Tuesday, April 27, 2010

78.) Taking Turns

A/N: I want to preface this post, but I don't know what to say.

Soundtrack Song - Breaking Benjamin, Give Me a Sign (Acoustic)

The day’s bright and sunny, and I want nothing more than to be doing anything but studying. But I’m taking the SATs again on Saturday, and I need to up my verbal score if CMU is gonna accept me. I did really great in the math portion the first time around, but fuck... I just suck at analogies, plain and simple.

Because the weather’s so nice, I decide to sit outside underneath the tree in the shade as I flip through my flashcards and work on my vocab. But I’m startled out of my concentration when a hard rubber ball whips by my head, causing me to jump and gasp, and my flashcards to go flying every which way.

“James! What the hell!” I look over at him, and he’s laughing at me from the street as he leans on his stick.

“Come on,” he says, jerking his head and gesturing for me to join him.

“Ugh, no. Some of us have to study, Mr. 1480. Just because you already got early admission into college doesn’t mean that all of us get to slack off.”

“You can’t cram for a standardized test, Jo-Jo. Stop freaking out about it and relax.”

“Easy for you to say,” I huff, gathering up the cards before the wind blows them away. Of course James doesn’t care; he definitely got the highest score in the history of our school. He walked in with me that morning cool as a freakin’ cucumber with no preparation, and couldn’t get any closer to a perfect score of 1600 if he had tried. Actually, if he had tried, he probably would have.

“You need to chill out and not worry about it so much. Take a break and come play with me.”

“We’re not five anymore, Jimmy. I can’t drop what I’m doing and ‘play’ with you just because you want me to. I gotta study.”

He jabs me with the blade of his stick as he stands a safe distance away from me. “Seriously, the more you stress out, the worse you’re gonna do.”

“Seriously, if you poke me one more time—”

I don’t even get the chance to finish my warning, because he thrusts the stick against my hands and something in me snaps. Carrying through with my threat, I drop the cards completely and wrap my fingers around his hockey stick, yanking it out of his hands and then winding up with it like it’s a baseball bat. He winces as I whack his side with the stick, which then breaks in two.

“What the fuck was that for?!” he hollers, and I hope Mom or Dad hears him and grounds him for his language.

“I tried to warn you.” I drop the broken stick and begin, again, to pick up my flashcards. I have to learn these Greek and Latin word parts.

“I’m telling,” he taunts, rubbing his ribs on his left side, just where my tattoo is on my side. “You’re buying me a new stick!”

“Go ahead, ya big baby,” I say, being encouraging in a smug way. “Go tell on me. See if Mom cares. She’ll tell you it was your own damn fault.”

“Screw that, I’m telling Tanger,” he pouts, waiting for that to evoke a response from me. But it doesn’t. In fact, I don’t even look up from what I’m doing as he skulks away into the house. Flipping through the cards, I begin to quiz myself: dict, to say; vert, to turn; chron, time....

Gasping for air, I sat straight up in bed, the sheet falling away and exposing my naked body. I pulled the sheet up over my chest, curling my hands and tucking it under my chin as the tears instantly pooled in my eyes. It was the same dream again, the exact same one I’d had during the drive up to Shippagan.

It shouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did, because it wasn’t that terrifying of a nightmare; not in comparison to the ones where James would be trapped inside our burning house and I was helpless to stop him or save him from certain death. There were no shocking or traumatic events in this one, but it was still incredibly upsetting to me. It wasn’t what happened; rather, it was how I had acted. Like a bitch. I should have gone and played with him, spent time with him while I still had the chance, because now I didn’t have that opportunity. If I’d have known then what I knew now....

My sudden movements brought Kris out of his slumber, and he jerked awake and looked around with surprise, like he was expecting an intruder or some other external stimulus. He obviously wasn’t sure what had jolted him awake. Since I had gathered the fabric of the covers around me, like a security blanket, I had pulled the sheet off him; the faint moonlight shining through the window lit the room enough so I could see the definition of the muscles of his taut and sexy body, the dark outline of his tattoo, his knotted hair, and his concerned expression. The light not only caused his eyes to sparkle, but it also reflected off the tiny flecks of glitter that had transferred from my body to his. His voice was thick and groggy as he quickly asked, “What is it? What happened?”

I turned my body slightly in his direction, my lip trembling and giving me away. I didn’t have to explain anything to him—he instantly knew—but I still told him, “I had a dream....”

Kris didn’t know what to say immediately. I knew that he was unsure of himself because this wasn’t how it usually happened. When I had the nightmares before, I had always woken up to Kris cradling and rocking me as he whispered soft, soothing, and comforting words. He’d always been prepared, like he knew it was happening even in his sleep. But this time, it hadn’t disturbed him, so he didn’t know how to help me cope or deal with it. Because something had changed.

“It’s okay, Jo. It was just a dream. It’s over now,” he cooed smoothly, pushing himself up from his supine position and rubbing my back. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he wasn’t exactly sure about what he should do. I wasn’t in hysterics like before, but I was still visibly distressed. “Do you wanna tell me about it?”

No, I didn’t want to tell him about it; I didn’t want this to be happening period. Things had been going so well. Yesterday, Kris and I had re-consummated our relationship after he shared his past with me. We had moved to a new place, a relaxed comfort zone, and then when we had finally had sex again, it had been amazing. It was just like after my accident, when we hadn’t seen each other in a while, let alone been together—it was absolutely explosive. And hot. And intense. All that pent-up emotion and passion boiled over and we went at it like rabbits. Or more like Energizer bunnies, that just kept going, and going, and going....

This was an interesting dynamic that our relationship had developed over its course. We were taking turns leaning on each other when we needed support. Not that that in itself was weird, because every once in a while, everyone needed a shoulder to cry on. But Kris and I, it almost seemed like it was always either him or me needing that shoulder. At first, it was pretty much just me: my birthday, James’s death day, the drugging incident, my accident, starting school again, the pregnancy scare. But Kris was relying on me, too: the injury to his shoulder, Luc’s birthday, confessing his need for honesty, revealing his uncomfortable past, showing me his well-hidden vulnerability.

I always thought that romantic relationships wouldn’t be like this, and that I wouldn’t open up like this to a boyfriend. Friends were the ones who would be with through anything. Boyfriends only supplied love and affection, not this type of emotional support. But Kris was everything, a friend and a lover. He was all-encompassing, transcending any one label.

There wasn’t anything wrong with that; I mean, this relationship was incredibly life-altering and meaningful to me. But I just wished that we spent less time being vulnerable and more time having fun. Although this will probably sound conceited and selfish—if there ever were two people who deserved to have a little bit of fun, those two people were me and Kris. Bringing up the dream now—having the dream—was distracting from the direction we had been heading in, which had been fun and laid-back.

However, now that I knew about Kris and his past, I knew that it would help him to “help” me. He had to be caring because it made him feel like he was in control. I wanted to be mad and not comforted or babied, but I knew Kris wouldn’t understand that because it wasn’t how he would deal with it. So I relented.

“I didn’t care. He went into the house, and I didn’t give a flying fuck. I just went back to what I was doing,” I mumbled, bringing my knees up to my chest, tilting my head, and resting my cheek on my knees.

“Was it...?” He tried to pose the question, but he couldn’t manifest the words to ask if the house was on fire in this dream.

“I don’t know. I didn’t even look behind me. I told him to go, to leave me alone, and even when he said your name, it didn’t... I mean, I didn’t even think twice about it. I was too focused on studying to care about him, my brother, or what was gonna happen to him....”

“Oh, Joey, honey,” he soothed, moving even closer to me. He had assessed the situation and formulated a plan. “It’s dream logic, it’s not how you really feel. It’s like how weird stuff happens in a dream, but it makes sense at the time even though once you’re awake, you realize how it’s all screwed up. You and I both know that you care about him and never wanted anything bad to happen to your brother.”

I shook my head and then looked away. “I know what you’re saying, Kris, I do, but I just... in the dream, I felt so mad at him. Like, I just wanted him to leave me alone. And even though he was pissing me off in my dream, I’d trade a real-life moment like that to have him here with me. I’m so mad at myself for letting him leave. Not just letting him leave, but yelling at him to go away.”

“Aw, Jo, but that’s not how you really feel. It’s okay—”

“It’s not fuckin’ okay!” I hollered, instantly regretting it as I watched him tense. He reacted like my words had been a verbal slap to the face. Leaning toward him, I pressed my forehead against the side of his jaw and kissed his neck softly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you. I know you’re just helping. God, I hate how things got all fucked up again.” I clenched my hands into fists, wanting nothing more than to punch something and lash out in anger. “I’m sick of things getting ruined. I’m sick of dreaming these dreams. I mean, yesterday was so much fun, well besides losing, and now this? Why can’t things just go right for once? Why can’t we just catch a goddamn break? Aren’t things supposed to start getting easier? Because, really, I can’t take much more of this. It’s too much.”

Kris eased his posture a bit, reaching out for my hands and opening them, weaving his fingers in between mine. “I understand. You’re frustrated. It’s not fun, but you’re not given anything more than you can handle.”

Please don’t feed me lines, okay? I know you wanna help, but that’s not helping. I want to be upset about this. I can’t take this lying down. I need to do something about it.”

“What good will come out of being upset? How is that doing something about it?” He paused, giving me time to think of an answer but none came to mind. “What can you do to stave off a dream? It’s not your fault, and there’s nothing you can change about this. I know it sucks to hear that you can’t do anything about it, but it’s just a dream.”

“A stupid, crappy, mind-fuck of a dream,” I sighed, slumping against him. Kris didn’t, or just couldn’t, understand; it’s just the way his mind worked. So I changed subjects. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” I knew that he especially needed a good night of rest. There was one more hard, demanding practice on Monday before their game against Buffalo on Tuesday, which would be the first game since the break. Plus, with the trade deadline approaching, everyone was anxious to see how the line-up would change.

“Then let’s go back to bed.” He wrapped us back up in the sheet, like we were before I woke up, and then he draped the comforter over me. Kris never slept with more covers than just the sheet, because he was always so warm, but I always needed the extra blanket. Once I was properly cocooned, he held onto me with his strong arms and kissed the top of my head.

But I couldn’t sleep. I was still bothered by everything: the way I felt about the dream, having the dream itself, not being able to do anything to stop the dreams or the way I felt about them, and how this was all ruining the good thing that Kris and I had going. I tried to keep still and not fidget, because I didn’t want to disturb Kris—but the more I forced myself to lie there and just relax, the more impossible it became. It’s like telling yourself not to think of a pink elephant; once you try to make yourself not think about it, all you can think about is a pink elephant. Finally, once I heard his breathing even out into a rhythmic cadence, I ducked under his arm and unrolled myself from the covers.

“Where are you going?” he breathed, too tired to open his yes.

“I can’t lie down,” I whispered as I slid away from him, not wanting to make a loud noise that would bring him further out of his drowsy state. “Don’t worry, babe. You need to sleep.”

“Come back to bed.”

I sat back on the bed, leaned over him, and kissed the space between his sideburn and ear. “Go to sleep,” I commanded softly, waiting again until this time I knew for sure that he was out before I slipped into shorts and a tank top and left the bedroom. Closing the door carefully, I padded into the kitchen and paced back and forth in front of the fridge.

Frustrated with the sea of torment that raged within me, I clenched my hands into fists and then flexed my fingers. I kept telling myself, over and over again in my head, that I wasn’t going to be upset over this. I thought that if I said it enough times, I could make it so. It was just a stupid dream, I told myself; a stupid representation of my feelings that didn’t actually represent my feelings how I really felt them. It was supposed to be symbolic: being okay with his leaving, not looking back, it meant that I was coming to grips with his irreversible departure from this planet and moving on from it. It was a good thing, so why did it have to feel so shitty?

I felt like screaming or crying, somehow rebelling against the sinking, empty feeling in my chest. But I wasn’t going to do either of those things. Despite my recent behavior, that was not who I was. Those were passive, pathetic, pointless actions. I used to deal in other ways, like doing something, anything, that I had a say in. I would dye my hair, or make use of my fake I.D. at the state store, or smoke a bowl with Tubby, and once I even pierced my eyebrow. Pierced it myself. But I had to take it out, or else Bob would have fired me.

As I continued to pace, it just sort of struck me, out of the blue, that those were my own twisted versions of a very Kris-like thing to do. It was my own, personal way of controlling my world. Kris chose non-action, static, and avoidance; I chose action, change, and indulgence—but these were essentially decisions made in response to feeling helpless and impotent.

That realization sucked the wind out of my sails, and I stopped pacing. In fact, I felt drained of all energy. I felt foolish, like King Lear as he raged against the tempest. You can’t fight against the inevitable. You can’t go back and change what happened. And neither can you change the way you feel. It’s all about how you react. Being angry wasn’t helpful; I needed to find a constructive way to channel my emotions. I still didn’t know how that to do that, but it could wait until the morning because I was feeling mentally exhausted.

I quietly tip-toed back into the bedroom and crawled into bed next to Kris, slipping underneath the covers and curling up against his chest. In his sleep, he mumbled something and flung an arm over me, instantly making me feel loved and cared for. His breath puffed against my forehead, but it was soothing and helped me fall asleep.

In the morning, I woke up to Kris trying to get dressed without making a lot of noise. He almost succeeded, but his phone was in his pants pocket, and it rang. Loudly. I groaned as he fumbled around and tried to shut off the sound. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“What are you even doing up this early?” I moaned, glancing at the clock. “It’s not a game day. Just practice.”

His face turned a little pink. “Sid’s bringing in his gold medal, so we can see it before practice.”

Nodding, I tried not to let my residual bitterness show. Kris was being so good about not bragging, not like his teammates had acted. Those guys always took everything too far, getting too competitive about a game they weren’t even playing in. But Kris had kept his pride in check, and I tried to be happy for him. I smiled at him. “That’s cool. Is it like the Cup?”

“What do you mean?”

“Can you touch an Olympic medal if you haven’t won one?”

Kris laughed. “No, it doesn’t work like that. When you win a medal, it’s yours. No one else’s. But the Cup, it’s no one’s because it’s everyone’s. You don’t get to keep it. So it’s different.” He shook his head, still laughing at me, and I noticed a glint on his cheek. I crooked my finger at him and he approached the bed, sitting beside me, so I could brush it away.

“Glitter,” I told him, showing the fleck of red now on my finger.

“Did you know that I showered twice trying to get all that stuff off me? Never, and I seriously mean never, are you allowed to use that stuff again,” he ordered, a playful growl in his tone.

“You think you can tell me what to do?” I mocked him just as teasingly, cocking my eyebrow. But I knew he had a point. I was going to have to vacuum, strip the bed, and wash yesterday’s clothes to try to eradicate this glitter.

“I know I can. I know how to get you to do whatever I want,” he whispered, leaning in for a kiss.

Our lips met, and I reached up and pulled his silly hat off his head. It’s not that it was a silly hat; but let’s face it, Kris Letang should never wear a hat. I never understood why he’d grow his gorgeous hair so long only to cover it up.

His phone went off again. I pulled back and groaned. Not like we’d have sex before he had practice, but I had been enjoying our moment together. “Geez, Kris, aren’t you popular this morning.”

He looked down at the phone and pressed a couple of buttons, not really paying any attention to me. “Hmm.”

“‘Hmm’ what, babe?” I asked, trying to figure out what was going on.

“Apparently, uh,” he told me before he paused for a couple seconds, “the team acquired another defenseman. Jordan Leopold, from the Panthers.”

I glanced down at his phone even though I couldn’t see the screen, but looking at it like it would magically reveal the answers. I may not have been in on the wheelings and dealings of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but I didn’t think that this could be good. There were only so many defensive positions, and someone had to go. “Man, I’m gonna miss Gogo, my American ally. I can’t believe they’re sending him down. I mean, he hasn’t been playing that great, but they’re not giving him much of a chance either.”

“I don’t think he’s going anywhere,” he muttered, slipping his phone back into his pocket.

“Are they shopping Skoula? He hasn’t played in ages as the seventh d-man. I mean, I remember when Lovejoy got called up and played while he was still benched.”

Kris sighed. “I don’t know.”

“Well, it’s either one of those two options. McKee’s too much of a bargain to dump him now. I mean, you’re shutting down with Orpik, Gonch is essential on the PP, and Eaton’s been solid.”

“Can we not talk shop? Practice is going to be weird now. We heard talk about wingers, this time for Geno, but not this. Guys are gonna be a little on edge.”

“Sorry, babe,” I apologized, lightly stroking his arm, up and down. “Hey. You wanna do something? After practice?” I asked him tentatively, watching and waiting for his reaction. I knew he’d be tired after another hard, draining skate with the team, but I thought it would do him some good to do something out of the ordinary to get his mind off this. It’s never easy to adjust to changes in chemistry in the locker room; until the deadline passed, there was going to be a lot of tension. And not to sound selfish, but it would do me good, too, to break out of the monotony that my life had begun to assume. We could use a change.

“Don’t you have class today?”

“Blech, yes,” I moaned. “But I can skip it. Today’s Monday, so I just have comp and public speaking. No biggie.”

He gave me a pointed glance, and I rolled my eyes. “Fine, I’ll go. But we’ll do something after my classes?”

“Dinner?” Kris shrugged, which made me wince. That was not something out of the ordinary; going out for dinner would just be a change in pace. I wanted to do something spontaneous and fun. “Okay, what did you have in mind?”

“Something different for once. Let’s go bowling or—oh, I know! Let’s go to the Carnegie Science Center! Whadya say?”

Kris chuckled at me. “Whatever you want. As long as it’ll make you happy—”

“No, I want it to make you happy,” I told him, finding another speck of glitter on his neck. I brushed it away. He would go along with this merely on my suggestion, not seeing that this would be fun for him, too. “It’s good for you to get out of your shell. We’ll go when I’m out of class, ’kay?”

His phone went off again, and he glanced at the screen with a grimace. “Hold on, gotta take this,” he mumbled, standing up and answering the call and walking out into the living room.

There was a little hop to my step as I threw off the covers and began to strip off the sheets. There was so much glitter everywhere. I gathered up the blankets and dumped them into a laundry basket, thinking that I’d have time to wash them before class. Then I pulled on a pair of sweats and a long-sleeved shirt, and fished out the roll of quarters from the top drawer of the dresser so I could do laundry in the washroom of the apartment complex.

I was really looking forward to this evening. If I couldn’t control my emotions and could only control my reactions, then this was definitely a positive reaction. I wanted Kris and me to keep heading in that good direction, and this would get us on the right path. Him, me, some laughs, a good time out and about, and maybe call it another early evening to make love between the sheets again. Sounded perfect to me.

When I stepped into the living room, I noticed Kris had finished his phone call, but was sitting stoically on the couch. The TV wasn’t on, but he was staring at the blank screen. He was just sitting there, doing nothing, hardly even moving other than to breathe. I rested the basket against my hip and tilted my head to the side. “Aren’t you going to be late for being early to practice?” I teased him.

“I’m not going to practice,” he told me, his voice sounding void and empty.

“Why not?”

“I don’t play for them anymore.”

“What? Kris?” I couldn’t compute the information. It didn’t make sense. Well, actually it did make sense, but I didn’t want to believe it. Dropping the basket, I moved to the other side of the coffee table and sat beside him. Our legs were pressed together, and I hooked my arm around his. Not wanting to let him go. He couldn’t go. No. This wasn’t happening. Not now.

“That was Shero.” He finally looked up at me, the sadness in his eyes piercing through me. His throat was dry, but he tried to swallow anyway. The unsure, vulnerable little boy was back. I knew the words before he said them, but I was surprised to find that it still hurt this bad to hear them. “I’ve been traded.”


    i don't think this is fair....

  2. Hold on, hold on... Wait, what? So, you're no longer going by real life anymore? Cause if so, you should've let the Americans win!!!
    And, NOOO, things were getting so good for them. boooo you Jay.

  3. TRADED! Jay!!!!! That's bad doing that, I was reading and was so sure that Kris was ok, because he just resigned... Losing faith in humanity, perhaps a slight overexaggeration, but maybe Shero@s got his cards mixed up.... oh Jay. Where's he going? And don't say Philly.

  4. this is totally not cool to trade kris. uh, no thank you.

  5. ummmmm no I dont like that one bit....

    Kris is not allowed to go anywhere.

    but it was wonderfully written

  6. NONONONONONONO!!!! Not okay to trade Kris...argh!

    Fabulous writing, as always, but NONONONONONO!

  7. WHAT!!!NOOOOO Kris can't be traded!?!?!? Not fair! Please update soon!

  8. Okay, profanity ahead.

    WHAT THE FUCK JAY?!?!?! The Penguins are not the fucking Penguins without Kris playing D!!!!!!!!!!

    I am so puzzled by this and trying not to have a heart attack as I remember that your story isn't real and that Kris Letang does indeed still play for my beloved Pens. I love your story but it's just wrong when stuff like this happens and I get real life and fiction confused!!!!!!!!!!

  9. NOOOO.
    i guess you're not going by real life anymore!

  10. JAAAAAY. You're breaking my heart, soul sista!

    You need to update pronto!

  11. Ok I was all in la la land of the flash back until...
    "I’m telling,” he taunts, rubbing his ribs on his left side, just where my tattoo is on my side. “You’re buying me a new stick!”
    ^^ I always get that sick feeling in my stomach whenever I start reading her dream sequences. Seriously, they're so powerful that they really, really bother me... it's like... something from a movie.
    Going from fine to all crazy and slow-motion horror in a second.

    “Oh, Joey, honey,”
    ^^ I love this! Oh Kris... that was too cute.

    "Once I was properly cocooned, he held onto me with his strong arms and kissed the top of my head."
    ^^ All of a sudden my bed looks less and less comfy. I want a Kris... or a Tazer. lol

    She goes back to Kris after getting up and padding around the house, I love that, seriously.

    Annnnnnd then the trade... even though I knew it was happening... might I add, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Oh god I'm so sad right now! No Kris, no!!

    Boo!! More now!! Don't wanna wait for the next one... ugh! This makes me miss being behind in the readings lol

  12. I. JUST. DIED.
    No comment can be formulated until the next update.

  13. Wow, it's pretty cool the way you have everything mirroring real life and then throw in the huge plot twist. I think it comes at a really critical point for Kris and Jo, just when things are chugging along the same track. Plus what good is fiction if you can't shake the snowglobe once in a while and see what settles from it?

  14. JAY!!!
    You're joking right?!
    Where are you sending him!?
    This is a joke right? Shero is gonna call him back and offer him 14 mil RIGHT?!

  15. This thing never lets me post but I'm trying anyways to say that although I am shocked, I like the shake up.

    As always, I really enjoy your writing! Keep up the great work!

  16. OKay, here is what I think.

    Shero is using Kris as a bargaining chip. "Trading" Kris to wherever in negotiations and telling Kris so he doesn't go to practice and it looks legit so he can lock up Ponikarovsky, and then getting Kris back in another deal without him ever leaving. Then, of course, signing him to a nice long contract after the deadline. Or, maybe it's a sick joke. Early April fools, or a team mate beign an asshole or... I DON'T KNOW BUT THIS CANNOT HAPPEN.

    Yeah, that's it, I'm convinced. It won't actually happen, it can't actually happen because you love us too much and you wouldn't do that to us.


    *clears throat* Sorry, about that... as for my comment.

    I love Jo and Kris' interactions and the way you write about everything always makes the movie run through my mind, and the drowsy naked, hair everywhere Kris wrapped in bed, "come back to bed"-ing Jo. DREAMY. :)

    Plus, fucking glitter. Sort of a side rant but I love glitter and this chapter adequately describes every reason me and glitter don't get a long.

    As for the trade, totally not going to happen, it can't and I really don't want it to ruin them, fuck I don't even want them to have to work through it - refer to above rant.

    And, you gave me shit for cliffhanging.


    This comment continues to disinigrate in structure and cohesion as I write...

    Soon, Jay. I am freaking over here!

  17. I love the story - of course - and your writing/characterization is fabulous, but like all the above comments (aside: reading the comments is entertaining in itself!).....WTF???? Kris belongs in P'burgh; the Pens wouldn't be the same without him!

    Anxiously awaiting the update.....

  18. Okay now I'm speechless for a whole new reason!

  19. WHAT
    the idea of that breaks my damn heart
    but good twiistttt

  20. Traded? Wtf no.