wow...I'm flattered & just a little scared by how vehement some of the opinions are about how this story should turn out...oh well, I'm just going to have to go with my gut and hope you're okay with it.
Not that this is the last chapter...just saying
“Her boobs aren’t big enough,” I grumble, holding the fabric up with one hand and reaching over to the table with the other, blindly feeling for the double sided tape.
“I’m right here,” the very pretty but very skinny model snipes at me and I afford her one, quick, disgusted glance.
“You’re a clothes hanger and clothes hangers don’t have opinions,” I snap, tearing off a piece of tape and pressing it down against her skin a little harder than is strictly necessary. She opens her mouth to make another smart remark no doubt but one more narrow look from me and she shuts her cherry stained lips and stares straight ahead like a good mannequin should. I press the fabric to the tape but the dress doesn’t look right. It just sits there on her flat chest, gaping in one spot and falling flat in another. “This looks like hell.”
“Mmmm, you’re right, her tits are way too small,” Kensie agrees, looking absolutely drop dead goth girl sexy in a streamlined black gauzy gown that shows off her subtle curves and makes her look about ten inches taller than she already is.
“Maybe we can trade, she might look okay in your dress,” I mutter, standing back to compare the two shapes but when I look up at Kensie’s face she’s wrinkling up her nose and as she stares at the younger, willowy model.
“She’d look like crap in this too,” Kennedy sighs, fingering the barely there fabric stretched over her hips. “She’d make it look like an empty garbage bag.”
“I’m right here,” the girl insists again but both of us shut her up with one of those ‘if looks could kill’ glances.
“You know that was made for you,” Kensie reminds me. “It fits you. Unless we can find a model with a sweet rack like yours….”
“You’ve been hanging out with Jordan too long,” I snort, shooting her a look that I know says ‘I appreciate the sentiment but really?’, before I start looking around at the other models all of whom are even taller, thinner and almost all of whom are lacking almost anything in the boob department. Curvier models are saved for commercial shoots, for FHM, Maxim and Stuff.
“You’ll have to wear it,” Gareth says, appearing from nowhere and tipping his head to one side, “unless you have another piece to put at the end of the show.” I wish I could say that I do but I don’t. I’ve been spending so much time in Pittsburgh that I have a lot of stuff on paper, but not a lot of pieces actually complete enough to put on a model.
“Me? Out there?” I can hear the sounds of the stage and runway being set up, the chairs being put out for tomorrow’s show and all I can think of is if I have to go out there I’m seriously going to need some time with Miss Jay.
“We could do something…we could have like a swing or something rigged to come down right at the front of the stage,” Gareth thinks out loud while he fusses with the bodice of the gown, trying, just as I’ve been doing, to make it fit the model’s boyish figure. “Maybe two swings…Ga Ga on the other….” That makes my stomach hurt. As if the idea of being out there in front of celebs and photographers isn’t bad enough, I’d almost forgotten about Gareth’s favorite new patron being involved.
“Or we could find another model,” I say, hopefully, looking from Kennedy to Gareth and hoping for some sign that they will agree.
“Kennedy’s right,” Gareth grins as he cups my cheek and gives it a gentle squeeze. “You made it for you, you’re going to have to wear it. We don’t have time to do any alterations on it. You’ve got enough to do tonight.” That was true. Almost every garment needed some finishing touches, an inch taken in there, a hem taken up there. Then there was the accessorizing…it was going to be a long night. “Besides, my muse, you outshine most of these girls, especially this one,” Gareth adds, grabbing both of my cheeks and planting a kiss on my forehead. “Now get this off of this girl and get her into something that fits and I’ll see you in the morning.” I stare after him, half filled with butterflies at being called his muse and half filled with dread at the thought of all that I still have left to do.
“C’mon, let’s get a move on,” Kensie sighs, turning so that I can yank her zipper down. “I’ll help as much as I can.”
“Thanks Kens, I don’t know what I’d do without you right now,” I sigh, signaling for the stick thin model to turn so I can undo the laces on the back of the gown.
“Yeah well, I hope you remember that when I want to go to the Bahamas next week with Jordy,” she reminds me and again, those butterflies wake in my stomach. Sidney had hinted at a honeymoon on the white sands of an exclusive resort somewhere sunny. I couldn’t help wondering if he’d still go, maybe with one of the guys, maybe with some other woman….
Shaking my head, I tell myself not to think about that now, or him for that matter.
Every time I start to my stomach started to hurt and my throat started to get tight. There was going to be plenty of time to feel sorry for myself later, after the show.
The room was quiet. Like, you could hear a pin drop quiet. It was almost worse than losing game seven to the Wings two years ago. That had been the quiet of everything being left out on the ice and not having the energy to say anything. This was the quiet of shock, of disbelief. We’d owned Montreal all year. Well three out of four games anyway. We didn’t think we could lose and yet, here we are.
The urge to point fingers is pretty high, except the first and foremost finger has to point at me. I’ve been telling myself that I’m trying hard but…but with only a few seconds off the clock I was already in the box and I couldn’t get my head on straight after that.
I could blame Mel. This whole thing with her giving me the ring back and then finding out that Max wants her…well it’s thrown me for a loop.
But I can’t. I can’t blame either one of them. I’ve been in a foul frame of mind and it’s my own fault. I knew I was trying to force a round peg into a square hole and I just kept trying to stuff it in there because there was something about having her here, supporting me, that I was looking forward to having for a long time.
“So, a whole summer for a change,” Jordy says quietly, half a smile on his face as if he’s expecting me to jump down his throat and pull his balls up through his throat. Under normal conditions after this kind of a loss, the guys know to leave me alone for a while. At least until I’ve talked myself down off the ledge. It’s pretty brave thing Jordy’s doing.
“Yeah, I guess,” I manage to which he nods and goes back to unlacing his skates. We have played a lot of hockey in the last couple of years. Not that we minded the last two summers being a little short. Not if it meant we were one of the best teams in the league. Actually the last two summers were a lot of fun.
I look across the room to find Max almost entirely out of his equipment already.
“You going straight up to New York?” I ask, causing Max to pause, half way out of his shoulder pads. He glances over at me, wary, like he’s expecting me to go tell him I’ve changed my mind about giving him permission to date Mel. Not that there would be any point, apart from warning her away from him and that thought has crossed my mind, more than once.
“I am,” he says quietly, dropping his shoulder pads into his bag, like he’s not expecting to come back here.
“You gonna ask for a trade?” I ask, staring at his bag. No one else has their bag out. Everyone else will be back in a day or two to clean out their lockers her in the Mellon in a day or two. It doesn’t look like Max is planning on joining us for that particular ritual.
“Thinking about it,” he mumbles, glancing over at Kris and Flower who both stop what they’re doing and stare at him. “Ne me regardes pas comme un traître. What would you do?”
“Tu ne sais pas même ce qu’elle dira,” Tanger points out and Flower gives him that look that says ‘yeah, what about that?’ and Max shrugs.
“Tu pense que je pourrais rester ici et jeu avec lui?” he asks, an accusatory tone leaking into his voice as he points at me.
“I just gave you permission to ask her out,” I point out but the look Max gives me tells me this isn’t just about that.
“Tu la penses qu’elle voudrait tu voir? Chaque jour?” I think about not seeing her, maybe never seeing her again and my there’s a pain, deep in my chest. Not that I’d blame her for not wanting to see me. Not that I could blame him for wanting to steal her away and keep her all to himself. And yet….
“Why don’t you let her decide that?” I ask, hoping Mel might remember that above everything else, that we’ve been friends for a really long time. “If she wants you that is,” I add, unable to stop myself from planting that seed of doubt. I just can’t picture her with him.
“I’d never presume to make decisions for her,” Max snarls, shaking his head. “J’ai le respect pour elle,” he continues, “àla différence de vous.”
“I’ve been her friend forever,” I remind him to which he continues to shake his head.
“Some friend,” Max laughs sarcastically and I find myself on my feet, my hands curled into fists.
“Ralentissement mes amis,” Flower jumps in between us and suddenly that silence is back and the only thing I can hear is the sound of my own blood pulsating through my veins as I stare at Max, willing him to take the first shot so that I can take out all of my frustrations on him, so that even if he does go to her, he’ll be black and blue and I don’t care if that makes him sympathetic. Right now I don’t care about that. I only care about putting my fist through his self satisfied face.
“Tu as raison Flower. He’s not worth it. I have a woman to woo,” he grins at me, showing every one of his teeth, like a threat. “Have fun explaining to the press why you’ll be spending the summer tous par tu-même, mon capitaine,” he adds, reaching out to give my cheek a tap, but I push his hand away. “You don’t want to toss me those tickets to the Maldives do you mon capitaine? After all, you won’t be needing them,” he adds, grinning wide, like a fucking retarded jack o lantern.
“Max, please” Jordy pleads, pushing my sometimes wing-mate towards the showers. “You might still be teammates next year. Don’t make this worse. C’mon, let’s just get ready and get out of here.”
“You’re going with him?” I feel like adding et tu Bruté and reeling backward as if I’ve been stabbed but I decide there seems to be enough theatrics right now.
“Kennedy’s in Mel’s show, they’re expecting us,” Jordy explains apologetically, shrugging his big shoulders as if that is all that needs saying.
“They’re expecting you? Mel’s expecting him?” I point at the furry Frenchman and then look up at the big blonde forward whose blue eyes are a little too wide.
“Well…I mean, no not exactly. I mean…I’m sure she won’t be surprised…I mean…I mean…,” the big farm boy looks around for help and that hush falls over the room again and all of a sudden I get that prickly feeling at the back of my neck telling me that I’m missing something, something that should be obvious, after all, everyone else in the room seems to know.
“What do you mean Gronk? Tell me…I’m curious. Why would Mel be expecting Max?”
“They’re friends,” Tanger reminds me, and, having taken a deep breath, I decide I can accept that argument and decide to drop it in the name of team unity.
“And she knows I’ve been waiting for you to screw up and now that you have…I intend…,” Max’s voice trails away and then he shrugs and just shakes his head.
“What? What do you intend to do Max? Go on, tell me? I’m dying of curiosity now,” I call to him as he turns to head into the showers. “And what do you mean she’s been waiting? What the fuck does that even mean? Mel’s so in love with me….”
“Yeah, so in love with you she’s spent two night in my bed,” Max snarls, whirling on me and crossing the room in two strides to push me off of my feet and onto my ass.
There it is, that silence again. This time I know that everyone’s holding their breath, waiting for me to get up to my feet and shove my fist down his throat. The funny thing is, even though I’m angry, blood boiling angry, I don’t feel like hitting him. I actually feel kind of relieved. I actually feel like I’ve been holding my breath and all of a sudden I’ve come up to the surface of a deep pool and I can actually pull oxygen into my lungs again.
“You…you slept with Mel?” I almost laugh as I climb to my feet and brush myself off and it actually requires a certain amount of willpower not to. Max stands there, staring back at me with an expression on his face that speaks volumes about how much he would like to take back what he’s just said but I can also see that he’s too proud to. “You stood there and lectured me about Charline, and you were sleeping with my fiancée the whole time?”
“You keep calling her that mais tu ne l’aimes pas meme! You starved her of affection. Her eyes dance when you come in a room mais tu l’incites à se sentir comme elle n’est pas mériter de ton temps! Don’t you dare stand there and try to make this something ugly, quelque chose sordid. Je l’aime avec chaque fibre simple de mon être, something you could never understand.” I’ve rarely seen Max quite this passionate about anything or anyone. The usually laid backed, jovial, goofy man I’ve known for years is staring daggers at me. Even when he fought Carcillo, I never saw murder in his eyes.
“Jesus Christ Max…have you felt like this the whole time?” I watch as a bright pink stain creeps up from beneath his collar and finally makes its way to the tips of his ears. “Fuck…you have haven’t you? Fuck man, why didn’t you just say something?”
“Because…because she’s in love with you! Because I was trying to be your friend. Because I wanted her to be happy, quelque chose que tu pourriez avoir pensé pour essayer.” It’s like being stabbed with a knife and not in my back and not exactly in my heart either. More like in my conscience. Suddenly it’s impossible to look at him, to meet his gaze or anyone else’s. “Oui, tu as été un piqûre égoiste. Time to grow up and stop trading on the fucking pure as hell image you think everyone fucking buys into,” Max snarls, brushing past me, heading into the showers.
It’s only then that the normal sort of buzz of activity begins again and leaves me standing there in the middle of the room, staring at my feet, wondering just what kind of asshole I’ve actually turned into.
“Still up?” Kensie asks, yawning and stretching as she appears around the corner wearing a faded grey t-shirt that I’m guessing probably belonged to Jordan once upon a time. It’s long and miles too big for her, nearly reaching her knees.
“Yeah, but I’ve only got a couple more little pieces to fix,” I smile gratefully up at her as she leans on the edge of the sewing table. “Thanks for staying here,” I add, glancing briefly at the cot in the corner of Gareth’s studio where she’s been curled since about two in the morning. “I couldn’t stand the thought of being here all night by myself.”
“Hey, what are friends for. Speaking of which, how long are you gonna keep wearing that?” she asks, picking up a pair of shears and using it to point at the Claddagh ring on my hand. I stare down at it, holding my hand out like it’s not really a part of me, which at almost five in the morning isn’t that much of a stretch. I’ve been sewing, half asleep, for hours. I have so many pin pricks and needle jabs I could pass for a junkie.
“I dunno,” I answer honestly. “I haven’t really thought about it,” which is a lie. I have. I just keep hoping that somehow…some way we can salvage something from this mess, and not even necessarily anything like the girlhood dream I’ve now come to terms with doing without. Just…friends. “I’d settle for friends now,” I shrug, looking up at Kensie, expecting her to give me one of those sort of big sister disappointed looks. Maybe it’s because she’s tired or I am, but she smiles and reaches forward to muss my hair.
“He’s crazy if he doesn’t at least value you that much,” she adds, moving to pry my fingers off of the piece I’m finishing, putting it and the needle in my hand down on the table. “I’m not as good at this as you but I think I can manage a hem. You need to get some sleep or you’ll have to have as much make up on as GaGa when you go out on that runway this afternoon.” I start to reach for the piece but when I look down at my hands and see them shaking, I give in and let her lead me to the cot. “Oh and by the way, just so you don’t flip out if you happen to see him skulking around tomorrow, Jordan’s coming,” she adds as I try and stifle a yawn.
“Jordy? But aren’t they…?”
“They lost tonight. Man you really haven’t paid any attention have you?” she smiles as she pulls the blanket up over me.
“I’ve been making a concerted effort not to,” I sigh, closing my eyes. “I can’t believe they lost to the Habs…Sidney must be…,” I bite down on the inside of my cheek to stop myself from saying it. I have to stop thinking about him all the time. What would Sidney do? Like some kind of mantra that he’s not really deserving of. “I wonder if Jordy will bring Tanger or any of the guys?” I wonder aloud, as sleep pulls me down into through the haze and into the deep darkness of sleep.