple minutes, she flicked the light back on.
He sighed. "Yes Kellie?"
"Look, this is ridiculous. We`re both angry and taking it out on each other for no good reason. I`m sorry for being so upset with you."
"No Kellie, I`m the one who should be sorry. I was very harsh with you tonight, and that was wrong of me. Can you forgive me?"