Thursday, October 7, 2010

137.) Man on a Mission

Soundtrack Song - The Classic Crime, The Beginning (A Simple Seed)

Today, I was on a mission. Nothing could distract me from accomplishing it. It took a lot of planning and preparation, and even a few trial runs, but now I was ready.

I left the house and headed toward Mom’s car in the driveway. She was back from work, and I told her that I was going to see Yannick down at Kasüal. Mom was very excited that I was taking some initiative to get out of the house for something other than training; I didn’t tell her that I had Googled the name Marcel Letang two weeks ago and did some internet research. It’s amazing, the things you can find about people online—including their addresses.

Trotting down the steps, I stayed focused on the task at hand. Even though I had already been there twice before (once just to drive by, the other to stake out the place and make sure he really lived there), I had a map printed in my hands. Just in case I got sp nervous that I forgot the way.

Then I heard the familiar voice of my neighbor echo across my front yard, stopping me in my tracks. “Kris!”

“Hey, Julie,”
I called over. That’s all I wanted to say to her; I had been avoiding the neighbors like the plague since that embarrassing night I came home. Technically, I was single, so I could do anything without having to report back to anyone—but even though I wasn’t still dating Jo, I wanted to be. Therefore, I should have been loyal to her regardless of our official status. What I had done was wrong, and I had no excuses for my actions.

She stood up from the wicker bench on her porch, stretched out her long legs, and flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder. She looked like she had been sitting there for a while, probably waiting for me to appear. Fuck, I just wanted to get to the car so I could drive out and complete my mission. I definitely did not need this unwanted interruption in my schedule. “Heading out again? Seems like you’re always going somewhere anymore. I haven’t seen you in weeks.”

I cleared my throat and spun the key ring around my fingers. “Uh, yeah, I’ve got some things I need to take care of.”

“Because I was getting the impression that you were avoiding me. I kept thinking that I did something wrong.”


Julie hadn’t been the one to do anything wrong. Sure, she had kissed me first, but I had kissed her back. I had probably given her the wrong idea about me by letting her bring me inside. She had been being nice to me by helping me get into the house, helping me get ready for bed, and actually helping me get into bed. Julie had pulled back the covers, urged me to lie down, and then leaned over me. Then she had asked if I was okay and if I needed anything, to which I told her no. Then she had asked if I wanted anything, to which I didn’t get a chance to answer. Her lips were against mine, surprising me and catching me off guard.

When she had kissed me and I had closed my eyes... it had felt good. Nice. Simply going through the motions of moving my mouth over hers had been comforting and pleasurable. But when we had broken apart and I had started to say her name, I had to stop myself. I got to “J—” before reality slammed into me. Either I was going to say Jo’s name, which would have mortified me and probably Julie as well; or I was going to say Julie’s name, and my mind jolted awake and realized that I didn’t want to say Julie’s name. I really wanted to say Jo’s, to Jo, and not to someone else.

That’s when I had unceremoniously pushed Julie away from me and off my bed. I had told her that I still wasn’t feeling well and that she needed to leave; the room had been dark so I couldn’t see her face, but she promised to lock up on her way out, and I pressed the pillow over my face. I felt so guilty doing that, and I still did.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” I told her, “but I think you should know that I just got out of a pretty serious relationship.”

“That girl I saw with you during the Finals?”
She looked a little skeptical, like she wasn’t sure what this meant or why I was telling her this. I nodded. “So you loved her?”

The noise of a door slamming behind me made me look over my shoulder. It was my mom, stepping out on the porch, watching the exchange between Julie and me. I couldn’t help but notice the hopeful look on her face; she had always encouraged a romantic association between us even though we hadn’t really talked since I had left for juniors. Monsieur Martin traveled a lot, so my mom and Julie’s mom worked out a carpool system while Julie and I went to the same school. We played together as kids, but I hadn’t really seen her once hockey really took over my life.

Mom thought Julie Martin was a sweet girl; she often came over to spend time with my mom because Julie loved to bake and so did my mom. To keep busy while I was away playing in Val d’Or, Mom used to help with the bake sales at the school which Julie organized as student body president—and ever since, Mom couldn’t say enough about her. That, plus she lived next door.

I cleared my throat and ignored my mother’s presence, keeping my voice low. She didn’t need to hear this if she had hopes that I was ready to put this behind me—because I definitely wasn’t. “I still love her. So I’m not looking for anything else right now. I’m really sorry if I led you on, Julie, and I really hope you understand.”

Julie didn’t say anything to that. She looked down at her feet and crossed her arms across her chest in a defensive stance. I felt bad, so I apologized again. “Je suis désolé.” Without another word from her, she spun around and walked steadily toward her house. I tried to be firm while also being nice, but I had still been too hard on her. Mom was not going to be happy with me over this, but I had cheated on Jo, considering I still felt wholly devoted to her.

Without looking back to see my mother’s reaction, I hurried to her car and got into the driver’s side. I could not afford any distractions, because I needed to do this while I still had the guts. Normally, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a coward, but nothing in my life seemed as scary as this very moment. I navigated through the streets from memory and wound up in front of Marcel’s house. It was a plain, red brick house, and very generic looking. Anyone could have lived there, because there were no identifying markers on it. No shoes on the front porch, no name above the mailbox, and no flowers or landscaping in the front yard.

I got out of the car and leaned against it as I gazed up at the house. Taking a few breaths, I tried to work up the courage to walk up the stairs and knock on the front door. Still unsure of myself, I stared down at the pavement and made sure to inhale through my nose and out through my mouth. My hands were shaking, so I shoved them in my pocket. I felt just as queasy as I had on that night with Max at the club; just the thought of my dad was enough to provoke this kind of reaction from me.

Before I could think that this was a bad idea, I looked up and saw that Marcel was now standing on his porch and looking right back at me. Of course he recognized me. He knew who I was. And he probably knew why I was here: to see him. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been standing outside of his house. There was no backing out now, not after he had spotted me. I wouldn’t let him see how riled up he made me, because he didn’t deserve that.

He descended the stairs from his porch and made his way across the street toward me, where I was still leaning against the passenger side of the car. I was immobile and totally incapable of moving even if I had wanted to; I could only watch as he approached me, like suspecting prey observing the predator’s every move.

When he was in front of me, he stopped a few feet away. He nodded his head in greeting, very formal and not at all intimate, since he was keeping his distance. “Kristopher.”

“Marcel,”
I replied, echoing his name back to him. He winced, like he was expecting me to openly acknowledge him as my father and call him by that revered title. Well, that wasn’t going to happen.

“You came to see me,” he stated. Maybe he was double-checking that I wasn’t here by accident and that I was actually here to see him. After twenty years, it was weird that I had showed up out of the blue like this—especially since my prior philosophy was pretending like he didn’t exist.

I needed answers, and I knew I couldn’t be shy about this. If I wanted to know, I had to ask and make my intentions clear regarding my visit. You came to see me. Why?”

“Would you like to come inside?”
He jerked his head toward the house. I hesitated, not sure if I could handle that. I already felt like I was asphyxiating outside in the fresh, summer air; going into the house would surely suffocate me. But I agreed, because I felt like we were too exposed outside to be able to properly hash out everything.

The house’s interior was just as plain as the façade. The walls were white and plain, with no personal touches. No photos or pictures hanging anywhere, and nothing decorating the mantle. It looked so cold and unfriendly. Marcel gestured to the couch, so I sat; he offered me something to drink, but I declined. He leaned against the wall opposite me, still staying away like he was afraid to get too close. He had a stoic appearance, until finally it cracked.

“I’m very glad you came here. I’m happy to have my son in my house.” It was my turn to wince. I guess it was easy for him to make that association with me because he would have remembered the three years that the Letangs were a family, whereas I didn’t, at least not really. Most of what I could recall wasn’t pleasant. He kept explaining as he made a move to the bookshelf in the living room and returning with a thick scrapbook. “I’ve followed you. Your whole career. Boston offered you a great contract this summer, but I’m not surprised that the Sharks decided to match it. It would have been a stupid move on their part, to not sign you, when the only reason they managed to win and not choke was because they traded for you in the first place. Five years, twenty-five million,” he chuckled. “I always knew you had the potential. Could tell it from the moment you first had on a pair of skates, that you’d be destined to make it all the way. And now you’ve already got two Cups under your belt, that’s impressive. Congratulations.”

It made me sick to hear him talk about me like that. It was like he was proud of me, but how could he possibly be proud of me? I ruined his life. In his opinion, I shouldn’t have been born. So why did he expend so much of his energy paying attention to my career?

Marcel placed the book in my open hands and hovered over me, flipping the pages and pointing out different newspaper clippings and photographs that he had obviously taken himself. “I’ve been to a lot of your games, especially in juniors. It’s much harder now, since you’ve been drafted into the NHL, but I know someone with season tickets for the Habs.”

