"Is that from lover boy?" Ali teases as she glances over my shoulder to look at my phone before walking around the table to sit across from me.

"Yes, it is," I tell her proudly.

"They're done playing? How did it go?" Marc asks between mouthfuls of chow mein noodles.

With the hockey team on the road, Friday night on campus was surprisingly quiet. Marc, Ali, and I decided to get away from the dorms for the night and head to Marc's parents' house just off-campus. His parents are flying in from Indiana tonight to watch Eli's game tomorrow, and Marc wanted to come by and get the house ready for them. We had been talking about getting Chinese takeout all week and finally gave in tonight as we all sat around the dining room table, digging into the takeout boxes.

"Good. They won," I inform Marc, glancing down to my phone as Eli's texts flood in. "4-3," I add.

"Awesome, that's a big tournament for them to win, even if it is just preseason," Marc informs me.

My phone dings again, and I feel the smile form on my lips from just seeing Eli's name on my screen. I thought about adding a little red heart emoji next to his name, but I think I would be too embarrassed if he ever saw it.

"He wants me to tell you that Zanders got a five-minute major at the end of the third and that Eli scored the game-tying goal, and Cam scored the winner," I add, reading Eli's text aloud to Marc.

"Whatever that means," Ali chimes in before taking a massive bite of Kung-pow chicken.

"Good. Fuck Zanders," Marc says, shaking his head. "Evan Zanders is this prick who plays for Ohio State. He was the one who threw EJ into the boards illegally and shattered his ankle a few years ago. He's a dirty defenseman that has had it out for EJ since they were kids playing travel hockey," Marc says, mostly to me, knowing Ali could care less about sports.

"I can't stand that guy," Ali chimes in. "Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely no idea what either of you guys are talking about, but fuck that guy. Right?"

Marc and I both chuckle and shake our heads at Ali's honesty. Not that I know much more about hockey than she does, but I've been trying to learn. Every night this week, when Eli has texted to tell me how his games went, I googled whatever I couldn't understand, and I feel like I'm getting a pretty good grasp on the game in general.

"Exactly, Alison. Fuck that guy," Marc informs her with a proud grin on his face.

She smiles right back at him, mouth full and all.

"You know there was a time when I was the one that EJ would call when he was on the road," Marc says, pulling his attention back to me, pretending to be hurt by his brother's lack of communication with him over the week.

"I think I'm more his type," I shrug, giving Marc a knowing grin.

He laughs but shoots me a proud smile. He's made it pretty clear this week how happy he is that things have been going well for Eli and me.

Marc told me that he could see the shift in his brother since we've been spending time together. He also said how much he noticed a difference in me. Said I seemed more confident, and I have to agree with him. I'm not fully there, but having this support system of people who understand me has really helped me feel like myself again.

"Okay, so a five-minute major is a really bad penalty, right? You have the whole five minutes to play five on four regardless of if you score or not?" I ask Marc.

"Spot on, girl. Look at you, you'll be an expert in no time," Marc says while he tries to steal a piece of chicken from my plate with his chopsticks. "You're about to know more about hockey than you do basketball, which is saying a lot."


I swat his sticks away with mine. "Just trying to figure it out, so I have some idea of what's going on when I finally get to see Eli play. Hockey isn't very popular in California."