“Let me see that again,” Lauren grabs at my hand and pulls my fingers back towards her, bending them at an awkward and unnatural angle so that the small, elegant diamond catches the light. “Kinda cheaped out there Sid,” she snorts, letting my hand go, although I keep staring at it, just as I have most of the night.
“It’s antique and very pretty,” Nathalie chimes in, laying her hand gently and reassuringly on my shoulder.
“And it has sentimental value, which makes it more special than anything new,” I add, beaming across the table at Sid whose eyes crinkle as he smiles back at me.
“I can’t believe you said yes, after all the time he’s made you wait,” Mario adds with a smirk and a teasing tone that doesn’t do much to alleviate the sudden rush of blood to my face which I try to hide by ducking my head and letting my hair fall in front of my face.
“Well they say all good things come in time,” Sidney muses, pushing his chair back with a loud scraping sound and coming around the table to push my hair back and press a kiss to my forehead. “Walk me out to my car?” I feel his hand curl around mine and I nod, mutely, grabbing a piece of toast from the table before I allow him to lead me out into the hallway.
“About last night,” I begin as we walk down the corridor towards the garage, but Sidney quickly turns and presses his thumb over my lips.
“Stop apologizing,” he smiles and then presses his soft lips to my forehead. “You were tired and pretty emotional,” he continues, which makes me flinch as I think of how I couldn’t get my tears of surprise and relief under control. “Mel…we have the rest of our lives to have sex,” he whispers against my cheek as he brushes my hair back from my face. “And I think you were right about prying eyes,” he adds in a hushed tone as he glances down the hallway. Following his gaze I see Lauren leaning in the doorway to the kitchen, dispassionately filing her nails.
“It’s just weird here…with so many people around,” I sigh, still feeling slightly about getting cold feet when it came down to it, especially after he’d proposed, even if it had been more of a pragmatic proposal than the romantic rose petal strewn, candle lit dream I’ve always pictured but then that’s him all over. There was no need to make a fuss, it was just a formality he’d said and although I still feel a little disappointed, I do sort of agree. What if I’d cried like a baby in front of everyone? How embarrassing would that have been?
“And I told you, starting this afternoon after practice; we’ll start looking for our own place. Right after you cancel your meeting in New York with…what was that gay guy’s name again?”
“Gareth Pugh, and you can’t assume he’s gay because he designs clothes,” I correct him, “and I’m not sure I want to cancel. He’s cutting edge, exactly the kind of ready to wear designer I want to learn from,” I continue, only to have Sidney shake his head and laugh as if I’ve told a funny joke.
“Once this summer is over, believe me, you’ll be too busy for any of that dress up dolly stuff,” he grins, before taking my face in both of his big hands and pressing his lips gently to the tip of my nose. “Besides, now you have a wedding to plan, right?” he adds, more quietly as his caramel coloured gaze searches mine. I nod, accepting that he’s probably right and swallowing my objections at the same. “That’s better,” he whispers, tipping my lips up to meet his and pressing his mouth over mine in a long, soft kiss that leaves me tingling all over. “I’ll see you after practice. Be good.”
I smile and watch him go, keeping my thoughts and concerns to myself. I’ve begun to feel like the nodding dog stuck on the dash of his car; nodding and smiling and saying nothing. Yes I’ll marry you, yes I’ll give up my career, yes I’ll move to Pittsburgh…it feels like all I’ve been doing all night. Well, that and totally freezing the moment he tried to touch me.
Yeah, having everything I’ve ever wanted is going just great so far.
“I am surprised you said yes so fast.” Yanked out of my pity party, I turn to see Lauren still leaning in the hallway, filing her nails down to blood red points. “I mean, I know you’ve been like…waiting around for him to notice you or whatever but…I mean, you don’t think this is going to last do you?”
“Whaddayamean?” I ask, narrowing my eyes as I turn and walk back towards her.
“Well, I mean, for one of the other guys, for…I don’t know…Gogo or Johnny or even Max, maybe you’d be pretty enough but Sidney?” she turns her almond shaped eyes on me and tilts her head to one side so her long hair falls over her shoulder in a silken waterfall. “He should be with Taylor Swift or Dianna Agron…someone like that. Not…what were you again? Miss Lobster Tail?” It hurts, like taking a punch in the gut. Here I’d been thinking Lauren was my friend…. “Oh don’t look like that. I like you, sure I do. Everyone likes you. You’re sweet and cute and fun to be with but do you think you can seriously handle those girls that wait outside the arena? Or worse, the ones waiting for him in the hotel lobbies, with their designer clothes and push up bras? Really?”
She doesn’t wait for me to answer. Instead she just gives me one of those half hearted hugs and air kisses like girls in a beauty pageant do when they don’t really mean to congratulate you. When what they really want to do is pull your hair and gauge your eyes out. I watch her go, feeling bereft and more than a little sorry for myself.
Then I look down at the ring on my finger and tell myself ‘he loves me'. So why do I still hear the other part of that particular girlhood mantra? ‘He loves me not.’
“Did you hear that reporter ask me if you’re ever going to score a goal again?”
I hear Jordy’s voice loud and clear as I walk down the corridor towards the room, bracing myself for the teasing that I’m sure is to follow once the guys find out I actually went through with it. That is, assuming Flower’s told them, which he might not have, in which case I’ll have to and then….
“Get off my case Jordan.”
That’s Max’s voice and I can’t remember the last time Madness has actually called Gronk by his full name. It’s always Staalsy or Gronk or Stretch or something en Français that can’t be repeated in good company.
“Okay, what the fuck is wrong with you? First you totally bail on the Gold Medal game and now you’re acting like someone’s pissed in your cornflakes,” Jordy snarls back and I pause in the doorway, not wanting to walk into the middle of what is sounding like it could turn into an actual scrap any minute now.
“You don’t want to know,” Max mutters and then everyone’s voices go back to regular decibels and I can’t hear what they’re talking about. Deciding it might be safe, I take a couple of steps into the room, open my mouth to announce what I’ve gone and done but then I see Jordy and Dupes staring down at Max with wide eyes and take a step back instead.
“Es-tu aliéné?” Dupes asks, looking completely shocked by whatever Max has told them. “As-tu perdu ton esprit?”
“What was I going to do? She came to me. She practically begged me,” Max replies sullenly, without so much as raising his head.
“Do you want to play in Edmonton?” Jordy hisses, reaching for Max’s shoulders and giving him an actual shake. “I mean you do know what you’ve done?”
“Naturellement je sais, j’étais là,” Max snaps back, turning his gaze up to meet Jordan’s shocked expression. “Don’t look at me like that. You’d hit that too,” he adds resentfully.
“I would not. I’m not suicidal,” Jordan huffs, taking a step back like he’s afraid of catching something and with Max’s history, that’s a distinct possibility.
“I thought you told me you were going to stay away from Lauren,” I snap, stepping back into the room. Talk about guilty consciences. Everyone jumps at the sound of my voice, like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
“Lauren? He’s not…,” Dupes takes a stick in the shin from Jordan but it’s obviously too late and Dupes, being my roomie, knows that.
“Ne tracesses pas,” Max sighs, pushing himself up from the bench and putting himself between me and the boys. “Mon ami, she came to me, what do you want me to say?”
“She’s a fucking kid Max! Can’t you keep your fucking dick in your pants at all?” I hiss at him, expecting some kind of sarcastic, chauvinistic come back but Max just stands there, looking tired as he shrugs his shoulders.
“Je prendrai quelque punition tus penses que je mérite,” he says diffidently, looking me straight in the eye. “But I’m not going to apologize to you for it.”
“And if I tell Mario?” I snarl back at him, expecting him to flinch, but he just keeps staring back at me through those sleepy looking eyes of his.
“Then you’d probably embarrass Lauren quite a lot,” he says quietly. I stare at him, waiting for the caustic comment, the snarky come back, but it never comes. He just stands there, staring at me like he’s waiting for me to hit him or something.
“Well I guess it’s too fucking late to do anything about it now,” I mutter, brushing past him and heading for my stall. “At least tell me you used something,” I demand which earns me a hairy eyeball. “Fuck, Max, I just wish you would fucking grow up. I mean, you don’t even like her, you even said so. I don’t get how you can just keep going around fucking everything that moves. What do you get out of it? Don’t you ever want it to mean something?”
“Don’t preach to me Crosby. It’s not like you’ve ever had a real relationship,” Max scowls as he sits down on the bench next to me.
“Yeah? Well I proposed to Mel last night. Can’t get much more real than that don’t you think?” The room gets real quiet, way past the point of hearing a pin drop. It’s like everyone’s holding their breath and when I turn to see what the effect of my news is on Max, he’s just staring at the floor between his feet. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I grin, giving him a hard shove that would normally have sent him toppling into Flower but he hardly moves at all. In fact he turns to me with the strangest expression on his face.
“Did she say yes?” he asks quietly.
“Of course she fucking said yes. She’s been in love with me since she was five,” I grin back at him.
“Nice…well…I guess congratulations,” he mutters, holding his hand out towards me. “She’s…you’re a lucky man.” I slap his hand away, laughing.
“Fuck, don’t be so fucking serious! Look, if you’re gonna be my best man, you’ve got to stop fucking Lauren, just promise me that,” I ask, punching his shoulder hard enough that he winces and reaches up to rub the spot.
“It’s not…that’s over. Won’t happen again,” he promises.
“Good, because Whit tells me it’s boring as hell in Edmonton and the girls are ugly, you’d die there,” I add with a grin that earns me the shadow of a smile from him. “That’s fucking better. Now, are you gonna plan my bachelor party or what?”
“Yeah…it’ll be epic,” he promises with a wistful smile that should make me nervous but today I feel impervious, which might be why it doesn’t bother me as much as I think it should about him and Lauren, although I do make a mental note to have Mel have a talk with her, after all, they’re going to be practically sisters and she’ll probably want her as a bridesmaid too.