Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Next Best Thing to a New Post?

I haven't posted anything new on Something Worth Keeping for a looong time, but that doesn't mean that I've stopped writing. On the contrary: I've been working on new novels of totally new material.

So if you're still out there and still interested, please check out my author blog: Of Ice and Men, and check out what I have in store! It's not Sidney Crosby, but you may like it anyway, so please come take a look!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

11: Say Yes to the Dress

Once the beginning of September rolled around, Sidney moved back down to Pittsburgh with plenty of time to spare before training camp was scheduled to begin. Not only did it allow him to do some promotional work for the Penguins, but we got some major wedding planning done before he joined his teammates on the ice.

The first thing we did was tour the venues for the wedding. We had decided that we weren't going to have a church wedding; it was easier to secure one place for both events, the ceremony and the following reception, to save time and make things easier for the guests and for us. They had June 30th open, which was a Saturday night. It was so expensive to rent the Hall on a weekend night—four thousand dollars for three hours, and we were sure to go over that—and we were then forced to use their concessionaire for the event. But since we were under the gun, Sid jumped on it and booked the Hall. They were so ecstatic to accommodate our needs, and I felt relieved to have a venue. It made the planning feel more manageable and less overwhelming.

Sidney loved trying the food at the caterer's, and he even made an exception about having sweets during the season so he could taste-test the cakes at the bakery. In fact, he had so much fun with the cake that we ended up ordering a massive, five-tiered cake with each layer being a different flavor and frosting combination. We got chocolate with chocolate orange buttercream frosting, vanilla with hazelnut buttercream icing and chocolate Bavarian filling, almond with French vanilla buttercream icing, red velvet cheesecake, and lastly a banana cake with peanut butter mousse filling and caramel chocolate icing. It was definitely a decadent dessert.

However, it wasn't until it was time to go dress shopping that it hit me that I was getting married. As promised, Véro booked an appointment at the Alfred Angelo boutique in Pittsburgh for us. She name dropped, and they ushered my entourage into a suite with Champagne on ice waiting for us. I was surrounded by my bridesmaids and friends, my grandmother, my mother and Trina. Natalie came too, as my mentor and guidance counselor in all things related to being the perfect hockey WAG.

The consultant, Sandra, took me into the back, where all the dresses were hanging in protective plastic bags and asked me a few questions about my style and price range. "Of course, you'd look so beautiful in whatever we pull out," she said, which I was sure she said to every bride-to-be. "Is there a number in your head you're looking to spend?"

I smiled at her, thinking about what Sidney had told me before I left that morning for this appointment. He told me I had an unlimited budget for the wedding, knowing that I was always mindful about expenses and tried to be frugal, but he suggested that my dress not cost more than an entire year's worth of my salary. Honestly, I couldn't even picture myself spending that much for something I'd only wear one day of my life. "Um, well, I'd like to keep it under three, if we could. For the right dress, I'd spend more, but I'd like to see what there is in that range. I don't think I really have a style in mind, just something that looks nice."

Sandra looked at me like I was going to be her toughest appointment ever. After all, little girls were supposed to grow up dreaming about their wedding day; I should have already had a picture of my perfect dress in my head. But I was clueless. I wasn't a girly girl, and the only formal dresses I had in my closet were ones I had to buy to accompany Sid for Penguins' events—and Natalie had helped me pick them all out, as the guru. She never led me astray.

"Well, that's not a lot of help. Why don't you tell me about the wedding? Does the groom have any opinions?"

Laughing, I told her, "He'd like low cut. It's a formal wedding though, so definitely a full-length gown, and something respectable."

"How do you feel about a ball gown?"

"Um, I don't know. Nothing too poofy. I don't want to look like a marshmallow or anything. It's a summer wedding, so maybe not something too heavy."

She nodded. "Okay, so now I have something to work with. I'm thinking something fitted and flowy, not big and 'poofy.' Why don't you go in the back, and I'll pull some dresses for you."

I took her up on her suggestion. First, I helped myself to a glass of the chilled Champagne. It was weird, because I started to feel nervous. Sandra brought five dresses to me, and she and another lady helped me into the first one. I thought it was funny that I was standing in my strapless bra and panties in front of these strangers, but it wasn't awkward because they were so used to it. Soon, I was in the first white gown, the back secured in clamps so the dress looked fitted to my body.

Sandra ran down all the details. "We've got here a halter-top, satin gown with a ruched bodice, with a little bit of a train on it. What do you think, Noelle?"

Even though I didn't really like the dress, I felt myself getting all choked up. Now that I was in a dress, a wedding dress, the whole situation felt so... real. I was getting married. I couldn't help myself; I started to tear up.

"Oh, honey, are you okay?"

"Yeah," I eked out. "Do you have a...." Before I could finish my question, the assistant was handing me tissues. "Thank you." I dabbed at the wetness on my cheeks.

"Do you want to show this to your friends and family?" she asked.

"Sure." I picked up the front of the dress and walked out of the back to wear everyone was sitting and waiting for me. The younger half of the group immediately scrunched up their faces; the older half were gentler with their opinions. My mom's eyes were a little wet, because she was getting emotional like I was. It was a touching moment for us, but we all decided that it wasn't my wedding dress, so I headed back to try on another.

We went through all of the dresses that Sandra had picked out for me, and none of them were "it." We tried five more, and those ones didn't feel right either. Everyone was starting to get restless. There were murmurs among them that we should call it quits and try again another day, and that might have been a good idea. I, too, was starting to get discouraged and was on my third glass of Champagne when Sandra decided to call over another consultant for help.

"Let me see if I can find something," Fiona said, whisking away for the racks of dresses.

I asked Sandra, "Do girls usually pick something out the first time they try on dresses? Or does it usually take this much time?"

She checked her watch; we were going on to our third hour. "Every woman is different. It's your wedding day, so you want the perfect dress. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to find it." I wondered if her diplomatic answer was recited just because I was marrying Sidney Crosby, and she wanted the commission.

Fiona came back fifteen minutes later. "Now, this is a little different than what you've been trying on, so maybe you will like this better. It's satin and strapless, with a subtle sweetheart neckline so you'll have just a little bit of cleavage. Church cleavage, we call it in the business. The fitted bodice has crystal beading, sequins, and rhinestones, with some beading in the ruching and in the skirt. Semi-cathedral train. The skirt has more body than the more flowing dresses you've tried on, but it's not that big and is definitely suitable for a summer wedding."

I stepped into the dress and allowed Fiona and Sandra to lace up the back, watching in the full-length mirror. As they tied up the back, I saw as the dress molded to my shape. I could tell, as soon as I was in it, that I loved it. It wasn't what I had thought I wanted, because I didn't think I was a fan of sparkly embellishments, trains, or a flared skirt, but I truly loved it.

"I think you look phenomenal in this," Sandra said, smoothing out the skirt and spying my reaction in the mirror. "Absolutely stunning."

"Mmhmm," Fiona echoed, smiling and proud of herself for picking it. "What do you think, hun?"

"I...." The words wouldn't pass my lips; I couldn't speak because I was so overwhelmed.

They handed me more tissues. "Now, you don't want to go out there and show them this all red-eyed, do you?"

"No," I sighed, my voice quaking. I wiped my eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm myself down.

"All right. Let's go out there and show 'em."

I pushed my shoulders back and threw my curly hair over my shoulders. I felt like a bride as I walked out into the room in front of my selected group of friends. They were so quiet as they watched me coming, but they were all smiling at me. Natalie grinned and nodded, which was always the sign she gave when she approved of something. My mom and grandma started crying. Trina was beaming. She was the first to speak. "Sidney is going to love it, Noelle. You look beautiful."

Véro gushed, "That's a great dress. Mon Dieu, you're gorgeous. That's it, it gets my vote."

"That's the dress," Eva agreed. "You have to buy it."

"I think so, too, guys. This is my wedding dress." I felt myself start to weep again as the realization set in. "I'm going to get married in this dress."

In all the excitement of finding the dress, I never looked at the price tag. When Fiona said she would ring it up for me, that's when I found out how much it was going to cost—and I was shocked. "Five thousand dollars?"

Sure, I knew that I could pay that price. Sid and I did a lot of extravagant things that came along with his job: we traveled to a lot of varied places, we went to parties and events, and we had privileges that came only with having money and a nice house and expensive cars. But I was from a modest background, and while it was fun to get caught up in the whirlwind of having a rich boyfriend, I never took on the mindset that I had that kind of money to spend.

"No, no, no," V interjected, reading my mind and sensing my hesitation. "Non. You're buying it. The price doesn't matter. It's practically a steal, considering how amazing you look in it."

It went against my gut reaction, but I nodded to the sales lady and letting her charge my credit card for however much it would cost. As long as I didn't think about it, I had to agree that the way the dress made me feel was worth every penny. I hoped Sidney would like it and that he would have the same response as these women. After all, that was half of the requirement in picking a dress: not only did I have to like the way I felt in it, but I wanted Sidney to look at me as I walked down the aisle toward him and be speechless.

They helped me out of the dress and scheduled my first fitting in March, three months before I was going to say "I do." It was hard to believe that my fitting was only six months away, because my wedding was only nine months away. I left the boutique feeling happy and confident since things were falling into place, but my head was still spinning because it was happening so fast and there was still so much to do in a short amount of time.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

10: Planning

"Please don't make me wear pink. Whatever you do, no pink!"

"Don't listen to her. Pink is very in right now. Carrie Underwood did pink. Hilary Duff did pink as an accent. There's nothing wrong with pink."

"Ugh, but it's pink! No self-respecting bridesmaid wants to wear pink. Who cares what those girls did anyway."

"I would wear pink."

"Of course you would."

"Fine then, what color would you wear?"

"Any color but pink!"

I listened to Taylor and Véro discuss—more like argue back and forth over—potential color schemes for the wedding. My wedding. Which I hadn't even decided on colors or themes or anything for yet. I let them continue to hash it out between themselves as I thumbed through one of the many bridal magazines V had brought over. It was actually kind of funny to witness.

"Taylor, you're being impossible. If Noelle wants you to wear pink, then it's your duty to suck it up and wear the damn dress!"

"But I'm not the only one here who is not going to like it. I know I'm not. Do you think any of the groomsmen will want to wear pink cummerbunds or vests? Um, definitely not. Guys hate pink."

"Marc looks good in pink. He would wear it. Hell, any of the guys would. They don't get a say in what they wear—they don't care anyway. They'll put on whatever you give them and deal with it."

"Ugh, V, you're saying this all just because you want to wear pink. Not your wedding. Not your decision."

Véro narrowed her eyes. "Not your decision, either, Taylor."

"Right," I interjected, finally speaking up. "It's neither of your decisions." I focused my attention back to the glossy pictures in front of me.

"So, what color then? Or colors?" Taylor asked politely. She probably just wanted to know if I was actually going to choose pink or not.

"Honestly, girls, I don't know. I look at this stuff in here," I explained, holding up the magazine, "and it all looks really nice. Like, if I went to a wedding like this, I would like it and compliment it. But none of it feels right for me."

"Well, what do you want?" Véro questioned. "What kind of feel? That could help us. You're getting married in the summer, so do you want a summery feel? You could do yellow, maybe a light green or blue?"

I sighed. "I don't know. I don't think I want something beachy. Maybe something more formal? Sophisticated. Not black tie, but simple and elegant."

At that moment, Sidney descended the stairs into the living room on his way from the bedroom to the kitchen. He nodded to the girls and greeted them with a very quiet "hey," not wanting to disturb our meeting of the minds. However, Véro was quick to suck him into it. "Sid, tell us, what kind of wedding do you want? Any color ideas?"

It was funny to see his reaction: first his face flushed, and then it turned pink. He shook his head and tried to escape into the kitchen. "No, uh uh, I'm not getting involved in this."

Taylor and Véro ridiculed and mocked him, telling him to get his ass back in the living room so he could contribute, since it was his wedding too. I just laughed. "Are you kidding? He thinks all I need to do is buy a dress, a bouquet, and get a caterer."

"What? Really?" V gasped. Even Taylor looked surprised at his naïveté, and she was a self-described ultimate tomboy. "Oh my God, Sid, get in here. We need to set you straight."

"You probably don't want to do that," I told her. "Ignorance is bliss, right? Let's not ruin this for him."

I don't think Véro understood how anyone could not be interested in a wedding, especially if it were their own. She called for Sid again, and he reluctantly returned to the living room with a fresh sandwich in hand. He sat next to me on the couch. "Now, Sid, surely you have an opinion. It's your wedding day, too, after all. We need a color scheme."

He smiled with a very mischievous look in his hazel eyes. I knew that he wasn't very interested in any of this stuff, so he was going to start some trouble. "Black and Vegas gold?"

All three of us girls groaned at his very uncreative answer. V wasn't shy about clearly nixing the idea. "No way in hell are we doing Penguins' colors. That is so tacky!"

He laughed and shrugged. "Well, that was my idea."

I began to think aloud. "Well, maybe black would work. That's formal, right? And it's flattering, so it would look good on all the girls, right?" Véro nodded. "Would you wear black, Taylor?"

"Yeah, I would. I mean, a nice black dress. No ruffles or any shit like that."

"Taylor," Sidney reprimanded between bites of his lunch, giving her a scornful look. "Language."

She rolled her eyes but otherwise ignored his comment. I kept talking. "No ruffles. It's summer, so like, short dresses? Knee-length, maybe?" I cocked my head to the side and looked at more pictures in front of me. "Or will that be too plain?"

"You can get dresses with a sash or something, to add some color," V suggested. Then she looked at Taylor and shared a look between them. They said at the same time, "Pink," and launched into a giggle fest.

Sid glanced at me, totally confused. I laughed and shook my head. "Don't ask." Flipping through some more pages, I rambled on. "Well, maybe some weekend I can get everyone in the bridal party together, and we can go try on dresses and pick something out."

"As long as it's before school starts," Taylor said. "Most of my games are on the weekends."

"Okay, so we'll make sure it's before training camp." I groaned. "Damn, that's, like, in the next month." I couldn't believe how difficult this was going to be to plan. Once the season started—even before the preseason, when people started to move back to Pittsburgh in order to get ready for camp—it was going to be next to impossible to get everyone together. "Maybe it'll wait 'til around Christmas, when you have a break from school, Tay. You're supposed to order dresses six months in advance, so we'll still have enough time."

"When are you going to try on dresses, Noelle?" Véro asked me, getting excited. "That's, like, one of the very first things I think you should do."

"Well, I guess I should start looking whenever I get back to Pittsburgh. You know, so I have enough time to find something I want. I looked through these magazines, and I'm not sure what I like."

She explained, "Oh, don't go by the pictures. You never know if a dress is going to look good on you until you try it on. We'll go once Marc and I get back into Pittsburgh. We'll invite your mom, and maybe even Trina will want to come down, you think, Sid?" She didn't wait for him to answer. "And bring Eva, too. We'll hit up some of the boutiques and see what we can find. Picking a dress is the most important part!"

I shook my head. "Most important, right now anyway, is picking a venue. We need to find some place to hold the ceremony and then the reception, so we can get everything ordered. Flowers. Photographer. Caterer. Cake. Limos. Save-the-dates and invitations."

V tried to correct me. "You need a date first."

"No, I think we need to find out what's available and when, and then we'll pick a date from there. A year away, we'll be lucky to find something. I should make a list." I reached for paper and a pen. "Where are some good places in the city?"

"Roethlisberger had his reception at The Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center," she suggested.

"That's a big venue. I don't think we need nearly that much space."

Sid offered some recommendations of his own. "There's Heinz Hall. Phipps Conservatory." I wrote both of those down. "I think I went to something at the Warhol Museum. We could always try there. And the Carnegie Museums, too. That's where we've had the Skates and Plates before."

I wrote everything down and flopped down on the couch. "There's so much to do. Is it supposed to feel this overwhelming?"

He put a hand on my leg. "You know, we can hire a wedding planner, and they can worry about all this. It's only gonna get more stressful once the season starts. Things'll pick up for you in the front office, I'll be traveling."

"But I want to plan it. It's my wedding, I mean, it's important to me. I just, you know, I didn't realize everything that goes into a wedding 'til now, when it's time to actually do it."

