Which Team are you on?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chapter 22

it's warmin' up in here folks...

“Oh my gawd it’s a beer, it’s not going to kill you!” Getzlaf tries to shove a beer into my hand for like the tenth time and I’m having none of it, laughing, but shoving it away all the same.

“Too many calories,” I explain. “Find me something harder and we’re talking,” I add while he rolls his eyes he and Perry take off in the opposite direction in search of someone more fun, I presume. I’ve never been to a frat party, but I’m guessing that this sort of wandering the halls of the athlete’s village with beer in hand is as much like that as I’m ever going to get. Well, apart from the craziness after winning the Stanley Cup.

“You did good today kid.” I turn to see Haley Wickenheiser walking towards me with a couple of her teammates, all three of them with beer in hand, making me wonder, am I the only one around here that doesn’t drink the stuff during the season.

“Thanks,” I nod, feeling a bit awkward. I mean I know who she is, I’m pretty sure everyone who plays hockey in Canada does, but I don’t think we’ve ever been introduced before. “I hear you guys set some kind of record for goals?” I offer, remembering back to my junior days when I’d score eight goals but thirteen?

“I just hope we didn’t blow our load you know?” one of the girls with Haley laughs and I find myself grinning back at the blue eyed, fresh faced forward. I seem to remember someone telling me that they call her the female Sidney Crosby but I can’t quite remember her name.

“Who do you play next?” I ask and the other girl, the dark haired, dark eyes beauty who doesn’t look anything like you’d think a hockey player would.

“Same as you, Switzerland,” she grins. “Nooo problem.”

“I’ve heard the Swiss guys are actually pretty good,” I offer. “I’m actually a little worried about them. They’ve got a hot goaltender. I actually have problems with Hiller.

“Well if you need help, we can always give Marie-Philip here a buzz cut and put her in,” Hayley offers and the blonde blue eyed girl laughs but doesn’t exactly object.

“I’ve heard you have a hell of a shot,” Flower appears at my side and I gather he knows more about these girls than I do.

“She’s got a wicked release,” the dark haired beauty adds. “I should know, I’m black and blue from taking shots in practice.” I find myself mesmerized by her bubblegum pink lips and dimple in her right cheek, unable to look away. “Ca va Fleur?” she asks suddenly and she and my goalie exchange fists in a familiar way that has me looking confusedly back and forth between the two of them.

“Charline’s from nearby. She was on TV en Quebec,” Flower explains and I nod, mutely, still focused entirely on her shiny pink lip gloss.

“So, Crosby...beer?” she asks, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow before tossing her long, shiny dark hair over her shoulder.

“Ummm, yeah,” I reply falling in step with them as they head for the main lounge area. Flower looks inquisitively at me and all I can do is shrug because I don’t know the answer either.


“Still no answer,” I mumble under my breath, hitting end and tossing my cell across the couch. Max is, I don’t know where, sulking. Tanger is out gallivanting and likely getting laid and Kennedy took off pretty much right from the shoot to join Jordy and the rest of his family in Vancouver to cheer on older brother Eric. And that leaves me alone, in my jammies, with my cell phone apparently.

Not that I begrudge him a celebration with the boys, which I tell myself is probably where he is. I mean, it would be nice if he answered his phone but it’s probably pretty loud wherever he is and I have seen the crowds on the internet. It looks pretty crazy and maybe even the Sidney Crosby could get lost in those crowds.
I tell myself I’m happy for him if he is out having fun. He deserves it. He played really well. Of course if he’s just out with Trina and Troy....

The door opens and I turn to see Max standing in the doorway, warily looking at me like he expects me to tell him to fuck off again except I’m over it and besides, I hate the whole silence thing.

“Where’ve you been?” I ask, picking up my sketch pad again and going back to work on something that’s been in my head for a while now.

“Walking,” he replies, still standing in the doorway.

“In New York? You can get mugged here you know,” I muse, turning my pencil sideways to do some shading. “Well don’t just stand there. You’re letting in that horrible curry smell from the hall,” I add with a smile that I don’t let him see. It’s not as fun as making Sid squirm, but almost.

“You’re not going to throw something at me?” he asks, sounding more like the happy go lucky fun loving Frenchman we all adore.

“That depends. Are you going to act like an ass again?” I ask, listening to him toe off his shoes and then cross the floor in stocking feet before grabbing the remote and aiming it towards the TV. “And that includes changing my show,” I add, reaching out without looking up from my work to snatch the remote out of his hand. I hear him snicker and have to bite down on my bottom lip to stop him from laughing out loud.

For a while we sit in companionable silence but there’s that undercurrent. The type where you know the other person is dying to say something, so much so that there’s a palpable electric current in the air. That and I could feel Max watching my hands as I sketched out a full skirted ball gown with a silver and white brocade bodice.

“Go on, say it,” I mutter, unwilling to look up to see the ‘I told you so’ look I knew would be in his eyes.

“Do you really have to rush into marrying him? You’ve known him your whole life. Maybe he’s not what you think he is,” he suggests, at which point I put down my pencils and put aside my sketch book and turn to face my accuser.

“I’m not the one who brought up weddings. You did and I don’t even know if you made that up just get a reaction from me or if he’s actually said something to you and I’m not sure I even want you to tell me. As for who he is…he is Sidney. He is who he’s always been just…more so,” I insist quietly, hoping that he can see the plea in my eyes that says I don’t want to argue about this.

“I don’t think you want all of the attention that will bring,” Max continues despite my silent plea and that makes me grab for a pillow to hold onto, wrapping my arms around it like a shield. “Do you have any idea what kind of press you’re going to have to deal with? And I don’t mean like with Nat and Mario and how they’re always in the Pittsburgh Gazette. I mean in every paper and magazine in Canada,” Max continues and my head begins to throb in response.

“You don’t know that,” I begin and Max snorts again and then reaches over to put his hand on my knee.

“Not to mention the hate mail, the death threats,” he adds, turning the dull throb into a piercing ache behind my eyes.

“I can’t stop loving him Max,” I shrug, opening my eyes so that he can see just how tired I am of this entire subject. “I may not want to think about all of that stuff right now but…it doesn’t stop me from wanting to be with him. It just makes it…harder. That’s what I meant the other day. I know it’s going to be hard but that doesn’t mean I stop loving him. Hell…there’s been plenty of times I wish I didn’t. Fuck, I know it would be easier if I didn’t. It would be so much easier to go back to playing in the sandbox and not understanding that I was a girl and he was a boy…and some days I would if I could but…I can’t because I love him. I don’t know how else to explain it.” Max sighs and closes his eyes, nodding as he leans his head back and I know there’s more he wants to say but my phone begins to vibrate on the cushion beside him and when he reaches for it, I can tell by the look on his face exactly who it is. “G’night Max,” I grin, grabbing my phone from his hand and kissing his forehead as I bound towards my room. “Hey hero boy, that was a great game….”


Maybe it was the beer, or the fact that I was tired, but when Charline Labonté asked me to go somewhere quiet with her…it was tempting. That is, until I reminded myself that I wasn’t the kind of guy that did that kind of thing, at least not anymore. So as tempting as it was, I yawned and stretched and begged off.

I didn’t tell her I wasn’t interested or that I had a girlfriend back home. I just looked into those dark eyes, and brushed her silken hair back from her face and kissed her good night.

I’m an asshole. I’m a fucking asshole just like Tanger or Max.

There’s something about her though and not just her toned athletic body or the fact that she can skate, well as well as any goalie can, although to be able to talk about hockey with someone who plays it was phenomenal. But it wasn’t just that. There was a freeness about her, an openness that I can’t put my finger on.

Flower says it’s just cold feet. I asked him how he knows and he couldn’t answer. Of course he couldn’t. He’s always had Vero.

“Ma mère dit a moi q’un jour où je me le développerai fatigue d’elle, mais je ne le fais pas,” he explains with one of his easy grins and I can’t help but wish it was that easy for me.

“Papa G says that if I’m relaxed around her that she’s the one but I don’t know. I keep thinking maybe if I was like Jordy, the way he runs around falling in love all the time, maybe then I could agree but I want to feel that...I don’t fucking know, something, anything that says yeah, stupid, she’s the one,” I explain, dropping my head into my hands.

“Mon ami, tu penses trop,” Flower laughs, mussing my hair as he gets up off of his bed.

“Great and the next thing you’ll be telling me is that I need to get laid,” I sigh, letting myself fall back on the bed so that I’m staring up at the blank, white ceiling.

“Peut-être ce n’est pas une si mauvaise idée,” he smirks, grabbing his cell phone and heading into the bathroom for some privacy. Vero does phone sex. Apparently very well.

Now there’s an idea.

Grabbing my phone I look down to see five missed calls; one my father, two Mario and the rest all Mel. As I listen to the sound of her number dialing I fluff up the pillows behind me and try to relax. I’ve never been very good at this, but damn it, I think I need it.

“Hey hero boy!” I’d half expected to get admonished for not phoning earlier but as usual Mel surprises me by being happy instead of upset. “That was a great game. You made some fabulous moves out there.”

“It was fun,” I admit, taking a deep breath and glancing towards the bathroom door which remains closed. “What are you wearing right now?”

“Wh...what?” I can hear the shock and alarm in her voice and I guess I did kinda jump right into it but I don’t know how much time or privacy I’m going to have.

“Are you alone or....?”

“Max is here but he’s in the living room...why?” she laughs nervously and I’m sure I hear the sound of her closing her bedroom door and then the squeak of her old bed springs. “What’s up with you tonight?” We’ve talked on the phone a hundred times. No, probably more and I’ve never tried this before. I can understand her surprise.

“So what are you wearing?” I ask again and I can hear her put her hand over the phone to stifle the nervous giggling. Funny, she never seemed giggly when we made out before.

“I’m just in my jammies,” she replies finally, in a sort of breathless voice that tells me she’s still trying to get her breathing under control.

“Well don’t,” I tell her, pulling my sheet up over stomach and sliding my hand down to the waistband of my wind pants. “So now what are you wearing?” I ask and I can hear her fumbling on the other side of the line and so I close my eyes, bringing her curves to mind and imagining pulling her pyjama bottoms off, slowly revealing a pair of.... “What kind of panties are you wearing?”

“Black, lacey,” she replies breathlessly, and this time I don’t think the sound of her voice is from nerves alone.

“Are you wearing a bra?” I ask, thinking about the high round soft globes in my hands, the firm little peak of her nipple pressing into the palm of my hand as I kiss my way down her neck.

“No, I took it off when I came home. I’m just wearing that old Shattucks t-shirt you brought home for me,” she tells me and then it’s my turn to take a deep, wavering breath. That old shirt fits tightly across her chest. I’d bought it for the little girl I’d left behind only to deliver it to a more filled out girl. I’d never seen her wear it until she’d stayed over at Mario’s and when I had, it had nearly taken my breath away.

“Sooo just that and the panties?” I ask, hearing my voice get low and husky as I imagine her bare legs bent at the knees and her hand sliding slowly down over her breasts and then further down....

“Yesss,” she hisses and I can’t help but imagine her hand sliding under the black lace, down inside that mysterious union between her legs.

“Are you...are you wet...down there?” I ask, feeling heat rise into my face. As if someone can see me or overhear me. It’s only her and I and yet....

“Mmmm,” is her only reply and a little groan escapes my own lips as my hand slides down to circle my now hard and aching cock.

“God I can’t wait to taste you Mel. I dream about it...of going down on your sweet little pussy, of you cumming for me. Do you want that too?” I ask and she moans for me and I wonder if she’s rubbing her clit or finger fucking herself or...or both.

“Yess Sidney! Your tongue...oh god,” she moans and I can hear her sharp intake of breath and I imagine her arching her back beneath me as I slide my cock inside her dripping wet pussy.

“I want to be inside you. Is it tight?” I ask and she lets out a shaky little laugh.

“Oh god...you have no idea,” she whispers in a voice that tells me she’s smiling and I wonder what she’s imagining in her head. Does she see me moving over her, filling her, fucking her hard? Or is she still imagining me lapping at sweet pussy?

“Is it shaved?” I ask, my strokes quickening as I imagine watching my cock sliding out of her pussy, dripping with her juices.

“Yessss, and oh my god you make me so wet,” she moans and I can clearly hear her sucking a ragged breath through her teeth and I imagine her head tossing from side to side as I make her cum over and over.

“How do you want it?” I ask, my eyes screwed tightly shut as I reach for the tissues on the side table. “Hard and fast? Do you want me to fuck you fast?”

“Please...yessss,” she sighs, and I hear her making a little squeaking sound and I imagine my teeth closing around one of the pink buds of her nipples, making her squirm beneath me as I slide in and out of her wet pussy.

“Say you want me Mel,” I hiss, tossing back the sheets before I shoot my load into them. “Say you want me in your pussy.”

“Fuck me Sidney...oh god, fuck me hard. Fuck my pussy” she moans and that does it. I fill the tissues and my hand and spray my load up onto my stomach, leaving me a sticky mess.

“Shit,” I mutter, grabbing more tissues and wiping at the mess I’ve made and shoving my dick back in my pants.

“Are you...Sid? Are you there?”

“Oh...oh damn, Mel, sorry you just...fuck you made me cum and I sort of last track there,” I apologize sheepishly, tossing all the soiled tissues in the garbage with a grateful glance towards the still closed bathroom door. “That was great. I think I needed that to go to sleep. Shit, what time is it there?”

“I don’t know, two?” she replies quietly.

“And you were up with Max?” I ask, hearing the accusing sting in my own voice and wishing I could take it back.

“He’d just crawled in. I was up working on my project,” she explains, and then lets out a long yawn. “You’re probably exhausted,” she adds in a small voice. I am, now. Thanks to her. But as I open my mouth to tell her so, Flower emerges from the bathroom looking similarly happy and exhausted and collapses onto his bed. “Fleur’s back now so good night Mel. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Okay, night Sidney.” I hit end and put my phone down on the bedside table and roll over to grin at Flower.

“Sentes mieux?” he asks groggily, reaching to turn out his light.

“Much, thanks,” I grin at him, turning mine off and stretching as I roll over and close my eyes. Much, much better.

“How’s lover boy?” Max asks over my shoulder as I spit into the sink and I nearly jump out of my skin to see him there in the mirror. My thoughts were, obviously, hundreds of miles away.

“Fine, good,” I mutter, reaching for a towel to wipe off the excess toothpaste and hide the beet red colour my skin has just turned to be found thinking about what had just transpired in my bedroom.

“I hope you bugged him about not scoring,” Max adds as I reach for my hairbrush, pulling furiously at my hair, unable to face him, hoping like hell he didn’t overhear anything but being completely unwilling to ask.

“No, I didn’t,” I snap, sounding bitchier than I mean to but then again, he did leave me sort of high and dry after he finished. Typical male.

“Aww. You miss him. That’s sweet,” Max continues and it’s just one comment too many and I whirl on him, claws and fangs bared.

“Yes I miss him! Yes I love him! And yes, I want to fuck his brains out but I can’t because he’s there and I’m here and even if he was here I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do what I actually want to do and no, I haven’t fucking told him I’m still holding my V-card, okay? I haven’t, because it’s kind of embarrassing and he’s going to want to sleep with me when he gets back and I don’t know what I’m going to do about that, okay? Satisfied?” Max stares back at me, wide eyed, his mouth hanging open like a dead carp. “Nothing to say? Good, well. Good night Max,” I snarl, pushing past him and heading for my bedroom, fully intending on giving the door a good satisfying slam before tossing myself on my bed and having a good old fashioned pout but Max grabs my bedroom door before I manage to swing it shut.

“Did you guys have a fight or....?”

“No, not a fight...look, never mind Max. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be talking about my private life to you. Just...just try and ignore me, ça va?”I mutter, grabbing one of my teddy bears off of my bed and clutching it protectively to my chest.

“Mon chère, you put too much stock in this virginity thing. I mean...not me, I’m not one for wanting to be first but Sidney...je ne sais pas but perhaps he will be honoured. You don’t give him enough credit,” Max offers, crossing the room to crouch in front of me, putting his hands on my bare knees, which suddenly reminds me that I’m still in my, now soaked, panties. I press my knees closely together and pray that he doesn’t smell sex on me.

“No one likes a virgin. I mean...other than Tanger obviously,” I mutter, which makes Max laugh. “I don’t want my first time with Sid to be...awful,” I complain and Max sighs, giving my knees a squeeze before standing up and moving to sit beside me on the bed.

“I don’t think it’s awful for everyone,” Max tried but I just wrinkle my nose at him.

“You don’t have a vagina,” I reminded him and to that, all he can do was shrug.

“Thank god, or I’d never have become a professional hockey player. I’d be home playing with myself all the time,” he replies, grinning that wide, mischievous Max grin and I can't help but laugh, even though the image I get in my head I immediately try to shake loose. “I’m just saying, mon dieu woman, give the guy a chance. You never know, maybe he’ll actually appreciate that you waited.”

“Maybe,” I agree, at which point Max looks satisfied and leans over to kiss my forehead.

“We’re not all monsters ma petite,” he adds quietly, cupping my cheek in his hand. “If it was me...I know I’d be incredibly honoured.”

I can’t keep looking at the kindness in his eyes. I have to look away. It makes me feel embarrassed to be angry at Sidney, even if he did leave me a bit unsatisfied. All I’d had to do was speak up. He probably hadn’t meant to forget about me and he had to be tired and it was late and I was bitchy and Max could be right. Sidney might actually want to be the one...

“Merci Maximus,” I sigh, finally looking back up into those green blue eyes and smiling. “You’re a good friend.”

“De rien,” he whispers, leaning in to kiss the top of my head before turning to pad back out to the couch in his bare feet. I think about calling him back, asking him to stay and play the part of a teddy bear for me, but then I just laugh at my own insecurity and instead, I turn off my light, curl up around my teddy bear and try not to think of the way my heart beat so quickly waiting for Sidney to call my name.

It doesn’t mean anything that he didn’t. It was just phone sex. It doesn’t mean anything and maybe Max is right. Maybe he won’t care. Maybe it will all be fine and I’ll have gotten myself worked up for nothing. Maybe.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chapter 21

“See, now, that’s what I like,” Tania, one of the other women from my design class is sitting behind the photographer with me, drooling over Max and Tanger who are currently posing shirtless, wearing what amounts to cut off military pants and combat boots. What with their muscular physiques and Max’s tats...it seems like a very good look on them. “Hard but not too ripped,” she adds with a dramatic sigh as she tilts her head to one side and her eyes glaze over.

While I admit that the sight of two young, hot professional hockey players without their shirts is at the very least distracting, there seems to be only two things I can think about right now. One is that I hope the clothes look good in the pictures and the other one is why aren’t the Canadians beating the Norwegians by ten goals? It’s the end of the first period and no one has scored, which is only slightly better than having the by far inferior Norwegian team taking the lead but still....

“Still nothing?” Max asks, joining me where I’ve been hiding behind my lap top, where I haven’t been making a very good pretence of looking at the digital photos as they come up.

“No...fuck. What’s wrong with them?” I mutter, glad to have at least written play by play though it’s killing me not to be actually able to see the plays happening or to know what he looks like out on the ice. Certainly I can imagine how handsome he is looking in his crimson jersey, but not to be able to see it or how he’s performing is making me a little crazy.

“They haven’t played together yet. You’ll see, the second will be better,” Kris promises with that easy, charming smile of his that no longer looks as sweet and innocent as I once thought it did. Now, whenever I look at Tanger, he drips sex and even now, as he stands there with a towel around his neck, his biceps bulging, his long fingers suggestively stroking where he holds the ends of it, has me a little breathless.

“We’ll get dressed,” Max scowls, pushing Kris in front of him before turning to smile apologetically at me. “Then we’ll find that pub in the village and go watch the second.” I feel his hand on my shoulder and nod, my gaze having automatically gone back to the live blog I’ve been following while gnawing my fingernails off. But then Max had been giving me that sort of physical support for a couple of days now and without prying and I did appreciate it, even though I didn’t think I’d been doing a very good job of showing him that.

“Hurry up then,” I mutter, reaching up to give his hand a squeeze.

“That boy has a thing for you,” Kennedy hisses, glaring at his retreating form. I glance at him and then back at her and wrinkle my nose.

“He does not,” I object, wondering how in the hell she can make the jump from his sleeping on the sofa in our apartment to having a thing for me. “I mean we had that one date or whatever but this,” I wave my finger in the air in front of me, trying to suggest the confluence of personalities she has to be referring to, “is purely platonic. I promise you.”

“For you, maybe,” Kensie agrees quietly, pitching her voice low because Kris hasn’t made it all the way back to the dressing rooms yet. He’s still by the makeup and hair chair, flirting shamelessly with the hair stylist with the ring through her bottom lip; kinky Frenchman. “He’s always touching you. Have you noticed that?”

“All francophone’s are like that,” I reply quietly, thinking about Max is when he’s with Fleury and even how entirely comfortable he and Kris have been over the last two days, no matter what they’ve been asked to wear or how little. “He doesn’t mean anything by it.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” Kennedy sighs, pushing herself up to her feet, now that she’s creased the hell out of the violet silk gown she’s wearing.

“Shit Kens...damn. We’ll have to steam that now,” I cry, and then stop, hating the tone in my own voice and realizing that the raw silk actually looks better as creased and crinkled as it is now. “Fuck...no leave it. Let’s get this on film and then get out of here so I can at least see the third,” I add, feeling stressed and relieved and worried all at the same time. I hate that his parents are there and I’m not but part of me is glad that I’m not actually sitting there chewing my fingers to the bone and still another part of me feels guilty for not being there for him even though I know he wouldn’t have the time to even see me between the games and yet to miss this experience....

“She looks like she just rolled out of my bed,” Kris chuckles behind me as I actually do watch the photographer begin to light his shot of Kennedy in the short, ultra mini silk gown.

“You wish. If she did, I’m pretty sure Gronk would have something to say about it,” I laugh.

“I could take him. He’s not so tough,” Kris assures me with a lop-sided grin and I can’t help but think that that impish grin had to be one of the reasons Lauren went to him for his ‘services’, which reminds me....

“How many girls has he been with?” I ask, leaning back so that I’m almost whispering up into his neck.

“Max?” Kris asks, looking confused as he glances over to where the other Montreal native is just emerging from the changing rooms in a grey and black shirt that fits snugly over his muscles.

“No, not Max. Why would I...don’t answer that. Sid dummy. How many do you think?” Kris looks thoughtful for a moment, his thumbs stuck in the back belt loops of his pants as he stares into space and the back of my neck starts to crawl with goose-bumps. Hell, if there’s been that many that it takes this long to add....

“Not many,” Kris suddenly replies with a grin.

“Not many what?” Max asks, leaning in to graze my cheek with this stubble and plant a kiss on the shell of my ear.

“She wants to know avec combine de filles notre capitaine has been with,” Kris tells Max over my head and now I’m very much wishing for a very large and very deep hole to open beneath my feet and drag me down underground somewhere where no one can see me turn a deep shade of red and begin to squirm.

“I don’t know,” Max blinks and looks serious and now I really want to just be hit by lightening and die. “I’d have to at least take off my socks to count that high,” he adds with a grin as he nudges me with his shoulder.

“Funny,” I mutter, turning to head back to where I’ve abandoned my back. The pub and very large amount of alcohol is sounding very necessary at this moment.

“We don’t keep count you know,” Max nudges me again and I know that he’s trying to make me feel better but somehow that doesn’t help either. I shoot him a dirty look and Max shrugs and slides his arm around my shoulders. “Not that many, honest. Not too many.” I want to ask what that means, but I don’t want the answer at the same time and thankfully Max seems to sense that and turns his attention back to where Kennedy is working the camera, doing her best bohemian girl next door look. “Jordy is a lucky guy,”

“She’s got some friends,” I offer but Max shakes his head.

“Maybe for Tanger,” he replies. “I’m good.”

“Yeah, bitches!” I jump out of my chair, pumping my fist in the air when Iggy tosses the puck in the back of the net for the third time. “Did you see that pass?” I demand, turning to Max and high-fiving him.

“He’s very talented, oui,” he replies calmly, sipping his beer and remaining in his chair unlike most of the rest of the crowd of transplanted or visiting Canadians who are on their feet, hugging and high-fiving.

“Aw Max. I’m sorry. If you’d been there that would have been you putting that in the back of the net,” I try but he only laughs and shakes his head as I sit down.

“Not with this wing,” he adds with another sigh, lifting his bent arm just to shoulder level and no higher. If everyone knew how much he was suffering...but he’s not the type to complain.

I slide back into my seat and try to remind myself that he’s probably feeling a bit wounded by being left behind, but it’s only another few minutes and Sid is flying up the boards and making another tape to tape pass and once again I’m on my feet, howling the television, pointing and yelling something like ‘that’s my boy’ and ‘did you see that shit?’. But this time, when I turn around for another high five, Max is staring into his beer instead of watching the game and I feel the smile immediately disappear from my lips.

“C’mon Talbot! We’re kicking their asses!” I grin, and reach forward to give his shoulder a shake but the look that comes from those green blue eyes freezes me mid motion and I find myself withdrawing my hand as if I’ve just been yelled at by my mother about burning my hand on the element.

“It’s only Norway,” he says quietly as the rest of the crowd goes on celebrating around us, and then turns his attention back to his beer.

“Yeah but...”

“It’s a bunch of really good players against a bunch of nobodies. Nothing to get excited about,” he mutters, glancing over his shoulder to signal the waitress for another beer. I stand there, staring at him and then sit down and cross my arms in front of me, feeling a full on pout coming on. “Ne le faites pas,” he snarls, admonishing me without even having to look over at me. “You’re better than that.”

“Why are you being such a spoil sport?” I snap back feeling like my parade has just been pissed all over.

“Why are you being such a hypocrite?” he snaps back, a dangerous looking flame flickering behind his eyes as he turns his gaze to meet mine. My chest gets tight and I feel just like I’ve disappointed my father, like I’m small and want to crawl into his lap and be forgiven. Except I don’t really understand what it is I’m supposed to have done. “Don’t...don’t look at me with those Bambi eyes,” he sighs, and shakes his head. “You’re the one who said you didn’t love him.”

“I didn’t!” I cry, too loud, turning most of the eyes immediately around us towards me before I slink lower in my seat, waiting for them to go back to their business. “I said I didn’t know if I could keep doing it. That’s not the same thing.”

“How is it different? Either you do or you don’t and....”

“Don’t tell me how I feel Max,” I mutter, staring daggers at him. “I’ve loved Sidney since I was five years old. I just didn’t expect it to be this hard to be in love with him.”

“Let me guess,” Max snorts, pushing his beer away and getting up, shoving his wallet back into his pocket. “You thought it would be all teddy bears and roses.”

“Fuck you Talbot. I’m not one of your puck fucks. I don’t expect him to drop everything for me and you fucking know it. Don’t you dare try and put me in some kind of cookie cutter mold with those bitches.” I watch as he turns to stare up at the TV, where our boys are currently celebrating as they leave the ice. He watches them for a long moment and then he turns to me, his blue green eyes hard as glass.

“You do know, win or lose, he’s going to come back and ask you to marry him,” he begins, and before I can open my mouth to protest he just shakes his head as if to say it’s not up for discussion. “He will because he thinks it’s the right thing to do and you’ll say yes, because you think it’s what you want. Maybe it’s what you’ve always wanted. But what happens in five years when you realize you’ve never been in love with him? What then?”

With that he turns and begins to shove his way through the crowd and I watch him go, my mouth hanging open. He’s not right. He’s just not. I love Sidney. I just didn’t know it was going to be this much work but that’s okay. I’m not afraid of work. I can do this. I can.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chapter 20

This is a short chapter but believe me there is LOTS coming

“Happy Valentine’s day,” he whispers, the brush of his fingertips on the back of my neck sending a shiver down my spine. I look down at the circle of diamonds now nestled in my cleavage and then, with one hand clasping the too generous gift, I reach back to pull his lips down to the curve of my neck.

“Woohoo, two minutes and then you’re off to be the big hero,” I sigh, closing my eyes to savour the feeling of his lips on my skin.

“I wish you’d stop saying that,” he growls into my neck, sending another shudder down my spine before taking a step back and putting a more modest distance between us.

“Oh stop being so fucking humble. You’re going to do it,” I grin, reaching for him and sliding my arms around his waist, pulling his body against mine, finding that he’s both happy to see me and not as eager to leave as I might have thought. He stays there, in my arms, for another brief moment before giving me that look. The one that causes me to diffidently step back and allow him to appear separate and single, obeying the rules, even if it means he has to put his rain jacket in between us to hide exactly how he feels about my greeting.

“No pressure there Creature,” Jordan laughs, suddenly appearing behind Kennedy and pulling her up off her feet and somehow, even in the crowded hallway, he manages to swing her around before putting her back down on her feet and bringing his lips crashing down onto hers’. Just for a moment I feel a twinge of jealousy at their public demonstration of open sexuality but rein it in before I turn back to my own significant other.

“There’s no pressure from me. You’re amazing. I know you’ll do amazing, historic things,” I whisper and Sidney rewards me with a smile that only falters a little at the edges which means he’s really flipping out inside. Standing on my tiptoes so that my lips are right at his ear, I whisper a promise. “When you get back, I’ll wear your gold medal...and nothing else.” When I draw back enough to search his expression, the tips of his ears are bright pink and his hazel eyes are glazed over as if he’s seeing something far away. “God damn you Crosby if you’re only thinking about that fucking gold medal I’ll fucking....”

“I think you better run while you still can mon capitain,” Max laughs, slapping Sidney on his back as he joins our group in the hallway, looking more casual than Sidney, with his shirt askew and his tie slung over his arm.

“I wish you guys were coming with me,” Sid sighs and I glance at the wistful expressions on both men’s faces and it’s clear that they do too.

“Just remember, when you come back the conquering hero, I’ll have already had to listen to my fucking brother,” Jordan warns with a grimace that makes us all laugh.

“You guys, you’re acting like it’s a foregone conclusion,” Sid sighs, and we just all smile. All but one of us being Canadian, we know damn well there’s no other way for this to conclude but in the most fairytale sort of way or...well there can be no ‘or’. Not for team Canada and not for Sid. To live up to the hype, to earn his place in history, he has to do it. He has to win.

“In the meantime, I’ll be looking after your girl here,” Max grins, as if I’ve forgiven him for his interrogation in New York. He drapes his arm confidently over my shoulder as if he has no worry about having me throw it off. I narrow my eyes at him but he doesn’t so much as flinch and just keeps grinning like the joker he plays for the rest of the guys.

“Are you sure you want him to help you with your project for class?” Sidney asks, and I shrug and sigh.

“Well with you not around and with the second best looking guy on the team going with you,” I add as Flower joins our group and drapes his arm over Sid’s shoulder, “what choice does that leave me?”

Second best looking guy? What’s that about? Fleur hasn’t even got any shapes!” Max exclaims, striking a muscle builder’s pose which serves to do nothing more than wrinkle his suit and end up with his tie on the floor.

“How can you leave me with him? Take me with you,” I beg, wrapping my arms around Sidney’s middle and huddling against him like a frightened child, but remaining careful not to get makeup or lipstick anywhere on his light grey suit, knowing full well he still has a barrage of reporters to make it through before he can even leave the building.

“I’m trusting you to look after her Max,” Sidney says over my head and I can hear the playful smile on his face as he wraps his arms more tightly around me. “And these pictures you’re taking,” he adds, reaching down to lift my chin up so that I have to look at him as he speaks, “I don’t want to see a bunch of naked pictures of Max on the internet no matter how much he tells you it’s art.” I make a face and he laughs, that easy, boyish sound that makes everyone around him laugh too.

“We’d better go mon ami. The plane won’t wait forever ça va?” Flower says quietly, nudging Sidney in the ribs and Sidney nods, his expression turning serious as he steers me away from the rest of the group to a quieter corner, behind a pile of steamer trunks waiting to be filled with Preds gear. It isn’t exactly private, but it’s as private as it’s going to get.

“I’m sorry about Valentine’s,” he begins and I shake my head and laugh.

“You just win that gold medal and we’ll forget all about the fact that you spent all of our first Valentine’s Day playing hockey and flying away to play hockey. As if I’m not used to it,” I add, quietly.

“Still,” he sighs, reaching between us to lift the diamond pendant in his hand.

“It will always be like this. I know that remember?” I admonish him, covering his hand with mine and looking up into those cafe au lait eyes of his. He searches my gaze for a long, silent moment, maybe waiting for me to break but I’m too well prepared for that.“Go. Go be the big hero,” I whisper, letting the pride I feel for him show in my eyes and that does bring the tears, though I blink hard, trying to keep them back.

“When I get back, if...if we do well...I’ll be done. I mean not done but....”

“But you’ll have ticked all the boxes, I know,” I smile at him and he nods, still deadly serious.

“He’ll have to let me live my life and then...then I can relax and be with you the way...the way we want to,” he adds, his voice breaking as he gathers me once more against his chest, crushing the air out of my lungs. “I’m lucky you understand. I’m starting to get that. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long....” I reach up and brush my fingertips along the sharp line of his jaw feeling my heart swell to see all that emotion in his eyes...for me.

“Yes, you fucking are,” I agree with a grin that helps to erase the darkness in his caramel coloured gaze and when he leans in to press his lips firmly against the bridge of my nose I close my eyes and reach for that spot, holding tight to the circle of diamonds that I hope means what I want it to mean, that we’ve made it full circle from friends to lovers.

He still isn’t there.

“I have to go,” he sighs, cupping my chin in his thick fingers and lifting my gaze to meet his. I smile and nod.

“Go be Canada’s hero. You’ve always been mine,” I remind him and that earns me a wistful smile before he drops his hand to cover mine, giving it a long, firm squeeze before he turns to join a now impatient Flower further down the corridor. I move back to join the group, my gaze fastened on his back as I watch them head down the hallway with the equipment manager close behind them, their gear in a shopping cart. I can’t help but think how incongruous that looks. “Young, good looking millionaires like that should have scantily clad servant girls to carry their luggage, dontcha think?” I ask, mostly to fill the silence that suddenly fills the dimly lit underground cement bunker we’re in.

“I don’t know what Sid would think but you could my servant girl any time,” Max laughs, wrapping his arm around my shoulders and even though he’s being the class clown rather than the thoughtful young man I know him to be, I forgive him this once, smile and lean in to him because he’s also being comforting, without having it be so obvious to the other guys of course.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I whisper, mostly to myself and almost entirely under my breath but I know Max hears it when I feel his lips pressed to the top of my head.

“It’s two weeks,” he reminds me, obviously assuming I’m talking about the time and distance. If only it were that easy.

“I mean loving him...at all,” I admit, hugging my arms protectively around myself as he disappears from site without so much as turning to wave goodbye. Thankfully Max says nothing and then, one by one, we all go our separate ways, to reconvene in time for the prodigal son’s return.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chapter 19

kinda on fire this week with this so hope you're keeping up

“I saw Mrs. Crosby at the club today.”

Rolling my eyes, I manage, just, not to groan out loud. I know Trina knows how I feel about my mother but I also know how much Trina loves to talk about her beloved Sidney and I can already tell by the tone of my mother’s voice that she knows something I really wish she didn’t.

“Really?” Playing dumb has always been the best and most used defense with my mother. “How’s Taylor?” The only other thing Trina loves to talk about is her daughter. Always second to her son, but still.

“Never mind how her homely daughter is. Do you have something you’d like to tell me?” Clenching my teeth I let myself fall back on my bed and stare up at the popcorn ceiling and count silently to ten before I answer, keeping my breathing even and shallow as I do.

“I’m guessing you’re not looking for the fact that I’m STD free and not pregnant?” I offer, sarcasm being my second favorite defense.

“Melody Kelly, are you dating Sidney Crosby and not telling your mother?” I mouth the words as she says them, because my mother is just that fucking predictable and then I clench my teeth again.

“I wouldn’t really describe it quite like that,” I mumble, reminding myself to kick Sid in the shin the next time I see him because I can’t do it to Trina, much as I’d like to right now for landing me in this cess pit of hellishness.

“And what’s this I hear about a ring?” Oh for god sakes. Troy and Trina were sworn to secrecy on that. Not that I didn’t know better even when Sid was asking them to keep it to themselves. I had seen the gleam in his mother’s eyes. She was already counting baby booties in her head.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about mom. You must have gotten confused in another conversation. I’m pretty sure if there were any kind of jewellery involved you’re be reading about it in Hello magazine, I mean, after I’d told you of course.” Like that was ever going to fucking happen. I had dreams about eloping to somewhere sandy and sunny and not having parents involved at all but for now, that was just a dream. No, it was probably a dream full stop but it was a nice dream all the same.

“So are you seeing him?” The terseness in my mother’s voice reminds me of all the times she’d stood in the door to my room, wooden spoon in hand, counting while she waited for me to tell the truth about something and much like then, I’m counting right along with her, albeit silently or at least under my breath, preferring to take the beating than share any information with my mom that she can use against me later.

“I wouldn’t call it that. We’re just friends and now that I’m in Manhattan he can visit me and it’s a quick train ride down to Pitt to see him. So do me a favor and don’t book the Church huh mom?” I add, giving a little shudder as I think about just how much she’s got to be dying to tell everyone she knows and rub it in the faces of a few people.

“If you’re keeping something from me....”

“Mom...I thought we went over this before with the whole pageant thing. You can’t keep trying to live vicariously through me. How far away do you want me to move? Because I’m pretty sure L.A. would be a lot warmer right about now,” I add, in a snarl that she doesn’t really deserve. But the last thing I need is for something to go wrong between me and Sidney had for either one of us to have to explain it the next time we set foot in the Harbour.

It’s funny how I’m beginning to understand just why he’s waiting to see if everything is going to work out. There is a lot more to this than just us.

“Ready to go?” Kensie bounds into the room in her newly acquired Penguins jersey and bounces on the end of the bed, a huge shit eating grin on her face.

“Gotta go mom. I’ll call in a few days.” I don’t give her a chance to object, or even to say goodbye. Not with Max standing in the doorway in his charcoal and silver pin striped suit with matching fedora. “Damn, you look like our pimp,” I grin, which makes him laugh.

“If I was your pimp I’d say you bitches aren’t dressed well enough to go out,” he replies dryly, just managing to deflect a fairly well aimed kick at his groin by Kensie as she slides off the end of the bed.

“Well I, for one, am not dressing like a puck and walking down Madison or sitting in a drafty arena. However, what I’m wearing under this, I can pretty much guarantee that Jordan will be more than pleased with,” Kennedy adds with a grin, starting to lift the oversized jersey, which I just manage to stop her from doing, putting my hand over hers’ and shaking my head.

“Did I say that I’m sorry you’re injured but I’m so glad you’re taking us to the game Max?” I laugh, hip checking Kennedy out of the way. “At least I won’t have to hear about the size of Jordan’s....”

“I’ve seen that and it’s not that big. I mean not compared to mine which is....” Max begins to spread his hands apart and both of us squeal and grab his arms to stop him from actually miming a certain part of his anatomy and steer him towards the door instead.

“I couldn’t help overhearing earlier,” Max begins, leaning to whisper in my ear while reaching into my lap for the popcorn. Had he been TK or Jordy and had they not been out on the ice, I would have slapped his hand away. But it was only Max so I didn’t.

“Mmm?” I was busy watching Sidney assume his usual pose, bent over, his stick across his knees over the dot at center ice. I knew if I looked up at the jumbotron I’d see a look of consternation and concentration mixed on his face. I did not. I did not want to be like Kennedy who was practically drooling as she leaned as far out of the box as she safely could every time the tall blonde hit the ice.

“You were talking à ta mère,” Max continues, munching thoughtfully on the popcorn before continuing, which I thought he was smart to do, considering he could only guess at my relationship with my mother by the tone I’d taken with her on the phone and began to wonder just how much he’d overheard. “Why haven’t you told them? About you and la merveilee de garçon?” That made me smile as I took my time chewing on the too dry, almost stale popcorn. Boy wonder, indeed.

