A special shout out to K whose comments I always smile when I see them and I love that you get the familial and genetic reasons behind the behaviors. Thank you
As for the rest of you thank you for enjoying and craving more.
“Mother fucking son of a cunt licking whore!!” I’d heard Army put together that particular string of profanity once and I’d liked it, but I keep it for special occasions. Having to go to a game seven against a team that we’ve owned all year seems like an appropriate time to use it.
“Sacre bleu,” Tanger laughs, and I round on him, ready to snap and let him have it with both barrels until I see the sardonic look on his face and then I just nod.
“It’s another game,” Gonchar shrugs, putting his hand on my shoulder and leading me away from the defenseman who I can see is already blaming himself. “We can do better next game.”
“Maybe you can,” I grumble, “I can’t hit the fucking broadside of a barn with a fucking map and a mother fucking compass.”
“Maybe if your head was in the right space,” Billy G begins and I feel my upper lip curling at the indictment in my winger’s voice. “Don’t look at me like that kiddo. We’re all friends here. I have to be honest with you and I think you already know it. You’re head isn’t in it. I don’t know where the fuck it is but you haven’t been yourself lately, and I don’t just mean since the other night,” he adds quickly, obviously seeing that I’m ready to argue the point. “I’m not asking you to tell me what’s going on with you but you’d better get your head on straight or it isn’t just going to be that little girl that you’ll be losing.”
“She’s got nothing to do with this,” I snarl but both he and Gonch shake their heads.
“I’m not saying whatever happened between you two the other night is what’s messing with you out on the ice, but I am saying that whatever head space you’re in is and probably had something to do with what’s happening between you and that girl of yours. So do yourself a favor, on the ride home tonight, instead of playing games or whatever, maybe think about what the fuck you’re doing right now and get fucking honest with yourself kid. You’re better than this, on both counts,” Billy adds and then with one, long disappointed father look on his face, he turns and heads to his stall.
I stare at his back, all kinds of retorts springing to the tip of my tongue, but all I end up doing is standing there looking like a fish out of water, my mouth opening and closing uselessly with nothing coming out of it because I know he’s not wrong, I just don’t fucking know what’s right. I’ve been off for most of the second half of the season and I can’t figure out why. I’m not injured, not anymore than anyone else, and there have been games where I’ve felt like myself but ever since the Olympics….
“Aaaarrrgh! Fuck it!” I toss my gloves down and run my fingers through my hair because my head hurts and because I want so much to fucking punch a wall and I know if I do I’ll hurt myself and I’m already letting everyone down….
“Quoi de neuf?” Flower asks quietly, looking sheepishly up at me like he’s half afraid I’m going to knock his block off and why wouldn’t he? I can feel the murderous rage pumping through me and I know it shows, it always shows.
“Je suis très confondu en ce moment,” I explain, leaning my head against the wall and closing my eyes.
“C’est au sujet de la fille de l’equipe Canadienne?” he asks, almost under his breath and I grunt in reply and it almost hurts to do it, like it’s painful to admit to it and I keep thinking so it should be. I let Mel down. She trusted me and I’ve been fucking horrible to her because of this and she didn’t deserve it. I’ve known it. It’s been there, in the back of my mind, like a fucking cancer for weeks. “L’aimes tu?”
“Don’t ask me that Fleur,” I beg, banging my head against the wall. “I don’t fucking think I know what that is.”
“Tu aimes Mel?” he asks, and this time I don’t even shrug or grunt or anything. I know the answer to that. I’ve known it all along but I’ve been trying to do the right thing, or what I thought was the right thing, but now…?
“No,” I sigh, turning to slide down to the bench before dropping my head into my hands. “I mean…I’ve tried to…I’ve wanted to but…no, no, I don’t think I do.” I raise my head, prepared for whatever disapproving or sympathetic look Fleur might give but instead my gaze locks with Max’s intense and angry glare across the room. He’s supposed to be one of my best friends but lately we’ve hardly been talking and I don’t have to ask whose side he’s on. It’s clear on his face.
“Are you done?” he asks, his voice gruff and low, his gaze level and simmering. “Es tu fini jouer des jeux avec elle?” I open my mouth to argue that I haven’t been playing games, but I guess from the outside looking in, it might look exactly like that.
“I never intended to hurt her,” I begin but Max shakes his head and his gaze grows even darker until it reminds me of the look he had out there on the ice tonight when it was clear the rink had tilted in their direction and we were digging our own grave, fast.
“Je me blâme,” Max shrugs, his gaze still holding mine intently. “I should never have talked you into speaking with you at your partie de celebration pendent l’été,” he continues, a sneer that Billy Idol would be proud of on his face. “Mais cela n’importe pas maintenant. All I want to know now is…is she free? Es-tu fini mettre son bas et la prendre encore?”
“Max…,” Flower’s voice holds a warning but it’s clear from the grim but determined look on Max’s face that whatever is on his mind, he’s going to let it out.
“is. She. Free?” he snarls, his meaty hands curled into fists on his knees.
“You mean…you and…and Mel?” So many things are clicking into place now, how angry he’s been, how disapproving he’s been…. “Have you had a thing for her this entire time?” I ask, still trying to picture the two of them actually together, and not just the show they put on for my benefit a few months ago…at least Mel told me it was a show.
“Is. She. Free?” he repeats, forcing the words through his teeth and I feel a strange mixture of jealousy and relief as I think about giving him my blessing to date my fiancée, if that is what he’s about to ask.
“And if I say yes?” I ask, watching his expression carefully. His eyes narrow and his lips purse and I can see that he’s trying to decide if he’s going to answer the question or not and then he stand, shrugging out of his shoulder pads and half turning away.
“If you do or you don’t, I can’t watch you do what you’re doing anymore. She…she doesn’t deserve you.”
“Oh I see, and she does deserve you?” I ask, thinking about all of the times that Max has had three, sometimes up to five girls on the run at the same time.
“Oui,” Max says quietly, that joker’s grin that’s more threat than smile slowly spreading across his face. “You see, I love her. Je mourrais pour elle, c’est la difference, non?” I find myself staring at him, my breath literally stolen from my lungs as he stares me down, daring me to disbelieve him and I can’t. Not when it’s clear on his face that what he wants to do right now is to rip me to shreds, except that he won’t because he’s loyal like that, because we’re teammates and the team matters more than the individual. “Je peux voir que tu comprends. I’ve tried, god knows, I’ve tried not to feel…how I feel for her because I love you like a brother but…I won’t…not anymore. I can’t stand by and let you treat her like…comme une putain commune, comprends?”
“Oui, je comprends,” I say quietly, feeling like there’s a knife in my back but that I probably deserve it. “Just do me one favor,” I ask quietly, my voice barely above a whisper. “Tell her I’m sorry.” Max stares at me for one long, silent, uncomfortable moment and then he nods and holds his hand out towards me. I stare down at it, a little shocked that he’d offer it to be honest. But then I take it and we shake and I know that it will be okay, whatever happens.
“You’re not even going to watch it?” Kennedy asks as she drops her leather jacket onto the chair and tosses her keys in the bowl before heading for the kitchen to grab a beer. Every time she does that, I wonder how many girls she beat out for a modeling job today are busy picking away at some plain lettuce and a boiled chicken breast while she’s drinking beer. Life just isn’t fair.
“Nah,” I answer, glancing at the TV set that I haven’t even turned on. “I have some designs I’m working on,” I explain, grabbing another coloured pencil and shading the edge of the jacket I’ve been designing.
“Mmm,” Kensie looks over my shoulder, digging her pointy elbow into it as she does. “It’s good. I’d wear that.”
“But is it haute couture?” I sigh, lifting the pencil away and looking down at it disparagingly.
“Gareth just said he wanted good ideas from you, he takes care of that outlandish crazy shit that people don’t really wear. You’re prêt-a-porter, remember?” she reminds me, tipping the neck of the beer bottle towards me before walking over towards the TV and dropping onto the couch, one foot slung over the back. “So you’re really not gonna even watch? I mean, that’s really it? You’re really done with the love of your life?” she asks sarcastically, grabbing the remote in her free hand and aiming it towards the TV. I wince as I watch the picture flicker to life. It hasn’t been nearly long enough for me to feel convinced of my own will power quite yet, hence the game not being on.
“Don’t call him that,” I mutter, doing my best to focus on the page in front of me and not on the little black and gold figures racing around the ice.
“Well you’re the one that’s been going around all cow eyed,” she smirks, downing half of the beer to try and hide the smile on her face. I know she’s just teasing. Well, teasing and testing me. She was great when I got home, let me cry and didn’t ask any questions, so I guess I can put up with a little good natured ribbing.
“I’ve decided that he isn’t the person I grew up with.” I can’t keep my eyes off of the screen, no matter how hard I try. I find myself watching the screen, searching for his number almost absentmindedly, like my brain is do attuned to doing it that I can’t stop myself.
“He probably isn’t,” Kennedy agrees, pushing herself up to an actual sitting position and regarding me with sympathetic eyes.
“I think that we didn’t give ourselves time to get to know who we are now,” I continue thoughtfully, watching him sitting on the bench, gnawing anxiously on the corner of his bottom lip. “Or maybe I just didn’t want to see who he is now,” I add with a little sigh as he jumps out onto ice and glides easily towards centre ice.
Neither of us says anything for a while. We just watch the Pens running in circles trying to keep up with the obviously more energized, more hungry Habs who, unlike the Pens, are making short, crisp tape to tape passes and successfully blocking shots.
“What about Max?” Kensie asks as the cute furry faced Frenchman slams into the SS Gill behind the net and manages to make it look like he wasn’t trying to cause the big defenseman some serious physical damage.
“Ahhh,” I sigh, feeling that now familiar tightness in my chest.
“What’s that mean?” Kensie asks, leaning over the back of the couch to look at me.
“There can’t be a Max,” I reply, somewhat wistfully.
“Why not?” she asks, dropping her chin onto the backs of her hands and peering at me with pursed lips as if I’ve said something stupid. Tipping my head to one side I raise an eyebrow. “Okay, besides the obvious friendship and teammate things.”
“Does there need to be more?” I ask. “And besides…I’m broken hearted here. I can’t start…I wouldn’t want to start…and it would be too complicated and…and it was just sex anyway.” They’re all the reasons I’ve told myself, words I’ve practiced in my head. They sound right, honest, sane but when I watch him being lead to the sin bin, I can’t help smiling back at the mischievous grin he wears on his face.