Sunday, June 13, 2010

99.) Blur

The morning skate was optional, so I skipped it. We had just played last night in Vancouver, so we got in late. And then add that to the late night chat Jo and I had, and I was still feeling pretty tired when I woke up. Usually, I’d never miss a practice or a skate, but Jo and I officially had less than forty-eight hours left in her visit. I wanted to spend as many of them with her as I could.

Jo and I only slept ’til ten anyway. We were still tired, but I knew that I had to nap this afternoon to keep my routine somewhat intact. I had been conscious but reluctant to really wake up and get out of bed when Jo fidgeted beside me. When she shifted, the movement was enough to effect my irrevocable wake up.

“Morning, babe,” she said, her words barely distinguishable. She rolled onto her back, and I turned onto my stomach, draping myself over her and nuzzling my face into her neck.

“Morning,” I replied, and she giggled and squirmed when I spoke against her skin. I snaked my arm around her and pinned her down as she squealed and pushed at me, trying to get me to stop. Her fight was just for show, though; she didn’t want me to stop, so I continued to tease her by kissing her neck and rubbing my scruff against her sensitive skin.

The morning had a lighter feel to it. While nothing had been officially resolved, getting it out in the open had helped immensely. Every time we had tried to hide stuff from each other, nothing good ever came out of it. She had tried to keep me at arm’s length and to not let me in, but eventually she did. And the more I got to know about Jo as our relationship developed and the more I got to see the person that she was really was, the more reason I had to fall in love with her. Likewise, I didn’t want her to know the bad parts of me, and I think that Jo kind of resented that I wouldn’t trust her with that. But when I finally did share the deepest, darkest parts of myself, she accepted me with open arms—and I had never, and probably will never, feel so loved and adored again in my life.

We had learned to be ourselves with each other. Jo had taken some coaxing to get her to be honest and open with me—and I had taken even longer. I’d told her things that only one other person knew about me, and he was no longer alive on this Earth to carry around that knowledge. Without any pretenses between us, we could be completely relaxed. We were totally ourselves, and we were totally cool with that. That’s when we were at our best, when we were just ourselves. Like right now.

Before, Jo had been trying so hard to be something for me. She wanted to offer me something because, she said, I had given her so much. But now that everything was out in the open, we didn’t need to “offer” anything to the other. Being the people we were was exactly what we needed—for her, and for me, too. And since we were both very honest people, definitely not at least ones to hold back with our feelings or thoughts, we especially worked together.

I put my hands on her sides, just to hold onto her as she wiggled around, but either I somehow tickled her or she thought I was going to do that, so she squealed a little louder and twisted around more.

“Calm down, you silly girl,” I laughed, letting go of her and rolling away from her and onto my back. I glanced up at the ceiling, but her face came back into my view as she perched over me. “Awake now?”

“Yeah, thanks a lot for that. So... what’s on the agenda for today?”

“Well, I need to stretch and loosen up, since I didn’t go to the morning skate—”

Jo cut me off with a concerned look on her face. “I thought you said that there wasn’t one this morning?”

“No, there was one, but it was optional. And I opted not to go.”

She frowned. “You always go. Why didn’t you go?”

“I was tired. Sometimes, it’s better to rest than to strain yourself. And going today, I mean, I’m still feeling frustrated about this losing streak, and with having to play tonight, I just wanna relax. And I wanna relax with you now, while you’re here.”

As I reached up to touch her face and cup her cheek, she smiled. “Normally, I’d kick your ass for not going. But I think I’m okay with that. So, what’re you gonna do then?”

“Well, hot shower to relax, and then stretching, like I said. Then the usual, eating, napping, sticking to the game day routine, pretty much.”

Her finger traced the line that bisected my pecs and abs. As it neared my navel and the waistband of my pants, though, it switched directions and headed northward again. “Can I tag along?”

I laughed at her. “I just said I wanted to spend time with you. So of course you can come along. Usually, the guys and I go to Original Joe’s—”

Booooriiiing,” she giggled. “You’re in a brand new city for almost three weeks now. So tell me, did you go to the first restaurant you saw and never even tried anywhere else?”

Shrugging, I told her, “There wasn’t a need to go to another place. Food’s good, the staff knows who we are, gets us tables quickly and leaves us alone for the most part. Or, you know, the waitresses put up with the guys when they get... well, you’ve met them.”

“Fine. I’ve never been there at least, but you seriously need to learn how to expand your horizons,” she sighed, giving me a fake look of pity. I grabbed her sides and pinched her softly instead of offering a retort. Jo squirmed and shrieked but began to laugh when I pulled my hands away. When I put my hands, palms down, on my chest, she placed hers over mine. “And can I shower with you, too?”

I had trouble swallowing. “Game day.”

“And I said ‘shower,’ not pin me up against the wall and fuck me.” She paused. “Although, if you wanted to do that, I wouldn’t be complaining....”

“Game,” I mumbled, and that’s all I had to say. It wasn’t just that I needed my energy, but I needed a certain amount of focus and determination, too, to help the team break this streak and start a new one: a winning streak. I enjoyed the way we could just lie around in bed like this. Not everything needed to be sexual. Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow we could laze around and make love all afternoon and all evening, once my practice was over.

We ended up showering together. While it could have been nice to mess around, we didn’t. Jo respected what it took for me to play hockey for a living, so she didn’t pressure me to do anything other than help her wash her long brown hair.

Of course I wanted Jo to be out here with me, to stay in San José, and for us to never have to be away from each other again. Of course I didn’t want to have to take her to the airport and watch her walk away from me, knowing that it would feel like a lifetime until I got to be with her again. We’d still talk on the phone every day and text back and forth consistently pretty much throughout the entire day, but it was never the same as being in the same room with each other.

But despite feeling that way, I also knew that I couldn’t keep her here. I couldn’t “keep” her, because she wasn’t something to be kept. She wasn’t a pet; Jo was a girl, a young woman with her whole life ahead of her and the world at her feet—as long as nothing prevented her from having those options. Keeping Jo here meant keeping her from her aspirations.

There was a difference between what she wanted for herself, and what she wanted for her life—just like there was a difference for me, too. I needed Jo to be a part of my life, and that’s what I wanted for myself; but I also had dreams that I wanted to accomplish, like winning the Cup. Jo wanted to make something of her life, which is why she headed back to school. When she was in high school, before her brother died, she so desperately waited for an acceptance letter to CMU so she could pursue her degree and get her dream job. How could I possibly get in the way of that? Even though Jo missed me, her life would go unfulfilled if she didn’t attend class. She wanted the best of both worlds, but she couldn’t have both. I could wait for her... but university couldn’t.

The hot steam from the shower helped relax up my tired muscles, and I stretched and limbered up. It was very important to be loose for the game tonight. Since I wouldn’t have had the benefit of the morning skate to provide that, I spent extra time stretching and warming up, under Jo’s watchful gaze the entire time.

She and I walked the few blocks down past the arena to Original Joe’s. We got a table for two toward the back of the restaurant, and I held out her chair for her. I sat across from her, crossing my legs at the ankle under the table, and Jo placed one of her legs over where mine were crossed and then hooked her ankles together, tangling us together.

I ordered my usual (pasta, steak, and salad) and watched as Jo clucked her tongue as she continued to peruse the menu since she wasn’t sure what she wanted. She asked the waitress, “What’s good here? What do you recommend?”

“Any allergies?” our server asked back. Jo shook her head, so the waitress began to rattle off a bunch of Italian dishes that didn’t sound appetizing to Jo. She eventually settled on a regular cheeseburger, so it was my turn to poke fun at her for being unoriginal.

Before our food arrived, a bunch of the guys showed up. They rallied around us and pulled over some tables to join us. It got loud quickly as they talked about how starved they were or surprised that I wasn’t at the skate or asked who our waitress was and if she were hot. They nodded in approval when she brought out our orders.

Jo took a huge bite of her burger as Couture sneaked fries off her plate. “Hey,” she hollered around the food in her mouth. “I’m gonna eat that!”

I worked on making my way through my own plate, trying to suppress my laughter. Jo never ate everything, and there was no way she’d get through all her food. But she still threatened to stab Logan with her butter knife if he ever did that again. My teammates weren’t as rambunctious as usual, which struck me as odd. I knew that it wasn’t because of Jo’s presence, because that never stopped them before.... Maybe the losing streak was starting to get to them, too.

The losing streak that was destined to live on for another game. We lost against the Flames, starting from behind and trying to make another comeback. We really needed to start coming out of the gate a lot harder. My frustration boiled over and I got a five-minute fighting major in the second as well as a roughing penalty in the third. I knew that Jo would be none too happy with me when I met up with her in the lounge.

She was standing there talking to Jamie and some of the other girls. Her back was to me, so I could see my name and number on her back, but it was still weird to see her in teal instead of black and Vegas gold. The girls were standing around her in a half-circle, hanging off her every word.

“And you don’t think I feel like a fool parading around in my underwear in front of him? Okay, well, I don’t, but that’s because I’d prefer to be naked rather than wear clothes. But it’s not about what you look like or what you’re wearing or what you’re not wearing... it’s all about attitude. You act sexy, he’s gonna think you’re sexy. Trust me, I grew up around guys my whole life.”

“Totally worked for me and Marc,” Jamie said, throwing in her two cents. “Jo oughta write a book.”

“I don’t know about that. It’s just common sense. Girls tend to over think things, when it’s so simple.”

I finished making my trek over to her, where I put an arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Hey.”

“Right, babe?” she asked me lightheartedly, not making a scene in front of everyone else about my fight.

So I went along with her instead of stir the pot. “Whatever you say.”

A couple of the girls sighed and remarked how sweet we were, but Jo didn’t pay attention to that. “So, uh, plans tonight?”

“No,” I told her. “None of the guys are going out. This makes five in a row, and practice is most certainly going to be extra, um, rigorous tomorrow, I’m sure.”

We left the group and started the walk back to the Alameda. Jo was silent until we were alone on the street. “Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine.”

She shook her head. “I know you’re frustrated, Kris, babe, I really do.... But fighting? You were not brought out here to be a goon.”

“But I was traded for so I could rev up this team. And they needed that out on the ice, and that’s what I was trying to do. Swing momentum.”

“At the risk of getting injured so you can’t play? Listen, I know it’s part of the game, and if you’re swooping in to stick up for one of your teammates, then that I understand. But not fighting for the hell of it. There are other ways to ‘swing momentum,’ Kristopher, and you fucking know that.”

“It’s so cute when you’re all worried and concerned about me.”

“I just think that someone needs to tell you that you are not a boxer in a hockey player’s uniform. Besides, you wouldn’t look near as cute with big, nasty cauliflower ears, and you and I both know that this relationship is strictly based on my physical attraction to you,” she teased, barely keeping the laughter out of her voice. This was so much more than that.

Once we got back to my room, we shed our clothes and crawled into bed. I woke Jo up before I left for practice, to see if she wanted to come with me. She watched from the stands as Coach McLellan exhausted us as we ran drills and worked on strategy. My legs were burning by the time we finished for the day. But once I left the arena, I put all that behind me. Now, it was about me and Jo and our last remaining day together. We ordered in enough food to last us through the afternoon, evening, and following morning, and then we relaxed in my hotel room.

We watched movies, ate, kissed, and made love a few times. Nothing too intense. We tried to keep everything relatively low-key, so as not to ramp up our emotions. At some point, Jo got a phone call from Samantha, and she cursed herself for not turning off her phone. I muted the television as she answered, and I listened to her side of the conversation.

“No, I can’t come over.... Well, it’s kinda late, and it’s my last in San José today, and I’m spending it with Kris.... Well, he’s the reason I came out here in the first place. If you’re bored, why don’t you play video games with Brett or watch a movie with Bailey? They’re your cousins, after all.... They’re still your family.... Well, I’m sorry, Samantha. But sometimes, you have to find people who are willing to be there for you when you need someone. And that’s Brandy and Rob, and you need to accept and understand that they’re just trying to help you out.... That person for me is Kris, and he needs me right now, too, so you need to respect that.... Like I told you, I’m here if you need to talk, but I’m not at your beck and call, and I’m busy right now. You have family that wants to be there for you, so maybe you should—” She pulled the phone away from her ear and checked the screen. “And she hung up on me.”

“If you want to go over there, I’ll understand,” I told her, not really wanting to see her spend her last evening here in San José with anyone other than me but knowing that helping someone required sacrifice.

“I don’t wanna go. It’s not like she needs me. She’s just bored and wants someone to talk to and hang out with, I think.” She added her last thought as a whisper. “It’s our last night.”

“No, not our last,” I corrected her. “There’s just a gap between now and when we’ll get to see each other again. It’s all about perspective, remember?”

Jo moaned and buried her face against my shoulder, and I thought that that was her answer in the affirmative. She fell asleep like that, and I followed suit soon after. It was an accident, though, because neither of us had set the alarm for the next morning. Mine would automatically go off at eight thirty, since I had a morning skate, but Jo’s flight was supposed to depart at eight.

Her frustrated grunt is what woke me up. “It’s five after seven! Fucking shit! My flight takes off in less than an hour! I’m not going to make it!”

Groggily, I tried to stay positive. “Yes, yes you will. Go shower. I’ll pack your bag.” As she rushed into the bathroom and slammed the door, I threw back the covers and searched around for all the things she brought with her as well as the few things she had accumulated during her week here. Her week that was now over. It ended so quickly, in a blur of lazy activity over the past two days. Not that I was expecting a big bang or anything... but it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel like it was time for her to go.

I packed her new sets of lingerie and her “frumpalicious” green sweatshirt from Lick Observatory along with her clothes and jersey that she brought with her, leaving out clothes for her to wear today. I was able to close the zippered flap, but the seams looked like they were ready to burst. Jo threw open the door, wrapped in a towel but still soaking wet, and she hurriedly slipped into the outfit I spread out on the bed for her. I stepped into a pair of khaki shorts and pulled a shirt over my head, not caring what I was wearing.

“I can’t believe this. What the hell happened? Why didn’t we wake up earlier?”

“We fell asleep last night before we set the alarm. But it’s okay, Jo, you’re all packed. We’ll catch a cab, and you’ll make it.”

With her bag in my right hand, my left grabbed hers and we quickly left the hotel and hailed a cab. The airport wasn’t that far away, and our short ride was silent. We held hands in the backseat. Our hearts were pounding from the adrenaline coursing through our systems as we desperately tried to get to the airport in time. We didn’t have the time to be sad, which I guess was a good thing. It was going to make this a lot easier on us, because we knew that we had to get to the airport now, but we weren’t thinking why.

I paid the driver and helped Jo out of the car. She ran to the check-in and got her ticket printed, and she had half an hour to get through security and get to her gate. All that left enough time for was a very quick and rushed send off.

We stood by the security checkpoint as Jo tentatively looked past the guards, as if she were seeing into her future. “I can’t believe this is it. These past two days flew by.”

“I know. I mean, it feels like you just got here.” I pulled her close to me and hugged her against my chest. “I loved every second of this past week, Jo.

“Every second?” she asked skeptically, raising an eyebrow as she looked up at me.

“Yup. Every second.” I cupped her chin and tilted her face up so I kiss her. “Call me when you land, okay? So I know you got back to Pittsburgh safely.”

“I will. As soon as the wheels touch ground.”

“I love you, Jo.”

“I love you, too, Kris.”

“I’ll see you soon. Before you know it.”

Jo nodded. “Yeah. Soon.” She wrapped her arms around my neck and held on tightly. “I wish we had more time.”

“Me, too,” I sighed, rubbing her back. “But you have to go. You can’t miss your flight.” She pouted, and I kissed her pursed lips. This was a complete turnaround compared to when she took me to the airport. It’s hard to be the one who has to stick around, to be the one who has to watch the person you love walk away from you when you know you won’t be seeing them for a while.

“I love you,” she eked out. I held her face in my hands, waiting to brush the tears away, but she blinked them away. Jo was trying to be strong again so I wouldn’t have to see her cry. “Soon. I’ll see you soon, babe.”

She pulled out of my grasp and headed through security. I hung around to watch her make her way through the line and the metal detectors. Once her shoes were back on, she picked up her bag and turned around. Even though this quick send off was probably the best way for us to get through this with the smallest amount of pain possible, I wished we had more time to spend together and enjoy our morning. She gave me a small, sad wave and then blew me a kiss. I waved back.

And then she was gone, hurrying to find her gate and catch her flight back home before it left without her.

And then I was left there, standing outside the security gate. It had all happened so quickly, and I was in a daze, frozen in that spot even though I knew I would have to head off for the morning skate.

7 comments:

  1. Okay so I'm all caught up now with the past few chapters and they were such a rush of different emotions! Samantha still pisses me off for being a whiny brat but she's still a teenager- we were all that terrible at one point.

    I liked the ending of this chapter the most because it put them both back in balance with each other and understanding what it's like to say goodbye and watching the other person walk away. Sad but necessary for them to keep building their relationship.

    I'm curious as to what's going to happen to Kris and the Sharks and if Jo is going to end up applying to UC without mentioning it to him. It kind of seemed that way but I don't know if that's necessarily a good idea?

    ugh, loved the chapter as always! And thanks for the much needed entertainment :)

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  2. How nice that they can be totally relaxed and open with each other, yet that just underlines how hard it is to separate from your soul mate.

    No sex on game day? Ouch, that's tough on Jo, but given Kris's intensity, it fits. Losing to the Flames totally sucks, and I'm trying to figure out who Kris would fight with. And Jo is turning into a regular Dear Abby, dispensing advice in the womanly arts. This whole trip has been about Jo helping others, pretty nice of her and hopefully satisfying for her as well.

    A low key day and a low key parting since the rush to get to the plane made it hard to get all emotional. But now what? Both of them seem to be emotionally connected but adrift in terms of what their plans for the future are.

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  3. OMg this made me want to cry!!! awwww man pls i hope nothing happens while they are apart from eachother!

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  4. I feel so sad for them. They are so in love. They shouldn't have to be apart.

    I know that this story is ending soon and now I'm a little paranoid that something is going to happen to Jo on the way home. Idk... you have me really scared :(

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  5. Ugh, this chapter completely broke my heart, Jay. I knew Jo would have to leave eventually, but I'm with Kris on this one, it didn't seem real until she actually got to the airport and took off.

    I'm really intrigued as to how the rest of Kris' season with the Sharks is gonna turn out and what's gonna happen now that Jo is back in Pittsburgh. Eternally keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out for them<3

    Wonderful update, my dear.

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  6. Ok so there were probably a lot of things I should have comment on in this one... like how wonderfully it flowed or how heart wrenching it was in it's simplicity, but I'd like to just point out the three things that really, stood out for me...

    "We got a table for two toward the back of the restaurant, and I held out her chair for her. I sat across from her, crossing my legs at the ankle under the table, and Jo placed one of her legs over where mine were crossed and then hooked her ankles together, tangling us together."
    ^^ I just loved that. It not only made me sigh out loud... but it made me all giddy and happy. I seriously love those two! And even more so, I love the way you write them and their interactions with each other.

    "Jo never ate everything, and there was no way she’d get through all her food. But she still threatened to stab Logan with her butter knife if he ever did that again."
    ^^ L O L ok... just another reason why I'm gonna miss them being together, they're so cute! They complete each other (as corny as that sounds) and I'm so sad that she has to leave.

    “It’s our last night.”
    “No, not our last,” I corrected her. “There’s just a gap between now and when we’ll get to see each other again. It’s all about perspective, remember?”
    ^^ I'm crying. I know Kris is trying to make it better, easier, for her... but in his attempts to be cute and make the load lighter, he's actually making it worse for me. Maybe if he wasn't so damn perfect... er... so damn perfect for Jo especially, it'd be easier to handle.
    With your writing though and the description you put into their last night together, it's breaking my heart to think of them being apart again. /sigh

    And now I wait...

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