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Across the Miles
Author's note: This is an Evgeni Malkin original story based on the quote below. I do not own Evgeni Malkin, however the ideas involved in this story are all mine. Word Count:4,538 Quote:"The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step"-Confucius
Summer was and always had been my favorite time of year. Although lasting only a few weeks, the sixty degree weather was what I looked forward to. Especially now. Those were the only weeks that I got to see Evgeni. Four weeks out of the entire year. Up until this past September we had never been apart for more than a day. Although the distance killed me and tore me apart most days, I was happy for him. He was doing what he had always wanted. He had made his dreams come true. He moved to the States for ten months out of the year to play professional hockey. Evgeni had talked about going professional for as far back as I could remember like many of the kids here in Russia.
I remembered the year he got his first hockey stick. The way his eyes lit up as he unwrapped the paper from the blade. He ran his fingers across the shaft examining every inch of it before running over to his mom and wrapping his arms around her neck. From that day on he had practiced every day for long hours, sometimes practicing right through dinner. I always admired his drive and determination. And it had paid off for him.
Now he was in some town on the East Coast of the United States of America, doing what he loved. Though it tore me up inside to not have him with me every day, I was glad he was happy.
We still talked on the phone whenever he had time, but with practice, work outs, games, traveling and the time difference, it was rare to hear his voice on the other end of the line.
But in two days he would be here, in Magnitogorsk. I could only hope that things would be the same between us.
"Hey Geno!" team mate Sidney Crosby hollered over to me as I was getting in my cab.
"Have a safe trip back and good luck with Annlie," he said waving.
"Thanks, have fun in Halifax. I'll see you in a couple months."
I closed my door and rested my head on the head rest.
"Air port please," I told the taxi driver.
As I sat there I thought about Annlie. This was the longest that I had ever been away from her, and it was torture to not be able to hear her voice every day. I missed that voice of hers. My voice of reason I always told her. She was who helped keep my sanity most of the time, it was a wonder that I hadn't gotten in to trouble without her. The truth was I missed her terribly.
Only one more day until I would see her beautiful face again and hear her soft voice in my ear welcoming me home.
Just then my thoughts were interrupted by the taxi driver saying, "We're here sir."
"Thank you," I replied gathering my things together and heading through the revolving door that led to the air port.
As I made my way through security and then to my terminal, my mind raced. Truth be told, I was nervous. Sure I was excited to be going home, but how would Annlie react? Would she meet me at the ariport? Would she be mad at me for not staying in touch with her as much as I should have? Would she still be the same Annlie, my Annlie? All of my answers were just a plane ride away.
I paced the floor in front of Terminal 7A of the Magnitogorsk Airport, awaiting Evgeni's arrival. Would he still look the same? The tall, lean sweet boy who had stolen my heart from the first day I met him? Would he recognize me or had it been so long that he had forgotten about me entirely?
Before I could torture myself with my own thoughts, the doors to the terminal opened and people came flooding through them. I was beginning to think that he had decided to stay in the States when at last I spotted him.
I noticed him before he noticed me, allowing me a few seconds to take him all in. America had done him well. He had toned up and had even managed to grow a little bit of a stache that suited him. But mostly he was just as I remembered, his hair tousled just so, his crooked grin and loving eyes. Seeing him again made all my feelings for him ten times stronger and I knew that he had stolen my heart once again.
"Attention all passengers, we are making our decent now to Magnitogorsk, Russia. We will be on the ground in about five minutes, and as always thank you for choosing JetBlue Airlines."
This was it. The moment of truth. Would she be there? I gathered my things and headed to the front of the plane and through the terminal. I made my way through the doors and scanned the crowd. There she was.
Standing by the far row of chairs was Annlie, waiting with a smile on her face. Her brown hair fell to her shoulders and she wore a pair of jeans and a t-shirt to cover her petite figure. She was even more beautiful than I remembered.
"Hello beautiful," I said dropping my bags and scooping her up.
"Hello yourself stranger. How have you been?"
"I've been good, but I have missed you."
"I have missed you too," she said wrapping her arm around my waist as we headed to the luggage carrier to find my suit case.
"What have you been doing since I left? How is your job?"I asked waiting for my bag to come around on the belt.
"Well, I haven't been up to a whole lot. I try and help my mom out at the house to pass the time. As for work, it's the same as always. Creating advertisements and selling people's businesses."
"How is your mom doing anyways, I know the last time we had talked she wasn't doing so well,"I said grabbing my bag and heading towards the exit.
"She's doing better. She still cries a lot and neglects to go in Vlad's room."
Feeling a pang of guilt shoot through me I answered, "I'm sorry I could not be here with you. You shouldn't have had to go through that alone." Annlie's father had been non-existent since the day she was born and in May Annlie's brother had passed away while I was away. He had been hit by an oncoming vehicle one day on his way home. It was an obstacle her mother couldn't get over.
"It's okay. You had other things to take care of. How is the team?"
"The team is good. Look Ann, I am sorry that I couldn't keep in touch with you as much as I should have."
"It's alright. Really. To tell you the truth I have been super busy as well, so I am just as guilty."
There was something about the way she said those words that told me she was lying. There was something that she wasn't telling me. But what was it?
I loaded my bags in the back of her car and sat in the passenger seat. I was determined to find out what she was hiding, even if it meant staying here in Russia instead of traveling back to the States.
We drove to my house in silence. The truth was, it had hurt me not to hear from him after Vlad passed away. It hurt me that he had rushed me off the phone when I called to tell him about the accident. I knew that he was getting ready for a big game, but he could have stayed on the phone for a few minutes. Vlad was just as much a brother to him. It was the last time I spoke to him before he came home, he hadn't even called afterwards.
"Here we are," I said shutting the car off and taking the key out of the ignition.
"Wow, this is a nice place. Much bigger than your other apartment."
"Yeah, I like it a lot," I said trying to disguise the pain I felt inside.
"Annlie, is everything okay. You haven't said a word to me since we got in the car," he said putting his bags down inside my front door.
"Yeah, I'm okay," I lied, going to the fridge and pouring myself a glass of water.
"Look," he said walking over towards me putting my glass down on the counter, "I know I haven't been here for you, but I'm here now. You don't have to be strong for me Anns, you can let it all out." He pulled me towards him and I held on to him as tight as I could.
"It's been so hard without you Evgeni. And the worst part about it was I couldn't even talk to you. It was as if you didn't want anything to do with me," I said pulling away and heading toward the couch. "For the first time in my life, you weren't there for me when I needed you, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Part of me wants to be mad at you and hate you for it, but the other part of me knows that you are busy and can't stand the thought of being mad at you," I said bursting into tears.
There it was. Her confession, at last.
"Anns, listen to me. I'm so sorry for not being there when you needed me the most and it tears me up inside knowing that I hurt you so much. Vlad was a god guy and it was terrible what happened to him, but you must know that he is in a better place now. He is watching over you every day and lives on in your heart. I'm so sorry that I couldn't be with you when you needed me the most. But look at me," I said taking her chin and lifting it up until her gaze met mine, "I promise that it will never happen again. Vlad was like a brother to me too and it killed me knowing I couldn't be here with you and to pay my respects to him. He was an amazing guy. But you were always in my thoughts and prayers."
She sniffled and looked away.
"How can I believe you?" she asked.
"Annlie, you know that I have never lied to you about anything," taking her hands in mine I looked in here eyes, "While we have been apart I have done some thinking and this distance from you drove me insane. It made me realize that you are more than just my best friend Annie Leslie. You are my soul mate. You stole my heart from the first time I saw you when we were five years old. The day that you hit Sergei after he told me I would never become a professional athlete, I had never loved you more. We've been through so much together and this last year has been hell without you. I'm sorry it took being thousands of miles apart to realize this, but I love you."
Speechless I looked a Evgeni with tear-filled eyes. Had he just said what I thought he did? Did he just tell me that he loved me? Had he just uttered the words I had longed to hear my entire life? My thoughts were interrupted by his voice.
"I mean it Annlie, I love you."
He had said it. Plain as day. There it was.
Taking a deep breath I answered him, "I love you too Evgeni, I always have."
He took my face in his hands but never broke our gaze. His eyes were almost glowing, a deeper brown than I remembered. He slowly moved forward and my brain could barely comprehend what was happening. My eyes shifted back and forth from his eyes to his lips; his soft, wet, warm and luscious lips – so inviting.It was taking forever for him to get close enough and I could hardly handle it. I lifted my hands and wrapped one arm around his neck and the other hand around his head then pulled him in and immediately our lips touched; and all at once everything didn’t matter. All the things I was worried about – being mad at him, wondering what he thought, Vlad – none of it existed at that moment. We were physically connected just as we were mentally and emotionally connected. Our lips moved together in sync. The moment seemed to last forever, but passed way too fast.
"Wow," I heard him mutter when it was through.
I blushed and looked away. That had been the most exhilarating feeling I had ever had, and I wanted to do it again. I wanted to kiss his lips all night. It felt so good to finally be able to kiss him for real and not just in my mind.
