I love these weekend road trips. For two days I can just be me. A duffel bag in the trunk - leave the rest of the baggage at home. My co-pilot, all twelve-years of her, usually manages our music selection and helps with the directions when we end up driving in the dark.
Lily is my sunshine. When she was a baby she didn't do the usual crawl. She came at you sideways, like the fiddler crabs we used to watch at the beach, and she was fast. When she was four, she nicknamed herself "Speedy", and when she ran she went "super-speed". When she ran, people watched. The fluid motion was mesmerizing. When she started school, it was obvious she needed an organized outlet for all that energy. The school let me know their concern with her playground habits. She played with the boys. Running and tumbling. When she started talking about playing football at recess, I decided to look for an alternative. It's not that I'm against girls playing football; I'm against my girl playing tackle football. We found soccer. At five years of age, she had her outlet, her focus. The only time she didn't have a ball at her feet was at school – she brought it there once and that was my second call from the school office. Soccer gave her an opportunity to run. When her team practice was over she would stay and somehow get herself invited to join in the boys' practice too. When she was ten, she got on a local travel team. They played eleven games in the fall and another eleven in the spring. The girls played so well they were invited to play in a regional tournament over Memorial Day weekend. A year later she was on a professionally coached regional travel team and our monthly road trips began.
This weekend was different. Their first game is at eight o'clock Saturday morning against the host club's top team and the girls need to be on site Friday afternoon for a practice session. So Lily left last night with her teammate Rose and her mother, Alice. They're staying with Alice's relatives this weekend instead of the team hotel. Since I'm arriving tonight, I won't see Lily until the game tomorrow. Even leaving the office at two, I'm driving the darkening, back roads of Virginia six hours later, missing my co-pilot. I manage to find the hotel just after eight, I drop my bag in the room and quickly call Lily to say goodnight. A flurry of words describing every action she's taken the entire day seems to spray through the phone and immediately the tension from the long drive is gone. I barely catch half of what she's trying to tell me in her sleepy slur. As she winds down, she says, "I love you Mommy, goodnight". "I love you too", I say.
Next thing I hear is Alice's quiet laughter "That was too funny and so cute, B. As soon as she stopped talking her eyes glazed over, then shut, and she lay down with the phone at her ear. The girls trained with an older team today since Coach Alec wasn't here and it really wore them out"
"Hi Ali. You know Lily has two speeds – fast and off. I think somewhere in all that she said she really had fun today. What happened to Alec?"
"Oh, he has the flu or something so the director assigned someone else for this weekend and he trained our girls himself today. Coach Masen usually works with the college showcase teams and they aren't playing this weekend. The girls seem to know him and are excited about it. He's arriving tonight"
"Sounds like a good thing. Hopefully he doesn't favor Jane like that last substitute coach did. That was so ridiculous. Just because her father, Aro, sponsors the club doesn't mean she knows how to play the game."
"I totally agree, B. So, we're going to have a light breakfast at the hotel with the team around 6:15. The girls have to be at the field an hour before the game."
"I made my reservation late so I got bumped to a different hotel. I told Lily I would see her at the field. I don't want to disrupt her morning so I'll probably just meet you at the game. I haven't eaten yet so I'm going to head downstairs."
"Okay. We're on field six, to the right of the stadium when you pull in the parking lot. See you then. Go eat!"
"'Okay 'mom'! 'Night, Ali."
This late at night I was not in the mood for a full sit-down dinner so I headed for the hotel pub to eat. One side of the pub was raised and set up as a dining area, and the other was a large horseshoe-shaped bar with seating all around. There were a few flat screens on the walls set to sports programming. The tables were empty and about a third of the seats at the bar were taken. I noticed a group of empty stools on the far side of the bar and headed that way.
As soon as I sat down the bartender came over and placed a coaster on the bar in front of me. "What can I get you?"
"A water and I'd like to get something to eat. Is there a menu?"
"One water and one menu coming up," as he walked across the bar, returning with a small menu card. "The kitchen's pretty quick with everything. As soon as you know what you want, call me over. I'm Tyler"
As I'm reading the menu in search of onion rings, I hear a smooth, deep voice asking Tyler how late the kitchen is open. When I look up I see male perfection: tousled hair, muscled body, wearing ripped low-slung faded jeans, white t-shirt and leather jacket. When Tyler tells him he has plenty of time, he puts in an order, looks my way and says, "Save me a seat over there", nodding his head in my direction to Tyler, "I have to finish checking in".
As soon as he walks out, Tyler and I look at each other, then back to the doorway he just exited, then back to each other. We both have our mouths open, jaws hanging, eyes glazed, and can't seem to articulate anything coherent. Finally, Tyler speaks, "Hot damn, that's the hottest thing I have seen in forever. Are you okay over there? Let me get you some more ice water before you melt. What's your name, sugar?"
"I'm Bella. Ah-hum, uh, mhe, what was that? Did that really just happen? Tyler, I think I must be dreamin'".
"No you're not dreaming. Yes, that happened. I better put in his hotness' order. Bella, did you decide what you're gonna have – besides him darlin'" (wink and chuckles)
"Burger and fries for me too." I'll skip the onion rings – just sayin'.
"Bella, we totally have to play this out. I am so in the flirting mood now. Whoa-oh ye-ow."
"Me too. In my head I heard that song lyric 'call me maybe'", I told him as I 'fanned' myself.
We agree to help each other check out the cutie – just for flirty fun of course.