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“Watch this one, she’s just got her license and she thinks she’s running the Indy,” Sidney warns as he walks me out to the car where Lauren is waiting. “I strongly advise holding on and keeping your hands in the car at all times,” he adds, sounding a lot like a ride operator. “As for you,” he turns his attention to Lauren, “this is precious cargo. I don’t want to hear that you’ve dropped her in a ditch or something.”
“Are you kidding me?” Lauren laughs, turning to slide into her car, a brand new series 1 BMW, the smallest of the Beamers, but one hundred times more expensive than the car I got when I was her age. “She’s going to make me haute couture for homecoming. I won’t let a hair on her head get harmed.” Nodding, Sid seems contented with this and turns back to me, stopping to push my hair back behind my ear and leaning in to press his lips to my forehead.
“This was good, I’m glad you stayed,” he whispers against my cheek, sending a shiver down my spine. No matter how much I batted my eyelashes at him, he wouldn’t join me in the guest room and no matter how long I stayed awake, staring at the ceiling, hoping and praying that he would, he didn’t try to sneak in my room either. Our time, under Mario’s roof, has almost been platonic, other than a few kisses and it hasn’t been nearly enough. Not for me. “Have a good week at school, study hard,” he adds, brushing his lips across mine before reaching around me to open the door.
I feel rooted to the spot, wanting to pout, wanting to grab him by his t-shirt and pull him to me and have him press his body against mine but I don’t. Not only because Lauren is sitting right behind me but because Mario and Nathalie are standing in the doorway, holding hands, looking like proud and approving parents. I know what their approval means, not only to Sid but to me. So as much as this goodbye is far to chaste, I smile and wave to his ‘foster’ parents and hope that he can see in my last look shared with him, that this needs to be remedied and soon.
He reaches in when the car door closes and covers my hand with his and he holds my gaze and I’m almost sure that he shares my feelings but he says nothing. He does, however, lean in and presses his lips once more over mine before tapping the roof of the little red sports car and Lauren obligingly punches it, squealing the tires as she turns the car out of the driveway and onto the quiet tree lined street.
I turn to watch Sidney disappear into the distance but the curve comes too soon and he’s gone from my view so I turn my attention back to real life, sinking down in the black leather seats.
“I’m glad he’s finally dating someone,” Lauren says out of the blue. I glance over at her, trying to decide if I want her to elaborate or not, and decide to keep quiet and see what she says. “I used to have a huge crush on him, just so you know,” she adds, unprompted, glancing over to me with her father’s winning smile before she wrinkles up her nose, making a face and turning her attention back to the road. “I so couldn’t deal with all his…bullshit though,” she continues and then, just when I do want her to elaborate, she falls silent. She looks over at my, quizzically, as if to say ‘you do know what I mean, right?’ but when I don’t affirm that fact, she sighs dramatically and turns her attention back to the windy suburban lane in front of us. “You know. All that chicken cacciatore on game days and no sex the night before a game and waking up at the same time and putting your right sock on first…all that nonsense.” She turns to me again, waiting for me to agree, so I shrug, because I don’t.
“I’ve known a lot of players around the Harbor and they’re all kind of crazy like that,” I suggest, which makes her roll her eyes and shake her head and flip her long hair back over her shoulder.
“Let me tell you, I’ve lived with my dad my whole life and he’s not like that, at all,” she sighs, but before I get a chance to ask what Super Mario is like, she continues on as if it was merely a statement of fact, not to be challenged. “I mean, if we’re going to be like…practically sister in laws then I can tell you,” she adds with a secretive sort of smile. “Max and I are having this sort of…thing and he’s not like that at all. In fact that’s sort of how I knew he was serious about me, when he’d still see me the morning of a game,” she adds, with this innocent but completely honest grin. My breath catches in my lungs and part of me knows that she’s sharing and she is sort of like Taylor to Sidney and if she’s treating me like a confidant, I have to respect her privacy but the other part of me is shaking my head and alarm bells are going off.
“Thing?” I ask, hoping that she’ll say friendship and knowing damn well she isn’t going to.
“It’s all very hush hush,” she begins, with this beatific smile on her cherubic face that tells me I am not going to like what I’m about to hear. “I mean if my dad found out…,” she shudders and makes a face before continuing, “Max would so be on the next plane out to Florida,” she adds in a matter of fact sort of tone and there is no doubt that she’s right, but I can’t help but think that Mario isn’t the only one who would come to that same conclusion, unless….
“And Sid knows?” I ask, thinking that the protective boy I knew who would never even let the older boys near me, even if they were his friends, must have changed a lot more than I think he has if he’s allowed this. Lauren’s eyes go wide and she shakes her head vehemently.
“Oh my god, are you kidding? He’d be so much worse than my dad,” she cries, turning her wide eyes to me, pleading silently for me to keep my council. Well, at least that means he hasn’t changed as much as I thought.
“This thing…this thing with you and Jack…it stops, now.”
