Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3: Spreading the Good News

Needless to say, my day had taken a sudden, dramatic turn. If I thought I had been busy while helping my parents clean out their basement, it was nothing compared to how frantic it became.

Sid and I sat together on the same side of the booth as we ate our dinner. He had always known to act professionally out in public, and that was something that I had learned and picked up on as our relationship progressed; after all, Sidney Crosby was a big name in these parts, which meant that there were always prying eyes everywhere. We had to watch our every move and always be on our best, mildest behavior—no fights, no blatant PDA, and nothing to call attention to ourselves.

Since we were celebrating our engagement, though, we bent the rules. We kissed frequently but never for too long, and he kept his left arm around my shoulders while my right hand was on his thigh. It was a very intimate moment, even though we were sitting in a booth in the corner of a sports bar during the middle of dinner rush.

We enjoyed our quiet dinner, but when we left the restaurant, we knew that we had to start letting everyone know about our good news. The people in Sid's realm were relatively easy: the guys on the team and all his hockey-playing friends were notified by text message. Guys didn't care so much except that they wouldn't want to be the last to know, so all Sid had to do was send out the same sentence to the masses: Noelle and I are engaged :)

Our families and my friends, however, were a whole nother story altogether. Those phone conversations were like huge productions, because they wanted to talk us together. We sat in his Range Rover with the air conditioner blowing cool air on us as we dialed my parents, figuring that the bride-to-be's parents should be the first to be notified. Besides, his family knew he had been planning this, and mine didn't.

My parents loved Sidney, so they were delighted with the news. They congratulated us, and my mom immediately wanted to know if we had set a date yet. My mouth kind of fell open when she asked that, and I glanced up at Sid with wide eyes. He had been holding his phone out between us so we could both talk, but he hadn't been able to get a word in. "No, Mom, we haven't," I told her, stumbling over my words. It seemed so soon to have to think about that!

However, she wasn't the only person who had wanted to know that tidbit of information. Trina asked, too. Sid handled the question very well. He laughed, "No, not yet. We've only been engaged for about an hour and a half. We haven't discussed it yet."

"I just, I'm so excited!" Mrs. Crosby replied, gushing. "I can't wait! This is such good news! Noelle, I'm so happy you said yes!"

"Me, too," Sid laughed, smiling at me.

"Trina, you act like you expected me to say no!"

"Oh, no, not at all. I didn't expect you to say no, but I was so nervous anyway. Sid, honey, just wait until your father hears the good news! He should be back any minute."

"Uh, Mom, why don't you let me tell Dad?" Sidney sounded a little anxious when he said that. Troy liked me, but we were both a little unsure about how he'd take the news. Sid was only twenty-four and still a huge marketing tool for the NHL as far as young female fans were concerned; it didn't matter that he had a girlfriend. Secretly—and sometimes publicly—girls wished that we would break up. And just because he had a girlfriend, that didn't mean that he was completely off the market. Hell, even if he were married, Sidney Crosby would still get hit on and propositioned like crazy. For that reason, we weren't sure how Troy or his agent or even people in the Pens organization would take this news. Right now, we wanted a little more bliss to enjoy before we worried about that.

Things with Sid had never been easy in that regard. His image was important to him because he liked being a role model for kids, but Pat and Troy were still very much involved and demanding about how he was seen by the public. It was something that I had learned to live with and a freedom that I had to sacrifice in order to be with him.

As his girlfriend, things were demanded of me, too, just as much as they were demanded from him. I had to show up to his functions, a smile on my face no matter what. I had to show up to every home game—not that that was really a horrible thing to make me do—but it was a pain in the neck when I was really tired from a long week or I wasn't feeling well. If even one thing seemed amiss to the public, rumors would begin to swirl about our relationship.

Sidney and I knew that things wouldn't get easier for us if we married; we had talked about this before when things were strained between us because of all the expectation we had to meet. Sometimes, I'd whine about how we couldn't go out for a simple dinner date with him whenever I wanted, or I'd complain about how his already-strained schedule was pushed to the limits by commercial shoots or ad promoting. I'd make a fuss over how I had to cram my sore feet into heels, which I would have to stand in for five hours while he accepted some stupid award just so I could appear supportive when we both already knew how supportive I really was.

We had talked about how all that wouldn't just magically go away once we proved to everyone that we were totally committed, because we'd have even more demands on top of that. Nathalie had become my role model because of everything she had done when Mario was a player and even now as an owner. She was his spokesperson as much as his spouse. I knew that I'd have to assume a similar role to that as soon as I said, "I do."

And while we both knew all that, we didn't want to think about it yet. At that moment, he didn't want to be Sidney Crosby and I didn't want to be Sidney Crosby's girlfriend; we just wanted to be two people in a committed relationship who loved each other and were looking forward to a bright future together.

After we hung up with his mom, we were going to call Taylor next; however, we were interrupted from that when my phone rang. We looked at the caller ID and chuckled, and Sid nodded at me as I pressed the call accept button. I didn't get a word out before she said, "Is it true?"

I laughed. "Yes, V, it's true."

"Why did I have to hear from Marc-André? I thought it had to be a rumor because I was sure that someone would have called to tell me if it were true!"

"We're trying to tell everyone as fast as we can," Sid chuckled.

"I was going to call you tonight to share the news, I promise. We're still on family right now and haven't gotten to friends yet, and we didn't think you'd appreciate a text message, because you'd want to talk."

"Of course I want to talk! There's a lot to talk about! How'd he do it? Where? Was it romantic? Was he old-fashioned and did he get down on one knee? Sid, please tell me you went down on one knee."

"Yes, Véro, I did," he sighed, feigning that he was bored. But I could see a sparkle in his eyes.

"What does the ring look like? Oh my goodness, I can't wait to see it! We'll see you you at Marc-André's Cup party, right?"

"Not me," I told her. "Sid'll be there, but I can't. Couldn't get the time off considering I'll be up for Sid's party and his birthday in two weeks. Are you coming up for Sid's?"

"I definitely am now!" she laughed. We hadn't seen each other all summer, because everyone had left Pittsburgh about a week after they had won the Cup in early June, and they wouldn't be back until early to mid-September to get settled in before training camp. Last summer, more of the team had returned to the area earlier than that to use the training facilities, but because they had had another long season, the players hadn't wanted to begin working that hard again and pushing their bodies to the limits so soon; they knew the importance of resting in the off-season if they wanted to go far into the playoffs for a second year in a row.

Véro let us off the line so we could continue to call our family. We had only talked to three people so far, and I was already tired of telling people. I wished that we could have just sent out an e-mail or something along those lines, but I knew that would have have been rude. Sid dialed his sister so we could tell her. She was at Shattuck-St. Mary's, playing hockey there just like her big brother had. She was there with Stephanie Lemieux, developing her skills.

I knew that Taylor would be happy for us, but even I was surprised by her reaction. "Oh my God, it's about fucking time you grew some balls and asked her, Sid!"

Sid was more shocked by his sister's language than he was by her comment. "Tay, when did you start cussing like that?"

I swear I could hear her eyes roll. "Oh, it's not a big deal. You do it."

"I'm also an adult. You'd better watch your mouth," he replied.

"Yes, Dad," she replied sarcastically. "I'm a hockey player, and hockey players have dirty mouths."

"Not fifteen-year-old hockey players!" Sid scolded. I thought it was pretty cute, how he was being a protective big brother to his sister so far away, but I knew what it was like to be a girl her age. There were probably a lot of curses thrown around on the ice during games, and using that kind of language was most likely a necessity to fit in with the team.


I decided to butt in to swing the conversation in a more positive direction. "So, Taylor, how would you like to be a bridesmaid?"

"Really? You want me to be a bridesmaid, Noelle?"

"Well, sure," I replied with a smile on my face. "You know, I always wanted a sister. And now I'll finally have one."

"Oh my God, yes! I'd love to! Just please tell me I won't have to wear a horrendous dress."

Laughing, I promised her, "No, no horrendous dresses. We can decide on something later, when we start planning, but whatever you'll have to wear, it won't be bad."

When we got off the phone with Taylor, Sid kissed me. "That was really sweet of you to ask her to be a bridesmaid. I think she's really excited, I can tell." I nodded. It made me excited about planning a wedding. Taylor was a given when it came to bridesmaids, but picking a bridal party was going to be one of the most fun parts, when we decided who we would share our special day with. "Did you hear her though? My sister has a potty mouth."

"Oh, come on, it's not so bad," I told him. "She's growing up, becoming an adult. If that's the worst of it, then you'll have it pretty easy as a big brother."

