Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TWENTY-TWO

"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.

4 comments:

Lauren said...

AHHH I love this chapter! I laughed hysterically at the bit about the cat!

And I also loved the part about Sidney understanding Amelie's rapid french - so cute! I can totally imagine something like that happening in real life

Update again soon please - I really like this story!

KylieD32 said...

I'm totally addicted to this story! Update soon, please! :)

Aeryn said...

Can't wait for the next update! I love this story! I love how her parents don't know that she and Sid are living together. And the cat thing, that was icing on the cake :D

lilyr said...

soo good: )
pretty much addicted
better than alot of the books i`ve read in recent memory
update!!!!