Saturday, July 31, 2010

114.) Adjustment Period

I’m not going to say that I’m psychic or anything like that, but my formula for success was right on the mark.

Kris and I had made slow, passionate love on our new bed, much like what we had done the day he had been traded. On that fateful March day, Kris and I had tried to prolong the consummation of our deep-rooted love because we were reluctant to have to part; this time, though, we took our time because we had the time to take. We held out as long as we could, exploding together in a mess of sweat and stickiness before collapsing into a boneless mass on the bed. Even though we had had sex two weeks ago in Denver, there were some things that we hadn’t done in two months—and it felt so good to do them, or have them done, again.

Afterward, we fell asleep. I knew Kris had had practice earlier in the day, and I was drained from traveling and once again having to adapt to the time difference. Nothing felt better than to wake up to his kisses—stubbly chin and all. I fantasized about shaving his beard off for him, but only in mid-June, once the Sharks won the Cup, of course. Anything else would have been premature.

We ordered in Chinese. Kris had called down to the front desk and asked Rebecca where the best place was while I privately stewed about the situation. That stupid bimbo had been hitting on him right in front of me, and Kris had been oblivious to it all. Of course. She hadn’t even noticed I had been standing there at first, and once she did, she went into total bitch mode. I’m absolutely positive that there were rooms available with a view of the city skyline, but she just wanted to find a way to spite me. Stupid cunt.

Then we ordered a new release movie to watch as we relaxed and stayed in. It really was just like a repeat of when I surprised him in Denver. I knew that the following day was going to be stressful for him, since it was another chance to clinch the series—this time, on home ice. Kris ate his usual beef lo mein, and I ate moo goo gai pan and laughed at our fortune cookies by adding “in bed” to the end of them.

Kris headed off to the practice the next morning without me. He woke me up and told me that the practice was going to be closed, and I wouldn’t be able to watch. I was disappointed, but I tried to be understanding; after all, this was the playoffs: another big game for the Sharks, and a chance to clinch the next series and win the right to play in the conference finals. This was huge for him and for the team, so I let him go to practice without complaining about how he had to leave. I knew this was all part of the territory, and I also knew that we’d be able to have some time once they won.

And I damn well knew that they were going to win that game. They were determined—especially Kris. I knew that if Kris really wanted something and strove for it with everything he had, he was capable of anything.

While he was at the morning skate, I unpacked both of our bags and stowed the empty suitcases in the big closet in the sitting room. After all, my body was programmed three hours ahead, so I wouldn’t have been able to sleep in even if I had tried my hardest. There was the typical hotel room artwork on the wall, which I carefully took down and replaced with the collage I had made for Kris over spring break. I wanted it to remind him of me, and for it to make his hotel room feel like home when I wasn’t there. But even now that I was there—here—this helped to make me feel better about our place in San José. We belonged here.

Kris messaged me when he was done with the skate, and he asked if I wanted to join up with the guys for their meal. I declined; I really wanted to spend the time with my boyfriend, but I also realized that he had the team dynamic to maintain. It wasn’t that I couldn’t get along with the guys or that they didn’t like me, but I wasn’t a part of them because I wasn’t a Shark. I was just a Shark adjacent. They needed to be a strong, cohesive group at a time like this. I texted him back and told him to go ahead with the boys and enjoy his lunch. Besides, I knew that we had all summer to spend together; there was no rush or need to be together every second of every day.

He surprised me by showing up back at our room with take-out bags in his hand. Instead of hanging out with his teammates, he got his order to go (as well as something for me) so we could eat together before napping. It was really sweet of him to do, and I was sure that he got a good ribbing from his teammates about it.

We ate, napped, and then got ready. He put on his suit, and I of course did up his tie for him. Kris handed me the blue tie that I had given him for his birthday, telling me that this would only be the second time he had worn it. “It’s your tie. You’re the only one allowed to put it on me—not even me.”

“That’s so cute,” I cooed, gladly performing this duty for him. I tied it, straightened and smoothed it, and then I reached up and tucked his hair behind his ears. It was getting so long, so much longer than when he had got it cut toward the beginning his season, the aftermath of my gum getting stuck in it. I was jealous of his hair. “You’re so cute.”

“Not as cute as you,” he said softly, holding onto my arms and leaning his forehead against mine. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” I replied, feeling the warm sensation wash over me. When Kris had promised to always make sure that I knew how he felt about me, he meant it; not only did he often say that he loved me, but he showed it every day in his actions. I cupped his face in my hand and placed a gentle kiss on his mouth.

“It feels so good to have you out here again. And to not have to worry about when I’ve gotta see you off for you to go back to Pittsburgh.”

“It does. I’m so glad to be out here with you. I couldn’t stand being across the country.”

“Well, then I guess we’ve gotta enjoy it before my next road trip.”

“Win tonight, and you’ll get a nice break before the next round.” I kissed him again. “Which means lots of time to enjoy each other’s company.”

“No pressure or anything,” he sighed with a smile. I was going to offer him some soothing words of encouragement, but he continued before I could. “So, you about ready to walk over?”

“Yeah,” I told him. I was already in my jeans and a shirt; I grabbed my Letang jersey and tossed it over my shoulder since it was too hot to walk to the arena in it. We held hands and walked the five blocks to the Pavilion, and then we hung out for a little while in the lounge as the rest of the players milled around. I said hi to Pickles and thanked him again for his help with helping plan Kris’s birthday surprise, and I thanked Kent, too, and apologized to Joe Pavelski—but he shrugged it off since he had two goals after sleeping on the cot.

I sat with Brandy in the stands. Even though I had seen playoff games before, this one was different. In fact, it was even different from the sixth game against Colorado that I have seen. The game was so intense and physical. The Sharks were outshooting the Wings but had trouble scoring. In the first period alone, the shots were ten to one in favor of San José—two of which were Kris’s!—but neither team had scored. Brandy looked relatively calm, but I was sweating bullets and sitting on the edge of my seat.

“Brandy, how can you not be going bat shit nuts right now? I feel like I’ma rip my hair out,” I groaned during the first intermission. I shook my leg, trying to dispel my nervous energy. “Oh my God, I just want them to win this. So bad. So bad. Ya know?”

“I know,” she sighed. “I want them to win, too. We all want them to win.” The WAGs around us nodded. “But you can’t let yourself get so worked up, Jo. You can get excited about the wins, but you can’t lament the losses with them.”

I was confused; I followed the games and got wrapped up in them like I was a player. Winning and losing meant a lot to Kris, so it meant a lot to me, too. “Why not?”

“Because the guys need stability,” Christina Marleau explained. “They don’t need any help celebrating, because they’re already so excited. But they get down when they lose, and they don’t need us to be down on them. They need to know that when they leave the arena, we’re there for them to support them through the bad times. And just enjoy the good times.”

Brandy nodded. “The truth of the matter is: a professional hockey player is going to lose more often than he’s going to win. They need someone who congratulates them on a win, but loves them through every loss.”

“I do. Kris knows that,” I replied. “I’m ecstatic for him when he wins, and even though I’m sad when the team loses, I don’t take it out on him or blame him or make him feel bad about it. I know that his world revolves around hockey and doing his job well, but our relationship is founded on so much more than that. I want him to win—I mean, I really, really want him to win—but it won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t.”

“Just don’t let him see you torn up about it,” Amber Boyle advised. “They take it harder when they think they’ve disappointed you, too, and not just their teammates.”

I asked, “How can you not show them that you’re upset, though? I mean, I get that they don’t want to think that they let us down, but how can you not be upset when the game doesn’t go the way you want it to?”

“It’s not that we don’t get upset,” Brandy clarified. “We do. But when our men come out of the dressing room, we don’t let them see that. We give them the same smile when we see them whether they win or if they lose, and kiss them just the same.”

That gave me a lot to think about as the second period started. Prior to this, I had never had to interact in person with Kris after a playoff loss. I was there for the series win over Colorado, and that was great. Kris was happy that he had won, and even though we had to say goodbye right away, we were riding the high of the win and made the most of it by having a quickie in the women’s room in the Pepsi Center.

But what would Kris be like if they didn’t win this game? It wouldn’t be his last game; they’d get another chance to take the series in two days without having to worry about losing it all. But how disappointed would he be? He always hated to lose, so I figured that he would only hate it more since the stakes were higher now.

Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that, because the Sharks won the game with a final score of two to one. It was a nail biter when Howard was pulled and the Red Wings had six attackers, but the guys in teal held them off and knocked Detroit out of contention for the Cup. San José had made into the western conference finals for the first time since 2004.

The WAGs were good about putting up a façade of not being that excited, but I couldn’t help it: as soon as I saw Kris, freshly showered and dressed, I ran up to him and gave him a big hug and kiss on the cheek. They were eight wins toward the ultimate goal, once again the first team in the west to decide their fate and giving them a long break in between series to relax and prep for their next opponent.

So, keeping to tradition, we had victory sex to mark the occasion. This time, though, we didn’t do it in the arena bathroom—we waited until we got back to the hotel. We hurriedly walked back to our new home, knowing full well what we were going to do. The sexiest moment happened when we were halfway there, and he stopped me on the sidewalk to kiss me. It was like he couldn’t even wait for us to finish the five-block trek to show me just how bottled up all his emotions and desires were. We came to a full halt, and I had to push him away in order to finish the walk and get to The Fairmont. However, we didn’t make it to the bed; we kept with it and did it doggy-style on the loveseat in the sitting room.

The Sharks ended up having an eight day break before the conference finals started. While the break was nice for the guys to get rested, they were also anxious to get on with the elimination process. Eight days was too much of a good thing.

Kris and I enjoyed the first few days to ourselves, though. The team had two full days of no practices or demands on them, and we spent every single minute of those two days together. Well, okay, not every single minute.... There are times when a girl needs some privacy. I would tag along with him to the weight room and watch as he worked out, and we went swimming together at the roof-top pool. The Blakes also through another cookout, and Kris and I headed over for that on Monday. It was a nice, quiet, simple affair. I ended up spending a lot of that time with Samantha, who was so happy to see me that she practically ripped my arm out of its socket to pull me into her room, where we proceeded to listen to Justin Bieber and talk.

After that, though, our time for relaxing together quickly diminished. Kris had practices, meetings, and media requirements. We headed over to Pickles’s place most evenings to watch the other games that were going on, so our evenings from four to eleven were dominated by hockey—even though they weren’t even playing. We watched all the series and kept ourselves up to date on every team. Of course, Kris’s teammates were all way more interested in the games between the Blackhawks and the Canucks, because the winner would determine their next competition.

However, Kris and I were secretly very interested in the Penguins and how they were doing against Montreal. He wanted his former teammates, who were still his friends, to do well, but we also got some satisfaction when they were eliminated in game seven. There was no way of knowing if Kris’s presence on the team would have had any effect on the outcome of the series, but we imagined that it was a fact. After all, his current team made it further than his former one did.

In the end, Montreal was going to play Philadelphia for the Prince of Wales trophy, and the Sharks were going up against the Blackhawks for the Campbell Bowl. The pressure increased exponentially with each round, and this was no different. As the first game approached, Kris tensed noticeably as he prepared diligently. He spent more time training and working on his shot and watching tape, and I spent more time lounging around the pool or watching movies in our room. He and I would eat dinner together, usually down in the hotel restaurant, and then we’d cuddle and make love in bed. It was a predictable routine, but it’s also what Kris and I had shared before he had been traded. It was lonelier this time because I didn’t have classes, but I managed.

That is, until the conference finals actually started. Kris’s schedule became extremely regimented, and there was no room for error or change. Or sex.

