If my relationship with Sidney were a person, it would have a neurosis. Specifically, it would be manic-depressive. Sure, every relationship has ups and downs; but our ups were sky-high, and our lows reached the pits of hell.
And this was definitely the lowest of the low.
I'm not one for the overly dramatic, but Sidney was right in saying that I tend to overreact. I can generally keep my emotions in check, unless something drastic happens, and then everything slams into me at once. This was one of those times. In a frenzied lapse of judgment, I locked myself in Sidney's hallway bathroom and refused to come out despite his pounding on the door. Honestly, I don't know how I get myself into these situations. I don't know how I'm going to get out of it, this time.
* * * * *
Even though I had unintentionally put Sid on the spot, he positively wowed my parents with his charm and poise. As always, he was the perfect gentleman. He smiled when he knew he should, laughed at my father's awful jokes, and subtly flirted with my mother. Sidney simply knew how to handle people, be they reporters, fans, or his girlfriend's parents. He was amazing.
I walked him to his car, and I was delighted to see him just as nervous as I was after meeting the Crosbys. "So, did they like me?" he asked.
"We'll talk about you once you're gone," I responded, mocking the reply he gave me when I asked just that question. "But all indications point to yes." I kissed him before continuing, "Call me when you get to Anaheim tomorrow, please?"
"Sure thing, babe. I'll probably call you before we leave, too."
I smiled at him. "You know you don't have to do that."
"What? Are you saying you don't want me to call you?"
"No, I mean, you don't have to check in. I just want to know you got there okay."
"And that's not checking in?"
I scrunched up my face and laughed. "I mean, I don't need to know where you are all the time, or what you're doing. I like when you call just to talk, to tell me about your day, to listen to me complain about work, you know, the mundane stuff."
"You make it sound so boring."
"It is," I laughed again, giving him my philosophy. "But that's what lasting relationships rely on. Your life may be super exciting, but mine isn't. And if you can find someone that has fun with you during the everyday crap, then that's a person worth sticking with."
"That's what it takes to grow old with someone?"
"Yup. It's about enjoying life's simplest moments together. I mean, if you can only have fun with someone when things are going great, you'll be miserable when things take a turn for the worse. My office manager says that all the time about how he picked his wife. It's a nugget of wisdom."
Sid laughed at me. "You're weird. But I think you're right." He kissed the top of my head as he hugged me. "I'll call you when we land tomorrow. Goodnight. I love you, Nelly."
"I love you, Sidney."
My heart fell a little when he drove off, but I knew that I needed him to go. I needed some time to get my head on straight.
I went back in the house to see my father, oblivious to everything, sitting in the living room and watching The History Channel. My mother was in the kitchen, making a cup of tea. "So, what did you think?" I asked her.
"He seems like a very nice boy," she said. "And you're right: he looks just as good in person as he does on T.V."
"So, does this mean you approve of your daughter's boyfriend?"
She smiled. "Yes, I do."
I grinned back. "Great. Because I invited him over for Thanksgiving."
"And when were you planning on telling me this?"
"Right now," I laughed. "I asked him last weekend."
"So, I take it you worked through your problems?"
I paused. "Yeah, I think so. It's still not going to be easy, but it's the quiet days like today that really make me appreciate him."
That was the truth. He was so many things in one: the guy on the ice with his head in the game, the guy in front of the cameras saying all the right things, the guy with his teammates just wanting to be one of the guys, and the guy with me who was everything I could have ever wanted. I loved all those parts of him.
Before I knew him, I admired his dedication and drive for the game. It was great that we had the world's best player on the Pens, but it was even better how he could push his teammates to new levels, too. With those guys on the Pittsburgh team and a captain like that to inspire them, we were going to keep the Cup in town for a long time.
Now that I knew him, I admired his perspective. He was still the greatest player, but you wouldn't think that by talking to him. He was down-to-earth and humble—and that wasn't all an act. I thought back to when I thanked Trina and Troy for their contribution to the hockey world. I made a mental note to thank them for raising such a wonderful man. It was an honor just to get to spend some time with him.
So even though I thoroughly enjoyed the perks that came along with being with Sidney, including tickets to the games and hanging out with the team (which was any fan's dream), I liked the quiet times we spent together most of all, when he was a regular guy who just happened to be the man I loved.
And let's face it: his hot athletic body didn't hurt things, either.
I slipped away into my room and fell into bed, which smelled like him. I pulled the pillow against my face and inhaled deeply. This meant I was going to sleep well tonight—just as well as I would when I stayed at his house.
I woke up a little early and packed away my laptop and a book in my carrying bag. Since Sid would be on a road trip for the next week and a half, I was going to get back to my regular, pre-Sid routine, which today would involve hanging out at Panera Bread after work for a few hours.
The commute to work seemed longer than usual, even though it took the usual fifteen to twenty minutes. I pulled into the parking lot to see that everyone else—except the boss, of course—was already there. I ran into the building and took the stairs two at a time, thinking I was late.
Huffing and puffing as I got to my desk, I bade Steve a good morning. I dropped my bag next to my desk, regretting it as I heard the clunk of my laptop, and turned on my work computer.
"Shit, Noelle! Your face is black and blue!" I groaned as he said that. Friday felt like ages ago; I didn't think about it, except when I had to look in the mirror, and I hated the prospect of digging up those emotions again by retelling the story. Steve continued before I explained. "I can't believe Sidney did that to you. You should take some time off, if you need it."
A million thoughts ran through my head as I stood like a statue. How did Steve know about Sidney? I never told him that I knew him, past our meet-up at Diesel. Wait—he thinks he did this to me? Why would Steve ever think Sidney Crosby hit me?
"What are you talking about?" I finally managed to say.
"You don't know?" His eyebrows were practically in his hairline. I shook my head and he waved me over to step behind his desk. He pulled up the Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo!. None of the stories about me had come from such a highly-viewed source. Then again, this was front-page material.
Sidney Crosby: NHL Poster Boy No More
It looks like Sidney Crosby's reign as the puck bunny's wet dream is coming to an end, as photos from this weekend surfaced, which reveal a side of him we'd never thought existed.
The images speak for themselves. The first shows Crosby in a liplock with a girl that is definitely not his current girlfriend. The next shows Crosby and his supposed girlfriend, who a source close to the couple says is Noelle Lambert, a 24-year-old legal assistant from Westmoreland County, which is located outside of Pittsburgh. They are obviously engaged in a fight, since he has a hold on her and she looks angry. Those two photos were taken on the 24th. The third picture was taken at the game this past Saturday night, where Lambert is sporting a nasty bruise.
While there is no picture that shows Crosby actually hitting his girlfriend, we can all see how the situation has escalated over the past weeks. First, she catches him kissing another girl, confronts him, and he is none too happy. He let his temper get the best of him....
I couldn't read the rest. What a bunch of bullshit! Closing my eyes, I tried to take a few deeps breaths and calm myself. Steve quickly offered me his seat, because he thought I was hyperventilating and was about to pass out.
"This is all a lie," I told him. Suddenly, it was very important for me to convince Steve that this wasn't the way I spent my time outside of work. "First off all, she kissed him. And she's the one that hit me, not him! Sid would never do that!"
Steve shook his head. I knew that he believed me; he was just having trouble taking in all this information. With due respect, that was a lot to register in one morning. He didn't even know we were friends. "So, how did this all happen?"
"I don't know." I held my head in my hands. So many things were going on that I couldn't think straight. "I mean, it's like every time we go out somewhere, there's a camera pointed at us. I never even notice when they take these pictures. Obviously, I was busy."
"So I take it he doesn't know about these accusations yet? I mean, if you didn't know about them...."
I leapt out of Steve's chair and dug into my purse for my cell. My hand was shaking as I pressed and held the number seven. I made him number seven on my phone, since his name began with an S, and I was glad I did. My hands were shaking so badly that I would never have been able to dial the number or scroll through my contacts.
The phone rang a couple of times before I heard Sid answer. He didn't even let me say a word at first. "Nelly, I know all about it. Pat called this morning, and I've been stuck on with him since then. I'm so sorry to ask this, but is it possible to get together now? Pat wants to talk to you."
"I'm at work—"
"Go," Steve told me.
I put my hand over the mouthpiece. "But I have things I need to get done."
"Take it with you, make up the hours somehow. But this is something you need to handle."
I nodded to him, unsure if I should thank him or not. I agreed wholeheartedly that this situation needed to "handled," but I wasn't sure that I liked that Sid asked me to forgo work or that I liked how easily Steve could dismiss me. I removed my hand and spoke to Sidney. "Yeah, I can do that. Do you just want me to come over?"
"If you could, that would be great. Pat wants to talk to us and my parents. 'Major damage control,' he calls it. He's on the other line, I've got to get back to him."
"Okay, I'll be there ASAP, but it may be a while, depending on traffic." I grimaced at the thought of rush-hour traffic. It was worse than the traffic on game days.
"That's fine. I'll see you when you get here. Love you." He hung up.
