“Expectations have a way of doing that,” Kennedy notes as she leans over to add a second coat of slut red as she calls it, to her toes.
“I’ve been dreaming, fantasizing about being with him for so long…and he has this amazing body and I just can’t believe it was that…bad,” I exclaim, flopping down on my bed and staring up at the ceiling, silently cursing the gods for my ill luck.
“Like I said, your expectations were too high,” Kensie muses, having very little sympathy for me, which, if she knew half the truth would be even less. “Plus, you know, he’s probably one of those guys who's never had to learn the tricks of the trade. Just because he’s fucked a hundred girls doesn’t mean that any of them had the vag to tell him to do something with it other than use it like a plunger,” she adds with a self satisfied grin as she wiggles her red tipped toes.
“Do you think that’s what it is? That he’s just never had any direction?” I ask hopefully, turning over and grabbing my pillow to lean on.
“Sure,” she shrugs, offering me the bottle which I shake my head at. Not my colour. “He’s probably like one of those guys with the really big dicks that thinks you should just be impressed by that and they never learn how to do anything with it,” she adds matter-of-factly in that sort of ‘this comes from personal experience’ sort of way. “And with your boyfriend having a certain degree of celeb status and the sort of nauseating way those little girls throw themselves at him, you can’t really blame him if all he ever does is throw them a fuck without caring if they actually get anything out of it,” she continues, making a world of sense.
“So he can learn,” I say, hopefully, only to have Kennedy look up from wiggling her toes with a single arched eyebrow.
“God, you really will do anything for this guy, won’t you?” she asks, sounding incredulous. “I mean, I can see that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into him but…fuck Mel. He wants you to toss your whole life away and be a MILF…what the fuck is up with that? Can’t he appreciate how fucking talented you are?” I open my mouth to say ‘you don’t understand’ but even I’m sick of hearing myself give that excuse. “I know he’s cute and loaded and all that but seriously…Mel…he treats you like shit babe.”
“You make it sound like he beats me or something,” I mutter, staring at her toes because I can’t meet the accusing look in her gaze. “It will be different when he’s not playing…in the off season. It will,” I reply fervently, which has become this sort of mantra I’ve developed for myself.
“Well for your sake, babes, I certainly fucking hope so but you’re going to have to start telling him where he’s fucking up and I’m telling you right now, if there’s no progress pretty damn quick, then you need to cut your losses because poster boy or not, there are other fish in the sea,” she adds, patiently but with an edge of exasperation in her voice.
“Everyone keeps telling me that,” I sigh, rolling back over on my back.
“Really? Like who?” she asks, suddenly sounding interested.
“Well…I mean, in different ways, everyone keeps telling me that either I’m not good enough or he isn’t. Like Lauren says I’m not good enough for him,” I begin, to which Kennedy replies with a derisive sounding snort. “Then there’s Max….”
“Yeah well…ulterior motive there,” she chuckles, grabbing up all her cotton balls and padding over to the garbage.
“I hardly think so,” I sigh, thinking of the rubber he’d left behind in Dupes driveway. “He couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”
“Well it was pretty low rent to do it in front of everyone,” Kensie smirks, turning to head for my closet where she begins to sort through the clothes that I brought back from the fashion show, taking each item out and holding them up to her. She’d look great in any of them. Well, any of them but the one that’s tucked carefully away in a garment bag.
“We didn’t…no, you’re right, I have no argument. I didn’t even want to….”
“Then, just curious, why did you? I mean…I feel like I’m fucking repeating myself, but if you don’t want to do this shit, why do you? I mean…do you ever wonder if it’s because you’re so god damn accommodating that maybe you’re just too fucking convenient to pass up? There you are. Practically no assembly required; one dutiful, sweet, faithful, worshipping wife?”
The words hurt. Of course they did. They were designed to cut to the core of the matter and even though it sounded like Kennedy had just rattled them off of the top of her head, it was more than apparent to me that she’d given more than a little thought to this, and when I opened my mouth to argue, no words came out.
Well of course not. That was exactly what I was trying to be wasn’t it? I had been working so hard to be the easy, simple, choice that I’d become Trina.