The Sharks dropped the first game on Sunday, May sixteenth, testing my ability to mask any disappointment I was feeling. None of it would have ever been directed toward Kris anyway, but seeing his frustration made me want to be careful to not make it worse. He was silent during the walk back to The Fairmont, never speaking a word as we began our bedtime routines. I knew that I had to do something; my go-to method of distraction, coming onto him, was rebuffed when I prolonged our goodnight kiss. When I began to drag my hand from his shoulder, down his chest and stomach, and toward his junk, he rolled over in bed so he faced the wall, away from me.

“I can’t,” he said, offering the lamest excuse I had ever heard. I knew that when he had a game, he abstained—but his next game was Tuesday, so we should have been able to fool around that night.

At first, I didn’t know what to say. Since I knew that Kris had a “no sex on game day” policy, I didn’t proposition him on those days or in those situations, meaning that every other time I initiated sex, he accepted my offer. I didn’t know what to do or how to react. “Why?”

“It’s the playoffs,” he informed me curtly.

“I thought you said that you were getting rid of that rule since I was coming out here?” I asked, trying not to cop an attitude and doing my best to be understanding. This was a new situation for me. I pushed up and looked down at him, but he wouldn’t roll over or even look up at me.

“But we lost.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, did you expect to win the series in one night?”

“No! Don’t be ridiculous.”

I’m not the one being ridiculous here.”

“We lost.”

“I heard you the first time,” I grumbled. “I was there.”

“Then you know.”

No, I don’t know, I thought to myself, but I didn’t dare say that. He was testy and irritated, and now so was I. If he wasn’t in the mood because of the loss, then I could understand that; I wasn’t some nympho who wanted to fuck for the sake of fucking—I wanted to show Kris that the losing didn’t matter to me, just like the WAGs had said. I was supposed to “love him through the loss,” like Brandy had said, but he wouldn’t let me in to do that. Just like early on in our relationship, I could feel him block me out as he built up his wall. I got out of our shared bed and put on a complimentary hotel robe over the panties and camisole that I had planned on wearing to sleep in.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

I heard the bed creak as he rolled over, probably now looking at me. But I wouldn’t cast a glance back at him. I knew he was frustrated, but this wasn’t helping anything. He hadn’t even moved to cuddle with me under the covers; I wasn’t going to just lay there and be snubbed all night just because he was upset about losing. “Well, I’m not tired. Good night.”

I turned on a lamp as I curled up on the love seat. There was nothing I could do to occupy my time, so I ended up falling asleep alone in the parlor. It had occurred to me that this probably wasn’t the best reaction to have. Being upset with Kris when he was already upset over something else wasn’t helping our situation. And it wasn’t even just because he didn’t want to have sex—he totally rebuffed me and was rude about it. He could have been nice about it or explained himself instead of acting that way.

At some point during the night, I woke up next to a warm body. He must have gotten up and carried me into bed, because we were under the covers, and even though I was still wearing the robe, the sash had been untied, and his hand was at my waist underneath the layer of soft terrycloth. Lifting my head so I wouldn’t disturb his sleep, I read the clock: it was almost five in the morning. Very carefully, I slipped my arms out of the robe and sidled up closer to him to absorb his warmth. He never woke up as I got comfortable against his hard chest.

When I woke up again in a couple of hours, we had adjusted our body positions again. Now, he was spooning me. I could feel his warm breath against the shell of my ear, and his arm was around me and tucked between my breasts. I felt so close to him. As I shifted to free my left arm, which was falling asleep since it was pinned under my body, I felt something against my butt: morning wood.

I stuck my ass out and pressed my body against his. He had practice later, but just because he had to get physical in a few hours didn’t mean that we couldn’t get physical now. He’s human—a male—so his sexual needs can’t automatically shut off. I’m pretty sure that even monks can’t fight against biology and human nature. I didn’t see anything wrong with fooling around a little in the morning, and I also figured that it would lighten his mood, making this a perfect compromise.

Kris groaned as he woke up, grabbing my hip and rubbing himself against me. I felt my body turn on and rev up in response to his actions, but as quickly as he initiated something sexual, he let go, rolled away, and swung his feet over the bed, grumbling something under his breath.

