Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chapter 11

Sidney was concerned for Bryce. She’d had some sort of breakdown the other day and had gone off about things that just didn’t make any sense. At least not to him anyway. Ever since she’d helped him start putting together his house he’d had a feeling she had walls up. He didn’t know if they were just up for him, or for everyone. He just knew that for some reason he was starting to want to break them down.

Every time back home came up, she seemed to clam up either choosing to not respond to things or diverting the conversation entirely. He knew that she’d been kind of a loser, for lack of a better word, in school, but was it so bad that she couldn’t even talk about home? Maybe there was more going on that he didn’t know about. He wanted to find out.

“What’s up, Golden Boy?” his friend Zane asked when Sidney answered his ringing phone.

“Not much. Just getting rearranging some of the new furniture. You?”

“Starting to gear up for the visit next weekend!”

Zane and four of Sidney’s friends from home were all coming in next weekend for a long weekend. He always looked forward to their yearly visit. When he was with them he could really loosen up and be himself. There was nothing like friends he’d known his whole life to put life into perspective.

“Everyone’s still in, right?” he checked.

“Come on, like any of us would pull the chute?” Zane chastised. Sidney laughed along with him.

“How are things going with Whitney?” Sidney asked, referring to Zane’s on again, off again girlfriend, who was also coming down.

“Right now, things are good. We’ll see how long that lasts,” Zane responded with a laugh. “How about you? Any chicks we’re going to get to meet out there?”

Bryce immediately came to mind. It wasn’t like he and Bryce were dating. He was still trying to get to know her now as opposed to the girl he knew from school. He found that he was thinking about her more and more often though. Hell, what would his friends think when he told them he’d been spending the majority of his free time with her?

“Yeah, there is actually someone.” Sidney heard a clattering sound on the other end.

“Sorry, I dropped the phone from shock. Are you serious? There’s a girl?”

Sidney walked over to his computer and logged onto his email. He attached a picture of Bryce he’d taken while they were working on his house. She wasn’t trying to be anything in the picture, which is why he thought he loved it so much. She was putting in no effort, and she looked flawless. She’d also yelled at him when he’d snapped the photo, but he'd kept it anyway.

“Check your email,” Sidney told Zane. He purposely kept Bryce’s identity a secret so he could get Zane’s reaction.

“Jesus, Crosby, the girls a fucking smokeshow. How’d you land pussy like that?” Sidney cringed at his friend’s language. It wasn’t like he didn’t hear it on a daily basis, but for some reason, hearing Bryce described that way just didn’t seem right.

“Do you remember Bryce Sirota from school?” he asked.

“The chubby math geek? Yeah, so what? Don’t change the subject.” Sidney muffled his laugh.

“That’s Bryce in the picture,” Sidney told him. He could hear coughing coming through the phone.

“Okay, seriously. Who is the chick?” Sidney laughed, completely expecting this reaction from his friend.

“I’m not kidding. That’s Bryce Sirota. She moved to Pittsburgh with a friend after she graduated university. We ran into each other and have been hanging out ever since,” he explained.

“Okay, so somehow Bryce got hot, I’ll give her that. How can you even stand to spend time with her? Isn’t she like some weirdo genius or something?” For once, Sidney felt like maybe his friends needed to get out of Cole Harbour so they could grow up a little.

“Actually, she’s awesome. She’s been helping me put my house together so we’ve been spending a lot of time together. She’s nothing like you would have expected based on school.”

Sidney continued the conversation with Zane for a little longer about Bryce. Zane couldn’t seem to comprehend that Bryce was no longer the girl they used to know. The more he talked to Zane, the worse he felt about the years Bryce had to spend in high school with them. Sidney wasn’t naïve. He knew how his friends had been back then. Her life really must have sucked.

He hung up when another delivery of furniture showed up at his door. Despite the breakdown, Bryce had called him the next day and insisted they go out and look at more stuff. He’d ended up purchasing the majority of the furniture for his house. Throughout the entire trip she’d insisted that she was fine, but he had the same feeling he usually did around her. She was hiding something.

I checked out my reflection in the mirror, double checking my hair, makeup, and outfit choice. Harmony, Oliver, and I were headed over to Sidney’s house for a housewarming party. They’d had an afternoon game, so he’d planned it for after. I wasn’t sure what people usually wore to housewarming parties thrown by people like Sidney Crosby, but Harmony had insisted on heels, leggings, and a long and tight black shirt.

“Are you sure I look okay?” I asked Harmony for like the hundredth time. She stopped walking past the bathroom, gave me an annoyed look, and nodded.

“What the hell are you so worried about? I thought you were faking this whole relationship thing so you could crush him?”

“I am,” I replied. She rolled her eyes at me and continued on down the hall.

I followed her out and the three of us piled into Oliver’s car and headed over to Sid’s. I was a little anxious about everyone’s reaction to his place. I wasn’t exactly an interior design expert so I hoped that it was well received. I just didn’t want anyone laughing at Sidney’s place. Oliver pulled up to the house and had to park on the street. Obviously there were already people there.

I walked inside with Harmony and Oliver behind me. I immediately began to look for Sidney because I didn’t really know any of his teammates that well. I spotted him sitting on the couch in the living room talking with a group of the guys. I made my way over figuring he’d be able to introduce Harmony, Oliver, and I around to everyone.

“Hey, Bryce!” he greeted me with a smile when he saw me walk over. He said hi to Harmony and was then introduced to Oliver. He then did the courteous host thing and walked us through the house and introduced us to everyone.

It was easier to get along with and talk to his teammates and their significant others than I expected it to be. I guess when you’ve always been on the outside looking in, you put people up on such high pedestals. I just expected them all to be a little snobby and wary of outsiders. That wasn’t the case at all. The girls made sure to include Harmony and I in all their conversations and the guys recruited Oliver to game of Rock Band.

As the night wore on and I got a few drinks deep I began to think about McKenzie in a lull in the conversation. Fearing that I might have some sort of breakdown, even if it was minor, I chose to go outside onto the deck in rear of the house to get some fresh air. It was chilly, being mid-November, but I tolerated it to make sure that I could keep myself collected.

“What are you doing out here?” I heard Sidney ask. I turned to see him walking outside and shutting the door behind him, blanket in hand. I smiled at him and shrugged.

“Trying to keep my drink cold,” I joked, holding up the mostly full vodka soda. He laughed and motioned for me to sit down on the bench next to him. I did just that and he spread the blanket out over us.

“I hope no one did anything to upset you,” he started. I shook my head adamantly.

“Everyone has been great. I just wanted some fresh air. You don’t have to sit out here with me, you know.”

“I know, but what kind of host would I be if I let someone freeze outside on their own?” I laughed at him.

Just like all the other times before when we’d spent time just the two of us working on his house, we fell into easy conversation. He told me stories about his teammates and I was able to finally put faces to names of stories I’d heard from him previously. We had both reached the point where we were laughing so hard we were crying after a while.

“So Harmony seems really great,” Sidney mentioned when we’d finally calmed down. I should have taken it for the compliment that it was, but something in his comment stung me. Everyone always loved Harmony.

“Yeah, she’s never had a problem making friends,” I told him.

“Do I sense something in your tone?” he asked. I cursed myself for letting any bitterness I felt towards Harmony’s perfection that stemmed completely from my high school experiences and not at all from her get out into my tone at all.

“No, not at all. Harmony’s my best friend, and I love her. She’s just always had it all,” I said.

“What do you mean by that?” I turned towards him.

“I always say Harmony’s had things I’ve always wanted my whole life, the three P’s. She’s privileged, popular, and pretty.” The smile on Sidney’s face faded a little when I said that.

“Bryce, you’re just as pretty if not prettier than her.” His statement caught me by surprise. I don’t know how I’d expected him to respond, but it wasn’t like that.

“What?” Sidney laughed quietly, more in disbelief than in humor.

“You don’t realize how amazing you are, do you?”

I felt like my heart skipped when he said that. Suddenly my stomach was an eruption of butterflies, and I couldn’t think of anything to say in response. Instead I just sat there looking at him in shock. A slow smile spread across his lips and I realized that our faces were inching closer together. Dear God, this was really going to happen. After a lifetime spent wishing, I was finally going to know what it felt like to kiss Sidney Crosby. Our lips were mere centimeters apart and I closed my eyes in anticipation.

“Hey, Crosby, what the fuck are you doing?!” a loud accented voice called out as the door was ripped open. Sidney and I both jumped in response. “Oh, shit. My apologies.” Sidney and I watched as Maxime Talbot retreated back into the house. Even so, the moment was ruined.

“I think if I stay out here any longer, I’m going to get frostbite,” I said, trying to end the awkward silence that had taken us over.

“Inside it is,” Sidney replied. We both stood up and walked back inside, and I was left wondering if I was relieved or upset.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

So so sorry

If you've read the update on either of my other two stories feel free to stop reading now, because this is going to say the same thing. Life has been hectic lately and I just haven't had time to sit down and write so that I can update my stories for all of you. I'm sorry, but hopefully things are calming down now. Of course, usually when I say that, things start right back up again. And no worries to anyone out there that is concerned. While Bryce is having a hard time remembering what she set out to do to Sidney right now, she's about to get a very rude reminder. It's only going to fan the flames and remind her why she's out for revenge in the first place. I hope you stick this wait out with me and see what happens!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter 10

Suddenly my life became hectic. As I drove over to Sidney’s I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spent more than half an hour by myself. Harmony and I had been busy interviewing and arguing over contractors. Then we were tossing ideas around about how we wanted the restaurant to work. My mother was calling all of the time now “just to talk” even though I knew better. On top of that I was spending the rest of my time with Sidney helping him with his house.

The restaurant was right at the top of my stress list. I was feeling more and more lost by the day. I was also losing any faith I had that Harmony and I were going to be able to pull this off. I don’t know how I got talked into this and I wasn’t sure I was ready to be a failure at something so soon out of college. I really should have just looked for a normal job.

My mother was next on the list. Things always got worse at this time of year. It was two weeks before the day McKenzie had died. My aunt and uncle were a mess for the entire month of November which meant that they relied on my parents for everything. My dad was never very involved in anyone else’s lives, and he spent as much of this month away from home as possible because of my aunt and uncle. This put all the pressure on my mom to carry the family through it which meant she called me over every little thing.

It was even worse this year because mom didn’t want to call Kellen ever. She’d told me that she just didn’t want to disrupt his relationship with Raina. I should have lied to my mother and told her that I had a guy in my life just to see if that would make her leave me alone too, but I doubted it. All I knew was that I wanted someone, just one person to stop leaning on me this month so I could grieve McKenzie too.

I don’t know why I had added completely decorating every room in Sidney’s house to the list, but I had. Thankfully it was the least stressful thing I was dealing with at the moment. Despite spending every moment I could at his house painting and planning, it was the most fun part of my day, which was sad. Nothing about Sidney himself was stressful, but decorating his house while I was planning on crushing him just seemed so wrong.

I wanted nothing more than for this year to be over with. I hated November because of McKenzie. As soon as the date of her death passed I got smacked right in the face with the month of December and holidays. I might hate Christmas more than Thanksgiving, which was saying a lot about how much I hated it. Just another day I was forced to spend time with a family I didn’t understand and who didn’t understand me fresh off the grief of losing McKenzie.

I pulled into Sidney’s driveway and took a deep breath. I could feel it coming. I was going to crack soon and it wasn’t going to be pretty. I just hoped I could hold it in long enough to do it when I found time to myself, and I could just let go of everything. It was almost time for my yearly breakdown, only this time, there was so much more weight on my shoulders.

“I can drive,” Sidney called out, walking out of his house.

“Sounds good to me,” I accepted.

We’d finally finished painting Sidney’s house. We’d literally done every room, which had been no small task. He didn’t exactly live in a small house. If you asked me, it was too big for just him, but I guess he was planning on being there for a while and a family might be in his future. We were now moving on to the decorating part. I already had ideas of what I thought would be good for each room, but I had to see what Sid wanted.

“How is everything?” he asked, as he backed out of the driveway.

“Everything’s great,” I lied, forcing a smile onto my face. There was no reason to get into it right now. We conversed with our usual small talk on the trip until we reached the destination. First stop, furniture.

“Okay, Sid, I don’t want you to think about what would look good with color schemes or anything. Just point out things you like so I can get an idea of your style and we can work from there, okay?” I knew that he was stressed about this part, worried that he didn’t know what he was doing and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for him.

We walked around the store studying furniture, sitting on couches and chairs. He pointed out some of the stuff he liked best and I did what I could to find something as close to it as possible that would match the room it was meant for. I was grateful to see that Sidney’s taste in things was very similar to mine, which made life easy.

We made the rounds to a few different stores to compare and check out options. By the last store we were planning on hitting I was exhausted. I found an antique looking couch and collapsed on it. I was completely overdramatic about it, falling onto it like I was fainting. My legs remained hanging off of the side as I laid back, draping my arm over my forehead much like a distressed woman in an old movie would have done.

“You alright?” Sidney asked with a smile and a small laugh at my dramatics.

“I’m just so tired,” I told him. I didn’t have time to elaborate even if I’d wanted to. The sound of my phone ringing broke the conversation off.

“We have a problem,” Harmony told me. No, not what I needed right now.

“What problem?” I asked, sitting up.

“I think you should come to the restaurant,” was her reply.

“I’ll be right there.” I hung up and glanced up at Sidney. “There’s some sort of emergency. I have to go to the restaurant. Do you mind?”

“No, not at all. I’m actually curious to see what the place looks like,” he responed. I smiled and stood up, leading the way out of the store.

“Nothing like a restaurant,” I said with a laugh.

I fought traffic to get to the restaurant as fast as I could. If Harmony, the most care-free person I’d ever met, said there was a problem, there was definitely a problem. I found a place to park, and practically ran into the restaurant, Sidney on my heels. I found Harmony sitting on the floor looking over some papers. She looked up at Sidney in surprise when we walked in.

“Hey,” she greeted him, as she gave me a questioning look.

“We were looking at furniture,” I explained. She just nodded and gave me one of those ‘sure you were’ smiles of hers. “What’s the problem?”

“Okay, remember that contractor we both liked, but he was really expensive so we weren’t sure we wanted to go with him?” Harmony asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Well, he was just offered another job. Because we’d gone to him first he’s giving us first dibbs if we want him. He just wants to know by tomorrow.” I let out a sigh and sat down on the floor beside Harmony.

This was a huge decision to make, and we had less than 24 hours to do it in. As if I needed anything else on my plate right now. I sat quietly and thought about what we should do. Even though Harmony had said there was no budget, I think we both knew that we could only spend so much on renovations without being completely indebted to somebody.

“I’m just not sure I like how much he charges,” I told her after a while.

“I know, but he seems amazing. We have all these great references, we’ve talked to multiple people who have nothing but good things to say about him. He really seems like he’d do the best job. Is he worth the money?” I covered my face with my hands and groaned.

“If you think it’s what we should do, we’ll make it work,” I decided, knowing that a long, drawn out argument would ensue if I didn’t agree to hire him. Sometimes it sucked being the best friend of a hard-headed person.

“Okay, I’ll give him a call. I should go and get ready. Oliver’s taking me out tonight. Lock up behind you,” Harmony said as she stood up. Sidney and I said goodbye to her and I watched her walk out and down the street.

“Want the tour?” I asked Sidney. He nodded and I began to lead him around the place, showing him where we thought we wanted everything.

It felt like every step I took around the place increased my stress level exponentially. By the time I’d locked up one side and led Sidney to the space next door I knew I was headed for trouble. My breakdown was going to come much earlier than all the others. I just had to hold it together for a little longer, had to keep it in until I’d dropped Sidney off.

Then he had to go and ask if I wanted to have dinner with him since we were already out. I don’t know what about that question did it, but I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Standing right in the middle of the future restaurant I broke down and began to cry. At first tears just slid slowly and quietly from my eyes, but once they started I couldn’t stop them. Soon I was a blubbering idiot.

“Bryce, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” Sidney asked as I melted down to the floor and covered my face with my hands.

“No. No, I’m not okay,” I told him. I felt his arm slide around my shoulders as he got down onto the floor next to me.

“What’s going on?”

“I can’t do this. It’s too much. There’s just too much. I don’t know what I’m doing. We don’t know what we’re doing. How are we supposed to be successful if we don’t have a clue? And why does my mom have to be the way she is and why can’t my dad just fucking be there for anyone? Why does Kellen get to have a pass because he has a girlfriend? How come this all has to happen before the holidays and why are there so many awful people in this world?” I wailed, knowing even as I said it that I wasn’t making any sense.

“It’ll be okay. Bryce, I promise, it’s going to be okay,” Sidney said, pulling me into him. I let him wrap his arms around me and hold me while I cried. Only Harmony had ever done that for me before, and it was nice to be held.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” I apologized when I finally composed myself enough to pull away.

I looked up at Sidney embarrassed for breaking down the way I just had in front of him. He looked right back at me and into my eyes. He gave me a small smile. Then he lifted his hands and placed his thumbs on my cheeks, just below my eyes. He slowly used them to wipe the tears and mascara off of my face, and I could feel myself forgetting why I wanted to hurt him.

“Whatever’s going on, whatever has you so upset, will pass. It might get worse before it gets better, but it will get better eventually. If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that things will always get better over time. I’m here to talk, if you ever need me. Please know that.”

Just those words almost had me in tears again. It was the first time they’d ever been spoken to me. I nodded and managed to choke out a thank you. Sidney offered to drive me home and I took him up on it. I walked into a dark condo and let the tears come back. I went straight to bed and pulled the blankets up around me. I finally had my alone time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chapter 9

Sidney sat down in his living room and flipped on the TV. He idly changed the channels without paying a whole lot of attention to what was on. This living by yourself in your own house thing wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Sure, it was nice to have your own place, but sometimes it was downright boring, like right now. He hadn’t had anything to do after practice today and now he was just sitting here with nothing to do.

He couldn’t help himself, he was someone that needed to have things to do. He enjoyed down time as much as the next guy, but he was so used to being busy that if he had nothing scheduled it drove him crazy. It was days like this that he’d liked living at the Lemieux house. Someone had always been home whether it was Mario, Nathalie, or one of the kids. He always had someone to talk to and spend time with.

He debated calling up one of the guys to see what they were doing, but decided against it. Instead he glanced around the living room and looked at the plain white and blank walls. Maybe he should start figuring out how to decorate his house. He stared hard at the wall in front of him and tried to picture what would be on it, but was drawing a blank. He knew next to nothing about decorating and didn’t know where to start.

Maybe he should just hire somebody to do it for them. That way he didn’t have to do anything himself. He could just tell them to avoid using certain colors and let them do their thing. Even if he wasn’t thrilled with the outcome, any decoration would be better than the blank house he was living in now. Suddenly the sound of his phone’s ring tone pulled him out of his thoughts. He smiled when he saw it was Bryce.

She’d been a very pleasant surprise. He hadn’t expected to randomly run into anyone from home, let alone Bryce, here in Pittsburgh. He also hadn’t expected Bryce to be the girl he was getting to know and was enjoying spending some of his time with. She just wasn’t what he’d always thought she was all through school.

His change in opinion had as much to do with how she looked now as it did with her personality. Outwardly she was a completely different person than he’d known. Inwardly she was a different person than he’d have suspected. Bryce had been the typical loner math geek. He’d never really thought much about her at all. Now he thought about her a fair amount.

It turns out that Bryce actually had a personality. She was witty, sarcastically funny, not afraid to voice her opinion, and mysterious. He couldn’t help but marvel at how outgoing she was now. Even so he could tell that she was holding something back, hence the mysterious. There was more to Bryce Sirota than met the eye, and the more time he spent with her, the more he wanted to find out what that was.

“I had a disaster of epic proportions with a container of oats. Don’t ask me how it happened, but I destroyed the container and had to find something to do with the oats so I made an enormous amount of oatmeal raisin cookies. Please tell me you’ll take some so I don’t put on 100 pounds from eating them all myself,” she gushed out when he answered.

“How many did you make?” he asked after he finished laughing at her.

“Uh, I stopped counting at 5 dozen,” she replied. He nearly choked.

“You just made more than 5 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies?” She laughed at his question.

“I told you I needed help!” she exclaimed.

“Okay, I have an idea. I’ll take all of them if you come over and help me figure out what to do with my house,” he bargained.

“Deal!” she agreed. He rattled off his address and she told him she’d be over soon.

Bryce showed up at his door 45 minutes later in a pair of jeans and a black sweater, carrying multiple containers in her arms. He laughed when he saw the amount as he took them out of her hands and led her back to his kitchen so he could put them down. She blew her bangs off of her forehead as she collapsed down onto a stool at the breakfast bar.

“Thank you so much!” He opened one of the containers and took out a cookie, taking a bite.

“No, thank you,” he returned when he tasted the oaty goodness of these amazing cookies. She laughed in response.

“What the hell are you going to do with all of these cookies anyway?” she wanted to know.

“The guys will eat them,” he assured her as he popped another cookie into his mouth.

“Oh, right. I forget about the stomach capacity of hockey players,” she cracked. He grinned over at her.

“Well, if you’re going to help me with the house, I should probably give you the tour.” Bryce agreed and got up from her seat on the stool.

He led her through the house showing her each room and she took time in each one to really look them over. He wasn’t sure exactly how much Bryce knew about interior design, but he was hoping that at the very least she could give him a starting point. They ended the tour back down in the living room where Bryce sat down on the floor instead of on the couch.

“Okay, the first thing we need to do is figure out paint. Everything else depends on the color scheme of the room. What’s your favorite color?” He sat down on the floor next to her and turned his gaze to the wall she was looking at.

“Green.” She nodded and kept her eyes trained on the wall as she fell silent.

She then began asking him about what he wanted out of each room. Did he want to entertain in them, who would be in them, what they would be used for, and so on. He hadn’t realized so much went into paint color. He answered each question as Bryce wrote down his responses in a small notebook she’d pulled out of her purse.

“Are you up for shopping for paint?” she asked when her questions ceased.

“Right now?” he returned. She shrugged.

“Do you have something to do?”


“Then yes, right now.” She stood up and he followed suit.

He offered to drive and they got into his car and headed to a paint store. They walked inside and Bryce headed straight for a wall covered in paint chip samples. She immediately began pulling strips out and looking them over. He watched as she surveyed each one, keeping some in her hands and putting others back. She seemed satisfied after a while and waved him over, spreading the strips out on the counter.

“Okay, I grabbed a bunch of different types of green. It’s up to you which color you like best,” she told him. He didn’t know how he could ever make a decision with the options in front of him. It was just too much.

However he went through and immediately pulled out the shades of green he didn’t like. Then he had to get Bryce’s help. Eventually they settled on a light sage and then they got to work picking out accenting colors. Then they had to move on to other colors for the other rooms. It took a while but eventually they knew what they needed and he put the order in.

Since it was going to take a while for all the paint to be ready they went out for some coffee and hung out. Once they figured they’d killed enough time they headed back to the paint store to pick up their cans of paint. Bryce grabbed the rest of the things they’d need while he carried cans out to his car. Once he’d paid they headed back to his house.

“Thanks for doing this with me. I wouldn’t have even known where to start,” he said to her.

“That’s what friends are for, right?”

I spread the drop cloth out over the entirety of the room while Sidney pushed the little bit of furniture he owned out of there. Once done with that we got to work taping. This part by far was my least favorite part of painting. Even so, I couldn’t handle anything less than perfection, and I knew I didn’t have the sturdiest hand.

“How do you know all this?” Sidney asked me after I finished showing him how to use the roller and make sure he didn’t use too much paint.

“I’m pretty sure my mom painted the entire house a different color about every other year,” I told him. He laughed and shook his head.

“I’ve just started doing this and I’m annoyed. How could anyone want to do it that often?” I let out an incredulous laugh.

“No one said my mother was sane.” He laughed at that, probably figuring I was being sarcastic. Unfortunately I wasn’t.

We talked while we painted, mostly about his hockey career and my college days leading into opening the restaurant. I felt like we were both dancing around saying anything too personal about ourselves, like neither of us really wanted to talk about it. We took a break after finishing the room, which also happened to be the biggest wall, and ordered some dinner.

“Do you still keep in touch with anyone from home?” Sidney asked just as I popped a piece of a spicy scallop roll in my mouth.

“Uh, no, not really. Just my family,” I replied shifting uncomfortably in my seat. I wasn’t liking where this conversation was heading.

“Really? No one from school?” he pushed. I did my best not to glare at him and tell him that he’d destroyed any chance of that.

“Really, no one. I didn’t have many friends. I kind of kept to myself.” Even though I knew that he was aware of that fact, I could hear my voice quieting as I said it, like I was embarrassed. I kind of was. “How about you?”

“The same group I always spent time with. They haven’t changed or treated me any differently since I went pro. Other than that, not really.”

We finished the sushi and headed back out to continue painting. We’d moved on to the next room at this point and the smell of paint was beginning to permeate the entire house. We were quiet for a little while until Sidney started sneezing. It got us laughing and talking again, keeping the mood light.

We’d started on opposite sides of the room and worked towards each other. I had my back to him and didn’t see that he’d moved really close, and brought his paint tray with him. I took a step backwards and felt the cold liquid ooze between my toes just in time to feel myself slip backwards and land with a hard thump on my back, paint splattering all over.

“Jesus, Bryce, are you okay?” Sidney asked, squatting down next to me, a look of concern on his face.

I simply looked up at him from my position and then began to laugh. He made a face that told me he was trying not to laugh, but eventually he burst into laughter as well. When I’d finally managed to stop, I sat up and glanced around me. My foot and the bottom of my jeans was covered in light sage. Then I felt paint dripping down my back. That’s when I realized that I had paint all over me.

“And that is why we needed a drop cloth,” I told him with a laugh as he helped me up off the floor.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t laugh,” he said between giggles as I felt paint start to roll down my forehead from my hair.

“It’s okay, it really is funny,” I assured him with a laugh of my own. “I don’t suppose you could let me shower.”

“Yeah, sure.” Before I had a chance to respond I was suddenly in his arms and he was moving towards the stairs. Being lifted into his arms was unexpected and threw me off for a moment. Feeling his arms wrapped around me, my face so close to his was causing my heart to begin to race.

“What are you doing?” I asked, in a little bit of a panic.

“I wasn’t about to let you walk through my house leaving green footprints everywhere,” he explained. The explanation calmed me when I realized that there was a completely logical explanation to being in his arms.

He put me down in his shower and brought in a pair of his sweatpants and a t-shirt for me to put on when I got out. After handing me a towel, Sidney walked out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him. I stripped off my clothes and did my best to rinse all the paint off my body and from my hair. I dried off, threw my wet hair up in a messy bun, and put on his clothes.

The smell of him hit me as I slid the t-shirt over my head. I hadn’t really been close enough to really smell him before, but now I could, and it smelled incredible. It was then that I realized that this had been my ultimate fantasy at one time in my life. I was standing in Sidney Crosby’s house, wearing his clothes. The 14 year old version of me would be so jealous.

The 22 year old version of me wanted to get home and get out of his clothes so the 14 year old me would stop confusing my brain. I didn’t like having those old emotions stirred up inside me when I was on a mission to hurt the same guy I used to be in love with. I pulled the drawstring tight to keep the pants from falling off of me and made my way out of the bathroom.

“I think I’ve had enough painting for now,” I stated as I stepped into the kitchen where Sidney was putting away dishes. He turned to me and laughed.

“That’s understandable.”

“I think I’m just going to head home and get these clothes washed. Maybe I can salvage something. I’ll bring your clothes back tomorrow.” Sidney and I had already made plans for me to come back tomorrow and continue the painting process.

“Don’t worry about rushing it. You can give them back whenever. Let me give you a sweatshirt to wear home. It’s cold out there.”

I took the sweatshirt he offered me and said goodbye. I stepped out of my car and headed into my building amidst strange stares at my oversized Pittsburgh Penguins ensemble. I averted my eyes from all of theirs, put my head down, and kept it down until I walked into the condo. Immediately I heard laughter coming from Harmony.

“That was fast,” she commented, eyeing my clothes with her eyebrows raised. I tossed the bag that held my paint stained clothes.

“I didn’t sleep with him. I fell into paint.” She opened the bag and looked inside before laughing again. I rolled my eyes and shut myself up in my room. I moved to take Sidney’s clothes off, but hesitated. One night in them couldn’t hurt.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chapter 8

I always hate when people say things happen for a reason. I think that’s complete bullshit. There isn’t always a reason for things. Some things are just senseless, meaningless, reasonless. I sat in the seat of the plane and stared down at the worn picture in my hand. Sometimes when I looked at it I laughed. Sometimes I cried. Right now I felt angry.

McKenzie had been facing the camera, but her eyes were upturned to the sky, a half-pout, half-pucker on her lips, her blonde hair cascading in waves around her. At first glance her expression read innocence, but when you looked a little harder, a little closer, you could see the cockiness, the ‘I know I’m irresistible’ look on her face. That was McKenzie for you. She looked like an angel, but she’d kick your ass if she had the mind to.

Then there was me. I’d been away at school for a year at this point, and looked nothing like I had when I left. Everything about me had changed, and McKenzie had loved it. We were drunk, acting like fools, snapping goofy pictures. In this one my arms were wrapped around McKenzie, and I was kissing her on the cheek with a smirk on my face.

Her sense of humor was witty, quick, and even a little goofy. She was the funniest person I’d ever known. It was part of the reason I’d only ever called her Monkey. Half of the time she acted like one, in the best way possible. I’d also called her that because when we were both little my attempts to pronounce her name had sounded like Monkey. It also didn’t hurt that they were her favorite animal.

I missed her, more than I could ever express. Her death had affected me more than anything else could have. I’d lost my cousin and my best friend all at once. Her death didn’t happen for a reason. Her death to me was senseless, meaningless, and reasonless. It happened too soon in her life and too quick for me to have been at all prepared.

“What did your mother do?” Harmony asked when I met her outside the airport. I threw my bag into the trunk and sat down in the car.

“Aside from being her typical crazy self, nothing.”

“Then why do you look like someone punched you in the stomach?”

“I’ve just been thinking about Kenz a lot since I went home,” I explained. Harmony gave me a sympathetic smile before starting the car and pulling away from the curb.

“Are you still up for heading right to the restaurant or do you just want to go home?” she checked. Harmony had called me while I was home and told me that we had gotten the space we wanted, including the empty space next door.

“Let’s just go right there. I need to think about something else.”

I didn’t talk again during the car ride, choosing instead to watch the world go by out the window as Harmony drove. We pulled up to where the restaurant was going to be and I followed Harmony inside. She dropped a folder on the floor and pulled out a notebook and a pen. We were here to start bouncing ideas off of each other and decide how we wanted the restaurant to look.

