Thursday, July 1, 2010

105.) Late Night Chats

Soundtrack Song - Brandon Flowers, Crossfire

I sat at my stall, taking a few deep breaths and relaxing. My jersey was off, and so were my chest and elbow pads. Luckily for me, I wasn’t made available to the media tonight—even though I had scored in the shootout. It wasn’t the shootout winner, so it wasn’t a big deal in the eyes of the reporters. To me, it was. That was the first and only shootout that had taken place since I had been traded here, and McLellan had chosen me to go second, after Pavelski and before Heatley. With the talent we had on our team, I hadn’t expected it. It meant a lot to me that Coach had picked me, and I was glad to be able to show him that he made the right choice by putting me in. But I was glad to not have to deal with microphones or cameras or reporters tonight, because that meant I could head back to my room and call Jo.

As Nabby, Little Joe, Blake, Couture, and Boyle dealt with answering questions, I headed for the showers and washed away the grime that had built up from playing a hard game. Then I quickly threw on my suit. The guys were planning on going out for a drink or two to celebrate winning the conference, but I wasn’t going to participate in that. First of all, it seemed ridiculous; the Sharks had won the conference years prior and still fell out of contention for the Cup quickly. Second, the only way I wanted to celebrate this was with Jo. I wouldn’t be drinking if I went out with them; I couldn’t be the designated driver because I didn’t have my car; and it didn’t make any sense for me to tag along and sit there and be sober.

By the time I got out onto the street and headed down toward the Alameda, the road was pretty dead. The fans had all left long ago. It left with me a nice, quiet walk to think.

Our regular season was now over. Once our losing streak had ended, the Sharks had won eight of our remaining ten games. In fact, we had finished on top of the conference and had effectively secured home ice advantage through the western conference finals—as long we made it that far, of course. Ranked eighth was the Colorado team, and we’d be playing the Avalanche in the first round. The schedule would be released soon, tomorrow in fact, and it would help give Jo and me a better picture of what our future held.

If she were able to come out once her semester ended—that is, if the Sharks were still in the playoffs come early May—I was going to upgrade and get a room at a nice place. If she were going to be staying with me for a while, then it sure as hell was going to be somewhere better than this. Well, it wasn’t a bad place per se, but I wanted her in a respectable hotel with a front desk and security, where she would have her own room key and we would look like a real, respectable couple instead of just me, a guy who had a girl come stay with him.

I let myself into my room and fell onto the bed, bouncing as I reached into my pocket for my phone. There was a text from Charlene, praising me for my shootout prowess, and I made a mental note to answer it later because I really wanted to talk to Jo now. I hoped that she was having a good weekend so I could share my good mood with her.

Last weekend wasn’t so good; I had expected a little sweet talking on the phone, but she called me and cried after she got home from Staalsy’s little party. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what had upset her so much because it had been difficult to make out her words since she was weeping so much. She said something about her necklace, then James, and how it wasn’t the same and she should have just stayed at home—and the worst, when she said that she missed me so much. It ripped at my heart, and I wished that I could be there to hold her and soothe her and get to the bottom of what happened. But all I could do was try to say some calming and comforting words to get her to stop sobbing, and by the time she composed herself, I didn’t dare ask what happened and risk upsetting her again.

This weekend, though, she was working both nights. Even better, Dave was on call all weekend. Jo said something about EMTs having to be on call every other weekend or something like that, but all I knew was that I was happy that he wasn’t going to be around her. I knew that when they were at school, they weren’t alone, so I wasn’t overly concerned about that. But I didn’t want to hear about them making plans to do something other than sit in that lounge and study. Just as it was hypocritical for her to forbid me from hanging out with girls, yet she could make friends with guys, it was equally as hypocritical for me to have encouraged her to make friends and then renege on that and tell her she couldn’t be friends with him.

The guys on the team told me to say something and to assert myself and lay down the law, but I couldn’t do it. Not unless I really had to, would I do that. This was going to be a very touchy subject, one which I would like to avoid at all costs. Being away from Jo was hard enough, and I couldn’t stand to have her mad at me, too. It was only until we were together again, in a few weeks, so I could wait it out and hope for scheduling conflicts; if she told me about making plans with him, then I’d say something. But not before. We were happy with all other aspects of our relationship except for the distance between us, so I wasn’t too worried about the solidity and foundation of our love—what bothered me was not knowing this guy or his motives or if he was as trustworthy and noble as I was hoping he’d be.

I flipped through my contacts and quickly called Jo. She picked up and didn’t even say hello. “Sweet move on the shootout, babe,” she yawned into the phone.

Smiling despite the fact that she couldn’t see it, I thanked her. “You saw?”

“Oh, yeah. During my break, I was hanging around in the players’ lounge to catch the end of the game and the overtime. I had a good feeling about it. You guys were going out with a win.”

“The lounge?”

“Oh yeah, we were all watching you,” she said proudly. “I think it’s the first time that they actually got to watch you play on your new team. I think it’s weird for them to see you on in other colors, and generally they don’t get to see a lot of other games that play on the same nights that they do, even with the time difference. You figure with interviews, and showering, and maybe going out after....”

“Yeah, I know,” I told her, remembering how it was when I was playing with the Pens. We never watched the western games that intently, especially during this time of the year. “How was it this time?” I asked, changing the subject a little and trying to dig around for information about what happened last weekend. “You said it was weird last time you hung out with them.”

“Well, every guy I hang out with reminds me that there’s no one out there better than you, babe.” I could hear the smile in her voice. Then she got a serious again. “It was a little better. It was still incredibly awkward, though,” she sighed. “I get along with them, but I was never really friends with them before you left. When you’re defined as a teammate’s girlfriend, it doesn’t quite feel right when that particular teammate is gone. Since I hung out a lot with the girls, they’re pretty good about making me feel kinda welcome among the group, but the guys are tougher. I don’t think they know how to treat me. Sid’s been pretty nice, of course, oh and Dups, too. He told me to tell you hi, Piglet,” she giggled.

“Ugh, he would.” It didn’t bother me at all that Jo was hanging out with those guys. I knew them well, and Jo understood team dynamics. Even though it was a little awkward for her and them both, I’d much rather hear about her hanging around in the players’ lounge with the lot of them rather than another one of her guy friends. There was a difference, since I knew them.

Jo and I talked for a little longer on the phone about different things, the game, her classes, the playoffs, final exams... we were flirting around with topics that all had to do with the end of her semester and the elimination rounds that could end my season, but we never openly talked about it. I wished that I could; there were not many things that I was superstitious about, but that was one of them. Talking about when it was going to end or how would surely be a jinx.

Just as I was about to say good night, she apologized to me. “I’m really sorry, Kris.”

“About what?” I was so confused, because her apology came out of nowhere.

“Missing your birthday.”

“Oh,” I responded. I had thought about it vaguely because I knew that it was coming up toward the end of April, and I’d still be playing in the first round (hopefully) and she’d be in her last week of classes, but it wasn’t until Jo actually put it into words that it hit me. “It’s okay. It’s the end of your semester, and I can’t really do anything anyway since it’s during the playoffs.”

“But still,” she whined quietly. “You were there for mine. Remember? Raccoon State Park? Looking at the stars?”

“Yeah, of course I remember.” How could I possibly forget that night? Trespassing on private property past dark, watching and listening as she rambled on about things I didn’t know and never would understand, curling up and cuddling with her as we sat on the cold ground—and most of all, when I kissed her.

“I wish that I could be there to do something with you, Kris. Like you did with me. Have birthday sex.”

Laughing, I said, “Well, as I recall, you didn’t get birthday sex either. So we’ll be even for next year.”

She giggled, too. “But still. I wanna be able to spend the day with you and give you a present and eat cake with you or something to share it with you. I know that you can do something with the boys if you wanted, but, I mean, I don’t know.... I just really wanna be there with you for your special day.”

“I appreciate that, Jo, I really do, but it’s not necessary. I don’t feel like you love me any less if you’re not here with me. I can’t eat cake, unless it’s Brandy’s healthy, cardboard cake since I won’t eat sweets now, and I’ll pass on that,” I chuckled, remembering the way Jo had scrunched up her face when Brandy had brought out those whole-wheat flour cupcakes at the cook out. She wouldn’t like that either. “And besides, you’ll have papers to write or speeches to practice or tests to study for, so it’s not like you’re not coming out because you don’t want to. You’re gonna be super busy.”

“Never too busy for you, though. It really sucks. I mean, I guess I’ll have to mail you your present or something, once I figure out what to get you.”

“You know what I really want?”

“What?”

“If you got straight A’s in your first semester.”

“Kris, that is the lamest thing you’ve ever said,” she laughed. “Seriously retarded. I’m going to get you something real.”

“I don’t want anything else. I want you to get good grades and then come out here, and we’ll put your report card or whatever on the mini-fridge. What do you say to that?”

“I say that you’re still lame. I’m still going to get you something good, and I have two weeks to think about it and figure out the best birthday present ever.”

“Okay, well, I’m still going to say that I don’t want anything, but I appreciate the thought.”

When we got off the phone, it was three in the morning on the east coast. I felt bad for keeping Jo up, but she only had to work in the evening so she said she didn’t mind. One thing I hated about being apart from her was the fact that I was on the west coast, with a three-hour time difference. Three hours wasn’t much—it certainly could’ve been worse—but the problem was that I played games in the evening. By the time I was off the ice, showered, changed, done with any interviews, it was late for Jo.

I knew Jo would be fast asleep in no time. When she was tired, she was able to fall asleep very quickly. Pushing off the mattress, I stretched my aching muscles and started to take off my suit. I first toed out of my shoes, and then I took off my jacket and pants. As I unbuttoned my dress shirt, my phone rang. I dropped my shirt on the floor and sat back on the bed as I looked at the caller I.D. and saw that Blake was calling me. It seemed weird that he’d be calling so late; he should have been at home with his family. Everyone knew that once Bowlby was with his wife and kids, he was strictly a family man. “Hello?”

A female voice spoke over the line, surprising me. “This is Kris, right? Letang?”

“Uh, yeah,” I replied, tentatively asserting my identity. Usually, I wouldn’t; both my mother and my agent had warned me against that. Once someone got your number, it was sure to get passed along quickly and soon, you’d have to change numbers completely. But it was someone affiliated with the Blakes calling, so I knew it this was a legit personal call. “Who’s this?”

“Well, see, you don’t know me,” the voice stated. “But I know you. You’re Jo’s boyfriend. This is Samantha, Rob’s niece.”

“Oh. Hi, Samantha. Um... how are you?” I asked. I was so surprised to hear from her. I wanted to know why she was calling, or how she got my number. But I was also not supposed to know anything about her, so I kept my mouth shut and waited for her to talk to me first. After all, I had learned a lot from Jo—sometimes, it’s better to let the other person set the pace and open up when they’re ready.

“Have you heard from Jo? I’ve been trying to call her, but it goes straight to her voice mail.”

“I talked to her for a little bit after the game,” I said, stifling my yawn as I pulled back the covers and so I could get into bed properly. “I’m willing to bet she’s sleeping by now.”

“Ugh,” she groaned, loud enough that I pulled the phone away from my ear. “I really wanted to talk to her!”

“It’s really late her time, Samantha.” I knew it must have sounded like a lecture, but I was feeling protective of Jo, even from this seventeen-year-old girl. She needed her rest, and she didn’t need to be up in the middle of the night just because Samantha was a prima donna and wanted some attention.

“Gah, I forget that she’s not out here. I really wish she was.”

I sighed. “Me, too.”

There was a pause on the line for a moment. “You know, she tried not to make me feel bad by not really talking about you. It really fucking sucks for me, since my man’s God knows where without me and I’m here without him.”

Since I didn’t know much about her situation, I just tried to stay neutral and ignorant. “I’m sorry.”

“She loves you. She’s crazy about you, and I could tell that about her. And she misses you like crazy, too.” I closed my eyes as she said that. It really did physically hurt me to hear that kind of stuff. My chest would clench and my heart would lurch in my ribcage. It was obvious that Samantha related a lot to Jo in how she was separated from the man she loved more than anything else in this world—which is why she demanded, “Tell me that you miss her.”

“Yeah, I miss her. Miss her so much.” I got a little choked up, because I those few words couldn’t possibly convey the depth of the empty hole inside of me that was caused by her absence. My bed was cold without her, my days darker and more bleak. I wasn’t whole when she wasn’t here. It’s funny how something as simple as her smile could make my day; unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to see that smile in almost a month now.

“At least you know when you get to see her again,” Samantha snarked. “People aren’t trying to tear you apart and ruin the one good thing you’ve got going for you. You’re so lucky.”

“That doesn’t make this any easier on us.” I felt kind of offended by her biting words. She didn’t even know me, let alone know what we were going through. “It’s hard because we have to be apart even though no one else is telling us to. It’s a decision that we made for ourselves. It doesn’t matter why we’re apart... just that we are.”

“Do you think my boyfriend misses me as much as you miss Jo?”

I doubted that anyone could have missed anyone as much as I was missing Jo at that moment. Most of the time, I was doing okay with our separation. Sure, it sucked, but I realized how necessary it was and that it was only going to last for a few more weeks. We were halfway through, at least. However, talking about it like this just magnified how I felt and called attention to it. So I told her, “If he loves you at all, then yes. He misses you this much.”

That put her mind at rest enough to calm down. I had to ask her, “Samantha, how did you get my phone number?”

“I snuck into my uncle’s room and borrowed his cell phone to find it.” I didn’t expect her to explain her justification for her actions because she sounded like a brat, but she did anyway, which surprised me. “I just... I wanted to talk to someone, and Jo wasn’t answering. I wanted to find out why, and you’re the only person who knows her. Plus, she said that you’ve been there for her, and I thought it would be nice to talk to someone like my Bryan. God, it makes me nuts that I can’t talk to him!”

Samantha went on a little bit longer, and I tried to forget everything she said. I wasn’t supposed to know any of this, and Blake would probably flip out if he knew that someone on his team found out all this stuff. Eventually, Sam got tired of talking, and she said she was going to sneak back and put the cell back where she found it. She hung up without even saying “thank you” or “goodbye,” and I shook my head as I put my phone on the nightstand, turned out the light, and settled in for a long night of sleep.

9 comments:

  1. Woohoo, one more update before I leave. And it's such a sweet one too.

    First of all a shootout goal! Kris seems to be enjoying the trade in the professional sense, he gets called on in new ways and has to be more of a leader, so as a player he's really growing.

    "...we would look like a real, respectable couple instead of just me, a guy who had a girl come stay with him." Like the idea of respect here, and how Kris is so serious about Jo and the social proprieties. Do I have marriage on the brain, or is Kris starting to think about something more serious as well?

    Yup, nothing worse for a guy than having his girl crying and he can't do a damn thing about it. We get to see Jo's reaction to the party and how really upset she was afterwards. Jo's a bit of a marshmallow inside, with a crunchy coating.

    Hmmm, is Jo planning something for his bd? Plus she is right, asking for her to get straight A's is retarded, he's like her dad. Oh wait, except her dad is a self-centered alcoholic, so he's like her dad should be! I wanna know what Jo is going to do!

    And Samantha, she always pops up in such a random way. Here she serves to make Kris feel how much he really misses Jo and how it actually hurts him physically. However Kris is Mr.Helpful, so maybe Sam could find some comfort in talking to him. She seems a little too self-involved for it to really do her much good.

    Anyway, I get to say it again, I'm sad to miss the updates but I'll have lots to read when I get back. Great job, Jay!

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  2. Great post. I feel bad for Jo that the Pens are treating her so strangely.

    P.S. I think Samantha is manic, lol.

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  3. Three things:

    Rock on that those pens are watching Kris do so very, very well with the Sharks!

    Love the phone conversations between Jo and Kris, very sweet!

    Samantha, definitely an interesting twist to this story, lol!

    Fabulous as always!

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  4. God, could Kris get any cuter? I don't think it's possible. I'm SO glad they only have 2 more weeks left. It was so adorable when he told her that he wants straight A's to put on their mini fridge as his birthday gift. And the part about him wanting a nice hotel for her? ADORABLE.

    Seriously Jay, you need to start writing my reality and construct a Kris for me :)

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  5. Samantha!!
    What a little creep stealing his number : |
    I hope rob doesn't find out...cause I have a feeling he wouldn't like Kris on the phone with his niece late at night? Just a thought.

    Kris has to leave this Dave thing go. Stop listening to the stupid boys on his team!
    And him wanting Jo to get straight A's for his birthday! Maybe that's what I need, a Kris to want me to get straight A's, to get straight A's.

    Can't wait for more!

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  6. This update was ten kinds of adorable<3 First of all, I love that the Sharks are doing well (I hope they don't choke!!) and I love that the guys on the Pens watched Kris play. Could that be any sweeter?

    Then Kris and Jo's entire conversation was "awh" worthy! When Kris told Jo that he wanted her to get Straight A's as her birthday present to him I pretty much died. And that he'd hang her report card on the mini-fridge? The man is made out of perfection.

    Samantha's getting a little much for me hahaha. I really think she needs to back it off. I know that she's upset and wants someone to talk to, but she should leave Kris out of it, ya know? She's a little iffy in my book.

    Loveeeee this! But you already know that(:

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  7. ** but I wanted her in a respectable hotel with a front desk and security, where she would have her own room key and we would look like a real, respectable couple instead of just me, a guy who had a girl come stay with him.** I love this boy!

    **“I don’t want anything else. I want you to get good grades and then come out here, and we’ll put your report card or whatever on the mini-fridge. What do you say to that?”** Could he be any sweeter?

    ** Sid’s been pretty nice, of course**
    ** This is Samantha, Rob’s niece.”**
    Get her to San Jose fast! I have a bad feeling. At least it's only a couple of weeks, nothing bad could happen that fast, right?

    Wonderful as always!
    P.S. Since you are writing a new reality could you make it so the Flyers aren't the EC champs?

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  8. I can't believe I let myself fall this far behind, I missed this story while I was away. Of course I have loved everything about the last few updates but specifically this one I liked thinking of the guys watching the game in the locker room and trying to make things the least awkward they can be with Jo. It's true about having friends because of someone, a significant other or mutual friend, and then things being totally out of sync when you are with those people without the mutual companion. You did great justice to that very realistic awkward hesitation. I am a little freaked by Kris' jealousy now coupled with a phone conversation with Samantha. I don't know what you are setting us up for, I could guess and I would probably be very, very wrong, but I really just want everything to be prefect for Kris and Jo. They have been dealing with everything in stride and being strong and healthy about their relationship so far considering their separation and everything and they need to be rewarded! Haha. If only life were really like that. Great updates as usual, and I am excited that I'm all caught up and desperately waiting for more!

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