Wednesday, January 6, 2010

17.) Awkward

In honor of Letang's goal tonight, and the losing streak snapped, I stayed up to finish this.



After I had dropped Jo off at her house, I got a call from TK asking if I wanted to meet the guys over at his place to watch some movies and order a few pizzas. Needing a distraction from the taste on my lips, I agreed and bypassed my apartment building to head for his place across town.

Thankfully, their memories were short, and no one asked me to answer the question I had avoided earlier during practice. I was feeling confused as ever, and I hated the open-ended feeling of uncertainty and indecision. I live with purpose and direction, and now I was feeling out to sea: adrift in an ocean of emotion with no tether to rational thought.

So I watched the movie with the rest of the guys and laughed, losing myself in the comedy and forgetting everything else. Until I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I reached in for it and checked my message. It was from Jo, asking about her jacket.

“What’s going on?” TK asked me, looking away from the television screen to meet my eyes.

“What do you mean?” I tried to play it off.

“You look like you just got a puppy for Christmas or something. Who’s texting you?”

I began typing my message back to her to let her know that I would gladly return it tomorrow. As anxious as I was feeling, I knew that I couldn’t see her again tonight; but I also knew that I couldn’t put it off forever and I’d have to see her again eventually. Tomorrow would give me enough time to get my head straight, and I figured I could drop it off at her house before or after the morning skate. I answered in a low voice, not being able to lie but hoping to avoid bringing attention to it. “Jo.”

“Jo?” Staal repeated loudly, turning around and looking at me. No one was watching the movie now. “She calling you?”

“Texting,” I corrected, kicking myself for encouraging him. Now I knew I was going to hear about it, so I tried to downplay it. “She just forgot something at my place.” Only after the words came out of my mouth did I realize that I had just dug myself in deeper. Shit.

The guys started to laugh and cheer, drowning out the sounds of my contradictions. I tried to yell over them that it wasn’t like that, but I doubted they could even hear my voice over their deafening yells. Loudest of all was Gronk. “I knew it! Man, I totally knew it! So? How was she?”

As I sent my message to her, I shook my head at the guys. “We didn’t do anything,” I admitted, conveniently leaving out that kiss. They wouldn’t understand; a lot of them had long-time girlfriends back home and had forgotten all about the awkward beginnings of new relationships. Not that Jo and I had a relationship anyway. And the guys that were single weren’t looking for girlfriends anyway—they preferred one night stands and random fucks.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Goose said, shaking his head now in disbelief. “She was at your place. How did nothing happen?”

I shrugged. “Nothing happened. That’s all there is to it. It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like?” TK asked, trying to be a friend but also being a guy and wanting the dirty details. “Because I’m pretty sure that both of you want it.”

“I don’t know.” I was being completely honest, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I liked Jo, but I also knew that I couldn’t be with her under these circumstances. It wasn’t as simple as obeying my instincts—and I’m not the kind of guy who would sleep with a girl without knowing for sure how I felt about her.

“Is she coming to the game tomorrow?” Borky asked, knowing that this question was a gauge among hockey players. Girls were invited to games for two reasons: first, only to impress the invitee and get into her pants afterward; or second, because the inviter really likes the invitee and... wants to get into her pants for several nights to come. Either way, if I asked her to the game, it wouldn’t be just as friends.

I hesitated, and apparently I had paused for too long. Staal took matters into his own hands by grabbing my phone and starting to type out the invitation to her for me. I knew exactly what he was doing, and I tried to stop him. “Don’t, man!” I hollered, knowing that I sounded immature. But the entire situation was so incredibly adolescent.

“Chill out, man. I’m doing you a favor,” he laughed, clicking send and throwing my phone back at me. “You’ll thank me after you get laid.”

Scowling, I waited for Jo’s response. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if she’d agree or not, because I didn’t know how she’d feel about watching hockey. My heart was pounding like I’d just finished a long, grueling shift. I thought I had stopped breathing for the few minutes it took to receive her message back. I had never been so relieved to see two letters in my entire life: OK.

Then I sent back another message telling when to stop by, and the guys all looked at me expectantly. “She’s coming,” I told them. They smiled and turned back toward the TV screen, even though we’d all missed the past ten minutes of the movie. Now that Staal and the rest of the guys felt like I was pointed in the right direction, they dropped the subject and I was free to wallow in uncertainty again.

When I got back to my apartment, Jo’s jacket was resting on the back of the couch. Every time I had seen her, she’d been wearing that jacket; I couldn’t help but wonder if she had left it behind on purpose. Did girls really do stuff like that? I wasn’t sure.

