"Come on, Nelly! Let me in!"
"No," I mumbled through tears. "I'm in the middle of a meltdown."
Sid was everything I ever could have imagined him being. We all knew how great he was on the ice, both talented and hard-working. But he was just as amazing as a regular guy. Funny, smart, loving, caring.... He was a living, breathing, walking, talking Hockey God, and here I was, dragging him down into the cesspool of us mere mortals. How could I do this to him?
I was ruining what he worked so hard for.
"I hate to be a jerk about it, but I don't have time for you to have a meltdown right now," he jokingly coaxed. "I still need to pack for the trip, and Pat and my parents are still on the line downstairs so we can figure this out. We're going to figure this out."
Positively mortified and humiliated, I just couldn't open the door. "No. I'm embarrassed now."
Sidney laughed, which was a nice change from the serious mood in which we were enveloped. "Come on, let's just finish this with Pat and get it over with. Then you can help me pack before I have to leave. Just please, unlock the door." When I hesitated still, he added with attitude in his voice, "It may be my door in my own house, but I will kick it down if you make me."
That elicited a slight giggle from me, and I reached out to unlock the door. I opened it to see him with each of his hands against the opposite sides of the door frame and leaning his weight against it.
"I'm so sorry," I apologized to him.
"For this whole damn thing. For not being able to contain myself and running away during the conversation. And for getting you into this position in the first place. I should have handled myself better, dealing with the whole psycho-bitch thing. I need to learn to keep my emotions in check."
He shrugged. "You don't need to be sorry for that. You do tend to overreact," he laughed, "but I'm the same way when I'm on the ice."
"But what if you lose your sponsors?" I asked him. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I did that to you."
"Well, we just have to see what we can do, and how the people react to it. Come on, let's go back downstairs and see what Pat suggests."
"I don't think he likes me," I said, scrunching up my face but taking his proffered arm and allowing myself to be escorted back into the mess I had made.
"He's just upset, he's a super great guy. I'm kind of his cash cow, so this is serious business for him. But I've known him for so long. I'm more than his client, I'm his friend, too."
"Well, I hope he can work his magic and get this sorted out."
We walked back into the living room and sat down, but this time he pulled me into his lap and played with my hair. Let me tell you: I hated being so spastic and emotional, but I loved how Sidney always knew how to calm me down. I leaned my head against his shoulder as he said, "Okay, we're back."
"What happened?" Trina.
"Sorry, I had a meltdown," I repeated. "This whole thing is just getting blown out of proportion, and I don't know how to handle it. Sid may have learned how to deal with the media, but I'm new at this, and I got overwhelmed."
"Well, you're going to have to learn how to deal with it, and learn fast. This is what we're going to do—"
"Don't we have a say in this?" Sidney asked. I was glad he posed that question to Pat, because I was too afraid to ask. After all, this was a mess of my own creation, so I was willing to do whatever it took to mend it.
"No," Troy explained. "I think we have a good idea here."
"You're going to issue a statement as soon as possible. I'm in the process of setting everything up at Mellon Arena—"
"Wait, like, a speech? We can't just talk to the newspapers?" I asked. I didn't know how this media stuff was supposed to happen.
"You'll be talking to reporters, but only to give your statement. You are not to field any questions. I'm informing the local media as well as some of the bigger names, like ESPN and Versus—"
I interrupted again. "So, we're going to be in front of cameras?"
Pat sighed. "Yes. Listen, hun, Sid can fill you in on all the details. I'm just letting you know what you're supposed to do. You'll each give a statement. I want you dressed appropriately. You are not to answer any questions asked by anyone. Sid can explain all that kind of stuff to you, he knows the drill. Got it so far?"
"Yes," Sid and I mumbled simultaneously.
"Good. Now, Noelle, we are going to fly you out to San José for the game on Saturday. You will be there to play the role of the good, supportive girlfriend during the game. I don't know what the team schedule is like for you Sid, but you don't play Boston until Tuesday, so you're going to spend time with Noelle in San José on Sunday. Take her to brunch or whatever, but make sure it's respectable. You will hold hands, smile, laugh, and look happy, and absolutely nothing inappropriate, you hear?"
We agreed again.
"Good. Your statements will be prepared—"
"Wait," I interrupted again. Blame my ignorance, but I didn't like the sound of this. "We don't even get to figure out what we want to say? We just have to go along with everything, and do whatever you say?"
"You don't have a choice here, Noelle," Pat continued. "Even if you wanted nothing to do with him at this point, I would still make you go through with this. You're going to say that this accusation is baloney, and you're going to prove that by staying by his side until this whole thing blows over. That's the best way to show that he's not a crazy, abusive guy that is ruining your life."
"But can't I write something myself? Something that comes from the heart. If someone else does it, then it will just sound fake and pretentious."
"Only if you can get it okayed by me before the press conference. I won't have you go on camera and say something that will only make matters worse. You've already gotten us into quite the pickle."
"That's fine," I said, agreeing to that.
"Okay, so take some time to compose yourselves and steel yourselves for what lies ahead. This isn't going to easy, but if we nip it in the bud, maybe it won't be long before this gets swept under the rug and everyone forgets. I'll call you when everything's set up and you can head over to give your statements. "
"All right. You'll hear from me shortly." There was a click on the line as Pat disconnected, while Trina and Troy stayed on to talk to us. They were very quiet while Pat spoke, so I could only imagine what they were going to say. More like chastise us.
Troy let out a deep breath. "I can't believe this, son."
"We never imagined—"
"I know, you never imagined something like this would happen. But you've just got to be more careful. You never know what people's intentions are. You've got to watch yourself always. I'll let this slide for you, Noelle, because you probably had no idea what you were getting yourself into, but you both have to have spotless reputations from here on in."
He was going to let this slide for me? What was that supposed to mean? I couldn't get a word in between Sid and Troy.
Sid replied, "Really, Dad, we didn't expect any of this to happen. I know it seems like a big deal, but it was just a bunch of little things that snowballed overnight into this disaster."
"Troy, they're just kids," Trina said. "It doesn't matter how this happened, just that it did happen, and now we'll do all we can to fix it. Things always work out in the end, so keep that in mind, you two," she told us.
"Thanks, Mom," Sidney sighed, still playing with my hair.
"Just... act better, okay?" Troy instructed us.
I had to suppress a laugh. Act better? That's all it took? Gee, why I didn't I think of that? "Yes, sir, of course." I quietly slapped my forehead for calling Sid's father "sir."
Troy chuckled. "Now, there's no need to 'sir' me. I'm happy for the two of you, and I realize that you're probably head-over-heels infatuated with one another, and you think you're invincible. I wish you the best, really I do, but you just can't forget about what we worked so hard for."
He didn't need to say it; I understood the meaning behind Troy's words. He was telling Sidney that he couldn't let one relationship interfere with his professional life. No matter what we thought we had, it wasn't worth compromising his entire future.
Remarkably, that was my own philosophy regarding Sidney. As much as I liked Sid, I had to remind myself that I couldn't let him interfere too much with my own life. I had told myself that before, as well as the promise I made to myself that I would find a way to fit into his hockey world and not the other way around. It was so hard not to get carried away, though. Someone once said that love is blind; well, love was also blinding. I wanted to ignore all the bad aspects and pretend they didn't exist, just so I could lose myself in Sid.
Trina and Troy were perfect complements to the other. Troy was stern and commanding. It was obvious that he loved he son—no one could ever doubt that—but he showed it by directing his son in the right direction and pushing him to be his best. He vaguely reminded me of the kiddie pageant moms, who sacrifice everything for their girls and do anything for the sake of the crown and sash. Troy definitely wasn't that bad, but he was the source of Sidney's focus and drive.
