Some of Sidney's, and Pat's, worries about the tenacity of the media toward me were unfounded. The reporters didn't pester me much. Someone got my cell number and tried calling a couple of times, but I stopped answering numbers I didn't recognize.
The stories didn't stop, though, but they were all speculation. The reporters argued, if I swore that Sidney didn't hit me, then who did? A jealous ex-boyfriend? Was I part of a secret fight club? They were just reaching, grasping, searching for something to write about. It was disgusting and appalling. I guess you never think about it until it happens to you, but I vowed to never pick up an OK! magazine or similar publications. Ridiculous.
Pat kept in contact with me, making sure that I didn't do anything stupid. Not that he put it that way, but I know that's what he meant. Regardless, I did exactly as he said. I didn't answer any questions and try to refute these bogus stories.
Throughout the week, everyone was incredibly supportive of me. Steve kept the news to himself so work remained the same. Or, he told my coworkers not to mention it around me. Either way, I was grateful to him that at least work could remain the same and serve as a reprieve from the chaos around me. Some of the guys from the team called me, too, and told me that they would back up my side of the story—especially what happened at Diesel, and that their girlfriends would verify that Lynne attacked me, and not Sidney. I told them how much I appreciated it, but that such action was unnecessary.
I logged in some overtime at work to keep my mind busy, and then I went straight home afterward. Sometimes, Eva would stop over and distract me with a few games of Boggle, but I never set foot in the public sphere. It was work and home. No dinners out with friends, no shopping, no movies, nothing. I couldn't take the stares and pointed fingers, the snickers behind my back, but mostly what irritated me were the looks of pity. That's what kept me locked away from the world.
Sidney and I made a silent pact to not bring up the ordeal. I didn't tell him about the phone calls; I let Pat relay that information to him. I wanted our relationship to be as normal as possible. As normal as a relationship with Sid could be, anyway, especially with all the tall tales being spread about us.
It was Sidney that I felt the most sorry for. As much as the reporters were leaving me alone, they were following him all over the place. Even camping outside his hotel and waiting for him after practices. Sid already left places early to escape crowds, but now he couldn't avoid anyone.
To make matters worse, the Pens lost their games against the Ducks and the Kings. Sid really lost his composure and even fought a member of the Kings during the second period of that game, and the commentators made a point of discussing his tendencies to play an emotional game with his temper getting the best of him. They said Sidney was caving under the pressure and couldn't lead his team anymore.
My heart broke for Sid with that kind of publicity. He was a great captain! And even so, he wasn't the whole team. Why should Sid be held responsible for two losses? I could hear in his voice on the phone how upset the whole thing made him, and it hurt me even worse that I couldn't be there with him to comfort him.
I talked to Max on the phone, too, and he told me how dejected Sid was. He still practiced and played with the same fervor he always did, but he wasn't himself when he was off the ice. Nothing could get through to him and snap him out of this funk. Even playing "Like a Virgin" couldn't evoke a smile from him. He just wouldn't emote.
On Friday night, V offered to take me out to get my mind off my troubles. The whole thing was perfect: I would drive into Pittsburgh on Friday, spend the evening with V and possibly the other girls, she'd take me to Pittsburgh's airport on Saturday, where I would fly out to San José for the game and then for some staged one-on-one time with Sidney. She took me to some of the stores around Pittsburgh, even though I begged her to let me hide away in her house. But V was on a mission; once she had her mind made up about something, there was no dissuading her.
"We're going shopping. You need to find something to wear that will wake up Sid."
"What are you talking about, Véro?"
"Whatever this phase he is in right now. You show up tomorrow looking hot, and things will go back to normal."
"I don't think it's that simple, V."
"Sure it is. Marc has said that he is miserable with this whole thing going on. One look at you, and he will forget about it for a while and be happy. Once everyone sees how happy you guys are together, this whole thing will be over."
I laughed. "Even if that were true, his agent told me to dress respectably."
"Hmm, that may present a problem. That's okay, you can dress however you like when you're out in public. It's what you're wearing in the hotel room that really matters anyway."
I felt so embarrassed. Was I really going to talk about this? "If you want me to 'make him happy,' I don't think I should be wearing clothes at all."
She giggled. "Good point. But lingerie is like the gift wrapping of a present. Sometimes, opening the present is just as much fun as getting the present."
I laughed as she pulled me into Victoria's Secret. How could I argue with that logic? Well, arguing my point would be easy, since Sid and I usually just tore off each other's clothing, not caring about the "wrapping." But V was incredibly persuasive. She should be a politician.
The two relationships I had been in before were temporary, and both of them knew that as well as I. Since I had never had a steady boyfriend that I tried to keep around, I never really worried about my selection of bras and panties. Not to mention that when your primary concern is paying the gas bill, you'll wear whatever you can find cheapest at Wal-Mart without complaint. Silky panties and lacy bras were a luxury I never afforded myself.
Victoria's Secret was a whole new universe to me. Sure, I had seen the commercials: wonderbras that made your tits look fantastic. Never in a million, billion years did I picture myself in something like this. I wore tee shirts and Chuck Taylors, and I only dressed up for work. And even then, it was business casual. This was too fancy and extravagant for me.
Luckily, Véro took charge and grabbed hangers from the racks, pushing me into the changing rooms. The most I had to do was tell her my sizes, and she was like a woman possessed, on a mission.
"V, hun, I don't even know how to put this on," I laughed, looking at a light blue babydoll complete with garters and little black bows. I snorted and added, "And this is considered sleepwear? This has to be the most uncomfortable thing I've ever laid eyes on."
Véro rolled her eyes at me. "You are hopeless. Just put it on and stop asking questions."
I continued, "It looks like a medieval torture device. If this doesn't work, do I get strapped to the rack? Or shoved into an iron maiden?"
As much as I mocked it, I did as I was told. Like I said, V was very persuasive. I looked in the mirror and felt like a fraud. Sid would take one look at me in this and laugh his head off.
V poked her head in, I shrieked at the intrusion, and her eyes went wide. She practically yelled, "Noelle! That is it, that's what we're getting!"
"Um, no thanks. It's nice and all, but it's just not me. I like the color though. It brings out my eyes."
"He won't be looking at your eyes."
I laughed, but I didn't believe her. "Really?"
"You're freakin' hot!" she said. "Take that off, and meet me at the register."
I fought with myself in the dressing room; not with whether or not I should buy it, but with how to take the damn thing off. It took me longer to undress than it did to put it on. After my epic struggle, I left the dressing room and saw V talking with the sales girl. She had a pair of stockings in her hand, a bottle of vanilla lotion, and a pair of black heels from the clearance rack.
The total came to $98.20. I opened my wallet and pulled out the hundred bucks I had gotten from the ATM for my trip. I couldn't believe I had to spend the money I had allotted for the entire weekend on flimsy, see-through sleepwear that I wouldn't even be sleeping in. I handed the five twenty-dollar bills to the cashier and then dug in my empty change purse for two dimes, four nickels, anything.
"Hey, V, do you have twenty cents?"
"No, all I have is my card."
"Damn, I hate having all this change." I shoved the dollar and eighty cents into my pocket. As we left the store, I made Véro carry the bag. "I'm not being seen in public with that bag. After all the things that are going on right now, I can't afford to let anyone see me walking around with a Victoria's Secret bag."
She was understanding about that, and we started back to her car. As we strolled down the sidewalk, we passed a group of people, and I couldn't help but overhear their conversation:
"That's Sidney Crosby's girlfriend?"
"I can't believe he's with someone like her."
"Well, she's probably a doormat. Someone he can push around and take his shit."
"Yeah, a veritable punching bag." They all laughed.
"Well, I'd never let my boyfriend hit me. If he touched me once, I'd be out the door."
"Yeah, I don't know why battered people stick around. It's sad, really."
Once we were out of range, I turned to Véro. "I don't know how much of this I can handle. If they just wanted to be nasty because I'm Sid's girlfriend, that's one thing. But the abusive thing? It's just too much."
V looked at me with a serious look on her face. "When I met you, Noelle, over the summer, I knew that there could be something between the two of you. There was that spark, that chemistry that is rare today. But I knew that you would be perfect for him. You have the mettle to handle this downside to being with him. He's worth it.
"He deserves someone to be there for him, to be happy for him when he wins and to comfort him through the losses. You accept him for who he is, including his job and his fame. He needs that, Noelle. They were bound to find something horrible to write about you guys. You can make it through this, I know it. When the reward is great, the stakes are higher."
I smiled at V's pearl of wisdom as we headed back to her place and pondered it. I never thought about why Sid liked me or how he needed me. No, I always thought about how fortunate I was that he deigned to spend time with me. Of course I was willing to accept him, because he was an all-around great guy. Everyone, including myself, wilted in comparison.
Kelsey and Heather showed up shortly after we did, and we ordered our typical Chinese as the girls gave me all the advice I could ever need regarding how to pull Sid out of his funk.
"I got you the vanilla lotion because vanilla is supposed to turn guys on. That, and cinnamon." Véro.
"Tease him. Take charge." Heather.
"Yeah, go slow. I mean, you only get your money's worth on lingerie as long as it's on your body." Kelsey.
"You know, guys, you make it sound so easy. That's just not me."
"You can do it." Heather.
"What the hell do I do? Dance around for him while we listen to the Pussycat Dolls?!" The girls laughed at me, I really did feel exasperated. And clueless.
"Don't be so nervous about it." Heather.
"Yeah, if he can tell you're nervous, you're done for. You have to appear to be in control." Kelsey.
"Undress him, slowly. Don't let him touch you until you can't take it anymore." Véro.
"Well, that won't take very long," I muttered with a laugh. "And what do I do? Lure him back to my hotel room and tell him, 'I'm going to slip into something a little more comfortable'?" I tried my best Kathleen Turner-esque, deep sexy voice.
"No!" Heather laughed. "That's a little predictable, don't you think?"
"Just excuse yourself and change." Kelsey.
"Surprise him with it." Véro.
"Catch him off guard, that's the best way." Kelsey.
"All you guys are doing is making me more nervous."
"We told you, you can't be nervous." Heather.
"So, then, can we stop talking about it?" I leaned back against the edge of the couch and closed my eyes. Sid had me doing some crazy things, but this was on a whole different level.
"Fine. I think the food'll be here any minute." Véro.
We spent the rest of the evening discussing other topics, but I still couldn't get my mind off the prospect of the next two days. I was going to be flying to California to see the Pens play the Sharks, but I was also going to be spending some time in the city, too. I didn't get out of Pittsburgh much, so I was looking forward to it.
However, I also knew this weekend had to be picture perfect—literally. If we had more crazed paparazzi following us, we couldn't let them see the tension being caused in our relationship. I also knew that anytime I planned for something to go smoothly, it blew up in my face. I prayed silently that this weekend would buck that trend.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago