Wednesday, June 16, 2010

100.) Back Home

Okay, I know I said before that this story was going to go at least one hundred posts, thinking that it would bring me somewhat closer to the end. Now that I've reached this number, I can't say that I know how many more this story will run... but probably a lot. It seems unfair to give you another estimate, because I honestly don't know and don't want to lead you on. Once I start writing, it always seems to end up being a lot longer than I plan for, so I won't estimate again because it feels like a lie. So I will tell you that the plot, as the story stands right now, will run through August or September, and I will write as many updates as it takes to get us there. (*Note: that is the plot of the story; I'm not estimating that that is when I'll finish the story... what I'm trying to say is, I have no clue about length.) So the story's nowhere near finished yet. We've still got "months" to go. Long, I know, but please bear with me.

Also, I want to say a big huge overwhelming thank you to all of you who've stuck with me along the way. 100! This story has been written with my blood, sweat, and tears (okay, so not literally), and to have people read it and like it too is beyond amazing. So to my readers and commenters, thank you a million billion trillion times over. I can't tell you how much it means to me.
Every comment brings a smile to my face and motivates me to try and hurry to get the next post to you that much faster. Hope you like this one, too.

Soundtrack Song - Theory of a Deadman, Wait for Me (thanks msd, for the suggestion!)

I got lost in the airport. I must’ve misread one of the signs or something, because I ended up on the opposite side of the whole airport and had to run to reach my gate in time. They were paging me over the speaker system and everything, and I was the very last person to board. As soon as I stepped foot in the cabin, the impatient flight attendant closed the door and pointed me in the direction of my seat in coach. It was, after all, the only empty seat on the plane at this point.

Since I was the last one, all the overhead space was all taken. My backpack wouldn’t fit, and I struggled with it as the plane began to taxi toward the runway.

“Miss, you need to take your seat,” I was told by the same bitchy stewardess who had pointed me toward my seat.

“It won’t fit,” I said, pounding my fist against my bag before I futilely tried to close the door. I pushed again, struggling with my backpack; then, when I still couldn’t get it to work, I did the only thing I could think of to do: I cried. Everything was too much, and I was feeling overwhelmed and unable to hold anything inside anymore. This whole morning sucked balls: waking up late, rushing to get to the airport and through security so I had no time to spend with Kris in the morning of my last day, I almost completely missed my flight, and I now couldn’t even get my bag to fit in the damn overhead. “Why won’t it fit?”

The stewardess looked at me like I had lost my fucking marbles; all the other passengers did, too. She told me to take my seat, and she readjusted some of the other bags so mine fit well enough that the door for the overhead compartment could be closed. Maybe I was just too wound up to think clearly, so I couldn’t have done that for myself—but that was just another thing to be upset about, my inability to control my emotions. I used to never cry, and now it seemed like I was doing it all the time.

I fumbled with my seatbelt, strapping in and tightening it. The passenger beside me handed me a tissue, and I took it without a word of thanks. Instead, I used it to absorb the salty water on my cheeks.

“You all right, dearie?” the old lady next to me asked. “Scared to go where you’re going, or sad to leave where you’re coming from?”

“Both?” I squeaked, a mess of different emotions. I didn’t want to leave Kris. I didn’t want to leave San José. I really liked it out there. I had made some friends—albeit they were Kris’s friends already, but it was easy to laugh and get along with some of those people. Brandy was super nice, and so was Jamie. His teammates were typical jocks, and I could handle getting along with them. Samantha and that whole situation was something else, but it felt good to try and contribute something and help out someone who I could identify with. To give back, like I had been given to. I mean, I felt bad for Samantha. A couple of different decisions, and I could have been in her shoes.

As much as I didn’t want to leave Kris and California, I didn’t want to go back to Pittsburgh, either. Not after that amazing week. Pennsylvania seemed boring and lame in comparison to all that excitement and fun and friends and potential that Cali had offered. And what did Pittsburgh offer me? Classes. Work. An empty apartment. Who would want to return to that? It just seemed so bleak and held no appeal for me without Kris there.

It wasn’t just that I wanted to be around Kris. That had a lot to do with it, yes, but it wasn’t the whole story. I loved him so much, and I needed to be close to him. He was one of the few people on this Earth who understood me and didn’t judge me. He took the time, for some crazy reason, and saw underneath the façade to the person I really was—even now, when I looked like just a normal, regular girl, he saw me as someone special. I needed him for those reasons, beyond the love I felt for him. That’s why it sucked so much to be away from him, because he was my everything. We could make it through, and we would... but I wished we didn’t have to be tested like this.

But even as much as I didn’t want to go, I had to. For me, because I had to finish this semester and get this under my belt, to complete the credits and mark my official start of earning that degree; for him, because it would make him happy and make him proud of me. But it gave me a quicker goal to work for, rather than just my diploma. As soon as I was finished, I could go to him. I needed the focus to keep me going.

This was my thing. Even between me and James, school was the one thing I was good at. I’d miss it if I gave it up to spend the next few months in California with him, because then I wouldn’t have something to distract me when he had away games. I wouldn’t have something of my own.

“Don’t worry, sweetie. Things always work out for the best,” the old lady told me, leaning back in her seat and pulling me out of my thoughts. “If the boy really loves you, then it’ll work out.”

“Boy?”

She chuckled. “I’m an old woman. I know that the only reason girls get so upset is because a boy’s somehow involved.”

I fished my iPod out of my purse so I didn’t have to listen to her canned, irritating words. She meant well, I guess, but since when did old people have to act like know-it-alls? “I’m not worried about the boy,” I informed her smugly. “He loves me. He loves me a lot, and he’ll never do anything to hurt me. But he had to stay here, and I had to leave. That’s why I’m upset.”

Turning on the music and closing my eyes, I settled in for the first leg of my trip. Maybe it was sad of me, but I missed him already. I missed being next to him and feeling his body heat. I missed his smile and his lips, in general. I missed the way his eyes sparkled when he looked at me. I was crazy about him, and I knew that this was only going to get harder as our separation dragged on.

I didn’t think that I was a clingy person, or at least overly clingy. But when you know firsthand how good things never seem to last, why waste time being apart from the ones you love? And besides, this is love we’re talking about. I didn’t feel complete without him. Since we’d met in October, through the arguments and misunderstandings and struggles, and through the awkward moments and infatuation and myriad of “firsts” with each other, we’d become a part of each other. We were two people that had fused into one entity, one couple, and it hurt every time I was ripped away from him.

Maybe our week together was a little crazier than we would have liked, but just like Kris had said when he told me that he had loved every second, so had I. Because it was time with him. That’s all that really mattered in the end anyway. Sure, I would always want things to go as well as possible, but we were determined to get through all the bad stuff, too... and with such dedication, there was no way we’d not make it. We were going to make it through this and everything else life was going to throw at us.

All in all, it took eight hours for me to get from San José to Pittsburgh between the two flights and the long layover in Detroit; once the time different was factored in, it was seven at night in the Burgh. Kris had a game tonight at seven thirty, so I knew he’d just about be waking up from his nap. I sent him a text message to let him know that I was safely in Pittsburgh, and then I called Kelsey. Anyone who was anyone to me knew that I had spent the week with Kris in California, so they had ignored me and let me had my fun in peace. Needless to say, Kelsey was surprised to hear from me.

“Hey, Jo! What’s up? How was your week? Are you back yet?”

“Yeah, actually I’m at the airport now. Um, and I was wondering if it would be okay if maybe you could come, uh, pick me up?”

“Oh,” she said, an obviously surprised hint to her tone.

“I’m really sorry to impose, it’s okay, I’ll just get a cab,” I mumbled quickly, feeling like a jerk. Only bitches called people spur of the moment and asked for a ride. She was probably busy.

“No, it’s okay. Actually, the guys are on a road trip right now, and Heather and Véro and Erin were going to come over for some girl time. Do you wanna join us?”

My gut reaction was to say no. Spending the evening with a bunch of girls sounded less than fun, especially with Kris’s former teammates’ girlfriends. But before I could turn her down, I seriously thought about it. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. First of all, where else did I have to go? The apartment I had been away from for the past eight days? I wasn’t sure if I could stomach going back there yet. It would surely remind me of Kris, and I already missed him. That would only make me feel even lonelier.

And besides, I had just spent the week with him and got to see firsthand how well he was doing out in California on his new team. So maybe hanging out with the WAGs of some of the Penguins players wouldn’t be so bad or leave such a bitter taste in my mouth. And fuck, I needed friends out here in Pittsburgh. I had just been complaining about not having anyone to miss me while I was gone. Maybe I wasn’t planning on staying out in Pennsylvania for much longer, until I could transfer out west, but that shouldn’t stop me from making friends while I was here.

“Yeah, sure, Kels. That sounds great.”

“Okay, cool. I’ll come out to get you, and I should be there in about fifteen. We can catch up and eat some junk food. I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.”

We hung up, and I waited outside the arrivals exit for Kelsey to pull up. It was chilly outside, so I dug around in my bag and pulled out my new green sweatshirt. It was slightly hideous, but it was now my favorite possession. Kris had bought it for me, so it had that value of being a thoughtful present from my boyfriend. Also, it was from Lick Observatory, which had been a totally fun experience for me and a great time to share with Kris. That afternoon had been like letting him into a piece of my life that maybe he didn’t fully understand previously. And third, it kind of felt like this was a symbol of everything California held for us and especially for me.

Kris called while I waited. Just seeing his name on my phone screen made me sad. It meant we were restricted to only phone calls for the next two months. I answered. “Kris, I miss you already.”

“Please don’t say that,” he sighed into the mouthpiece. “I miss you, too, Jo, and I know you miss me, but....”

“I know,” I told him. It felt like a knife through my heart to hear him say that he likewise missed me. When he said those words, it made me want to rush out there and be with him again, hold him so he’d never have to say those cruel words ever again. Never have to miss me again.

“So, you made it back okay?”

“Oh, yeah. Barely made it to the plane, but it’s all good. Kelsey’s on her way to pick me up now, and then we’re going to hang out for a little while.”

“That’s good. I’m glad to hear that,” he told me, and I could hear his smile through the phone. I know he was relieved to know that I wasn’t going to be alone out here.

“What are you up to?” I knew exactly what his day held for him, but I was desperate to keep him on the line with me. We’d spoken this morning, but it felt like a lot longer than that now that I was transitioning back into my boring, regular life in the Burgh.

“Eh, just woke up,” he said, listing the mundane activities of his day to appease me. Anything to make me happy. “Getting dressed and getting ready to head over to the Shark Tank. I thought I had a bottle of water, though. I can’t seem to find it. Do you remember seeing it?”

“I think so. Check your fridge.”

“But I don’t use that thing, so I wouldn’t have put it in there.”

Giggling, I told him, “Why don’t you just check? You might be surprised to find what’s in there.”

He didn’t respond right away, and I could hear rustling and the suction sound from the seal breaking on the refrigerator door as it opened. Then there was a pause. “Okay, when did you do this?”

I laughed. “When you were in Vancouver, I stopped at the store and stocked you up on water, Gatorade, and some fruit juice, too. I wasn’t sure what you’d like, so I just got an assortment. I hope that’s okay?”

“Jo, that’s great. I can’t believe you did this, and I didn’t even realize it.”

“Well, not problem. I mean, you paid for it anyway. The money you left me, I didn’t have to spend it on a cab or food since I spent so much time with Brandy and Samantha.” I thought a little more and then added, “And maybe you’d have realized if you actually looked inside the fridge once in a while. Maybe now you’ll actually use it, you know, like a normal person.”

“Very funny. Thank you, though. You know just how to take care of me.”

“You’re welcome,” I whispered in the phone, fighting back another round of tears. I wanted to take care of him, especially as his hockey season was coming to an end and he was revving himself up for the playoffs. I would be able to do a better job of that if I were there with him, to cheer him on at his games and tell him what a good game he played and kiss him in the lounge after. God, I missed him.

Kris made me stay on the line with him until Kelsey showed up; he didn’t say why, but I knew it was because he didn’t like the thought of me standing outside the airport alone. That was fine with me, though. Usually, it was a little annoying when he acted so overprotective, but I wanted to be comforted by the sound of his voice. My week-long visit with him had been like a taste of something sweet, a preview of what we could have in California next season... and now I was forced to wait to get that back.

When Kelsey finally pulled up, I wished Kris good luck for his game and hung up, and then I slipped into the passenger seat. Kelsey surprised me by swinging her arms wide and leaning across the center console to hug me. I froze for a second, not expecting that reaction at all from her, but I quickly recovered and did the same.

“Hey, Jo! You look good, a little tanner. California must suit you.”

“It was nice,” I told her, pulling back so she could put the car back in drive. “I had a lot of fun, and honestly, it sucks to be back.”

She laughed and pulled back onto the road, and we left the airport and headed back toward the city. “Well, it’ll be fun to hang out again.” Kelsey paused as she merged onto the highway, concentrating on the flow of traffic before she asked quietly, “How’s he doing out there?”

I smiled. It was considerate of her to ask, and although it was a little sad to think about, I’d never get sick of talking about him—especially when that meant bragging. “Kris is doing so great, Kels. So great. Ten points in the past three weeks, since he got traded. Two of which are goals. Two! I mean, he only had three during his season in Pittsburgh. For being on a brand new team, he’s doing a great job fitting in and playing his role.”

“Wow,” she giggled, smiling widely at me. “Don’t you sound like a mother hen, so proud.”

“I am proud. He’s really been focusing, so determined to make a name for himself and prove his worth on the team out there. Like, he either really wants to show the Sharks that he was worth trading for, or he really wants to prove to the Pens that they shouldn’t have given him up. Whatever the reason, it’s working for him, because he’s been on fire and I think they’re impressed with him.”

“I’m glad. I mean, not glad about the trade obviously, because I did like Kris. He was one of the nice guys, you know?” She quickly shook her head and tried to make up for that offhand comment—it sounded like she was putting down the rest of the team. “I just meant that he’s especially nice. Easy to talk to, always giving out boyfriend advice when we’d ask. I can’t tell you how many times I got angry at Tyler and I called Kris to talk to about it.”

That made me smile. That was my Kris, a great helper. And he was an excellent boyfriend, so he was the perfect guy to be doling out advice to girls in relationships with more oblivious fellas. “He’s got a whole new group of guys who need help now.”

We chatted and caught up on the rest of the ride, and soon after, we were at her place with the rest of the girls. I changed into more comfortable clothes—since I conveniently had my backpack with me, of course—and we ordered a pizza, watched movies, and laughed and talked. It certainly didn’t erase the sadness in my heart, but it let me put it on the backburner and relax. They were loud girls with tons to say, so I had to pay attention to them instead of wallow in my self-pity or misery.

By the time we had calmed down and stopped laughing, it was one in the morning; the get-together then turned into an impromptu slumber party. I hadn’t slept over another girl’s house since, like, the second grade. Mariah Brown had every girl in our class over for her eighth birthday, and I was the one girl who had cried and begged Mrs. Brown to call my mother to come get me. Despite all the fun we had painting our toes, I missed my brother and couldn’t spend the night without him. It had been our first night apart since birth, and I couldn’t stand it. Mom had secretly told me that James had been crying at home, too, asking when I was coming home—but as soon as I showed up, he pretended like he didn’t care.

But this time, it was different. I still wasn’t ready to go home to that empty apartment, so the sleepover sounded great to me. The cherry on the sundae was that I had everything I needed in my backpack: my toothbrush, a hair scrunchie, and socks for my cold feet. By one thirty, we had all curled up on various pieces of furniture.

The girls passed out quickly enough, but I stayed awake. By two thirty, Kris was calling. I tiptoed into the kitchen and sat on the cold marble counter to answer my phone. “Hey, babe. I was hoping you’d call.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should or not, because I figured you’d be sleeping. You’ve got class tomorrow.”

“On Monday’s, though, I only have class in the afternoon. I’m on west coast time, though, so I’m not tired yet. Besides, I wanted to hear from you.”

“Well, then I’m happy to oblige,” he replied, but his tone was humorless. He answered my question before I had the chance to ask it. “Lost again.”

“What was the score?”

“Five to one. Against the Oilers!”

“One goal? Ouch. Whose?” It probably didn’t matter, but I still wanted to know. He didn’t respond, though, and that’s when I knew. “Kris! Congra—”

“But we still lost. One fucking mercy goal in the third to make it look like we were trying. It’s embarrassing. Six losses in a row.”

I couldn’t blame him for his frustration. “How many penalties did you take tonight?”

“Two, and before you even say it, I know. But I couldn’t help it, Jo. We’re supposed to be a winning team. Emphasis on winning. And right now, all we’re doing is sucking.”

The words left my mouth before I thought it through. “That’s what she said.”

At first he groaned, but then he chuckled very softly. “Not funny.”

“I thought so.” I swung my feet as I sat on the counter. “You guys are winners. The Sharks were a good team before you joined, and they’re even better now that they have you on the roster. Whatever chinks are in the system, you guys will work through them and figure it out. But only if you stop letting frustration blind your judgment on the ice. When’s your next game?”

“Tuesday. We’re playing up in Minnesota.”

“Practice tomorrow?”

“Oh hell yeah. Coach McLellan didn’t even say anything else to us other than, ‘Practice. Tomorrow. Ten.’ I just, I don’t know. I can’t believe it. Six in a fucking row!”

“Then don’t make it seven,” I said quietly. “Go in tomorrow full of determination, and show your teammates the right attitude to have in a situation like this. With the firm resolve to put an end to this losing streak. Show them what it takes to win in the face of adversity.”

“They don’t know how to win. That’s the problem with the Sharks,” he grunted, his temper getting the best of him. Kris hardly ever got this angry or frustrated. It was unsettling. “They choke. It’s what they do.”

“I thought you just said this was a winning team?”

“It’s supposed to be a winning team.”

“Well, Kris, if you’re not helping the team win, then you’re helping the team lose.” I don’t even know where that came from. “This isn’t a ‘me versus you’ thing. You’re a fucking Shark now, and you need to start acting like it. It’s your team now, so stop calling ‘them’ chokers! Give them the fucking Heimlich or whatever it takes to wake them up. Otherwise, you’ll be playing golf before your birthday, and no one wants that.” I softened my voice. “That’s why you’re there, babe.”

I paused and waited for him to say something back. It wasn’t my intention to be rude, but his team wasn’t the only one needing a wake-up. “Don’t be mad, Kris.”

“I’m not mad,” he mumbled. He breathed out loudly. “I’m just so fucking frustrated.”

“I know, babe. I know it. And I’m glad that you’re upset that your team is losing. If you were complacent about it, then I’d be really worried. You’re invested in this, and it shows. But you need to funnel that dissatisfaction in a constructive way. Towards winning.”

“Listen, Jo, I know you wanna help, but please don’t make me talk about this.”

“I won’t,” I promised. I tilted my head to the side and tried to think of a better topic of conversation so I could distract him. It wouldn’t solve the issue at hand, but it would help Kris because that’s what he wanted. He was all wound up, and he needed to calm down. “Kelsey misses you.”

“What?”

“She misses you. All the girls do, apparently.” I sighed, thinking that I should have been jealous, but I wasn’t. They didn’t want Kris, per se; they just wanted the boyfriends they already had to be more like him.

We continued to talk about silly little nothings until he finally seemed calm enough. He had called on his walk back from the arena, and now he was in his room and in bed. “Thank you, Jo. I feel better now.”

“Ready for bed?” I asked him. He hummed a positive response. “I love you, Kris.”

“I love you, too, Jo,” he sighed.

I searched for something reassuring to say. “Just two months. We can do this.”

He likewise tried to do the same. “Of course we can. We can wait it out. It won’t be that bad.”

“Tonight’s the hardest, and it’s a cake walk after that. I’ll talk to you soon, right?”

“Of course. I’ll call you tomorrow, when I know you’re out of class. Sweet dreams, Jo.”

“Good night, Kris,” I whispered, hanging up and ending our call. I tucked my phone away and then tiptoed back into the living room, where the girls were all still sleeping. I took my spot back on the La-Z-Boy and pulled the fleece blanket up to my chin, allowing Kris’s melodic voice and soft accent to echo in my ears and lull me into a fitful sleep.

7 comments:

  1. 100 is good, but I think you should go for the record, whatever that number may be. Congratulations, on the quantity and the quality!

    Okay, things are sweet and considerate in San Burgh, or whatever the fusion land that Kris and Jo inhabit is. Jo stocking up the fridge, Kris keeping her on the phone for safety, these are all the little things that couples do for each other that show how much they care.

    Jo is in a pretty sensitive headspace right now, as her emotionalism and crying show. It's nice that she reached out for the ride home and ended up with some nice bonding time. She's right, two months isn't that long and it can only get easier. But the talk of missing each other really tugged at the heartstrings. It seems so right when they're together and so wrong when they're apart, for them and for the reader.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jay, I honestly hope this goes on for quite a while longer. Some of the best fanfics I've read are ones that go on around are a year and counting.
    This story is amazing. You have shown what a marvelous writer you are. There is obviously so much detail, and thought put in to this. Very deep.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The big 1-0-0!!! YAY!!!!! I feel like I should be sending you a cake or something... lol

    "So the story's nowhere near finished yet. We've still got "months" to go."
    ^^ Best. News. Ever. Well, aside from "Jonathan Toews wants to know if you'll sleep with him" --- but the chances of that happening are slim to none so I'll stick with ID going ALL SUMMER LONG!! =D I'm having an impromptu party in the food court right now, no joke.

    And now onto the story...

    "when I still couldn’t get it to work, I did the only thing I could think of to do: I cried."
    ^^ So sad! I mean, I can not only see it happening, but I'm 99% sure I'd be doing the exact same thing in that situation. UGH! I feel so bad for Jo and Kris but I mean... just two more months right?? RIGHT?! That's not so bad... ok never mind. I thought if I acted nonchalant about the whole thing it'd be easier to swallow, but it's not. I can't wait for them to get back together, the way they should be!

    The whole internal dialect on the plane was not only incredible, but fascinating at the same time.
    I love the amount of effort you put into making every aspect of Jo realistic. Everything flowed so well, it felt like I was sitting there with her and she was spilling her guts to me. Jo is seriously one of my BFFs right now! I know that sounds weird, but she's a real person to me... and I hate seeing her sad =(

    "By the time we had calmed down and stopped laughing, it was one in the morning; the get-together then turned into an impromptu slumber party."
    ^^ This made me smile. For the pure fact that she's not alone. I'm glad that she said yes to Kelsey and I'm even more glad that she had a good time.
    She's right though, it's all down hill from here... the first night is going to be the hardest so THANK YOU for not making her go through that alone.

    I can't wait for more!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great Chapter!! can't wait until the next one!

    ReplyDelete
  5. 100! Wow! Great work Jay. Curious to see where the story goes from here.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congrats on 100!!! Still loving. Keep going!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Whoooot!!! 100!!
    Congrats!
    And I'm quite excited to know that the story will be around for awhile yet : )

    Ohhh the break down on the plane <3
    I think we've all been there.
    I loved the slumber party with the girls, just because Kris isn't a Penguin anymore doesn't mean she can't hang out with them! They do know her more than other people!

    Can't wait for 101!!

    ReplyDelete