Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chapter 28

I stared at my reflection in the mirror and couldn’t believe it. Grace and Kelly looked at me sadly while Hailey and Lisa giggled. I just shook my head at them. I still couldn’t believe it. I was officially bald. I’d decided that instead of dealing with clumps of hair falling out that I should just shave my head. Now I was wondering what the hell I was thinking.

“Look at you, G.I. Jane,” Hailey joked.

“Wow, you’re hilarious,” I retorted, glaring at her.

I got up from the chair I was sitting in and walked out of the bathroom. I noticed my hair lying on the floor and blinked back tears. I still wasn’t okay with this whole having my hair fall out thing.

“What do you think Sid will think?” Grace asked. I shrugged.

“Maybe he’ll think it’s sexy,” Kelly commented. I rolled my eyes at her.

“Or maybe he’ll think you look like a bald 40 year old,” Lisa cracked. I groaned and walked into my room. He was going to be here soon to pick me up for the game.

“What color hair should I have today?” I asked. The five of us stood looking at my wigs.

“I think you should be a redhead,” Grace suggested.

“Red is definitely a good look for you,” Hailey threw in.

“Everyone loves a ginger,” Kelly added.

“You guys are being mean,” I told them.

“We are not. We’re just having fun,” Lisa returned. I sighed and grabbed the auburn colored wig and put it on.

The doorbell rang a little bit later and I grabbed a purse and made my way to the door. Sidney smiled and kissed me when I opened it. I followed him to the car and got in. I rested my head against the headrest and watched buildings go by on the way to the rink. We walked inside when we got there and I waited in the family room for Sidney to come and get me. A little bit later he did, and led me up to his box. I saw that the kids were already there.

“Hey everyone,” Sidney greeted walking in the door.

I stood back and watched all the kids smile and run over to him. I watched two of the boys shake his hand, and the two girls give him hugs. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched his interaction with them. Guys that are good with kids are enormous turn ons. After he signed a few things and hung out for a few minutes talking with the kids and the parents, he came back over to me.

“This is Tanner. I was hoping maybe you guys would be okay sharing the box with her tonight,” Sidney said introducing me.

“Hi, guys,” I greeted. I received a round of hellos, and noticed that everyone’s eyes were now focused on me.

“Well, I’ve got to get downstairs to get ready for the game. Have fun!” Sidney called out as he headed for the door. He winked at me and smiled before he left.

“Why did you want to hang out in the box with us?” one of the boys named Adam asked.

“I thought maybe you guys could help me out with something,” I told him.

“With what?” the older girl named Cadence asked.

“Well, we have something in common,” I said. I reached up and pulled off my wig, exposing my bald head. They all looked up in amazement.

“You have cancer too?” the second boy, Easton, asked. I nodded. “What kind?”

“Brain cancer. I had to have a tumor removed. You can see my scar right here,” I said, bending down and pointing to the scar. They all crowded around me to look at it.

“What did you want help with?” Adam asked.

“I’m having a bit of a hard time handling all of this. Sidney told me how strong all of you were. I thought maybe you could give me some advice on how you guys get through a rough day.” I noticed the younger girl, Fiona, hanging back a bit.

“I play with my dog,” Cadence said.

“Hm, that’s a good idea. I don’t have a dog, but maybe I’ll have to get one.”

The kids continued to tell me all the things they enjoyed doing, especially when they’re not feeling great. I laughed a lot with them. I was impressed with how well they were dealing with their situations. Kids shouldn’t have to go through what they were. Sidney had been right, just seeing them and being around them helped me deal with it.

“Are you Sidney’s girlfriend?” Fiona asked quietly. Everyone’s conversation stopped, including the parents, waiting for the response.

“Yes, I am,” I replied smiling.

“No way!” I heard one of the boys shout. I nodded.

They began to ask questions about what Sidney was really like. I told them that he was exactly the same as he had been when he’d come in to see them. It was nice to be able to tell these kids that their hero really was a nice guy. The game started and everyone settled in to watch. They were so excited when Sid scored the fourth goal of the game. It ended with a 6-1 win over the Devils.

I had spent much of the game talking with the kids about anything and everything. It was really inspiring to be around them. I couldn’t wait for the next game and the next group of kids. I made my way downstairs and met up with the rest of the girls while we waited for the guys to come out.

“How was it?” Sidney asked after greeting me with a kiss.

“I had a great time,” I told him. He smiled and led me out to his car.

“So, I wanted to talk to you about something,” he said seriously after we’d pulled away from the autograph seekers.

“What is it?” I asked nervously. His hands were clenched around the steering wheel and he didn’t even so much as glance over at me.