I look up from my Biology textbook and smile up at a very annoyed Sidney who’s standing over me with his most ferocious look, his nostrils flared, his eyes glittering dangerously gold like a lions and his fists curling and uncurling at his sides. Then I look back down and continue to highlight what I’ve just read on the page. I’ve heard him and now I’m ignoring him. I can hear his breathing. He’s taking short shallow breaths through his teeth, which normally means that either he’s just come off the ice, or he’s about to break something; because it’s never someone and it’s never, ever me.
He knows I’ve heard him and what with all his recent media attention his new pet peeve is having to repeat himself, which I know he’s not going to do. I also know that I’m not going to answer him because it’s none of his damn business.
“I’ve already told him,” he suddenly continues, his voice rising a little because it’s just breaking and normally I’d tease him about it, but that would be like waving a red flag in front of a bull right now and I’m determined not to fight with him about this. Not that there is anything to fight about. Who I see and when is none of Sidney Crosby’s damn business. If he won’t go to the Valentines’ dance with me, I am so not going alone again.
“Is that so?” I ask, not looking up at him because I won’t give him the satisfaction of seeing that he’s getting to me, that I’m clenching my teeth which probably means my nostrils are flaring now.
“He won’t go with you. Not if I tell him not to.”
Oh that is so it, the final straw.
I carefully and slowly put the lid back on my highlighter and then close my text book before I feel like I have my expression under control enough to look up at him.
“Really? Well I guess we’ll see about that.” I can see that little twitch in his jaw that tells me he’s not sure what I’m going to do, which is good. I’m not one of his opposing forwards that he can try and guess my next move and out maneuver me. After all, I’m a girl and smarter than him. I smile, that smile that says that I’m about to do something either he or my mother are definitely not going to like and then I turn and walk over to the table in the library where our friend Jack is sitting, put my books down carefully and quietly next to his, and then while he’s looking up at me expectantly, plant a long, slow kiss on his lips.
I’ve been tapping my fingers impatiently on the arm rest of the taxi while the driver maneuvers it through the narrow streets of the older urban neighborhood. I can feel Kennedy’s eyes boring a hole in the back of my head but I know if I tell her where we’re going and why she’ll only ask too many questions and then try and stop me from getting involved and maybe that would be the right thing to do, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m already involved.
“Are you sure this is it?” I ask as the taxi pulls up in front of a brownstone on a side street and the driver nods, looking at the two of us a little sheepishly. I know what he’s probably thinking; stalkers. But when I hand him the hundred dollar bill his expression changes and he no longer seems at all concerned for the local celebrity’s safety and well being.
“Where are we? What are we doing here? I thought we were going to the airport?” Kennedy complains from the back seat as I get out and stand on the sidewalk looking up at the building, wondering why he’d choose to live here when the rest of the guys live in brand new homes in the ‘burbs where their anonymity and security are assured.
“Just wait here. I won’t be long, I promise.” I don’t even turn to her before I head up to the door because if I do she’ll see it in my face; that I’m up to no good. Instead I cross the sidewalk and pound on the door, mostly for the sake of how this looks, and then I push the door open. It figures of course that it’s unlocked. I’d guessed that already by the fact that his car was parked out front and the other guys are already on their way to practice.
But then again he is injured, which probably means he’s not taking a full practice today, I tell myself as I slam the door behind me so that he knows someone is coming in.
“Mon chère,” he grins, stopping half way down the stairs. “This is a pleasant surprise.”
“This thing with Lauren…. Max, are you crazy?” I snarl accusingly at him. “Christ Max, she’s a child.” I expect him to argue, to point out that I’m only a very few years older than her and I have a counter argument for that, but he doesn’t. He only hangs his head and slumps on the stair until he’s sitting, his hand still curled around the banister.
“You’re right, naturellement,” he replies quietly, letting out a long, frustrated sounding sigh before he raises his gaze to meet mine. “Would you believe me if I said this is all just a joke that got completely out of control?”
I’m ready for just about any argument he might have come up with, except this one and for some reason, I believe him and it sort of takes the wind out of the sails of my anger. So instead of giving him the huge lecture I bite my tongue and walk up to sit beside him on the stair.
“She’s in love with you, you know that right?” He nods, his shoulders sagging and then he shrugs and lets out another long, pathetic sounding sigh.
“It was just to see if I could. I mean, TK and Jordy and some of the others thought it was funny but…it was just to see if I could and then it turns out she’s not exactly the spoiled princess that we all thought she was and now I don’t know how to end this without hurting her…or getting sent to Edmonton,” he adds with just the hint of a grin playing across his features. That I can sympathize with. Not only because Edmonton is the asshole of Canada but because the weather sucks and they’re the worst team in the conference, barely on life support and being sent there would be like being sent to purgatory.
“What we did…Max what we did was bad but it was for a good cause. This…this is bad,” I point out and he only nods, mutely. Obviously he doesn’t need to be told.
“So how do I do it?” he asks, looking over at me with puppy dog eyes and I almost feel bad for landing on him like a ton of bricks. He obviously does feel bad for what he’s done. “I mean, without getting sent to the KHL?”
