Monday, June 30, 2008

PART THIRTEEN

I sighed contentedly and dug into my Chunky Monkey ice cream. The apartment was empty and I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from spending all day with my mother. I was finally granted peace and quiet because my parents had gone to the Pens game, but I'd managed to get out of joining them. They were a little upset that I had been so adamant about not going, but I still was not feeling up to seeing Sid, even from a distance.

My phone rang at around nine. I reluctantly answered it, even though I didn't feel like speaking to anyone. I was enjoying my self-inflicted isolation.

"Hey, what are you doing tonight?" Brad asked.

"Uh, not much. Just chilling."

"Come out with us."

"Who's 'us?'"

"People from the office. We're celebrating." We had just finished a massive project at work. PPG was looking at acquiring some small French companies, and our office had to present a detailed analysis of the past stability and future projections for the firms. It was a tedious and stressful project. We had finally presented on Friday, and just in time. I think we were all ready to kill each other.

"Thanks, but I think I'm just gonna stay in."

"Come on, Karine. Even Lisa is going. You never go out with us."

I sighed. Brad and the others had invited me out countless times, but I had always made up an excuse and turned them down. I had been hesitant about going out with them, especially Brad, because I wasn't sure how Sidney would take it. But Sid and I weren't speaking, and I hadn't been anywhere in ages…

"Alright. Where are we going?"

"McCreedy's, on the South Side," Brad replied brightly. "We're meeting at 9:30."

I snapped my phone shut and hurried into my bedroom. After trying on five outfits, I finally settled on my favorite pair of jeans and a sexy shirt. I quickly did my hair and makeup and took a cab to the South Side.

I pushed my way into the crowded bar and found Brad, Lisa, and my other coworkers in a large booth in the corner. I slid in and Brad poured me a beer from the pitcher sitting in the middle of the table.

"So you do leave your apartment!" Jonathan, one of my more likeable coworkers, joked.

"Sometimes," I replied, taking a large drink. I glanced at the large television positioned above the bar and my stomach lurched when I realized it was broadcasting the Pens game. My eyes remained glued to the screen and when I saw Sid leave the bench and take to the ice, I took another large gulp of my beer.

By eleven o'clock I was a complete mess. The Pens had shut out Atlanta five to nothing, and the entire bar was celebrating by drinking ridiculous amounts of alcohol. I stumbled into the bathroom and was shocked to see how terrible I looked—my hair was a mess, my makeup was running, and my eyes were bloodshot and glassy. I tried to count how many beers I had drank, but I lost count after six.

I returned to our booth and Brad suggested we move the party to Tré. "I'm drunk enough to dance!" he boomed.

You're so going to regret this, I told myself. I ignored my misgivings and agreed to go with them. Brad called a cab and we left for the club with Jonathan and Matt. Lisa and the others had decided to call it a night and didn't accompany us.

"I haven't had this much fun in forever!" I slurred.

"See? You should come out with us more often!"

"I'm going to have a killer hangover tomorrow."

"It'll be worth it," Brad replied, draping his arm across my shoulders.

The second we entered the packed, sweltering club I realized I had made a serious error in judgment by coming here. The Penguins had shut out the Thrashers, so they would be in the mood to celebrate…I crossed my fingers and prayed they had decided to party at Ryan Malone's and not at Tré.

Brad apparently read my mind, because he motioned to the empty VIP room. "No hockey players."

I relaxed a bit and made my way to the bar. Jonathan and Matt had already been pulled onto the dance floor by a pair of twins. I laughed as I watched them 'dance.' "I wish I had a camera," I said to Brad. "I want to document this train wreck."

Brad laughed and tugged on my hand. "Let's show them how it's done."

I downed my margarita in one drink and allowed Brad to lead me to the dance floor. The mixture of all the alcohol running through my system and the atmosphere of the dark club led me to feel completely uninhibited. Brad spun me around planted his hands firmly on my hips. I giggled at his audacity and swiveled my hips, not even caring that I was grinding with my coworker. I was drunk.

