Thursday, July 31, 2008


An hour later, my mother and I had left the spa and were on our way to Amélie and Guillaume's house. I was completely relaxed for the first time in weeks. The massage had done wonders. My mother, on the other hand, was clenching the steering wheel tightly and her lips were pursed into a thin, disapproving line.

"Mom," I sighed, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you that Sidney and I were living together. But we're not anymore, okay? And I promise I won't keep things like this from you anymore." My apology was half-hearted; I wasn't really sorry, but I wanted my mother to calm down.

She didn't reply, so I resigned and slumped into my seat. It would probably take her days to get over this.

We pulled into Amélie's bricked driveway and my jaw dropped when I saw her massive house. It was bigger than Uncle Mario and Aunt Nathalie's, and much more ostentatious. I couldn't believe a family of three needed all that room—the house was big enough for at least eight people.

I followed my mother, who still hadn't said a word, to the ornate doorway of the massive brick house. She pressed the doorbell once, and almost immediately the door swung open. I stared at the unfamiliar woman who showed us in. She was in a plain gray dress and had her dark hair pulled into a tight bun. "Madame Lemieux is in the nursery with Julien," she said quietly. My mother gave her a curt nod and started up the stairs.

I glanced back at the woman, who was making her way into the kitchen, and it hit me—she was a maid. Amélie had a maid.

"Why does Amélie need a maid?" I hissed to my mother. She was essentially a stay-at-home mother. While Guillaume was off at his mystery job all day, she had nothing to do but care for Julien and do housework. I always imagined her cleaning, cooking, playing with her son…I didn't realize how wrong I had been.

My mother ignored me and walked briskly down the hallway. I could hear my nephew giggling, and I was glad that he was apparently in one of his less monstrous moods. We stepped into the nursery, and I caught my breath. I thought I had stepped into a forest. The walls were a beautiful, lifelike mural of a storybook forest, complete with a knight in shining armor atop of a white horse speeding down a forest path. It was absolutely stunning—I had never seen anything like it.

"Salut, Maman, Karine," Amélie greeted us as she got on her feet. Julien was in the middle of the room, playing with cars. It was hard to believe he was such a brat most of the time. He honestly looked like a perfect angel.

"Salut, Amélie. Your home is amazing!" I had thought she was exaggerating when he described her new home to Sidney and me at Christmas, but I could see now that every word she said was true.

She waved her hand lightly, as if to brush off my compliment, and gave me a hug. "I'm so surprised to see you. Are you in Montreal for work?"

"Not really," I replied. "I got a promotion, and I wanted to tell everyone about it face-to-face. I have to move to Paris in mid-February."

"Ah." The expression on Amélie's face was unreadable. "Let's go downstairs for coffee," she said to my mother and me.

I tentatively looked at my mother and saw that her lips were still pressed into an angry line, and she still hadn't spoken. "Actually, I'd like to play with Julien for a while," I replied. In my opinion, being alone with my nephew was less dangerous than being in the same room with my mother right now. "If that's okay."

"Sure!" Amélie replied brightly. I could tell she was taken aback by my sudden desire to spend time with Julien, but I could also see she was happy about it.

"Where's Sidney?" Julien demanded as soon as my mother and Amélie left the room.

"Sidney couldn't come with me this time," I replied, trying to hide my pained expression from the three-year-old.


"Because he is too busy."


"Because he has to practice a lot if he wants to be really good at hockey."


I sighed, certain that Julien could keep this up for hours.

"Look, buddy, Sidney probably won't be able to come play with you anymore."


"Because right now he's mad at me."

"So what?"

"Well…if he doesn't want hang out with me, then he can't really hang out with you."

"That's not fair," Julien pouted.

"I know," I replied sadly. "I'm sorry."

"Why is he mad at you?"

"Because I did something really stupid."

"Did you push him off the swing? Because one time my friend Lea came over to play and I pushed her off the swing and she got really mad at me and didn't talk to me for a whole hour." His sweet, innocent eyes were wide with curiosity.

"No," I laughed. "I didn't push Sidney off the swing. I lied to him."

"Mommy and Daddy say lying is bad."

"Lying is bad," I agreed. "That's why Sidney is mad at me."

"Oh." He bobbed his head in understanding and handed me a car. "Well, if Sidney can't play with me I guess I you can."

"Thanks," I replied, grinning. Honestly, sometimes this kid wasn't so bad.


Half an hour later, Julien was bored with me, so I decided it was time to join my mother and sister in the sitting room. As soon as I entered the room, they stopped talking. Obviously their conversation had been about me.

"Hi, Karine!" Amélie said, sounding a little too animated. "Did my son wear you out?"

"No, he just got bored with me. Apparently I'm not very good at playing cars, whatever that means."

My mother stood from the couch. "I'll go see if I can keep him entertained," she said to no one in particular as she left the room.

I sighed, and when I was sure she was out of earshot I turned to Amélie. "So has she been complaining about how I didn't tell her Sidney and I were living together?"

"Actually…no," Amélie replied after a slight hesitation. "She…she's kind of worried about you."

"Worried? Why?"

"Well…" Amélie hesitated once again. I could tell she was battling with herself over whether to tell me what they had been talking about. I had a right to know, but I knew she felt some kind of loyalty to my mother. Like telling me would be betraying her. Amélie sighed and looked at me seriously. "She's worried because she didn't realize you and Sidney were so serious. She's worried that you might not be making the right decision by moving to Paris."

"Amélie," I replied with exasperation, "I don't have a choice. If I don't take this promotion I lose my job."

I noticed Amélie was wringing her hands. "Karine…this is the first time you've seen my house."

I nodded, taken aback by her sudden change in subject. "It's amazing."

She closed her eyes. "Yes, it is. Guillaume makes a lot of money. It was smart of me to marry him." I stared at her, confused by the strange wording of the sentence. "I love him, don't get me wrong. He's a good husband. But…do you remember Victor Colin?"

"Yeah. You dated him for a while in Secondary."

"For almost two years," she corrected me. "Remember when we broke up?"

"Right after you graduated."

"Yes. I've never told anyone this, but the reason we broke up was because he proposed to me."

"What?" I gasped. I knew Amélie and Victor had been serious, but I had no idea they were that devoted to one another.

Amélie nodded tightly. "I turned him down, of course. He wasn't planning on attending a Post Secondary school, and I didn't want to become one of those girls…you know, the girls that get married right out of high school and spend their twenties repopulating the city. So, I left Victor, went to Post Secondary, met Guillaume…" her voice trailed off and I wondered if she was remembering the day Victor proposed. "Anyway," she continued, snapping back to reality, "look, please understand that I love Guillaume. He gave me all of this," she motioned around the room, "and Julien. He's provided me with an amazing life that any woman my age would die for. But Victor still has a large part of my heart. I loved him in a way that I will never love Guillaume. Do you understand?"

I nodded, although I was confused as to why Amélie was telling me all of this. "What does this have to do with me?"

Amélie rested her hands on my shoulders and stared into my eyes. "Karine, some things are more important than a huge house, an extravagant lifestyle…even more important than a job." I suddenly realized what this conversation was about. "I've seen the way he looks at you. He's hopelessly in love, Karine. Are you willing to give up true love for your career?"

"He's not in love with me anymore," I whispered, breaking eye contact.

"I'm certain that he is. You just have to prove to him that you won't hurt him again. You can't go to Paris, Karine." She was pleading with me now, forcing me to make eye contact again. "You can't."

"Is everything alright, girls?" As soon as Amélie heard our mother's voice, she dropped her hands and a smile spread across her face.

"Everything's fine. Karine and I were just talking about color schemes," she lied.

I wasn't sure if my mother believed her or not, but she glanced at her watch and said we needed to leave. "Your father is going to be home soon and he'll want supper."

"Au revoir, Karine," Amélie said, giving me a hug. "I hope everything works out," she added.

"Au revoir, Amélie. Your house is beautiful," I told her one last time. She stared at me, unsure if there was a double meaning behind my words, but I just smiled and turned away.

The car ride from Amélie's house to my parents' home granted me a lot of time to think. Amélie was wrong. Sidney wasn't in love with me anymore. He seemed completely disinterested in me at Ryan's house after the Winter Classic. I could sense that he wanted to get away from me. How can you love someone if you can't even stand talking to them?

I closed my eyes and rested my head against the window. Things were so less complicated before I met Sidney—I always knew what I wanted, and I was prepared to do anything to get it. I was still focused like that, when I could concentrate. But it's hard to fight for what you want when you aren't sure what you need.


I sighed as I waited for my mother in the foyer. It was early—not even eight o'clock in the morning, but we were getting ready to leave for the spa. Normally, I would run away screaming at the idea of spending all day with my mother, but if things were normal I wouldn't have taken a red eye flight to Montreal.

"Ready?" my mother asked brightly as she bounced down the stairs. I nodded and followed her to the car. At least she was happy we were spending time together. Besides, a day at the spa may be just what I needed. Needless to say, I'd been exceptionally tense for quite some time and a professional massage might help me relax.

The spa was only a twenty minute drive from my parents' house, but it seemed much longer. I had to fight to stay awake. Last night I had only gotten a few hours of restless sleep. I woke up twice, thinking that I heard my cell ringing, only to remember that I left it in Pittsburgh. I didn't care how many calls or texts I missed while I was in Montreal. The only person I wanted to hear from would not be calling me anytime soon.

"This place is gorgeous," my mother purred as she pulled into the spa driveway. A valet approached the car and took her keys while another employee led us inside. From the outside, the spa looked like a massive hunting lodge, but the interior was not dingy or rustic. The walls were a peaceful light blue, and all the furniture was crisp, clean white. It felt like I was walking through the sky, the fluffy couches and chairs serving as clouds.

"Claudine Lemieux," my mother said to the receptionist. "My daughter and I have a reservation for massages."

"Ah, oui," the receptionist said after checking something on her computer screen. She directed us to a changing room, where my mother and I traded our clothes for fluffy white robes and slippers. We made our way into a dark room that had two long massage tables placed in the center. I slipped off my robe, wrapped myself in an equally plush white towel, and slid onto one of the tables to wait for my masseuse.

"I'm glad you wanted to come with me," my mother said, her voice slightly muffled by the table's thick padding.

"No problem," I muttered as the masseuses entered the room. They were both men, but I was slightly relieved to see that neither of them was very attractive. Being rubbed down by a stranger was awkward enough. I didn't need that stranger to be drop-dead gorgeous as well.

"I think we'll go visit Amélie after this," my mother said in a forcedly offhand tone.

"Why?" I grunted back.

My masseuse began gently kneading my shoulders. "My, my," he clucked quietly. "You are very tense, mademoiselle."

"Did you really think you were going to come to Montreal but not see your sister?" my mother replied.

I sighed. "Fine." Despite my edgy tone, the massage was beginning to work. As if the masseuse had hit a magic button, I felt all the muscles in my back relax simultaneously. I couldn't suppress a small, blissful sigh.

"You know, Karine, as much as we love having you, your father and I can't help but wonder why you're here," my mother said.

"Not now, Mom," I muttered.

"What's going on, Karine?" my mother pressed on. I rolled my eyes behind my closed lids—she had to ruin everything, didn't she?

"I just wanted to tell you about work," I replied.

"A phone call would have sufficed," she reluctantly admitted. "Your father and I know that you don't really like being here…that's why we bought you plane tickets, so you would come for Christmas. We weren't expecting to see you for quite some time. Then you show up unannounced at 6:30 in the morning, looking like the living dead. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that something is wrong, Karine. What is it? Is this about Sidney?"

"It's all about Sidney," I muttered. I really didn't want to discuss this, but I knew my mother wouldn't give up until I told her everything she wanted to know. "Mom, don't get mad at me, but I've known about this promotion for a while now."

"How long?"

"Since December 14th."

My mother was silent.

"I only just told Sidney on the 26th, and it was against my will…I wanted to wait until after the Winter Classic, but he started talking about wanting to buy a house together, and…it was just too much. He's really angry with me for keeping it from him." I felt hot tears run down my face and the masseur began kneading my back a little more forcefully. I hated myself for getting upset about this again, but every time I talked about Sidney I reacted the same way. There was too much pain there. I didn't know if I would ever learn to deal with it. "He has every right to be angry. He moved out, and he said we could still be friends, but I saw him last night and there was so much tension between us. It was horrible."

My mother was quiet for a few seconds. She digested everything I had just said, and cleared her throat. "You said he moved out. He's no longer living with Mario?"

I sighed. "No, Mom, he moved out of my apartment."

"You two were living together." Her voice was a flat, angry monotone.

"Mom, please. Just forget about it—it obviously doesn't matter anymore."

"Why didn't you tell us?" "I wasn't sure how you and Dad would react. Can we just please not talk about it?" My mother exhaled angrily. "Please, Mom. We're here to relax. Let's talk about something else."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I left Ryan's without telling anyone goodbye and took a scalding hot shower once I got home. The way the searing hot water burned my skin didn't bother me—I was glad I could feel something, anything. The interaction (I could hardly call it a conversation) between Sid and me left me so emotionally drained that I was actually numb.

I took advantage of the solace of the shower, and didn't step out until I was in danger of falling asleep on my feet. I collapsed on my bed and stared at the ceiling, wondering how I allowed things to become so ruined.

I didn't want to think about him anymore. It hurt way too much, like I was having a horrible allergic reaction to something—my stomach was churning, my lungs were burning with every breath, and my throat was closing in around a sob. How was I supposed to deal with this until February 14th? Avoiding him would be all but impossible. His friends were my friends. He lived in my uncle's house. Pittsburgh was a big town, but definitely not big enough.

I groaned to myself and tried to clear my head. The unpleasant memory of the awkward moment in Ryan's basement kept replaying through my mind, like the "repeat" button on my internal IPod was jammed. This was just too much. I needed to get away.

Without thinking, I packed a bag with a few changes of clothes and grabbed my wallet, leaving my laptop and cell phone on my desk. I wouldn't need them.

I raced to the airport, praying that my spontaneous plan wouldn't backfire. I needed a flight to Montreal, or at least Ottawa. I knew if I couldn't get on a plane in the next hour, the more logical section of my brain would take over and I would return to my apartment.

The airport wasn't crowded, probably due to the fact that it was almost two in the morning and a holiday, too. I approached the friendly looking young woman stationed at the ticket desk. "I need a flight to Montreal," I said breathlessly.

She looked at me with concerned eyes. I was sure I looked like a crazy person—I hadn't taken any time to do my hair, so it was still damp and frizzy from my recent hour-long shower, and I was wearing a pair of red sweats with a purple tee shirt. I couldn't bring myself to care as she smiled, nodded, and typed something into the computer stationed in front of her.

"You're in luck. We have a few seats left on a flight leaving in thirty-five minutes," she replied.

"Oh, thank God," I sighed. I dug through my wallet and produced my credit card. The exchange took less than two minutes, and I hurried across the airport to make it to terminal three. Once I was on the plane, sleep came easy. The four hours it took to fly from Montreal to Pittsburgh passed in a flash, and when the flight attendant shook me awake just as the sun was rising I felt calm, almost elated.

I rented a car and drove to my parents' house, hoping they would welcome my unexpected visit without question. I gritted my teeth as I realized it probably wouldn't happen—I had left Montreal with Sidney on Christmas in such a hurry, never looking back, and they would certainly be suspicious of my unprompted appearance at their doorstep—this time without Sidney—only a week later.

As I pulled into the driveway, I saw my mother peer curiously at my unfamiliar rental car from the kitchen window. I took a deep breath and slung my bag over my shoulder. Why had I decided to come here? Did I really feel that stifled, that uncomfortable, in Pittsburgh? This wasn't home anymore. I couldn't run here and expect Mommy and Daddy to fix everything.

They deserve to know their daughter will be living on a different continent in about a month, I told myself. Right. That's why I'm here, to tell them about my promotion.

As I knocked on the door, I noticed how adept I had become at lying, both to myself and the people I cared about. I exhaled loudly and waited for my mother to answer the door.

"Karine!" she pulled me into a hug, but not before I noticed the concern in her eyes. "What are you doing here?"

"I have some news," I said as I stepped into the foyer. "Is Dad home?"

"Yes, he's in the kitchen. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," I replied robotically. "Just tired."

I followed my mother into the kitchen, where I found my dad eating a bowl of cereal and reading the newspaper. "Karine," he greeted me with as much surprise as my mother had.

"Bon matin, Papa," I replied, giving him a small kiss on the cheek.

"Did your mother forget to tell me you were coming?" He looked at my mother and cocked an eyebrow. She shook her head and poured me a cup of coffee.

"No, this was a spur-of-the-moment trip," I replied. "I didn't know I was coming myself until about one in the morning."

"Ah," my father replied, his surprise morphing into concern. Apparently I wasn't doing a good job at concealing my agitation and distress. "Did Sidney come with you?"

I drew an uneven breath and shook my head. "No, just me."

"Is everything okay?"

"Ouais, everything is fine," I lied. Once again, I was too much of a coward to reveal the truth. I winced. The last time I had chickened out and concealed the truth, it had ended with Sidney storming out of my apartment. Perhaps "ended" wasn't the correct word—the consequences of my cowardice still weren't over, I was sure of it.

"I need to talk to you about work," I said to both of my parents. "I won't be living in Pittsburgh for much longer. I got a promotion, and it requires that I move."

"A promotion?" my mother repeated, sounding excited.

"Karine, that's wonderful news!" My father smiled proudly and I couldn't help but mirror his happy face, although I wasn't quite feeling it myself. "Where will you be moving?"

"Paris," I replied. Their expressions faltered.

"Paris, France?" my mother asked. I couldn't help but chuckle. No, Mom, Paris, New York, I thought sarcastically. But I held my tongue and instead nodded.

"Well," my father folded the newspaper and looked slightly uncomfortable. "That's…something."

"It's far." My mother's face was shadowed by displeasure.

"I know," I replied.

"Are you sure you want to accept it, Karine?" she asked.

"I don't have a choice. PPG has already found my replacement."

My parents both inhaled sharply. "How…how do you feel about this?" my father asked.

I shook my head. "I don't like it. I don't have many options, though. Either I go to Paris and keep my job, or I stay in Pittsburgh and join the ranks of the unemployed."

My father shook his head, looking slightly angry. "Do you want to work for a company that would force that decision on you?"

"I don't have a choice, Dad," I replied. "I was so lucky to get my job with PPG…I'm worried that if I quit, I'll have a lot of trouble finding another job in my field. Even if I do, I will still probably have to relocate. I'm stuck."

"Wow," my father sighed. "Well, look on the bright side. This can only be good for your career."

I nodded and looked at my mother for more reassurance. "What about Sidney?" she asked, her lips joined in a tense, thin line.

"It's caused some…complications between us," I replied, unwilling to get into details. I wondered how different things would be if I had just told Sidney about Paris as soon as I found out. He left me because he was angry I kept it from him, not because he was angry about my having to move. We never got a chance to talk about the promotion, or what it meant for us. We were over too fast to have that discussion.

"You're not together anymore." It wasn't a question—there was no doubt in my mother's voice as she realized that Sidney wouldn't be spending another holiday at the Lemieux household.

"No," I whispered, swirling my coffee around in my mug. There was an uncomfortable silence as I studied my parents' faces. My mother was upset, no doubt about it. My father, on the other hand, was red in the face, looking more than a little angry.

"That's just childish!" he finally exclaimed. "If that boy can't be happy for you, and proud of your accomplishments, then you don't belong with him anyway!"

"It isn't like that, Dad," I replied quietly. "There's more to it."

"What more could there possibly be?"

"I don't want to talk about it right now, okay?"

My father shook his head and stomped angrily out of the kitchen. "I'm going to work," he called from the foyer.

"Au revoir, Alain," my mother called after him. He didn't reply as he slammed the door behind him and got into his car. My mother sighed and leaned against the kitchen counter. "How long are you staying?"

I shrugged. "A couple days, maybe. There's no reason for me to be in Pittsburgh." I drained my mug and started up the stairs. "I'm going to take a nap."

I spent the rest of the day in bed, drifting between sleep and consciousness. My mother checked on me every hour, until finally she dragged me out of bed for dinner. "You can't lie in bed all day," she scolded me. "You're not solving any problems that way." She paused and tucked my hair behind my ear, and her expression softened. "You look drained. What do you say we use my gift certificate for the spa tomorrow?"

I nodded and avoided making eye contact with her. I was too tired to argue.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


"So you really think it's over?" Sylvie asked.

I nodded, then realized she couldn't see me. "Yeah," I replied flatly. I had called Sylvie shortly after Sid left and told her every detail of what had happened.

"Wow," she breathed. "Are you alright?"

I took a deep breath. "I'm fine," I replied unconvincingly.

"Do you want me to come over?" Sylvie asked, her voice full of concern.

"No, no. I really am fine, Syl." I paused and played with the fringe on one of my throw pillows. "Maybe…maybe this is for the best. We were going to break up eventually…it just happened sooner than I would have liked. Besides, he said we're still going to be friends. I know he's going to remain a huge part of my life. The mechanics are just going to be a little different."

Sylvie chucked at my choice of words. "You two are going to try to be friends? I can't help but think that is all going to crash and burn the next time you two see each other."

"That probably won't be anytime soon," I replied. "I'm pretty sure my invitation to the Winter Classic is revoked, and I wasn't planning on going to the game tonight."

"You're not coming?" Sylvie asked, sounding a little dejected. "What are you doing?"

"I dunno. Staying in."

"It's New Years Eve! You should be out partying."

"With who?" I asked with a hint of exasperation.

"Sorry," she mumbled. "Well, ah, Marc is getting grouchy. He needs food. I'll talk to you later."

"Bye," I replied as I flipped my phone shut.


The next night, I was watching highlights from the Winter Classic on the local news when Colby called.

"Why aren't you here?" he demanded.

"Where's 'here?'"

"Bugsy's house. I know he invited you."

I sighed. Ryan had texted me a few hours ago, saying the team was leaving Buffalo and would be back in Pittsburgh around 11. He was having a party at his house to celebrate the win and he wanted me to be there.

"What does it matter to you?" I teased. My eyes flew to the television when I heard an all-too-familiar voice. The news was showing a clip of Sidney dripping with sweat, appeasing reports with a post-game interview in the locker room. I swallowed hard and pressed the 'mute' button.

"I want to see my favorite French Canadian!" I heard a chorus of voices, probably belonging to Marc-André, Max Talbot, and Georges Laraque protest.

I laughed. "It sounds to me like you have all the Québécois you can handle."

"Blondie," Colby replied seriously," either you get your butt here by midnight or I'm coming after you."

I sighed and made my way into the bedroom to change. There was no doubt in my mind that if I didn't show up at Malone's in the next half hour, Colby would be at my door. "See you in a few," I resigned.

I tried on four outfits before settling on a pair of black skinny jeans and a gray v-neck sweater. Normally I didn't put so much thought into what I wore around the guys—most of them were like my brothers, and I was never trying to impress anyone because I had always been with Sidney—but I was sure Sid would be there and I wanted to look good. Even though my insides were a mess, I could at least look good on the exterior.

The drive to Ryan's didn't take as long as expected, but it still granted me lots of time to wonder how tonight would go. Sid said he still wanted to be friends, but what did that mean? Would we be able to speak to each other, or would it hurt too much? Should I talk to him first or wait for him to approach me? What would I say?

I sighed and pulled into Ryan's driveway. It was already full of cars—it looked like the entire team had come out to celebrate. I let myself in through the front door and found Jordan Staal entertaining his latest puck bunny in the living room. I rolled my eyes and made my way into the basement, where I could hear that the loud, rowdy celebration was in full swing.

I wasn't sure if it was just my imagination, but when I stepped into the basement-turned-rec room the boisterous boys quieted a little. I smiled sheepishly and made my way to the bar, where Colby and Ryan were chatting.

"Hi, guys," I greeted them both with a hug.

"I'm glad you came," Ryan replied. The sentence sounded loaded, but once again I wasn't sure if it was just my imagination.

"Me, too. I'm not sure if I would be in any condition to drive to your apartment and drag you here," Colby joked, chugging the rest of his drink.

I rolled my eyes and took a sip of the drink Ryan handed to me. I glanced around the crowded room, but did not see Sidney anywhere. "He's not here yet," Colby muttered, as if he had read my mind.

My eyes snapped up to him in surprise. "Oh," I replied, feeling a little disappointed. I had been ping-ponging between wanting to see him and dreading it the entire way here, but as I stood surrounded by his teammates I knew that he was the only person I wanted to see.

"He's coming, though. He'll be here," Colby added determinedly. It made me wonder if he had called Sid and threatened to drag him here, too.

"Karine!" I heard Sylvie call from across the room. I acknowledged her with a wave and joined her and Marc at the pool table.

I spent the next hour playing pool with Geno, Marc, and Sylvie, but every so often my eyes would scan the room, looking for Sidney. After Geno and I relentlessly beat Marc and Sylvie for the third time, I had resigned to the fact that Sid wasn't coming, and went to the bar for another drink.

I didn't realize until I handed Ryan my empty glass that Sid was standing beside me.

"Oh!" I said, unable to hide my surprise.

Sid grinned awkwardly. "Hi."


We stood in silence, staring at each other for what felt like a very long time. "I didn't know you were here," we said at the exact same time. We both laughed, blushed, and averted our eyes to the floor. The awkward tension between us was almost unbearable. I allowed my eyes to flicker to his face again, and I realized with relief that there wasn't a hint of anger there. That, at least, was progress.

"I just got here," Sid said, rubbing the back of his neck. "I wasn't going to come, but Colby called and told me if I wasn't here by one he would come get me himself."

I laughed and looked at Colby, who was watching us from across the room very intently. "He told me the exact same thing."

"Sounds like he's trying to fix things again," Sid replied, referring to when Colby had dragged me into the VIP room at Tré and forced Sid and me to talk. He had saved our relationship that time, but I wasn't sure there was anything he could do for us now. But apparently, that wasn't going to stop him from trying.

I nodded and took a sip of the drink Ryan had handed me. "So…the Winter Classic. Pretty exciting game."

"Did you watch it?" Sid asked, his expression brightening.

"Only the highlights on the news," I admitted. "I didn't watch the actual game…I…I just couldn't."

Sid nodded and pursed his lips together, a strange habit he had when he felt uncomfortable during interviews. I swallowed hard and once again averted my eyes. It hurt that things were so strained between us. However, I was grateful we were even speaking. Everything was so very…fresh. It was Tuesday, the last time Sid and I saw each other was Friday, when he moved out.

Sid sighed and took a step away. "Well, I'll see you later, I guess."

I nodded and hoped I had enough self-control to keep the tears that were forming in my eyes from falling down my cheeks. "Later," I said quietly.

I turned around so my back was to the room and closed my eyes, trying to collect myself.

"You alright?" Ryan asked softly.

I nodded, but my bottom lip began to quiver. Don't you dare cry now, I scolded myself. Save yourself the embarrassment. Get over him.

In an instant, Sylvie was at my side. "What did you guys talk about?" she asked, both concerned and curious.

"Nothing," I replied honestly. I drew a deep, shaky breath and straightened up. "I should go. I never should have come here in the first place."

"Hey, we're your friends too," Ryan replied pointedly. "Just because you and Sid are no longer together doesn't mean you can't come around."

"Actually, that's exactly what it means," I replied, feeling the sting of the words as they left my mouth. "He said we could still be friends, but…" I shook my head.

"Give it time," Sylvie said encouragingly.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw Colby and Sid talking. Colby looked like he was yelling at Sid, and Sid was shaking his head stubbornly. It didn't take too much to guess what they were talking about.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I sat on one end of the phone in stunned silence as I heard him breathe on the other. I couldn't remember the thought process that had led me to call him. What was there to say?

"What do you want?" Sid asked, sounding slightly annoyed.

I snapped back into reality and tried to make my voice calm and even. "Could you come over?"

He was silent.

"We need to talk," I added, proud of my controlled, firm tone. "We're not accomplishing anything by avoiding each other."

Once again, silence.

"Are you still there?" I asked, feeling foolish.

"Yes," he replied tersely. "I can only stay for an hour."

"Okay," I breathed as I flipped my phone shut. An hour was all I needed.


Sidney knocked on the door—completely unnecessary, as he still had a key—and I took a moment to collect myself before I answered. I couldn't help but smile when I saw him standing in the doorway with his hands buried deep in the pockets of his jeans with his favorite Reebok winter hat pulled low on his head.

"Hi," I whispered.

"Hi," he echoed, taking a step towards me. He was close enough for me to smell his cologne. I closed my eyes and inhaled as he brushed past me and moved into the living room. I noticed he had a duffel bag tucked under his arm.

"Thanks for coming," I said quietly, moving towards him.

He nodded, his jaw set tight. I suddenly felt very young, even though I was two years older than Sidney. His cold glare made the smile vanish from my face and I tried to recognize the unfamiliar look in his eyes.

"I owe you an apology." I wrung my hands and tried to ignore the awkward tension filling the room.

"Yeah," Sid agreed, his expression still hard.

"I want you to understand what I was going through. I was upset, and confused, and I needed to figure things out for myself before I could tell you. You deserved a mature, objective explanation about Paris, and I wasn't ready to offer that to you. I thought by putting it off, I could bring myself to accept the situation and help you accept it, too." I glanced up at Sidney. He was standing in the middle of my living room, a familiar person in a familiar space, but his facial expression and the look in his eyes were completely foreign. I took a deep breath and averted my eyes. "I'm sorry, Sidney. I made a huge mistake by not telling you."

"Yeah, you did."

"I'm sorry," I repeated, more quietly this time.

"I still don't understand, Karine," he replied, his expression softening momentarily. "Why did you tell Sylvie?"

"I needed to talk to someone."

"But you couldn't talk to me?"

I shook my head. "The day I found out, I came so close to telling you," I practically whispered. "But the thought of telling you…it hurt. I knew it would kill you."

"You're so selfish." I flinched at his tone. Then I finally recognized the expression lying behind his eyes—it was pure, unbridled hatred. "How do you think I feel right now? After learning that my girlfriend is leaving the fucking country in two months and she couldn't tell me because it "hurt" too much." He shook his head and looked like he had a bad taste in his mouth. "You make me sick."

Tears stung my eyes as I took a step toward him. "Sidney, please. I'm sorry. I know I made a mistake, but can't we get past that? I can't live without you," I whispered.

Sid faltered for a moment, and I thought I had him. But he shook his head more resolutely than before and moved to the bedroom. "I'm taking my things," he said as I followed him.

My heart skipped a beat. "What?"

"I'm moving back into Mario's." He unzipped his empty duffel bag and began taking his clothes from the closet.

"No," I pleaded. The tears were falling freely now.

He stopped to look at me, anger flashing in his eyes. "I can't do this anymore, Karine!" he shouted. "You've made it very clear that I don't mean as much to you as you do to me. It fucking hurts. It hurts."

"Sidney," I protested as I watched him shove his clothing into the large bag, "you mean more to me than anyone on the planet."

"Except yourself," Sid replied in an acidic tone. He emptied his few dresser drawers into the bag and threw it over his shoulder. I blocked the doorway, unwilling to let him leave. His eyes softened as he stared into mine and he placed his hands on my shoulders. "This is just too much for me, Karine," he said, his tone almost apologetic. "If I really am the most important person in the world, you need to start acting like it."

"I can't do this without you," I choked.

Sid clenched his jaw. I could tell he was more upset than angry now. "I want you in my life," he said softly, "but I just can't do this anymore. I think we moved a little too fast, and we're not ready to face this as a couple. I'm sorry. Part of me wants to be here with you, but...I just can't."

I swallowed hard and knew he was right. Our relationship was new, but the fast paces of our lives had sped up everything. We had moved too fast and it was catching up with us, making this all a complicated mess. "We can still be friends?" I asked hopefully, once again feeling very immature.

He exhaled through his nose. I could tell he was struggling with his answer. "Just friends," he replied firmly.

I smiled bitterly. "That's going to be hard."

"For you and me both," he replied as he pulled me into a hug.

"I really fucked up," I said between sobs as I clung to his shirt.

"Maybe this is best," Sid said. He kissed my forehead and in another second, he was gone.

I moved into my living room and tried to steady my breathing. The apartment felt very empty, although he hadn't taken anything besides his clothes. I sat down on the floor and buried my face in my hands. I knew that this was the last fight we would ever have.

I knew that I had managed to ruin the best thing I had ever experienced.


I woke up the next morning in an unfamiliar bedroom and panicked slightly before the vague details of last night returned to me. Sylvie had taken my keys (I hadn't argued. I knew I was completely incapable of driving after the ten plus drinks I had indulged in), so chances were I was in Sylvie's spare bedroom.

I made the bed, slipped on my shoes, found my keys on the table near the door, and hurried home. My cell phone battery had died at some point last night, and I needed to plug it into the charger so I could check my messages. If I had any, that is. Sidney hadn't showed up at all last night. Even more strange, though, was that no one besides myself asked where he was. They all know, I realized. I rolled my eyes. The men on the team were worse than girls—they gossiped endlessly about each other. News of my promotion and the inevitable fight that it had caused between Sid and me had probably spread through the team like wildfire.

I ran up the stairs and clumsily connected my cell phone to its charger. I hesitated for a moment before pressing the red power button and held my breath as the phone started up. My background glared back at me mockingly—it was a picture of Sid and me at my grandparents' house on Christmas day. I waited for my phone to beep, signaling a new voicemail, but after two minutes of silence I flipped it shut and gave up.

I flopped down on my couch and pressed the heels of my hands into my eyes. My head was pounding and I felt slightly nauseated—I had a hangover, and I was blaming it on Colby. I had enough to blame myself for without chastising myself for drinking too much.

I took a long, hot shower and contemplated how to spend my day. I had gotten so used to working from nine to five every weekday I didn't know what to do with my free time. I could shop, but the Christmas season had once again succeeded in exhausting my desire to buy things.

I made a pot of very strong coffee and began to clean my apartment, just for something to do. My heart stopped as I was organizing my desk and came across that damned manila folder. I tossed it out of the way, and then tentatively picked it up. I hadn't actually looked through the contents—I had been avoiding it since the day Christopher gave it to me.

I sat down on the edge of the bed and carefully picked through the contents. There was my plane ticket, with its February 14th departure date somehow darker than the rest of the print. The first page was an official looking letter printed on PPG stationary.

"'Dear Ms. Lemieux:" it read, "'We are very pleased to welcome you to our PPG Europe family! Enclosed in this file you will find all the information you need regarding your new job, living arrangements, and various other essential pieces of information. We here in Paris are very excited to meet you in February. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail or call. Regards, Étienne LePetit.'"

I flipped the note over and found a company credit card. "Nice," I mumbled. I found a short job description next. I scowled when I saw I would be more involved with public relations than finance. Below the brief description, I saw six figures staring up at me. I caught my breath when I realized the large number was my salary. I stared at the number for a while, unable to comprehend that I would be earning twice as much in Paris as I was here. I reluctantly turned to the next page, where I found the address for my apartment and contact information for the International Affairs office and for my superiors in Paris.

I sighed and tucked the folder back into my desk drawer. I hadn't seen a mention of how long I would be expected to stay in Paris anywhere in the folder, which confirmed my worst fear—this was a permanent position.

I fell onto my bed and stared at the ceiling, my mind reeling. As much as I hated to admit it, the job was an amazing opportunity. After only working at PPG for three months, they had thought I was fit for an excellent promotion. I would have more responsibilities, a hefty pay raise, and live in Paris essentially for free. Any other person would be ecstatic for such a chance.

But any other person wasn't dating Sidney Crosby. Or, had been, until recently. He had really succeeded in rearranging my priorities in the short time I had known him. Pre-Sidney, I was strictly career motivated. As a new entrant in the cutthroat business world, I was prepared to do anything to get to the top. But somewhere along the line, he had made me realize that maybe some things were more important than a career.

I once again retrieved the folder from my desk and took it into the kitchen, reviewing its contents for a second time. A company credit card, an apartment paid for by PPG, a six figure salary…these were things offered to a senior member of a firm, not a fresh rookie like myself.

My eyes flickered to my cell phone, patiently charging on the counter. I inhaled deeply and scrolled to Sidney's number. My thumb hovered above the green 'send' button hesitantly.

I exhaled and pressed the phone against my ear, hearing it ring but knowing better than to expect Sid to answer. I was grasping at straws by calling him. Setting myself up for disappointment.

"Karine." My heart jumped to my throat when I heard his one-word, expressionless greeting.

"Sidney," I breathed.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I plastered a fake smile on my face and pushed the door to Uncle Mario's owner's box open.

"Karine." Uncle Mario looked very surprised to see me. He and Aunt Nathalie traded a glance as I took my seat. Either they were both unusually perceptive, or Sidney had told them about our fight and the surrounding circumstances.

"How was Cole Harbour?" Aunt Nathalie asked awkwardly. It was hard to believe that only yesterday Sidney and I were in his childhood home, enjoying a near perfect day with his family.

I chose to ignore the tension in the room. "It was great. It was so nice seeing Sid's family again," I replied easily.

Aunt Nathalie nodded, mirroring my fake smile, and threw another questioning glance at Uncle Mario. He shrugged subtly and continued to stare at the ice, where the Pens and Capitals were warming up.

I settled into my seat and tried to enjoy the game. My fake smile started to affect my mood. I felt generally optimistic about tonight. I ran through the scenario in my mind—I would enter the locker room, Sidney would see me and immediately realize it was silly to fight, and we would hug and make up. I would finally find the words to explain why I hadn't told him about Paris, and he would be forgiving and…and then what? Even if we did make up, there would be no "happily ever after." I would still have to leave for Paris in February. We would still have to break up.

My mood darkened as the announcer introduced the team. My stomach lurched slightly as I heard, "Number 87…Sidneyyyyyyy Crosssssbyyyyy!" boom throughout the arena. The crowd cheered and I leaned forward slightly.

I shouldn't be here, I thought frantically. I could feel Uncle Mario and Aunt Nathalie staring at me, and I suddenly felt very self-conscious. Sid obviously wasn't ready to speak with me, otherwise he would have called. By being here, I was trying to push him to forgive me and that wouldn't do any good.

"Is everything alright, Karine?" Aunt Nathalie asked quietly.

I shook my head. "No. I think I should leave."

Aunt Nathalie nodded sympathetically, but Uncle Mario frowned slightly. "Stay," he replied. Aunt Nathalie shot him a confused, almost angry look. "Marc-André and Sylvie should be up soon. He was asking about you earlier."

I nodded and sat down again. If I didn't stay for the game, I knew I would never hear the end of it from Sylvie. Sure enough, a few minutes later Marc hobbled in, followed by Sylvie. They both brightened when they saw me.

"Salut, Karine," Marc greeted me with a hug that lasted a little too long. "How are you feeling?" he asked in a quiet, concerned voice.

"I'm fine," I replied. "Marc, I'm really sorry about Sidney last night…"

Marc waved his hand and took his seat. "It wasn't your fault. Everything's fine."

I wish, I thought bitterly.


"To the locker room?" Marc asked, smiling widely as he glanced at the scoreboard. The Penguins had defeated Washington by one goal. "I have to tell all the guys to come over."

I started to protest, but Sylvie grabbed my arm and pulled me through the labyrinth of hallways leading to the locker room. "Sylvie, no," I stammered as she pushed me through the door.

Marc started to congratulate his teammates and invited everyone to his party as I tried to hide in a corner. My eyes found Sidney, who was sitting on the bench in front of his locker. I held my breath as I waited for him to notice me. His hazel eyes flickered up and met mine, and I couldn't help but smile. He didn't return my happy gesture—instead, his expression darkened and he pulled on his shirt and quickly exited the locker room.

"You okay?" Sylvie muttered. I didn't even realize she had been standing beside me.

I nodded and swallowed. "Yeah," I whispered. "I'm fine."


I followed Marc and Sylvie to their apartment, my mind reeling. He would have to talk to me eventually. The way he looked at me in the locker room…I shuddered. He actually looked like he hated me.

I pulled into Marc's driveway and placed my head against the steering wheel. How did I mess things up this badly? The situation was already bad enough, but my stupid decision to keep it from Sidney made it one hundred times worse.

I heard a tap on my window and looked up to see Sylvie peering at me, looking very concerned. I cut the engine and got out of the car, trying to look relaxed. "Let's start drinking," she suggested.

"That sounds perfect," I replied gruffly.

I stood awkwardly in the kitchen as Sylvie made me a drink. "Do you think he'll be here?"

Marc came up behind me and rested a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "He'll come," he replied firmly.

I took a sip of my rum and coke and perched on a bar stool set against the kitchen island. I didn't know if I should be pleased or terrified.


I sighed to myself and made my way into the kitchen to make another drink. It was close to two in the morning, and almost the entire team had taken over Marc and Sylvie's house. Everyone but the captain.

Colby expertly poured a shot of vodka into a glass and grinned at me. "How's it going, Karine?"

"After a couple more drinks it will be going pretty well," I replied with a smile. Although I was in a terrible mood, Colby's presence managed to cheer me up. He had that effect on people. "How was your Christmas?"

"Amazing. I'm sure you've seen Lauren's ring already."

"Several times," I laughed. Colby had proposed to Lauren on Christmas, and of course she accepted. She had been showing off her rather large princess-cut diamond all night. "Congratulations. I'm so happy for you two. Did you set a date yet?"

"Nothing definite, but we'll probably have the wedding in late June or early July. You know, after the season's over. What are you drinking?" He took my empty glass and filled it with ice.

"Anything," I replied.

Colby laughed. "Vodka cranberry it is, then." I watched as he added more cranberry juice than vodka, but didn't argue. I could add more alcohol later, when he wasn't watching. "So," Colby glanced at me from the corner of his eyes and suddenly looked very serious, "how's…everything?"

I smiled sardonically and took a sip of my weak drink. "You're not good at being subtle, Army."

Colby chuckled and leaned against the island. "I'm totally breaking a man law right now, but I think you should know Sid is heartbroken."

I grimaced at the word. "He won't talk to me."

"Do you blame him?"

I shook my head and swirled my drink around. "I was really hoping he would show up tonight."

Colby hesitated, obviously struggling with what he was about to tell me. "Sid called a while ago," he sighed. "He wanted to know if you were here."

"Oh," I replied, feeling deflated. "He's being pretty thorough about avoiding me."

"He'll come around," Colby replied in a concerned, friendly voice. "Just give him time."

I nodded and blinked back tears. "Can you make me another drink?" I asked, holding out my now empty glass. "And make it stronger this time."

Colby laughed and filled the glass halfway with vodka. "Just don't blame me for the hangover you'll have tomorrow."


The shrill ringing of my cell phone jolted me out of an uneasy sleep. I answered without looking at the ID, praying Sidney's voice would greet me.

"Sidney?" I asked hopefully, albeit with underlying caution.

"Non, Karine, c'est moi," Sylvie replied apologetically.

I sighed heavily and pressed the bridge of my nose between my thumb and index finger. I could feel a killer migraine coming on.

"Sidney just left our house," Sylvie said in a gentle tone. "I thought you weren't going to tell him until after the Winter Classic?"

"He wanted to buy a house together," I choked. "I couldn't hide it any longer."

"He's really angry," Sylvie replied quietly.

"I know," I groaned. "I really fucked up. I should have told him as soon as I found out." I inhaled shakily and wiped the tears from my face.

"I'm really sorry, Karine. Do you want me to come over?"

"No, there's nothing you can do. I just want to sleep." I looked at my alarm clock. It was only one AM. "I hope he calls tomorrow," I added, feeling a sob form in my throat.

"I'll come over tomorrow," Sylvie said resolutely. Apparently, she could hear the desperation in my voice and she didn't like it.

"Okay," I resigned quietly, flipping my phone shut.


I took another sip of lukewarm coffee, my eyes never leaving my phone that was resting on the table in front of me. I had turned the ringer up to the maximum volume and had never let it out of my sight, terrified of missing Sidney's call.

It was eleven o'clock Thursday morning, and I had just crawled out of bed although I had been awake for two hours. I couldn't bring myself to move from my comfortable, safe bed—I had almost convinced myself that last night was a bad dream.

Unfortunately, when I did manage to move from my bed I was greeted by an empty apartment, and, even worse, no messages from Sidney.

I thought about getting into the shower, but decided to put it off lest Sidney call and I didn't hear my phone ring. I downed the rest of my coffee and buried my head in my hands. If I could just talk to Sidney and explain everything, maybe we would be okay again. Our future was in his hands now—I could call him, but I knew he wouldn't answer. He just needs some time to calm down, I told myself. He'll call soon.

My thoughts were interrupted by a light knock on my door. My stomach lurched as I thought for one irrational moment that it was Sidney. I knew it wasn't though. He had his own key, and there was no way he would show up without calling me first.

Sylvie greeted me with an uneasy expression and coffee and bagels from Panera Bread.

"He went to your house last night?" I asked as soon as I opened the door.

Sylvie nodded and sat on my couch. "I tried to convince him to call you, or come back here, but he wouldn't hear any of it," she said as she spread cream cheese on a bagel.

"What did he say?"

"Well, Marc and I were in the living room and he burst in the house without even knocking. He was literally screaming at me, saying things like you betrayed his trust, and he couldn't believe we all knew before he did. Marc dragged him outside and eventually calmed him down. They came back in, and…Karine…" she averted her eyes and played with a napkin nervously, "…he was crying." I exhaled unevenly and closed my eyes. "Marc left the room, and Sidney and I had a talk. He doesn't want to lose you, but he's so angry at you right now. He doesn't understand why you didn't tell him until now, and only after he basically forced it out of you."

"I was only trying to protect him," I repeated the weak excuse I had given Sidney last night feebly. Even I didn't believe it at this point.

"He's absolutely livid, Karine. You need to talk to him."

"He said he'd call."

Sylvie sighed and munched on her bagel thoughtfully. "Are you going to the game tonight?" she asked.

I shrugged. "I'm supposed to, but…probably not."

"You should come," she replied. It was more of an order than a suggestion. "If the boys win, Marc and I are having a party at our place tonight. It wouldn't be the same without you."

"Sylvie, I really appreciate what you're trying to do, but…"

"Just come," Sylvie repeated. "You need to get out."

"I'll think about it," I sighed. I took a swig of coffee and watched Sylvie pick at her bagel nervously. There was something else she wasn't telling me.

"What else did he say?" I asked suspiciously.

"He said a lot of bad things," she admitted. "I'm sure he didn't mean any of it, he was probably just speaking out of anger, but he's really, really pissed at you."

I groaned and rested my head in my hand. "This isn't going the way I thought it would."

"Well…how did you think it would go?" she asked hesitantly. "I mean, you knew from the start he wouldn't take this well. You knew the longer you waited the worse it would be."

"I know!" I snapped. "I know! I fucked up, and now I have to clean up this mess but I don't know how I'm supposed to do that. I just want him to call." I rubbed my eyes and sighed. "I'm starting to regret even coming to Pittsburgh. My life was so much simpler pre-Sidney Crosby."

Sylvie smirked. "You know he's worth all this. And he knows you're worth it, too. Go to the game tonight and try to talk to him. Honestly, you don't have anything to lose."

I sighed and realized Sylvie was right. I had absolutely nothing to lose by trying to talk to Sidney after the game. Things were already at their worst, how much more harm could an attempt at conversation be?

"Can you do me a favor? I need to take a shower, but if Sidney calls can you come get me?" I asked as I handed Sylvie my cell phone.

Sylvie looked at me sadly and nodded. I could tell she was thinking I was pathetic and desperate, but I couldn't bring myself to care. All I cared about was speaking with Sidney.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


We returned to Pittsburgh late Wednesday night. I stretched out on the couch and propped my feet up on Sid's lap. "I'm so glad to be home," I sighed.

"Me too," he replied, stroking my leg. "You know, I've been thinking…"
"Uh oh," I teased.

Sid glared at me playfully and continued. "I've been thinking about buying a house in Pittsburgh."


"Yeah. My dad and my agent both think it's a good idea. They think I need to show solidarity in Pittsburgh, because living with Mario makes it seem like I'm not really settled here."

"That makes sense," I replied with a nod.

"Would you be okay with living in the suburbs?"

I inhaled sharply. "You want to get a house…together?"

"Yeah," Sid replied, his expression a mixture of confusion and hurt. "We're living together now…why wouldn't we buy a house together?"

I closed my eyes and tried to figure out how to handle this. "Why do we need to get a house? This apartment has been fine…it's close to my office and the Igloo."

"But it's so small," Sid protested. "I want a big house with lots of rooms and a huge yard for the kids to run around…"

Woah. Did he just say kids? "What kids?" I asked cautiously.

"Oh, uh, Julien. And Mario's kids. You know," he stammered.

"Right," I replied. "Hey, look, Family Guy is on." I was eager to move Sid's attention and change the subject.

"Karine, why don't you want to move in with me?" Sidney asked, his expression darkening.

"Buying a house is a huge deal, Sid," I replied, sitting up to face him.

"I thought we were ready for this."

I swallowed and averted my eyes to the floor. Sid looked very hurt and it was killing me. Had he asked me to get a house with him a week ago, I would have jumped at the chance and immediately started to look for a decorator. But with my impending move to Paris—my move that he knew nothing about—I couldn't start looking at houses and pretend that everything was okay.

I exhaled quietly and thought about telling Sid everything. He could tell something was wrong—that was evident in his expression—and he had every right to assume the worst. I planted my feet on the floor and was about to pull myself off the couch and retrieve the infamous manila folder Christopher had given me last Friday, but I stopped myself and instead scooted closer to Sidney.

"Sid, I'm sorry," I said softly as I ran my fingers through his curls.

He brushed my hand away, obviously annoyed. "Don't be."

I recoiled, feeling like he had slapped me. "Stop. You know how much I love you."

"If you really love me, then you'll tell me what the fuck is going on. You're keeping something from me and I need to know what it is."

"Sidney, I'm not keeping anything from you," I protested quietly. I reached out to touch him, but he brushed me away once again.

"I'm going to Mario's tonight." He stood up and pulled on his winter coat. "You can call me when you decide to stop lying."

"You're acting like a child!" I spat, jumping to my feet. "Stop being so petty!"

"I'm not being petty!" he roared. "Something is going on. I'm not stupid! Look, I know you're an independent person but this is just going too far. I'm your boyfriend. I love you. I thought you loved me. We shouldn't keep secrets from each other! I'm already stressed out enough with hockey, and you're not really making things easier."

I shook my head and closed my eyes. I was too exhausted to fight with him—there was only one thing I could do. "Fine," I resigned quietly. "Do you really want to know what I've been dealing with?"

Sid nodded and I padded into our bedroom and retrieved the folder. I stood in front of Sidney, my entire body shaking, and handed him the file like I was passing him a container of nuclear waste. His eyes flickered from the folder to me, looking very confused. He flipped through the papers, his confusion growing. "What is all this stuff?" he asked quietly. He pulled out the plane ticket and studied it. "Why are you going to Paris?"