"She's my little sister. My baby sister. It's just...." He shook his head like an Etch-A-Sketch, trying to remove the image in his head. "She'll always be that to me, and I refuse to think of her growing up."

I had to laugh at his innocent statement. Sid had done so much growing up away from home because he had to go out into the world in order to learn his craft. He went to Michigan at fifteen, before he was drafted into juniors, and then by eighteen he was an NHL star player. Since his sister was nine years younger than him, that means he missed watching her grow up. It was tough for him to picture her as anything other than the young girl he had remembered before he left home.

We called his grandmothers, Grandma Forbes and then Grandma Crosby, and chatted with them for a little while about the engagement and life in general. Then I called my best friend, Eva, to share my good news. By the time we finished making phone calls, it was almost nine and starting to get dark.

We were still sitting in his Range Rover with the air blasting from the vents. I leaned back against the passenger seat and turned my head to the left to look at Sid, my new fiancé. Then I sighed, feeling blissed out but also exhausted. "I think I need to go."

"Go where?" he asked, reaching for my left hand. The ring sparkled as the orange beams from the streetlight struck the cut diamond.

"To my parents'. I'm staying with them this weekend, remember? To help them clean and organize?"

"I would really like to be alone with my fiancée tonight, seeing as though it's our first night being engaged." He kissed the back of my hand and then leaned across the center console to kiss my neck. I could feel his breath brush my skin as he spoke again. "I'm sure your parents will understand. And I'll bring you back out in the morning. Please, Nelly, come home with me."

How could I have possibly turned that down? "Okay, Sid. Let's go."

He started up the car with gusto and threw it into gear, starting our hour trip into the Burgh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2: Caught in a Lie

I ordered my usual steak salad and a Miller Lite, and then I handed the menu to the waitress. Sidney clumsily flipped through the pages, obviously totally unprepared to rattle off whatever he wanted. The server was a little impatient with him as he glanced over the options and finally settled on something, but I didn't listen to what he said.

Sid was always calm and composed when he was out in public. It came from years and years of being under microscopic scrutiny whenever he left the house. He always had a game face on, and he didn't take it off when we were out and about, no matter where we were. We'd learned the lesson a long time ago that someone was always watching, and we had to be on our best behavior at all times. His moves were calculated, and that was a skill that I had picked up on, too.

But right now, he didn't have that calm façade that I had expected to see when I walked into the restaurant to meet up with him. Something was up with him, and it instantly had me worried.

He handed his menu to the waitress, and when she turned and walked away, he looked back at me and smiled. It wasn't his usual smile, either. I cleared my throat and tried to play sleuth and figure out what was going on. "So, what did you do today? Team stuff, or chores around the house...?"

I knew the answer to that question. First, I knew that he didn't have any Pens-related matters to take care of. After all, I worked in the office and new what the summer schedule looked like. Pittsburgh had won the Stanley Cup again this summer. After last year's loss and having to leave Mellon Arena without ever winning the Cup there, the guys had been so determined and adamant about winning it in the new Consol Energy Center; a feat that they had made look easy. The Cup was making its way across the country—across the globe, actually, since Evgeni had it yesterday—so everyone from the team was taking it easy and there was actually very little that any of the players needed to do at this point in time. Winning in the Finals was its own marketing strategy, and although the guys were training hard to repeat, it was a summer to celebrate and not work or promote the team.

Second, Sid had told me yesterday that he had ordered some new gym equipment for the basement, and he was going to spend today setting it up and testing it out so it would be ready when he made the move down to Pittsburgh for the season. He was going to do that while I was at my parents' and helping them get rid of their stored clutter.

See, Sid and I had a whole plan set out for the summer about when he would come down and visit and when I would pop up to Nova Scotia for a long weekend. For example, I always went up to his place in Enfield for Canada Day, and he came down for the Fourth of July. But somehow, our signals had gotten crossed and he came down this weekend when I had thought I'd be alone and staying with my parents. That's why we were meeting up for dinner in my hometown.

We had found the balance between independence and neediness that I had struggled with at the beginning of our relationship. It had been a major adjustment for me, but it came with time, as promised. I liked that I had time to myself to pursue my interests and hobbies when he was away. It allowed me to stay true to myself and not just be "Sidney Crosby's girlfriend." But when he was in town, we soaked every minute we could together. Now, everything was going great.

Or, so I had thought.

If things had been going so great as I had expected, then Sid wouldn't have had the need to lie me. "Team stuff," he said, looking away from me and toward the room of the restaurant. "Mario, uh, yeah, Mario wanted some input on some ideas for the team."

"Oh really?" Instead of immediately calling him out on it, I tried to catch him in his lie. I was concerned about what he was trying to cover up. "What ideas?"

His face reddened; Sid could give very diplomatic answers, saying a lot without really saying anything at all, but he was an absolutely terrible liar. "Oh, you know, boring team stuff. It's not important."

"Sure, it's important," I replied, trying to coax something out of him that would contradict himself. The more he tried to lie to get out of this, the more worried it would make me. I needed him to be honest with me and 'fess up to whatever was going on—and the longer this went on, the more troubled it would make me. "Anything having to do with the team is important, especially to you. You are the captain, after all."

"Well, I'm not really at liberty to discuss it."

"Oh, come on. I mean, I work for the team. I'm sure Mario wouldn't mind."

"I'm telling you, it's not important. In fact, it was so unimportant that I've already forgotten."

I pursed my lips and crossed my arms over my chest. "How can you know that it's unimportant if you can't remember what it was?"

Sid blew out a stream of air and looked up at the ceiling. "Because."

By now, I felt like my head was going to explode, so I tried a different approach. "So, did you get your gym equipment set up?"

His voice cracked as he asked, "Gym equipment?"

"Yes. The gym equipment you told me yesterday that you were going to be setting up today?"

I watched as he realized that he had forgotten his original lie—so now, he was caught in two. But still he tried to cover it up. "Uh, yeah. I did."

"Before or after you met with Mario?" I eked out between clenched teeth.

"Before? I mean, after?"

Luckily, the waitress brought my drink over, which gave pause to our conversation. I took a long swig of my beer, before I finally laid all the cards down on the table. "I know you're lying. You're lying about seeing Mario, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that you're lying about what you're doing in Pittsburgh in the first place. So why don't you just tell me what's really going on, Sid?"

It was a very vague, open question. I wanted to ask him so many other questions—questions that I might not like the answer to. In my head, I had it all figured out: he wanted to break up. Why else would he be acting all weird?

I waited for his response, but I already knew what it would be. I think we should take a break and see other people. Maybe he already had another girl in mind. Maybe he had already started seeing someone else, in Canada. Or maybe right here in Pittsburgh! Maybe that's what this whole visit had been about.

Sidney closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and I waited for whatever he was going to say while expecting the very worst. "Do you know what today is?"

"What does that have to do with anything?" I was feeling exasperated as he changed the subject.

"I thought you said you wanted to know what's going on?" he asked, and I nodded. "Well... do you know what today is?"

Beginning to rack my brain, I wondered if I was forgetting something. Sid was spending the day with the Cup on his birthday again, and that was next month. Today was just a regular summer day. "It's July twenty-fourth."

"Yes, it is. And do you know what July twenty-fourth is?"

I thought some more, and was still coming up with a blank. "Um, end of July. Two weeks before your birthday...." My voice faded out as I ran out of answers.

He nodded. "And it's been exactly two years since we met. Here. In this very booth."

Leaning back in the booth seat, I tried to remember that night two years ago. Sure, I could recall that particular evening, but it was like a blip on the radar screen compared to the past two years I had spent with Sid. In fact, it wasn't really that important compared to the night we had serendipitously run into each other at Diesel. We had started to get to know each other that night, but our original encounter was what had really stuck out in Sid's mind. He loved telling people the story about how we met and how I had stupidly mistaken him; he thought it was a riot.

I nibbled on my bottom lip. "Huh. I guess you're right."

"You know what that means, don't you?"

Waiting for some sudden realization was futile, because it never came. I went through my mental calendar and tried to remember what today could possibly mean; it was neither of our birthdays, nor was it our anniversary, which was October 2nd—the day we became official, the day of the 2009-2010 season opener. The longer I took to think of some huge significance, the farther his face fell. "I'm sorry, Sid, but I don't know."

He sighed and simply explained, "It means we've known each other for two years."

"Oh. Duh," I muttered, still feeling like I was missing something big.

"You don't remember at all, do you?" Sid asked, shaking his head.

"I'm really sorry, but I have no clue what's going. So why don't you just tell me?"

"You told me once that you felt people needed to get know each other before taking big steps. That a couple should be together for at least two years before getting married. Is that ringing any bells?"