I wanted to ask him how he felt going to my games, and how he explained his relation to me. Did he say that he was my estranged father? But even if I had had the balls to ask, I didn’t have the quickness to get the question out. Marcel kept talking about the different pictures. “This is you in bantam, when you were still playing offense. Well, I guess you still play ‘offense,’ but I meant when you still played as a forward.” He flipped a page. “In this one, you were in juniors, paired up on defense with your friend, Lu—”

Slamming the book shut, I shook my head. I didn’t want to hear him talk about Luc, who had been such a good person, practically the antithesis of my father. That was something I couldn’t stomach. “Why bother?

“Why bother... with what?”

“With this?”
I held the book up and waved it around. “Why act like you cared, when you didn’t?”

“I care. I’m your father. You’re my son. And maybe I wasn’t there for you, but—”


I shook my head. What a crock of shit. “Not there? What an understatement. You may have ‘fathered’ me, but you weren’t my father. You didn’t want me. You didn’t want your family, so stop pretending that you did,” I spat out, standing and shoving the scrapbook at him. “You knew how to find me, and you never did. Not for twenty years. You never called, showed up, apologized, tried to make amends, nothing. Not that we needed you. Maman and I were fine without you.”

“Kristopher, please, sit,”
he asked, pointing back to the couch. “Let me explain.”

I shouldn’t have sat down. I should have left, because I had said what I had originally wanted to say. He shouldn’t have been allowed to think that he had a negative effect on my family—that if by hanging around, we would have been better off. He had to know that he was a bad person for what he did, and it didn’t matter what his reasons were. But for some reason, I sat down and waited to hear his reasons.

“I am not proud of how I acted. And I won’t make excuses for myself. I was stubborn and unprepared, and unwilling to change. When your mother left, I... I was relieved. I feel awful about that now, but back then, I was happy about that. There was so much less pressure on me when I didn’t have to be a husband and a father and a provider for my family. I could do what I wanted.

“So I did what I had always wanted to do. I had always wanted to be a lawyer, and now that I didn’t have to work so hard, I went back to school and graduated. I got a job at a well-respected firm, and I was so excited to be living my dream. But when I came home from my first day at work, there wasn’t anyone else home. Marlene wasn’t waiting for me to ask me how my day was, to eat dinner with, to spend time with. I didn’t get to pick you up and sneak you cookies before dinner. I didn’t have the family that I had wanted to have. Because I did want my family... my wife and son... I just didn’t realize that at the time.

“I was a fool. I finally had everything that I thought I had wanted, only to find out that it wasn’t what I really wanted at all. The worst part is knowing that now. Just because things didn’t happen the way I had planned them didn’t mean that I should have wasted what I had—when I had such a good thing, too. I thought I was doing what was best for my family when, in reality, I was doing everything I possibly could to ruin it. I was so selfish. I’ve kicked myself every day over what I had done, but by the time I had realized all that, I knew it was too late.”

“Non. It wouldn’t have been too late. When you love someone, it’s never too late.”

“It had been years. You had grown up so much, and your mother, well, Marlene would have been a fool to forgive me.”
Marcel sighed. He looked so pitiful, and if I hadn’t’ve hated him so much, I would have felt sorry for him. “That would have been asking too much of her.”

“Then you really are a fool. She loved you more than anything, and you already asked too much of her by treating her the way you did and forcing her into leaving.”
It was only after I had said those words that I had realized exactly what I had said. I shook my head, now feeling completely overwhelmed. I had to get out of there. I stood up and headed for the door. And I never looked back.

I couldn’t go home because I was feeling agitated, and I didn’t want to run the risk of seeing Julie again or letting Mom see me like this. Once again, I found myself wishing that I could talk to Luc. Jo would have understood, but she never answered my calls or tried calling me. The only other person I could think of was Charlene. She had been staying in Montréal and acting as my go-to contact for planning my day with the Cup. She met me out at a local park, and we sat on a bench overlooking a group of kids playing street hockey.

Pulling my cap low over my face, I spilled my guts to Charlene. I told her about going to see my father, meaning I had to tell her all about my family and history. There was just too much for me to take in and digest to keep it all to myself, so I had to share it. One thing I had learned from my time with Jo was how sometimes, it felt good just to get it all out in the open and out of your system even if that didn’t help you come any closer to a solution. I still didn’t like talking about things like this, but talking was better than holding it all in. Otherwise, I probably would have exploded.

When I finished, Charlene nodded with finality and then looked out toward the horizon. “Wow, Kris.”

