The TV was on and I heard girls’ laughter. Vero and my wife were on the couch in hysterics watching the first Austin Powers movie. They were losing it over the scene where he gets the golf cart stuck completely sideways in the hall.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” I said to Vero. “I’m Richie Cunningham and this is my wife, Oprah.” That set them off again.
“No, not Oprah!” my wife said.
“That’s it until you tell me your secret. Or I’m going to steal your purse.” I sat next to her on the couch.
“I’ll tell you after the game, if you score me a goal.”
Well fuck, just call me out why don’t ya? But I couldn’t be mad. I was already visualizing an epic, unassisted hat trick and her fainting into my sweaty arms in the locker room. Maybe an overtime winner – no, a shootout! – and her jumping on me in front of the whole team. We could watch the highlights on Sportscenter once an hour, every hour, all night and spend the 55 minutes in between inventing ways to keep each other awake.
“Earth to Sidney?” she was waving a hand in front of my face.
I shook the Playboy Channel thoughts from my head. “Uh, right. Goal. Yes dear.”
Everyone surfaced, dressed and ready to roll. The guys all headed out to their cars, and when I came back into the living room she wasn’t there.
Did she ride with V and Marc? Or Max? Well that’s a little rude, honestly. I opened the front door, miffed, and she was leaning on the passenger side of my truck. Jealous much, asshole?
She was clearly excited as we drove into the player’s entrance at the rink. She even carried my backpack, claiming she needed something to do with her hands while she was so nervous.
I can think of at least 275 exciting things you can do with your… oh God.
I gave her the two dollar tour – gym, equipment room, lounge, coach’s office. Coach was talking to someone in the hall and she squeaked when she saw him. At the end of the loop, we came to the locker room. “Vero is probably in here. And Max and Jordan are probably naked. Well, definitely Max. Do you want to come in?” I was blocking the door in case someone opened it and gave her an eyeful.
She gave me a devious look. “Hell yes!” she shouldered me aside.
Sticking close to me as I crossed the room, she tossed the backpack into my stall. Kris was lacing his skates and she sat down closely to watch. Vero waved from around the corner where Marc was stretching. My wife looked around the room, a genuine gleam of excitement in her eye. Most of the guys she hadn’t met were sneaking looks at her. She didn’t seem to notice. In fact she was oblivious to the attention she was attracting. It was much quieter than usual, like they were all waiting. Max came from the equipment room, surprisingly wearing pants. He saw her taking it all in.
“It’s not the Mile High Club, but there is a certain taboo about having sex in the locker room,” Max said loudly, with a lewd grin.
She didn’t miss a beat. “I heard Sid doesn’t like anyone touching his stick.”
The room exploded. Everyone was howling, whistling, clouting me on the shoulder. They all looked relieved, and Max looked very proud.
There it is. Welcome to the club, whatever your name is.
Sidney blanched. Actually went white. I burst out laughing and covered my face. Someone nearby applauded.
“You must be the wife,” Matt Cooke said, holding out his hand. “I am impressed. Someday you’ll have to tell us your name.”
I popped Sid on the shoulder. “Sorry,” I whispered, scrunching up my face.
“Are you kidding?” he said, head in his locker. “You’re making me look good.” He came up with an armload of under armor. “Let me go change and I’ll show you the trainer’s room.” He hustled around the corner, in the direction that I guessed were showers.
Matt introduced me to a few other guys. They all made wife or name jokes, so apparently my reputation had preceded me. Max came over and curled an arm around my waist.
“Sid is so shy. If it were me, I’d change right here. If I were trying to make you like me. Or think about me naked.”
I let my eyes slowly roll over his bare abs and exposed chest before meeting his eyes. “How would you know if it’s working?”
“There’s a big empty locker room across the hall just waiting to be christened …” he said for everyone to hear.
I elbowed him in the ribs. “I think I’ll save the Mile High Club for you.”
We were still standing there when Sidney came back into the room. Instinctively I dug my nails into Max’s bare side. Sid was wearing whatever high-tech, sweat-wicking, duo-layer athletic gear was top of the line, but all I could think of was SPANDEX. Miles of it. It took yards of fabric to shrink wrap every rise and valley of his entire body. Thick calves, massive thighs, taut waist, hulking shoulders… he was on display head to toe. He smiled at me, guileless.
“I give up!” Max said, spinning away. I may have drawn blood.
My mind was flashing images of a room I’d never seen – one that looked a lot like this locker room. Only with fewer people, a pile of spandex on the floor and the sound of my voice screaming Sidney’s name. Sid went to his stall and leaned over. Way over.
“Nice ass, Cros,” Jordan called.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” I actually said out loud.
The room went silent just as she said it. One of those weird cosmic moments where quiet words sound like a PA announcement. I felt my face flash red. Thank God my head is in my locker and she cannot see this. Jordan fell to the floor with a huge thud and proceeded to die laughing. Someone whistled, long and low.
“I, uh… I have to go to the trainers’ room. Coming?” I stuttered. She hung her head and followed me out of the room.
Five steps down the hallway, I realized she was no longer next to me. I turned – she was just outside the locker room door, slumped against the wall, laughing so hard that no sound came out. Eyes closed, shoulders shaking, I watched as she slid down to the floor.
Amazing. She is sitting in the hallway, surrounded by people she doesn’t know, and she’s just cracking up. At herself.
I walked back, held out my hand and hauled her to her feet. Then she surprised me again. She pulled my hand over her shoulder, tucked into me and moved down the hall with her arm around my waist. Still laughing. I walked slowly, absorbing the amazing feel of her body pressed against mine. In the next room, I jumped onto one of the trainer’s table. Kris was having his elbow taped. She climbed up next to him.
Really? He needs to have his whole shirt off to get his elbow taped? He caught my eye and gave me a look that said 'what are you gonna do about it?'
When our trainer Jeff finished they both came over to me. She hopped up onto the table and watched. “Is this because you hurt yourself a couple years ago?”
Well, she remembers that. But did she miss me while I was out? Oh shut up, you’re so full of yourself.
“It’s just a precaution. Most of the guys do it,” I said, flexing my foot around the tape. Jeff seemed to be going really slowly, but I didn’t care. She was pressed in next to me, leaning over, her body warm and her hair falling onto my leg. When Jeff finally finished, he tore off the tape and held it up to her.
“Want to try?”
She looked at me then squatted next to Jeff. He showed her where to start on my other ankle, and she pressed the tape to my skin. I suddenly wished me feet weren’t so ugly. Like ballerinas, hockey players’ feet are tools. Mine were bruised and scarred, misshapen from years of abuse. They were fantastically hideous. But she didn’t seem to mind. She had my foot in her firm grip, flexed against her thigh.
I can think of something else that wants a firm grip…. Ugh. Are the Wings here yet? Is there time to carry her into that empty locker room and really get warmed up? Down boy. If I get hard in these pants, the only way I’ll learn her name is when the judge introduces the plaintiff at my sexual assault trial.
I also wished she were wearing a v-neck top. If not for the collar on her t-shirt I could have seen her belly button from here. I rolled my eyes, already feeling bad. She was going to do a half-assed job and I’d have to sneak away later to have my ankle re-taped. I couldn’t go on the ice with wobbly skates just because she smelled like citrus.
As she wrapped, I rolled my ankle around. She was actually getting it right. Jeff instructed her and when she was finished I stood. I rotated the foot – it felt the same as my other ankle. She’d done it perfectly.
As we left the room, Jeff gave me a big thumbs-up.
Sidney seemed happy with my tape job and I was relieved. I figured he’d have to run back to have to done over before the game. I didn’t want him getting hurt just because he let me flirt with him. The hallway was crowded as we made our way back to the locker room. The other team was coming, filing down the hallway with bags and gear.
“SPARKS?!” a voice called.
I knew that voice. I’d know it anywhere.
“Eavie?” I was yelling before I turned around.
Patrick Eaves was standing in the hallway, fresh-scrubbed in a suit, with a gear bag over his shoulder. He dropped it and I jumped on him with a squeal.
“What the hell are you doing here? And what happened to your phone? I called you like 12 times last week.” He was just letting go of me. His brown hair was shorter than when I’d seen him last. It had been a long time.
“Oh shit! I didn’t even look at the schedule, I didn’t know you were gonna be here! I was home at my parents. And my phone… it went for a swim and drowned. Sorry!”
I felt a hand on my back. I’d gotten so excited that I’d forgotten about Sidney. Patrick looked up then looked back at me with surprise on his face. He started to speak…
“Don’t say my name!” I gasped and put my hand across Patrick’s mouth. “You’ll blow my cover.” He looked very confused, but finally nodded.
“Hey,” Sidney said. He didn’t offer a handshake, and I thought his voice was a note darker than before.
I took a slight step back. “Do you guys know each other? Sidney, Patrick, meet. Patrick and I were friends in college.” Sidney’s expression stayed hard. Patrick didn’t help.
“Almost roommates that one year,” he laughed.
I turned more toward Sid. “His roommate and mine dated, so we got sexiled a lot. Thank God the guys had a living room, or I’d have been homeless. Sidney rescued me from a snowstorm and I coerced him into giving me a tour.” Patrick did not look convinced.
Sidney nodded. “We both went to Shattuck,” he said. “You were there before me.”
“Thank God. You’re not an act I’d want to follow,” he looked back to me. “Gotta get dressed, and we’re heading right out tonight. Come see me when the game is over?”
I said yes without looking at Sidney. Suddenly I felt like he might not be bringing me down here after the game. Or ever again. Patrick ducked inside, and suddenly the hallway was
Who is this clown and how well does he know her? That was quite a hug. How many hockey players does she know? I’d been sure she wasn’t a puckbunny. But you never really knew.
“College nickname. Patrick and I were best friends back then. I haven’t seen him in years!”
My mood stayed sour and I turned back toward the room. “Let’s get Vero, I’ve got to get ready too.”
She grabbed my arm. “Wait. That was weird. The only other NHL player I’ve ever known turns up here, now? I really didn’t know you were playing the Wings or I would have mentioned him. I must look like some slutty puckbunny.” She’d read my mind, taken my crazy assumption and turned it on herself. Now I felt like a colossal asshole for judging her.
“Was he your boyfriend?”
“Negative,” she almost laughed.
“Then you’re not a puckbunny. Just don’t cheer for him during the game, okay? I know where you’re sitting. I’ll see if you do.” I smiled.
She arched an eyebrow. “Oh you’ll see me alright. I’ll be the one banging on the glass, telling everyone I like your butt.”
Vero guided me through the maze to an elevator. We walked down to ice level just as the warm-up skate started. It had always been my favorite part of coming to a game. I got to see how all the years of practice and drills worked, and get a little idea of what they did on a daily basis besides compete. Plus, it was the best man-candy window-shopping on Earth.
We stood back a few rows. Plenty of people were pressed to the glass, including a lot of women. Vero quietly gave me the highlights. Well, lowlights.
“That one is Thumper.” She pointed discreetly to a bleach blonde in a fitted pink Pens’ jersey, denim skirt and black winter boots. Her boobs were practically pressed to the glass as she bounced around.
“And those are The Twins,” she gestured to a pair of girls. One was a redhead, one a brunette and they were clearly not related. But they did have matching fake breasts, showcased by very low-cut tops.
There were also plenty of normal-seeming girls in jeans and jerseys, clearly enjoying the sight of the guys stretching and laughing. Minus one plane ticket and Vero’s company, I would have been standing closer too. I was thinking about them when Vero grabbed my arm.
Jordan and Kris had skated over to the glass and, ignoring the people inches from their faces, pointed at me. I looked up and they waved exaggeratedly. Jordan made a kissing face. Every head in our half of the arena turned. I covered my face and barely resisted the urge to give them the finger.
“They are trying to start a catfight,” Vero laughed. “If these girls knew who you were, there would be a bloodbath.”
“And who exactly am I?”
She started moving up the stairs. “You are lunch.”
“Dude, tell me her name.”
“No way. She’d kill me.”
I had intentionally gotten kicked out of the faceoff to talk to him. I willed the linesman to waste time so I could get an answer. “Well, tell me something about her then.”
“Hey, I’m married. But I will tell you that half the guys I knew spent all of college trying to land that girl. Maybe one or two did, but it wasn’t easy. She had a guy for a while, but that’s old news.”
The puck dropped and we moved up ice. Geno dumped it in front of the net and I tried to screen the goaltender. Shoving ensued and I may have accidentally pushed the net of its moorings. Then I skated right over to him.
“Anybody I know?”
Eaves was instantly serious. “No. She is not that kind of girl.”
“Hey, I had to ask.”
He came right up into my face. “When did you meet her?”
“Yesterday,” I admitted.
“Then you should already know that.” He spun away, conversation over.
I’m a dick. He’s probably going to tell her I said that. Shit.
I saw Sidney talking to Patrick a few times during stoppages. It made me smile. Pat will never give me up, or I’ll kick his ass. I’ve got stories…
The Penguins were playing well and the game was very even with lots of end-to-end action. I found it both exhilarating and terrifying to watch now that I knew some of the guys. Every hit seemed to physically hurt me, every good play made me swell with pride. From the look on Vero’s face, that never went away.
I was also worried. What if he doesn’t score? What if I jinxed him and gave the team bad ju-ju by mentioning it? Please universe, please please let him get a goal. Or I’m going to tell him anyway! Take that!
As the game went on, it got easier to concentrate. I resisted the urge to look up at her every time the whistle blew. I pushed away thoughts of her and let my mind drift into the zone. We were playing well, skating fast and getting close a lot. At the end of two periods, the game was tied.
As the buzzer sounded, I gave in to what I’d been fighting for hours. I looked up at her. Instantly our eye met. She gave me a quick little half-wave. My stomach did a triple toe-loop and I hustled into the locker room.
We hydrated and dissected the game. With a couple minutes left before the last frame, Coach came in and gave us some direction. Shoot high from the slot, more pressure on the blue line, that kind of stuff. Then he looked at me.
“Crosby, anything you want to add?”
Ugh. As captain I sometimes spoke in the locker room. Pep talk stuff, game ideas. Most the same crap that had all the press calling me a dull interview. I’d rather lead by example, get out on the ice and generate something. “Uh, well they’re strong on the forecheck, so let’s press up at the blue line and…”
Max made a huge farting noise, interrupting me. I waited for Coach to slap him but he just looked at me. They all looked at me. Except Max, who was smiling. Oh fuck you, Talbot.
“Okay, assholes. She will only tell me her name if I score a goal. So pass me the fucking puck, okay? Happy now?”
They all whooped and hollered.
The Pens came out flying in the third period. Detroit answered, but the ice seemed tilted slightly in our direction. Sidney was everywhere. Marc was putting on a show at the other end and I knew it was killing Vero that she couldn’t see his every save. We cheered like maniacs every time Pittsburgh touched the puck.
With four and half minutes left, Duper pushed one under the goalie during a pileup at the net. The arena went berserk. I breathed a sigh of relief. I’ll settle for a win if I can’t get a goal. I want everyone in a good mood so tonight won’t end early.
At the two minute mark, Detroit pulled their goalie. Sidney leapt over the board on a line change. Geno blocked a shot from Datsyuk, held the puck on his stick and moved down the ice. Sidney was a blur, practically pants-ing Rafalski as he flew past. Geno deked, turned and passed. Sidney scooped the puck into the empty net. Vero leapt on me, almost taking us both to the ground. On the ice, the scene was similar – people would say later they’d never seen a team celebrate an empty net insurance goal with such enthusiasm.
“Let’s go!” Vero yelled, dragging me from my seat.
Thank you, God. Thank you, Geno. I jumped a foot into the air. Geno threw himself on me in a bear hug.
“Yay! Sid get girl now!” he yelled. The rest of the guys were right behind him. The Wings gave us some weird looks as he dog-piled over an empty netter. On the bench, the guys were banging their sticks against the boards.
As soon as we hit the room, I hustled into the shower. The media could wait. I didn’t want to be a gross mess when she came in. I took my clothes with me, rinsed quickly and got dressed. As I came back into the room, she and Vero burst through the door on the far side. When they saw her, the whole team started applauding.
I panicked. Oh my God, every one of these cameras will be on them in a second and then I’ll have to explain my way out of this…
But she didn’t. She stopped short, then threw her head back and laughed. The peal of her laughter turned every last head in the room. As the reporters were taking an interest toward her, I hurried out in front of them, sat down and just started talking. It worked: they turned back to me and she slipped away with a wave.
By the time I finished, she and Vero were in the hall with Mark and Kris. The Wings were gone, so I didn’t know if she’d seen Eaves. Vero held up her keys, “We are going to dinner, then Diesel. Everyone else is already there.” My wife said nothing. She just linked her arm through mine and we left the building.
As soon as I climbed into the car, she turned her whole body to face me. The heat blasting from the vents blew her hair and that smell wafted all around me. I could almost taste it – juicy, soft, flirty. Just like her.
“Evelyn. My name is Evelyn,” she smiled. “But you should call me Evie.”
“Evie,” I said out loud.
Evelyn Crosby, said my brain. I like it.
She laughed. “Was that anticlimactic? It was such a good game, now my name seems boring!”
“No. You are definitely not boring. Evie.”
I followed Marc’s Lamborghini to a local steakhouse. Normally I would have stayed far away – people in the ‘Burgh knew about Marc’s car, and it’s not like there were others. But Evie was laughing about it, so I stuck close. And repeated her name in my head.
The restaurant had cleared a back room for us and quite a few of the guys had come out. Wives and girlfriends were filling in to, either from the arena or from home. The host offered to take Evie’s coat.
“Wow,” I said out loud.
She was wearing a gauzy gold top with a cowl neck. I didn’t know what a cowl neck was, but I resolved to go online and buy her one in every color of the rainbow. The shirt accentuated her perky breasts, slender waist and the curve of her hip. It showed a lot, without really showing anything. I was mesmerized.
“Vero brought me something to wear after the game,” she said, gazing down at herself.
“It’s a good thing you weren’t wearing that during the game!” I said. She didn’t look up. If she’d looked up, I would have kissed her into next week.