I spun around, our faces dangerously close. I was completely caught up in the moment. My usually logical mind didn't find anything wrong with me dancing provocatively with Brad, running my fingers through is blonde hair, feeling his breath hot on my cheek…

I felt someone tap my shoulder and I turned around with a grin, thinking I had another dance partner. It took me a moment to recognize the tall, thin man wearing a baseball cap low on his head. When I realized it was Colby, I inhaled sharply.

"Come with me," he said through clenched teeth.

My heart raced as my eyes flickered to the VIP room. It was full with what I assumed to be the rest of the team. I tried to find Sid, but it was too crowded and dark to see individual people.

"What's wrong? Who is this guy?" Brad asked, resting his chin on my shoulder.

Colby glared at Brad. "Step off, man," he snarled. Brad made an indignant sound and started to argue, but I shushed him and gently pushed him away.

Colby took hold of my upper arm and started to pull me across the dance floor. "Colby, what the hell?" I screeched. He didn't reply. When I realized he was taking me to the VIP area, I froze. "No," I said thickly. Suddenly my mouth was very dry and my legs were incapable of moving. "Colby, please. I can't see him. Let me leave," I pleaded. My heart rate had doubled and I honestly thought I was going to vomit.

Colby ignored me and pulled me into the VIP room. The loud room fell completely silent as I stumbled in. Sid slowly turned around and I noticed the blood drain from his face as our eyes met. Colby steered me across the room until Sid and I were standing inches apart.

"Talk." Colby ordered.

"Hi," Sidney said quietly, a happy smile spreading across his face. He raised his hand like he was going to give me a hug, then dropped them, obviously deciding against it.

"Hi," I replied with a shaky voice. I bit my bottom lip—a nervous habit I had acquired sometime in high school—and swallowed hard.

"Let's go over here." Sid placed his hand on the small of my back and a wave of contradictory emotions washed over me. I wanted to brush his hand away, but his touch made my skin tingle pleasantly. He led me to the far corner and said, "So, uh, how's everything?"

"Okay. You guys won tonight," I replied awkwardly.

"Yeah. Big win." There was a long silence and Sid rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "I'm sorry Army dragged you in here…"

"It's okay." I paused as I felt my entire body aching to be touched by Sidney. My heart was pounding in my ribcage, my stomach was tied in knots, and my entire body felt weak. "I miss you."

After a slight hesitation, Sidney tucked my hair behind my ear and gently brushed my cheek with his thumb. I felt the familiar white-hot electric shock run through my body and tears sprang to my eyes.

"I'm so sorry, Karine," he whispered.

I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face. "I know," I choked.

He pulled me into a tight, warm hug and I began to sob. All the bad feelings melted away. I felt so safe in Sidney's arms, and I knew everything he had done was a complete accident. I couldn't be angry with him anymore; all I could feel was complete elation as I felt his heart beat and heard him whisper a thousand I'm sorry's into my ear.

Sid cupped my face in his hands and looked me straight in the eye. "We're okay?"

I took a deep breath. I wanted nothing more than to go home with Sidney and have everything be okay again, but things weren't that simple. "Sid...I can't make you choose between me and hockey. I know you have a lot to deal with and the last thing you need is a nagging girlfriend. So...I think maybe if we didn't see each other anymore, you would be able to focus better and you wouldn't be so stressed out," I replied quietly. I averted my eyes to the floor and braced for Sidney' reaction.

"No," he replied in a surprisingly firm voice. "You weren't nagging me—you were trying to help. I know I take every game way too personally, and I'm going to work on that. Because nothing has ever meant more to me then hockey until I met you. I love you, Karine. I know I fucked up and you know I'm sorry. It will never happen again. From now on, I'm leaving everything on the ice." He paused. I couldn't bring myself to meet his eyes. I was too afraid I would start crying again. "Now," he continued, "you can leave without me tonight but you and I both know it won't be over. I won't let it be...you mean way too much to me for me to watch you walk away."

A smile formed on my face and I looked into Sidney's chocolate brown eyes. I knew he always got what he wanted, no matter how hard he had to work for it. That's why Gretzky dubbed him 'The Next One,' and that's how I knew he would do everything possible to fix us.

"Promise?" I asked.

"Promise," he replied determinedly.

1 comment:

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