Kellie and Brad Ch. 03bydrteetho©
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the third chapter to a multi-part story, I would suggest reading Chapters 1 and 2 before this one to understand the whole story. Many thanks to those who have read, voted and commented on the first two chapters of this story. Special thanks to Mostera1, who has provided encouragement to continue and the spark for story ideas, some of which show up in this chapter, and others that will appear in later instalments. Please enjoy.
She felt they were at the top of their game.
After a short break to celebrate the Christmas holidays, Kellie, Jennifer, Sandra and Amber gathered at the curling club to resume preparations for the upcoming women's curling Canadian championship. They were in the homestretch, with only seven weeks to go until the tournament began. One of the unique benefits of Kellie's team winning the championship last year was gaining automatic qualification to the next year's tournament as "Team Canada" without having to navigate through difficult provincial playdowns. They would have to adjust to a different training schedule than normal, but Kellie had a plan that she felt confident would ensure they all used this lead-up time to their benefit.
"Great job tonight girls! Everyone had good touch on their draw and tapback weight shots tonight. We're in good shape for next week," Kellie said, full of praise for her teammates.
"Thanks skip, but I can't wait for the Skins Game at the end of the month, that's gonna be so much fun!" Amber chirped excitedly.
Kellie smiled. "I appreciate the enthusiasm, Amber, but first things first. We need to focus on what's happening now and not look too far ahead, that's the only way we'll be successful."
"You're right, skip. Don't worry, I'll be ready."
"It's hard not to get too excited, I have to admit," Sandra chimed in. "We're playing well, we're the defending champs, what's not to like?"
"We can't get overconfident though. When we start thinking 'we're all that', that's when we're going to get knocked down a peg or two," replied Jennifer. "Curling's funny that way."
They all nodded at her words of wisdom.
"Other than keeping focused and in control of ourselves and our game, we really only have one other problem right now. Where are we going to find another alternate?" Kellie asked.
The room fell silent as the four teammates contemplated the issue. All curling teams are permitted to carry a spare player, or an alternate. The player who had filled that role in past years had moved out of province to accept a new career opportunity, and the team struggled to fill the vacancy. The candidates they had considered were either unavailable or, for whatever reason, not the right fit. This was not a trivial concern, because if one of the players were to be injured (heaven forbid that were to happen, Kellie often thought), they would need someone who could step in to take her place without missing a beat.
High-pitched electronic beeping broke the quiet. "That's my cell, just a sec girls," said Jennifer. Kellie could only shake her head; it seemed that, other than during curling practice or games, that device was welded to her third's hands and head.
Jennifer spoke into her cell phone while her teammates stood by to hear the one-sided conversation. "Hello?... Hey Heather, how you doin' girl?... I'm great, just finished practice with the rest of the team... Yep, Kellie, Sandra, Amber, they're all still here... Oooh, I love it when you have news, girl! Come on, spill it!... Oh really?... OK hang on a minute, I'll put you on speakerphone."
Jennifer turned to her teammates and said, "Heather says she has news we all need to hear."
"OK," replied Kellie, "enough with the suspense, let's hear it." Sandra and Amber nodded in agreement.
Jennifer pressed a couple buttons on her phone. "Go ahead Heather."
"Hey Kellie, Sandra, Amber, can you hear me?" The voice on the other end was a little tinny but otherwise pretty clear, all things considered.
"Sure can, Heather, now what's this big news you have?" asked Kellie.
"I've been kicked off Anita's team."
The news wasn't entirely surprising to Kellie, considering how Heather already stuck her neck out to help reveal the truth about Brad's faithfulness to Kellie and resistance to Anita's advances, but it was a bit of a shock all the same.
Before she could ask what happened, however, Jennifer rather snapped at her friend. "Jeez, about time! You told me you were going to quit before Christmas!"
"Please don't be mad, babe, I'm sorry I waited so long!"
The exchange struck Kellie as rather strange. She looked at Jennifer with a raised eyebrow. Jennifer just shrugged and decided to quickly proceed in the hope it would cover for that awkward passage. "That's OK, you got it done, I'm still proud of you!" she told Heather.
"So tell us how it happened!" Sandra demanded.
