Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chapter 17

I watched as Sidney ran out of the room. I saw more shapes filter into the room and realized that a nurse and a doctor had followed Sidney in, and if I wasn’t mistaken, my parents were right behind them. They were still more like shapes than actual people, but I could see them. He stood back as they came up to me. I wasn’t sure exactly what they were doing and for some reason I couldn’t really hear what they were saying. Eventually my vision began to clear and my hearing came back with it.

“We’re going to pull this tube out of your throat. When I count to three you’re going to have to cough for us, okay?” the doctor said.

I nodded and he grabbed hold of the tube. He counted down and I coughed and felt the tube being pulled from my throat. It was sore, but it felt good to have it out. I looked over at my parents and Sidney and tried to smile.

“Do you know what your name is?” the doctor asked.

“Tanner Falco,” I rasped. My throat was sore.

“Do you know who they are?” he asked pointing to my parents and Sidney. I suddenly had an idea and had to keep myself from smiling at it.

“My parents.” I looked over at Sidney with a confused expression on my face. I went back and forth between him and the doctor. “I don’t recognize you. Do you work here?”

It took only a second for Sidney’s face to transform from absolute joy to depression, and I saw both of my parents turn to look at him. My mother covered her mouth with her hand in shock. The doctor and nurse looked at me sadly. I looked back over at him, and a small smile crept onto my face. Again I got to witness a complete transformation in his expression when he was the only one who saw the smile.

“You’re hilarious, Tanner,” he said shaking his head, but with a smile on his face.

Everyone in the room looked back and forth between us before picking up on my pretty brutal joke. My father groaned at my ill-humor and my mother looked horrified. Despite the reactions I didn’t take my eyes off of Sid’s. The doctor and nurse left the room a minute later and my parents followed them out to ask them a few questions.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

I went to shrug but realized I couldn’t move my right shoulder. I turned my head and looked at it. I couldn’t see anything wrong and started to panic. Was something wrong with my brain? It was then that I saw the cast on my wrist. Suddenly I started to feel pain. Every part of my right side started to hurt and I felt tears come to my eyes.

“Tanner, what’s wrong?” Sidney asked.

“I hurt,” I choked out, cringing at the pain saying that caused. He got up and left the room, returning with a nurse. She told me she’d give me something for the pain, and sure enough a little bit later the pain started to fade.

I went back to looking at the cast on my wrist. Well, that was fantastic. How was I supposed to write any essays for my finals? Then I noticed that my entire body looked enormous, and I couldn’t move any of it. After a minute I realized that my whole body was in a cast. Jesus, what the hell happened to me? I looked over at Sidney and must have looked confused.

“You’re going to be okay, I promise,” he assured me.

A bit later the doctor came back in and began explaining what had happened. I found out that I’d been on my way home from studying at the library when I was in a car accident. A drunk driver ran a red light and hit Kelly’s car. Apparently he’d never even touched the brakes.
I’d suffered a broken cheek bone, a separated shoulder, a broken wrist, fractured ribs, a dislocated hip, a broken femur, and a broken ankle. That was on top of the over 100 stitches I’d received on my head, face, side, and limbs. Oh, and let’s not forget that pesky concussion and coma thing. As banged up as I was, I was just grateful to be alive.

“We’re going to keep you here for a while for observation and do some tests to figure out the extent of the damage done to your brain, but from what I can tell I think you’re going to be fine,” the doctor finished.

My parents thanked him and he left. Sidney and my parents stayed in the room and entertained me for a while. That was when I remembered my finals.

“I can’t believe this happened right before finals. You’ve got to think this gets me a little more time to prepare for them, right?” I joked. My smile faded as I saw my parents and Sidney exchange glances. “What?”

“Honey, you missed finals,” my mother told me. I’d missed finals? Wow, I’d been in the coma for over a week. That was a really weird thought. “The school said that they’d see about letting you make them up.”

“Okay, that’s fine. I guess that means I’m on Christmas break then,” I said. Again they all looked at each other.

“Christmas has already gone by,” my father said. Christmas was over?

“What day is it?” I asked, my voice shaking.

“January 4,” Sidney explained.

“That means I was in the coma for three weeks,” I said more to myself than to them. I’d missed finals, Christmas, and New Years. I couldn’t believe how much time I’d spent trapped inside my own head. I felt new tears forming when I realized just how much I’d missed out on.

As the day wore on all of my housemates stopped by and Brendan came with his family. Andrew was ecstatic to see me awake and it was he who let it slip that Delia was pregnant. He proudly announced that he was going to have a little sister. I was truly happy for them, and yet sad that I hadn’t been able to hear the news along with everyone else. Eventually the day wound down and I insisted everyone go home to sleep. I really just wanted some time to myself to think about everything. Sidney stayed behind when everyone else had left.

“I knew something happened to you,” he whispered to me.

“What do you mean?” I asked, not sure what he was saying.

“The night of the accident I woke up at 1:10 with a terrible headache. I had the urge to call you but your phone went straight to voicemail and something just didn’t seem right. Then my entire right side got really sore and I thought I must have slept on it wrong. I found out later from Kelly that she looked at the clock seconds before the accident and it was 1:10.”

I took a minute to take in what he’d just told me. That wasn’t possible. Things like that just didn’t happen to people. Even so I knew Sidney wasn’t lying to me. He said goodnight to me and began to walk out of the room.

“I heard you!” I called after him. He stopped and turned to look back at me.

“You heard me when?” he asked.

