I was anxious and nervous and excited, and probably a million other things, too. Because of the way the holidays fell this year and when I had handed in my two week's notice to my now former boss, that hell was behind me and I was currently "between jobs."
It was the day before Christmas Eve, and I was in the stands, cheering on my boyfriend as they were tied with the Sens. I was in my jeans and Crosby jersey, topped off with a red Santa Claus hat. During the stoppages of play, tidings of holiday wishes were displayed on the jumbo-tron. It was adorable to see some of the guys with their families. I wondered if someday, that would be me and Sid. Oh shit, Noelle, don't start thinking like that now! Something about the holidays always left me feeling joyful and jolly. Thank God none of the guys started singing Christmas songs with my name in it... that always ruins my holiday spirit.
The girls and I talked about our various plans for the next few days, but we all were going to Canada. Véro and Marc-André were going back to Sorel; Heather and Jordan were heading up to Thunder Bay; and Tyler and Kelsey were going to Sault Ste. Marie. "Sometimes, the guys don't get this much of an extended break," Heather explained. "It's really nice that they get the time to go home for Christmas."
I didn't realize that the holidays would be so hard for the guys. I mean, even if they didn't have the time to make it home, surely their families could come out and join them. But then I thought about the Staals. The holidays must be hard for them. And even for "normal" families too, with work schedules and traditions. No wonder Trina was so excited for Christmas this year.
The game went into overtime, and Guerin got the game-winning goal. The guys tried to hurry through their interviews; everyone was anxious to get out of the arena and go home, wherever that may be, and gear up for the holiday.
Sid and I met in the lounge, and he practically dislocated my shoulder as he tugged on my arm to leave. "Ouch! What's the deal? Canada will still be there. It's not like they turn people away from the border at midnight."
"I know, I'm just so excited. I get to show you my home. I kinda feel like there's this whole side of me you don't get to see, and now you finally will."
"You mean the Canadian side? I see that all the time, eh," I teased him.
"But I mean, like, where I grew up. My grandmothers, my childhood friends. And I get to introduce you to my other favorite girl." I gave him a puzzled look when he said that. His other favorite girl? I had met Taylor, and it was no secret how he adored her. Who was he talking about? "Sam, my yellow lab. My family takes care of her during the season. And even though I have my own place now, instead of living with Mario, it didn't make sense to bring her down to Pittsburgh since I travel so much. If Sam likes you, then I know for sure that you're a keeper," he added with a wink.
Sid really was impatient to leave. We hurried to his car and he raced to the airport, where a charter flight was waiting to whisk us away to our frozen paradise. It felt so romantic and extravagant. We tried to sleep a bit on the plane, but it seemed like by the time I had calmed down enough to relax, we were getting ready to land at Halifax International Airport.
As we took a cab from the airport to his lakeside house in Enfield, I asked what Christmas would be like. I didn't know what to expect. "Is it a small thing? A big thing?"
He was tired, and I knew he really didn't feel up to talking, but he tried to appease me. "Well, the night of Christmas Eve, it's just us. And then presents in the morning, breakfast, and then everyone else comes over to hang out and have dinner. Taylor's playing a game on Boxing Day, and I'm really excited to go to one of her games. I really wish I could see more of them and support her like her big brother should."
I didn't respond; I think I was too choked up to. I just looked at him in amazement. I mean, I knew that he and Taylor were close, but any other twenty-two-year-old would be too busy to attend his thirteen-year-old sister's games.
"What?" he asked me, noticing that I was staring. "Is there anything on my face?"
"No," I sighed. You're just perfect, I thought.
We were so exhausted that we practically collapsed as we got to Sid's. The cabbie let us out at the gate, where Sid punched in the code, opened the gate, and helped me drag our collective suitcase to the front door. Once inside, we sunk into the couch and fell asleep, unable to even make it to the bedroom.
When I woke up, I was draped across Sid's chest like a blanket, and I was using him as a pillow—complete with drool. I hoped he wouldn't notice the big wet spot on the front of his Reebok hoodie as I pushed away to search for the kitchen and the coffee pot, but Sid wrapped his arms around me and kept me in place. "Don't get up yet. I'll be cold."
I laughed. "I'm not your personal space heater, Crosby."
"Five more minutes," he said with eyes closed.
"If you're that tired, just go up to bed. You'll sleep better there than on the couch."
His lips curled into a suggestive smile. "I don't sleep as well without you. And if I take you upstairs with me, then we'll just have to break in that bed since we haven't had sex in it yet. So there will be no sleeping going on."
"Whatever. Stay here then. So, what's on the agenda for today?"
"You mean, besides breaking in my bed?"
I playfully pushed on his shoulder. "One-track mind."
"Well, there's no food in the house. So I'm thinking Tim Hortons for breakfast."
"I've never been to one," I told him.
His eyes flew open, and he stared at me. "Never?" I shook my head. "Well, that's it. Get up. We're going."
