“Look who’s managed to drag his ass to the rink!” Jordy calls, slapping me on the back as I walk into the dressing room still wearing the suit I wore to the rink on Long Island the day before. “Dirty stop out,” he adds, messing my hair, which normally would send me off the deep end but considering I’ve just dragged a knit cap off of my head, I shrug it off, this time.
“Will you look at that afterglow? He doesn’t even care if you touch his head,” Cooker grins, reaching to do the same, but once was enough and I duck under his hand and move to my spot on the bench and start toeing off my shoes.
“You didn’t have to come you know,” Flower points out, “it’s voluntary today.”
“I know, but you know me,” and I know I don’t have to give any more of an explanation than that to him or anyone else on the team. Voluntary or not, I practice, even when I’m injured.
“How did she take your slipping out of her bed in the wee hours?” Max asks and I glance over to find him busy taping his stick, not looking at me and I feel just the smallest twinge of regret. Not for leaving her, but for stepping in to the position he’d only just vacated. Normally it isn’t something I’d recommend any guy do to any of the other guys on the team, unless it has to do with a puck fuck and then it doesn’t matter but….
“Look I’m sorry Max. I mean I know you said to go but…it couldn’t have been easy for you,” I begin, feeling actually sorry for the guy, but he only shakes his head and laughs.
“Mon ami, je suis très heureux pour vous, for both of you. She finally has what she wants and you’re getting laid. Everyone’s happy.” I know Max is smiling, and he looks and sounds like he means it and I want to believe that he does but there’s something in his eyes that tells me he’s not really as happy for me as he wants me to believe.
“If it helps, I really don’t think she went through you to get to me Max. You know how little patience I have for that sort of shit,” I explain, thinking that that must be it. That there is a line that I won’t usually cross, that I won’t go out with girls who try to go through my friends to get to me.
“I don’t think that,” Max says more quietly, putting his hand on my shoulder and studying me for a long minute. “I think she used me, sure, but not like that. She didn’t want to feel things she feels because she thought you didn’t…fuck! Ecoutes-moi! Pourqui est-ce j’etant suis sérieux tellement fichu? Ignore me, mon ami. I hope you will both be very happy together.”
I watch Max go but I can’t help feeling that he’s not being completely honest with me or if not me, himself. Still, it’s part of the code we have in this room. If that’s what a guy wants you to believe, like if he’s just taken a slash to the back of the knee and you can tell it’s hurting, if he tells you it doesn’t, you go with that. So I’ll leave it, for now, because that’s what he wants and a guy has his pride.
“So, was she all you dreamed about and more?” Jordy asks, reappearing in front of me and reaching for my hair again. I bat his hand away and shake my head.
“Is that all you think about Gronk? Sex?” I laugh, which brings on an assault of wolf whistles and other animals sounds that generally suggests that that is pretty much what all of my teammates think about.
“Spill it Croz. I’ve seen her, these losers haven’t. So, was she hot in the sack or what?” I shake my head and seriously consider saying nothing and letting them believe whatever their dark, twisted little imaginations can come up with but then I think, she’s going to be one of the Wags and I want her to be respected and this is the sort of thing that could come back to bite me in the ass.
“I slept on the couch, okay? Happy?” I add, getting up and turning my back on the sarcastic gasps and other derisive sounds that tell me that they either don’t believe me or that they think I’m just covering up for a night of hot, sweaty amazing sex and I’m just too humble or too embarrassed to talk about it. Either way, I’m not saying more than that. I’ve told the truth and I’m not going to get into it with them.
After all, Mel and I know what happened and I know that when we get to know each other again, when the time is right, it will be amazing and that will be worth waiting for.
“It’s for you. It’s your boyfriend’s girlfriend. ” Kennedy hands me the phone and sort of rolls her eyes as she drops it into my hands before returning to her lounging position on the couch with her legs draped over the edge and her magazine held up over her head.
“Bonsoir Max,” I laugh, not having to be told what she means by it to know that it’s him.
“Et bonsoir à tu mon chère,” he replies, sounding amused by my French I suppose. Either that or it’s just Max, hardly ever serious. “So how was your first day in heaven? Because if you’re anything like mon ami ici, you’re grinning all of the time and walking around as if your feet will not touch the ground, oui?” I can’t help but break out into a huge grin at the idea of Sidney walking around with the same fluffy white cloud under his feet that I’ve been walking around on all day and it warms something deep within me to hear it.
“Oh I think I’ll do,” I reply, trying to sound calm and reserved, like it doesn’t matter, like I have it all together but Max doesn’t seem to buy it. I can hear him chuckling to himself on the other end of the line even though he has the decency to hold the phone away or at least muffle it while he laughs at me. “Seriously though, I owe you big time. Next time you’re in the Big Apple we’ll have to take you to dinner or something.”