Heather chuckled. "I'm sure this won't come as a surprise to you, but Anita's been on a rampage since we got back, she's been so angry and impatient with everyone. So yesterday we're practicing, and yet again she turns another routine disagreement into a big argument. She's in my face yelling, so I just snapped and told her how I taped that conversation and played it for you, Kellie, and as a result you got back together with Brad. Well, Anita was so enraged I think she turned purple! She hauled off and slapped me right in the face, called me a traitor and told me to get out."
The four team members gasped at this revelation. "Holy hell!" Jennifer exclaimed out loud. "What did you do in response?"
"Nothing. I just smiled and walked out the door."
"Nice!" Amber said, echoing what the others were thinking; Heather's response was perfect.
Kellie let this new development sink in for a moment, and then a broad grin spread across her face. It would be a rare chance to turn the tables on Anita by playing a mind game of her own, and she didn't think she could pass up the opportunity. She also thought the others would enjoy having Heather as part of the team, especially Jennifer. A win-win situation all around.
She looked at each of her teammates and asked quietly, "Hey girls, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
It took a moment for the others to register, but when they did their approval was instantaneous. "Yeah, awesome, great idea skip!" they replied in unison.
"Hey, what's going on, what are you all talking about?" Heather asked.
"Heather, we have a proposal for you," Kellie said. "Our alternate had to move out of province a few weeks ago, so we have an opening on our team. Now, unfortunately you won't see as much playing time as you had with Anita, but otherwise you'll be a full member of our team in every way. Just take some time to think about it and you can call Jennifer and let her know what you decide, OK?"
"That's OK, I don't need time to think about my decision, skip. I'm in!"
"Great! How soon can you join us?" Jennifer queried.
"How does tomorrow sound?"
Jennifer then reached out to hug Kellie. "Thank you skip! This means so much to me, you have no idea how thrilled I am to have Heather on our team."
"Yes, Kellie, I can't thank you enough either, I'll be sure to give you a great big hug tomorrow!" Heather called out over the phone.
"You're welcome girls!" Kellie said. "But I'm not just doing this for you two, you know! I think this will be great for all of us. Right, Sandra and Amber?" The second and lead readily agreed with Kellie's sentiments.
Heather agreed to speak further to Jennifer to work out the details of the switch, any move, travel and/or living arrangements and so on. Once that was taken care of, everyone in the room grinned, one thought clearly on all their minds. It was Amber who gave voice to it.
"How do you think Anita will react when she hears this?"
"I don't know," Heather replied, "but I can't WAIT to find out!"
All five members of the team laughed long and loud. Things were definitely looking up.
One week later, things were looking up for Brad as well.
He and Kellie were at the hospital. He was sitting patiently in a treatment room, trying to stay still as the young-looking doctor was cutting the cast from his hand. After a few minutes the task was finally complete, and Brad's right hand was free of its plaster prison. He put both hands in front of his eyes, feeling the clamminess of the skin on his right and seeing how it had slightly atrophied compared to the left. He tried to squeeze his right hand shut but winced a little at the pain, unable to close it fully.
"Whoa, be careful, Brad," the doctor spoke up. "The bones have healed well, very well in fact, but the surrounding damaged tissue is still healing, and that will take time, several weeks for sure, maybe even as long as three months in total."
"But I will fully heal, right doc?"
"Oh yes, just make sure you follow the exercise and therapy plan we laid out for you, and soon enough you'll be right as rain. Just don't try to do too much and rush things. I'd hate to see you back in here with more damage and have to go through this all over again. Oh, and one more thing."
"Try not to punch any more metal lockers."
Brad smirked at his doctor's dry humour. He thanked the doctor, awkwardly using his left arm to shake his hand. He knew it would be a challenge to be patient, but he resolved to try his best to follow the plan properly and otherwise let the healing process take its course.
Kellie and Brad returned home and ate dinner. Afterwards they talked while she packed her suitcase, as she and her team were leaving for the west coast the next day for one of their preparatory competitions.
"You must be glad to finally be out of that cast," Kellie remarked to Brad.
"Very," he answered. "It will still take me a while to get fully back to speed, but at least I'll feel like I'm doing more of my fair share again, both at work and helping out around the home here, instead of just being a spare part."
