Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chapter Twenty Four

I never thought my head could hurt this badly in my life. Mental note to self, never EVER drink a ton of vodka right after you have a concussion. Stupidest idea on the planet earth. I rolled over in bed with absolutely no idea how I got there. The last thing I remember was bringing Geno a drink. What happened after that? I got up, stumbled to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Red eyes, hair a mess, and make-up smudged. I looked like the hangover poster child. I splashed some water on my face, put my hair in a pony tail and walked back into the bedroom. I sat down on the bed as I tried to gather my thoughts, but then I heard noise from down in the kitchen. Thank God Max was here. I really needed some answers. As I rounded the corner into the kitchen and saw Kris sitting at the table, I knew something was definitely wrong. He was hovered over the newspaper and didn’t even hear me enter the room.

“Uh, hi Kris,” I said from the entryway. He jumped, shoved the paper in his lap and turned around.

“Good morning, Riley. I tried to cook for you, but I’m not too good,” he said, blushing. I looked over at the burnt bacon in the frying pan and immediately felt sick to my stomach.

“Aw, thanks. I don’t think I could eat anything anyway.” I walked over to the table and sat down opposite from him, bracing myself for whatever bad news he had to give. This was it, wasn’t it? I made a complete fool of myself at the club last night and Max finally decided that he didn’t want to be with me anymore. We were officially over before we even began and he hated me so much that he sent Kris over here to break up with me for him. “Where’s Max?”

“Oh Max? He’s at the…” The last few words of his sentence were inaudible.

“The where?”

“Oh just the…” Another inaudible sentence.

“Come on Kris, where is he?”

“Thepolicestation.” He said it so quickly that I wasn’t sure I heard him right.

“The police station?!” I got up from my chair and walked to the counter and back. “What do you mean the police station?!”

“It’s no big deal really,” Kris said quickly. “There was a tiny little altercation last night. But really, no big deal.”

“Oh good God! Let me see that paper.” I extended my hand towards the newspaper in his lap.

“It’s nothing to see really it’s just---”

“Give me the paper now, Kris.” He handed it over and I flipped it to the sports section. Staring me right in the face was that hideous picture of Geno kissing me in the locker room yesterday. The caption underneath it read ‘True love at last?’. I shuddered and scanned the rest of the paper. At the very bottom in huge bold letters there read a headline. ‘Penguin Brawl’. My breath caught in my throat as I read the rest of the article.

‘Last night at popular Penguin hangout, Club Diesel, dancing and drinking weren’t the only entertainment of the night. After a little too much to drink, two players began exchanging some words and much to everyone’s surprise, an actual physical fight erupted. Sources say that at first the fight was strictly between the two men, but soon other players jumped in and it became an all out brawl. We have received word that some of the players were even brought down to the station. As of now, no charges were pressed.’

I let the paper fall from my hands and flutter to the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. This was not happening. No way. Going down to the police station?! Alright, time to wake up from this nightmare.

“What happened last night, Kris?”

“Well, you got really drunk and Max wanted to take you home, so he told Geno that he didn’t care what his opinion was, he was taking you home no matter what. Then Geno got in his face and said that if Max wanted to take you home, he’d have to go through him first and then Max hauled off and punched Geno in the face. And then Geno got pissed and punched back and he was beating Max up pretty bad. You know how big Geno is. It was really tough to watch. So then Jordan jumped in and started defending Max and he was beating up on Geno, telling him to leave Max alone and that Max only had your best interests in mind and that Geno was too much of a moron to see that. And, well, Jordan’s a pretty big guy too so the fight was a little more equal. And then from out of nowhere Ryan, jumps in, taking Geno’s side. I have absolutely no idea why. So then it was two against two. But you know how Sid hates fighting? So he stepped in to try and stop it, but a stray fist caught him in the side of the face and his nose started bleeding. Then he got pissed and asked Ryan what he did that for. And Ryan didn’t even care, he was just like ‘well, you were in the way’ so then everyone was just like punching randomly and then Tyler goes over there to give it another go at breaking things up, but it was no use. He just got sucked into the fighting too. And I’m thinking this is all crazy because they’re all teammates. Like what are they doing, you know? But then from somewhere in the middle of all of that, Max yells at me to take you home. And I grab you and as I’m leaving, everyone’s standing around staring and then I call Flower and tell him what happened and he said he was coming over there to try and talk some sense into them. And when we got back here, I put you in bed and I decided to stay, you know, just in case you got sick or something. And then I got a text from Dan, saying that practice was cancelled. And I knew something really bad had to have happened for practice to be cancelled. And then I got another text from Flower, saying that they all went down to the police station. And yeah that’s it.”

I honestly couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was absolute, ABSOLUTE insanity. I was coming between a team. This was just…wow. I sat down on the floor and put my head in my hands.