“Oui, or something eh?” he laughs, sounding like the dirty Frenchman everyone knows and expects him to be. “Amenez un ou deux de vos jolis amies pour moi,” he adds really putting on that heavy Quebec accent that makes him sound more like Pepè le Peu than he usually does and that image makes me laugh more than what he’s said. I can well imagine him grabbing up some poor girl off of the street like Pepe does Penelope Pussycat and covering her with kisses. “Speaking of dates, I hear you are coming down to have your first official date?” he adds, making my stomach churn all over again at the mere thought of it.
“Yeah, apparently I’m to meet the Landlord and his entire brood,” I sigh, rubbing methodically at that spot between my eyes that starts to throb every time I think about it.
“L’idiot absolu! For your first date?” Max snorts and I have to concur with the sentiment, although it isn’t what I’d told Sidney. Of course I’d agreed. It had seemed somehow important to him.
“Oh me nerves. I don’t even know what to wear Max. What are they like? I hear they live in a castle or something?”
“Ne t’inquietes pas,” Max sighs, going back to the Max I’ve gotten to know, the serious Max, my friend. “Just be you, mon chère, they’ll love you, like we all do.”
“That’s sweet Max. I’m glad I have at least one of his friends on my side. I can’t wait until Troy finds out about this. I swear as soon as I sprouted breasts that man wanted to get me away from his son,” I mutter, thinking about Sidney’s barrel- chested and constantly disapproving father. “Well as long as they don’t totally hate me….”
“Mon chère, I promise that’s impossible,” Max laughs, and that helps a little to alleviate that tight feeling between my eyes. “Maybe I’ll see you when you’re down here. If mon capitaine doesn’t keep you all to himself. Not that I could blame him if he did. I know I would keep you tied up,” he adds, his accent thickening the way it does when he’s trying to be funny, or seductive, or in Max’s case, both.
“Maaaxx,” I moan, shaking my head at the double entendre. It’s like he can’t himself.
“No, seriously though mon chère, if you need anything, I’m here for you, d’accord? Anytime,” he adds, and it goes a long way towards making that throb behind my eyes go away.
“Thank you Max, really. Like I said, it’s good to know I’ve got one of his friends on side and if Sid gets out of line I can always threaten to go back to you right?” I add, still feeling vaguely guilty about our ruse but at least Sid hasn’t questioned me too directly on it so it is still an option, although I don’t think I’ll need it, or at least I hope not.
“Naturellement!” Max laughs and I don’t have to see him to know that he’s grinning in that ear to ear sort of way that he does when he really likes something. “Jusque là, bonne nuit mon chère.”
“Yeah, good night Max,” I sigh, hitting the end button and turning to put the phone back in the cradle, finding Kennedy watching me over the top of her magazine with a speculative look in her eye. “What?”
“You and Max…Sid doesn’t know that was all crap does he?” she asks and, for the first time I’m reminded that she knows a little too much about what’s going on and that she might have told Jordan. “You should tell him,” she continues before I have time to explain, going back to her magazine, making the pages rustle noisily.
“I will…sometime,” I add under my breath. I have no idea what the right time would be for that kind of conversation, and besides, I have this ‘meet the parents’ kind of dinner to go to first and I think that’s really enough pressure for one night.
“It’s not going to be easy you know,” she continues, suddenly folding her magazine and sitting up, watching me with shrewd, knowing eyes as I reach for the remote. My hand hovers above it as I stare at her, wondering where this speech has suddenly come from. “Jordan says they all break up with him for the same reason.” They all…just the thought of a lineup of nameless, faceless and yet pretty young women makes that throbbing sensation return and I straighten, reaching for that spot and trying to rub it away. I know there has to have been who knows how many. I know it and yet it’s the last thing I want to think about. “I’m just saying,” Kensie continues, “Jordan says he doesn’t envy anyone that gets involved with him. He says it always turns out that he doesn’t have time for them and it always ends the same way.”
Closing my eyes, I hold up my hand to stop her from talking. Partly because the throbbing between my eyes has now turned into a full on splitting headache, and partly because I just don’t want to and don’t think I need to hear it. It takes a moment or so before I can force my eyes open so that she can see just how serious I am when I say it and then I smile, as much as I can through the pain, and try to explain it in as short and sweet a manner as I can.
“I know him, probably better than most people. I know how he eats and sleeps and breathes hockey. I won’t be one of those clingy girls who ‘needs’ his attention. I’m not that girl. Besides, that’s part of the reason I stayed here and didn’t go chasing him down there. He’ll miss me. He’ll be glad to see me and he’ll make time for me. You’ll see.” I feel confident as I say it and even Kensie has to shrug and seemingly ascent to my plan but as I turn to head to my room to go back to planning my wardrobe for the weekend she calls out to me.
“Just be careful Mel. After all, he’s not just that kid you knew in Coal Harbor anymore is he?” I turn to look at her but she’s got that magazine open again, effectively dismissing me and cutting off the conversation at that.
It’s a fair enough warning I suppose if you don’t know him. But I do, I grin to myself as I head back into my room to delve into my closet. I know him better than anyone and I’ve waited this long for him to see me. Nothing can go wrong now. That’s not how the story goes.