We made our way to the back of the property and began discussing office space, how big it needed to be, if we would share it or have our own, etc. We worked our way out to the front as we threw out ideas on how we could have the construction done. Eventually we made our way next door and debated whether to take down the entire wall separating the properties or keep part of it up. We finished standing outside looking into both windows and trying to envision what it would look like.

Harmony received a phone call from Oliver, the guy she’d been seeing since we’d gotten to Pittsburgh. I made my way back inside and sat on the floor as I waited for Harmony to finish her conversation. Sitting there in the middle of the empty space I began to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. This was really going to happen, and I didn’t have the slightest clue how to do this whole restaurant thing.

I shot a quick text to Sidney telling him I was back in Pittsburgh. I received one back asking if Harmony and I wanted to go to his game the next night. I replied without consulting her, knowing she’d be up for it and told him we were in. After confirming that he’d leave tickets and passes for us like last time we ended the short conversation just as Harmony walked back inside.

“Sorry, I was just making plans for dinner tonight with Ollie,” she told me, taking a seat across from me on the floor.

“That’s fine. I just made plans for us for tomorrow night.” She lifted an eyebrow at me and waited for an explanation. “Sidney’s going to leave us tickets for the game tomorrow.”

“Ah, the golden prince wants to see you again.” I shrugged.


“You don’t look or sound as disgusted as you usually do when he comes up.” I shot Harmony a dirty look and she rolled her eyes at me in response. “How about those Pirates?”


“I try. Okay, so I guess that we should start calling contractors and making appointments to get the ball rolling on this place,” she suggested, changing the subject.

“What are we looking at as far as a budget is concerned? What’s our time frame for things to get done?” I asked.

“Budget is a word I’ve never understood. And I think we need to get this work done as soon as possible without sacrificing quality. We’ll see what they estimate and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.”

I cringed at her saying there was no budget, but didn’t argue. I’d known Harmony for four years and there was no arguing with her over money. We made phone calls and made appointments with contractors on a list Harmony had with her before packing up what we’d brought with us and getting back into her car to head home.

The next night Harmony and I headed out for dinner and then to the rink for the game. We picked up our tickets and passes at will call and had no problem finding our seats this time. Harmony handed me the drink I’d ordered and we turned to face the ice and wait for puck drop. That’s when the two women we’d met at the last game stepped in front of us.

“Hey, Bryce and Harmony, right?” the blonde one asked, a smile on her face.

“Yeah. Heather and Veronique?” Harmony double-checked. They nodded before sitting down in the seats in front of us and turning so that they could continue the conversation.

“Please, call me Vero. I heard you grew up down the street from Sidney.”

“Yeah, just a few houses away,” I confirmed.

“We’re really sorry if we seemed rude the last time we saw you. It’s just that everyone associated with this team is really protective of Sid and we weren’t sure what to think when we realized you were here for him. He’s never given a girl tickets before,” Heather apologized.

“Don’t apologize, it’s completely understandable,” Harmony assured them.

“What was Sidney like before all of this?” Vero asked, gesturing to the rink and crowd with her hand. I had to be careful what I said here, because part of me felt like every word I said tonight was going to get back to Sid.

“Honestly, I didn’t know him all that well. We weren’t in the same social circle in school. My perception of him though was that he was a nice kid, loyal to his friends, polite to most people, and just liked to have fun.” Nothing that I said was a lie, but I’d skipped right around him actually being a dick.

“He really hasn’t changed,” Heather cracked.

The four of us talked on and off throughout the game and I found myself liking them. They introduced Harmony and I to some of the other wives and girlfriends and that was when I felt like the new kid at school. Suddenly questions were being fired at me about growing up, about Sidney, about what I’d been doing the last few years and wanted to do in the next few. I felt like I was being interviewed for a job.

By the end of the game I never wanted to discuss myself ever again and I was glad it was over. I guess I should have seen it coming eventually. If I wanted to break into that group I’d have to endure that kind of thing. And I did need them to like me. Befriending this group of girls was a crucial part of my plan with Sidney. How could I make him fall for me if the other girls didn’t like me?

Harmony and I made our way inside the family lounge this time instead of waiting outside. We were offered food and drinks, but turned down both. We chatted with everyone until guys started filtering in. That was when it all started over again. There were more questions about Sidney and I, and I put a smile on my face and answered them all. Based on what they were saying to me, it was obvious that Sidney was talking about me to them. That was always a good sign.

“So what is it you see in Crosby?” the guy who had been introduced to me as Max Talbot asked.

I’d remembered being mistaken as a girl here to see him last game. I checked him out and could see how he could get away with being a bit of a manwhore. The guy was cute, the accent made him cuter, and in the five minutes we’d spent in the same room he’d already nearly charmed the pants off of me.

“What makes you think I see anything in him?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. He laughed and shook his head.

“You’re really telling me you have no interest in him?” he asked incredulously.

“I’m only telling you that it’s nice to have a familiar face in a strange city and I’m only interested in getting to know him again,” I replied as diplomatically as possible. I knew I couldn’t appear desperate, but I also knew that I had to at least imply that maybe there was something there I liked.

“Talbot, back away from the girl,” I heard Sidney say and I turned to see him walk into the room.

“Come on, Capitaine, I wasn’t hurting her,” he said putting both his hands in the air in surrender.

“Not yet anyway,” Harmony joked. Max turned his attention to her and I watched as his eyes traveled the length of her. “I’m taken, Superstar.” Sidney and I laughed as Max groaned and pretended to stab himself in the heart with a fake knife.

“Don’t you have any single friends, Sid?” he asked.

“Not that I’d ever send your way, Talbot,” he shot back.

Sidney led Harmony and I out of the lounge and through the hallways of the rink to the exit. He asked if we wanted to grab something to eat, and like we’d discussed Harmony claimed to want to meet up with Oliver. When Sidney turned to look at me, I agreed and followed him to his car while Harmony left to go to ours.

“Hey, hold on,” Sidney said, taking hold of my arm and stopping me in the middle of the parking lot.

“What’s up?” I asked curiously.

“Are you okay? Really? The other day you just sounded…..upset.”

I saw the look of concern on his face and I felt the same stab of pain in my chest that I’d felt as I sat next to McKenzie’s grave. Whatever his feelings about me were in the past to do what he did to me, right now he seemed to actually care. For just a second I questioned what I was doing, but then I remembered sitting by the lake for hours on end alone that night, and my resolve was back.

“Yeah, I am. My family is just tough to deal with sometimes,” I told him.

“I know the feeling all too well,” he agreed, his voice becoming a little strained. I began to wonder if maybe things in Sidney’s life weren’t quite as perfect as they seemed. “If you ever need to talk, I’m here.”

“Thank you. That’s really sweet.”

We continued on to his car where he opened the door for me. That was a first for me and I thanked him again. We headed out to a quiet dinner at a place that seemed to stay open just for him. There was only one other table in there and they paid no attention to us as we were seated. Sidney and I spent the meal talking and actually having a pretty good time. As he drove me home he mentioned his house and how unfinished it was.

“When you get some free time, let me know. I’d be more than happy to come over and help with whatever you need,” I offered. He looked at me gratefully and agreed.

“Thanks for coming tonight,” he said to me when he pulled up outside my apartment building.

“Thanks for inviting me. I’ll talk to you later.” I gave a wave and turned to walk inside. So far, so good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chapter 7

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I swear it won't be this long again. Also, it's late, so sorry if there's spelling or grammatical errors. I'm just too tired to proofread, but I wanted to get a chapter up. Thanks for the patience!

As the plane flew at however many thousands of feet in the air I wondered why the hell I’d agreed to go home for Thanksgiving. It wasn’t like it was some warm family holiday like in most houses. It held memories of my parents fighting, my grandparents fawning over Kellen, my aunts and uncles trying to one up each other, and me sitting alone wishing someone knew I existed. Only McKenzie had ever made time to talk to me and she wouldn’t be there.

The landing was smooth and I waited patiently for the cabin to clear out so I could grab my carry on and get off the plane. As long as things had been on time, Kellen should have arrived at the airport from his flight from Montreal about 20 minutes before me. I headed to where we’d decided to meet, excited to see him.

Kellen and I had never been close as kids. He was the athletic, popular older brother and I’d been anything but. I hadn’t even been the annoying tag-a-long little sister because I’d always known my whole life that I didn’t fit in with him and his friends. I knew our distance had nothing to do with his treatment of me and everything to do with my intentional avoidance of him. Kellen had never made me feel like he didn’t want me around, I did that to myself.

When Kellen had left for school he’d made sure to send me emails separate from any conversation he had with Mom and Dad once in a while, but that still hadn’t done anything to make us any closer. It wasn’t until I went away to school that I realized I didn’t want to be a stranger to my own brother. Our relationship grew with my new outlook on life and now it was strange if we didn’t talk at least once a week, with multiple emails and texts exchanged between us.

As I approached our meeting place I spotted Kellen sitting down. I began to smile as I walked, excited to see him. He turned his head and smiled back at me when he saw me coming. I watched as he stood up, and I picked up speed to reach him. That’s when I saw the attractive blonde with bright blue eyes stand up along with him. My smile began to fade when I saw her. Who the hell was she?

“Bryce! You look amazing. How’s Pittsburgh?” Kellen greeted me with a hug. I took my eyes off of the beautiful stranger as I hugged him back.

“Pittsburgh is interesting. Look at you, big bro. Not too shabby yourself,” I replied looking him over as we pulled apart.

“I want to introduce you to someone. Bryce, this is my girlfriend Raina. Raina, this is my sister Bryce.” Girlfriend?! How, in all this time, had Kellen never told me about a girlfriend?! He was getting it later.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Raina said as we shook hands and I smiled back at her. If Kellen liked her, she had to be a good person.

“You too. How was your trip out?” I asked.

We began to walk as we talked and I found myself liking Raina as well. Either she was a hell of an actress or the sweetest person on the planet. I winked over at Kellen and nodded my head in approval at one point behind Raina’s back. His face flushed a little, which I’d never seen, and I knew he’d marry her someday as long as she didn’t do anything psychotic to screw it up.

“So do Mom and Dad know that you brought Raina?” I asked Kellen when we pulled up in front of our old house. He gave me a look that told me he hadn’t. I couldn’t help the little bit of joy that rippled through me when I realized that my mother might be too caught up with the Raina surprise to give me trouble about not choosing a better career.