“My mother would have the announcement in the paper and have booked the Church, arranged the reception and the honeymoon before I had time to say ‘boo’,” I explain, imagining the look of glee on her face as she rubbed it into the rest of the members of the sailing club. As if my mother ever sailed. “She’d love it, and she’d be the centre of attention too. She’d probably wear some really horrible sequined number and look like some kind of Tranny,” I sigh, knowing her penchant for Bob Mackie gowns, sparkles and too much make up.

“You’re not like other girls are you?” I turned to stare at the injured forward sitting beside me and Max only grinned and turned his attention back to his teammates fighting for control of the puck out on the ice.

“What the hell does that mean?” I demand, to which Max’s answer is to reach into my popcorn and grab another greasy handful, which he then proceeds to much thoughtfully on, although I can clearly see the grin on his face the whole time because he knows it’s driving me crazy.

“Most girls, and by that I mean seulement les filles gentiles,” he begins, reaching for his cup and draining half his beer before continuing. “Most of the girls the guys on the team date start planning their weddings after the third date,” he explains before glancing at me to see if I’m listening before he continues. “Or have you already planned it all out? Is that why you don’t seem...wrapped up in it?”

“I’m not wrapped up in anything and no...I haven’t planned the whole thing,” I grumble, putting the bag of popcorn aside and turning as much as I can to face him. “I may have been in love with him most of my life but I am not out to capture him and tie him down,” I hiss, pitching my voice low and glancing around to see if anyone, and by that I mean Mario and the rest of the ownership group. “If, and I do mean if Sidney ever decided he actually cared about me enough to want to do...that,” I add because I can’t bring myself to actually say it out loud, as if that might jinx it, “then I wouldn’t care if we got married in a paper box wearing garbage bags as long as he loved me. Okay? Is that clear enough for you?” I stare into Max’s green blue eyes and he stares right back, like he’s waiting for me to flinch. When I don’t, he merely shrugs and then drains the last of his beer and hops to his feet.

“Want one?” he asks, cheerfully, as if he hasn’t practically just accused me of being some kind of coat riding gold digger.

“No, thanks, I’m good,” I mutter, turning my attention back out onto the ice just in time to watch Sid slide the puck across to Malkin who skipped around two defensemen, only to ring the puck off the crossbar.

Groaning, I slide down into my seat and try not to think too much about what Max has said. It wasn’t like it was the first time that some ‘friend’ of Sid’s had said as much to me. I’d just hoped Max knew me better than that by now.

“Oh my god, did you see Jordy reach for that loose puck?” Kensie gushes, turning to beam at me. “C’mon, give my boy props. That was awesome.”

“You’re ill, you know that right Kens?” I laugh, tossing a piece of popcorn over towards her, grateful for the distraction. She sticks her tongue out at me and ducks the next handful of popcorn I toss at her, which flies over her head and likely lands on some poor unsuspecting paying client below. I lift my hand to toss another handful when I catch a glimpse of Mario out of the corner of my eye and decide to shove it in my mouth instead.

Troy already hates me and god knows I’m never going to be my mother’s favourite even if I am her only child. I don’t need Sid’s ‘foster father’ hating me too.


“This one’s empty,” I whisper as I peer into a darkened train car. Mel peers over my shoulder and then back the way we’ve just come before we both slip into the car. I hadn’t exactly cleared her coming back with us on the train. Not that I’m particularly worried about it, but I haven’t exactly been playing my best hockey ever either and there’s no need to give the coach any ammo like that you’ve been canoodling with your girlfriend on the train.

Pushing the door closed, I click it shut and then turn to Mel who’s watching me with this little grin on her face, half hidden because she’s chewing on her bottom lip nervously.

“Finally alone,” she grins, backing her into the car, until the back of her knees comes into contact with the bench and then she falls back with a laugh. Crawling on top of her, I hover over her, enjoying making her squirm.

“Did you enjoy your date with Max?” I tease and she rolls her eyes.

“You mean your boyfriend?” she replies, nipping at my bottom lip. “Do you know he actually accused me of plotting our nuptials?” This makes me laugh, although I’m not entirely sure if the new Melody who designs ball gowns for Nathalie and obscenely short mini skirts for Lauren is entirely past the point of designing her own wedding gown, but somehow I just can’t see it.

“Not if your mother has anything to do with it,” I growl, pressing my lips down over hers as her nails drag up my side. She tastes like buttery popcorn and vaguely of Sprite or 7-Up. Our tongues twine as she drags my dress shirt out and slides her hands up beneath it until she’s kneading my shoulders and I groan with relief into her mouth. “Damn, you know I can’t resist your back rubs.”

“I also know you’re not going to put me out of my misery,” she whispers against my lips, “no matter how much I beg so one of us may as well be satisfied.”

Melll,” I groan feeling yet another fight coming on but she only laughs, a deep throaty sound against my neck before she bites down on my earlobe.

“I’m not really complaining,” she replies as we extricate ourselves from each other and I slide down onto the floor in front of her, shedding my jacket as I do so that she can dig her healing hands into my shoulders. “I just keep thinking how tired you’re going to be after you get back from the Olympics and if you so much a use that excuse….”

“I had no idea you were such a nympho,” I grin up at her as she cracks her knuckles before she starts by digging her fingers into my hair and giving me a scalp massage that has me shutting my eyes and yawning in no time.

“You have no idea about a lot of things Crosby,” she teases, working her fingers down to my neck and as my head falls forward I can’t help but think that if she’s this gifted this far up my body….

“Maybe I shouldn’t trust you with Max,” I add, hearing the slurring in my own voice as I vacillate between consciousness and the sleep my body is demanding. If I’d been thinking I would have grabbed some more fruit and nuts out of the dining car and boosted my energy before dragging her back to the sleep cars.

“I don’t think anyone should trust Max,” she laughs, her hands now kneading my shoulders hard, making me groan out loud. “But I had no idea he was such a moody fucker, did you?”

“He can be,” I admit, moaning as she puts her body weight into the pressure of her hands as she bends me forward. “He hasn’t…hit on you or anything?” I ask, thinking there’s no way he would but just to be sure….

“Who Max? No, I think he thinks I’m some kind of pathetic idiot,” she laughs, her hands now digging into the especially sore muscles around my ribs. I hiss in pain and her fingers turn tender, probing the spot carefully before moving onto another, less painful spot. I’m reminded of all the other times that she’s done this for me and I feel a sudden wave of guilt wash over me. All those times, and I had no idea that she had any feelings towards me except to those of an older brother….Fuck! I must have been really blind.

Reaching back, I grab her arm, closing my hand around her wrist and pull her down onto the floor with me and roll onto my side so I can hold her and look into her face and even in the dark, her smile and her eyes light up as she smiles at me.

Fuck Crosby! What were you thinking?

“I’m sorry,” I whisper and without being told for what, she just laughs and nods.

“You’re a self centered, egotistical boy. It’s okay,” she replies and then sighs as I roll her onto her back and kiss her softly, letting my hands roam down over the slope of her breast, and down, down…. “Sidney…don’t.” I feel her stiffen beneath me and I freeze with my hand just at the waistband of her jeans.

“But I thought that you….” She smiles up at me but it’s that sad sort of ‘oh you’re such a stupid boy’ smile and doesn’t reach her eyes.

“It just makes it worse. I want to be with you, I don’t want to play around like a couple of kids in the back of the rink,” she whispers, touching her lips to mine.
“But I’d like it if we could just…I mean if you think you can handle being this close to my completely sexy body, if we could snuggle for a while?”

“Snuggle?” I bite down on the inside of my cheek. I’ve never heard a word like that out of her mouth before.

“Yeah I said snuggle Shut up Crosby,” she laughs, manoeuvring her way closer, laying her head on my chest and I wrap my arms around her and hold her and I can’t help but think it feels pretty good.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chapter 18

“You don’t have to do this,” he says quietly but insistently as he noses the Land Rover into the darkened driveway. “We could go back to my place...you could stay,” he offers and for once I believe he means it. I look down at where our hands our joined on the console between the seats and think how much I’ve longed to hear those words and now....

“Neither of us wants to do something you’ll regret in the morning,” I reply quietly, forcing myself to look up into his hazel eyes to see the confusion my answer has put there. “You said you weren’t ready for that kind of commitment,” I remind him gently, putting a smile on my face and letting him see that I do appreciate every inch he’s given tonight and that I won’t ask for a millimetre more. “I told you I loved you,” I add in an almost whisper because I have to force the words past my lips. It still feels a little humiliating and sort of like I’m squeezing lemon into a raw wound when I do. “You haven’t said that yet and,” I reach up and across to press my hand over his mouth, shaking my head when he tries to say it past my fingers. “I don’t need you to. Not until you’re ready. When you say that...and I hope you will, I want you to mean it and not just because I’ve said it.” That’s the decision I’ve come to during the silent drive through the dark and empty streets of Pittsburgh, that those words are the key that I’m missing and if I have to, I can wait for them, but I will not force them from him and I don’t want to hear him unless he means them from the bottom of his heart. “I’ve waited this long,” I add with a grin that he returns, “I guess I can wait for another month.”

“You could still come back to mine. You could stay with me,” he says hopefully and it’s tempting, god only knows, but I shake my head and lean in, offering my lips instead.

“I’d only lie awake all night and if I’m honest, I’m not sure I’d be strong enough to keep my word if I was that close,” I add, feeling his lips touch mine softly before I reach for my seat-belt and the door.

“Just this last thing, the Olympics and then I swear...,” I turn to press my fingers to his lips again. No more. I can’t bear to hear it anymore tonight.

“I know. I said I know. Now go, we’ll see you tomorrow for brunch after practice,” I promise before turning to slide out of the vehicle to find Max standing in the doorway in his threadbare robe and flip flips. He waves at Sidney and then disappears into the house and I follow without looking back, without saying good bye or good night. We don’t do that, Sidney and I. It always sounds too final and we’ve had enough goodbyes between us.

“Want a drink?” Max offers as I drop my bag on the floor and head into the kitchen, the only room in the house with a light on.

“Yes please, a strong one,” I reply, dragging myself to the kitchen table while Max pours out two glasses of red wine.

“So are we...celebrating?” Max inquires, handing me my glass before crossing to slip into the chair across from me. Celebrating...I mull over the evening in my head and decide the word doesn’t taste right on my tongue. Not tonight.

“It’s...complicated,” I sigh, staring into the ruby depths of the liquid in the glass.

“Can it ever be anything else with that one?” Max asks and that makes me smile because of course that could only ever be the way to explain anything with Sidney. How I could ever have thought it could be otherwise, I don’t know.

“Are we too young Max?” I ask, looking across the table and into the hooded eyes of his teammate, my friend and he gives me a half smile and then shakes his head.

“How can anyone say when is the right time to fall in love? I don’t think there’s any right time,” he replies, staring into his own glass, running the tip of his finger around the rim thoughtfully. “You don’t choose who you fall in love with so how can you choose the time, ça va?” he asks, looking up at me with those hooded bedroom eyes and that charming smile and I wonder just how often that same look turns some poor girl to Jello. “So what’s the problem now? What excuse has Mr. Perfect come up with now?”

“It’s the Olympics, apparently,” I sigh, taking a long sip of the strong red liquid, feeling that little burn at the back of my throat and warm feeling it leaves as it works its’ way down. “God help me if Canada loses. I’ll have to wait another four years to have sex,” I add with a groan. Apparently that’s funny as it causes Max to spew red wine across the table, and both of us jump to grab something to clean it up. Thank god it’s just a rustic wood table and not something covered in light coloured linen. Between the paper towels I grab and a wet rag Max gets from the sink we get it cleaned up quickly and settle back into our places.

“So the sex machine still hasn’t made the move?” he asks as he lifts the bottle up, offering to refill my glass, but I’ve hardly touched it so I cover my glass with my hand and shake my head while he tops up his own glass.

“Sex machine?” I can’t make the name fit Sidney, or maybe I just don’t want to. It’s not like I don’t know that he’s long past innocent, that I haven’t had evidence to the contrary practically shoved down my throat but I guess I just don’t want to think about it.

“Sarcasm,” Max replies dryly, shaking his head. “He’s not exactly the first guy any of us would pick as the womanizer on the team.”

“No, that’s your nick name,” I remind him with a grin but Max only shrugs and turns his attention to the glass in his hand, swirling the dark contents silently until I realize that he’s not going to make some kind of smart ass comment.

“Do you think I’m pressing him too much? I mean...do you think I have any chance at all of making this work?” I ask, honestly, bringing the subject back to me. Max looks up at me with tired eyes and shrugs.

“Why ask me?” he shrugs, and then looks back down into his wine, which he then lifts to his lifts and drains, tipping the glass and his head back to get the last dregs from the bottom of the glass before slamming it back down onto the table like it’s some kind of beer stein. I half expect him to wipe the back of his arm across his mouth and belch. “Everyone knows I don’t know a thing about relationships,” he adds, before grabbing the bottle by its neck and leaving me alone in his kitchen.

I listen to his footsteps recede into the big empty house and curse myself quietly. As if it hasn’t been enough that he’s been my friend as well as Sidney’s and that he’s let me sleep in his guest room not to mention that he’s listened to me whine about how my supposed best friend doesn’t want to sleep with me, but I have to remind him that he’s alone?

Nicely done Melody Kelly, nicely done.

“I dropped your girlfriend off at the airport. You’re welcome,” Max snarls as he drops his bag beside me and lets his sticks clatter on the floor. “What was so god damned important you couldn’t at least do that for her? No, let me guess. The Olympics are in a month and you had to get extra sleep,” he adds, kicking off his shoes and dragging his sweatshirt over his head.

“Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed,” Gronk notes as he passes by, already in full practice gear. Max only glares at him before turning the full force of his fury back on me.

“No, really, please, I’m interested to know because Mel’s so damn sweet she wouldn’t even tell me and put on a brave face all the way to the airport. So go on, what’s so damn important you couldn’t even do that much?”

“I had a phone interview and I couldn’t get out of it. Damn Max, pourquoi est-il si important pour toi?” I ask, wondering what’s with the fucking attack all of a sudden. I mean, he’s the one who suggested he had a big empty place.... “What, did she keep you up all night bitching and moaning about me again?” I ask, having had the night to think about it and in the bright light of day, I have been feeling pretty good about what happened last night, so there had better be no bitching.

“No, she doesn’t bitch tu marde embulante! She cries herself to fucking sleep because she thinks you don’t love her tu criss de fif!” Max shakes his head and then turns his back on me and goes back to getting out of his street clothes and into his on ice gear. I find myself staring at his back but not really seeing anything. I can’t get my head around that picture.

“She wouldn’t...,” I begin but Max spins and pokes a finger right between my eyes.

“Ecoutes-moi tu maudit fif! Maybe around you she’s strong all the time but she has feelings and you should at least try and be a little fucking respectful of them,” Max snarls and then turns and grabs the rest of his gear, heading for the hallway, obviously choosing to get dressed anywhere other than near me. I stare after him, pissed that he, of all of my teammates, is telling me how to deal with my relationship. As if he’d know, as if he’s ever had more than a one night stand; hell as if he’s ever wanted more than a one night stand.

I reach back into my jacket pocket for my phone and then laugh at myself. As if Mel would ever cry herself to sleep. We left things on good terms. She sounded fine when I talked to her this morning.

“C’mon creature, stop daydreaming and get moving. I can practically see the porno playing in your head,” TK laughs as he swats my skates with his stick.

“You wish,” I call after him, pushing myself to my feet, telling myself to forget about Mel and definitely to forget about whatever Max was on about. He obviously did wake up on the wrong side of the bed. He’ll get over it.

“I’ve seen your girlfriend,” TK grins turning to me and mimicking playing with a pair of tits and making rude sounding sucking noises. “I totally wish.”

“You better run Kennedy, you’re a dead man,” I yell as he turns and dashes out onto the ice.

“You’ve been quiet,” Kennedy says as she stows my overnight bag and hers in the back of the taxi outside JFK. Shrugging, I slide into the back seat. I keep telling myself I should be happy but I don’t feel happy. What I feel is empty. What I feel is helpless and that’s what has me scared to death.

“I’ve put it all out there you know?” I tell her after she gives the taxi driver our address and then climbs into the back with me. “All this stuff I’ve hardly told anyone, never mind him. I’ve basically said, here’s my heart, don’t crush it. It’s kind of a vulnerable position to be in.”

“You could say that,” Kensie agrees, sitting back and closing her eyes. I can tell by the dark circles and the way she packed light that she’s probably spent most of her visit on her back and on her knees and various other positions having fun with Jordan. I don’t want to load all my shit on her any more than I did Max. I just don’t know who else I can talk to about this.

“I imagined being all happy with him. I just never imagined this...in between shit,” I mumble, turning my attention to the passing traffic, the cacophony of cabs, limos and town cars.

“If it’s any consolation,” she sighs, reaching for my one of my hands and gathering it in both of her own. “Jordy says he’s always this backward about being forward in social situations. I think you just need to give the guy some space to figure his shit out.”

“I guess,” I shrug pulling to take my hand away but she pulls it closer and brings me with it until I’m leaning on her shoulder.

“Hey, you’ve got a Cinderella fucking story going on her babes,” she laughs, wrapping her other arm around my shoulder. “Don’t ruin it for me by being all fucking maudlin. Be fucking happy will you? Just remember, it could be worse. You could be having the best sex of your life and not know if the guy even cares a little bit about you.”

“You’re falling for Jordan?” I gush, looking up at her but she doesn’t open her eyes, only wrinkles her nose and shrugs.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s lack of sleep or lack of food or both but yeah, I guess I could be,” she admits and then shudders, as if it’s a bad thing to think of.
“You looooove Gronk!” I laugh, poking her in the ribs and even that doesn’t get more than another nose wrinkle from her.

“Whatever makes you happy. Now let me sleep. Wake me when we get home, unless the cabbie will take a fifty to carry me upstairs.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chapter 17

“This isn’t the airport.”

“No, you’re right, it isn’t,” I reply gruffly as the Land Rover coasts to a stop right outside the backdoor of the Mellon.

“I thought that’s where we were going after...well after you pretty much threw a wad of cash at the waitress and carried me out to the car,” Mel continues, staring straight ahead, just like she has since we unceremoniously left the restaurant. She’s angry. I’m pissed. Neither of us has said so much as a single word since we got back in the vehicle. For my part, I haven’t figured out what to say. For her part, I think she’s pretty much said whatever she has to say. I mean after that last gold nugget, what else is there to say?

“Here I thought you knew me better than anyone. I mean, isn’t that what you’ve been trying to tell me all this time?” I snarl, turning off the ignition and pushing the door open. “Well don’t just sit there, c’mon.” I go around to the back of the car where my other pair of skates, my own skates that don’t have to do with practice or games are. The ones I wear when it’s just about skating, about feeling the blades cutting through the ice and hearing that sound, that ‘snick snick’ of metal meeting ice. Some people listen to whale songs to meditate. I listen to the sound of skate blades. “These are Taylor’s,” I explain, grabbing a plain black box and handing it to Mel. “I’m guessing they’ll fit.” She doesn’t ask why Taylor has a pair of skates in the back of my vehicle. We’re not as close as most siblings. Hell, for most of her life I’ve hardly been home or even around her at all, but when she visits I do my best to spend time with her. No one has to tell me that she’s got the short fucking end of the stick as far as attention from her parents goes, even though she’s actually lived with them longer than I have.

“Of course you have keys to arena. You’re the fucking crown Prince of Pittsburgh,” Mel sighs as I pull a key ring from my pocket and start to open all the locks on the back door. There’s no good answer to that. It’s true and I don’t think any of the other guys would even think to ask to come here after hours but for me, it’s a necessity. Mario has offered to put in one of those fake ice ponds in the basement for me but it isn’t the same. I have to have real ice, real cold and preferably real dark in order to think.

Once I’ve locked the door behind us, I reach for Mel’s hand to lead her through the pitch dark maze of the rabbit warren that is the underground of the arena. I could turn on the lights but it seems like such a waste of electricity, especially when I can find my way through here blindfolded, and may as well be considering the absolute pitch black beneath the stands. I feel my way, one hand on the wall, counting the corners, the turns, the doors until I know to turn right and push through the last door.

The cold hits me then. The real cold of being this near the ice, the kind of cold that makes your breath hang in misty clouds in front of your face and makes you shiver and pull your jacket closer around you. I turn on one set of lights, just enough to light the ice surface in a dim sort of grey light and then I toe off my shoes and hit the bench, dropping my skates to the concrete surface.

Even this, putting on my skates, right then left, tugging at the laces and feeling the cotton nylon blend digging into my fingers is part of the meditation. Only then does my mind start to clear and the thoughts that have been swimming around, fighting with one another, begin to fall into some kind of order and begin to make some kind of sense.

I can hear her struggling with the laces of her skates and turn to help, kneeling in front of her where I wait for her to give over the control of tying up her skates, which she does only grudgingly. Just like always.

She’s never wanted help, never wanted to be the one holding us up and she never, ever wanted to be the last one picked for a team. Not that there was much chance of that after most of the guys got to realize just how fast she could skate and how well she could pass. She was good, maybe even really good.

“Why’d you stop?” I ask, tugging the last loop before letting my hands fall to thighs. I still can’t look at her. I don’t want to see that holier than thou look on her face. “Playing I mean? Why’d you stop playing hockey?” There’s a long silence and finally I look up to see her staring up into the rafters with a reverent look on her face. I know the feeling. I do it often. Not before a game, and never during the national anthems. Then it would be too much pressure, but during practice I do, I look up there and see the history and feel its weight.

“I couldn’t be you,” she answers quietly, her gaze falling on the Stanley Cup banner that I helped put up there. My history. “What was the point if I couldn’t be you?”

“So it wasn’t your mom?” I ask and it’s only then that she turns the weight of those blue grey eyes of hers’ on me. They look mostly grey now, like they’re filled with storm clouds.

Nothing I do has ever had anything to do with her,” she replies, her voice flat but not entirely devoid of emotion. There’s an edge of defiance and pain too when she says it and the look in her eyes dares me to contradict her and I don’t. Maybe she doesn’t know it now. Maybe she won’t ever admit to it, the way I’ve had to admit that part of my drive is to please my father. I know other people have known it but it’s taken a long time for me to admit it to myself. It makes me hate him a little more.

“Have you told her, about us I mean?” I ask quietly, pushing myself to my feet and offering her a hand up which, just as I knew she would, she refuses to take.

“If I had, she’d have already put a notice in the local and booked the church,” she replies, the first hint of a smile on her face since we left the bowling alley. “Hell I’ll probably never tell her,” she continues, her voice heavily dripping with sarcasm. “If you ever realize that you actually want to be serious, you can tell her. How about that?”

I nod, it’s a fair enough exchange and it answers one of the questions that have been plaguing me but there are still others; lots of other questions that have been keeping me awake and keeping me apart from her.

“When did it change? When did we stop being friends?” I ask, because it’s the question that she seems to know the answer to and I don’t. To me we’ve always been friends but it had to have changed some time for her and it feels wrong that I don’t know when.

“Shattucks. Well, before you left but definitely after you came back,” she replies without hesitation, without having to think about it. “I knew you were everything before but I didn’t have the words. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t a fraternal thing I was feeling,” she continues, her voice dropping both in volume and in clarity as she turns away from me, walking to the boards where the gate is standing open and putting both hands on the top of the boards, staring down at the ice. “When you came back, you were...different. You were more...confident. You didn’t need me as your friend anymore and I didn’t want you as mine. I just...wanted you...period.”

I watch her step onto the ice without so much as a wobble, without a second’s hesitation and then she’s gliding across the ice, the wind picking her hair up from around her shoulders and sending it out behind her like a living thing, undulating and waving in the air. She looks like she belongs on the ice, like she’s completely comfortable out there and I remember the last time I saw her on skates. It was just like it is now, dark, in an arena that should have been locked, back in the Harbour. I had watched her then, from somewhere up in the stands, in the dark. I had tried to reconcile the quiet girl in the glasses I knew to the girl who flew around the ice with utter abandon. I hadn’t been able to do it then.

I was beginning to now.


Of course I knew him. I’d been doing my best to use his competitive nature to try and get him to open up. I’d failed utterly. He’d closed up like a clam.

So he’d brought me to his arena, his safety zone, his space. I’d invaded that before too, with hopes of having him see that I fit into his life. It hadn’t worked then. I didn’t know what else I could do now to make him believe me.

But it was one thing we did have in common, I thought as I stood on the edge of the concrete, looking down at the cold, white ice. This was one place we could be free, we could be whatever we wanted to be. He’d probably always thought about making his victory lap with the Cup in his arms. I’d always thought about just having him trust me enough to share this with me, his private, personal space.

Was that was this was? I couldn’t help but wonder and had to remind myself to breathe as I felt the ice beneath my feet. I dug the blades in and pushed and whispered ‘chase me’ to the wind.

This felt like ‘it’, that moment where you stood on the precipice and you either fell or flew. This was our ‘it’, the moment where either Sidney would choose me or he would choose to be without me and it made my heart – no, my entire body ache. I could barely see through the tears that blurred my vision. I could hardly hear past the pounding and rushing of my own blood through my veins mixed with sound of my skates pushing through the ice.

It sounded loud and silent all at once. The ice felt like quick sand. The wind in my face felt like a slap and a caress.

I’d done all I could do. I’d begged. I’d pleaded. I’d laid my heart in his hands and now I had to wait. It was excruciating. It seemed unfair but then I’d known it would. That had been part of the reason I’d never said a thing before. It was always going to be his decision. He was always going to have the power of life or death in this moment and I hated him for it.

Hated him, loved him. It was all the same as I waited, feeling the solid ice under my feet and the cold wind biting into my skin.

“Come get me damn you,” I hissed as I made the third corner. I shut my eyes. I couldn’t bear to make the corner and have to see him standing behind the boards watching me, considering. I didn’t want to see what it looked like to weigh my heart against the rest of his life.

How could I hope to even come out even with that?

But he’d kissed me. I held onto that little pearl of hope like it was a lifeline, like it was oxygen. He’d kissed me. I may have torn my own heart out and given it to him but he’d made the first move. He’d kissed me. Whatever happened, I’d always have that.

When he grabbed my hand I wasn’t expecting it. If I had expected it, I would have thought he’d have fallen into step beside me and that we would have just skated around together and that would have been enough. But that’s not how it happened.
He grabbed my hand and nearly pulled my shoulder out its socket as his stationary body tugged mine around, using my momentum to turn me entirely as he reeled me in until I was pressed against his body, looking up into his gold flecked eyes. The eyes of a lion, a lion that could never be full tamed, would never be fully mine.

I knew that the moment he looked down at me, his free hand gently cradling my face before he kissed me. It made my heart ache as his lips moved over mine and he whispered things I wanted to hear, had waited for so long to hear.

“I’ll be better,” he promised and I knew he meant it as he kissed his way along my jaw before pressing his lips to the shell of my ear. “After the Olympics, I’ll give you as much time and attention as I can, I promise,” he added, wrapping his arms around me and crushing me against him, lifting me off of my feet. It’s what I’d wanted to hear and my heart swelled to hear it. Swelled and broke as he gazed down into my face and I could see that he meant it and I knew he did and it didn’t change that I knew it was a lie. “You’ve been there, always been there and I know you’re just trying to make me better. I’ll be better,” he reiterated, kissing my eyelids and it made me want to cry to see his face light up from within.

“I love you,” I said and meant it. I did love him, had always loved him and I’d always thought that it would be okay if only he’d love me enough to make me second. I’d always thought it would be alright if I could only be second.

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t going to be alright.

Damn it! It wasn’t fair. He had all of me and I would never have all of him.

“After the Olympics Mel...I promise. Everything will be alright then. You and I...we’ll make it work. Just...it’s just this one last thing and then this...us, this will be the most important thing, I promise.” I smiled at him and reached to cup his cheek and offered my lips to him and felt him kiss me with everything he had and I closed my eyes and felt for that spot inside that I’d always thought was waiting for him to fill it and I saw myself in that spot and it was dark and empty and he wasn’t there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chapter 16

Thank you again for all your enthusiastic responses and threats but you know what they say, the road to true love never does run smooth....

“Nice shirt,” Mel chuckles as she steps off of the curb outside of the arrivals gate of the airport and slides into the back seat of Jordan’s car while her roommate enthusiastically greets my teammate in the front seat.

“We’re going to a charity bowling event,” I explain, while she puts on her seatbelt. “That’s why I told you to go with casual.”

“We?” she asks, looking wary, and I guess I’ve given her every reason to be wary of me in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been keeping her at arms’ length. I’ve had some thinking to do.

“Yeah, well it’s run by the WAGs so that includes you two,” I grin at her, expecting her to be happy about being included in that group but she just stares back at me, obviously not as impressed as I’d assumed she’d be.

“And we didn’t even have do any organizing. It’s funny how we haven’t even been asked to help out at all.” She’s smiling but it isn’t a smile that goes anywhere near her eyes. It’s that cold smile I remember well from when we were kids. It’s her ‘yes mother I love that dress’ smile when everyone knew damn well she didn’t.

“I’m about to take you to a public event, where all kinds of people will see us together. There will be photographers and even a news crew or two. We’ll be photographed. We’ll be official. You keep saying that I’m not taking our relationship seriously enough, I thought you’d be happy about this.” I feel like we’re fighting and I wasn’t prepared to fight. Not tonight. I thought this would make her happy and I don’t understand why she’s sitting there staring at me like I’m the one who’s in the wrong. “I thought this would make you happy,” I reiterate, but she only sighs, and closes her eyes and shakes her head.

“I know and that’s what makes this so...stupid. I know you think that you’re doing the right thing but the thing is you didn’t think, did you? I mean, you tell me casual so of course I think you mean like hanging around the house not going out in front of people and having my picture taken and seeing it all over the internet the next day.” She has a point, obviously and I feel like a complete idiot for not seeing it, but then usually when it comes to appearances I’m not the one making the decisions or doing any of the planning.

“Tell you what,” Gronk jumps in, glancing in the rear view mirror at both of us. “The mall should still be open and it’s late enough that even you should be able to get in and out without creating a mob scene.”