Oh god, I’m turning into his mom and I have almost no respect at all for her, for the way she follows big bad Troy around, careful not to say anything out of turn or draw too much attention to herself. She was an oatmeal cookie, and not the good kind with raisons or better yet, chocolate chips. She was just plain oatmeal. I’d never wanted to be oatmeal.
But then when I’d been prickly, irritable…in short when I’d been the me he’d grown up with he hadn’t seen me. He’d looked right through me. He hadn’t wanted me.
“I’m sorry,” Kensie sighs dropping onto the bed beside me as I stare at water stain on the ceiling. “I don’t mean that Sid isn’t a perfectly nice guy…when he isn’t being a spoiled…sorry, there I go again,” she chuckles, nudging me in a way that I know is meant to say ‘laugh with me’ but I don’t much feel like laughing.
“I love him,” I say simply because I don’t know how to explain any of the other things that are going through my head.
“I know,” Kensie says quietly, reaching to grip my hand. “I know you do.”
There’s a spring in my step as I hit the sidewalk outside the Gareth Pugh’s Fifth Avenue studio, hugging my portfolio to my chest and grinning from ear to ear. That is, until the sunlight catches the diamond on my hand and reminds me of my reality and stops me in my tracks, my smile quickly fading.
He loved my work, especially the prêt-a-porter designs. He said I was edgy, talented. He’d wanted to hire me on the spot. He wanted me to start working on his Fall collection.
I’d had to tell him that I had another offer, which isn’t a lie, it’s just that the other offer is RBK and I’m sure the only reason they’re even giving me an interview is because of Sidney. They did say they liked the men’s wear work I’d done, even if it was limited and fairly conventional, which for them, being commercial, is a good thing.
I just can’t see myself designing t-shirts and track suits. I’ve been dreaming of my designs walking down cat walks in Milan and Paris. I’ve day dreamed of walking into exclusive boutiques on Rodeo Drive and having celebutantes trying on my dresses to wear on the red carpet at the Oscars. As much fun as it was, seeing Max and Tanger in recycled army surplus just doesn’t live up to those kinds of hopes and dreams.
“Did it go well?” Blinking into the early spring day light, I find myself staring at Max, his hands jammed into the pockets of his dark grey hoody, his green eyes showing a spark of mirth behind his glasses. “Of course it did. Look at you. You look like a fashionista.”
“Max...how did you…what are you doing here?” I stammer, still staring at him open mouthed, except instead of wearing the frown I’d just been sporting I find that suddenly I’m smiling and feeling suddenly like laughing instead of crying.
“We’re playing in Jersey tonight,” he shrugs, as if I didn’t know.
“Yeah but…Sid said you guys had practice this morning and then some…zigtech shoot?” I ask, trying to remember the exact reason I’d been given for why he couldn’t see me when they’d got into town last night.
“They do. I’ve got a groin pull,” Max explains with another shrug. “I thought…I mean, Sid thought maybe you’d like to go to lunch…maybe a movie and then I’ll escort you to the game?” he offers, watching me expectantly from behind his glasses.
“A movie?” I ask, trying to think of the last time I’d done anything that normal and low key.
“Any movie you want…except that Miley Cyrus thing, please don’t make me go to that,” he begs, offering to take my portfolio for me and then offering his other arm.
“Alice in Wonderland?” I ask hopefully, feeling an almost childish happiness at just getting to choose and that earns me a bigger grin.
“I’ll even let you share my popcorn,” he adds, turning to head us towards the theatre district.
“I can’t believe Sid sent you,” I sigh happily, grinning to myself and telling myself that he can’t be as thoughtless as he sometimes seems lately.
“Yeah well…he’s you’re knight in shining armor, or whatever” Max mumbles, not sounding as happy as he had a moment ago.
“He’s something alright,” I reply, trying to keep the tone light but Max remains silent as we walk along, and eventually the silence wears on me. “Are you guys all still mad about the other night…at Pascal’s?” I ask, bracing myself for his response but all I hear from him is a sort of snort.