"I'll be there to help, if you need it," V said encouragingly and eagerly.

Taylor chipped in, "I don't know how much I can do, but if you need anything, you can call me."

Sid laughed. "Don't look at me. I'll get a tux, but I don't know what else I can do. Oh! I'll taste test."

I looked at him, his full, pink lips curled in a perfectly crooked smile. The stress of the wedding was going to be worth it in the end, because I was going to be married to the man I loved. The wedding was just a detail.

The next day, Sid drove me to the airport between his two-a-day workouts. It was the last visit that I was going to have made that summer to Nova Scotia, because he was going to relocate to Pittsburgh by the end of August to prep for the season. I made several appointments for wedding-related activities in the two weeks between when Sidney would join me in Pittsburgh and when training camp would be in full swing, so we could check out locations, pick a bakery to get our cake, and sample dinners for our reception menu. It was the most fun we had planning our wedding.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

9: Roll with the Punches

The dinner cruise went better than expected, considering the circumstances. We were surrounded by friends and family only, so no one brought up the touchy subject of Sid's only scandal in the media. They knew that I was torn up about it, or at least they could somehow intuit that; I tried to forget about it so we could all enjoy Sid's last evening with the Cup.

We got on the boat, and we ate dinner there as we floated; after eating, we had a leisurely night to ourselves, drifting over the water while soft music played in the background. I played the part of hostess, talking to everyone at least once for a few minutes before excusing myself and talking to someone else. Of course, the only person I didn't speak to was Troy; I was avoiding him, and I think he was avoiding me as well.

At some point, I sneaked away for some alone time. I slipped out of my heels—which were killing me, even though you'd think I'd be used to them by now—and sat on a narrow bench at the back of the boat. The air was warm and humid, and there was a subtle breeze, just enough to blow my hair.

I wasn't by myself for more than five minutes before Sid found me and approached me. "Hey, Nelly," he cooed, sitting beside me. The wood creaked beneath his added weight. He put an arm around my shoulder and began to run his fingers through my unruly kinks and curls, made worse by the humidity. "What are you doing out here?"

"Just getting some air," I replied, leaning against him and putting my arms around his thick middle.

"Long day?"

"Long," I laughed. "Crazy. These past twenty-four hours.... Phew. I just can't wait for them to be over."

"I know." Sidney kissed my temple, and I turned my head and pressed my lips against his. My hand crept up to the side of his face, and I touched his cheek as I sucked his bottom lip into my mouth.

However, we prematurely interrupted before the kiss got good. A throat cleared, signalling that we were no longer alone. "Sid, kiddo, your mother's looking for you," Troy said.

Sidney and I broke apart. A breath of air gently brushed my face as Sid sighed, frustrated to be taken away from me in the middle of what we had been doing. But, as the dutiful son, he obeyed. He nodded at Troy and said lowly in my ear, as he leaned closer to kiss my cheek, "Wait here, I'll be back as soon as I can."

"'Kay," I mumbled right back, knowing his dad couldn't hear.

Troy pointed Sidney in the right direction, but he didn't follow behind like I expected he would. He lingered out there on the deck with me, looking out over the dark water. He didn't say anything, just stood there unmoving.

I had never spoke out against Troy; I had never had a reason to in the past. Maybe it was my frustration of the moment, that he had pulled Sid away during one of the rare intimate seconds we had had since I had come up to Nova Scotia for his Cup celebration. Or maybe it was because I was so mad at him for the way he was handling this whole situation and treating me through the process—like it was my fault for this mess even though it was Sid's idea to get down and dirty in the lake.

Whatever the reason, I snapped and gave him a piece of my mind. I stood and said, "Is there something you want to say to me, Troy? Huh? Go ahead and say it while it's just you and me out here."

He just shook his head and looked out over the water, not bothering to answer me.

"You better get it out now, because I love your son and I'm going to marry him. And you're going to be stuck with me."

"No, Noelle, I don't have a problem with you. I have a problem with my son marrying you."

I froze. I expected him to air his grievances, but I hadn't expected to hear that. "What?"

"Sid is too young for this. He's barely hit his prime. He doesn't need all these distractions now." Troy stepped closer to me. For the first time, he really intimidated me. "I was fine with you dating him. Lord knows Sidney needed someone to keep him out of trouble, someone to keep his bed warm when he was out of town and someone to come home to. But I don't think he needs this right now. And I don't think you're ready for this."

"Excuse me?"

"All morning, it was all about you. How you felt. What this does to you. But Sid's struggling with this, too. I don't see you asking him how he's dealing with this fiasco. He's the one in the spotlight, not you. He's the one whose reputation we have to watch out for. Until you realize that and start putting him above yourself, then you're not ready for marriage."

I scoffed, "That's not fair. It's my face, too, being splashed across these websites and tabloids. It's my reputation, too, that's getting smeared—"

"No one would give two shits about you if it weren't for the fact that you're dating Sidney Crosby, so don't feed me that line of bullshit. That's another thing you have to realize before you can think about marrying my son."

"Your son, your son," I mocked him. "You know, your son is a human being, in case you've forgotten. He can get married when he chooses and to whom he chooses. You're right, Troy, I know that no one cares about me. They only know who I am because I'm with Sid. But that means that I'm important to Sid, and that's all I care about. And I will make a great wife to Sid because I love him and care about him. That should be the only thing you care about—that he's happy."

"For now," he grunted. "But not for long."

"'Not for long'? What does that mean?" I gasped, but he walked away and never answered me. I stayed there on the deck and sat back down on the bench by the railing. The breeze ruffled my hair and made my skirt dance around my legs, but it did nothing to ease my mind.

Sid didn't come back right away, but he did eventually make it back to me. He slid next to me on the bench and put his arm around my shoulder. "Sorry, she just wanted me to talk to someone. I got away as soon as I could."

I looked at him, his face just a foot away from mine. Sid was smiling at me, and his fingers were brushing against the bare skin of my arm. It instantly soothed me, but I was still worried and feeling insecure. "It's okay. It's your party, your celebration. You should be out there with everyone."

He shrugged, and I could feel the movement beside. "I'd rather be out here with you." Sid leaned in and kissed my cheek, and then he whispered, "I think we were right about here when we got interrupted?"

I gladly kissed him back, but I was still thinking. I pulled back and put my hand on his chest, so I could feel his heart beat. "Sid. I love you."

"Love you, too."

"Do you think we're ready to get married?"

Sidney looked at me like I was crazy. "Yes. Of course. I wouldn't have asked you if I thought that it was something we weren't ready for."

"And you're sure?"

"I'm sure. I'm sure I'm sure. Where is this all coming from? Noelle...." I knew when he used my full name that he meant business. I looked into his eyes, which were kind and concerned. "Did my dad say something to you? Is that what this is about?"

Troy's words were fresh in my memory—including his comment about how I wasn't taking Sid's feeling into consideration. I didn't want to tell him what his dad had said to me, because I knew that would put a lot of tension on their relationship, which could sometimes be strained as it was. But I decided to be a little more focused on him. "How are you dealing with everything, Sid? With all this?"

I could tell that he didn't know how to answer. "You know me, just rolling with the punches. Everything will work out, it'll all be okay." Something about the way he said it made me believe it.

"I can't wait 'til we're married. This'll all be worth it. Then we can live in domestic bliss."

His arm tightened around me. "That sounds nice."

"Now we just have to get it all planned."

"That shouldn't be too hard."

"Are you kidding?" I laughed. "We haven't even begun."

"Really? How can it be that bad? You get a pretty dress, I wear a suit—"

"A tux," I corrected.

"A tux, fine. Some flowers, food."

"It's not that simple, Sid, and we're gonna have to make some really big, tough decisions."

"Like what?"

"Like... where are we getting married?" I paused. This was going to be a very big question. "Here, in Canada? Or Pittsburgh?"

I could tell that he wanted to do it here, as in Nova Scotia. His home. But he was trying to be diplomatic about it. "Uh, what do you think?"

"If I'm going to be completely honest, Sid, I'd like to do it in Pittsburgh. Sure it's my home, but it's also where we met. It's where we live—at least for most of the year. My family's there, and the team's there so a lot of your friends are there. Mine, too. We have the space to accommodate people traveling in for the occasion. I just, well, I think it makes sense to do it there." I sighed. "But I can understand if you want to do it here. You're, like, the epitome of Canadian."

"But I think you have a good point about Pittsburgh. It's where we met, so it's more meaningful than just the place where I work. We can do it there. And if there's as much planning as you say there is, it makes sense to do it where we are rather than trying to do it remotely."

That made me very excited, but I held it in to make sure that he was truly okay with it. "Are you sure? If you want to get married here in your home, then I'll understand."

"No, it's okay. It's our home, both our homes. It makes sense."

Now that we had a location—kind of, anyway—I felt reinforced in my feelings and even more determined that our marriage would work. We were understanding and could compromise, which was a great start for a life together. Renewed and reassured, I headed back with him to finish out the cruise.

Friday, April 29, 2011

8: PDA

Wow, this season has been one hockey-induced depression after another. We'll get 'em next year, Pens.

It wasn't easy to stand in front of thousands—maybe tens of thousands—of people and know that they all knew the intimate things I had been doing the night before. As great as the people of Nova Scotia are when it comes to Sidney and his privacy, I had yet to earn that respect. I was a new girl; I was nothing to them. They looked at me with hardened eyes; I was no longer the Pittsburgh sweetheart who had somehow, mysteriously, won the heart of Canada's golden boy. I was obviously a harlot who had used my womanly wiles to blind him and entice him, to trick him into marrying me. They were skeptical, talking behind the backs of their hands.

I walked side-by-side with Sid when we arrived for his street hockey game. He insisted that I do so, because he wanted everyone to see the solidarity between us. "You've stood by me through everything," he said quietly in my ear before all the craziness started. "So now it's my turn to stand by you. You'll see, Nelly, that it's not big deal if we don't make it out to be one. If we don't give them a reaction, they'll get over it, and so will we."

I looked around to make sure no one, mainly Troy, was around to hear our conversation. "But, Sid, it is a big deal. I feel violated. It's totally creepy, and now all these people think they saw us have sex in a lake."

"But they didn't."

"They don't know that."

Squeezing his hand, I didn't even bother saying a thank you to him. I didn't need to. I smiled and kissed his cheek, and that made him smile back at me. That was probably our biggest display ever at that point in time, and everyone gobbled it up. It was like a show to them.

But once he started to put on all his goalie gear, I was relegated to the side again. All of the kids who were there to see their idol were focused on him, watching as he carefully strapped on the over-sized pads to protect him from injury. However, the adults and teenaged girls were trying to surreptitiously check me out. This was exactly what I was afraid of: that I would be in the spotlight, usurping center stage from him, and for all the wrong reasons to boot.

Marc-André was lacing on his roller blades for the other team, since one of Sid's friends wouldn't be able to return home for the occasion. I felt bad that Kevin was missing this, but the other guys seemed stoked to have one NHLer per team to up the ante and make things more even. Of course, to make things fair, Flower was going to play forward.

I stood next to Taylor and Véro, and we quietly whispered back and forth a little bit. Taylor didn't mention the video again, but I knew she wouldn't bring it up after she was the one who first alerted us to it. She asked, "How long are you staying here?"

"Not long," I sighed. Today was a Sunday, and I would be flying back to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. I only had Monday to spend with Sid alone before traveling back to Pittsburgh, where I would be alone for a few weeks. After that, though, Sidney would return to Pittsburgh to prep for training camp. "I'll be in town tomorrow, but I'm going home after that."

"Have you done any wedding planning yet?"

"No." I wanted to frown, but I didn't. Instead, I had my best smile plastered on my face for the public's sake. I knew I had to keep up appearances; it wasn't the first time I had had to cover up how I was feeling just so it wouldn't spark a rumor or add fuel to any fires. "Things have been too hectic lately—as usual—to get anything done. We don't even have a full year to plan, so I guess we have to start soon."

Then I gave her a genuine smile. "Do you want to come over and look at some catalogs for bridesmaids' dresses tomorrow?"

Her eyes got a little wide. "Are you asking me to help you pick?"

"Yeah, I could use another girl's opinion. I mean, if you have to wear one, you might as well have some input, right?"

Taylor nodded frantically. "Noelle, I can't wait! This is so exciting! I've never been in a wedding before. I'll help you pick something great. And no pink," she added, wrinkling up her nose, which made me laugh.

I had noticed how quiet Véro had gotten once Taylor had brought up the wedding. It wasn't my intention to make her feel left out. I nudged her with my elbow. "Are you guys sticking around for a while? I mean, I guess I really should be invited you over too, to help me out."

She cocked her head to the side and looked at me funny. "Yeah, we'll be around for the whole week...." Her voice faded away, and I could tell that she was confused by what I meant.

So I clarified it for her. "Great, because I could use your input, too. After all, I think you totally deserve to be a bridesmaid after you helped me and Sid—"

I couldn't even finish my sentence, because V squealed and threw her arms around me. I laughed and hugged her back. "So I take it that you're accepting?"

"Of course I'm accepting! Thank you, Noelle, I would be honored," she said. There were tears in her eyes, and I thought I was going to get choked up, too.

"What's going on over here?" Sid asked, walking toward us in his full goaltending gear. I always thought it was funny how Marc-André looked so big and bulky in his gear, but was so thin and sinewy without it. Sidney looked hulking, almost twice his size in width now that he was suited up. It seemed silly, all so he wouldn't get hurt during a harmless little game with friends. Then again, with Sid's attitude, he would play as hard as he needed to in order to win.

"V agreed to be a bridesmaid," I explained with another smile. It was easier to forget about all the watchful eyes around us when I was looking back at my beautiful fiancé.

He replied, "That's great!" Sid was unprepared for the hug that he got, too. He scrunched up his face for a second and sighed, "Women." He waited for Véro to pull away and then looked at Taylor. "Any advice before I head out there, coach?"

She rolled her eyes but told him, "Don't go down into the butterfly too early. Keep your eye on the ball."

"Yes, ma'am," he said. He went to put his hand on her head to ruffle her hair, but she ducked out of the way and scowled at him. Sid cocked his head and gave her a look, surprised by her reaction, but he didn't push the issue. Then he turned to me. "Do I get a good luck kiss?"

"For a street hockey game? I don't think you need any luck for that."

Sidney stuck out his bottom lip—at least farther than it usually stuck out—and pouted. "But it's for the Cup. It's a big deal."

I grinned. It amazed me how easy-going he could be today, after the disaster that already happened this morning. But it was his special day, and he wasn't going to let anything ruin it. I was totally aware of what was going on though, and I knew that I had everyone's attention as I placed my hands on his chest protector for stability, went up on my tip-toes, and leaned toward him. I think he was expecting a kiss on the cheek, since we never did much in the way of PDA, so he was surprised when I pressed my lips to his.

Hell, everyone had thought they had seen us having sex; after that, what was a kiss on the lips?

It was chaste, anyway, just a solid lip-lock for a few seconds with my eyes and closed and my left foot naturally kicking up like in The Princess Diaries. Sid put his hands over mine like he was holding them close to his heart.

I pulled back a little bit before I changed my mind and decided to kiss that luscious bottom lip again. After a quick peck, I leaned back and stood back on my two flat feet. You could hear the collective murmur of the crowd. Sidney squeezed my hands. "Wow, now I do feel lucky. Luckiest man alive."

"Gross," Taylor muttered under her breath.

We ignored her, just like we were trying to ignore the oppressive feel of everyone openly staring. "Play well," I told him. It was my usual thing to say to him before a game.

I watched the pick-up game that he was playing with his friends. No one officially kept score since it was supposedly to be friendly, but I knew Sid was keeping count so I did, too. Sid's team won, but only by a few points.

Every time Sid made a save—even a mediocre save—the crowd oohed, aahed, clapped, and cheered like they were at an NHL game. People clapped for the guys who scored goals (even on Sidney), but even though this was supposed to be all in good fun, the players were still overshadowed by Sidney. I felt a little bad for them, but I think they were simply appreciative to have a chance to fulfill a childhood dream of playing for the Cup, and even glad to have their old friend back in town for a while. Sidney had never asked for this fame attention; it just went hand in hand with being one of the best players in the world. Or the best player, depending on who you asked.

