I looked at him looking back at me. Both of us staring at each other. He knew the thoughts running through my mind, and despite all the thoughts stuck in my brain at this very moment, the one thing that stuck out over all others is that song by the Clash: should I stay or should I go?
Honestly, I have no where to go. But I also know that there's no where else I'd rather be. I was still furious with him for dismissing my feelings so easily, for brushing them aside as if they were nothing, but I couldn't leave.
I shrugged and sat on the bed. Sidney was looking at me with a smile, which I ignored. "You know this doesn't mean that this discussion is over," I told him. Maybe we wouldn't be able to continue this now, but we were going to have to have this conversation soon.
"We've got a couple of days to think about it, figure something out," he replied. I pulled back the covers and slipped into bed as he finished stripping out of his suit, carelessly throwing his clothes onto the floor. Which I knew I'd be the one to pick up in the morning, because I'm obviously destined to pick up after the poor boy, and that only annoyed me more. It was one of those things that didn't bug me when I stayed over for a few nights but really irritated me since I had moved in permanently.
Once he stripped down to his red boxer briefs, I forcibly dragged my line of sight elsewhere. I'm mad, I told myself. And as fun as angry sex is, I don't want that right now. Still, his body never failed to take my breath away and make my mouth run dry. I could look at him all day, never tiring at the sight of him. There was a pooling sensation low in my abdomen, and I almost changed my mind. But I wanted to make him feel the way I did when he was gone: sad, lonely, unsatisfied. When Sid slid into bed, I rolled over and gave him a full view of my back instead of snuggling against him.
Sidney chuckled lowly, and I thought about yelling at him for laughing at me again. Before I could turn around and give him an earful, I felt his hand on my hip. He started playing with the waistband of my sweats, his fingers toying with the edge of the fabric and brushing lightly against my cool skin. Automatically, I inhaled sharply, but I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing what he was doing to me. I bit my lip, squeezed my eyes shut, and tensed beneath his touch.
Sid brought his body closer to mine, and although I couldn't feel his touch, I felt his heat at my back. Feeling him so near to me, but not touching me, was like a slow and painful death. His tongue darted out of his mouth and made contact with my ear as he said, "What's the saying? Don't go to bed mad?"
I tried to hold still, to not react, and to not give him the satisfaction of knowing how easily he could change my mind. As his fingers crept below the waistband of my pants and caressed the flesh right below my belly button, I couldn't stop myself from thinking lower. Lower.
He chuckled again with my earlobe between his teeth, and the sensation tingled throughout my entire body. "Lower?" he asked. Shit, I didn't mean to say that out loud!
"Oh, fuck it," I mumbled, quickly rolling over to face him, hooking a leg over his thick thighs, and grabbing his face to bring it to mine.
* * * * *
I didn't need to get up for another five minutes, but I didn't want to get up at all. Nothing compared to this, to this feeling of completeness as I reclined in bed with Sidney breathing heavily beside me, still adrift in dreamland.
If I moved, he'd wake up. If he woke up, I'd have to talk and continue our conversation from last night. That would just mar the pleasant feeling that was washing over me in waves as I smelled Sid, felt him envelope me in his arms, and knew within my core that right now, things were perfect, just as they should be.
But in a few days, when his games against the Islanders and the Caps were over, he'd be jetsetting off again, away from me, and I would be alone again and just as miserable as I was a mere twelve hours ago. Immediately I felt the tears return, the tears I had cried every day he was gone, wondering if I would ever stop weeping over him. Because I was not the kind of girl that wept over a boy, no matter how in love I claimed to be.
The more I tried to stop, the worse it got, and soon my body was wracked with sobs and was convulsing like I was seizing. And of course that disturbed Sid and woke him. In his usual fashion, he propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at me, concern evidently on his face. "Nelly, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. And that's just it. Right now I'm happy, so deliriously happy. And when you're gone, I'm so completely empty and morose and like a zombie. It's so hard to try and reconcile both of the ways you can make me feel. And I hate myself for that."
He looked at me, cradling my face in his big hands. "Don't say that, Nelly. Don't ever say that."
"I just don't know who I've become anymore."
"You're still you. Maybe your setting has changed, the people around you, and what you're doing. But you're still the girl I met and fell in love with. Why are you so focused on thinking that you've changed into someone else?"
"Because I don't feel the same."
"You can't expect to fall in love and think that everything will stay the same. Of course it's gonna be different. You're still the same person, just now you're in love with me. I'm sorry that you're sad when I leave, but I don't think I could stand to know you're fine and perfectly okay when I'm not here. I like that you miss me, but I wish you weren't as miserable as you say you are."
I half-groaned and half-sighed. "Me, too. I just.... I just wish I knew what it took to stop this merry-go-round."
"It doesn't stop," he grunted. "It's been my life for a long time now, and it doesn't stop. Sometimes it's slow enough that you think you can finally step off and sometimes it's so fast that you're constantly nauseous and you're gripping anything around you to hold on for dear life. But that's the way things are for me."
"That's a really good metaphor," I told him, smiling through my tears at his big, brown eyes. "When did you get so smart?"
He grinned. "I've always been this smart; you've just never noticed. You love me for my body, not my mind," he added, pressing his lips against my clavicle before getting serious again. "I'm sorry that you're riding the merry-go-round with me now, but it makes the ride a little more bearable for me."
I laughed at him and placed my hand on his shoulder. "Transferring some of your misery onto me. Nice. I appreciate it," I teased. Suddenly, I realized that even though he was driving me crazy, that was better than before we met, when I wasn't feeling anything. Being on the merry-go-round with Sid was better than being on solid ground without him. At least I knew that he would always come back to me and put an end to my sadness by bringing me incredible joy. I wanted to forget all about the past week and just concentrate on what would be in store for me this week, for the few days he'd be around.
