It was time. I lay there for what seemed like hours, half waiting for Evie to wake up and half savoring the delicate, vulnerable state of her sleeping in my arms. She talked a little in her sleep, nothing coherent just the sound of her voice like it was far away. I wondered what she was dreaming about.
Finally she stirred. I kissed her temple and held her close, hoping to rouse her gently. She mumbled and nuzzled against me.
“Hi,” I whispered.
“Hmph,” was lost into my arm. Then she shook slightly with laughter. “How are you always awake so early?”
“Years and years of morning practices.”
Evie lifted her head, making her hair tickle my bare skin. Her gray eyes were lighter in the morning, like they grew more relaxed with rest. She pressed her lips to mine.
“Wanna practice something else?”
I rolled on top of her and pinned her down. “First, a question. There is a… thing. Thursday night. Will you come with me?”
Her expression didn’t change. I fought the urge to hold my breath in anticipation of her response – there was simply no way she was going to let me get away with something so vague. But the thought crossed her mind, and I saw her consider whether it was better to know what kind of trouble awaited.
“Describe this thing.”
“Just a team thing,” I tried. Her eyes narrowed slightly. We both waited for her to select a comeback to my vague answer. Finally, she lifted an eyebrow.
“Like an orgy at Jordan’s?”
A pillow caught her square in the head as she shrieked and tried to struggle out from under me. I got another good shot in before she grabbed a second and started wailing blindly. I couldn’t hold her and protect myself, so I simply pressed her arms up over her head to stop the onslaught. Her laughter petered out.
“So not an orgy?” She pretended to look sheepish for a moment.
“It’s a bowling party with some families from the children’s hospital. All the guys bowl and the wives and girlfriends do a bake sale.” The choice of wording was deliberate and I let it sink in for a moment. “So, will you?”
“Will I be your girlfriend? Or will I bake a pie?”
A slow smile spread across her face. I expected her to roll her eyes and say ‘well…,’ but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instead she just nodded. Girlfriend. Just hours ago I’d told her I loved her and now I was getting all worked up about her being my girlfriend.
“First official outing.” Her voice was quieter now.
I was still on top of her, looking down into the face I’d somehow come to depend on in just a few days. It stopped my heart to think of how much we’d shared in such a short time. What could we do with the rest of our lives?
“Does that scare you?” I asked. She nodded again, yes. “Me too.”
That made her kiss me. I let go of her arms and felt them wrap around my neck. Girlfriend. Ten days ago I was the same lonely, overly-focused and terrified guy I had been my rookie year. Evie didn’t know how much good she’d done. My body responded appreciatively to her warm, soft form. She hooked her ankle over my calf and drew up, bending my leg to fit between hers.
“So,” she said nonchalantly. “Is Jordan bringing someone?”
I started at the wall for a sold half hour. The phone on my desk mercifully didn’t ring, but I would have ignored it anyway. Every once in a while, a soft pinging sound announced the arrival of another email.
“Brainstorming?” Allison, my boss, said as she approached. There was a smile on her face. “Do I have anyone in particular to thank for your productivity today?”
I shook my head as if the distraction were physical. Well it was, at least the memory of his heavy, solid body mixing mine into putty this morning while he whispered that he loved me. It was different than the night before, when he’d told me mid-stroke like it just popped into his mind. Today was deliberate and repeated, so there could be no mistake.
“What kind of pie do you like?” I asked Allison.
I asked a lot of people that. And then I told them about the bowling event. Mostly their reactions were the same – shock and apprehension, quickly covered by excitement. Except for Beth.
“Holy shit. Are you ready for that?”
I lifted my empty hands. “Am I ready to be in love with someone I hardly know? I have no fucking idea! But it’s happening, Beth, and I can’t stop it. I…,” it was hard to articulate. “I have to do this. I have to be with him if I’m going to be with him. It’s not fair to say I love you and then hide.”
A response was halfway out before she stopped dead. “Wait, WHAT? You told him that you love him?”
“You told me I should!”
“I… wow. I did. And you did. That’s… that’s completely insane. What did he say?”
