Monday, April 12, 2010

69.) Follow Through

I wanted to get this right. Not sure if I did, but I hope you enjoy it all the same. Thanks, guys, for being awesome like always. I seriously love you all.

Soundtrack Song - Nickelback, Far Away

“I know, Kent,” I sighed, trying desperately to get off the phone. First, he just wanted to call to see how I was doing. He was, after all, the first one to give me the news about Luc. Kent wanted to make sure I was handling it okay. But then there was talk about contracts. But the Olympic freeze was on, preventing any trades before the deadline, so there wasn’t much for me to worry about at this point.

Mr. Hughes’s voice crackled over the line. “I know you know, but I just want you to know that we’re going to do what’s best for you, Kris.”

“I know,” I repeated for what felt like the billionth time. I really didn’t want to have to think about this kind of stuff today. Like it hadn’t been on my mind all season. My mind wouldn’t be eased until I had that contract extension. Or if that didn’t happen, an offer over the summer. Then I’d have to see if Pittsburgh would match it. Ugh. At least this is why players have agents—so we don’t have to worry about this kind of stuff during the season. Just the next game. Scoring that next goal. Stopping that next goal from happening.

“The question is: how badly do you want to stay in Pittsburgh? Would you be willing to take a hometown discount if you got to stay? Or do you want to see what you’d command on the market? As a restricted free agent this summer, you could—”

I huffed and looked up from the ground. Really? He wanted to do this today? “Kent, really, I don’t want to think about this right now. I mean, I can’t think about it right now. Maybe when I get back to Montréal....” I knew Mom would rest a little easier once we talked strategy and figured out what we should hope for or expect, but she’d want to be included in that. Of course she’d try to talk me into doing whatever I could to play for the Canadiens, but now I had every reason to stay in Pittsburgh.

“Sure, Kris, we can put this talk on hold for now. But we really do need hammer this out. The sooner, the better, so promise me you’ll think about it.”

Speaking of a reason to stay with the Pens, I heard the door open and looked to see Jo walking out into the cold. “Listen, Kent, I gotta go,” I said, vaguely aware of how I was blowing him off but not caring.

“When can we—”

“Thursday. I’ll be back in Montréal and ready to figure it out then.” I hung up on him, shoving my phone into my pocket with my numb, cold hand. Jo approached and I reached out and took a hold of her arms. “Hey, whatcha doin’ out here?” It was freezing, and she didn’t grab her jacket, letting me know that whatever was going on was spur of the moment. Her eyes were glassy and shiny, like she was upset even though not quite at the crying stage. I wondered what was going on inside the house.

“Good news or bad news?” she asked, carefully examining my face.

“No news, really, if you’re asking about why Kent was calling. We’re pretty much just going around in circles and not getting anywhere, but you know, once the trade deadline passes and Shero picks up whatever wingers—because it’s always about wingers for Sid—we’ll get it all straightened out,” I explained with a sigh. “I know that it’s important stuff, and I should be concerned about it... but it’s Luc’s birthday. I can’t believe he wanted to talk money and contracts today. But you didn’t come out here to ask me about my phone call, did you?”

Jo cleared her throat and looked down at the ground. “I, um, I didn’t think this through.”

“Think what through?” I could see Jo’s resolve waver. I’m not gonna lie: I was a little concerned, especially since she had been making a point of staying so strong today. It wasn’t that I didn’t think she wasn’t allowed to show vulnerability today or anything like that, because of me, but she had just tried so hard to show me how strong and reliable she could be. Something big must have happened if she was dropping that façade.

“Nothing. It’s nothing,” she breathed, puffs of steam manifesting with her words. She reached out and grabbed fistfuls of my shirt at my sides, holding on tightly. “I’m sorry that your agent was being a little insensitive today. It’s a sad day, and he should have been more respectful of that. He should have known better, since he was Luc’s agent, too.”

I shrugged, pulling her into me for a hug. Jo pressed her cheek against my chest, and I kissed the top of her head. “Well, it’s not that it’s a sad day. It’s a day for remembrance, which doesn’t have to be sad. It can be happy, too. It’s just not a time to discuss business. It’s a time for family and friends. But, you know, I guess I can’t really fault him for that kind of attitude. It is what I pay him for.”

“So... you’re not sad?” she questioned carefully.

“Uh, well, kinda. I mean, I’d rather be celebrating Luc’s birthday with Luc, but it’s just like I told you on your birthday back in October—”

“‘Birthdays are for celebrating life,’” she sighed.

“Exactly,” I said, proud of her for remembering. I gave her an extra little squeeze. “It’s about celebrating with loved ones and having fun, being thankful for being around for the occasion.”

“But it’s not your birthday that you’re celebrating. It’s Luc’s. So doesn’t that make it sadder rather than happier?”

I prepared myself for this philosophical debate. “Well, it’s like I said. It’s sad that he’s not here, but that just makes you realize more that you need to enjoy the time you do have. It’s a sad reminder that you have to be happy, concentrate on all the good things, and make sure it’s a good day.”

“But doesn’t that mean reveling in the memories of Luc? I mean, this is Luc’s day. So that’s why you don’t wanna talk business with your agent. Or talk about other stuff. Right? Because today’s about remembering and honoring Luc. Everything else can wait ’til tomorrow. Right?”

There was something else going on inside Jo’s crazy head. But I wasn’t sure what it was because she was purposely being evasive and obviously trying to get some kind of answer out of me before she made her move. I treaded cautiously. “Um, yeah, today is about remembering all the good times with Luc. That’s why we’re all gathered here. But the best way to honor his memory is to enjoy his birthday, however possible. That’s the kind of guy he was: fun-loving, live-for-the-moment, happy. It’s what he’d want. I mean, this is the first time I could make it back, and although I was sad I knew that, like, he wouldn’t’ve been upset by it. He understands, er, understood, that there’s always something going on. I mean, the past couple of years he was alive, we weren’t able to get together to celebrate his birthday. He knew that there were other things going on. Besides, he never liked big fusses made over him anyway.”

She nodded, seemingly satisfied with my answer. Thank God. “So, are you enjoying his birthday?”

“Yeah, I am. Except I’m still pretty hungry. We should probably get back inside, before all the food’s gone.” Plus, I was freezing my ass off after being out here for close to ten minutes already on the phone with Kent. I rubbed her arms to keep her warm, knowing she was feeling the effects of the cool air, too.

“Umm,” she mumbled, looking back toward the back door. I wasn’t sure what she was looking for, because I could see now that the kitchen was full of people huddling around the table to pile their plates high with food. Once again, I wondered what had gone in the house, while I was out here on the phone, that was making her act this way. “Not yet. Let’s sit down for a sec,” she suggested, placing her hands on my chest and gently applying some pressure to back me up further into the backyard.

There was a picnic table in the yard, which was only half covered in snow because of the tree it was under. I sat on the dry section of the bench seat and waited for Jo to sit beside me, but she didn’t. She pushed her way between my legs and stood towering over me. I held onto the backs of her thighs, looking up at her face. “You’ve got me a little worried. Did something happen in there? Did you need some fresh air? Or did you want to be alone for a second?”

“Well, I was talking with Charlene. She said some things that got me thinking and gave me some good advice.”

“Advice about what?” I asked. Jo gave me a stern look to warn me against interrupting her. I pressed my thumb and forefinger together and ran them across the length of my lips, zipping them shut and then throwing away the imaginary key.

“So, like I was saying, Charlene told me that I shouldn’t wait to tell you if I knew—”

My interest was piqued and I had to ask, “Tell me what?”

“I’d get there if you’d stop interrupting me,” she sighed with a smile. Jo ran her fingers through my hair, starting at my temples and lightly scratching her nails against my scalp as she cradled my head in her hands. It felt so good. “I want to explain, okay? Because I want you to understand. I need you to understand.”

“Okay.”

Her fingers twirled in my hair as she gazed down at me and I looked up at her. “So like I was saying, Charlene gave me great advice to be up front with you. Actually, it was kind of more like a reminder, because we both know how short life is, and that we just have to take the bull by horns and dive in head first. I mean, I know that, and I think I somehow forgot it along the way. It took Charlene to knock some sense into me, but better late than never, I guess.

“So, I came out here to talk to you, but then you said about your agent. So then I thought that maybe today would be a bad day to tell you this, because it is Luc’s birthday, a special day with a special significance to you. But that’s just it—it’s one of those days that serves as a reminder to be open and honest because you never know if maybe you won’t get the chance to do it when you finally feel ready, right? I mean, you pretty much said so yourself.”

I wasn’t sure if that was a rhetorical question or not. Or it could have been a trap. I didn’t want to risk it either way, so I just kept my mouth shut.

“Long story short, I came out here to say this, and then I was afraid that maybe I shouldn’t, but I’m going to. I’m gonna follow through on Charlene’s advice.” She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, looking up into the sky before she looked back down into my eyes with determination. “I wish you would trust me like I want you to. I want you to be able to talk to me, about anything and everything in between. But I can’t be mad at you for not being open and not trusting me, if I’m not being completely honest with you, now can I? That’s hypocritical.”

My lips parted as I tried to take in what she was saying. I didn’t know where any of this was coming from and I didn’t exactly agree with what she was saying, but I couldn’t ask Jo about it or differ with her, because she placed her hand over my mouth. “I’m not done yet. So this is me, being totally, one-hundred-percent open and honest with you. I will wait until you’re ready to trust me, and I’ll wait however long it takes. Because I love you, Kristopher Allen.”

I closed my eyes and let her statement wash over me. She cupped the back of my neck with both her hands as her lips pressed against my forehead, right above my left eyebrow before she spoke again. “I’m in love with you.” Next she kissed my nose. “And I think I always was.” Her lips caressed my cheek. “I just hope that you’ll forgive me for not taking my head out of my ass and telling you sooner.” Then her mouth came down on my mine, leaving several soft pecks on my lips. “I hope that you’re not mad that it took all this for me to realize it.”

I’m not gonna lie and say that I hadn’t been wondering when this moment would happen and she’d finally tell me. It had been a long time since I’d said those same words to her, and I had told her I’d wait to hear it back—but every day I hoped that that particular day would be the day. I certainly hadn’t had the expectation of hearing it on today of all days, but Luc had always told me to chill out and be happy. I think this would fulfill his wishes, so it couldn’t have worked out any better.

Tightening my grip around her legs, I pulled her down so she was sitting on my lap, her ass resting on my left thigh. She swung her legs so they were draped across my right leg. I moved one hand to her waist, to hold her there, and then I placed the other one high up on her thigh. Now we were at eye level with each other. Her hands were still at the back of my neck. I whispered, “I’m not mad. I don’t forgive you, because there’s nothing to forgive. Whatever it took to make you see... well, I’m just glad that you finally know.” Our faces were so close together that our noses brushed. “And I’m so happy you told me as soon as you figured it out.” I laughed. “After all, it took you long enough.”

Jo crashed her lips against mine, her nails digging into my flesh as she kissed me with everything she had. I could feel how the corners of her mouth pulled into a smile. She tugged on my hair gently to get me to open my mouth, and as soon as I did, her tongue pushed itself into my mouth and swirled around mine. This kiss was hot, demanding, passionate, and absolutely full of love, all at once.

I pulled back and gasped for air, caught off guard and completely unprepared for how quickly that had escalated. After a few deep breaths, I asked, “Does this mean I get to say it to you and you won’t freak out this time?”

“Only one way to find out, I guess,” she teased back, her teeth chattering slightly as she finished her sentence.

Chuckling, I held her face in my hands. “I love you.”

She bit her lip and raised an eyebrow, pretending to look around and wait to see how she’d react. “I think I’m okay with that.”

“Good. Because I’m going to tell you every chance I get. You’ll never go a day without knowing how I feel about you, Jo.”

“I’m looking forward to it.” She lowered her voice suggestively and spoke into my ear. “Just like I’m looking forward to showing you how I feel about you tonight back at the hotel.”

I groaned at the thought and promise and innuendo laced with her comment. “I’m looking forward to it.” As Jo nipped at my ear lobe, I ran through our conversation in my head, relishing in everything she had said to me. It felt like my chest would swell and burst with emotion. Something, though, nagged at the back of my head. “What did you mean about waiting for me to trust you? Jo, I do.”

Her mouth stopped working, unfortunately, as she pursed her lips, obviously not believing me. “It’s okay, Kris. I know I’ve gotta earn your trust, and earn it the hard way: through time, and devotion, and love. I can do it.”

“But I do,” I promised her, taking her hands in mine and rubbing her cold fingers. “I brought you home. You met my mother. I brought you here. This is a big part of my life. It means so much to me that I can share this with you, and that you understand. I probably—I mean, I know for sure—this would have been a lot harder without you here. That counts for something. It counts for a lot, Jo.”

“I know,” she smiled. It was genuine, big, warm, glowing smile. “Believe me, Kris.... I know how big of a deal this was for you. I appreciate that you trusted me enough to invite me in as far as you did. Someday, there won’t be any secrets between us, and you won’t feel ashamed to tell me anything. I’m okay with having to work to that point in our relationship, because it’ll be a great day. I love you, and I’m willing to do anything for you. Just remember that.”

We were interrupted by Big Luc, who popped his head out the back door and called out, “Letang!”

I reluctantly let go of Jo. She smiled and got off my lap, giggling, “Oh well. I guess I’ll have to wait a few more hours to show you how I feel.”

Standing, I grabbed her hand and brought it up to my lips. Her hand served as a screen as I muttered as low as possible, “As soon as we can get out of here....” We approached the back door, where Mr. Bourdon was waiting. He was a friendly guy, and he man-hugged me quickly. “Hey, Big Luc. How’s it going?”

“Glad to see you, boy. How’s the season going?”

“Good,” I told him, going with the flow. That’s the best way to deal with him; as nice of a guy as he is, he’s very loud, boisterous, a little pushy, and pretty abrasive. After Luc had passed, he treated me like an adopted son.

“Woulda been nice to see you guys go out for the break with a win though,” he said loudly, clapping me on the back with enough force that I had to struggle to keep my balance and not fly forward.

“Yeah, well, we would have liked that, too.”

“Nice move you tried on the shootout, but maybe you should have tried going to the other side? I don’t know much about Ellis, but he doesn’t seem to move too well laterally.”

“We coulda used you on the bench, then,” I commented dismissively, hoping that that would end this particular discussion. It’s not that I didn’t mind talking hockey with him, but if I didn’t score a goal or two every game, he had something to say about it.

He laughed. “Can you imagine that? Let me tell you though, boy, you’d be winning a lot more games with my help. I’d make sure you guys were training hard enough. And I certainly wouldn’t be giving you enough time to waste necking with any of your girlfriends.” He thrust his hand toward Jo, and I think it startled her. “Nice to meet you. Luc’s dad. Everyone calls me Big Luc.”

“Nice to meet you, Big Luc,” she smiled, accepting his hand and trying not to grimace as he shook it firmly. As much as she tried to hide it, I could tell that her hand was being crushed. “I’m Jo. But don’t worry, I try not to waste too much of Kris’s time during the season.”

Big Luc guffawed, pulling on her hand until she was standing beside him and he was resting one of his heavy arms around her shoulders. “A funny one, eh? You should meet my stepdaughter, Eve—”

Charlene walked in, assessing the situation and responding accordingly. “Jo, Suz and I could use your help in the kitchen?”

“Be right there,” she breathed, relieved to escape. Nimbly, she slipped out from underneath his arm. “Sorry, Big Luc. Duty calls, but I’ll come find you later.”

Jo was gone before I had the chance to kiss her cheek or say anything. Without anyone else to absorb his focus, Big Luc clapped his hand on my back again. “So tell me, Letang, what kind of stick have you been using?”

9 comments:

  1. Love it. Simply marvelous. =)

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  2. Seriously, perfection.

    I loved this whole thing from "I know Kent" to "So tell me, Letang, what kind of stick have you been using?"

    I was freakkkking out when Kris started talking about the agent stuff that my prediction was right and she was going to chicken out of telling him. And, I realize it isn't perfect yet because she still feels like he isn't telling her everything, and well, he's not. But, oh Jesus, it was prety fucking close.

    I love open, honest Jo and happy Kris. You describe in such great detail even the smallest of actions and looks and emotions that it is like reading a moie that is playing in my head.

    Fantastic stuff, I would have quoted my favourites but the whole comment would have just got messy.

    Bravo.

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  3. i havent been commenting on this, but i loved this. i had a feeling she was going to back out on saying the 3 words to him, but i, glad she did. he really did need to hear her say that. i loved how you wrote this. and no lie i cant wait for you to update.

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  4. I loved how she finally told him but I want Jo to have done it for the right reasons - and not because Charlene told her to. And I liked how Kris wasn't expecting it, as if he'd almost given up hope of her saying it back, today of all days.

    Final line “So tell me, Letang, what kind of stick have you been using?” - as if a stick makes all the difference.

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  5. What a lovely scene, with everyone so true to character. I really like the tension between them, Jo trying to push herself into that vulnerable space and Kris being wary and concerned. And then they move into a tender, intimate moment together, so nicely done.

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  6. perfect.
    and that's all i can say about this amazing chapter.

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  7. Ahhhhh the "i love you's" : )
    Perfect!!

    I know I havent been commenting much lately, but when the sad parts come or the more serious sections, I really can't bring myself to put words together to make a comment.

    Just know that regardless, if I comment on every chapter, or if I skip a few, I adore this story, and your writing is marvelous : )

    Great update!

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  8. Everyone pretty much summed up my comments, so I will just throw in PERFECT!

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