“Well, I’m thinking about looking for a house after playoffs are over for next year. Would you help me look?” he asked. I let out the breath I was holding. Why was he so nervous about that?

“Of course. I’d love to,” I told him placing my hand on his. He looked over and smiled at me.

We drove the rest of the way to the Lemieux’s in silence. I was tired and fell onto the bed as soon as I got into his bedroom. He grabbed some of the pajamas I kept at his place and tossed them onto the bed next to me. Then he walked into the closet to change out of his suit. He still hadn’t said a word to me, and he was acting a little strange.

“Why were you so nervous about asking me to look at houses with you?” I called to him as I changed.

“I wasn’t nervous,” he called back.

“You’re knuckles were turning white because of how hard you were gripping the steering wheel as you asked me,” I corrected. He walked out of the closet in just a pair of shorts and sat down on the bed next to me.

“It’s just really important that you like the house I buy,” he said.

“I’m sure I’ll love it. I just don’t get why that’s so important and I still don’t get why you were nervous.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“Because I want it to be your house too,” he explained. My eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Are you asking me to-" I broke off. He had that serious expression on his face again.

“Move in with me. Come with me to Nova Scotia this summer, and then live with me next season.” My jaw dropped. This had literally come out of left field for me. We’d never discussed what we would do over the summer, let alone living together.

“Sid, I don’t know. I…..my doctors are here,” I stammered.

“I’ve already found the best doctor near Cole Harbour. I didn’t set anything up because I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but I did my research and called them. You could continue everything up there.”

Wow, he’d really thought this out. I took a moment to think about it. Was I really ready to live with him? Was I ready to deal with his crazy game day superstitions? Was he ready to deal with me when I had a big paper or test coming up? I knew that I loved him though, so shouldn’t that be enough?

“We’ve never even talked about this,” I said. He looked away and ran a hand through his hair again.

“I know. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have sprung this on you.” He got up from the bed and started pacing.

“Well, why don’t we see how the summer goes living together, like a trial run. If we don’t hate each other by the time it’s time to come back then we can make it a permanent deal,” I suggested. He stopped pacing and looked over at me. A smile came over his face.

“I can handle that,” he said.

He took my face in his hands and kissed me. When he pulled away I looked up at him and smiled. I couldn’t believe it. I, Tanner Falco, who hadn’t ever even had a serious relationship before, was moving in with her boyfriend. After agreeing, I started to get excited. I almost wished playoffs were over so we could start looking at houses now.

“We’re keeping the current arrangements until the summer right? I don’t know that seeing playoff Sid on the day I move in would start us off on the right foot,” I joked. He laughed.

“You’re probably right. I figured you’d want to stay in the house with the girls until graduation anyway.” He was right. I wanted to spend as much time with them before school ended as possible. None of us knew what a few months from now would hold.

“Well, as long as we’re dishing out surprises, I have one for you,” I told him, my smile fading a bit. He hadn’t seen my head yet.

“Oh yeah? What is it?” he asked.

I felt my stomach tighten as I thought about what to say. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to having a bald girlfriend. I decided to just pull the wig off instead of telling him what I did. It seemed easier. I did just that and watched his eyes widen in surprise. He was quiet for a minute as he looked at me.

“Does this mean I can rub your head for good luck before games?” he asked, a grin spreading across his face. I threw a pillow at him.

“You’re an asshole!” I yelled through my laughter. I felt relieved at his reaction.

He pulled the covers down and I crawled under the blankets with him. I cuddled up in his arms and kissed him lightly. He wrapped his arms around me and my eyes became heavy with sleep. Before dozing off I felt him kiss where my scar was. I smiled as I thought about how I had the perfect guy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chapter 27

I was bundled up but I couldn’t help but smile as I glanced over at Sidney in the driver’s seat. It was the first day that I’d really felt up to doing something and I was ecstatic. Sidney pulled into the parking lot and then helped me out of the car. It was a fairly warm day for late March, but I was still a little cold.

“Are you ready?” he asked with a smile. I beamed up at him.

“It’s been way too long since I’ve been here,” I replied. He took my hand and we walked side by side into the zoo.

The team had a shorter than usual practice and Sidney had rushed home to see how I was feeling. When I told him it was a good day he asked if I was up for going out. I had been hesitant at first since it was only yesterday when I’d bought the wigs, but when he mentioned the zoo I ran straight into the bathroom to put one on.

We only had a few hours to spend there before the zoo closed so I kept myself from standing at any one exhibit too long. With just over an hour left before closing we made our way to see the bears. When I’d had enough of them we moved to our last stop, the polar bears.

As I stood there watching them Sidney’s phone rang and he moved away to take the call. I didn’t mind and watched them move about in pure delight. I was hardly going to complain about watching them until closing, but I wondered where Sidney had gone when he didn’t rejoin me after a while. I turned around to see him talking to a male zookeeper. When he noticed me looking at them he told the man something and then walked over.

“Tanner, this is Zack Bairstow. He works here at the zoo, mainly with the bears,” Sidney introduced us.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said shaking his hand. I was still confused on how Sidney knew the guy.

“And it’s really nice to meet you. Sidney’s told me a lot about you,” he replied.

“Has he?” I asked looking over at Sidney. He just shrugged.

“I found him standing here one day for hours in the cold and we began talking. He came back a few times while you were in the coma. He talked about you all the time,” he explained. I looked at Sidney again with my eyebrows raised.

“He didn’t tell me.” Sid just smiled.

“Well, when I saw Sidney out here again I just wanted to come out and say hi. When he told me you were here I had to meet you. He told me you have a semester of school left. When you’re done you should come by and ask for me. We’ll see what kind of job openings we have with our bears.” My eyes went wide in surprise.

“Thank you so much. I appreciate that. I will definitely come by.” He smiled and shook my hand again before shaking Sid’s.

“It was nice to meet you,” he said to me. Then he turned towards Sidney. “Good luck the rest of the season.” Sidney gave him a wave before turning to look at me.

“Did you know about that?” I asked him.

“I swear I had no idea.” I was still in shock when we got back to my house later that night.

I walked into Mellon Arena the next night with Grace and Hailey. We parted once inside. They were heading to their normal seats while I was on my way up to Mario’s box. It was rare for me to have a good day, let alone two in a row, so I was excited to be here at the game against the Rangers. Despite feeling pretty good, everyone insisted that I sit in the box instead of in the crowd. At first I wasn’t thrilled with the idea but once I reached the box I quickly changed my mind.

“Hi, Tanner, how are you?” Nathalie asked me giving me a hug as I walked in.

“Good, thanks. How are you?” I returned.

“I’m getting along,” she joked.

Mario saw me and came over, greeting me with a hug as well. They told me to sit anywhere I liked so I took a seat next to Nathalie. I was provided with as much food and drink as I wanted throughout the game. A girl could get used to that. At some point I glanced over to one of the other boxes and saw a bunch of Sidney’s stuff in there.

“What’s the story on that box?” I asked Nathalie pointing over to it.

“Oh, that’s a box that Sidney has for kids to come watch the game. It’s usually kids with disabilities, cancer, that sort of thing.” I felt my heart melting as she told me that. “He usually makes an appearance up here before the game to sign things for the kids and meet them. It’s such a thrill for them.”

“I’m sure it is,” I said with a smile. I made a mental note to ask him about it later.

When the game was over I followed Nathalie downstairs where I met up with the rest of the girls. I sat down on one of the couches, pretty tired from being out. I listened to the conversation, but stayed fairly quiet while it went on. I was ready for a nap.

“Tanner, I have to tell you, blonde is a good look for you,” Jenny called over to me. I smiled and fluffed up the wig.

“Well, they have more fun, right?” I joked. She laughed along with the other girls. While the blonde wig I’d bought was quickly becoming a favorite, I knew that I’d always be a brunette.

“Hey, Babe,” Sidney said a little while later after coming into the room. I smiled up at him as he bent down to kiss me. He held out a hand and I took it so he could help me up off the couch.

“What’s the plan?” I asked.

“A bunch of us were thinking of going out for dinner and then heading over to Flower’s for the night. Are you up for it?” he asked.

“Tell you what. Drop me off at my place and go get dinner. That will easily take over an hour. I’ll take a nap. Just call me when you’re done and then I’ll go over with you,” I told him.

“Are you sure?” I smiled and kissed him in response. He took my hand and we headed out of the rink.

He dropped me off at my house and I immediately headed to bed and fell asleep. The ringing of my phone woke me up and I felt refreshed. A little bit later Sidney was at the door to pick me up. We drove over to Marc and Vero’s and headed inside. It looked like almost the whole team was there. We settled in on a couch and joined in the conversation.

“So, I heard you have a box for kids at the games,” I said to him a little while later.

“Yeah. It’s just something I like to do. The kids love it.” He shrugged it off like it was no big deal.

“I think it’s really sweet of you to do something like that. It’s probably the highlight of many of those kids’ lives.”

“Unfortunately a lot of them are terminal. Even so, they’re always the happiest kids I’ve ever met, no question.” I was saddened by that news and in awe at the same time. “Hey, I have an idea.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s really fine if you don’t want to, I won’t be offended or upset. I also don’t want you to feel like you’re obligated to do it at all either. There’s only two home games left before playoffs. Would you want to sit in there with the kids?” I took his question in for a minute.

“Because I’m in the same situation?” I asked. He nodded.

“Yeah. I mean it always helps to have someone that knows what you’re going through there for you. I figure these kids need all the support they can get. You don’t have to. It just kind of popped into my head.”

“No, it’s okay. I just…..wouldn’t people figure it out?” I asked.

“Figure what out?”

“That we’re together,” I said. He thought about it for a minute.

“I don’t care. So what if everyone finds out? I’m not ashamed of you.” I laughed.

“That’s good to know,” I joked. He rolled his eyes at me.

“So what do you say?” he asked.

“I’m in.” He smiled and kissed me.

We stayed longer than I thought I’d be able to. I guess I was just having such a good time that I hardly remembered how sick I was. It was nice to be out and around people whose company I enjoyed. I decided that even if I wasn’t feeling great I was going to force myself to get out of the house more often. Sidney and I were the first to leave but everyone understood.

“Mind if I stay here tonight?” Sid asked when we pulled into the driveway.

“Not at all,” I told him with a smile. We walked into an empty house. It was a Saturday so I figured Kelly and Lisa were out somewhere. “I’m going to miss this place.”

“What do you mean?” he asked pulling a bottle of water out of the refrigerator.

“Well, I’m basically getting kicked out in two months.” He froze in place in confusion. I rolled my eyes. “School ends in the beginning of May. Then the lease is up on the house since everyone’s graduating. Well, everyone but me.”

“What are you going to do?” he asked following me into my room. I shrugged.

“I’ll probably have to start looking for a place for the summer since my doctor is here. Then I’ll have to find something for the fall semester if I can’t stay in whatever place I find for the summer. It’s all kind of up in the air right now. I just know that I’ll miss this house. The five of us have lived here since sophomore year. I hate change.”

He put his arm around me and pulled me to him. He placed a kiss on my forehead as I leaned into him. I got up a few minutes later and changed into pajamas while Sidney stripped down to his boxer briefs. God, he was sexy in them. I cuddled up in bed next to him and fell asleep.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chapter 26

So in light of some new information I'm going to change things up just a little. In order to keep the timeline I had originally had in mind for the story I'm going to edit the last couple chapters. Just pretend you never read that Tanner was getting radiation treatments and she's only doing chemo.

I woke up and felt a headache starting. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was only 7:30 in the morning. I shifted off of my shoulder and felt Sidney shift next to me. He didn’t wake up, but there was no way I was falling back to sleep. I laid in bed, staring up at the ceiling for another hour until Sidney’s alarm went off. Something just didn’t feel right.

“Morning, Tanner,” he mumbled rolling over to throw his arm over me. I plastered a fake smile on my face as I turned towards him.

“Morning.” He placed a kiss on my forehead before getting out of bed. I watched him walk into the bathroom and begin his morning routine. I was wide awake but couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed.

“Are you ready to go?” he called to me from the closet as he got dressed when he’d come back up from having breakfast. I was still laying in bed and wasn’t anywhere near close.

“Yep, whenever you are,” I lied. I forced myself to sit up and get out of bed. I chose to stay in pajamas knowing he was going to drop me off at home. It wasn’t like my housemates had never seen me in them before. In fact, I was rarely dressed at all anymore.

“Okay, let’s go.” I followed him downstairs and got into his car. We drove to my house in silence. “I’ll stop by after practice.”

“Sid, you need a break.”

“A break from what?”

“Me.” He looked at me like I’d just slapped him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. I let my head fall back to the headrest.

“You’re stressed out. I can see it. Go out with the guys sometime. I won’t be upset. I have the girls here. Do something for yourself.” He sighed and shook his head.

“You’re not a chore, Tanner.”

“I know, but you need guy time. There are four other people here who can and are willing to share the responsibilities of getting me places and making sure I'm okay. I don’t care when it is, but you need to pick a night and go out. Just please promise you’ll go and have a good time.” He let out an unnecessary dramatic sigh.

“I’ll see, okay?” I smiled and opened the car door.

“I love you. Have fun.” I closed the door and walked inside.

About a week later I spent an entire day laying on the couch watching TV. I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me for the past week. All I knew was that I felt like something was wrong even though I couldn’t explain it. Just before one of Sid’s games I hadn’t felt up to going to I finally felt like I had enough energy to get in the shower. I turned on the hot water and stripped down.

I stepped in and let the water run over me for a few minutes until I felt relaxed. I had closed my eyes, just allowing the warm sensations to run over me. I ran a hand through my hair and opened my eyes. I let out a gasp at what I saw. Clumps of my hair were circling the drain. I ran my hand through my hair again and another clump came out with it.

I forgot about showering as tears came to my eyes. I fell to the floor of the shower and stared at my hair clogging the drain. I just sat there and cried. I lost complete track of time as the tears fell. I’d known this was coming, but I wasn’t at all prepared for it. I heard a knock at the door and swallowed before answering.

“Tanner? You’ve been in there for 45 minutes and the game is starting. Are you okay?” Kelly called through the door. I shut off the water.

“I’ll be right out!” I called.

I wrapped the rest of my hair in a towel in embarrassment and dried off. I put the clothes I’d brought in with me on and took my place on the couch. It got to be midnight and Sidney hadn’t come by yet. He must have gone out with the guys. Why had he chosen tonight to be the night to go out? I needed him. He hadn’t even checked in.

Tired of watching brainless TV while waiting for him to come home I made my way into my room. I got into bed and attempted to sleep but I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking. How was it that the one night I’ve really needed Sidney he chose to go out? And why hadn’t he called to say that he was? I heard my phone ring and saw that it was Grace.

“Hey,” I answered. I could hear music in the background and figured she was out with Jordan.

“Did something happen between you and Sid?” she asked. I sat up.

“No, why?”

“Well, he’s here and he never comes out without you. He’s kind of…..well…..if nothing happened, it’s not a big deal,” she stammered.

“What the hell is going on?” I asked.

“He’s just been with Max all night and Brianne’s not in town,” she replied.

I clenched my jaw knowing exactly what that meant. Max and Brianne had a strange relationship. They broke up and got back together about once a week. When they were broken up Max went after any ass he could find. I didn’t judge him. Brianne knew exactly what he was doing and it didn’t seem to bother her much, so I didn’t see why it should bother me. Except for tonight.

“Is he driving?”
“No, he wanted a ride with me back to the house since he's been drinking.”

“Get him a ride back to his place.” I didn’t give Grace time to respond before hanging up.
I was angry. No, I wasn’t angry, I was pissed. She hadn’t said he was doing anything wrong, but that didn’t matter. Today was really one of the only days since I’d started treatment that I desperately needed him instead of the girls around and he hadn’t bothered to even call me after the game so I could ask him to come over instead. Well, I didn’t need him coming here drunk and smelling like booze either.

At about 10 the next morning I heard a knock on my door. I hadn’t slept most of the night. Instead I had tossed and turned with a million thoughts running through my head. I looked up to see Lisa open the door and peek in.

“Hey, I wasn’t sure if you were awake. I’m making waffles and wanted to know if you wanted me to make you some. I have fresh strawberries and everything,” she said with a smile.

“No, thanks,” I responded and pulled the blankets over my head. I expected to hear my door close but I felt her sit on my bed instead.

“Okay, you were quiet during the game last night and now you don’t want waffles with strawberries? What is going on? I know something’s wrong.” I sighed and pulled the blankets off of me hating that she knew me so well.

“Look,” I said simply. I reached up and brushed the hair from my face. I noticed that more hair had fallen out during the night. I saw her eyes widen when she saw me. I wasn’t sure exactly how I looked, but I could tell that it was obvious.

“I’ve got an idea. Get up and get dressed.”

She pranced out of my room and I stared after her. I pulled the blankets back over my head so I could stay in bed. I quickly changed my mind when I realized she wouldn’t allow me to. I got up and threw on a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, and a hat. I walked out into the living room to see her coming down the stairs holding her car keys.

“What are we doing?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” she told me cryptically.

I rolled my eyes and got into her car. She drove for a bit until she finally pulled into a parking lot. I wasn’t sure where exactly we were going and looked around at the store fronts trying to figure it out. When I saw the sign I knew.

“I don’t know that I’m ready for this,” I said.

“When will you be? We don’t have to get anything. We can just have fun with it.” I nodded and got out of the car, following her inside.

I stopped just inside the door and looked around at all the wigs. It looked like everything you could possibly want was available. The fact that I even had to look at wigs began to upset me all over again. I didn’t have time to get too upset as I felt something hit me in the side. I looked down at the floor and saw a blonde wig lying next to me.

“I always wanted to know what you looked like as a blonde,” Lisa called over. I picked it up and shook my head.

“Blonde is not my color,” I called back tossing it back to her. She rolled her eyes.

“Right now, everything is your color.”

She carried an outrageously bright red wig over to me and before I could stop her she had pulled my hat off and put it on my head. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and couldn’t help but smile. I looked ridiculous. I loved it.

Lisa and I spent the next hour trying on just about every wig in the store. After trying on all the crazy wigs I knew I wouldn’t buy we began to look for stuff I would actually like. I told her about the situation with Sidney not being there last night. She did her best to give me advice, but I still didn't feel any better about it.

We walked out of the store with four wigs in tow and drove back to the house. I was extremely grateful that it was Lisa who had taken me. She was the comic of the group and she made an uncomfortable situation seem fun.

I’d left my phone in my room when we’d gone and I saw that the red light was flashing, informing me that I had a message. When I looked at it, I saw that I had about a dozen of them, all from Sidney. I sighed before sending him a text telling him to come over when he could. Half an hour later he was at the front door.

“You’re mad at me,” he said when I pulled open the door. I just shrugged and moved aside so he could come in. “I’m really sorry, Tanner, but I have no idea what I did.” I walked into my bedroom and he followed me in. I shut the door behind us.

“You didn’t call last night,” I said to him.

“I didn’t know I had to check in,” he replied getting defensive.

“You always call.” He sighed.

“You told me to go out with the guys so I went out with the guys.”

“But you didn’t call to tell me.” He let out a frustrated growl.

“Is that all your going to say? I’m sorry I didn’t call. I figured that since Grace and Hailey were with us you would know, okay?”

“I really needed you last night and if you’d called I could have told you that. Instead you spent the night getting drunk with Max and whatever jersey chasers he was hitting on at the time.” I sat down on the bed while Sidney remained standing.

“Do you honestly think I did anything?” Now he started to sound angry.

"Well, I wouldn't blame you. Who wants to date the girl with cancer?" I yelled, sarcastically.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?! I've been by your side the whole time! It's stressful having to deal with you and hockey at the same time!" he yelled back.

"Well, I'm glad I'm something you have to 'deal with.' I don't need you to deal with me. If that's how you feel about it, then just get out."

"Jesus, Tanner, you can't be serious! I've never once complained!" he growled out in exasperation.

"Not to me anyway," I shot at him.

"Yes, it's been hard. It's hard for everyone, Tanner. This doesn't just affect you. It affects everyone in your life! You need to realize that!"

"I don't need you! I don't need any of them! I've always taken care of myself and I can keep taking care of myself. I didn't ask for cancer and I never asked for you help. You gave it to me, Sidney, and I accepted it, but I didn't ask for it!" Tears were threatening to spill down my face. I hadn't intended on this happening, but we were in our first ever full on screaming match.

"You can't do this on your own. Why are you being so stubborn about this? Just accept that other people are involved!"

“No, Sidney. This isn’t about you or them. It’s about me. It’s about this!” I yelled pulling my hat off and letting my hair fall to my shoulders. He glared at me for a minute, but then his gaze softened.

“Oh God, Tanner.” He fell to the bed next to me and grabbed my hand. “I’m an idiot.” I felt the tears start to fall. It wasn’t exactly how I’d planned on telling him, but now it was out.

“I noticed last night before the game. All I wanted was to just be with you. I really wanted you to be here.” It was then that I realized I was wrong. I'd said I didn't need anyone, but that wasn't true. I really needed him. He pulled me into his arms and I buried my face into his shoulder.

“I’m so sorry. I should have called. I should have been here.” I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything really to say. I knew that we both felt terrible about the things we'd said.

“I bought some wigs with Lisa today. I can be a whole new person if I want,” I told him after a few minutes, trying to lighten the mood. He pulled away.

“What kind of wigs?” he asked. I could see a hint of a smile playing on his lips. I grabbed the bag and pulled one out, putting it on.

“How does blonde look on me?” I asked. He just laughed and kissed me.“I think you’re beautiful no matter what color your hair is.” I smiled at him, glad to have that weight off of my shoulders.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chapter 25

About a week later I was allowed to leave the hospital. I had started the chemo after the surgery proved that the tumor was in fact malignant, and felt pretty weak. I stayed in bed or on the couch most days just because I was too weak and tired to move much. Even so I was coping and the girls and Sidney were enormous helps.

Thankfully the Penguins were home the entire second half of March so Sidney was always around taking care of me. Having him hold my hair while I threw up wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I thought about spending time with him, but there was no way around it.

“Hey, babe, how are you feeling?” Sidney asked walking into the living room after a practice. I shrugged.

“I’m having a decent day,” I told him. He sat down next to me and kissed me.

“I’ve got some news. I’m not sure how you’ll take it,” he cautioned.

“What’s going on?” I asked nervously.

“My family is coming in tomorrow for the games this weekend. They want to meet you if you feel up to it.”

I sat in silence for a few minutes. His family is coming and they wanted to meet me now? I was throwing up like crazy, I could barely sit up for more than a few minutes, and this was the time when they wanted to meet me? I didn’t feel up to it at all, but I knew I didn't have much of a choice.

“I can do my best,” I told him. He smiled and put his arm around me, pulling me into him.

“I thought maybe you could just come stay with me for the weekend. I’ll pick you up after the game tomorrow night so that you can spend Saturday with us on your own terms. Then you could have brunch with us Sunday before the afternoon game.”

He’d thought it out. He’d obviously thought about what would make me most comfortable and I loved him for that. I thought about it for a minute and didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work. Obviously this wasn’t the ideal situation to meet anyone’s family, but I couldn’t do much about that.

“Sure, sounds good.” He smiled and kissed me again. We stayed on the couch watching TV for a few hours before he left for dinner.

The next night I sat in the living room watching the game with the girls. I’d tried to convince Grace and Hailey to go, but they insisted on staying with me. I already had a bag packed by the time the game started. Thankfully the Pens won so I knew that Sid would be in a good mood.

I checked my reflection in the mirror and frowned at what I saw. I was pale and fragile looking. There were bags under my eyes showing how exhausted I was pretty much all the time. I’d thrown my hair into a ponytail because it looked lifeless. I shook my head and walked back out to the living room to wait for Sidney.

He came a while later to pick me up. He told me that he’d already informed his family that they were going to have to wait until tomorrow to meet me because I’d probably be tired. I was grateful for that and got into bed as soon as we were in his room. I woke up the next morning when his alarm went off.

“Do you feel up to coming down for some breakfast?” he asked.

I smiled and nodded. I didn’t bother changing out of my sweatpants and t-shirt to go downstairs. They were just going to have to understand that I was too tired to put any effort into what I looked like. I could hear voices in the kitchen before we made our way in. I saw Sid’s parents leaning against a counter talking to Mario and Nathalie. They all looked over and smiled when they saw us enter the room.

“Mom, Dad, this is Tanner,” Sidney introduced us. They walked over to me and I shook their hands.

“It’s really nice to meet you both,” I said.

“And it’s really nice to finally meet you. Sid talks about you all the time,” Trina returned with a genuine smile on her face.

“It’s the first time anything or anyone has ever been talked about more than hockey,” Troy said with a laugh. I smiled and turned to look at Sid while playfully elbowing him.

“I’ve made some waffles with some fresh fruit and whipped cream to put on top if you’re interested,” Nathalie offered. I didn’t have much of an appetite these days, but those were the magic words.

“I would love some. It’s my favorite breakfast,” I told her, my smile growing.

“That’s what Sidney said,” she replied, winking and handing me a plate.

I put a waffle on the plate and topped it with fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and some whipped cream. Everyone else grabbed some breakfast and we made our way into the dining room. The conversation was good as we ate, and his parents apologized for Taylor sleeping in. When Sidney got ready to leave for practice I went upstairs to get some more sleep.

I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was asleep for a while before I woke up to a familiar feeling. I rushed into the bathroom and leaned over the toilet. I was so busy getting sick that I didn’t hear the footsteps enter the room. It wasn’t until I felt someone tying my hair back that I realized anyone was in there with me. I looked up and saw Trina standing behind me.
“Sorry if I’m intruding, but I just came to see if you wanted any lunch and heard you getting sick,” she apologized as she filled a glass with water and grabbed a towel.

“No, it’s okay. I’m sorry you had to come in during this,” I apologized back taking the towel from her and wiping the tears from my eyes. I took the water next and rinsed my mouth out.

“I really was looking forward to meeting you. I’m just sorry that it has to be under these circumstances. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.” I flushed the toilet and Trina helped me up.

“If it hadn’t been me, it would have been somebody else,” I told her with a shrug.

“That doesn’t mean I have to like it. I just can’t believe a sweet girl like you has had to endure what you have the last few months. I don’t know that I could be as strong as you,” she commented. I smiled.

“It’s not strength, it’s fear. I’m just afraid of not accomplishing everything I’d always hoped to.”

“I don’t believe you’re not strong for a second. Sidney would never be able to fall in love with someone who wasn’t,” she argued.

“He’s an amazing person. You’ve really done an unbelievable job raising him. I’ve never met anyone as sweet, caring, and supportive as Sidney is. In a way, he’s saved my life twice. I just don’t know where I’d be without him.” She smiled at me.

“So how about that lunch?” she asked.

I nodded and followed her downstairs. Mario was at the rink so it was Trina, Troy, Lauren, Nathalie, and I having lunch together. Conversation came easily and I found myself really starting to like Sid’s family. I’d been nervous, never having met a boyfriend’s family before, but I felt pretty comfortable around them.

While everyone else settled on what to me looked like a gourmet lunch I picked at a salad. My stomach still wasn’t feeling great, but I knew it was best to have something in it just in case. When lunch was finished I was kicked out of the kitchen and told to just go relax and watch some TV. I settled into a couch and Troy came in a minute later.

“What are you watching?” he asked sitting down on a chair next to me. I shrugged.

“I’m not really a big fan of afternoon TV. Did you want to watch something?” I offered. He shook his head.

“I’m not a big TV person.”

I nodded and just turned the television off. I had a feeling Troy had followed me in here to talk. I felt my stomach start to churn a bit and wasn’t sure if it was because I was still feeling sick, or if I was nervous about what he wanted to say.

“You know, Tanner, I have to admit that I was a little nervous about this relationship when Sidney first started talking about you at the beginning of the season.” Uh-oh, was this going to go where I thought it was? Was he about to tell me I was bad for Sidney? “You have to understand all the sacrifices Sidney has made to make it where he is now. As his father I don’t want to see anything happen to ruin what he’s worked so hard for.”

I took a deep breath and didn’t say anything. I didn’t know exactly what to say. Instead I just waited for Troy to continue. I hadn’t gotten the feeling that Troy didn’t like me either time I’d been around him, but maybe I’d been wrong.

“Honestly, I was thrilled when you and Sidney broke things off in December,” he continued.

“You were happy about that?” I asked in horror. Had he really just told me that? He nodded.

“I was. Not because you two broke up, but because I saw that you weren’t in the relationship for Sid’s status and money. When you found out the truth about him and got angry instead of getting excited I knew that you weren’t someone I would have to worry about,” he said with a smile. I smiled too as I felt all the tension start to leave my body.

“I could care less about all that stuff. All I’ve ever wanted was to be happy.”

“And Sidney makes you happy,” he finished. I nodded. “I can tell. I really am very sorry for everything you’ve had to go through in the last few months. I’ve seen what it’s done to my son, so I can only imagine what it’s done to you. It seems to me that you’ve handled everything amazingly and I truly think only a very strong person could do that.”

“Thank you for saying that, but it’s really Sidney that’s the strong one. I couldn’t have made it through everything without him.”

Troy smiled and I felt better knowing that the conversation had certainly not gone the way I thought it would. Just then Trina and Nathalie made their way into the room. Mario came home not long after and joined in the conversation. Taylor and the Lemieux kids came in a little later and grabbed the remote to turn on the TV. I settled in to listen to Sid’s parents tell some highly amusing stories about his childhood.

Sidney walked into the house after practice and could hear laughter coming from the living room. He made his way in that direction and stopped in the entrance. He smiled to himself as he saw Tanner and his mom sitting on a couch, Mario and Nathalie sitting on another, his dad in a chair, and his sister talking with Mario and Nathalie’s kids while watching TV. He could tell that his parents liked Tanner, and he wasn’t surprised. There was no way anyone could dislike her.

“I’m not interrupting, am I?” he asked walking into the room. Everyone looked up at him and smiled, but his eyes were on Tanner. He hadn’t seen her smile like that in a long time.

“Well, sort of. They were just getting to the good stories about you,” she told him with a laugh. He groaned.

“Oh great. Like what?” She giggled.

“Puckchop ring a bell?” she asked raising an eyebrow.

He covered his face with his hands as he sat down on the couch between Tanner and his mom. Puck chop was the way he’d pronounced pork chop when he was a kid. Then when he was given a stuffed pig to play with he’d decided it was a good name since it was for a pig and sounded like a hockey name. Puckchop had been his best friend for years.

“I’m glad I came home now then, before the stories got any worse,” he joked.

They stayed in the living room talking for another hour before he noticed Tanner’s energy beginning to fade. He suggested they go take a nap. She agreed and he helped her upstairs. He pulled her into him and she fell asleep almost immediately.

He placed a kiss on her forehead and stroked her hair. He wasn’t tired, but he’d wanted an excuse to just lay with Tanner for a while. As he watched her sleep he realized that he was going to marry her. It wasn’t going to happen now or even necessarily anytime soon, but he knew it was going to happen.

He let himself think about their future for the first time. Before he’d just expected to have plenty of time to figure it out, but now he wasn’t going to delay anything. He had already been thinking about looking for his own place for next season. Now it was definitely going to happen.

He thought about how he might propose to her someday. He laughed to himself at some of the ideas. The last thing he thought about was what their kids would be like. He’d always known he wanted a family someday, but this was the first time he thought about what it would be like with someone in particular.

He kissed her forehead again as he pulled her as close to him as he could get her. The memory of their day at the zoo flooded his brain. He realized as he thought through the events of that day that he’d fallen in love with her as she watched the polar bears. He smiled to himself and fell asleep as he realized the polar bears had given both of their lives direction.