Tuesday, June 1, 2010

95.) Focus

Short(er) and blah.

Soundtrack Song - Green River Ordinance, Endlessly

When I woke up the next morning, I was loath to get out of bed. I knew that once I headed to the Tank for practice, I wasn’t going to be back until very early on Friday. Jo was leaving Sunday morning for Pittsburgh, so even though she wasn’t leaving for four more days, we only had two of those to spend together. It hurt to think about it; it physically pained me to think about what was going to happen at the end of the week, when I’d have to take her to the airport. Watching her leave me now was going to be a lot harder than leaving her three weeks ago to come out here after my trade to San José.

I tried my best to simply not think about it, desperately needing to put it as far into the back of my mind as possible. It didn’t make sense to get so upset about it now, when we still had some time to spend together. We could either see the negative side and look at it as having only two days left to enjoy each other’s company, or we could be positive and be thankful for having two more days to be together.

As quietly and as smoothly as I could, I pulled my arm out from under my bedmate and let go of her. She looked really serene as she slept deeply and soundly, busy dreaming about something I’m sure, and I didn’t want to disturb or wake her unnecessarily. While I moved about carefully, stepping into a pair of shorts and pulling a shirt on before I packed my overnight bag and grabbed a suit to take with me to the Tank for the short road trip. Of course, I left the cardkey behind on the table for Jo, as well as some cash, in case she wanted to head out and do something or order food in. I didn’t expect her to want to stay cooped up here for two days while I was gone, even though the idea of her out and about on the town without me—especially after last night—bothered me.

Jo could be so stubborn when she wanted to be. She could also be compromising and accommodating when she so desired... but when she thought she was right, it would take a miracle or a jackhammer to get through her thick skull. While Jo understood where I was coming from regarding her “fight,” I didn’t feel like I really got through to her at all. She didn’t go out looking for trouble, but it seemed to find her nevertheless.

She wasn’t like me; she wasn’t going to give something up or change because of a little risk. Jo embraced it—life was too short to not spend it doing the things you love, she said. That’s why I still played hockey, she told me. It was aggravating and frustrating—hell, Jo was aggravating and frustrating and she’s tried my patience on more than one occasion, but I loved her so much that I would willingly put up with all that to be with her.

We didn’t really come to any kind of mutual agreement. We got everything out in the open last night after we had each fallen into some old habits, and then we showed each other that we weren’t mad anymore by making up and making love. There wasn’t really a reason to be mad when we both wanted what was best for each other. Even though we didn’t say so in so many words, I was willing to take blows for her, and she for me. We were placing the safety and wellbeing of the other over ourselves. I’d never back down, though. Not when it came to something this important. I could be stubborn, too, and just as obstinate as she was.

I had to hope she’d make good, smart decisions, since I couldn’t be around all the time. That was the nature of my job; I was away a lot, a traveling man, so I had to be able to trust her to be safe. I couldn’t worry about what she was getting herself into while I was gone because I had to focus on the team and our game. I didn’t think I was being irrational about this, and I didn’t want to lock her away or change her, because I had fallen in love with all of her.... I just needed her to be more judicious, and I didn’t think that was asking too much from her.

Before I left, I hesitated by the side of the bed. I really didn’t want to wake her up. If I did, she could potentially just end up snapping at me for not letting her sleep. This was her spring break, after all; this was her vacation from university. In fact, Jo had been bitching all week about not being able to sleep in like she wanted. And the last thing I wanted was to get yelled at again after all that hollering at each other last night—and especially considering we didn’t have a lot of time left in her visit.

Plus, she looked so sweet with her face buried in the pillow and her mouth kinda open, and she wasn’t quite snoring but she was breathing heavily in that position. I would have been content to leave her just like this, with this being the last mental image I’d have of her for the next two days. There was a section of her hair that had fallen out of her ponytail, and it fell over her face. I brushed away the uncharacteristic curl and leaned over her to lightly kiss her temple. She moved and roused, slowing waking up from my apparently not-to-gentle touch. Jo turned her head, slipped her arm under the pillow, and looked up at me. Her voice was deep and scratchy. “Hey.”

