Saturday, August 14, 2010

120.) Avoidance Game

It’s funny. Sometimes, I would forget that Kris and I had only been together for eight months. Probably not even that long, but that’s at least how long we’d known each other. There were times when we’re together that I knew what he was going to say before he’d even thought enough about it to say it. There were times when I knew what he’s thinking, or what he would think, or what he’d do or how he’d react. He could be as easy to predict as a physical, natural law, much like gravity. Surely I could have come up with a formula about him to figure and solve word problems: Kristopher Letang will fall at a rate of thirty-two point two feet per second squared. If he is dropped from the top of the Empire State Building, what will he be thinking by the time he falls past the fifty-eighth floor?

Easy as cake. Figure out how long it will take him to fall that far. With that amount of time, then I can follow his mental process and pinpoint his exact thoughts. Answer: I hope Maman knows I love her and appreciate everything she did for me.

However, despite how well I knew him, I often had to remind myself that Kris and I had only known each other for eight months at this point in our relationship. Eight months is probably the longest relationship I had ever had—hell, not probably. It was. As a twenty year old girl, that had been my longest and most meaningful romance. It felt so right that I often forgot that. Eight months, while feeling like a long time, was not a very long in the scheme of an entire lifetime.

In those eight months, I had changed a lot. A lot. In fact, if you had asked me nine months ago if I thought I’d be this person, doing these things... I would’ve recommended that you promptly check yourself into the nearest psych ward. I mean, I had finished up my first semester at CMU, the school I had worked my ass off in high school to get into; I was in a stable, committed relationship with the most amazing, wonderful, supportive, dreamy man who was also a total hunk; and I was out in sunny California to be with him.

He had been there and supported me when I was at my worst and needed his guiding light, and now it was my turn to repay the favor and help him through this stressful time. Right now, that was my only goal. There was no other reason for me to be out in San José—Kris needed me, even though he didn’t know it or show it. He needed me to be the voice of reason and keep him rooted in reality, to tell him that he was doing his best and that he didn’t need to be perfect. No one was expecting him to be perfect; not his coaches, not his teammates, not his family, and certainly not me. The only problem was in the fact that I had no idea if I was getting through to him.

And just because I knew a lot about him doesn’t mean that he couldn’t sometimes catch me off guard. The sex between game one and two had definitely surprised me. His body was tired and he had seemed so determined and focused that I thought that sex was the last thing on his mind. He had scared me when he grabbed me in the bathroom, but it was so hot when he took charge. He wanted me so bad, and there was nothing hotter than that. We a quiet but very enjoyable day together following that, and I was pleased to see him so calm and free of the self-imposed stress he bought onto himself.

Of course, he got really predictable after that. While Kris never outright said that having sex is what caused the Sharks to lose in game two, I pretty much felt like that he thought it but refused to say it. Not that it was my fault, but his—for succumbing to a base weakness. Like maybe if he had saved his energy and rested like he was supposed to, he would’ve defended better or maybe even scored a goal or two to boost the score. It was a little ludicrous because Kris was a plus in game two, but that was how his brain worked. Even though he was relaxed and happy after we had sex and worked out our physical and sexual frustrations, as he lost last night, he was agitated and frustrated again—and so was I.

It was annoying, dealing with moody Kris. He was closed off, quiet, sullen, and stuck in this funk where nothing I could do would lift his spirits. Sex was out of the question because he was convinced it was what caused the loss. I knew what was running through Kris’s mind: If I had been more rested, then I would have been more alert, and maybe we could have scored another goal. Never mind that he had had an assist and five shots. He always, always, always thought that he could be doing more on the ice to help his team. Hell, that was his general philosophy. Kris was such a giver, to a fault.

After the loss that tied the series at one game apiece, we walked back to the hotel together. There were plenty of things that I wanted to say to him, but I knew it wouldn’t get a good reception so I kept my mouth shut. Routine was a little different in the finals; they didn’t have to head straight out to Montreal. They were going to practice tomorrow in the privacy of their home arena, and then head up after that practice. I was following him later in the evening, when he would have some free time to meet me at the airport. With his mother.

The nice part about Kris knowing people in Montreal was that it saved money on a hotel room for me. Ever since I had quit my job at Mellon to come out here, I had no independent source of income. I probably only had two, maybe three hundred in the bank—so saving money was great. However, it was his mother that I’d be staying with in order to save that money, while Kris was staying with the team in a hotel. Meaning it would be me, Marlene, and Henrí under one roof for four days.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about how that was going to go. Kris had assured me that he had talked to her and that she had said that she was fine with me staying there... but I wasn’t sure that I was fine with it. His mother hated me (or at least didn’t like me), and I was supposed to spend four days with her? Alone? With no Kris there to buffer our interactions? Oh yeah, sounded like a great time to me.

Even though I wasn’t looking forward to it, I did want to get on his mother’s good side. I would have to, if I wanted a long and happy future with Kris. She was the most important person in his life, and she had to like me, or it would be hell for Kris. And that’s what it all boiled down to: making it work for Kris. I didn’t want to feud with his family.

Kris was dressed incognito at the airport when he was there to pick me up, because he was sure to get recognized in his hometown. I spotted them before Kris found me. Marlene was chatting away beside him, obviously so excited to see him. Of course, I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. He only had enough free time to spend greeting me and making sure his mother found me, because he had a ridiculously early curfew.

When I approached them, Kris slung his big, strong arm across my shoulders. Then he did the same to his mother, like he was showing the both of us how equal we were in his esteem. “Two of my favorite girls. If only Mamie were here, I’d have all three.” He let go of us and then grabbed my bag for me. “Was your flight okay?”

“Yeah, it was good,” I replied, walking beside him on his left, while his mother followed on his right. “Yours?”

“You know,” he said, shrugging. He had full range of motion again, which had me totally relieved—but I was still worried that something worse would happen during one of these games and he’d be seriously hurt. Not only did I not want Kris to be injured for his own sake, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. It couldn’t happen. It just couldn’t.

Marlene drove the car while Kris sat in the front seat. I was in the back, and happily so since Kris needed the leg room and I didn’t want to have to sit awkwardly next to Marlene for as much as I could avoid it. It was just going to be weird, and it was making my stomach churn. Unfortunately, Marlene was taking us to his hotel first, which would end up optimizing our alone time together.

Once we reached the team hotel, Kris got out of the front, leaving his door open as he reached for mine. I would’ve been fine with staying in the back the whole time, but I guess that would have been rude. Kris reached for my hand, and I gave it to him so he could help me out of the backseat.

When I was on my feet, he hugged me and spoke into my ear. “Just be nice, and I promise she’ll be nice back. I think it’s going to be great that you two are gonna get to know each other. I need you two to get along, and this is the best chance for you guys to hit it off together.”

I mumbled into his chest as he hugged me. “Please don’t forget to call every hour on the hour, just to make sure I’m okay.”

“You’ll be fine,” he sighed. “This is going to force you two into spending time together, and you’ll be old friends in no time. Please just give this a shot. It’s very important to me.”

“Okay. I’ll give it my best.” I pulled back and looked up at him. “Will I see you tomorrow? Before or after the game?”

“I’ll call you during the day, but I probably won’t get to see you until after. I’ll get you guys down to the lounge after. Thursday, though, I can get some time to come home. Probably in the afternoon. Sound okay?”

I nodded. He kissed me softly for a few seconds and then held the door as I slid into the front passenger seat, closing it for me once I was sitting and buckling in. Safety first; for all I knew, Marlene would try to get me killed before we even made it back to her house. Kris leaned down and spoke through the window. “Merci, Maman. Have a good night. Bonne nuit.

Kris walked off toward the front entrance of the hotel, pulling his cap down over his eyes and practically sprinting to avoid the crowd. Marlene pulled back into traffic and headed toward her home. I was so nervous that I had to say something to break the painful silence. “Thank you so much, Mrs. Letang, for letting me stay with you during these games. It means a lot to me, and to Kris.” After all, I knew that the only reason she had agreed was because Kris had asked, and she would give anything to her son.

It felt like an eternity passed as I waited for Marlene to say something back to me. There were only so many polite replies that she could have come up with, like You’re welcome or It’s not a problem or Sure, no biggie or something like that. And as seconds began to tick away, I waited for her to say anything, literally anything to acknowledge that she heard me or even knew I was sitting there beside her. By the time she finally said, “Okay,” I was beyond disheartened. So I just sat there with my lips clamped shut. I wasn’t going to bother trying to be nice like Kris said, because she obviously didn’t care about returning the sentiment.

Once we got back to her house, at least somewhere slightly familiar to me, I didn’t want to be around her anymore. I couldn’t feel comfortable around Marlene. Henrí was sitting on the La-Z-Boy reading a newspaper, and he looked up over the page and smiled at us. However, he didn’t say anything either. Even with the language barrier, how freakin’ hard is it to say “hello”? I grabbed my bag and said, “I think I’d just like to get to bed. I’m pretty tired.”

“I will make your bed,” Marlene replied, finally saying a whole sentence to me. She headed toward the family room, the small room in the back where I had slept on Valentine’s Day.

“Actually, do you think I can just sleep in Kris’s room?”

It wasn’t until after I had asked the question that I realized what a big deal it was going to turn into. I had wanted to sleep there as a way to be close to Kris even though Kris wasn’t going to be around; it would be like I was surrounded by his presence and comforted by that while living with his family in this awkward situation. It was that atmosphere of Kris that would get me through this. However, I could tell that Marlene thought that I would taint that exact same atmosphere by disrupted the force, or something. It was Kris’s room, and I would be an intruder.

