Team Max seems to be catching up but is Team Sidney making a come back???
“You look so elegant,” Nathalie sighs as she stands back, pin cushion in hand. I have to admit that she’s right but I’m beginning to think it’s too much. What had started out as a breezy, light summer dress has turned into the ballgown from My Fair Lady, complete with the crystal beading which I’d sworn not to do but between Lauren, Nathalie and everyone at Pugh’s, the design that had started out as simple and flowing has taken on a life of its own. Not that it doesn’t make me a little misty eyed to see my reflection looking back at me looking more like a Princess of Fairy than a girl from Cole Harbour.
“I am sooo getting you to design my dress when I get married,” Lauren sighs, from where she’s been sitting, watching the whole show with that kind of look on her face that says she can’t wait to trade places with me and be the bride rather than the bridesmaid.
“I’ll be happy to,” I reply, turning sideways with the hopes that it won’t look quite so bling from that angle. “I’m just thinking I should have had someone else design this for me.”
“You did. Sort of,” Kensie chortles from where she’s still pinning, kneeling at my feet, where I’m standing on a step stool. “We did sort of took over you design,” she adds, grinning up at me, knowing I won’t kick her and send all her carefully placed pins flying.
“It was supposed to be a simple summer dress,” I sigh, catching a glimpse of the gathering at the back and the train that snakes at least three feet behind me.
“Well if you were having a simple garden wedding, then that might have been perfect, but you’re not, are you?” Kensie reminds me with a raised eyebrow and a smirk that makes me want to crawl into a corner, get into a fetal position and call for the men in the white coats. This whole wedding thing has gotten completely out of hand. All I’d wanted was a simple, small, intimate wedding in the back yard of Sid’s place on the lake back home. What we are ending up with is the society wedding of the year, with, at last count, over three hundred guests, in Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Hope, which, while gorgeous, isn’t exactly what I’d had in mind. It is now all out of my hands and firmly in the hands of Sidney’s publicist, which is turning into both a blessing and a curse.
“Don’t remind me,” I mutter, shuddering at the thought of the wedding planner that has been hired on our behalf. The woman drives a Barbie pink Cadillac escalade and wears cell phones like accessories.
“Holeeee sheet! Look who’s dripping in bling!” I turn to tell Jordan that he’s supposed to be downstairs keeping Sidney occupied while we pin up the dress, but seeing Max standing behind him with that kicked puppy look on his face and all the words I intend to say just sort of disappear on me.
“Tu es si beau. Tu ressembles à une princesse féerique.”
I want to say thank you, but more than that, I want the glow I feel when he says it to be nothing more than the simple happiness of being given and accepting a compliment, but having had Max avoid me at all costs for almost an entire month, I find that I can’t do either. In fact, it’s all I can do to blink back the tears as I stand there watching him staring back at me.
“If you ask me she’s too covered up,” Tanger muses aloud, breaking the tension as he shoves both Jordy and Max down the stairs in front of him, a six pack hanging from his finger. I watch them disappear down the stairs, my skin still prickling just the way I remember it doing when Max had laid me out on his bed and knelt there, on the edge of the bed, his gaze roaming over me, half hungrily and half reluctantly.
“Let’s get you out of this so you can get it back to your worker bees back in your sweatshop,” Kennedy say quietly, appearing behind me, carefully picking up my train and cradling it in her arms as I step down off of the stool to follow her back to the guest room where the garment bag is hanging. “Have you got something to tell me?” she hisses the moment we get around the corner.
“Huh?” I almost fall forward when she hustles me into the room and nearly jump out of my skin when she slams the door behind us.
“Don’t you dare ‘huh’ me. I’m your roommate and I’d like to think one of your best friends in the world and I cannot believe you didn’t tell me,” she snarls as she unzips the dress and helps me step out of it.
“If I knew what you were talking about..,” I begin only to have her let out a bark of laughter as she unhooks the garment bag from the back of the door and lays it across the queen size bed.
“You, sleeping with Max,” she huffs, laying the dress carefully beside the garment bag before turning her blazing eyes on me. “Jordan told me. I didn’t really believe him until I saw that little display. Have you lost your cotton pickin’ mind?” she asks, hands on hips, peering at me as if I’ve gone completely off my rocker.
“It’s hard to explain,” I begin, but I can tell that isn’t going to suffice, so, with a sigh, I launch into the whole gory, sordid story. “I had to lose my virginity, okay? And don’t look at me like that. I know, I was the oldest virgin on the fucking planet, but I’d been saving it for Sidney and then it turned out he had like zero interest in being the cherry popper and I just needed to do something about it and Max is like…well he’s my friend and….”
“Oh girl, you are soooo blind. That boy is not your friend. He was looking at you like a fat kid on a diet looks at a piece of triple-decker chocolate ganache cake.”
“I know,” I mumble, feeling my cheeks grow warm as I think about that same look on his face as he’s brought me over the edge of pleasure, his fingertips brushing gently up from my hips, over my breasts before he’d rolled me over and pinned me to the bed beneath him. Closing my eyes now, I can feel the same shiver that look had sent through me, a fine sort of ripple that began at my lips and worked its way down to my toes as he’d kissed me, softly, but thoroughly, and then whispered my name against the line of my jaw as he slid into me once more. “I know,” I repeat, partly for her sake but mostly for myself. “I mean, I guess I realize that now.”
“Oh my god, the poor fucking bastard. He’s obviously in love with you and you do that to him? And now, just to top it off, you’re going to marry his best friend?” Kennedy shakes her head. “Nice, Mel, very nice.”
“I thought he could handle it!” I cry in self defense. “He’s supposed to be some kind of epic man whore. It was just sex,” I add, throwing my hands up.
“Even man whores have feelings Mel,” Kensie sighs, shaking her head.
“I didn’t know!” I insist. “I don’t think he did…not before…and if he did he could have said no. I could have gone to someone like Tanger or….”
“Would you? If it had been you and Sidney, would you have turned Sidney down a year ago if he’d come to you?” she asks, and though I want to argue my innocence, I know damn well I don’t have a leg to stand one. Kennedy shakes her head and rubs at her eyes before turning her impatiently gaze back to mine. “And if Sid finds out?”
“He won’t,” I insist, remembering how Max had promised me that the guys would never tell.
“Jordy told me. What makes you think that I won’t tell him?” she asks, and I know she’s just being facetious, that she would never do that to me, and I only have Max’s word that the guys won’t tell but….
“Because that’s not what’s supposed to happen,” I say quietly, knowing she’s going to roll her eyes at me Cinderella construct, my fantasy, my belief that Sid is supposed to be mine and nothing is going to get in the way of that.
“You’re nuts,” she says quietly, grabbing my head and pressing her lips to my forehead. “That ass doesn’t deserve you,” she adds, staring me dead in the eyes. “But what you did…you? I can’t believe you did that,” she shakes her head and laughs. “Was he as good as he thinks he is?”
“Oh my god! I don’t want to talk about it,” I cry, wrenching free of her grasp but not before I feel my cheeks turn a bright crimson.
“He was…oh my god, he was, wasn’t he? Better than Sidney?” she asks, but I’m already pulling on my jeans and grabbing my t-shirt, intent on getting out of this room before she pins me to the wall and subjects me to torturous questioning that I don’t even want to think about let alone answer to. My hand is already on the door with my t-shirt only half pulled over my head when the door opens and I find myself stepping directly into a man’s broad chest. Like a blind person, I feel the broad chest, the slight indentation between each rib bone, and the massive plate in the middle of his chest and I know who it is.
“Kensie, your man’s looking for you,” I call, tugging my t-shirt down and sneaking around under Jordan’s arm before making a quick exit towards the kitchen, hoping for some comfort food in the way of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
“As-tu un souhait de mort?”
I look up from my cards and turn to see Tanger pushing Max into the wall in a way that looks like he’s cruising for a fight but Max only brushes his arm away. I notice he doesn’t move though, almost like he thinks he deserves whatever’s coming to him, but Tanger only shakes his head and gives Max’s whisker covered cheek a gentle slap.
“Tu es un vieux romantique, et un imbecile,” Tanger adds, shaking his head again before turning away from Max to dump the beers he’s brought with him onto the table. “Deal me in,” he laughs, as if nothing’s happened. I glance back at Max to see him staring up the stairway, and I think about cashing in my chips for this hand to give him a talking to about Lauren when Kennedy and Jordy appear crashing down the stairway like a herd of elephants, Kensie on Jordy’s back yelling mush and hitting his ass hard enough that we all wince just a little.
“Is uh…is Mel coming down?” Max asks, peering around them at the empty stairwell.
“She’s not down here already?” Kennedy asks, jumping off of Jordan’s back and onto the couch, grabbing the remote out of Flower’s hand. “Who’s got popcorn?”
“Where is my fiancée?” I ask, glancing at the empty stairwell and then back at Kennedy who is busy shoving TK off the end of the couch to make room for Jordy presumably.
“Pouting, I think,” Kensie answers, now being joined by her boyfriend and the two of them are now turning TK into a human tug toy. “Or going over place settings, some shit like that. Seriously, if I ever get married and pay what you guys are paying for a wedding planner and the bitch still wants me to make decisions, I’m running for Vegas.”
“Vegas eh?” Jordy raises an eyebrow, letting TK go who lands in a heap at his feet and grabbing his girlfriend instead. “Quick and dirty? Drive through wedding maybe?”
“Oh yeah, on the back of a Harley,” Kensie grins back at him, like it’s a dare. “Who needs all this rhinestone encrusted, lily of the valley and white roses shit when you can get married on a Harley and go gambling instead?”
“I love this girl,” Jordy declares, grabbing her and pulling her onto his lap before reaching for her tonsils with his tongue.
“Ewwww, get a room,” Lauren cries, appearing, alone at the bottom of the stairs.
“Can’t you two keep your hands off each other for like…ten minutes?”
“Jealous much?” TK asks, looking up hopefully at her.
