The "D" Pairing
by Jerome Baquilar
Part IV
And he knew his decision to throw Jeanne into the game at that point turned out to be pure coaching genius, in almost every way!

His top defensive pair was in the game right after the goal, and they played like they always did at scrimmages. They were effective, they complemented each other almost perfectly, and they stopped each scoring opportunity the opposition had while they were in the game. The other 2 defensive units, inspired by seeing their defensive “leaders” playing well again, shut the opponents down as well. Unfortunately, their own scoring chances were few from that point on, and goals scored for either side were non-existent.

Despite his renewed confidence in his top defensive pair, Coach did his best to keep them off the surface when Young was in the game. He saw what happened, Daniella told him what happened and what was said, and he didn’t want to take the chance of it happening again. Fortunately enough, though, Young was a defenseman, and you only have to worry about match-ups with forwards on defensemen, not defensemen on defensemen.

The game was a scoreless standoff for, ever, it seemed. Then, the game got to the skinny of the 3rd, final period. 0:19 showed on the clock, and Coach decided to stick with his best defenders the rest of the game, and go with the forward combination that scored their only goal of the game to that point. To his dismay, however, Young was also put into the game at that point. Jeanne was to take the faceoff in their offensive zone.

In the moments before the puck dropped, as players got into position, and the referee made sure everything and everyone was set, Young started mouthing off to Dallas again.

“Hey, how you gonna protect TWO bitches now?”

“Shut up, I have my mind on something better right now. Like winning.”

“Damn, then I’ll just have mess up one of their faces. Guess who, punk?”

The puck dropped with 0:19 remaining in the game. Jeanne won the faceoff, getting the puck to Daniella. Young charged the puck, and Daniella deftly passed back up towards Jeanne.

What happened at that point was one of those things you could just end up thinking about all day, wondering what it was. Either his momentum, or his intent, took Young, skating at full speed, right into Daniella, and his stick handle, either accidentally or on purpose, hit hard into Daniella’s eye, getting under her helmet’s face shield. She crumpled to the floor almost instantaneously. Young went on to follow the puck. Dallas, instinctively started to go after Young, but Daniella, seeing this with her good eye, yelled, “No!” Dallas gave her a hard, cold, stare, for a couple of seconds, then got himself back into position on the play, while yelling “Where’s the call!?” to the ref. The referee did not raise his hand, therefore meaning he either did not think there was any infraction committed, or he didn’t see what happened. Daniella was still prone on the floor. The referee chose not to blow the whistle on the play even with an injured player, because it was so late in the game.

While all this was happening, Jeanne took the puck off of Daniella’s pass, and drove to the net. She took a hard wrist shot just before Young got to her, and their goalie stopped the shot easily, but didn’t control the rebound. The puck went through some traffic, and onto Dallas’ stick. He was wide open, with 6 players on both sides all around the goal mouth area, and he had, almost literally, all day to do whatever he wanted to do. With his physical strength, he had a pretty hard slap shot in his arsenal, but not a very accurate one. From his left “d” position, in this situation he’d normally pass it to his partner for her to bring the puck up closer on the play, but Daniella was still lying on the floor, not moving. He took the shot he had to take, really, and it wasn’t even close. It hit the glass to the far left of the goal, and bounced right onto Jeanne’s stick. She flicked a short wrister just inside the left post, and it bulged the twine. 2-1!  0:00 on the clock! Game over!

Jeanne was overrun by all her teammates, seemingly right when the puck got shot into the net. All but two of them.

Dallas turned his prone teammate around. He saw a smiling Daniella, with a black left eye. She said, “We won, huh?” “Yeah, we did! Some way to win, huh?” Daniella laughed weakly at Dallas’ reply, and she slowly got up, and they both went over to join in on the impromptu celebration.

While Daniella was having her eye tended to by a pack of ice, Dallas stayed with her, and they engaged in some post-game talk.

“Thanks for stopping me from going after that freak.”
“No problemo. I knew you’d be the first one to forget what Coach was saying yesterday!”
“Yeah, you got that right. I sure do have a lot to learn about playing smart.”
“I have a lot to learn about playing tough”
“You played pretty tough though. Took one for the team!”
“Damn right I did! Funny, though, I took the punishment, and look who’s getting the attention”

Daniella pointed to Jeanne, with some boys seemingly trying to ask her out.

“That’s funny. And now, look at you. For a week, at least, no one’s gonna want to ask you out, with that black eye!”
“Don’t care, really. The way I feel about life right now, I don’t care if I never get asked out again”
“Look at that, ha ha!”

Dallas gestures towards Jeanne, who apparently refused her suitors.

“That is kinda funny. I get the sense she already has a boyfriend or something, but why wouldn’t her boyfriend be here?”
“Did you really mean what you said, that you wouldn’t mind not ever being asked out?”
“Not if the guy was great, if you know what I mean”
“What do you mean?”
“It has to be some guy I know I could love, and someone I know who would love me for what I am inside, not how I look outside”
“Hmmm, you want to know something? I always thought, not that I think of it a lot, but I thought you’d be the kind of girl who looks for good looks in a guy”
“You got me all wrong then! I’ve had more than my share of looks, all I want now is a brave, wholesome spirit of a guy”
“I love you, Daniella!”

Suddenly, silence between the two, for a few seconds.

Blood rushed quickly to her head, as well as a bunch of thoughts. Such as why she wasn’t getting up and walking away from him. She looked him straight in the eye, facially demanding an explanation.

“I mean that. You saved the game for us. You kept me in position to assist on Jeanne’s goal”
“Oh, okay. Ha ha, I thought you meant something else”
“It’s alright. I sometimes get that when I say that to other teammates too. Love doesn’t have to be LOVE, it can be as simple as liking, or admiration. Once you know someone, you know what the word love means when the person says it”

Another pause by Daniella. Was this guy for real, she thought? That simple statement was more profound than anything she’d heard from any other guy. Ever.

“You know, I might actually like it if you meant something else.”

Dallas’ turn to pause. He had some minor experiences dating girls, but never one like this. Never a teammate, and never one this beautiful. Even with her ugly blackened eye, she was better looking than all the others in his life combined. He thought to himself, “Keep your cool. Treat it like hockey. Play hard and tough”.

“Want to go out with me for a burger?”
“In any other situation, I think I’d just head straight home, and maybe take a rain check on that. For you, I’d be more than happy to go out on a date with you, as long as you can live with my ugliness right now”
“Beauty is definitely more than skin deep, in my opinion”

What happened next was one of those things their teammates watching them would talk about for days.

…He just kissed her squarely on the mouth, and, appropriately enough, she offered no resistance. Their mouths in a spur-of-the-moment union, she felt her heart pounding hard and fast. She hoped that if this were a dream, that she’d never awaken from it…

Both of them went on to win all-league honors, though the team finished in the middle of the pack. Though they were recognized as the best defensive pairing in the league, from the events after their first game, they were truly one.

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