Monday, September 29, 2008


By the time I heard Sidney pull out of the driveway the next morning, I already had formulated a plan on how to deal with Alissa. As much as I dreaded coming across as an overprotective, jealous girlfriend, I knew something had to be done if I wanted to save my relationship.

I took a quick shower and pulled on a pair of dark skinny jeans and a comfortable ivory sweater. I surveyed my reflection in the mirror and wasn't pleased with what I saw. There were dark circles under my eyes and my skin was unusually pale…both evidence to the fact that I got very little sleep last night. As I lay in the unfamiliar guest bedroom, my mood had shifted from angry to hurt to vindictive. At first I was absolutely livid. I couldn't understand how Sidney could leave me sitting at home, waiting for him to take me to dinner while he was out with Alissa. My anger at Sidney slowly transferred to Alissa. I didn't care what Sidney said about her, she was trying to tear us apart and I knew she would go to any lengths to accomplish that. Sometime around four in the morning, I realized I had to take this into my own hands. Sid only saw the best in people—when he looked at Alissa, all he saw was an old friend. I saw something much more threatening.

I pulled on my heavy winter coat and stepped out into the chilly February morning. Winter was my favorite season, but I was ready for it to be over. The gray skies and frigid temperatures were beginning to depress me…I was ready for spring. I was ready for things to be alive and beautiful again.

I climbed into my car and pulled on the road. I flipped open my phone and dialed Sylvie's number.

"I'm going to confront her," I said as soon as Sylvie answered her phone.

"No way," she gasped, knowing who I was talking about without even having to ask. "Oh man, I wish I could see this."

"Come to the Igloo. I might need some backup anyway."

"Umm…that isn't really possible," Sylvie replied. "I'm in Quebec."

"What?!" I shouted. "You actually left?"

"Yeah. Did you think me leaving was just an empty threat?" she asked, sounding slightly offended.

"No…but I thought you and Marc would have figured something out."

Sylvie sighed loudly. "There's nothing to work out, Karine. It's over."

I pressed the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger and inhaled deeply. Marc and Sylvie's breakup made me worry about my own relationship. They had been together for four years and had basically been through it all. She had moved to Pittsburgh to be with him…but now it was all over. How much more could Sidney and I take? What if this wasn't meant to work? I shuddered at the thought. Alissa was trying to ruin us, and regardless of if she ended up winning, I was not going down without a fight.

"Are you still there?" Sylvie's voice brought me back to reality.

"Yeah, I'm still here. Sorry. I kind of zoned out."

"I have to go. Call me and let me know how the girl fight goes."

"It's not going to be a girl fight," I retorted with a roll of my eyes. "I just want to talk to her."

"Sure," Sylvie replied sarcastically.

I flipped my phone shut as I pulled into the player's parking lot. I parked in a spot right beside Sid's black Range Rover and took a deep breath. I was nervous—I was never one for confrontations off the ice, and the thought of telling Alissa to back off made me sick to my stomach.

I pushed open the door and could hear the guys practicing on the ice. I checked the locker room and trainer's office but Alissa was no where to be found.

Maybe she didn't come in today, I thought.

I walked up the hallway and paused before opening the door that led to the ice. Sidney was probably up there watching the morning skate…we didn't speak at all this morning, but I wasn't mad at him anymore. I was still more than a little hurt that he had gone to dinner with Alissa, but now I was so focused on confronting her the disappointment stung less and less with each passing second.

I pushed open the door and stepped onto the cement runway that led to the ice. Sid was sitting on the visitor's bench with Alissa. I forced a smile to my face and stepped over the short wall to join them.

"Karine!" Sid exclaimed when he saw me, his face a mixture of surprise and pleasure. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine," I replied as I sat next to him. "I just want to apologize for last night."

"Oh, baby, it was all my fault," he said, turning his body away from Alissa so she couldn't overhear our conversation. "I am so sorry."

"All's forgiven." I held his right hand in both of mine and kissed his forehead.

"I'll make it up to you, I swear."

"No, really Sid, it's fine. I would rather just forget about it and move on, okay?"

Sid nodded slowly and pulled me into a hug. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

We watched the guys run a scrimmage for a while, and then Alissa stood up and pulled on Sidney's arm. "We'd better get started on your therapy, Sid."

"Actually Alissa, could I talk to you for a minute?" I said in a forcedly innocent voice. Sid shot me a confused, warning look but I just smiled in reply.

"Uh…yeah, sure," Alissa replied, looking extremely uncomfortable. She stepped out of the box and walked through the doors leading to the locker room, leaving one propped open. I couldn't help but smirk. She was afraid to be alone with me.

"Karine, don't…" Sidney said quietly as I moved to follow Alissa.

"Relax, Sidney," I replied, brushing my hand through his hair. "I just want to talk to her."

Sid pressed his lips together but let me go. I took a deep breath and smiled sweetly at Alissa as I stepped just beyond the locker room doors.

"What do you want? Sidney needs to start his physical therapy," Alissa snapped. Her body language was extremely hostile…she was obviously distressed and nervous to be face to face with me.

"I know what you're doing," I replied, my voice quiet but forceful. "And I want you to stop."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Save it, Alissa."

She smirked and ran her fingers through her long, auburn hair. "What's wrong, Karine? Feeling a little intimidated by Sidney's ex-girlfriend?"

"I'm not intimidated by you."

"Oh really? Then why are we having this conversation?"

Fuck. She had me there. "Listen, I don't care what you and Sidney had. That was years ago. He's over you. It's time you get over him."

That stupid condescending smirk wouldn't leave her face. She cocked her head slightly and crossed her arms over her chest. "You're so oblivious. It's really adorable."

I clenched my jaw and tried to keep my temper in check. Getting angry with her wouldn't accomplish anything…it would only let her win. "Back off, Alissa."

She sighed dramatically and shook her head. "You know, I really hate to point out the obvious but it's necessary for you. Not exactly the brightest crayon in the box, are we?" She chuckled and took a step towards me. "Out of the two of us, who looks like they should be dating Sidney Crosby? I mean, you're a pretty girl and all but Sid deserves someone who is absolutely stunning. A trophy. I can be that for him. And you…all you can be is Mario Lemieux's niece."

Okay, now she had crossed the line. I could hear Sylvie's voice in my head. Are you going to let that bitch talk to you like that? Who the hell does she think she is? Don't stand there and take it, Karine. You can't lose this one.

"Fuck you," I hissed. "Maybe I don't look like a supermodel, but Sidney is in love with me. You had him and you lost him. What does that say about you?"

"He's still in love with me. He just doesn't know it yet."

My vision started to blur as anger coursed through my system. "He is not in love with you!" I said, losing control of the volume of my voice.

Alissa laughed again, a grating, patronizing sound. "Karine, has he ever come to you begging to be with you?" She took a step closer and her voice dropped until it was barely above a whisper. I noticed the noise level inside the arena had dropped as well…I could hear Coach Therrien speaking with the team, who had stopped their scrimmage. I paled and clenched my fists as a slow smile spread across Alissa's face. She knew she was getting to me. "Do you make him moan? How does he say your name? Does he want you more than anything on this planet?"

"Shut the fuck up, Alissa," I spat, my voice trembling with rage. Tears clouded my vision and my breathing became irregular.

"Sidney and I were explosive together. There's no way he could have forgotten that. You…you're just something to hold his attention. You could never compare to me and we all know it."

That was it. That was the sentence that pushed me over the edge, caused me to lose control, made me want to push Alissa in front of a bus.

Unfortunately, there were no buses around.

So I slapped her.

The sound of my hand making contact with her face reverberated through the arena like a gunshot. I staggered backwards, as shocked by my reaction as Alissa was. Her face was frozen in surprise, and she slowly raised her hand to the red hand-shaped mark that was forming on her cheek.

"Did I seriously just see that?" I heard Jordan Staal say from the doorway in a slightly amused tone of voice.

Alissa and I both looked at Jordan, then at each other, and then back at Jordan.

"She fucking attacked me!" Alissa screeched.

Sidney appeared beside Jordan and took in the scene. "What happened?"

"Karine slapped the trainer," Jordan explained, still sounding like he was enjoying this scene way too much.

"Karine?" Sidney asked, his voice on the edge of anger.

"I'm so sorry," I recanted. But I wasn't sorry at all. Alissa was out of line and if slapping her was the only way to get her to shut the hell up, then so be it.

"You slapped her?" Sidney sounded absolutely incredulous, like he didn't think I was possible of such a thing.

"I…I…" I was stammering, unsure of what to say, terrified of what Sid's reaction would be.

"Alissa, are you okay?" he asked, rushing to her side and surveying her cheek.

My heart sank in my chest. He didn't even give me a chance to explain…not that he would believe the terrible things she said to me anyway.

"Why the hell did you do that?"

"Sidney…the things she was saying…"

Alissa stared at me, still wearing that surprised expression on her face. "I'm going to get some ice," she muttered as she hurried into the locker room.

"What, she said something that upset you so you slapped her? Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Sidney, please," I begged, reaching out for his arm.

He shook his head and walked into the locker room. I covered my face with my hands and tried to stop myself from crying.

Jordan placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder and pulled me close to him. "I heard most of what she said to you," he said quietly. "I'll talk to him."

"Thanks," I choked. I wiped the tears from my face and walked down the hallway and out of the arena. My breaths were coming in short, sobbing gasps and I couldn't see straight. I climbed into the driver's seat of my car and rested my head on the steering wheel. All I could hear was Alissa's voice over and over in my head…"He's still in love with me…you could never compare to me and you know it…all you'll ever be is Mario Lemieux's niece."

What hurt even more than Alissa's cruel words was the fact that Sidney took her side. He was probably in the locker room with her right now, holding an ice pack to her face and apologizing for my actions. The thought made my stomach churn.

I jammed the key into the ignition and sped out of the parking lot. I had no destination in mind, so I just started to drive. The roads were slightly slick with wet snow, but I managed to navigate them safely despite how fast I was driving.

Before I knew it, I was outside of the city, zooming past open fields and the occasional house. My body went through the motions of driving without direction from my mind. My disembodied hands turned the wheel left, then right, taking me down a rough rural road, past a church, and finally to a cemetery.

It wasn't until I got out of the car that I realized where I was. I found the familiar tall evergreen and brushed the snow off the grave marker positioned under the tree. My fingers traced over Connor's name and I sat on the cold, snowy ground and drew my knees to my chest.

"Things are pretty bad right now, Connor," I whispered.