It was hilarious to watch Flower play as a forward. Everyone watched intently whenever Marc would try to score on Sid, but he never did. And every time Flower missed the net or Sid stopped a shot, he would just laugh, "I suck to score goals."

I stood next to Taylor the whole time, and Trina hovered a little behind us. I could tell that she was being protective, wanting to shield her family from prying eyes. Troy was off somewhere, I didn't know where, and I didn't care. I wasn't exactly happy with him at the present moment. I couldn't understand why he was fine with me as Sid's girlfriend but not his fiancée. Now that we were encountering problems, he was trying to use that against us. But I was determined to continue to be supportive and see this through.

When the game was over and the guys all had their pictures taken with the Cup and with Sid, we were ready to head back home. I let my fiancé put his sweaty arm around me, not even minding the disgusting-ness of it. We headed back to his house so he could shower and get ready for the dinner cruise.

We had a few hours to ourselves before we needed to worry about being where we needed to be, so we took the time to relax in bed—fully clothed, just lying around and being lazy amongst the craziness of the weekend. Sid's hair was still wet from his shower, and he was dressed in a plain white tee and a pair of black shorts, just something to relax in before we got more dressed up for the dinner cruise. We were curled up front-to-front, our faces so close to each other that our noses were almost touching. I was twirling the long ends of his hair between my fingers, and his eyes were closed.

"So tomorrow we have all to ourselves," I whispered, not having to speak too loudly since we were so close.

"Mmhmm," he hummed, obviously enjoying how I was playing with his hair. We had always enjoyed these kind of private, simple moments since our lives were always crazy like this.

"Do you think we can take some time to talk about the wedding? Tay and V are coming over to help me look at dresses, but I think we need to plan some things, you know, make some decisions first."

He nodded in agreement, but he complained just a little. "Can't we just have one day to ourselves? Seriously, I haven't been able to relax like this with you since the regular season. I could use a whole day like this."

"I know, Sid, I wish we could, too. But we're under a time crunch. We can relax all morning, talk in the afternoon, figure out what we need to, and then have a nice evening together."

"Okay." For a few minutes, he didn't say anything else. I started to wonder if maybe he had fallen asleep, but then he asked, "What time is it?"

I rolled over and looked at the clock. "Time to start getting ready for dinner."

But I felt his body move right behind mine. Sidney kissed my neck and shoulder, gently nipping at my skin as his hand came around to my front and cupped my right breast in his hand. He pinched my nipple, making me gasp and cry out as I felt a shiver go down my spine and my body begin to tingle between my legs.

Then, just as quickly as he started, he stopped. Sid rolled away and got off the bed. He looked back at me, taking in my shock and lustful gaze, and laughed, "More to come tonight, after the cruise."

I huffed as I watched him walk toward the closet for more suitable clothes to wear for the dinner, wishing we could just skip it all and stay in bed instead. After a moment, I got up and started getting ready, too.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Valuable Trade

Because my heart is now in Dallas: A Valuable Trade

Thursday, February 10, 2011

7: Thick or Thin

I never ever wanted to get out of bed again, and no amount of coaxing was going to get me to leave the room ever.

"Come on, Nelly," Sid cooed, rubbing my back. I was curled into the fetal position underneath the blanket; it was hot outside and I was sweating, but I didn't want to get up. "Everyone's downstairs waiting."

"No," I cried, wiping at my cheeks. "How can I look anyone in the face again? I can't."

"Don't say that. It's okay."

"No, it's not okay! They have video, Sid!" It was quite possibly my worst nightmare. We had been over this all morning ever since the video and picture had been leaked on the internet. Whoever it was that had trespassed last night had taken a video of us in the lake. It could have been worse, admittedly: you could tell that I wasn't wearing a top, but you never could see me topless. And you could tell that we were in a very intimate position, but you couldn't really tell exactly what we were doing beneath the water. The commentaries were the worst. They were painting me to be a slut. First I was fat and ugly and unworthy of Sidney Crosby, and now these accusations.

"It's okay, I promise. This is not a big deal at all. You're my fiancée. We thought we were alone, I mean, for God's sake, the guy broke onto my property. I can't believe they were stupid enough to post the damn thing. The police are going to find whoever's responsible and we're going to make them take it down and then we're filing charges. Throwing the fucking book at them."

"It's too late! Millions of hits by now, Sid. So many people have already seen it. My reputation's fucking ruined." If I had been embarrassed last night as Sid and I recounted our story to make a statement to the police, then it was nothing compared to how I felt right now. I couldn't imagine how I was supposed to look my parents in the eye, or Sid's parents. Or our friends and Sid's teammates. Or my coworkers. Or Mario. I began to sniff back tears again.

"Please, Nelly, stop," he pleaded. "This isn't your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. We've been through this before, remember?"

How could I forget that whole Lynne debacle? That bitch slapped me, and everyone had immediately assumed that it had been Sid who had hurt me. How anyone could assume that was beyond me. "This is different. Back then, we knew the truth, that 'the psycho bitch' did it," I said, refusing to utter her name. "But this is us out in the lake. That's me in the video, you can tell. Jesus Christ, this wasn't ever supposed to happen. I thought I knew what to expect, what to be on guard about, but this... I was not prepared for this."

"I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault, Sid, you know that. You didn't ask for this to happen."

"And neither did you."

