“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.”