As I sat on her couch I kept replaying our kiss in my mind. The way she pulled me closer to her, she had wanted it to and it felt so good to know. Even though the feeling was overwhelming, the thought of what would happen come September haunted me. I looked down at her, nuzzled against my chest breathing softly. She was so beautiful and she was all mine, and I was determined to do whatever it took to keep it that way. I pulled her closer and drifted off to sleep.
I awoke to the sunlight beaming through my front window of the living room and to the sound of the dishwasher. Looking up I saw Evgeni putting silverware on the table,he had made breakfast.
Thoughts of last night ran through my mind. It hadn't been a dream this time.
"I see you made yourself right at home," I said walking up to him giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Yes I did. I hope you're hungry."
"Yes I am, thank you,"I said taking my seat at the table while he went to take a shower. *
He had prepared **blini served with sour cream and milk. My favorite.
I finished eating just as Evgeni emerged from the bathroom.
"So what would you like to do today?" I asked him.
"I would like to go visit your mom," he said wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me towards him.
"Okay, let me go throw some clean clothes on and we can head over."
Last night had been the greatest night of my life. It was greater than any game I had ever played in, greater than any hat trick I scored or trophy I won. Being with Annlie was where I belonged.
As we pulled up the familiar driveway I noticed a frail figure in the window. Mrs.Leslie had lost some weight.
Opening the door she greeted us.
"Hello Annlie, and hello Evgeni, it's been a while. How are things?"
"They are well Mrs. Leslie. Thank you for asking. How are you doing?"
"I'm alright. Every day is a constant struggle and most days I just don't have the strength to get through it. I wish I didn't have to do it all alone, if it weren't for Annlie I don't know what I would do," she said kissing her daughter on the forehead.
"Your daughter is an amazing woman," I said gazing at Ann.
"Yes she is."
Seeing the way Evgeni was with my mother reminded me of the old days when our families would sit and talk for hours. Since Evgeni had left and since Vlad had died, we hadn't seen the Malkin's and it saddened me that things had changed so much.
But all that was about to change now, we were together. Things were different now, even if it was only for the time being. I didn't want to think about when he would be going back to the States. We would figure that out when the time came. For now, I was his and he was mine, and I was perfectly content with that.
While I was home I was determined to spend every day with Annlie. I wanted to prove to her that I could be there for her whenever she needed me and that I truly did love her. I wanted to make up for the past ten months that I lacked to be there in her life. But first there was something that I needed to do.
I put on my sneakers and grabbed my jacket as I left the house, shutting the door softly as to not wake her. The cemetery was only a few blocks down the street and I needed to go for my morning run anyways. As I began the three mile run to the cemetery, I put my iPod on shuffle and let the music flood through my ears.
As I ran I thought about all that I had missed. I thought about Annlie and her mother and how hard things had been for them. I thought about Vlad, the love of my life's brother, my brother. His life brought to a screeching halt, a sharp knife to a short life. I thought about the pact that we made the night before I left for the States. I had asked him to take care of my family while I was away and to keep an eye on my mother. He made me promise that I would do the same if he was to ever go away or was incapable of doing so and made me shake on it. Never in a million years did I think that it would come into play so fast. The more I thought the faster I ran and the harder it was to breathe. By the time I reached the cemetery I was gasping for air and had to lean against a tree for support.
Once I caught my breath I made my way to Vlad's grave site. When I found it I got down on one knee and put my head down as I talked to him.
"Vlad, I know I couldn't be here for your funeral and I'm sorry for that. You were a great guy and an amazing friend. I'm sorry that something like this had to happen to you, you didn't deserve it, but I know that you are in a better place now. I promise you that I will take care of your sister and keep an eye on her and your mother, as I promised you I always would. Just keep an eye on my girl while I am not here. I love you man, and I will see you again on the other side. Rest easy my dear friend."
Kissing my hand and touching his head stone I stood and looked up at the sky. I could feel the warmth of the sun touch my face and the warmth ran through my body. At that moment there was a slight breeze that blew from the East, it was his sign to me that he had heard me. With that I put my headphones back in my ears and made my way back home to make breakfast for my beautiful Annlie.
I awoke to find my house empty. I assumed that Evgeni had gone out for his morning jog so I prepared breakfast and got ready. We were going to the Picture Gallery at
Ul. Gasety Prawdy 12/1. Just as I was putting my deodorant on I heard my door shut.
"Good morning baby," I said coming out of the bathroom.
"Good morning my love," he said taking his sneakers off and turning his iPod down.
"How was your run?"