I was so intimidated. Not a lot of things intimidate me, mind you. But the look that Marlene gave me after I posed that question made me look down at my feet and wish that I were invisible. I guess it was because I did honestly did want her to like me, or at least get along with me, for Kris’s sake. So I waited for a response. Just like in the car, it took a long time for her to say something; when she did speak, it was another simple reply, “Okay.”

That was a shock to me, and even Henrí peered over his newspaper at his wife like he couldn’t believe what he had heard. I nodded at Marlene and smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Marlene didn’t smile back when she said, “I will get fresh sheets.”

As she made up the bed for me, I washed my face, brushed my hair, and changed into a shirt and shorts. I took my time, thinking that I could avoid her if I was in the bathroom long enough. Sure, it was probably rude to play this avoidance game with her, but I thought of it more as self-preservation. I couldn’t make a good impression on her if I kept away, but then I couldn’t make things worse either.

However, she was still in Kris’s room when I walked in, ready for bed. I pulled a Cosmo from my bag, which I had purchased in the airport to read while I was flying or here. I knew I would need something to occupy me when I was surrounded by French-language media and entertainment.

“Tomorrow, I work, and Henrí works. I’ll be home in the afternoon.” Marlene was very tentative about telling me this, and I had the feeling that she was a little scared to leave me here all alone.

“Okay. Thanks again,” I said, and I got into bed and read the rest of my magazine before I tried to go to sleep.

The next morning came around too soon, but the house was empty, so I finally felt like I could relax there. I looked at everything in Kris’s room and studied the pictures on the mantle that I had only glanced at back in February. I wanted to know everything there was to know about Kris’s life before I had met him. Who was this blonde girl that he went to this formal dance with? What dance was it? How old was he when the picture was taken? And was this an old girlfriend, or just a friend? Who were the kids in the picture at his fourth birthday party? Did he still talk to any of them?

After I had raided the fridge for lunch, I took my sandwich and Cheetos out on the front porch to eat. I was about halfway through the entire bag of Cheetos when a car dropped a girl off at the house next door. She waved and hollered something at French at the driver, and then she laughed and headed up the driveway to her house. She didn’t look over at me on purpose, but she did notice that there was someone sitting outside, so she called over.

“I’m sorry, I don’t speak French,” I apologized, watching as her face scrunched up. She walked into the house without saying anything back.

Kris sent me a text a little while after that, telling me that he’d be over around two, once practice was finished and he ate. I couldn’t wait.

7 comments:

  1. Oh, it feels almost like a mystery now, are we going to learn more about Kris's past? Pretty interesting. And wasn't there some meaningful small talk between him and the girl next door last time they were home? Also interesting...

    Jo is just going to have to turn off the sensitivity and turn up the charm to get Marlene on side. Henri will follow after that. Just keep remembering all the crap Marlene went through and it can work. I've done it with boyfriend's moms myself and it's well worth it.

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  2. I'm sorry, but Jo needs to quit being a baby and be the bigger person in this situation. I feel like she always thinks someone is out to get her or automatically doesn't like her and it's frustrating and a slightly annoying character trait. Of course Marlene isn't exactly being friendly, but it's understandable why she's being guarded. Kris is her only child and it's her maternal instinct to look out for him and anyone that enters his life. I don't think Marlene knows the dynamic of their relationship and how serious it is; how Kris has helped her grieve James and Jo the same with Luc. I don't think it's fair to paint Marlene as the bad guy for not exactly being welcoming.
    If Jo really wants to make Kris happy, then she needs to take the initiative to make things good and less awkward and tense with Marlene.

    Oh, and the neighbor is back in the picture. hmmm. Interested to see where this goes.

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  3. i bet it's his ex-girlfriend... uh oh.

    i can't wait till the next update!

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  4. oh man. How friggen awkward and uncomfortable!!
    His mother is just rude. Someone usually has to actually do something to garner that negativity, which Jo obviously hasn't. Well, except for loving Marlene's precious little boy.
    So, there's something very much to do with the neighbor girl, and probably the blonde girl in the formal picture, too. Here comes trouble....

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  5. Ugh, I feel so bad/awkward for Jo right now! That's awful that Marlene still isn't too accepting of her even when she can say a few lines of english and obviously understands what Jo is saying. I really hope that they find a way to bond and find some kind of compromise- at least for Kris.

    Loved the update!

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  6. Ah I so know the feeling of a mom thinking you're good not good enought for her son! My boyfriend is from Ontario, and I'm from Québec, so I kinda was in the same situation, with the cultural and language abyss... But I think that Jo needs to open up a bit and not take his mom's attitude so personnally... eventually things are gonna work themselves out. I hope!

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  7. Could part of it also be the language barrier? Marlene is at least speaking some English (which is probably why it took her so long to respond to Jo's questions), but has Jo attempted to speak her language at all? Even a 'merci'? Jo needs to quit being so paranoid (I'm preachin' to the choir here) and try a bit more with Kris' mom if it means so much.
    Great story! =)

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