The water bottle in my hands was crushed and twisted into modern art. I opened and closed the plastic top like a twitch. “He said it first.”
Her expression broke. She was still shocked but now also relieved that whatever craziness was happening was not happening only to me. With open arms, she tackled me. “Oh my God. He loves you! This is so disgustingly cute. Disney is going to sue you for stealing their shit.” She held me by both shoulders. “What are you going to bake?”
We discussed options like we were making lunch instead of a life decision. No one would care what I brought. They only cared what Sidney brought, or in this case: who. I’d met most of the wives and girlfriends and as Max had explained on our first night out, Sid didn’t do this often. That alone meant everyone gave me some measure of respect.
It also meant that I was setting myself up for a firing squad. More than a few of the women would have left their men for Sidney in a hot second, and that was just the active roster. The city of Pittsburgh, the country of Canada and the world of hockey were filled with girls who dreamed of being in my shoes.
“You’re going to be fine,” Beth said, pulling me back to the conversation at hand. “Or you’re going to be dead.”
If Marc was surprised to see me on his doorstep an hour after practice ended, he didn’t show it. He just led me into the kitchen, handed me a glass of milk and went back to reading the newspaper.
“I told her,” I announced. Vero stared expectantly.
“Evie,” I added stupidly. Now Marc was looking too.
“That I love her,” I finished.
And I disappeared under a flying ball of Vero’s arms and legs. She knocked me almost to the floor in the biggest hug I’d seen since they let her on the ice after the Cup. Some incoherent screaming in French accompanied the attack. Flower lifted her off me like a parent collecting a puppy.
“Congratulations, mon ami,” he said, standing over where I lay on the ground. Vero was under one arm, positively trembling with delight. She didn’t want to ask the next question.
“She loves me too.”
Marc instinctively tightened his grip as Vero lunged toward me again. She squealed in delight, caught up in his arms, and did a happy little dance. A pang of desire hit my heart – I wanted to be like that with Evie. So happy there was plenty to share with everyone else.
“And I invited her to the bowling event. First, uh… public appearance.”
They looked quickly, checking each other’s reactions without the need to speak. It barely took a second for a whole conversation to pass between them. Apparently they agreed it was a good idea.
“I will make sure she is okay,” Vero promised simply. That’s what I had really been after.
The next few days passed in what quickly began to feel like a comfortable routine. Evie came over after work with dinner and we watched half a movie before running for the bedroom. I picked her up at the office and brought her to the rink so we could workout together – which nearly resulted in someone walking in on us getting a different kind of exercise. I stayed at her house, dropped her off in the morning. On Wednesday night, she came to our game against Toronto.
“I thought you might want to sit with the wives and girlfriends before tomorrow night,” I said softly. Of course that meant standing inches apart, which negated anything we might be trying to hide. Evie saw that too.
“Or we could just make out right here,” she lifted an eyebrow. But she was nervous.
Despite everything telling me not to – my father’s voice in my head, my own obsessive-compulsiveness – I leaned down and kissed her lips quickly. It was like a sip of water when you’re dying of thirst. Good thing she stepped back.
“I’ll be the one yelling I love you,” she smiled. “Oh wait, that’s everyone.”
Vero sat as close to me as the stadium seats would allow, crossing her legs in my direction and leaning in. She kept saying it would be fine but I could tell she was ready to run me down if I decided to bolt. Surprisingly, I felt okay. Most of the women I’d met had been nice and there were still 17,000-plus other people in the building. None of them would be focused on me… yet.
Pascal Dupuis’ wife Carole-Lyne sat with us, along with their seven year old daughter. Carole looked at me for permission then introduced me as Sidney’s girlfriend. I felt, rather than saw, a few heads turn. Luckily her daughter was a little bundle of guileless energy, asking me and Vero about boyfriends and nail polish and telling us what she learned in school. With her around I barely had to say a word.
At the first intermission, Craig Adams’ wife Anne came up a few rows to say hello. We’d met once before, and it seemed word of Carole’s introduction had made its way down.
“So, girlfriend?” she said. “Good for you. I guess you’re coming to the bowling thing tomorrow night?” I nodded. “Fantastic. No one will give a crap what I bake, they’ll all be talking about you.”
She laughed as she said it and I was glad for someone to break the ice. We talked for a while about past wives-and-girlfriends events and they told me this was one of the most private of the year. Select families from the nearby children’s hospital attended, bowling and mingling with the players for a few select news crews and the Pens own TV station. It was a rather intimate gathering and a lot of the families were return guests.
“It’s a good one to start with,” Anne concluded. “You might even enjoy it.”
I definitely enjoyed the rest of the game. The word “girlfriend” made its rounds. Eyes were on me during play, I could feel them. Some of the women were wondering what was so special about me, some were already figuring how to get me out of the way. But most were very nice, even a little relieved that the wait was over and they’d finally get to see what happened when The Kid brought home a girl.
“Okay?” Vero whispered during the third period, when the game was intense and it finally felt like people were over their surprise.
“Yeah, I’m good.”
The Pens held on to win by a goal. Our entire section trooped downstairs, only this time I didn’t hide by the snack table. With a look toward Vero, I took a spot along the far while and tried to look like I wanted someone to talk to me. It didn’t take long.
“You must be Evie. I’m Kelsey, Tyler’s girlfriend.” She was surprisingly pretty, with big wide eyes and a very charming smile. I instantly felt like a dim light bulb, but something about her screamed friendliness. “I heard about you – I go away for a week and I miss everything!”
From the far corner, I caught Vero giving me a tiny nod: Kelsey was okay.
We talked for a while about the bowling event and other neutral topics. I was glad to find another young and outgoing girl, so I wouldn’t always have to rely on Vero to keep me under her wing. Kelsey introduced me to a few other people – girlfriends or family of some of the newer guys or call-ups.
“This is Sidney’s girlfriend, Evie,” she said without hesitation, like it wasn’t a big deal. They didn’t bother to disguise their wide-eyed reactions. I wondered how Hilary Duff had felt back in October. Eventually Vero circled back around, checking on me and seeing if I was ready to go. Kelsey joined us as we headed into the hallway, where some of the guys were waiting.
“Somebody’s famous,” Max said, putting an arm around my shoulders. “Talk of the town tonight.” I felt Max get shoved away and Sidney’s arms wrap around my waist. His put his lips to my neck and nuzzled against me.
“I hear I have a girlfriend,” he said.
“I hear she’s hot,” Jordan pushed us both forward, starting the group toward the door.
The bar was slow on a Wednesday night, but the Pens seemed larger in a small crowd. A couple people came up to say hello and a few groups of girls began to circle with little subtlety. Not that the guys were subtle in checking them out. I talked with Kelsey and Tyler until my drink was empty, then decided not to wait for our server. At the bar Marc boxed Kris in next to me and started a loud story about a recent road trip. I looked around his arm just enough to see a bleached blond staring daggers at his back. Kris kept his eyes on his glass.
“Your fan club?” I whispered.
The hair hanging in Kris’ face couldn’t cover the elfin smile that flashed. “Stalker,” he said softly. “I don’t know how she finds me!” Marc went right on talking while Kris quietly detailed some of the random places the girl had turned up – dry cleaner, coffee shop. He looked almost impressed but mostly scared.
“Call Beth,” I said. “She’ll run that girl off before she’s through a beer.”
“Next time,” he agreed.
Kris bought the next round and we moved like a huddle back toward our table. Marc and I continued to screen while Kris claimed a seat between Geno and Jordan. They both looked up at me, then across the room, then back.
Over there, Sidney stood next to Max and Gogo, his shoulder to me. Three girls faced them, laughing outrageously at whatever Max had just said. The furry Frenchman looked rather pleased with himself. Sidney smiled but I could tell it wasn’t real. The closest girl, a raven –haired cutie, reached out and put her hand on his bicep. He moved slightly to shake her, but she held tight and stepped closer.
I almost snorted my drink. Sid couldn’t back up and he couldn’t go left without hugging Max. He was squirming, rolling on the balls of his feet, while the girl gently blocked his escape route. It was so obviously awkward and I had to give it to the girl – I might have done the same thing, someday.
“You are evil,” Kris said from his seat below me. Everyone watched as if we were behind a one-way mirror. Sidney would kill us if he saw. Geno snickered, making Kris laugh. The dark-haired girl put her foot against the outside of Sid’s, trapping him. He turned his head completely toward Max as she leaned in to talk.
“Should I go get him?” I asked no one in particular.
“No!” Tyler and Geno said at the same time. Kelsey slapped TK on the arm.
“It is kind of fun to watch,” Vero admitted. Marc squeezed her in like he was so proud of her deviousness. But the girl had her chest against Sidney’s arm now, and he was still trying to be nice. I went toward them.
“Buzzkill!” Jordan called.
Where the fuck is Evie? I was almost ready to yell. I wanted to wave her over or run to her and stick my tongue down her throat. But that would have looked crazy. She had to assume I would get hit on, the same way I knew every guy in this bar who didn’t play hockey wanted to take her home. And maybe a few who did. If I looked like I couldn’t handle it here, what would she think when I was on the road?
So I pretended to laugh and listen to Max putting on his little show. The girls were lined up like one of those water gun shooting races at the fair – keep firing until you win a prize. Closest to me was Molly; cute, though she opened an extra button on her top before she came over here. Too bad for her she didn’t aim for Max. Well she might still end up with him, if she was into three-ways. But she’d be disappointed first, because her fingers were wrapped around my arm and her leg cheated up along mine.
“Somebody ordered a Newcastle?” said a voice from nowhere.
It broke the little circle of schooling sharks. Evie had a glistening beer bottle in hand and a shit-eating grin on her face. I gave her a glare for good measure. Max and Gogo sighed with relief – once I was out of the way, they could get down to getting these girls out of here.
“Thanks, baby,” I said loudly. In a lithe movement I hadn’t seen before, Evie put her arm between the girls and followed with her body. A second later she was standing against me. I’d never been so relieved to get my hands on her.
“This is my girlfriend, Evie,” I told the girls. Before sipping from the bottle, I gave her a quick kiss on the lips. Molly’s hand dropped from my arm.
“I like your top,” Evie said, looking right where she had too many buttons open at her cleavage. “American Eagle right?”
We didn’t bother to stay for the answer. Molly went from giggling to disdainful in a second and we spun away. Good luck to the boys.
“Love you,” I whispered. Evie motioned toward our table with her chin.
The entire group was watching us. Marc broke into a slow, mocking clap and they all took it up. Evie pretended to curtsey.
“Assholes,” I said.
She just laughed, wriggling against me. “Stud.”
Everyone laughed at my expense, just another in a long line of them busting on me as hard as they could. Only this time Evie was sitting in my lap, one arm around my shoulders while she drank my beer. I didn’t hear them and I didn’t care.
It was an early night. Evie climbed into the front seat of the car, but before she could buckle up I pulled her toward me and kissed her, hard. She tasted cold and slightly bitter, like the beer we’d shared. My tongue slipped into her mouth and her hand moved down between my thighs, then up between my legs.
“Oh God,” I mumbled. She did it again, encouraged. There was no way we’d fit in the backseat of this car, so I left skid marks on the pavement as I peeled away.
We were halfway up to the house at a rushed walk, holding hands and trying to make it inside before jumping each other when Sidney’s phone rang.
“Hey Mario,” he said. Then he slowed. “Yeah, sure. Okay, be right there.”
He looked up at me. “Mario wants to see us.”
I shifted my weight, trying to stuff my hormones back into my ovaries for another few minutes. It didn’t work. Inside the house Sidney straightened my shirt while I brushed our front seat make-out session from his hair. We went through the hallway door.
“Hi Sid, Evie it’s nice to see you.” Mario was so tall but moved elegantly as he kissed my cheek and shook Sidney’s hand. He wore a t-shirt and jeans like he was a normal mortal. We joined a half-full beer at the kitchen table.
“So tomorrow is the big day.” He didn’t look worried, which would have really freaked me out. Instead he looked more ready than I was.
“I haven’t baked anything,” I blurted out. They both laughed.
“Nathalie already made you something, just in case,” Mario pointed to a big plastic cupcake container by the fridge. “She was so nervous her first few events, she wanted to make it easier for you.”
Sid looked impressed. “Her cupcakes are really good.”
“Right, you eat cupcakes,” I razzed him.
Mario swigged his beer. “I just wanted to be sure you guys were ready for this. You’ve picked a good place to start. It’s not like the women wear jerseys or nametags to say who they’re with. You won’t have to advertise yourself if you don’t want to. People won’t…,” he trailed off, looking at Sid. Then he gave up. “People won’t expect Sid to have someone there.”
Sidney lifted his right hand to his forehead and made an ‘L’ for loser. He pressed his lips together and widened his eyes like he did when a reporter asked a really obvious question. I slid my hand over his massive thigh.
“How about I just wait until someone asks me? All the other WAGs know, so it’s not going to stay a secret. But I don’t want to take the focus off the event.”
Mario nodded and Sidney followed suit. All agreed, we headed back toward Sidney’s part of the house. He kept one hand on my back until we were in his living room.
“You’re perfect,” he whispered, standing behind me.
“I’m nervous,” I admitted. My heart was fluttering at the idea of the first person I would tell. I wanted to try the words. “I’m with Sidney. I’m Sidney’s girlfriend.” I said out loud. He put his chin on my shoulder. His huge, heavy body felt like solid ground, like it would never give or break.
“I’m sorry that being with me is so hard. I’m sorry you have to do this.”
I turned to face him, still in his arms. “So long as I get to do this.” And I kissed him.
He pushed me toward the couch and down onto the chaise lounge section. His dress shirt and undershirt came off over his head. I made him stop so I could run my hands over his chiseled chest. Then I gripped his arms and pulled myself up to sitting, kissing him again and tossing my own shirt aside. I lifted my hips so he could draw my jeans and panties down before dropping his own trousers into a heap on the floor. A large picture window spilled light into the room. There was barely room enough for his wide frame on the sofa as he laid himself on top of me.
“I love you,” I said before he could, earning a breathtaking smile. He easily hitched my leg onto his hip. As he slipped inside me, I bent my head back and moaned softly. He fit into me like a cork in a bottle – not a single, solitary space was left. My hips rolled with the effort of taking him in. Sidney waited patiently until he felt my body relax, then he moved.
I bit my lip hard to keep from crying out. He laughed softly in my ear, seeing the effort on my face. But that didn’t stop him from thrusting with a slow, smooth rhythm. His huge hands brought my ass off the cushion to hold me up, arching my back. He got one knee down and rose with me, my body completely at his mercy. I gasped at the pressure of feeling him so deeply.
“Sidney,” I said. My voice was strangled with the effort of breathing and being and believing that any of this was really happening. Both hands slid up my back and pulled until I was sitting in his lap. His eyes were black and bottomless, his smooth brow crinkled in concentration. I held the sides of his face and kissed him for all I was worth. It swallowed my scream when he thrust upward. By the third or fourth time I was sobbing out breaths.
“I love you,” he said. It was so quiet I might have imagined it but he looked right into me and said it again. I just nodded, incapable of anything more. His giant arms flexed around my back, holding me still while he worked deep into my core. Fingers twisted in my hair, drew my head back and as his mouth found my neck the blackness came.
I made a noise, that much I know. It was somewhere between a scream and a grunt, caught as it was trying to tear itself from my throat. Sid’s fingers dug into my lower back as he pumped the spot over and over. I rolled and twisted until finally I sagged backwards.
“Baby,” he said, tipping us down onto the couch and driving into me from above. I could barely hold onto him anymore.
“Sid.” I whispered his name and he came with an almost silent sigh, a quivering sound that matched the pulsing heat I felt filling my body. The rock hard muscle of his thighs held me right where he wanted while he wrung himself dry. Then his lips were on mine again, the sweat of his brow hot against mine.
“Perfect,” he repeated.
I turned my face toward his. “You too, cupcake.”