Sidney walked down the stairs and told Marc and V that he had plans for the evening, so they needed to leave. As I walked them out to Sid's Range Rover, I said to Vero, "I know what you did today."
"What do you mean?" she asked innocently.
"You played me. You purposely brought Marc and Sid out here to play tennis."
She reddened. "You caught me. But you cannot blame me."
"Then why are you telling me to go with the flow? You're the one causing the flow."
"Let's make a deal then, eh? I will stop interfering, if you start being open to the possibility of what could happen."
"I can agree to that. Shake on it?"
She held out her hand, and I accepted it. We hugged, and then she got in the backseat of the car.
Marc also gave me a quick hug. "It was nice seeing you again. Maybe next time, you can play on my team?"
"Sure, if you're willing to lose," I laughed. I turned to Sid. "Thanks for coming out."
"It was fun. I'm sure I'll see you around soon enough," he said, and we also embraced.
"Did you use my conditioner?" I asked, as I inhaled.
"I guess I did," he admitted, blushing. "It really made my hair feel soft."
I started laughing heartily. "You're cracking me up. Get outta here. Safe trip home, guys," I said, waving as Sid slid into the driver's seat, started the car, and pulled out of my driveway.
The week that followed was uneventful, especially compared to the previous two. I hadn't received an e-mail from Sid since before our tennis match. When the next Saturday rolled around, I was glad for the end of the work week.
The whole day had been a blur. I had planned to laze around, maybe read some, watch television, and accomplish nothing. I knew that Sid was going to have a crazy day, since it was his birthday, so I sent him an e-card early on with my good wishes. Five minutes later, my phone rang.
"Hey, Noelle. What are your plans for the day?" asked the voice on the other end.
"Sidney? Is that you?"
"How did you get my number?"
"That night at Diesel, when I was putting my e-mail address in your phone, I also sent myself a text message from your number, so I would have it."
"Oh," I said, unsure of how to respond. I didn't know why he would want my phone number, since we weren't quite friends at that point, but I really don't know why he would acquire it on the sly instead of just asking. "Happy birthday."
"So, what are you doing today?"
"Oh, not much of anything. I’m just going to take it easy."
"How would you like to join me and some of my teammates for dinner tonight?"
I wasn’t sure how to reply. "I don’t know, Sidney. Don’t you think that will be really awkward? I mean, you guys are a group, and I'll feel like I'm intruding."
"Oh, come on Nelly," he said, and my heart leapt a bit. "You'll get along with them great. Marc loves you, V loves you, Max loves you, so the rest of the guys will, too."
I sighed. "I guess I can manage to spare a few hours of my evening," I teased. "Where did you want to go?"
"I haven’t really thought about it, yet. I just wanted to make sure you come, first. I’ll have to let you know what the plans are closer to tonight. Is that all right?"
"Sure, as long as you let me know ASAP, so I can get ready appropriately and then make it out to Pittsburgh," I answered.
He seemed appeased, so we said our goodbyes. I ran out to buy a card at the corner store, still in my sweat pants and with my hair in a messy bun. I programmed Sid's number into my phone, and when the afternoon started to fade away, I debated calling him or texting him to see if he knew what was going on. I didn't want to get ready until I knew what was going to transpire. At approximately four in the afternoon, my doorbell rang. It was Sid, and he was dressed in a charcoal gray pin-striped suit.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, without even saying hello. "You were supposed to call. And you’re in a suit. I’m not even showered yet! And I don’t have anything that dressy to wear!" My voice raised in its pitch as I became panicked.
"Good afternoon to you, too," he joked. "And I hope you don’t mind, but I took care of everything." He handed me a large box.
"What is it?" I questioned.
"Well, open it, and you’ll find out."
I carefully carried the box into the living room and placed it on the coffee table. Pulling off the lid, I saw a gorgeous dress. It was a spaghetti strap satin dress that was black with little white polka dots. It had a 50s feel to it. I held it up, and it dropped to my knees. There was a bit of taffeta under the skirt, giving it some body and pouf, but not too much.
"Ooh, Sidney, I love it," I said.
He smiled. "I thought of you when I saw it, and I knew you’d look great in it."
I snapped back into reality. "But you didn’t have to do this at all. I mean, it’s your birthday, you shouldn’t have bought something for me."
Sidney shrugged. "I wanted to. And it’ll be your present to me if you just accept the dress and go put it on."
I laughed. Usually, he was so soft-spoken and laid back; however, today he was very take-charge. "But I have to get ready, yet. The whole kit-and-kaboodle, too, since we’re apparently going somewhere quite fancy."
"I thought of that already. We have reservation for 7:30, so you’ve got at least two hours to get ready. I hope that’s enough," he added.
"It’s plenty, don’t worry," I said. "But what will you do while you wait?"
"Eh, I’ll catch up on some TV, I guess," he answered.
"I’ll hurry, I promise!" I called to him, already dashing up the stairs. I was both nervous and excited for the night. It was like playing dress up, but I was anxious to meet more of Sidney’s teammates. They were his family during the hockey season—they were the guys that looked like they had such fun together. I couldn't believe I was getting the chance to take part in it.
I hung up the dress and jumped in the shower, kicking myself for not starting this process sooner. Wanting to look my best, I let my conditioner soak in for several minutes as I shaved my legs. After my shower, I slathered on some vanilla lotion, painted my toenails, and applied some moisturizer to my face. I dressed in my bra, panties, and slip, and with my hair wrapped in a towel, I then proceeded to put on my foundation and blush. Once that was finished, I pulled the dress over my head and tried to zip it. I could only reach so far up, and still had a couple inches to go. I called down to Sidney.
"I need help with the dress, Sid! Close your eyes!"
"What?" he yelled back.
"Just close your eyes!" I said again, starting down the stairs. "I don’t want you to see me until I’m finished, but I can’t get the zipper up the whole way."
"It fits, though? I mean, it’s the right size?" he asked, concerned.
"Yes, it fits, I just can’t reach." By now, I was standing in front of him. I turned so my back faced him and held onto my towel-turban. "Please just finish the zipper."
I felt his hands on my back, and I had to suppress a shiver at his touch. His hands were kind of rough from years of determined practice. He seemed to be taking his time. Finally, I had to ask, "Do you got it?"
He cleared his throat, "Yeah."
"Okay, now be sure your eyes are closed," I repeated, and ran back up the stairs, never turning to see if he truly wasn’t looking.
Next, I unwrapped the towel from my head and brushed my still-damp hair. I found some curling gel, squeezed some into my hands, rubbed them together, and then ran my hands through my hair. Turning on the hair dryer, I scrunched my hair as I waved the diffuser around my head. When my hair was mostly dry, I again stood in front of the mirror. I pulled back the sides of my hair and pinned them at my crown with silver pins, so my hair would still be down but at least out of my face.
Then, I lined my eyes with dark mauve eyeliner, and brushed the lids with a smoky plum shade. A few strokes of mascara, and then I applied a berry stain and some gloss to my lips.
I dug through my shoes at the bottom of my closet to find a pair of peep-toe black kitten heels. I also grabbed a purple pashmina to cover my shoulders when the night chilled. Examining myself in my full-length mirror, I fretted that I wasn’t dressed or styled appropriately. Not only did I want Sid’s birthday to be the best yet, but I also wanted to impress his teammates. I didn’t want to give them any reason to not accept me.
The dress was incredible. If I had gone shopping to pick something out for myself, I would have undoubtedly chosen this over something else. The style was simple and classic, yet the polka dots gave it personality. However, the top was cut low, and the only material above my chest was the thin straps. I always thought that my chest was my best attribute, but I never showed off the girls like this.
Finally finished with my appraisal but still not sure I made the cut, I steeled myself to walk down the stairs and present myself. I slowly tackled the stairs, clunking the entire way down in my shoes. I stole another glance in the full-length mirror of the hall closet before poking my head into the living room. Sidney had removed his suit jacket and had draped it over the arm of the couch. He sat facing the television, engrossed in whatever was playing on the sports channel.
I cleared my throat. "I’m ready."
Sid took a quick glance at me before returning his gaze to the television, and next did a double take. His mouth gaped, and I had to suppress a giggle of satisfaction.
"Wow, Noelle, you look..." he struggled for the word.
"Sophisticated? Classy?" I urged.
"Beautiful," he corrected. In an old-fashioned move straight out of the movies, he crossed the floor in two long strides, clasped my hand in his two, and brought it to his lips. "You look absolutely beautiful."
I blushed as his lips brushed the sensitive skin on the back of my hand. I felt the same tingle I did when he zipped up my dress earlier in the evening. When he looked into my eyes, I finally pulled my hand away. "Just let me grab my bag, and I’ll be ready to leave."
"Okay, great," he said, turning to grab his suit coat.
I walked back to the hallway closet and found my small black clutch. I took the essentials from my larger purse, like my wallet—with my I.D., I double-checked—cell phone, house keys, and lip gloss. When I was finished, Sidney and I walked out the door, I locked it, and he offered his arm. He escorted me to his Range Rover and opened the passenger side door for me.
"Are you sure you want to drive me? Then you'd have to bring me back, or I'd have to find a way home."
"I know. I mean, I knew that when I was going to come out here to surprise you. Staalsy is going to drive tonight though, since he's not old enough to drink yet, so after some... persuading, I got him to be my designated driver tonight."
"That's still a lot to ask though, for him to come out here to bring me home, and then have to drive all the way back to Pittsburgh."
"Are you trying to ruin my birthday?" he asked, pouting.
"No, of course not," I laughed.
"Then just go with it. I want you to have fun with us tonight, and so I don't want you to worry anything."
"That’s considerate," I said, moving across the seat so Sid could slide in beside me. He closed the door, and we began our trip into Pittsburgh. “But you seem to be going through a lot of trouble to accommodate me on your birthday."
"Like I said, don't worry about it."
"Well, this will probably be a quiet night anyway. I mean, you're all in training, and so you probably won't be drinking too much."
"Don’t let the guys fool you," he said. "They can pound ’em down with the best of them."
"Is this your way of preparing me for the night to come?" I asked, seriously hoping to get some kind of expectation for what the night would hold.
"I’m saying, tonight, anything can happen."
Sidney explained that he had planned his own birthday celebration. He booked a private room at a quaint but popular Italian restaurant downtown, and left the rest of the night open to the whims of the group. Once dinner was over, the night would proceed however they deemed it should.
We showed up at the restaurant earlier than Sid’s friends, because he wanted to make sure everything was operating according to schedule.
My stomach growled as I glanced at the wine and bread that was so deliciously awaiting us on the table in our private room. As my mouth watered and I thought to myself that no one would miss a slice, Sid interrupted my yearning.
"So, we’re just waiting for everyone. Would you care to dance?"
In the background, a soft, melodic instrumental was being piped into the small back room. "I will step on your feet," I warned. "You’ll be injured before the season starts."
Laughing, he said, "I’m willing to take that chance."
He held out his hand, and I accepted. Sidney twirled me into his arms and gracefully put me into position. His right hand held mine at shoulder level while his left rested firmly but gently on the small of my back. As I looked up into face, I placed my free hand on his shoulder.
"Mr. Crosby, where did you learn to dance like this?"
He shrugged. "I’m a competitive guy. I like to be good at everything I do." And to prove just that, he released me and again pulled me in so my back was against his chest. It felt just like a dream.
"Are we interrupting something?" came a voice behind us, in a choppy Russian accent.
My Favorite Five (2015)
2 years ago