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Author's note: This piece is a hockey/romance novel. It's a piece that was inspired by real people and real life events.
Coming into the new season, Nolan knew that he was a free agent. His future up for grabs. He was hoping that Washington would sign him to another three-year contract, but things weren't working out that way. In some ways he was glad that he wasn't tied down to Washington anymore, but in others he longed to stay. The main reason being Liz.
He had met Liz while he was playing in the minors for the Portland PIrates. He remembered that day like it was yesterday. The team was on the road in Norfolk, Virgina. They had just beat the Admirals 4-2 and he and a few buddies had decided to go to a bar near the hotel.
They had sat down at a booth and had just ordered drinks when he saw her. Leaning towards teammate Stewart Malgunas, he said, "I'm going to marry that woman some day."
To which Stew had replied, "No you're not."
"What do you mean, no I'm not?"
"You're not going to marry anyone just sitting here," he said taking a swig of his draft beer.
"Go introduce yourself Baumer, I dare you."
"Alright, I will."
Nolan had always been the shy type, the last person to go up to a woman in a bar, much less one in another state, but on this particular night, he had a certain confidence about him. He walked over to where the blonde was sitting with a sense of poise that he had never conducted before. Taking a sip of his Miller Lite, he spoke.
"Hello, do you come here often?"
She had looked at him with gleaming eyes and a radiant smile. Reluctant at first to talk to him, but warming as the conversation lengthened. She had by far been the greatest thing to ever happen to him. He could only hope that she would remain with him if and when the time came for him to move.
That was why he needed to get to the bottom of what was happening. He needed to know if he was staying or going, enough of the what ifs. Walking into the arena, he made his way to the Coach's office to discuss his future.
"Hey Coach, can I talk to you?"
"Sure Nolan, what's on your mind?"
"Well, it's about my contract. I know that it's up this year, I was just wondering if there had been any talk as to where I am playing this year?"
"Well Nolan, to be honest with you, we've been talking to Vancouver. They are very impressed with your defensive skills and your shot from the blue line. There has been some talk of you going there, but nothing is set in stone as of late."
Vancouver? They wanted to send him to Vancouver? Sure he would be closer to his family in Calgary, but what about Liz? She was from the states, a southern Virginia girl. He couldn't ask her to leave her friends and family behind to come with him, that would be unfair. Yet on the other hand, he couldn't see himself without her.
"Aren't there any other offers closer Coach? I mean, I don't mind if I have to take a bit of a pay cut. I'm just not so sure that I want to move all the way across the country. I've kind of grown accustomed to the East Coast."
"Unfortunately at this point in time, no. I will keep you posted on what happens and you know that I keep your best interest in mind. You're a great defense-man and I want you to go far in this league."
"I know Coach."
"And I'll be completely honest with you, Vancouver is a great organization to play for. Much better than the one that we are involved in. I think you would enjoy playing for them and get a lot more benefits than you can get from our organization. In the long run, Vancouver would be better for your career."
"I know Coach, but sometimes it's not always about the game."
"Well, then I guess you have to sit down and ask yourself. Do you want to be all about the game? Or do you want to settle down and retire from it, become a business man? The choice is yours."
"I know Coach. Thanks."
"You're welcome. I'll keep you posted as to what is going on with Vancouver."
Walking out of his office he let out a sigh. The only thing left to do now was to talk to Liz and come to a decision. With a knot in his stomach he got in his Chevrolet Blazer and headed towards their apartment.
"Liz are you home?" he asked walking into the small one bedroom apartment.
"Yeah, I'm in the kitchen" she replied.
Walking into the next room he found her leaning against the counter. Her hair was up in a messy bun, she wore sweatpants and a loose t-shirt. She had on her glass and was reading a copy of the latest Cosmopolitan magazine while eating a piece of toast.
"What's up babe?" she asked putting the magazine down and giving him a kiss.
"I just talked with the coach."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yes and no. He told me that there has been talk of sending me to Vancouver."
"Oh," she said, a look of what seemed like disappointment coming over her face.
"I guess nothing is set in stone, but they are interested in me and are close to making an offer. Coach seems to think that it would be a good idea for me to take this opportunity."
"Vancouver is so far away."
"I know, and I asked him if there were any teams closer, but there aren't. They're a great organization."
"I think that you should go," she said forcing a smile.
"But what about us?" he asked.
"We have been together for almost two years now and I have dealt with your travelling thus far. I'm willing to make the commitment if you are."
With a smile spreading across his face he wrapped his arms around her and replied, "You are the greatest woman that anyone could ever ask for."
As he stepped off the plane and onto Canadian soil, he couldn't help but feel at home once again. As much as he hated to admit it, he missed being home. There was just something different about Canada than the States. Perhaps it was the fact that he had grown up there, but for some reason Canada held close to his heart. Although he was excited to be back in his home country, he missed Liz. He hadn't talked to her in almost four days since the move had become official. He made a promise to himself to call her the minute he got to his new apartment. First, he had to meet his new teammates. Arriving at the arena, he took it all in. This was it. The beginning of something great. Entering the doors he made his way to the locker room to get acquainted with the team. As he entered the room and looked around, he realized he recognized a few familiar faces from Washington which made him feel a little bit better. "You must be Nolan," a tall, blond haired man said shaking his hand. "That's me." "I'm Kevin Bieksa. Nice to meet you." "Same to you." Going around the room he introduced myself to all of the guys and took his seat at his locker stall. Next to last on the far left side of the room, next to Mattius Ohlund. As he got dressed for practice he took in the atmosphere. It seemed to be more relaxed and laid back than Washington, less demanding maybe. They seemed like a team that was more than just a team but a family. The greatest type of environment to play in. He had a feeling that he had definitely made the right choice and that he was going to have the time of his life here. ***** Liz's Point of View ***** It had been almost three weeks since Nolan had packed up his things and moved across the country. Three weeks since she had seen his face. Three weeks since she had heard his voice. She hated the distance between them. This was the longest that they had ever been apart and it bothered her that he hadn't even bothered to call her. She knew that he had been busy trying to get settled, but how hard was a simple phone call saying I'm okay and I love you. She really hadn't wanted him to go, but how could she tell him no? This was his dream, his life, his career. She couldn't ask him to give all of that up. Not for her, that would have to be his choice and his idea, not hers. She secretly wished he would have asked her to go with him. S**t, if he were to call her tonight and ask, she would drop everything and be on the next flight out. She loved Nolan and it killed her to know that he was across the country, having the time of his life, without her. Maybe this was a sign. Maybe they weren't meant to be after all. Perhaps she had known this all along and had just been denying it. Yet for some reason, her heart wouldn't let her believe that. ******* Things were going exceptionally well in Vancouver. He had made his way to the third line with Ohlund and had already registered a couple of points. He hoped that Liz knew of all his progress. He had meant to call her the first night he arrived, but after practice the guys had taken him out and since then they had been on the road. He hated that she wasn't with him. He wanted more than anything to fall asleep next to her and to hear her voice tell him she loved him. Getting off of the bus, he hailed a taxi and headed towards his apartment. This time, he really was going to call Liz. "Hello?" "Hey baby," he said into the receiver. "Nolan?," she asked with a bit of excitement in her voice. "I would hope no one else calls you baby," he said playfully. "Oh my gosh, I have been so worried about you. How are things going?" "They're going really well. I really like the team. How are things in the States?" "They're the same as when you left them." "And how's my baby?" "I'm doing alright. I've been trying to keep busy. I miss you." "I miss you too baby. Lizzy, I wish that you could be here. I want nothing more than to cuddle up with you and shower you with kisses. I know that you have a life of your own established in Virginia, and I would never ask you to give that up for me, but I just wish sometimes that I could have you by my side at all times." "Nolan, all you have to do is ask. I have been a complete mess since you have been gone. I got so accustomed to you being here that I even miss smelling our dirty socks and went a full week without washing mine to try and get a similar smell in the apartment again." Laughing he responded, "Liz, are you telling me that you want to live with me?" "I'm telling you that if that's what you want, then I will be there." His heart was filled with love for her at that moment, she was truly one of a kind. "Of course I want you here Lizzy, but what about your job and family?" "Nolan you are my family, I love you and I want to have a future with you. As for jobs, there are plenty of opportunities in Canada. I can find something." "Well then, Liz. Will you please come and make me the happiest man in the world and live with me here in Vancouver?" "I would be honored. I love you Nolan." "I love you too." They made arrangements for her to fly out at the end of the week. hanging up the phone he had never felt so happy in his entire life. Not only was she going to be with him every day and night, but she would also be able to meet his parents finally. He was positive that he had finally found the love of his life, the one that he was destined to be with. He made note to find out where Stew was, to prove to him that he was going to marry the woman he saw at the bar on that cold day in December.