I nodded; it was ringing bells. The bells were more than just ringing—they were chiming, banging, clanging, and resonating in my head. In fact, there was so much instant noise in my head that I had to struggle to hear his next words.

"The past two years have been... I don't even know how to describe them, Nelly. I've searched for the appropriate words and still can't find them. Wonderful. Crazy. Incredible. Happy. Fun. Amazing. I say all that, and it still doesn't quite express it. Maybe the words don't exist to make you be able to understand, and if that's the case, then there's only one way to show you.

"I've enjoyed these past two years, to put it mildly, so much so that I want every year from here on out to be just as great. I want you in my life for each year to come, for the rest of our lives. So, what I guess I'm trying to say, er, to ask is...." He reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a velveteen box before he got up from his booth seat and knelt on one knee next to the table. Opening the box, he revealed a shiny, sparkling ring; however, I was looking in his eyes when he popped the question that I knew was coming but still was surprised to hear: "Noelle Marie Lambert, will you marry me? Make me the happiest man in the world?"

I forgot how to breathe, let alone speak. Even though his little speech may have been less than eloquent, it was perfect. The best feelings in the world were sometimes the hardest to describe, because pure elation was truly indescribable—which was why I was having so much trouble finding my vocal cords. So I began to nod, moving my lips even though it took several tries before the word "yes" finally popped out of my mouth.

Sidney got off his knee and slid into the booth on my side, removing the ring from the box as I offered him my left hand. I knew that the ring was probably horrendously expensive as well as that Sid had probably looked at the price tag without batting an eyelash, but I wasn't looking at the ring; the ring was just a symbol. It could have cost him a nickel or five mil, but that didn't matter. All that mattered was the look in his face as he smiled while sliding the ring onto my finger. Sid looked as happy as I felt: happy beyond words.

Monday, October 18, 2010

1: Catching Up

I was nervous. Very nervous. Incredibly nervous. I reached into my pocket with my right hand, like I had done so many times in the past twenty minutes, my fingers grazing the peach fuzz-like velvet of the box. It was like a worry stone that I rubbed absentmindedly. However, whenever I caught myself doing it, I made myself stop; I didn't want to mar the box. I pulled my hand out of my pocket and rested my arms on the table top.

It had been two years—two years to the day when I had first met Nelly. And now I was going to propose.

Waiting at least two years had been had her idea. She had never explicitly asked me to wait until today to ask. And as far as I knew, she didn't have today circled on her calendar as a special day. It wasn't a typical anniversary, because it didn't mark our first kiss or first date. It was just two years since I had met her, here, at this very restaurant.

It had been a day to remember, that's for sure, when we had met. I still can recall the table of girls who had stared at me from across the room but hid their faces as soon as I looked back at them. I'm used to getting recognized wherever I go, and it's the polite thing to do to introduce myself and offer an autograph. Now that I look back on it, it seemed presumptuous of me, but it's been ingrained in me for so long that I'm an ambassador for my team and the league.

The whole exchange that took place afterward was a little awkward and surprising, which is what made such an impression on me. I'm definitely used to overconfident, determined women approaching me and making their intentions clear
—which I suppose can be flattering, but it's mostly unwelcome.

She left without me getting to talk to her again, but imagine my surprise when I saw her again over the weekend. That's when we really started to get to know each other, but it wouldn't have happened if we hadn't have met at this very restaurant. Even though this would only be the second time we'd ever come here together like this, this was a very important place for us, and now it was going to mean even more to us.

I'd come back from Canada specifically for this reason. I still returned to Nova Scotia during the off season, to see my parents and the rest of my family and spend some time at my home on the lake, to relax and unwind after a stressful season and to train and refocus for the next. I'd come back to Pittsburgh occasionally for press and hockey reasons, and sometimes Nelly would come up north and visit for long weekends at my house in Enfield. But she still had to work over the summers with the Penguins organization because she had responsibilities that extended beyond the hockey season. It was a part of her job, and she loved it. Luckily for me, though, she understood that I was still a Canadian boy and that I needed the quiet time over the summer to unwind from the season.

She'd stay at my house—our home—in Pittsburgh even when I was gone. Of course she did, because it was her home now, too. It wasn't particularly hard on us, for us to be separated for periods of time over the summer, because we were so often separated for the entire season, too. It sucked, and had taken a lot of getting used to once she had moved in with me
—but that was the nature of our relationship. It was all we'd ever known during our time together. We weren't lucky enough to have a "normal" relationship, but it wasn't always a bad thing; nothing felt better than returning home after a road trip or being away for an extended span of time to my girl and her open arms. We certainly made due with the life we shared together.