Realizing that I had accidentally nudged her enough to wake her, I sat down next her and apologized with a quiet tone, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“’S okay, you’re....” Taking in my appearance and the way I was dressed, Jo pushed up into a sitting position and spotted my bags by the door. Her face was both sad and full of angry disbelief. She finished her sentence. “You’re leaving.”

I didn’t want this to be as difficult as it looked like it was going to be. Jo knew I had two away games this week, because we had been through this already. We were lucky I didn’t have more. “Uh, yeah, remember? I gotta head down for practice, and then we got straight off to Vancouver for our game tomorrow. I’ll be back, though, late Thursday night, early Friday morning.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. But I mean... you’re leaving now, and you weren’t gonna wake me up to see you off? You were just gonna go?”

I brushed my knuckles against her cheek, calmly explaining myself. “It’s just that you looked so peaceful that I didn’t want to interrupt that.”

Jo jerked away from me, and I sighed. She spat out her words at me. “Bullshit. You’re still that mad? Mad enough that you’d leave like this and not wake me up?”

“No, I’m not mad,” I replied, reaching out for her again.

“Whatever,” she mumbled as she flopped back down on the bed, facing away from me, and pulled the blanket back up over herself. “Then just go.”

As soon as she tried to blow me off instead of fight with me, I knew she was upset. Like really upset. Jo never not fought with me—when something irked her, especially something I did, you bet your ass she told me about it. She always spoke her mind; that’s who she is. “Come on, don’t be like that. I said I’m not mad.” I yanked on the covers to pull them down, but she didn’t fight me and the blanket and sheet came back easily. Then I nudged her and pressed on her shoulder, trying to get her to look at me again.

She resisted at first, but I think I was annoying her more than anything, which is what made her roll over. When she looked back up at me, she was glaring through her burning tears. Her words were biting, and I really wasn’t sure why. Jo was often cranky in the morning, but never like this. “Really? You’re not mad? Then why were you just going to fucking leave without waking me up or saying something? That’s a total dick move, and you fucking know it. If you’re trying to piss me off to get even with me, Kristopher, then you’re doing a damn good job of it.”

“Why in the world would I be trying to piss you off? Or get even with you?” My volume increased as my frustration leaked into my voice. I’d never purposely do something to get a rise out of her, and she was well aware of that. We didn’t play games with each other; we were always frank and honest, and never spiteful.

“I don’t know!” she yelled, turning away again as she laid herself back down, furiously wiping away the tears streaming down her face. That was all she said. No other explanation, even though there was obviously something else going on. I could hear her crying quietly.

I kicked off my flips flops and lay down behind her, attempting to spoon her and get to the bottom of this. I didn’t expect Jo to be this freaked out about her impending departure to make her act this way. Throwing a temper tantrum wasn’t going to make me stay, because I couldn’t. I had a job to do, a team to play with, and a game to win. As irritated as I was, though, I didn’t want to leave like this. I didn’t want to go to bed mad last night, and I didn’t want to leave with her feeling upset either.

Reaching around her body to pull her against me, I felt as Jo resisted and pushed away from me, moving to the other side. I sighed again, this time with more resignation than frustration. When I twirled a finger around the hair of her messy ponytail, she reached back and batted her hand around, trying to stop me and shoo me away. “Stop it,” she mumbled, still not moving to face me.

I let go of her hair and waited a few moments before I began to lightly touch her neck where the collar of my dress shirt fell away from her skin. Jo twitched and fidgeted, trying to get me stop. I cooed softly, “Joey.”

“No. Don’t you ‘Joey’ me!” she wept.

“Talk to me,” I begged.

“No, you talk to me. Why would you just leave like that? Huh? Why would you do that?” That’s when she looked at me again, rolling over and pushing up on her knees so she towered over me. I didn’t have an answer for her, so I stayed silent and she went on. “I don’t care how fucking mad you are at me, you don’t ever, ever, just leave, especially before a road trip. You hear? Never. You don’t leave without a kiss from me, you don’t leave without hugging me before you go, and you definitely don’t leave without me telling you that I love you. You fucking don’t.”