I was bewildered. It felt like a reversal of last night because he was the one leaving me, but I was still getting snubbed. “What? Where are you going?”

“I need to take a shower now. A cold shower,” he snapped. “Thanks.”

“What did I do?” I wasn’t going to let him get away. I got off the bed, too, and followed him into the bathroom. He turned on the spigot and felt the temperature of the water, and once he was satisfied with it, he turned on the showerhead and pulled his white shirt over his head. Not once did he turn around, answer me, or acknowledge my presence in the bathroom with him. “Kris,” I hissed, the sound coming out like a bark.

“What?” he grunted back, stepping out of his boxers and quickly getting under the spray.

“What is up with you? You’re frustrated, I get that, but do you have to be so rude to me? I don’t fuckin’ appreciate it.”

“How am I being rude? Why does this have to be my fault? Why don’t you stop teasing me? You know it’s the playoffs. I can’t be wasting my energy with you when I have to focus on the series.”

“‘Wasting’? Really? I’m a waste of energy?”

He sighed. “That’s not what I said—”

“Why did you bring me out here, Kristopher, if you weren’t going to care about me being here? If you were just going to end up pushing me away once the next series started?”

“I care about you being here,” he replied. “I love that you’re here. But I need you to understand how important it is that I focus for tomorrow’s game.”

“What does the game you play tomorrow night have to do with right now? You don’t need to be spending every single second thinking about hockey.”

“I don’t need you to distract me. The ’Hawks are our biggest threat right now. The Sharks were so close points-wise to them this season. We can’t lose both games at home—we have to win it.”

“I can see why you feel that way,” I told him, showing him that I could be understanding. His logic was easy enough to follow, but I still thought that he was putting way too much pressure on himself and his team.

“Can you? Because I don’t think you do. This can’t all be for nothing. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that we win. Even if that means taking a billion cold showers between now and the middle of June, because I need to funnel all of my physical energy and strength into my game. I gotta leave it all out there on the ice every night, every shift. If I don’t, and we lose, then I’ll always wonder ‘what if.’ I can’t do that again.”

Too often, Kris played the “what if” game and questioned the potential outcomes of his life. I didn’t want to be the cause of him torturing himself for not pushing himself during his games—but I also knew that if anything other than the outcome he wanted happened, then he would play this mind game with himself. If they lost, he’d analyze every missed shot or any failed attempts to defend or his sloppy passes even if it wasn’t his fault at all.

The year that Luc died, Kris didn’t just lose a friend. He also lost out on an opportunity to play for the Cup. He didn’t want to be insensitive and talk about it like the game and trophy was more important than his friend, and it wasn’t, either. But as a hockey player who had been conditioned from birth to strive for that shiny, silver reward, he couldn’t help but feel sad over that lost chance to achieve eternal greatness and get his named etched on the side that season.

So I let it slide. If Kris thought that this would be the solution to his troubles and what it took to win, then I could hold out. Of course, I could have argued with him and told him how stupid he was being or I could have tried to persuade him into letting me do all the work so he wouldn’t have to expend any energy, but I didn’t. All I said to him was, “Fine. Just... don’t be so rude to me about it,” before I left the bathroom and got back into the still warm bed.

I wasn’t cold, but I pulled the blankets up to my chin anyway and cocooned myself amongst the pillows. Since I wasn’t too tired, I stared at the wall. It bugged me still that he was in this bad mood, but I knew that he was stressed over just this one loss. I felt torn between trying to accept it and wanting to call him on his bullshit—but I knew that any disagreements would just exacerbate his mood and make it go from bad to worse. It sucked to know that the past two times we’d had sex was a fluke in his plans.

When he emerged from the shower, he dressed in casual clothes. “I don’t mean to take it out on you,” Kris said, clearing his throat. I rolled onto my back and watched him. “But right now, sex is out of the question. Maybe if things were going good for the team, it would be different. We had all last week to enjoy ourselves and relax, but right now I’ve got to concentrate all my efforts and devote everything I have to my team. That’s why I’m here, why they brought me here. I can’t let everything we had to go through to get to this point to mean nothing by coming this far and... losing.” He spat out the last word like it was venom.

“I understand, Kris, I do. It doesn’t make sense to me, because I’d think sex is just like another work out. Gets your heart pumping and blood flowing, but you know, whatever.”

“An unnecessary work out. If it’s not hockey related, then we need to rest,” he explained, and I shook my head. Kris would rationalize anything it took to win.

“If you don’t wanna have sex, then fine.” He looked at me like he didn’t believe me. “I mean it. It’s not a permanent thing. This is a relationship, you know, and if you don’t want to do something, then I’m gonna be okay with it. And I know you’re angry that you guys lost. But don’t get all pissy about it to me, ’kay? I get that you want to win, wanna make this season and your trade count, make it worth something. Make sure that you’re capitalizing on the opportunity you were given. Anything that’s important to you is important to me, but it’s not worth it if it just means we’re gonna fight.”

“Who’s fighting? We’re not fighting,” he joked, sitting down on the bed and placing his hand on my ankle, over the covers. He squeezed. “I love you, Jo.”

“I love you, too, Kris.” It didn’t matter what was going on in our lives; I still loved him more than anything in this world. Nothing would ever change how much he meant to me or how I felt about him. We could have been in the middle of a screaming match, and I still would have told him that. Life was too short to not tell him that, even if he’d always know it anyway. “Have a good practice. I guess I’ll see you later.”

“Do you want to come out to lunch? I’m sure the guys’ll be going out, and we could meet them out if you wanted.”

“No. You go. I think grades are supposed to be posted today at noon,” I told him. He kissed me and head off for practice, and I stayed in bed for a while longer, sliding my hand down into my panties. Maybe it would be easier to get through the next week, week and a half if took care of this for myself. Just because Kris needed to demonstrate restraint didn’t mean I had to. This was definitely going to take some getting used to.

6 comments:

  1. Wow. I never thought Kris would treat Jo like that. He's being an complete ass to her. I understand that sacrifices have to be made in order for him to win the cup but hurting someone he claims to love more than anything in the process is definitely not worth it.

    I love Jo's,"Screw you, I'll do it myself" attitude.

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  2. Cupcake (Letang) got off way too easy there, though I see why see allowed him to.

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  3. I get where both of them are coming from, but Kris could have been way more respectful about it. Great update...sometimes I'm glad everything is not all sunshine and flowers.

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  4. I knew that check-in clerk was flirting with him, but I thought that Jo had handled her, grrr!

    Anyway, I kind of sympathize with Kris here, when I'm stressed out I know I get a little detached and preoccupied and unaware of how I'm coming off to those close to me. I think he wants to feel that he hasn't done anything that might detract from his playoff performance, no matter how illogical that might seem. Jo has just got to realize that it's just for a few weeks, and then he'll get back to normal. She'll have to do some stuff on her own so that everything with Kris doesn't get blown out of proportion. She seems to be pretty understanding anyway, so I think it will all work out. They both seem to be pretty invested in the games and the outcomes, so I have my fingers crossed to see what happens in fictional land.

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  5. Jay, Jay, Jay what are you doing to me?
    I finally let myself relax just a little bit and bam! Kris starts acting weird and rude. I understand his point of view, even though I think sex would make him relax so he could focus better. The way he handled this was so unkris like. This is a man who insists on the truth even if it hurts. He beleives that you can talk anything out. He doesn't say:
    **"I need to take a shower now. A cold shower,” he snapped. “Thanks.**

    At least they know, no matter what, they love each other.

    I'm not sure that you aren't trying to drive me crazy... but it was great as always!

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  6. OK, I think msd pretty much summed my thoughts up, as well, thank you for that, lol!

    Excellent chapter, but let us see how long that "no sex" rule actually lasts, eh?

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