Sunday, February 1, 2009


The next day was sunny and uncommonly warm for late February. I waited until eleven, when I knew Sid would be at the arena, before I left the hotel and returned to the house. I found my luggage shoved in the hallway closet and began packing all my clothes, jewelry—everything that I owned. This probably wasn't the best way to go about everything, and I knew Sid would be devastated to find every trace of my existence removed from the bedroom we once shared, but I couldn't face him. I knew he would try to talk me out of leaving and I could not let that happen.

As I was transferring shirts from the closet to my suitcase, I found the jersey Sidney had given me in October, the second or third time we had hung out. My fingers trailed over his last name and it felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

I wonder how long it will be before that feeling goes away, I thought bitterly.

I neatly folded the jersey and carefully placed it in my suitcase. I would allow myself to have one reminder.

I packed quickly, because I was unsure of when Sidney would return. My backseat was crowded with bags and suitcases, and I went back inside to double check to make sure I had everything. I walked through the kitchen and ran my hand across the granite island countertop. Sid had bought this house with me in mind, and I was leaving after living here for less than two months. We didn't even get to have a housewarming party.

I found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote Sidney's name on the top. I wanted to leave him a note, maybe as a form of closure, but the words wouldn't come. I crumpled up the paper and threw it in the wastebasket. I sighed and took my house key off my key ring. I stared at it for a few seconds before leaving it on the table near the front door.

I locked and closed the door behind me and left the house for the last time.

I was driving to Montreal—it was at least a ten hour trip without traffic, but I didn't mind. I needed some alone time to deal with my thoughts. I dug through my purse and found the address I had scribbled on the back of a bank deposit slip and entered it in my GPS. I took a deep breath, pulled out of the driveway, and dialed Sylvie's number.

"Hey, what's up?" she greeted cheerfully.

"Still looking for a roommate?" I asked

Two years later

"Karine, wake up," a familiar voice told me in French.

I smiled and my eyes fluttered open to find my fiancé inches away from my face.

"We're here." He retrieved our bags from the overhead compartments and I followed him off the plane and into Pittsburgh International Airport. "I'll get our luggage," he said after we had finished passing through security.

I stood off to the side and ran my left hand through my hair. The substantial diamond resting on my ring finger caught my eye and I smiled down at it. After dating for almost two years, Thomas had asked me to marry him about a month ago. We were planning on getting married next August in Montreal, where both our families were from.

Nerves attacked my stomach as I surveyed the faces crowding the airport. Uncle Mario and Aunt Nathalie were hosting the Lemieux family Christmas this year, and it was the first time I had been in Pittsburgh since Sidney and I had broken up. My mind was playing tricks with me—every man I saw was either Sidney or one of his teammates. That's how terrified I was to be here…Thomas and I were staying for three days, and I barely planned to leave Uncle Mario's house during that time. I didn't want to see any of the guys, especially not Sidney.

I flipped open my phone and scrolled to Aunt Nathalie's number. I wanted to call and let her know our plane landed safely.

"Salut, Karine," Aunt Nathalie greeted me brightly.

"Salut, Aunt Nathalie. I just wanted to let you know our plane just landed, so we'll be there in about half an hour."

"Oh, wonderful! We're all so excited to see you and Thomas."

"We're excited, too. I've missed everyone so much."

"Oh, Karine…there's one more thing. Sidney decided to stay in Pittsburgh for Christmas, so he'll be joining us for dinner tonight," she added in a forcedly casual tone. "Is that okay?"

"Oh, um, sure," I stammered. "Yeah. That's…that's great." I told Aunt Nathalie goodbye as Thomas approached with our bags.

"Are you okay, love?" he asked, kissing my forehead. "You look pale."

"I'm fine," I lied. "I'm just, um, excited to see everyone."

"Me too."

We walked out to our rented car and began the drive to Uncle Mario's house. I tried to make my breathing steady and calm myself down as we drove down the slightly familiar highway. The last time I had seen Sidney was when he had arrived unannounced at the apartment I was sharing with Sylvie. It had been almost a month since I had left Pittsburgh.

"Where's Karine?" Sidney had demanded the moment Sylvie opened the door.

"Sid, I really don't think..." she protested

"I need to talk to her," he insisted, pushing past her and entering the living room. I had heard his voice from the kitchen, and I reluctantly walked out to meet him.

"Hi, Sid," I said quietly.

"Listen," he said without telling me hello. He planted his hands firmly on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. I noticed his were slightly bloodshot. "You are all I can think about. I couldn't understand where I went wrong. What I did to lose you. And then I realized—you run. When you feel like you are too vulnerable, you run and hide. You're afraid to give yourself to someone because you're afraid he is going to toy with your emotions like you did to him. You run and think it will fix itself. Well, you are in for a rude awakening very soon. You're going to mess up bad. And you know what? I'll be there to pick up the pieces."

"Have you been drinking?" I asked, my forehead creased with worry.

"That doesn't matter," he replied. "Stop running, Karine. The day is going to come when no one will chase you anymore."

"Sidney, I think you should leave," I said firmly.

"You played with me and when you were done you threw me to the side like a worthless toy!" he shouted.

I flinched. I had never seen him this angry. "I'm sorry about everything, but this is for the best. You deserve better. Now goodbye, Sid." I placed my hand on his shoulder and steered him to the door.

"This is going to be your biggest regret!" he shouted as I closed the door in his face.

I clenched my eyes shut as I remembered the scene. Even after two years, the memories were still painful. Don't get me wrong…breaking up with Sidney was the best thing I could do. We had a fun, short-lived romance that I wouldn't forget even if I tried.

"Thomas," I said hesitantly, "Aunt Nathalie told me Sidney is going to be at dinner tonight."

"Oh," he replied bluntly. "Are you okay with that?"

"I guess I have to be." I ran my fingers through his short, light brown hair and smiled. "It should be interesting, anyway."

"I suppose." I knew Thomas would grit his teeth tonight and bear sitting at the same table as Sidney. The fact that I had dated Canada's most famous bachelor at one point was still an awkward topic.

My palms were damp with a nervous sweat as we pulled into Uncle Mario's driveway. I breathed a sigh of relief when I did not see Sidney's black Range Rover parked in the driveway. At least I could be spared the awkwardness of a reunion for another hour or so.

Aunt Nathalie greeted us warmly and ushered us to the room we would be staying in—the room I had occupied what felt like an entire lifetime ago.

Thomas put down our bags and yawned widely. "I think I'm going to take a nap before dinner," he said.

"Alright," I replied, giving him a peck on the cheek. I'll be downstairs. I want to see the kids."

I made my way downstairs and into the family room, where I found Austin and Alexa playing Wii tennis. I realized with a pang of regret how much they had grown. I hadn't seen them since last Christmas.

"Karine, play me next!" Austin demanded with a smile. "Alexa sucks. She isn't fun to play against."

I laughed as I watched Alexa wrinkle her face in frustration as she kept missing the ball. "This is dumb," she complained. "Let's play hockey."

Austin scored the winning point and punched her arm playfully. "Winner says we're still playing tennis. You're up, Karine."

I played a few rounds while catching up with the kids, asking how school was going and if they had been to any Penguins games. They were very careful not to mention Sidney—it made me wonder if, when Sidney was around the Lemieuxs, I was also a forbidden topic of conversation.

"You should come back to Pittsburgh," Alexa said. "We miss you."

"I miss you guys too, but I have a job in Montreal. I can't just leave."

"You left Pittsburgh," Austin mumbled quietly. I pretended not to hear as a familiar pain grasped my stomach. I still regretted the way I left Pittsburgh…I didn't tell Uncle Mario or Aunt Nathalie I was leaving. They found out from my parents that I had moved. I didn't even tell them goodbye.

I sighed deeply and half-heartedly played Wii tennis. My mind was wandering when I heard someone clear their throat in the doorway. "Karine," an all-too familiar voice said tenderly.

I dropped the controller and froze in place. "Hi, Sidney," I replied without turning around.