Monday, August 25, 2008


When we woke up the next morning, Sylvie was gone. I was in the kitchen reaching for a cereal bowl when Sidney came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist.

"Happy Valentine's Day," he muttered, kissing my neck. He was clutching a bouquet of deep red roses in his right hand.

It was actually February 15th, but since the Penguins played in Carolina yesterday we had decided to postpone our plans…even though I didn't know exactly what our plans were. Sid was very secretive about how we were going to spend our first Valentine's Day as a couple.

I took the bouquet and inhaled the aromatic smell of the roses. "They're beautiful," I replied, a wide smile spreading across my face. "I didn't get you anything, but I can offer you a romantic breakfast of Cheerios and coffee."

Sid chuckled as he retrieved two bowls from the cupboard. "That sounds perfect."

"So what are we doing today?"

"Well, I have to go to the arena…but only until two, I promise. Then around five you're going to change into the new dress that is currently in a garment bag in the back of the closet and we're going to this French restaurant downtown. Then we're going to come back home and I'm all yours for the rest of the night," he added suggestively.

"You bought me a dress?" I asked excitedly. My expression changed as I thought about Sid's fashion sense. "Was it made by Reebok?"

Sid laughed loudly. "No. Come on, Karine, give me a little credit." I grinned and ran upstairs. "Hey, you can't look at it yet!" Sid shouted as he ran after me. I beat him into the bedroom and hurried to our shared walk-in closet.

I immediately found the white garment bag in the back corner. I wondered how I hadn't noticed it before. I unzipped it and gasped when I saw the stunning emerald green halter dress on the hanger.

"With your hair and skin tone, you look best in green," Sid said.

I laughed at his unnatural-sounding explanation and turned to face him, putting my hands on my hips. "Where the hell did you hear that?"

Sid laughed, too. "That obvious, eh?" I nodded and rezipped the bag. "Nathalie helped. A lot."

"And by 'a lot,' you mean she picked the dress out."

"Yeah," Sid reluctantly admitted. "But I told her what I was looking for."

"Babe, it's beautiful. Thank you." I placed my hands on the back of his neck and pulled him into a kiss. He rested his hands on my hips and pulled me closer as our breathing became shallower.

We were interrupted by the obnoxious ring of his cell phone.

"Ignore it," Sid whispered as his hands traveled under my shirt.

I pulled away. "What if it's important?" I grabbed his phone from the top of the dresser and looked at the ID. "Hi, Marc."

"Hey, Karine. Is Sylvie still there?"

"No, she left earlier this morning. She probably went home."

Marc sighed and was silent for a few seconds. "Did she…say anything? About me?"

"Uh…" I glanced at Sidney and mouthed 'It's Marc.' He rolled his eyes and walked out of the room. "She told me what happened. She's a wreck."

"She brought this on," Marc replied obstinately. "She won't answer my calls."

"I'm really sorry," I replied, anxious to get off the phone. It was awkward to be caught in the middle of Marc and Sylvie's argument. "I'm sure she just needs some time to think."

"Sure." Marc sounded like his mind was already elsewhere. "Could you tell her to call me? We really need to talk about this."

"I'll go see her today," I promised. "But you have to understand, she might need some space."

"Right. Thanks, Karine."


Sid left for the arena at 11, and I drove to Marc's house where I knew I would find Sylvie. Sure enough, her silver SUV parked at the top of the driveway.

I knocked on the front door, but Sylvie wasn't able to hear me over the music blasting in the living room. I tried to push the front door open, but it would only open a little way. It was being blocked by something. I managed to slide through the small opening and stepped into the foyer and was stunned by what I saw.

Cardboard boxes were stacked everywhere. I could hear Sylvie in the living room, singing along to a song I didn't recognize. I peeked into one of the boxes and found a small fraction of Sylvie's enormous wardrobe packed neatly away.

"Sylvie?" I called as I navigated through the maze of boxes into the living room.

She jumped when she heard her name and spun around to face me. "Jesus, Karine, you scared me!"

I looked at her and couldn't believe this was the same girl who had cried herself to sleep on my couch last night. She looked completely rested…not even a little depressed.

"Are you okay?" I asked slowly.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Sylvie replied in a convincing tone.

"What are you doing?"

"Packing," she replied as she continued to wrap dishes in sheets of newspaper and carefully stack them into boxes.

I frowned and crossed my arms over my chest. "What's going on?"

Sylvie sighed and turned the music down. "I'm leaving."


"I'm going back to Quebec."


"I can't stay here anymore, Karine," she replied with a slight smile, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"You aren't going to try to work it out?"

"There's nothing to work out. We want different things out of this relationship."

"Can't you compromise?"

"How?" she asked with a laugh. "He wants to get married, I don't. Where's the middle ground?"

I stared at my best friend, at a loss for words. I couldn't imagine life in Pittsburgh without her. Besides Sidney, she was the person who meant the most to me. Sylvie had always been there for me, even when Sidney wasn't. And now she was leaving? How was this possible? I need her more than ever now. I needed her to be around to tell me that I was being stupid about the whole Alissa thing…I needed someone to reassure me that Sidney and I were meant to be.

"Marc wants you to call him," I replied in a flat monotone. "Could you at least do that?"

"Yeah," she said quietly.

I was silent for a few moments as she continued to pack her dishes. "Why do you have to go back to Quebec?"

"I can't stay here. It'd be too hard." She paused and looked up at me. "You understand that I still love him, right? He was a huge part of my life for four years. Feelings that strong don't just disappear. We can't be together anymore, so we have to be apart."

"I don't get it," I replied with exasperation. "If you love him, why can't you marry him?"

"It's not right," Sylvie replied sadly. "It's just…it's not right. I don't expect you to understand."

I nodded and sighed quietly. "Pittsburgh is going to suck without you."

Sylvie pulled me into a hug. "You won't even miss me."

"Yeah, right," I scoffed. "Who am I supposed to complain about Alissa to? Who's going to tell me when my outfit is downright hideous?"

"When you get dressed in the morning, send me pictures. I'll let you know if I approve," she joked. "And as far as Alissa goes…just ignore her. She's not a threat."

"Yeah," I replied, "but that doesn't mean I don't hate her." I sat cross-legged on the floor and helped Sylvie pack her drinking glasses.

"I'm only a phone call away. Anytime you need to vent about that redheaded bitch just call."

"I'm definitely going to be calling," I replied with a laugh.

I continued to help Sylvie pack as we talked about random, pointless things while trying to ignore the fact that she was leaving, until I looked at the clock and saw it was almost two o'clock.

"I have to go," I said reluctantly. "Sid said he'd be home around two and we're doing all our Valentine's Day stuff today, so…"

"Alright," Sylvie said as she taped a cardboard box shut. "Give me a call the next time you're in Quebec."

I gave her a hug and smiled sadly. "When are you leaving?"

"As soon as I can. I'll probably crash at my parents' house for a while until I find my own place and get a job."

"I'm really going to miss you, Sylvie."

"I'm going to miss you too, Karine."


I returned home and was a little surprised to see that Sidney hadn't returned from the arena yet. I checked my phone, making sure I didn't miss any calls from him, but there were no notifications on my screen.

I reclined on the couch and flipped on the television. I tried to remember what Sidney had to do at the arena today, but he hadn't really told me. Probably physical therapy with Alissa. I tried to push the unpleasant thought of them together out of my head as I found Serendipity on TV. It was one of my favorite movies…I loved the fact that nothing, not fiancés, distance, or time could keep Jonathan and Sara apart. I liked to think that fate played such a huge role in everyone's life. I thought about my relationship with Sidney. Was it fate or coincidence that brought both of us to Pittsburgh? Definitely fate, I decided. What were the chances of him living with Uncle Mario at the exact time I moved to Pittsburgh to take a job that I never dreamed I would have been offered? Very slim…we were meant to be together. Fate was pushing us towards each other whether we liked it or not.

I became so engulfed in the movie that I hadn't noticed that two hours had passed. It was nearly 4:30 and Sidney hadn't called. I opened my cell phone and scrolled to his number. It rang three times before he answered.

"Hey, Karine." I noticed he sounded slightly annoyed.

"Hey, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," he said tersely.

"Oh," I replied after a short pause, expecting an explanation. "I was just making sure, because you said you'd be home at two."

"I had to get x-rays," he said. "I'm still at the hospital. It's taking forever, but Alissa said it was necessary."

"Of course she did," I muttered. "Do you know how much longer you'll be?"

"I'm really sorry, Karine. Go get ready and I'll be home as soon as I can."

"Okay," I replied as I snapped the phone shut. I went upstairs and retrieved the green dress from the closet and laid it on the bed. I took my time in the shower, and then slowly did my hair and makeup. By the time I was ready to get dressed, it was after six. I looked at my phone—no new messages.

Sid said he would be home as soon as he could…he shouldn't be much longer. I pulled the dress over my head and managed to zip it up and studied myself in the mirror. The dress fit perfectly, and the color really complimented my blue eyes and blonde hair. I ran my fingers through my hair and slipped on a pair of black ballet flats.

I returned to the living room couch and mindlessly channel surfed, ignoring the urge to look at the clock every two seconds. I was sitting very still, not wanting to wrinkle my dress or mess up my makeup or hair, but eventually drowsiness overtook me and I lay down on the couch.

I must have dozed off, because after what felt like minutes later Sidney was shaking me awake. I stretched and sat up on the couch and realized it was dark outside.

"What time is it?" I asked thickly.

"Ten-thirty," Sidney replied. His guilty eyes wouldn't meet mine.

"Where have you been?"

"The hospital. We had to wait for hours for the x-rays."

"You couldn't have done this tomorrow?" I asked, not even trying to hide my annoyance.

"Alissa said it had to be done today," he replied quietly as he averted his eyes to the floor. "I'm really, really sorry we had to miss dinner, but I brought you some food from Angelo's."

"You went to Angelo's?"

"Yeah. When we were done we were starving so we stopped there for a quick dinner."

I closed my eyes and exhaled quietly. Sid should have just slapped me in the face…it would have hurt less. "Who's 'we'?" I already knew the answer…I just wanted to hear Sidney say it.

"Alissa and me," he replied, his voice barely above a whisper. "I'm so sorry, Karine. I'll make it up to you." He reached for my hand but I pulled away and started to walk out of the room. "Don't you want any food?" I noticed Sid's voice sounded almost child-like…was it from guilt, or was he simply afraid that I would blow up in his face? I was beyond yelling, though. I just wanted to be away from Sidney. Instead of coming straight home from the hospital and attempting to salvage our Valentine's Day, he opted to go to dinner with Alissa. Regardless of if he thought it through, it still seemed like she meant more to him than I did.

"I don't have much of an appetite," I replied stonily. I walked upstairs to one of the spare bedrooms and locked the door behind me. I crawled under the covers, still wearing my dress, and tried to will myself to sleep.

I heard Sidney approach the door, but he didn't knock or say anything. I wondered if I was overreacting…would it be so horrible for me to swallow my pride and forgive Sidney? It wouldn't be horrible, it would be impossible. He was my boyfriend. We had plans for Valentine's Day, and he cancelled them without telling me and spent time with another woman. I wasn't mad that he had to be at the hospital, but it was just a slap in the face that he went out to dinner with Alissa when he could have returned home sooner.

I heard Sidney walk away and close our bedroom door behind him. I sighed and squeezed my eyes shut. Why did it feel like my life was falling apart?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Marc groaned when he found me sitting alone in Uncle Mario's box, waiting for the game to start later that night. "You killed him, didn't you?"

I laughed. "No, Sid and Uncle Mario are in the locker room."

Marc relaxed slightly as he and Sylvie took their seats. "I was certain you were going to murder Sid when you two left the steakhouse. I'm really sorry, Karine. I shouldn't have said anything."

"I would have told you if I would have known about it," Sylvie interrupted. "But Marc decided the fact that Alissa is Sidney's ex-girlfriend wasn't important enough to mention."

"It's fine, guys. I'd rather not talk about it." I had resolved to avoid Alissa at all costs. I didn't want to think about her, I didn't want to talk about her, I didn't want to see her. I was still a little angry with Sidney about not telling me they had dated, but it wasn't worth getting worked up over. Like he said, he was in love with me. As long as I didn't have to put up with Alissa, I could consider her a nonissue.

Apparently that was all easier said than done.

I froze the second I heard Alissa’s voice in the hallway. Sylvie and Marc looked at me with identical anxious expressions as I turned around to see Uncle Mario enter the box, followed by Sid and Alissa.

“See, Alissa, there’s plenty of room for you up here!” Uncle Mario said brightly.

Uncle Mario couldn’t have been more wrong. Regardless of physical space, there wasn’t enough room for both Alissa and me in the same place. Period.

“Bonjour, Marc!” Alissa greeted him with horrible pronunciation.

Honestly, if you can’t even say ‘hello’ correctly you just shouldn’t try to speak French at all. I chastised myself for my bitter, jealous thoughts. You’re better than that, Karine, I told myself. Be the bigger person.

“Hi, Alissa! What brings you up here?” I was trying to make my voice friendly and pleasant, but I couldn’t hide the dissatisfaction I felt when she walked through the door.

"The other trainers said they didn’t need me unless someone got hurt,” she replied with a shrug. “I was going to go home, but Sid suggested I come up here and watch the game with all of you. Isn’t that fun?”

“So fun!” I replied through clenched teeth. I couldn’t help but send a glare Sidney’s way. What was he thinking? He should have known better. Anyone with half a brain would have known that bringing Alissa up here was a major mistake.

Sid wrapped his arm around my waist and kissed my forehead. I relaxed slightly. He was mine. That was all that mattered.

Alissa sat on Sid’s left as the game started. Sylvie looked relieved that she had not taken the empty seat next to Marc. I frowned. What was this girl doing to us? Sylvie and I had never felt threatened by the legions of women who threw themselves at Sid and Marc during almost every game. Apparently, our instincts were telling us that Alissa was a cause for concern. Sylvie and I both sighed at the same time.

Sid and Marc looked at us quizzically. I wondered if they felt the tension in the room, too, or if they were still completely oblivious.

“Everything alright, babe?” Sid asked as he reached for my hand.

“Everything’s just great,” I replied unconvincingly.

The game was the longest of my life. I contemplated leaving and taking a cab home several times, because watching Alissa flirt with Sidney was unbearable. She did little things, like playing with her hair, touching his arm, laughing a little too much...all very subtle moves. I doubted if anyone else noticed it, but I felt Marc’s eyes on me and looked over. He was staring at me with a sympathetic expression in his eyes, and I felt a sob rise in my throat. I almost wished I was being a psychotic girlfriend and making all this up in my head. Marc confirmed my fears–everyone knew Alissa still had feelings for Sidney. Everyone, that is, but Sidney. He was stubborn enough to believe that her feelings were as innocent as his. I heard Alissa giggle at something Sidney had said and saw her run her fingers through her long, perfect hair.

I swore I could feel my heart breaking. What chance did I have against this girl? Sure, Sidney said he loved It was only a matter of time before he realized what he could have, and I was certain his feelings for me would evaporate.

"What's wrong?" Sid asked as he drove us home.

I stared at the swirling snowflakes reflected in the Range Rover's headlights. "Do you really have to ask?" I asked without much emotion. I wasn't angry at Sidney. I wasn't even angry at Alissa. I just felt…heavy. There was no better word to describe how I felt, both physically and mentally. My brain was slow, and I felt like I could go to bed and sleep for days. That was exactly what I wanted to do…while I was sleeping, I wouldn't have to watch Alissa flirt with Sdney.

"Come on, Karine. Don't start this again."

"Open your eyes," I replied quietly. "Stop being so fucking stubborn and realize that she wants more than friendship."

"Your imagination is out of control."

I took deep breaths and closed my eyes. I concentrated on the gentle motion of the car traveling on the freeway and tried to clear my head.


My mood improved slightly in the next week. Sidney had started more intense physical therapy and his ankle was slowly getting better. He had been cleared to travel, and although that meant we had to postpone our Valentine's Day plans, I was happy for him.

I had been avoiding spending too much time at the arena, because I did not want to see Alissa. I still went to games but Sidney was smart enough to not invite Alissa to join us in Uncle Mario's box. He didn't want to admit that I was right about her, but he also understood if he wanted to avoid drama it was best to keep us apart.

Marc had been sent to Wilkes-Barre for a few weeks as part of his rehabilitation. He played his first game on Wednesday and Sylvie called from their temporary apartment in Scranton with only positive things to say. It was only a matter of time before Marc would be in the goal in Mellon Arena again.

On Valentine's Day, Sid and I returned home from Raleigh around two in the morning. We went straight to bed and I had been asleep for about an hour when I woke up to the sound of the doorbell being pressed so rapidly it was one long, continuous drone.

"What the fuck?" Sid murmured into my neck.

I crawled out of bed and wrapped a blanket around me. Something was obviously wrong…who could possibly be at our house at three AM? I hurried down the steps and tried to wake myself up as I opened the front door.

At first, I couldn't comprehend what I was seeing. It was snowing very badly, making the outline of the petite figure in front of me very fuzzy. I squinted into the snow and noticed Sylvie's silver Escalade parked in the driveway.

"Sylvie?" I grabbed her wrist and pulled her into the dark house. "What's going on?"

"Marc proposed," she said quietly.

"You came all this way to tell me you're getting married?" I asked, my voice dripping with annoyance. Sid flicked on the foyer light as he came down the stairs and joined us.

It was only then that I noticed Sylvie's disheveled appearance and the tears streaking her face. Sylvie hadn't driven from Wilkes-Barre to Pittsburgh to tell me she was getting married…she had come to tell me she wasn't.

I pulled her into a hug and let her sob on my shoulder. "Call Marc," I mouthed to Sid. He nodded and ran back upstairs to retrieve his cell phone. Sylvie was hyperventilating as I dragged her into the living room and set her on the couch. I sat on the edge of the coffee table and rubbed her back, trying to calm her down as she continued to sob.

Her breathing eventually became more even and I went into the kitchen to get her a glass of water. "Tell me what happened," I demanded as she took a large drink.

"He took me out to dinner, and right before we ordered desert he launched into this huge speech about how we had been together for four years, and he knew there was no one else he wanted to be with…and then he got down on one knee, took a ring out of his pocket, and asked me to marry him."

"What did you do?" I asked, even though the answer was obvious.

"I froze. I don't want to get married, Karine. We've been dating for four years, and it's been good. Marriage is unnecessary. I don't need a ring on my finger to know that I belong with Marc. I explained to him that I loved him with all my heart and I loved what we had, and I thought that marriage would change us. I told him that I still wanted to be with him, but I don't want to get married." She paused and took another drink. "He told me he understood where I was coming from…I thought everything was fine. So we finished dinner, and went back to our apartment, and we were watching highlights from the game when out of no where he said that he always imagined himself with a beautiful wife and lots of kids. And then he said if I wasn't willing to be part of his dream then maybe we should break up."

I pulled her into another hug as Sid entered the room and said my name. I looked up and he motioned for me to join him in the kitchen.

"Did she tell you what happened?"

"Yeah. How's Marc doing?"

"He had no idea she was here. He's really upset…he wasn't expecting her to say no."

"She won't give me a real answer as to why she said no," I replied quietly. "All she said was she doesn't want to get married. She thinks it will ruin them."

Sidney rolled his eyes. "There's not much that can ruin a four-year relationship."

I sighed and returned to the living room, where I found Sylvie passed out on the couch. I draped a blanket over her and switched off the light.

Sid shook his head as I followed him up the stairs. "What a mess."

"They'll work it out," I replied confidently. "It's Sylvie and Marc. They're going to be together forever. This is just a little bump in the road."

"I don't know," Sid replied as we crawled into our warm bed. "Marc's pretty set on getting married.

"She'll come around."

Sidney was quiet as we returned to our warm bed. "Do you agree with her?"

"What do you mean?"

"Do you think that marriage is a waste of time? Do you ever want to get married?"

"Maybe someday. I'm too young to consider marriage right now. I think everyone knows when it feels right. Maybe Sylvie is doing what she thinks is best."

"Yeah," Sid replied quietly. "I never really thought about being married until pretty recently," he added. "I could never imagine myself spending the rest of my life with one person...until I met you."

I was silent. Could I see myself spending the rest of my life with Sidney? He was a great guy, and he made me so happy, but I couldn't imagine us together ten, twenty, thirty years in the future. Was that bad? Did that mean I didn't love him?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Please Don't Hate Me!

First of all, I want to thank everyone that reads my story. When I started writing this thing, I was convinced it was total crap (I even have it saved as 'crap' on my computer) but I really appreciate all your positive comments. The only reason I'm still writing this is because of all of you.

Which makes me feel badly about what I'm about to say. In a few days, I'm moving out of my house and starting my freshman year of college. Packing up everything I own coupled with some personal issues I've been dealing with for the past few days have made it almost impossible for me to find time to write. I have two more chapters written, but there's just something I don't like about them so until I can figure out how to make them better I'm not going to post them.

I promise I'm not ending this story yet. I have a lot of ideas and I'm really excited about where this story is headed. I'm going to try to write and post as much as I can, but until I get settled in I can't promise there will be regular updates. I wish I could give you all an idea of how often you can expect a new post, but I won't even know that myself until classes start and I figure out how much time I'll have for this.

I'm really sorry. I wish I could keep updating everyday because I love writing this and I love reading the awesome feedback I get from everyone. I hope you all understand why I need some time off.

I know most of you are going back to school or moving to college as well, so good luck! Going back to school always sucks, but at least it means October is getting closer and we'll soon be able to watch our boy on the ice =)

Thursday, August 14, 2008


"Alissa really likes you," Sid said as we left the arena and made our way to a steakhouse downtown. We were meeting the rest of the team there for a pregame lunch.

"Oh," I replied tersely. I had to resist rolling my eyes. Sid had to be completely dense to believe that Alissa liked me even a little bit.

"What do you think of her?"

"She's…pretty," I replied, choosing not to comment on Alissa's less than pleasant personality. I felt a pang in my stomach as I was reminded of how painfully ordinary I must look compared to her.

Sid sensed that I didn't want to continue the conversation and was silent for the rest of the short ride.

We joined the rest of the team in the private room of the swanky steakhouse. I sat between Sid and Marc and picked at my salad while I listened to the guys talk about pretty much everything but tonight's game against the Islanders.

"So how about the new trainer, eh?" Jordan said to no one in particular. "It makes me wish I was one of these two," he motioned to Sid and Marc.

"Isn't she great?" Marc replied wistfully.

"Where did we find her?" Ryan Whitney asked.

"She used to work in LA," Sid replied. "I guess she heard Tim was leaving and came out here for the job."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. "She had to have taken a pretty hefty pay cut," I commented.

Sid shrugged. "She loves hockey. She told me this is her dream job."

Massaging Sid's legs while flirting with him and mocking his girlfriend? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's a lot of women's dream job. I stabbed at my salad as I tried to block out the conversation. The only person I wanted to discuss Alissa with was Sylvie, because I knew she felt exactly the same way about the new trainer. The guys were all blinded by her attractiveness, and I'm sure she was a total sweetheart around them, but I knew Sylvie and I saw a totally different person when we looked at the beautiful redhead.

"You should ask her out, Staalsy," I interrupted abruptly. If Alissa had a boyfriend, maybe she would back off Sidney.

"She's seeing someone," Sid replied. "He's a doctor in Los Angeles."

"Oh." My face flushed red with embarrassment.

Okay, maybe I was being a psychotic jealous girlfriend. Maybe I was imagining her flirtatious advances on Sidney. I was probably just intimidated by her good looks…if I would take the time to know her, maybe my opinion of her would change. Maybe we could be friends. Sid would probably like that.

Marc elbowed me in the ribs playfully. "So, Karine, what do you think of Sid's ex-girlfriend?"

My heart stopped for a millisecond. Did he say ex-girlfriend? My eyes flew to Sidney, who was staring at his steak very intently with a red face.

"Ex-girlfriend? Alissa is your ex-girlfriend?" My voice was high and angry. He definitely did not tell me that Alissa was his ex…he didn't even tell me he knew her from Shattuck until I brought it up. My mind replayed what I had seen in the trainer's room…her face dangerously close to his, her hand creeping up his leg, the wide smiles on both their faces…

I thought I was going to vomit. So much for being friends with Alissa.

I looked around the table. All the guys looked extremely uncomfortable and were avoiding eye contact with me. Did they all know Alissa and Sidney had dated? Was I seriously the last person to find out?

"We were only sixteen…it was nothing," Sid murmered.

Nothing? Really? Is that why she left her boyfriend in California and moved to Pittsburgh? There was no way it was just a coincidence that she is now working for Sidney's team.

I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, I wanted to slap Sidney and then go strangle Alissa with my bare hands. Instead, I took a deep breath and bottled up my anger. Sid and I could talk about this when we got home. I didn't want to cause a scene.

I turned to Marc and plastered on a fake smile. "You want to know what I think of Alissa?" He looked nervous, and I could tell he regretted bringing it up at all. But it was okay, I was going to use every ounce of self-control I had to prove that I wasn't intimidated by her. "Honestly, I think she's a disrespectful, patronizing bitch. And I'm sure Sylvie would agree, Marc-André."

Okay, so maybe I didn't have as much self-control as I thought I did. I could see Ryan Malone trying to fight a laugh, Jordan's eyes wide with shock, and Colby looking torn, like he wasn't sure if he should be amused or stunned.

There were a few beats of silence before someone awkwardly changed the subject to tonight's game. I didn't look up from my food for the duration of lunch. I had never felt so much jealousy towards a person before. It was actually kind of scary.

Sid didn't say much either—I think he was aware that I was seething with anger and was afraid to say anything that would make it worse. We left a few minutes later, and I could feel the tension in the room as we told everyone goodbye. All the guys were probably wondering if Sid's ankle would be the least of his injuries after I was done with him.

Marc gave me a hug and patted my back. "I'm sorry," he whispered into my ear.

"Don't be," I whispered back. "I'm glad someone told me."

Marc shot Sid an apologetic glance and we exited the restaurant in silence.


"Why didn't you tell me you and Alissa had dated?" I asked the second we stepped in the front door.

Sid pressed his hand against his forehead and closed his eyes. "This is exactly what I was trying to avoid."

"You really didn't think I'd find out?" I was beyond angry, but I was managing to control my voice. I didn't want to yell at Sidney, I just wanted to find out exactly what the hell was going on.

"Karine, we dated for a few months when I was at Shattuck-Saint Mary's. We were young. It didn't mean anything. We're both so far past it, it's like we never dated. We're just friends now."

I crossed my arms and glared at him. "Exactly how close were you two?" Asking the question was unnecessary. I already knew the answer—on the way home, I remembered that Sid and I had discussed our exes months ago, and the vivid memory of him telling me about the girl at Shattuck-Saint Mary's that he lost his virginity to hit me like a tidal wave. I never dreamed I would ever meet her.

"Look, Alissa was kind of a puck bunny," Sid said, extending his arms to hug me.

I took a step backwards and away from him. "Oh, well that makes it better," I replied sarcastically.

"Come on, Karine, what does it matter?"

"It matters because you lied to me!" I shouted.

"I didn't lie."

"No, but you deliberately didn't tell me something because you knew I wouldn't like it. That's just as bad."

"I'm sorry, okay? I didn't want to upset you."

I sighed. This was a bad case of déjà vu. Wasn't I saying the same thing to him when he found out I hadn't told him about Paris? "Do you even understand what I'm feeling right now? Alissa is beautiful, Sid. I was incredibly jealous of her when I was in the trainer's room today, and that was before I knew you two had dated. How am I supposed to handle this? You can say it didn't mean anything, and that you two are just friends, but I saw the way she was looking at you."

Sid laughed sardonically. "You're crazy."

"You can't tell me you don't feel it."

"There's nothing to feel!"

I shook my head and looked away. "She was eyeing me up like I was her competition," I said quietly. "You can choose not to believe me, but don't expect me to like Alissa."

"Karine, come on. She has a boyfriend. And she broke up with me. It was so long ago!"

"Only four years," I replied quietly. Sometimes it was so easy to forget how young Sidney was…four years wasn't a long time at all.

"It was an entire lifetime ago," Sid argued softly. He tentatively stepped toward me and held my face between his hands. "I'm in love with you, Karine, and only you. Never anyone else. When I was with Alissa, I was young, stupid, and looking to get laid." I couldn't help but smile at his honesty. "And why would you be jealous of her? You're the most beautiful girl on the planet."

"She's a supermodel," I replied as he pulled me into a hug.

"She's not my type."

"What is your type?"

"French Canadian girls with beautiful blue eyes, amazing personalities, and impossibly huge hearts. So far I've only found one, though."

"Lucky for her," I muttered.

"No, lucky for me."

God damnit, why did he have to be so charming? I couldn't even be mad at him anymore. I was putty in his hands. I wanted to believe him, I really did. But at the same time there wasn't a doubt in my mind Alissa Kirkpatrick wasn't just going to go away. I needed to figure out how to deal with her, and fast.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I could hear Sid's heart beating as I rested my head on his chest. He stroked my hair absent-mindedly as we lay in bed in contented, satisfied silence.

"Oh, there was something I wanted to ask you." I lifted my head so I could look at Sid's face. "Who's Alissa Kirkpatrick?"

I felt Sid's body tense up under me. Strange, I thought with a small frown.

"The new trainer," he replied. "Who told you about her?"

"Sylvie mentioned it today. Why didn't you tell me you guys hired a new trainer?"

He shrugged. "Connor kind of had my full attention…I didn't think it was important enough to talk about, I guess."

"Oh," I replied. A few seconds of silence passed; I was waiting for him to tell me he knew her from Shattuck, but apparently he thought the conversation was over. "Sylvie said you two know each other?"

"Oh. Yeah." I noted the tone of Sid's voice—he seemed irritated. I wondered if he would have told me he knew Alissa if I hadn't brought it up. "We were in the same grade at Shattuck-Saint Mary's."

"Sylvie said you two were pretty good friends."

"I guess we kinda were." He shrugged. "Why does it matter?"

"I just thought it was weird you didn't tell me," I replied.

"I didn't think it was important." Sid kissed the top of my head and crawled out of bed. "I'm starving," he said as he pulled on his boxers. "Do we still have leftover Chinese?"

I nodded and he exited the bedroom and went downstairs. I pulled on my clothes and chewed on my bottom lip thoughtfully. Sid was meeting with the new trainer, this Alissa, while the rest of the team practiced tomorrow morning. I didn't have any plans…maybe I could stop by the arena and watch the guys practice. And if I just happened to run into Alissa, no harm done, right?


"I think I'll go watch practice today," I said to Sidney in a forcedly casual tone.

"Really?" Sid asked, looking at me suspiciously over my coffee cup. "I can drive myself now, you know. You don't have to come."

"I want to come. I don't have anything better to do."

"Alright…" Sid said with a shrug. He tossed me the keys to his Range Rover. "You're driving."

I grimaced and followed him out the door. I hated driving his SUV…I felt like I was driving a tank. Hopefully I wouldn't leave a path of destruction from Fox Chapel to the arena.

I pulled into the player's parking lot, proud of myself for not killing anyone on the way here. However, Sid was gripping the edge of his seat very tightly and looked rather pale. "You're getting better," he said unconvincingly. I laughed and put the Range Rover into park. Sid reached for my hand as he hobbled into the arena. "I'll come get you when we're done," he said, giving me a peck on the cheek.

"Oh. Okay," I replied. I was a little surprised that Sid didn't offer to introduce me to Alissa…even though he was too oblivious to know it, that was the reason why I came. Why wouldn't he want to introduce his girlfriend to a high school friend?

I frowned slightly as I watched him enter the locker room. I trudged through the winding hallways and made my way to the ice, where I sat with Uncle Mario on the visitor's bench.