And then it all made sense. I nodded at her. “Okay.”

“‘Okay’? That’s it?”

“Yeah.” I hadn’t thought about how important it was to Jo for her to see me before I left. I had assumed she was more upset about me leaving than the actual goodbye preceding the leave. Maybe I should have known how big of a deal it would be for her, but with everything else going on, her brother and all those emotional implications had been the furthest thing from my mind.

Jo hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye to James, and I know full well how much that had eaten away at her. She had promised him that she’d go to his game—just like she went to all his home games—but she didn’t that day. It killed her inside, the way she missed him, the guilt she felt for not showing up, and for never getting to say goodbye.

That’s why we never said that word to each other when one of us was leaving. It was so powerful, so final, and both of us understood that very well because we had both lost someone very close to us. Of course, that being said, we were also very well aware of the fact that we didn’t always get a chance for one last goodbye, so it was very significant, in Jo’s eyes, to get the opportunity to “see me off,” as she liked to say. It was this twisted sense of doubt and optimism and caution and preparedness. Just in case—although we hoped it never would have to come down to that.

Every time we said “see you soon” to each other, it was a little promise that we’d always meet up and be together again. It was a little macabre in weird way, but it worked for us.

I propped myself up on one elbow and reached up toward her face with my other arm, and she let me wipe away the wetness on her cheeks. “Won’t happen again. It’s really important to you, so... won’t happen again.”

“Okay,” she sniffed. “Good.” After a pause, Jo continued, “It should be important to you, too.”

“It is.” Anything that was a big deal to her automatically became a big deal to me, too. “I thought it would be nice to let you sleep. You looked so cute, you know, drooling on your pillow. I wasn’t trying to upset you or get even. You know that.”

She nodded and hiccupped. “If you woulda up and left, Kris, you woulda had a very unhappy camper on your hands.”

Wrapping my free arm around her waist, I pulled her closer to me. She didn’t need much encouragement to lie down beside me. I didn’t bother saying anything else; instead, I just slipped my hand underneath her shirt and rubbed her back in big circles. It always worked to calm her down before, and after a few minutes, she was relaxed again. “I’m really sorry, but I gotta go, Jo.”

“Yeah. I’m probably making you late.”

“No,” I reassured her, soothing her, even if it were a lie. If I didn’t leave pronto, I’d be late for our ten a.m. practice, seeing as though we had to be there by nine in order to get dressed and stretch, warm up, and prep. Practice would be over by eleven, we’d leave around noon, and the team would get into Vancouver in time for a big team dinner.

“It’s okay, I know.” Jo sighed, which was interrupted by another hiccup. She turned into me and wrapped her long, thin arms around me, squeezing tight. “Sorry. Kris, I love you so much. Don’t ever forget it.”

“I won’t, I can’t. And I love you, too, Jo. So much.” I hugged her back and tilted my head so I could kiss her. Jo placed her hands at the back of my neck, her fingers playing with the ends of my hair and driving me crazy. My tongue found its way into her mouth, playing a game of tug o’ war with hers until I knew I had to stop. “I really can’t. I gotta go.”

Her voice was breathy, and her face inches from mine. “Yeah. Have a good practice, and a safe trip, and good luck tomorrow. But I’m sure I’ll talk to you before then.”

“For sure.” I cupped her face, and my thumbs caressed her cheeks. “What about you? What do you have planned for yourself?” It was a transparent question, but Jo humored me anyway.

“Dunno. I’ll go back to sleep and try to find something to do. Maybe Jamie’ll be free for dinner tonight or we can go see a movie or something like that.”

“Sounds fun.” I jerked my head toward the table, where the money and room key were sitting. “I left you the key and some cash in case—”

“You know you don’t have to do that, Kris. I know I don’t get paid as much as you do for my particular talents at the arena,” she giggled softly, “but I did save some money to come out here.”

“Well, I don’t have a car out here because I’m too young to rent one, so if you wanna get around, you have to take a cab, and I don’t have a kitchen and this place doesn’t have room service, so if you wanna eat you have to order something.” I could have gone on about all the things she couldn’t do because I wasn’t established out here, but it wasn’t worth it to. She knew I wanted to make sure she was taken care of, in all ways possible, most especially when I couldn’t be here to do it myself. “Listen, don’t roll your eyes at me, Jo, but whatever you do... please be careful.”

She still made that flippant gesture of irritation, but she also nodded. “Don’t worry. I promise you that I’ll be safe. Call me when you get the chance, at the hotel or whatever.”

“Will do.” She let go of me, and I sat up, threw my legs over the bed, slipped my feet back into my flip flops, and finally stood. “I’ll be back on Friday, and we have a game that night, but Saturday, I think we just have practice. So we’ll have the afternoon and evening to ourselves.”

That made her smile. “Okay, well, I guess I’ll see you Friday then.”

“Yup. See you,” I said as I leaned over the bed, sealing that little promise with another kiss. I put my hat on and picked up my overnight bag and then my garment bag with my suit in it. She watched as I pulled open the door, and I gave her a little wave before I stepped out into the warm morning air and left her alone in the hotel room.

I used the walk to the Shark Tank to clear my head. My focus had to be on the game ahead of us tomorrow. We really needed a win, and it was easier to bond as a team when we were all forced together on the road. My roommate was Husky, my defensive partner, which I think helped us to develop chemistry pretty quickly. The more time we spent together, the more we’d learn about each other—and that would show out on the ice.

By the time I got there, I felt like my head was on straight again. I was focused and ready to practice. That was, until I got into the dressing room. Something didn’t feel right. Everyone said hi or nodded in my direction to acknowledge my entrance, but that was it.

“Hey, Pickles,” I greeted, taking the seat at my stall. “What’s up?”

He shrugged. “Same.” Then he looked at me carefully. “You?”

I mimicked his gesture with one shoulder. As far as the guys all knew, there wasn’t anything wrong. And none of them needed to know our deeper reasons for our reactions. It wasn’t any of their business, and they wouldn’t get it anyway. “Fine. I mean, good.”

I waited for the guys to say something, either about last night or Jo or even about me, but they were all eerily silent. They must have been hung over after all those free drinks they got last night. I used the silence to keep my brain focused on the task at hand as I put on my gear and laced my skates. I pulled the white practice jersey over my head, donning the Sharks logo of my new team.


  1. I'm glad Kris and Jo are not fighting anymore. I so adore when he calls her 'Joey'.
    That being said, what the heck did Kris walk in on in that dressing room??!!

  2. Yeah...something's up. Ooh! I know: he got traded back to the Pens, right?! I mean, right?!?!?! ;)

  3. Not blah at all.
    For once, I figured out Jo's issue before Kris did (usually I'm sloooow about these things), but I think she seems to be in a really sensitive state right now, almost hyper-sensitive. I'm hoping that the two of them can retreat to a more normal plane soon, or perhaps it's just being away from Pittsburgh and their comfort zone that's bring all their issues to the forefront.

    I hope that Jo will have a nice time while he's away, since it seems like she's pretty restricted in terms of getting around and doing stuff. It should be a holiday for her as well, and then maybe she can relax. I feel a bit nervous though, since things do not seem to be going well for these two.

    Will we get to see Vancouver? I'm kind of interested to see what you say about my city of glass.

  4. How the hell can you say that was blah? That was amazing!

    I agree with the girls above, something is definitely up with the boys on the team.

    I'm going to be miserable the day that you decide to end this story...

  5. I'm happy that they're not fighting anymore but I feel like there is still so much that's unresolved between the two of them. It just feels right that Jo is out in San José with Kris and I hate that they are living under a time constraint with each other. If I were her, I would transfer out west asap. If you have something that good, you damn well follow it and never let it go :)

    I loved the chapter and as always, your superb writing!

  6. As I go...

    The song! I've seriously listened to it like 20 times since you showed it to me the first time =D So beautiful and so fitting. Thinking about Jo and Kris when I listen to it, makes me emotional so... I hope that this update isn't a bad one, I might lose it!

    Ugh ok there's not a single thing I can pick out in the whole start, when you're describing Kris' personal ideas about their relationship. About the good and the bad, the giving and the taking that go into it. I love seeing how he thinks about Jo, because I think it's the way every girl wants a guy to feel about her.
    He's not over the top or unrealistic. He doesn't think she's 100% perfect but he doesn't want her to be, he accepts her for who she is and he appreciates everything about her - even the things he doesn't always approve of or agree with.
    As weird as it sounds, his views on their relationship is just real... even though he's a fictional character lol

    "As soon as she tried to blow me off instead of fight with me, I knew she was upset. Like really upset."
    ^^ Haha! I'm sorry I know this is serious but I just love this line. I love that Kris just 'gets it'. Any guy I know would just be like 'awesome' if a girl said 'fine!'. But Kris knows... when a girl says 'fine', it means nothing is 'fine' at all.

    "Anything that was a big deal to her automatically became a big deal to me, too."
    ^^ Love you Kristopher! That's just a fantastic feeling to have about the person you're with. That's probably why nothing can tear them apart. They know when something is worth fighting about, and when it's worth just letting it drop.

    I'm sad that their time is coming to an end and I'm sad that Jo has to spend the next little while without Kris... I know whatever you do though, it'll be interesting and exciting to read. Love it!

    I can't wait to see what you do with the next one... I have a feeling you've got something up your sleeve, and like everything else you do, it's going to be fantastic!

  7. How can you call this chapter blah? I loved it. I'm glad that they're not fighting anymore.

    Jo and kris seem to have this arguement over and over again. He's almost afraid to live life and is overly cautious. I like that Jo was true to her feelings about the Bar situation...it may not have been the best reaction but you can't always run to someone else to protect you.

    Kris I know you want to be her knight in shining armour all the time but she has to be able and willing to protect herself...even if it means she has to punch a drink asshole in the face.

    I love the significance of "seeing [him] off." I love how it has a real meaning between the two of them...even if kris didn't see it at first.

    Now I need to get back to work...I read the last 3 chapters on my iPhone. Sorry for not commenting on the other chapters but typing long comments on this thing is a little difficult.

  8. Awa the beginning of this was so touching! It was incredibly thoughtful of Kris to want to let her sleep and not disturb her, but I had the feeling that there'd be trouble if Jo woke up alone. I totally see where she's coming from. Of course she wants to see him off, God forbid anything happens. I'm glad Kris finally realized that.

    Also, I'm itching to find out what's up with the boys. I hope it's nothing bad =/

    Jay, this chapter definately was not blah! Fantastic as always(:

  9. Okay,

    I had so much to say about the beginning, about how cute it was to see Kris wanting her to sleep, but how I was a little perturbed because he should have realized the significance of their good-byes when he knew what happened to James, and how much I love them and yadda yadda, and then I read the end.

    What is the deal with the team? Is it about the guys? Trade deadline passed so he isn't going anywhere... and he's playing good so he isn't being sent down to an affiliate team (note to self find out where the minor team for San Jose plays) and Jo didn't do anything to any of the guys... but, then I started thinking. Did the guy Jo punched get all power trippy and say it was Kris? Is he going to charge them or something? Did Pickles or his girlfriend say something about the situation or did someone else make some rumor or something up? Did someone say something or get offended by what Jo said to the team? Do they think Kris is all high and mighty now and thinks he's better than everyone when really he just wants to make a legitimate Cup run? What about the whole Samantha thing? Did someone find out Kris had offered Jo to help and that she did? Did something happen to one of the guys or someone Kris knows from Pittsburgh that the guys know about and he doesnt? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?


    More, please. Thanks.