thanks for your patience and the encouragement.
The more I think about it, the more the idea of Max being with Mel makes me want to rip someone’s head off and stuff my jockstrap down their throat. That person being Max, of course, although I have to take some of the blame myself, I guess. I mean, if I’d wanted to do something about what happened between me and Mel, I should have done it before now.
I mean, it would have been fucking nice if she’d told me she planned to go to school in New York. I don’t know for sure if that would have had any direct affect on how I dealt with that whole...thing but at least I wouldn’t have just thought ‘what’s the point?’
Although that should be what I’m thinking, I tell myself as stand at the end of the bench, wrapping tape around the blade of my stick, tugging it tighter and tighter, pulling it harder and harder the more I think about it. Women are just a complication, a distraction and a pain in the ass that I don’t need. Adding distance to the equation is just asking for trouble, like adding insult to injury, like purposefully running headfirst into the end boards. It’s just stupid. I’ve seen guys try and it never turns out well.
Well I guess I can’t blame it all on the distance. Take Jordy for instance, I think as I look down the bench at the tall blonde who’s busy yukking it up with TK. Heather’s a nice, respectable girl and Jordan is a dog that likes to chase anything and everything in a skirt so if their relationship doesn’t work, I guess we’ll all know who to blame.
What I want, or what I think I want is what Mario and Nat have and that...well that makes me think that you have to be friends first, and that makes me think of Mel and...and then I look down the bench to Max and I just want to jam my stick into his face.
Except that’s sort of unfair too. I mean if that...if what happened...if it meant anything to her then she obviously wouldn’t be dating Max.
Fuck! The fucking idea makes my skin crawl.
“What up Cap?” Jordy asks, piling onto the bench, blood dripping from a gash across the bridge of his nose. One of these days the Staal brothers will put visors on like the rest of us.
“Nothin’,” I mutter, snapping the tape off and smoothing the end down with my fingers.
“Yeah, right,” he snorts, shaking his head at me. “I’ve known you for a while dude and it’s rarely fucking nuthin’ with you,” he adds, grabbing one of the Gatorade bottles and upending it into his mouth, tossing it over his shoulder when he empties it and grabbing another one. “So what is it?” I stare across the ice, my gaze roaming the crowd, and not for the first time tonight, knowing she’s here...somewhere.
“You know that girl, at the barbeque,” I begin, which makes Jordy laugh out loud.
“What girl at what barbeque dude? You’re gonna have to get a little more specific here.”
“At my place, in the summer. That girl....”
“Oh, you mean the one I warned you to keep Max away from,” he snorts, grinning like it’s funny, like there’s something to laugh about in this situation. “Let me guess, now that she’s gonna be hittin' the town with Talbie, you’ve changed your mind about her and you just bein’ friends?” I shrug, because I don’t know and because I don’t really want to talk about it. Like I said, the visual of her with Max...doesn’t bear thinking about. “Take it from me Croz, as a guy with brothers, I know what it’s like to decide you want something only because you see someone else with it. That happens with us a lot, especially me and Marc,” he adds with a shrug of his own. “It happens dude. The question is, what are you going to do about it?” I give a shrug of my own, because I don’t know. I don’t know what to do about it, if anything.
“That’s probably all it is,” I reply quietly. “It’s probably just because I know what he’s like and I think he’s bad for her. That’s all,” I decide, or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself. I don’t know.
“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Jordy nods sagely, like he’s giving that idea some thought and then he shoves me, almost sending me off the end of the bench. “Man, I was there, remember? You were mining for her tonsils. What are you doing letting him on your turf?”
“Turf?” I stare back at him, shaking my head.
“Dude, you’ve known her like...your whole life right? I think you get dibs, you know what I mean?” It makes me smile, the idea of calling shotgun on a girl, but it also makes me shake my head.
“Yeah, Staalsy, I don’t really think it works like that, but thanks,” I mutter, trying to turn my attention back to the game, back to solving Lundqvist.
“Look, I know you guys don’t think much of her but after what happened with Big Py last year, when his girlfriend died, man it gave me some fucking perspective, you know? I mean, we can fuck all the pucks we want man, but they don’t get it. They don’t know what it’s like to be with someone who isn’t around and who’s always off doing shit and even when we’re home we’re like...not, you know? But Heather’s been around me for like...ever and she still wants to be with me, even with all that shit and, well, that counts for some major shit you know? So maybe your girl is like that for you, you know? Or she could if you didn’t let Max at her first,” Jordy adds with a grin, going from serious to a dig in no time flat, a total Gronk move if there ever was one.
I raise my hand to punch him in the arm but Bylsma taps my helmet and I’m over the boards before I get a chance to actually give Jordy shit for bringing Max up to me again.
He’s not the most eloquent guy on the team, but sometimes he makes a good point, even if it’s not totally on purpose and maybe he’s right. Maybe that’s what’s actually going on in the back of my head. Maybe I’m actually figuring out that I’m missing having someone in my life that gets that I can’t be around a lot. Maybe that’s why I’ve never wanted to have anything serious, anything real with anyone. I know that I won’t be around and for most women that is a serious problem.
With Mel...fuck she’s known that about me since I was like...eight. But she was always there when I came back and never made me feel bad about missing a birthday or anything like that. She took that kind of shit in her stride. She was just like any of my guy friends, she just accepted me back into the fold when I could be there.
Fuck...she’s dating my friend and I’ve told him I’m okay with it. I can’t just go back in the room and tell him to call off the date. She’d be pissed at me. She’d think I was being a prick.
So what the fuck do I do?
“Keep your head up kid.” I look up just in time to see an elbow flying towards my face and Marc Staal puts me into the boards hard enough to steal my breath and leaves me on my knees in the corner, and suddenly I know that this is exactly what I’m going to feel like when Max tells me that he’s in love with Mel, it’s going to fucking kill me.
“Lookin’ dapper Talbot.”
I look up from contemplating my untied shoelaces to see Brooksy staring at Max’s reflection in the mirror. Fuck me…he’s wearing a god damn fucking tie.
“Don’t go all gay on me Candyman. I know you have some kind of man crush on me, and don’t take this the wrong way but I’m strictly a vagina kinda guy,” Max grins back at Brooksy and everyone laughs. Everyone but me, oh…and Flower.
“You’re really not happy about this are you?” Jordy asks, toweling off his blonde hair as he slides onto the bench beside me. I shrug. They both know how I feel and I don’t really want to start talking about it again. “Then can I ask why you’re sitting here and not over there stopping it?” Again I’m forced to only shrug, because I’ve just been thinking the very same thing. Why am I sitting here letting it happen?
“Because….What if this is what she wants?” I begin, because if it comes right down to it, I have no right to make her miserable just because I’m hating sitting here thinking of him being…well being Max with her. “I mean…what if he’s right and she is his Mrs. Right? What if the only reason I know her was so they’d meet and…fuck, I don’t know, have a kid that cures cancer?”
“Okay, now you’re just being a retard.” I feel Jordy’s hand on my shoulder but I can’t tear my gaze away from Max and his sleek suit and his freshly trimmed beard. I don’t want to be thinking these things but they might be true. It’s possible…right?
“Maybe you’re just feeling protective, comme si elle est ta petite soeur?” Flower asks hopefully and I wish it was that easy. If Max had hit on Taylor I could just kill him and I wouldn’t have to live through this fucking pain.
“I wish Fleur…I wish that was all this was.” What I do know is I can’t watch Max preen and strut around like some kind of rooster anymore. One more minute of this and I’m going to put my fist in his mouth, so even though my shoes are still untied, I head out into the hall, feeling murderous and hoping that the gym back at the hotel will be empty enough for me to work off this feeling like I have to damage something or someone.
“Hey Darryl. Nice game.”
Damn. I don’t even have to look up to know it’s Mel. Not that many people call me that anymore. It was more something from junior and I can’t really think of any girls…women who would know that. I mean, not any that would be here…now.
I want to keep going, walk past her. I don’t want to see the little black dress and the knee high boots that she’s wearing, looking like the fashion student that Max tells me she is and nothing at all like the girl I knew back home. I don’t want to think about the way Max Is going to whistle and leer at her when he sees how low cut the dress is or the way that that silver chain she’s wearing disappears into her cleavage. I don’t want to be thinking about this for the rest of the night, or at least until Max gets back to the hotel and I know he’s not with her because that…that I can’t think about at all.
“You look…nice,” I manage, at the very least avoiding the crass remarks I made during the summer that had her taking off on me in a huff. She glances down at my shoes and then up at me and shakes her head.
“You look like…hell,” she replies, with a smile that’s…well at least it’s closer to what I remember her friendly smile being and it makes me feel better, it makes me smile back at her and the tension I’ve had in my shoulders all day, or at least since Max told me they were going on a date tonight sort of ebbs away. “So when did you….?”
“Hey there gorgeous,” Max plows by me, cutting off my question and silencing me altogether. Or rather the way her smile broadens when she sees him silences me.
So there it is. She likes him. Him…not me.
Well, I mean, can I blame her? I just…I didn’t know, didn’t think about her like that and he did. Right away he did and I didn’t. I can’t blame her for that.
“So uh, anyways, have fun tonight,” I mutter, unwilling to watch him take her hand or kiss her or whatever he’s going to do. I can’t watch it. It makes my chest hurt.
“Your roommate’s not home, right?” Max asked, breathlessly, his lips barely rising from my shoulder as I dug into my purse, frantically feeling for my keys.
“No, she said she’d be at the club until close,” I reply, just as breathlessly, my fingers finally closing around my keys, which I then drop as his teeth close on my earlobe, sending a shudder through my entire body. I hear him laugh, a deep throated sort of chuckle as he drops to one knee behind me to grab my keys, curling the fingers of his free hand around the back of my knee as if he needs it for balance, which I’m guessing by the fact that he’s a professional athlete, that he doesn’t. It makes me glad for the significantly large amount of alcohol I’ve imbibed because without the sort of haze around my brain, I’m sure I would have said something about it and ruined his fun.
Because it is his fun. My heart may be hammering in my chest, my palms are sweating and my knees are definitely weak but not because I’m particularly anxious to get him into my bed but more like I don’t know if I can actually go through with it or not.
Not that he hasn’t been adorable, funny and charming, because he has and not that his kisses have no effect on me because they make me feel all warm and fuzzy and wanted. It’s just that…no matter how charming and sweet and funny he is and no matter how hard I try to feel something, all I do feel is…well nearly nothing at all. It’s like I’m having fun, he makes me laugh but he doesn’t make me giddy or do anything that makes my stomach flip.
And yet, I’m still determined to take him to bed.
“Let me get the door,” he purrs, running his hand up the back of leg until his entire hand has a good hold on my bum, which he then gives a not too gentle squeeze.
I watch him stick my key in the deadbolt and know damn well my hand would be visibly shaking as it tried to make the same motions which would have done little to bolster the sex kitten image I’ve been trying to portray all night.
It’s my apartment, and yet as soon as the door opens, it’s Max that leads the way through it as if he’s got GPS, my hand in his, stumbling behind him like I’m drunk, which I’m not or not nearly drunk enough. I wish I could claim that it was the Tequila shooters or the apple martinis that had suggested he take me home. If only it was the champagne that had been in the limo that had made me crawl into his lap and offer myself to him like some kind of depraved slut.
But it’s not. It’s my idea and unfortunately I’m still clear headed enough that the part of my brain that’s still got some, albeit a tenuous sort of hold on reality and common sense that is doing its damndest to talk me out of what I still have every intention of carrying out.
“Single bed?” Max makes a derisive noise in his throat that’s not quite a laugh as skids to a halt outside of my bedroom door. I suppose the picture of the harbour over my desk gives it away, that or maybe Sidney’s Rimouski jersey hanging on the back of my closet doors. “Oh well,” he turns, smiling at me in that ‘come here little girl’ way that’s partly lecherous and partly anticipatory and all sex. I feel his hands slide into my hair, fisting in it as his lips lower over mine and he kisses me in that slow, wet sort of way that isn’t as thorough as the ones had been on the way here but these ones are different. Their like little lego blocks. There’s one, and then another and the next thing you know you’re in Legoland and there’s boats and building and Godzilla.
He’s smooth. I’ll give him that. He kisses me all the way back to my bed and by the time I feel the back of my knees hitting the side of the bed, he has the zipper of my dress all of the way down and the clasp of my bra undone. He steps back then, long enough to look me over like he’s seeing me for the first time or maybe like he’s viewing a prize heifer, I can’t decide, and then he gives me this sort of ‘well, get on with it’ look and I realize he’s waiting for me to do the rest of the work for him, to get naked and spread myself like butter on the bed and wait for him.
Except I can’t.
I start to. I raise my hand up to slide my dress over my shoulder but my hands are shaking so bad that I can’t do it and I end up looking up at him helplessly and that’s when I realize that I’m crying.
It’s so not fucking fair.
To his credit, he wasn’t too disappointed, or if he was, he didn’t let on. Max held me while I cried and he even did up my bra and zipped up my dress like a real, honest to god gentleman.
“A virgin?” he was incredulous and that much he couldn’t hide. Not that I could blame him. It wasn’t exactly something I was willing to shout from the rooftops. I mean, twenty years old and in the Big Apple and never been bedded? It was practically a crime.
Back in the Harbour, keeping a tight rein on your personal life wasn’t exactly frowned upon. Sure there are the fair share of unwed pregnancies, teenage moms and the like, but not Mrs. Pam Kelly’s child. That was never going to be me.
Not that it was for her that I hadn’t given it away to some lobster fisherman or even one of the many, many men in Europe who offered to deflower me as if it was some kind of service they wanted to perform and as if my virginity was some kind of disease to be gotten rid of and never spoken of again.
“This is about him…isn’t it?” Max said finally, quietly, cupping my face in his hand and forcing my eyes up to meet his. I didn’t want to say it and I didn’t want to have him see it in my face. I didn’t want him running back to his teammates and telling them all, least of all him. I couldn’t stand the thought of him thinking that he meant that much to me, which, of course had been the reason for this, for Max being here.
“I just want to get rid of it,” I hissed, blinking back the tears of shame that fell despite the fact that I was clenching my jaw and doing my best to keep my emotions in check. I would not be weak. He didn’t mean that much to me that this mattered anymore. It was just…embarrassing.
“Yeah but…did you keep it for him?” he asked, quietly but firmly. Like he was speaking to a child and not like he’d been speaking to me the rest of the night. I guess I really wasn’t the sexy siren anymore, being a big ‘ol virgin with mascara running down my cheeks. Yeah, not the sexiest I’ve ever felt, for sure.
I could have lied. Maybe should have lied but my silence spoke volumes when I wouldn’t lie. Of course I had. I’d loved the idiot for years, even though he didn’t know I existed and then…well and then time had passed by and….
“There just hasn’t been the right…time,” I added, hoping that would somehow make it…better.
“Does he know?” Max asked, forcing me to look at him again and I tried to be defiant, to lie with my eyes or at least to hide behind my embarrassment and anger but he was having none of it. Damn him. “Does he know this is how you feel about him?”
“No.” It was a simple answer to give. No, of course not because Sidney fucking Patrick Crosby does not know I fucking exist. Not as a woman anyway, and certainly not as a woman who could possibly have feelings.
“Do you love him?” It felt like a knife in my gut to have that question said out loud. Fuck, it was hard enough to know it in my own heart but to have anyone else know my secret shame…fuck. I shook my head, vehemently, but I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face that made it all a lie. Max held my face in his hands, stilling my fervent denial and he pressed his lips to the middle of my forehead. Like a father would do, or even a big brother. Just nothing like Sidney had ever done as a big brother. “I can help…if you want,” he began, his gaze holding mine so I could see how sincere he was, that he meant it. “I’ll help you but you have to be honest with me and with yourself. Do you love him?”
I bit down on the inside of my cheek, prepared to shake my head and deny it all even if I didn’t trust my voice not to break over the lie but I couldn’t do it. Not with Max staring at me like he could see right through me. I couldn’t, or maybe I was just tired of lying about it. Either way, I nodded and Max smiled and wrapped his arms around me and told me everything was going to be alright.