“Oh my God, Kris. Oh my God. I can’t believe it. This is all my fault. I bet they never wanna see me again. Any of them. I wouldn’t blame them either. I mean, who wants someone who causes this much trouble hanging around. I’m poison. I’m poisoning their team. I’m awful. I’m ruining everything.” Kris sat down next to me and put his arms around me. I let my head rest on his shoulder.

“Shh. You’re not ruining anything. It’ll be okay. Honestly. You’re not coming in between anybody.”

“OH MY GOD! I’m the Yoko Ono!”

“Will you stop? You’re not the Yoko Ono. Just relax. Everyone’s going to be fine. Nobody hates you, I promise.”

Max’s Point of View
“What the fuck is this?!” Dan yelled at all of us once he got down to the station. When no one answered, he repeated the question. “Are you all deaf?! I said, what the fuck is this?” I had never seen coach this angry…ever. “I have to come down to cancel practice because half of my players are in the station?! Oh, someone better have a good ass explanation for this and someone better have it now!” His gaze sat heavily on Sid and I felt extremely bad for him. He just tried to break it up. “Crosby? Got an answer for your team?”

“It’s not his fault! I started this,” I said, standing up.

“Talbot? Is that you? Jesus Christ look at your face!” He covered his face with both his hands, rubbed his temples and looked back at me. “Start talking.” How in fuck’s sake was I going to explain this? I didn’t want to get Riley in trouble. Think fast.

“Alright well, we were drinking and then I saw Geno and he was…uh, kissing Riley and then I got jealous, because, I liked her or whatever. So then I punched him.” Skepticism spread like wildfire over everyone’s faces and Dan wasn’t buying any of this.

“Sit down Talbot. Anyone care to give me the truth? Or so help me, I will bench all of you! Don’t give me that look Kennedy. I can do it and I will.” Jordan immediately stood up, gave me a shrug, and began telling the whole story. After he was finished, coach sat down and looked at all of us.

“Listen to me, right now. All of you. I don’t care what the hell is going on in your private lives. You leave that shit at home. Everyone get out of here except for Talbot and Malkin.” The guys scrambled for the door and I was left alone with Dan and Geno. “This story is far too complicated for me to even follow, but hear me now. I will not tolerate you two acting out like this, ever again. Just keep up whatever little deal you have where Riley is seen with Geno in public or whatever. I think it’s ridiculous, but that’s just me.” He took a breath, and then looked at us in an almost fatherly way. “I know this sounds odd coming from your coach, but just hear me out. Geno, I think it’s in everyone’s best interests if you just let Riley date whoever she wants to date. Making her be with you in public isn’t going to make her fall in love with you. It’s just not. I have no idea why you chose to bring the media into this though. That was highly uncalled for, but what’s done is done. Now on the other hand, Max, if Geno does indeed want this little scheme, it’s best to respect that, alright? I know you care about her, but if you want to make it easier for everyone involved, you’ll learn to live with it. This is all just too much for me. The shit you guys get into.” He almost laughed a little. “Anyway, I’ll tell this to the rest of the team later, but you guys are walking on eggshells now. I don’t know who called the cops, but God help them when I find out. This is a media buffet. As of now, you are to avoid all press questions having to do with this situation. When we finally release some sort of statement, it will boil down to the fact that you guys just had too much to drink and harmless teasing turned into something more. Jesus, I have no idea how to make this sound remotely good.”

“But what happens when people who were there that night start speaking out?” I asked.

“It’s our word against theirs.”

“Yeah, but what if they all band together or something.”

“Can you shut up for like three seconds?! We’ll worry about that when the time comes. I’m more concerned with whether or not you’ll be able to play. You’re going straight to the arena after this so a trainer can look at you. Seems like you got the worst end of the fight.” I looked to my right into some cheesy mirror that said ‘You could be the hero’. I had two black eyes and my right cheek was swollen. My nose felt tender, I hoped to God it wasn’t broken, and my lip was busted. “Alright, let’s go.” Geno walked out ahead of us and Dan caught my arm. “I’m sorry about everything that happened. But I think that now that the media’s involved, you might want to just go along with this Geno scheme. It’s obvious he introduced her to the press to get back at you for cheating with her, but maybe it’s a good idea to humor it, at least until this whole thing blows over. I know it won’t be easy, but I think it’s what’s best. I can’t tell you how to live your life, Max, but think about it.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chapter Twenty Three

I watched Geno lead Riley out of the locker room and I felt my heart ache. I wanted nothing more than to run after them, take her in my arms, and punch Geno’s lights out. I pinched the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. Jordan sat down next to me and cleared his throat until I looked over at him.


“I saw what happened back there?”

“Back there? It happened right in front of us.”

“You know what I mean! Anyway, why is Riley still with Geno? What happened in the hospital last night?”

“It was perfect last night. I couldn’t ask for a better night. It was this afternoon that was fucked up. Ryan told Geno that Riley and I were seeing each other behind his back and then it just went downhill from there. Now Geno wont let Riley be with me in public to hold up some bullshit appearance thing. I don’t know. It all sounds like some made up load of shit and him just being jealous.” I watched as Jordan nodded.

“Where’d they go?”

“Where do you think? Diesel.”

“Then what are you doing sitting here?! You have to go keep an eye on them.”

“What for? It’s just gonna piss me off.”

“’What for’? Are you friggin insane? Just in case he…I don’t know. Tries something.”

“Geno? He’s not gonna try anything. I don’t even think he wants anything to do with her. It’s publicity, remember?”

“Yeah, but you never know. She’s hot, Max. And after a few drinks…”

“Okay! We’re going!”

Riley’s Point of View
Geno drove one handedly the whole way over to the club, keeping a death grip on my wrist with the other. It was like he thought I was going to jump out of the Porsche in the middle of traffic. I was desperate to escape him, but not that desperate. The ride was awkward and silent and all I wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed. Ideally with Max by my side. When we finally got to the club I was about two seconds away from telling him off, but I held my composure and followed him into the VIP section.

“Vodka,” he spat at me before I could even sit down. Oh. Hell. No. I was not about to be his bitch for the evening.

“Get it yourself,” I replied, with venom in my voice. I started to walk away, but before I could take two steps, his hand was back on my wrist.

“Get it, or I tell them you cheat with Max. Bad for everyone,” he said with a smirk. I didn’t think it was possible for me to feel this much rage at one time. I turned on my heel and, in a blind fury, made my way to the bar. I couldn’t deal with this right now. He was threatening me. That son of a bitch was threatening me. Just wait until I tell Max. He’ll go insane. Once I was at the bar, I ordered two vodka tonics. I planned on that being one of many throughout the night.

“I’ll pay for that,” Max’s warm breath made my skin tingle as he spoke into my ear and slipped an arm around my waist. “You have no idea how long I just wanted to touch you.” I set my drinks on the bar and turned into Max. He was smiling so broadly and I couldn’t have felt happier. But then I remembered who I came here with. I looked over at Geno who had some skanks draped over his lap. So he was able to have a good time, but I wasn’t? “Can we…?” He looked in the direction of Geno as well but this time he was staring back at us.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think so. It got worse. But I’ll tell you later okay?” He was frowning at me with obvious disappointment.

“I fucking hate him,” he said bitterly.

“Tell me something I don’t know. I’ll try and catch you later.” Geno was once again distracted by the girls and I quickly pecked Max on the cheek and walked back to Geno. “Here’s your drink.” I shoved the glass at him and took a seat. He drank it quickly and resumed his conversation with the girls. I sat there for the next hour as Geno had his arm carelessly draped over my shoulders while he flirted with other women. I knocked back about five vodka tonics in the course of this time and I wasn’t really feeling anything anymore. I barely noticed when Jordan sat down next to me.

“Max sent me over here to keep you company.”

“Maxie? Where is he?” I looked around, but the spinning room didn’t afford me a good look.

“He’s over there, talking to Tyler.” I looked in that direction and saw some blonde all over him.

“If you’ll scuse’me Jordan. I need to see what’s doing.” I heard Jordan mumble something about too much to drink, but I ignored him and walked over to where Max and the blonde were.

Max’s Point of View
I saw Riley walking over to me and I felt a smile come over my features, this blonde girl was unceasingly hitting on me and I was trying to politely turn her down, she just wouldn’t take the hint. My smile quickly faded however when I saw how much Riley was staggering. I knew this could only mean all sorts of trouble.

“Excuse me,” she said a little too loudly. “What’s going on here?”

“Nothing that concerns you,” the blonde said with an edge to her voice.

“Everything that concerns Maxie concerns me too,” she slurred, linking her arm with mine.

“I wasn’t aware he had a babysitter,” the blonde answered. “Or a girlfriend?” I watched Riley’s face fall as she looked from me to Geno.

“I’m not his girlfriend. I’m his…best friend,” she tried. She took a clumsy step in between myself and the girl.

“Whatever,” the girl said and walked away. Riley turned to me and put her arms around my neck.

“I just. I just wanna kiss you. A little bit.” She moved closer to me and I stealthily ducked away.

“Riley, you can’t. Not here. Geno’s watching.” I held her at arms length. My body ached for her, but I restrained myself.

“Just one little kiss?” she pleaded with me. I knew that I couldn’t because if I gave in, it wouldn’t stop at just a peck. When I made it clear I wasn’t budging on the issue, she started to leave, but tripped over her own two feet and ended up on the floor. I helped her up and put her safely in the arms of Tyler.

“That’s it, I’m telling Geno that you’re leaving. Right now,” I said. “Tyler, watch her okay?” He nodded and I walked over to the VIP section.

“Geno, Riley’s drunk out of her mind. She’s leaving right now, with me.”

“She stay with me.” He stood up so he was face to face with me. I was in no mood for this right now.

“I’m pretty sure this is universal in every language, so fuck you.” I turned and Geno stepped in front of my path.

“In public she mine. You not taking her.”

“She’s not a piece of property. No one owns her, okay? I’m taking her home.” Geno wouldn’t let me around him.

“You want her, go through me.” That was all I needed to hear. In about three seconds, fists were flying.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chapter Twenty Two

**so, i absolutely hate advertising myself, but it's time for a little plugging haha. all of a sudden, i had this idea to try my hand at a Sidney Crosby story. it was completely random && the idea just wouldnt leave me alone until i wrote it. so the product of my little idea is this: if you happen to give it a read, i'd love to know what you think of it (:

The last thing I remember hearing was Max’s voice whispering what I assumed were words of comfort in my ear, in French. I took Spanish when I was in high school, never thinking that French would come in handy. Turns out I was wrong on that one. Something about the way the French words rolled off his tongue was immediately soothing to me and I found no trouble falling asleep. When I finally rolled out of bed, by myself, it was nearing 6:15. I dredged up enough energy to take a shower and head downstairs. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water. When I closed the fridge something caught my eye. There was a note underneath my favorite magnet that I picked up in Jamaica. ‘I hope I see you at the game tonight…even though seeing you is all I’ll get to do.—Max’. It’s only been a couple of hours and this whole arrangement was already making me feel terrible. I walked back out to the living room, plopped down on the couch, and whipped out my cell phone.

“Oh my God, Riley! How are you feeling?” Vero’s voice was anxious on the other end.

“I’m doing better, Vero, but so much has happened. I just…I need someone to talk to,” I admitted.

“I’ll be over in fifteen,” she said before hanging up. And sure enough, in fourteen minutes and thirty two seconds, my doorbell was ringing. “Tell me everything.” So I told Vero the whole story of how I made things right with Max and how now Geno was screwing us over.

“And so basically, I’m gonna be spending a lot of time in this house,” I concluded. She looked at me with an expression of both shock and sadness.

“I’m so sorry, Riley. I can’t believe Geno would do something like this! It’s just not in his nature at all.”

“Yeah…I didn’t think it was either. But in some regard it’s exactly what I deserve. I mean, I cheated on him. That was awful of me.”

“Yeah, but you were planning on telling him the truth right away. Damn Ryan had to go and mess everything up.” She banged her delicate hand on the couch cushion. “But hey, look at the bright side. At least you have Max now. And honestly, you guys are perfect!” She smiled at me and I couldn’t help but to smile along with her. She was right, I did have Max and that’s what was most important. Even if it was only in private.

“Alright so let’s get ready!” I got up and climbed the stairs with Vero in tow.

“Ready for what?”

“Um, the game, silly.” I began rifling through my closet looking for that dreaded ‘Malkin’ jersey that I would be spending so much time in.

“Seriously, Riley? You just suffered a concussion and you’re going to a hockey game?!”

“I just can’t stay in this house. Thinking about how much time I’m gonna be spending here is making me crazy.”

“That’s true. Max gave you a ticket?”

“Nope, my family has season tickets and if you want, you can sit down there with me!” I saw her smiling when I looked up in the mirror.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” So with that, we drove our separate cars to the stadium where parking was a total nightmare because we arrived about ten minutes before the puck was going to drop. When we finally got situated I noticed Max staring at me from his place on the bench. A smile spread across his face as I felt Vero nudging me with her elbow. “Oooooo” She whispered as I felt my heart fluttering. There were seventeen thousand other people here and all he wanted to see was me. Something about that was overwhelming. I felt my breathing become hitched and I thought I was going to have one of the panic attacks I hadn’t experienced since eleventh grade. I wondered how I could be what he really wanted. Vero brought me back to reality. “Whoa, are you okay, Riley? You look kind of pale?” I looked around and noticed that the game had already started.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I put on my most cheerful smile and settled in to watch the game. The Penguins proudly defeated the Islanders 6-2 and much to my dismay, Geno scored the hat trick. This could only mean that there would be a million people from the press there and I wouldn’t be able to rush back home and be with Max. I dutifully made my way down to the locker room area and hung out in the lounge with Vero. We chatted about nothing as we watched the players file out one by one. Marc finally came for Vero and I said goodnight to them while I continued to wait for Geno. After ten more minutes I saw Geno poke his head out of the locker room, apparently looking for me. I stared blankly at him as he made his way over and I was pissed to see that he wasn’t dressed yet. He still had his gym shorts on…I guess dealing with the media takes longer than I thought. Especially when there’s a language barrier.

“Come here, Riley,” he called and I obeyed.

“Yes, Geno?” I couldn’t hide the exasperation in my voice.

“I want to show them, come on,” he said dragging me into the locker room. It took a minute for what he said to register, but then I immediately understood. He wanted to introduce me to the damn press! I tried to loosen his grip on my arm, but he wouldn’t give it up. How could he do this to me? I’d never, ever be able to date Max after this. Was this some kind of punishment for cheating on him? I glanced over helplessly at Sergei who purposely wouldn’t meet my gaze. Geno must have told him about this. I wanted to die. The press immediately swarmed when I entered with Geno. “This my good luck. My girlfriend, Riley.” The questions came flying about how long I’d been dating Geno and how long I’d known him and if we were in love and what did I cook for him. I answered them as best I could, thinking up creative lies for each of them. At one point, Geno bent down and kissed me, much to the delight of the press. After minutes that felt like years passed by, the interviewers took their leave and I sat down on the bench, sullen, and waiting for Geno to change. This was most certainly not what I wanted, ever in a million years. I looked up and saw Max sitting across from me. He must have witnessed the whole thing. My heart hurt. I reached into my bag, took out my phone, and began typing a message to him.

“hey you”

“hey. you look gorgeous tonight.” I blushed and looked up at him.

“you’re looking pretty good yourself, superstar.”

“you have no idea how badly i wanted to punch Geno before.” I had some idea.

“you have no idea how badly i wished it was you i was kissing.” I saw him smile a little at that.

“i can’t believe he did that. with the press. jesus.”

“yeah i know. i think he wants me to suffer in some way. you can’t blame him. after all, i did cheat.”

“hell yeah i can blame him. Riley, its not your fault that you didn’t wanna be with him. he should just accept that.”

“yeah but i CHEATED.” I looked up and he was frowning at me.

“that really bothers you, huh?”

“more than you’ll ever know.” Geno hovering over me interrupted my thoughts.

“We’re going to Diesel,” he said gruffly, reaching for my hand. I took his hand and followed him out of the locker room. He did not want to give me a break tonight.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chapter Twenty One

“Good job! You win!” Max said happily, planting a kiss on my forehead. We had been playing a game where he gave me an NHL team and I supplied him with the city or state in which they played.

“And what do I win?” I asked looking up at him.

“A date with a Superstar, of course,” he answered with a smile.

“Eh, I think I’ll pass,” I said rolling over with my back to him. Max slid his arms around my waist and buried his face in the crook of my neck.

“I think you’ll change your mind,” he murmured. His words sent electric waves through my body and I felt as if I was on fire.

That night could go down in the history books as one of the best nights of my life, even though it was spent in a hospital. I pleaded with my doctor to let Max stay and after much begging, he finally caved. The doctor had advised me to get as much rest as possible, but I was too excited to sleep therefore sleep came in twenty minute intervals. The rest of my time was divided between kissing Max and answering ‘yes’ every time he asked if this was for real. The pain in my head was subdued by the medicine I was given and even though I knew that I’d be feeling it tomorrow, I didn’t care at that point. I didn’t care about anything except being there with Max. I awoke the next morning by myself and I had to squint to see because the sunlight was coming through the window in bizarre unnatural streaks. I looked to my left and realized why. A giant vase with roses sat on the bedside table and the sunlight peeked between the flowers and leaves. I reached up and grabbed the card. On one side it said ‘Get Well Soon’ and on the other, Max had written a message. ‘I wish I could have woken up with you, but practice was mandatory. Sometimes it’s hard being a world famous hockey player! Oh well. I heard that you’re being released today, so I’ll come by your house after practice. Miss you! No I don’t…yeah I do. But not really. Sort of. Yeah, yeah I guess I do.’ I rolled my eyes at the complete idiocy of the card and reached up to finger a flower. They were a beautiful deep red and their aroma was intoxicating. The flowers and the card were like the two sides of Max. The flowers being the mushy, sensitive side and the card being his silly, childish side. It baffled my mind how someone could have two completely different sides to them like he did. Around ten thirty the doctor came in to run some final tests and once I was cleared, I was in a cab and on my way home. I walked up the pathway noticing that all the flowers had been removed. I thanked God for this as I struggled with trying to open the front door while holding the new bouquet. Once inside, I placed the roses on the living room coffee table and went upstairs to get two Motron. After taking the pills I went back downstairs and stretched out on the couch. I had every intention of staying up and waiting for Max, but the next thing I knew I was waking up to someone gently rubbing my feet. I would have screamed if I hadn’t been so tired.

“How’d you get in here?” I asked groggily looking at the clock that read 2:30.

“You really shouldn’t leave your spare key in such an obvious place. Under the front mat? Come now, Riley,” Ryan said in a demeaning voice.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and becoming more alert.

“That was a cute little stunt you pulled. Stepping in front of Jordan like that. Very cute,” he continued, ignoring my question. “What was he doing here in the first place? Are you fucking him too?” I looked at him with disgust.

“Not that it’s any of your God damned business, but he had something to talk to me about.” Ryan’s look faltered for a moment, but then he regained his composure.

“What about?”

“Nothing that concerns you. And just so you know, I’m not fucking anybody, okay? Not Geno, not Max, not Jordan, and certainly not you ever again.”

“I’m not sure just how much of that is true. You’re dating Geno, and you’re not sleeping with him? I find that hard to believe. And Max? Ha! Max won’t be sticking around for long if there’s no sex involved.”

“It’s not like that with us!” I felt myself becoming angrier and the need to defend Max overwhelmed me.

“’Us’? Are you and Max an ‘us’?” A smug look taking form on his face.

“I’m dating Geno. You know that.”

“That’s not an answer to my question is it? Or actually, that’s all the answer I need.” I eyed him carefully.

“All the answer you need for what?”

“I’m sure Geno would love to know exactly what’s going on between you and Max.”

“There’s nothing going on. So there’s nothing to tell.” I answered defiantly. He kept his stare locked on mine.

“That sounds perfect, then. I’ve got Geno and Sergei waiting outside. Let me just run and get them!” Before I could even say anything Ryan was out the door and in a matter of seconds, both Geno and Sergei were with him.

“Bugsy tell me that you see Max?” Geno asked staring at me.

“Geno, I---” I started but he cut me off.

“Is true?” Geno asked again staring at the ground. At that point in time I just wanted to die. And what I least wanted was what happened next. Ryan had left the door slightly ajar and Max ambled right through it and into the middle of our little scene. Shouldn’t all of these guys be taking a pregame nap or something?!

“Riley?” Max asked surveying the situation. I looked up at Max who looked beyond confused, then over at Ryan who wore the smuggest expression I had ever seen. I looked back at Max who had finally seemed to put the pieces together. He began to slowly back towards the door when Ryan called him out.

“Leaving so soon, Max?” Max didn’t answer, just froze in place and continued to watch the rest of us. All I really wanted to do was grab his hand and run out the door.

“Riley. It’s true.” Geno stated aloud. He looked up at me and I nodded. I felt my heart breaking for him as he sat down on my couch and put his head in his hands. The same position I had been in yesterday when Jordan came to talk to me. I walked over to him and placed my hand on his shoulder but he jerked away from me. He had every right to. I was awful and he didn’t deserve this. Suddenly though, he began speaking very swiftly and angrily to Sergei who just nodded in understanding. When he was done I looked to Sergei. He seemed uncertain if he should tell me, but Geno nodded and Sergei began.

“Well, Riley, Geno’s really upset that it had to end this way. He really liked you. He really likes you and it’s hard to imagine you with anyone else. That being said, to protect both of your reputations, it’s best if you act as if you’re continuing to see each other. The media has already spotted the two of you out and you can just imagine how it would look if, say tomorrow, you were walking down the street hand in hand with Max. So, until a respectable amount of time passes you will be seen in public with Geno, you will sport his jerseys at games, and you will go to events with him. And after that time passes, you guys will have a clean, swift break up. Then, when another respectable amount of time passes, you may begin seeing Max publicly. To the outside world, you are Evgeni Malkin’s girlfriend and behind closed doors, he couldn’t care less what you do. Fair?” My mind could barely process what was just said.

“Fair,” I squeaked back. Sergei stood up and tapped Geno’s arm. Geno took a few steps towards the door before turning around and coming back to stand in front of me. He bent down and placed a quick kiss on my lips before exiting. A kiss goodbye I assumed. I looked over at Max who wore a stunned expression and Ryan’s face held one of equal surprise.

“Get the fuck out, Ryan,” I said icily.

“Wait, Riley I---” he began, but I cut him off.

“What Ryan? What?” I couldn’t stop myself and the tears began to flow. “Are you happy now? Are you finally happy? Look what you did! I can’t even be with who I want to be with in public! We have to keep our whole damn relationship a secret, Ryan! Do you understand that? Do you understand how painful this is going to be for everyone involved?! If I would have handled this the way I wanted to, things would have worked out! It would be different now. But okay Ryan, you won. Alright? I’m a prisoner in my own damn home because of you. Congratulations.” I pushed past him and ran up the stairs and into my room. I slammed the door, but I could still hear them talking downstairs.

“I…I had no idea that it would end up like this,” Ryan said.

