Tuesday, October 21, 2008


"Why?" he asked quietly. His hands were clenching the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were white.

"I don't know," I replied, unsuccessfully trying to hold back tears.

"Don't cry." A flicker of sympathy momentarily showed in his eyes. "Talk to me, Karine." He let go of the steering wheel and slumped in his seat. "I know you've had a lot going on in your head. Let me in."

I took a deep breath and tried to clear my mind. There was so much that had built on me and now was my chance to let it out. From the outside, this probably looked like I was in the middle of a nervous breakdown. But really, as I was lying in bed this morning, I had come to a realization. Sidney and I…we were absolutely terrible for each other.

"I'm not mad," Sidney reassured me. He smiled sweetly and reached over to run his fingers through my hair. "Just talk. I'll listen. I know…I know you've been dealing with a lot lately and that's partially my fault. So just tell me everything you need to say. I'll decide if I need to punch Jordan after you're done."

I let out a small laugh and took another deep breath. "The whole thing with Alissa…" I averted my eyes to my feet and tried to calm myself down. "You believed her over me. Sid, you know I don't act like that under normal circumstances. You had to know something was wrong. But you argued with me. You let her chip away at me until I finally crumbled this morning. Even after I hit her, you still took her side. You have no idea how much that hurt."

Sid placed his hand under my chin and lifted my head so I had to look in his eyes. "I was wrong. And I am so sorry. I fooled myself into thinking that Alissa just wanted to be friends that I ignored the obvious signs that pointed to the contrary. I know I hurt you, and I'm sorry."

I nodded and wiped away the last of my tears. "It's…it's going to take me a while to get over that," I replied quietly.

"I understand." He hesitated a moment before asking, "Why did you kiss Jordan?"
"I felt—no, still feel—like everything is falling apart," I whispered.

"So you did that to make us fall faster? You're not making any sense."

"I just…I was thinking about you, and Alissa, and how everything became so messed up. And I thought about how everything with us always seemed to be going so fast. Too fast. I need to slow down and catch my breath but I was caught in this whirlwind and I feel like I have been struggling and fighting just to understand myself…and Jordan was there, with his arm around me, trying to tell me how sorry you were about everything, and I thought 'what if I'm making a huge mistake? What if this entire time I've been fighting for something that wasn't meant to last?' So…I kissed him. I was trying to prove to myself that it's only you. Always you. I wanted to make sure what I felt for you was completely unique and strong enough to get through anything."

Sid pressed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and clenched his eyes shut. "What are you saying?" he asked shakily.

I wrapped my hands around one of his and stroked his palm with my thumb. "The way I feel about you…there's no doubt in my mind that it's love. I have never felt so connected to anyone in my life. But this…this is all too much for me. Everything happened so fast, and it just feels like it has been one thing after another, you know? There was never a point where we were both completely happy. We're bad for each other, Sidney."

"No," he choked. "You are the best thing that has ever happened to me."

"I care about you so much," I replied as tears flooded my eyes once again. "But I need to let you go. You deserve so much more. I know one day you'll find it, and you will be so incredibly happy. And this…this will all seem like a bad dream."

"Karine…Karine…why are you doing this?"

Why was I doing this? The sick feeling that had crept into my stomach was telling me I was making a mistake. My heart was breaking, but my mind was telling me I was doing the right thing, both for myself and Sidney. I had to let him go. I loved him, but the past month had made me feel like I was drowning. I could barely keep my head above water and I knew I wouldn't be able to struggle much longer before I was too tired to keep fighting.

I glanced at my wrist and realized I was wearing the bracelet he had bought me for Christmas, what felt like decades ago. I undid the clasp and pressed it in his hand. "Goodbye, Sidney," I said as I brushed my lips against his cheek, which was wet with tears.

I stepped out of the Range Rover and made my way to my own car. Before sliding into the passenger seat, I glanced back and saw Sidney sitting with his head resting on the steering wheel, his shoulders shaking from sobbing.

I caught my breath and wanted to run to him, hold him, tell him everything would be okay, but I knew to him, they were all empty words. I had to make a clean break. Our relationship was hardly perfect, and while I did feel an enormous amount of love for him, I knew in the end this was better for both of us. Everything had moved much too fast—there were probably hockey fans who knew more about Sidney than I did. We were both young and immature…perhaps in a different time, different place, things could have worked out. It just wasn't our time.

As I drove out of the cemetery and pulled onto the nearly deserted highway, I knew I had done the right thing. The anxiety and near-depression that had been weighing on me so heavily the past few weeks slowly melted off of me and I drove towards the city, deciding to get a hotel room Downtown. This was my last night in Pittsburgh. This chapter of my life was ending.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


My body was shaking, both from the cold February air and all the emotions I was experiencing at this moment. I was angry at Sid, Alissa, and myself. How could I let her get the best of me? Was I really that intimidated by her? I felt so foolish—how many times had Sidney told me he was in love with me? I reacted in an immature way…he was dating me, not her. There was no excuse for what I did. As much as it would sting my pride, I knew I had to apologize to Alissa.

I drew in a shaky breath and stared at Connor's tombstone. Why had I come here? My heart was already breaking…seeing Connor's name carved in the cold, gray marble only made it hurt worse.

"I'm not sure how much longer Sid and I will be together, Con," I said quietly as I wiped the tears away from my face. I didn't feel silly or illogical for talking to Connor right now. Somehow, it felt right. "I know you told him not to let me go, but this isn't all his fault. Sometimes…sometimes things just don't work out."

I felt my phone vibrating in my coat pocket and pulled it out. Sidney was calling, but I pressed the 'ignore' button and took another deep breath. The cold winter air stung my lungs and I shivered again, pulling my knees to my chest in an attempt to stay warm.

I don't know how long I sat on the hard, cold ground in the desolate cemetery. I stared at Connor's grave marker, my mind completely empty, as the afternoon sun began to fade. I knew I should get back in my car and drive home before I froze to death, but I couldn't move.

I had never felt so completely empty and I was terrified.

The sound of a vehicle making its way down the cemetery lane brought me back to reality. I looked up and saw Jordan driving down the unpaved road in his SUV. I rested my forehead against my knees and sighed. I had been gone for hours, ignoring every one of Sidney's calls. He probably had the entire team combing the Pittsburgh area for me.

"Karine!" Jordan called as he made his way through the ankle-deep snow towards me. "Have you been here all day?"

I nodded, not meeting his concerned eyes.

"What the hell? You're frozen!" he said as he sat on the ground beside me. He hesitated a moment before wrapping his arm around me in an attempt to keep me warm.

"How did you know I was here?"

"We've been looking for you all day. I was going to look here earlier, but I didn't think anyone would be crazy enough to sit in the snow for hours. What is this? Some kind of self-inflicted punishment?"

"No," I replied. "I just…I left the arena and started driving…and I ended up here." I was beginning to notice just how cold I really was. My feet and hands were numb and my face was stinging from the cold. I shifted closer to Jordan to take full advantage of his body heat.

"Sid is freaking out. Why didn't you answer his calls?"

"I don't want to talk to him."

"I told him what happened. What Alissa said to you."


"He asked her if it was true, and she admitted to it. The three of us were all in the locker room. And when she admitted that she was pushing you, saying all that stuff, I thought he was going to choke her. But he just got really calm, almost scary calm, and left. Mario came in a couple of minutes later and fired her."

I nodded slowly and exhaled. Alissa was gone…she wouldn't bother me anymore. I was relieved, but there was still one thing I couldn't swallow.

"Sid took her side," I whispered.

"That…that's something you two have to work out," Jordan replied. "He's so sorry. He was a freaking mess when we realized you had disappeared. I texted him when I saw your car here…he's on his way."

I rested my head on his shoulder and let the tears that had been building up fall freely. "He took her side, Jordan. I told him so many times what she was trying to do and he never believed me. And then I finally confronted her, finally stood up for myself, and he took her side."

"I know, Karine. It will be okay. Everything will be okay."

He pressed his lips against my cold forehead and my stomach did a tiny flip. My head snapped up and my heart began to race.

"Oh, shit, I'm sorry," Jordan said once he saw my confused expression. "I shouldn't have…fuck. I'm sorry," he apologized frantically. "I don't know…it was just instinct. You were crying, and I—"

I placed my hand on the side of his face and stroked his cheek with my thumb. My breathing had become shallow, my heart was beating dangerously hard, and my stomach felt like it was in knots. I didn't even think about what I was doing.

Our lips met, and at first Jordan tried to protest, but I wasn't going to let go of this impulsive moment. He began to return my frantic kisses and moved his hand to the back of my neck, pulling me even closer.

Even while this was happening, I was disconnected from the moment. My inner voice was trying to reason with me, trying to get me to pull away from Jordan.

You're burning bridges, Karine. Things were fixable…not anymore. When Sid finds out about this he's going to kill you both. Why Jordan? You don't like him. Not in that way. You were so afraid of losing Sid to Alissa, and now look what you've done! The second your lips touched Jordan's you kicked Sid out of your life. You've just ruined the best thing that has ever happened to you.

The sound of a vehicle driving down the road brought both Jordan and I back to reality. We looked to the lane and saw Sid's Range Rover approaching quickly. I swallowed nervously and looked at Jordan. We were wearing the same scared, guilty expression.

"What just happened?" Jordan asked quietly.

I shook my head and tried to answer, but no words came out of my mouth.

"Oh my God," he said as he jumped to his feet. "Oh my God. He's going to kill me." The blood drained from his face as Sid climbed out of his car and ran towards us.

I stood up and inhaled deeply. The butterflies I had felt when Jordan kissed my forehead had turned into nausea.

"Oh, Jordan," I said quietly, "I am so sorry."

Before Jordan could respond, Sid had reached us and pulled me into a warm hug. "Are you okay? God, you're so cold. Staalsy, why didn't you try to warm her up?"

Jordan flushed and muttered something about dinner, and then hurried to his car and sped away. Sidney watched him with a confused look on his face, and then turned his attention back to me.

"Come on, let's go sit in the car. Oh, sweetheart, you're frozen."

The nausea I was feeling only got stronger as the concern in Sid's voice grew. I climbed into the passenger seat of the Range Rover and Sid turned the heat on full blast.

I turned to look at him and opened my mouth to say something, but before I could he pulled me into a tight hug.

"I am so sorry. Alissa admitted to everything. I am so sorry. I thought she just wanted to be friends…I had no idea. Can you ever forgive me?"

I swallowed hard and squeezed my eyes shut. I was shaking, but not from the cold. I felt so guilty and I knew I needed to say something, but, once again, before I could talk Sidney pressed on.

"You're so angry with me right now. You can't even talk to me. You can't even look at me. Oh God, I am such a terrible person. What did I do to you?"

His self-loathing, the guilt he felt, was nothing compared to what was going on inside my mind. It wasn't a matter of me forgiving him…he had to forgive me.

"Sidney," I paused and swallowed nervously. My voice was shaking and I braced myself for his reaction. "I kissed Jordan."

His expression was blank as he tried to process this information. "What?"