We walked through the front door, and I made sure to be last in. If I was lucky my parents wouldn’t even pay any attention to me. As luck would have it, I managed to get only a passing hello as my mother fussed over Raina and exclaimed her surprise over and over again. If nothing else, my mother was dramatic.

I snuck upstairs to my old room and closed the door as soon as I could. I looked around before sitting down on my bed. I hated who this room represented. I made a mental note to do my best to convince my mother to transform it into an office or guest room or something so I’d never have to see this stuff again.

I began to unpack the little I had brought with me for these few days when there was a knock on my door. My mom didn’t even wait for me to say it was okay to come in before she opened the door. She still had absolutely no respect for my privacy even now in my adult years. She glanced at the shirt I was holding in my hands and smiled.

“It’s so nice to see that you’ve finally come out of your shell,” she said. I fought back the urge to send a sarcastic comment her way.

“Thanks,” I replied instead. I continued to finish putting things away while she stood there watching me.

“So Raina seems like a sweet girl,” she commented. I knew she didn’t come up here to talk to me about Raina, but I waited her out like I knew she wanted me to.

“Yeah, she does. I can’t believe Kellen didn’t tell anyone he was bringing her.”

“Well, the more the merrier for holidays.” She was quiet again and I knew I had only about another 30 seconds left before she dropped whatever she’d come up here to really say on me. “Is there anyone in your life?” There it was.

“No, Mom, there’s no one right now.”

“I just don’t understand. You’re such a beautiful girl now.” I gritted my teeth at the fact that she had to throw the ‘now’ in there.

“I’ve been really busy with the restaurant lately, that’s all.”

“Right, the restaurant.” She heaved a dramatic sigh and I rolled my eyes at the obvious distaste in her statement. She wouldn’t be happy unless I was doing something prestigious and making a lot of money. “What about that Crosby boy from down the street? Isn’t he in Pittsburgh?”

I looked up at my mother in surprise. I hadn’t expected her to bring up Sidney at all. It wasn’t like our families were friends or anything. I thought about Sidney for a moment and debated how much to tell my mother. I couldn’t exactly tell her what my plan for him was. In the end I decided to avoid telling her anything at all.

“Yes, he is.”

“You should get dinner with him or something some night.” She said it like Sidney and I had been best friends growing up and it would only be natural for us to get together like old friends.

“I’m sure he’s plenty busy with the season.”

“I always thought Troy and Trina were very sweet people,” she continued, and I had to bite my lip to keep from openly scoffing at her. She didn’t know the last thing about the Crosby’s.

“I’m sure they are.”

“You know, I think you and Sidney would make a cute couple.” Great, my mom didn’t want me to be a doctor or lawyer, she wanted me to be a trophy wife. Thanks, Mom.

We made our way downstairs and I couldn’t believe only an hour had passed since I’d gotten into town. I didn’t know how I was going to handle another couple of days of this. Unfortunately for me, Thanksgiving wasn’t just a one day event in our house. Family was in and out for days and before I knew it, two sets of aunts and uncles, and two sets of grandparents were spread throughout the house.

I was currently sitting in a chair stuck into a corner of the living room right next to the kitchen, as far out of the way of everyone else as possible. It was uncanny how often this was the chair I ended up stuck in. I was also listening to my grandparents take turns giving Raina the third degree and telling Kellen how great she was, my aunts and uncles talk about who was more stressed about work, and my parents arguing over the texture of the mashed potatoes. No one was acknowledging me. Yep, it was Thanksgiving in the Sirota household alright.

By the time Thanksgiving morning rolled around two days later I was stressed out and desperate to get away from my family. I was about ready to explode, and before I could even think about what I was doing, my phone was in my hand and the number was already dialed. I listened to it ring and then wanted to smack myself when I heard the voicemail pick up.

“Hey, this is Sidney. Sorry I missed your call. Please leave a name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” I listened to the boringly generic voicemail before realizing that there had been a beep signaling that I was now being recorded.

“Hi, Sid, it’s Bryce. I forgot you had a game tonight. I just…..I don’t know, I guess I just wanted to talk. Don’t worry about calling me back. Good luck tonight and I’ll just talk to you later sometime.” I hung up and wondered why the hell I’d called him.

I leaned back against the wall as I sat on my bed and let out a long breath. There was only one other thing I could do to keep myself from snapping right now. I grabbed the keys to my mother’s car and snuck out the back door, not that that was necessary. I’d hardly had three words said to me in the last two days that wasn’t my mother getting on my case about either the restaurant or being single.

I started up the car, double checked to make sure I had the stuffed gorilla I’d brought from home, and then pulled out of the driveway. I drove the familiar route in silence and stopped at the gate. The doors were open and looming in front of me and I paused like I always did at them. After taking a few deep breaths I pulled through the gates and slowly drove down the path, stopping in the same spot I always did.

I grabbed the gorilla and got out of the car. Just like every other time I’d been here, I put on the proverbial blinders and focused only on my destination. If I thought about the other areas around me, it just wouldn’t feel right being here. I walked the short distance and stopped in front of the gravestone reading ‘McKenzie Sirota’. I knelt down and leaned the monkey against it.

“Hey, Kenz, it’s Bryce. I’m sorry I haven’t been here in so long. It’s just tough coming back here without you, ya know? I brought a gorilla with me. I know you can’t actually physically have them, but I can’t help but bring one each time I come. They remind me so much of you, Monkey. I still have the gray one you gave me when I was 6. I don’t go anywhere without him.”

I choked back a sob as my eyes filled with tears. A few spilled over and I watched them slide off my cheeks and onto the ground in front of me. It had been three years since McKenzie had died, but I’d never get over it. She’d been so much more than my cousin. Really, she’d been my only friend growing up. She’d been the only person who made me feel like I was worth something.

“Things are still the same around here. The only thing that’s different is that Kellen has a girlfriend named Raina. She’s really funny. Not quite as funny as you, Monkey, but you would have loved her. Your Mom and Dad are doing okay. I can tell they still miss you a lot, but they’re doing their best to be happy like you would have wanted. I know you always hated when people were sad. It’s only because we all loved you so much.”

A strange buzzing sound filled the air and I jerked my head up and began to look around. I couldn’t see anything making the noise until I felt a vibration on my leg. It was then that I realized the buzzing had been coming from my phone. I’d turned the ringer off, but it was on vibrate. I glanced at the screen and saw that it was Sidney. It was the afternoon of a game, but he was calling. For just a second I let myself think that it was because he knew I needed someone right now.

“Hey, Sid,” I answered after clearing my throat.

“Bryce, are you okay?” he asked. He must have heard how choked up I was despite my best efforts to hide it.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I didn’t expect you to call with the game tonight and everything.”

“It’s not a big deal. I guess I just wanted to talk to you too,” he told me, repeating what I’d said to him in the message I’d left earlier. I felt myself smile at that.

“So how are things?” I asked.

“Pretty good. It’s the typical busy start of a season, but nothing I’m not used to. How’s being home?” he returned. I sighed.

“My family is stressful,” I told him truthfully.

“Aren’t they all?” he joked, and I laughed. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’m just reliving some memories.”

“Okay. Hey, I should get going and start getting ready for the game tonight. I’ll call you after?”

“That would be nice.” And strangely, that wasn’t a lie.

“Okay. Good luck with your family. Talk to you later.”

“Hey, Sid?”


“Thanks for calling.” I meant it. I didn’t know why, but just having him call, hearing his voice, had made me feel a little bit better.

“No problem. Bye, Bryce.” I hung up the phone and looked back at McKenzie’s gravestone.

“Monkey, I have something to tell you…..”

I began to tell her all about my plan for Sidney. She’d been the only other person besides Harmony that had known what Sidney had done to me on prom night. When I was done telling her all about the scheme I felt a small pain in my chest.

“I hope that’s not you trying to tell me not to go through with it, because I am. He’s not the person he makes himself out to be. You’ll see the truth when I’m done, I promise. I should probably get back to the house before someone actually realizes I’m missing. Ha, we both know that’s not going to happen, but Mom will notice her car is missing. I love and miss you, Monkey, and I promise I won’t go so long without coming to see you again. Happy Thanksgiving.”

I stood up and began to walk back to the car. Just like every other time I’d been here, I ended up turning and glancing over my shoulder at the place where McKenzie was laid to rest. My eyes locked on the stuffed gorilla and tears filled my eyes again. I sent out a silent goodbye to her and then got into the car and drove back home.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chapter 6

I groaned as I followed Harmony and the real estate agent out of yet another empty space that just wouldn’t work for the restaurant Harmony had in mind. It had been our fourth space to look at this morning and we were on our way to the fifth. I was now cursing my decision to wear heeled boots. Sometimes, okay often, I put appearance way ahead of comfort. Today, however, I should have been using my brain. I should have remembered how picky Harmony was. Personally I hadn’t seen anything wrong with the last place.

I smoothed my dress out before pulling my jacket around me a little tighter as we got out of the car at the next stop. Hopefully it would be the last. Even Harmony couldn’t take spending an entire day looking at properties, and it had already been four hours. My stomach was growling with hunger, my feet were killing me from all the walking, my head was aching from all the questions and speculation, and my body was shivering from the unexpected sudden drop in temperature today.

The door was opened to the next property and I stepped in last. Almost immediately upon entering I felt something. The restaurant wasn’t my dream and I was really just on for the ride with Harmony, but this place made me excited. It was basically bare bones and would need a lot of work to transform it into anything, but the space seemed perfect.

“This is amazing,” Harmony said glancing up at the high ceilings. Finally!

We took the rest of the tour, being shown some of the back rooms. I guess it had been a boutique of some kind previously. While Harmony began to talk with the agent about how she envisioned the restaurant and where everything would go I made my way to a window in the front. I glanced out at the street and checked out the area one more time. A smile formed on my face. This would be the perfect location.

“It is a little small though,” I heard Harmony say. My smile faded and I fought the urge to let out a scream. This could not be happening. Then I remembered something.

“The place next door is vacant as well, right?” I asked. I saw a flicker of excitement flash in Harmony’s eyes as she waited for the agent’s response.

“Uh, yes, I believe it is, but I don’t think it’s for sale,” he began as he started to search through notes.

I wasn’t waiting for confirmation. I walked out the door and over to the windows of the vacant property that shared a wall with the one I had just been in. I didn’t see any sort of ‘for sale’ or ‘for rent’ sign anywhere, but it was completely empty. I used my hands to block out any light as I peered in through the window and saw that while the interior was a little different from the one we were shown, it was in good shape and would work as well.

“How does it look?” I heard Harmony ask as she mirrored my position to peer in.

“Like it would work,” I responded. I heard her squeal in excitement.

“I want it,” she stated. I turned and saw that look on her face. When Harmony made that face, she got what she wanted. “Find out who owns that property and find out what they want for it.” Our agent seemed to want to argue with her, but decided against it and made a note.

“Are you thinking you want that instead?” he asked. Harmony and I looked at each other and I knew we were thinking the same thing.

“I want them both.”

“I’m not sure…..” he started. Harmony wasn’t having any of what he was going to say.

“I don’t care. Find a way.”

Once again, he looked like he wanted to argue, but he made the smart decision and kept his mouth shut. Once Harmony wanted something, she got it no matter what. I knew better than to argue with her when she had that tone, that look on her face. A swift death came to people who didn’t heed those warnings.

“I’ll look into it,” he said and she let out another excited squeal.

“We found it, B, we really found it!” she exclaimed as she took my hand and began to jump up and down.

“Thank God!” I shouted as I lifted a foot off the ground and over exaggerated the rubbing of my foot. She gave me a shove that nearly sent me toppling over with a laugh. Just as I was about to retaliate, my phone began to ring. “Saved by the bell.”

“Hey, Bryce,” I heard Sidney’s voice say when I’d answered. I cringed a little and began to scold myself for not checking the call ID in my excitement.

“Sid, hi!” I forced the cheerfulness into my voice despite the sudden downturn in my mood.

“What’s going on?” he asked. I glanced over at Harmony who was now in some sort of discussion with the real estate agent once again.

“Harmony and I are out looking for locations for the restaurant,” I told him.

“Oh yeah? How’s that going?”

“Good. I think we found the place. We just have to work out some things before it can be finalized.”

“Wow, that’s great. Where are you?” I told him what area we were in and then the nearest major intersection. “Hey, I’m right by there. Would you want to grab some lunch if you haven’t eaten yet?” No. No I don’t want to spend time with you.

“Lunch would be great. I’d just have to make sure I’m done here.” I’d had to force those words out. Despite knowing I was going to have to do more to execute my plan than have lunch with Sidney, it didn’t make it easier.

He gave me the name of a place after I’d made sure Harmony and the real estate agent didn’t need me for anything else. Then I walked to the place, grumbling to myself the whole time. Harmony had refused to give me the car which meant I was either going to have to pay out the ass for a cab, or Sidney was going to have to drive me home. Not to mention, my feet still hurt.

As I walked I began to wonder if my plan was a good idea. If I was going to make him fall in love with me I was probably going to have to kiss him at some point. I felt sick at the thought. I know that at one time I’d found him to be the hottest guy on the planet, and that thousands upon thousands if not more girls felt the same, but now I felt differently. Oh God, what if I had to do more?

It was amazing how much one terrible incident could affect and shape a person’s feelings on people and life in general. That one night in Cole Harbour had killed any love I thought I had felt for Sidney. Maybe I should say screw it, tell Sidney what a cocksucking asshole he was and be done with it. No, I couldn’t do that. He needed to really know. He had to really know how it felt to be used and discarded as a joke.

“Bryce!” I heard him call. I glanced up and saw him walking from the opposite direction towards me.

“Hey!” I called back with a smile, pushing all of those thoughts out of my head.

Sidney held the door open for me and I walked in. The restaurant he had picked out was small and quiet. I wasn’t sure if the small amount of diners inside was due to the late hour for lunch or if it was like this all the time. Knowing Sidney, it was always like this. The hostess at the podium in front was on the phone and held a finger up to tell me she’d be with me in a moment, a smile on her face as she did so.

“Well, we don’t take official reservations but if you have a large party it helps to call ahead so we can have space open for you as close to your arrival as possible,” she was saying into the phone.

“I hope there’s something you can find on the menu to eat,” Sidney said coming in behind me. I turned to give him a strange look.

“Does this place serve strange or creepy food?” I asked.

“No, not at all,” he replied.

“Then why would I have trouble finding something on the menu?”

I hadn’t meant for my voice to hold the annoyed tone that it did, but I couldn’t help it. Who did Sidney think I was? Was that what the girls he usually spent time with were like? I was about to apologize for how that had sounded, but Sidney laughed. He apparently hadn’t noticed my tone, or it hadn’t bothered him.

“You’ve really changed since school,” he told me. I opened my mouth to respond, and found I didn’t know what to say. I struggled with being both angry at the comment and relieved that it was noticeable that I was different.

“I’m sorry for the wait. Your usual table Mr. Crosby?” the hostess asked. He nodded and we were on our way to a table in a back corner. It must suck to live life in dark corners. It was the first actual feeling of sympathy towards Sidney I had. It was the first feeling that wasn’t disgust or anger really.

I glanced over the menu and decided on a house specialty salad Sidney insisted was one of the best in the city. I spent the rest of the ordering process experiencing the jealous and questioning looks I received from the waitress who had obviously served Sidney multiple times before. I wondered how many other girls had come in here with him and experienced the same treatment. She hadn’t been rude, but I didn’t exactly want to be stared at like that while I ate lunch, thank you.

“So what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” he asked after our food had arrived.

I could immediately feel my muscles tense up. The ache I felt in the back of my neck told me that I was in a desperate need of a massage. What was with people and this stupid holiday anyway? It seemed to be all my family wanted to talk about and now Sidney. I was just glad I was living in the States and our Thanksgivings were not shared so I didn’t have to listen to more people talk about it.

“I’m flying home for a couple of days. How about you?” I returned.

“We have a game. It must be nice to get to see your family.”

Ha, yeah right. I just shrugged and didn’t elaborate any more on the trip. What was I going to say? My mother was certifiable, my aunts and uncles were always in competition, my father was becoming more and more of a recluse to avoid the previously mentioned people, and I’d left my brother long ago to deal with them all by himself.

As Sidney and I chatted over lunch I couldn’t get my mind off of my upcoming trip. It was only a few days away now and I wanted nothing more than an excuse to get out of going. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to handle being there with them. I’d escaped Cole Harbour for more reasons than just Sidney. There was a reason Kellen was the only member of my family I spoke to on a regular basis.

After telling Sidney I had to catch a cab home and him subsequently offering me a ride I accepted and did my best to focus on our conversation in the car rather than on my family. I couldn’t help where my mind wandered however. I tried desperately to remember a time when we were one big happy family. That had to be the case at some point right?

I got out of Sid’s car at my apartment complex and we made tentative plans to get together once I returned from home. I gave him a wave as he drove away before I turned and used my key sensor to unlock the door to the building. I realized as I waited for the elevator to reach the ground floor that I hadn’t come up with one happy memory that included my entire family.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chapter 5

I stared in at the mess that was my bedroom before turning my gaze onto Harmony. This was her fault afterall. I hadn't pulled every article of clothing out of both of our closets and discarded them in various places in my room. She looked back at me and sighed.

"It's official. You have nothing to wear tonight," she announced, glancing back at the mess.

"Nothing? I really have nothing in this pile that would work for a hockey game?" I asked.

"Oh, you have plenty of things to wear to a hockey game. You just have nothing to wear to dinner with Sidney after," she explained

I fought the sound of disgust threatening to leave my mouth. The thought of spending time with Sidney made me sick. I'd been hurt by him and it'd be easy just to stay away from him, but I couldn't do that. I had to show him he couldn't treat people that way and get away with it. I had to fight the urge to make a face and sneer in disgust when his name came up. I was also going to have to think of a way to not do those things in his presence.

"You do realize you're talking about your clothes as well, right?" I checked. She rolled her eyes at me.

"I'm not saying the wardrobe sucks, I'm saying nothing works for the purpose of tonight."

I glanced back at the piles of clothes once again and decided that Harmony knew better than I did. Half an hour later I found myself at the mall following Harmony around as she picked up a variety of pants, shirts, leggings, and dresses to hold them up to me. In the middle of our search I felt my phone viibrate and pulled it out, grimacing at the name that popped up on the screen. I debated ignoring the call and realized that it would only get worse if I didn't answer.

"Hi, mom," I greeted. Harmony glanced over at me and made a face that echoed exactly how I felt.

"Bryce, I'm glad I caught you. How are you?" she asked.

"I'm fine. How are you?" I returned. I didn't care how she was. I just wanted to know what she wanted, and I wanted to know quickly. The quicker I could get off the phone with her, the better.

"I'm still going." She gave me her typical patented response, complete with the dramatic sigh at the end. "I was calling to see if you were planning on coming home for Thanksgiving."

There it was. There was the reason my mother was calling me. I cringed at what she said, wishing I hadn't answered the phone right now after all. The last thing I wanted to do was go home to Cole Harbour for Thanksgiving, let alone ever again. My brain immediately began to try to come up with an excuse.

"I hadn't really thought about it....." I couldn't even finish my sentence before my mother cut in.

"The whole family is coming over, and I just thought it would be nice to have you there. They haven't seen you in so long and I know your aunt and uncle would love to talk to you."

I suddenly felt guilty about consciously avoiding calling home so I wouldn't have to discuss Thanksgiving. I'd been hoping to just avoid the conversation altogether. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to see my family. Now I felt like I had to.

"I don't know. Harmony and I are starting to look for places for the restaurant and once we find a location everything else is going to start happening quickly."

"Oh, you're still going to attempt that restaurant business?" I heard the annoyance and the dismissal in her voice. She'd disapproved of my decision to partner with Harmony on this from the start.

"Yes, Mom, Harmony and I are going through with our plans." She gave an overdramatic sigh again.

"I guess I just thought that you would come to your senses and go to medical school." I rolled my eyes.

"I was a math and economics major, not a biology or any other equivalent major."

"Then what about law school? It'd be great having two lawyers in the family," she suggested. I fought back the urge to yell at her.

"I'm not great at debating. Look, I'm busy. I'll check on flights tomorrow and let you know when I can come in. I'll only be able to do a couple days at most."

"I suppose a couple of days is better than nothing."

"Great. I'll talk to you later. Bye, Mom." I hung up before she had a chance to say anything else. Harmony popped up in front of me with a smile on her face.

"I found it," she announced, holding up an outfit.

A few hours later Harmony and I were picking up our tickets and passes at will call. We wandered around the arena searching for our seats before finding them nearly back where we had started. Feeling like fools we made our way through the crowd to them and sat down just in time for the lights to dim and the teams to skate out.

About two and a half hours later Harmony and I were joining the mass exodus leaving the arena after a Penguins victory. We paused at the top of our section and pulled out the passes that had been left with the tickets. They didn't come with any directions, and we just stared at them stupidly like they would magically tell us what to do.

"Do you need help?" an accented female voice asked.

Harmony and I glanced up to see a very pretty brunette looking between the two of us. I'd never seen her in particular before, but I knew who she was. She was a hockey wife, or at least a girlfriend. You could tell by the way she was dressed and in the way she carried herself. The girls that dated the players had always been easy to spot for me, mostly because I'd looked nothing like them. They'd avoided me like the plague back then, like my chubby and ugly would rub off on them.

"You wouldn't happen to know where these get us, would you?" Harmony asked. A blonde, walked up behind the brunette and glanced down at the passes in our hands before checking us out suspiciously.

"Yeah, we can show you," she offered. We thanked her and followed the two of them to an elevator where we had to show our passes to get on.

"I''m Veronique and this is Heather," the brunette said, offering her hand. Harmony and I took turns shaking their hands.

"I'm Bryce and this is Harmony."

"So who gave you the passes?" Heather asked. Harmony and I exchanged glances, obviously feeling the same way. Were we really being interrogated right now?

"The golden.....Sidney," Harmony corrected herself as I shot an elbow into her ribs. Veronique and Heather raised their eyebrows at the exchange.

"Sid?" Veronique questioned, like she hadn't heard us. I nodded and she dared another look at Heather. "I'm sorry, he just never has anyone here except for his family. I assumed you were with Max." I didn't understand, but the snort Harmony gave made me wonder what that had actually meant. I figured Max meant Maxime Talbot, but I had no idea why that was funny.

"We're not pucks. Bryce grew up down the street from the gol.....Sidney," Harmony explained.

I suddenly understood and I could feel my cheeks turning red. Had I gone overboard on the outfit tonight? I glanced down at my brown slouchy cowboy inspired boots, dark skinny jeans, and off the shoulder t-shirt. I didn't think I looked that slutty. I glanced over at Harmony who, reading my mind, gave me a small shake of her head.

Thankfully the elevator doors opened just then and halted any further conversation. Harmony and I followed the two girls to the doorway of a room that already had other people in it. We both hesitated at the door before deciding to just wait in the hallway. We leaned against the wall and talked quietly to each other, doing our best not to draw attention to ourselves.

I saw a few guys begin to walk towards the room a little while later and figured they must be Sidney's teammates. Each one glanced over the two of us, trying to figure out if they knew us or not. While I looked calm, cool, and collected on the outside on the inside I wanted nothing more than for Sidney to get there so we could leave and I could get this night over with.

Finally after watching couple after couple walk out of the arena, I spotted Sidney coming around a corner. He was looking over his shoulder as he walked, talking to someone behind him, and I took the opportunity to point him out to Harmony. She narrowed her eyes at him, like she was studying him. When he turned to face us there was already a smile on his face.

"Hey, Bryce, I'm glad you could come," he greeted me when he reached us. "You must be Harmony." She gave him a small, skeptical smile before taking his hand in hers, her eyes still narrowed at him. She was playing the part perfectly.

"It's nice to meet you," she told him, no hint of sincerity in her voice. Sidney didn't seem to notice.

"So what were you thinking for food?" he asked, looking between the two of us.

"I think we're both up for anything," I replied.

"I know the perfect place. I'll drive and then just bring you back to your car after, if you'd like," he offered. I nodded and we followed him outside.

Once we were seated at the tiny hole in the wall, well hidden Italian restaurant, Harmony continued her act. She played the protective and skeptical best friend perfectly, grilling Sidney on everything from his childhood to his personal life in the last few years to his intentions in "rekindling" a relationship of any kind with me. Honestly, it was hard not to crack up multiple times. Sidney, however, took it all in stride.

"Harm, please. We're just neighbors catching up," I told her, putting a stop to the questioning after a while.

"I'm sorry, you know me. I'm protective of my friends," she apologized.

"How'd I do?" Sidney asked, one eyebrow raised curiously. Harmony gave him a once over before giving him a big smile.

"You passed.....for now."

The rest of the night went well, conversation flowing. Harmony quit playing her part and started acting more like herself. By the time we were back in Sidney's car and he was driving us back to ours, we were all laughing together like we were old friends. Before driving away, Sidney told me he'd call me later and I gave him a wave as he pulled out of the parking lot.

"I'd say your plan is well on it's way," Harmony told me with a laugh as we got into the car.

"You think?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chapter 4

I knew from the second that Sidney and I had started walking to the coffee shop that he was in shock over my appearance. I’d also known from the second we started walking that he was checking me out. I may have been on my phone texting Harmony, but I wasn’t an idiot. I could feel his eyes on my ass the entire time.

I’m the first person to admit that going to college and meeting Harmony had done wonders for me both in my personality and in how I looked. Harmony had looked past what everyone else saw and taught me that attitude and confidence go a long way. The more I hung out with her, the more outgoing I’d become. And with that new attitude came an all new look.

I’d been too afraid to go to the dining hall when I first got to school. I was too shy to make friends quickly and I was too embarrassed to go by myself. Instead I stayed in my room when I wasn’t in class. It hadn’t really occurred to me until after my personality started to transform that I’d lost weight. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. I started sucking it up and going to the gym despite hating it and gave up food that was terrible for me, choosing healthier options instead.

I also learned as I got out more with Harmony that college was very different from high school. There was no social hierarchy, just groups of people with interests in common. I also learned that navigating from one group to another wasn’t a problem at all. The jocks didn’t just hang with the jocks, and the math geeks didn’t just hang with the math geeks. At a college like Stanford, the jocks were the math geeks.

Armed with a new personality, a new body, and a new confidence, I’d ask Harmony to teach me everything else. She took me shopping, gave me fashion advice, and taught me how to do my makeup. She led me into a salon where I walked out with a completely new head of hair in a completely new color. Three guys hit on me that day as I walked around campus. They were the first guys to ever hit on me. I never looked back.

Four years later, I was completely aware of the effect I had on guys, and I used it. I used my looks to get things I wanted and I didn’t feel the least bit bad about it. It wasn’t like I was sleeping with professors for good grades or anything. I could achieve the straight A’s on my own. It was more a social thing. I didn’t spend Friday or Saturday nights alone anymore. In fact, I hardly spent any nights alone at what I liked to call my reawakening. There was always someone.

Now there was Sidney. The moment I’d felt him checking me out I’d known what I had to do. I was going to use my looks to get what I wanted from him. The more I sat there across from him at the table talking to him, the more I knew it was a great idea. I’d used trick after trick as I sat there, flirting with him, to get him to want to see me again. It had worked.

The next day Harmony came home in the afternoon and immediately began questioning me about the day before. I told her about what happened with Sidney at the furniture store, and then about coffee. She sat there, quiet for the first time in her life, as she listened to me tell her about my time with the guy who had been the love of my life growing up.

“You’re going to see him again then?” she asked when I had finished. I grinned over at her.

“I’m going to do better than that. I’m going to make him fall in love with me,” I told her. She laughed when I said it, but stopped when she realized I was serious.

“Look, Bryce, I know you were in love with him forever, but things don’t always work the way you plan them,” she cautioned.

“Oh, I’m not looking to marry him and carry his children. I’m looking for revenge.” She was quiet for the second time today, looking at me with a wary eye, trying to figure out what I was saying.

“You know, when I told you that if you ran into him when you moved here that you could do to him what he did to you, I didn’t mean it literally,” she said, the smile gone from her lips. I lifted an eyebrow at her, surprised that she wasn’t 100% backing me on this.

“He deserves everything I’m going to do to him,” I told her firmly.

“Because he ruined your prom night?” she questioned.

“No. Because he’s the reason I lived through hell for a year and a half.”

“Oh, Bryce…..” she started. Her voice trailed off as she tried to think of an argument. I hadn’t anticipated having to fight her on this, but my emotions took over.

“It was his fault. If he hadn’t done what he did, that never would have happened,” I argued.

“You can’t blame him for that. It’s not like he was there pushing all the buttons,” she argued right back. It didn’t matter. My mind was set. I was caught now in my mind in a place I’d never be able to get completely out of.

“I can and I will. Compared to what happened to me, he’ll get off easy when I’m done with him.”

“I just don’t think this is a good idea,” Harmony warned.

I got up from my seat and began to pace back and forth through the room. If I was going to do this, I needed Harmony’s help. I needed her to be on my side. I had to figure out how to get her there. Then I went somewhere I probably shouldn’t have. I went for guilt. I manipulated her to make her feel guilty so she would help me.

“Harm, this is for those nights you had to stay up all night with me because I was too scared to close my eyes. It’s for the times you had to bribe that EMT to keep his mouth shut when you called him to our apartment. It’s for that month when everyone turned their backs on me except for you, and they then turned their backs on you as well.” Real tears had formed in my eyes when I said those words to her, partially because of my memories, but also partially because of what I was now putting her through.

I knew exactly how Harmony felt about that time in our lives. I knew she blamed herself for allowing things to go on the way they were as long as they did. I knew she felt guilty for not helping me when I desperately needed it. I never blamed her, and I certainly didn’t think there was anything she could have done until I was ready for her help, but I knew she felt that way. And like a real asshole of a friend, I was using it.

“Okay. Okay,” she whispered. I smiled at her, and sat down next to her, taking her hands in mine.

“Thank you.”

“So what’s the plan?” she asked, seemingly bouncing back to her normal self.

My smile grew as I told her. By the end I saw that she wasn’t as wary about the plan as she had been before. It’s not like we were planning to do any bodily harm to the guy. I was just getting him back for a prank he’d played in high school that had almost ruined my life. Maybe it was bitchy. Maybe it was an adjective that was even worse than bitchy, but I didn’t care. This was for all the kids who were bullied and picked on in school. I wanted to prove that sometimes the math geek wins.

I smiled down at my phone the next afternoon when I spotted Sidney’s number on my caller ID. I guess I hadn’t been too overconfident when I thought he’d call. I held up the phone to Harmony to show her and we both giggled. Just before voicemail would have picked up, I answered.

“Hello?” I forced my voice to sound like I had no idea who was calling.

“Bryce? It’s Sidney,” he said to me from the other end.

“Oh, Sid, hey! What’s up?” I greeted. I noticed Harmony watching me, obviously trying to track how the conversation was going.

“Not much. Just got home from practice. How about you?” he returned.

“I’ve just been spending the afternoon decorating the place before our furniture gets here in a couple days.”

“Ugh, decorating. I bought my house in the spring and I still only have furniture in three rooms with bare walls. I’m just so busy. I need to get on hiring someone to do it for me.”

“Aw, where’s the fun in that? You should do it yourself, little by little every time you find some free time.”

“My idea of interior design is putting a leather couch with built in cup holders in front of a big screen TV.” I laughed along with him, figuring he was telling me the complete truth. “Look, I was actually calling to see if you wanted to come to a game.”

“Yeah, that would be fun. I’ve actually wanted to go, but tickets are hard to come by. It seems like your team is an institution in this city.” I was lying, not ever having looking for tickets, but that was part of the game.

“Oh, don’t worry about tickets. I can get those for you. Just let me know when you want to come and they’ll be waiting at will call for you.”

“Really? Are you sure you don’t mind? I can pay you for them.”

“That’s not necessary. Each guy on the team gets a few free tickets to every game. Mine go unused unless my family is in town. It’s not a big deal,” he explained. I grinned over at Harmony who lifted her eyebrows up questioningly.

“Well, when is the next available game?” I asked.

“Tomorrow night, actually. If you don’t have plans I could leave a ticket for that one. We could go grab something to eat after,” Sidney suggested.

“Tomorrow would work, but just one question. Is it possible for me to bring my friend Harmony? I’d feel awkward sitting at the game by myself.” That was another lie, and bringing Harmony into it kept Sidney from thinking he had me too easily. I wanted to make him work for me.

“Yeah, that’s no problem. There’ll be two tickets for you guys at will call under your name along with passes that will get you downstairs after.”

“That sounds great! Thanks so much, Sid. That's really sweet of you.”

“No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hung up the phone and grinned across the room at Harmony, who had been hanging on every word.

“We are going to a Penguins game tomorrow and getting something to eat with Sidney after,” I told her.

“I’ll finally get to meet the golden prince?” she asked. I laughed at the nickname she’d decided to use for him instead of his name.

“Yes you will.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chapter 3

Sidney walked down the street next to Bryce in complete shock. The girl walking beside him was not the Bryce Sirota he remembered. He knew it had been years since he’d seen her last, but this was a transformation he’d never seen coming. Could people really change that much in six years? He didn't even know how he'd recognized her.

The Bryce he was used to seeing was uncoordinated, short, a little overweight, and wore ill-fitting glasses. Her hair had always been pulled back in a ponytail and she hardly, if ever, wore makeup. She’d been the meek girl in school, keeping to the background, practically invisible to everyone else. The only reason he even remembered she existed was because she grew up just a couple houses away from him.

The Bryce that was walking next to him seemed to be the exact opposite of that girl. She was wearing a long tight fitting shirt over black leggings with knee high boots that made her almost as tall as him. The outfit did everything to attract attention to her obviously in great shape body. She had her long dark brown hair down and flowing behind her in the breeze. Her makeup was done in such a way that her emerald green eyes were the first thing anyone could notice. How had he not ever realized she had green eyes like that before? He didn’t even want to get started on her pouty red lips.

The Bryce Sirota walking alongside him right now was a knockout. No straight guy in his right mind would be able to walk past her without taking a second, third, and probably fourth look at her. She finally stopped doing whatever she was doing on her iPhone and stopped in the sidewalk to put it in her purse. The brief pause gave him the opportunity to really look her over.

Jesus, if he didn’t stop checking her out, he was going to have a hard time explaining the growing bulge in his pants to her and everyone else walking around downtown Pittsburgh. When she was done she looked up and flashed a smile at him before catching up. He couldn’t help the image of those red lips doing something else that popped into his mind.

“How are your parents and Taylor?” she asked as they paused to wait for a light to change at an intersection.

“They’re good, thanks. How’s your family?” he returned. He saw a flash of something, pain maybe, run through her eyes before she responded. It was gone as quickly as it appeared however.

“Good. Mom and Dad are still back home working and Kellen is at McGill working towards his law degree,” she explained.

He remembered Bryce’s brother, Kellen. He’d been almost the exact opposite of Bryce. Kellen had been athletic and popular. People had always been shocked when they found out he was Bryce’s older brother. The only thing the two of them had in common was their intelligence. It didn’t surprise Sidney to learn he was in law school.

They arrived at the coffee shop and Sidney opened the door first, holding it open for Bryce. She smiled and thanked him before walking through the door. He couldn’t help it. He paused at the door and watched Bryce’s ass through the skin tight material as she walked inside. Fuck, he’d do some dirty shit to that ass if he could.

“So what made you move to Pittsburgh?” he asked her when they’d sat down at a table as far from the others as possible with their drinks.

“My friend Harmony,” she replied, like that explained anything. He waited for her to elaborate, but she took a sip of her skinny vanilla latte instead. He nearly groaned when he saw Bryce’s tongue slide out from between her red lips and lick them. Was she doing this on purpose?

“What for?” Bryce’s eyes connected with his and she smiled over at him. The smile just oozed sex. Who was this girl?

“Harmony decided she wanted to open a restaurant in her hometown. I got tagged as her business partner. Don’t ask me how that happened, because I’m still not sure myself.”

“What kind of restaurant?”

“I have no idea,” she told him with a laugh. “I’ll let you know when Harmony makes up her mind. So what’s been going on with you the last few years?” Was she serious with that question? How could she not know what had been going on with his life?

“Playing hockey…..” She cut him off before he got any further than that with a wave of her hand.

“Yeah, yeah. I know about the Cup and the gold medal. I meant with you. Hockey can’t be all there is,” she said. He was both surprised and thrilled at what she’d said. There was actually someone out there that cared about him as a person.

“To be honest, not a whole lot. Hockey really is my life. I can barely step foot outside without being approached by people so I tend to stay home when I don’t have an obligation,” he told her.

“You’ve done pretty well so far today,” she commented, a hint of a smile playing on her lips and he found himself smiling back at her without even meaning to.

“It’s a freak occurrence, trust me.” She giggled and took another sip of her latte.

“So no girlfriend, fiancée, wife, or social life at all then?” she questioned. He shook his head.

“I don’t have the time for one even if I wanted to,” he told her truthfully. She looked at him with an eyebrow raised in question.

“Interesting choice of words ‘if I wanted to.’ Why wouldn’t you want that?” He sighed and took a sip of his coffee.

“Because I can never tell what anyone’s intentions are. People pretend they don’t care about who I am, and I always find out later that they do. I hate having to try to guess. It’s stressful and not worth my time.” She nodded like she understood.

It was strange of him to confess all of this to anyone, but for some reason he felt comfortable with Bryce. He didn’t know if that came from the fact that they’d grown up in the same town, just houses away from each other. Maybe it was knowing who she was in high school that made him think she wasn’t as superficial as others. There was something though, that made him feel like she’d get it, get him.

“I guess the Notorious B.I.G. was right. Mo’ money mo’ problems,” Bryce cracked. He couldn’t help but grin over at her. “I am sorry though. It can’t be easy to live like you do.”

“It’s not,” he sighed. “Sneaking around hotels in visiting cities, not being able to go places and do what I want, needing to have handlers, having to be always politically correct. It fucking sucks.” He heard the bitterness in his own voice. He was taken by surprise then when he felt Bryce’s hand settle onto his and give it a squeeze.

“If it helps, you do an amazing job at playing the poster boy despite how difficult it must be. It has to take an incredibly strong person to be able to do that day in and day out,” she told him.

There was something there this time when he looked into her eyes that was more than just sex. Until now he’d been imagining Bryce in all sorts of different positions he could put her into. This time he felt something tug at him that made him want to know her. Really know her. He hadn’t realized he’d done it until he glanced back down at the table, but at some point he’d turned his hand over and interlocked his fingers with hers.

“Okay, enough about me. What have you been up to the last few years? Last I heard you were graduating from high school as the valedictorian,” he said, changing the subject and pulling his hand away. She took another sip of her latte as she shrugged.

“I went to Stanford University where I just graduated in June with degrees in both Math and Economics,” she explained.

“Wow. Isn’t Stanford a really good school?” he asked, completely impressed with what she’d just told him.

“Yeah, it is. Depending on where you look, it’s always ranked at least top 5 in the nation.”

“I’m not at all surprised. You were always so good at school.” He watched as her eyes narrowed at him after he said that. Had he struck a nerve? Why? A moment later the look was gone and she was smiling back at him again.

“Yeah, well, there wasn’t much else for me in Cole Harbour.”

It was a pointed comment and he understood it. They both knew she’d been an outcast in school. Her statement also made him feel a little guilty, like he’d just been reprimanded by his mother. It wasn’t like he’d made her the person she was in high school, but he suddenly felt like maybe he hadn’t helped either.

“Speaking of Cole Harbour, do you get back often?” he asked, changing the subject. He saw the same flash of whatever that emotion was in her eyes previously at the question and he felt like a complete asshole, even though he didn’t know why.

“Not really. I double majored so I was at school year round to keep myself on track to graduate in four years. Now I live here, at least for now. I only get back for holidays, and even then it’s usually just a week or so,” she told him. Something told him that there was more to her not going back than school, but he didn’t push.

They sat there talking until their drinks were gone. As they stood up to leave, Sidney decided that he didn’t want this to be the last time that he saw Bryce. When they got outside and began to walk back to their cars Sidney began to build up the confidence to ask for her number. He’d never been good at that sort of thing.

“It was really nice running into you today,” Bryce told him, turning her head to smile over at him. Sidney took his chance.

“We should do it again sometime. It’s nice to have a familiar face around,” he replied. Her smile grew and she nodded.

“What’s your number?” she asked, taking out her phone. He gave it to her and a moment later his phone vibrated, signaling he had a message. “Call me when you find some free time.”

With that, Bryce flashed one last sex-filled smile before turning and walking over to her car. Sidney watched her go, unable to keep his eyes off of her ass. When she got into the car he continued to walk to where his was parked. The whole trip to his new house he couldn’t keep her off his mind. It still baffled him that this was the same girl he’d grown up near, because this Bryce Sirota was drop dead sexy.