We made out for a while until the alarm rang out, signaling the start to my day. Sid stayed in bed as I went about my business, showering and getting ready for work. At least today would be a busy one, with the guys back in town after the road trip. I actually had meetings and appointments with some of the guys, and I was excited to finally start what Mario had hired me to do.
I tried to tell myself that things were going to get easier. It would take some time, of course. I thought that time would be the ultimate cure. After all, the house still felt like Sid's, and not mine. While he was gone, I was surrounded by so many of his things, so much of him, but essentially without him. It was his house, filled with his things, things he bought with his money. But eventually, they wouldn't be his things anymore. And they won't be mine, either. They'd be ours. Once the house began to feel like my home, it would get easier to spend so much time there even if he wasn't around. I just couldn't give up on it yet.
Climbing into Cherry, I started her and listened to her purr as she warmed up before I drove to the Mellon. I had a meeting with Evgeni, since he'd be getting a lot of attention during the home game against the Capitals. After all, he was going to be playing against Ovechkin, the guy he'd be playing with during the Olympics. I shuddered to think of Malkin playing center to Ovechkin's wing, and what that would mean to the U.S. and Canadian teams playing against them.
Then I realized that I didn't know who I should root for. The United States, my home country's team, or the guys in red, my boyfriend's team. Because it wasn't just the team my boyfriend supported—it was the team he was going to play on. It wouldn't be a big deal if the two teams never had to meet, but what would I do when they did?
When I got to my office, I tried to shake the Olympics out of my head, especially since that wasn't the only thing we were to going to end up fighting about. Sidney had asked a long time ago when my birthday was, and I told him February. I didn't tell him it was the twenty-second, which was smack-dab in the middle of the tournament. He would want me to be there with him so we could celebrate together, because he knew how important birthdays were to me.
And when I walked to my desk, I saw the schedule for the guys who hadn't been invited to participate in their countries' games. Some of them were taking vacations for a couple days, but those were staggered so I could still work with them. Després, who had been playing in the AHL Baby Pens, would be coming to Pittsburgh for a few days so I could work with him. As a first round draft pick, he was going to need a lot of help for when he was called up for games in the Igloo.
Depending on how I penciled in my own hours—which Mario let me do—maybe I could work my forty hours in three days so I could take a long weekend and travel up north to visit Sid for the games and my birthday, too. It would be hard on me, with the travel and the long days at work, but it could be worth it if it put a smile on Sidney's face.
How was I going to break the news to him? I could maybe manage a few days to go see him, but I wouldn't be able to spend the whole two weeks with him in Vancouver. He'd be so disappointed. I'm not even sure if I could get Mario to approve the schedule I was trying to create. Sure, he'd understand my situation, but his appreciation for my predicament might not be enough to fix it. After all, the NHL games might stop for a couple of weeks while the Olympics were taking place, but the league wouldn't stop. I was a part of the Penguins organization now, and I had to do my part to make sure it worked like a well-oiled machine.
I looked at my own schedule and tried to figure out if it was even possible. Plotting a way to get time in February to fly to Canada consumed my entire morning, and I knew my afternoon appointments would suffer for it. Frustrated, I threw my pencil down on my desk and leaned back in my chair, massaging my temples and closing my eyes. I had to figure something out, I just had to.
"Am I interrupting something?"
Slowly, I opened my eyes and sat up straight to look at Sid. I checked the clock, and I saw that practice would begin soon. "I'm just... thinking," I told him vaguely.
"Listen, I didn't get a chance to tell you this morning, but I wanted you to know that I do hear you when you're feeling stressed. I'm still not sure what we can do to get things to work out, but we'll find a way. We have always found a solution before, and we will this time, too. So just, don't worry about it too much, okay? I know that's easier said than done, but at least try."
I smiled at him, my headache suddenly gone. The way he was looking at me was the best painkiller, the best medicine for me. He was right; we always found a way before. We could now. I knew at that moment that we were going to get through this, and come out of it stronger and closer. I didn't know how, but I just knew deep in my bones that we would.
I nodded silently at him, and he continued, "Good. Because I promise you, I'll listen to you and respect what you have to say. As long as you promise that you'll stay with me while we sort everything out."
And that's what it boiled down to. Sid was the kind of guy who always got his way, eventually, and he did a lot of things without thinking about what I wanted or taking into consideration my feelings about it. The credit card. Lynne. The car. And my response was to storm away, every time. Last night broke that pattern, but that didn't mean that the next time we were faced with a dilemma, we would react any differently. Those were the things we needed to work on if we wanted this to last. And I wanted this to last so badly.
"I promise," I swore to him.
So, maybe I don't know if we'll get that happily ever after. Things aren't always going to be happy between us, but as long as there is an "us," that's going to be enough for me. Relationships aren't meant to be easy, and being with Sidney would never be easy, no matter what. Because of who he was, both as a person and as a hockey player and face of the league, and also because of who I was, a stubborn girl, too independent for my own good.
No matter what we figured out, both for now and for February, we would make it work for us. We'd make the most out of whatever time we got to spend together, and we'd deal with being apart when the time came. This was an ongoing process, and we were on a learning curve. I had to take it one day at a time, with full knowledge that some days would be incredibly fantastic and others would be horribly devastating.
In the scheme of things, being with Sidney would mean fighting and crying and yelling and going crazy—but it also meant living and feeling and smiling and being in love. No, it would never be easy, but Sid was worth it. He was worth so much to me, and it was worth the hard work. So of course, nothing would ever come easy for Sidney and me. But in the words of someone so much wiser than me, nothing worth winning ever is.