I sat up and looked at him. Sidney brushed my unruly curls away from my face. Quietly, I asked my next question. "Are they mad at me?"

"No. No one's mad at you."

"Taylor didn't sound to happy when she sent the link to us."

"That's because a bunch of her friends saw it first and sent it to her. She's embarrassed because it's her brother in the video and now her friends are going to make fun of her."

"Why aren't you more upset?" I sniffed, wondering why he could be so calm at a time like this. I was having a meltdown.

"Because we didn't do anything wrong. Sure, I don't want my life broadcast all over the internet... but it happened. I mean, it's happened more often than I've liked. It sucks, but I'm kind of used to it in a way."

He sighed and continued, "I just feel really bad that it happened to you, too. You didn't sign up for this, and I know that. I wish I could offer you a life where you don't have to worry about shit like this—I know that we thought we could be safe up here at my lake house. I should have known better than to have let my guard down, especially with this being my time to have the Cup."

"Do you wanna know the part that I hate the most?" I asked, moving closer to him and placing my hands on his knees. "It's not even that someone spied on us, even though it totally freaks me out that people have no sense of boundaries whatsoever. Last night I was so creeped out that there was something watching us and we didn't even know. But it's not that. And it's not even that people are so weirdly obsessed with you that they gobble this up as 'news' and want to know every aspect of your life. I mean, come on, do they think you're a virgin? Do they think that you don't have sex—that we don't have sex? That's ridiculous. No one waits 'til marriage anymore. But that's not it, either.

"It's that now everyone's calling me horrible names and thinking so badly of me when you get off the hook because you're a guy and you're expected to 'get some.' I don't want this to reflect poorly on you, but they're dragging me through the mud! Like we're not engaged and this isn't perfectly acceptable behavior for a couple. I feel so attacked and defenseless."

"I know." Sid cupped my face in his hand and used his thumb to erase the tear tracks down my face. "And I don't like it any better either. I hate the things that they're saying about you. I love you, and I know that's not who you are. It has nothing to do with the person you are, just that you're my girl. Since we've been so good about public appearances, they're treating this like it's something out of the ordinary."

I leaned in closer still and rested my forehead against his shoulder. "I just wish this would all go away."

"Me, too, Nelly. Me, too." He wrapped his arms around my shoulders and squeezed me. "I know this is upsetting, but please don't be upset about this anymore. I'm asking the impossible, I know, but I hate seeing you like this. I don't want you to cry."

"But I don't wanna see anyone," I mumbled into his body. And just like that, we were back at square one. "I just wanna stay in bed until this whole thing blows over."

"You know we can't do that. Come on," he said, standing and pulling me up with him.

Grumbling and moaning, I reluctantly followed him. I smoothed out my clothes and pulled my hair back as we descended the stairs and walked into the living room. Sid's family was all there, and so were Marc-André and Véro. Trina and V smiled at me, showing their support, and it made me want to cry. I couldn't believe this was happening.

"All right," Troy started, assuming control of the situation now that we were all assembled. "Sid's got his street hockey game to play today before our dinner cruise, so we should all get a move on. If we leave now, we won't be late."

Even though Troy never said anything to me, I knew that his words were directed at me because my fit was making them run behind schedule. As they all got up and got ready to head out to the cars, I grabbed Sid's hand and said quietly, "Can't you guys go without me? I really don't want to face anyone yet."

He whispered, "Hey, it's gonna be okay. Everyone here is on your side. My family, our friends, the whole town. Everyone up here is really good about giving me space and respecting my private life—"

"Apparently not everyone," I muttered lowly, interrupting him. "I can't stand the idea of people looking at me, knowing that they know what we were doing last night."

Sid tightened his grip on my hand and spoke a little more loudly and more firmly. "I promise that it's going to be okay."

Troy spoke again. "We have to go now. And that includes you, Noelle. You don't get a pass because things are a little hard right now."

My shoulders fell and my gaze was focused on the floor. Sidney spoke up for me on my behalf. "Come on, Dad, that's not fair."

"I'm sorry, son, but she's just going to have grow a thicker skin." Then he looked at me and said, "Noelle, when you said 'yes,' this is what you decided to do. You want to marry my son? Then you're going to have stand by him now through thick or thin, better or worse, and that starts right now. If you can't handle it, then you should realize that now before you can't back out. Because there is no backing out."

My fell open, but I had no comeback to that. Trina tried to defend me, too. "Troy—"

"No, see, this is exactly why I thought Sid should wait," he sighed, crossing his arms in front of him. "They're not ready for what this means. They won't get to have a normal marriage. There are all these stressors that they have to factor into it. And all the work that we've put into getting to this point, we can't let that go to waste."

"Don't talk about us like we're not standing right here," Sidney demanded. His ears were pink, probably from both anger as well as embarrassment since his father was saying all those things in front of his friends and his teammate. I had heard Troy talk like that a lot, but it was usually only when just immediate family was around.

"I can do it," I said, my voice very quiet. And then I cleared my throat and stated it like I meant it. "I can do it. I'm ready."

Sidney looked at me and offered me a hopeful smile. I tried to return it, but it probably looked a bit more like a grimace than a grin. Sid hadn't asked for any of this either, which was why I was trying to be strong for him. He deserved someone who would stick by him through all this, and I wanted to be that for him because I loved him and because he loved me. Any disaster should always be peripheral when it comes to our relationship for that very reason: love should always trump the bad stuff.

Troy's lips formed a tight line across his mouth. He nodded his head curtly and said, "Well, all right then. Let's go."