Monday, August 2, 2010

115.) Deadlines

Soundtrack Song - Jack Johnson, Flake

I probably should have gone straight back to the hotel room after practice. Every single one of the guys was tense, and even if I weren’t already feeling like I was going to snap at any moment because of the pressure, just being around the guys would have put me on edge. We all knew, somewhere in our heads, that this was only one loss, and one loss was not going to effect our downward spiral into throwing a whole series—but even though we knew that, it still didn’t stop us from feeling like this was not the start we wanted, and a bad start could mean a horrible finish.

At a time like this, I would have liked to spend time with Jo. When we could be together, she reminded me of other, more important things. Jo was my buffer between me and the world. She eased my mind and soothed my distemper; at least, usually she did. But I didn’t understand why, after I had explained to her last night that we couldn’t be intimate, that she wanted to push the issue this morning.

Did she think that I didn’t want to have sex with her? Because I did. Of course I did. But I couldn’t. There was a difference between the two that I needed her to understand, but she didn’t—or else she wouldn’t have tried to initiate something this morning. I had really needed her to back off, and I got frustrated with her when she rubbed up against me. I was even more frustrated with myself when I wanted to give in but knew that I couldn’t. If I hadn’t’ve been careful, I would have slipped up and had sex with her this morning. I thought I had good restraint, a strong will, and solid willpower, but apparently I didn’t. Giving up sex before had never been this difficult, and it hadn’t even been that long since we had last done it. I didn’t know if I could do it; I needed Jo to tone it down if I had any hopes of making it through this series.

It wasn’t just about me. I had a duty to each and every one of my teammates, to the coaches, to the general manager and owners, to the fans—to all these people that put their trust and faith in me to be the missing piece of the Sharks puzzle to finally win the Stanley frickin’ Cup. I had to be at the top of my game, every game. Yeah, that was a lot to deal with, but I expected this to go easier for me once Jo got here. It was ironic that now my stress level was higher, when I was hoping for the opposite effect.

The idea of having to give up sex, or at least cut back on it substantially until the end of the season, sucked. I didn’t like it, but at least I was giving it up in lieu of the chance to win the Cup—Jo was getting nothing in return. I felt bad for her, and I knew that she wouldn’t like it. But I thought she would have expected it, especially when the team wasn’t doing well. And I certainly hadn’t expect her reaction.

Jo was an emotional person. I knew that. She felt things deeply and had strong, visceral reactions. That explained her entire life: the way she dealt with her brother’s death and the break-up of her family and life as she knew it, the way she overreacted at any perceived slight or attack on her, her jealousy.... It was extreme, but that was Jo. Her open and honest emotions were one of the things that drew me in to her. Right now, that was kind of backfiring on me.

Going back to the room would make things worse if we didn’t have ample time to cool off. I mean, I wasn’t mad. Just frustrated. Jo, on the other hand, was more than just frustrated. She was pissed. I can’t say I blame her, because I would be mad, too, if she all of a sudden cut me off like that. If I were in her shoes, I’d feel the same way. I figured she’d need some more time to get used to the idea, so I headed down to Original Joe’s to grab a bite to eat with the guys. It wasn’t all that fun since we were all a little uptight, but it was better than the alternative.

After we ate, I stayed behind and ordered a cheeseburger for Jo—just so she would know that I was still thinking about her. Relationships are about more than sex; they were about consideration and love. Pickles hung around and waited with me, offering to drive me back to the Fairmont. Once the order was filled and it was just us in his SUV, he asked me, “You alright? You were pretty quiet.”

“We were all pretty quiet,” I replied. It was true; even the waitresses were giving us funny looks because the guys weren’t as loud or boisterous as they usually were. Pickles cast a glance over at me in the passenger’s seat, not needing to say a word in response. I sighed. Everyone has their own playoff philosophy, so I decided to find out what worked for Pickles. “Do you do the whole ‘no sex’ thing?”

He shrugged. “As much as I can stand it, I guess. Two straight, whole months is a long time to go without. Jamie’s pretty tired because she works long hours, so I think she’s kind of enjoying this reprieve. So, like, maybe once a week? Twice if we’re lucky. Depends on our schedule, I guess.”

“And that works for you?”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘works,’” he laughed. “We take it pretty easy, keep things low key. Know what I’m saying?”

I nodded, not one hundred percent clear but having a good idea. And it sounded like it wasn’t fair to the lady of the relationship. Sex wouldn’t have to be a big deal if I sat back and let Jo do all the work so I could conserve my energy while still getting the benefits of a release, and I’m sure Jo wouldn’t even mind that so much... but half the fun of making love was knowing that I could make her cry out and say my name, begging me to make her orgasm and giving her the gift of that blissful pleasure. “Yeah.”

“So, I take it there’s something going on with you and Jo. Am I right?”

“This is our first postseason together,” I told him. “And we didn’t spend the first two series together, so she’s not acquainted with my... routine, I guess you could call it. We’re getting adjusted to it still.”

“I’m assuming Jo’s the one having trouble with it?”

“Uh, yeah, you could say that.” I paused and added, “I was a little harsh toward her about it, though. There’s no switch to turn it off, you know? So when she....” I stopped, figuring that I didn’t need to rehash what happened this morning. Of all the guys on the team, I knew that Pickles was the one I trusted the most—but that still didn’t mean that I should share everything with him. Besides, I think he got my point without me having to divulge all the details.

“You just have to talk to her about it. Jo seems pretty cool, you know? She’ll understand. She loves you, so she’ll do it.”

“I did talk to her about it, last night.” I knew that it was going to be a touchy subject and that she wasn’t going to like it, but I thought I had succinctly made it clear. After all, there hadn’t been much to talk about on the subject. “I think that maybe we expected things to go back to the way they were before the trade, just because we didn’t have to worry about having to split up again. But this isn’t the regular season anymore. It’s the conference finals.”

“Just give her some time to get used to the idea, and see how things go after this game and in Chicago.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right.” The timing was great, because now we were nearing the hotel. “Thanks for the ride, man. See you tomorrow at the skate.”

“Yup, sure thing. Good luck,” he replied, letting me out.

I headed up to our room, hoping that things would go easier this afternoon. Maybe the time apart would have done us both some good so we could clear our heads. I swiped the card and entered our room. “Hey, Jo,” I called out, toeing out of my shoes and setting the bag of take out on the table in the parlor. There was no answer, so I poked my head into the bedroom. She wasn’t there, and the bathroom was empty. “Jo?”

Her things were still scattered about, so I knew she had to be around somewhere. I checked my phone for messages from her, but there were no texts or calls that I had missed. When I tried calling her cell, I heard it go off from the nightstand. She had left it here, not bothering to take it with her wherever she went.

I waited for an hour before she came back to the room. First, I heard as the sound of flip-flops stopped outside of the door, and once it opened, I could smell the sunscreen and chlorine—tell-tale signs that she had been up at the pool. She walked in from the sitting room and saw me sitting on the bed. Jo was in her black bikini, which had these silver, hollow rectangle shapes holding the material together. The bottoms had one at each of her hips, and there was another shiny rectangle between her breasts, which held the fabric of her top together. She looked good in it, both of her tattoos visible. Her towel was in her hands as she worked on drying her hair. She looked at me for a moment, pausing in her position before she merely greeted, “Hey.”

“Hey.”

She draped her towel over her shoulders and headed toward the dresser. “How was practice? Good?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m gonna take a shower,” she informed me, pulling a pair of my sweatpants and one of my shirts out of the dresser. Without as much as a look in my direction, she ducked into the bathroom, closed the door, and then shortly after I heard the shower turn on. I tried not to think about her stripping out of her swimsuit and standing under the spray on the other side of the door.

So I waited some more, until she was finished. Jo usually would just come out in a towel, if that, and get dressed right in front of me, but she had obviously taken to heart what I said earlier. She took clothes in with her so she could get dressed privately. When she finally emerged from the bathroom, her hair was wrapped up on top of her head in a fresh, white towel, and she was swimming in my clothes.

“I’m not sure if you’re hungry or not, but I brought you food in case you were,” I said, trying to spark a conversation.

“I’m not.”

I sighed. I could tell that Jo was trying; if she were still really mad at me, she’d either be picking a fight or giving me the silent treatment. Most likely, she’d be telling me all the reasons my no-sex theory was faulty. “You know, I don’t like this either, Jo.”

“Don’t you get that that’s not even the issue here?” I must have given her a blank look, because she sat next to me on the bed and went on further. “I know you’re stressed, babe. I can’t blame you for wanting to win and wanting to make the best out of all this. But you haven’t been that short with me for a long time. Since you took me home with you, and I asked you about your dad.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated. It’s hard for me to say no to you, Jo, it really is. I don’t want to not have sex, but it’s a sacrifice I have to make. I’m sorry that I have to ask you to make it, too, when you get nothing in return. But I promise, after the season, we’ll go on vacation, and we’ll go somewhere where it’ll be just the two of us and we can relax and do whatever we want, whenever we want.”

It was her turn to sigh. “I won’t get nothing in return if it means you win, because you’ll be happy and I’ll be happy. It feels like we keep giving ourselves deadlines. Once a certain day comes around, things’ll be as good as they used to be. First it was spring break, and then it was after my semester. Now it’s going to be vacation and this summer.”

“I’m sorry,” I repeated. “During the regular season, it’s not this much of a big deal. But now, every win is a step closer to the grand prize.”

“I know. I understand. But when you get stressed like this, you completely shut down, and I hate it,” she pouted. “I wanna help you destress. I want you to be able to open up to me and talk to me about it rather than stew in it ’til you just explode.”

“That’s not fair to put all my worries on you.”

“It’s not fair to bottle it up and then be rude to me either, whether you mean to or not. Share your burden with me,” she said, curling up next to my side and laying her head on my shoulder. “That way it balances out.”

I let out a long exhale before I rested my head against hers. It didn’t make any sense to me that telling any of this would help, since neither one of us could fix it. We just had to wait for game time. I had never liked to talk about these kinds of things with her, because she didn’t need me to be weak and need to lean on her. Stressing Jo out, too, would only make it worse, but I gave it a go. “I don’t wanna lose tomorrow’s game. If we lose tomorrow and then have to go to Chicago down two games, we’re screwed. Maybe that sounds really pessimistic, but I know that if we get too far under, then we’re done for. I can’t lose and let everyone down.”

“You won’t be letting anyone down. Kris, all you have to do is go out there and do your best. Go out there, try your hardest, and hope that that’s what it takes to win and beat the other team. You can’t spend this much time obsessing over what’s going to happen, because you have no idea how the game will go tomorrow. See? This is why I thought sex would be a good idea. Then you’d be focusing on something else. The more you think about the game, the more you’re going to worry about it. And the more you worry about it, the more stressed you’re going to become. And the more stressed you’re going to become, the less relaxed you’ll be able to be. And you need to be relaxed in order to be loose and ready.”

Falling back onto the mattress and putting my hands behind my head, I knew that everything she was saying was right. But it wasn’t that easy to turn off that line of thinking—that would be as easy as stopping my sexual desires. I wondered if my best could be good enough. Too many people were relying on me, and it would suck to disappoint them.

Jo laid down beside me, stretched out on her side with her hand propping up her head. “You think about this stuff way too much,” she told me softly. It wasn’t meant as a scold, just a statement of fact.

“It’s my job.”

“Your job is not to dwell on this and to obsess over it. You need to get lost in something else for a while, like a book or a movie or something. Do you wanna go for a walk?” She paused, waiting for an answer that I didn’t give her. “What good is going to come from just holing yourself up here and thinking about game two? Let’s go out and celebrate.”

“Celebrate what?” I asked, my interest piqued.

“I got my grades back.” Jo pushed off the bed and grabbed a sheet of paper from the table, handing it to me. “They let me print them out at the front desk.”

I looked down at the paper. “Jo! You did it! All A’s!”

“You say that like you’re surprised,” she teased. “I’m smart, remember?”

“Of course you are. The smartest. I hear that first semesters are always the hardest, but you make it look easy,” I told her, gushing with praise. “I’m so proud of you! This is great. You’re right, let’s go celebrate. What do you want to do?”

“I kinda want ice cream.” Jo began to look for her own clothes to change into. “In fact, I want a twist cone with rainbow sprinkles.”

“Sounds like you’ve put some thought into this,” I chuckled.

“I have.”

“Okay, then. Let’s make it happen.” I changed into a pair of khaki shorts so I wouldn’t look like such a bum as we went into town. There was an ice cream place not too far down from the arena, so we just decided to walk in the warm afternoon. Jo rambled on about her grades and classes, and how she knew that she had done well in her physics class and in calculus, but she wasn’t so sure about public speaking. I had heard all this before, but I let her retell it.

She got her ice cream and gave me a pointed look when I didn’t get anything, but I didn’t need any extra calories at a time like this. We ambled slowly back to the hotel as Jo worked on her frozen treat. Her free hand was tucked into the crook of my elbow like I was escorting her.

When there was a lull in the conversation, Jo segued in another direction. “You know, I wish San José was on the beach. I’d love to be able to go to the beach for a day, you know? I haven’t gone to the ocean in years. Maybe I’ll see if Jamie has some time off this weekend when you guys are away,” she mused aloud.

“We should go to the beach,” I said, thinking out loud with her.

Jo looked at me curiously. “Like, now?”

“No, not now. This summer. What do you think?”

“I think that sounds pretty fun. We could drive out to the coast. What about San Diego? How far away do you think that is?”

“I wasn’t thinking about California. Last summer, I went to the Bahamas.” She didn’t say anything, so I backstepped. “We don’t have to do the Caribbean. What about... Fiji?”

“Fiji?” she asked, to which I nodded. “Are you being serious right now?”

“Um, yeah. So? What do you think?”

“Fiji,” she giggled, and then she burst into full-on laughter.

“If there’s somewhere else you’d rather go, Jo, just name it,” I replied, starting to wonder about her sanity for a second.

“No, no, Fiji sounds amazing. Never in a million, billion years would I have imagined being able to go there.” Her face turned sad. “I can’t go to Fiji.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t have a passport. And before you say anything, no, I can’t get one that fast. It could take up to six weeks, and by then I’d probably have to start my classes.”

“All right,” I sighed, feeling slightly disappointed for not thinking about this ahead of time. I racked my brain for a suitable alternative. “So, then, Hawaii?”

“For real?”

“Yeah, of course. I wouldn’t ask just to pull your leg. You’re American, so you can fly to Hawaii no problem. I’ve never been there, though, so it would take some research to book it and figure out what we wanna do and where we wanna stay. Do you think you could do that while I’m away in Chicago?”

Her eyes were wide with excitement. Something like this was right up Jo’s alley. “You’re gonna let me book it?”

“Well, not yet,” I chuckled, turning us down the road toward the hotel. By now, it was early evening. “You can just look up some places, and then when I come back, we can think about it together and decide. I mean, we don’t even know when we can go yet, so if you could just scope it out....”

“Yeah, okay,” she agreed thoughtfully, biting into her cone and peering out into the blue sky above us, so many ideas already running through her mind. Maybe the tension between us wasn’t completely gone yet, but I knew I felt better—and I think Jo did, too.

6 comments:

  1. Ah, I love this chapter. Seems like they both figured a few things out, love the Hawaii idea, but most especially love Jo's straight A's - go, girl, go!

    Excellent writing, as always!

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  2. At least Kris somewhat realizes how Jo is feeling. I love how they aren't are sunshine and flowers all the time.


    Your writing is fabulous!

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  3. "half the fun of making love was knowing that I could make her cry out and say my name, begging me to make her orgasm and giving her the gift of that blissful pleasure"
    Sigh. What a guy.

    For some reason, when Kris was talking about giving up sex not being a problem before, it made me curious about his past sex life. I'll have to go back and read, but it seems like he was never seriously involved with anyone before.

    Things are uneasy between them, but not in a seriously wrong way, just in that delicate negotiation way. They move forward and back, but they keep getting better at communicating.

    I love Hawaii! They could have an awesome time there, sun and sand and sultry nights. But Jo needs to get her passport or she won't even be able to go to games in Canada. Plus in the offseason they could have some exciting trips. They deserve the good times.

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  4. Ahhhh, so jealous. I would kill to be somewhere beautiful and beachy with a Kris Letang right now :)

    I liked reading Kris' point of view this chapter. He was being an ass so this helped me understand his POV better.

    Happy to read the update!!!!

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  5. PLEASE I DONT WANT THIS STORY TO EVER END!!!!

    PLEASE WHATEVER YOU DO THIS HAS TO GO ON FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER .... well u guys get the point

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  6. UGH!! I never thought I would say it but, all this updating is driving me nuts. I'm working crazy long hours right now and haven't read this one or of course the newest one. Some things I can read on my phone during breaks. But not ID this is sit in front of the computer, make sure I've used the restroom, no noise of any kind, something to drink, maybe popcorn, read it all the way through once, then pick my favorite parts reread them, read it all again and find new favorite parts,rinse and repeat... you get the idea.
    So this is a very long way to tell you I'm not going to read them until I can do them justice!

    But keep them coming. I get frustated that I don't have time to read them, but I'm excited when I know they are out there waiting for me!
    Um... my life sounds pretty pathetic right now, could you write me a new one?

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