I tried not to think about it as I went to sleep, and I tried not to think about when I woke up in the morning. At practice, I skated hard, exhausting my body so my mind wouldn’t have to think. The usual group went out for our pre-game meal, and after that, I collapsed back in bed for my nap. I continued my purposely mindless routine by heading back to the Mellon for our team meeting, and then we started stretching and warming up by kicking around a soccer ball. Someone was playing Metallica over a speaker system, and I could feel my heart pumping and my blood coursing through my body.

In fact, I had done such a good job trying to distract myself from what was to come that I didn’t notice Jo as she stood there and watched us warm up. It wasn’t until Dupuis nodded in her direction that I turned and saw her there. I was totally unprepared and was lost for what to say. What type of reaction was she going to be expecting from me? I fumbled for words. “Jo. Hey.”

She smiled back at me, her arms wrapped around her stomach as she looked a little self-conscious or timid. “Hey.” We both stood there, looking at each other expectantly; I was waiting for her to make the first move. After all, she was very good at that. Finally, she reacted. “So, uh, you’ve got my jacket?”

“Oh yeah,” I told her. It had completely escaped me that her jacket had been the reason for this rendezvous. I jogged into the lounge and retrieved it from the chair, where I had placed it during our meeting, and then exited for the hallway and handed it back to her. “Here you go.”

Jo looked immensely relieved. “Thank you so much,” she sighed, and I could have sworn that as she accepted it, she sniffed the leather. “I can’t believe I forgot it. I never forget this thing.”

I wanted to say something about how she may not have meant to leave it behind, but it was no accident. Maybe it was meant to happen; however, I knew Jo wouldn’t want to listen to that theory. Instead, I remained silent, even as she looked up at me with her big hazel eyes. I didn’t know what to do.

Turns out, I never had the chance to do anything. Suddenly, I felt a thud on the back of my head as someone kicked the soccer ball at me. I grabbed the back of my head and rubbed the sore spot as I turned and glared at them. Dupuis was wearing a shit-eating grin on his face, and I heard Rupper mutter something that sounded vaguely like a Mike Lange goal call.

Staal, Goligoski, Bourque, and Kennedy all greeted collectively, “Hi, Jo.”

She rolled her eyes but responded in the same voice, “Hi, boys.”

I thought that would end their interference, but—I should have known better—of course it wasn’t. “How’s it going?” Staal asked her.

“Fine,” she responded, but I could tell she was a little agitated with him.

“Did you get whatever it is that you mysteriously left behind at Tanger’s place?” He asked that question loud enough so that everyone could hear.

Jo cocked an eyebrow. She held up the jacket and waved it around a little. “Yes, I did. Thanks for making sure. I would have completely forgotten if it wasn’t for your help,” she said snidely.

“It’s what I do best,” Staal laughed.

I inserted myself into the conversation. “Where’s Heather?”

Gronk shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m not her keeper. She came with me, so she’s here somewhere.”

It was my turn to sigh as I turned back to Jo. “I just want to introduce you to a couple of people you’ll be around, so you won’t feel alone.”

“You should come out with us after the game,” Jordy hollered, once again trying to take control.

“I can’t,” she started to say, but he cut her off before she could finish.

“You don’t have to worry about being underage. You’re with the Pens—we can get you in anywhere.”

“That’s not it. I have to work.”

“Oh,” he said, quickly recovering. “How about this weekend?”

“Can’t,” she repeated. “I’ve got plans.”

“Well cancel them!”

“It’s my birthday on Sunday,” she clarified.

“Even better. Come out with Saturday night, and we’ll usher in your birthday the right way.” She paused, and Staal continued, “Come on! Tanger wants you to.”

Before I could respond and tell her that this wasn’t my idea, she agreed. “Okay.”

I shook my head, knowing it was too late to get out of this now. I shouldn’t have just stood here and let them make these plans, but if I knew Jordan Staal as well as I thought I did, he wouldn’t have stopped until he got what he wanted. “Let’s go find Heather,” I mumbled, gently taking a hold of Jo’s arm and guiding her away from the hallways and the guys. Jo followed me quietly, and I took the chance to apologize. “I’m sorry for them. They just don’t listen.”

“I grew up around jocks. I know what to expect from them.”

“I hope you don’t think we’re all alike,” I said, looking down at her for the first time since that embarrassing situation.

“Don’t worry, I don’t think so. I know that there’s usually one or two good guys per team,” she joked. I knew she was referring to her brother, too, and I couldn’t help but wonder at the comparison she just made between James and myself.

“If you don’t want to come out with us on Saturday, that’s cool. I mean, it’s your birthday. You can spend it however you like.”

“It’s okay. I think I might. If it’s okay, I’d like to bring my friend Tubby along, just ‘cause I was going to make plans with him. Is that okay?”

“Sure,” I said, not sure how I felt about any of this now. The awkwardness began to set back in, but luckily I spotted the girls before I had to worry about adding to my response. “Let me introduce you. Jo, this is Heather, Kelsey, Martina, and Jessica. And girls, this is Jo. I invited her tonight. Would you mind showing her where the seats are?”

“No, not at all,” Kelsey said to me before turning to Jo. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Jo somewhat resembled a deer in headlights, but I knew she’d be fine. I’d hung around these girls plenty of time when everyone went out together, so I knew they’d get along well enough to get through the game. I thanked them and then told Jo that I had to get back to warm-ups. “Will I get to see you after the game?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. I’ve gotta work right after, so I’ll be around, but I don’t know where.”

“Oh, okay. Well, I’ll talk to you soon,” I said before promptly turning on my heels and heading back to get ready for the game. The guys teased me mercilessly as the night went on, and it only got worse as I tallied two assists. They said that I just wanted to impress Jo and show off, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were right.

7 comments:

  1. Yes, Kris, you know they're right. You're still a guy. :)

    Hallelujah! What could be better than Kris scoring in the game that lifts us out of the slump? And Staal scoring twice? My dreams come true.

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  2. eeeek! I just got caught up on reading everything that I've missed over the past week and I was definitely not disappointed!

    I love your story so much even if it is one of the darkest and most difficult ones that you've written so far. The characters are written fabulously and I can't wait to read more.

    I love the awkward tension right now and I can't wait until one of them finally snaps!

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  3. Isn't it amazing that watching Highlights of Tanger scoring a goal, can make you so happy? lol

    "Girls were invited to games for two reasons: first, only to impress the invitee and get into her pants afterward; or second, because the inviter really likes the invitee and... wants to get into her pants for several nights to come."
    ^^ BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ok... sorry... that just made my day.
    I'm still laughing out loud... I think I might for a while. Now, everytime they show the family section at a hockey game, I'm gonna laugh.

    "I couldn’t help but wonder if she had left it behind on purpose. Did girls really do stuff like that? I wasn’t sure."
    ^^ Yes, yes we do. However in this situation, I don't think so. I can't see Jo just leaving her late brother's jacket at your house... sorry love.

    "Dupuis was wearing a shit-eating grin on his face, and I heard Rupper mutter something that sounded vaguely like a Mike Lange goal call."
    ^^ Ok, that was just too fantastic for words. NO Pen stories ever talk about Dupuis or Rupp and I love that you do... it makes me happy. Even happier that I'm pretty sure they're like this in reality, or worse lol.

    "Gronk shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m not her keeper. She came with me, so she’s here somewhere.” "
    ^^ Ok again, laughing hysterically. I'm not even sure why that's so funny, other than the fact that I can see Jordan just standing there... so nonchalant about the whole thing.


    I loved it! So good! SOOO awkward between them, and you gotta love the boys for making it worse. That's the problem with hockey jocks - they always *think* that they're *helping*; then before you know it, the cops show up at your house wondering why the missing KFC sign is in your yard... /sigh.

    Anyway... it was so fantastic! I can't wait to see what's gonna happen this weekend... even MORE excited that Tubby's going too... YAY!!

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  4. Helpless Tanger = Cute Tanger. He's so adorable just standing around on the sidelines while everyone makes plans around him. Just going with the flow (: AND! I'm so glad Jo agreed! She wants to spend more time with him, yay!<3

    “I don’t know. I’m not her keeper. She came with me, so she’s here somewhere.”
    ^^LMFAO. Staalsy<3

    Oh! And that Letang goal? Love him! And the fact that the 5 game losing streak is officially at an end! =D

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  5. aw tanger, getting all embarrassed in front of jo :]
    he honestly needs to tell her how he feels! cause they both OBVIOUSLY like each other!

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  6. Loved this chapter, and can't wait to see how Tubby and Kris interact with each other knowing they both have a mutual person's well-being at heart!

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  7. Thanks for staying up late to write this.
    I wonder how well Jo will fit in with the girlfriends.

    Yeah for Tanger, I hope this opens the flood gates!

    Beware Flyers we are looking to start a long winning streak. You are the next team in our path!

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