"It was good. I ran to the cemetery to pay my respects to your brother. It was something that I needed to do."
"I'm sure that he really appreciated that, as do I," I said sauntering over to him and planting a kiss on his lips. Damn it felt good to do that.
"I know he did," he said smiling. "I'm going to go take a quick shower then we can go to the gallery."
I knew that Annlie really enjoyed photography so I had decided to take her to the photo gallery in downtown Magnitogorsk for our first official date.
I studied her emotions as she looked at one photograph an then another, taking in every detail. I never understood why she didn't get into photography. It was clearly her passion. She studied everything so intricately, running her fingers across the photograph and shutting her eyes, as if placing herself in the picture itself. The more and more I looked at her, the more and more beautiful she became.
As we left the gallery she spoke,"Thank you for bringing me Evgeni. It really means a lot to me."
"You don't have to thank me. I wanted to do something nice for you on our first date. I knew that you loved photography so it was the perfect idea."
"It was the most perfect first date ever. Thank you."
"You're welcome, but it is not over yet. We are going to go to Baden-Baden for supper."
"Baden-Baden! That's my favorite restaurant!"
"I know it is, that's why we are going."
"Evgeni you are the most amazing man in the world, how did I get so lucky?"
"That is where you are wrong my love, I am the lucky one."
As we sat across the table from each other, gazing in to each other's eyes my heart skipped a beat. This had been the most amazing date of my life. The gallery was phenomenal and the food here was to die for. I loved it because I could choose between a Russian dish or a European dish, or I could combine the two if I wanted. It meant the world to me knowing he had put so much thought into planning this date for us.
He grabbed my hand and gave it a little squeeze across the table.
"Did you have fun today?"
"Yes I did. Thank you so much for the most amazing first date a woman could ever ask for."
"You are welcome. But really I should be thanking you."
"Why is that?" I asked sipping my water.
"You are the most amazing woman a guy could ever ask for."
Blushing I leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"I love you Evgeni."
"I love you too."
In exactly two hours Evgeni would be boarding his flight back to Pittsburgh to start his season. My heart was breaking. We had just spent the last four weeks together catching up and now I was losing him again. What we had shared was magical and I felt like I was living a dream. We had gone sight seeing and hung out just like old times, only this time it was more intimate and special. It was just us with no interruptions.
We drove to the air port in silence, much like the ride home. My stomach was turning, I din't want him to go, but how could I ask him to stay? This was his dream.
We made our way to his terminal and waited.
"Now boarding flight #771," was announced over the speakers.
"Well this is it," I told him as he put his bag on his shoulder.
"No this is not it. Annlie, I love you. I promise that this isn't the end. I will call you every day and I will write when I am on the road."
" I know but you said that the last time, but honestly, it's fine I know this is your dream.I understand and I'll be okay, honest."
"Anns, you are my dream. Hockey is what I do for a living, but you are what I have always dreamed of, being with you and having a family and future with you. You are what makes me happy, not hockey."
Speechless I looked up at him and kissed him. That was all that I needed to hear. For some reason I knew that this time would be different just by him saying those words.
"I have something for you, for after I am gone," he said handing me a small envelope with my name on it.
"Thank you. I love you Evgeni Malkin."
"And I love you too Annie Leslie."
He took me in his arms and squeezed me tight before boarding his plane. I watched as his plane backed out of the gate and made its way down the airstrip. He was gone.
I made my way back to the car where I opened the envelope. In it was a letter in Evgeni's handwriting that read:
I love you! Just writing that puts a smile on my face. You put a smile on my face. I love you because of your sweetness, your kindness, your tenderness and thoughtfulness. I love you because you are my best friend and my companion. You smile at my silly jokes and enjoy my corny sayings.
I love you because I have a longing to be close to you and you long to be close to me. I love snuggling with you in front of a fire and cuddling with you as we watch TV like we did my first night back. That is a night I will always remember. I love to be near you. I love holding your hand on a walk during the day and across the dinner table at night.
I love you because you respect me. You honor the man that I am, rather than try to make me into someone that I am not. You suffer my imperfections and my shortcomings without complaint.
Always remember that:
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step."- Confucius
I love you Annlie.
Your Evgeni xxoo
Tears filling my eyes and a smile across my face I ran out of the car and back into the air port. I was not letting him go this time. This time I was going to be right there with him through his successes. Now was the time that I got to prove to him that I wanted to be with him. He had spent the past four weeks proving to me that he wanted to be with me, now it was my turn.
"Next in line please," the airline worker said.
"Hi, I would like a ticket on the next flight out to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania."