It was three in the morning by the time Sidney and I went to bed, and I tossed and turned for two hours. By five, I knew trying to get any rest was useless, so I tiptoed past Sid's room and down the stairs into the living room. I sat on the couch and pulled my knees up to my chest, and then pulled the hem of Sid's shirt over my knees. Turning on the television with the volume low, I realized that no matter how many channels you have, there's never anything good on.
I heard movement upstairs, and I hoped that I hadn't done anything to wake up Sidney. I heard his feet pad on the hardwood floor and pause at the top of the stairs. "Nelly? Are you down there?" His voice was gruff and groggy.
"Yeah, I'm here."
He started down the stairs. "What are you doing up?"
I shrugged, not really taking my eyes off the screen as I continued to flip through the channels. "Can't sleep. It's normal for me in a new place, though."
"Can I get you anything? Warm milk?" he asked, and I looked up at him as he entered the living room.
"That's sweet of you to offer, but I wouldn't worry about it. I'll just nap when I get home." Sid sat down next to me. "You don't have to keep me company. You should get some rest."
"Now what kind of host would I be if I did that?" he laughed, but I could tell he was tired. "You're stretching out my shirt."
I untucked my knees from under the hem and exposed my naked legs, but I pulled down the shirt to sufficiently cover my hips so he wouldn't get an eyeful. "Sorry."
"Yeah, much better," he teased, and I nudged him in the ribs. "Come here," he said, and he stretched out his arms.
I was a bit hesitant, knowing that I wasn't properly dressed, but I realized I would be much more comfortable curled up in this arms than I was in my current position. Sliding next to him, I nestled my head on his shoulder and turned my body toward him. "Mm, much better."
He stroked my hair with his hand and I let out a soft sigh. "Is something wrong?"
"No," I said. "I like my hair being played with."
Sid chuckled softly and kept performing the motion. "Good to know."
"It's just so relaxing," I explained, and my eyelids suddenly felt heavy. "Tell me something about yourself, Sidney."
"I don't know," I continued with a yawn. "Something I don't know about you."
"I want you to come to the home game we have next Friday."
"That doesn't count."
"Okay, okay." I could tell that Sid was just as tired, but he still played along with me.
"Tell me, if you weren't playing hockey, for whatever reason, what would you be doing with your life?"
"Um, I don't really know, because I spent all my time playing that I never considered doing anything else."
"But if you had to pick something," I prodded, even though my tongue was starting to feel thick and the words were getting harder to say.
"Business management," he finally concluded.
"So I could manage a hockey team."
I barely managed to get out a soft laugh, and that's the last thing I remembered.
* * * * *
When I awoke, I realized that I was in Sidney's bed. We were spooning, and I rolled over onto my other side to look at him. At first, I thought he was still sleeping, until a smile slowly crept onto his face.
"Good morning," I said, kissing him on the tip of his nose.
He still didn't open his eyes. "Morning. How did you sleep?"
"Good," I responded, "just not enough."
"What time is it?"
"I think it's after ten." Sid groaned. "Why? Do you have practice today?"
"No, just a skating thing with some of the guys in the afternoon. You wanna come?"
"Is it at the Mellon? I need my car."
He laughed. "Still worried about your car, eh? Yeah, it's at the arena. Why don't we go out and get something for lunch and then head over there?"
"I don't quite want to get up yet. Let's just eat lunch here."
"I have to warn you, I'm not a great cook."
"I am. I'll teach you," I offered.
"Sounds like a plan." He pulled me a little closer to him, and we fell right back to sleep.
It was 11:30 when we woke up again. He tried to kiss me, but I pushed him away. "Morning breath," I reasoned.
"We'd better get moving."
"You carried me up here last night," I stated.
"Or we both sleepwalked," he cracked.
"Why did you put me in your bed instead of the guest room?"
"Because you seemed to sleep better with me there with you, and I didn't want to spend the night on the couch."
"So after all you said last night, I still ended up in your bed."
"Hm, I guess so. Not how I imagined it though. Carrying you wasn't easy. You're heavier than you look." My mouth fell open. Did he really just say that? I thought it was funny, but he immediately thought I was offended. "No, please don't take it that way. I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I'm not calling you fat!" He ran a hand through his bed-head hair. "See what you do to me? You make my brain turn to mush and I make a fool out of myself. I'm usually so much more eloquent."
"Oh, you can make it up to me somehow," I teased. I thought about all those pre- and post-game interviews he gave, and he never came across as being particularly loquacious with his diplomatic, generic responses. "Well, I need a shower if I'm going to be around people." I rolled out of bed and started to head out to the bathroom I had used the night before, pulling his shirt down to cover as much of me as possible.
"Use mine," he ordered, pointing to the adjoining bathroom. "It's much better."
Walking into his bathroom, I thought I heard him curse himself for his dumb remark, and I tried to hold back my laugh. Somehow, I was going to milk this for all it was worth.
His shower was amazing, and I felt like I could spend all day in there. There were spouts spraying water all down the one side of the shower, which massaged my entire body. When I stepped out, I realized I didn't know what to do about my outfit. I pulled back on the clothes I had slept in, and then went back into the guest bedroom for my bra and jeans before brushing my teeth. Wrapping my hair in a towel, I went downstairs to see what I could possibly make for lunch to impress Sidney.
Rummaging through his refrigerator, I still wasn't sure. I decided to use the leftover veggies from last night and make omelets, and started setting the ingredients on the counter. "Hey, Sid!" I yelled, "Where's your skillet?"
He popped his head into the kitchen. "Huh?"
"You know, a skillet? I'm making veggie omelets."
"Uh, a skillet. Yeah, I don't think I have one of those."
"How am I supposed to cook if you don't have anything for me to cook with?"
"You're the great chef, can't you figure something out?"
"Well, what do you have to cook with?"
"You can't microwave eggs. That's gross."
He shrugged. "Hey, I suggested that we go out. There's a deli near the arena."
"Fine," I caved, giving up. "Let me grab my things and finish getting ready." I unwrapped my hair and tried to dry it as much as I could before tossing the towel over the shower rod and then finger-combed my hair. Then I realized I didn't have any deodorant with me, so I peeked into his medicine cabinet and spotted a can of Axe. No wonder he always smelled so damn good. I didn't want to use it, but I couldn't see any other alternative, so I used as little as possible and hoped he wouldn't mind. I slipped on my shoes, retrieved my jersey and hat, which I promptly put on, and remembered V's shirt, too. Thinking I had everything, I went back downstairs.
Sid was dressed in jeans, a red shirt and a blue and red hoodie, and his Pens' Stanley Cup Championship hat. "It's gonna be cold in the rink," he said. "You'll want this." When he tossed a black hooded sweatshirt at me, I thought how much we matched, both decked out in Reebok.
"So, what you're saying is, ice is cold?" I asked, trying to keep a straight face.
He rolled his eyes. "Here I am, trying to be helpful, and you're mocking me."
"It's what I do best," I teased, and I slipped the hoodie on and zipped it to the top. It smelled of him, so at least I wouldn't have to explain why I reeked like a man. With closed eyes, I inhaled, savoring the scent. My friends all thought I was weird, but there was nothing better than the aroma of Axe spray. Except maybe freshly baked brownies.
We left for the deli, which was fairly empty for the lunch rush. "Do you know what you want?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think I'm going to have the turkey and cheese croissant," I said, still looking over the menu in case something else caught my eye.
Sid stepped up to the counter, placed both his and my order, and paid with a card. I dug into my purse for my wallet to grab a five to pay him for lunch. "No, my treat," he said, refusing my money.
"Please, take it. It's not like this is gonna break the bank for me."
"Exactly, it's five dollars. I got it."
As I was about to protest again, the clerk interrupted. "Honey, if your boyfriend wants to pay for lunch, I say let him."
Sidney sent a look at me, feeling validated by the cashier's words. "But he's not my boyfriend," I countered.
"Even better," she replied. "I say, any time a man offers to pay for a lady, she should never turn him down. Make him work for it, girl."
"I like your attitude," I told her with a laugh.
"And here I thought you were helping me out," he joked with her. "You girls are against me!"
We took our food to a table by the window and ate quickly, since Sid was supposed to be at the rink at one. As I made my way through my sandwich, something was eating at me. "Thank you for lunch, Sid, but I wish you would have let me pay my share."
He slumped his shoulders. "Are we really going to have this discussion?"
"All right, then listen up. Call it chauvinistic, but it's the way I was raised, that the man treats the woman. It has nothing to do with how much money I make, or how much money I think you make, it's just me being a nice guy."
"A nice guy would take my feelings into consideration. I know it's a kind gesture, and I appreciate it, but I was raised to take care of myself and not to accept handouts."
"It's not a handout. Can't a guy take his girl out on a date anymore? Why are you making this out to be difficult? It's five goddamn dollars."
I knew that I had pushed the issue too far, and it was irritating him, so I decided I wouldn't argue further. We both felt we were right, and we're too stubborn to give in. But he had called this a date, and he called me "his girl." I would subject myself to anything to hear those words come out of his mouth again.
"I'm not gonna win this argument, am I?"
"Nope. Just say 'thank you' and accept it for what it is."
"Thanks," I mumbled, knowing that by the end of the day, he would have my five dollar bill in his possession.