Sidney and I relaxed as the plane took off, and we headed east toward Pittsburgh. The flight back home to Pittsburgh was uneventful, which is just the way I like my flights. Sid played his PSP while I jammed out to my iPod and read another portion of my book. I ignored the flight attendant as she flirted with my boyfriend, thinking to myself that I should be happy at least one person in this world didn't believe these allegations. Then I reconsidered: I couldn't win either way, because people were either going to think he was a crazed, abusive boyfriend or they were going to hit on him.
Wow. My life had really been turned upside-down in the past four months. I loved Sidney, but I couldn't stop myself from pondering about how far I had deterred from my plan. The way I left work early for games, showed up late, or left altogether because of him. I had dedicated myself to my schoolwork to get a semi-decent job right out of school, which I was fortunate enough to do. Now I was jeopardizing my position and what I worked for when I acted like this.
And the running and hiding sucked, too. This wasn't me or what I wanted for myself.
I tried not to think about it. My reality and my fairy tale life were clashing, but I still wanted to think that somehow, this would work out. I could have my cake and eat it, too. As long as Sidney was beside me, we were invincible. It was our time apart, when the fog and haze of uncertainty returned, that I got antsy and felt like I couldn't handle it.
We landed at seven, and Véro was there to pick us up. She looked anxious, but she eased as soon as she saw us walking toward baggage claim, hand-in-hand and each smiling like the Cheshire cat.
"Good weekend, guys?" she asked, and we nodded.
"Yeah, V, it was everything we needed it to be," I answered her in code. I hope she'd pick up on my secret meaning so she'd know how... successful her lingerie idea had been.
"That's good to hear." She understood.
We collected our bags and walked out to short-term lot where V had parked. She got on the eastbound highway and drove us straight to her house, and then I drove Sid and I to his house. It was a very roundabout way to get around, but I hadn't realized that Sidney would be returning to Pittsburgh before moving on to Boston for Tuesday's game.
I thanked V for the ride, and also for her help, and she waved her hand like it was nothing. "Just glad I could help. Oh, and listen. My birthday's coming up, and because of the boys' game schedule, we're going to celebrate on the thirteenth. It's a girls' night out. Are you interested in coming?"
"Of course, V! Count me in, for sure." I hugged her, said goodbye again, and got in my car.
Sid threw our bags into my trunk as I cooed to my baby, begging her to start. "Come on, please. You've been doing so good!"
"You should get a new car," he told me. "I thought V talked you into that over the summer."
"You remember that?" Wow, that was the day we played tennis together.
"Of course I do," he said with a half-smile. "Why wouldn't I remember?"
"Because that was a long time ago, and before we were dating."
"Maybe we weren't dating, but I liked you." I reminisced back to that happy time, when the feelings of infatuation were still young. We were tentative and timid, and every furtive glance and accidental touch excited and thrilled us. Oh, what I would give to go back to those simple days. "So, anyway, weren't you planning on getting a new car?"
I shrugged as my vehicle finally purred to life. "Eventually. I saved and paid cash for her, though, and she's my baby. I'm proud of her, and I'll keep driving her until she has nothing left to give. Besides, I don't want the expense of a car payment and the cost of the insurance for a brand new car. She's got at least a few more months in her, and I'll deal with it when the time comes."
Sid shot me a look, and I knew he didn't like my attitude on the matter. Too bad, I thought. We didn't all have the luxury of a job we loved, or the nice-sized paycheck that accompanies it. I had to make due with what I had. Besides, I did love my baby. She was my first big purchase after graduating; it made me feel like an honest-to-goodness grown-up.
I blasted the radio as I drove the short distance from Marc's to Sidney's. I had to blast it, because the right front speaker was blown out. Sid shook his head but shut his mouth for the ride. I pulled into the driveway behind a rental. Pat was here.
Sid jumped out and grabbed his suitcase from the trunk, leaving mine there for my drive home. He wheeled it to the front door, Pat pacing on the front porch.
"Pat, I wasn't expecting you to be waiting for us. I mean, not waiting waiting. How long have you been here?"
"Half an hour. I wanted to see you right away. Have you seen this?" Pat held out his Blackberry for Sid to see.
I walked up behind Sidney and tried to peer around him to see the image. "What's going on?"
Sid handed the PDA back to his agent. "Yeah, that's when we were leaving the San José Hilton. This kid, Brandon, came over and asked for my autograph, and I hung out with him for a little bit before we left." He found his key and unlocked the front door, dragging his bag behind him into the foyer.
Pat and I followed behind him. I meandered into the living and collapsed on the couch. Yes, I was tired from the frantic weekend schedule and two transcontinental flights in two days, but I was proud of myself for my controlled behavior. "So, Pat, tell us how the game went. And today, too. We had so much fun in California!"
"The game went fine. Nice touch, by the way, with blowing the kiss. For a minute there, I actually thought you had what it takes."
"Excuse me?" What was his problem?
Now it was my turn to see Pat's Blackberry screen. Two pictures: me, waiting at the front desk with a finger on my left hand raised; and another of Sid talking with Brandon while I read my book.
"What's the big deal?" I asked. Seriously, I wasn't getting it. "Sidney explained to you what happened."
"Okay, well, let me tell you what they're saying. They're saying that you got pissed off at Sid when this little kid approached and flipped him off."
"No!" I cried, exasperated. "I was joking and told him he had one hour." I mocked my pose in the picture, with my index finger in the air.
Pat shook his head. "I don't care what you were doing or what was going on. I care about what this looks like and what you now have people saying."
"I don't have anyone saying anything!" I was beginning to raise my voice. I was getting fucking pissed off, and I couldn't stop myself. I couldn't handle the sword of Damocles dangling over my head. And I couldn't take any more blame being placed on me. "I did everything you told me to do! I talked in front of all those cameras! I flew to Cali-fucking-fornia! I was the dutiful girlfriend! What more could you possibly want from me!"
"Nelly, baby, calm down," Sidney whispered. That was the first time Sid used my nickname in front of someone. He strode over to be near me, but I refused to let him touch me. I was frustrated and incensed, and I couldn't bear to be confined in his arms.
"I will not calm down!" I yelled at Sidney. I felt bad for screaming at him, but I in turn directed that anger back at Pat. "I have done nothing wrong! Why can't you just let Sidney and me be?"
"Don't yell at me, missy. I'm the one who's doing what's best for Sidney here, and you've been mucking it up. I've been working with the Crosbys for ten years to get Sid to where he is today. You're ruining everything we've worked so hard for!"
"Stop it! The both of you!" Sidney roared. I stopped in my tracks; I had never heard him yell like this or seen him so red-faced. Frankly, it scared me. He took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair before speaking in a forcedly calm manner, but he was evidently seething. "I am sick and fucking tired of everyone around me telling me what to do and talking about what's best for me."
I didn't know what to say. We were all at our breaking points. Something had to give.
Sid left the room and went into the kitchen. He slammed something against something, or kicked something. I don't know what he was doing, but he was making a lot of noise. Then he went down to the basement to his weight room and gym, and I heard as the treadmill kicked on. Typical Sid, running to put some distance between him and his thoughts.
I paced and gnawed on the inside of my cheek. Sidney didn't want our input. I can't blame him; his entire life had been planned out for him by those around him. It was time for him to take control. Apparently, he needed some time to think it out and make his final decision.
"Maybe you should go," Pat suggested.
"Why? I deserve to be here. Especially if you're going to place all this blame on me. Someone needs to be the scapegoat."
"Listen, I'm not saying you don't have the best of intentions—"
"Best of intentions? I love him, for Christ's sake! I'd do anything for him!"
I felt myself deflate. "Yes, anything."
"Then go home. Let Sid and I figure this out. He's made it perfectly clear that he's the one calling the shots from here on in. And he needs some time to clear his head and decide his course of action. There's nothing for you to do at this point."
Wavering, I didn't know if I should stay or go. Sidney could run for a long time before the mental fog cleared and he drained himself of his anger. He was in peak physical condition, and it took a lot to fatigue him. And I had work in the morning.
"Okay, fine." I grabbed my bag and my keys. "Have it your way. But you make sure he calls me when you guys are finishing concocting your next scheme." In my own state of fury, I left without hollering down to Sidney to let him know that I was leaving for home and without my goodnight kiss.
I got into my car, and she hesitated before turning over. It was like my car knew something I didn't, and she didn't want me to leave. Finally, I won the battle, and I backed out of his driveway and headed east. In Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, heading west meant starting a new life, and returning east equated to returning to the old ways. All day long, I had been heading east. I tried not to think about how—or even if—that logic applied to me.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago