Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chapter 24

I smiled at my parents weakly as I was rolled into the room after the surgery. Then I noticed Brendan, Delia, Andrew, Grace, Hailey, Kelly, and Lisa were also all squeezed in there. Everyone I really cared about was there except for Sidney.

They all began to ask me what it had been like to have my brain cut into while I was awake. I’d told them what I could remember about the experience and Lisa made me laugh with her fairly grotesque jokes about what my brain must have looked like. It was nice to laugh again. I heard the door open and figured a doctor or nurse was coming in to check on me. My mouth dropped when I saw Sidney walk in the door.

“Sorry I missed the big entrance. Did I miss Lisa’s brain jokes?” he asked smiling over at me. He made his way to my bed and grabbed my hand in his.

“What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in Washington?” I asked him. He placed a kiss on my cheek.

“Nah, I skipped it. I heard my girlfriend was having a tumor removed from her brain.” I smiled up at him, glad that he was there.

“How did you know I was going through with it?”

“I called him and told him if he didn’t get his butt over here then I’d kill him myself,” Grace chimed in. I laughed.

“No one’s going to be pissed at you?” He shrugged.

“I don’t care. I’m captain,” he joked.

He left later that night to get to Washington in time to play the next afternoon. I watched the game from my hospital bed and yelled a little too loudly when Sidney scored the first goal of the game and assisted on another later. Both times nurses rushed into the room thinking something was wrong. They won on his shootout goal that he dedicated to me, at least over the phone. He came straight to the hospital from the plane later that night.

“How are you feeling?” he asked as he walked through the door.

“The drugs are nice. It helps that you outplayed Ovechkin too,” I joked. He smiled and kissed me.

“Everything’s been okay?” he asked, asking my parents more than me.

“No problems at all,” my mom said with a smile.

“See, I’m as healthy as someone with brain cancer can be,” I explained with a smile on my face. He shook his head at me.

“That has to be the drugs talking.” I giggled.

“I think we’re going to go back to the hotel and get some sleep. Nice game today, Sid. We’ll see you in the morning, Tanner,” my father said standing up from his chair. My mom echoed the same and followed him out of the room.

“You know, I didn’t get much of a chance to say anything yesterday before I left, but I’m really happy you changed your mind about the surgery,” Sidney told me with a sigh as he sat down on the bed next to me.

“Well, you can thank Mario for changing my mind.” He looked at me in confusion.

“Mario? What did Mario have to do with it?” he asked. It was my turn to be confused. Mario hadn’t told him he’d come to see me?

“Well, he came to see me yesterday morning.” I could tell by the shocked expression on Sid’s face that he had no idea that Mario had. “He didn’t tell you.”

“No, he didn’t tell me,” he said shaking his head. “What did he say that I couldn’t?” I could see the hurt and disappointment in Sidney’s eyes and I immediately regretted telling him about Mario.

“Mario understands like you can’t,” I whispered.

“And I don’t understand what that means. I know you better than anyone. What can’t I understand?” he demanded. He was angry and I took a moment to think about what I wanted to say before actually doing it.

“You’ve never had cancer,” I explained. The anger faded from his face, replaced with understanding.

“And he knew all the right things to say,” Sidney concluded.

“I don’t know if he came in here intending to change my mind or not, but he did. He kind of put things into perspective.”

Sidney was quiet for a while, probably trying to figure out whether he should ask me what Mario had said or not. I knew I would tell him, I was just trying to figure out how to explain it. After a few minutes he looked up at me and smiled.

“It doesn’t matter what the reason was. I’m just glad you went through with it.” I smiled back at him.

“I changed my mind because of you. They were Mario’s words, but it was you,” I told him. His smile grew.

“What about me made you change your mind?” I laughed at him.

“Fishing for compliments?” I asked. He laughed too.

“No, I’m just curious. Really!” he exclaimed when he saw the look on my face. I shook my head and laughed again.

“Well, it’s a little disconnected, but stick with me. I’ll do my best to explain. He said that when he had cancer he was thankful for hockey because for a few hours a day he could just pretend that everything was normal. It made him forget about the cancer. After he left I thought about what I had that could do that for me. I realized it was going to the zoo that did it. I forget about everything when I go to the zoo. It’s just me and the animals.”

“What does that have to do with me?” he interrupted. I rolled my eyes at him.

“Don’t interrupt, Mr. Anxious. I’m getting there. So I thought about the zoo and then realized that the last time I was there, you were with me. It wasn’t just me and the animals that time. It was us and the animals. For the first time in my life I wasn’t annoyed that I was there and talking with someone instead of just focusing on the animals and the exhibits. That’s when I realized it wasn’t the zoo that made me forget everything anymore, it was you.”

I paused to think about the next thing I wanted to say. I noticed that Sidney’s smile had been growing by the second and his grip on my hand had tightened. I smiled up at him before continuing.

“I thought of Mario and hockey again after realizing that. I quickly became aware of how much I’ve started to enjoy your sport. Not because of the speed, or the toughness, but again, because of you. I’ve gotten to see you live out a dream you’ve had your whole life. I also know that there’s still so much more you can accomplish, and will accomplish. I wanted to be here to see all of that, to watch you really live out your dream. It makes me ridiculously happy to see you play, and I know that during games I think of nothing but you.”

“You like watching me play that much?” he asked unable to contain his silly grin. I shrugged.

“I’d like watching you clean toilets if that was your lifelong dream,” I joked. He laughed and kissed me.

“You’re amazing, you know that?” he asked.

“I’m still not done.” He rolled his eyes, but kept his mouth shut so I could continue. “Mario also mentioned Nathalie and how she was there for him every step of the way. He said that he couldn’t have done it without her. I know that you said that you’d love me no matter what I chose to do, but I can’t help but feel that if I didn’t have the surgery I’d lose you. Maybe we’d stay together, but it just wouldn’t be the same. All I know is that I can’t get through anything without you and I never want to have to try. So, you see, it all came down to you. You are what changed my mind. Mario just made me realize it.”

He leaned down and kissed me again when I finished. He pulled his feet up off the floor and laid down next to me in bed. I turned my head to face him. I smiled as our eyes locked, and felt a tear slide down my cheek. He leaned closer and kissed it away. If this guy wasn’t perfection, I didn’t know what was.

“I love you, Tanner, with everything in me. I’ll always be here for anything you need,” he whispered.

“I love you too,” I returned. He kissed me again and I closed my eyes beginning to feel tired. “Thanks for saving my life again,” I said to him. I didn’t hear his response. I was already asleep.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chapter 23

“I know you said you wanted to be alone, but I can’t leave you here by yourself. We don’t have to talk. We don’t even have to touch. I just want to be here with you,” I heard Sidney’s voice say. I turned to look at him. It had only been half an hour since I’d kicked everyone out.

“I’m not going into surgery,” I told him bluntly. He pulled his head back like he’d been slapped.

“What do you mean? The doctor just said that they wanted to,” he asked, confused. I looked away from him.

“I’m not going to let them.” He was silent for a minute and I closed my eyes, not wanting to see the look on his face.

“What do you mean you’re not going to let them?” he finally choked out.

“I mean what it sounds like. I’m going to tell them I don’t want the surgery or the chemo,” I told him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” he shouted. His sudden outburst surprised me and I whipped my head around to look at him.

“Hi. Cancer. You were here when I was told,” I snapped at him.

“That’s not what I’m talking about, and you know it,” he snapped back.

“Yeah, yell at the brain cancer patient. Great plan,” I spat at him.

“Don’t even change the subject, Tanner.” I sighed and turned away from him again. He didn’t understand. No one would understand.

“I don’t want to be sick,” I confessed.

“Obviously. That’s why you do those things. They will make you better.” I laughed, but without humor.

“No, Sidney, they will make me sick,” I corrected him. I heard him groan and he made his way to the side of my bed and took my hand.

“You have to do it, Tanner. It’s ridiculous not to. You heard the doctor. It was caught early,” he pleaded.

“I don’t have to do anything. It’s my decision and I’m choosing not to do them. I don’t want someone drilling into my skull and then having to spend the next however long being sick because of the chemo. Not to mention it’s brain surgery. Things go wrong during that. I may not be able to talk, or walk, or maybe I’ll have seizures,” I told him firmly. He grabbed my hand in his.

“You just have to fight through it. You’re strong, Tanner, I know it.” He was begging and now that I was looking at him, I could see the panic in his face.

“I’m not strong. I don’t want to fight anymore. I’ve been fighting everyday for three months. I’m sick of fighting. I don’t have any fight left in me,” I explained. He ran a hand through his hair and I could tell he was struggling for something to say.

“You just have to fight a little longer. It’ll be bad, but it will save your life.”

“You don’t know that! I could do it and still die at the end. If I’m going to die I’m going to do it on my terms. I don’t want to spend the last months of my life sick. I want to be normal and I can’t be normal when I have a hole in my head, no hair, and I’m throwing up all the time.”

He was quiet for a while. He was thinking things through and I knew he was trying to figure out what to say to convince me to change my mind. I saw a tear run down his cheek and I squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t want to see him cry.

“What about your family? The girls? You can’t fight for them?” he asked. I shook my head.

“Don’t you dare bring other people into this. Don’t try to speak for them. If they don’t like it, they can come talk to me themselves.”

“What about me? I can speak for myself. You won’t fight for me?” I didn’t respond. I didn’t know what to say. How do you tell someone you don’t want to fight to stay alive for them?

“I want to spend the rest of my time doing things I’ve always wanted to do, not be stuck in bed because I’m too weak to get out of it.” I’d made my decision, and no one was changing my mind. After a few minutes he got up from the chair he was sitting in and walked to the door.

“We fly to Washington tomorrow for Sunday afternoon’s game. I was going to stay here and be with you, but you don’t need me for anything since you’ve already made up your mind. I love you, Tanner, no matter what. Even so, I never pegged you as a quitter.”

With that he walked out of the room and shut the door behind him. I let the tears fall after he left. When my parents came back and I told them my decision, there was a lot of crying. They begged me to change my mind, to give it a try, but I wouldn’t hear it. They didn’t know what it was like to spend months fighting just to wake up from a coma only to fight through painful rehab and then find out you had brain cancer. I just didn’t have any fight left in me.

Sidney got into his car, put his head on the steering wheel and cried. He’d been holding it all in for Tanner, trying to be strong for her. Now that he was alone, he couldn’t hold it in any longer. What the hell was she thinking? Why the fuck did she want to die?

He cried until he couldn’t breathe. When he finally stopped he started the car and drove home. He walked into the house using his own entrance to avoid seeing anyone in the Lemieux family. He just couldn’t handle seeing anyone right now. He walked into his living room and collapsed down on the couch.

He just didn’t understand why someone would give up without even trying. He didn’t understand why she’d give up on them. He’d just gotten her back, and now he was losing her again. This time the problem was that he didn’t need to lose her. She could just do the chemo and she’d be fine. Why wouldn’t she do it?

When she was in the coma he spent half his time willing her to wake up and the other half thinking she never would. Even so he was at her bedside everyday, talking to her, holding her hand. Then she’d woken up. That had been the happiest day of his life. Now she was going to let herself die and he’d lose her forever.

“Hey, where have you been all day?” he heard Mario ask. He turned towards the door and saw Mario leaning on the door jamb. “Have you been crying?” Shit, not what he needed right now.

“I was at the hospital with Tanner. She’s dying,” he choked out feeling tears building again.

“What? Sid, what happened?” he asked walking into the room and sitting down in a chair.

“She’s been sick and asked me to take her. Turns out she has a brain tumor. They think it’s malignant.” Mario was quiet for a while and Sidney just stared at the floor.

“That doesn’t mean she’s dying. I had cancer too and now look at me,” he said.

“She won’t let them do the surgery. She also won’t do the chemo. She’s giving up. She said she’s tired of fighting and won’t do it. I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t listen.”

"She's probably in shock. Just give her a little time," he told him. Sidney shook his head.

"No, she was clear. Perfectly clear. I could see it in her eyes. It's her final decision."

“As terrible as it is, if that’s her decision, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. You just have to be there for her now,” Mario said.

Sidney didn’t say anything else. He didn’t know what to say. Eventually Mario got up and left the room. Sidney made his way to his bedroom and collapsed down on the bed. He pulled the blankets over himself without changing and tried to sleep.

I didn’t sleep most of the night. Instead I just stared at the ceiling thinking about what I was having taken from me. I wasn’t going to graduate from college. I wasn’t going to get my dream job. I wasn’t going to get married or have kids. I didn’t even know if I’d see my brother’s new baby.

As the sun came up I decided to change my thoughts. I started to think about what I was going to do in the rest of the time I had left. I wanted to go to Europe. I’d been dreaming of going to Venice, Paris, and Prague my whole life and I was definitely going to do that. I was going to read every book written by Jane Austen that I hadn’t read yet. I was going to spend time with my friends and family, and Sidney if he’d let me.

I hadn’t told the doctors I wasn’t going to do the surgery yet. I guess I just assumed I’d tell them when they came to get me in the morning. I doubted my parents had said anything. After I’d convinced them that there was nothing that would change my mind they’d left. I figured they were still holding out hope. I knew that the nurses would be coming in to get me pretty soon to bring me. When I heard the door to my room open I turned expecting to see one of them. I was shocked when I saw who was standing there.

“Mario? What are you doing here?” I asked him. He smiled and walked over to my bed, taking a seat in the same one Sidney had vacated the night before.

“I just thought I’d come and see how you were. Sidney told me what was going on,” he answered. I sighed.

“Honestly, I’m not doing so great,” I told him.

“I had cancer,” he said. My eyes opened wide in surprise.


“I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” I didn’t say anything for a while, really not sure what to say.

“How did they treat it?” I finally asked.


“Was it bad?”

“It was awful. I was sick a lot of the time. I had almost no energy, and the energy I did have I used up on the ice,” he explained honestly.

“Wait, you played hockey while you were going through radiation? How did you manage?” I asked in shock. He shrugged.

“I loved the game. I didn’t want the cancer to run my life and playing hockey was normal for me. It gave me a couple of hours a day to get away from all of that.” I thought about that for a while.

“Did you come here to try to change my mind?” I asked quietly.

“Not at all. When I was sick I didn’t know anyone who’d had cancer. Everyone was there for me, but none of them understood what I was going through. Unless someone is in the same situation they’ll never completely get it. As much as I loved everyone’s support, I sometimes wished I had a friend who had the same experiences as me that I could talk to. I came here to tell you that you have me to talk to if you ever need it.”

“I don’t know that I have the energy to be strong anymore,” I confessed.

“No one said you had to be strong. It’s just not possible to be strong all the time. I certainly wasn’t. If it hadn’t been for Nathalie I don’t know what I would have done.”

“I think Sidney hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you. He just doesn’t know how to deal with all of this. He loves you, I can see it. No matter what you decide to do, he’ll be there for you.”

Mario only stayed for a few more minutes before he had to leave. I thanked him for stopping by and talking to me. I thought about what he had said. I still couldn’t believe that he had undergone radiation and still played. I thought about Sidney. As I allowed the nurses to wheel me up to the OR for the surgery I wished he was going to be there when I got out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chapter 22

To be honest, Sidney hadn’t been all that concerned when Tanner had told him she wasn’t feeling well. He figured she had a cold or the flu and wished he could take care of her, but that was where the concern stopped. When he went over after his road trip, she didn’t look very sick, and any worry he did have had disappeared.

When she woke up the next morning and threw up he thought his assumption was right, and she had the flu. He’d had to keep from laughing at her when she asked him to bring her to the hospital. He figured she was just being overdramatic even though he’d never known her to be like that at any other time.

As they sat in the waiting room after checking in, he suddenly felt a stab of fear. She was tired, had a headache, and threw up in the morning. Was Tanner pregnant? He let his mind wander a bit trying to get the balls to ask her if that’s what she thought it was before he realized that there was no way. They’d only slept together once since the accident and it had been a week ago. There was just no way she’d be sick like this that fast, right?

He pushed the thought out of his mind and followed her into the exam room. When the doctor came in he listened to Tanner explain the circumstances surrounding the accident and asked if what was going on could be related to that. The doctor said he wasn’t sure and put her through some tests. Sidney watched the doctor test her balance, memory, and all of her senses. He made a mental note to tell her how cute she looked standing on one foot.

He figured the doctor would prescribe some sort of medication and they’d be able to go home, but that’s not what happened. The idea that absolutely nothing was wrong with Tanner started to fade when the doctor ordered some tests. She’d tried to convince him to leave, saying she’d call him when they were done, but he wasn’t going to leave her side.

He sat next to her and held her hand when it was time for the Lumbar puncture. He’d never had one, but he knew they were painful. Tanner was curled up in a ball during the procedure. She avoided his eyes and chose to stare at the ground. He saw her clench her jaw and could feel her hand tighten around his, but she never made a sound or shed a tear even though he could see in her eyes that she was in pain.

He got food for the both of them as they waited on the results. After, Tanner fell asleep. That was when the doctors decided to do an MRI. They weren’t telling them anything and Sidney then became worried. If there wasn’t something wrong they wouldn’t need to keep doing tests, and they’d tell them something.

The MRI was done and Tanner fell asleep again. He watched her sleep and ran a hand through her hair. He just wanted to know what it was so they could fix it. Not long after Tanner woke up a doctor came in and told them that they knew what was wrong. Sidney listened intently at the explanation. His heart stopped and he felt like someone had just punched him in the stomach. He couldn’t breathe. This could not be happening.

I stared at the door after the doctor left. I don’t know how long I stared at it, but eventually it became blurry as tears filled my eyes. I sat in silence processing the information and Sidney didn’t say a word. The doctor had told me one of the nurses would call my parents to let them know. I wiped tears from my face as I replayed the conversation in my head.

“We found a tumor in your brain. Thankfully it’s not very big and is in a location where we’ll be able to remove it completely,” he had said.

“You’re going to have to cut into my skull and remove a tumor from my brain?” I asked. The doctor nodded. “And then I’ll be fine, right?”

“Well, there were some results from the Lumbar puncture that worried us. We found some cancerous cells. The tumor is most likely malignant.” My breath caught in my throat as I processed that information.

“I have cancer?” The doctor explained a few more things, but I didn’t hear him. How could this be happening? Hadn’t I been through enough in the past few months?

“Tanner, are you okay?” I heard Sidney ask, breaking me out of my thoughts.

“Of course I’m not okay. I have brain cancer!” I yelled at him.

He was silent and I felt bad for yelling at him. It wasn’t his fault. I pulled my hand out of his and put my face in my hands. My whole body shook as I cried. I felt the bed shift and then I was pulled into Sidney’s arms. I wrapped my arms around him and cried into his shoulder. I’m not sure how long we were like that.

A while later a nurse came in telling me they were moving me to a room outside of the ER. Despite my protests I was forced into a wheelchair as they moved me to a different floor. When we got to the new room I settled into the bed and stared up at the ceiling in silence. A few hours later my parents made their way into the room. I hated that the only time they’d seen Sidney was in a hospital room and I began to wonder if that would ever change.

The doctor returned and he explained that they wanted to be aggressive with the treatments. They’d scheduled me for surgery the next morning to remove the tumor. Then they were going to schedule me for chemo once they were positive that the tumor was malignant. He was convinced that they’d caught it early if it was.

I convinced my parents and Sidney to leave the hospital, telling them that I needed some time alone. They didn’t fight me on that and said they’d be back later. While they were gone I stared at the wall as tears fell down my cheeks. I was going to die. I knew it right then that I was going to die.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chapter 21

So I'm sorry that I may have to leave you hanging on this chapter for a bit. I have family coming into town this next week and a lot of things going on so I don't know that I'll be updating for a while. I swear I'll do my best to make sure it's not too terribly long before I update again. I just also want to say thanks so much to everyone for reading this and commenting. I really appreciate it all!

I walked out of my bedroom at 7:00 at night, just really getting out of bed for the first time. For some reason I had been really tired and just couldn’t bring myself to get up. I’d been napping on and off all day, and stayed in bed watching TV the rest of the time. The only reason I even got up at all was to make my way to the living room to watch the Pens play the Lightning.

I grabbed some of the dinner that Hailey had made and ate while we watched pre-game. Once the game started I began to wake up a little. Apparently that didn’t last too long. I felt myself being shaken awake and opened my eyes to see Kelly giving me a strange look.

“Tanner, are you okay? You never fall asleep during games,” she asked.

“I don’t know what’s up with me. I’m just kind of tired, that’s all. I must be getting sick.”

I struggled to keep my eyes open for the rest of the game. Honestly I couldn’t tell you who ended up winning. I went back to bed as soon as the game was over, not even staying to see if they interviewed Sidney after.

The next day I woke up feeling a little better and forced myself out of bed. I made my way to the kitchen and made some lunch. As I made my way into the living room, plate and glass in hand, I caught my toe on the floor. While I managed to stay upright, I dropped the plate and glass to the floor. I groaned as I cleaned it up and made myself a new lunch.

As I lounged on the couch I fell asleep again, only to wake up to Lisa shaking me. Obviously still not feeling any better I retreated back to my room for the rest of the day. The next day didn’t go any differently. I couldn’t seem to stay awake for more than an hour or two at a time, and I was especially clumsy with things.

“Can you come over when you get home?” I asked Sidney over the phone after they beat the Panthers.

“Sure, Babe. Are you still not feeling okay?” he asked.

“Not really, no.”

Not long after I hung up, I started feeling a throbbing in my head. Great, now a headache. Fantastic. I curled up in bed and fell asleep almost immediately. At some point in the night I felt Sidney get in bed next to me, but I hardly acknowledged him before falling back to sleep.

“Good morning,” he said when I rolled over and looked at him upon waking up.

“Hi,” I responded, smiling. He leaned down and kissed me. My head still hurt, and now it was worse than it had been the night before.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, looking concerned.

I shrugged and was about to respond when I bolted out of bed and into the bathroom. I barely made it to the toilet in time to throw up. Sidney followed me in and sat on the floor with me, rubbing my back. Each time I thought I was done, I would throw up again. After half an hour kneeling on the floor I finally stopped. I went to grab a tissue and knocked the entire box off of the counter.

“Sid, I have to go to the hospital,” I told him.

“Tanner, you just have the flu,” he replied. I shook my head adamantly.

“No, you don’t understand. I’ve been really clumsy, and that’s not like me at all. I can’t stop sleeping, and I have a headache. I haven’t had a headache since I was 12 years old. I just don’t get them. Something’s wrong. What if it’s some sort of complication from the coma or the accident or something?”

He sighed and agreed to take me. We got to the hospital and I explained what was going on to the ER nurse. I got a room almost immediately, and I knew it was probably only because I had Sidney with me. A doctor came in not long after, and I had to explain everything all over again.

I went through a barrage of tests such as eye movement, hearing, and balance. When this was done he decided that he wanted to do some more testing. I was scheduled for a CT scan and a Lumbar puncture. I told Sidney he could leave and I’d call him when everything was complete, but he refused to leave my side. Most of the day was spent waiting around in a room until it was time to do each test. Then it was more waiting to get the results back.

“Geez, Tanner, this is the most exciting day of my life,” Sidney said sarcastically.

“Ha, because this is definitely my idea of a good time,” I retorted.

He smiled and kissed my forehead. As I was there my headache began to fade and I started to wonder if maybe I’d panicked for no reason. I realized I was hungry and sent Sidney to search out something for us to eat. He came back bearing chicken fingers and fries.

“Sorry, not much looked appetizing,” he apologized when he saw the look on my face. I shrugged and ate the food hungrily, despite the poor taste and cold temperature. Not long after I fell asleep.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” he asked when I woke up.

“A little better. Did they say what’s wrong with me?” I asked.

He just shook his head and we continued to wait. Another doctor came in and said he wanted to do an MRI and he took me to the room immediately. He still wouldn’t tell me what was going on with me, and I began to get really worried.

After the MRI I fell asleep again. I just couldn’t stay awake. When I woke up Sidney was still sitting in the same chair. I sighed as tears fell from my eyes. I was now officially terrified. When the nurse saw that I was awake she told me she’d send the doctor in to see me. When I asked her if they knew anything she just shook her head and left the room. That didn’t seem like a good sign. Eventually a doctor made his way in.

“Miss Falco, we’ve discovered what the problem is,” he told me. I could tell by the look on his face that the news wasn’t good. I wasn’t at all prepared for the outcome he gave me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chapter 20

I walked into Mellon Arena and took my seat next to Grace and Hailey. The Penguins were playing the Islanders that night. It was the first game Hailey was attending as Ryan’s girlfriend. After the night at the bar they’d gone back to Ryan’s house and talked. He took her to dinner like she wanted, and they decided to give it a try. None of us knew whether it would work or not since both enjoyed their freedom, but we figured if either of them were going to settle down, the other would be the person that they would settle down with.

The team was fairly chaotic at this point. Therrian had recently been fired and now Sidney was hurt with a groin injury. We were both currently pretty useless around the house. He'd offered to let me sit up in Mario's box for the game but I'd declined because I wanted to sit with the girls.

I looked down at the game going on sadly knowing that Sidney was leaving tomorrow and would be gone for a week on the road. They made a trip to Chicago, then Dallas, then Tampa Bay, and then Florida. They’d be back for a whole day and a half before leaving for Washington. I didn’t look forward to not having him there to get me through therapy.

Therapy was going well and my hip felt better on an almost daily basis. As much as I complained about it, I knew it was best for me. I still had some bad days where I would leave therapy in a ton of pain, but Sidney always knew how to make me feel better. I hoped I wouldn’t have a bad day while he was on the road.

The Penguins won the game 1-0. We made our way into the family room and I felt like I had to wait forever. Everyone was gone before me. They’d offered to wait, but the guys had assured me Sidney would be out soon so I’d told them to all go. Now after 20 more minutes of waiting I was wishing I hadn’t told them to go.

“Babe, I am so sorry,” Sidney said rushing into the room. I stood up and shrugged.

“Media stuff?” I asked. He nodded. We walked out to his car and got in. I was pretty relieved to see that most of the autograph seekers had already left, probably thinking Sidney had left from a different exit.

“They asked about you,” he said as we drove out of the parking lot.

“Who asked about me?”

“The media,” he responded. I looked over at him, curious as to what he said to them. “Look, I know we never discussed this, and we probably should have.”

“Well, we can discuss it now. What did they ask about?”

“They wanted to know who you were and if you were my girlfriend,” he told me.

“What did you tell them?” He glanced over at me, and I could see he was worried.

“If I had said anything, they would have been all over you. People would have been looking up information on you. Pictures would have been plastered all over the internet. I also know that there would be people out there that would do whatever it took to tear you down. I couldn’t do that to you without your okay.”

“What did you tell them?” I asked again.

“I just said you were someone I’d known for a while that I was close to.” I nodded. I could handle that.

“Well, obviously everyone that needs to know about us knows. It’s not like we’re keeping it a secret. I don’t see why we have to announce it to the world. No one else has to make a statement when they start dating someone.”

He looked relieved and smiled. I smiled back. He pulled into the driveway at the Lemieux house. We’d already agreed to go back there so we could have some time alone before he left the next day. I started up the stairs and winced when I stepped weird.

“Dammit, Tanner, we're useless,” Sidney announced.

"A perfect couple," I told him laughing.

With a little bit of effort we both made it up the stairs and into his room. I collapsed down on the bed while he made his way into his closet. He came out in just sweat pants, and carried a pair along with a t-shirt for me. He handed them to me and I changed into them.

“I’m going to miss you tomorrow. I don’t know how I’m going to function without you with me,” he said getting under the blankets. I followed suit.

“That’s just stupid,” I told him.

“I guess I’m stupid then,” he joked grinning.

“Well, as Jane Austen says, ‘Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing after all.’”

“Can we not discuss literature on our last night together for a while?” I laughed and cuddled up to him.

“I’m going to miss you too,” I whispered.

He ran a finger along my jaw and kissed me. I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled myself as close to him as I could get. I ran my tongue along his lower lip and he moaned.

“Tanner, not the best idea ever,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked innocently. I started to nibble along his collarbone.

“Because of your hip,” he replied.

“It’s fine,” I told him, continuing with the nibbling.

“And my groin,” he protested. I grinned at him.

“Haven’t you read the research? Sex is a natural pain blocker.”

He didn’t need to be told twice. He pinned me back on the bed and pulled my shirt over my head. He started placing kisses around my hip and then moved his way over my stomach and all the way up to my collarbone. He trailed kisses up my neck and along my jaw until he reached my ear. He lightly bit my earlobe before making his way back down.

I ran my hands along his sides and back, feeling his muscles work. He came back up and pressed his lips to mine. I grabbed the tops of his sweatpants and began to push them down. He stepped out of them as I did and then he got to work removing mine. As he kissed me some more I noticed that he was holding himself up so that he wasn’t putting any of his weight on my hip. I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled him down.

“I’m not a china doll,” I told him. He bit my lip.

“Then I won’t treat you like one.”

After we’d gone almost three months without touching each other, he didn’t treat me like one at all. We were both completely breathless afterwards and I didn’t think I could move. I knew that I was definitely going to be in pain when I woke up the next morning and he probably would too.

“Are you okay?” he asked pulling me to him.

“Never better,” I assured him. "How about you?"

"Never better." He kissed me on the forehead and we fell asleep. I groaned when the alarm clock went off the next morning.

“I’ve got to get up,” he said to me after another 10 minutes had gone by and we hadn’t moved.

“Nooooo,” I whined. He laughed and started to shift out from under me. That’s when the pain hit. “Shit!” He froze.

“What? Are you okay?” he asked.

“You did a number on me last night,” I said slowly pulling my right leg off of him. I stayed on my back, squeezing my eyes shut until the pain started to fade.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized kissing me.

“It’s my own fault. I’m the one that told you not to treat me like a china doll.”

"I'm not feeling so great myself," he told me.

I stayed in bed but watched him pack his bags for the trip. I sighed when he was done and said he had to get me home. He pulled into the driveway and I saw that Jordan and Ryan were already there. I told Sidney I needed help out of the car and he obliged.

“Jesus, what did you do to her last night, Sid?” Jordan asked when he saw me limping out from behind the car.

“Hey, watch it. Don’t make me bring up the make up thing,” I warned him. He groaned and covered his face with his hands.

“Wait, what make up thing?” Ryan asked. Grace, Hailey, and I laughed while Jordan hung his head and Ryan and Sidney looked at us expectantly.

“I think that will be a story for another day,” I said. Jordan made a face at me and I laughed again.

“Okay, it’s time to go. I’ll call you when I land,” Sid said to me, giving me a hug. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” The three of us watched the guys drive away and then they helped me into the house.

“Do you really think last night was the time to try out Kama Sutra positions, Tan?” Grace joked. I rolled my eyes at her and collapsed down on the couch in the living room.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chapter 19

So I'd written this chapter before the trade that sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim :(. So we're just going to pretend that he never got traded.

I grimaced as I swung my leg out of the car and stepped down. Sidney was standing there holding a hand out to me, but I didn’t take it. He shook his head at me when I began to walk to my front door without my crutches. I heard him take them out and shut the door before he caught up to me.

“You really should use these, or at least accept a little help after a therapy session,” he scolded me. I glared at him.

“I’m fine.”

“Okay, waving the white flag here,” he said holding his hands up in the air. I took each step up to the porch slowly using the banister for support. Sidney opened the door for me and after glaring at him again I stepped inside.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me right now!” I heard Hailey’s voice yell from the living room. I paused in the doorway causing Sidney to run into me from behind.

“Tanner, what the – "

“Shut up,” I told him.

“Oh, that’s mature. Just because you fucked me, you think you own me?” Hailey yelled, obviously on the phone. I turned to look at Sid, and his eyes were wide. He’d definitely heard Hailey that time.

“Maybe I should just go now instead of coming inside,” he said leaning the crutches against the wall next to the door. I nodded and he kissed me quickly before getting in his car. I closed the door behind me, but didn’t move from my spot.

“You are fucking psychotic! Leave me alone!” she screamed into the phone. I heard footsteps and she stormed into the foyer, headed for the stairs. She froze when she saw me standing there.

“Rehabs over,” I explained with a shrug.

“How much did you hear?” she asked.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding thinking you own me you fucking psycho,” I told her. She groaned and walked back into the living room and collapsed on the couch. I followed her in and sat down next to her. “Who was that?”

“Ryan.” My eyebrows shot up. I hadn’t seen that coming.

“Ryan? Like Ryan Whitney?” I remembered that Hailey and Ryan had gone home together after that one night at Diesel but as far as I knew, that had been all that happened between them. She put her face in her hands.

“We’ve been sleeping together since the night we met. I haven't told anyone.”

I was both surprised, and not at all. Hailey wasn’t exactly the good girl in the house. In fact we often referred to her as our pseudo-male friend. She wanted no part of dating, choosing rather to hook up with whoever she wanted whenever she wanted. She also loved giving us all the dirty details, which was why I was surprised she’d been sleeping with him, since she hadn’t told any of us.

“And what’s the problem?”

“He’s not my boyfriend.” Now I was really surprised.

“You want him to be?” I asked. She looked at me like I was certifiable.

“No way. He’s just good in bed. Problem is he thinks he can sleep around but I can’t. I saw him out with another girl and I didn’t care. Seriously, what other girl wouldn’t care? Then he saw me out with a guy last night and he flipped his lid,” she explained.

“So you’re mad at him because he doesn’t want you seeing other people,” I stated.

“No, I’m mad because he doesn’t want me seeing other people, but he still feels like he can.”

“So you want him to stop seeing other people, and just see you?” I asked.

“What? No, that’s not what I said,” she started back peddling. I cracked a smile.

“Has it occurred to you that maybe you like him?” She narrowed her eyes at me.

“I’m leaving.”

“Hailey, wait.”

“You can’t follow me upstairs!” she called as she took them two at a time. I rolled my eyes and picked up my phone.

“Is everything okay?” Sidney asked when he answered my call.

“Hailey and Ryan have been sleeping together and she’s mad at him for getting mad at her for sleeping with someone else, when he’s done it to her,” I told him. Sidney laughed.

“Whit’s not sleeping with Hailey,” he said.

“You’re calling her a liar?” I asked angrily.

“No, not at all,” he defended himself.

“The definition of a liar is someone who claims something is truth when it’s not. Hailey is claiming she’s been sleeping with Ryan,” I huffed.

“Okay, look, this may not make Ryan sound like the greatest guy, but he loves to brag about every girl he hooks up with. He hasn’t mentioned Hailey since that one night at Diesel when they first met. He just doesn’t keep anything hidden,” Sidney explained.

“Well, Hailey’s basically the same way and she never told any of us about it either. It sounds to me like Ryan likes her, and that’s why he didn’t tell any of you, and why he got angry when he saw Hailey out with another guy last night.”

Wheels started turning in my head. I told Sidney to meet me later at a bar and to bring Ryan, but not to tell him I’d be there. Then I got to work convincing Hailey to come out with me. She finally agreed and we got ready together and she drove. I texted Sidney to ask if he was there yet and he told me they were at a table in the back. When I walked in I walked straight over to them, with Hailey following behind.

“What the fuck is going on?” Ryan asked when he saw Hailey and I walk over. He didn’t exactly look thrilled.

“You two need to talk. Stop fucking around, and just say what you mean,” I told them both. I sat down next to Sidney and we both leaned back and looked at the two of them expectantly.

“You really think I have anything to say to this nutjob?” Hailey asked me jabbing a thumb at Ryan.

“Nutjob? You’re the one who turned me asking who the douchebag with you was last night into me trying to control you! You are severely unhinged!” he yelled at her.

“Matt is not a douchebag. He has more class than you could ever hope to have!” she yelled back.

“If that’s the kind of guy I’m supposed to model myself after to get in societies good graces, I’d rather be looked down on,” he shot back. I glanced over at Sidney and he was trying to keep from laughing.

“What exactly is your malfunction? We hang out, we sleep together, that’s it. You’re not my boyfriend!” she spat at him.

“Thank God for that!” She grabbed his almost full beer and chugged it down in one gulp, much to Ryan’s dismay. Then she grabbed my arm and started to drag me off to the bathroom.

“Ow, Hailey, you need to slow down,” I told her.

“What is wrong with you? Why would you bring me here with him?” I rolled my eyes and wanted to slap her.

“Would you just tell him you like him already?”

“How many times do I have to tell you I don’t like him?”

“A few more obviously, because I don’t believe you. You’ve never been like this with anyone before. Maybe you’ve just found your match.” She opened her mouth to protest, but closed it again. She put her head in her hands.

“What the hell am I going to do?” she asked.

“Go tell him to take you to dinner,” I suggested. She looked up and smiled and nodded. We started to make our way back over to the table but stopped when I saw a group of girls standing there.

“Ooh, groupies,” Hailey commented. “Want to interrupt?”

“No, it looks like they just want autographs and pictures. Let’s just give it a minute,” I told her.

This was my first experience with autograph seekers outside of the rink and I found it amusing. We stood off to the side watching the girls take turns standing between Sidney and Ryan and posing for a picture. When it was time for the last girl she did the same as the others before her. Then just as the camera flash went off she turned her head and planted her lips right on Sid’s. He freaked immediately and pushed her off of him with wide eyes.

“No she didn’t,” Hailey whispered. Okay, time to interrupt.

“Hi,” I said cheerily giving a bit of a wave to the girls. “Hi, sorry, but do you often come to bars to kiss other people’s boyfriends?” Usually I wasn’t a bitchy person, but come on.

“Babe, I swear I wasn’t trying to do anything!” Sidney exclaimed.

“Don’t worry, I saw the whole thing,” I told him. I looked back at the girls who were just standing there, surprised. “I think it’s time you left now. Thanks.” They turned and walked away without a word.

“I want dinner,” Hailey announced. Well, that was blunt.

“It’s kind of late to get food,” Sidney started. I elbowed him and Hailey rolled her eyes. She turned to Ryan.

“I want dinner next time.” He looked at her in shock. He was quiet for a moment, but then nodded.

“Fine, dinner,” he replied. She smiled and he smiled back at her. I looked over at Sidney and winked.

“Anyone need refills?” I asked.

“Let me get the drinks. It’s crowded up there,” Sidney offered standing up. I glared at him.

“I am completely capable of walking up to the bar and getting drinks,” I told him slowly. He sat back down.

“Sure, I’ll take another,” he said.

Ryan and Hailey both nodded and I made my way up to the bar to get our four beers. As I stood there I felt something wet get dumped over my head. When I turned around I saw the girl who had kissed Sidney. I couldn’t believe that she had done that.

“Slut,” she said staring right at me. I snapped.

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I know that you spend all of your waking hours sitting your loser ass in front of the computer fantasizing about dating Sidney Crosby. It must have been such a thrill for you to see him out someplace that would actually let you in. It was also pretty nice that you managed to recruit one of your stalker friends to take a picture of you planting your desperate, dirty lips on his just as the camera clicked so you could go home and post it all over the internet bragging to your other no life friends that you kissed Sidney Crosby. Just know that while you’re bragging about merely touching his lips, I’m bragging to actual real live friends what he’s doing to me in bed on a daily basis. Between us, he’s amazing. I’d be jealous too. Have a nice night.”

I turned to walk away without the beers because there was no way I could stay here with what looked and smelled to be a vodka tonic in my hair. As I took a step and had all my weight on my left leg I felt her shove me. My right leg crashed down on instinct trying to stabilize me and pain shot up through my leg. My hip couldn’t handle the impact and I collapsed to the floor in pain.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? She’s just recovering from a dislocated hip!” I heard Ryan yell as Sidney dropped to the floor next to me. I could feel tears building up.

“Are you okay?” he asked me, concern filling his eyes. Before I had a chance to respond I saw the girl hit the floor next to me, holding the side of her face.

“Since she’s both too nice and too injured to do that, I did it for her. I fucking dare you to stand back up,” I heard Hailey say from above me. The girl pulled her hand from her face and I could see both a bruise forming and blood trickling from her nose.

“Hailey!” I yelled in shock.

“The bitch deserved it. Oh, one more thing.”

Hailey ripped the camera out of one of the other girls’ hands. She opened the section with the memory card, took it out, smashed the camera on the floor, and dropped the memory card into someone’s drink. I wanted to laugh, but the pain in my hip was preventing that from happening. Sidney helped me up.

“Can you walk?” he asked.

I tried to put pressure on my leg and a new wave of pain shot through me. I shook my head. Then right there in the middle of the bar he picked me up and carried me out the door. Ryan and Hailey followed right behind.

“Did I seriously just see the girls start a bar fight?” Ryan asked trying to hold back a smile. I managed a smile and upon seeing that, Sidney started to laugh.

“You must have really said something awful to her,” he commented. I just smiled and shrugged.

“I guess we’re switching passengers.”

Ryan looked over at Hailey and she nodded. Ryan got into the passenger side of her car and Sidney carried me over to the passenger side of his car. He put me down and opened the door for me. Then he picked me back up and put me in. He walked back around the car and got into the drivers seat.

“I’m so sorry about that. I can honestly say that’s never happened to me before,” he apologized.

“It wasn’t your fault,” I told him. He smiled and leaned over to kiss me. “Oh no, you need to wash, rinse, repeat before I touch you.” He laughed and shook his head, starting the car.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chapter 18

Sidney left on a short road trip. They went to New Jersey for a game and then flew up to Toronto. They were only back for two nights before they were flying up to Montreal for a night and I decided to take advantage of one of those nights. The girls stayed out of the house and I asked Sidney to come over for dinner. He came bearing Chinese.

“I’m ready to talk,” I told him when he came back into the living room from cleaning up. He sat down on the couch next to me and smiled.

“It’s about time,” he joked. I narrowed my eyes and threw the fortune cookie I was holding at him.
“I’m serious!”

“Okay, then talk.” I paused for a minute, collecting my thoughts.

“I left the house and went to the library that night because Grace was watching your game,” I started.

“You’re not going to blame the accident on me, are you?” he asked, looking completely serious.

“Of course not. Just let me talk. When I was in the coma I knew something had happened, but I didn’t know how to wake up. I could hear the voices of the people in the room but I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know how much time had gone by, but I started to get tired of trying to do something, anything, and failing. I think I started to give up. Noises and voices started to fade out. I remember wondering if I was dying. Then I heard you. I heard you tell my parents you were in love with me. Suddenly I didn’t want to give up anymore. I wanted to wake up and tell you that I forgave you, that despite what I’d said, I was always going to forgive you. I started to fight again. You saved my life.” He reached over and took my hand as I felt tears falling down my face.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I’d lost you. I was scared every day. Every time my phone rang my heart stopped thinking someone was going to call to tell me that – I never wanted to leave your side.”

“I felt you. Every time you held my hand or kissed my forehead, I felt you.” He smiled. I looked down at our hands intertwined and bit my lip. “I love you, too.”

He moved closer to me and touched his forehead to mine. He wiped the tears from my cheeks and cupped my face in his hands. Then he pressed his lips to mine. My heart started racing. God, how I’d missed the feeling of his lips. I felt a little lightheaded by the time he pulled away.

“Thank you for showing me that part of your life,” I said to him, referring to dealing with the autograph seekers outside of the arena.

“Just remember, you asked for it,” he joked and I couldn’t help but laugh.

A week later I took my finals. I don’t know if I did as well on them as I would have if I’d taken them on time, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter as much. I knew I still wasn’t going to be able to graduate on time with all of my friends, but I was still only a semester away, and I’d be able to finish up in the fall. A few days later I woke up and saw Grace packing some of my stuff into a travel bag.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“Packing some stuff for our trip,” she said without stopping.

“What trip?” I asked, wondering if I’d forgotten something.

She just smiled at me and walked out of the room. She refused to tell me what was going on and I had no choice but to deal with it and go with her to the airport. Hailey drove us, and I found out all of my housemates were in on this surprise trip, even though only Grace was going.
When we got there I realized we weren’t even getting on a normal plane. Our flight was chartered and we didn’t have to deal with things like boarding passes and security. I got on the plane and settled in, waiting to see where we were going.

“Please buckle up your seat belts. We’re going to start descending. We should be in Toronto in just a few minutes,” I heard the pilot announce.

I whipped my head over to Grace. The Penguins were playing in Toronto that night. She just smiled and laughed. It seemed a little strange that I’d been kept in the dark about a trip to see the guys play until the date hit me. It was Valentine’s Day. Normally I didn’t give it a second thought, and it had been the same this year, until now.

There was a car waiting for us and it took us straight to the arena. We made it inside in time for warm ups. I’d never been inside of another rink before and it was pretty cool to see what another team’s atmosphere was like. We found our seats and settled in to watch the game.

During a stoppage in play I noticed that they were putting personalized Valentine’s messages up on the big screen. Grace and I giggled as we read each one. It continued at every stoppage. During one in the second period we were reading them when we both gasped.

“Happy Valentine’s Day Grace and Tanner. Love J & S.” We both looked at each other and started laughing, shaking our heads. The Penguins lost the game 6-2. It hadn’t been a good game and I was pretty worried about the mood Sidney was going to be in. We used our passes to go downstairs and wait for the guys. They walked out together and gave us hugs when they reached us.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Sidney whispered in my ear during the hug. Okay, maybe he wasn’t as upset as I expected.

“Thanks, S,” I joked. He laughed and winked. We walked outside and the team began to board the bus to take them back to the airport. “So I guess we’ll see you guys later.”

“Not so fast. You’ll be seeing them later,” Sidney said pointing to Jordan and Grace. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m going back with the team in Sidney’s seat. I think you two have a flight home tomorrow. I’ll see you then,” Grace told me and gave me a hug before getting on the bus with the rest of the team.

“Are you ready?” Sidney asked me, taking my hand.

“I’m not sure,” I answered honestly. He just laughed and led me to a car that was parked and waiting for us. It was then that I remembered that Grace had packed me a bag that I didn’t have anymore. “Shit, Sidney, I had a bag with me. I must have left it in the other car.”

“It’s at the hotel.”

I knew I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. A few minutes later the car pulled up to a hotel. Sidney led me inside and we got on an elevator. When the doors opened we walked off and he led me to a door at the end of the hallway. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he opened the door.

“Um, isn’t it Valentine’s Day?” I asked as I walked up to the giant Christmas tree in the middle of the main room.

“Not when you’re in here,” he replied. I looked around and saw that there were stockings, wreaths, Santas, snowmen, reindeer, and candy canes all over the room. “You missed Christmas and I wanted to give it to you.” I turned to him and kissed him.

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet. You haven’t even opened your presents.”

“You’re not serious.” I looked under the tree and sure enough there were two wrapped gifts sitting under it. “I don’t have anything for you.”

“I have you, and that’s all I need.” I sat down on the couch and he brought the presents over to me.

He handed me one and I unwrapped it. My eyes widened when I saw a diamond necklace in the box. I ran my hand over it, never having actually seen a necklace like this before. I thanked Sidney and told him I loved it. He just smiled and handed me the second gift. There was a card attached to the top.

“This one was pretty difficult to find,” he told me before I opened the card.

I furrowed my brow at him but opened the blank card. I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun, was written on the inside in Sidney’s handwriting. I recognized the quote immediately as one Mr. Darcy used at the end of Pride and Prejudice as he admitted his feelings for Elizabeth. I opened the present and my hand flew up to my mouth.

“Is this what I think it is?” I asked in shock.

“A first edition,” he responded. I ran my hand over the cover before opening it.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” I read aloud from the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice. I shook my head in disbelief. “This must have cost you a fortune.” I knew very well that a first edition of this book had gone for $125,000 a few years before in an auction.

“Don’t worry about it,” he told me, kissing me gently.

“This has been the best Christmas ever,” I told him. He laughed and helped me up.

“Okay, now on to New Years,” he said leading me into the kitchen of the suite.

When we walked in I saw a Happy New Year 2009 sign, confetti, and a bottle of champagne. He popped open the champagne and poured it into two flutes. I laughed and shook my head at him.

“Happy New Year, Tanner,” he said.

“Happy New Year, Sid,” I returned. We each took a sip of our champagne and then Sidney began to push me towards another room. “Now what?”

He opened the door in front of me to reveal the bedroom. I smiled when I took it all in. There were rose petals surrounding the bed. There were lit candles all over the room and cheesy paper hearts and cupids on the walls. Cheesy was how I liked it.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Baby,” he whispered in my ear. I turned and kissed him hard.

“You are perfect, do you know that?”

He laughed and kissed me. I saw my bag sitting next to the bed and I took out the pajamas that were packed and got ready for bed. When I was done I got into bed and Sidney got in beside me. I cuddled into him and put my head on his chest.

“Thank you so much for everything. You went above and beyond.”

“Nothing is above and beyond when it comes to you. I love you,” he said.

“I love you too.” He placed a kiss on my forehead and I fell asleep in his arms.