Tuesday sucked. I spent my lunch break sending texts and calling my friends, who I knew had nothing better to do than surf the web. Still, they probably wouldn't be viewing the hockey-related sites that all began to show these pictures, but Sidney was a celebrity in Pittsburgh, so there was no telling who would find out.
I answered the same questions. I had already told everyone I knew that I had met him while eating dinner in July, but that was the last they had heard about him from me. They all wanted to know: How did this happen? Is it serious? Have you slept with him?
I did my best to get through their inquisitions while being as vague as possible. "We're just kind of seeing each other, I don't even know if you'd say we're really dating. It's kind of a confusing situation, because we don't get to see a whole lot of each other, and it's complicated. I just wanted you to hear it from me rather than some other outlet."
After a long day of work—which thankfully didn't involve explaining anything to Steve, since he was oblivious to the side of hockey outside of games and stats—I called Sidney and asked what I should bring to his barbecue.
"I don't know, I'm on the way to the airport right now to pick up my parents, but really I won't plan anything until tomorrow. I'm sure whatever you want to bring is fine," he said dismissively.
I told him to drive carefully, but I hung up exasperated. I so desperately wanted this barbecue to be as perfect as possible. In the end, I made broccoli salad, dill potato salad, and a big batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, made with whole wheat flour so he could have one or two without feeling like he was breaking from his training plan too much.
On Wednesday morning, I had to dress in something that would be appropriate for work and for a casual cookout. I opted for a pair of brown slacks, brown heels, and a brown, white, and blue striped fitted top, which was dressy enough for work but also cute enough to make a good impression. I put my fare in the work fridge with a note so no one would touch it, and impatiently waited for the clock to tick down to five.
I made great time into Pittsburgh and arrived at Sid's house by 5:45. The party was in full swing as I parked on the street (the driveway was full!) and made my way to his backyard.
Even though I had been to Sidney's house before, this was the first time I had seen his backyard, which was spacious with a large deck and a swimming pool. The day wasn't really warm enough for swimming, but I saw several heads bobbing in the water anyway.
Sidney spotted me first and jogged over to take the containers out of my hands and help me toward the group of people. "What did you bring?"
"Well, you didn't tell me, so I made a couple things." I blushed, wondering why I felt so embarrassed. "I hope that's okay, I mean—"
He kissed my cheek and I shut my mouth. "It's fine, Nelly. Don't be so worried." He set everything on a table by the grill, took my hand, and immediately led me to make the great introductions. I saw that Marc and Véro were in attendance, along with Tyler, Kelsey, Max, Kris, Jordan, his girlfriend, Alex, Lynne, Ben Lovejoy, and Evgeni. The people in the pool were considerably younger than everyone else, and I wasn't sure who they were. I turned to see where Sid was taking me, and we faced not only his parents but the Lemieuxs as well.
My face paled, and Sidney squeezed my hand for encouragement. He hadn't told me they were going to be here, too. I wanted nothing more than to curl under a rock and die. "I want to introduce you to my friend, Noelle. Noelle, please meet my mother Trina, my father Troy, Mario, and Nathalie."
I held out my hand and shook each of theirs, trying desperately to form words. I managed a few polite "Hello"s and "Nice to meet you"s, because what else is there to say to the parents of The Next One and to Le Magnifique? The hockey fan in me was stunned, and the part of me that knew that they were regular people was unable to compensate for my temporary loss of brain function.
Mario laughed, and I suspected that he had encountered several dumb-struck fans before. "Sid's told us a lot about you, Noelle, but he hasn't told us how you met."
That was enough to knock me out of my stunned state. "Oh, then you're in for a treat, because Sid loves to tell this story."
As Sidney relayed the story about our first meeting, they laughed and I rolled my eyes. "Really, I don't see what the big deal was. You should be flattered to be compared to such a celebrity," I joked, poking Sid in the arm.
He continued, "So she tries to cover it up by saying that she supports the team over the players, but she had no problem recognizing Max when she met him."
"He's Pittsburgh's hero," Nathalie said. "Everyone in southwestern Pennsylvania recognizes him."
"But to make matters worse," Sid interjected, "when she had the opportunity to meet anyone on the team, she wanted to meet Craig Adams."
I shrugged, and Trina offered, "Well, I would, too. Have you seen him? He's positively dreamy—and smart, too."
"Thank you!" I said. "I knew I couldn't be the only woman who felt that way. I like your mom, Sid. She knows what's up."
"It's a shame he takes after his father, instead of me," she quipped, and everyone laughed—except Sidney and Troy.
