Megan meandered up to us. “So, this is who you’ve been going on and on about all week?” she asked nonchalantly.
Immediately, I reddened. I could feel my cheeks burning, and my eyes shot to the floor. Did she have to say that in front of him? “Sidney, meet my friend Megan. Megan, this is Sidney Crosby.”
They politely shook hands, and I noticed that Sid had colored slightly, too. Why was he embarrassed? “And I believe that you have met Max all ready.”
She nodded. “We were going down to the little girls’ room. Coming?”
I never understood why girls went to the restrooms in packs. That is, until now. “Um, sure. Please excuse me,” I said to Sid and Max. I downed the rest of my amaretto and orange juice and followed them down the stairs, where the only restrooms were. We made sure the bouncer would remember us, so we could easily re-enter the lounge.
The line was a little long, and it was too loud on the first floor to converse as we waited. Once inside, though, the girls wouldn’t shut up.
“I can’t believe it!”
“I know! First, we get invited into the V.I.P. lounge—”
“And the place is full of cute guys!”
“Not just cute, gorgeous. And built! Their muscles have muscles!”
“This is so much fun. I’m really glad we chose Diesel.”
I was glad to hear the girls were having a good time, because I felt bad for essentially abandoning them. I hoped they hadn’t noticed, but that wasn’t the case.
“I’m a little surprised at you, Noelle,” Eva said to me.
“You’ve been hanging out with what’s-his-name all night instead of partying with us.”
“I’m sorry, guys, I didn’t mean to. It just sort of happened. I thought you were right behind me when I went up to him.”
“We did get a little distracted,” Nat offered.
“Chicks before dicks,” Eva lectured.
“Woah, hold on a second there. You’re talking like there’s something going on between us.”
I hated feeling put on the spot. “No. I mean, he’s…” I looked around, hoping that no one would easily overhear us. Lowering my voice, I continued, “He’s Sidney Crosby, for crying out loud.”
“He doesn’t seem to mind,” Megan said. “In fact, he hasn’t let you out of his sight since we got here.”
“Really?” I asked. The idea slightly frightened me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, if it were true.
“Yeah,” Nat contributed.
“Don’t worry, though,” said Eva, taking her turn to add to the conversation. “He’s probably just making sure you behave yourself. You were dancing on tables, and he invited you to the V.I.P. section. So, as his guest, the way you act reflects on him. Don’t make him regret it.”
“Ok, whatever. I think he just doesn’t know what to do with me, because I’m not fawning all over him.” After a pause, I turned the spotlight on them. “And what about you guys! I think I need a mop, the way you’re drooling all over Letang. Honestly, guys, it’s disgusting.”
We all laughed, and thankfully, the three of them didn’t mention Sid again. I looked in the mirror and was a little mortified when I saw my temples slick with sweat. Running cold water from the faucet, I held my wrists under the flow and let it cool me off. Then I got a paper towel to dry off, and I also dug into my pocket for my lip gloss, which I slathered on. I rubbed my lips together—I love the feeling of lip gloss.
Once the girls were finished, we all headed back upstairs. The bouncer joked with us and told us that he didn’t remember us. We politely giggled as he finally allowed us to pass. Before we rejoined our new friends, we gathered at the bar to get our next round and also a shot.
“Jaeger bombs!” Eva suggested, to which we all quickly refused.
“Tequila?” was Megan’s idea.
“Redheaded Sluts!” I yelled, and we all agreed.
Again, I did all I could to attract the bartender’s attention. I finally felt visible when I realized the hockey players had congregated behind us.
“What’s going on, girls?” asked Max.
“We’re doing shots!” offered Nat. I could tell she wanted to ask them to partake in the drinking with us, but between us four girls and the seven of them, we certainly did not want to pay for eleven shots at club prices.
“Count us in,” said Kris. “What are we drinking?”
I felt mortified; even though they were one of my favorite shots, my auburn hair made the name too embarrassing to say.
“Redheaded sluts!” yelled Eva, to the bartender. He asked how many, and she quickly counted heads, although she counted incorrectly and told him one dozen.
As the bartender got to work, I felt Max’s eyes on me.
“What?” I said.
My face burned with heat from the blood rushing to my cheeks. What was it about these men that made me act this way?
Megan laughed and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. “Now I’d say she’s a red-faced slut!”
My mouth dropped open and I shrugged out of her embrace. “Megan! I can’t believe you!” I knew the alcohol was fueling her talk, but I was shocked at her. Luckily, Max just laughed right along with Megan.
When the bartender brought us our shots, Sid nodded, and the total was added to the Penguins’ tab. Making sure everyone had a tiny glass in their hands, we raised our shots.
“What are we toasting to?” asked Sid.
“Do your thing, Noelle,” said Eva.
“What thing?” I asked.
“You know, your toast to friends!”
“I don’t think that’s appropriate right now….”
“Oh, come on,” encouraged Max, and soon everyone chimed in with their encouragement.
“Oh, all right!” I relented. I cleared my throat so I could say the toast so all of us could hear:
Here’s to you! Here’s to me!
Best of friends we’ll always be!
But if ever we should disagree,
Fuck you! Here’s to me!
The guys laughed, for which I was thankful, and we all tilted our heads back and quickly downed the mix of Jaeger, Peach Schnapps, and cranberry juice. I licked my lips and set the glass on the counter. As if on cue, the DJ began spinning Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” which is every girl’s cue to dance and shake their butts with abandon. My friends and I were no exception, and we ran to an empty space on the floor. We had all had just enough to feel loose and fun, and we probably danced a little wilder than we normally would have. I was still aware enough, however, that the guys had formed a half-circle around us and were watching.
That didn’t last for long, as some of them joined us. I felt hands on my hips and felt a presence at my back, but I didn’t look behind me. Instead, I rocked back and forth, trying to appear like I was having a good time, but really I was unbelievably nervous. A week ago, I was an anonymous fan, only to find myself partying with members from my favorite hockey team. This was an amazing night, without a doubt, but I also didn’t want to leave them with the impression that I was a puck bunny or there with less than good intentions.
Eventually turning around, I wasn’t surprised to see that it was Max behind me. Even though I had adjusted my position, he kept his hands at my hips. I shook my head at him, and he furrowed his eyebrows questioningly. I placed my hands on his shoulders and stood on my tip-toes so I could speak in his ear.
“You know that I’m already a fan. You don’t have to convince me,” I said.
“And what do you mean by that?” he asked.
“Everywhere I go, you’re there, too, to make sure I’m having a good time. Ever since I’ve seen you play, you’ve had a special place in my heart. You don’t need to try so hard,” I teased.
He laughed, but he also put a little more distance between us. It felt good to have his attention, but it also made me feel uneasy. Max had a reputation for being a womanizer, and I certainly didn’t want to end up another notch on his bedpost. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in that, but that I had to restrain myself from letting me fall into that trap.
I kept dancing with Max for the rest of the song, but afterwards I quickly made my exit and headed back to the comfy couch in the corner. Marc was there with a girl, and he introduced me to his girlfriend, Véronique.
“Please, call me V,” she said, in an equally adorable French accent. “It’s so much easier.”
“Sure, V. It’s nice to meet you,” I said. I sat at a distance from them, because I didn’t want to impose on them. I figured they’d speak French anyway.
“It’s so weird for you to be here tonight,” he said.
I had to ask him to repeat himself, because since I wasn’t expecting him to talk to me, I wasn’t listening to what he had said.
“Yeah, it is weird,” I agreed. “But I was really surprised that he spotted me at all, and even more so that he invited me and my friends to come up here with you guys.”
“You made an impression on him,” he said. “I mean, he meets lots of people every day who are fans, but he doesn’t talk about them unless they’re particularly memorable.”
“What made me stick out?” I asked. Now I was intrigued.
“It’s hard to say. He thought it was funny that you called him someone else, and then that you had a Talbot jersey. Not a lot of people have twenty-five.”
I shrugged. “And Max seems pleased as punch that someone is rooting for him. But really, I stand by what I said. When I bought it, I thought he was underrated, and if he was only given a chance, he would show that he has the skills and heart for the game. He more than proved it playing with Malkin in the playoffs.”
V giggled, and Marc blatantly asked that I not talk about hockey. “I don’t mean to offend you, but it’s the offseason. We only have a few months to recharge. But it’s no wonder Sid liked you. He lives, breathes, sleeps hockey, and will talk about it any chance he gets.”
I thought to myself then, why did he tell me earlier that he didn’t want to talk about hockey? “Sorry, but I don’t have many people to talk hockey with, so I get excited when someone knows something about it.”
“Like I said, no wonder Sid liked you. But then again, it looked like Max did, too. You were getting pretty close on the dance floor,” Marc observed.
“What? Oh, no, that was just having fun. I kind of asked him to back off a bit,” I explained. “I’m not used to getting so much attention. But I don’t think he minded at all.” He was dancing between Megan and Nat, looking as though he had just won the lottery. “Besides, wouldn’t it be creepy to date a fan?”
V reached out and put her hand over Marc’s knee. “I’m Marc-André’s number one fan,” she said.
“But I bet you knew him from way back when, before he was a Penguin,” I reasoned.
“Oui, we were neighbors back in Sorel."
“So, you knew him before he was a famous professional athlete. I think it would be weird to date someone who already knew all about you, watches you.”
Marc shrugged. “Some people think they know you from seeing the games. But mostly, everyone is relaxed and the fans generally leave us alone. Except Sid. He always attracts the crazies.”
I looked at him, and when he realized what he had said, his face fell. “I’m not implying anything about you. I didn’t mean it that way.”
When I laughed, he seemed relieved and his wide grin quickly returned. “I didn’t think you meant that. And I’m sure that’s true. ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’”
“And crazies,” he said, and all three of us began laughing.
Sid walked over and sat beside me. His knee rubbed against my outer thigh. This time, I didn’t jerk away, but he didn’t maintain the contact. “Are you going to let me in on the joke?”
“I’m crazy,” I told him.
“Oh, and that’s all? Old news,” he said, and I loved the smile that graced his pouty, swollen lips.
“Am I that obvious?” I quipped. He laughed, and I realized that I really enjoyed making him laugh. “No, really, we were just talking hockey. I mean, I was talking hockey, and Marc politely told me to stop.”
“We like to be normal guys during the offseason.”
“Right,” I said. “Normal guys who exclusively use the V.I.P. lounge, and invite random girls up to party with them.”
He shrugged. “Normal guys with abnormal perks. Are you complaining?”
“No way! I’ll take advantage of your abnormal perks any day.” I couldn’t believe I said that, but when I gazed at Sid, he was smiling and quietly chuckling. When our eyes met, they locked, and I had trouble breaking the connection and looking away. Finally, he was the first to look at the floor.
“Would you like another drink?” he asked, standing up.
I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket to look at the time. Was it really half past midnight already? Where did the night go? “Um, just water, please.” I looked at my friends, dancing away with the other guys without a care in the world. “I think I may have to be the one driving home tonight.”
Sidney nodded and headed for the bar. I watched him walk away before I flopped backward on the couch, rested my head against the back, and puffed out my cheeks and let out a long sigh. My stomach was in knots. I couldn’t remember the last time a guy had me feeling this way. Too bad he wasn’t just a regular guy, because then maybe I could allow myself to wonder if we could make a go of a relationship.
“A nice sight, eh?” Vero asked.
“I’m sorry?” I leaned forward and looked at her and Marc. They were so cute together, holding hands, and both staring at me. That last part kind of scared me, though.
“I saw you looking at him,” she said. I just smiled and nodded, and we girls shared a moment appreciating Sidney glorious body.
Marc must have felt left out. “If only I could find a girl who would ogle me, too,” he said dreamily.
Vero nudged her shoulder into his arm. “I ogle you. There is just something other-worldly about that boy.”
I continued to smile. Otherworldly? More like heavenly. My eyes lost their focus as I pictured him in my head. I began to wonder what he would look like without the jeans, and I felt ashamed of myself for thinking such dirty thoughts. I shook my head to get that image out of my head. Marc’s face came into view.
“You like him, don’t you?” he asked. V beamed, and I knew I was caught.
I didn’t lie. “Well, sure. Who wouldn’t?”
“What are you going to do about it?” V questioned.
“What do you mean, what am I going to do about it? I’m not going to do anything about it. There’s nothing to do.”
V opened her mouth to continue, but Sidney reappeared, so she promptly closed it. I was slightly curious to hear what she had to say, but I was just as content to take my water from Sid as he sat down next to me again. His knee touched my leg again, but this time, he didn’t immediately remove it. My stomach flip-flopped.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago