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.