“Well normally I’d say honesty is the best policy,” I begin, but then shake my head as we both snort at the idea. “But in this case…lie Max, lie your ass off. “
“Oui but…what? What can I say that won’t send her running to daddy or…or Crosby?” he asks, and even though I search his gaze, ready to call his bluff, I can see that he is honestly drawing a blank.
“Must I do everything?” I sigh, reaching over to grab his hands. “It’s not you , it’s me. You’re far too good for me. I’ll never be good enough for someone like you. You have your whole life ahead of you and…my whole career could be over the next time I get pushed into the boards and besides,” I add more softly, batting my eyelashes at him, “I don’t want to ruin your reputation and it would be ruined if anyone found out about us and I couldn’t do that to you.” I can see it in his eyes that Max is going to argue but then he seems to think better of it and nods his head, dropping his gaze from mine.
“You’re right, of course you’re right,” he sighs, giving my hands a squeeze before putting them carefully back in my lap. “It’s only my pride, after all. It’s not important.”
“You’re pride? Max, you can get any girl in this city and you know it,” I laugh, pushing him hard, sending him sliding down one stair and threatening to kick him down the rest. “And if it’s some bet you’re going to lose, better that then practicing in West Edmonton mall for a bunch of trailer trash honeys,” I add, grinning at him when he laughs. “Now I’m stupid late for a flight. Promise me you’ll do it today,” I insist, accepting his hand up and then walking down to his front door beside him.
“This week, at least,” he promises with another sigh. “What?” he grimaces, and then, when I roll my eyes at him he nods. “D’accord, alright already. Today.”
“Best to get it over with, like a band aid,” I explain, grabbing his arms and pinching his skin hard before pulling it back, making him wince. “Just remember, it would hurt worse to have Quinn tossing pucks and spitting his gum at you.”
“”Okay, today. Fuck. Do you boss Sidney around this way?”
“Of course,” I lie with a smile on my face as he leans in to buss each of my cheeks before turning to lock his front door.
“How was your weekend, by the way?” he asks, actually sounding interested. I keep the same bright smile on my face and lie some more.
“Amazing, really good. Thanks.”
“Morning Mr. Staal, nice of you to grace us with your presence,” Coach calls out as Jordan stumbles out onto the ice. For his part, Jordan just waves at Bylsma and puts his head down and tries to sort of meld in and disappear into our ranks as we skate laps to warm up. He isn’t the only missing, I notice as I turn to skate backwards, enjoying the feeling of my muscles bunching and flexing as they warm up.
“I don’t think I can take it if Kennedy comes down every weekend with your girlfriend,” Jordy grumbles as he catches up to me, using the flat of his blade to try and trip me, but I’m obviously more awake than he thinks I am, as I sidestep his stick and shake my head at him.
“I think this might be the first time I’ve heard you complaining about getting laid,” I laugh at him, knowing the difference between Gronk hungover and Gronk exhausted and right now, he looks a whole lot like he’s been rode hard and put up wet.
“I’m not complaining, exactly” Jordy assures me with a sleepy sort of grin. “I’m just saying I didn’t get any sleep, if you know what I mean,” he adds with a raised eyebrow, his grin growing as I roll my eyes. “Oh c’mon Crosby, are you tryin’ to tell me you couldn’t have used another couple hours after you kicked her out this morning?”
“I’m fresh as a daisy,” I reply as I skate a close circle around him, ending with my elbow in his ribs and both of us up against the boards. “Not all of us are only looking for a quick fuck.”
“Oh god, not that holier than thou shit again,” Jordy moans, pushing me off of him and starting to skate away from me, “there’s nothing wrong with a good fuck.”
“I’m not saying there’s not,” I agree, falling into step beside him. “But Mel and me, we go way back and I’m not going to just turn her into another notch on the belt. Not that it’s not fucking tempting,” I add, thinking about the way she tried to drag me into the guest room with her, grabbing me by my belt loops and giving me that come hither look that just about had me following her in.
“I’m glad to hear you’re still wearing the chastity belt mon ami,” Max suddenly joins us out of nowhere and I’m almost sure he wasn’t on the ice a minute ago. “Some things are worth waiting for, non?”
“As if you would know,” Jordy laughs, sending Max sliding across the ice on his ass, cursing loudly en Français and gesturing wildly. “But seriously, you two are holding out? Really? That’s sweet,” Jordy adds, patting me on my shoulder and I actually do feel pretty proud of the fact that I haven’t tried anything major on Mel yet.
“I don’t know, you know? Shit’s changed between us. I want to make sure it’s right before we get into…that,” I explain, to which I’m surprised that Jordy actually nods in agreement.
“Because she could be it, that’s what you’re saying,” he adds, which sends a shiver down my spine. I open my mouth to object, to argue, but quickly shut it again. He could be right. It’s kind of scary to think of it that way but…yeah, he could be right.
“Oh my god, do I hear the patter of tiny little Crosby skates?” TK asks, making kissing noises at me like we’re in grade five or something, so I take a leaf out of Jordy’s book and shove him into the boards, ignoring his threats and curses as I skate away.
I have other things on my mind, namely, getting to know Mel better and spending more time with her lips moving under mine. Yeah, that’s definitely worth thinking about.