Sunday, May 22, 2011
Max was skating slowly backwards, Becky’s mitten covered hands in his own, and they were both grinning. The reverberation of their laughter filled the mostly empty arena. The only other sounds were his own breathing and the metallic hiss of his skates digging into the fresh ice. Sidney careened around a cone as he guided a puck around the next cone, doing his best to keep his attention focused on the net in front of him. It wasn’t easy and not just because of Becky’s high pitched squeals of delight, but because he kept catching sight of Dakota out of the corner of his eye watching him from the bench.
He couldn’t remember the last time he was this content.
The twine in the back of the net bulged and Sidney sent a wave of snow in after it as he skidded to a stop. Today was a good day. He hadn’t had to lie to get onto the ice. He didn’t have a headache, and even now, after skating hard for at least forty minutes, there was no sign of either the dancing white spots or the dull throbbing ache that were the usual precursors to the migraines he’d been suffering lately.
“Good to know you’ve still got it.” Sidney grinned at the Coach as he skated slowly back towards where he and the trainer were waiting with their stop watches and calculating gazes.
“It’s what he does, he’s sick like that,” Max interjected and Sidney found himself laughing with something like relief flooding through his veins.
“You think you’ll be ready by Tuesday?” Sidney wanted to say he was ready now, could play tonight but knew he wasn’t quite in game shape. Not that he was sucking wind, but when he stepped on the ice in front of the fans he didn’t want any doubts in his or anyone else’s minds.
“I think so,” he replied modestly instead though he couldn’t hide the eager grin that tugged at the corners of his mouth. He couldn’t wait to play.
“Oh I can’t wait til you take some face offs. My f...,” Max caught himself before he let the f-bomb fly and everyone grinned. “My shoulder thanks you mon ami,” he added with an elfin smile.
“I can’t wait to take some face offs. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed just...this,” he shrugged, leaning on his stick, taking a deep breath of the cold air and blowing it out. He could smell his gloves, his own sweat and even the ice itself. He’d missed this.
“Pull me!” Becky tugged at his jersey and Sidney grinned down at her.
“Wanna go fast?” he asked and watched her blonde curls bob up and down. He handed his stick to the Coach and offered Becky his hands. She looked at his gloves and then back up at him with a look of such consternation that everyone laughed. “You don’t like my gloves?” he asked, shaking one of them off and holding it towards Max who also gave them a look like he wanted nothing to do with them.
“They’re big,” Becky replied plainly, still eyeing them suspiciously, “and they’re kind of stinky,” she added in a whisper, looking up at him, her big blue eyes wide as if she expected to be scolded. Like maybe stinky was a curse word.
“You’re right, they are kind of stinky,” he agreed with her in the same sort of whisper, bending towards her, “so I’m gonna give them to Uncle Max, okay?” She nodded and grinned as if she already knew the joke before he’d done it which made doing it even more worthwhile. “Right Max?” he said, quickly turning to his friend and shoving the palm of his glove over his mouth, giving him a good old fashioned face wash. Max cursed, in French, and started to skate away. Sid and the Coach both skated after him, much to Becky’s pure delight.
“Help me Becky!” Max screamed like a little girl as he sped past her, picking her up with both hands as he did and swinging her high in the air. Becky giggled and screamed, kicked and squirmed.
Sid slowed to a stop in front of the bench.
“Come on,” he held his hand out towards Cody who shook her head.
“I do better with water that’s not frozen,” she laughed and then leaned in to press her lips to his. He savoured the kiss. He’d never brought a woman to the rink, not on a practice day. It felt luxurious.
“Just once around the rink, for me?” he asked, giving the hand she’d placed between his a little tug. Cody shook her head again.
“I can’t,” she blushed and turned her face away. She had to be so strong so much of the time, these little moments of weakness made him love her more.
“Get up, sit on the wall,” he directed her, patting the ledge in front of her. She looked at the ledge of the boards dubiously and then, gingerly, slid up onto it and swung her legs over the side. Sliding his arms beneath her, Sid cradled her against his chest and then let himself glide backwards. She squeaked and glanced uneasily nervously down at the ice. “I won’t let you fall,” he promised her, studying her face as she reached up and brushed her fingertips over his lips. His heart squeezed almost painfully in his chest.
“Too late Crosby,” she whispered, laying her cheek against his shoulder, “waaay too late now.” Sid pressed an affectionate kiss to her forehead and grinned to himself as he skated slowly into the corner.
“If you can do that you can play Creature!”
Chuckling, Sid nodded but didn’t reply to that or any of the kissing and other more suggestive sounds his teammates arriving for regular practice were making from the bench.
“Can I stay Coach?” he asked, looking hopefully towards where Dan was standing, leaning against the boards near the penalty box.
“Yeah, I think you can handle it,” his Coach gave him an encouraging smile and a wink as he skated by.
“You don’t mind waiting a little longer, do you?” he asked and felt more than saw Cody nod. “You’re the best,” he sighed and pressed another kiss to her temple.
Becky had begun watching the full practice with interest, her attention rapt, blue eyes following the movements of the boys who had become, after a few short weeks, her extended family. After an hour though, she’d gotten restless and started to whine about wanting to go home and wanting something to eat. Cody couldn’t blame her. Her own stomach was rumbling, reminding her that she’d only grabbed a piece of toast on their way out the door this morning. Sidney’s fully loaded western omelette had taken much of her time and the rest of it had been taken up by struggling to get Becky bundled into something warm enough to spend this much time in the rink when it was sunny and getting warm outside.
“Just a few minutes more,” she mumbled, hoping that her words were true as Sid and his teammates left the ice and headed into the passageway towards the dressing room.
“I’m hungry now,” Becky’s bottom lip had begun to tremble and now she crossed her arms and bent her head down, looking decidedly unhappy.
“I have an energy bar but I suppose that’s not really something good for someone her age.” Cody looked up to find a slender, soft spoken dark haired young woman rummaging through her purse just behind her. “I think I might have some Reese’s Pieces in here somewhere...they’re Marc’s favourite,” she continued to explain, her long, straight dark hair falling over her eyes as she dug deeper into her Marc Jacobs bag. Not only did Cody feel under accessorized by her own small knock off purse but now she felt like she was less prepared too. “Here, I knew there had to be some,” the young woman held out the orange box towards them, her brilliant smile shining. “He can be such a baby if his sugar gets low.”
“Thank you, you’re a life saver.” Cody took the box and opened it, shaking a few of the brown, orange and yellow pieces into her hand and dropping them into Becky’s own small hands that were eagerly cupped together in anticipation.
“Please, we WAG’s have to stick together,” the young, very pretty young woman held out he hand. “I’m Vero and I’m really sorry that I haven’t introduced myself before now but you’ve kind of had these...gorillas around,” she added in a purposefully lowered voice which she partially hid behind her other hand as she looked at the one guard that was standing two rows up and at the end of the aisle. A couple of months ago they’d never have let them leave the house with less than three of them but now they sometimes even sneaked out without them if they were just going out for milk. Cody nodded as she put her own hand in Veronique’s.
“Sidney can be so over protective,” she mused, using the cover story that he had insisted on when it came to the other guys on the team. “I’m glad he seems to be getting over it,” she added with a conspiratorial wink. Vero’s grin got even wider and brighter and then she laughed, throwing her head back and covering her mouth with her hand in what looked like a self conscious behaviour. Sidney had said that both the goalie and his long time girlfriend were shy.
“Well I’m glad he’s getting over it but you should still keep a look out for some of those girls that wait outside. No matter how nice they look, most of them are psychotic bitches,” she added in a sideways whisper as Cody tipped more candies into Becky’s outstretched hand. “And don’t let any of the press talk to her,” Vero added, her soft accent somehow soothing as she spoke. “They talked to Jack once, that’s Cookie’s son, and made him sound like an unholy terror. Not that he’s not,” she added with a sudden grin that reminded Cody all at once of her boyfriend’s brilliant smile.
“No one’s getting near her, if I have anything to say about it. But thank you,” Cody ran her hand through Becky’s golden curls and felt heat emanating from the little girl as she chewed happily on the peanut buttery goodness. “Damn,” she hissed, and leaned forward to press the back of her hand to Becky’s forehead. “Damn, damn.”
“You swore!” Becky gasped and pointed up at Cody who didn’t bother uttering her normal apology.
“You’ve got a fever. We need to get you home.” She glanced down towards the tunnel, knowing there was no way Sid would be showered and changed, not yet.
“Pas un problème,” Vero shot out of her seat and began to dig for her keys. “Text him, telling him I’m taking both of you home or...,” she stopped and looked down at Cody, “do you want to have him send up the doctor?”
“Oh no,” Dakota shook her head as she scrambled to her feet. “I’m sure it’s just the sniffles, something like that. When there’s guys with tendon tears and broken bones, a case of the sniffles is hardly worth his time,” she added with a grateful smile, digging her phone out and texting Sid as she followed Vero up the stairs. “Besides, he’ll be able to go out for lunch with the boys now.”
“Dude you’ve known her like what, a couple months? Jeez, you can’t be serious?”
Sometimes Sid wondered if Jordan was going to be the perpetual bachelor like Max, especially times like right now when he was looking for a little support from his friends over this very important decision.
“I almost asked her out there,” Sid hooked his thumb back towards the ice. “I was, like, this far from just blurting it out,” he told Flower, who was the only one of his teammates not looking at him like he’d just grown another head.
“But there is no rush, oui?” the soft spoken goaltender paused mid step to put his hand on Sidney’s arm. “She’s not...?” he looked around, saw a local sports reporter watching them from down the hall and gestured with his hands in front of his stomach instead.
“No...shit! Is that what you’re waiting for with Vero?” Sid asked pointedly, giving his thin framed friend a shove that sent him careening against the wall. “It just feels right with her. I can’t explain it. I think the only thing that stopped me out there was that I don’t have a ring.” It had been right there, on the tip of his tongue. He’d nearly blurted it out when Cody had said she was way past the point of falling for him. Every time she said something like that, he could feel every single word getting a strangle hold on his heart.
“Wow, wow.” Max just kept muttering under his breath and shaking his head.
“What? What’s your two cents? You must as well tell me, they have,” Sid grumbled as they passed the guard outside the door to the parking lot.
“I just thought I would never see the day that the great Sid the Kid wanted to fuck someone more than he wanted to stick his wanger in The Cup.” Sid punched his friend as hard as he could in the arm and then shoved him when he only laughed. He was about to give him another shove, send him into the side of Cookie’s Expedition when, just out of the corner of his eye, he caught a movement between the cars. Despite the best efforts of the arena’s security firm, sometimes over eager fans snuck in and waited for autographs here. It hadn’t happened since his and Cody’s private guards had been watching the place but now that they were down to only two....
“Whatthemotherfuckingfuckwasthat?” Jordan was flat on his stomach and Max was crouching low beside Cookie’s oversized family mover. It had sounded like a backfire, and if he hadn’t been in close proximity with an actual gun shot in the last few weeks he might not have known but....
Sid’s heart raced as he saw the head and shoulders of the guard that was supposed to be with Cody and Becky aiming across the parking lot. He followed the line of the big man’s aim just in time to see Dakota being manhandled into an idling minivan. She was struggling, giving the two men who were trying to push her in the side door one hell of a time as she kicked and bit and squirmed.
He was half way across the parking lot before he had time to process what he was doing. He half heartedly hoped one or two of his teammates were following on his heels but he didn’t look back to see. He just kept running until he could almost reach out and grab her. Almost, except just as he reached the van he saw her tumbling forward into it, head first as the van door closed almost on his fingers. He was staring at the beige metallic paint that told him he’d failed when he saw the gun out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t have time to turn and look at it before he saw the muzzle flash and then he was spinning around, falling face first onto the concrete.
“Cody.” She’d been taken. He could hear the wheels of the minivan squealing on the smooth pavement of the underground parking lot. “Becky.” He didn’t know where she was. Maybe she was already in the van. Maybe she was gone too.