"I got a promotion," I replied. I wished I could have found a better word than 'promotion' to describe my work situation, but although it felt like a punishment my new position in France really was a better job.

"Karine, that's great! Why didn't you—"

I held up my hand and shook my head. "Listen. This new job…is in Paris."

"Oh," Sid whispered. I noticed his jaw become rigid as he leafed through the contents of the folder once again. "When did you find this out?"

I stared at the floor, ashamed that I had been hiding this from Sidney. "Last Friday," I mumbled.

"Last Friday," he repeated. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was going to after the Winter Classic," I replied.

"You were going to keep this from me for another week?" I could hear the anger rising in his voice and I braced for another round of fighting.

"I wanted us to have a good Christmas. I thought if I didn't tell you, I could forget about it."

"How'd that work out?" Sid asked sarcastically.

"I'm so sorry." I wanted to explain to him how I felt, how it was killing me that I couldn't bring myself to tell him, but I couldn't find the words to convey my feelings.

"Who else knows?"


"You told Sylvie before you told me."

"I needed to talk to someone. I wasn't trying to hurt you, Sid. I was trying to protect you. I'm so sorry," I repeated, stepping close to him. I tried to touch his arm, but Sidney took a step backwards.

"Don't," he said firmly. "Why did you keep this from me?"

"I was trying to protect you," I repeated, staring at my feet.

Sid shook his head, obviously not buying what I was trying to sell. "No. No, you were only trying to protect yourself. You had to tell me eventually, and you knew it would be hard. You were too much of a coward to tell me about this as soon as it happened because you didn't want to face the consequences." His voice was dangerously quiet and he was using a tone I had never heard from him before. My stomach churned as I realized his voice was dripping with hatred.

"You're right," I replied quietly, still unable to make eye contact with him.

"I can't talk about this right now," Sid said, tossing the folder on the kitchen table angrily. "I'm going to Mario's tonight. I'll call when I'm no longer disgusted by you."

My feet felt like they were glued to the floor as I watched Sidney leave my apartment. I stood there, my eyes never leaving the door, for about five minutes. Hot tears ran down my face but I hardly noticed. I was feeling too many emotions at once and my chest was constricting painfully, making it hard for me to breathe. Sid was right—I was a coward. I should have told him the second I found out about Paris. I had enough opportunities, but my selfish child-like need for his affection caused me to lie to the most important person in my life.

I irrationally hoped Sid would walk back in the door, wrap me in a hug, and tell me we were going to work this out. I shuffled into the bedroom and flopped down on the bed, still finding it hard to breathe.

Friday, July 25, 2008


When we arrived in Nova Scotia a few hours later, Trina greeted her son with a huge hug. "I'm so glad you two made it! How was Montreal?"

"It was great," Sid replied as we stepped into the Crosby's quaint brick house.

"Are you feeling better, Karine?" Trina asked.

I smiled and nodded. "Much better."

Trina led us into the living room, where Troy and Taylor were watching television. "We brought presents for everyone," I said, pulling their gifts out of my bag. I handed Troy, Trina, and Taylor the presents Sid and I had picked out in Montreal.

"I know you chose this, Karine," Trina laughed as she checked out the black and green Kate Spade bag we had purchased. "Sidney isn't known for his fashion sense."

"Hey, I helped," Sid whined. "I told Karine green was your favorite color. But I picked out Dad's gift all by myself," he added proudly.

Troy inspected his new skates with a smile on his face. "Good call, Sid."

"Alright, Taylor, your turn," I said. Taylor's present was the smallest in size but it was the one I was most excited about. Her face brightened when she opened the velvet box and found a smaller version of the journey pendant Sid had bought for me earlier in the month.

"It's so pretty," she breathed.

"I was hoping you'd like it. Every girl should have diamonds," I replied happily.

Taylor fastened the necklace and stared at it as it sparkled against her chest. "Thank you so much," she said, giving me a hug. I couldn't stop smiling. I already felt like a part of Sid's family.


Later that night, Sidney's family had gone to bed but we stayed up and lit a fire in the den. We were snuggled on the couch watching the flames dance against the blackened brick and I had never been happier.

"Is it weird that we've only been dating for about three months?" I asked.

"Weird how?" Sid murmured.

"I don't know. This is going to sound cheesy, but it feels like I've known you forever. I would have never brought another boy home to my parents after only knowing him for three months."

"That's because we're perfect for each other," Sid replied. "It doesn't matter how long we've been together. You make me happier than anyone I have ever met."

"You're really in love with me." It wasn't a question. The past few days had succeeded in pushing work out of my mind, but the familiar dread that I associated with Paris was beginning to creep into my stomach.

"I love you so much," Sid replied, kissing me deeply.

"I love you, too," I replied, returning the kiss. I shoved my promotion far out of my mind and snuggled in closer to Sidney.

The den was so comfy that we spent the night on the couch. I awoke as the sun was rising wrapped up in Sidney's arms. I carefully got off the couch without waking Sid and draped a heavy fleece blanket over my shoulders. I slipped on my shoes and stepped out onto the porch to watch the sun rise over the snowy horizon. I heard the door open behind me and glanced over my shoulder.

"Hi," I greeted Troy.

"Morning," he replied, leaning against the railing beside me. "Couldn't sleep?"

I shook my head. "You guys have a beautiful view."

Troy nodded slowly. "I'm glad you and Sidney are together," he said abruptly.

"Oh. Thanks," I replied awkwardly, caught off guard.

"It's hard for him, you know? He's always made good decisions, but we worried about him when he was a teenager. Even when he moved to Pittsburgh. We were worried a girl would come along and ruin everything for him. He can't afford to have his reputation ruined by some puck bunny." I shot him a strange glance, not knowing if I should be offended. "But Trina and I both know you're with him because you love him. I mean, you're a Lemieux. Your last name is synonymous with hockey. You're not in it for attention or money. We think you're good for him. And I can see how much he cares for you. I have never seen him so head-over-heels for anyone before."

I smiled and stared at my hands. Although Troy wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, it was humbling to hear it from Sidney's father. "Your son is an amazing person," I replied. "He's the best thing that's ever happened to me." My voice broke at the end of the sentence, because I knew it was the truth.

"There you two are!" Trina interrupted our conversation from the doorway. "I was just about to make breakfast. Are scrambled eggs okay?"

"I'll come help," I replied, stepping inside and following Trina into the kitchen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


"Wake up, Karine." Sid tucked my hair behind my ear and kissed my cheek. "Père Noël came."

I sat up and stretched. It was still dark outside. "Is Julien awake yet?"

"Of course. He just dragged me out of bed."

I yawned and pulled on my robe. "Let's go, then," I sighed, rubbing sleep from my eyes.

The rest of my family was already downstairs waiting for us. As soon as Sid and I stepped into the sitting room, Julien began tearing into his presents. He had his mountain of gifts unwrapped in under three minutes and was playing with his new pedal truck, leaving the adults to open our gifts.

My parents opened theirs first. My mother loved her green casimir sweater and was very excited to use her gift certificate for a local spa, and my father immediately began using his new camcorder to tape the rest of us unwrapping gifts. Amélie and Guillaume were probably disappointed with their gifts, but I couldn't bring myself to care. If I had bought Amélie a "real" present, she would have just returned it. I bought Guillaume a crystal paperweight, because all he talked about was his job—I had no idea what his other interests were.

"This is from Guillaume and me," Amélie said as she handed me a large, flat package. I slowly unwrapped it and realized it was a huge black and white picture. I held it at arm's length and felt my heart jump to my throat when I realized it was a photograph of the Parisian skyline. I felt short of breath as I looked from Amélie to my parents. Did they know? No, there's no way. This is just a coincidence. A really strange, unfortunate coincidence.

"Are you okay?" Guillaume asked.

"Yeah," I lied. "Yeah. This will look great in my apartment. Thanks." I placed the picture facedown beside me as Sidney handed me his present. I caught my breath as I recognized the robin's egg blue packaging immediately—Sidney had bought something from Tiffany's. I tugged at the crisp white ribbon and carefully lifted the lid off the box. When I saw the diamond and sapphire bracelet shining up at me, I was absolutely stunned. "Sidney," I whispered. "This is beautiful."

"The sapphires reminded me of your eyes," he replied quietly.

"You are so amazing." I rested my forehead against his and kissed him appreciatively. Amélie stared at the bracelet with wide eyes and a jealous expression on her face. "My gift for you isn't nearly as good," I said apologetically as I handed him his present.

Sid tore off the wrapping paper and smiled widely. "A new PSP! Sweet!" He had lost his about a month ago, and he was always complaining that he didn't have anything to do on the long bus and plane rides. It seemed rather juvenile, but sometimes I forgot that Sid was a twenty-year-old kid. He, just like the rest of the male population, loved his video games.

"I bought you some games, too," I added, handing him another box. He shuffled through the handful of games, including Madden, NHL 08, and Super Mario Galaxy.

"This is perfect," he said, giving me a small kiss. "Thank you so much."

While my family dispersed to take showers and get ready for the day, Sid and I stayed downstairs with Julien.

"So why were you so freaked out by this picture?" Sid asked with a small frown as he lifted my present from Amélie.

"I wasn't upset," I lied.

Sid's frown became more pronounced and deep lines formed on his forehead. "What's going on?" His voice was dripping with suspicion.

"Nothing," I replied emphatically. I stood up, eager to change the subject, and asked Sid if he'd like to help me make crêpes.

"Are you sure I won't burn the house down?" he joked.

"I'm willing to risk it," I replied.


Sid breathed a sigh of relief as we walked out of my grandparent's house later that evening. "That was one of the most stressful experiences of my life," he said seriously.

I laughed and rested my hand on his thigh as we drove to the airport. "It wasn't that bad."

"Karine, I love you, but your family is intense."

"I know, mon cher. But thank you for spending Christmas with us anyway."

"Anything for you," he replied sweetly.

"How are you such a good person?" I asked, only half-joking.

"What do you mean?" Sid asked with a laugh.

"You're a superstar, you're inhumanly good at hockey, but you're still the sweetest guy I've ever met. How does that work?"

Sid shrugged and I could tell he was blushing. "I'm just appreciative of what I have. I know how lucky I am and I don't want to take that for granted." He kissed the back of my hand and stroked my palm with his thumb. "Plus, you bring out the best in me."


I woke up in my room the next morning, unable to remember how I had arrived there. I glanced at my alarm clock and saw it was already ten o'clock. My family had probably been up for hours already.

I took a quick shower, got dressed, and found Sidney in the living room playing with Julien. I smiled and leaned against the doorway as I watched Sid and Julien push small toy cars across the carpet.

"VROOM!" Julien screamed as he crashed into Sid's car.

"Oh no!" Sid gasped. "You totaled my car!" Julien ran out of the room giggling. Sid finally noticed me standing in the doorway and came over to give me a kiss. "Morning," he greeted. "How are you feeling?" He rubbed my arm and looked into my eyes, concern evident in his expression.

I sighed and averted my eyes to the floor. "I'm fine, okay?" I grumbled. "You promised you wouldn't bring it up again." I couldn't help but be a little annoyed by Sidney. I hadn't wanted to tell him about Chantal, but now that it was out there I wanted to forget it again.

"Okay," he replied quietly. The concern still didn't leave his face.

"Do you want to get out of the house for a while?" I asked, eager to change the subject. "I still have a little shopping to do."

"You're not done yet?" Sid asked incredulously.

"No. I shop best under pressure. Besides, I'd like to show you the city."

"Alright. Let's go."

We pulled on our coats, hats, and scarves and stepped into the freezing Montreal day. It had snowed last night, blanketing everything in a blinding white cover. I slid into the driver's seat of our rental car and drove to my favorite neighborhood of the city.

Sid and I walked down the street hand in hand, looking at Christmas-themed window displays and drinking in the holiday atmosphere. Although it was Christmas Eve, everything on the picturesque street was open, including my favorite coffee shop. I dragged Sid inside and got us both hot apple ciders. We sat at a table against the front window.

"I feel kind of guilty about getting Amélie a gift card," I said.

"You should have gotten sedatives for her son. That would be the best present she'll ever receive."

I laughed. "Did Julien stress you out?"

"I have never met such a hyperactive kid."

"You two were cute playing together. He seems to like you."

"I'm sure he's okay in small doses. But I played with him for almost two hours before you showed up."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sleep in."

"It's fine. Julien actually saved me from his father. Like you said, Guillaume talked about his job without ever actually telling me what he did."

"Only two more days," I said, patting Sid's hand gently.

"Actually, I was thinking. I love being here with your family, but it's weird not being in Cole Harbour, you know?" I nodded, feeling guilt slowly creep into my body. I was glad Sid had wanted to spend Christmas in Montreal with me, but at the same time I felt badly that he wouldn't be with his family. "So," he continued after a moment's hesitation, "why don't we fly to Halifax tomorrow night?"

I smiled widely and leaned across the table to kiss Sid. "That is the best idea you've ever had. But that means I need to go buy presents for your parents and Taylor." I finished the last of my cider and stood up. "Let's go. We have more shopping to do."

Sid groaned and followed me out of the coffee shop and into the busy street. "How can you shop so much?"

"It's a God-given talent, Crosby. You should understand that."

We finished our shopping and returned home around four to get ready for church. Christmas Eve Mass was a tradition with my Roman Catholic family. For as long as I could remember, we would get dressed up and walk down the street to Notre Dame de la Paix for the six o'clock service. Mass would last until seven, and then we would return home for Christmas Eve dinner. When I reached the age where I realized Père Noël didn't exist, we began opening presents after dinner, but now that Julien was around Père Noël had made a comeback and I could be expected to be awakened by a hyperactive three-year-old at six in the morning on Christmas day to open gifts.

I pulled my burgundy dress over my head and asked Sid to zip me up as I checked my hair in the mirror one last time. I slipped on a black cardigan and inspected Sidney's outfit. He was wearing a navy suit with a soft blue shirt and blue-striped tie.

"You look good," I said, smoothing his tie and giving him a peck on the cheek.

"You look better," he replied as he nipped at my neck. "I love this dress."

"So stop trying to take it off," I said with a laugh. His hand had wandered to my back and he was trying to undo the zipper. I swatted it away and he pouted.

"We're leaving in five minutes!" I heard my mother shout. I slipped into my short heels and ran my hands down my sides. We could hear Julien in the hallway, running around and screaming something about his pants.

"Ready?" I sighed. Sid nodded and we walked downstairs and waited in the foyer for everyone. My father was already there, standing awkwardly by the door with his hands in his pockets.

"Looking good, kids," he said pleasantly. He glanced at his watch and sighed. "Amélie is still trying to get Julien dressed. If they're not down here soon we're leaving without them."

My mother hurried down the stairs, looking absolutely glamorous in a violet dress. "Karine, go check on your sister," she ordered as she fastened a pearl earring.

I took the steps two at a time. The moment I stepped into the upstairs hallway, I could hear Julien screaming. I opened Amélie's bedroom door and found Julien throwing a tantrum on the bed while Amélie held his tiny pants and pleaded for him to put them on. Guillaume stood in the corner with his arms crossed over his chest, not saying a word.

"NO NO NO!" Julien screamed, pounding his fists against the mattress.

"If you don't get dressed, Père Noël won't come tomorrow!" Veronique snapped.

Julien thought about this for a moment, granting a few seconds of silence. Amélie sighed, thinking she had won, and wiggled him into his pants.

As soon as she had his right leg secured, Julien started yelling again. "I…DON'T…WANT…TO!" he screeched.

"You don't what to what?" Amélie looked like she was about to cry.

"I DON'T WANT TO!" he repeated.

"Guillaume, please help," she said, sounding completely exhausted.

"What am I supposed to do?" Guillaume replied nonchalantly.

"Um," I interrupted the unpleasant scene awkwardly, "we're about to leave."

Amélie looked at me, and then back at Julien. "Julien, please," she said once more. Her eyes were glistening and I knew she was in danger of crying from frustration and anger.

"NO!" the three-year-old screamed.

I heard Sidney coming up the stairs. He placed his hand on the small of my back and said quietly, "Your parents are losing it down there. If we don't leave soon I'm afraid your mother is going to explode."

"I'm trying," I hissed.

Sidney approached the bed where Julien was still screaming incoherently. "Hey, Julien," he said, "if you come with me to church Aunt Karine and I will give you your present early."

Julien brightened. "Okay!" he said as Sidney gently slid his pants over his tiny legs.

"Thank you," Amélie said quietly to Sidney, her voice breaking. Guillaume picked up his terror of a child and went downstairs.

"No problem," Sid replied with a charming smile. I watched my sister exit the room and for the first time in my life felt sorry for her. As much as she liked to pretend she had a fairy tale life, that little episode revealed that it was anything but. Sid held out his hand for me and I intertwined my fingers with his and we walked with the rest of my family to the church at the end of the street.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


My eyes fluttered open and it look a moment for me to remember where I was. As my childhood bedroom slowly came into focus, I noticed a nagging dryness in my throat. I could tell by the dead silence it was very late, and a glance at my alarm clock confirmed that it was only slightly past three in the morning.

I wrapped myself in an old Habs fleece blanket and padded downstairs for a drink of water. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I noticed someone was watching television in the living room. I assumed it was my father, who sometimes had trouble sleeping. But as I stepped into the room I realized it was Sidney, and he was watching my old game tapes from Secondary.

"Sid?" He looked up and smiled at me.

"Hey," he greeted softly. "I couldn't sleep, so I came down here to watch some TV. Hope you don't mind."

"Of course not," I replied, settling into the couch beside him. I was silent for a moment as I watched an eighteen-year-old version of myself skate down the ice and pass to my right winger. "Where did you find this?"

"With the DVDs. They were organized according to year and everything."

"I didn't know my dad kept all of these," I said quietly.

"I'm halfway through your last season," Sid replied. I stretched out on the couch and rested my head on his lap.

"We were undefeated at home that year," I reminisced. "Did you see that girl who just passed to me? That's Brigitte Lasalle. She played for Team Canada in the last winter Olympics. So did our goalie, Sophie Vincent."

"Why didn't you play?"

"Didn't want to," I replied shortly.

Sid stroked my blonde hair and remained quiet for a few minutes as we watched the four-year-old game. It was very surreal, watching myself skate down the ice and dive, scoring the winning goal.

Sid rewound and watched me score again. "Karine, that is one of the best goals I have ever seen. By a man or a woman. Why did you quit after Secondary? And don't feed me that stuff about not being able to play professionally—there's a professional women's league. You should have been on Team Canada with those girls. What happened?"

I sat up and wrapped my hands around Sidney's. "I really don't like to talk about what I'm about to tell you, so will you promise me that after tonight you'll never mention this again?"

Sid nodded and looked very concerned. I felt his eyes follow me as I walked to the shelves that held various VHS tapes and DVDs and found a tape marked "February 27, 2003." The tape felt extraordinarily heavy in my hands. This was the one game I had never watched. I put the VHS into the VCR and fast forwarded to the second period, then pressed "pause" and turned to Sidney.

"This is the last game of my senior year," I said. "At this point, we were ranked first for playoffs so winning didn't matter much. Our coach told us to take it easy, but I felt like I had something to prove because this team had beaten us three times during the season. It was about nine minutes into the regular season, and I was going after the opposite team's captain. A girl named Chantal Fournier, really talented, was planning on playing at Boston College. So, she had the puck, and I slammed her into the boards, and…" I drew a rattling breath and closed my eyes, trying not to cry. "Here, just watch."

I pressed the "play" button and braced myself for what I was about to watch. The second Chantal crossed the center line, I was all over her. I effectively killed every opportunity she had to pass or score. I forced her to the far right side, and just as she lifted her stick to pass to a teammate I checked her into the boards. It was hard to see the details of the hit, and even harder for me to remember, but I could see her legs fly up in the air and her helmet skid across the ice. Chantal grabbed at my jersey, throwing me off balance and causing me to slide into her. I quickly returned to my feet and went after the puck, without noticing that Chantal was still lying face down on the ice. I quickly scored, but everyone's attention was on Chantal. Her head was bent at an awkward angle and she was completely immobile. Her teammates soon surrounded her as trainers hurried across the ice to find out what was wrong.

The screen went black. Apparently my father had turned off the camera while the trainers tended to Chantal. When he turned the camera back on, a team of paramedics had arrived and were taking Chantal off the ice on a gurney.

I stopped the tape and exhaled. I hadn't realized that I had been holding my breath while watching the clip.

"What happened?" Sid asked softly.

"Apparently when I hit her, she started to fall and grabbed for me to help steady herself, but instead she made me fall, too. I slid into her and her head hit the boards at an odd angle. She broke three vertebrae in her neck."

"Wow," Sid breathed. "Was she unconscious?"

I nodded. "She was unconscious until they got to the hospital. When she woke up, they realized…" I felt a sob rise in my throat and hot tears began to fall down my cheeks. "They realized she was paralyzed. Everyone agreed it was some weird freak accident, they all said it wasn't my fault at all, but I still blamed myself. I visited her in the hospital once and she was so nice, so forgiving, that I couldn't make myself go back. I really slacked off during the playoffs—at first I was terrified to even step on the ice. I was so unaggressive it was like I wasn't even playing. I was so afraid to hit anyone…so afraid it would happen again."

I stared at my hands and took gasping breaths between sobs as Sidney stared at me. "Karine," he whispered, stroking my cheek with his thumb, "I am so sorry. I had no idea."

"I ruined her life," I sobbed. I had never actually talked about this incident with anyone before. All the emotions that I had bottled up in the past four years were finally surfacing, and it was ugly.

"Like you said, it was a freak accident."

"A freak accident that never would have happened if I wouldn't have been so fucking aggressive," I replied angrily.

"You can't blame yourself for this. It could have happened to anyone."

"But it happened to me. I don't expect you to understand, but there is no way I could ever play competitively after this. Chantal was one of Canada's best players. And now she can't even walk."

Sid pulled me into a firm, comforting hug and I cried uncontrollably against his chest. He rocked me back and forth and pressed his cheek against my hot forehead. "You can't keep blaming yourself," he said over and over.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"Have a nice Christmas, boys!" I called as I pushed Sid out of the rowdy locker room. The Pens had just defeated Boston four to two, and the guys were all in high spirits due to the upcoming holiday. I, too, was feeling better than I had in a long time. I was so excited to show Sidney my childhood home and introduce him to the rest of my family, and details of Paris were pushed far in the back of my mind.

Sidney undid his tie and pulled a Reebok winter hat low on his head. "We're going to miss our flight," he said as we practically ran to his Range Rover.

"Think positively, Crosby!" I ordered. "If you drive twenty miles over the speed limit we should be fine."

He grinned and jammed his key into the ignition. We arrived at the airport just in time to catch the plane.

"Okay," Sid said as the plane was taking off, "who am I all going to meet? Just your parents and your sister?"

I chuckled. "Oh no, sweetheart, the Lemieux family goes all out for the holidays. On Christmas day, we'll be at Grand-père and Grand-mère Lemieux's house along with Uncle Mario, Uncle Thomas, and their families."

Sid exhaled loudly. "Alright. How many people is that?"

I counted on my fingers. "Well, there's my sister Amélie, her husband Guillaume, their son Julien, Uncle Mario, Aunt Nathalie, and their three children, Uncle Thomas and his wife, five kids, and two grandchildren, plus us and my parents. Counting my grandparents, that's twenty-three people."

"Kind of overwhelming," Sid replied. I detected a twinge of panic in his voice.

"You'll be fine," I said, resting my hand on his knee. "You've already met my parents, Uncle Mario and Aunt Nathalie have practically adopted you, and my grandparents are guaranteed to love you. How can you be so nervous about meeting my family when you play in front of almost 20,000 people every other night?"

"I want to make a good impression."

"You will," I reassured him, kissing his cheek. "Okay, I need to give you the rundown on my sister. When we get to my parent's house, Amélie, Guillaume, and Julien will probably already be there. My sister and I are complete polar opposites. She's never touched a hockey stick in her life, and she's kind of a diva. Her husband works for the government. He'll brag about his job endlessly without actually telling you what he does. Their son, Julien, is the anti-Christ."

"Karine!" Sid interrupted, looking completely shocked.

"I'm not kidding," I replied. "He's three years old and the worst child I have ever encountered. Just try to stay away from him."

"He can't be that bad."

I shook my head. "Trust me. Stay away from him. My sister and I don't really get along, so she's going to ridicule everything about me…and that might include you," I added reluctantly. "Don't let her get to you, she's just a massive bitch."

Sid laughed. "Remind me why we're spending Christmas with your family?"

"Because my parents are making us," I deadpanned. "I would rather be in Cole Harbour, trust me. Oh, and another thing, my parents are probably going to make us sleep in different rooms."

A strange grin spread across Sid's face. "Like we're 16."

I nodded. "Exactly. They're very conservative people. They don't know we live together."

"Okay," Sid replied with a nod. "I think I can handle this."

"We can get through it together." I squeezed his hand and tried to mentally prepare myself for the next three days. I felt like when the plane landed, we would be in a war zone.


I took a deep breath before pushing open the front door of my parents' house. I glanced at Sid and he gave me a small nod. I couldn't help but laugh; I felt like we were actors in a crappy melodrama.

"Maman? Papa?" I called as we stepped into the foyer. "We're here!"

My mother came rushing into the room, looking flushed and slightly hassled. "Finally!" she said, giving me a hug. "Honestly, Karine, couldn't you have found something nicer to wear? Your entire wardrobe consists of hockey jerseys." I rolled my eyes. I hadn't had time to change after the game, so I was still wearing Sid's jersey. "Sidney." My mother brightened as she held his hand in hers. "It's so nice to see you again." Her eyes gave him a quick once-over and she nodded approvingly. "You look very handsome." He grinned and winked at me. I rolled my eyes again—Sid was still wearing his suit, but he could have been in an ancient pair of sweats and my mother would still think he looked better than me.

"Thank you, Mrs. Lemieux. And thanks so much for inviting me to spend Christmas here. Your home is beautiful."

My mother giggled—yes, giggled—and tried to act humbled. "It's really our pleasure, Sidney. And please, call me Claudine."

My father entered the foyer with my three year old nephew, Julien, hanging on his legs. "Here, let me take your bags." He reached for our two suitcases, but Sidney stopped him.

"I've got them," Sid said, lifting the two large bags effortlessly.

"We have the guestroom ready for Sidney," my mother said pointedly as Sid and I started up the stairs.

"Told you," I mouthed. Sid grinned and followed me to the spacious guest bedroom. "I think my mom has a crush on you," I teased as I sat on the edge of the bed.

"Apparently I have a way with French Canadian women," he replied, kissing my lips softly.

"I guess I should keep you locked up for the next three days, then."

"Probably," he replied with a shrug. "Hey, show me your room."

I hesitated before standing up and leading him down the hall. "Alright," I said before I opened the door, "just remember that I haven't actually lived here in four years. My mother has…taken some liberties with the decorations."

"It can't be that bad," Sid replied, placing his hand on top of mine and pushing the door open. "Woah," he breathed as he stepped inside.

I glanced around my old bedroom and blushed furiously. The walls were baby girl pink—I hadn't cared enough to repaint them in the eighteen years I spent here—and my mother had used every inch of wall space to display all my medals and trophies from hockey, old jerseys, and, to my mortification, my tiara and sash from the "Miss Junior Montreal" pageant.

Sid inspected each medal and trophy. "Top scorer, rookie of the year, most valuable player…most penalized," he laughed, "and, wow, your team won the championship."

"Yeah," I replied. "My senior year."

"That's awesome. Your trophy room rivals mine." He trailed off as his eyes fell upon the tiara and sash from the beauty pageant my mother had bribed me to participate in my last year of Secondary. "Wait. Miss Junior Montreal? Are you kidding me?"

"No," I replied meekly.

Sid laughed again. "I'm dating a beauty queen?"

"Don't make fun of me. My mom made me…I didn't want to…"

Sid wrapped me in a hug and kissed my forehead. "God, you're perfect. I don't even know what so say to all of this. I'm stunned. Why didn't you tell me you were Superwoman?"

I grinned up at him. "Didn't want to give you an inferiority complex," I teased. "I knew you'd be really jealous if you knew I was Miss Junior Montreal 2003."

"I could never win it," he sighed jokingly. "I can't walk right in heels."

"Too much information, Crosby," I replied playfully. "Let's go back downstairs. You still need to meet Amélie and Guillaume." He wrapped his hand around mine and I led him downstairs and into the sitting room, where my parents, Amélie, and Guillaume were relaxing.

"Salut, Amélie, Guillaume," I greeted my sister and her husband. "This is my boyfriend, Sidney."

Guillaume let out a haughty laugh. "We know who he is, Karine. He's on television about twenty times a day."

"Right," I replied, forcing a smile. "Sidney, this is my sister Amélie and her husband Guillaume. And that's their son, Julien." Julien was situated in the corner of the room, harassing my mother's cat by hanging Christmas tree ornaments from its tail.

"Nice to meet you," Sid said, shaking Amélie and Guillaume's hands.

"Likewise," Amélie replied. "Il est plus beau visage à visage que sur le télé," she added in rapid French.

"Merci," Sidney replied with a perfect accent. Amélie blushed, embarrassed that she had just been caught calling him handsome. Sid's days in Rimouski had taught him enough French to catch the general meaning of sentences, something my sister hadn't bargained for.

"Would you two like anything to drink?" my father asked.

"I'll have water," I replied.

"Me, too," Sid said as we sat on the couch directly across from Amélie and Guillaume. We spent the rest of the night in the comfortably warm sitting room making awkward conversation and catching up. My sister and Guillaume bragged about their newly purchased home in one of Montreal's more affluent neighborhoods, and my sister asked me things like, "Do you think I should decorate the living room in colonial or French pre-revolution?" and "Are gold bathroom fixtures more attractive than platinum?" I knew she couldn't care less about my opinion, she was only showing off in her usual passive-aggressive manner.

"Amélie's house is beautiful, Karine. You and Sidney should go see it. It's so clean," my mother said, putting emphasis on the word 'clean.' "And there's so much space. You should really consider buying a home instead of renting that shoebox you call an apartment."

I inhaled shakily and tried to remain calm, at least on the surface. "I don't need much space," I replied tersely. I wanted to quickly change the subject and stop talking about living arrangements, because I was feeling the panic that came with thinking of my impending move to Paris slowly rising in my core. Besides the people I worked with, Sylvie was still the only one to know that I had less than two months left in Pittsburgh.