“It’s the middle of the night.”
It was also a stupid thing to say, worried about what time it was and waking someone up. I had just flown to another country and gotten engaged to someone I had known for less than a month. I had just changed my entire life with a single word. My brain only processed what it could handle, which was the dark of night smothering the world.
“They are expecting us,” Sid said. Yet he stood still, as if to move would spook me into realizing what had just happened. But my mind was still turning.
“You told them.” It dawned slowly that there had been more planning than a ring and a flight.
“I asked them,” he clarified.
That was it. I started crying for real. Sid made an ‘aww’ noise and pulled me back into his arms, letting me sob against his solid chest. It was so sweet and old-fashioned and honestly a huge relief I wasn’t showing up at the door of my childhood home with a stranger in tow and ring on my finger. Everyone would assume I was pregnant. Heaven forbid I was pregnant – we’d been together such a short time that I wouldn’t even know it yet. My nerves got swept up in the giggle and soon I was in hysterics.
“What did you say? Hi, Mr. Montgomery, this is Sidney Crosby and I met your daughter. We know each other. There may have been some air-traffic control violations. Anyway, I was wondering if I could marry her.”
He laughed too, using his big thumbs to wipe the tears from my face. “Pretty much. But I also mentioned that I am completely in love with you and that I would never push you into something you weren’t ready for.”
“What did he say?”
“He thought I was your brother prank calling. I didn’t even know you had a brother.”
If my brother had thought of it, he’d have done it. Eventually Sid convinced my dad it was really him, and the question was honest. Sid topped it off with a promise to visit immediately and my dad had consented.
“Then he put your mom on the phone.”
I made a strained face. “Uh oh.”
Sid shook his head. “There was some screaming. She thought I was being romantic and sweeping you off your feet.” I stared up at him, my heart still fluttering and wondering how on Earth I’d ended up here. Sid read my mind and kissed home the answer. Then he took my hand, my bag and wheeled our little family out of the airport.
The car was waiting for us. I buckled myself into the front seat, took a deep breath and, as soon as Sidney was also aboard, had a total spaz attack. I squealed and bounced and waved my hands. Shock definitely still reigned but I was beginning to realize what had just happened. He reached for my hand and held it till we got to the border. Ever the optimist, Sidney simply rolled to the booth and handed his passport to the agent.
“Oh my God!” the guy said. He didn’t bother trying to catch himself. “It’s my lucky night! Sidney Crosby!” Sid just nodded and said hi, agreed to an autograph. The guard slowly realized I was there and asked for my passport too. I silently thanked the universe it was a male guard – a female guard would have instantly realized the probable importance of a woman in a rented car with Sidney Crosby in the middle of the night. As I reached to give him my papers, I caught sight of my own ring. My engagement ring. It was a little more than probable importance at this point. The guard waved us through, beaming, and Sid took my hand again. Using his thumb, he spun the ring around my finger.
“Do you like it?”
Without hesitation I told him, “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s perfect.”
Sid was clearly proud of himself. The ring was stunning – not too big or flashy, just simple and extremely sparkly. I stared at it against the weave of our fingers, catching and magnifying the dashboard lights into a rainbow of splashes. I think I stared at it the whole way home. It was after midnight when we finally crunched across the gravel of my parents’ driveway.
“Let’s hurry, or my mom will run out here,” I said. We hustled up to the door just as it swung open.
“EVIE!” She practically jumped into my arms. I’d just seen them, but now they knew everything had changed. When she let go of me, she gave Sidney the same overwhelming attention. “SIDNEY!”
My dad was next, hugging me hard. I knew he’d be emotional – surprised, happy, but mostly protective. I was very much his little girl and he wanted me to have the perfect life. The idea of Sidney promised that, by my dad would never sell his daughter cheap. He had to know for a fact that this rich, famous superstar of a guy was also the best person on earth to take care of his baby.
“Mr. Montgomery,” Sidney said in his best Face-of-the-NHL voice. Firm handshake – it was all very manly.
“Guess it really was you on the phone,” my dad cracked. Then my mom screamed and hugged them both, tears running down her face, and both the guys cracked up. Sidney pulled me in and we had a little group hug, my mom jumping up and down in the middle.
“Show us!” she yelled.
I held out the ring for examination. Everyone got quiet with awe as they lifted and scrutinized like they knew anything about diamonds. They proclaimed it beautiful and I saw my dad appreciate that it was not some huge, Titanic-sized rock. It was almost modest and that appealed to him. My mom just liked shiny things.
“Come in, come in!” They steered us toward the living room.
The house was cozy and clean, like the house I’d grown up in. Evie’s parents gave us the couch and sat in armchairs on opposite sides, leaning in and looking expectant. I guess this was my cue.
“I know this is really sudden, but I’m glad to be meeting you. Even if I did things a little backward.”
Her dad smiled. He seemed like a nice guy – Evie had his tall, athletic build and his nose. When I’d called, he’d known who I was immediately. Nothing worse than having to explain why you’re rich and famous, then announcing your intention to carry off their daughter.
“I admit when we spoke earlier I was pretty shocked,” he started. “But I appreciate that you did that….”
Evie looked up from her hand with a tiny shriek. “Did you just say earlier? Like earlier today?” Her dad nodded and she turned to me.
“Mmhmm,” I confirmed.
A tiny look of doubt crossed her face, amazed that I would decide and ask her and come here in the same day, but it was beaten quickly back. “Bahahahahahahaha,” she howled. “What did you do, buy a ring this morning?!”
“Yes,” I said. She froze, her mouth open in mid-laugh. It was as if I’d just announced I had a spaceship parked in the yard.
“You did?” she whispered. “Oh my God.”
“But I knew yesterday, and the day before,” I told everyone. “I designed a ring myself a few days ago, but Vero said the store would have my idea. In truth, this one is better. It’s more… graceful than mine.”
Evie looked from her hand to me and back. “What did the salesperson say?”
“Uh… he thought it was for Marc. I brought him with me, in case someone recognized us.”
One eyebrow lifted as she considered the deviousness of our plan. “Very clever, Mr. Crosby.” Next to us her mom cleared her throat. “Oh, sorry! Mom, Sid’s famous. He plays hockey. He’s a really big deal, especially in Pittsburgh.”
“Oh I know, honey.”
Her dad laughed. “Yeah, because I showed her online today. She saw the highlights though, the Cup and the Gold Medal and stuff.”
“I have been to some hockey games!” my mom protested. It was true; she’d carted us around when we were little, whether to a concert or a sporting event that she didn’t care at all about. “And I know how to Google, for my crossword puzzles. There were a million results for Sidney so I got the idea and then gave up.” She turned to me. “I’ll take Evie’s word on you, Sidney.”
Eventually Evie was yawning and her mom followed out. I stayed, sensing her father wanted to talk to me on his own. My palms were damp – he had given his permission and now I knew he was a very nice person living a stable, happy life. He would want the same for Evie.
“Thank you for calling us,” he said to start. “I know it’s old–fashioned but it meant a lot to me and her mom. And I follow hockey, so I feel like I know you a little bit. I know you’re not out there running wild and tearing up the town. Never heard a bad word about you, actually. Well, you know, the whining, but….” He laughed and that made it okay for me to laugh. He confessed to being a Leafs fan and I promised to set them up with tickets when we played in Toronto. Evie could come to the game and I’d have a family trip with my new family.
“You’ll take care of her?” he asked.
I would. I couldn’t wait to start. I wanted nothing more in the world, for the first time in my life I wanted something more than winning. “I promise. And thank you for giving me the chance.”
He clapped me on the shoulder. “Evie makes her own decisions, always has. Notice she didn’t ask for our permission.”
My mom bustled into the room, pretending to make sure it was warm enough. I brushed my teeth, watching her putz around and counting down the seconds until she’d get to her point. It was how she operated.
“Evie, I’m so happy for you. Are you sure this is it?”
“I am,” I said without rinsing. “I’m also aware it’s insane. But that doesn’t change how I feel.” That was all she needed. She hugged me and kissed my cheek – every inch the proud mom. Hands on my shoulders she looked straight in my eye.
“When I looked online today, I thought no way he’s that good looking. I was wrong.”
I heard her pass Sidney in the hallway and hug him goodnight. Then he closed the door and we were standing in my childhood bedroom, in what we’d worn to work, engaged to be married. Holy shit. He felt it too, and put his arms around me in a protective, comforting way.
“I promised your dad I would take care of you,” he said quietly. “And I promise you. I will take care of you, Evie.”
Everything about him was right. He had the physical warmth I’d always want to be near. He was strong, like a capable person would be, and big enough to protect me. Yet his features were soft: long eyelashes, full lips, perfect skin and the curl of his hair. Bottomless brown eyes met mine with the weight of the world in them – Sidney was serious and I was too.
“And I will take care of you.”
It seemed fitting that we be in my childhood home. It was maybe the only thing that had ever made me feel as safe as Sidney did. Sure it would be crazy spending my life with him, being ruled by the game and his celebrity. But everyone’s life had challenges and rewards. Watching Sidney slip off his clothes and climb beneath my high school comforter, I knew I’d won the ultimate prize.
I had never brought a guy home here. And now I never would – just my fiancé. I decided that meant it was okay to make quick work of my outfit and slide in next to him wearing nothing but a smile.
His solid muscles were hot to the touch, and touch them I did. Sidney held himself over me, lifting my face to his with hands twisted into my hair. I ran my palms over his flesh. My thumbs caught in his shorts and he wiggled his hips so I could remove the last thing separating us.
Sidney nipped his teeth into the soft plane of my neck, right over my pulse point. The muscles of his back flexed under my fingers. His hands swept past my hips, angling in and pushing my thighs apart. He traced the cleft in my body and gently swiped a thick finger along my slit. I gasped. He did it again and I squirmed against him. I couldn’t handle the teasing tonight.
“I want you now,” I said softly. He spread his fingers and me, nudged the tip of his cock against my swollen skin and paused to look down at me.
“I’ve never had a boy in this bed,” I whispered. With his eyes glued to mine, Sidney pressed his cock firmly into my waiting body. The slow fiction was exquisite and I managed a ragged breath. When he was fully, deeply inside, Sidney kissed my lips.
“No boys,” he said. “Just your husband.”
Husband. It probably should have freaked me out. Instead it almost made me come immediately. Evie just looked up at me without a hint of fear in her eyes. I may have proposed but she was the brave on in our relationship. I knew no life other than my own, complete with pressure and scrutiny and back-biting. Evie was choosing it for the sake of being with me.
I moved the way I knew she liked, holding her hips to the mattress so the bed wouldn’t creak. Perhaps it was a good thing I didn’t get laid in high school – I was too strong for this old furniture. But Evie would want the emotional connection tonight, not just the way I could work her into a spinning top. So it was easier to drag slowly in and out of her warm, sweet core, teasing her hot spot. High from the day’s events and drunk on the taste of her skin, I whispered over and over that I loved her, that I would take care of her. I started right then, torturing her with pleasure until she begged me for release.
“Sid, please baby.”
No one had ever seemed so clear to me – I could make her laugh or cry, make her come in a moment if I wanted to. She was a city: I knew the landmarks and had my whole life to explore the back roads. I gave her three short, forceful thrusts right to her g-spot and felt her break open like an egg. Her body rippled and rolled as her breathing hitched and caught. The silky flood made my cock throb and I let go without a thought, let her pull me over.
“Oh God,” I said spots of light burst behind my eyes.
“I love you,” she panted.
When we were curled together, naked and spent, I pulled her in tight to my chest. Her head rested on my bicep and our arms were around each other’s middles. My lips found her temple with a kiss.
“Mrs. Crosby,” I said.
For once she didn’t laugh. “Hmmm, Mrs. Crosby.”
In the morning, life was life again. Just like that. Her parents beamed and her dad talked to me about travel and what other wives did while their husbands were on the road. Evie and I hadn’t talked about the off season or her job, there hadn’t been time. I was relieved when no one brought it up over bacon and eggs. Halfway through the meal, the front door flew open.
“Holy shit, you were telling the truth!” A younger guy with sandy brown hair and a snowboarding jacket hollered from the kitchen doorway.
“Sid, this is my brother Eric.”
I stood to shake but Eric just hugged me. Evie’s dad rolled his eyes like his son got the hugging from his wife’s side. Eric pulled up a chair, helped himself to breakfast and joined right in our conversation. Then he and Evie took me on a tour of their hometown, showing me where they played soccer in school and snuck beer into the movies. We drove another few minutes and pulled into the parking lot of a rec center. As soon as we were out of the car, I could hear the sound of outdoor hockey being played.
Sure enough, a bunch of kids from five to about twelve were fooling around on a clapboard rink. Some parents lined the boards, sipping coffee in gloved hands and a few adults skated amongst the kids. No organized games were on, it seemed like everyone was just fooling around. A couple waved from rinkside and started walking toward us.
“Your mom said you were home again!” A solidly built man in a Carhart jacket ambled up, hands in his pockets. I saw the resemblance to Evie’s father just as the man recognized me. “Hello… uh, aren’t you….”
Eric jumped right in. “Better than that. He’s marrying Evie.”
The woman at his side yelped. She whipped Evie’s hand up and examined the exhibit A in the case. Then she lifted Evie off the ground in a hug. “WHAT?! I didn’t even know you had a boyfriend!”
Her husband peeled her back and turned her toward me. “Honey, this is Sidney Crosby.”
The woman had a child who played hockey and a husband who followed it. She scrolled through her memory and eventually hit on something that rang true. “You’re Sidney Crosby?”
“Nice to meet you.”
“This is my aunt Mary Lynn and my Uncle Scott. Dad’s brother,” Evie said. I shook hands with the couple, who were a little open-mouthed in surprise. A cheer at the rink distracted us – some kids were dog-piling on another kid. “And that’s probably my cousin Brendan. He’s eight and he’ll pee his pants when he meets you.”
Her aunt and uncle looked over their shoulders at me as we followed to the rink. I got the impression they were impressed, but not overly so. They’d have looked that way at any surprise fiancé that Evie turned up with.
“Are you ready to meet my adoring public? I’m a pretty big deal with middle schoolers.” she asked.
I put my arm around her shoulders. Like the bowling event, this would be a good first baby step toward whatever we were really doing. I wondered it if was the best way to announce our engagement, just as Evie said to her family: “Can we keep the engagement thing to ourselves for now? I think there will probably be some big media thing….” Everyone nodded and Evie slipped on a pair of mittens.
“You think of everything,” I said.
I have only ever turned up at a random hockey practice in a TV commercial. Not surprisingly it went much the same in real life. The first few kids were stunned then some whooping and hollering drew a crowd. Parents came over. Someone produced a pair of markers – to this day I think it was Evie. I signed helmets and sticks and jerseys and skates. People snapped photos on their phones. To Evie’s dismay, no one peed their pants.
When we had waved goodbye for the millionth time, I took Evie and Eric to lunch at their favorite local sandwich place. Eric told embarrassing stories about little Evie, and she had some good ones about him. For the first time ever I was thankful that my oppressive career path made me to lead such a squeaky clean life. It made it easier to face prospective in-laws without a Google image search like Max’s waiting to be discovered.
Back at her house, we loaded the rental car and bid her parents goodbye. Her father gave me a very firm handshake, then a hug. When he hugged Evie I saw tears in his eyes. I renewed my promise mentally to always be good to her, since so many people were counting on me.
The airport and flight were uneventful except that when I held her hand, I held her engagement ring too. We were back in Pittsburgh just after dark. I didn’t say anything, just steered us straight for the Lemieux’s side of the house.
“Have you told your parents yet?” I asked. I knew he was taking us to tell Mario, but I was a little unsure of the chain of command in Sidney’s life.
“I told my mom I was going to ask you. We agreed to wait to tell my dad.”
“Wait for what?”
He smiled. “To make sure you said yes.”
As if. The smell of food met us inside the house, and I knew we’d be catching them at a late dinner. Plates banged and younger voices rang out. The sound didn’t diminish as we rounded the corner.
“Sid!” A girl of about fourteen launched off the table and hugged him. A slightly older boy was right behind. Sid introduced me to Austin and Alexa, then Stephanie who looked to be sixteen. Nathalie gave us both hugs, but Mario just stood on the far side of the table with a fatherly look on his face.
“What?” he asked. Everyone got quiet. They would all know Sid had gotten the day off from practice and possibly that he’d left the country. You didn’t let your prize pony just wander out of the yard. Fear stabbed at my heart – he hadn’t told them. What if they objected?
Sid simply held up my left hand. “We’re getting married.”
Nathalie and Stephanie gasped. At sixteen Stephanie was old enough to really understand the role that Sidney played with the team. Alexa probably did too, but excitement got the best of her and she threw her arms around me.
“You can live with us and we’ll have more girls than boys again!”
Everyone laughed and the tension eased. Nathalie hugged me as well then Sid, and Mario congratulated us too. They even made room for us at the table. I sensed it was so they could keep up close until there was time to discuss about this little surprise we’d delivered. Austin started talking about school and Alexa asked me more wedding questions than I had ever considered. I promised to hire her as my wedding planner, when we got around to that part. Sid looked meaningfully at Mario when I said it could be a long ways off.
Eventually the kids finished. Stephanie had to be sent to do her homework – she knew she was missing the good part. Mario cracked a beer for each of us and sat back down.
“Married.” It was too late to be a question, of course, but he said it a little like pronouncing a sentence in court.
“Married,” Sid agreed.
“Have you told your father?”
“Just my mom.”
Mario nodded sagely. “And Dan?”
Sidney had told his coach, feeling he needed a really good reason to be allowed out of practice. Plus Flower knew, and he wasn’t so good with secrets. I’d be willing to guess the entire team knew by now.
“Okay. How do you want to do this?” Mario asked.
A little disappointment must have shown on my face. If the last few weeks had been crazy then the last twenty-four hours were straight-jacket, padded-room worthy. And yet everything had gone so well I felt a little tingle of magic surrounding us. Sidney’s surprise proposal, the fact that he called my parents and they were so supportive. Even seeing him today with the kids at the rink – he didn’t have to be like that. No law required superstars to be good, patient, humble people. But Sidney really was. Now his mentor and closest advisor, probably closer than his parents, was being a little reluctant.
Mostly one thing worried me: Mario had been through this. He had been the closest thing to Sid the NHL had ever known, even then without the internet. Nathalie had lived this life. They would be the only ones with a right to doubt the decision we’d made.
“Put it on the Jumbotron,” Sid deadpanned.
Mario’s face got hard, then cracked when he realized it was a joke. “We could melt the ice overnight and paint it in the logo tomorrow.”
“Let’s just get a sponsor to do fake engagement rings for the first 10,000 fans,” Sid shrugged.
He held my hand tightly under the table. I could tell he was concerned as well. This was a personal decision for him and maybe the first big one he’d ever made without help. Sid the Kid, all grown up. It would be a relevation to anyone but he wasn’t going to stay the ingénue rookie youngster forever.
“Evie, how do you want to do it?”
We were all surprised by Nathalie’s voice. I figured I didn’t have much say in the matter. But Nathalie explained that my life would change the most, my identity would raise the most questions and undergo the most investigation. Therefore I should have a vote.
“Well they already know I exist. What if we did one interview with one of the TV stations to get the news out there. After that… I mean, I plan on being at the games but I don’t have to talk to press.”
“That’s a pretty good idea,” Mario agreed. “I’m sure we could get someone after morning skate tomorrow. We won’t tell them what it is before they arrive, so it won’t get leaked. Everyone will see the interview before the game. So they’ll have at least the basic information.”
“I can take the day off,” I volunteered. Sid agreed to the plan. We talked about some logistics and how much to tell people about our relationship. News of Sidney’s engagement would certainly be a top story, but our details were scandalous. In the end we settled on saying we’d known each other “a while” and had been friends first. The part about meeting on a plane was a great story and fair game. If you’re going to fib, it was best to use as much truth as possible to back it up.
Once our plan was in place the mood in the room lightened. Mario even made a joke about getting the gate agent to give a speech at the wedding. Mario suggested they go in the other room to call Sid’s father. Now I knew why he’d only told his mother – his father would be more inclined to listen to Mario’s reasoning over Sidney’s.
That left me and Nathalie. I tapped the band of my ring nervously against the table as she got us another round of drinks. When she came back, her smile was surprisingly genuine and conspiratorial.
“I’m sorry, Evie. We worry so much about Sidney that we forget he’s an adult. All of this, it’s nothing to do with you. We’re both very fond of you. It’s just fast. I hope you can understand that we’re surprised – Sidney is not an impulsive person.”
“I was surprised too.” It was partially in agreement, partially in defense of myself. I had not trapped Sidney into something or so much as suggested marriage.
That earned me some points. “I’m sure Sidney enjoyed that.”
She asked for the entire story and by the end was beaming. I showed her the ring twice and told her about him designing one online, pretending it was for Marc, calling my parents. As she realized the planning he’d put into this decision, she warmed to the idea. By the time Sid came back for me, we were giggling over her old wedding stories.
“Evie, let me give you a hug. I am being all business here when truly, I am so happy for you two.” Mario wrapped me into the kind of hug I’d seen him give Sidney before. “Hearing Sid explain the situation to his father, I know he is very sure about this and very much in love with you. That’s good enough for me.”
It nearly made me tear up. “Thank you. I know it seems fast, but we’re not rushing to the altar. Just to this part.”
Sid put his arm around me. “Uh, does that mean I should cancel the church for the morning?”