“If I wanted to play tonsil hockey with a Staal, and I do mean if,” she points out emphatically. “It wouldn’t be that Staal. And if I just wanted to play tonsil hockey with someone here,” she adds, glancing towards the table where Tanger, Brooksy, Godsy, Gogo and I are sitting. “You’d be the last one in line,” she laughs, stepping on TK’s stomach on her way to squirming in between Flower and Dupes are sitting at the other end of the couch.
“I thought this was a guy’s poker night?” Dupes asks as he glances back at me and mouthing something like ‘get rid of her’ to me. Shaking my head, I open my mouth to tell Max to do the honors in dragging her back upstairs, but I can’t see him. He must have hit the head.
“Whose deal is this?” Tanger asks, glaring unhappily at his cards. “Is this Crosby house rules where the lucky fucker wins again?” he growls, making all the guys laugh and making me forget, for now, to wonder where Max has wandered off to.
“I thought I might find you out here.” I hear the sound of the French door closing and then the scuff of his jeans hitting the concrete step beside me. I don’t even look over. I just hand the tub of ice cream to him, or what’s left of it.
“So you’re talking to me now?” I ask, still staring at the way the lights play on the water of the pool.
“I wasn’t not talking to you,” he begins and that’s when I turn and raise my eyebrow at him. “Okay, maybe I was avoiding opportunities to talk to you but can you blame me?” he asks, trying to hand the tub of S’mores back to me, but I wave it off.
“You’re supposed to be my friend,” I mutter, hearing the undercurrent of anger growing in my own voice that sugar and chocolate have done nothing to curb.
“I am…I am,” he insists when I turn to him with that same raised eyebrow. “I just…I hate watching you do nothing while he makes into a perfectly behaved Wag,” he explains which makes me twitch, thinking of all the times I’d used that word as a epithet for girls with no brains, long legs, high heels and bad dye jobs. That wasn’t going to be. I’d sworn that to myself, even as I longed and wished for Sidney to notice me, to want me and hated him for it too.
“It’s all a stupid tug of war,” I sigh, dropping my head in my hands and rubbing at that ever present throb in my temples. “I want him but I don’t want this life…I can’t believe I can’t have both. Someone must have both,” I insist. I feel his hand on my arm, at first and realize that I want to feel that comfort and so when his arm goes around me and pulls me against him and I feel the heat of his body and the hear him whispering comforting words to me in French, I close my eyes and let the tears fall. Tears that I’ve wanted to cry every time he’s avoided me when I’ve gone to the games and been down in the halls of the arena, waiting for Sidney while Max leaves in a group of guys and doesn’t so much as wave, leaving me feeling abandoned. Tears that I’ve felt when I’ve laid in my fiancé’s arms at night and not felt the sort of contentment I felt that first night…. “You don’t…I mean, Kensie says you do but…you don’t have like…a crush on me do you?” I ask, pulling away from him enough to look up into his eyes. Tonight they’re the colour of water in a deep inlet, a dark, dark bluish green. A long moment passes as he reaches up to brush the hair back out of the wet trails my tears have left behind and then he smiles, that easy, mischievous smile of his and shakes his head.
“C’mon, I’m Maximus. I’ve got them cueing up outside the arena for a piece of this,” he grins, holding up his arm and flexing his bicep, showing off that shield with the T for Talbot inside of it. “I think you’re beautiful,” he adds more quietly, brushing my cheek with his fingertips. “But you have your man and I’m a big man whore as you like to call me. We’re just friends, d’accord? And if you’re still worried about that thing…?” I shake my head vehemently and duck my face away, feeling my cheeks turn bright pink just thinking of it in front of him. “Good, because the guys won’t tell and I’m not going to tell anyone; I haven’t got a death wish,” he laughs, pulling me into his arms again. “You’re just having nerves about all this crazy out of control wedding bullshit that you don’t even want, and who can blame you? What’s this I hear about some giant ice statue of Mario at the reception?”
“It’s not of Mario it’s just a hockey player,” I correct him, digging my elbow into his ribs and though I know it’s not hard enough to make him actually do it, he grabs his ribs and makes the proper ‘woof’ sound of losing his air as we both scramble to our feet. “And I totally vetoed that.”
“Well I’m glad because that cucaracha cumberbund your man is going to wear is bad enough,” he adds, leaning over to pick up the abandoned pint of ice cream, giving me a target I just can’t ignore.
“You get down there and tell him that it’s silver and not fucking la cucaracha,” I order, giving his but a swift kick as I send him shuffling towards the door in his socks.
“As my mistress wishes,” he laughs back at me.
“Who’s a dirty mistress? What did I miss?” Jordy and Kensie appear around the corner, looking like they’ve been looking for a little alone time, his long arm around her neck, his fingertips just brushing the top of her breast, her arms wrapped around his middle, looking up at him like she can’t stop looking at his face. The sight of them stops me in my tracks. Sidney never looks at me that way.
“If you…if you see Sid tell him I had a headache and went to bed,” I mutter, pushing past Max and heading into the house. It wouldn’t be a lie. That pounding never seems to go away and right now, it just got worse.