Thursday, August 19, 2010

122.) Marcel

“Are you going to be okay?” I asked Kris quietly, rubbing his arm. I wasn’t going to leave him or let him go anywhere until I knew that he was going to be able to handle this or cope without me. Not that there was much that I could do to soothe his turbulent mind, but with Rob looking at us carefully, I knew that we couldn’t just sit here anymore. Pain was visibly scrawled across his face. If I hadn’t’ve known any better when I saw him with this expression, I would have thought that he had hurt himself on the ice.

“Yeah, I just.... God,” he mumbled, shaking his head. I could always tell when Kris was especially carried away with emotion, because otherwise he’d never take the Lord’s name in vain.

“If you’re hurt, we can get a trainer here to look at you. You can’t cover up an injury, Letang.”

“No, no, I’m fine. I am,” he protested, standing and smoothing out the pant legs of his slacks. “I was just, you know... tired... from the game....”

It was the lamest excuse ever, but Rob seemed to buy it. “Well, it was a tough game. We’ve gotta head back to the hotel now.”

Kris nodded, and I walked with him toward the door of the dressing room. He hesitated before he headed out into the hallway, and I could tell that he was worried about seeing his father out there again. I went first, to make sure that Mr. Letang was gone; when I saw that he was, I smiled at Kris to let him know the coast was clear. Kris’s dad really was like a ghost, since he had disappeared into thin air.

I grabbed his arm and tugged on it to get him to look at me before he went off toward the bus with his captain. Squeezing tight to make him pay attention, I told him, “You call me tonight if you need to, you hear? Anytime, whatever reason. Okay?”

He just tried to nod in response, but I squeezed him again until he gave me a clear, verbal answer. I needed that reassurance from him. “Yeah, okay.” Then Kris kissed my cheek. “Thank you.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I replied, saying goodbye without actually saying goodbye.

Once Kris was out of sight, I hurried back up to the main concourse to meet up with Marlene, Henrí, and Kris’s Mamie. I still didn’t know his grandmother’s name, first or surname, but she seemed like a really sweet lady who didn’t mind the fact that the only way I knew how to address her as was Mamie. She giggled when I had called her that to get her attention in the stands, but she spoke no English so I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why she thought it was funny. I vowed to take French this summer as one of my classes so the next time I came up here, maybe I could talk to her. It was weird because Marlene spoke some English and Mamie spoke none, but I got along better with Mamie than Marlene.

I didn’t mention anything to anyone when I met up with Kris’s family; Charlene and Suzanne had headed home immediately after the game. By the time we made our way out into the parking lot, all the spectators had gone home, so we didn’t have to wait to get on the road. Henrí, who was driving, dropped Mamie off at her house first, and then the three of us all headed back to Marlene’s. It nagged at me, what had just happened to affect Kris down into the core of his being, but it really wasn’t my place to say anything. But I thought that Marlene should have known that Kris’s dad had just showed up out of the blue. It was like Kris had to physically and literally confront his inner demon. And if it happened once, it could happen again. That scared me for him.

Back at the house, Marlene talked happily as she putzed around. Even though it was in French and all directed at Henrí, I knew it was all about Kris and the game. She was bursting with pride. I was proud of him, too, but I was more worried about him at this point. Since she wasn’t talking to me, I slinked into the kitchen and peeled the foil back from the pan of brownies that I had baked earlier in the day. Chocolate would make me feel a little better.

Henrí followed behind me and dug into the pan, scooping out an iced square and shoving the whole thing in his mouth. I giggled, and he winked at me, showing his appreciation wordlessly. It made me feel like I had him on my side, which in turn made me feel good. I had an ally. Food really can win a guy over.

Kris’s parents headed off for bed shortly after that. For a few hours, I forced myself to stay up, since I totally expected Kris to call me. In fact, I stayed up until three waiting for a call that never came in. When I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, I thought that it was surprising that he didn’t call me. I was prepared to support him in any way that he needed and take care of him however he required, and I knew he’d come to me since there really wasn’t anyone else for him to turn to at a moment like this. No one else understood. Luc would have, but he unfortunately wasn’t around.

In the morning, I was gently awoken when Kris had pulled back the covers and slipped underneath them with me. I had been sleeping so soundly that I was slow to realize what was going on. “Hey,” I moaned, wishing I were still asleep.

“Hey.”

I woke up a little more, and I moved over to accommodate him, but he didn’t let me get too far. Kris pulled our bodies together, and our legs tangled together naturally. “What are you doing in my bed?” he asked, closing his eyes.

“Sleeping...” I yawned.