“I heard you tell my parents you were in love with me.” He shifted his eyes away from me and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” I told him before he had a chance to respond. He nodded and walked out of the room. I cursed myself for not saying anything else and then gave in to sleep.

I spent the next couple of weeks lying in a hospital bed. By the time the doctors told me I could go home my shoulder was healed, I was a week away from having my wrist out of the cast, I was out of the body cast, and the cast on my leg was also a week away from coming off. Unfortunately I was going to be in a wheelchair for a while, which was slightly embarrassing.

My parents tried to convince me to go home to New York to recover, but I refused. I’d talked to Duquesne and they’d told me I could make up my finals in February, and I wanted to stick around. What was supposed to be my last semester of my undergraduate career had already started and the girls were back living in the house. I knew I wouldn’t be alone, and I’d be with my friends, and that’s what I wanted.

They finally agreed, and Lisa moved into my room upstairs so I could take her room downstairs. When I got back to the house the four of them had already completely switched everything between the two rooms. My parents reluctantly went back to New York after leaving pages of instructions for all of us.

Sidney and I hadn’t talked again about me hearing him tell my parents he loved me. Even so he was still with me every free moment he had. When I had my appointments to remove my casts he was the one that brought me. I started my physical therapy right after and it was the least fun experience of my life.

By the end of the month my hip was strong enough to support my weight and I didn’t need the wheelchair anymore. I was extremely grateful for that. The physical therapist had given me crutches to use when I walked. On January 28 I attended my first Penguins game in two months.

As I sat there with my friends and the other Penguins girlfriends, who had come to visit me on many occasions, I actually took the time to look around the arena for the first time. I was shocked at how many Crosby jerseys I saw in the crowd. I don’t know how I’d missed them before, but that didn’t matter now.

That night they were playing the Rangers. During the second intermission I was told to look up at the big screen and I saw myself on it with a message that read “Welcome back, Tanner!” I rolled my eyes knowing exactly who had put that up there. The Penguins ended up winning the game 6-2, and Sidney had a goal and two assists, getting second star. When I left with Sidney we exited out the same door as everyone else. He stopped on his way out to sign autographs and I couldn’t believe how many people were out there asking for a signature and taking pictures.

“Hey, that’s the girl that was on the big screen,” I heard a girl say.

“What’s he doing with her?” another asked.

I slunk down in the seat and Sidney stopped signing autographs immediately. We went out to dinner with everyone just like we always used to. Things were finally back to normal. Well, almost.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chapter 16

So I forgot to preface last chapter with this, so I'll say it here. I'm hardly a medical expert, and I don't really care if what goes on last chapter and the next couple aren't exactly plausible. I'm using creative license here to make the story work. Forgive me.

On non-game days Sidney would stop by after practice, spend an hour while Tanner’s parent’s had lunch, and then let them have time with her. He’d go home, lock himself in his wing until dinner, then he’d go back and he got the nights. On game days he stopped by after morning skate, then he went about his routines, played, and then went back to the hospital for a few hours.

Today was a non-game day. He walked out of the hospital and got into his car. He started to drive home but just couldn’t handle doing that again. An idea popped into his head and he veered off course. A little while later he pulled into the parking lot and got out of his car. He ignored the offer of the map and skipped past many of the attractions. He knew exactly where he was going.

He stopped in front of the exhibit for the polar bears. They were currently active and he leaned on the railing as he watched one swim in the water, and the other play with a ball. It was cold out, but he hardly noticed as he continued to watch. All semblance of time disappeared as he stood there watching the polar bears and thinking about Tanner.

He was angry with himself for lying to her for so long. If he’d just been honest with her, none of this would have ever happened. He couldn’t help but feel as if the accident had been his fault. Of course he also blamed the asshole who thought he could drive home after having too much to drink. The man hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt and had gone through the windshield, dying almost immediately. Sidney couldn’t make himself feel bad for the guy.

He’d long since forgiven Jordan for not telling him about the accident. Sidney never asked him why he hadn’t. At first he’d been angry about it. Now he didn’t care anymore. There were more important things going on. All he cared about right now was Tanner.

The doctors had said there was a chance she could hear him if he talked to her. He liked to think that was true. He spent hours every night talking to her. He talked to her as if she were awake and listening. Sidney told her about his day, about things that were frustrating him with the team, about games, and especially he told her he was sorry.

He never went a night in the hospital without telling Tanner he was sorry for lying to her and sorry for causing all of this. He begged and pleaded with her to wake up. The more time that went by, the less likely it was that she would. He pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He refused to believe that Tanner wouldn’t wake up.

“Enjoying the polar bears?” he heard someone ask, breaking him out of his thoughts. He turned around to see a man in a zoo uniform walking towards him.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, you’ve been out here for over an hour in some pretty cold weather. I figured only someone with a great love for the polar bears would do that,” the man explained. He stopped when he reached Sidney and leaned on the railing alongside him.

“I didn’t realize I’d been standing here that long,” Sidney told him. Now that he was made aware of it, he realized exactly how cold he was.

“Yeah, you looked pretty lost in thought.” Sidney looked back at the polar bears and smiled.

“They’re my girlfriend’s favorite animal,” he told the zookeeper. He never referred to Tanner in the past tense, and he always called her his girlfriend. If she woke up, he wouldn’t let her go.

“So you decided to come and see them for over an hour?” the zookeeper questioned.

“She’s in a coma,” Sidney said quietly.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything,” the zookeeper quickly apologized.

“No, it’s okay. It’s not your fault.” They were both silent for a minute as they watched the polar bears. “She’s a semester away from graduating from college. Then she’ll do grad school. Her dream is to work with bears.”

“Well, it’s tough work, but if she really loves them, it’ll be rewarding. Based on the fact that you’ve been standing here for so long watching them tells me that she probably really does love them or you wouldn’t have been drawn here.”

“She really does,” Sidney said. He turned and began to walk away from the exhibit towards the exit.

“Good luck tomorrow night,” the zookeeper called after him. Sidney turned around and looked back at him. He gave a small wave and a smile before making his way to the parking lot and his car.

I listened to the sound of the steady beeping of some machine. There wasn’t any other noise so I assumed it was night time. I didn’t know if anyone stayed in my room with me at night, or if everyone went home to their own beds. I wouldn’t have been upset if they left. I wasn’t exactly awake to care.

I thought I heard the door open, but assumed it was a nurse coming in to check on me. I realized I was wrong when I heard a chair being dragged across the floor next to my bed. I knew who it was when I felt his lips touch my forehead, and felt his hand in mine.

“Hey, Baby, sorry I haven’t been here all day. I had a game against Florida. We lost. Again. I can’t figure out what to do lately. I cost us the game the other night, and I couldn’t do anything tonight. I fought someone, Babe. I jumped him at the face off because I was so frustrated. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I wanted to tell him it wasn’t his fault, even though I didn’t actually know that. I wanted to tell him that they’d turn it around soon and that every team went through something like this during the year. I wanted to ask if he kicked the guy’s ass. I wanted to squeeze his hand back as he squeezed mine. If I’d been awake, I would have been crying.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’m going to stay here with you tonight,” I heard him say.

Of course I don’t mind! I wanted to scream it. I wanted to put my arms around him and hold him. I felt him actually get up on the bed next to me. I couldn’t believe that there was actually enough room. I knew he was staying put when I felt his forehead press against my shoulder. His hand still held mine. A little while later I could hear that his breathing had become rhythmic, and I knew he’d fallen asleep.

Okay, Tanner, just move a finger. Move your pinky. I concentrated on it as hard as I could, but it didn’t move. I stopped for a minute and then concentrated again. Just move the pinky. Wait, did it move, or did I imagine that? I tried again and I was sure I was moving it, but I couldn’t tell.

Okay, now move two fingers. I could swear that I could feel my ring finger move, but I’d done this to myself before only to realize later nothing had moved at all. I decided to go all out and try to squeeze my hand. I concentrated and tried only to have nothing happen. Maybe I had just imagined it like before.

I decided to give it one last try for now and concentrated on squeezing Sid’s hand in mine. I concentrated and thought of nothing but squeezing his hand. I felt Sid shift as he woke up. Concentrate!

“Tanner?” I heard him ask sleepily. Had I done it? I thought about it again, and this time I knew. I felt my whole hand wrap around his. “Tanner?” He was wide awake now. I squeezed his hand again. “Baby, come on. I know you can open your eyes. Open your eyes for me, please.”

I focused all of my attention on opening my eyes. Nothing happened at first, but then I swore I saw a bit of light. I kept trying and I could feel my eyelids start to flutter. Light poured into my eyes and I instinctively closed them again. This was really happening. I was waking up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chapter 15

Sidney got off the plane and grabbed his bag. He made his way over to his car, yawning. They’d just gotten back from a win in Atlanta. He was starting to feel a bit better out on the ice. Immediately after the fight with Tanner he just couldn’t do much out there, but things were starting to come back to him.

As he drove home he realized that today had been the last day of finals, so Tanner would be done. He let himself hope that maybe he’d be hearing from her soon. At the same time he was worried that she’d leave to go back to New York for Christmas before he had a chance to talk to her.

He knew it was late but he couldn’t help himself. He picked up his phone and called Tanner’s number. It went straight to her voicemail. He found that a bit strange since finals were over and she had no reason to need to turn her phone off. That uneasy feeling he’d felt the other night started to come back.

“Hey, Tanner, it’s me. I know you said that it didn’t matter if I called because you needed time, but that wasn’t why I was calling. I know that finals were over today and while I don’t know what your exact schedule was I just wanted to call and congratulate you on making it through. I know you did well. Okay, I just wanted to say that. I hope you have a good break from school. Hopefully I’ll talk to you soon.”

Sidney hung up and wished that he was coming home to her. He pulled into the driveway and carried his bag up to his room. He changed and got into bed, falling asleep almost immediately. When he woke up the next morning he checked his phone for messages but didn’t have any. He didn’t know what he was expecting.

He showered and went downstairs for some breakfast. After that he drove to the rink for practice. When he walked in, Staalsy was the first person he saw. When Jordan saw him, he turned and walked in the other direction. Sidney shook his head wondering what the hell was going on. Jordan had been avoiding him for the past week. He figured it had to be because it was awkward for Staalsy to be dating Tanner’s housemate while Sid and she weren’t speaking. Even so, it was odd.

When practice was over Sidney walked outside and signed some autographs. He got into his car and started to drive home, but changed his mind. He knew he shouldn’t be doing it, but he couldn’t help himself. He pulled into Tanner’s driveway ten minutes later and saw that her car was there. He got out of the car and rang the doorbell.

“Sidney! What are you doing here?” Lisa asked in surprise, pulling open the door.

“I know I said I’d give Tanner time to figure things out, but I have to talk to her,” he told her. Kelly came up behind Lisa. He noticed a cut on Kelly’s forehead.

“Tanner’s not here,” she said.

“Her car is here,” Sidney responded, confused. Lisa and Kelly exchanged glances and a knot began to form in his stomach.

“You don’t know? I thought Jordan would have told you,” Lisa whispered, her eyes dropping to the ground.

“Know what? Jordan didn’t tell me anything,” Sidney said, suddenly becoming worried. He saw tears form in Kelly’s eyes.

“Tanner’s at Mercy Hospital. We were hit by a drunk driver just after 1:00 in the morning last Thursday. She’s been in a coma ever since,” Kelly explained.

Sidney’s heart felt like it stopped. This wasn’t happening. He ran off the porch and jumped into his car. He drove much faster than he should have to the hospital. He pulled into a spot and ran inside. He went up to the first desk he saw.

“I need to know what room Tanner Falco is in!” he yelled at the woman sitting there.

“I’m sorry, sir, are you family? We’re only allowed to give that information to family,” she told him.

“If you don’t tell me I will walk into every room in this hospital until I find her.”

The woman began to type into her computer. She read him the information from the screen and Sidney ran to the elevator. He pressed the call button repeatedly. When none came he turned and bolted up the numerous flights of stairs. When he opened the door he bolted out of the stairwell and started searching for her room.

“Excuse me, only family can be back here!” a nurse called to him as he read the numbers on each door. “Sir, are you family?” He ignored her and kept walking until he saw the right room number.

He burst through the door and froze when he saw Tanner lying in the hospital bed. She had a bandage wrapped around her head. The right side of her face was cut, swollen and bruised, turned ugly shades of black, red, and purple. She had a tube in her mouth that he guessed was helping her breathe. Her right arm had cuts all over it and her wrist was in a cast. The rest of her body was covered with a blanket but he could see that her whole body looked like it was in a cast.

As he stood there looking at her he realized he was having trouble breathing. This couldn’t be real, could it? Suddenly it hit him what Kelly had said. They’d been hit last Thursday just after 1:00 that morning. He’d woken up at that time with a headache and the whole right side of his body had hurt. He’d even called Tanner and the phone had just gone to voicemail. He felt sick.
He sniffed when he realized his nose was running, and he felt tears falling down his cheeks. It was then that he realized he wasn’t alone in the room. He looked over to see a man and a woman sitting in chairs along the wall. He guessed they were Tanner’s parents. They were both looking at him in confusion.

“Sidney Crosby?” the man finally asked. He nodded because he couldn’t find the strength to speak. The woman’s eyes widened in recognition of the name. “What are you doing in my daughter’s room?” He looked back over at Tanner, and then at her parents.

“I’m in love with her,” he choked out.

Sidney was here? Was that really Sidney’s voice I’d just heard? And had I just heard him tell my parents he was in love with me? I wanted to cry, I wanted to yell, to get up and say something, but just like every other time I tried, nothing happened.

It had been weird to hear people talking, and talking about me without being able to respond. I missed a lot of parts of the conversations but I’d heard the word coma said more than once. I’d just assumed that it was me in the coma they were talking about, because it was the only thing that made sense.

I was here, alive and thinking, but no one knew that. I couldn’t move, couldn’t verbalize anything. I didn’t even know how long I’d been like this but it felt like an eternity. Sometimes I drifted in and out, like I was falling asleep once in a while. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, I just knew that sometimes I could hear what was going on and others times I couldn’t.

Most of the time I focused on the voices and listened to what they were saying. I did it for two different reasons. The first was because I had nothing else to do. The second was because I was hoping that something someone said would help me to wake up, to be able to move.

I spent most of my time willing my body to move or my mouth to open and allow words out. It never worked. I’d started big, trying to scream out, to tell everyone that I was still here. I’d also tried moving my arms or my legs. I wanted to wave them around, get someone’s attention.

As time went by I started aiming smaller. I tried to just make a sound, any sound. I didn’t care if all that came out was a tiny squeak, it would still be something. I focused on moving a pinky or a toe, or even just an eyebrow. As far as I could tell, that wasn’t working either.

I wondered how long this was going to go on before I finally succeeded or gave up forever. I wondered what that would be like, to give up. I wasn’t even sure what had caused this to happen to me and finding out was the only reason I’d been struggling to wake myself up.

At some point I heard the doctors talking to my parents about their options as far as I was concerned if I didn’t wake up. I didn’t hear what those options were, but I didn’t like that someone else was going to make a decision for me. This was my life!

I don’t know when it had happened, but I’d started to hear things less and less. I wondered if that meant I was dying. I started to give up trying to move and speak, and knew I was also starting to give up on myself. It became more and more difficult to want to fight.

Then I heard Sidney’s voice. I heard it say that he loved me. It was as if everything came roaring back to life. Suddenly I could hear sounds again and I wanted so badly to wake up and see him. I began to try to move and speak again.

Sidney was there a lot. I could hear him talking to the doctors and nurses. I heard his conversations with my parents, and I could tell they liked him. All of the girls stopped by a lot. If I hadn’t been hearing things, I think most of the Penguins team and the girlfriends even came a few times. I heard Brendan and Delia, and then Andrew. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t waking up, and to be honest I couldn’t either. He was very thrilled when he saw Sidney sitting by my bed though. If I woke up I was going to owe that kid big time.

There were many times where the room would get quiet for a while and I wouldn’t be sure if anyone was there. Then without fail I’d feel someone grab my hand and kiss my forehead. Sidney would talk to me. Sometimes he apologized for lying to me. Sometimes he talked about his practices and games. Sometimes he just asked me to wake up.

I did what he asked and tried. I tried every chance I had to move, speak, or wake up. I knew I wasn’t going to give up anymore. I had to tell Sidney I was sorry. I had to tell him that I forgave him. I had to tell him that I was in love with him too. It wasn’t happening yet, but I knew that eventually it would.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chapter 14

It was the first day of finals, but I didn’t have one that day. I didn’t actually have one until Monday. Animal Behavior was Monday, Faith and Reason was Tuesday, and Mammalian Physiology was Wednesday. Three finals in three days was going to suck, and I needed to get a head start on studying.

I was one of those way too organized people and I’d long ago set up a template to organize all the information I’d need. I had a form to make a type of vocabulary list of important terms, a form to outline possible essay questions, a form for diagrams, and a form for facts that didn’t fit into any of those categories.

I was in the process of filling all of them out for my classes. I’d just finished my Faith and Reason forms which I’d chosen to do first simply because it was a class that didn’t interest me. I was working on the Animal Behavior forms and needed a break.

I walked downstairs into the kitchen and opened a box of peanut noodles. I added the water and the packets that came with it and stuck it in the microwave. I grabbed a soda out of the refrigerator and waited for the noodles to be done. When they were I grabbed them and the soda and walked into the living room to sit and watch TV for a little while with the girls.

Grace and Hailey were the only two in there and they both looked up at me in surprise when I walked into the room. Both of them desperately began searching for something. Grace scrambled up off of the floor and dove in front of the TV.

“What are you guys doing? I just wanted to hang out and relax for a while,” I told them sitting down next to Hailey on the couch.

“What a goal by Phillipe Boucher! Can you believe that pass from Crosby?” I heard the voice on the TV say.

“Oh, I get it,” I said standing up.

“Tanner, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were going to come down,” Grace apologized.

“No, don’t worry about it. You should be able to watch Jordan play.” I made my way up the stairs to my room.

“Tanner, wait!” I heard Hailey call. I threw the peanut noodles away uneaten in my room and started packing my stuff into my bag.

“Going somewhere?” Kelly asked stepping into my room.

“Yeah, the library. I need to focus.”

“I’ll drive,” she said.

The guys walked into the locker room celebrating the win, but Sidney wasn’t in the mood. It had been five days and he hadn’t heard anything from Tanner. He wasn’t surprised since finals had only just started, but it didn’t matter. He picked up the phone all the time to call her and every time he thought better than to push it.

The team was headed to Diesel but Sidney didn’t feel like celebrating. Sure, they’d just demolished the Islanders 9-2, Sykora had his first hat trick, and he’d had three assists, but they’d also lost their last three and hadn’t played very well in any of them. Tanner also still wasn’t speaking to him, and as far as he was concerned there was absolutely nothing to celebrate.

He got dressed and headed to his car. It was parked back where he’d always parked before Tanner. He stopped to sign a few autographs on his way out like he’d done before her as well. He couldn’t believe he was so worried about letting her see this.

He drove straight home and went right up to his room without grabbing anything to eat. He just wasn’t hungry. He sat down on the couch and started flipping through the channels. Nothing caught his eye and he turned the TV off. He picked up his phone and found Tanner’s name. Just like every other time, he thought better of it and put the phone down.

He decided just to change and go to bed. After sleeping for a while, he suddenly felt a pounding in his head. He got up to take a few painkillers and got back into bed. He glanced over at the clock and saw that it was 1:10. He tried to get back to sleep but something was really bothering him. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

He figured he was still just bothered by the whole situation with Tanner and not hearing anything from her. He picked up the phone and found her name again. He was about to put it down when something told him to call her. He hit talk, but there was no ringing. Instead the call went straight to her voicemail.

He told himself she probably had her phone off to get some sleep, but he felt really uneasy, like something wasn’t right. He tried her number again and it went straight to voicemail like the time before. He hung up without leaving a message and had to stretch out his right arm and leg. For some reason they were really sore. He figured he must have just slept on them wrong. And why the hell weren’t those painkillers working on his headache?

Kelly and I were sitting at a table at the library pouring over notes and typing away on our computers. I hadn’t realized how long we’d been there until I looked up at the clock and saw that it was almost 1:00 in the morning. I caught Kelly’s attention and she nodded. We packed up our things and walked out to her car.

I got into the passenger side and rested my head against the cool window. We didn’t talk during the ride and I just stared out the window watching things fly by. I stretched out my neck and glanced at the clock. It said 1:08 and I groaned inwardly. Finals week was exhausting.

“I feel like I’m getting every red light,” Kelly commented in frustration.

“Hey, our luck’s gotta change at some point, right?” She smiled and nodded her head as the light we were stopped at turned green.

“I can’t believe we were at the library so late. I’m exhausted. I don’t know how I managed to even stay awake that long.”

“No kidding. There aren’t even any other cars out here.” She stopped at another light and we both groaned.

“I’m tempted to just start running these. It’s not like anyone’s out here to notice,” she joked.

I laughed and could see the next intersection ahead of us. God I just wanted to get home and go to bed. When the light we were stopped at turned green I could see the light ahead of us was red. To my sheer delight it turned green not long before we got there. I checked the clock again. 1:10.

“Hey, look at that. Our luck has changed!” I called out. She laughed.

I looked back out the passenger side and saw a car driving up the street we were about to pass. I squinted in the high beams that the jerk wasn’t bothering to turn off. It was then that I realized that the headlights were coming at us pretty fast. I sat up straight when I saw that there was no way the car was going to be able to stop at the red light they had in time. I didn’t have time to yell out before the car slammed into my side of Kelly’s car.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chapter 13

I sat in my room staring at the beginning of my paper on my laptop. After I’d hung up on Sidney I’d gone back to trying to write the paper to get my mind off of things. It wasn’t working well, and I’d only managed to write a page in the last few hours. I looked at the clock and saw that it was getting pretty late. I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day, but food just didn’t interest me at the moment.

I was struggling to wrap my brain around the topic of the paper when I heard the doorbell ring. I ignored it knowing that one of the other girls would answer the door. I heard a set of footsteps running up the stairs followed by a few more sets and I suddenly regretted unlocking my door earlier.

“Sidney, it’s not a good idea for you to be here!” I heard Hailey yell. The footsteps didn’t stop.

“Seriously, you just need to leave her alone,” Kelly begged. I heard my door open and close again. Every muscle in my body tensed up, and I kept my back to the door.

“Tanner, we need to talk,” I heard Sidney say.

I closed my eyes and willed myself not to cry. I also kept silent and didn’t turn around. Sidney didn’t say anything for a few moments, but he also seemed to have the common sense not to come over to me.

“I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you. I was going to, I really was, but it was never the right time.”

He stopped talking again, probably waiting for some sort of response from me, but I wasn’t going to give him one. How was it never the right time? When is it the wrong time to talk about who you are with your girlfriend?

“Look, I have a lot of pressure put on me all the time. You don’t know what it’s like to be compared to the game’s best player when you’re only 15 years old. Everyone always expects so much of me. When I met you and you didn’t know anything about any of that stuff, it was refreshing. As I spent time with you I knew that you were doing it because you liked who I was as a person, not because of who I am in the public eye. I know that I lied to you, and I’m sorry, but I needed to know. I needed to know that you liked me for who I am and not the hockey player I am. Tanner, you have to understand that I wasn’t lying to you to hurt you. I was trying to protect myself. I never know who in my life is there because they like me as a person or as a hockey player.”

I took everything he said in and thought about it. I tried to see what he was saying, and I tried to understand. No matter how hard I tried to get it, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t get it, because he never gave me the chance to.

“Babe, please. Would you just say something? I don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you, ever.”

“You lied to me,” I said simply, keeping my back to him. I could hear him pacing, and the more he talked the shakier his voice got. I knew he was upset, but so was I.

“I know. I know I lied and I don’t do that. I don’t lie to people. I feel awful. Would you please just turn around and talk to me?" he begged.

I clenched my jaw and spun around in my chair. He was still in a suit and I realized he’d come over as soon as he’d gotten off of the plane from Ottawa. I’d never seen him look so disheveled and upset.

“You lied to me,” I repeated. He covered his face with his hands and looked like he was struggling to think of something else to say. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t done talking yet.

“I’m trying to understand, I really am, but I can’t. You never gave me a chance to. It’s been two months since we met. Two months! How much time do you need to tell your girlfriend about your life? I knew you were keeping something from me, but I didn’t know it was this. I knew your reasons for leaving from different exits and for not signing autographs were complete bullshit, but I had no basis for it, so I didn’t call you on it,” I told him.

I paused trying to think of what to say next. I thought about standing but was afraid that if I did that he’d try to touch me, or hug me, and I didn’t know that I could go through with the rest of what I was going to say if he did.

“After everything I’ve told you, everything you've learned about me, did you really think I was going to care whether you were the best player in the league or the worst? It would have made absolutely no difference to me, because I liked you for you not for what you did on the ice. The problem is that by not telling me the truth, you kept part of yourself hidden from me. You even actively hid it from me by parking in a different place than usual. You told me that I was the first person you could completely be yourself around but that was a lie. I was the first person you could be the Sidney you made up around. You said you kept it from me so that I could get to know you without all the hockey stuff. Sidney, all that hockey stuff is part of you. I don’t know you at all. You’re a stranger to me.”

“No, Tanner, that’s not true. You do know me. I haven’t lied about anything else. Everything I’ve talked about, everything you know about me, it’s all true. You do know me,” he insisted. I shook my head.

“No, I don’t,” I said sadly. “Sorry, but you lied to me. Maybe everything else is true, but I don’t really know that, do I? You need to leave.” I could see Sidney clenching and unclenching his fists and I realized I was doing the same around a pen, like it was a stress ball.

“We can talk through this. Now you know, and I won’t keep anything from you. Ask me anything, and I’ll tell you. Please, Babe, give me a chance,” he pleaded.

“I have papers and finals. I have no time to talk or listen to you. You told me that hockey always came first for you, and I told you getting my dream job always came first for me. I need to do well on these if I have any hope of achieving that dream. You need to leave,” I demanded. He took a deep breath but I could see that he understood, even if he didn’t like it.

“But we’ll talk when you’re done?” he asked, hopeful. I sighed.

“I don’t know. You hurt me. I don’t have time right now to think about how much. When I’m done with everything I can reevaluate my feelings. Understand that I get to decide when and if we talk about this. No amount of phone calls or surprise visits will speed anything up or change anything. I will decide when we talk. Until then, consider this relationship over.”

He ran a hand through his hair and opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. He turned and walked out of my room. I heard his footsteps go down the stairs and I heard the front door open and close. I got up and looked through the window, watching him get into his car and drive away.

“Are you okay?” Lisa asked stepping into my doorway.

I turned around to look at her, and I didn’t know what to say. I had no idea if I was okay or not. Grace came up behind her and looked concerned. She walked into my room and grabbed a tissue, handing it to me. That was the first time I realized I was crying.

Sidney stormed through the front door of the house and slammed the door behind him. He passed Mario and Nathalie sitting on the couch watching TV on the way to his room, but he didn’t look at them or greet them. He just stormed by in anger.

“Sid?” he heard Nathalie call after him, obviously concerned.

He didn’t stop, he just kept walking. He got to his wing and realized he probably should have just avoided the front door all together if he didn’t want them to know something was going on. He got into his living room and started pacing. He didn’t even know what to do. He had so much built up anger running through his body with no way of getting it out.

He saw a clean pile of clothes sitting on the couch and kicked it over. Then he spotted the half empty glass of water sitting on the table that he hadn’t cleaned up before the road trip. He picked it up and threw it at the wall watching water and glass fly all over the room.

“Sidney!” he heard Mario yell from the doorway. “What’s wrong?”

“I fucked up. I really fucked up,” he said sitting down on the couch. Mario came in and sat down in the chair next to him.

“What happened?” he asked. Sidney put his head in his hands and heard Tanner’s voice in his head. Until then, consider this relationship over. God, those words had stung.

“I never told Tanner about hockey. She didn’t know about any of the awards, or the records, or the hype, but she found out. She found out before I told her. I should have told her.”

“What did she say?” Mario asked quietly.

“She told me she couldn’t deal with a liar and that she didn’t know me at all. Then she said that she couldn’t even take time to deal with it because she has finals. Finals! She ended it.” He punched the couch next to him.

“I think you need to give her the space and time she needs. She’s obviously stressed out over other things right now, and this on top of it isn’t helping. Just give it time. I saw the way she looked at you. She won’t just leave it at this. You just need to let her do it on her own time,” he told him. He knew Mario was right, but that didn’t make it any better.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chapter 12

I glanced at the clock on the library wall and saw that Sidney’s game against Ottawa was just starting. I sighed, wishing I was at home watching the game instead of sitting in the library getting a head start on finals work. I had a paper instead of a final for my Social Justice class and wanted to get it done before next week when finals started and I would be spending all of my time studying.

I was sitting at a table across from Grace who was also working on a paper, and there was a small group of guys there as well. I looked back at my laptop and wrote a few sentences before looking up at the clock again. Grace noticed and commented on it.

“Are you wondering about the game too?” she asked. I nodded and rolled my eyes.

“I hate when they’re out of town, and it makes it worse when I can’t watch the game because I’m writing a paper,” I responded.

“I know. I miss seeing Jordan’s face,” she said while pouting. I giggled.

“I miss seeing Sidney’s face too.” I heard the guy next to us groan.

“Great, I’m sitting next to two of you kind of girls,” he said.

“Excuse me? What kind of girls?” Grace asked. The rest of the table looked up to listen to the exchange.

“Two of the Penguins groupies who only like the team because they think the guys are ‘like so cute’,” he answered. Grace and I exchanged shocked looks.

“Whoa, we are not groupies,” I defended us.

“Sure, you actually know them,” he said sarcastically. I narrowed my eyes at him and debated whether or not to continue this conversation. Grace however wasn’t about to let it go.

“Yeah, we do know them, thanks.” He laughed and I felt my face turning red when I saw the entire section of the library listening in to our conversation now.

“Okay, so you’re dating Jordan Staal, and you’re dating Sidney Crosby, right?” he asked pointing at both of us. I just nodded, not wanting to draw any more attention to us.

“Is there a problem with that?” Grace asked, not caring.

“You expect me to believe that the youngest captain in NHL history is dating her?” he asked pointing at me. What the hell was he talking about?

“Did you say captain?” I asked.

There was no way, Sidney would have told me. Then it hit me. The “C” on his jersey I’d kept meaning to ask him about. Did it stand for captain? How had I not put that together before? And was he really the youngest in history to be one? I suddenly wished I wasn’t so clueless when it came to sports.

“Yeah, I really believe that a girl dating Sidney Crosby wouldn’t even know he was the captain of the team. I suppose you also don’t know that there was a chance the Penguins were going to move out of Pittsburgh because they were so bad the city wouldn’t support them anymore until Crosby was drafted. He single-handedly saved hockey in this city.” I just stared at this guy in shock. Was what he was saying true? He decided he hadn’t had enough of ridiculing me.

“He’s only been called the ‘next Wayne Gretzky’ since he was about 15 years old and he was one of the highest touted number one draft picks ever. Not to mention the fact that he holds Penguins’ franchise records for assists and points by a rookie. Oh and he’s the youngest player to ever be voted into the all-star game, let alone as a starter. And he’s the youngest player to have consecutive 100 point seasons, score the most points in a season, and be voted as MVP by the other players in the league. Let’s cap it off with also being named MVP of the league by the media, winning countless community and charity awards, that $9 million salary each year, not to mention the how many millions he makes thanks to all his sponsorship deals. The guy is the face of the NHL and probably one of the best players the league has ever seen, but you’re his girlfriend and you don’t know that. The guy has girls throwing themselves at him all the time and he could have anyone he wanted and you expect me to believe he chose you, a college student at Duquesne?”

I couldn’t even respond. Sidney was everything that guy said? There was no way, he would have told me. He would have told me if all of that stuff was true. There would have been no reason to lie about it. I felt sick as I replayed everything the guy had said in my head. Things started to click in my brain and began to make sense.

The last thing the guy sitting next to me said hit me the worst. Girls threw themselves at him all the time. Did they really do that? Well, hey, I guess when you made $9 million a year before the money you made from all the sponsors, that would happen. Guys that made that kind of money definitely could have any girl they wanted. This guy was right, why would Sidney have chosen me? Probably because I didn’t know anything about hockey and he could play some stupid game with me.

“Tanner, are you okay?” Grace asked me from across the table. I looked up at her and shook my head.

“I don’t feel so well,” I said collecting my stuff and running out of the library.

“You’re an asshole,” Grace said to the guy sitting across the table from her.

“Why, because I just burst that girl’s bubble informing her that she never stood a chance?” he asked meanly. Grace picked up the phone that Tanner had left sitting on top of the table.

“No, because you just made her feel like she wasn’t good enough for her own boyfriend.” He laughed.

“You still expect me to believe that she’s actually dating Sidney Crosby?” Grace opened the camera application in the phone and put it in front of the jerks face.

“Look at these pictures and tell me they’re not dating,” she said as she scrolled from one picture to another.

The guy’s eyes widened in shock as he saw pictures of Tanner and Sidney at the zoo, hanging out in the living room, one where Sid was kissing Tanner on the cheek, and especially the one Grace herself had taken when she caught Tanner and Sidney kissing in the living room.

“Holy shit, she really is,” the guy commented. Grace pulled the phone away, packed up her stuff and went after Tanner.

I sat at my computer scrolling from article to article. Everything that guy had said about Sidney was true. I couldn’t believe the sheer amount of websites dedicated to him. He wasn’t just an average hockey player like he had told me, he was a superstar.

Tears fell from my eyes harder and harder as I read article after article about all the talents of Sidney Crosby. Why had he lied to me? I eventually fell onto a message board about whether or not Sidney had a girlfriend. While none of the conversation had anything to do with the answer to that, I saw that the guy was also right about the number of girls that would throw themselves at Sidney if given the chance. One post in particular caught my eye.

Why hasn’t Sidney been exiting with the rest of the guys to sign autographs for the past few weeks? I’ve been waiting outside after each game to get a picture and an autograph but he hasn’t come out in a long time.

Sidney had told me that guys always parked in different sections of the parking lot and that he always parked on the other side. That was obviously a lie if he just suddenly stopped doing it a few weeks ago. Then I remembered. I’d gone to my first game a few weeks ago. He must have started parking somewhere else when I started going to games.

Why was he hiding this from me? If he had changed where he parked his car, it meant he was actively hiding it from me and I just didn’t understand. He’d also told me that fans didn’t want his autograph and that was also a lie. He’d lied right to my face when I asked him about it without even blinking.

I’d locked myself in my room when the girls wouldn’t leave me alone. Grace had come back and tried to talk to me. When I’d told her to leave me alone the rest of the girls had come in to see what was wrong. Grace explained the whole situation to them and I just couldn’t deal with talking about it right now. My phone rang and I saw Sidney’s name on the screen.

“Nicknamed ‘The Next One’, he was one of the most highly regarded draft picks in hockey history, leading many to refer to the 2005 Draft Lottery as the ‘Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes.’ By his second season, he led the NHL with 120 points to capture the Art Ross Trophy, becoming the youngest player and the only teenager to win a scoring title in any major North American sports league,” I read off of the Wikipedia page on my computer screen when I picked up the call. There was silence for a moment on the other end.

“Tanner, I can explain,” he said.

“God, you’ve won a lot of awards,” I commented ignoring him. “So they give out two MVP awards at the end of each season? Am I right in reading that the media votes for one and the players in the league vote for the other, and you won both of them last year?”

“Babe, I’m sorry. I really can explain.” Hearing him call me “babe” really set me off.

“I’m sure you can, but I’m not interested. I don’t date liars. Why don’t you take your nine mil a year and find one of the millions of girls who would just die to date you?” I hung up the phone and then turned it off in case Sidney decided to try to call back.

“Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Sidney yelled punching the seat in front of him as he saw the words “call ended” on his phone screen. Everyone on the plane turned to look at him, especially Flower, who had been sitting in the seat he just punched.

“What is the matter with you?” Marc asked.

“She knows. Tanner knows,” he said as if anyone could understand what he meant.

He didn’t care. He was talking more to himself than them anyway. They’d just lost to Ottawa and he hadn’t played very well. The whole team hadn’t played very well and he was already upset. Then he had to deal with that very pleasant phone conversation.

“Tanner knows what?” Letang asked from across the aisle.

“Everything. About me, about the hockey stuff.” Everyone got it then. They all knew Tanner wasn’t a sports fan, and that she didn’t seem to have a clue who Sidney was to the game of hockey.

“How did she find out?” Max asked. Sidney shrugged, not sure. Then his anger flared up again and he did something completely irrational.

“You fucking said something!” he screamed at Staalsy standing up and making his way over to him, fist clenched, ready to throw. Jordan threw his hands in the air, and he was holding his phone in one of them.

“I didn’t do anything. Grace just told me some guy at the library overheard them talking about us and got on Tanner’s case about claiming you were her boyfriend. Apparently he really ripped into her and told her everything,” Jordan explained.

Sidney collapsed back down into his seat. This was not good at all.