I looked at the phone in my hand, the screen flashing call ended. Despite everything swirling around in my head, the worst part of my day was how routine he made that sound. "Love you." That made it sound like goodbye; it was supposed to be something you meant every time you said it. He didn't sound like he meant it.
Snapping out of my thought, I shoved my phone into my pocket and began to scramble around the office, grabbing files and my USB drive. I barked at Steve to print out that article, and I shoved everything into my bag and headed out the door.
"What are you going to tell the boss?" I asked Steve, poised to leave.
He shrugged. "You had a family emergency, but you'll be logging in some hours when you get a break. Don't worry about it, Noelle. Just fix this, okay? For your sake, and for the Pens'," he joked. At least, I think it was a joke. Steve was the biggest fan I knew.
I was out the door and in my car, slowly making my way into Pittsburgh. As soon as I got to Sid's house, I was thrown into the storm. Sidney put his phone on speaker, set it on the coffee table, and then sat himself on the couch. He patted the cushion beside him, and I joined him.
"Okay, she's here," he said, and the voices flowed from the phone speaker.
"What were you thinking?" That came from a voice I didn't know, so I assumed it was Pat Brisson, his agent.
"Is there any truth to this story?" Troy.
"Of course there's no truth to it!" Sid replied, agitated.
"Then what's the deal with these pictures, Sidney?" Trina.
Sid ran his hand through his hair. "The blonde in the picture is Gogo's girlfriend. I mean, ex-girlfriend. She just accosted me at the bar, and then Noelle and I got into a fight about it. A week later, that bitch—"
"Sidney!" his mother interjected.
"Sorry, that stupid girl shows up at Tyler's and ends up attacking Noelle. That's what happened."
"Are you okay, Noelle?" Trina.
"Yes, I'm just bruised. But I'm fine," I answered.
"And you didn't think to tell any of us?" Pat.
"No. This is personal, it has nothing to do with anything you needed to know about."
"This is something we definitely needed to know about."
"But this is slander! Libel! Defamation of character!" Sid yelled.
"No, it's not," I muttered. Sid looked at me like I was crazy.
"She's right, Sidney," Pat said. "You were written about in a blog, which is a personal opinion. Haven't you read it? It doesn't say anywhere that you really did it, just that it looks that way. These editors know how to weave a story while covering their own asses. And honestly, after looking at these pictures, I can see where some people may come to that conclusion."
"Sidney!" Trina scolded again.
"Sorry, Mom," he said, running his hand through his hair but not looking apologetic at all. "They're making something out of nothing."
"We need to issue a statement yesterday. Because today is too late to clean this up." Then I knew why Pat was so upset. "I hope your sponsors don't drop you."
"They can do that?" I asked.
"Yes!" Pat fervently explained. "He has morals clauses!"
"But it's simply not true," Sidney naïvely said.
"That doesn't matter," Pat said, dominating the conversation. "In deciding on whether or not to drop you, the sponsors are going to look at public opinion, not fact."
"But what about Michael Phelps?" I thought out loud. "I mean, most of his sponsors kept him after that picture of him hitting a bong spread like wildfire. They said it was a private matter, and thereby a non-issue. So how is this different?"
"This should have never happened in the first place," Pat said.
I was angry and bitter. Pat made it sound like it was my fault. Well, it was my fault. I overreacted and fought with Sid. And I never should have allowed that confrontation with Lynne to happen. Sure, it felt good at the time, but it was making me miserable now. So it may have been my fault, but he made it sound like I did this all on purpose. "How I was supposed to know this was going to happen?" I asked.
Sid backed me up. "Things just got out of hand. We tried to keep it quiet. And I never expected this would happen. If anything, I was worried that Lynne would go public about Noelle hitting her. We know that this was the kind of thing Lynne would pull, but I never imagined it on this scale."
"You hit her?" Trina asked me.
"She came at me first," I mumbled. Everything was getting messed up, jumbled and jostled until it was unrecognizable. These pictures and this story were not indicative of our relationship. Not even close. How could anyone even think that? This could ruin Sidney, and his sponsors might abandon him—not to mention how the team would react. And it was all my fault! My head was reeling and I couldn't concentrate on anything I couldn't hear voices everything around me was getting blurry running together until nothing ended only blending in with everything else until
I was in the bathroom, running cold water from the faucet to splash my face and cool me off. Still, I couldn't think straight. I heard Sidney bounding up the stairs, and I panicked and locked the bathroom door. My head needed to clear before I could see him. He would only confuse me more.
The knob wobbled as he tried to open the door but couldn't. "Nelly, what are you doing? Are you okay? Don't do this. Let me in!"
But I couldn't. I couldn't move, I couldn't speak, I couldn't think. How could I have screwed this up?