Trivial Pursuits by Aven Ellis
Series: Chicago on Ice #2
Also in this series: The Aubrey Rules
Published by Soul Mate Publishing on 20th April 2016
Landon Holder is exactly the kind of man Livy Adams should stay far away from. The flashy, flirty star defenseman for the Chicago Buffaloes is known for hooking up with women all over Chicago. Livy finds herself attracted to Landy, but his sexy good looks and charm are irrelevant. She had her heart shattered by a cheating athlete in college, and Livy vows she will never let her judgment lapse like that ever again. Yet Livy knows she can’t spend the rest of her life focusing on building her jewelry line during the day and her evenings playing TriviaPlayOrPass! on her phone, either. Even though she does have fabulous conversations with a player named Scott, it’s time to get back in the game—in real life. While Livy tries to figure out her career path in jewelry design, she knows it’s time to take a chance on romance again, too. But in a strange twist of fate, Livy finds herself getting to know Landy on a much deeper level. Sometimes people aren’t always as they appear to be. Just like a diamond, you have to look closely to see true clarity. As Livy unwraps the layers around Landy to see the man behind the image, will she have a change of heart? Can she leave her past behind for a future with Landy? Or is it all a game of trivial pursuits?
TriviaPlayOrPass! Who is the fourth president of the United States of America? DesignerA, play or pass to Scott921?
I stare at the blinking cursor on my cell phone. Embarrassing. I’ve lived in the United States my entire twenty-two years of existence, made A’s in history in both high school and at the University of Washington, yet have no clue who the fourth president of my country was. Shameful. Of course, it’s probably more shameful to admit I’m addicted to TriviaPlayOrPass! You know, that trivia game app that makes you feel smart because you know more than complete strangers. Focus, Livy, I tell myself. I’m super competitive. I don’t want to pass this question. Who was the fourth president? Polk? Where was he? Washington, Adams, and then who? Who was third? Crap. If I don’t know the third president, I won’t know the fourth. How is it I can recite all the words to any song off any Taylor Swift album but not remember presidents? Although my musical knowledge has to count for something, right? Oooh. Hopefully a question relating to Taylor will come up soon in Pop Culture. I’d crush those.
Player DesignerA play or pass to Scott921.
Damn it. I hit ‘pass,’ and know Scott921 will DM in a matter of seconds. Five, four, three— Seriously? The American passes a USA PRESIDENT question to the Canadian? This should have been easy points DesignerA. You’re on notice. I’m kicking your ass this round.
I snicker. I knew that would be his response. I’ve only been playing Scott921 with this app for a few weeks, but I like talking to him. One, he’s a good trivia player, so I like a challenge. Two, he’s very, very funny. I’m a sucker for anyone who can make me laugh. He sent me a message on a question the first time we played, and we’ve been chatting during games ever since. Of course, for all I know he’s some twelve-year-old boy sitting in his room up in Canada avoiding homework. Or married and sixty and living in Akron, Ohio. You can be anyone online. Take me, for example. My real name is Livy, but of course I don’t want to use that online. Too many weirdoes out there. Since I’m a jewelry designer, I go by DesignerA, with the A coming from my last name of Adams. And I’m sure Scott921 has no idea he’s talking to an unemployed artist who exists on freelance design work and had to move back in with her parents in suburban Chicago the day after college graduation back in December. Temporary setback. That’s all this is. But right now, I need to focus on my trivia match. And answer Scott921’s question.
My brain can only store so much knowledge. What’s up there has to be critical information. Besides, can you even name the 4th Prime Minister of Canada?
I hit ‘send’ and wait for him to answer. Ha, bet I stumped him with that one. Especially if he is an American living in Akron.
I can. Sir John Thompson. Died in office of a heart attack. And the first Catholic prime minister. How’s that for an answer?
Wow. He did know that. Okay, I’m removing American off the list of alternate identity options for Scott921. I reply.
Remind me never to pass any historical questions to you ever again.
The screen on the phone pops over to the game, so now I can see if Scott921 got it right or wrong.
TriviaPlayOrPass! Both DesignerA and Scott921 do not answer correctly. The 4th President of the United States was James Madison.
Madison! Damn it. I shoot a message to Scott921.
I should have remembered this. I feel like eating a raspberry Zinger to console myself on my woeful recollection of American presidents.
I have the most random conversations with you. What the hell is a ZINGER?
So he might be twelve, or eighty, but I do get a kick out of talking to him. I’ve never come out and asked Scott921 for his story. Like how old he is, where he lives, what does he do for a living? He’s online. There’s no point to anything beyond our trivia matches, or our little exchanges, even though I’ve come to look forward to them. Hmm. If only Scott921 lived in the Chicago area, was single, and looked like Landon Holder, the star defenseman of the Chicago Buffaloes, I’d propose marriage to him upon first sight. But since that’s as likely as me remembering all the presidents of the United States and knowing all the prime ministers of Canada, I forget that plan and type a reply instead.
A delicious, prepackaged snack cake. Not on the clean eating plan.
I can see the ‘typing’ icon flash so I know he’s replying.
I don’t think I want anything called a Zinger, DesignerA. Hey, I gotta get to bed. Tired tonight. Rematch tomorrow?
I reply sure. I’ll send him a request late, because that’s when he’s usually online. I say goodnight and set my phone on my nightstand. I glance at the clock. Eleven-thirty. I should get to bed, too. I have some bracelets I want to work on in the morning—custom cuff bracelets I was commissioned to do as bridesmaids gifts—and then I have my first day volunteering at an after-school program for children at a local elementary school. I shut off the light and slip under the covers of my bed. I can hear the wind howling outside my window, and it’s snowing heavily this February night. It’s so cold. I have a mountain of blankets on my bed, and I’m still freezing. It got cold in Seattle, but nothing like these Chicago winters. I find myself having to adjust all over again since moving back home. Anyway, I’m excited about my volunteer work. The program is designed for children whose families might not be able to afford after-school experiences for their children. I’m going to teach art tomorrow. Ironically, I’m doing an art project in honor of Presidents’ Day, which of course is celebrated this month. At least I know what Lincoln and Washington look like so I can successfully teach the art project, I muse. I yawn, feeling tiredness wash over me. Definitely time for bed. And new adventures tomorrow.
I park my Jeep Renegade SUV in the school parking lot and turn my windshield wipers off. I’m so eager to work with the kids today. Whenever I do a private art lesson, I have the best time teaching children. To see their faces when they create something, to watch them connect with the mediums of art and experience joy from the process—well, that brings me as much joy as it does them. And while the weather outside is cold, snowy, and dreary, I feel the exact opposite inside. I feel bubbly, bright, and alive on this February day. I tug on my gloves and put on my cream cable-knit cap, knowing full well my naturally blond platinum locks will be a static mess when I get inside, but better than soppy wet hair from the heavy snow that is falling right now. I flip down the visor and check my appearance one last time. My pale blue-green eyes stare back at me. I see I have none of my tan-pink butter LONDON LIPPY lipstick on my teeth, and my nose isn’t shiny. An un-shiny nose is a complete victory at this time of the afternoon, I dare say. I pop the visor back up and open the door, bracing for the brutal elements. Snow whips across my face, and I quickly yank my Deena & Ozzy geometric print infinity scarf up over my chin. Damn, it’s freezing out here. I hurry around to the trunk and open it. I lift out my canvas bag of supplies, which is nearly blown out of my hand by an arctic blast. Maybe I should have stayed in Seattle. Because this weather is ridiculous. I shut the trunk and head toward the front of the school. The children will be released in fifteen minutes, but I was told to get here early so I could sign into the front office as a visitor. I already had my background check completed, and I should be able to receive my volunteer ID today. I step inside the building and wipe my black Wellingtons on the mat. I head into the office, where an older woman pauses her typing and stares at me. For a moment, I’m distracted. Does she have a perm? Her dyed, jet-black hair is in tight, tiny ringlets all over her head. Her bangs look like mattress coils. “Yes?” she asks, peering over the glasses that have slid all the way down her nose. I glance at her name plate, which has an apple with a worm coming out of it and the words ‘Mrs. Martin, Receptionist’ next to it. “Hello, Mrs. Martin, I’m Livy Adams, and I’m here to teach art at the after-school activity program,” I say, tugging off my gloves. “It’s nice to meet you. And I’m so happy to be here today.” She studies me as if she has zero interest in anything I said. Good Lord, her name plate should say, ‘Mrs. Martin, Beaten Down By the Job Receptionist.’ “Sign in,” she barks, nodding in the direction of the computer. “It’s self-explanatory.” Then she pushes her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose and resumes typing. The phone rings, and she punches a button on her keyboard. “Morning View Elementary,” she says gruffly. AlrightAll right, so it’s not just me. Mrs. Martin obviously has no time for pleasantries, whether you’re standing in front of her or on the phone. I move to the computer and follow the instructions for registering as a visitor. Another woman checks my driver’s license, verifies that I’m on the list for volunteer badges, and I should get it from the director of the after-care program today. I get my temporary badge and am directed to the cafeteria as the bell rings, signaling the end of school. Suddenly the air is filled with the sounds of excited chatter, shoes and rubber snow boots squeaking against the tiled floors, and laughter. I smile, remembering how much I enjoyed elementary school. I loved learning. And I lived for art class, where I was able to paint and use clay. I see children heading into the cafeteria, and I follow them. Backpacks are slung onto tables, coats piled up, and snacks are being served by the after-school coordinators at the back of the room. I make my way toward Darcy Reeves, the lead coordinator for the program here at Morning View. She hands a little girl a bag of pretzels and a carton of juice and then glances up at me. “Hey, Livy, so glad you could make it,” Darcy says, smiling brightly at me. “The kids are thrilled you’re here today.” “I can’t wait to get started,” I say honestly, setting my bag and Longchamp tote down on the cafeteria table next to her. “I have some fun presidential art planned for them.” “They love when young people come in,” Darcy says. “Be prepared to be mobbed.” I laugh as I unbutton my coat. “I can deal with that.” After I’m introduced to co-teachers Valerie and Sarah and given my volunteer ID badge, I slip out of my winter coat. I drape it on the table, over my tote. I hesitate for a moment. I should take off my hat, but if I do, I’ll show horrible static hair. Oh, well, it can entertain the kids if my locks are the equivalent of Albert Einstein’s crazy hair. I can say it’s artistic. I remove my cable-knit hat and the charge instantly sweeps through my hair. Oh gosh. It’s standing up, I can tell. I try to smooth my hand over it, but I can still feel it sticking out. I’m about to go to the restroom to see if I can spray it back into submission with hairspray, but then I hear children start yelling. “Landy!” “Landy’s here!” “Landon!” Wait. Wait. I only know one Landon. The star player for the Chicago Buffaloes hockey team. He goes by Landy. My best friend Aubrey is dating his best friend on the team, Captain Beckett Riley. So I’ve met him a few times, and while I know he’s the captain of hook ups on that team, I do find him incredibly attractive. I wrinkle my nose. I’m being crazy. What on earth would Landy Holder be doing here? No. Different Landy. “Hey, kids, I told you guys I’d be back, remember?” Oh, I know that sexy, scratchy, like he’s-just-rolled-out-of-bed voice. And I turn around and find myself staring into the vivid blue eyes of Landy Holder.