Friday, August 8, 2008

FORTY-FOUR

"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.

6 comments:

Summer said...

I mentioned this yesterday, but I thought I'd bring it up again. I have a few ideas for this story, but I was wondering where you all would like to see this story to go. If you have any suggestions, send me an e-mail (summer.obrien89@yahoo.com) or IM me on AOL Instant Messenger at LookandConnect.

I really can't thank you guys enough for reading this and giving me such positive feedback. You all are awesome =)

KylieD32 said...

Ok, I'm smiling. I was really hoping she wouldn't go to Paris. I'm so happy she's not! When I read January 18" I just took a deep breath. I didn't know how the injury would effect them, but it looks like it's going to be ok.

I can't decide how I want the story to go because you do such a great job, I feel like it should just be left up to you!

stovgirl said...

It is so hard to suggest where the story is going because it is so great...keep on posting! Oh, I love the storyline about Connor, too.

Lauren said...

Yay for Karine not going to Paris!!! :) Boo for Siddo hurting himself :( (Even though I know it already actually happened, and he's already better)

More soon, please!

Kimmy said...

I love the updates!!!
I'm glad thats she is not going to Paris and staying there with Sid.

Update soon!!!

anika875 said...

wow.. i know where i want the story to go, but i just can't exactly put my finger on it! i love this story though so im sure anything you do will be great!