Nelly had known from day one what my life was like. Commercial shoots, photo shoots, interviews, contractual obligations galore, practices, games, road trips, charities, appearances, black tie dinners
, meetings with my agent and sponsors—beyond that, even my personal time wasn't always my own. If we went out for dinner or a movie or just for a walk around the block, half the time we'd get stopped by a fan or someone looking for an autograph or a picture.

She not only understood all that, but she donned the professional girlfriend persona well. Nelly would always smile and offer to take the picture or would hang back just far enough that she was out of the way but never so far away that she appeared disconnected or aloof. It was the perfect balance, and she always took it in stride and never got upset or irked by it. She knew that it came with the territory.

The only time we were really alone and totally ourselves was when we were at home, just the two of us. Since she was so laid back, she was cool with spending the quiet time together. Going out was such a production because I'd always have to call ahead and get a reserved table in a secluded area if we didn't want to be disturbed. It wasn't a hassle because I'd do it if I knew Nelly wanted it done, but she was just as content as I was to spend the time home alone, and it was great to know that we were on the same page and so similar in all the important ways.

Which was how I knew she was The One and why I was going to marry her.

We were a natural fit; that's the only way I could think of to describe it. When we met, she knew exactly who I was: Sidney Crosby, Captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. She liked to joke that I was the biggest thing to happen to hockey since goalie masks. But that wasn't all I was to her. It had been hard, sure. Especially when we lost in the second round the first year we were together. That was a tough time for us, because I do not like to lose and I certainly wasn't happy with the outcome of our season, falling to the Habs in seven games. I was miserable, and I know that I'm not easy to put up when I'm consumed by the losses. But we struggled and got through that first tricky month of the summer, and it got easier from there.

As much as it sucked to lose with her watching, it was so much fun to win with her cheering me on. Sharing the Olympics with her made winning the gold and scoring the winning goal that much sweeter, even though had promised Orps that she was officially cheering for Team USA. And then when we won the Cup the next season, the first season in the Consol Energy Center, it felt amazing to see her come down to the ice with my family, where I could hug her and she could congratulate me. I had really wanted to share that with her. She was the first person I had wanted to see after we had taken the big team photo with the Cup and family members had been allowed to trickle down onto the ice surface to celebrate with us.

The timing was perfect for my surprise; seriously, it couldn't have been better. Nelly was staying with her parents for the weekend as they undertook a huge house cleaning project to go through the basement and de-junk and de-clutterize, as she called it. Her parents wanted her there so she could sort through her own things and decide if she wanted to bring it to her new home or get rid of it. I'd made the excuse that I was coming down to do some things around the house to get it ready before I got caught up with summer Cup celebrations and had to come back into town for the preseason—but mostly, I was here to ask the big question and to hear her say "yes."

I'd suggested dinner when I had sprung my visit on her at the last possible minute, and I'd suggested the restaurant. I don't know if the significance had passed over her head because she was busy and tired from working with her parents or if she really just forgot. Either way, Nelly was going to be surprised—even though she shouldn't be. She should know that this is coming. When she had said that she thought couples should wait a minimum of two years to fully get to know each other before taking this next big step
—but no more than threeI had made a mental note of that. I knew that as soon as we hit our two-year mark, I'd pop the question.

Now that the time had finally come and the moment to propose was here, I was nervous and anxious and ready to do it. It's like that moment right before I'd hit the ice for a big game. You just can't wait to skate out on the ice and position yourself at center ice for the puck drop. It's like your body is itching to perform the physical actions and get going.

I'd worked with a local jeweler for a few months as we tried to search for the perfect ring for Nelly. It had been very difficult; after all, I couldn't go poking my nose around a ring counter at a jewelry store because someone would have said something, and all my plans would have been ruined. I had to be secretive about it, and that meant meeting Franz, the designer, at neutral locations. Finally, since we had no luck finding something that I was sure Nelly would like and what would suit her, we just created an original design. This morning, I had met Franz one last time, to pick it up; now, it was burning a hole in my pocket.

My fingers curled around the box again, almost like I needed to make sure it was still there. Once I consciously realized what I was doing, I made myself let go of it and reach for the glass of water on the table with my right hand to force myself to stop the nervous, repetitive action of touching the ring box.

