Thank you so much for all your thoughts and feedback. You guys are funny, bright, thoughtful and charming. So I hope this lives up to all of that.
Even with all the new, more feminine clothes that I’d added to my wardrobe in recent months, nothing and I mean nothing came close to this. It had taken some getting used to dresses and skirts, especially ones that required slips but when I wore jeans, I went for comfortable. Not like this. Jeans so tight…well, like they say, nothing was coming between me and my Levis tonight.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, in a sea of Red Devils jerseys the pink Penguin on my chest stood out like a beacon in a storm and I cursed Maxime Talbot for his fashion advice with each stair that brought us closer to the bench. I kept checking my ticket and staring at the number on the aisle, hoping the next one would be it and with each set of stairs we walked down, my hopes were dashed.
“Behind the bench. Well alright. These are good seats.” My roommate, Kennedy, was my only saving grace. She had chosen to wear a Rangers jersey to the game and the only other reason I hadn’t forbade her from doing so was because it was a Marc Staal jersey. That, and if she got beat up for wearing it and drew attention away from the name and number currently emblazoned on my back, well that would suit my purpose just fine.
Max had told me when we should arrive, given a specific time and it looked like he’d known exactly what he was talking about because as we walked down the row to find our seats slap dab in the middle of the row behind the bench, the boys were just emerging from the tunnel to very loud and very prolonged boos. He’d wanted me to blow him a kiss. I couldn’t think of a time that I’d ever blown anyone a kiss, including my mother when I was a child and liked her more than I did now, so instead I waved but not a big friendly wave. No, more of a flirtatious bend of the fingers or at least that’s what I hoped it looked like.
Max was one of the first out of the tunnel, right behind Flower. He hit the ice backwards, blowing me kisses until he was near centre ice, when he turned around and skated hard across the rest of the ice. I’d already lost interest by then, waiting nervously for the line of players to thin out, for the tail end to emerge, because Sid was always one of the last out. It had always been that way. It was more a defense mechanism, from the days when the parents of even his own teammates would hurl insults that were so painful even a cool, calm and collected boy could be made to cry.
I willed him to look when he emerged from the tunnel, but he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. He never did.
I shouldn’t say never. There was a time….
“Oh my gawd, be a little more obvious,” I muttered, glancing down the boards at a group of giggling teenage girls in their cut off jean skirts and low cut tops, shivering from being so close to the ice in so little clothing.
“Jealous much?” Sidney asked, not looking up from undoing his skates as he sat alone on the bench after practice. Well not alone. I was there and a couple of the other guys are not far away, including Newt who was flirting with a trio of similarly scantily clad girls who look like they’re close to college age. But then most of the guys on the team were a couple years older than Sidney.
“Of them?” I ask, having glanced at the girls in their short skirts and their half tops and turned up my nose. “Put them all together and they couldn’t even come close to my IQ,” I added, sticking my hands in the pockets of my down jacket as I leaned against the boards. That earned me a half smile from Sidney as he looked up at me before shaking his head and returning to tugging his skates loose.
“You wouldn’t understand,” he replied quietly, shrugging the shoulders that were already wider and more muscular than almost any boy his age had.
“Oh wouldn’t I? Look at Newt, all over them like that. He’ll probably catch something fatal,” I muttered, rolling my eyes at the way Andrew Newton was grinning at them and making them giggle like girls half their age. Grabbing his skates, Sidney stared at the group of girls, who made no attempt to hide the open desire in their gazes as they stared back, welcoming smiles on each of their faces. I looked at them and then back at Sidney and watched as he began to turn red, starting with the tips of his ears. “Oh my god, Sidney Patrick Crosby…have you…? You have, haven’t you? You disgusting pig.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about Mel. You’re too young to understand,” he insisted, brushing by me as he headed for the locker room where I could not follow.
“Whatever. You ‘re stupid if you think that makes you cool,” I shouted after him but I could feel the heat of shame in my face as I stared after him, realizing that no matter what I did, Sidney was always going to think I was just a stupid kid that tagged along and he was never going to see me like he did those girls.
He was never going to see me.
“What’s she doing here?”
“Mel?” Max turns toward the bench and waved at her with this big stupid grin on her face. “She’s my new lucky charm.”
“You’re kidding right?” I mumble, forcing myself not to look up to see her watching us, standing there behind the bench in one of those short girlie jerseys. Pink. I’ve never seen Melody Kelly wear pink. Not ever, and to make it worse, she’s wearing his number, his fucking number.
“Mon ami, you said you were okay with this. If you are not….”
“I’m fine…whatever. I just hope it’s not serious or anything because if you hurt her I’m the one that’s going to get it in the ear from her mother,” I explain gruffly, to which Max only laughs and pats me on the back.
“Ne t’ inquiétes pas d’une chose,” he says, actually sounding serious when he says it. “If anyone is breaking anyone’s heart it’s mine you’ll be picking up off of the floor.” I start to call him on his bullshit but the look on his face makes me shut my mouth and go back to staring down at the ice. Fuck me. He seems actually serious about this shit. “Tell me something though,” he carries on, dropping to the ice to stretch as I stand there, sending a puck sliding back and forth on the ice in front of me. “Why didn’t you hit that? She’s a nice girl, pretty, smart….”
“Fuck, I know all that okay?” I grumble, glancing up at her, thinking that she isn’t at all the girl I remembered but she is the girl that’s been haunting my dreams.
“She’s just…we’re friends, you know? You don’t do that, you don’t…I don’t know,” I sigh, forcing my attention back to the ice because looking at her, dressed like puck bunny and knowing that she’s doing it to please him makes me grind my teeth together.
“Well, all I know is, she looks good in my jersey, non?”
“No, man, she doesn’t ,” I growl, refusing to look down at him, knowing full well he’ll have be wearing that shit eating grin of his and if I see that look on his face right now, I’ll toss down the gloves and end up getting my face rearranged. So instead, I push the puck in front of me and head towards the net, bearing down on Flower with malice.
“What if I asked you not to?”
I was busy laughing with Kennedy, and trying to keep out of the way of the equipment managers and members of the press. I hadn’t notice him creep up on us.
“Not to what?” I didn’t want to look at the way his damp hair clung to his cheeks and forehead or the way his soft pink lips looked chapped after being out on the ice. I didn’t want to think about the way his skin was almost glowing after all the exertion. Forcing my mask back into place, I put up my shields until I could feel like the real me was hiding and then I allowed my gaze to meet his.
“Date him. What if I asked you not to?” I could feel my heart stop in my chest, but I bit down hard on the inside of my cheek and chased back the smile that had nearly showed him how I felt about his demand.
“Why would you do that?” I ask, trying very hard not to look smug as I tilted my head to one side and hoped that my smile was not too wide as I waited while he pursed his lips and stared back at me with a look that I knew all too well. It was the ‘please don’t make me talk about that here’ look. The ‘not in front of other people’ look.
Well fuck that. I’d been waiting for years for him to want me. I was not going to let him sneak around dark corners. If he was going to forbid me from spending time with Max, he was damn well going to tell me the truth, here and now.
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea. He has…bad habits when it comes to women and…you’re from the Harbour, not exactly big city. You don’t know about guys like that.”
I felt my jaw go slack, as I stood there, staring at him, disbelieving. Had he honestly just said that I was a small town hick who didn’t know about smooth city boys? Did he honestly just say that?
I could feel Kennedy go still beside me and knew she was holding her breath as she waited for me to explode. She hadn’t known me long, a few weeks, but my temper wasn’t exactly something I had much control over. In fact it was legendary, and I was a bit surprised that Sidney hadn’t remembered that before opening his fat mouth.
“Really?” Smiling back at him, I bat my eyelashes and give him my best, most vacant smile. He should know the look, the threat it contains and I see him blink as he realizes his mistake. Fortunately for him, Max appears over his shoulder, grins at me, winks and then dangles his arm over Sid’s shoulder.
“You’re not flirting with my girl are you Croz?” he laughs, leaning to give Sid a kiss on his cheek, which only causes Sidney to make a face and push him away. This, of course, does not disturb Max in the least and he only laughs and moves towards me, arms open. At first, I freeze, almost forgetting my part in this charade. But then I step into his arms and let him cradle my face in his big hands, telling my body to relax against his as he places a soft kiss on my lips. “Did you see me score that goal?” he asks brightly, as if there is no one else around us. As if Sidney isn’t standing directly behind him, fuming. “Good deke, huh? That’s me, superstar.”
“It was very good,” I agree breathily, biting down on my bottom lip as Max’s gaze levels on my lips, like he’s thinking about kissing me again. He really is very good at his part. “Very…masterful.”
“Wait until later,” he laughs, kissing the tip of my nose instead of my lips, and then winking as if to say we’ve both done our parts well. “I’ll show you masterful later. Right now, I’ll shower, but you wait here ma chère, ça va?”
“Oui, ça va,” I agree, watching him turn to go and watching Sidney stare after him like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. I don’t even have to brighten my smile when he turns back to stare, disbelieving at me. I’m finding that I like it when he’s mad.
“You should think about what I said,” Sidney says before turning on his heel to go.
“I’ll do that…I’ll think about it,” I call after him, making sure to add a high pitched girlish giggle when he turns to glare at me over his shoulder.
After all, that’s what girls he likes do, isn’t it?