"Well, you're never just a spare part to me."
"Aw, thanks babe." He got up, kissed her and held her close, resting his forehead against hers. "I'll miss you when you're away."
"I'll miss you too, honey. I wish you could be there with us."
"Me too. But you'll be fine, Kellie, I'm sure you and the girls will play great."
"Thanks Brad. I feel confident we'll do very well."
"You know, I'm still sort of amazed there are all these other tournaments and TV events where you can actually make some money if you do well. It's pretty great, isn't it?"
"Sure is. Our sport has come a long way."
The couple turned quiet. To Brad it looked like there was something else on Kellie's mind that she wanted to say. Smiling, he reached into his left pants pocket, pulled out a penny and showed it to her.
"For your thoughts?" he asked.
Kellie laughed, a sound that always sounded like music to Brad's ears. She took the penny from him and put it in her own pocket, thinking about how silly this gesture was, but also how it was the catalyst that elevated their relationship from tentative dating to one of true love and commitment.
"Brad, you're ridiculous!" she teased. "But I was thinking about the wedding..."
Brad winced, but the smile never really left his face. "I was afraid of that. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut after all."
Kellie playfully slapped his shoulder. "Stop it, you! I'm trying to be serious!"
"OK, OK, I'll try to behave."
"Alright, well you know it's been almost a year since you proposed, right?"
"Ah yes, I remember it well!"
"Best day of my life so far, Brad. I mean that."
"Mine too, Kellie. Mine too."
Still holding each other close, they kissed. Kellie broke the kiss reluctantly before she melted too far away into Brad's touch, as she wanted to speak her mind before she lost her nerve.
"Anyway, you know how much trouble we've had making all the plans and preparations, dealing with the families and all that, even something as simple as choosing a time and a place."
"Don't I know it! It's one of the few things we can't seem to figure out."
Kellie paused, unsure of what to say next. Her mind raced as she debated how to say what she was thinking, until Brad unwittingly gave her the opening she needed.
Shaking his head, he said, "You know, sometimes I think we should just go down to the courthouse and see the justice of the peace, have a couple close friends each as witnesses and just get it done!"
Kellie gasped. Brad misread her reaction as being upset. He kissed her forehead and softly ran his fingers through her hair. "I'm sorry, Kellie, I know it's a selfish reaction on my part. We can keep discussing this until we work it out. There's no hurry, you know. I'm not going anywhere!"
"Thank you Brad, that's very sweet. Truth is, though, I was going to suggest we do the very same thing."
Brad's eyes widened in surprise. "Really? I thought you wanted a fancy ceremony and a big reception. We still can, you don't have to change your mind just because of what I said. It's your day, I want it to be special for you, and I'll make whatever decisions and compromises I have to just to make sure you're happy."
Kellie shrugged and looked Brad directly in the eye. "I love you so much for being so concerned with what I want, but it's OK, really. I've thought about this for quite a while now. I used to want the big production so I could feel just like a fairy-tale princess, like just about every little girl does. But I've realized now that all the rituals and ceremonial trappings don't really matter to me. Falling in love with you and marrying you in front of my best friends and loved ones is my own fairy tale coming true. It's all I care about and all I need to be happy. I can't wait to be your wife, Brad, and I can't wait to tell the world I married the most wonderful man there is and I will love him forever!"
"Kellie, no matter what kind of ceremony we have, I'll proclaim it from every rooftop in this town if I have to, that I married the most beautiful and special woman in the world, that I love her and will love her until the end of time.
Their hearts were filled with love for each other all over again. The couple kissed tenderly; it was a long, slow, lingering, lovers' kiss.
"You're amazing, Kellie, you know that?" Brad exclaimed as he brushed a tear away from her cheek.
Kellie blushed a little but smiled as she said, "You're pretty amazing yourself!"
Brad reluctantly let go of Kellie to allow her to finish packing. He climbed into bed, and before long Kellie lay down behind him. She gently rubbed his chest, tracing small circles over his well-defined pectoral muscles. He let out a low sigh at the softness of her delicate touch.
"Will your parents be OK with this?" she asked with a hint of worry in her voice. Kellie had met Brad's parents a number of times and liked them immediately. There was a sense of closeness, belonging and love that she rarely found with her own family. She didn't want to do anything that would upset or disappoint them.
Brad turned to face Kellie and brushed a stray lock of hair from her face. "They'll be fine. Don't worry about them." Brad was naturally a little worried, but he knew he didn't really need to be, it was nothing more than a reflex reaction. He was an only child, and his parents never refused him anything if they could afford it, yet they managed to not spoil him rotten and instilled the positive values in him that he held today. He often thought about how lucky he was to have such loving parents.
So the contrast between his family and hers was jarring. He didn't really want to ask the question, yet he felt compelled to do so. "What about... your family?"
"Ugh!" Kellie exclaimed in disgust, flopping her head on the pillow. She really didn't want to think of her own family at any time, let alone now. Brad immediately felt guilty for bringing this topic up in the first place.
He had only been introduced to both her parents and the aunt and uncle she boarded with when moving to their small hometown one time, at a family gathering that for some reason Kellie felt obligated to attend. He insisted on joining her to provide support even though she said it was not necessary.
The encounter with her parents was very awkward. The father couldn't stop talking about Kellie's brother, who was playing professional hockey in Switzerland, and how, if not for a bad break here and an idiot coach there, he'd be tearing it up in the NHL. The mother raved on and on over Kellie's younger sister, who was also in Europe, studying art at a prestigious university in Paris and doing some modelling on the side. Meanwhile they barely spoke two words to each other, part of the fallout of their difficult divorce, and they made little mention of Kellie or gave even the slightest hint they were proud of her. Nothing she said or did seemed right or good enough for them. Brad couldn't decide whether they were truly mean people or just so wrapped up in themselves and their favoured children that they didn't realize the effect their actions had on Kellie, before deciding he didn't care. The net effect was the same; they were hurting her, and he hated them for it. The aunt and uncle were better, and they seemed to care about Kellie in their own way, but they were standoffish and hard to warm up to.
He remembered being so heartbroken for her when she cried the whole way on the drive back home. He remembered holding her all night, wishing so badly he could do something, anything, to make this pain, this hole in her life, go away. What do you do when the love of your life has a problem that you can do nothing to solve? You feel helpless. Brad felt that way then, and he felt that way now.
"I'm sorry honey. Maybe I shouldn't have brought that up," he said.
Kellie sighed. As much as she hated to admit it, Brad was right to ask the question. It was the elephant in the room, the problem that could not be avoided. "Brad, it's OK. I do have to figure out what to do."
"So what's the plan?"
Kellie thought for a while before just blurting it out. "I'm just going to tell them. I'll call my parents and my aunt and uncle when I get back on Monday. I'm pretty sure Aunt Linda and Uncle Vic will be OK with this. I just hope my parents will be, but I'll tell them that's what we're going to do, regardless."
"And I'll support you, one hundred percent. It will take a lot of courage to stand up to them."
"Don't worry about me. I'm sick and tired of being afraid of my family, especially my parents. It's time I just tell them like it is. Besides, I'm not the meek little mouse I was when you first met me. I have some backbone now, thanks to you. I'm not looking forward to doing this, but as long as I have you, I'll be just fine."
"Have I ever told you you're so sexy when you're confident?"
Kellie rolled her eyes at Brad. "You're such a horndog, you know that?"
Brad pretended to be offended. "What? ME??"
"Don't even try to deny it. I'm on to you!"
"All right, all right. Guilty as charged. It's really your fault though, for being so damn gorgeous! Besides, I think you secretly like it."
Kellie smiled. Then in a flash she took Brad by surprise, straddling him and grabbing his forearms, pinning them down. "I love it, baby," she purred. "And I'll show my horndog how much of a hot little minx I can be!"
Brad couldn't help but laugh at how suddenly Kellie had pounced on him. The laughter soon turned to gasps and pleasurable moans as she kissed his chest and teasingly flicked at his nipples with her tongue. She intensely stared at him as she moved the pads of her fingers down his chest and abs with cat-like grace. His strong, muscled body and his masculine scent turned her on. If not for having to wake up early to make the long drive to the airport, she would have happily let him ravish her body all night long, but that didn't mean she couldn't have a little fun before going to sleep.