Trina, on the other hand, supported her son by fostering Sid's perspective that life consists of—gasp!—more than just hockey. She reminded us all that Sidney was a person, and he shouldn't have to change who he was just because of what he did for a living. Sid deserves as normal of a life as he could manage, she said. "We all knew he'd have to start seriously dating someone eventually, because I want grandkids down the road. I'm not saying that to pressure you, Noelle, I'm just saying that I want little ones around to spoil some day. And we all knew that when this started happening, it wasn't going to be easy, no matter what girl he chose."
I let Sidney wrap up the conversation with his parents, and afterward we just sat there in silence for a while. I was still resting my head on his shoulder, and he was still twirling some of my curls around his fingers. If only we could stay like this forever.
Finally, I broke the silence. "I'm really sorry, Sid."
"Will you stop apologizing?" He tried to sound comforting, but I could hear the stress in his voice.
"Sorry," I mumbled, and we both kind of laughed at that, halfheartedly. A few more moments passed before I spoke again. "I just feel so bad about this whole thing. It never should have happened, and it never would have happened if I hadn't been around."
"Don't say that," he said. He stopped playing with my hair and turned serious. "Listen, it sucks that this is happening, but don't ever talk like that. You're not doing me any favors by thinking that way. I'm pissed off about this, but the only way I'm gonna get through it is if you're with me. Let's just get through today, okay? And take it one day at a time."
I knew he was strained. This was hard on him, too—of course it was. After all, this was his life that was being turned upside-down and inside-out. And here I was, being selfish like always, making him comfort and soothe me when I let my feelings get the upper hand. That had to change. I had to be strong for him, because he needed me to be. Sid was worried about his future, and I shouldn't be making him console me. I needed to get my act together for him.
I tousled a lock of his hair, kissed him on his cheek, and stood. Operation Stay Strong commences now. "Okay. So, I hope this is appropriate for a press conference?" I spun in a circle, even though Sid had seen my outfit before—it was the same brown slacks and fitted top I wore to the barbecue to meet his parents.
"Yeah, Nelly, you look fine."
"All right. Why don't you change and start packing for your road trip? We can't do anything until we hear from Pat, and I need to work on my statement so he can approve it."
Sid nodded and got off the couch. He kissed my left cheek and headed upstairs without a word. I got the feeling that he felt out of place and needed the direction. We were both clueless, but I grabbed the reins. I reflected on the night of our first kiss, when Sid said he liked a girl who could take charge. Well, that was exactly what I was doing. If this were an issue regarding the team on the ice, he would know what to do. But how does anyone go about fixing a mess like this?
Well, that would be my responsibility. I set up my laptop on the coffee table and sat on the floor. I cracked my knuckles and hovered my fingers over the keyboard. Throughout school, I had done plenty of writing for my classes, and I was learning the art of writing legal arguments. But this statement? This would have to be a masterpiece.
As my fingers tapped away, I heard Sidney moving around in his bedroom. Drawers were being slammed, his suitcase thrown around, and he was cursing. The noises seemed deafening, ringing in my ears, even though the sounds probably weren't that loud. He was furious, and I couldn't blame him. Everything he had built around himself was crumbling. I may not have planned for it to happen, but I was the catalyst. I felt horrible, and the worst part of it was that I didn't know if he was angry at me or at the situation itself. In addition, I promised myself to be strong, so I couldn't ask him for reassurance either.
Legal action taken against libel and defamation of character has more down sides than ups. First of all, awarded damages are minimal. And taking action to combat slander often just draws more negative attention and really does the plaintiff no good in the public sphere. No, the best evidence to contest these allegations is the truth, which is where the problem currently lies.
This was all Lynne's fault. Sure, it's not polite to point fingers, but can you blame me? Let's place the blame where it belongs—this is all that stupid psycho bitch's fault. But, as I was slowly finding out, dealing with the media is an art form rather than a science, and we couldn't look like we weren't accepting responsibility for our action. We couldn't say that this story is false because of something; we just had to say it wasn't true, act in a manner conducive to that statement, and hope everyone believed us.
I hated everything about this stupid plan, but I admittedly knew nothing about being in the spotlight and under a microscope. I had to rely on the advice of Sidney's agent and do as he bade, because I couldn't screw this up for Sid. Not again.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago