The seats were incredible, there was no doubt about that, but I didn't fully appreciate them until the game started. Max was right—I really felt like I was in the game. Brooks Orpik smashed John Mitchell of the Toronto Maple Leafs into the boards right where we sitting, and I jumped out of my seat and screamed my head off. As much as Max was into the game and cheering on his teammates, he chuckled at my extreme behavior, which was disproportionate for the preseason opener.
But when Sidney scored the opening goal through the opposing goaltender's five-hole, we were both out of our seats, and we instinctively reached over and embraced each other. The guys celebrated briefly on the ice, forming a jumbled group of arms and sticks and patting each others' helmets. Sid looked over in our direction, and we locked eyes. I gave him a thumbs up, and he pointed to me before skating to the bench to pound fists with the entire team.
"He scored that goal for you," Max said, interpreting Sidney's gesture.
The Leafs answered back with a goal after a few minutes, and I tried to keep morale up.
"It's okay, there's still a lot of hockey left to play. Go get 'em, boys!"
During the first intermission, I took full advantage of my hockey companion and asked about nuances of the game that only someone who had played for years would be able to explain.
"You ask a lot of questions," he finally said.
"Well, I want to understand it all. You can't appreciate what the guys are doing until you know why they're doing it. For instance, take the Brodeur rule, about goalies handling the puck behind the net in the trapezoid. Until I knew about that rule, I didn't get why the goalies did what they did. But, now I know, and that makes the dump-and-chase make sense. So now I know why forwards do what they do. It's all about strategy, you know?"
Max looked at me and shook his head, smiling. "You are one interesting girl, you know that?"
I shrugged, my eyes following the Zamboni. "I wish I had gotten into hockey when I was younger. My family was always crazy about football. And you cannot just turn a hockey game on or listen to it on the radio and understand what's going on. The game's too fast-paced for that, and let's face it, you can't see the tiny puck on a television screen." Max laughed, and I continued. "So it was really because of Steve that I started watching in the first place."
His face lost its smile. "Who's Steve?"
"The office manager where I work."
"Oh, thank God."
"What? Why do you sound so relieved?" I was confused.
"I thought for a second that maybe Steve was your boyfriend."
I laughed. "Not at all. But why do you care if I had a boyfriend anyway? You're the one who wanted to make it perfectly clear that we're friends, and nothing more."
"I wasn't concerned for myself."
I sat forward in my chair and turned so I was face-to-face with Max. "Who were you concerned for?"
"So, did the Kid tell you about our plans after the game? Are you coming?" he asked, changing the subject.
"No, he didn't tell me; I don't know if I'm coming since I wasn't properly invited; and don't try to back out of this discussion without answering me." He kept his mouth shut, and I slumped back into my chair and laid my head back on the top ridge. "Why do I always feel like there's more going on than anyone will tell me?"
"You ask too many questions. Why can't you just go with the flow?"
"Why do you sound just like V?" I tried to glare at Max and intimidate him into spilling his guts, but to no avail.
Instead, he laughed again at me. "Do you know how extraordinary you are?"
"Do you know that you make my brain tired when you bounce around between your conversation topics? Now where did that come from?"
"Sitting here with you, I find out how much of a hockey nerd you are. Only people who are fans before the lockout know about the Brodeur rule, since that's when it was instituted. But when you're hanging out with the guys, you're so cool and calm and natural."
I giggled. "You didn't see me in the dressing room before the game. I was like as giddy as a schoolgirl."
He smiled in a serious manner. "But you've got this whole other life, too, that we don't know about. I mean, you graduated summa cum laude from Pitt, so you've got to be brilliant, you just got a promotion at work—congratulations, by the way—and I hear you were captain of your tennis team, so you're athletic, too."
"How did you know about all that?" I asked. "I never told you about that stuff."
He rolled his deep blue eyes masked by his hat. "Noelle, I don't want to tell you, because he won't be happy with me if I interfere. Isn't it obvious?"
I knew in my head that Sidney was the only one of that group who knew all those things about me. Sure, I had told Véro about the promotion, but she didn't know that I went to Pitt; and she knew that I played tennis in high school, but I never told her I had been captain. Sid knew about my captaincy, and although I didn't disclose the circumstances of my graduation, he could have picked that up from seeing the honor cords around my neck in one of my graduation pictures in my study.
So, in my head, I knew that Sidney had to have been the one to tell those things to Max. Regardless, it didn't make any sense to me. Why would he divulge that information about me?
"I take it back. You're not brilliant," he laughed. "Or else you would have this whole situation figured out by now. Can't you see how crazy he is about you?"
I shook my head, refusing to believe. "You've got it all wrong. They must call you Mad Max because you're delusional. I don't know why he would tell you those things, or why he would talk about me to Billy Guerin either, but I'm not anything special to him."
"You saw him tonight, Noelle. He scored that goal for you. Doesn't that make you special?"
"That makes me a girl who's at her first Pens game, and Sid just wanted to put on a show for me to make sure I'm having a good time. And it's not like he scored that goal for me. He did it for himself, he did it for the team."
"Did he talk to you?"
"We talk a lot."
"No, well, I mean, yes, you guys do talk to each other a lot. But I mean when he took you home after his birthday. He didn't... talk to you?"
I shrugged. "We didn't really say much of anything, except 'see ya later.'"
He cursed in French under his breath. "I told him to speak his peace before he left."
"That conversation was about me?"
"You overheard that?"
I let out a long breath. So many things were going on at once. "Listen, Max, I'm not saying you're a liar—"
"No, you're just saying that you don't believe me."
"I'm saying that he never gave me any indication to think any differently than I currently do."
He laughed. "He kissed you. What other proof do you need?"
I felt the blood drain from my face. It's a good thing that the people around us had dispersed to make phone calls or get food and beer, because I spoke barely above a whisper. "He told you about that?"
"Yes. Don't be mad at him for that, because he was practically going to explode if he didn't tell someone. He's not the type to kiss and tell—"
"Apparently, he is the type. Did he also tell you that we were drunk when it happened? It doesn't count," I stated, slightly agitated.
"Haven't you ever heard of liquid courage?"
"Yes, I have, but it doesn't matter to me. If he can't do it sober, it doesn't count."
"Well, you can add that to the list of everything else you know about me," I told him. Thank goodness the second period was about to begin, because I was done talking with Max. Good thing the game was going to distract me.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago