"I'm really embarrassed," I told him.
"It's okay," he assured me.
"No, I mean, I just did it because I thought it would be funny and cute, but you outdid yourself, and now...." I bit the inside of my cheek.
"Nelly, it's okay. I'm sure I'll like it regardless."
I knew that he was just going to laugh, or worse, roll his eyes, but I handed over the box and closed my eyes. I didn't need to see his reaction to his lame-ass present. He was laughing. I knew he'd think it was stupid. "I just thought—"
"I love it, Nelly," he said, pulling the tie out of the box, wrapping it around his neck, and beginning to tie it. As he finished, I reached out and straightened it. "Did you have to get it specially made?"
It was a simple design, a plain black tie with white Reebok symbols patterned in diagonal rows. "Yeah. Believe it or not, but Reebok isn't in formalwear yet. And I just realized that the only time you don't wear Reebok is when you're in a suit before or after the game. It was a silly idea."
"I think it's hilarious," he said with a kiss.
"I know, but..." I tried to vocalize how stupid I felt at that moment, especially when the arm of mine that was outstretched in his direction sparkled with gems and precious metal.
"You're thinking about it too much," he assured me.
I nodded and pushed the thought out of my mind. It's not like I had a lot of time to ruminate on it anyway. Grandma Forbes and Grandma Crosby showed up shortly after I changed into my new sweater, and I did my best to not be awkward. I wasn't sure what to say to them. Catherine didn't watch hockey, because she was too worried to see Sid get hurt, and I hated that line of thinking. I didn't want him to get injured either, but if I let myself worry all the time, I'd never want to see him play. I loved hockey too much to not let Sid play, and I loved Sid too much to want to stop him from doing what he loved.
So instead I tried to talk about something else, but I wasn't sure what common ground I had with these women besides Sid. It wasn't like we didn't get along, because we probably would, but we just couldn't get a conversation going. After what felt like an eternity, Sidney saved me and asked if I wanted to step outside for some air.
"You looked a little overwhelmed," he told me as we tromped around in the fresh, white snow.
"I like your family, it's just a little much to take in all at once."
He laughed, knowing exactly how I felt because of his experience at Thanksgiving with my relatives. "It's not that bad."
"No, I'm just really worried about making a good impression. I want them all to like me."
"No one's not liked you yet, have they?" he asked. I gave him a funny look for his choice of words. "Shut up, you know what I mean."
While he wasn't looking, I dug up some snow and packed it into a snow ball, pelting him in the shoulder while his back was turned. It was a rematch of our water balloon fight as we frantically gathered snow in our hands to throw at each other. I squealed as he charged at me and dumped snow down the back of my shirt. "Not fair!" I cried. "You're playing dirty!"
He scooped me up in his arms, and I grabbed a hold of him, afraid he would drop me. "Since when have you known me to take it easy on you?"
"Put me down, Crosby. Put. Me. Down!"
"As you wish," he whispered, and I laughed at his The Princess Bride reference. He was such a dork. Next thing I knew, I was on my back in a snow bank, Sid stretched out above me. "What do you say we heat things up and make some of the snow melt?"
I giggled as he kissed my neck. "The snow's already melting, and I'm getting all wet."
"Just what I like to hear," he growled, continuing his oral assault on my flesh.
"That's not what I meant," I laughed, pushing him off me. He offered me his hands, and I accepted them so he could pull me to my feet. The seat of my jeans was soggy, and the rest of my clothes were at Sid's home, not his parents'.
Trina appeared at the back door. "What have you kids been up to? Noelle, you're drenched," she said with a chuckle. My hair was wet and stringy from his snowy assault, and I knew that I had to look downright disgusting, not unlike a drowned rat. "Sidney, how do you manage to soak her every time I leave you guys alone?"
"What do you want to bet she tells me to give you some dry clothes?" he whispered throatily in my ear.
"Get her out of those wet clothes, Sidney, and give her something warm to wear," she called before turning around and heading back into the house.
"I told you," he said, nipping my neck again.
"You're too much," I laughed.
"No, I'm just enough," he retorted, leading me back into the house. We kicked off our wet shoes, shrugged out of our soaked jackets, and raced each other up to his room. I shimmied out of my drenched jeans and slid into a pair of his old track pants before he could touch my bare skin. If I let him touch me, we really would break in his childhood bed.