Liz's Point of View
As she un-boarded the plane her stomach was sick with nerves. She knew it was silly to be so nervous, especially after how long she had known Nolan, but she couldn't help it. It was the first time that she would be seeing him in three weeks and his family was going to be there. She had never met his family.
With her carry-on slung over her shoulder she made her way down the ramp to the air port terminal, a single door stood between her and the love of her life. Taking a deep breath she pushed the door open and began scanning the crowd.
The day had finally come for Liz to arrive and he was anxious. He was honored that she wanted to be with him as badly as he wanted her there. He had brought his parents with him to pick her up. He didn't want to wait any longer for his family to meet the woman he had been talking non stop about for the past few months. As the door began to be pushed open his heart began to pound. This was it, the moment he had been waiting for. He noticed her first and took her in. She was so beautiful. The way her hair fell just to her shoulders and her eyes narrowed as she tried to search the crowd for him. He smiled to himself as he watched her, his image of perfection. Finally she spotted him and a smile formed on her face. As she made her way over he opened his arms and welcomed her.
"Hi baby," he said pulling her close and kissing her forerhead.
"Hi," she said looking up at him.
"Liz, I would like you to meet my family. This is my mother Kathy and my father Dean."
"It's very nice to meet you Liz," Dean said giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"It is nice to meet you as well," she said as she fixed her carry-on on her shoulder.
"Here, let me take that," he said grabbing the bag and slinging it over his shoulder, wrapping the other around Liz's waist. "It's so good to have you here, there's so much I want to show you."
She simpy smiled up at him as they made their way to the luggage carrier to pick up the rest of her belongings.
Once they dropped her belongings off at his apartment, she changed and got ready for dinner. He was taking her to Sky 360, a very classy and upscale restaurant. As they got in his Chevrolet Trail Blazer he took her hand in his.
"I can't tell you how much this means to me Lizzy. Having you here is like a dream come true."
"I'm happy to be here too Nolan. I was a mess while I was away from you. I couldn't sleep at all. I got so used to having Norman at my feet that I even tried putting my wieghts at the end of the bed, but it didn't help."
Laughing he pulled into the parking lot and put the vehicle in park.
"We're here," he said opening her door and helpign her out. "This is Sky 360, one of the greatest places you will ever eat in your life."
She looked up in admiration. He could tell that she was impressed.
"They don't have places like this in Maryland," she stated.
"I know, there's a lot of things that we have here that they don't have in the states."
As they made their way inside he watched her as she took it all in. She was quiet and had a twinkle in her eye, like a little kid in a candy store.
The hostess brought them over to their table seated right next to the window overlooking the city.
"This is beautiful," she said looking out across Calgary as the sun went down over the horizon.
"I know you are," he said smiling so wide his skin wrinkled at the corners of his eyes.
Blushing she looked at him.
"I mean it Lizzy. You look amazing. You are the most beautiful woman that I have ever laid eyes on and I have thought so ever since the day that I saw you in the bar. You want to know what the funny thing is?"
"What?"she asked, taking a sip of her red wine.
"The funny thing is that I told Stew Malgunas that night that I would marry you one day," he said standing up and coming around to her side of the table, "And that is exactly what I intend to do," he said pulling a small Tiffany's box out of his pocket as she gasped. Getting down on one knee he said;
"Elizabeth Anselmo, will you marry me?"
Tears forming in her eyes she smiled wide and responded, "Yes I will," kissing him whole heartedly on the mouth, causing the restaurant to erupt into cheers.
He watched her as she admired the ring, the smile never leaving her face or his. He couldn't recall a greater feeling, winning the Calder Cup in 1994-1995 and the Championships in Juinors hadn't even felt this good. This was a feeling that he had never felt before, but he knew it would never go away. A feeling of happiness and fulfillment, love, joy and pride. He was anxious to start a life with Liz, a life together and by her saying yes he was all the more excited. As she dialed her parents' number on her cell phone to tell them the news he dug his out as well. Dialing the familiar number he waited.
"Hello?" the voice on the other line answered.
"Yeah, what's up."
"It's Nolan, from Portland. Remember that night at the bar when I told you I was going to marry that girl some day?"