I was dreaming that I was third in the shootout, and it was all up to me to win the big game. If I made this shot, we'd win; if I didn't, we'd lose. We were playing the Caps, the hated Washington Capitals. Ovechkin was taunting me from the visitor's bench, and I wanted to knock the rest of his teeth out. Stupid Ovie. Great 8? More like Great Ape. Sidney was in the sin bin and unable to participate in the shootout, but he told me that he had every confidence in me that I could do it. Cam Ward was in net.
It was one of those stupid dreams that makes perfect sense when you're sleeping, but full of holes once you consciously think about it.
The puck was waiting for me at center ice. I skated to it and wove my way past the blue line. And suddenly I realized, I don't know how to play hockey. I made a soft shot. Ward easily warded off the puck (ha ha, so funny!), and he pulled off his goalie mask and laughed at me with those gorgeous eyes of his, calling me a twenty-cent whore. Well, that was uncalled for! Sid would stick up for me. But Sidney left the penalty box and skated by me without a word. No one on the Penguin team would acknowledge me. They hated me. They lost, because of me. It was all my fault.
Sid nudged me awake. "Nelly, wake up. You're snoring."
I groaned. "I don't snore."
He laughed and jumped on the bed, shaking me. "You do when you sleep on your back. Come on, get up. We have brunch reservations in an hour."
"An hour?" I was very awake when I heard that. "Sidney, didn't you think I would need time to get ready?" I threw my legs over the edge of the bed. My heels were gone, and one stocking was rolled up around my ankle while the other was still in place, all the way up on my thigh. I'm sure my make-up was smeared and my hair, a rat's nest.
He looked at me and chuckled. "You never take that long to get ready in the morning."
"But look at you! You're already dressed and ready to go, and I'm a mess!" Sid was in a pair of jeans and a casual white and blue striped polo, and his hair was over gelled.
"Well, I had to go up to my room for my phone charger, so I figured I'd just shower and change while I was at it."
I grabbed the terrycloth robe that was on the floor, right where I dropped it last night. I picked it up and threw it on. "How is it you're so awake, so early?"
"Years of morning practices."
I rushed to the bathroom, despite my pang of soreness, and showered quickly, then wrapped a towel around myself. What to wear? I walked back into the room and started to root through my suitcase for the black wrap dress of Véro's that she insisted I borrow and wear. I grabbed my clothes and ducked back into the bathroom to change.
"What? Are you shy all of a sudden?" Sid laughed at my bashfulness.
"It's different when we're in the throes of passion," I giggled. "It feels weird just to walk around naked in front of you."
"You're so weird," he said, continuing to laugh.
"And you love to me tell that." I threw the dress on and tied it at my waist. I wasn't as petite as V, and my curves were definitely filling out this dress, so I looked kind of sexy while still being covered. I'd have to remember to thank Véro for all her advice for the weekend. She was dead right about everything. I scrunched my hair again and put on more make-up, knowing I had to look good. The bruise was gone, thank God! "So, what's going to happen today?"
"What do you mean?"
"We have to be going out for a reason. Someone's going to be there to see us."
"Pat didn't say. He made the reservation for this hoity-toity place, so someone will see us, but I don't think it matters who. We just need to be on our best behavior."
"Ha, 'best behavior' is objective," I joked. "I think we were on our 'best behavior' last night."
He flushed at the memory. "Yeah, well, as much as I agree with you, let's stick with the game plan, eh?"
I smiled sweetly. "You're no fun." I hooked my arm around his, and we left the hotel. We were driven to an upscale, but not too fancy restaurant a few miles from the Hilton, and were seated outside at a table underneath a large umbrella. I perused the menu, really wanting a mimosa, but deciding against alcohol so early in the morning. Not to mention that even the mere thought of champagne made my cheeks redden as I remembered last night.
Sidney loudly told me to order whatever I wanted because "nothing was too much for his girl."
"So, you learned how to deal with the media, but it looks like you should have taken some acting classes, too. You don't know how to act natural."
"Look, there's a guy with a camera across the street," he whispered. "And he's not exactly being discreet."
"Then neither will I," I told him, waving at the photographer and kissing Sid's cheek while he captured the image. "All we need to do is be ourselves, and then for sure everyone will see that things are just fine between us."
"Just fine?" he asked with that signature half-grin I loved so much.
I flashed a toothy smile right back at him. "More than just fine. Fantastic. Never better. Phenomenal!" I laughed and gestured dramatically, raising my voice and getting the attention of some of the patrons around us.
By the end of our brunch, more photographers had gathered across the street, but Sidney and I never noticed. We joked and laughed and talked, none of which was an act for anyone. We were doing this for ourselves, having a great time because we needed to forget all the drama of the past week.
And we succeeded. As Sid paid the bill, he took my hand and we headed for the exit. We decided to take a stroll and briefly explore San José, since we had time to kill before having to check out. After that, Sid and I would be flying back to Pittsburgh for the evening, because Pat would be flying into Pennsylvania to conference with us before Sid would rejoin the team in Boston on Monday. Needless to say, this was one crazy weekend.
As we walked down the block hand-in-hand, the paparazzi followed us down the street. That really dampened our collective good mood. What in the world were they hoping to get from us? Eventually, we hailed a taxi and just went back to the hotel in defeat. Pat would be proud of us: after all, we did exactly as he said and gave no one any reason to mutter one negativity about us.
I changed back into comfy clothes for the plane ride, dark blue yoga pants and a baggy yellow Pitt shirt, before packing my suitcase and taking a bite of one last strawberry. Then we went up to Sid's room so he could gather his things. Max and Marc-André were chatting in French when we walked in the door. They didn't stop talking, but they didn't switch to English either.
"Marc, s'il te plait! Dis-moi ce que j'ai fait de mal. Comment Véro aurait réagi dans cette situation? Et qu'est-ce que tu ferais pour arranger les choses?"
"Je ne sais pas. Mais la chose est, Max, elle n'est pas ta blonde. Je ne sais pas pourquoi elle ne retourne pas tes appels et je ne sais pas si tu peux arranger les choses si elle ne t'adresse même pas la parole. Au fait, la connais-tu si bien que cela? Laisse-la tranquille et peut-être qu'elle changera d'idée."
I wondered what they were discussing and tried to insert myself into their conversation. "Hey guys, good game last night."
"Merci, Noelle," Marc said. "Oh, I mean, thank you. Sorry, I was still in my French mind."
I smiled at him. "That's fine. Merci is one of the few French words I know." Marc grimaced at my horrible pronunciation, but I laughed and then asked, "What were you talking about?" Marc flashed one of his easy grins, and Max blushed. I had never before seen Maxime Talbot blush. "Maxie!" I cried. "This is about Charlotte!"
"Merde!" he muttered, wiping a hand over his face, clearly exasperated.
"I take it you haven't won her heart yet?" I winked at him, but I felt bad immediately afterward because he looked at his feet. Something was wrong. "Max, what happened?"
He shrugged, and Marc spoke to him. "You should probably be asking a girl for an opinion on this, not me." Max shrugged again and walked out of the room, mumbling something about needing to finish packing his bag.
I followed him out into the hallway. "Maxie! Max! Talbot, will you stop?" I had to run to catch up with his determined pace.
"Qu'est-ce que tu veux? Sorry, Noelle, what do you want?" he said, still thinking in French. Something must have really been bothering him, because his English was so good, and I never knew him to have trouble switching between the languages before.
"Listen, I just want to let you know that if you need to talk or need advice, you can talk to me." Max looked at me as if he was going to dismiss my offer. "You've been an unbelievable friend to me, and if I can repay the favor in any way, just let me know, okay?"
"Merci, Noelle." He kissed my cheek. "Flower's probably right. You're a girl, so you probably know what's going through her mind. Can I call you later? After we get to Boston?"
"Sure, Max, that's fine." He smiled and continued down the hallway, eventually stopping in front of the room he shared with Evgeni. I turned around and went back to Sid and Marc's room.
"Wow," Sid said. "I've never seen Talbo this worked up about a girl before. She must be something."
"It's definitely different, to see him this way. I don't know if he really likes her, or if he just doesn't know what to do since he's got to work for her," Marc semi-laughed. "Either way, I think this is good for him."
Listening to the guys only piqued my interest. I wasn't much of a gossip, but I really wanted to know what was going on between those two.
Sid haphazardly threw his things into his suitcase, and we both said our goodbyes to Marc-André and then took the elevator to the ground floor so I could return my room key and check out. As I waited at the counter for the receptionist to return with my bill, a boy no more than eight or nine approached Sidney. At first, Sid signed the kid's Reebok hat, but they were still talking as the receptionist handed me my receipt. Sid looked at me with his puppy-dog eyes, and I couldn't say no to that.
I laughed at him and held up my index finger to tease him. "No more than an hour, okay?"
He smiled and kissed my cheek. "Probably no more than five minutes, because then we'll just attract a crowd."
I sat on one of the overstuffed armchairs in the hotel lobby and wondered why the Hilton couldn't afford better lounge furniture. I pulled my book out of my bag and picked up on page 54, right where I had left off.
Ten minutes later, Sidney finished talking with the boy while his parents took pictures with their cell phones. Hell, some of the hotel employees were taking pictures, too. Everyone wanted a piece of Sidney Crosby.
We left the hotel and were driven back to the airport. Sid pulled his hat down over his face, and we made it through the airport without any major scenes. The best part of flying first class is getting to board before everyone else. We sank into our seats and prepared ourselves for the four-hour flight back home, as well as knowing we'd lose three extra hours with the time difference.
Pat would be waiting for us when we returned, and I couldn't wait to hear him say how well I managed this weekend. I wanted to rub it in his face, that I wasn't bad for Sidney or his image, and that I could handle being his girlfriend, no matter what the world threw at us.
No matter what.
Special thanks to Heleneli for the French! Merci!
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago