Sunday, March 7, 2010

53.) Finished Business

Soundtrack Song - The Temper Trap, Sweet Disposition

I laced up my skates with quick and fluid movements. These were familiar movements that I was used to performing, and they were calculated and precise. The locker room was quiet; I had been late for practice, and everyone else was out on the ice already. I knew that I would have to make up for being late, somehow—probably by putting in some extra time after everyone else left.

Skating out onto the ice, I tried to join the huddle of guys around the dry-eraser board inconspicuously. No one said anything to me, or even gave me as much as a sideways glance. I was glad for that, initially... but I knew that this just meant I’d hear about it later.

When Yeosy was finished with his diagramming and the drill was explained to us, we skated out in our groups. Eats was across from me in the rink, and Goli was in front of me. As Gonch and Orps began their turn, I asked Gogo, “Did Coach notice I was late?”

He shrugged underneath his bulky pads. “If he did, he didn’t say anything. I told the guys you called me to say you were stuck in traffic.”

I sighed with appreciation. “Thanks, man.”

“So, why were you really late?” he questioned, looking at me with a critical eye. “You look exhausted. You all right?”

“I’m good,” I assured him, tossing in a nod for good measure. Maybe I wasn’t at my greatest yet, but mentally, I was good. Just feeling exhausted from lack of sleep, too much exertion, and an uncomfortable night. “Long night, ya know.”

“No, uh, I don’t know,” Goose rebutted, looking at me carefully. As one of the more reserved guys on the team, like me, he was observant and could tell when something was going on underneath the surface. “Wanna fill me in?”

“I went over Jo’s last night,” I told him dismissively.

“So... long night talking or long night making up?” he chuckled, already able to discern the answer on his own. Luckily for me, Goligoski understands the meaning of the word discretion. He kept that tidbit of information to himself. It’s not that I was ashamed of it, but I just didn’t want to deal with the third degree of questioning from the guys about it.

It was my turn for the drill, so I pushed off against the wall. Coach Dan yelled at me, to pick up my feet and skate harder, but I couldn’t seem to do it. After a few run throughs, Disco even came over to me to ask if I were feeling okay.

“Letang, how are you feeling?”

“Good, Coach.”

“Are you getting sick?” he badgered me further. I shook my head, and he added, “Because if you are, I don’t want you infecting everyone else on the team. Especially if it’s the flu.”

“I know,” I promised him. No way would I risk getting the whole team sick if I were indeed not feeling up to snuff.

“So, then, what is it? Late night last night?” He wouldn’t drop the issue. Dan looked at me closely, knowing that I wasn’t a partier like the rest of the guys, really trying to find an explanation as to why I couldn’t give my all at practice.

“Not... really...” I lied, stumbling for something to say. The last thing I wanted to tell my coach was that I had made love with my girlfriend all morning after sleeping on her couch—and that’s why I was tired. Jo and I were going to have to have a serious conversation about good times and bad times for sex.

He nodded and tried to be understanding. There’s a certain amount of privacy that a professional athlete gets regarding his personal life; we can be private as long as it doesn’t affect our physical performances. If this were a onetime thing, then he would overlook it and possibly chalk it up to foolishness on my part. But if the trend continued—especially when I wasn’t contributing much offensively in games—then he would most certainly butt in and ask for a good explanation.

As my teammates and the coaching staff gathered at center ice for the shoot out drill, Bylsma insisted that I leave after I net my goal, with strict instructions to rest. I had fully expected to stay and practice my shot or even just keep my feet moving by skating laps, but when he gave me the go-ahead to leave, I decided to take him up on that.

I went first, and I picked up a puck on my stick as I began to bear down on Flower. I stretched and flexed the muscles in my legs as I skated smoothly over the ice, and I batted the puck from my forehand to backhand. Jo’s words came back to me: when you control your body, you control the puck like it’s a part of you. Almost like telekinesis. I barely even had to think about it; it felt so natural and easy to slide that puck five-hole on Fleury. I might as well have been walking down the street and chewing bubble gum.

Quickly, I skated past the guys and immediately headed back into the locker room to shower and dress. Even though the majority of the guys would have made their shots by the time I was back in my street clothes, the dressing room was empty. Surely they were staying to put in some extra work or just generally horse around.

I sent a message to Jo to let her know that I was on my way as I started my car and buckled in. I was anxious to get this done, for some reason. Maybe because I felt like this would be another step in the right direction for Jo, so she could reconcile her past with her present. Or maybe because I felt like if we could accomplish this, we could finally move on and move forward past her accident. It would be like a complete redo of that Friday, and we’d have the opportunity to spend the day the way we were always supposed to.

When I pulled up in front of her house, she was already standing on the curb, supported by her crutches. She was wearing baggy black sweats, a thick, heavy jacket, and that toque pulled down over her head. I quickly threw the car into park so I could get out and help her, but she was opening the door and sliding her crutches into the back as she herself slid in carefully, minding her cast the entire time.

“Jo, what are you doing?” I asked. “You should have waited inside. I would have come and helped you.”

“Kris, it’s okay,” she replied, leaning over to kiss me in greeting. “Now that my arm cast’s off, it’s easier for me to get around. I don’t really need a lot of help.”

“But still...” I argued, not really having an argument.

She giggled as she fastened her seatbelt. “You’re so cute when you’re being overprotective. Seriously, Kris, it’s okay. You don’t need to worry so much.” Jo quickly changed the subject to end our current discussion. “So, do you know where we’re going?”

“Uh, yeah. I had Kelsey give me a recommendation before.” She responded with a quick a nod and then stared out the window. “You nervous?” I asked her as I pulled away from her house and headed toward town. “Having second thoughts?”

“Not nervous. Just anxious, I guess.” She didn’t even bother looking at me to answer. I knew that it must have been really making her nervous—or anxious, if that’s how she wanted to describe it.

“If you don’t want to—”

“I didn’t say that I didn’t want to,” Jo sighed. “It’s just a big change.”

“How is it a ‘big change?’” I chuckled. “Dying your hair purple, or black, or pink—now that’s a big change. Back to brown? Not so much.”

Jo laughed softly, too. “You have a point there, I guess. But still, it’s just one more change. One more thing, going back to the way it used to be.”

“And what’s so wrong with that?”

“I don’t know. Nothing, I guess. I just....” She tilted her head to the side and glanced at me. “It doesn’t really make sense when I say it out loud, but it makes sense to me in my head.”

We drove the rest of the way in silence. I helped her out of the car and then opened the door of the salon for her. A stylist was there to greet us and ask for the reason of our visit. Jo pulled off her hat, and her hair spilled out down her back. The stylist gave her a funny look but immediately invited her back toward the sinks.

“Kris, um, I don’t know how to ask you this but... will you be my bitch and hold my purse?” she asked with a giggle.

“I don’t know, Jo, it doesn’t match my outfit,” I laughed, taking the bag from her. “I’ll do it, but just don’t call me your ‘bitch’ again.”

She laughed as she handed me her jacket, too, and then swung on her crutches, following the stylist and beginning to tell her what she wanted done. I sat in the uncomfortable chairs and tried to occupy my time as I waited. I was bored out of mind, because the reading materials were stupid hair magazines and the television was tuned into some stupid soap operas. In fact, I think I just fell asleep because there was nothing better to do. Well, Coach did tell me to get some rest.

I felt something kick my foot, bringing me out of my slumber. Rubbing my eyes as I sat up, it took a second for my sight to focus. I almost didn’t recognize Jo. Sure, she was a brunette again, but her hair was cut to shoulder-length. It was definitely different and not at all what I was used to where Jo was concerned, but it was a good different. I liked it.

Jo looked hesitant and unsure. “What do you think?” she asked me quietly, her voice shaky and mousy.

Standing up, I tried to think of what to say without offending her in any way. I mean, if I told her I liked it, I didn’t want her to think that I didn’t like her hair before. As I tried to think, I smiled down at her. Not only did I like it, but it felt good to have this done. It was over; our do-over was complete. Her dye job was finished business, and now all that there was left to do was head into the future.

She sidestepped me in order to look in the mirror again. Jo ran her hands through it self-consciously and rambled, “I know it’s a little weird. I mean, this is pretty much the color it was before. Except it’s a little darker, because she couldn’t get all the black out. But, like, I haven’t seen this girl in... so long.”

“I like this girl,” I said, doing my best to be reassuring. I leaned in to kiss her cheek, but spoke into her ear first. “Just don’t tell my girlfriend. She tends to get a little jealous.”

With a laugh, she blushed a little bit. “Well, you’re a pretty hunky guy. I can see why she’d feel that way.”

I kissed her cheek again as I heard a rumbling sound. “Is that your stomach?”

She wrapped her arms around her middle. “Uh, yeah. Sorry, that was really loud.”

“Well, what do you say we get out of here and grab something to eat?”

“Sounds good.” Jo followed me to the counter as I handed over my credit card, not even caring enough to hear the total first. Whatever the cost, it was worth it. It’s not that I didn’t like Jo before, because I did; it’s just that her outside didn’t match her inside. When she was trying to hold people at arm’s length, it helped that she looked like an intimidating bad ass. But that wasn’t what she was. She was a good, sweet girl that had just tried to cover up all her hurt. However, as she was working through it, she didn’t have anything to hide anymore.

After I helped Jo back into her jacket and handed her purse back to her, we left the salon and headed farther into town for lunch. I pointed the car toward my favorite eatery, and Jo moaned. “Do you not have a spontaneous bone in your body?”

“What?”

“I know exactly where we’re going. I think we should go somewhere else. Anywhere else.”

“Where do you wanna go?”

“No, I’m not picking. You pick.”

“I did. The deli.”

“No no no. Don’t you ever just want to do something outside of the norm? I don’t care if you just pull off the side of the road and pick the first place you see. I just want you to try something new, for once.”

I sighed but did exactly that. I drove around the corner until we hit this Italian place that some of the guys had talked about before, where Goligoski’s friend Amelia worked. In fact, she was on duty for the lunch shift. The hostess sat us in Amelia’s section; I know she recognized me, but I wasn’t sure if it would have been appropriate for me to talk to her like I knew her. I knew her, of course, because she was sleeping with Gogo, but I didn’t think she knew that I knew that.

Amelia took our orders and left us alone. Jo kept playing with her hair, so I reached across the table and took her hands in mine. “Stop it.”

“Sorry,” she apologized with a nervous giggle. “It just feels so different.”

“Anyway,” I said, changing the subject, “we’re playing the Flyers tomorrow. Wanna come?”

“Uh, no,” she replied, looking away from me and wringing her hands from my grasp.

“What’s wrong? What is it?”

“I’m just going to be busy tomorrow.”

“At night?”

“Well, I’m going to schedule my classes for the spring semester tomorrow, and then, well, stuff. If you wanted to come over after the game, or hang out or whatever, that would be cool, though.”

“I can’t. It’s a home-and-home series, and then we’re going to Buffalo. I’ll be leaving right after the game.”

“Oh,” she sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Are you sure you can’t come? I mean, if you’re busy, you’re busy, but I won’t be able to see you for a few days....”

She pursed her lips. “I just can’t, Kris. I can’t watch hockey tomorrow. It’s the fifteenth.”

“I don’t get it,” I replied, wondering what was going through her head. What did that have to do with anything?

“December fifteenth. It’s the two year anniversary....” Jo took a deep breath, playing with her straw in her glass. “It’s the day that James died.”

7 comments:

  1. Yay for ID!!! Possibly the best distraction ever, for a procrastinator like me! =)

    I love the description of Kris getting ready to go out onto the ice... like it should be monotonous, he's done it so many times... but that's not how he thinks of it. That might seem like a weird thing to comment on, and I'm not sure why I liked it so much, but I'll just roll with it lol.

    "The last thing I wanted to tell my coach was that I had made love with my girlfriend all morning after sleeping on her couch—and that’s why I was tired."
    ^^ Idk... it seems like a valid excuse and I mean, when you're on a team with ppl like Max Talbot and Jordan Staal, I'm pretty sure there's been worse (true stories) told to the coach.

    “I don’t know, Jo, it doesn’t match my outfit,”
    ^^ Hahaha! I love their interactions and just seeing how much they've changed each other. Jo's dying her hair back to normal, and Kris is making jokes... what's the world coming to?!

    "“I like this girl,” I said, doing my best to be reassuring. I leaned in to kiss her cheek, but spoke into her ear first. “Just don’t tell my girlfriend. She tends to get a little jealous.”"
    ^^ =P You know you're looking good when they do the whole 'don't tell my g/f' thing! I just hope she doesn't regret it too much, I'm sure it look fantastic... and I'm just glad that she actually did it. (I was worried she wouldn't).

    Amelia!! <3 yayayayayay! hahaha I have nothing useful to say for that section so... *smiley face*

    "She pursed her lips. “I just can’t, Kris. I can’t watch hockey tomorrow. It’s the fifteenth.”:
    ^^ UGH JAMES!!! I actually said that out loud as soon as I read this line. I don't think I actually knew it was the fifteenth, that he died on but... I just *knew* when she said that, if that makes sense.
    Ugh... and then she confirms it at the end... =(

    She's just getting everything back around to a happy life... I hope this doesn't end things or make her fall off the band wagon. And I get not wanting to go watch hockey... but I hate the idea of her without Kris during that time... poor Jo!!

    Now I have to wait till the next one... and hope that the bottom doesn't fall out on everyone! Damn you and your loveable characters/captivating storyline!! lol

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  2. "long night?" HAHAHA
    Poor Kris!!

    Ah, I'm soooo happy she has "normal" hair now, it's not that I have a problem with colored hair, I've had pink in mine before, it's just I couldn't imagine seeing Kris holding hands with someone with crazy hair? Make sense?

    And : ( please Jo don't go crazy on the aniversary date. In two years, I lost 7 people close to me, and was told that dates [anniversary's/birthdays] are just a "date" there is no need on one day to feel more lost and alone than on others, because it's just a number..you can remember/love those people everyday of your life

    Great update : )

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  3. I was so happy to see this updated again. I know it's only been like two days, but still lmao I love this story. Anyway, poor Kris, getting picked on by Disco :P

    “Kris, um, I don’t know how to ask you this but... will you be my bitch and hold my purse?”
    ^^I was pretty sure that this was the best line I've ever seen....

    “I don’t know, Jo, it doesn’t match my outfit,”
    ^^But then this happened. L.M.F.A.O. So so so funny!

    I really hope Jo doesn't get too depressed on the fifteenth. Things were just starting to go so well =/

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  4. "December fifteenth. It’s the two year anniversary....” Jo took a deep breath, playing with her straw in her glass. “It’s the day that James died.”

    This is soooo tragic and sad.
    Great update!!! I really look forward to new ones of this story.

    -elle

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  5. im so glad she got her done... Kris had a total point with that... i can't wait to read more

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  6. First, Zigh, you're not the only procrastinator, I'm on your team! And I agree, ID is the best diversion!

    Second, Jay, your description of his goal against Fleury, the fact he remembered Jo's words, that part was awesome.

    And my second favorite: “I like this girl,” I said, doing my best to be reassuring. I leaned in to kiss her cheek, but spoke into her ear first. “Just don’t tell my girlfriend. She tends to get a little jealous.” So cuuute!!!

    Finally, everything was amazing as always!

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  7. So very, very sweet, and good for Jo for making him pick a place he wouldn't normally go to, oh and loved the little inclusion of Amelia (teehee!)

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