I walked over to the bar and pulled a twenty dollar bill from my pocket, but I couldn’t get the bartender to even look my way.
“What are you drinking?” I jumped as I heard the words in my ear, and the back of my head knocked against Sidney’s face.
“Ouch! Oh, I’m sorry, but you startled me!” I said, instinctively reaching for the back of my head.
Sid rubbed his cheek. He had leaned in to speak in my ear—I only came up to his shoulders, and I wouldn’t have heard him because the music was so loud. “I guess I shouldn’t sneak up on you.”
Upon seeing the famous Penguin at his bar, the bartender ignored the other patrons to fill his order. He ordered a Jack and Coke, and I ordered an orange juice and amaretto.
“That’s an unusual combination,” Sid said.
“It’s good. An acquired taste,” I added, as the bartender brought us our drinks. I started to hand over my money, but Sidney placed his hand over mine and pushed it away. I felt something as he touched me. Not sparks, not fire; more like a tingling sensation that began in my hand and shot up my arm. It was all I could do to not pull away at the peculiar feeling.
“Just put it on my tab,” he said to the bartender, grabbing his drink.
“Thank you,” I said. I wanted to tell him that he didn’t need to buy my drink, but I didn’t want to seem ungracious.
He shrugged and brushed off the polite gesture. “Compared to the way the guys drink, I’m sure you won’t make a dent on the tab.”
I thought that was an odd thing to say, especially when I didn’t put up a fight. A simple “you’re welcome” would have sufficed, I thought, but I kept that to myself.
“Would you like to try my drink?” I offered, unsure of what else to say.
Sidney took my glass and sipped the concoction, and his mouth puckered. “Wow, that’s really sweet. It’s a girly drink,” he laughed.
I laughed, too, since he was certainly not the only guy to tell me that. I just shrugged and said, “Like I said, it’s an acquired taste.”
“I guess so.” After a long pause, he continued. “I felt bad that you never got your picture. So imagine my surprise when I happened to peer over the rail and see you there.”
“It is kind of serendipitous, isn’t it?” I commented. “My coworker didn’t believe me that I met you.”
“Well, maybe we can get that picture now?” he said.
I pulled my digital camera from my pocket. “I’m ready if you are!”
He laughed. “You came prepared. It’s almost like you knew I’d be here.”
“No, this was pure coincidence, but I’m going to fully take you up on the offer I missed out on earlier this week. I want to rub it in his face!”
Sid called over to his friend Marc-André, took the camera from me, and handed it to his friend. Marc seemed puzzled. I could almost read the thoughts running through his head. Why is Sid handing me this camera to take a picture with this girl? If she were a fan, she should have one of her friends take the picture. And this is definitely not Sid’s camera—it’s purple! The fans in the club are usually pretty good about leaving us alone, so he must want to be a part of this picture for some reason. Regardless of these thoughts, he unquestioningly took the picture for us. Sid was on my right, and he placed his arm around my shoulders. Instinctively, I placed my right hand on his back and leaned in towards him. We smiled, and Marc-André depressed the shutter button.
“Hey, wait, Flower! I want in this picture, too! She’s my number one fan.” The flash had temporarily blinded me, but I recognized Max’s voice.
“She’s your only fan,” Sidney quipped, and I started to chuckle. Next thing I knew, Max was on my other side with his arm around my waist. Again I saw a flash, and I knew it was going to be a horrible picture of me, mouth open in the midst of a laugh.
“Thanks, guys. I cannot wait to make Steve eat crow!”
Marc handed me my camera, and I glanced at the pictures. The first picture to appear was the one of me with both Max and Sid. The former looked like he was having a ball. He had leaned down to be more level with me, he had his beer raised in the air, and his mouth was open as he let out a holler. I did look silly, but not as bad as I thought I would. Sid looked… annoyed? The other picture was much more adorable, since Sid and I had taken the automatic “couple” pose when a guy and girl stand close together. Not to mention, we were both genuinely smiling.
I turned off my camera and slipped it back into my pocket as Sid introduced me to the Penguins’ goalie, known affectionately amongst the group as Flower. We shook hands, and I almost melted upon hearing his French-Canadian accent. It was thicker than Max’s, and I felt like I could listen to him speak for hours. Marc was quick with his smiles, and they were infectious. He asked how I was, and how I knew Sidney. I briefly explained that we had met Tuesday and just happened to bump into each other today.
He shot a glance at Sid—a look I couldn’t understand—and I instantly felt out of place, like I was intruding on something I wasn’t supposed to be a part of.
I tried to extricate myself from the situation. “I should really find my friends,” I explained, looking around. Since we had entered the lounge, I had completely ignored them, and I realized I didn’t know where they were.
Max pointed over to a couch by the DJ booth, where the girls were fawning over another Penguin, Kris Letang. He, too, was Quebecois, and just as gorgeous as the other handsome men on the team. Kris had long, shiny, dark hair that girls just itched to run their fingers through. “I think your friends are fine,” he said with a smile.
“Oh,” I answered, now unsure of how I could leave.
Sidney must have felt my unease, because he suggested we take a seat. He pointed to a small corner table surrounded by large, and unoccupied, sofas. As I began walking in that direction, I felt a hand on the small of my back. I jumped, and the hand pulled away. I spun around to see Sid blush as he muttered he was sorry.
“No, it’s okay, I just…” I trailed off. I felt like such a fool. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the attention, it’s just that I wasn’t used to receiving it.
I sat in the middle of one of the couches. Sidney sat to my right on the other couch arranged perpendicularly to mine. Max had followed us, and sat beside me on my left. He stretched out, his legs splayed and his right arm resting on the back of the sofa behind me. I made sure to not lean back, to avoid touching him. The attention was nice, but it made me uncomfortable.
“So, Noelle, how long have you been a Penguins fan?” Max asked. “Because I know you’ve always been a Talbot fan.”
I laughed. “Well, I’ve always been a hometown-team girl, but I’ve only really started following hockey recently. I bought the Talbot jersey because I thought you were an overlooked part of the team. Now,” I joked, “I see you need no extra encouragement.”
Sid said with a crooked smile, “Yeah, Talbo definitely doesn’t need any help in the ego department.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being confident,” Max quipped.
“You’re not just confident. You’re in a-whole-nother category altogether,” I commented.
He shrugged. Something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. “Can I see your camera?” he asked me.
I pulled the camera from my pocket and held it at a distance from him. “See?” Max reached for it, but I moved it further away. “What? You said you wanted to see it.”
Smirking, Max said, “Aren’t you funny. May I please borrow your camera?”
“Oh, you want to borrow it?” I emphasized. He turned on the puppy-dog eyes and pouted his lips, and I couldn’t refuse. I handed him the camera, and he jumped up and left me alone with Sidney.
I shook my head. “He’s quite the character.”
“Yeah, that’s Max. I’d be careful with that thing once you get it back.”
Alarmed, I asked, “Why?”
“Who knows? Any pictures he takes may need to be censored.” He looked around the lounge. “I don’t even see him anymore.”
“Should I be worried?”
“Nah. He’s usually harmless.”
“Usually?” I raised my eyebrows, and we both laughed. Now that we were alone, I felt much more relaxed. “So many of you guys are here during the offseason. I figured you all would be at your respective homes.”
“Well, we mostly do our own thing over the summer. But, it’s nice to get together with everyone again and keep the cohesiveness of the team. That way, when preseason starts, it’s not such a shock to have to spend a lot of time with each other.”
“As a third party observer, I have to say that you guys look like you have a blast together. I mean, that you guys are all honestly friends and not just teammates—and that you all have such fun, and everyone else around you does, too.”
“Are you?” Sidney asked.
“Am I what?”
I smiled and looked around. My friends were dancing, and Max was taking a picture of himself with Flower. “Yeah, I am having fun.”
“Good,” he said. “You know, you piqued my interest the other night.”
“Yeah. I mean, I’m not used to meeting Pens fans who don’t beg for an autograph or a picture. Hell, I’m not used to meeting people who don’t already know who I am!”
“You’re just an ordinary guy, who happens to have extraordinary talent. And that’s great for the team, and great for the city. You’re in the spotlight when you’re on the ice, but that doesn’t mean you have to be off the ice, too.”
He leaned back. “Wow. If only everyone felt the same way you do. Don’t get me wrong, I love hockey, and I would do anything to get the chance to play. Just sometimes, it would be nice to be like one of the other guys, who don’t get nearly as much attention or demands on their time.”
“Ah, the price of being the best hockey player in the world,” I said. He winced, and I laughed playfully at him. “Oh, come on. You’ve been playing forever, and you work so hard to be as good as you are. It’s an honor to have that title.”
“I don’t feel like talking about hockey right now.”
“Really? But you told me I have interesting thoughts on the team.”
“Did I now?”
“Yes. I remember it clear as day.”
“I probably thought so, because instead of talking about me, you wanted to talk about Max. He’s a good player, but he’s not usually the one people want to talk about. Yeah, I remember now. I was going to put in a good word for you to Ray Shero. Maybe get you on the staff or something. You could help out with draft picks or player development.”
I laughed. “Oh, Shero my hero. Beats my current job. Maybe then I could actually see a game!”
A serious look washed over his face. “You’ve never seen a game?”
“Well, on TV, and I’ve listened to the games on the radio. But I’ve never been to the arena to see a game in person.”
“If you haven’t seen hockey from the stands, then you’ve never really seen a game. And you call yourself a fan,” he mockingly scolded me.
“Well, excuse me,” I said, trying to sound disgusted with him, but I couldn’t keep a straight face.
Max reappeared beside me and handed back my camera. He saw us laughing and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Can you believe Noelle has never been to the Igloo for a game?”
I rolled my eyes. They weren’t going to let me live this down. I tried to ignore them by turning on my camera to see the incriminating evidence; however, it was nothing detrimental, just Max with Kris, Max with Flower, Max with Megan, Nat, and Eva. As I moved from one picture to another, I smiled. I couldn’t wait to show these to Steve on Monday. He would absolutely be floored.
“I want to see,” Sidney said, as he moved beside me and looked over my shoulder. I tilted the digital screen so he could see more easily. We scanned through the pictures from the night. When we came to the first pictures taken, the ones taken by Fleury, Sid smiled. “This is a very nice picture,” he commented, regarding the one of just the two of us. “Would you mind sending me a copy?”
“No,” I said, surprised he was interested in keeping a momento of him with a fan.
“Let me give you my e-mail address,” he suggested.
“Okay.” I pulled out my cell phone, so I could type it out and save it.
“I’ll do it,” he said, taking my phone from me. “It’s too loud to try and scream it, and hope that you get it right,” he rationally added.
I don’t know why it took him so long, but he finally returned my phone. I thanked him and reassured him that I would send him the picture when I uploaded them to my computer.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago