Monday, October 11, 2010

138.) Party Time

Soundtrack Song - Rise Against, Audience of One

“Thanks for going with me, Tubby,” I said, heading into my house. Carl was home, which I could tell because his car was here, but Wayne and Dave were apparently both gone. Carl’s room was down in the basement because it was a three-bedroom home, and he was usually anti-social enough that I didn’t see him when he wasn’t up in the kitchen or hanging out with the other boys in the living room. It was like Tubby and I had the whole house to ourselves.

“No prob, baby girl. I figured you’d want someone there with you.” He headed into the kitchen as I plopped on the couch. “Do you want something to drink?”

“Um, no,” I told him. I adjusted my position on the couch. The new weight in my back pocket was noticeable and made me feel off balance, but I liked it. Tubby had picked me up from my morning shift at Sheetz, and together we had gone to the leatherworker’s, from which we had just returned.

I hadn’t had plans to get James’s jacket converted just yet, simply because I didn’t have the money to do so, but Tubby had insisted that he’d pay for it. His excuse was that he would be in Philly in the fall and this would be my birthday present, since he wouldn’t be around in October to celebrate it with me, but really I think he just wanted to do something to try and make me feel better.

My new wallet was a reminder of James, just like his jacket had been; I couldn’t wrap myself up in it, but I could feel it all the same. It reminded me vaguely of the way I felt heavier after his death. With time, I probably wouldn’t even notice the extra ounces of weight or the bulge, and it would feel like a part of me, like another appendage. Just like how the loss of my brother would always be a part of me now.

Reaching into my back pocket, I pulled out my wallet and played with it in my hands. I opened it, closed it, turned it over, and examined it for the fiftieth time since the shop owner had handed it to me. Then I ran my fingers over the initials that had been stamped into it, the initials that James and I shared: JRA. With the wallet in my left hand, my right reached up to the locket around my neck. The locket held James’s picture and was just another piece of him that I liked to carry around with me.

The locket, of course, was also a reminder of Kris. This had been his present for me for my birthday last year, and I had slipped his picture into the side opposite of James’s picture. They were my two special men in my life, and it helped a lot to have Kris’s picture with me there when he had been traded out to California. I liked having these pieces with me at all times, because I liked physical things to go along with my memories. In fact, I didn’t even need to open the locket and look at the pictures; it was enough to know they were in there. And knowing Kris’s picture was in there made me sad.

He called in from the kitchen, “You did okay today, kiddo.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means,” he said, sauntering in from the kitchen and joining me on the couch, “I thought you were going to be sadder than what you were. You know, officially not having James’s jacket anymore. But you really handled it surprisingly well, Jo.”

His entrance startled me enough that I dropped the locket around my neck and began to play with the wallet again. I gave him a sassy smirk. “Did you think I was going to dissolve into a puddle of tears?”

Tubby smiled back at me as he opened the can in his hand. “Well, I mean... maybe. It was just really nice to see the way you walked in there and held yourself together. I’m proud of you.”

I reddened involuntarily. “Thanks.” I glanced down at the wallet in my hands, thinking about the journey this past year had taken me on, and how this piece of leather in my hands was a symbol of that, kinda. It was a jacket, my brother’s jacket, something very special and dear to me. Even though my accident wasn’t deadly, this leather had protected me from worse damage and road rash. And now, it was something else entirely.

“This Mountain Dew tastes funny,” Tubby remarked, looking at the can.

I threw my legs over his lap, hoping he’d catch the hint and rub them since they were sore from being on them and working all morning, and explained, “Well, it’s out of date.”

He scrunched up his face. “Ew! Why did you let me drink this?”

“It won’t kill you,” I laughed. “I got it for free at work since it’s expired.”

“I’m pouring it out. You almost killed me with old, nasty pop.” Tubby pushed my legs away and stood up, heading back into the kitchen.

“Don’t! That’s wasting it!”

“It’s not like you paid for it,” he called over his shoulder, dumping out the contents of the can down the sink drain.

“That doesn’t matter,” I sighed, pouting but not getting up. My feet were killing me; since I had quit my job at Mellon Arena, I hadn’t been on my feet for such long periods of time, and I definitely wasn’t used to it. “I would have drunk it.”

“But it’s gross. Why would you even wanna drink gross pop?” he asked, stepping back into the living room and resuming his place on the couch.

“Dunno.” I placed my feet back in his lap, and he finally understood what I wanted. He began to push the pads of his thumbs into the balls of my left foot. “Thank you.”

Tubby worked silently for a while. My breathing got a little heavy as I relaxed and closed my eyes. After a few minutes, he switched to my right foot, lavishing the same attention on it. I was moments from falling asleep when Tubby started to talk. “So... you gonna talk to me?”

“Mmm,” I moaned, opening an eye to look at him. “You wanna talk now? When I’m half asleep?”

“I’m just wondering if you plan on talking to me at all.”

“About what?”

He gave me an intense look. “You know, Jo-Jo.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” I crossed my arms over my chest and closed my eye again, ready to let the subject drop and take a nap.

“But you haven’t talked about it at all. Not since the day you called me from the bus stop and I came to get you. I know you’re still sad about him, but it’s been over a month now.”

“So?”

“So?” he repeated, mocking me. Tubby then sighed and dropped my foot. “I don’t like seeing you so sad, especially over Kris if he’s going to act like a dick. Let’s do something tonight. Let’s go out. You and me, and a few drinks, and a good time. You still have your fake I.D., don’t you?”

I made an unsure sound. “I don’t really feel like doing anything tonight, Tubs. I’m tired, my feet hurt, and I have homework to do. Plus, I have to work tomorrow.”

“What time do you work?”

“Two to ten.”

“Oh, come on, Joanna,” he grumbled. I knew I was in trouble when he used my whole first name. “You work in the afternoon, you could totally come out. You just wanna sit here and be miserable over a stupid boy—”

“Don’t talk about him that way, Tubby!”

“—who doesn’t deserve the wasted energy.”

“Seriously, Tub, don’t. I don’t want to be miserable. No one wants that.”

“Then can you try to be happy? And I mean really try. Because I don’t see an effort, so I think that you just wanna go through the motions and stay here and be miserable.”

“How do you ‘try’ to be happy, Tubby? Happy is something you feel, not something you do.”

“You go out! You go out and be around people and do the fun things that you used to love doing.”

I pouted. I couldn’t do the things that I once loved, because they involved Kris and being around him. He had been fully incorporated into my life, and it was a serious adjustment to get used to the fact that he wasn’t actively in it anymore.

“So, come on. What do you say? Let’s go out.”

When Tubby got like this, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I knew that, but I still didn’t want to relent. Luckily, I didn’t have to, because my phone in my pocket began to ring. “Saved by the bell,” I muttered, fishing it out to answer it; the name and accompanying picture on the screen, however, made me freeze. It rang for a second time.

“Are you going to answer that, or not?” Tubby asked, looking at me curiously.

Did he know that we had been talking about him? “It’s....”

“Answer it.”

“I don’t think I can.”

Ring.


“Do it, Jo. I think you need to.” Ring. I still didn’t move. “Fine, give it to me. I’ll talk to him,” he stated firmly.

Immediately, I knew that Tubby talking to Kris on the phone would be a bad idea. A horribly bad idea. He tried to grab the phone from my hands, but I reacted quickly and tried to stop him. “No, Tubby, don’t. Don’t!” We fought over the small hunk of metal in my hands until, in the struggle, one of our fingers pressed the button to accept his call.

My eyes went wide, scared to make another move. I had two options: one was to just hang up the phone and not speak to Kris, and the other was to, well, speak to him. Tubby threw his hands in the air in surrender, like now he was willing to yield and let me have my way, and all I could do was stare at my friend and hope that he would take control; I’d gladly relinquish it now.

“Jo?” Kris’s voice crackled through the phone, filling the empty room with his voice. I hadn’t heard it in a month, and the distinct accent and sound of it cut through me like a machete.

Tubby nodded at me and looked at me expectantly. My arm felt numb as I moved and pressed the phone against my ear—against my better judgment. It took me three tries before I eked out, “Hi.”

Kris let out a sigh of relief. “I didn’t think you were going to answer.”

Since I was always honest with him, I replied, “Well, I wasn’t sure I was going to either.”

His voice was so soft, so gentle, so hopeful when he said, “I’m really glad that you did. I’ve missed being able to talk to you.”

The tears started. If he had missed being able to talk to me after a month of separation, what did he expect would happen if we had to be apart for his upcoming season? Why was it so easy to say he missed me, but then again be able to say that I should stay in Pittsburgh to attend university while he went out to play in California? I missed him, too, but I couldn’t bear to tell him that. Not when my emotions were choking me up and overwhelming me. I had worked really hard on being strong, but this reconnection with Kris was threatening all that I worked toward; he always knew how to tear down my defenses, from Day One of our relationship.

Instead of confessing my feelings, I tried to hold it all together one last time. Today had been too emotional already to let that go to waste. “Is there something that you wanted, ba—Kris?” I almost called him by my pet name for him.

He was silent for a few moments, and I almost said his name again to make sure that we hadn’t been disconnected. “Well, I, uh.... I’m having my Cup party soon. The fifth of August. And I was wondering, um, if you might be interested in, well, coming up to celebrate.”

I was in disbelief. “Really?”

The timidity in his voice was evident. “Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t have won if it hadn’t been for you. I think you deserve to celebrate just as much as me.” He always had been thoughtful, considerate, and generous; I didn’t have any reason to expect him to be any different after a break up.

It was my turn to sigh. “I don’t know if I can make it, what with class and work and everything. Montreal’s a little out of the way from Pittsburgh.”

“Oh. I didn’t really think about that.” He truly did sound disappointed.

Which was what made me add, “I can try, though. If it really means that much to you.”

“I’d like that a lot, Jo. I’d really, really like that.” He paused for a moment. “And you can bring, like, Tubby if you want, or any other friends if he can’t make it. You don’t have to come alone. I don’t know exactly what’s happening, since Charlene’s actually keeping track of it all. But I’ll make sure you get the details.” Kris paused again. “I’m just glad to get a chance to see you again.”

If I can make it,” I clarified, making sure to keep my options open. I’d have to skip some classes and give away some shifts at work or swap them. Going would really be problematic for me, since I’d need to change my plans, but I kind of wanted to go, badly.

“Right. If.” He cleared his throat. “It was nice talking to you.”

“You, too. Bye.” I hung up and dropped my phone, and then I leaned toward Tubby. He caught me in his arms and pulled me in for a warm, big bear hug. “Oh my God.”

“He invited you to Montreal, didn’t he? That’s so dumb. Why doesn’t he come here? That’s just rude and inconvenient.”

“It’s for his Cup party, which I already would have made arrangements to go to.” I let out a breath. “I do want to go. He deserves to celebrate, with all he accomplished this season, and I want to see him happy about it.”

“Does that mean you’re going?” he asked, giving me a squeeze and rubbing my arm.

“Well, he said I didn’t have to go alone. You could come. In fact, I don’t think I could go without you. I’ll need your support. I might lose it if I go alone.”

“Whatever you need, baby girl. I’m there for you.”

“Thanks, Tubs. I appreciate it.” I pulled back. “So can you go back to rubbing my feet now?”

He chuckled and held out his hands for me, so I lay back down on the couch and gave him my aching feet. My hand instinctively went to the locket around my neck, and I twisted the chain around my fingers in an unconscious soothing action. I was upset, so it took me a while to relax again; soon, Tubby’s methodical ministrations began to lull me into a tired state again—only to be disrupted by the screen door slamming shut.

Dave clomped into the living room, obviously drained from another twelve-hour shift as an EMT. “Jo! You’re home. For once,” he snickered, collapsing on the chair. He kicked off his work boots and crossed his feet on the coffee table, making a show of wiggling his toes in his worn-out socks. “Tubby, am I next?”

“In your dreams, pal,” he said in his gruff, manly voice. Any insinuation of any action that could even remotely be construed as homosexual turned Tubby into the manliest of men. It made me giggle.

“Jo, I have something for you,” Dave told me. He reluctantly got onto his feet and headed outside, presumably to his car. He came back with a huge white box that was a few feet cubed in volume. “I hope you like it.”

“Dave, you shouldn’t have. I don’t know what it is, but really... you didn’t have to.”

He shrugged. “I wanted to.” Pause. “Well, aren’t you going to open it?”

I was grinning ear-to-ear; I love surprises, and surprise gifts are even better. My fingers dug under the lip of the box and opened the lid. Inside was a shiny, new, black, full-face helmet. I pulled it out and sat it in my lap. Helmets weren’t cheap; this was an expensive present from a friend that I had only known for a little while, in the scheme of things. “Dave, you got me a new helmet.”

“I hope you like it. I know your old one was black and got all scratched up. I figured you wouldn’t want to ride around with a messed up helmet. It’s time to put your accident behind you. Time to move on.”

His statement didn’t sit well with me. I missed riding just like I missed a lot of things in my life, but I was still in a state of limbo. Riding again didn’t feel right yet, because I was still scared. Moving on didn’t feel right. Just because I was adjusting to the changes around me didn’t mean that I was ready to accept those changes and move forward. Worst of all was not knowing what I wanted. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back on my motorcycle, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see Kris again after our break up.

I put the helmet on like I was trying it on to make sure it fit properly, but really I did it to cover my face. Tubby could tell by my body language that something wasn’t right. He flipped up the visor to see my face. “What is it, Jo-Jo?”

“I’m sorry,” I cried, trying to wipe at my cheeks around the bulky helmet. This was the first time I had cried in the light of day; usually, I could contain until it was time to go to bed, and then I would cry myself to sleep.

“It’s okay. Let it out,” he cooed, rubbing my leg as I sniffled and struggled to compose myself.

“But I don’t want to. I hate crying.”

“You do it every night, Jo,” Dave said quietly. “The walls are paper thin. I can hear you.”

I wanted to tell Dave that thin walls also meant I could hear when he whacked off, but I kept quiet about that for the sake of tact—something I usually didn’t care about. Instead, I bit back, “It’s none of your business.”

“I’m your friend, and I just want to see you happy. Not sad like this.”

Tubby joined into the conversation. “What are you going to say when you see him?”

“You’re seeing him?” Dave asked.

I nodded. I took off the heavy helmet and set it on the coffee table. “Yeah. For his Cup party.”

“Oh. That sounds cool,” he mused aloud. I could tell by the look on his face that he was imagining all the NHL players that would be there, Kris’s teammates, and the Stanley Cup at this big bash and lavish all-day party.

His idealism about it, along with the fact that I would need as much support as I could get, made me ask him if he wanted to come along, too. “You know, he told me I could bring some friends. You should come, too, Dave.”

“Really?” He was visibly excited about it.

“Yeah. It can be us three. I’d feel more comfortable going with a group.”

The days flew by as I made preparations to go. I had e-mailed my professors to let them know of my absence, and I had bribed a few people to cover the shifts of work that I’d miss during my travels northward. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be to make arrangements. Before I knew it, the three of us piled into Tubby’s SUV and we were heading north to Quebec.

Because I had wanted to see Kris celebrating, but I wanted to avoid a lot of the awkwardness that would come from being around Kris, I had called Charlene and decided to show up for the barbecue dinner party. He had a full day scheduled, with the charity fundraisers in the morning and early afternoon. He had a few hours to relax in the late afternoon, and then this big dinner at a pavilion out at a park. Charlene had provided me with directions after saying over and over again how excited she would be to see me again.

When we finally found the place in the park, we had to get past security before we could park and make our way to the pavilion. Music was blaring, the air was filled with the aromas of burgers and hot dogs and all kinds of food. I could hear English and French mingled together; there were so many different kinds of people there. Obviously there were a lot of big hockey players, but there people that had to have been friends and family.

I was feeling so overwhelmed by the prospect of making my way in there, and the guys I came with recognized that. They linked arms with me, providing me with the support I knew I had needed.

Charlene saw me before I could recognize anyone, and she squealed and ran right over to me. “Jo! You’re here! I was starting to think you wouldn’t show!” She gave me a great big hug, which I returned.

“It was a long drive. It’s good to see you again.”

“You, too. I’m so glad you’re here,” she replied, now taking a step back. “Who are your friends?”

“Oh! Sorry, how rude of me. Charlene, this is Tubby, and this is Dave. Dave and Tubby, this is Charlene, Kris’s friend. Actually, Char, Dave is starting med school in a month, so you two have a lot in common,” I said, doing my best to introduce them properly.

She shook their hands politely. “If you’re looking for the man of the hour, he’s over by the grill,” she said pointing him out. As soon as she gave me a direction to focus my attention, I spotted him. Kris stood out over everyone else. In a second’s time, I noticed everything about him: how long his hair had gotten, that he looked a little leaner in the face but bulkier from training hard over the summer.

As I looked at him, he turned and found me. I felt the hair on my arms and neck stand on end as goosebumps broke out across my skin. “Uh, actually, can you tell me where the bathroom is?” I asked her, dragging my eyes away from Kris. It took so much effort to not look at him. My voice was shaky and nervous, and I crossed my arms so they wouldn’t have to see my hands shake. “I need to, uh, freshen up. I just... please, I need to—”

“It’s okay. You need a minute,” she replied softly, gesturing. “On the other side of the pavilion.”

“Thanks. I’ll be right back.”

I hurried to the bathroom as quickly as I could, completely focused on my destination. So focused, in fact, that I didn’t notice that someone was following me all the way. As I skittered into the one-person bathroom and tried to close the door behind me, I suddenly became aware of that fact once a strong arm held the door open, barring me from closing it. Instead, he slipped in behind me and then closed the door, facing me with dark, intense eyes.

“Joey. You came.”

“Hi, Kris,” I breathed, feeling more put on the spot than I felt equipped to handle.

19 comments:

  1. yes yes yes yes yes!!!

    back together!! (kind of)

    they really need to figure this out, they didn't even break up they just like... dissolved. hearbreaking. but! now they're in the same place!
    woo!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh can't wait for the next chapter.....please Jay don't leave us hanging!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a pretty funny post after all the drama lately. I really liked these lines:
    "Any insinuation of any action that could even remotely be construed as homosexual turned Tubby into the manliest of men."
    So true of so many guys!

    "I wanted to tell Dave that thin walls also meant I could hear when he whacked off" Heehee, it brings out the fourth grader in me.

    So finally Jo seems to be hanging in there and able to handle everything around James and the new wallet. But money is a big issue for her, it's the contrast between living in comfort with Kris and being out on her own, trying to work and to go to school at the same time is a huge grind.

    Tubby is a sweetie as always, and just trying to get Jo out there, she must have a thin veil of a sadness over her.

    And Dave and Charlene, both in med school? Isn't that a nice coincidence? They would have so much to talk about!

    Jo and Kris, their eyes meet across a huge party...unhh! It's fate.

    Hmm, I'm finding it pretty sexy that Kris holds the bathroom door open,and then comes in, it's the whole muscular, coordinated athlete thing. And now the two of them in a small confined space? I certainly hope it's not the only washroom in the park, because it may be occupied for a while.

    So, now what? Can't hardly wait!

    ReplyDelete
  4. OMFG.

    I cannot wait for what is next.

    Nevermind that Dave is there, or fucking skanky Julia's kiss (is that even her name - I hate her so I don't care). The whole seeing him across the party, can't look away, running and he follows her, slam open the door and push in behind her then...

    JOEY.

    God, MELLLLLLLLLLLLLT.

    I am a hot mess right now because I fucking need to know what is going to happen next. Pleassssse don't hold out on us, you are KILLLLING me here.

    'Dark, intense eyes.'

    'Hi, Kris.'

    SWOOOOOON.

    Why was that whole scene so mindnumbingly hot and they didn't even touch? I'm not exactly sure, maybe it's the predator like necessity to be near her.

    Boy better have figured his shit out or I'm gonnnnna be pissed - not to mention that she brought body guards.

    Dave and Charlene <3 I am in love already.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Haha. That wasn't coherent. But, it's exactly what is happening in my brain right now, haha.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As always can't wait for the next one. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Can you please update ASAP?!!! I loved this chapter and I cannot wait to see what happens!

    ReplyDelete
  8. KISSS HERR KRISSSS!!!! I am that annoying girl that yells too much at her TV when hockey's on and I just used my "SHOOOOTTTT" voice right now as I read this. They just need to attack each other.

    Loved the chapter!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I loved this chapter...I really like that Jo had some tact, too, re: paper thin walls and Dave, lol!

    Can't wait to see what happens, and I know it will be good! Fabulous, as always!

    ReplyDelete
  10. omg ahhhhhh. this is so amazing. I'm dying for the next update.

    I totally second tillie's comment.

    side note.,.. I thoroughly enjoyed tangers interview with danny potash last night. he played so well last night :]

    ReplyDelete
  11. AHHHHHH!
    they're seeing each other for the first time in a month. WHYYY isn't she all happy and shit! haha
    i can't wait to see what happens.
    dhgjfdhg post soooooooon!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yayayayayayay!
    MORE MORE MORE!

    -Saf

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm so happy with this chapter!!!!

    I hope that they can work things aout and that kris kissing julia and jo living with dave won't ruin their relationship more...

    I'm so excited for your next update!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. more more more more more more more! pleaseeeeeee!! your killing me here!

    ReplyDelete
  15. OMG!!!
    "Instead, he slipped in behind me and then closed the door, facing me with dark, intense eyes."
    That line made me melt...
    I'm so excited for the next chapter!!! I wonder what's gonna happen when Jo has to go back to Pittsburg and what Kris thinks of Dave and Jo living together.
    -Tina

    ReplyDelete
  16. OMG! Loved it! Any chance you could post tonight?? We can't wait!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm so excited that they are back together face to face! Can't wait to see what happens next! Update soon, pretty please!

    ReplyDelete
  18. **“Joey. You came.”** I almost cried!

    I love everyone's comments, I read them and think "that's what I want to say". But MelTing took the words right out of my mouth! Ha I wish that my comments were that good, but that's the stuff I was thinking.

    Tillie- nice to know someone else has a special SHOOOOTTT voice.

    As always Jay amazing! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Yay for Kris following her!

    Can't wait for the next update.

    ReplyDelete