Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chapter 59

Because I'm fast forwarding this, obviously I can't base the rest of this on real life. There's only going to be another 5 chapters or so depending on how I write them. Thanks so much for following this story for this long and all the support! It means so much to me!

I waited impatiently in a pre-designated room at the airport for Sidney’s plane to land. I hadn’t been there all that long, but it felt like eternity. Long enough, at least, for me to reflect back on the last few months. Ever since Sidney had won the gold medal at the Olympics, things had seemed to move at warp speed.

We’d returned home to Pittsburgh and both became very busy. I officially started work at the zoo and it took up a lot of time. It wasn’t just a 9 to 5 job. Sometimes I had to be in very early, sometimes I had to stay very late. Once in a while I had overnights. Not once did I ever complain. I loved what I was doing and wouldn’t have given it up for anything. Thankfully Sidney never once complained, seriously anyway.

As far as he was concerned once the Olympics ended the playoff race was on. Not that he ever wasn’t, but it was time for him to get really serious. They’d played well in the last month and had held on to second in the division and fourth in the conference. Unfortunately things hadn’t gone the way they had the year before and Pittsburgh lost in the second round.

Knowing that it was the off-season was tough. Sidney and I had talked about it and we knew that we were going to be spending a lot of the summer apart. I couldn’t just take the summer off from the zoo to go to Cole Harbour and Sidney never even considered asking me to. Just like I never considered asking him to stay in Pittsburgh instead of going home to see his friends and family. Instead we’d agreed that he would come down for a week each month of the summer and I’d go up for a week in June and again for his birthday.

Despite being apart, the summer had gone by fairly quickly. I had my friends and job to keep me busy just like Sidney had everyone back home. Lulu and Gilligan were angels and I fell in love with them more and more each day. I could tell that they missed Sidney when he was gone, but seeing their reactions each time they saw him again was priceless.

I glanced down at my watch for probably the thousandth time since I’d gotten to the airport and saw that Sidney’s plane should have touched down by now. I got up from my seat and started pacing back and forth across the room, looking towards the door every time I heard any sound come from outside of it. Eventually the door opened and I burst into Sidney’s arms.

“I missed you so much!” I exclaimed after planting a long kiss on his lips. He chuckled.

“I missed you too.”

After the greeting we were led by security out to the car and drove home. It was nice to have him back for the season, knowing he wasn’t going anywhere for a while. He talked about his trip and I talked about work on the drive back from the airport. When we pulled into the driveway and got out of the car, I immediately felt nauseous.

“Sidney, hi!” a sickeningly sweet voice called from next door.

I glared across the car hood at Tamara, who was jogging over across the lawn. After everything that had happened last year we’d basically avoided the neighbors. I hated them and Sidney didn’t exactly have a fondness for them either. Tamara had left Sidney alone since the night I’d ordered her out of our house and I didn’t know why she was coming over here now.

“Hi, Tamara,” Sidney greeted, annoyance in his tone.

“I didn’t realize you were coming back so soon!”

Like she’d done before, she completely ignored the fact that I was standing there in an attempt to exclude me in the conversation. I guess the year of separation had only emboldened her. Instead of standing there while they talked I walked to the front door and opened it. Within seconds Lulu and Gilly had bolted out the front door and over to Sidney. I watched with a grin when Gilly nearly knocked Tamara on her ass when he jumped up on Sidney in greeting.

“Hi, guys, I missed you too!” Sidney exclaimed, giving each of them equal attention.

After a few licks, barks, and jumps, Tamara backed away saying goodbye and heading back to her house. Sidney never responded as he rolled around on the ground with our dogs. Lulu and Gilly were the best guard dogs ever. He eventually got up and we both went inside, the dogs leading the way.

We spent the rest of the night in the house wrapped up completely in each other. After spending so much time apart this summer we had a lot of time to make up for. The only time we left bed was when the food we’d ordered arrived or to let the dogs out. God, it was nice to have him back. I easily fell asleep in his arms that night, simply exhausted.

Before I woke up the following morning I found myself in that place just before fully waking when you weren’t completely conscious, but you weren’t quite asleep either. My eyes were still closed and I had a slight uneasy feeling. Something just didn’t feel right. I finally opened my eyes and let out a scream when a pair was looking right back into them.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” I exclaimed to a laughing Sidney.

“I was just watching you sleep,” he told me.

“You had to be inches from my face to do that?” I asked.

“Sorry,” he apologized after chuckling a bit longer.

“I take back everything I said yesterday. I didn’t miss you at all.” He narrowed his eyes at me.

“You don’t mean that.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Take it back,” he warned.

“Or what?” I challenged. He began to tickle me and I started to scream and squirm uncontrollably in his grasp.

“Take it back!” he called out.

“Okay, okay, I take it back! I missed you like crazy!” I yelled. The torture stopped and we both looked at each other and started to laugh.

“I love you,” he told me seriously.

“I love you too.”

I was on my right side so he reached for my left hand under the comforter and began to play with my fingers. We laid there in silence for a while, just enjoying being cuddled up with each other in bed. There was no greater thing in this world than lying next to the person you loved in a content silence. Words didn’t need to be spoken, because they just weren’t necessary.

Sidney shifted a little, but I didn’t pay any attention, keeping my eyes closed. I was too focused on how nice the feeling of being back in his arms again was. He turned back to me and looked straight into my eyes. There was no laughter in them this time, only something I couldn’t quite pick up on. As I stared back at him I felt something cool and smooth slide over the fourth finger on my left hand. My eyes went wide and I tried to pull my hand out from under the covers. Sidney grabbed on and didn’t let me.

“Hold on. Just listen to me for a moment,” he said. My heart started to pound in my chest.

“Sidney, what?” I managed to gasp out.

“We’ve been through a lot in the last two years. More than most people experience in a lifetime. There have been ups and downs, but no matter what came we made it through together. I wouldn’t trade in anything that happened for the world because it showed me your true character. You’re strong, smart, dedicated, compassionate, funny, and beautiful inside and out. I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather spend the rest of my life with. Tanner, will you marry me?”

“Yes,” I choked out through the tears that had started to fall. “Yes.”

He threw his arms around me and I held on tight as he pressed his lips to mine. When we finally broke apart he let me look at the ring on my finger. It was perfect. That was the only way to describe it. I hadn’t been the girl who dreamed of her wedding day and imagined what her ring would look like. I hadn’t even known what cut of diamond I preferred. I found that I preferred whatever the cut on my ring currently was.

I’m not sure I stopped crying the entire day. Every time I glanced down at the ring on my finger, which was a lot, the tears would come again as I remembered everything Sidney had said. The proposal had been simple and private, which is just the way I would have wanted it had I imagined it. I didn’t think I’d ever forget those words or that moment.

I made the obligatory phone calls to my family and then my friends, which only brought on more tears. My father told me that Sidney had flown to New York before Pittsburgh to ask for his permission to marry me. He never ceased to surprise me. Sidney’s parents insisted on talking to me as well. They’d known he was going to propose too and were more than happy for us.

The girls all filed over that night to check out the ring, including Hailey who was in town visiting while Ryan headed out for training camp. It was a whirlwind kind of day and soon our house was full of people. Guys on the team who were back in Pittsburgh early came over. The Lemieux’s came over. We hadn’t expected or planned on the gathering, but neither of us were complaining. There was no better way to celebrate an event like this than spending it with some of the people you were closest to.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chapter 58

I walked off of the plane and out into the airport in Vancouver. I glanced around at the crowds around me. There were people everywhere walking around with their country’s colors somewhere on them. I made my way towards a gate in a different terminal. I heard the loud squeal even before I saw her. A smile broke out on my face as Hailey rushed into my arms.

“How are you?!” she exclaimed.

“Amazing. How about you?” I returned.


Hailey’s flight into Vancouver had landed only half an hour before mine so we’d decided to meet up before the hectic two weeks began. We walked through the airport talking, laughing, and catching up on each others lives. We picked up our bags at baggage claim and then began to search out our ride.

We found the driver who was waiting for us and got into the car. The car ride was spent admiring the city and the sights of the Olympic craze. The car dropped Hailey off at where she was staying with Ryan first and we parted with plans to meet up the next day. I pulled out my camera and took pictures of everything I could for the rest of the car ride. I was here, really here, to witness the Olympics in person.

The car stopped at my destination and I got out, grabbed my luggage and walked inside. I knew that Sidney wouldn’t be there right now and he’d told me he left my name at the desk so I could get a key. Once I’d done that, with a whole lot of hassle, I made my way to our suite. I walked through the door and immediately stopped in the doorway.

A smile broke out over my face when I saw the enormous bouquet of flowers situated on the table in front of me, a note placed in front of it. I shook my head and closed the door behind me before dropping my stuff off in the bedroom. I walked back out and picked up the note.

Hey babe,

Sorry I couldn’t be here when you got in. I left these in hopes that you’d forgive me. There’s an order in for a Belgian Waffle they’ll fire up as soon as you call down. Have a good rest of the morning and I’ll see you soon!

Love you.

My boyfriend was too sweet. I made the call to the desk and began to unpack my stuff while I waited. Just a short time later room service had brought up the waffle and I found a mimosa accompanying it. My boyfriend wasn’t just sweet, he was perfect. I enjoyed my late breakfast and finished unpacking. Then I sat on the couch, flipped on the Olympics, and waited for him to get back.

I thought about heading out to explore a bit, but Sidney didn’t know when he’d be getting back. I decided to stay in so that I wouldn’t risk being out when he got to the suite. It was a good thing too, because he was there within the hour. His family arrived later that day and we spent the day just relaxing. Tomorrow it all started.

The next morning Sidney left early for a pre-game skate. I met up with Hailey so that I’d be out of Sidney’s way the rest of the afternoon as he prepared for game 1. We walked around Olympic Village a bit until it was time for the US game. I sat with her and Ryan’s family watching the game and cheering on my country.

I waited for Ryan with them after. It had been so long since I’d seen him and it was good to catch up. Team USA had a meeting later that night so instead of just sitting around and waiting for him, Hailey came with me and Sidney’s family to the Canada game that night. She waited around long enough to congratulate Sid before heading back to Ryan.

The rest of the tournament would go much the same way. I went to all of the US games with her and she went to all the Canadian games with me. It was nice to have one of my closest friends there with me to share in the experience. We were given tickets to some of the other events on the days that our guys didn’t play and thoroughly enjoyed watching those as well.

Things went well until the day of the US vs. Canada game. Suddenly everyone wanted to know who I was rooting for. All I wanted was for the day to be over and done with. I mean really, how do you root against either your country or your boyfriend? I decided that it had to go to a shootout and Canada had to win. That way they’d end up tied for first in the pool, but Canada would get the by due to goal differential. Hey, I had to go home with the boyfriend, not the country that night.

Unfortunately that’s not how things went. I don’t think anyone thought the US would put up much of a fight, let alone win. Internally I couldn’t fight the pride I had in my fellow countryman beating the odds that night, but at the same time I couldn’t quite be happy. It meant that despite his goal and a strong game, Sidney had lost.

I knew that this game would get to Sidney more than any in the preliminary round. His family and I waited quietly for him after. I left the hockey talk to him and his father. If he wanted to talk about it, his father would know best what to say about the game. Instead I waited until we were back in the suite for the night.

He flopped down on the bed and I just curled up next to him. I sensed that he wasn’t in the mood to talk and I didn’t feel nearly qualified enough to try to give him any sort of pep talk or motivational speech. What did I know about losing to a rival country in the Olympics in your home country? We laid there in silence for a long time before he finally turned to me.

“Thank you,” he said. I lifted my head enough to be able to look into his eyes.

“For what?” I asked.

“Knowing exactly what I needed.” I smiled and kissed him lightly before curling back up.

When I realized they’d be playing Russia after they beat Germany I was nervous. This wasn’t supposed to happen this early. They were supposed to be playing for the gold medal. They weren’t supposed to be playing just to make it to the next round. Whoever lost didn’t have a shot at a medal. I felt sick for the entire day before and the day of leading up to puck drop.

It didn’t take long for that feeling to disappear. They jumped on Russia and had basically demolished them after the first period. Canada had sent a message to the rest of the teams still in the tournament. They weren’t going to be easy to beat. Slovakia gave them a scare, but they pulled it out and made it to the gold medal game. It would be a rematch against the US with the gold on the line.

Before I knew it, I was sitting in the rink late Sunday morning, my legs shaking, and my hands fidgeting like crazy. The guys weren’t even on the ice yet and I felt sick. The last team I’d wanted Canada to play in the gold medal game was the US. It just wasn’t fair to pit my country against my boyfriend for a second time this tournament. I was a traitor either way I went.

I sat with Sidney’s family who were eerily silent themselves. Usually Trina or Taylor would be talking away before the game started, and even far into the game, but not today. Today they’d taken up Troy’s quiet demeanor and were sitting and just staring out at the ice. When the teams skated out the rink erupted in cheers from fans of both teams, but it was mostly Canadians.

When Canada scored their first goal I didn’t jump up like the rest of the crowd. I felt a small smile forming when it happened, but I wasn’t going to openly root against my own country. Thankfully Sidney’s family seemed to understand and when they sat down Trina gave my leg a pat and smiled over at me.

Canada scored the second goal and I thought the game was over. It just had that feel to it that Canada was unstoppable at this point. I was proven wrong when the US scored its first goal. While I didn’t cheer I was internally very happy that they were surging back. If my country had to lose, I didn’t want them to be embarrassed. They deserved so much more than that.

As the seconds ticked down in the third I felt a little like I did during game seven of the Cup finals. My heart was racing and I began to feel sick all over again, only it was for both teams. When Parise scored that goal with 24 seconds left, tears filled my eyes. It was an incredibly emotional moment for an American to see that goal go in for a team that everyone had counted out and watch the guys on the ice celebrate the way they were.

That emotion disappeared when I realized I had to sit through another intermission before overtime. I just wanted this game over so this sick feeling could go away. Sidney’s family remained quiet during the intermission obviously nervous for their son and their country. I wasn’t stupid. I knew how much was riding on Canada winning gold in their own country.

Then almost unexpectedly the puck was in the net for Canada and Sidney was racing to the corner, throwing his gear in the air. The crowd at the rink exploded in cheers and I remained cemented in my seat. While everyone around me jumped up, I sat in my seat, tears building and falling, with my hands over my mouth.

Had that just happened? Did Sid really just score the gold winning goal in overtime? I was too stunned to get up until Trina looked down at me. She held out a hand and I took it and rose to watch the celebration like everyone else. It wasn’t until I spotted Sidney being mobbed in the crowd that my shock dissipated being replaced with surging pride. If my country had to lose, there was only one person I would be okay with ending that run.

After watching them hand out the gold medals and listening to the crowd cheer on Sidney when they gave him his we made our way downstairs. We knew Sid was going to be bombarded with reporters for a while so we took our time. I didn’t even realize until he finally came walking out that I was still crying. I stood back and let him go to his parents and sister first. Then he turned to me and smiled before wiping tears off of my cheeks.

“I guess it’s time for you to retire, because what the hell else can you do?” I asked him. He beamed at me and laughed.

“I still don’t have that Conn Smythe,” he joked and I laughed along with him. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me, his gold medal that was still around his neck pressing into my chest.

“I hope you know that you’re the only person that can turn me against my country. I’m not sure how I feel about that,” I told him when the kiss broke off.

“You’re more Canadian than you realize.” I smiled up at him and shook my head. It had been a whirlwind two weeks here in Vancouver, but it was a two weeks I’d never forget.