"You look like your mother," Uncle Mario observed with a laugh. I glared at him and crossed my arms over my chest. "What's on your mind?"

"Sylvie told me there is a new trainer, and apparently she and Sidney went to Shattuck together. But he didn't mention this to me at all, I had to bring it up, and I came here today because I wanted to meet her but I have the feeling he's trying to keep us apart."

"And now you sound like your mother," Uncle Mario replied, this time looking more serious. "Did you tell Sidney you wanted to meet Alissa?" I shook my head. Uncle Mario threw his eyes up in exasperation. "Women," he muttered. "How would he know you wanted to meet Alissa if you didn't tell him?"

I thought about it for a minute. Uncle Mario was right…I was overreacting. Sid and I didn't talk about Alissa much. There was no way he could have known how curious I was about her. "I think I'll go introduce myself," I said.

"Good idea," Uncle Mario replied, rolling his eyes.

I stood up just as Jordan broke his stick. "Hey, Karine, could you go to my locker and bring me up another stick?" he called from across the ice.

"Sure," I called back as I stepped onto the runway leading into the Penguins' locker room. I pushed open the door and made my way to Jordan's locker. As I reached for an extra stick, I heard Sid's laugh ringing from the trainer's room. I clutched the hockey stick in my fisted hand and walked slowly to the room.

I froze in the doorway when I saw the woman who could only be Alissa. Sylvie was right—she was beautiful. Her long, wavy auburn hair shone under the florescent lights and she looked like a supermodel in a pair of gray pants coupled with a tailored navy button down top. She was tall and slender, and her facial features were absolutely flawless.

My stomach did a flip when I noticed her hand gently massaging Sidney's thigh. Was that really necessary? His ankle was hurt, not his thigh. Blood rushed to my face as jealousy coursed through my system. They hadn't noticed me yet…they were talking softly, both with huge smiles on their faces. Alissa's face was only inches from Sidney's.

I cleared my throat loudly and stepped in the room. Alissa eyed me over critically and a small, condescending smile appeared on her face. "The equipment room is next door," she said casually.

Sid's smile grew as he realized I was in the room. I relaxed a little…at least my presence had more of an effect than hers. "Alissa, this is my girlfriend, Karine."

I couldn't help but smile at her stunned expression. "Karine Lemieux," I said, extending my hand. Although it was unnecessary, I thought this was a good opportunity to obnoxiously use my surname.

"Oh," Alissa replied, raising one eyebrow. She reluctantly shook my hand. "Alissa Kirkpatrick. Sidney, you're dating the equipment manager?" she asked, motioning at the stick in my hands.

Sid laughed at her little joke, but I grimaced at her patronizing tone. "The Gronk needed an extra stick," I explained to Sidney. I turned my back to Alissa and faced Sidney, blocking her out of the conversation. "Are you almost done?"

"Not quite," Sid replied. It was obvious by his tone of voice that he couldn't sense the uneasy atmosphere between Alissa and me. "We shouldn't be much longer, though."

"Oh, we've only just begun, Sidney!" Alissa disagreed with a flirtatious laugh. I scowled at the innuendo in her voice.

"Well, I'll be watching practice…just come get me when you're done," I said to Sid as I gave him a light kiss.

"Right," Sid replied distractedly. Alissa was already working on his leg again.

I stomped out of the locker room and up to the ice. Wow, did I hate that girl. She had to be the most demeaning, conceited person I had ever met. It was necessarily what she said, it was the way she said it…like she didn't just think she was better than me, she knew she was better than me. But the absolute worst part was that Sidney had no idea how much she wanted him. I wasn't being a psychotic girlfriend…she was really, really uncomfortable with having me in the room. The way she was looking at me…it was obvious she thought of me as competition.

I felt the blood drain from my face as I realized how horribly plain I must have looked to Sidney when I was standing beside Alissa. She honestly had the body of a supermodel—long, slender, and graceful—whereas I was built like an athlete. I had no curves to speak of and my thighs were a little too muscular for my legs to be considered hot. My face was too round, my eyes too big, my shoulders a little too wide…there was an entire list of things I hated about my body. I thought I had gotten over these issues in college, but all it took was two minutes in the same room as Alissa Kirkpatrick for all my self-confidence problems to resurface.


As soon as I returned home from Connor's funeral I called Sylvie and asked if she wanted to go shopping. I needed a way to momentarily escape from reality, and even though I no longer had a steady income buying things provided that release. Maybe it was an unhealthy compulsion, but I justified it by saying shopping was healthier than my other remedy: playing hockey until I was literally unable to move.

I left Sid sitting on the couch in the middle of an intense round of NHL 08. I felt really, really bad for him…his usual outlet was hockey, but he was unable to play due to his ankle. He had so much stress and emotion and no way to let it out. "You're sure you don't mind if I go out?" I asked him for the thousandth time.

"It's fine. I understand," he replied, giving me a half-hearted kiss on the lips. Hopefully by the time I got home we would both be more relaxed.

Sylvie and I went to a few department stores downtown. She looked at me with concern as I sifted through a clothing rack at Macy's without really looking at anything.

"Today was really hard on you," she observed quietly.

I swallowed the sob that was forming in my throat and nodded. "I'd rather not talk about it," I replied. There were a few uncomfortable moments of silence before I cleared my throat and changed the subject. "How's Marc doing?"

"A lot better. We think he's going to be able to play soon…which is a relief, because I'm not sure how I feel about him spending so much time with the new trainer."

"There's a new trainer?" I asked. Since Sid was in a walking cast now, he was able to drive to the arena to meet with the trainer on his own. I hadn't been there in about a week, but I was surprised he didn't tell me the old trainer had left.

"Sid didn't say anything?" I noticed Sylvie's expression darken momentarily, then return to normal. "That's strange…"

I frowned. "Why?"

"Well…" Sylvie hesitated slightly and she suddenly became very interested in the jeans she had been looking at. "She's…kind of beautiful."


"She's really, really pretty. I don't consider myself ugly or anything, but when I'm in the same room as this girl I feel absolutely hideous. I think Marc has a little crush on her. Not that he'd do anything about it, it's just annoying to watch them flirt." My frown became more pronounced as I took this all in. "I'm just really surprised Sid never told you, because apparently they know each other."

"What do you mean, they know each other?"

"They went to Shattuck-Saint Mary's together…I think they were pretty good friends."

"Really." My voice was a flat, annoyed monotone. I racked my brain, trying to remember if Sid even mentioned anything about a new trainer, or an old friend working for the team. I knew I would remember if he had…for some reason, he was keeping this from me. Why? Did he really think I was so petty that I would be jealous of this supposedly gorgeous friend of his? "What's her name?"

"Alissa Kirkpatrick." The name didn't sound remotely familiar. "He probably hasn't thought to mention it with everything you two have been going through. Connor was on his mind…I'm sure he'll bring it up soon."

I nodded curtly and noticed I had pursed my lips into a thin, aggravated line. I knew if I looked in a mirror right now, I would see a younger version of my mother glaring back at me. I groaned and rolled my eyes.

"What's wrong?" Sylvie asked.

"I'm turning into my mother," I replied bitterly.

"Aren't we all," she replied with a laugh.


"What'd you get me?" Sid asked as I entered the house laden down with shopping bags. I was glad to find him in a better mood; it looked like he, like me, had enough time to clear his head and move on from Connor's funeral. The hole in my heart where Connor had been was still there, but it was healing slowly. We both knew Connor wouldn't want us to dwell on his death.

I smirked and shook my head. Sid and I had a bad habit of always buying each other things whenever either of us went shopping. His gifts were always slightly more extravagant, though…every time he saw a piece of jewelry that contained sapphires, he had to buy it for me. He said they reminded him of my eyes. It was sweet, but I still felt guilty when I returned home with a new tie. Every time I complained about him spoiling me, he would silence me with a kiss and say it was his way of paying me back for how happy I made him. I wondered if I would someday find his lines annoying, instead of hopelessly charming. I could never see it happening.

"Sorry, babe, I was completely selfish today," I replied, giving him a peck on the cheek.

"Not completely," he replied with a mischievous smile as he dangled a Victoria's Secret bag from his finger.

"Hey, that's a surprise!" I snatched the bag out of his hand and buried it in my larger Macy's bag. Sylvie and I had fun looking at lingerie for Valentine's day…I settled on a lacy black corset with matching panties. It was something I usually wouldn't look twice at, but Sylvie persuaded me to get it.

"I'll see it soon anyway," Sid replied.

"On Valentine's Day," I said as I started up the stairs.

"But that's like, a week away!" Sid complained as he limped after me.

"Your patience will be rewarded," I replied as I dropped my bags on the bedroom floor.

"Karine!" Sid groaned. "You can't just do that to me!"

I couldn't help but laugh at his exasperation. "Do what?"

"You know what you're doing."

I raised my eyebrows and started to hang up my new clothes. "Are you telling me that the mere sight of a Victoria's Secret bag turns you on?"

"We haven't done anything since I got hurt. At this point, everything turns me on."

I laughed loudly. "Sidney Patrick Crosby, I think you might be a nymphomaniac."

"I am not!" he replied, his frustration evident in his tone.

"What about your ankle?"

"As long as you haven't developed some weird foot fetish in the last couple weeks we should be okay." Sid didn't wait for me to reply; in one smooth movement, he lifted me off the floor, carried me to the bed, and gently set me down. He pulled my shirt over my head and I tangled my fingers in his hair as he kissed the curve where my neck met my shoulder.

"Oh my God," Sid murmured against my neck, "you smell so good."

I chuckled as I undid his belt. "What do you mean?"

"You smell like…" he kissed my neck, "…vanilla, and…" his lips traveled to my jaw line, "cinnamon buns."

"Vanilla and cinnamon buns," I repeated, trying to hold back a laugh.

"It's delicious," he reassured me as he worked on the clasp of my bra.

"You're so weird," I sighed.

"You know you love it," he replied as I tugged his shirt over his head.

I smiled in reply and pulled his face closer to mine, attacking him with my hungry lips.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The next ten days passed alarmingly fast. Sid's ankle was slowly starting to get better, so he had graduated to a walking cast and was beginning physical therapy. His mood improved with his ankle, too; he even apologized for forcing me to call Christopher.

"I should have let you take care of that on your own," he said quietly as he stroked my hair. We were lying in bed, and I had thought he was asleep.

"It's fine," I replied without asking him what he was talking about. I knew exactly what he meant. "I had to do it eventually…"

"Are you happy?"

I snuggled in closer to him and smiled. "Very."

"I'm sorry I've been so grouchy lately. This injury is just so frustrating. I wake up every morning and hope that it's magically healed overnight."

I chuckled and rubbed my hand over his abs. "The trainer said you're healing well, though."

"I'm still not allowed to travel," he replied bitterly.

"You will be soon. They just want to make sure your ankle can handle being in the walking cast."

"Maybe it's better that I'm stuck in Pittsburgh…" his voice trailed off and he wrapped both his arms around me. "Let's watch the game with Connor tomorrow night."

"Sure." Sid and I had both been trying to spend as much time as possible at the hospital with Connor. We knew his days were limited…we visited him every day, and each day he looked worse and worse. He could barely go five minutes without being overcome by a coughing fit, and I noticed he was coughing up more blood.

I pushed the unpleasant thoughts out of my head and tried to concentrate on Connor's infectious personality as I drifted off to sleep. Although I knew I would soon have to say goodbye to my young friend, I tried not to think about it. I wasn't sure how I would handle it.


I was making breakfast for Sid the next morning when my cell phone vibrated on the kitchen counter. I glanced at the ID and felt the blood drain from my face.

"What's wrong? Who is it?" Sid asked.

"Connor's mother," I replied quietly. His anxious, nervous expression mirrored my own as I flipped my phone open. Mrs. Fisk rarely called either of us, and with Connor's condition rapidly deteriorating we had every reason to believe she was calling with bad news. "Hi, Mrs. Fisk," I greeted, trying to keep my voice even.

"Hi, Karine. I hope I didn't wake you." I noticed her voice was shaking slightly.

"No, no, we've been awake for a while now," I replied as I leaned against the counter, bracing myself for whatever news she had.

"Oh, good. Do you…do you think you and Sidney could come to the hospital? Connor…he's not doing well. This…he…he might only have a few hours left," she said quietly.

"We'll be right there." I snapped my phone shut and met Sid's uneasy stare. "We need to go to the hospital," I said. I wanted to go upstairs and get dressed, but my body wouldn't cooperate. I was rooted to the spot…my head began to spin and I closed my eyes. Tears ran down my cheeks, but I didn't wipe them away.

"Karine," Sid said gently as he wrapped me in a hug, "you knew this was going to happen eventually." His voice was shaking with emotion and he was holding me very tight. This was just as, if not even more, hard for him as it was for me.

"That doesn't make it any easier," I choked.


"Hey, guys," Connor greeted us weakly, yet happily, as Sid and I entered his already crowded hospital room. It looked like most of his family and friends were here to say goodbye to the affable sixteen-year-old. A few eyes widened in surprise as they recognized Sidney, but no one drew attention to him. We were all here for Connor. "Geez, Karine, you look miserable," he said to me as Sid and I walked to the side of his bed.

I smiled sadly in reply and rested my hand on top of Connor's. I noticed he was wearing Sid's jersey—he wore it during every Pens game, but I couldn't help but wonder if he would be here to see the game at 7:30 tonight. I shuddered at the unpleasant thought.

"How's the ankle?" Connor asked Sid.

"It's getting better," Sid replied awkwardly.

"Do you think you'll be playing soon?"

"Hopefully by the end of the month. I'm going crazy sitting at home."

"Yeah, I know how that is," Connor replied with a grimace. "By the way," he looked at me, "Chloe's fiancé finally realized Carla was trying to sabotage their relationship. Not that it matters, because Carla shot Chloe and he went to Amanda."

"Thanks for the update," I said with a smile as he recapped the latest story line in the melodramatic soap opera.

Connor nodded and began coughing violently. Sidney's rested his hand on the small of my back as we waited for the fit to pass. When Connor was finally done coughing, the tissue he had been holding to his mouth was stained red with blood.

"Sorry," he said softly. "Hey, Karine, I have something for you." He opened the drawer in his side table and produced a picture.

I smiled as I held the five by seven photograph in my hands. It was a picture taken during the Rangers game I had taken him to in January. I remembered Connor handing Uncle Mario his camera and asking him to take a picture of us…I had planted a kiss on his cheek at the last moment, causing him to be wearing a shocked expression in the photograph. I flipped it over and read the caption Connor had scrawled on the back: "Don't worry, I won't tell Sid you're cheating on him with me."

Sid and I both laughed at the inscription. "I'd probably share her with you," Sid joked with Connor as he wrapped his arms around my waist.

"Sure, now you tell me," Connor replied sarcastically.

"That was a fun day," I said quietly as I stared at the picture in my hands. The difference between the Connor in the picture and the Connor lying in the hospital bed was heartbreaking. He was so sick when I took him to that Rangers game, but he still looked a hundred times better than he did now. I unsuccessfully tried to blink away the tears that were forming in my eyes.

"Hey, don't cry," Connor replied softly. "Don't be sad I'm leaving, Karine, be happy we had this much time together. I've had a lot of time to think about this…there's something bigger waiting for me. I won't be in pain anymore."

I smiled and wiped away the tears. It was hard to be bitter about how unfair the world was when Connor was so optimistic. "You're an amazing person, Connor," I said through the tears. I rubbed his cold hand gently as he closed his eyes and smiled up at me.

"So, do I get one last kiss?" he asked. I let out a short laugh and bent over to press my lips against his forehead. "Dude, Sid…you're the luckiest guy on Earth. Don't lose her, okay?"

"I'll try not to," Sid replied as he pulled me close to him.

As Connor drifted off to sleep, I felt Sid's arms tighten around me. I rubbed his forearm and turned around to rest my head on his shoulder. We both knew Connor wouldn't open his eyes again.


The alarm clock told me it was close to one in the morning and I still hadn't slept yet. Once we returned home after spending all day at the hospital, Sid and I went to bed without talking much. I was trying to forget how Connor's heart monitor flat lining around four o'clock sounded, but the memory was still too fresh. It felt a giant hole had been ripped in my heart.

My body shook slightly as I sobbed. I was beyond trying to wipe the tears away—my face felt stiff and my breaths were coming in short, rattling gasps. I thought Sid was asleep but I noticed his breathing was slightly uneven as well.

I rolled over on my side to face him and found him with this eyes wide open and tears falling down his cheeks. I wiped his tears away with the pad of my thumb and he smiled bitterly. "I know exactly what Connor would say to me right now. 'Dude, you're in bed with the most beautiful woman in the world and you're crying?! What the hell?'"

I smiled and swallowed hard. "He's probably rolling his eyes at us right now. I miss him," I added quietly.

"He's in a better place," Sid reassured me softly. It sounded like he was trying to comfort himself as well.

I drew in a shaky breath and nodded. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine Connor happy and healthy, looking and acting like a regular sixteen-year-old boy. I couldn't help but smile at the pleasant image…although I would always miss Connor, I knew he was finally at peace. I only wished I would have explained to him how much he changed my life. That sixteen-year-old taught so much about perspective in the short month I had known him. He was the reason why I decided not to go to Paris. He showed me just how powerful love was, and he made me realize what was really important.

I stroked Sid's cheek with my thumb. I wouldn't dwell on whether I had made the right decision anymore. I knew I belonged here with Sidney. If things didn't work out between us, I would move on. But I would never, ever regret staying in Pittsburgh. I had stepped into unknown territory by admitting my feelings for Sid, and I was trusting him with my heart.

I lightly brushed my lips against Sid's. He owed more to Connor than he could ever possibly imagine.


Connor's funeral took place two days later. Most of Sid's teammates attended—they all wanted to pay their respects to the friendly teenager they had met the day I took him to the arena.

The funeral wasn't a sad affair…it was a celebration of his life, something I'm sure Connor appreciated. His best friend, Scott, gave the eulogy, and he captured Connor's sarcastic, likeable nature perfectly.

I felt completely at peace as Sid and I walked to his Range Rover after Connor was buried. I wasn't sad…even though Connor was gone, he would never be forgotten. I couldn't be selfish enough to wish he was still here; I knew he was in a better place. He was done fighting…he could finally relax.

"You okay?" Sid asked.

"Yeah," I replied quietly, my voice barely above a whisper. "Are you okay?"

Sid exhaled and pursed his lips. "I'm getting there."

Monday, August 11, 2008


I pulled Sid's feet onto my lap and adjusted the ice packs around his right ankle.

"How does it feel?" I asked.

He shrugged noncommittally in reply. I sighed and turned on FSN to watch the game—it had been nearly a week since Sid had been injured, but his ankle had only gotten worse because he insisted on being at every practice and game. The trainer had forbidden traveling with the team after we returned from Montreal, so we were stuck at home on the couch while the team went to Philadelphia.

"I know you're mad you can't be with the team," I said gently, "but it's better that you stay home and rest. Do you want to be like Marc? He's been out for seven weeks and he's no where close to being able to play."

Sid ignored me and clenched his jaw. I closed my eyes and rested my head against the back of the couch. Sid had been in a horrible mood all week, and he was starting to take his frustrations out on me. I knew he was mad at himself, and I shouldn't take it personally, but his cold and distant behavior was getting to be too much for me to handle.

"Why haven't you quit yet?" Sid asked abruptly.

My eyes snapped open and I inhaled sharply. I had been coming up with excuse after excuse as to why I hadn't called Christopher and told him I wouldn't be going to Paris. Until now, I thought Sid had bought them. "He wasn't in when I called yesterday," I lied. Really, when he had picked up the phone I immediately hung up. I wasn't sure why I was so hesitant to quit—maybe it was a combination of uncertainty and fear. My parents' warnings kept flashing through my mind…would I regret never going to Paris? I was also afraid of telling Christopher. I had never been a quitter, and although in this case backing out was justifiable, I was still concerned about how I would feel after I handed in my resignation.

"So leave him a fucking message," Sid growled. I flinched at the angry edge to his voice. "Are you having second thoughts?" He twisted his body so he could look me in the eye.

"No, of course not," I replied, hoping he didn't hear the doubt in my voice.

"So call him now." Although it was only a suggestion, it sounded more like a challenge.

"But it's kind of late…"

"You have his cell number."

I took a deep breath and retrieved my cell phone from my pocket. I knew Sid wasn't going to let me off the hook.

The phone rang three times before Christopher answered. "Christopher Fox speaking."

"Hi, Christopher, this is Karine Lemieux."

"Karine! How are you?" He sounded happy, albeit a little surprised, to be receiving a phone call from me. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine. It's just, uh…I won't be able to accept the promotion you offered me in December."

He was silent for a few long seconds. "I see," he replied tersely. "Could I ask what made you change your mind?"

"Personal reasons, really," I replied as I rubbed Sid's calf. "Some things in my life have changed, and I won't be able to move to Paris. I need to stay in Pittsburgh."

"Hmm. It's a shame Karine, it really is. PPG is going to miss you."

"I'm sorry, Christopher. Please understand that I loved working for PPG. I would gladly continue working for the company as long as I could stay in Pittsburgh. But relocating to Paris is out of the question right now."

"Unfortunately, that's the only way you can stay with the company." He exhaled and paused. "You've put us in a bad situation, Karine. You were the only person we had in mind for the position in Paris…now we have to start the job search all over again."

"I'm really sorry," I repeated.

"Yes, well, best of luck in the future. If you change your mind, I'm only a phone call away."

"Thank you, Christopher." I snapped my phone shut and exhaled slowly.

"See? That wasn't so hard." Sid's mood had suddenly improved…he was happy I'd finally quit.

"Not at all," I lied. I felt strangely empty, like I had just ended a relationship. Had I made the right decision? I studied Sid's face—he looked like he was in physical pain as he watched his team take to the ice without him. I sighed. I couldn't imagine my life without him…I would just have to trust that not accepting the promotion was the right thing to do.


The next day, I drove Sid to the arena so he could meet with the trainer. Usually I stuck around and watched practice, but I decided to use the hour or so to visit Connor. I hadn't seen him in almost three days.

His appearance had changed drastically since we had first met. He was even thinner and his complexion was so pale it was almost transparent. He was far less energetic, too. Something as simple as sitting up in bed was a chore.

"Hey, Connor," I greeted him as I entered his room. I gave his mother and father a hug—they had both been with Connor everyday this week, which made me think his condition was worse than everyone was letting on.

"Hi, Karine," he replied with a smile. "How's Sid doing?"

"He'd be doing a lot better if he would listen to me and rest once in a while," I replied.

Connor shook his head. "He's so stubborn."

"You're telling me," I muttered. "But how about you? How are you feeling?"

"I feel alright," Connor replied. "I'm just tried all the time. Stupid chemo. And I'm sick of being stuck in bed all day…it's hard to keep myself entertained. I've resorted to watching soap operas. Days of Our Lives is getting pretty juicy. Chloe's evil twin Carla just came back into town and she's trying to steal Chloe's fiancé, who is actually having an affair with Amanda. Pretty exciting stuff."

I chuckled. "You should have told me to bring you some movies."

"I don't—" Connor was interrupted by an intense coughing fit. "Sorry," he gasped between coughs. I looked at his parents sympathetically. His mother was stroking his cold, frail hand, and his father was pouring a fresh cup of water.

"Here, bud, drink some." He held the cup to Connor's lips and he managed to stop coughing enough to take a drink. When Connor rested his head on the pillow again, I noticed spots of blood on the tissue he was holding.

My eyes flew to Connor's mother. She closed her eyes and exhaled quietly, looking extremely pained but unsurprised.

"Could I talk to you outside, Mrs. Fisk?" I tried to keep my voice calm, but I'm sure Connor and his parents could tell I was upset.

"Sure," she replied quietly.

I closed Connor's door as we stepped out into the hallway. "How long has he been coughing up blood?"

Her expression was blank as she answered. "For about two days." I noticed under the harsh fluorescent lights how haggard she looked. My heart went out to his family…this had to be nearly unbearable for them.

"What's happening?" I asked, my voice almost a whisper.

"He has blood clots in his legs. They can't give him blood thinners because of the chemo…they're moving into his lungs."

"How long?"

Connor's mother averted her eyes to the floor. "Two weeks at the most."

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Two weeks. Connor only had two weeks to live.

"What can I do for him?" I asked frantically.

"Karine…there's nothing you can do. He's dying."

"There has to be something he needs. Something he wants. Just tell me what it is. I'll do anything for him."

"He really likes you and Sid. Just try to come around as much as you can, okay? He…he just wants us all here." A few tears began to fall down her cheeks.

I pulled her into a hug and cried with her.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I hurried up the stairs, careful not to spill the contents of the tray, admiring the delicious breakfast spread out in front of me. I had woken up about an hour earlier and made my way into the kitchen to make Sid his favorite breakfast—banana pancakes, complete with real Canadian maple syrup. On a separate plate I had placed a sliced bagel smeared with cream cheese above a few slices of bacon, forming a smiley face. Cheesy, sure, but I knew he'd appreciate it.

I hoped he was in a better mood this morning…when we arrived home from the arena last night, he didn't talk much. We lay in bed and he watched the game twice, making me wish I hadn't TiVo'd it. I made sure his ankle was elevated and the four ice packs were in place before I drifted off to sleep.

I pushed open the bedroom door and set the tray on the night table. "Wake up, mon cher," I whispered, lightly brushing my lips against his.

A small smile played across his face and he made a happy, contented sound. "What's that smell?" he asked thickly.

"Breakfast," I replied.

He pulled himself into a sitting position, wincing slightly when he shifted his right ankle, and I set the tray on his lap and crawled under the covers with him.

"A smiley face!" he said with a laugh. "You're so cute." He kissed my forehead. "But seriously, Karine, you can't do this for me…if I eat breakfast in bed everyday I'm not playing, buy the time my ankle is healed I'll weigh, like, 400 pounds." He paused, cut into the pancakes, and his face brightened. "You made me banana pancakes?" he asked excitedly.

I nodded and laughed. He sounded like a little boy. It was amazing what an effect food had on his mood.

"I lub oo," he said through a full mouth.

"I love you too, Sid," I replied, giving him a peck on the cheek.

"So," Sid swallowed and took a sip of orange juice, "you're coming to Montreal with me today, right?"

I grimaced slightly. "You're going? Are you sure you should be traveling?"

"The trainer said I should be fine, as long as I use my crutches and ice it as much as I can. And you'll be there to take care of me," he added.

I sighed quietly. This was the first time the Penguins were playing the Habs in Montreal this season, so Sid probably didn't know that my parents, Amélie, and Guillaume would all be joining Uncle Mario in the box he owned at le Centre Bell. I wasn't very anxious to see them, since the last time I was in Montreal it was because Sid and I were not speaking and I had basically been in the middle of an emotional breakdown.

"What's wrong?" he asked, sensing my hesitation. "I thought you'd jump at the chance to see your precious Canadiens."

"My family will be there," I replied bitterly.

"Ohhh," Sid replied, munching on his bagel thoughtfully. "Maybe I will just stay home, then," he teased.

I punched his arm playfully. "It shouldn't be too bad." I was trying to convince myself more than I was trying to convince Sid. "I mean, I have to talk to them eventually…they have to know I'm no longer moving to Paris, and I guess they should know we're living together."

"Mario will stop your dad when he tries to kill me, right?" I couldn't tell if Sid was joking.

"He won't try to kill you," I replied. Not with all those witnesses around, anyway.


My stomach was tied in a tense knot when the team bus pulled up the le Centre Bell. It was only three o'clock, so I had roughly four hours before I had to face my family, but I was already worried about how they would react to Sid and I being together again. While my parents absolutely adored him, I was sure the memory of me showing up on their doorstep earlier in the month, looking like I had been crying and drinking all night, was fresh in their mind. Also, I wasn't sure how to explain how it happened…how we were back together. It was hard for other people to understand the pull Sid and I had for each other. Like we were polar opposites, hopelessly attracted to one another no matter what happened.

Sid and I watched the guys practice, and then hung out with them in the locker room until about six o'clock.

"Okay," I said sternly once Sid and I were in Uncle Mario's box, "we don't have ice, so you have to keep your ankle elevated." I found a folding chair and set it up in front of him. "Are you comfortable?" I asked as he rested his right leg on the chair.

"Not really," he admitted. "But I'll deal."

I looked at his ankle and shook my head—it looked even worse than yesterday. "We should have stayed home."

"Relax," Sid replied. "I'll be fine."

Uncle Mario and Aunt Nathalie joined us in the box shortly after. "Hi, guys." He greeted Sid and me with a smile. Uncle Mario always had the same look on his face when he saw Sid and me together—extremely happy, and slightly nostalgic. I wondered if our relationship reminded him of the beginnings of his relationship with Aunt Nathalie. "Your father called a while ago…they should be here any minute. Amélie and Guillaume can't make it tonight, though."

"How disappointing," Sid muttered sarcastically under his breath. I elbowed him gently and threw him a warning glance.

"They didn't know you were here," Uncle Mario continued. It sounded like a question.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot to call them."

"I see," he replied, cocking one eyebrow. He glanced at my hand, which was resting on Sid's thigh, and Sid's arm draped across my shoulder, and smiled again. "This should be interesting," he added quietly.

I exhaled loudly, causing Sid to chuckle. "I think it's adorable that you're still afraid of your parents," he teased.

"I'm not afraid of them," I replied a little too defensively. "I just know they won't be happy when I tell them I'm quitting my job and voluntarily becoming unemployed so I can stay in Pittsburgh with you."

"And then you get to tell them we're living together," Sid added in a falsely joyful tone.

"You haven't told them yet?" Uncle Mario interrupted. I shook my head. He groaned and looked at Aunt Nathalie. "Maybe you should call an ambulance and tell them to be waiting, Nat. Because I'm certain Alain is going to have a heart attack."

"Do you have to tell them all of this now, Karine? Can't you wait until we're all safely back in Pittsburgh?" Aunt Nathalie added.

Although Uncle Mario and Aunt Nathalie were teasing me, I knew there was an underlying seriousness to their voices. They were just as worried about my parents' reactions as I was. "I thought with everyone around, my father will have to control his temper. He wouldn't want to be caught screaming at Sidney Crosby on national television."

Sidney tensed up. "Is he really going to freak out?"

"No," I replied, giving his thigh a reassuring squeeze. "If they get mad, they'll just leave. Besides, they're going to be angry with me, not you. Who knows? They might even be happy about all of this."

I hoped Sid didn't notice the skeptical look on Uncle Mario's face as my mother and father entered the box.

"Karine!" my mother exclaimed excitedly as I stood up to greet them. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

"I didn't know I was until this morning," I replied. "Sorry I didn't call."

"Are you feeling alright, ma petite citrouille?" my father asked. "You look a little pale."

"I'm fine, Dad." I gave him a hug, too, and returned to my seat as they greeted Uncle Mario and Aunt Nathalie. Nerves were attacking my stomach—I wasn't sure how to approach telling my parents everything.

Sidney grasped my hand and traces small circles on my skin with his thumb. I glanced at my mother, who was staring at our intertwined fingers with a blank expression.

"Hello, Sidney," she said icily. My father turned to look at us upon hearing her cold tone, and cocked his eyebrow when he saw Sid and me sitting extremely close and holding hands.

"Hi, Claudine," Sid greeted brightly. He was acting like nothing was out of the ordinary. Good game plan.

"How are you?" my father asked in a controlled tone. I knew it was killing him to make small talk—he wanted to know what the hell was going on.

"I've been better," Sid replied.

"Yes, I heard about your injury. High ankle sprain, eh?"

"Yeah…out six to eight weeks."

"That's a shame," my father replied unconvincingly.

An uncomfortable silence crept into the box as my parents continued to stare at Sid and me. "So…you two are…" my mother started.

"We're back together," I replied.

My mother was genuinely surprised, whereas my father looked confused. "How?" he demanded.

I couldn't help but smile at his strange question. "Actually…there's something else I wanted to tell you, too. I'm quitting my job at PPG. I won't be going to Paris."

"You found a new job?" my father asked, still looking confused.

I hesitated. "No…" I admitted reluctantly. "I've been looking, but nothing's come up. So I'm just going to stay in Pittsburgh and keep looking."

My mother looked extremely annoyed. "You're staying in Pittsburgh now? What made you change your mind?"

I glanced at Sid and we exchanged a smile. "My priorities have…rearranged," I replied.

My father exhaled loudly and my mother groaned. Sid squeezed my hand, and I braced myself for Hurricane Alain.

Surprisingly, it was my mother who spoke first. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Mother, Sid and I have been through a lot. We've discussed all my options, and he totally left this decision up to me. I can't go to Paris. I couldn't bring myself to leave Sidney. He means too much to me. I know you're upset, but believe me when I say I wasn't expecting this to happen. I went to Pittsburgh because of a job, but I'm staying in Pittsburgh because if I left, it would break my heart."

"So you're telling me," my father replied, anger shaking his voice, "that I paid for you to go to McGill for four years just so you could quit your first job for some guy?"

I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and tried to remain calm. Losing my temper wouldn't do any good. "First of all, Dad, Sidney isn't just 'some guy.' I'm in love with him. You know I wouldn't be quitting my job if I wasn't head over heels." Sid squeezed my hand again. I appreciated that he was keeping quiet and allowing me to handle this. "And just because I'm leaving PPG doesn't mean I'm completely giving up on my career. I'll find a new job, I'm just giving myself more time to do it." I paused as my parents continued to glare angrily at me. "You can't tell me you'd rather have me move to Paris."

My father sighed and sat down in an open seat. "We didn't want to see you move to France, Karine, but we accepted it because we understood it's what you needed to do. We were proud of you for getting a promotion, even if it meant you had to leave the continent. Accepting the promotion was the mature, adult thing to do." He added extra emphasis to the worlds 'mature' and 'adult.' It was very clear that my father thought I was being immature by quitting for Sidney.

"You have to understand how this looks to us," my mother added, her voice somewhat more gentle. "You and Sidney have known each other since October…that's what, four months? And in that time, you two have had a lot of problems. What's going to happen the next time you have a fight? What happens if you break up? Did you stop to think of that?"

I thought about the 'problems' my mother referenced—it seemed like an entire lifetime ago that I had met Sidney. Our first fight, caused by Sid losing his temper during a long losing streak in November, was all but forgotten. He had managed to forgive me for lying to him about my promotion, and now our relationship was stronger than before.

"I've considered all of that, Mom," I replied. "While it's true Sid and I never had the perfect relationship, we've been through a lot together and it's only made us stronger. We haven't been together long, but I know we're going to be okay. I've been holding back—I was afraid of admitting how much he meant to me. I was afraid of getting hurt. But Mom, Dad, please trust my decision. I'm in love with Sid..I want to be with him. I need to be with him. Can you just try to be happy?"

My father sighed and shook his head. "I really hope you won't regret this, Karine."

"I won't," I replied confidently.

I was relieved when the teams took to the ice. My father would be too wrapped up in the game to continue the conversation, and my mother knew better than to interrupt Lemieuxs during hockey.

"That was…awkward," Sid whispered in my ear.

"I'm sorry," I whispered back.

"It's fine. I'm proud of you for standing up to them. I'm amazed…you didn't even yell."

I grinned. "I must be going soft."

"Are you going to tell them about the house?"

I winced. "Ah, Mom?" I turned to my mother, wanting to get this over with. "I need to give you my new address."

"You moved? Did you finally get a bigger apartment?"

"Actually…we got a house."

"We." She repeated the word like a curse.

"It's my house, but I wanted Karine to move in with me," Sid explained.

"You two are living together?" The anger was once again present in my father's voice.

I sighed and pressed the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. Once again, my parents had succeeded in giving me a migraine. I had a feeling this was going to be my last visit to Montreal for a very long time.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I absent-mindedly played with the bracelet Sid had bought me for Christmas while I sat in the stuffy waiting room. They had taken Sid directly to the X-ray room when they arrived at the hospital, so I hadn't seen him yet. He had been in there for half an hour…probably nothing to worry about; they just wanted to be thorough.

My phone vibrated in my hand and I flipped it open after glancing at the ID. "Hey, Syl," I greeted.

"It's me," Marc replied. "How is he?"

"I don't know…he's still getting X-rays. I haven't seen him yet."

Marc let out a frustrated sigh. "Will you call when you find out anything?"

"Sure," I replied with a smirk. I now had an entire list of people to call once Sid got out of X-rays. Uncle Mario, Troy and Trina, Lauren, and now Sylvie. "How's the game going?"

"Not well," Marc replied. "There's eight minutes left in the second and Tampa's up two-nothing."

I groaned and rested my head in my hand. The happiness that I had felt earlier about where my relationship with Sidney was going evaporated the moment I stepped foot in the hospital. The gravity of the situation hit me—Sid was hurt. The leader of the team was in the hospital, and no one knew the specifics or degree of the injury. It was having a heavy effect on the team's performance. "I'm going to go bug the nurses again," I said to Marc. "They're giving me grief because I'm not family, but I'll throw down the gloves and make them tell me what's going on."

"Okay," Marc replied with a chuckle. "Remember, a few swift punches, jersey over the head, and you're done," he added, playing along with my hockey fight analogy.

"I'll call you soon, Marc." I flipped my phone shut and confidently approached the nurses' station. "Hi," I greeted the young, blonde nurse with a sugary sweet smile. "I'm Karine Lemieux; I'm here with Sidney Crosby. I was wondering if you could tell me what's going on with him?"

She hesitated, obviously debating whether or not she could tell me anything. I was hoping the use of my surname would help persuade her, but she shook her head. "I'm sorry, Miss Lemieux, it's hospital policy that we can't disclose information to anyone but family."

"But I'm his girlfriend," I replied, trying to keep my annoyance in check. "We live together."

She shook her head again, this time less resolutely. "I'm sorry."

I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth. If I didn't get answers soon, I was going to march into the X-ray room myself, and God save whoever tried to stop me. "What if you spoke to one of his parents?" I asked, trying to compromise. "I can call his father right now."

The nurse glanced around apprehensively, probably looking for a superior nearby. "Well…I guess I could give his father some information," she replied quietly.

"Excellent," I said with a smile as I scrolled to Troy's number. He answered on the second ring.

"Any news, Karine?"

"No, Troy, they won't tell me anything because I'm not family." I couldn't help but shoot the nurse an annoyed glance. "But the nurse will talk to you."

"Sure, sure, put her on," he replied.

The nurse took my cell phone and walked to the far end of the station, much to my frustration. I strained my ears to hear what she was telling Troy, but she was speaking too quietly. I sighed and tapped my fingers on the counter impatiently. Honestly, I didn't know why she was bothering. Troy would tell me everything anyway.

About a minute passed before the nurse returned my cell phone to me with a self-conscious grin. I gave her a tight smile in reply and raised the phone to my ear. "Well?" I asked, aware of the anxiety in my voice.

"She told me he has a severe high ankle sprain. He's out of X-ray now, and they're fitting him with a walking cast. He'll be on crutches for a while, though."

"Any idea how long before he can play again?"

"You'll have to talk to the trainer about that. He's in room 298, if you'd like to go see him."

"How did you get her to tell you that?" I asked incredulously, glancing at the uptight nurse. She was frantically typing something on the computer in front of her. She seemed very jumpy, like she was afraid of getting into trouble.

"I have my ways," Troy replied. I shook my head. It was easy to see where Sid got his charm.

"Thanks so much, Troy."

"No problem. Take care of him, Karine."

"Will do." I snapped my phone shut and hurried to the second floor. I cautiously peeked into room 298 and saw Sid sitting on the edge of the bed, surrounded by two doctors and the trainer.

"Karine," he said, smiling when he saw me standing in the doorway. "I didn't know you were still here."

"I've been in the waiting room," I replied. "They wouldn't tell me what was going on because I'm not 'family,'" I replied, using air quotes around the word.

Sid rolled his eyes. "Sorry."

"Not your fault. The nurse spoke to your dad on the phone, so I got all the info. How do you feel?" I glanced at his right ankle. It was wound tightly in an Ace bandage, but I could tell it was badly swollen and bruised.

"I've been better," he said, wincing as the team doctor gingerly applied pressure to his ankle. "How's the game going?"

"You don't want to know," I replied. Sid looked pained, but not physically this time. I knew it was killing him to be away from the arena when a game was going on. "So he'll be in a walking cast?" I asked the team doctor, wanting to divert Sid's attention, even if it was to an equally unpleasant subject.

The doctor looked surprised that I knew this. "Yes. He'll need to be on crutches for the first few weeks, though."

"The first few weeks…" I replied quietly, throwing a questioning glance at Sid. "How long will he be out?"

Sidney averted his eyes to the floor and clenched his jaw. Uh-oh.

"Six to eight weeks," the trainer replied.

I inhaled sharply. "Oh, Sid," I said quietly, rubbing his forearm.

"It won't be that long," Sidney replied determinedly. "It's only a sprain; it will heal fast."

I rested my head on his shoulder and continued rubbing his forearm. Even though Sid was bent on returning to the ice as soon as possible, we both knew he couldn't play until he was 100 percent. Otherwise, he could reinjure himself and be out even longer.

"Could we please get the cast on?" Sid asked the doctors gruffly. "I want to get back to the arena before the end of the game."

The doctors glanced at each other. "You need to elevate and ice your ankle," the trainer replied. "You probably shouldn't go back to the arena tonight."

"I need to talk to the team," Sid replied firmly.

I squeezed his hand. Even now, when he was in an obvious amount of pain, he was still the team captain. He felt it was his responsibility to tell his teammates that he wouldn't be joining them on the ice for at least another six weeks.

I sighed quietly as he kissed my forehead. It was like I was channeling all his emotions—I could feel his disappointment, regret, but most of all, worry. What would happen to the season with Sid out? Everyone had been feeling very positively about the season so far…although no one came out and said it, we were all certain the Penguins would make it to the playoffs. But what now? How would the team react to not having their captain on the ice?


"They're going to be so pissed at me," Sid muttered as he hobbled through the players' entrance and to the locker room.

"They won't be mad at you," I argued. "They'll be worried." I wanted to reach out and hold his hand, but his crutches made that impossible.

"No, they deserve to be mad at me," he replied. "I was so stupid…I had so much time to switch my position so I didn't hit feet-first."

"Stop," I said gently. "Don't think about it anymore…just concentrate on getting healthy again. They need you." My phone beeped and I flipped it open to read the text message from Sylvie: 3-0 Tampa Bay. I groaned softly.

"What's wrong?" Sid asked as we sat on the bench in front of his locker.

"We lost," I replied, resting my hand on his thigh reassuringly.

"How bad?" he asked reluctantly.

"Three-nothing," I said, my voice almost a whisper.

Sid winced and shook his head. I wished I knew what he was thinking…although it wasn't too hard to guess. I was sure he was finding some way to blame this loss on himself. "You're not the entire team, Sid." My voice was still quiet, like I was afraid speaking too loudly would make this all worse.

"I'm the captain. I wasn't on the ice and the team lost. This is my fault."

I opened my mouth to argue, but the first team members entered the locker room, silent and wearing looks of defeat. Jordan, the first man through the door, froze when he saw Sid and me sitting on the bench. His eyes took in the crutches leaning against the locker, and the walking cast on Sid's right foot, and he groaned loudly.

"How long?" he asked as he moved to his locker and pulled his jersey over his head.

"Six to eight weeks," Sid replied.

The rest of the team echoed Jordan's groan.

"Is it broken?" Ryan asked.

Sid shook his head. "High ankle sprain."

There was a beat of silence as they all allowed this information to sink in. The atmosphere in the locker room was very uncomfortable, but I knew it wasn't because they were angry at Sid. They were disappointed by their loss to Tampa, and they were worried that this game was a precursor to the rest of the season.

I gave Sid a peck on the cheek and stepped outside as the guys began to get undressed. I couldn't help but smirk when I thought of all the girls who would kill to be in a locker room full of naked hockey players.

I sighed and leaned against the wall, waiting for Sid so we could go home. Six to eight weeks was a long time…the earliest he could play was the end of February. I found one small spark of happiness in everything that had happened tonight: my decision to quit PPG, regardless of if I had another job, meant I would be around to see him take to the ice again.

Six to eight weeks was a long time, but I would be here for it.

"What are you smiling about?" Sid asked as he exited the locker room. I noticed a slight edge to his voice…totally understandable in light of tonight's events.

"I love you," I said, giving him a kiss on the lips.

"I know," he replied as he shifted on his crutches.

"No, I really love you. I realized tonight that you are my entire world…I'm willing to give up anything to be with you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Sid smiled for the first time all night. "Are you proposing to me?" he joked.

I rolled my eyes. "I just want you to know exactly how much you mean to me. I can't believe I was stupid enough to consider leaving you for Paris. A career opportunity seems so trivial compared to the chance to be with you."

Sid rested his forehead against mine. "I love you more than you could possibly know. And if this was any other day, I would pick you up and carry you to our bedroom and show you exactly how much I love you. But…" his eyes trailed to his right foot.

I chuckled. "I'll take a raincheck. Let's go home."

Friday, August 8, 2008


"No Connor tonight?" Uncle Mario asked as I entered his box at the arena.

I shook my head. "He's not feeling very well today." I had stopped at the hospital before coming to the arena, because Connor was supposed to come to tonight's game against Tampa Bay, but he was too weak to even leave his bed. I had been shocked at how cold his hand was…like there wasn't even warm blood coursing through his veins. He'd barely been able to lift his head off the pillow when I entered the room. The chemotherapy was sapping his energy, leaving him all but lifeless, but he still apologized to me for not being able to come tonight.

"That's really too bad," Uncle Mario replied, shaking his head sympathetically. "Connor's a great kid."

"Yeah," I replied weakly. The memory of his cold, frail body wouldn't leave my mind. Tears sprang to my eyes for the thousandth time in the past hour. It just wasn't fair. I rubbed my eyes and inhaled shakily; it wasn't just Connor's rapidly declining health that was working on my nerves—I had finally been called in for an interview at Mellon Financial, but it didn't go well at all. When the interviewer asked me why I was leaving PPG, I told him because I wasn't willing to relocate to keep my job. He had pursed his lips into a thin, tense line and I knew I wasn't hired. To make matters worse, today was January 18th—I had less than a month to find a new job, and my optimism faded as I faxed out my latest round of résumés earlier in the day. I was beginning to consider other options. If I took a job with the Penguins, would I be able to deal with the snide comments that were sure to come from my coworkers? Or, would I be able to accept Sidney providing for me? As much as I hated it, I knew the answer to both of those questions was a resounding 'no.' I had always only had two choices—get a new job, or move to Paris.

I sighed and leaned back in my seat. I wished Connor was here, but for totally selfish reasons. When I was around him, it was easy to forget about my problems.

"You need a vacation, Karine," Aunt Nathalie said, looking at me with concern in her eyes.

"A vacation from what?" I asked with a laugh. "I haven't worked in almost a month."

"But you're more stressed now than when you were working. I think you need to get away for a while."

"That wouldn't help at all," I replied with a sigh. "Everything's out of my hands…that's why I'm so stressed out. I hate knowing that whether or not I go to Paris isn't even up to me."

Our conversation was cut short as the lights dimmed and the announcer began to introduce the team. I relaxed a bit as the guys took to the ice. At least for the next two hours, I could focus on the game and let go of all my worries.

The game began and I was surprised that Tampa Bay, a team the Penguins had easily beat only a week earlier, was causing so much trouble for the team early into the first period. Their defense was amazing—no one could get close enough to get a good shot on the goal.

My body tingled with excitement as Sid took the puck down the ice. This was it…he was going to score. Two Tampa players were trying to cover him, but Sid kept his cool and managed the puck as he got nearer to the goal. He angled his body for the perfect shot, and then…

Paul Ranger bumped into him, sending Sid sliding across the ice as he tried to shoot the puck. "Fuck," I breathed as Sidney hit the boards feet-first. My heart began racing I saw him get to his feet and wince in pain. He obviously wasn't paralyzed—he was skating to the runway that led to the locker room, heavily favoring his left leg, but that didn't stop images from the game my senior year from flashing back to me…Chantal, facedown on the ice…the trainers taking her away on a stretcher…visiting her in the hospital a short time later…

I hurried out of the box without saying a word to Uncle Mario or Aunt Nathalie. My stomach churned as I made my way through the crowded, winding hallways down to the locker room. I burst through the door and found him in the adjoining trainer's room, lying on a table with a mountain of ice packs wrapped around his right ankle.

"Oh, Sid," I breathed, rushing to his side.

"I'm such an idiot," he replied, shaking his head. "What the hell was I thinking? Sliding into the boards feet-first…" He shook his head again, looking absolutely disgusted with himself.

"How bad?" I asked, ignoring his self-deprecation.

Sid winced as he tried to flex his foot. "It hurts. Bad. But I can move it, so hopefully that means it isn't broken." He closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose. "I had plenty of time to readjust myself…this could have been avoided. But I wanted to see if that fucking puck went in…" he sighed, but it sounded more like a groan. He opened his eyes and reached for my hand as I resituated the ice packs. I tried to brush away the hot tears that were running down my face, but I wasn't quick enough. "Hey, stop it," Sid said gently, noticing the tears. "I'll be fine. It's probably just sprained."

"It's not that," I choked, "it's…everything. Everything is so wrong."

"What do you mean?" he asked, stroking my palm with his thumb.

"I can't find a job, Connor is dying, and now you're hurt. What did I do to bring this all on?"

Sid grimaced as he pulled himself up into a sitting position. "Come here," he ordered, extending his arms. I sat on the edge of the bed and buried my head in his chest as he embraced me. He was still wearing his upper body pads, and he smelled terrible, but I didn't care. His arms still fit perfectly around me—nothing else mattered. "You can't blame yourself for all this bad stuff that's happening. Connor has been dying for months." The matter-of-fact way Sid said that stung me. Was that supposed to make it easier for me to see the fragile, pale teenager confined to his hospital bed? "And you had nothing to do with me getting injured. This is all due to my own stupidity." He made a frustrated, disgusted sound. I knew he was going to beat himself up about this for a long time. Probably until he could play again. "As for the whole job thing…just forget about it, Karine. You don't need a job. I can take care of you. I will take care of you."

"It looks like I'm going to be the one taking care of you for a while," I replied, glancing at his ankle.

Sid rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean. Besides, you can't run off to Paris and leave your poor, hurt boyfriend to fend for himself."

I smiled. I suppose I had known for a while now that I wouldn't actually go to Paris, regardless of whether I found a new job. How could anyone expect me to? Sid and I were finally okay, and I could tell things were going to work out. I remembered what Amélie said to me only a couple weeks ago, when I ran off to Montreal in an attempt to get away from my problems: Some things are more important than a huge house, an extravagant lifestyle…even more important than a job…He's hopelessly in love, Karine. Are you willing to give up true love for your career?

I finally could answer that question: no, I wasn't willing to give up Sidney's love for my career. Because sitting here, in a slightly smelly trainer's room, wrapped in my boyfriend's sweaty, strong arms, I knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

"I'm not going to Paris," I whispered into his chest.

"Of course you're not," he replied, like he knew that all along. "I told you I was going to make it impossible for you to go."

"Oh, so this is all part of your plan?" I asked, motioning at his ankle.

He winced. "No, this was definitely not part of the plan."

We both looked up as the team doctor entered the room, carrying crutches. "We have to get you to the hospital for some X-rays," he said, handing the crutches to Sidney.

Sid hopped down from the table and positioned the crutches under his arms. "You'll come?" he asked me.

"Of course," I replied. "I'm going to go tell Uncle Mario what's going on, but I'll meet you at the hospital."

"Je t'adore," Sidney whispered, brushing his lips against mine.

I smiled, appreciating his rarely-used French and squeezed his hand. "Je t'adore," I replied.

Sid and the doctor left the room, and I hurried up to Uncle Mario's box. My emotions felt strange and out of place. For the first time in weeks, I was completely at peace. A pang of guilt attacked my stomach. At this very moment, Sidney was hobbling out of the arena, on the way to the hospital so he could learn exactly how much damage had been done to his right ankle, but I wasn't nearly as worried as I should be. All I could think about was my decision, the realization that Sidney meant more to me than anything else in the world. I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I stopped in mid-stride as I finally understood why I had been so stressed the past few weeks. It had nothing to do with me getting a job. The whole, 'I need to have a job' excuse was just that—an excuse. I had known the chances of me finding a new job were slim, and I was using that as an excuse to distance myself from Sidney. I knew I was in love with him, but I was afraid to admit to myself how deeply in love I was until now. He was my everything.

I had to concentrate to wipe the elated smile from my face as I entered Uncle Mario's box. "Sid is going to the hospital for X-rays. I'm going to meet him there. He doesn't think his ankle is broken, but he's in a lot of pain."

Uncle Mario nodded gravely. Aunt Nathalie's concerned frown mirrored his. "Call me when you find out more," he said.