“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.
“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.