I relaxed and found that they were all welcoming and easy to get along with. Even when Sid left to tend to the grill, I held my own in conversation. Mostly, they asked me questions about myself, how old I was, what I did for a living, and other questions about my past. I knew I was being sized up, but they seemed truly curious and I didn't feel intimidated.
"So, you're a Pens fan, Noelle?" Troy asked.
"Are you coming to the game on Friday?"
"Nothing could stop me. The season opener, and the raising of the championship banners? It's monumental. This is the first—I mean, hopefully the first of many—Stanley Cup of my generation. I'm not counting the '91 and '92 wins, since I was young and didn't understand the significance of what it meant. This is once in a lifetime, and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to be there to experience it."
Nathalie laughed. "Yeah, I'd say you're a bona fide fan."
I shrugged, and Sid announced that the food was just about ready. I offered to help, and ended up playing hostess, setting out plates, silverware, and napkins, double-checking that everything was on the table and available, and making sure that everyone else was satisfied and taken care of before preparing my own meal. Sid and I worked side-by-side in the meantime, and we seemed to fall into a groove as if we had been throwing parties like this for years.
Additionally, I was introduced to Sid's little sister Taylor as well as the Lemieux kids, when they finally left the pool for dinner. I couldn't believe that Sid was letting me into his life like this, but I really couldn't believe how natural it felt to be a part of it.
Sitting next to Max and Kris, I caught up with the former as I ate dinner. He told me his rehab was going well, and he was frustrated that he wouldn't be taking part in the first games of the season.
"Better in September and October than May or June, though, right?"
When everyone had stuffed themselves, I got up to help put the food away and clean up. "Don't worry about it," Trina said, as she and Nathalie began clearing the table. "You've hung out with us old ladies long enough. Go hang out with the girls."
I thanked them and joined The Girlfriends, having a great time until Lynne decided to play Devil's Advocate and mentioned the pictures I had forgotten all about.
"Did you get my e-mail?" she asked, and I forced a grin and nodded. The other girls wore confused expressions, and Lynne felt the need to clarify. "There's a story going around about Noelle, and it's just horrible. It doesn't exactly paint her in the best light."
Before she could continue, I cut her off. "It's a bunch of drivel, calling me a puck bunny that's making her way through the team. First, Sid, and then Max. You'd better watch out, Véro, because I'm going after Marc-André next." I winked at her. "I just love those Canadian boys."
The other girls laughed, and that was the end of that discussion topic. I knew Lynne was looking for a reaction, and I wouldn't validate her behavior by responding in the manner she wanted. After a few moments, I began to wonder where the guys were; they weren't usually this quiet. I excused myself from the group of girls and headed toward the house. However, I got sidetracked as I realized that my cookies were not going to get eaten if they weren't out for everyone to try. As much as I considered it rude to show up at a party empty-handed, I didn't want to have to bring any leftovers home with me.
I took the Saran wrap off the plate of cookies and walked over to the Crosbys, Lemieuxs, and their respective children to offer them some when the planned attack took place. The guys ran out of the house armed with water balloons and began catapulting them at The Girlfriends. Some of them screamed, some laughed, and some ran to avoid the splash.
Rolling my eyes at their foolishness, I turned my back to the scene as Taylor took a cookie and smiled. I was about to ask her how she liked it when a balloon splashed by my feet. "Hey!" I hollered, turning around and seeing Sidney with three balloons in his arm and another in his hand, ready to be launched. "Don't you dare throw that at me while I'm holding these cookies! You'll get them all soggy!"
He cocked an eyebrow and wound back to throw the red balloon in his hand. "Then you'd better put them down, because I am going to soak you."
I held onto the plate, using it as a talisman or charm to prevent Sid from pelting me with water balloons. "I'm in my work clothes," I reasoned, trying to play negotiator. "You'd better not."
Trina took the plate from me and nudged me toward Sidney. "Get her, son!" she hollered, laughter dancing in her eyes.
"Mrs. Crosby! You're a traitor! And to think I liked you!" I laughed and dashed off the deck as Sid threw another balloon, but he hit Austin Lemieux instead. I giggled and yelled, "See what you did! You hit a poor, defenseless child! It's a good thing your aim with a puck is better than your arm!"
He responded by throwing another balloon, which bounced and didn't break as it made contact with the grass. I picked it up, and prepared myself for battle. He dropped one balloon, which broke at his feet, so it was my one to his two. Sidney threw one, which caught my leg, and then the other, which I dodged. Now empty-handed, he charged at me; I threw my balloon, which hit him square in the chest but didn't phase him. He grabbed me and swung me over his shoulder.
I squealed, wondering what he had in store for me now. "Put me down, Andy, if you know what's good for you!"
He swung me around, and I could see the amusement on everyone's faces. The Girlfriends were wet, having endured the assault. "Don't let her off easy," I heard Véro call. "We had to suffer, so let her, too!"
"Traitors!" I replied, laughing the whole time. "You're all a bunch of traitors!" Everyone laughed, and I realized that Sid was taking me toward the pool. "Don't you dare!" I tried kicking and struggling, but his hold was too strong. "My phone's in my pocket! You'll ruin my heels!"
In a few swift movements, in some manner that must have been physically impossible, he slipped off my shoes and took my phone from my possession, and then he held me bridal style.
"Kiss me, and I won't do it," he whispered as the guys cheered for him to throw me in.
"In front of your parents?" I questioned.
"Yup." I weighed the pros and cons of being thrown in the pool versus exposing our relationship to everyone. Kissing him with so many witnesses would mean this wouldn't be our little secret anymore, and that would be a big step in a serious direction. I took too long to answer and he began to swing me. "One.... Two...."
When he yelled "Three!" I made up my mind to kiss him, so I grabbed his shoulders just as he released me into the pool—and inadvertently pulled him in with me.
I surfaced and could hear laughter and clapping. Sid swam over and mocked me. "So you'd rather be thrown in the pool than kiss me?"
"You got your just desserts, falling in here with me, Crosby." I jumped up and pushed down on his shoulders, dunking him, but I followed and submersed myself with him. While we were underwater, I chastely kissed him on the lips.
We got out of the water, and I suddenly became very chilled when the wind blew. I wrung out my hair with my teeth chattering, and Trina told her son, "Get her out of those wet clothes, Sidney, and give her something warm to wear."
"Sure thing, Mom," he responded, taking a hold of my hand as we walked into the house, up to his room. He closed the door behind him and I heard him lock it, too.
"I don't know what's going through that head of yours, Crosby, but you'd better cut it out right now," I told him as I got a towel out of the bathroom to dry my hair.
"I'm just obeying orders," he replied, grabbing the hem of my shirt and quickly pulling it over my head. "I'm getting you out of these wet clothes."
I laughed. "She didn't mean it like that, and you know it." He undid the clasp of my bra and slid the straps over my shoulder. I felt so wanton. As he massaged my breasts, I tried to retain my good senses. "Everyone's downstairs, or outside. They'll hear."
"I guess you'll have to be extra quiet then," he responded.
Letting go of the towel, I wrapped my arms around his back and slid my hands under the waistband of wet jeans. My resolve was melting away. "They're going to wonder what's taking us so long."
"Let them wonder."
Once we shed our clothing, the heat from our naked bodies evaporated a lot of the water. When we finally pulled apart, we threw on some clothes and went back downstairs. I was dressed in a pair of his shorts and a big pullover hoodie, to hide the fact that I had to go bra-less. Sidney threw our clothes into the dryer, but we still had to wait for half an hour for them to finish drying. Someone had started a fire, and everyone had gathered around to roast marshmallows. I sat beside Jordan, and Sid sat next to me.
"Geez, you guys were up there forever," Jordy said quietly. "Do I even want to know what was going on?" When I blushed, Jordan called over to Sid, and held out his fist. Sid looked over, bumped his fist against Jordan's without really knowing why, and I was mortified. "Don't worry, I won't tell," Jordan whispered to me.
"You're a pervert, Staal," I told him, grabbing a marshmallow and eating it.
"Hey, you're the one making a big deal out of it."
"You're the one getting into other people's personal business." I stuck my tongue out at him.
Soon, everyone left, thanking Sidney for the good time, leaving me alone with the Crosby family. I stayed only long enough for my clothes to dry, because I felt that they could see right through me and know what had transpired upstairs as they had gathered around the fire. I changed into them and said my goodbyes.
"It was nice to meet you all," I said as I shook hands with Trina and Troy.
"We'll see you on Friday, right?" Troy asked.
"Yeah, she'll be at the game, Dad," Sidney responded. "I got tickets for all four of you."
Trina smiled, and she had a light in her eyes. "Great. We look forward to seeing you again."
Sidney walked me out to my car. "How did I do?" I asked him. "Did they like me?"
He laughed. "We'll talk about you once you're gone," he winked. "But all indications point to yes."
He leaned in to kiss me, but I moved my head and he kissed my cheek instead of my lips. When he looked at me, confused as to why I had done that, I pointed to the window, where his little sister was poking her head between the curtains.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago