Friday, December 30, 2011

Chapter 15

He sits alone in the dark sipping whiskey from a crystal glass and watches the clock. He has been cleared to play. What he wants is to celebrate; lift a few with the boys but they are not here. Hearing his father’s voice, proud and expectant was good, but not quite the cherry on the top of his day. 

The second hand sweeps the face of the clock and he takes another sip of the dark amber liquid, feeling it burn on its way down. The only sound is the minute hand ticking forward and the clink of the ice in the glass, oh, and the whirr of the gears in his brain as he thinks about taking the ice, about the first face off win, the first pass and, of course, the first hit. 

Will it be hard, he wonders, as he the whiskey coats his tongue and who will it be? He’s heard rumours that guys will take it easy on him but those are stories he dismisses. They have never been easy on him. His is a number that other players hunt and he knows that the next hit might end his career. 

A shudder passes down his spine. The idea of never being on the ice again sits at the back of his mind, a throaty whisper in the dark like a warning phone call in a horror movie; ‘he’s in the house’. It’s like a threat written in blood. In his own blood which should make it worse, but like any warrior, it is a threat he dismisses easily. He will take the ice. They will chant his name. He will score a goal and lift his arms in the air in triumph, his teammates will pounce and he will roar like a lion over its kill. 

Will she be there? 

Putting the glass down he runs his fingers over the tickets as if he half expects to be burnt. His father is on his way, will be there like the proud papa bear, pounding his chest as he claims his cub. He will not put her there. He will not put her in that particular line of fire. If his mother could make she would insist on meeting Fern but luckily for all of them his sister has a game and his parents will divide their time between their offspring and he can put off that particular corner of hell until another time. 

Palming his keys he gets up and slides the tickets into his breast pocket. Her shift ends soon. It might not be the celebration he wants but he tells himself that it is better than sitting in the dark and drinking on his own. 


She swipes the last table with a rag and pockets the meagre tip. Tips have gone down lately in direct proportion to the swelling of her stomach. Running her forearm across her forehead, she is already thinking about the massaging showerhead and her bed. Her thoughts are so focussed on the time she can take off her shoes that she doesn’t see him sitting at the counter until she goes to put the cash in the register. The diner is almost empty, apart from a young couple at the other end of the diner sharing a banana split and two grizzled blue collar types sipping hot coffee to which they’ve added something from a flask. His broad shoulders and expensive pea coat cause him to stand out as neither college kid nor every-day-joe. No, Sidney Crosby will never be that she thinks as she closes the till. 

“Thought you might need a ride home,” he says quietly, looking at her from beneath the brim of his ball cap. 

“Thanks. I wasn’t looking forward to the bus,” she replies honestly, rubbing at the small of her back and wincing. It’s been a long, busy shift and being on her feet for the entire time has not agreed with her condition. “Two minutes?” she says, holding up two fingers. He nods and goes back to reading the sports section. 

“It’s not for me to say but...that one...he’s been here a few times lately, rides home and what not?” the older waitress, the one that will see the diner through until the early morning shift says without looking up from the pie she is slicing before adding it to the rotating display in the corner. 

“Yup,” Fern answers in the affirmative but does not offer more information than that. 

“Handsome. Nice clothes. Good manners,” the woman adds, her gaze sliding down the counter. Fern has seen her husband with his motorcycle jacket and skull cap tucked under his arm, tats right up to his chin, cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. 

“Mmmmhmm,” Fern replies noncommittally, untying her apron and folding it over her arm, keeping her eyes lowered. 

“So is he the one then? Got you up the spout?” the woman asks. Fern chews on her bottom lip and thinks carefully about her reply. If the woman knows who he is and she answers in the affirmative, gossip will spread like wildfire and it will be all her fault. If she does not and it’s merely an innocent question, not to answer will only lead to more questions and...

“He’s just someone I know, a friend,” she says quietly as she takes her pen and order pad and places them under the counter. “See you tomorrow.” She feels the woman’s eyes on her as she walks down the length of the counter to where he is waiting. He folds the paper and puts it back where he found it, with the sugar, ketchup, salt and pepper. 

“Ready to go?” he asks unnecessarily. She nods and waits for him to go ahead so she can follow. He holds out his hand. She stares down at it and then up at him. His shoulders are hunched so the collar on his coat hides most of his face. The brim of his ball cap does the rest. Tentatively she slides her hand into his and feels his warm hand close around her own. It is an unusual feeling and she does her best not to grin as he guides her out of the diner towards his car. “Didn’t want you to fall, it’s icy,” he explains as he reaches past her to open the passenger door. He pauses there, his massive chest pressed to her shoulder, her hand still feeling as small as a child’s in his but something is not quite right.

“Have you been...drinking?” The scent is familiar and he is so close that she can almost taste the oak barrels the whiskey on his breath was aged in.

“I had one, before I came here,” he says defensively, letting go of her hand and moving away from her at the same time. 

“Give me the keys.” She holds then hand out that he had just been holding, her skin still warm from being tucked in his. He looks at her hand and then up at her as if she’s done something foolish, his eyes narrowed, his full mouth pressed into a flat, unhappy line. “Being seen with me is one thing, being pulled over and having a cop smell that on your breath...,” she lets her voice trail away as the inherent danger of even the threat of a dui comes to roost in his mind. He fishes the keys from his pocket and bounces them in his big hand once before he presses them into hers. 


She shoehorns herself behind the wheel, moving the chair back and forth until her toes barely reach the pedals but her swollen belly is not pressed against the wheel. He feels guilty and turns to stare out the passenger window as she puts the big vehicle in reverse and slowly backs it out of the parking lot.
“I wondered if you’d come to the game,” he blurts out as she eases the SUV onto the street. She drives like his mother, slower than strictly necessary and with both hands gripping the wheel as if there is a chance it might get away from her. 

“So you passed everything? You’re cleared to play?” she asks, he thinks, unnecessarily. 

“Yeah...uh, I thought we could go somewhere, to y’know...celebrate,” he adds, although some of the flash, the shine has gone out of the idea for him now that he is not in complete control. It’s petulant and he knows it but he jams his fists into the pockets of his jacket and grinds his teeth just the same. 

“I’m happy for you,” she says and by the tone in her voice he knows that she genuinely means it. He glances over at her, at the way she glances in both the rear view mirror and the side mirrors before she changes lanes, at the look of utter concentration on her face as they come to a stop at a red light. They could already have a ‘baby on board’ decal on the car she is that careful. “But I’m tired,” she sighs, shooting him a regretful look. The red reflection of the stop light shines on her face and makes her eyes seem very dark but her lips look as red as maraschino cherries and his gaze lingers there, thinking about how they might taste. “My ankles are so swollen...I just want a bath and then put my feet up,” she continues as the light turns green and she eases the Land Rover forward again. 

“Well maybe we can stop at a store, get something I can make while you have your bath,” he suggests.

“You can cook?” Her mouth pulls back across her teeth and there is a playfulness in her smile that makes him swallow the immediate retort that comes to mind. 

“Well no, not really,” he says honestly. “But I can heat something up or put it in the oven. I’m pretty good at that,” he adds, a smile finally pulling at the corners of his mouth as she laughs, the sound of old wind chimes filling the vehicles darkened cabin. 

“Okay, it’s a deal. Maybe we can find some kosher pickles...every time I gave out a burger today with that pickle on top I wanted to steal it.” 


When she emerges from the bath it is just in time to see him lift the aluminum tray of lasagne from the oven, the cheese melted and just a little crispy around the edges. Her stomach rumbles appreciatively at the sight and he lifts his caramel coloured gaze to meet hers as he puts it down on the counter as if he can hear it. She tugs the elastic from her hair and lets it tumble down over her shoulders and shakes it out before she reaches to pull out a stool. 

“I thought we’d eat at the dining room table,” he suggests with a nod towards the formal dining room. With a shrug she grabs the two plates, forks and knives and follows him into the dark room. He places the lasagne on two table savers and then pulls box of matches from his pocket and lights a pair of ivory coloured taper candles in the middle of the table. She arches an eyebrow but says nothing about the otherwise romantic ambience which includes music from his iPod plugged into the stereo system in the living room being piped into the dining room via speakers in the corner of the room. 

She puts the plates out and goes back for glasses, one red wine for him and one ginger ale for her. When she gets back to the table he has moved the plates so that he is sitting at the head of the table and hers at the corner adjoining his rather than across the table from each other. She raises an eyebrow at this arrangement too but keeps her opinion to herself. 

“I was wondering,” he begins as he dishes the cheesy pasta onto the plates, “if you’d thought about names.” Sliding into the chair meant for her she picks up her glass and takes a sip before she replies. 

“I have,” she begins putting her glass down again and waiting for him to sit. “If it had been a girl I’ve always liked the names Emily or Hannah but for a boy...,” she glances up at him but he is looking down at his plate, his fork already embedded in the cheese and meat, “I thought Anthony or Simon.” She waits for his reaction, searching his handsome features as he brings his fork up to his mouth. There is hardly any change to his expression until his gaze meets hers right before he puts the food in his mouth. 

“As long as it’s not something they can make fun of, like mine,” he adds with a fleeting grin before he slides the food between his lips and begins to chew. She looks down at the food on her plate and tries to school the smile that tugs at the corners of her lips. She can hear the school yard taunts in her mind and knows from what she’s read that it’s true but she can’t quite stop herself from smiling at the idea that the man sitting next to her now was once a boy smaller than the rest who was the prey to school bullies.

“Don’t you have any ideas?” she asks and when he stops chewing and stares back at her blankly she laughs, lifting her hand to cover her mouth. “Well he is yours too, I think you should have a say in what he’s called.” He appears to think about this for a moment and then shrugs as he sticks his fork back in his food. 

“Well it’s not gonna be Troy, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he says quietly. Her heart squeezes in her chest painfully for him, for the angry downturn to his full lips and the way that he stabs at his food. There is no use asking about grandfathers. She knows he has none. 

“Maybe a player?” she suggests quietly. He pokes at his food and then shrugs again. 

“There’s Stevie Y but...I think Anthony or Simon are fine,” he says quietly, lifting his gaze just enough to meet hers so that she can see he is sincere. She nods silently and he lifts another forkful of food towards his mouth. “Simon Anthony Crosby...sounds good to me.” 


She is almost asleep as the opening credits to the movie they have chosen begin. She covers a yawn but her eyes are drooping despite her best efforts to keep them open. He watches her from a safe distance down the couch as she forces her eyes to open wide as Channing Tatum, in his Roman legionnaire’s uniform appears on the screen. 

“Feet,” he says, holding his hands out. She looks at his hands and shakes her head. “C’mon, you said your feet were sore. I have trainers that do this all the time. Feet,” he insists, flexing his fingers until a pale foot emerges from beneath the afghan. He slides closer to her and puts her foot in his lap and begins to work at it, digging his fingers into her instep, listening to the fine cracking of the small bones of her feet as he drags his thumbs over the top of her small foot. She sighs and leans back and gives him a sheepish smile. “Watch the movie,” he instructs. She turns her attention back to his big screen TV, affording him a long look at the pale line of her throat where he watches her pulse beating steadily in her neck. 

When he digs both thumbs into her instep she makes a noise that he’s almost sure he’s heard, once before and he turns his gaze quickly to the screen but doesn’t see action on it. He shifts so that he is almost sitting sideways, so that her foot does not accidentally brush the near erection as his cock rises to the sound of her submission. 

“Other foot,” he commands quietly and she shifts so that the first foot disappears under the throw and the second emerges, pale and small, and slides into his hand. As she shifts, so does the strap on the tank top she is wearing. It falls from her shoulder so that the graceful line of her neck is unfettered. He stares at the long line of exposed flesh and wonders how something so ordinary can make his mouth become dry. 

He runs his hands up the back of her heel towards her calf and her gaze shifts to meet his. He knows his eyes are too wide, as if he’s been caught doing something that he should not, but he does not stop. He massages her calf muscle, working at the tight knot behind her knee and watches while she bites down on her bottom lip, at how she drags it into her mouth, at how the pulse in her throat quickens. 

It would be simple, he thinks, to slide his hands further up her leg, to press her back into the couch and generate more of those little noises and part of him wants to. The other part of him drags his fingers down to her foot again and forces his attention back to the screen. Someone’s head is rolling across a dusty road. A battle is ensuing. 

She tries to withdraw her foot but he holds onto it, working his fingers gently but firmly up the outside edges of her foot. The screen goes to black as the main character is run over by a chariot. He glances over at her. Her eyes are closed. He takes a deep breath and turns his eyes back to the screen. His moment of weakness has passed. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chapter 14

Chapter 14

He hurts, or more correctly he aches in places like his neck and hip from sleeping in a strange position. He stretches and readjusts and then goes to put his arm back around the warm bundle that had been pressed against his side but his hand slides down the smooth leather of the couch and catches in the throw that is bundled in his lap. She is gone. 

Sid rubs at his eyes and blinks into the half light that is leaking through the blinds. He can hear the sizzle and pop of bacon in a pan and can smell coffee brewing. His stomach rumbles. Rubbing sleep from his face and a line of dried drool from his chin, he pulls the throw around him and pads towards the kitchen. 

“Hey,” she says simply, breaking an egg over the pan with one hand. It is as impressive a move to him as when Flower snatches a rising puck out of mid air. He watches her do it again before he takes another step onto the tile floor. 

“I don’t eat breakfast,” he explains, though his stomach disagrees with him, loudly. She smiles and makes a dismissive sound as she reaches for the pepper grinder and twists the head on it in a way that makes him grind his molars together. 

“Are you kidding? It’s the most important meal of the day and you can’t go to the rink on an empty stomach,” she says, not unreasonably. She puts the pepper mill down and moves gracefully despite her present bulk, to the fridge, pulling it open and pulling out a bag of oranges. “Cut these, throw them in the juicer,” she instructs, leaving the bag on the counter beside the cutting board where a big knife is waiting. Dropping the throw onto one of the stools he does as he is bid, slowly, careful not to cut any of his fingers. He doesn’t want any reason not to be back in the line up when the team comes back in a few days. 

“I usually eat when I get finished with my work out,” he explains as he takes one half moon section of orange and rips into the tart flesh with his teeth, letting the vitamin c explode into his mouth. 

“Well that’s stupid and your trainer would probably agree with me that you should have something in your stomach or your body won’t have anything to use as fuel,” she replies in a matter of fact tone that puts him in mind of both his mother and Mario’s wife and he cannot help but imagine her giving their son the same advice. 

“Well I don’t eat bacon unless it’s turkey bacon,” he says, peering at what is in the pan in front of her and deciding that it is definitely not a low fat version. The pieces currently snapping and popping in the fat in front of her are thick and streaky and the sight of them makes his mouth water. 

“A couple of pieces won’t kill you and you’re going to need all the strength you can get,” she shrugs, turning the temperature down on the pan and reaching for a thick slice of multigrain bread which she drops in the toaster. “Marc says you’ve got testing today, to clear you to play. I’d say that’s important enough to make sure your brain and the uh,” she glances at his bare chest, her eyes wandering downwards before they snap back up to meet his, a little too round, like she’s been caught red handed with her hand in the cookie jar, “the umm, rest of you is good to go too.” He squares his shoulders and puffs out his chest and flexes just enough to make her cheeks turn a bright shade of pink before she turns back to the pan and lets her hair hide her expression from him. 

It’s something Jordan would do, he thinks, and maybe a bit childish but he delights in her discomfort all the same. He shouldn’t do it, he tells himself as he goes back to the juicer and drops the orange segments in it, not if there is never going to be anything more than a platonic relationship between them and yet when he steals a glance back at her and finds her watching him his chest expands and so does his smile. 

“Do you want to come to the rink? Watch me pass all the tests with flying colours?” he asks, thinking if she is impressed now how much more impressed she could be. 

“I have to work but uh...maybe another time,” she replies, reaching to get a plate down from the cupboard. His gaze travels down her legs as she goes up on tip toe and he remembers, with a start that makes him cough to cover the gasp that escapes from his lips, what it felt like to have those legs wrapped around him. If only he hadn’t been such a god damned heel.... 

“You don’t have to work,” he snaps a little defensively as he turns back to the juicer, glad of its sudden mechanical roar, hoping that she won’t hear the sudden increase in his heart rate. He makes two full glasses of freshly squeezed juice before he turns the thing off and trusts himself to turn and face her. She is walking two plates towards the breakfast bar. It’s only then that he realizes that she is wearing a property of the Pittsburgh Penguins t-shirt, a shirt that must be his he knows but that isn’t what has him standing stock still in the middle of the kitchen. For a moment he feels the world teetering on its axis, light swirling around him but not in the way he’s become accustomed to. This has nothing to do with any concussion symptoms and everything to do with her maybe, finally admitting to being ‘his’. 

“What am I gonna do, sit around here and watch soaps all day?” she chuckles as if that’s not a possibility.
“Or, like I said, come to the rink,” he replies sincerely, putting the glass down beside her plate and taking a sip from his before he slides onto the stool beside hers. “We could go for lunch after, do some shopping. You said you needed some things...uh...diapers errr whatever,” he adds, trying to remember what it was she had been saying to Vero before they left and wishing now that he had paid better attention. 

“Well yeah I do but...I can’t just quit my job. I mean, not if I want to go back to it,” she replies simply, lifting a piece of buttered toast to her lips. He watches the multigrain bread disappear between her white teeth, watches those teeth bite into it and shifts uncomfortably on his stool. 

“Why would you want to, if you didn’t have to?” he asks, tearing his gaze away from her mouth as she chews and staring at the greasy bacon and two over easy eggs on his plate. He pokes one of the yokes with his fork and watches the yellow insides leak out. Tearing a piece of toast in two, he dips a corner into the yellow goo and lifts it to his mouth. 

“Because I don’t know what’s going to happen...after,” she answers quietly and he swallows with some difficulty. Just when he thinks they are getting along, after she slept in his arms and they had been chatting so easily, he feels the hair on the back of his neck stand on end and his heart squeeze painfully in his chest. After the baby is born...and then what, it’s a question he knows he’s been avoiding, a place he hasn’t wanted to go yet because he isn’t sure what the answer is or how he will feel. 

“Yeah, I guess there’s that,” he mutters as he feels that wall that he had thought had been coming down between them go back up again and they sit, side by side, slowly and silently eating their breakfasts. 


She sits on the edge of the bed she did not sleep in, wearing her uniform, and stares at her feet. She can hear him in the room down the hall, hears him pull the zipper on his gym bag, hears him pulling drawers open and shoving them closed again. The smile that she had worn when she found herself waking up in his arms, her cheek pressed to his shoulder, her head full of his warm musky scent is long gone, replaced once again with the wariness she knows she must maintain. They are not a couple and they are not even friends. This is still a business transaction and despite how it had felt last night when they shared popcorn and laughed at the witty dialogue in the old movie, she is well aware that she is not here in his house because he really wants her here. She can’t remember which song it is but the term ‘comfy prison’ keeps coming to mind as she slips her feet into her comfortable shoes. 

Despite the way it felt to wake up in his arms, she reminds herself of the paperwork in the manila envelope in the drawer of her bedside table that reminds her that a blood and hair will be taken the moment the child is born to prove that he is the child’s father but that there are no promises beyond that moment. Their deal does not go beyond that point but she knows that there will be another deal then, more paperwork and more lawyers. It is a thought that makes her feel cold inside. 

Her hand moves to her stomach as she feels their son stretch and tumble in a way that makes her wince. He was not made out of love and though she knows that she will love him, no matter what, the murky future ahead of them fills her with a sort of dread that makes it difficult for her to plan for his arrival and even more difficult for her to look forward to that day.

The vibration of an incoming text pulls her back to the present and she reaches for her phone to find a text from Vero. 

Just saw the cutest bassinette on line, Marc & I so buying it 4 u

Fern’s fingers hover over the keys, wanting to tell her not to, that it would be too much but instead she asks the slim brunette to wait. 

B 4 U do, send me the link. Saw 1 the other day at a 2nd hand store

She sends her reply and then slips her phone into the front pocket of her apron. She can hear the door to his room opening and knows that he will call for her when he gets to the top of the stairs. Fern gets to her feet with some difficulty and then waits for a wave of nausea to pass before she crosses the floor and reaches for the door handle. 

A quiet, respectful knock stops her from opening the door.

“Fern, you want a ride?” he asks through the door. She smiles but tries to dampen that smile before she opens the door. 

“Thanks, that would be great,” she says quietly as she opens the door. He has a ball cap pulled down over his eyes but it is to his full, sensuous mouth that her gaze is drawn. Just as she had when she’d woken up, she feels the inexorable pull towards that mouth, whetting her own lips with the tip of her tongue as she looks at it. 

“You okay?” he asks as she nearly stumbles, his strong, steady hands clasping her upper arms and steadying her.

“Yeah, just...dizzy or something. I’ll be fine,” she mutters, putting on a brave face and her professional waitress’s smile. 

“Are you sure? I can take you to the doctor or the ER if you want,” he says, actual concern making his brow knit and his mouth purse. She stares at his mouth and then gives her head a shake. 

“I just get a little faint sometimes when I get up. I’ll be fine,” she assures him and his hands slide from her arms, leaving behind a faint tingling feeling that is both warm and the tiniest bit painful. His eyes narrow as if he doesn’t believe her but then he looks away and waits for her to pass him. Her heart sinks, just a little. There is a part of her that had hoped he would insist, that he would put aside everything to be with her but the more pragmatic side of her dismisses that thought as she holds her chin up and makes her way out to his car.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chapter 13

I hope Santa was good to you all and that you had some good down time with friends and family. I have this week off so I hope that means I'll be able to get some writing done now that I'm not cooking and wrapping and shopping etc...

“This is a really fucking stupid idea.” Sidney shushes his teammate and glares at him ominously before glancing over his shoulder to see if she’s heard. From where she’s standing chatting happily in the kitchen with Vero he is guessing that she has not but he gives Jordan a shove nonetheless. “Well it is,” Jordy continues as they head down the hall with another box of his things to the room that is down the hall from the one that she has chosen for herself. Despite his protests she did not take the master, so he has. 

“She’s almost seven months pregnant, it’s not like I’m going to want to jump her,” he mutters, putting the box he is carrying down beside the bed. He has not told anyone about the kiss and he hopes that she has kept that piece of information to herself. He feels strange about it and tries not to think about it too often.

“Obviously, gross,” TK makes a face and then he and Jordan both start making wretching noises and sticking their fingers down their throats until Sid picks up a pillow and tosses it in their direction.

“I mean, she’s gonna cramp your style man,” Jordy continues, wiping at the tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes. Sidney makes a mental note for next years’ Halloween party, the Batabi brothers. 

“He’d have to have a girl to bring home first,” the soft lisp of Marc’s voice and his hand on his shoulder have a soothing quality that brings a smile to Sid’s face. He turns and aims that smile at his friend but MAF quickly looks away. 

“I have some numbers you could borrow,” TK says, immediately digging in his pockets and producing a number of ragged pieces of napkin and torn pieces of paper. 

“Dontchu just get them to put them in your phone?” Jordan asks, diving for some of the crumpled pieces that have fallen to the floor. 

“I like collecting them,” TK grins holding up two fistfuls of numbers like they’re the Rocket Richard trophy. 

“I bet you wack off on them to,” Jordy smirks just before TK lets go off his prized possessions and tackles the tall blonde forward onto the bed. 

“I’ve got a ten that says TK pins him,” Sid chuckles, turning to see if MAF agrees only to find the club’s goalie gone. 


“Oh.” It’s the only sound she can make upon finding him sitting in the near darkness in nothing more than a pair of black form fitting boxer briefs. His skin is moonlight pale and there seems to miles of it. She pulls her black satin robe closer around her. Not that it helps. This robe was not meant to hide the swollen belly of nearly seven months pregnant woman. Still, it is all she has to hide behind and that is what she wants to do as her gaze travels across the distance between his massive shoulders.

“Can’t sleep either?” he asks, reaching to push the barstool next to him at the breakfast bar back so that she can easily slide onto it. 

“Can’t seem to get comfortable, new bed,” she explains. He nods and produces a second spoon as if he’d anticipated her arrival. There is a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in front of him. She raises an eyebrow. He shrugs.

“Feeling sorry for myself.” As much as he’d wanted them to, his teammates had not been able to stay and christen the house. They are off on a road trip; another one, without him. She picks up the pint and examines it closely, peering in the near dark to read the ingredients. 

“Just checking it’s not soy or something,” she grins before scooping some of the chocolate and marshmallow goodness into her mouth. They eat, side by side, in companionable silence for a while, each savouring the calorie laden milky creaminess as well as the silence of the house around them. Or at least she enjoys the silence. She feels certain that he’d have liked them to stay as a form of prophylactic against having to spend time alone, with her. 
“Are you scared?” he asks out of the blue, breaking the silence between them. She chews contemplatively for a moment on a chocolate covered almond and then nods.

“I’m hoping for some good drugs,” she smirks, skirting the question she knows that he is asking. 

“But what is there’s something...y’know...wrong?” he asks, poking at the ice creams with the tip of his spoon and digging out his own nut to chew on. She licks her spoon clean and then lays it carefully on the granite countertop so as not to create any noise.

“Then I guess I’ll love him no matter what and we’ll deal with whatever we need to.” Her answer sounds braver than she feels inside as she says it. The closer the time comes the more she worries that it will all be more than she can handle. He stares at the pint of ice cream but doesn’t dig into it. To ask the question she knows that it must be preying on his mind and that it isn’t just being left behind on this one, last road trip that has him up in the middle of the night eating ice cream. “What about you?” she asks quietly, her heart suddenly refusing to beat as she holds her breath, waiting for his answer. At any moment he could change his mind and deny her and the child; that is the thought that has her wandering the big empty house like a ghost.

“I worry for him...him being compared to me,” he admits quietly with the shrug of one massive bare shoulder, “and if there’s something...if he isn’t quite.....” His voice fades as if he cannot or will not give voice to the words that are obviously at the tip of his tongue. The very real concern in his eyes makes her heart pound so hard in her chest she wonders if he can hear it. Reaching for his hand, she covers it with her own and squeezes.

“He’s gonna be just fine,” she tells him, feeling certain of it in that moment. He gives her a half smile in return and does not look nearly as certain.  She starts to pull her hand away but with the smallest movement of his thumb, he captures her hand in his. She looks down at their joined hands and then up into his eyes, eyes that seem to glow in the dark as he looks at her. 

She squirms under the weight of his gaze. He is searching her face, looking at her as if he has never seen her before. She reaches with her free hand for the ice cream, her fingertips barely grazing the rim of the container. His gaze breaks from her face and he pushes the container into her hand.

“I think I’ll try and get some sleep,” he mutters, sliding onto his feet. She watches him pad slowly away down the hall. The door to the master bedroom opens and closes. She does not take another bite of ice cream. She puts the top on it and puts it back into the freezer and puts the spoons in the dishwasher and then heads for the living room, pulls a thermal throw around her, finds an old black and white movie and settles in for the night. 


He lies awake, staring at the ceiling. He’d like to think that this wakefulness is a symptom of his head injury, except that he’s been symptom free for weeks now. The churning in his gut is more than the nausea brought on by his concussion but he is not willing to admit that it has anything to do with the young woman in the room down the hall. He tells himself it is all about the child she is carrying and he almost believes it. 

When Vero instructed him to take good care of her as they stood in the driveway saying their goodbyes, it was easy for him to make that promise. He feels protective of her, or at least of the child she carries. He tells himself that it is natural, instinctual and he is a slave to his instincts out on the ice so he feels no reason to ignore them off the ice. He does not; however, understand the overwhelming urge he has had again to kiss her. He wanted to do that tonight when she’d tried to console him. He’d wanted to capture her full mouth with his and taste her lips. 

Closing his eyes he does his best to dismiss the image from his mind. He has made her a promise that they will be friends and roommates and he has no intention of being anything more to her and yet he continues to have these possessive thoughts that leave him lying awake, thinking about her and now that she is so close, that she is right down the hall, his body refuses to relax. 

“She is the mother of my child,” he tells himself quietly, turning over to curl around his pillow while he squeezes his eyes tight and does his best to force her big, brown eyes from his mind. “It’s natural I should feel something,” he continues, trying to wrap his mind around these strange emotions he is feeling. There is a young boy inside him that is making faces and disgusted noises at the idea of feeling any kind of attraction to a pregnant woman with her distended belly and yet, her full ripe breasts and the sort of glow she walks around captures his attention time and again. 

Sidney shuts his eyes tight and tries his best to bring to mind hockey plays, like going over tape with the boys. He even imagines Dan pointing out flaws, encouraging them to do better, coming up with new and innovative plays they can try in the next game. But even as he does, as he stares at the white ice with the players racing around, as he tries to imagine himself on the ice, it isn’t the puck he focuses on. Instead he stands in the middle of the ice, ready to take a face of and looks up into the stands for her with those dark rimmed cat’s eye glasses and simple pony tail. Not a model, not a sexy siren of the silver screen; just the girl from the diner. 

Groaning, he rolls onto his stomach and presses his face into his pillow. There is a simple explanation for this he tells himself, and yet that does nothing to help him expunge her from his thoughts. Rolling his hands into fists he beats them into the mattress. He is at once angry with her for putting him in this position and drawn to her in a way that he cannot understand but beating the mattress into submission gets him nowhere and sleep eludes him and once again he finds himself on his feet, walking patterns around the carpet of the large, lavish and lonely room with its empty king sized bed and a silence that feels like a weight on his shoulders.  

His life is upside down and frustrating enough without this, he thinks as he reaches for the handle on the door, thinking somehow that he needs to cast blame on her but as soon as he pulls the door open he shuts it again. It might make him feel better, for now and maybe long enough so that he can sleep but it will not solve their dilemma and, he knows as he runs his fingers through his dark hair, fighting with her will only make it worse. 

Heading back to his bed he sits on the edge of the mattress and stares at the back of the closed door. This arrangement that he had instigated, that he had thought would make it easier to keep her from being found out by the media, has him feeling like a tiger in a cage and that thought makes him smile. It is not a gilded cage for her, as his father had thought it would be, it is a fortress of solitude for him. 

Her high, bell like laughter suddenly rings out in the silence and the gloom of his room and he lifts his head, nosing the air like a predator, the warm scents of popcorn and butter making his stomach contract and his fingers dig into the mattress. 

“How can she laugh?” he hisses to himself as he glares at the back of his bedroom door as if he is waiting for day break and his jailor to free him. Giving his head a shake he pushes himself to his feet and heads for the door. “My house,” he mutters to himself and drags the door open and pads almost silently down the hall.
There is a light, a sort of blue silver glow on the walls as he reaches the living room and finds her tucked into one corner of the couch under a throw, watching some old black and white movie with a guy and a little dog and some not bad looking chick in a fancy gown. 

“Want some?” she asks, holding up the bag of microwave popcorn that is so fresh it is still steaming. 

“You don’t mind?” he asks, scrambling over the back of the couch, grabbing the end of the throw and pulling it over his lap. 

“Can always make more,” she shrugs before tossing a handful of popcorn into her mouth and chewing happily. Sid blinks at her and then at the screen and then digs his hand into the bag.

“So what are we watching?” he asks, his mouth full.

“Shadow of the Thin Man,” she replies, reaching her hand out for him to tip some popcorn into. 

“So what’s going on?” he asks as she tosses a couple of hot buttery kernels into her mouth.

“Well there’s this racetrack see and....”