“Yeah…I…I don’t know. I think you should, um, leave,” Max responded. Without another exchange, Ryan left. I then heard Max’s footsteps making their way to my room. I was face down on the bed and Max sat down next to me, rubbing soothing circles into my back. “It’ll be okay.” I wanted nothing more than to believe that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chapter Twenty

**so, i'm back earlier than expected && i'm so excited because i got some ideas while i was away && i couldn't wait to get home to write them down! also this is chapter twenty && it sort of feels like a milestone. i can't believe how far this story has come && it all started with one silly idea i had one day haha but enough rambling. thanks for all your comments && support. you guys mean the world <3

Jordan arose from his seated position and nervously wiped his hands on his pants. I could only imagine how crazy he looked to the neighbors. Just sitting there, waiting. He smiled awkwardly as I made my way over to him.

“Jordan?! What are you doing here? Is everything okay? Is anyone hurt?” I babbled the stream of questions at him, not really allowing adequate time for response.

“Calm down, Riley. Everything’s fine. Everyone’s fine. I just wanted to talk to you, if that’s okay?” he asked gingerly.

“Yeah sure, of course.” I opened the front door and ushered him inside. He declined my drink offer and instead took a seat on the armchair.

“Don’t you want to know how I know where you live?” he asked, a small smile creeping across his face.

“I don’t really need the details on how you stalked me, so the floor is all yours for whatever you wanted to talk about.” I laughed and he relaxed.

“I wanted to talk to you about Max.” My chest tightened and a million thoughts began running through my mind. Had Max sent Jordan to tell me that he never wanted to see me again? Was he finally through with my indecisiveness?

“What about Max?” The obvious waver in my voice put Jordan on edge again.

“I know this isn’t really my place, but he’s beating himself up about this and to tell you the truth, I’m kinda sick of hearing about it.” He smiled again and I nodded for him to continue. “The bottom line is that he likes you…a lot.” The words hung in the air and quietly floated around. I was already pretty sure of this, but hearing it from someone else just makes it that much more realistic.

“I may have heard that.”

“And you like him too. I know it. It’s obvious. I really don’t know how Geno doesn’t see it.” I winced at the mention of Geno’s name. It hurt to hear his name brought up in any conversation about Max.

“You’re right.” My voice was now just above a whisper. “You’re absolutely right.”

“I know. Now, all you have to do is break it off with Geno and get with Max!” He smiled broadly, obviously proud with himself.

“Jordan, it’s not that easy. First of all, I’m not one to break hearts. I couldn’t just break up with Geno tomorrow and go out with Max that afternoon. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. And also, this is the more selfish side of me, I don’t want to be the first one to give in. I don’t want to come crawling to Max and tell him how I feel. I thought I could do it before, but I’m not that person.” I put my head in my hands as he got up, sat down next to me, and put his arm around my shoulders.

“I know where you’re coming from, but it wouldn’t be crawling back to him. I’m telling you, you’ll feel so much better if you just do this. Not only for yourself, but for Max and for Geno. You’re stringing Geno along and you’ve got to let him go. You know it. And with Max, he’ll be the happiest guy on the face of the earth once you guys finally get all of this out in the open. You’re both so damn stubborn, but once one of you finally gives in, it’ll all be worth it.” I honestly couldn’t believe how much sense he was making.

“When’d you get so smart?” I asked, hitting his arm.

“I was just born that way.” His triumphant smile never leaving his face.

“Well thank you, so much. You’re right. I’m gonna do it. As soon as I get the chance!”

“Ha! That’s what she said!!”

“Oh my God, you’re a moron.” I rolled my eyes as he stood up, laughing at his own stupid joke.

“Well I really should get going. Thanks for listening. I know I don’t make a lot of sense most of the time, but I had to do this for Max. He’s like my brother and I don’t like to see him upset.”

“Oh that’s cute.” I laughed and opened the door, following him out onto the walkway. I gave him a hug before looking past him and into the street. “Why’d you park so funny?” I pointed at a car parked crooked against the curb in front of my house.

“I didn’t drive here. I took a cab.” In a matter of seconds, I saw Ryan bounding across the grass and up to where Jordan and I stood. His fist was poised as he approached and Jordan was frozen in shock. I quickly stepped in front of Jordan, hoping my presence would deter Ryan, but by the time I moved, Ryan’s fist was already soaring through the air and I felt it making contact with the side of my head. Ryan must have put a lot of power into that swing, because the edges of my vision started to go blurry and as darkness surrounded me, I heard someone call my name, but they sounded very far away almost as if they were underwater. And then, I heard nothing.

Max’s Point of View
Jordan’s words rung in my head as I raced to the hospital.

“There’s been an accident. Riley’s hurt and in the hospital. What? No. She’s alive. Dude, I swear. Well, she was sort of punched. By who? Well, by Ryan. But wait Max! Before you overreact---”

And that was all I heard. That was all I needed to hear. I hung up the phone, grabbed my keys and headed over. I burst through the doors and saw a flock of familiar faces in the waiting room. Vero was there, with Marc by her side. Geno was pacing up and down conversing in quick sentences to Sergei. Jordan was trying to read a magazine, but I could tell that he was staring blankly at a page, not seeing anything at all. And Ryan. I saw red and immediately lunged at him. Jordan was too quick though and held me back, Marc jumping up to help.

“What the fuck are you doing here?!” I spat, rage filling my voice.

“I’m her cousin. I have every right to be here.” He answered with just as much bitterness.

“You’re the one who fucking put her in here!” I shouted at him.

“Um, gentlemen, if there’s a problem I’m going to have to ask you to step outside to resolve it. Otherwise, you need to remain quiet in here,” a nurse said coming over to us. Ryan quickly spun on his heel and walked away and Jordan and Marc released their grip on me. I took a seat next to Jordan.

“What’d the doctor say?” I asked impatiently.

“Nothing yet, she’s still in there, out cold,” Jordan said looking down at the ground. “If she hadn’t jumped in front of me to try and stop him…” He trailed off. I put my arm around his shoulders in a reassuring half-embrace. The next four hours were some of the longest in my life. I willed the clock to move faster but it was of no use. It was approaching two o’clock in the morning when the doctor finally came out.

“Alright, you can all finally stop worrying. Riley’s fine. She suffered a minor concussion and some pretty serious bruising on the left side of her face, but other than that, she’s going to be more than okay,” he said with a smile. All of us breathed an evident sigh of relief. “Now, she’s just waking up and I’m going to let one of you see her. Who’s it going to be?” Ryan, Geno, and I all ran up to the doctor. “Okay, I’m pretty sure I said ‘one’. What’s your relationship to the patient?” His question was directed at Geno.

“I her boyfriend,” Geno said confidently. The doctor then turned to Ryan.

“I’m her cousin,” Ryan answered. I was next.

“I’m her…friend,” I said lamely and I watched Ryan smile broadly.

“Doctor, he’s nothing to her,” Ryan said pointing at me. “And I understand that Geno is her boyfriend, but please let me see her. I’m related to her by blood after all.” The doctor contemplated this for a moment then nodded.

“You’re right, son. Go ahead. Room 827.” Ryan practically skipped down the hallway and the rest of us returned to our seats. Less than five minutes later Ryan was walking back out to us, his smug expression replaced by one of shock.

“She, uh, she didn’t want to see me,” he mumbled. “She…she wants to see you, Max.” I felt a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach upon being requested to be seen by Riley. I got up from my chair and made my way to 827. When I entered the room, a nurse exited and Riley looked over at me.

“Hey you,” she said smiling a little.

“Hey,” I answered breathlessly. I moved closer and saw the left side of her face. Bruised, just like the doctor said. And a pair of butterfly stitches adorned a space above her left eye.

“Sit down.” She patted a space on the side of her bed and I sat down carefully. She then took my right hand in hers and brought it up to her mouth, kissing it gently. I was dumbfounded by her actions and I just stared at her blankly. “I’m glad you’re here, Max.”

“I, um, I’m glad you’re okay.” She smiled again and reached up to run a hand through my hair. I was so taken aback that I had to do this now. There might never be another chance to discuss this when she was so calm and willing. “What do you think of me, Riley?” I let the question hang out there and it took her a while to answer.

“What do I think of you? Well, I think you’re loud, obnoxious, self-centered, arrogant, cocky, stubborn, and annoying as hell. But, there’s another side. The one that’s sweet, kind, selfless, funny, smart, charming, silly, and lovable. That’s the one I like. The one I love.” I was pretty sure that I stopped breathing. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Was this for real? “What do you think of me?”

“I think you’re perfect.” My answer was simple but it conveyed everything I’d felt for what seemed like an eternity. “And I lo---”

“No, don’t say it. Not yet.” She cut me off mid-sentence.

“But you just said it.”

“No I didn’t. I said I love that side of you. Not that I actually love you.” She smiled playfully. “Let’s wait until we get to know each other better before we say it. I want to know everything about you. And I want to tell you everything about me. And we have so much time for that. I just want to be with you.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Are you sure you’re not hopped up on pain meds or something?” I asked, seriously fearing that she was. “Are you gonna forget all of this tomorrow and go back to the way we were?” I watched as she laughed lightly.

“Oh Maxie, no. I’m not even on any pain meds yet. I’m gonna remember everything. This is all coming from me. I’m serious. It’s for real.” I felt a warm sensation flood through my body at the word ‘Maxie’.

“Can I…can I kiss you?” I asked timidly. For once in my life fearing rejection.

“You never, ever have to ask.” I brought my face down to hers and realized that this was our first real kiss. Not one clouded by alcohol or pity. But one of equal want on both sides, when both of us were one hundred percent coherent. Nothing felt more perfect.