Monday, January 11, 2010

21.) Like You

I didn’t get a call back from Jo, and I found that disheartening. Until I noticed a few days later that she had snuck in to watch our closed practice. Or, I should say, Gogo noticed and pointed her out to me.

“Your girl’s here,” he told me quietly as we waited our turn for a two-on-one drill. He nodded toward the section of stands where members of the media always sat. Even though she was wearing a toque, she still stuck out from everyone else.

“Oh,” I replied, just as quietly. I didn’t want to alert anyone else to her presence, since she had become a sensitive subject in the locker room. I had been agitated when I hadn’t heard from her, and the guys didn’t really understand the big deal. They always said “bros before ho’s,” but that wasn’t exactly the case, since Borky’s “ho” was the one who had screwed everything up.

Like I said, I didn’t really want anyone else to know she was there, so I tried to keep my eyes trained on nothing but the puck and any diagrams that Coach or Yeosy had drawn on the board. Occasionally though, I would look up and immediately catch her gaze, intensely focused on me. One time, she flashed me a small smile and nodded her head in acknowledgement, so I was a little less worried.

We finished practice with another shoot out drill; with a lot of motivation to net a goal, I scored on the first round and skated toward the runway. Once again, I caught her eyes and nodded my head toward the dressing room. She got up from her seat, and I knew she was coming to see me, so I hurried in to take off my blades and pads.

After a few minutes, she was there. “That was a nice deke you made on the goalie.”

“Thanks,” I replied, feeling remarkably relieved to see her again.

“You’re welcome.” She sat down on the bench beside me, turning to face me. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you back.”

I shrugged. “I was wondering if I was ever going to hear from you.”

“It was rude, I know. But I was just doing some thinking, and I wanted to figure out some things before I talked to you.”

“Does that mean you’ve figured it out?” I asked, trying to be nonchalant, but I was truly curious to know what she’d been pondering. She shrugged and nodded at the same time in an ambivalent, wordless answer, and I added, “I’ve been doing some thinking, too.”

“What about?”

“You first,” I chuckled.

Jo opened her mouth, but before she could answer, voices echoed from the runway. I inwardly cursed, knowing that our intimate moment was going to be ruined. Croz, Grandpa Billy, Borky, and TK came walking in. “Whoa. What’s a chick doing in the Inner Sanctum?” Billy asked, displaying his grin as he looked at me.

“I guess I’ll be going,” she mumbled, suddenly looking uncomfortable.

I knew it wasn’t because some of the guys had joined us, but because of who was in that small group: Bourque. He knew it, too. “Hey, listen, don’t leave on my account. And honestly, don’t listen to anything Jessica says. No one does,” he said. It sounded like a horrible joke, but I knew he wasn’t joking at all—which made it sad.

She folded her arms in front of her chest and stared at him. I was glad that I wasn’t the only incredulous one. Jo turned back to me and said, “Can I just wait for you outside?”

“It’ll take me about twenty minutes,” I told her, computing how long it would take me to finish undressing, shower, and then get into my street clothes.

“Don’t forget about the team meeting after practice,” Sid said, bursting my bubble.

I groaned, and Jo let out a little huff, in frustration more than annoyance. She sighed, “I guess I’ve got bad timing. Another time, then.”

“No, it’s okay,” I said quickly. “The shoot out could go on for a while. “I’ll hurry. Ten minutes.”

She nodded and headed for the lounge so the guys could undress. I moved as quickly as possible, and my hair was dripping wet when I walked out to meet her. “Hey,” I greeted again, sitting beside her. I sat fairly close so we didn’t have to talk too loud, because I knew that the rest of the guys would start floating around soon, in anticipation of the meeting.

“Hey,” she repeated. “Long time, no see.”

I cut to the chase. “So, you were saying?”

Jo shrugged. “I don’t even know where to start. You know, I hate change. I hate that things have to change and get all confusing. I hate that things have to be so hard for me, when it seems like other people just skate through life and get everything they want.” I opened my mouth, but she cut me off. “And if you even say, ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ or ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,’ I’ll punch you in your mouth right now.”

I cocked an eyebrow at her, a little bemused. “I promise, I wasn’t going to say that.”

“Good.” She sighed. “I hate that canned shit.”

“Well, what’s going on? What’s got you feeling this way?”

“Ugh, everything. That’s the problem. It started out with just you, and then the things Jessica said. And then I try to hang out with Tubby, who’s always there for me, and he tells me that he’s going back to college in January. Everything’s changing. Everything but me.”

“Do you feel like you have to change?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m wrong, but I don’t feel like I’m right, either. Does that... does that make sense?”

She looked at me, and the earnestness in her eyes made my breath catch in my throat. “Yeah. It does, actually.”

“And I know something’s gotta give. I just can’t remain stagnant while everything around me keeps going. I just don’t know what I’m willing to sacrifice yet.”

“Well, don’t think of it that way,” I told her. “Don’t think of it like a sacrifice, like you have to give something up. Change isn’t always bad. It is, however, always necessary. If you have to live with it, turn it into a good thing.”

“Leave it to you to try and turn it into a positive. You’re the ultimate optimist.”

“I don’t understand why you’re so negative. I mean, isn’t life too short to swell on the bad aspects?”

“It is,” she agreed. “But I’m not being pessimistic. I’m being realistic. I know I’ve got to change, but I just don’t know how yet.”

I reached out and grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze. “I think that right there is a step in the right direction. You’ll figure it out, Jo.”

She squeezed back. “I’m hoping you’ll help me figure it out.”

I looked at her curiously. “Of course. You don’t even have to ask. Just let me know.” That’s what I had been trying to do from the get go; I finally felt like I had made some actual progress.

“I still want to be me. But I can’t keep doing the same things. I don’t want to be just anything. I want to be the best possible version of myself. Unfortunately, I just don’t know what—or who—that is yet.”

“It’s a constant thing, Jo, trying to strive to be the best you can be. Every day, you have to make a conscious effort to be the person you want to be.”

She nodded. “Yeah. I know. And I’m going to try. The first thing I’m going to do is see about attending CMU again. Like, what I’d have to do to start classes.”

“That’s great, Jo!”

“Yeah. I know it’s gonna be hard, but I feel like I need to.”

“You’re smart, though. It won’t be too difficult for you.”

“I don't mean the classes. I have to live with trying to fulfill my dreams, knowing that James never will. That’s tough for me to deal with. That's why I gave them up in the first place.” She tried to pretend like the tears weren't burning her eyes. “I’m sure you understand that, Kris.”

“I do. For a while, I wondered if I’d ever be able to strap a pair of skates on again. But then I decided instead to play every game for him. To win for him.”

“But I can’t do that for James. We didn’t have the same dreams. Not unless I miraculously wake up tomorrow in tip-top physical condition in order to become the League’s first female hockey player,” she said, chuckling a little. “And there’s more to it than that.”

“Like what?”

“Do you mind if I’m blunt?”

“Would my answer really matter?” I asked back with laughter in my voice.

“I guess not,” she chuckled. “So, listen. I like you, Kris. Obviously, I’m sure you know that already. I mean, damn. You’re hot as hell, and you’re a genuine, nice guy.” I reddened a little as she said that. “But the thing is... I have no idea how you feel about me, and I would like to know.”

I gave her my honest answer. “Well, I like you, too, Jo.”

“Good,” she replied, a smile creeping onto her lips. “Do you think you could be with a girl like me?”

“What do you mean, ‘a girl like you’?” I continued before she could try to answer my rhetorical question. “You mean, a girl who’s a blast to hang around with, like you? A girl who can make me smile and laugh, like you? A girl with pink hair, like you? A pretty girl, like you?”

She smiled faintly, and it faded quickly. “A girl who rides a motorcycle, like me? A girl who drinks and smokes, like me?”

My grin dissipated, too. I let out a breath. That was the question of the week. “That’s what I’ve been thinking about these past few days.”

It was Jo’s turn to raise an eyebrow at me. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

She was impatient. “And?”

“I talked to a friend of mine, and she made some points. It’s not really fair for me to impose my values on you, but I can’t stand the thought of something happening to you, if it’s something that could have been avoided.” Jo tried to interrupt my thoughts, but I wouldn’t let her. I held up my hand and kept talking. “If you were riding, and you got into an accident, Jo, I.... I wouldn’t be able to handle it. But I can’t ask you to stop riding, either.”

“And I don’t want to stop, either. I love riding; it’s a freeing experience. But I like you, too.” Jo flipped her hand over and ran her fingertips along the lines of my palm. “So, what do we do?”

We sat for a moment in silence, neither of us willing to compromise. Some of the guys filtered through the door from the dressing room and disrupted us. Borky said, “Aw, look. They’re holding hands. Things are happy in paradise again.”

“Does this mean you’re coming out with us on Saturday, Jo?” Staalsy asked.

“Um, no,” she responded. “I changed my mind, and I really don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Come on. I’m sure we’ll all have a good time,” TK added.

She looked over at me. “No. I don’t really do anything big for birthdays. I shouldn’t’ve agreed in the first place.”

Crosby walked by. “Come on, guys. Team meeting, let’s go!”

The guys groaned but followed him so we could watch some game tape and prepare for our first meeting against the Panthers on Friday. I lingered behind and stayed with Jo. She had tried to leave, but I held onto her hand. “Wait a second.”

“What?” she asked, looking forlorn.

“You can still come out with us.”

“You still want me to?” Jo looked incredulous. “I just assumed that you wouldn’t... I mean, we couldn’t agree....”

“This is complicated,” I told her. “Honestly, I don't like the idea of you on your bike, but in the scheme of things, I guess I realize that we don't really know each other that well. I can't demand anything from you. I only hope that you'll respect my view point.”

“I do respect it, and I understand it, Kris. But I just don't agree with it.” She pursed her lips and looked to the floor. “I guess that, with winter right around the corner, that I won't be able to ride once the weather turns. And then this argument kind of becomes pointless.”

“Until spring,” I added, thinking out loud and liking where this discussion was headed.

“So, I mean, we don't have to worry about that just yet. We see where this goes, and if we're together in the spring, then we deal with it then. But as of right now, it's becoming a non-issue.”

It seemed like the perfect—albeit temporary—solution. Maybe it would be prolonging the inevitable, but I was going to forgo playing it safe and take a chance. We'd deal with this in six months, if it needed dealing with then. “All right. I think that settles that. But, back to my original question. If you want to come hang out with us on Saturday, you're more than welcome to.”

Jo smiled honestly. “Again, thanks for the invite, but I really don't think so. Another time, for sure. But, you know, it's probably the day I miss James the most.” I'd forgotten that James was her twin, and that they would have been sharing the same birthday. “Your friends already hate me, so I'd rather not make a worse impression on them by being all moody and sullen, because then they'd really not like me.”

“They don't not like you, Jo,” I tried to tell her. “You guys just need to get to know each other.”

“And I'm not saying no to that, okay? Just... not on my birthday.”

I yielded and nodded. “All right. Do you, uh, want to do something else then? Just you and me?”

“What about your friends?”

Shrugging, I said, “What about them?”

“Wouldn't you be blowing them off?”

“I see them practically every day. But it's your birthday.” I knew she'd be missing her brother a lot, and I figured that I could be with her and try to help her through it. So she could realize that her birthday wasn't a sad day, but a happy day for her and a day of pleasant memories.

“Okay. Cool. Wear something warm and comfortable, and pick me up after the game.”

“Why don’t you come to my game, and we can leave right after?”

She shook her head. “Sorry, but no. I don’t want to spend my birthday weekend sitting with those girls again. Once was enough to teach me that I don’t ever wanna do that again.”

“They’re not that bad, I promise you. Jessica, yes, but the others are really nice girls.”

“Nope. Just call me when you’re on your way, so I know to be ready,” Jo instructed, pulling her fingers out of my hand and walking away.

Sid poked his head in from the tech room. “Come on, man. We’re ready to start.” I looked over at him and nodded, trying to get my head right for Friday’s game, but I was already starting to look forward to Saturday night.

5 comments:

  1. Yes, Jo, the one right thing that you've said is that he is hot as hell. I agree with you on that, and where better to start?

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  2. As I go... might I add, yay ID!

    First of all... Thank you Gogo for understanding the word discretion! The only guy on the team (other than Sidney) who it's going around, running his mouth off loudly lol.

    "They always said “bros before ho’s,” but that wasn’t exactly the case, since Borky’s “ho” was the one who had screwed everything up."
    ^^ OH SNAP! Yes... stupid ho! lol sorry, I really dislike that girl... I feel another Lynn coming on. Maybe not as horrible, and I can't see it being as bad cause I'm sure Jo'd kick her ass; but a bitch none the less.

    "I have to live with trying to fulfill my dreams, knowing that James never will. That’s tough for me to deal with. That's why I gave them up in the first place."
    ^^ Ouch, that made me really sad. I never even thought about that being a reason for her giving up on her dreams. I could understand the whole, not feeling like life is worth living/why waste the time when you never know about tomorrow... but I never thought about that. =(

    “What do you mean, ‘a girl like you’?” I continued before she could try to answer my rhetorical question. “You mean, a girl who’s a blast to hang around with, like you? A girl who can make me smile and laugh, like you? A girl with pink hair, like you? A pretty girl, like you?”
    ^^ AWWWWW Ok... I think I just fell in love. That was the sweetest, most beautiful thing I've read in a very long time. Oh Mr. Letang... is there anything you can't do?

    "I'd forgotten that James was her twin, and that they would have been sharing the same birthday."
    ^^ Holy shit... I forgot that too... wow I'm dumb.
    That totally changes everything now... I can't believe I'm that dense.

    Loved it! I know you said you weren't happy with it... but it made me happy all the same =)
    I can't wait for saturday... yay!

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  3. Yep, I'm with Zigh - loved it! I like that they had a no b.s. conversation about the state of their relationship...

    Warm and comfortable, huh? I am very curious!

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  4. I WANT KRIS TO HOLD MY HAND AND REASSURE ME THAT EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY!

    Now that thats out of my system... great chapter! lol

    I love anything you write so really you could write complete nonsense and I would still applaud you. :)

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  5. AW AW AW AW AW AW AW. I want my own Kris. He's so damn cute and sweet and caring and adorable and did I mention sweet?!

    I love that they had that conversation and I love that it was very straight to the point. *Sigh* THEY LIKE EACHOTHER. Although we already knew that, I'm glad they finally put it out there!<3

    “Whoa. What’s a chick doing in the Inner Sanctum?”
    ^^I don't know why this line tickled me, but lmfao I love Billy G!

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