"Sid, no," I giggled. "It's Christmas. Can't you wait until we get back to your place?"
"Why?" he laughed.
"Don't you ever turn off? I mean, honestly," I teased.
"Who are you, and what have you done with my Nelly? She'd never ask a question like that. She never turns off either," he joked back.
"Sid! Noelle! Dinner!" I heard Taylor calling us from the bottom of the stairs.
"Looks like our presence is being requested," I said, batting his hands away.
"Five minutes," he whispered.
"More like thirty seconds," I quipped, giving him a wink and rushing past him.
"I'll make you pay for that," he called after me.
"That's what I was hoping for," I yelled, already down the stairs and heading toward the kitchen.
* * * * *
The rest of our mini-vacation was as equally delightful as Christmas morning. On Boxing Day, we went to Taylor's game with faces painted in the team's colors. She was slightly embarrassed by the way we cheered crazily for every one of her saves, but I knew that she loved having her big brother there to support her. I met some of Sid's hometown friends, too, like Andrew. He told me a couple of stories about Sid from his youth which embarrassed him, like when the team decided to bleach their hair for the playoffs since they couldn't grow beards yet. We both quipped at the same time, "It's not like he can grow one now, either."
The time just passed by too quickly. We were having so much fun, and I enjoyed the break that we deserved. All the stress melted away as soon as we crossed the border to Sid's motherland. On our way home—to my home country—the nerves and anxiety returned as reality set back in. I still had the move to think about, as well as knowing I had a week before my new job would begin.
"Can't we just turn around and go back to Canada?" I asked him, as our plane began its descent into Pittsburgh International Airport.
"We'll go back," he whispered. "There's the Olympics," he added, happy with the knowledge that he had made the team.
I knew that wasn't going to happen. First of all, the Olympics would be a stressful time for him. It wouldn't be a vacation. And second, how could I take time off from my new job with the Pens to relax in Vancouver for a couple weeks? I'd never ask that of Mario. This job was too good to be true on its own; I couldn't expect more.
Instead of differing, I smiled at him and looked back out the window as the plane touched down. I sadly went through the motions of waiting for our bag, following Sid out to the car waiting for us, and riding silently back to Sid's house. He had a game tonight, and then we were going to try to move all my stuff on Monday before their road trip.
As our ride pulled into the driveway, I wondered who was at Sid's waiting for us. I saw his Range Rover, and I saw my Dodge Neon, but there was another car in the driveway, a blue Jeep Cherokee. Squinting, I read the license plate. It was one of those stupid vanity plates. CRSBYGRL? Who in their right mind would get that....?
Sidney was grinning like a butcher's dog. "Please tell me you didn't," I begged, looking at him.
"I could. But then I'd be lying."
I pulled on the door handle and shouldered the door, opening it and running up to the side of the Jeep. Sid wanted me to be excited; I wanted to be mad. I didn't know what I was, because I was too steeped in disbelief to fully comprehend. He didn't, did he?
My question was answered when he dangled a set of keys out in front of him. Yes, yes he definitely did. I hesitated. "Okay, I know what you're thinking. Too much. And you're right, kind of. But, I told you that one present was something you need. And you need a new car. It's bad enough that every time you start that piece of crap, you never know if it'll turn over. It's a guessing game. And the roads in Pittsburgh are bad. You know the city never salts, and I'd feel a lot better if you were driving a four-wheel drive vehicle. So I'd know you're safe."
There he was, trying to take care of me again. I was flattered, for sure, but I couldn't stifle the feeling that he was doing this to change me. Like what I had chosen for myself wasn't good enough, and the fact that he couldn't respect it was belittling. But then I looked at the beautiful blue SUV. My car was dying a slow, painful death, and it was only a matter of time before she took her last breath. Cherry—what I would name this beauty if I kept her—was bright and shiny and new, and she whispered promises to let me drive her wherever I wanted without the fear of breaking down.
I didn't know what to do. Should I take it? Should I tell him no, to take it back?
"Before you answer, I wanna let you know that the car is fully in your name. Whether you want it or not, your name is on the title. Well, except for the fact that it's my name on the plate," he chuckled. "But you're in charge of the insurance for it. I think of it like a business investment. You know, one with long-term returns. I'm investing in your safety, seeing as though I want you around for a long to come. I'm doing this more for me than I am for you. So, what do you think?"