Monday, June 7, 2010

97.) Justin Bieber

Soundtrack Song - 30 Seconds to Mars, Kings and Queens

Frustrating. It was so damn frustrating, to have to lose again after putting all that effort into the game. I even scored; maybe I was a bad luck charm to the team, and every time I potted goal, we were destined to lose. It just didn’t make any sense... I was playing some of my best hockey. When I was in Pittsburgh, people were saying I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn—but now, my one-timers were hitting the mark with alarming accuracy. Even if my team wasn’t winning, I was a real scoring threat to the opponents.

I don’t know what was clicking with me, or why I all of a sudden was some kind of sharp shooter. What was so different about San José that allowed me to become such an offensive threat? I had already hit my goal of at least thirty-five points for the season; and at the rate I was going since the trade, I had the potential to also reach my target of ten goals. I was halfway there and still had a month to go in the regular season. In two and a half weeks as a Shark, I’d scored two goals and eight assists. That right there was ten points in eight games—a better production than I’d ever had in Pittsburgh.

Even with Nabokov pulled and Heatley, Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski, Boyle, and myself out on the ice and attacking with full force and emptying the tank, we couldn’t score the tying goal. The seconds on the clock counted down until they read all zeroes, and we lost the game. As the Canucks celebrated their three-to-two win, swarming around Luongo and patting each other’s helmets, we skated toward the runway and filtered off the ice in a single-file line.

My aggravation got the best of me, and I threw my stick against the wall without caring about if it broke or not. I ripped off my gloves and helmet and threw those, too. We were all pretty pissed off with the outcome; no one was talking in the locker room. Not Coach McLellan, not Blake or Thornton, and not even the guys yapping on about what they were going to do when we got back to California. It was surprising when the usually nonchalant guys were silent, too, but that was indicative of the shift in attitude among the players on this team.

It’s not like we were in danger of not making the playoffs—not yet, anyway. But the issue resided in how we all knew that this was not the time to go on a losing streak, when we were in the final stretch of the regular season. We needed to gel as a team. My first four games as a Shark had gone well, even though I hadn’t been scoring. Why couldn’t we find a balance? Was it something I was doing that was having this twisted ripple of effect on the rest of the guys? I was sick of losing. Back in Pittsburgh, we never lost more than one game in a row. Four... that was way too many.

Whoever was made available to the media, I’m not sure, but I wasn’t one of them—which was a relief to me. I was not in the mood to face down cameras, audio recorders, or reporters since I was so disappointed and aggravated. Practically tearing off my uniform and equipment, I brushed past my teammates, grabbed a towel, and was the first one heading into the showers. I was way ahead of everyone else, so I had showered, finished dressing, and was ready to catch the bus to the airport before any of my teammates were.

I left the dressing room and headed out into the empty hallway. A few of the equipment guys were shuffling around and packing up our stuff, but they went about their business so I was pretty much left alone. So I called Jo. I knew that I’d be seeing her in a few hours, but I knew I needed to calm down and chill out.

“Hey, babe,” she answered softly, purposely tentative and trying to feel out my mood.

“Hey,” I mumbled back, leaning my left shoulder against the wall while holding my phone to my ear with my right hand.

“That was a great goal you had in the second. Beautiful slapper from the high slot.” When she said that, I didn’t verbally respond. I just sighed. Don’t get me wrong; I love scoring goals. But I’d rather get a win. Personal points don’t matter unless they count for something, like two points to help us win the western conference. “Take the fucking compliment, Kris. You played well.”

“Thanks,” I muttered, crossing my legs at the ankle as I supported myself by my shoulder. “I just, you know, I’d trade the goal for a fucking win already. That’s the fourth in a row that we’ve lost. I didn’t come here to lose.”

“Of course you didn’t. No one would think that,” she soothed calmly. “You’re playing really great, Kris. You’ve been on fire lately. I mean, you’re in your element out here, and anyone who can read a stat sheet can see that.”

“But we’re not winning,” I groaned, realizing that I was whining but unable to stop myself. “Maybe I’m not trying hard enough—”

“What are you supposed to do? Score a hat trick every game? All you can do is play your role, play your game, and hope that the other guys do the same. You can’t play every position. You’re one guy on a team of twenty that skates out on that ice.”

“Yeah, but what if—”

“No, no ‘what ifs.’ A loss is not all your fault. Just like a win is not all your doing either. So stop playing this mind game with yourself. Babe, I love you, and you know I would tell you if you weren’t up to snuff, right?” She didn’t wait for me to concede or differ with her; she just kept talking. “But that’s not the case, so you need to stop being so hard on yourself. Seriously.”

Sighing again, I placed my left forearm against the cool wall, and then I rested my forehead against my fist. My voice was low as I told her, “I’m just so fucking frustrated. I was supposed to be out here to help strengthen this team. To help make sure they win. I don’t want to have had to move out here to get knocked out in the first round. I wanna win the Cup again, and I know with this team that we can, if we get our act together. This is a team configured to win now. The Heatley trade, and Marleau and Nabokov on the last years of their contracts.... This is it for these guys. This is the year for them to try to win. We’ve gotta work the chinks out of this.”

Jo was silent on the line for a few moments before she said, “Well, I think you guys are just getting all this losing out of your system now, so when you’re in the playoffs, all you’re gonna do is win. Four straight sweeps.”

I laughed at her hopeful hyperbole; even if we were a team playing in sync, no one could ever win sixteen straight in the playoffs. That attitude was deliberately ridiculous, which was what made it cute and funny at the same time—and it was just what I needed to hear. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” I replied, the corner of my mouth twitching up. “I would settle for winning tomorrow night’s game.”

“It’s not like you’re never gonna win again, babe. You’re putting way too much pressure on yourself to be the missing piece to this team. They don’t expect you to have all the answers or to be the guy who singlehandedly leads the team to the Cup Finals. You were brought on to contribute to the team by doing what you do best, and only that. I’ve got a good feeling about your role on the Sharks, Kris—a really good feeling. And I believe in you and your new team. But you can’t get all worked up, ya know? You’ve gotta be calm and clear-headed so you can play your game, which is why you’re here. If you let your frustration get the best of you, then your game’ll suffer and you’ll defeat yourself before you’ve even given yourself an opportunity to play.”

I smiled to myself as I asked her, “Since when did you learn how to give hockey pep talks?”

Her grin was audible, somehow. “That’s what James was always so good at, why he was the captain. He knew that it’s all about the attitude you have before you skate out on that ice, and I know that, too. So trust me on this, ’kay?”

“’Kay,” I relented, doing my best to let go of my irritation and be in the moment now with Jo. I wanted to forget about that bad stuff and focus on the good—like listening to how she could openly talk about James now, when she used to protect his memory by never, ever talking about him at all. She learned, though, that the best way to remember someone is to share those kinds of memories. I changed the subject away from hockey. “So, what did you do today?”

“Hung out with Brandy and Samantha again today,” she sighed. “I mean, I get where the poor girl is coming from, and I do feel bad for her... but I swear to God, if I have to listen to her talk about that Justin Bieber kid one more time, I’ma snap.”

“Oh, come on. It can’t be that bad,” I started to tease her.

“Oh, no, it is that bad. If I have to hear ‘Baby’ one more time, I will seriously and legally snap, and I will not be held responsible or accountable for my actions.” I laughed, and she continued, “I mean it! Apparently he has a new album coming out next week, and she’s counting down the minutes. I know she’s lonely and feels like she’s stranded out here. But I don’t care about some prepubescent kid who probably won’t have a fan base once his voice changes and his balls sprout hairs. Like... I just don’t fucking care. I’m twenty, so I’m pretty sure I can’t even look at this kid without it being considered statutory.”

I laughed again as she went on, feeling a lot better now. Jo always knew how to get my mind off things—but most importantly, she knew when I needed to be distracted, like now. “I’m sure she appreciates it, though, having someone to talk to. Someone who pretends to care, at least.”

“But it’s so annoying. She’s a typical teenage girl. I don’t remember being nearly so bratty at her age. So self-centered. Add that to the fact that she’s pregnant, and—”

“Wait, what?” I asked, standing up straight and thinking hard.

Jo was quiet for a few moments, and I began to wonder if maybe our connection had been cut off. When she spoke again, her words came out in a long, quick string. “Oh my God. I can’t believe I said that. I swore I wouldn’t tell! Shit, fuck, shitfuck! Kris, please forget that I said that. You didn’t hear me say that. I can’t believe I just did that! Oh fuck.”

“It’s okay, I won’t say anything.”

“I said the same thing, and I blabbed with my big mouth. Oh God, I’m so pissed at myself. The Blakes trust me with one secret, and I totally blow it big time.”

“That’s what she—”

“This is not a time for lame jokes, Kris,” she muttered, obviously furious with herself.

I felt bad for her, but I knew that she had let it slip inadvertently and not at all on purpose. “But Jo, it’s okay. It was an accident.”

“But Rob was so adamant about not wanting anyone on the team to know. Please, just forget what I said. Pretend like I never told you that.”

“I already forgot all about it.” To prove my point, I tried to begin a new topic of discussion. “So, Justin Bieber. I should probably return that CD I was going to surprise you with?”

She chuckled nervously, and I knew that she was still upset with herself and trying to cover that up. “Funny joke, Kris, but let me tell you.... If you really had bought me that crap, I would dump you on principle.”

“Ouch,” I laughed, playing along with the game. “Guess I better burn the receipt, so you never find it and you never have a reason to dump me.”

“Yeah, see, I can put up with a lot of your shit, babe, but I have a no-tolerance policy when it comes to Justin Bieber. Consider yourself forewarned.”

We both snickered, until I heard footsteps behind me. I turned and saw that some of the guys were beginning to trickle out of the dressing room, too, so I said to Jo, “Hey, so, we’re gonna be leaving here soon to head off to the airport. Thanks. I’ll be back soon. See you in a few hours.”

“Okay. See you,” she replied, and I clicked the button with the red phone on it to end the call.

I slipped my cell into the pocket of my pants, and then I faced the group that was beginning to congregate outside in the hallway with me: Couture, Mitchell, Setoguchi, and Huskins. I nodded at them as I leaned my back against the wall.

“Jo?” Guch asked, probably just trying to make conversation.

“Yup,” I answered, just as succinctly as he posed the question.

“She still in San José?”

“’Til Sunday.”

They all nodded, but I didn’t think they really cared. Well, it wasn’t that they didn’t care, because that sounds cold and harsh. They cared as much as casual friends would, which is all I could expect from them.

“Man, tough loss tonight,” Couture groaned, shaking his head as he took a stance against the wall opposite from me. “I thought for sure that we’d take it into overtime.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, but you never wanna have to take it into OT, especially this time of the year. You never wanna play more than you have to with the playoffs coming up around the corner.”

“It’s just an extra five minutes,” Mitch said. “And then if no one wins, you do the shoot out. Not like it’s overtime ’til someone wins.”

“It all adds up, though. And with so many guys on this team who went to the Olympics, you need to win in regulation so you don’t put the pressure on those guys. I mean, it only gets harder from here on out, for everyone.”

“Dude, don’t be such a Debbie Downer,” Husky said. “Yeah, the games are more intense. But you’re so psyched up that it’s almost like you don’t feel it. You just hit this whole nother level.”

“Yeah, that’s kinda true, but it’s hard to keep that up for four rounds. The farther you go, the more it hits you that it’s a big fuckin’ deal,” I told them, remembering the past two years in Pittsburgh when we advanced into the Finals for two consecutive years. Or maybe it was a bigger deal to me because of Luc and how badly I wanted to win the Cup for him. With him, with him right there, watching over my shoulder. “Once you realize what it is you’re doing, what it means... it’s harder than it looks.”

“Of course it’s hard. That’s why the best teams win it,” Guch mused aloud. “But we’ve got the skills. We’re good enough.”

“It’s not just about being good enough,” I replied, feeling like I was lecturing them. Some of these guys were older than me, yet I felt eons older than them. “You can have some of the world’s best players on your team, and you still fall short. It’s not about skill, but about the desire to win and the willingness to lay it all out there on the ice, game after game, because you’re desperate to have your name engraved on a silver cup and make history and fulfill the same dream you’ve been pursuing ever since you strapped on your first pair of skates. Not every player gets that chance, and you’re so incredibly lucky to even get to do it once. But, when you do, the next day when you wake up, you’re sore and beaten and battered, but you’re crazy enough to wanna do it all over again.”

“So, you’re set to win it again this year?” Mitch asked. “Because we want to do it, be Cup champions.”

“Fuck yeah. That’s why I’m here.” I wasn’t going to let this trade stop me from living the dream again. Being out here, I had to make it count. I couldn’t be being forced to go through all this for nothing. Being traded, leaving Jo, having to be separated from her, starting all over in a brand new city... those things had to be happening for a reason. In life, I had to believe that things like this happened with a bigger, greater purpose—and I needed to keep that in mind.

The rest of the guys began to exit, and we loaded ourselves onto the bus and then boarded the plane heading south for California. It wasn’t necessarily a long trip, because we were traveling along the west coast, but it was still longer than I would have liked. By the time we got back, and Pickles offered me a ride down the block to the hotel, it was past two in the morning, almost three. I tried not to make too much noise as I closed the door of his SUV and headed to the room labeled with the number nine.

Jo, just like the last time, opened the door before I was close enough to knock. This time, though, she was fully clothed. She was dressed in a pair of my black sweatpants, one of my plain, gray hoodies, and a pair of my heavy, thick socks. “Hey,” I greeted, kissing her mouth gently. I set my bag down on the floor by the door as I stepped into the room, and she closed the door behind me. The place was lit only by the glow of the TV. I grabbed the strings of the hoodie and tugged on them. “You do realize that it’s, like, only fifty degrees outside, right? You don’t need to be bundled up like an Eskimo.”

“I’m pretty sure an Eskimo would be wearing furs a lot thicker than this,” she replied, looking up at me with a smile on her face as she held onto the lapels of my suit jacket. She pushed up onto her toes and rubbed her nose against mine, giving me an Eskimo kiss. “You’re my space heater, and it’s cold in here without you.”

“Glad to see how you missed me,” I chuckled, pulling on those strings again. “Let me get out of my suit, and then we’ll get into bed and I’ll make sure you’re warm.”

“’Kay.” She let go of my jacket and I let go of her; she jumped back on the bed and sat with her back against the headboard, watching television, while I slipped out of my suit coat and loosened my tie.

I stripped out of my dress clothes and then looked around for my blue, cotton sleep pants. But I couldn’t find them, so I flicked on the light so I could find my clothes—but they were nowhere to be found. “Jo.... Where are my things?”

“Why, whatever do you mean?” she asked back, too cutesy to be up to any good.

“My clothes that were here on the floor. My suitcase that’s empty. Where are my things?”

Jo tried to hide her smile, but it still broke out across her face like the plague as she flipped through the channels and pretended to be watching. “Maybe you should check, you know, where they’re supposed to be. Only slobs live out of suitcases and throw their clothes on the floor. Normal people use dressers.”

She wasn’t looking at me, and I knew she was up something. I pulled open the top drawer and peered in, finding my missing clothes—my blue pants right on top, folded neatly like she’d known I’d be looking for them. “Did you do this?”

“Do what?”

“My laundry. And putting it away.” I almost couldn’t believe it; she would have said something. “When did you do this?”

“Kristopher, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re right,” I teased. “Must’ve been the maid, because I don’t think you know how to do laundry.”

“Oh, bullshit!” she laughed loudly, throwing a pillow at me. “I washed clothes for you all the time, and you know it! And nothing ever happened to them either. No pink socks or anything like that.”

I took off my boxers and stepped into my comfortable pajama bottoms, and then I tossed the pillow back at her. “I guess.” Now that I was in my comfy pants, I could feel sleep pull at my eyelids. “Just let me go brush my teeth.”

“Sure,” she replied, watching as I headed toward the bathroom.

That’s when I saw what was hanging on the wall. I had missed it before because the light wasn’t turned on. “Hey, what’s this?” It was a big picture frame, filled with a couple different pictures.

“I believe the technical term is a collage,” she returned, watching me. “I made it for you.”

“You did this, too? When did you do this?” I asked, examining the collage carefully. There were a couple of pictures of us, all from her trip out here. There was the one of us up at Lick, and then one that must have been taken some time during the barbeque at the Blakes’, although I didn’t remember it. We were in the pool together, splashing and messing around and smiling. There was a picture of just me that had been taken at Tuesday’s game, when I’d scored my first goal as a Shark. And then there was one of just Jo that must have just been taken while I was on my road trip. Besides the pictures, there were shark stickers and also star stickers.

“You like it?”

“Yeah, I do. You were busy while I was gone.”

“It was a labor of love,” Jo quipped, watching me. “That’s what kept me sane while I listened to that stupid song, over and over and over again.”

I laughed, loud and hard, and forgot all about what I had been going to do. I fell onto the bed and crawled over to her, sing-talking the lyrics to the song that I had listened to before I got back. “You know you love me, I know you care.”

“Ugh, no, no, no! Kris, stop!” she laughed, placing her hands over her ears. “Don’t you dare get that song stuck in my head!”

But I didn’t stop, even though I knew it was tormenting her. “Just shout whenever, and I'll be there.”

“How do you even know the words? You’re a metal head!”

“You want my love. You want my heart. And we will never ever, ever be apart.”

Jo stopped laughing, and the smile fell off her face. When I saw her reaction, mine did, too. That had the opposite effect that I wanted it to. “Kris....”

“I’m sorry, Jo—”

“Don’t say that, babe. Come here.” She held her arms out, and I moved between her legs and rested against her chest, and she wrapped her arms and legs around me. Jo kissed my cheek and spoke in my ear. “I made that collage for you to make this place nice for you. Especially since I’m not gonna be here in a few days.”

“You don’t have to—”

She didn’t let me finish my sentence; she just kept talking over me, cutting me off and making me listen. “I know that you didn’t choose to come out here, and I think it’s been a difficult adjustment for you, and I know for sure that you don’t like living outta this hotel room, but I want this place—San José—to feel like home for you, even when I’m not here.”

“No place feels like home without you, Jo,” I quietly admitted, pulling up the cuff of her pants and rubbing the smooth skin of her leg.

“And I don’t wanna leave you, babe, you gotta know that—”

“I’m not letting you drop out, if that’s what you’re—”

“That’s not what I’m saying, so calm down.” She twirled sections of my hair around her fingers, pausing and taking a deep breath so she could collect herself.

“I don’t think right now is a good time to do this,” I sighed, leaning my head against her chest and looking up at her. “You’re not leaving yet, and look at how upset you’re getting. We’re tired, so this is going to be worse than how it has to be.”

“But we can’t keep putting it off. I’m gonna leave, it’s gotta happen, as much as neither of us wants it to. We need to talk about it, Kris. Please.”

10 comments:

  1. Thank God I'm not the only one who hates this so-called "Bieber Fever" aka drowned rat. That song, grr... And I saw of picture of the little thing holding Lord Stanley... I'm sorry, what?!

    Should we be worried that Kris now knows about Samantha? I hope Kris can keep the secret otherwise I have a feeling that it could backfire and be detrimental to his and Jo's relationship. And well done for Kris for saying he wants to win the cup.
    They need to have that talk - but after sleeping. It's not going to be easy but I think they can do it:)

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  2. "She pushed up onto her toes and rubbed her nose against mine, giving me an Eskimo kiss. “You’re my space heater, and it’s cold in here without you.”

    This was beyond adorable, especially the space heater comment!!!


    Yeah, there's gotta be reason in the story line as to why Jo accidentally slipped about Samantha- right?

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  3. omfg can that little girl bieber just die off already? i never wanted 90s boy bands back, just to take this kid down.

    anyways i really wanna know why out of nowhere jo slipped about samantha being pregnant.

    plus seems like theres a huge elephant in the room still between jo and kris

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  4. Great post! I like the satisfying image of laundry put neatly away and I love the collage. Seriously, there is nothing like art to make a room nicer, and this art is to remind Kris about Jo and show how he is putting down new roots in S.J.

    The phone call just shows their perfect balance of give and take, depending on who is in need at the time. Jo is completely strong and has the humour to cajole Kris out of his bad mood. And Kris is learning to receive help as well as give it. They're balanced.

    Plus all the teehee's around Justin Bieber, my favourite line: "I’m twenty, so I’m pretty sure I can’t even look at this kid without it being considered statutory.”

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  5. Ahh yes, I love when they're all cutesy and lovey dovey. I'm glad this post was lighthearted before it gets down to the serious business.
    Can I sadly admit that I have Bieber Fever? .. which is not good considering I'm in the same boat as Jo age wise. ruh roh.
    -Saf

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  6. I like this a lot! It's one of my favorite stories! I actually found it after I read "Nothing Worth Winning" and saw that you were making a sequel to that! When is that coming out? It would be so awesome to read two of your great stories at once :)

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  7. Justin Bieber HAS to die. OR get a fucking hair cut : | [that was my little rant : D]

    I love how Jo gave Kris a little speech then he turns around and uses that to make his own little speech to the boys <3 it was cute!

    Kris singing to Jo..HAHA ohhh I would have killed him : )
    And ohhhh the end of the trip is coming, this isn't going to be good : ( she can't even talk about it, let alone the day she leaves!
    Can't wait for the next update! [I've noticed I put a lot of smiles/sad faces in my posts ha sorry lol]

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  8. hahaha.

    Everyone had a mad hate on for Justin Bieber. I am not a big fan by any means, teen boy bandy pop songs just aren't my thing, but we need to give some credit - discovered on youtube to Bieber Fever pandamonium. There are a million Samantha's out there who are in love with the kid for whatever reason... enough that they are willing to get trampled at his shows. Google it - I'm not making this stuff up.

    I love Jo and Kris and Kris being able to rely on Jo to make him feel better. It's funny how things work out sometimes, like Kris wasn't producing as much in Pittsburgh and they were winning and now... well, ugh. I feel bad for him, and he's definitely the type that tosses the world up on his shoulders so I am glad he has Jo around to keep him level-headed.

    The end of their vacation looms near and I am anxious to see what you have up your sleeve.

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  9. Ughhh friggin Justin Bieber. So so so glad I'm not the only one who can't stand that kid lmao. He gets on my nerves something fierce.

    Okay, first of all, I LOVED Jo's pep talk to Kris. It was so ridiculously sweet and I think it's just what he needed to hear so as not to get too down on himself all the time.

    And I love that Kris loved how Jo made the apartment feel more like 'home'. I'm glad he could appreciate that gesture(:

    "No place feels like home without you, Jo."
    ^^Cue the "Awwwwh"!! I'm nervous for the end of their time together, but I know you'll handle it beautifully.

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  10. If this was anyone's story but yours... the title would make me not read it LOL

    "But I don’t care about some prepubescent kid who probably won’t have a fan base once his voice changes and his balls sprout hairs. Like... I just don’t fucking care."
    ^^ As if I needed another reason to love Jo to death... you just gave it to me! So funny and so, so, sadly true.

    " "The Blakes trust me with one secret, and I totally blow it big time.”
    “That’s what she—”
    “This is not a time for lame jokes, Kris,” "
    ^^ L O L ok see, I'm not that worried because I honestly forgot that Kris didn't know... and I don't think he would ever, ever say anything on purpose. The thing that gets me, is how accurate this is. Anytime something happens, especially something that is serious and important, it all boils down to a 'that's what she said' joke. Every god-damn time.

    I still don't like his team. I'm sorry, they still bother me and I honestly can't say why. It's nice to see that Jo's laying into them is still keeping them from harping on Kris though.

    I know this is a weak comment and I should write more but... I can't get "Baby" out of my head and I really, REALLY wanna read the next one lol!

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