“Yeah, but I mean, my bed? I’ve never had a girl in my bed before.”

“What? Really?”

“Not this bed,” he replied, and then let out a loud yawn of his own. Must’ve been contagious. “Any girl who’s stayed over slept in the family room. And even when I brought girls over, we were never alone, especially not up here.”

“Wow,” I said, wondering how that applied to me now. Either Marlene thought she didn’t have anything to worry about with me, or maybe... no, that had to be it. She didn’t worry about me, because there was no way she respected our relationship or trusted me enough to be alone with him.

“You say that like it surprises you. Did you really think she’d leave me alone with,” he paused to gasp, “girls?”

I giggled. “What would she say if she saw this then?”

“Hmm. Well, we’d better not let her see, and then we won’t have to find out.”

“That bad? Huh.” As I imagined her possible, but always livid, reactions, Kris held onto me tighter. He nestled his head against my chest, with his cheek adjacent my sternum. I wrapped one arm around his bare shoulders and then cradled his head with the other, holding him to me like I could tell he wanted. I was squished up against him, but not because there wasn’t enough space on his twin mattress—he just wouldn’t give me any space. I ran my fingers through his hair and then planted a soft kiss along his hairline. He got quiet, and I knew he was lost in thought. Which, with Kris, usually wasn’t a good thing. “Are you okay?”

His reply was soft and unconvincing. “Yeah.”

He didn’t move out of that position. Kris didn’t usually let me hold him; he was a holder, not a holdee. Kris only acted like this when he needed comfort—again, which was something rare for Kris and a sign that something was most definitely wrong. He wasn’t okay, not at all, and I could see the scared little boy inside of him again emerging from the depths of his soul, where he’d been suppressed. I kissed him again and tried to coax it out of him. “Sure, babe?”

“I just wanted to be close to you.”

“Well, I’d say this is pretty close,” I replied, teasing him slightly and trying to keep the mood light. It was obvious that he was still very upset, and Kris didn’t do so well with communicating when he was this wound up. I knew that it would be best to just let him take his time and get this off his chest when he was ready. So I continued to hold him close to me and play with his hair. I was almost back in dreamland when he spoke up again.

It was a very simple statement that could have been taken to mean several things, but I knew what he really meant when he said, “I don’t know what to do.”

Kris was talking about his father. Puckering my lips, I thought hard about what to say back to that. My response was just as simple. “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I want to do, or what I should do, or.... I just don’t know.” Kris sighed. “I still don’t know why he was there. How he got there. What he wanted.”

“Are you going to try to find out?”

“How would I find out? I don’t know if that was an accident, if I’ll ever see him again. I mean, it’s been twenty years. If he wanted to find me, he could have done it a long time ago. I’ve played in Montreal plenty of times against the Habs. And if he wanted money or recognition or whatever, then he could have done it last year after the Pens won the Cup.”

“You’re right. So maybe he doesn’t want that. I think it’s just as possible that... he only wanted to see you.”

That agitated him. “He wanted to see me? If he wanted to see me, then he could have been the father that I needed growing up. Then he would have been around, and he could have seen me all the time.”

“I know, babe, I know,” I said. “But maybe this means he regrets not being there like he should have been. He’s making an effort—”

“Effort now doesn’t fucking matter to me,” he spat out.

“I know,” I repeated. “I’m not saying that showing up once makes it better or takes back what he did. But wouldn’t it be nice if wanted to show remorse for his horrible behavior? That doesn’t mean you have to forgive him, and I’m not saying you should either.”

“What would you do, Jo?” he asked, very point blank. He pulled back out of my hold and pushed up on his hands, so he was poised above me and looking down at me. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he wasn’t being accusing or trying to catch me doling out advice that I wouldn’t myself take; after all, he knew that I strove to not be a hypocrite. He wanted my honest assessment. “If your mom showed up out of the blue, how would you feel? What would you do?”

So many times, I had asked him for advice to get his perspective on a situation, and now, he was doing the same. “I don’t know,” I admitted honestly. “I know that I’d be upset, furious, pissed at her. But it’s also a different situation.”

“Different? How is this different?”

“It’s very different. First of all, my mom, she’s the one who left our family and abandoned me. It’s the opposite of what happened with your dad. Your mom took you out of that abusive situation, and my mom left me with my useless, drunk father instead of taking me away from that. Your mom rescued you from him and kept you safe from him. Your mom loves you so much. I think you need to tell her about this.”

“No, I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t tell her about this. Tell her about the man she cried over for years? The man she had to leave for me, and for all I know, she still loves? We don’t talk about him. We never did. Remember? Everything I know about him, I learned from eavesdropping. She avoids my questions, never mentions him, and all of a sudden, I’m supposed to tell her I saw him?”

“Well, yeah. Obviously, she didn’t want you to be around him. That’s why she saved you from him. Don’t you wanna know why he was there? Maybe your mom, well, I’m not saying that she knows why, but she might be able to help you figure it out. She was married to him, she loved him, and she would best be able to figure out his motivations.”

“If she didn’t want me to be around him, then it’s going to upset her to hear that I ran into him. If this was on purpose, she’ll... I don’t know. She’ll think she failed,” he explained, peering at me with sad eyes. “I can’t do that to her. Not after everything she sacrificed for me. I can’t let her think that was a waste.”

“It wasn’t all a waste. She did that so she could raise you properly, and she did. Trust me, she did the best damn job she could under the circumstances—which is better than a lot of people who have a more resources at their disposal. She did not fail, and it was not a waste.”

“But she will think so. How can I do that to her?”

“But doesn’t she have the right to know? If she wants to be the one to protect you for him, then she needs to know that the conditions have changed.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” he sighed, pulling back the covers and sitting up. “I still need to think about it. I mean, it still could have been an accident.”

I sat up, too. The more I thought about it, the more I knew it wasn’t mere coincidence. The world works in strange, weird ways, but the universe doesn’t just do something like this by sheer happenstance. But I didn’t think Kris wanted to hear that; he was still in such shock that he couldn’t accept the weight of the situation. “Well, I guess you don’t have to have it figured out yet.”

Kris changed the subject to something much lighter. “So, do you think you’re ever gonna get up, little miss sleepyhead?”

“What time is it?”

“Like, noon. Actually, more like half past.”

“What? Noon thirty!” I hurried out of bed and got to my feet. “Your mom said she was going to be home early! She could be back at any minute!”

“Did you really just say ‘noon thirty’?” he laughed, watching me hurry to get dressed and look presentable.

“Yes, I did. Sorry, I wasn’t thinking, and you know, the last thing I want right now is for your mom to come home and think we were doing something that’s going to make her hate me.” I dug through my bag and pulled out my pair of comfortable but worn and ripped jeans, and then a black tee shirt with Carnegie Mellon University written in white across the front. I shed my pajamas and shimmied quickly into clean underwear and my chosen outfit.

“I thought that you thought my mom hated you already?” he questioned, following me down the stairs.

“Don’t twist my words around,” I warned him as I headed into the kitchen. “Are you hungry?”

He shrugged halfheartedly. “Eh.”

I began to root through the cupboards for something to make for us. “Did you already eat?”

“No,” he sighed. “I just don’t really have an appetite.”

“You have to eat.” I was only slightly aware of the role reversal taking place; a few months ago, he was the one that practically force-fed me soup in this very house when I wasn’t feeling well. “If you expect to play tomorrow—and play well—then you’ve got to eat and keep your energy up.” I pulled down a can of soup, deciding on this and sandwiches for our lunch.

“But I’m not—”

“I don’t care,” I told him, giving him a look that let him know that I wasn’t going to accept that answer from him. He was so worked up over seeing his dad that he had worried away his appetite, but he needed to keep his body fine-tuned for the rest of the series. He was going to eat, and he was going to like it. Setting the can down on the counter, I began to search for a can opener. I pulled open one drawer, and then closed it and tried another.

“Here,” he sighed loudly, audibly letting me know that he still was less than happy with me as he grabbed the can opener from its station in the far drawer and handing it to me.

“Thank you.” I removed the lid of the can; before I could begin my next search, this time for a pot, Kris pulled one out from underneath the counter and put it on the stove for me. “Thanks,” I repeated, nodding at him. He raised his eyebrows but kept quiet, walking away into the living room. Seconds after, the sounds from the television began to echo off the walls.

I went about my business in the kitchen, warming up the soup on the stove and pulling some ham and cheese out of the fridge to make sandwiches. I also cut up some carrots and celery stalks to make it a little healthier for Kris. If this were lunch for me, I just would’ve eaten some brownies.

Once our meals were prepared, I made two trips in from the kitchen, first with the plates with our sandwiches, and then I went back to get our bowls of soup. Kris ate reluctantly, but apparently he still did have an appetite because he ate my food, too, like he usually did. When we were finished, I turned off the TV and tried to talk to him again. “Do you feel better after eating?”

“I guess.” He sighed again, and he stretched out on the couch, rubbing his stomach. “Nothing like a can of Chunky to make a man feel at home.”

“Oh, shut up. You should be happy I cooked for you at all,” I yawned, curling up against him and rest my head on his shoulder. I wrapped my arms around his middle, using him like a big body pillow.

“You can’t tell me you’re still tired,” he groaned, putting an arm around me. Kris was transferring his body heat to me, making me even more tired.

“I was up late last night. I thought my boyfriend was going to call, but nope.” That was true; I was still tired, but this was more than me looking to catnap. It was a comforting gesture to be close to him and hold him during his time of stress.

He whispered to me, “Maybe he just had a lot on his mind. Maybe he just wanted to figure it all out for himself before he dragged you into this, too.”

“I’m already in this, though.” Just then, we heard keys jingling outside the door. Marlene was home. “So, what are you gonna do? You gonna talk to her about it?”

“No, I told you, I can’t! It’ll hurt her.”

“But you’re still upset about it. What are you going to do? Worry about it and make yourself sick? What happens tomorrow when you’ve gotta play? When you’re back in the Bell Centre and you’re worried he might be there again, maybe watching you play or even waiting for you outside the locker room?” I could tell that Kris hadn’t thought about that yet; he was still thrown off just by seeing his dad yesterday, so he hadn’t even thought about the following day and what it would be like to have to go back to the place where he had seen him. Thinking that he might encounter him again. And then what would he do?

Marlene walked in, surprised to see us cuddling on the couch. Good thing she hadn’t showed up half an hour earlier, or else she would have seen us under the covers in bed in a compromising position—even though we hadn’t been doing anything. I could see a bit of surprise on her face. She said something to Kris, and I think it was something about being glad that he came over so early. But her face revealed a little of something else, too. Like she suspected something was up.

I glanced up at Kris, trying to gauge what he was going to do. If it were up to me, I’d want him to face his past so he could move on for the future. I had to do that, and it was hard, but I was now better for it. You can’t escape the past, because it always comes back to bite you on the ass if do that. You’ll always run from it. The best thing, in my opinion, is to confront it head on. That’s something Kris taught me, but apparently he forgot it. It’s kind of funny, because I couldn’t be strong enough for myself when my life was all crazy and messed up, but I was going to be strong enough to help Kris. I wanted to do that for him.

Speaking in his ear so only he could hear, I tried one more time. “Kris, I think you should tell her. Maybe that’ll help you figure out what you wanna do about it.”

His jaw ticked, but he nodded and slowly looked up at his mother. I glanced at her and could see that she definitely was on edge now, but I felt like an intruder in this situation. This really didn’t have anything to do with me; it had everything to do with the Letang family. My only connection was my deep for Kris’s mental and emotional well being. I looked down at the floor and swallowed as Kris cleared his throat. “Maman, I have to talk to you. I have something to tell you.”

A little noise came from her throat, which made me look up at her again. I think I only thought this because it lightened my mood for a second, but it looked like she was worried that Kris was going to tell her that we were getting married. But that all changed when Kris told her, “I saw my father yesterday.”

Her face twitched. “Of course you did. You saw Henrí before the game.”

“No, Maman. Not Henrí. My father. Papa.” He paused, carefully mulling over the next word before he deliberately enunciated it. “Marcel.”

Mon Dieu,” she replied, slumping down on the La-Z-Boy as the color washed out of her face.

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, but it was too late now.

5 comments:

  1. I love this little twist you've put in here. I just hope Kris doesn't get mad at Jo for pushing him to tell his mom.

    I cannot wait till the next update, as usual!

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  2. LOVE this story!! I don't want it to end ever!! :D Great update can't wait too see what happens with everything about his dad showing up, hopefully it doesn't hurt their relationship or his mom.

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  3. It's nice that Jo is standing up for Marlene, perhaps because she longs for a mom who protects her kids. Maybe this will end up helping their own relationship, but she's already winning over Henri and Mamie, so yay!

    And don't worry Jo, it is a good idea. It's too big a secret to keep under wraps. Kris has too much other stuff on his mind to keep this big deal quiet.

    When I think about how you manipulated this whole story, to put Kris in the Western Conference and then bring him to the playoff finals in Montreal where he meets his dad, I realize that you are an amazing writer or master puppeteer!

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  4. Oooh, the big twist! I can't believe that Kris' real Dad had the audacity to show up at a game- a playoff game nonetheless! It's just odd that he had a pass to get through to the player's area. Does he work there or something?

    Loved this chapter!

    p.s. can Kris' Mom just warm up to Jo yet?

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  5. Since Mamie is so much more chill than Maman is, if I was Jo I'd ask if I could stay over at her house. lol

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