“I’m sorry,” I told her, shaking my head. “I know that was a lot to hear all at once, but, I don’t know, I just needed to get it out.”

“You can’t keep all that in,” she replied. “It’s not healthy.” Charlene crossed her arms across her chest and let silence fall between us for a few moments. And then she asked, “You know who really needs to hear all this?”

“My mom?”

“Jo.”

I couldn’t believe she said that. Yes, Jo was the reason I had gone to see my father in the first place, and I should have been taking my own implied advice, considering what I had learned about my behavior and what I had said to Marcel. But still, I couldn’t handle the thought of calling Jo and having to hear the phone ring and ring and ring again. I hated that she didn’t want to talk to me. It was much easier to harbor hope that maybe things could work out between us if I didn’t try to initiate contact that she would blatantly brush aside like she didn’t care about me at all.

“Yes, Kris, I think you should call her. Even if you guys were having problems or whatever, I know that she would be proud of you for confronting him. She’d like to hear about it. Call her. Better yet, call her and invite her to your party. I think you guys need to see each other, and you obviously aren’t making any plans to head to Pittsburgh anytime soon.”

Pulling my phone out of my pocket, at least to appease Charlene, I looked down at it carefully. “I know she won’t answer.”

“Then leave her a voicemail.” Charlene placed her hand on my arm, but I felt so numb that I didn’t feel it; I only knew it was there because I looked down. “Try, Kris. Or be prepared to always live with the regret.”

I nodded at her. Some part of me knew that I should. She stood up and walked under the shade of a nearby tree, giving me the privacy to make one of the most important phone calls of my life.

13 comments:

  1. Oh, wow. I'm nervous over this stroy.

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  2. I love this story and I cannot wait to see what happens with the phone call. I have a feeling that Dave is going to answer and that would hurt Kris too much. This chapter also makes me very curious as to what actually happened with Kris's dad.

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  3. such a cliffhanger...im nervous as i want it to go smoothly. please do not have dave pick up!!!

    about this chapter, it was nice to see kris see his father and have come away with a few revelations. seriously, i love this story.

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  4. May I ask a favor? Please don't have Dave answer the phone, and please let this one very important phone call be a huge step towards the reconciliation of Jo and Kris. That is all and thank you :)

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  5. Phew, he just kissed Julie, I was worried for a moment there. So that's good.

    And his dad actually seemed a lot nicer than I expected, he had watched Kris's career and obviously cared about him, but Marcel let his pride take away his chance to reconcile with a family that he loved. Pretty sure there's a lesson in there somewhere, for someone...

    I hope that Kris can be on a mission to get Jo back, and not let anyone or anything stop him since it's pretty clear that neither of them are happier without each other. And both of them realize just how short life can be.

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  6. Jay- great chapter...yeah Charlene to the rescue and it looks like Kris might have matured some...here's hoping that Jo has also.Can't wait for next chapter!

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  7. “Then you really are a fool. She loved you more than anything, and you already asked too much of her by treating her the way you did and forcing her into leaving.”

    I will have a mroe useful comment tonight when I'm not going to be late for work because I couldn't convince myself not to read this this morning.

    But, that quote right there...

    Brilliance.

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  8. hopefully jo agrees to go to the party and when they see each other time will stop and music will play and they'll realize how much they need one another :)

    great post!

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  9. Glad he finally had it out with his Dad.He needed that!
    Now listen to Charlene & call Jo!

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  10. Amazing chapter! Really just amazing.

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  11. I had subscribed to this story a while ago, noticing that it was amazingly written, but I only ever read one chapter. I'm the kind of person that gets really overwhelmed when faced with such a daunting task as 137 chapters.

    Today, I decided to read chapter 1 for the first time.

    Holy mother of God, you are an amazing writer!

    That part about Luc and the what ifs, and how you don't know about something unless it involves you is just stunning. Seriously, when you become a famous author, find a way to include that in your book somehow.

    Anyways, in order to avoid babbling for hours, I'm going to end it here by saying:

    1) You can WRITE
    2) I'm going to read the rest of the story now

    Thanks for giving me 137 chapters to catch up on!

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  12. UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!

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  13. 1. I'm glad he only kissed Julie!
    2. Yeah for him going to see Marcel.
    3. What's the deal with Marcel's house? In twenty years you would think he would have something more than bare bones furnishings. Is this a self-imposed punishment?
    4. I hope Kris really heard what Marcel said, and takes it to heart.
    5. Charlene is the best!

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