Anyway, the reason for the note: Parts 35 and 36 were originally supposed to be one entire update, but as I fell into writing them, there was just too much going on, so I opted to create two parallel chapters. 36 is scheduled to publish half an hour after this one, and I hope they make a little more sense when read together.
Oh, and sorry if this post especially seems different than the usual style. It's not intentional and not necessarily indicative of a permanent change.... it's just what the story called for, I guess.
Saturday, October 17 was the Penguins' home game against the Tampa Bay Lightening.
This was my first real exposure to Sid and his game-day routines and superstitions. Last night, he explained the routine: eating breakfast; heading to the rink to stretch and to participate in the morning skate; returning home for the big pregame meal; around 1:30 to 2, showering and taking a nap for an hour or so; pregame snack at 4; back to the rink to get ready for the game.
Today, however, there would be a slight deviation to the routine. Usually, he'd head over to the Lemieuxs' and Nathalie would prepare his big pregame meal of chicken and pasta, the intake of protein and carbohydrates needed to fuel his game. Sidney politely asked if I'd be willing to take over that duty for the day. I gladly accepted, but I did it less for him and more for myself. As odd as it may sound, I felt honored to have that task delegated to me, trusted with that part of his routine.
Sid let me sleep in and ate breakfast without me before heading to the rink. I heard the door shut when he was on his way out, and that woke me up. Stretching in his bed, I smiled broadly, feeling so... content. Sated. Was this what it felt like to be happy and satisfied with life? If so, I could get used to this.
I had a few hours before I was expected to have Sidney's meal on the table, so I took a long, hot shower, dressed in clothes that The Girlfriends would approve of (even though my blue Crosby jersey would hide them), and then I fully unpacked my bag. With no idea of what the weekend would hold in store, I had literally packed everything I thought I might need. A casual outfit, a dressy outfit, flats, sneakers, jeans, tee shirts, jewelry, hair gel, barrettes, make-up.... Everything. I shoved it all in my top drawer of Sid's dresser, knowing that whatever wasn't worn this weekend could be used at a later date.
My timing proved impeccable, as I tasted a strand of spaghetti to test its tenderness—not al dente, but not mushy—I took it off the hot burner and strained the pasta when Sid walked through the door. He was dressed in shorts, a plain white shirt with a small Reebok logo across his left pec, and his obnoxiously yellow crocs that I wished would magically disappear off the face of the earth.
As I finished preparing the meal, he stood behind me, slung an arm around my waist, and kissed my left cheek. I felt tamed, domesticated, but it didn't bother me. Everything I had said to Sid last night was true; I had plans, goals I had set for myself that I was determined to achieve. But this felt just as good as the day I got accepted to Pitt, the day I graduated with top honors, and when I was offered my promotion. Maybe this could be part of my plan, too.
I mulled over all my thoughts as Sid ate and perched myself on the counter. I was pleased with where our relationship was heading. Yes, things were moving quickly, but everything was going so well that I would have been foolish to second-guess it all. He placed so much of his trust in me—with his personal life and his hockey life. It was easy to make an impression on his personal life. Marc-André told me that I had immediately stood out to him, even after a fifteen, twenty minute conversation. But his hockey life had been harder to crack. Slowly, he found a way to accommodate me into this day-to-day, even if it was only to call me after the game. Today, I was fully enveloped in his routine. That long-forgotten promise of not interfering with his hockey life was discarded from my memory, because Sidney had adjusted so well to balancing a blossoming social life with his densely packed professional life.
He was so accommodating that I felt bad that I wasn't reciprocating. I hadn't done much to bring him in my life. After all, I had only reluctantly told my friends about him, after our relationship had been leaked all over the internet. I still hadn't told my parents, and it was getting harder and harder to talk about the games with Steve while not volunteering any information that would clue him into the small fact that I was dating the captain of the team.
If I invited him over to meet my parents, would he be as excited to meet them as he was to introduce me to his? Would he agree to hang out with my friends one night out of the week, instead of me having to drive into the city to see him, his teammates and their girlfriends, and my new friends? So much of our time spent together was done on his terms. I was okay with that; it made sense, since the demands on his time were so much greater than those on mine. But the question bugged me: would he at least be willing to be a part of my life as much as I was willing to be a part of his?
Suddenly, Sidney was standing before me. "Are you okay? I must've said your name, like, ten times."
"Sorry, I was...." Thinking? Feeling? I wasn't sure how to explain my dazed state, so I just shrugged and smiled. "Off in another world."
He chuckled. "You looked so cute." I blushed, and he twisted a curl of my hair around the index and middle fingers of his right hand. "Why do I get the feeling that you don't believe me when I say stuff like that? Maybe no one's told you that enough."
Sidney kissed me, and then he put his hands on my hips and yanked me toward him. "Maybe we shouldn't," I said, but my body betrayed my thoughts as my legs wrapped around his waist.
"If you can give me one good reason."
"You have a game tonight. I don't want to be responsible for tuckering you out."
"You won't. I still have to take my nap. We can just make this quick."
* * * * *
Sid sat at his stall in the dressing room, and I left him there to relax in the lounge. Three hours until puck drop, and I wasn't sure what to do with myself. Véro and Kelsey wouldn't show up for at least another two hours. Luckily, not all the guys needed to keep to a strict routine to get focused before the game, so as some of them started to filter in, they kept me company. I was able to joke around with Jordan and Billy and formally meet some of the other players, like Ruslan Fedotenko, Sergei Gonchar, and Eric Godard.
Brooks Orpik was working on a crossword puzzle, but he got stuck on some of the clues. He asked aloud if anyone knew the villain of Othello, to which I quickly responded, "Iago." Brooks nodded as he scribbled in the answer. Sometimes, that literature degree paid off.
When the girls showed up, we headed to our seats, since the guys were lacing up to take the ice before the start of the game. I had brought my jersey in my purse, since I rode to the arena with Sidney, and I pulled it over my head once we settled in to watch the game.
I saw Lynne out of the corner of my eye and tried to pretend she didn't exist. She burst that bubble when she leaned over V and Kels to hand me something. "I'm sorry, I just thought you'd want to know."
At least this time, when I made the headlines, it wasn't as a puck bunny. Instead, the article focused on how Sidney and this mystery girl were becoming serious. Seen here, she's obviously well acquainted with Sidney's parents, Trina and Troy Crosby. The picture showed the three of us at the season opener, taken at precisely the moment I turned to speak to them after Crosby's game-winning goal. I had been standing right there; how did I not notice someone taking a picture of me?
The other picture showed Sid and I making out in Diesel. And we all know how well she's acquainted with Sid. Who wrote these damn articles, and couldn't they at least think of anything creative to say? I instantly kicked myself for my behavior that Friday. At least the good part was, if these pictures had been taken the night of the opener, which was over two weeks ago, and I hadn't seen them yet, they weren't circulating the internet as wildly as the original ones had. Lynne must have done a lot of digging to find this. I was grateful to be old news.
She was waiting for a reaction. I tried to think of something. "Well, you'd think by now they'd at least have figured out my name. Do I have to be 'Mystery Girl' forever?" Véro snickered with me. "Do you mind if I keep this, Lynne? I can't wait to hang it on my refrigerator with the other story about me, too. At the rate I'm going, I'll have a big collection by the end of the season."
Lynne looked nonplussed and pissed, and she leaned back into her seat without another condescending word said in my direction. I rolled my eyes. What did I have to do to get her off my back? Poor Alex; I wished he would see how dreadful she was and dump her sorry ass.
Thankfully, the close game provided me with a great distraction. The Pens came out on top over the Lightening, 3-2. Crosby tallied two more points, an even-strength goal in the first and an assist on Malkin's power play goal in the second.
When I left the arena with Sid, I was back in my street clothes with my jersey in my purse. He squeezed my hand in his own, signed some autographs with his free hand, and soon we were on our way to the after party. I was glad that there wasn't much ado involved when we left the Mellon hand-in-hand.
We went out to Diesel and spent the night drinking and dancing, talking and laughing, goofing off and having a great time with the guys. Tonight, however, I behaved myself. Any inappropriate behavior could take place after the club, although at the rate we were going, we'd probably be too tired tonight for any hanky-panky. The bartender gave notice of last call, and we finished our drinks and made our way to the streets. I congratulated the guys one more time on their win as I said my goodbyes.
Tyler asked me, "The guys are getting together to watch the football game tomorrow. Do you and Sid want to come over?"
"I don't know, I'll have to get back to you about that. Sidney has something planned for tomorrow, so I'll have to find out what's going on, first."
Sid came up behind me and said, "We'll have time to catch the game, for sure."
"So, does that mean your surprise takes place before or after kick-off at one?" I asked him. I had forgotten all about tomorrow until TK asked what we were up to. Sid wore a goofy grin, and I knew trying to get any information out of him would be useless. We finished our goodbyes and sped off for home.
Turns out, I was wrong. We weren't too tired.