Her name was River. He was twenty and playing in the Russian Super League. She was older, dignified and beautiful. She approached him after a game and said she liked his style. Her Russian was technically flawless, but with an accent he couldn't place. He said he liked her style too, then followed that up with an even worse line. She still laughed.
She drank vodka like a native, and told wonderful dirty jokes. She asked him questions about hockey, about Russia, about philosophy, about science. He appreciated their conversation. It wasn't often that he had an audience eager to hear about the wonders of space. The night started to wear down, and he didn't know what to do with her. He wanted this moment to last forever, but it couldn't. The bar was closing, and they were shooed out into the street. He stood in the cold trying to find the nerve to ask for her number when she said six words that changed his life.
"Do you want to see something?" She asked. "I think you'll like it."
"Yes, if it's something you want to show me I'm sure I will."
She took hold of his arm and pulled him close. He watched as she pressed buttons on her complicated leather wristwatch. Then the world shifted around them.
They were in a cold room with shiny white walls. It almost seemed like something from a science fiction film, but with cosy touches, an antique victrola, and unmade bed. River said, "Turn around."
He did, and saw the window. An entire side of the room was transparent, revealing an expanse of space, stars, astroids, beauty. "Is this..." He doesn't know what to say.
She nods, and kisses him. When they break apart he finds himself torn between staring at the galaxy or at the women beside him. She allows herself to be pushed against the glass for another kiss, allowing him to do both at once. Eventually they fell into her bed. Later still she told him the names of the strange constellations.
He doesn't know how much time passed in her room. It felt like a day, but he when she brought him back it was only five minutes after they left. Sometimes he wonders if she was a dream, but he doesn't think it really matters. It felt real, it felt magical. It's a memory he has carried with him ever since.
He thinks he sees her sometimes. He could have sworn she was in the front row of the playoff series against Pittsburgh, sitting in the front row next to a skinny man in a bow tie. He's always looking, but knows he can't count on finding her. If he wants to get back into space he's best off doing everything he can to get their on his own.