Tuesday, September 21, 2010

131.) Forbidden Word

Soundtrack Song - The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Disconnected

Jo and I enjoyed our vacation in paradise. I had visited lots of places, especially islands where the weather was warm and the need to wear clothes was minimal, but none of those other places had compared to Hawaii with Jo. I think having Jo there was what made the difference, if I was being perfectly honest.

In Hawaii, reality had melted away like it was part of a past life. We were literally on an island, in isolation. It was just us for two whole weeks, with the occasional interruption by a waitress or a snorkeling instructor or someone like that. Everyone pretty much left us alone to our own devices, giving us privacy and space. And every night was amazing. I had never felt so close to another human being; I never wanted that to end, but we had to return to the real world. Unfortunately.

I had expected to hear from Kent Hughes with news of a contract extension, but I never heard a peep from him. Of course, Nabokov and Marleau would be the GM’s top priorities. However, the days were slowly counting down to July first, and I was getting increasingly anxious each day I didn’t get a call. Sure, I was hoping to get a pay hike and a nice, long contract—I was hoping to reap all the rewards from my years of hard work. I didn’t think it was selfish or haughty of me to expect that, because my list of accomplishments was pretty long for a twenty-three year old. My rookie contract was up, and this was my chance to cash in, and I wanted to take it. The end goal was always to be able to provide for my family in the manner that they had always deserved, and this was my opportunity for that.

But the money wasn’t all. I wanted a home, and San José was just that—my home away from my home of Montréal. I really fit in there and played some great hockey while I was in that teal sweater. Next season, I wanted to be back there. I wanted to be a Shark come October—and hopefully be a Shark for the seven to nine months to follow. I felt like I had every reason to think that the Sharks would want to keep me, but I couldn’t be one hundred percent certain, especially since I had been pretty sure that the Pens wouldn’t have traded me away for a winger.

Being back in Pittsburgh was weird. Jo and I took a taxi from the airport back toward the apartment building that had been our home for the few months before my trade. I recognized the roads; I knew the way like it was déjà vu. A left, another left, a right, and left again.

The apartment was like a distant memory, or maybe even a dream. Had it really only been four months since I had been here? March, April, May, June.... It felt like so much longer than that. I thought that it would feel like going all the way back to Wilkes-Barre, or maybe even Juniors. It was weird, and that’s the only word I could think of to describe it. The apartment was exactly the way I had remembered it, albeit it a little dusty and somewhat more cluttered than I had usually kept it, back when I was living here alone. Once we added Jo’s things, though, it felt more lived in.

“We’re going to have to clean,” she said, dropping her bag and purse on the floor by the door as she stepped into the kitchen. “We should probably make a list of everything we have to do. Grocery shop. Change the sheets.”

“And don’t forget picking up the mail. Checking out the cars.” These were things that I had been used to doing after long road trips or breaks. “What else?”

“Unpacking, laundry, then packing for Montreal. Do you know when we’re leaving?”

“No, I was going to worry about that once we got back here. No planning over vacation, remember?”

“Right,” she giggled, plopping down the couch and resting her feet on the coffee table—something that had always made me crazy when she was still wearing shoes. A cloud of dust bloomed around her, making her sneeze. “But first, I think we really need to clean. Dust and run the sweeper. I can’t live like this for an hour, let alone at least a day.”

“All right. How about you get started while I bring up the last of the bags from downstairs? I’m gonna stop down at the super’s apartment, let him know we’re back. Okay?”

“Are you just trying to get out of helping me clean?” she teased me, raising an eyebrow and smirking. “I know you don’t like it, but we’ve gotta do the whole place.”

“I’ll help, I promise. Just give me a few minutes.”

Jo nodded and I headed back down into the lobby of the building. We didn’t really have a lot of bags, but we were exhausted from traveling and also probably a little depressed from the idea of having to be back in reality, which sucked our energy from us.

I knocked on the door of apartment 1A and waited for the super to come to the door. He was a pretty nice guy. He didn’t really follow hockey, but he knew who I was and my circumstances, so he congratulated me on the win and said that he’d be sorry to be losing me as a tenant—once my lease was up, of course. He handed me two months’ worth of mail before he let me go. There was so much that it was all stuffed into a plastic Target bag. Needless to say, I was a little confounded at the sheer number of envelopes waiting for me. My bills were all paid online, everything was paperless, so all I expected was some ads and out of date coupons. As I headed back up to the third floor, I rifled through the bag.

What was inside was certainly a surprise to me. There were giant packets addressed to Jo all with California return addresses. Curiosity got the best of me, so I slid my thumb under one of the flaps of the big white envelopes and peered inside. I never went to university, but I could recognize a course book. And I could recognize the name: University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Jo?” I asked, stepping back into the apartment. She was standing in the kitchen, pulling the cleaning supplies out from underneath the sink. Her hair was tucked up underneath a bandana, ready to put in some elbow grease. “What’s this?”

“Oh!” She set the Swiffer duster on the counter and hurried over to me. Jo took the book from my hand and immediately began to flip through it excitedly. “I totally forgot I requested these! Is the application in there, too?”

“Application?” I looked in the bag in my hand, confused by everything. “An application for the University of California?”

“Yeah! Remember that observatory we went to? It’s a part of UCSC. Perfect, right?”

I felt like an idiot. “I’m sorry, but I’m not following exactly what’s going on here. You’re applying to this place? In California?” The answer was right in front of my face, but I couldn’t see it because I hadn’t been expecting this. Jo responded by nodding quickly, her smile cracking her face in half, so obviously pleased with herself. And I was still bewildered. “You didn’t tell me about this.”

“You didn’t want to talk about it,” she explained. “Remember? One thing at a time, and we had your season to get through. You didn’t wanna jinx the season by thinking about this summer or next season. And then there was the celebration and all that, and Samantha gave birth earlier than expected, and then the vacation where we promised we weren’t going to talk about anything stressful. But, well, now I guess it’s a great time to tell you that I’m gonna be applying to university in California. So we don’t have to do this God-awful long distance crap again.”

“But... what about Carnegie Mellon?” It still didn’t make any sense to me. Jo loved CMU, and if she had wanted to attend another school, I was sure she would have said something to me at some point. “You always wanted to go there, and you just started. It was your dream.”

Jo shrugged, a very nonchalant action for the circumstances. At least I thought so. “Well, it was. I mean, I had always wanted to go there, but things changed. Namely, you got transferred.”

“But you always said what a good school it was.”

“Well, it is. But so’s UCSC. I mean, hello, the Lick Observatory! A real research facility. A hands-on learning experience. I can’t beat that.” She lowered her voice and took a step toward me as she dropped the booklet on the coffee table, kicking up more dust. “Plus, you know, my boyfriend works out in California now.”

I clasped her now empty hands in mine and cleared my throat. “Well, that’s not really a guarantee,” I warned. With still no word from Kent, I had no idea if I’d be a Shark.

“I’m pretty certain. I mean, they’d be crazy not to sign you, Kris. Surely you can see that.”

Dropping her hands, I took a step away from her and shook my head. “I don’t know that. I hope that they’ll sign me, but there’re only a few days before the end of the month, and Kent hasn’t heard anything. I’m worried, Jo. I’m worried they’ll let me walk.”

Jo’s face went from happy and proud of herself to concerned over me and my little predicament. “We still have a few days. Maybe they’re just checking out what the cap’s gonna be, see how much they can afford to pay you.” Her eyes flitted back and forth as they looked up at me. Her tone was soft and warm, comforting. “You belong with the Sharks, Kris. And even if they’re stupid enough to let you become an RFA, I know you’ll get an amazing offer from another team. It’ll work out, babe, I promise.”

“But....” I took a deep breath. “So what if you transfer out to California, and I’m not there?”

She shook her head and smiled tenderly. “Well, I can find another university wherever you go. I mean, the NHL only has teams in major cities, so I can find a program anywhere. Maybe they won’t be as good as UCSC or CMU, but it’ll still be worth it.”

It sounded great, but there had to be a catch somewhere. It couldn’t have been that easy. “Can you transfer like that? For fall?”

“Well, no,” she reluctantly admitted, pursing her lips. “Not for fall. But that’s what community college is for.” I must have pulled a face because Jo quickly explained further, “That was the plan for California, too! It’s okay, it’s just for one semester. It’s a little sacrifice, but we’ll get to be together.”

The way she smiled at me let me know that she would do anything for me. I knew that, but that hopeful smile really sealed the deal. I loved knowing that she wanted to give this all up for me, but that’s exactly why I couldn’t ask her to. “I think you should keep attending CMU.”

Her face fell. “What? Are you serious?”

“I am.”

“You don’t want me with you? You don’t want to be together?”

“Of course I do,” I replied, placing my hands on her shoulders. “I want that more than anything. But things are still up in the air, and I can’t stand the thought of you compromising your dreams to follow me somewhere. Maybe you could just... hold off on trying to transfer. Until I find out where I’ll be permanently.”

“But you never know where you’ll be permanently,” Jo spat out. She was taking this all the wrong way, getting angry and emotional. “Next thing, you’ll be saying that you’re worried about getting traded again. You won’t have me come out at all. I don’t get it, Kris, I don’t fucking get it. I thought you loved me.”

“I do, Joey, I do,” I reassured her. I wrapped her up in my arms and pulled her into me. She had to know how much I loved her. “I love you so much. That’s why I want what’s best for you. And what’s best for you is not having me drag you around and you being out of school just because I want you with me.”

“I want to, too. I want to.”

“But it’s because of me. I can’t do that to you, Jo.”

“You’re not doing that to me!” she cried, pulling back and glaring up at me. For a second, she had me scared. “Stop talking like you’re the only one making a decision about this. I wanna do it. Doesn’t that count for something? That it’s something that I want to do?”

It took me a few seconds to think of an appropriate response that would make her understand. As much as I wanted Jo with me next season—and for all of the season, forever and always—I would feel guilty every day, every second of every day, for allowing her to give up or at least postpone her biggest dream. She would never let me quit hockey to be with her as she studied, so why was the reverse any different? Finally, I told her, “Sometimes, the things we have to do don’t line up with the things we want to do. And sometimes, we have to make these tough decisions—”

“Bullshit! That’s fucking bullshit, Kristopher Letang!” She wrestled out of my hold and moved into the kitchen. Jo was upset, tears leaking from her eyes, her face red, eyes red, her mouth contorted into a painful frown. My heart stopped beating, hating to see this reaction from her. It was tearing me up, too, to think about what had to happen during the beginning of the season. But I couldn’t do that to her. Carnegie Mellon was the best place for Jo, so she needed to stay in Pittsburgh.

I tried to follow Jo into the other room, but she let out this feral grunt and pointed at me in a way that let me know that I had to keep some distance. I hadn’t seen Jo so upset or angry—especially directed at me like this—in a very, very long time.

“I’m sorry, Jo,” I said quietly, hoping she was listening and willing to hear me out. “Don’t you know why I think this is a good idea, for you to stay? And why coming with me would be bad?”

The way her voice was shaking made me feel horrible. “So you’re just going to leave me? You’re going to leave me like everyone else has? Just pick up and go and tell me to stay because it’s what’s good for me?”

“I’m not leaving you. We’ll visit. Some weekends, and whenever you have breaks—”

“I quit my job! I quit my job because I thought I’d be going with you. I didn’t register for fall courses because I wasn’t supposed to be going there anymore. I moved in with you. I trusted you. Kris, I love you. How can you do this? How can you stand there so fucking stoic and tell me you’re abandoning me if you love me back?”

I had to tell myself she wasn’t trying to attack me and I shouldn’t be feeling so hurt, because she was just lashing out. But I wasn’t trying to hurt her, either. It was just the opposite. I was looking out for her.

“I love you.” I crossed into the kitchen despite her warnings to stay away. I pulled her into my arms and kissed her hard. Then I backed off and kissed her a little more slowly, nibbling on her bottom lip and slipping my tongue into her mouth. “I love you. Let me show you how much I love you.”

Jo was sobbing, and I could feel her body shake as I laid her out on the floor. It cut to hear her accuse me of not caring about her. So I stripped her of her clothes and kissed her all over, putting every feeling into each caress and touch. If I could physically prove it to her, she couldn’t pretend that I didn’t care.

I held onto her tightly as our naked bodies rocked together. My arms were under her shoulders, holding her chest to mine as my pelvis moved. This was the most intimate thing I could think of to show her the depth of my feelings. I wanted to please her. Make her understand. She cried out my name as she wept and came, clinging onto me and digging her nails into my back. I kissed her face, dispersing her tears with my lips. I could taste the saline.

When Jo calmed down, I waited for her to speak. We were curled up on the floor, bodies entangled to form one entity. I planted my lips on her shoulder, exercising my patience as her breaths evened out. “I can’t do long distance again, Kris. I can’t. It hurts too much. It’s impossible to be in a relationship with someone I can’t see regularly. Someone I can’t hold, touch, kiss....” She struggled to inhale again.

I tried to explain it better. “It’s not for forever. I don’t want to be away from you as much as you don’t want to be. But I don’t know where I’m going to be. We can’t plan if I don’t know. I hate the uncertainty for myself, and to drag you into that... I can’t bear it.”

“But I want to be with you, no matter what it takes.” Jo grabbed my hand. We were both silent for a moment, obviously mulling over each of our thoughts. If she could just see my side, I knew she’d see that it was the best option for her for now. It wasn’t the best move for our relationship, that much was obvious; but this was about her, about Jo Anderson.

She spoke up first, her voice raw and hoarse as she put more thought into our situation. “So tell me: what happens when I graduate? No matter where, from CMU or UCSC or somewhere else. What then?”

“You get that job that you always dreamed of,” I replied. “You talk about it with this glint in your eye. It was what you were meant to do, because you want to make James proud. And I’ll encourage you through it all, support you, because that’s what you deserve, Jo.”

Shaking her head, she pressed me some more. “You know what that means, right? The research positions, they’re all in the really good observatories up in the mountains. In the middle of nowhere, where the telescopes can work the best. Not in big cities. Not in NHL cities. So what then, Kris? What happens to you and me then?”

“I....” I couldn’t tell her that I didn’t know, but I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue. I had never thought that far ahead, because I had always envisioned us being together. We were meant to be together, even though I had no idea how that was supposed to happen.

“I don’t need that job to be happy. But I do need you, Kris, to be happy. Does that change your mind?”

My jaw ticked as I thought about it. “But, it’s what you always wanted. The dream you wanted to fulfill for James.”

Jo choked out a cry as she began to remove her body from mine. “Things change. You have to be flexible. You’re always so set in stone. Please, Kris, I want to go with you. Let me be with you.”

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be with her and I wanted her to be with me, but I still wasn’t sure that this would be right for her. Jo was a hedonist, so she’d be willing to forsake her future in order to fuse it with mine. My job was to look out for her and give her the best in this world, and that’s what I had to do now, even if it meant tough love. “I think you should stay for the fall, and maybe we can see about you transferring in the spring.”

“Deadlines are coming up, Kris. If I miss them, I can’t register for spring. And that’s the whole season. That’s a whole year. I can’t do that. Do you understand that? Do you understand what will happen if you tell me again that you want me to stay?”

“I know it won’t be easy, Jo, and I’m not exactly looking forward to having to be apart again, but we did it once. We can do it again.”

“No. No, I can’t. And I won’t. I’m sorry, but if that’s the way you’re telling me it has to be, then I....” Jo choked up. The weight of the situation hit me as she stood up and hurried into her clothes. I couldn’t move fast enough as I tried to grab her and stop her. “Don’t touch me!” she yelled, now furious with me. Beyond furious, whatever that would be. She was red-faced again and looking pretty close to spontaneous combustion.

“Please, Jo, no—”

“If you change your mind before my deadlines, let me know. If not... goodbye, Kristopher.”

I felt like I had been run over by a freight train and flattened like a crêpe. Jo never said that word. Not to me. It was so final, and I was deflated when she bade me goodbye, the worst possible thing she could have said to me. I was so shocked that I couldn’t even move as she grabbed her purse and left her things behind as she left the apartment.

16 comments:

  1. I'm in tears right now. I can't believe he did that to her.

    I'll write a better comment after I can think a little more clearly lol

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  2. oh gosh, what a way to start my morning.
    kris needs to realize everything she's sacrificed for him and stop treating her like a toddler. obvi she wants to be with him.
    i mean, either that or be single.
    whatevs.
    great post, though :)
    can't wait for more!

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  3. Oh my god!
    that is so sad, I think what Jo was doing was extremely nice and shows she is commented to their relationship but I also see where Kris coming from that he wants the best for her and the best education for her to for fill her dream. But he needs to let her do this she can always go back to school in a couple of years many people does it, he needs to go find her a apologized and tell her he will support her in any decision she makes and with any place she wants to go.

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  4. I understand where both of them are coming from. I hate this for both of them.

    You are an amazing writer.

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  5. Ok so I've finally calmed down.

    I hate how Kris is treating Jo. She's not a child and I don't think that Kris understands how hard it is for Jo to be away from him. Jo doesn't have a team to hang out with or get to travel all the time. She made an attempt to make a friend and Kris didn't approve of him. He's being controlling and although I hate the way the chapter ended, I'm happy that Jo walked out on him. He needs to know what it feels like to be left alone. Maybe it will allow him to understand how Jo is feeling.

    Sorry. I kind of rambled...
    This story is amazing. I never want it to end!!!

    I can't wait for the next update!! :)

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  6. WHAAAATTTT???? That chapter happened so quickly and so emotionally that I feel like I missed something! Don't get me wrong, it was perfectly written and they both have valid points but seriously, Jo can't just leave like that!

    Please update soon and make all of us feel better!

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  7. This chapter has left me kind of speechless... I'm proud of her for walking out though, he clearly wasn't getting the message until then.

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  8. Oh Jay, everything was so nice and happy in Hawaii, and now this! Well, I agree with Anna, Kris is treating Jo like she doesn't know what's best for herself. But I understand that he is all about the guilt and the worry of others making sacrifices for him. Still, unless he knows what university rankings are, it's presumptive to tell her that she needs to stay at CMU. Plus, they're both so young, which I forget because they're so articulate and self-aware, there's lots of time to study and pursue different dreams later, and be together now. If he really sees them together forever, can't he take a longer term view of things?

    But I think that Kris was proud that he got Jo back on track and back to school, and he doesn't want to be the one to screw that up. Still making love to her, instead of telling her that he sees them together permanently, was the move of an athlete, someone who acts rather than talks. I really hope that Jo doesn't do anything too impulsive in her pain.

    Ack, worried for these two! Is love not enough?

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  9. noooooooo wayyyyy!!!!!!

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  10. i cant believe this!!! this cant be happening!!! Why do have to do this to them!!! ughghhhghg

    my god kris if you dont go after her u really are stupid!!

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  11. First I HAVE to stop reading 2or 3 chapters at a time. I barely had time to enjoy all the happiness of Hawaii:**That first night was spent in bed. We made love, had sex, fucked—we did it all, until we were ridiculously exhausted and couldn’t do anything else. I climaxed so many times that, by the end of our session, I shuddered every time he touched me. It was almost painful, but so deliciously wonderful at the same time. “I wanna do that every night this summer with you.”**

    That she knew she needed to plant the "meet your dad" seed and wait for it to grow,

    Then of course ** “Show me something.”**
    I'll just copy K eloquent comment on that "SHOW ME SOMETHING. Melt melt melt. Something so far away could make us feel so close here on Earth. Goo Goo Goo." perfectly said!

    Talk about the shock of the real world. Wow.
    I'm amazed that in Kris's head they would live apart for 3 more years. I guess I understand that he wouldn't want to ask her to move for him. But she planned all this out on her own, because she wants to be where he is and presumed he wanted the same thing. Plus if he stays with San Jose (Jay do have something up your sleeve about his contract?)UCSC is a better school for her. She's not planning to quit school and hang around waiting to serve his every need. She already has a plan about finishing school. If it were someone other than Kris I would think he other reasons (maybe big busted blondes) to want her on the other side of the country.
    He needs to accept that she wants to do this. Then go after her and start with the words "I love you so much and I have been a giant tool about this!"

    As always wonderful.

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  12. Really!?! That's all I can say!!!!!! I'm in tears!

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  13. I'm going to be annoying, but please please please UPDATE!

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  14. pretty please Jay! ..UPDATE!

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  15. OMG i beg of you update soon. im dying to know what happens and pls state it all in the next chapter

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