Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chapter 45

I packed up my books and walked out of class. I made my way across campus and walked out into downtown Pittsburgh. Looking over at the rink, I wondered who was going to win today. When I walked into the deli I saw that it was me. I smiled to myself as I found a table and sat down. A few minutes later Sidney walked in, a hat pulled low over his face.

“And I’m up 3-2!” I exclaimed after he’d given me a kiss and sat down. He scowled over at me.

“That’s not fair! You know I had to stay late!” he argued. I grinned over at him and shrugged.

“Not my fault,” I joked. He narrowed his eyes at me.

Because of my class schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays I got out of one class around the same time Sidney got out of practice. We’d started meeting automatically for lunch at a deli near both the school and the rink on those days. I don’t know how it had happened, but it had become a race to beat the other there.

“What do you want?” he growled. I gave him my order and watched him walk up to the counter. Loser paid for lunch.

We talked about his practice and my class while we ate. Thankfully it was pretty much the same crowd in the deli every time we were there so after the first two days people were leaving us alone. We finished eating and Sidney had to leave to do some promo stuff and I had another class to go to. We parted ways and I walked back onto campus.

When my second and last class for the day was over I got into my car and drove home. Taking advantage of being in the house alone, I got an early start on a paper. Writing one was never easy with Sidney constantly over my shoulder asking me what I was working on. Just as I got into the zone, the doorbell rang, breaking me out of my train of thought.

I groaned in annoyance as I got up from the desk in the office and walked to the door. I looked out the peephole to make sure it would be okay to answer it. I saw a very pretty blonde standing on the doorstep. I hesitated on answering, wondering what exactly this girl wanted. Since Sidney wasn’t home, I figured it would be okay and I pulled open the door.

“Oh, hi,” she said to me in surprise. Obviously I wasn’t who she was expecting.

“Hi,” I replied with a smile. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I’m Tamara. I live next door. I was just wondering if Sidney was home,” she told me. So this was the beautiful daughter Patty had told me about. She seemed to be very overly dressed and made up for a visit next door at 4 in the afternoon.

“No, he’s not home right now. Can I help you with something?” I asked. She shifted from one foot to another and bit her lip as she considered the question.

“I guess. Could you give him a message?” I nodded and she continued. “My parents wanted to invite him over for dinner sometime this week to welcome him to the neighborhood. We weren’t sure what his schedule was so he can pick whatever night works best for him.” I noticed that her explanation had only included him, and not me in the invitation. I wondered if that was on purpose.

“I can do that,” I told her. She took out a piece of paper and handed it to me.

“This is the number so he can call and let us know what night works best for him. Make sure you give him the message before you leave.”

“Leave?” I asked in confusion. Where did she think I was going? She nodded.

“Yeah, to go home for the day. I mean, housework doesn’t last all night, right?” she said, condescendingly. My jaw dropped in shock. She thought I was his maid? I self-consciously put a hand up to the scarf on my head.

“No, it doesn’t,” I responded through clenched teeth.

“If he’s not home when you leave, make sure you leave a message for him,” she ordered. I gave her a tight smile.

“I’ll make sure he gets it.”

“Thanks.” With that she turned and made her way off the front stoop and walked across the lawn to her own house.

I closed the door absolutely steaming. I made my way back into the office and tossed the piece of paper on the desk next to my laptop. After staring at the computer screen for over ten minutes and thinking of nothing but how angry I was I gave up on continuing the paper. I saved it and then picked up my phone. I needed someone to bitch to.

Sidney pulled into the driveway and then into the garage just after 5. It had been a long day at the rink, but that’s what pre-season was like. Now all he wanted to do was cuddle up with Tanner and relax. He walked into the house from the garage and immediately heard voices. Who was here?

“You’re kidding me,” a female voice said.

“It’s completely true. I mean, seriously. Really?!” Tanner exclaimed, sounding angry.

“Who in Pittsburgh doesn’t know about you?” the other female asked. He turned the corner into the kitchen and saw that it was Kelly. They both heard him walk in and turned to look at him. Kelly smiled over at him, but Tanner scowled.

“What’s going on?” he asked. Tanner crossed her arms over her chest and Kelly gave him a sympathetic look.

“You received a dinner invitation from next door today,” Tanner told him. He still wasn’t sure why she seemed angry.

"Okay,” he said cautiously. She hastily picked up a piece of paper off the island next to her. Then she took three steps over to him and thrust her hand out to him.

“This is the number you’re supposed to call to tell them which night you can make it.” He took the paper from her and glanced down at the number on it.

“Okay, well, what night works best for you?” he asked. Her eyes widened and she sneered at him.

“What part of what I said to you didn’t you understand?” she spat at him. He went back over this short conversation in his head wondering what he’d done wrong. He was coming up with a blank.

“I’m lost,” he replied. She groaned.

“I said you were invited. Since when am I your fucking maid?!” she yelled. He was speechless as she turned and stormed out of the kitchen. He heard her angry footsteps stomp up the stairs a moment later. He turned back to Kelly in shock.

"What did I do?” he asked. Kelly smiled over at him and explained what had happened earlier between Tanner and Tamara.

“Anyway, I think I should be going. Tell Tanner I’ll call her later,” Kelly told him.

He said bye to Kelly and then braced himself as he walked upstairs. He found Tanner sitting on the edge of the bed in their bedroom. She looked up at him when he walked in and he noticed that she didn’t look quite as angry as she did downstairs. In fact, she smiled at him.

“I’m sorry I was crazy down there. I was in the middle of a bitch fit when you walked in. You just got caught up in the middle of it,” she apologized. He let out a sigh of relief that she wasn’t mad at him for this and sat down next to her.

“It’s okay. I’m sorry for what happened. Kelly told me. I’ll clear it up,” he assured her.

"It is your fault though,” she accused.


“If you weren’t so damn good looking, I wouldn’t have the 18 year old daughters of our neighbors doing this shit,” she joked. He laughed.

“I am pretty,” he joked in response. She laughed too.

“Not as pretty as me,” she stated.

“Whoa, hold on there. I’m way prettier,” he argued. She let her jaw fall in mock horror.

“Excuse me? I’m the prettiest one in this house by far,” she responded.

“I disagree.”

“You know, I was going to suggest make up sex, but I won’t now.”

“Hey! I want make up sex!” he exclaimed.

“Not until you admit that I’m prettier.” He narrowed his eyes at her.

“That’s just not going to happen. How about we get dinner instead. Does sushi sound good?” he suggested. Tanner laughed and nodded.

“Sushi sounds amazing. We better go now. I haven't eaten in six months. I'm starving.” He kissed her and they both got up off the bed.

“I just have one phone call to make.” He took out the piece of paper Tanner had handed him downstairs and dialed it. “Hi, this is Sidney.”

“Oh, Sidney, hello. It’s Patty!” the woman on the other end said.

“I just got the message about your dinner invitation. My girlfriend, Tanner, has finished her chemotherapy but she’s still pretty tired a lot of the time so I’m not sure that we’d make very good dinner guests right now.”

“Oh, that’s okay. We won’t do anything extravagant and I promise we won’t keep you any longer than she feels able,” Patty assured him. He smiled over at Tanner.

“Okay then. How does Thursday sound?” he suggested.

“That sounds fine. We’ll see you both then. Is 7:00 okay?"

"That works. We’ll see you Thursday.” He hung up the phone and turned to Tanner. “We both have dinner on Thursday.” She smiled back at him and thanked him. Then they made their way to his car and went to dinner.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chapter 44

I walked out of class and practically skipped to the parking lot. I’d been going to classes for three weeks now and being back in school was amazing. It was the start of getting my normal life back. Now today I was taking the second step in that. I spotted Sidney’s car parked in the same spot it usually was and I rushed over to it.

“Are you ready?” he asked with a smile after kissing me.

“More than you know,” I responded, grinning back. He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

I sang along with the music in the car and danced around a little in my seat. I was anxious and excited. I watched buildings pass by on the trip and even grinned up at the hospital when we pulled in. I took Sidney’s hand and bounced into the entrance. He laughed at me as we checked in.

“Do you want me to come in or wait out here?” he asked when we reached the door.

“I think you should make some surprise visits to the children’s ward. I’ll be fine up here. I’ll call you when I’m done,” I told him. He gave me another kiss.

“Have fun.”

“This will be the first time I might.” I watched him walk away and then I followed the nurse back.

“You’re in a good mood,” she commented.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I gushed. She just smiled back at me as I settled in.

When I was done with the treatment I called Sidney and he told me he’d be right up. The nurse led me back to the waiting room to wait for him. He appeared a few minutes later and laughed when he saw me fidgeting in my chair like a child. The doctor called us back to his office a little while later. We both walked in and sat down. Sidney took my hand in his as the doctor sat down at his desk.

“How are you feeling today, Tanner?” he asked.

“Wonderful,” I replied. He laughed and Sidney gave my hand a squeeze at the response.

“Well, I just wanted to congratulate you on completing the chemotherapy. We’ll have to do some more tests in the coming months of course, but there’s nothing that would indicate that you haven’t beaten this cancer,” he explained.

I let out a squeal of excitement and Sidney kissed me on the forehead. I was done with chemo and done with cancer. At least for a while. I couldn’t remember being this happy in a long time. The doctor explained a few more things before Sidney and I left. I was in such a good mood I danced out of the hospital and to Sidney’s car, much to his amusement.

“I haven’t seen you like this in a long time,” he said. I stopped dancing and threw myself into his arms.

“Thank you for sticking with me through all of this and for everything you did. I couldn’t have done it without you,” I told him. He kissed me long and hard in the middle of the parking lot.

“Don’t ever thank me for caring about you,” he demanded. I laughed and got into the car.

“When I’m finally feeling back to myself I’m going to make this up to you. Don’t even bother arguing. I’m going to think of something amazing to do for you.” He just shook his head at me before starting the car and pulling out of the parking lot.

We started the drive home. In the last three weeks I’d started school, Sidney had gone to Olympic camp, we’d finished the house, he’d started camp with the Penguins, and I had finished chemo. It felt like a whirlwind and the best three weeks of my life. Now I could get back to being myself again.

I chatted away endlessly the entire way home, mixing in a few terribly sung lines from songs on the radio. I was so distracted with my thoughts and how I felt that I hardly noticed all of the cars parked along our street. I hopped out of Sidney’s car when he pulled into the garage and followed him through the door into the house.

“Surprise!” a large crowd of people yelled out in unison as I walked in.

My heart jumped into my throat and I screamed in shock. I looked around and saw that the entire Penguins team with their wives and girlfriends were there, along with my friends and family. My jaw dropped as they all started shouting their congratulations and I turned to Sidney. He just smiled at me and shrugged.

“You deserved a surprise party more than I did,” he told me. I grinned back at him and made my way further into the house.

Everyone at the party made sure to come up and congratulate me on finishing the chemo. It was amazing to have so many people in one place that cared about me. It was one big crazy family and I wouldn’t have given them up for anything in the world.

My parents, who had been in and out of Cole Harbour all summer, flanked me and wouldn’t stop hugging me. Being around them and seeing them like that made me cry, which in turn made them cry. We were a mess in front of everyone, but no one seemed to care.

Brendan, Delia, and Andrew made their way up to me next. I hadn’t seen my brother or his family since I’d left Pittsburgh, and it was great to see them again. Delia looked about ready to pop with their second child. I knelt down to look at Andrew. There was something that I needed to do.

“Thanks, Andrew,” I told him. He looked at me funny.

“For what?” he asked.

“Being crazy and going on that bus and pulling Sidney off last year. I wouldn’t have met him if it wasn’t for you,” I explained. He smiled at me and gave me a hug.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

I continued to make my rounds and made sure to talk to everyone that was there. When I finally got to Mario and Nathalie I almost broke down. It meant a lot to see them there because they knew better than anyone what I had gone through. I also knew that if it hadn’t been for Mario, I don’t know that I would have gone through with any of it.

“Thank you for coming to see me that day in the hospital. I might not be here today celebrating if it wasn’t for you,” I thanked him. He just smiled and hugged me.

“I didn’t do anything. If you were that easy to persuade, you would have done it anyway.” I laughed at him and thanked him again.

“Tanner, it’s time for surprise number 2!” Hailey, who had flown in from Anaheim, called out.

I made my way over to her, unsure of what this surprise was going to be. I, along with many of the people in the house, followed her and the other girls down to the basement. I hadn’t been down there much and I couldn’t figure out what could possibly be down here. What I saw when I reached the bottom of the stairs made my jaw drop. I had my very own wine cellar, which I’d always wanted.

“Are you kidding me?!” I shrieked excitedly.

“It’s our gift to you. We all pitched in,” Kelly told me.

“We know that there’s only one bottle of red wine in there right now, but we wanted you to pick out your collection,” Lisa continued.

“Even so, we had to get you one. We wanted it to represent the last six months,” Grace threw in.

“You’ve been through hell and back and you survived. You fought cancer and kicked it’s ass. We hope every time you look at this bottle you remember that you have people that love you and admire the strength you possess,” Hailey finished.

By the time they were done talking I was crying again. I thanked them over and over as I gave them each hugs. I had the most amazing friends in the world. That bottle was going to forever remain intact. I was never going to open and drink it.

When I’d composed myself I made my way back upstairs and continued to hang out with everyone. Dinner was catered and I even managed to stomach a fair amount of it. It was probably the most I had eaten since I’d started the chemo. It made me realize exactly how much I’d missed food.

After dinner almost everyone stuck around. It separated like it normally did into girls in one room and guys in the other. It was nice to see all of the girls again. I hadn’t seen most of them since we’d left Pittsburgh and we had a lot of catching up to do. It got to be pretty late, and I was grateful I didn’t have class the following morning. When the last few left, I turned to look at Sidney.

“I can’t believe you did this for me,” I said to him.

“Like I said before, you deserved it,” he replied. I wrapped my arms around him and rested my head on his shoulder.

“I’m one lucky girl to have someone like you in my life.”

“And I’m even luckier.” I stretched up to kiss him and then yawned. “Tired?”

“Not exactly,” I told him with a wink. He picked up on the wink immediately and laughed. He lifted me into his arms and carried me upstairs. This really was officially one of the best days of my life.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chapter 43

I know, I know, the little bit about Ryan Whitney isn't so true, but I couldn't help it. Since in this story I refused to trade him at trade deadline, and I wanted to keep things as real as possible as far as the team was concerned, I had to get him to Anaheim somehow.

I got off the plane and made my way to passenger pick up. As soon as I walked outside I heard a car horn start blaring. I turned and saw Grace’s grinning face looking out at me. She bolted out of the car and threw her arms around me in a hug as she squealed in delight. After the greeting we got into the car and headed for her new apartment.

After the Stanley Cup had come to Cole Harbour it had been time to start packing up. Classes at Duquesne were starting just two weeks after and Sidney had Olympic camp the same week. We decided that I would stay with Grace during that time. When he was done he’d meet me in Pittsburgh and we’d move into the new house.

Grace, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, had gotten a job there and decided to stay. Of course, Jordan had factored into that decision. They were still going strong. Kelly was also still in the city working. Lisa was just half an hour away. Hailey was the only one who had left the Pittsburgh area. Ryan had signed with the Anaheim Ducks in the off season and he’d asked Hailey to go with him. She’d agreed and was across the country from us.

“Nice place,” I told Grace when we walked into her apartment.

“Thanks! Your room’s back here.”

She helped me unpack some stuff as we talked and caught up. I was tired from traveling so we decided just to stay in and order food that night. Lisa and Kelly also came over and we laughed and watched movies all night until I was too tired to stay awake any longer. Even though we’d only been apart for just over a week since they’d left Cole Harbour, it was good to see them.

“So when am I going to see this new house of yours?” Grace asked the next morning. I shrugged.

“I don’t have a key,” I told her sadly. I was dying to see it again.

“Yes you do. Sidney sent one with the stuff he shipped,” she told me. I smiled and rubbed my hands together greedily.

“Let’s go whenever you’re ready.”

She let out a yell of excitement and rushed to get dressed. Not really feeling up to dressing I put on a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt and simply wrapped a scarf around my head. We got into Grace’s car a little while later and I gave her the directions. I smiled as we pulled into the driveway.

“Wow,” she said looking at it. I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face at her simple comment. It was only the second time I was seeing it myself.

“I know, right?” We stood in the driveway just looking at the exterior for a minute. I was actually going to be living here.

“Are you the new neighbors?” a woman’s voice called out, interrupting my thoughts. We both turned to see a woman who looked to be in her 40’s despite obvious desperate attempts to remain young looking.

“I am. This is just a friend. I’ll be living here with my boyfriend,” I told the woman who was now standing in front of us in my driveway.

“Oh, how nice. I’m Patty,” she introduced herself.

“I’m Tanner, and this is Grace. It’s nice to meet you,” I returned.

“Have we met before? I feel like I recognize you,” the woman questioned.

I looked over to Grace wondering how exactly I should approach that question. She might have seen the news segment with Sidney and recognized me from there, but if that wasn’t it, I didn’t want to blow mine and Sidney’s cover too soon.

“We haven’t met, no,” I responded. She continued to stare at me. I struggled to think of something else to say, but Patty’s eyes suddenly lit up.

“I saw you on the news a couple months ago! You’re Sidney Crosby’s girlfriend!” I just smiled and nodded. “Wait, you said you were moving in here with your boyfriend. Sidney Crosby is going to be my neighbor?”

“Yeah, he’ll be back here in just over a week,” I told her.

“I just can’t believe it. My beautiful daughter Tamara has such a crush on him. She’s in school at Pitt. She won’t believe it when I tell her! You two will have to come over for dinner when he gets to town and meet her!” Patty exclaimed. I saw Grace cover her mouth, trying to conceal the snort of laughter. I bit back a laugh as well.

“We will do that. It was really nice meeting you, Patty, but I should get inside and start figuring out what we’re going to do with the place.”

“Of course! See you soon!” Grace and I watched as Patty made her way back to her own house before walking into mine.

“My beautiful daughter has such a crush on him!” Grace imitated in a nasally pitch once the door was shut.

“Do you think she’ll mention me when she tells her daughter?” I asked.

“Not a chance. That woman is obviously a trophy wife who’s going to try to pawn off her daughter as the second generation trophy.”

“Oh, God, Grace, how I missed you,” I said with a laugh.

Even though I was laughing and joking about it now, I filed it away as something to watch out for. I mean, really, how necessary was it to mention that your daughter was beautiful when telling me that she had a crush on my boyfriend? I suddenly wished I’d put on something a little nicer and one of my wigs before I’d come here. Great, Patty had made me self-conscious. Just what I needed.

I gave Grace the tour of the house. She was in awe over it and joked that she could move in and we’d never see her. It wasn’t that big, but it made me laugh. Once the tour was over we started going room to room and deciding on possible color palettes and types of furniture.

Sidney had told me to go ahead and start doing whatever I wanted with the house before he got there, but I didn’t want to do that to him. Instead Grace and I took the notes we’d taken and started going to furniture and home goods stores to look around. Ideas were really shaping in my head and I was anxious for Sidney to get here so we could start making the house ours.

Meanwhile I talked to Sid numerous times a day. I knew he was worried about not being around me and that was why he called so often, but I assured him that everything was fine. I directed most conversations towards the house to keep him from worrying as much as possible. He seemed to agree with my ideas which made me happy, but I still didn’t want to do anything until he could see what I meant.

Less than two weeks later I was sitting in a private room with Mario at the airport waiting for Sidney’s arrival. We were staying with the Lemieux’s until the house was finished and we could officially move in. I was anxious to see Sid again and when the door opened and his smiling face walked in I jumped out of my seat and ran into his arms.

“Hey, baby,” he greeted me as I hugged him.

“I missed you,” I mumbled into his neck. He pulled away from me and kissed me.

“I missed you too.”

He greeted Mario and we were escorted to the car to head back to the Lemieux’s. Once there we hung out with the kids who were very excited to see Sidney again. I didn’t mind at all and actually enjoyed Sid’s interaction with them. It made me realize what a great father he’d be someday. After having dinner and hanging out some more we both went up to bed.

“It’s so good to see you again,” Sidney whispered as I cuddled up to him in bed.

“I know what you mean,” I responded.

We laid there in silence for a while, just enjoying being with each other again. My mind started to wander, and what Taylor had said to me earlier in the summer creeped back in. I’d avoided talking to Sidney at all about it, but it needed to be discussed and now seemed as good a time as any.

“You know I love you, right?” I asked nervously.

“What’s going on?” he asked, sensing that something wasn’t right. I turned my eyes up to his and sighed before pulling away and sitting up.

“Taylor said something this summer that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about,” I started. He sat up and gave me a look that told me to go ahead. I took a deep breath before continuing. “She told me she couldn’t wait until she could call me her sister.” I paused and waited for Sidney’s response. He simply lifted an eyebrow.

“And?” he prompted. I looked at him incredulously. Seriously? That was his response?

“You don’t think we should talk about that?” I asked.

“Talk about what? The fact that my sister likes you?” he returned. Had he missed the calling me her sister part?

“No, the part where she said ‘sister,’” I explained. His expression didn’t change.

“And?” he asked again. I got frustrated.

“I can’t marry you!” I blurted out, then wanted to smack myself. Really, Tanner? His eyes opened wide in surprise and he looked taken aback.

“I’m sorry, when did I propose?” He shifted uncomfortably in the bed.

“Well, you didn’t, but Taylor-“

“Taylor was probably just telling you that she liked you and hoped that someday you’d be the one I’d marry. I had nothing to do with that.” I felt my face turn red in embarrassment and then Sidney started to laugh at me.

“Why are you laughing?” I questioned him, mortified by bringing up marriage at all to him.

“Because you’re so goddamn adorable when you get embarrassed and your face turns the color of a tomato.” I narrowed my eyes at him and slapped him lightly on the arm before leaning back against the bed and crossing my arms over my chest.

“You’re a jerk,” I mumbled. He composed himself before speaking again.

“Tanner, I love you. My friends and my family love you. Despite all that we are only 22. I’m not ready to get married and based on your outburst, neither are you. Right now I’m just enjoying having you as my girlfriend. Let’s just worry about getting you healthy, graduated, and started in your dream career before we even worry about marriage,” he suggested. I smiled despite my embarrassment and rested my head on his shoulder.

“That sounds good to me.” He lifted my head up so that I was looking at him.

“I do want it to be you, you know,” he told me. I smiled up at him.

“You better,” I replied. He smiled back and kissed me before we settled back down into bed.