Thursday, July 9, 2009

13: Scared?

Just as we were getting ready to end the dinner portion of our night and move on to the club, Jordan got a call on his cell. He excused himself to answer it. As we stood waiting for him to return, since he was our ride, I pulled the card out of my purse and handed it to Sid.

"I almost forgot. It's just a card, but I hope you like it."

His face lit up. "Thanks, Nelly. You didn't have to."

I shrugged. "It's just a card. And I thought of you immediately when I saw it."

He pulled the card out of the envelope. The front featured a picture of three old men sitting around a table playing poker with the caption: What the Hockey Gods Do in the Off Season.... The first man said, "I fold. No Cup for Minnesota next season." The second was saying, "Meh! Columbus sucks anyway. Check." The third said, "You both suck. Calgary's taking it home." I edited the card, crossed out Calgary, and wrote Pittsburgh instead. He snickered, opened the card, and read the inside: Here's hoping the Hockey Gods smile down on you on your birthday.

"This is great, where did you find it?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Just at the store. I figured you'd probably gotten cards like that before, but I just couldn't help myself."

"No, I've never seen this before. It's great," he thanked me, and he pulled me into a hug. Damn, I could get used to this.

Jordan appeared and said, "Okay, let's go!" Sid handed over his keys, and we headed to his Range Rover. The boys took the front seats, since they were so big and needed the room. Jordan's girlfriend Heather and I took the backseat.

"Is this what it's always like," I asked, "when the guys get together?"

She laughed. "Pretty much. It's a little more... intense than usual, since we're celebrating, but yeah, they're just a bunch of boisterous guys who like to laugh and have fun." I raised my eyebrows in mock excitement. "Don't worry, you get used to it."

I smiled at her, but I wondered if I would get used to it. Would I be around it long enough to become accustomed to their behavior? Ugh, I needed to stop questioning everything and just have fun. Go with the flow, like Véro said.

And that's exactly what I tried to do. I sang along with the radio and touched up my lipgloss as Jordan parked the SUV. When I got out, I headed toward the main entrance, but Sid directed me in a different direction. "We're going in through the back."

"Oh," I said, following them. I should have known he'd sneak in to avoid the crowd.

As a part of the V.I.P. group, I was amazed at how the club catered to us. We were led straight up to the lounge and were given complimentary bottle service. Everyone wanted to make sure we were comfortable and taken care of.

I walked over the the DJ and requested "Beggin'" by Madcon. He said he'd play it after the other songs he had selected. I moved back to the group as I waited, and Max mixed me a drink.

"Here you go," he said offering me a screwdriver and winking. "Special for you."

"Oh, Max, what am I going to do with you?"

"It's not me I'm concerned about," he countered.

"Is Véro putting you up to this? Because I don't want your help either," I explained.

"Don't think of it like help. Think of it as a gentle push in the right direction."

I sipped the drink, and it was more alcohol than mixer. I grabbed the bottle of orange juice and added some to dilute the vodka. "A drink this strong isn't a 'gentle push'—it's a shove."

"Hey, I'm just looking out for my teammate," he said, smiling ear-to-ear with his eyes sparkling.

"And who's looking out for me?" I asked.

That's when my song came on. I quickly finished my drink so I could dance. I heard the thumping beat and started swiveling my hips and mouthing the words. No one else was really dancing, but I couldn't contain myself. Sure, the alcohol was sinking in, but I was still in complete control of myself--I was just having such a good time that I let the music overtake me. Plus the song coincided with my '50s feel, and I did my best oldie dance moves.

The other members of the group just watched, and I wasn't really sure why. I began to feel a little embarrassed, so I tried to get the others involved. I gestured to Max to have him join me only for him to shake his head to tell me no, which was unexpected. He never needed an invitation before, and now he was turning me down. Standing next to him was Sid, and I decided that this time, "no" wouldn't be an option. I reached out and grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the ring of people and toward the spot where I was dancing.

Sidney looked embarrassed and red-faced, as if he was afraid to move. I figured that Sid saw this as fuel for the guys to make fun of him in the future. One misstep, and this would become material for a locker room joke.

As he stood still, I stood on my toes and leaned into his ear. "Come on, where's that dancer I saw earlier?"

"I think we left him back at the restaurant," he joked. I knew he was uncomfortable, but I was having too much fun—too much fun dancing and too much fun watching him squirm.

I grabbed his hands in mine and tried to get him in motion, to no avail, so I placed his hands on my waist and put my own on his shoulders. We never got too close, but it was enough to at least get him to sway instead of stand, unmoving.

"It's like you're scared of me," I observed.

"They're all watching," he said.

"So? You were watching before I dragged you out here."

"Yeah, but if I make an ass out of myself, the guys will never let me live it down."

"Are you implying that I was making an ass out of myself?" I laughed.

"No, that's not what I meant—"

"Don't worry about it, Crosby. But they'll rib ya if you don't dance with me, so either way you're screwed."

"Well, when you put it that way," he said, squeezing my waist and pulling me in closer to him. I laughed as I wrapped my arms around his neck, but there was nothing funny as the length of our bodies met. I could feel his muscles working as we moved together with the beat. We were not overtly sexual, but just being so close to Sid launched my mind into another dimension. There was a quiet, latent strength in his hands and arms that kept me in place against him—not that I was trying to get away.

I flung my hair over one shoulder and looked at Sid. His eyes were a pair of brown magnets that held my gaze. He blinked and I diverted my stare to his lips. The only thing I wanted at that moment was for him to kiss me, for him to press those gorgeous lips against my own. Sidney smiled, and I instantly worried that he knew what I was thinking—which scared the shit out of me. I pulled myself out of that train of thought and physically pulled away from Sid.

"Are you okay?" he asked, taken aback by my sudden change.

"I'm fine," I mumbled. "I need another drink."

I hurried back to the table and the bottle of Grey Goose that was calling my name, only to find that the majority of our group had also congregated there. I got to the bottle and poured myself a quick shot.

"You should drink good, Russian vodka," Evgeni said, "not this stuff."

I smiled at him and shrugged. He was trying to be nice, but in my state of mind, I didn't care what I was drinking. After I downed it, I mixed myself another screwdriver.

"What are you doing?" asked Véro, as she left Marc-André's side.

"I'm making a drink," I said, knowing where this lecture was heading and wishing I could somehow avoid it.

"This is why I feel the need to intervene! You promised me! You promised me you would try, and instead you ran away. He was going to kiss you, Noelle."

Before I could respond, Max showed up. "What was that?" he asked.

I held up my hand. "Not you, too, Max."

"Sorry, I've just never seen a girl run away from The Sidney Crosby before, especially when he's puckering those huge lips of his." He pursed his own lips together in a comical fish face, and I couldn't help but laugh.

"I'm convinced that you two were watching some other couple dancing out there, because that's not what happened," I dismissed.

"Then why do you have a scared look on your face? You're like a, what's the phrase? Ah yes, a deer in headlights," V accused.

"I'm not scared," I lied.

Max shook his head and walked out to join Sid while I worked on my drink.

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