“Do you have to bring that up?” he asks and I feel my heart skip a beat in my chest as I prepare myself for the lecture on behavior and other people’s property, but instead, he laughs. “I’m still having nightmares about the way his âne blanc colossal looked all distorted by the pool,” he says, giving a shiver of emphasis.
“I’d argue but…yeah his ass is that big isn’t it?” I giggle, giving him a hip check that nearly sends him into a tall, leggy blonde who’s also carrying a portfolio in her arms. Just glancing at her, I’m betting hers is full of glamor shots. Max, on the other hand, doesn’t even seem to notice her, despite the fact that she literally stops to look at him.
“I have to see that thing enough in the showers,” Max continues without so much as missing a beat. “I don’t need to see that on my own time too. I can’t wait to see how much junk your kids will have in their trunks,” he adds, turning a cheeky grin towards me.
“Maximus, have you been checking out my butt?” I ask, feigning wide eyed astonishment, which makes him shake his head and laugh.
“Je ne suis pas mort,” he replies nonchalantly, refusing to look over at me, but grinning widely, “ou aveugle,” he adds, unable to keep a straight face any longer, and then we both end up laughing out loud, which gets us some very strange looks as we make our way through the crowds.
“You took my fiancée to a movie?” I stare up at Max and shake my head. “Well…okay I guess,” I sigh, going back to undoing my skates.
“You’re in New York and what…were you even going to see her?” he asks in this accusing tone that I’m getting a little sick of from him.
“I was busy, she knows that,” I remind him. “That’s part of her charm, she understands shit like that.”
“Her charm? Is that what you call it? Fuck,” he mutters, still standing over me as if we have more to talk about which, considering the way we just sucked out there, he’s lucky I’ve even had this much to say. I look up at Max, hoping he can read my impatience with this entire topic on my face but he isn’t even looking at me, but he is obviously fuming.
“What is this? Have you got a crush on my fiancée Max?” I ask, laughing as I say it because Max doesn’t care about anyone but Max, if it has a pussy he’ll fuck it but he doesn’t care about it.
“I just thought someone should remember that she had a big day today and obviously you didn’t. I mean, she’s out there. You are going to see her right?” I find myself tilting my head to the side as I stare at him, not sure what to make of the jittery, nervous looking Max in front of me.
“Of course I’ll see her but we’re flying out to Tampa tonight and she knew that, which is why I didn’t make a big deal about seeing her during this trip, you know, so thanks for that Max,” I add, dragging off my socks and standing to take off my hockey pants. “She understands, she gets it, I don’t know why you’re making a big deal about this.”
“I just think, you know, it’s nice for her to see you,” Max grumbles and turns to walk over to talk to Dupes and Flower, probably about me and what an ass I am. That seems to be the topic du jour, at least since Dupes party. A guy has sex with his fiancée in a pool and you never hear the end of it.
“Hey,” I call as I walk out onto the cold concrete floor in my bare feet, still wearing my under armor.
“Hey yourself,” she grins, turning around, a big welcoming smile on her face. That’s not all that looks welcoming. She’s wearing a curve hugging black knit dress that looks soft like a baby blanket and leaves nothing to the imagination. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s wearing a pair of knee high black boots with evil look points and high heels. Plus her hair is all sort of…piled up and she’s wearing bright red lipstick. She just doesn’t look like Mel…at all. She moves to hug me but I hold my hands up and step back. I probably smell worse than I look and I know I’m dripping with sweat.
“I haven’t showered yet,” I mutter, still entranced by this vampy outfit of hers. “You went out on a date with Max…in that?” I ask, staring at the way the soft fabric tugs across her chest, unable to shake the way her tits felt pressed against my chest when we had sex.
“Date? What? Oh this,” she looks down and then looks back up at me, her cheeks going bright pink. “I was at that interview,” she reminds me, which makes me shake my head.
“But I thought we agreed…,” I begin only to have her roll purse her lips and look disappointed in me.
“No, you told me to cancel it but…,” I watch her take a deep breath and square her shoulders like she’s about to take a face off before she opens her lips again, “I want to do this. They’ve offered me a position and I want to take it.”
“So you want us to have a long distance marriage?” I ask, feeling irritated and now not just because I couldn’t put the puck past Brodeur.
“It’s working right now, isn’t it?” she asks in a way that isn’t so much a question as a statement, though I can see that she’s ready for me to blow giant holes in her argument. She tilts her chin up, her eyes focus and her lips become a thin line. I’ve seen her do it so many times, and not just with me but her mother and anyone else who dared argue with her. I just sort of thought she was over this kind of stuff with me.
“We talked about starting a family,” I begin, trying to reign in my temper, trying to keep my voice low and even. This really isn’t the place for this discussion, out here in the crowded hallway between the dressing rooms. Already other players, staff and family members are starting to notice the beautiful girl not looking at all happy to be talking to the Pen’s captain.
“You did. I said I wanted to wait,” she says, not sounding as defiant as the expression on her face might suggest. I can see the indecision in her eyes. I can read her like a book.
“Did you think when I asked you to marry me that I wanted to wait?” I ask, stepping closer, knowing that I can’t keep the irritation and impatience out of my voice. “Don’t you think that it will look…oh I don’t know, strange, that you feel like you have to work?”
“Oh for god sakes Crosby!” she snaps, sounding as frustrated and irritated as I’m feeling, but her bottom lip has started to tremble and her eyes are filling with tears. “It’s not the dark ages anymore. Women work you know.”
“I know babe,” I sigh, changing my tactics and going for the quiet, supportive approach, for now. I can’t deal with this, not right now. I don’t have the patience and I’ve seen my dad do this with my mother a hundred times so….. “I know you have this dream and that’s why I wanted you to talk to my guys at RBK, so we could set something up and you can work from home and….”
“I don’t want to design t-shirts. I’m good. I design gowns! Haute fucking couture! Not that you’d know that if it crept up and bit you on the ass. Have you even looked at my portfolio?” she snaps back, her voice barely above a whisper, her nose almost touching mine, and then it’s gone as she whirls to pick up some leather bound case that’s resting on the jersey box behind her. “Look,” she says, unzipping the case and opening it to a page that looks a lot like a bunch of coloured lines vaguely making up the shape of a dress. It reminds me a bit of some of the designs I’d looked at when I was working with Sportchek and RBK for my line, except that there’s satin and sequins, not cotton. “Kleinfeld’s wants exclusive rights to this design. Do you have any idea how rare it is for someone right of design school to get a dress into Kleinfeld’s?” she asks when I look back up at her.
“What’s a Kleinfeld?” She blinks at me, like I’m the one talking in tongues and then lets out a little sigh.
“They’re the biggest, most famous bridal boutique in Manhatten,” she explains in a stilted, controlled voice as if she’s forcing the words through her teeth, like she’s annoyed.
“Well that explains that then,” I mutter. “I told Max you’d never wear a dress like that to your own wedding.”
“Well…no of course I wouldn’t but…are you listening to me Sidney? I’m telling you that this is something that’s important to me. This is something I want,” she tells me earnestly, her gaze searching mine.
“But I thought you wanted to be with me,” I reply, reaching up to touch her cheek, wanting her to just calm down and think this through.
“I do,” she replies, leaning her cheek into my hand and lowering her long fan like eyelashes over her eyes. “I just don’t want to turn into my dad, always standing in the shadows, never doing anything for himself. I don’t want that for myself,” she adds, looking up at me with her doe like eyes. “If you love me you won’t want that for me either.” She says it like she’s rehearsed it and it feels like a trap. One of the things I’ve always liked about Mel is that wasn’t the kind of girl to play games and I’m feeling a little more than annoyed that now that she has my grandmother’s ring on her finger she thinks she should start playing now.
“Of course I don’t want you to be a little mushroom cap Mel. I mean, how could you? You’re my girl,” I smile at her, though I don’t feel much like smiling, but her face lights up in response and then I feel a knife twist in my gut. Christ she’s beautiful. “This is a lot to think about…I mean, we’re buying a house there and let’s face it, I’m in a long term contract in Pittsburgh so…let’s try and figure out how to make it work with you there, okay?” She nods, silently, and I’m pretty sure she’s trying hard not to cry. I’ve seen that tension in her jaw and as I press my lips over hers I can feel how reluctant she is to return my kiss. “Are you going to be okay?” I ask, searching her eyes, wishing she didn’t look so sad. “You know we’re flying right out?” She nods and gives a little shrug.
“I’ll see you on the weekend,” she affirms quietly, reaching down to lace her fingers with mine. “You’re playing Carolina Saturday right?”
“Yeah, Staal brothers battling it out,” I respond cheerfully and she manages to give me a smile that almost looks genuine. Huh. I guess we’ve had our first fight. “I promise we’ll sit down and talk about this then okay?” Again she nods, but says nothing and the way her lips are still drawn in a thin line tells me that the fight isn’t over yet.
“I’ll make sure she gets home.” I look over Mel’s shoulder to see Max standing a little ways back, far enough to give us privacy but still….
“You won’t make the flight,” I begin but he just shrugs and stares me down, like he’s daring me to contradict him.
“I’ve cleared it with Disco Dan,” he responds coolly, turning to lean against the concrete wall, half turned away from us.
“That okay with you?” I ask, looking back down at Mel, who nods, once. “Okay, well…I’m proud of you for the whole Kleinfeld thing. That’s great, really,” I tell her, lifting her chin and placing a kiss on her brow. “And I’m sure we’ll figure something out and Mel?” She raises her gaze to meet mine and the hope that I see there sweeps away any anger I’m holding on to. “I can’t wait for Saturday.” As I bend to kiss her again, I can see Max lurking right behind her, so the kiss I give her is more chaste than I’d planned to leave her with. “If this guy gives you any trouble, let me know,” I add with a grin that she doesn’t return before she turns and heads down the hall. Max gives me a long, disappointed look and then turns to follow her.
I sit flipping through my portfolio, staring at each design, following the lines with my fingers, remembering what it had felt like to see the final result come to life as I stare at the photo on the opposite page. Each one is like a child. I feel proud of each and every one of them, cherishing them all and feeling my heart swell as I look at them.
Max sits beside me in silence, just as he had in the back of the big, black town car as it had sped through the wet, dark streets while I stared out at the rain drenched sidewalks and tried not to cry. I felt like I’d let myself down and I’d let him do to me just what Troy did to Trina every time she tried to change things. I was going to back down, just like she always does. I was going to do what he wanted me to do and say nothing, just like my father does and I could feel a little part of my heart dying as I admitted that to myself. Dying, and turning into hard, cold stone.
“You’re talented,” Max says finally, breaking what seems like hours of silence.
“Not that it matters,” I mutter in return, closing my book and staring at the black leather cover. “I’m not going to do anything with it.”
“You should,” he says quietly from where he’s sitting at the end of the couch in my darkened apartment. “If it means anything…he’s already had everything he could possibly want. You should have what you want too.” I turn to look at him and try and smile, although I can feel only one corner of my mouth turn up. I just don’t have it in me even to be grateful.
“It would be nice not to have to choose,” I sigh, shrugging my shoulders.
“You shouldn’t have to…he shouldn’t make you…,” Max begins, but I just shake my head and lean in to press my fingers against his lips, silencing him.
“Don’t…don’t beat up on him. I’m the one with no balls,” I add with a half a grin before I curl up, putting my head on his lap and closing my eyes.
“And aren’t we all grateful for that,” he chuckles, running his hands slowly and gently through my hair, untangling my backcombed mess while I try and let my tension go, while I try not to think, while I try and just relax and let my mind go until…. Yawning, I turn to glance up at Max to find him watching me with sympathetic gaze.
“You can go…I mean shouldn’t you go?” I ask, between yawns.
“I’ll stay…until you go to sleep…if you want,” he adds, the rhythmic movement of his fingers through my hair making it all but impossible not to fall asleep on the spot.
“If you’re sure it’s okay,” I mumble, closing my eyes an going back to thinking about nothing, or trying to, until darkness closes in around me.