“Good idea babe. Hey, look at that, he’s not just pretty. He can be useful too,” Kennedy giggles, lightening the mood.

“I’m sorry,” I turn to Mel and she shrugs.

“I should be used to it,” she sighs, lacing her fingers with mine when I reach for her hand. “If it’s not a stick or a puck....”

“I’m not that bad,” I complain and she shrugs and laughs.

“You are that bad Crosby. You always have been. I keep thinking that with Taylor and your mom and Nathalie and Lauren you might have actually started to pick up on some feminine requirements but you’re just as clueless as you’ve always been.” She says it with a smile, or at least half a smile, but when she looks up from looking down at our intertwined hands, the smile almost fills her eyes but not quite.

“I’m trying here Kelly,” I remind her with a sigh and she nods but doesn’t move closer or lean in for a kiss like I want her to. Instead she turns and stares out the window at the passing traffic and buildings, leaving me to feel like a total heel.


Sid hates crowds. Always has.

Oh he knows the right things to say and he goes through the motions. He signs the autographs, kisses the babies, all that stuff, but he doesn’t enjoy it. Mostly, once things are underway, he tries to blend into the wallpaper, hide in the crowd, or, if that fails, he’ll pick just one kid, one family and concentrate on them. It’s that, or be overwhelmed.

I’ve seen it all before. After all, my friend Sidney has been a star for a long time now. I’ve seen him do this, just maybe not on this scale before.

No, scratch that. I’ve seen him deal with bigger crowds, but it’s been a while since there’s been one this...intimate.

It’s hard to believe, now that I’m here, that I was nervous about this. After all, once I got over the flash blindness and the initial introductions, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that everyone is really nice and although a few of the tween set stare daggers at me, almost everyone just sort of forgets who I came in with and leaves me to my five pin bowling, which I’m damn good at by the way.

“So, how’s your official coming out party so far?” I don’t need to turn to see who’s breathing down the back of my neck. I just laugh and roll another strike, turning to celebrate with my team which consists of a couple young boys in their Fleury and Crosby jerseys, freshly signed, and their dads who I think are having a good time checking out my ass in the jeans that Sid and Gronk insisted I buy at the mall.

“So far so good,” I grin at Max who grabs the hat off the nearest ankle biter and starts signing it, much to the kid’s slack jawed amazement. “I expected worse,” I admit, waiting for my ball to come back up.

“Don’t worry. It will be much worse by the morning. If I was you I wouldn’t go anywhere near the internet for a few days and don’t google yourself from now on,” Max adds, pushing the lid back on the kid hard enough that it goes down over his eyes, which makes the tyke giggle, which I suppose was the point.

“But it’s good that he’s doing it, right?” I ask, still feeling self conscious about the snug fitting penguins t-shirt with Sid’s number on the back. Not that it’s the first jersey of his I’ve worn, because I’ve actually worn them all, but it’s the first one that shows cleavage and the first I’ve worn when he’s walked into a room holding my hand.

“Well he’s trying to do the right thing anyway,” Max agrees, grabbing the second kid’s hat and turning it backwards to match his own. “I did try to warn you that he’s a social retard.”

“Speaking of which,” I begin, raising my eyebrow and leaning closer so young, impressionable ears won’t overhear, “you and Lauren...what’s with that?”

“I told you nothing. I’m not doing anything with her and..,” he stops as he realizes that I’m teasing and, by the shit eating grin on my face, that I know. “She told you...about Tanger?” he asks and I nod, waiting to hear his side of the story. “Yeah well...I couldn’t, not when I figured out that was all she was looking for.”

“Really?” I wrinkle my nose and bump my shoulder into his. “See that’s totally not what I would have thought. I mean, I thought you told her you didn’t want anything heavy so a little roll in the hay would be just what the doctor ordered,” I suggest, but the answering grin I expect doesn’t appear. “Okay I know technically that means she was just using you but I didn’t think you’d mind.”

“Yeah well, I do, as it turns out,” Max says quietly, shrugging his shoulders. “Maybe I’m finally growing up,” he adds, looking so serious that I actually believe him and it make me mad at Lauren. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll find Miss Right and settle down like you and the Creature over there,” he adds with the happy go lucky Max grin we all know and love.

“You? Settle down...puhleeeze,” I laugh, punching him in the arm before quickly grabbing my ball and heading for the lane.


“For a guy that claims not to have made up his mind about a certain young lady, you’re having a hard time keeping your eyes off of her,” Billy G notes as he joins me, back at the shoe rental area where I’ve been trying to keep out of the way.

Every time I try to actually join in, it gets too crowded to actually do any bowling. I just figure, back here, I’m out of everyone’s way and if they want to come and see me, then at least we’re not blocking a lane or anything.

“This was kind of a big step,” I mutter, watching as Mel picks up one of the little kids she’s been bowling with and hangs him upside down over the hand dryer at the ball pick up. The kid squeals in delight and the grin on her face...well it’s something else.

“And yet here you are and there she is and Max and Gronk pretty much won’t leave her alone,” my lines-mate notes and I can’t argue with him, except to point out that that was kind of the point.

“I won’t be able to always be there. I wanted to see how she’d do,” I explain with a shrug.

“So just another hoop for the poor girl to get through for ya huh?” he sighs and shakes his head. “How many more of those are you gonna put in front of that poor kid before you put her out of her misery and do the right thing?”

“What is the right thing do you think Bill?” I ask, honestly, still not tearing my eyes off of her as she finally puts the kid down at the top of the lane and kneels down beside him. She hasn’t looked around for me or anyone else once since she started playing with them. They have her full attention. It’s pretty amazing actually. “I keep thinking I’m too young to get serious with anyone, especially with someone that maybe deserves more of my time and attention than I’m ready to give. Do you think that’s fair?” I ask, turning to the older forward whose attention is focused on Mel as she cheers on a gutter ball as if it was the ninth strike the kid had thrown.

“She seems like a good kid and I think I’ll stand by what I said before. If she’s got a brain in her head and a heart in her chest and if you don’t put a ring on that girl she’ll be gone and you’ll be the one sitting around wondering what the hell just happened.” With a serious look, Billy puts his hand on my shoulder and gives it a squeeze and then smacks the bill of my cap down so I can’t see before he goes back to join his group who greet his return with loud cheering.

“So...that wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asks, his breath warm on the back of my neck. I smile around my straw but don’t stop sucking at the extra thick real chocolate ice cream milkshake. It’s too good and I feel too much like I deserve it to stop, even for Sidney as he slides into the booth beside me and brushes my hair away from the back of my neck and plants a warm kiss on the curve of my shoulder.

“I never said it would be,” I answer, reaching for fry from his plate before the waitress even has a chance to put it all the way down on the table. “I’ve never been worried about my own behavior. You’re the one who was waiting for me to make some kind of mistake all night so you could sweep in and save me from myself,” I add, grabbing one more fry while he stares at me, blinking at me like some kind of hoot owl, as if he doesn’t have a clue what I’m talking about. “What? Now you’re going to try and tell me that every time I looked up you weren’t watching me like a hawk? Waiting for me to do some small town bumpkin sort of thing that would embarrass you?”

“That wasn’t...,” he sighs and shakes his head before grabbing my hand and grinding my bones together as he tries to get me to sit still and listen. “I was just watching. I just...wanted to see how you fit in.”

“So I’m new now? I’ve never been around hockey players and people who think that you’re god? Please, give me some kind of credit Crosby, for fuck sakes.” Pushing my plate away I turn to face him, feeling this tightness in my chest as I do. I know damn well that picking a fight with him in public is the last thing I should be doing but, god damn it, I’m just tired of these games of his. “I mean it Sid. Stop putting traps out and hoping I’ll fall in them. If you don’t want this...if you don’t want us to be together like...like I want to then just please tell me now.” He opens those soft, plump pink lips of his to speak but I shake my head and raise my fingers up to press against them, silencing him. “I know it’s not your fault that I’ve been in love with you for as long as I can remember. I know I’ve kind of forced all this on you and to be fucking honest right now, if you’re just being nice by trying to make it work or if you’re just trying not to hurt me....”

This time Sid pulls my fingers away from his lips and turns my hand palm up, placing a brief, soft kiss in the palm of my hand before looking up at me, his gaze full of a tumult of emotions and I brace myself for what I feel has been coming for so long now; the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ speech, the ‘I need space’ speech. But then his big hand reaches out and cups my cheek and he leans forward and presses his lips firmly but gently against mine, in public no less, and kisses me into silence.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers at long last, the tips of his ears turning scarlet as he glances around to see how many pairs of eyes are trained on us. “I’m sorry about the whole princess and the pea thing. I just...I feel like I need to know that you can deal with all this...this shit that I deal with all the time and I wish I could just wing it and trust you and, I mean fuck, I wish I could just trust myself but..it’s really not easy being me Mel. I know you think you know but...you’ve only seen parts of it so far. It will get worse, I can promise you that and then...well then maybe you won’t want to be with me and I guess...if that happened I’d...I’d hate that.” My heart swells to hear him say it and to see the pain of the thought make his hazel eyes go glassy before he drops his gaze form mine. “I know you think you’ve done all the running and maybe you have but...it’s not like I haven’t compared every girl I’ve ever met to you,” he adds, and this time when he raises his gaze to meet mine, there’s the briefest note of humour in his voice and the smallest of sparks behind his eyes before he speaks again and both disappear. “It’s not like I haven’t been thinking of what it will be like to be with you. It’s not like I don’t want to but...if you can just wait a little longer, just until after the Olympics....”

Every ounce of sweetness, every puff of air he’s blown beneath my wings evaporates and I’m left with a bitter taste in my mouth as his gaze searches mine. Where a moment ago I’d felt warm, wrapped in the cozy blanket of young love, now all I feel is ice water flowing through my veins.

“Because a gold medal’s going to solve everything isn’t it? Because when you’re bouncing your grandchildren on your knee that’s your war story, that’s what you’ll tell them and they’ll look at you like you’re a hero. But tell me this Sidney. Will it make your heart full? Will it rub your aching knees and hold your hand in the dark? Will it?”