Sid and I showered together, had wet and sleepy sex on his bed to make him happy—and me too, and then we dressed and were out the door. He yelled at me when I equated Timbits to doughnut holes, telling me that Timbits were so much better. After breakfast, we drove the half hour to his hometown, and he showed me where he played hockey, the route he'd run every morning when he was home, his old school, and then we ended up in front of his parents' house.
I wasn't expecting to have to see them so soon, but I realized that Sid was bubbling with anticipation to see his family again. And they were equally excited to see him again, too. At first, I felt like an outsider as they rushed to embrace him, until Trina hugged me. "It's good to see you again, Noelle. We've been looking forward to this for a long time now."
"It's really great to see you, too, Mrs. Crosby," I said.
"Please, I told you, it's Trina. I'm happy that you could make it. For a while, we weren't sure if you'd come, after the death of your—"
"Mom," Sid scolded, shaking his head.
"No, it's okay," I told them both. "I mean, no it's not okay that he's gone, but I made the commitment to be here, and I was looking forward to this, too." I didn't add that I knew spending Christmas in Cole Harbour was going to be a lot easier than spending it at home, missing Grandpa.
The rest of the day passed by quickly. I helped Trina in the kitchen as she baked cookies, I gave Taylor some pointers on her Julius Caesar essay, and I even awkwardly conversed with Troy. Sam and I had been properly introduced, and she licked my hands, which was a good sign. It was a quiet day spent with his family, but I was exhausted by nine.
"Noelle, you look like you're about to drop," Trina laughed. "Sid, honey, why don't you show her up to your room?"
"I don't want to be a drag," I told them. Honestly, who goes to bed at nine?
"It's fine, tomorrow will be busy," she assured me. "You'll need your rest."
I went up to Sid's room, and the place instantly brought a smile to my lips. I knew that this room hadn't been touched since probably before he left home to billet for juniors. There were posters of Patrick Roy and Kirk Muller on his walls, as well as one of Mario and the Cup. Looking at that now, I had to laugh. On his old dresser was a new picture, one of Sid on his day celebrating with Lord Stanley. I ran my fingers over the image of him in his perfectly pleated dress pants, a polo shirt which is tucked in to his waistband, and a blue hat. It makes me happy and proud, even though I want to tease him for his choice of clothing.
Sid wrapped his arms around my stomach, and I leaned back against him. "Are you going to tell me you want to break in this bed, too?" I asked him, eying the full-sized mattress in the corner.
He laughed. "This coming from you? Who didn't even want to stay at my place while my parents were visiting?"
I pulled Sid's arms farther around me. I was tired and he was making me feel warm, so I felt the first wave of sleep start to tug on my eyelids. "It wasn't an invitation. I just figured you'd tell me that. I'm exhausted."
"I know." He handed me a pair of sweats and a Rimouski shirt, then helped me redress before tucking me into bed. Once I was under the covers, he curled up next to me and smoothed his hand over my hair. Slumber was impending. "I'm excited for tomorrow."
When I woke up on Christmas morning, I was alone. Apparently, all the Crosbys are early risers.
I padded down the stairs to the sight of everyone sitting around the lit tree. I was an only child, so I never knew what it was like to spend Christmas with a real family, taking turns opening presents, sharing the moments. I thought that this was going to be a lot of fun.
Sid stood when I reached the bottom of the staircase. He kissed me good morning and wished me a merry Christmas, which I returned and said to the rest of the family. I was an observer, watching as wrapping paper flew and smiles cracked their faces in half.
"It's your turn," Trina said, handing me a present from under the tree.
I looked at her, then at Sid, who shrugged at me. I could've killed him—I asked him, and he said that his parents weren't going to get me anything. All I brought them was bottle of wine for welcoming me into their home. But the way Trina was smiling at me made me act graciously, and I accepted and opened the gift. His parents bought me a beautiful, blue cashmere sweater.
"Okay, my turn," Sid added, handing me a long, slim box. Immediately, I knew it was jewelry. "I ordered your other present, but it didn't arrive yet," he explained.
I looked at the tag attached to the wrapping paper: To Nelly, from SC. "SC?" I laughed at him.
Sid smiled and shrugged. "Could be from Santa Claus."
"Or Sidney Crosby. Either way, I guess I'm pretty lucky," I replied, appreciating his grin directed at me as I untied the ribbon and and ripped off the paper, struggling to get through all the tape. He had definitely wrapped this himself. I then opened the box, and as a result couldn't breathe or speak. I knew when I got the box that it was jewelry, but I wasn't expecting the white gold, sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet inside. "Sid...."
He scooted next to me, took the bracelet from the box, and began to fasten it around my left wrist. "I know that you might think it a little much, but it reminds me of you. The blue matches your eyes. So even if you're mad, please please please don't yell in front of my parents."
"No, Sid, I love it," I told him. I wasn't going to yell at him on Christmas. "I do take it that this is my extravagant present, and not the thing I needed?" I joked.
He smiled and kissed me chastely, rubbing his thumb around my wrist where the bracelet caught the light and sparkled.
"Um, can you guys stop making googly eyes at each other? I'd like to eat breakfast now, and you guys are making me lose my appetite," Taylor said, making me laugh.
My Favorite Five (2015)
1 year ago