My knee started to bounce up and down as my anxious energy tried to find another outlet. I glanced at my watch; it was almost six o'clock. I shouldn't have gotten here so early, because I was not very patient. Sitting here and waiting was killing me, but I had been worked up all day as I waited to leave our home in Pittsburgh to drive out here and meet up with her. This was driving me nuts, and I thought for sure that I would spontaneously combust soon if I didn't get ride of this energy by asking her already.

The waitress stopped by with a pitcher of water and refilled my glass. I nodded my thanks to her as I stared at the door and willed Nelly to walk through it. A few times, the door would open and I'd feel my heart rate increase as I expected to see her come through it, but they were all false alarms and I felt disappointed as I continued to wait.

It was three minutes after six by the time she finally pulled open the heavy glass door and breezed into the room. She hesitated as she scanned the room; I watched the way her face pulled up into a smile as she found me sitting in the back of the room and headed over in my direction. Nelly dodged the tables and other patrons as she made her way over to me.

Nelly was dressed in a pair of denim shorts and a loose-fitting tee shirt, her hair pulled back in a messy bun and her cheeks pink. I could immediately see how hard she had been at work at her parents' house by how flush she was.

She first stopped by my side of the table and gave me a peck on the cheek in greeting. "Hey, Sid," she said in a low voice, knowing better than to speak my name too loudly when we were in a public place. "Sorry I'm a little late, but traffic was a little heavier than I thought it would be."

"It's fine," I told her, giving her a smile that I hoped was reassuring but probably looked more strained. My hand slipped into my pocket and grabbed a hold of that black, velvet box, but Nelly grabbed the menu and began to peruse her options before I could go on with my question. Since she was distracted, I made myself let go of it and then I sighed. The moment had to be
just right, and I needed her to have her full attention on me.

"Geez, Sid, it was only three minutes," she started, raising her eyebrow but not bothering to look up from the menu. "If you were that hungry, you could have ordered without me."

"Huh? Oh, no," I replied, trying to cover up and explain away my sigh. This had to start off right, and I couldn't have her thinking that I was upset that she was only a few minutes late for our dinner date. "I haven't even decided what I want yet." That was a total lie. I couldn't eat; I was too nervous to be able to even think about food. She continued to glance over her options, so I made small talk to wait until she had made up her mind. "How're your parents?"

"Good. We almost finished today, actually. I'm really trying to encourage them to donate or throw away a lot of the junk in the basement. They still have some of my baby toys and clothes that they don't need to keep, but they just don't want to get rid of anything."

"Well, maybe they're keeping that stuff for their grandkids," I mused aloud. I waited for her reaction to that statement, as an indication of how my proposal would go over. After all, once you get married, starting a family becomes the next step in the natural progression of a relationship.

"I guess," she said absentmindedly. "But they keep saying they want to get rid of the junk in their basement, and it seems like every box we go through, they say, 'Oh, but we're saving that.' It's frustrating because I'm trying to help and be the voice of reason, but they won't listen."

It didn't even seem to register with her, but I didn't let that discourage me. She was a little flustered and too busy studying the paper in front of her. I let it slide. "Well, I'm sure all that stuff has memories attached to it."

She shrugged but didn't say anything else. I changed subjects. "So, what do you think you'll get?"

"Hmm, I'll probably just get the steak salad. It's what I always get here, but that's just because it's that good."

"Yeah, I remember," I said, starting to look over my menu, too.

Nelly looked up and looked at me carefully. "What do you remember?"

"Steak salad. That's what you ordered the day we met."

"The day we.... Wait, you remember what I
ordered that day?"

I laughed at her. "Of course I remember that. In fact, you were sitting at this very booth, on that very same side of the table."

She cocked her head to the side and crinkled her face up as she examined my face. "You're right. Oh my God, I can't believe you
remember that!"

"I remember a lot of things," I said, reaching deep into my pocket with my right hand, taking a deep breath and preparing myself to ask the big question.

That is, until the waitress stopped at our table, her pad of paper and pen poised to take our orders. "Have yinz guys decided what you want?"

I sighed again and sat back in my seat as the woman who was still just my girlfriend read her meal selection off the menu and I continued to wait for the right moment.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Author's Note, Part II

I know that a lot of you have been anxious for this story to start. Honestly, I've debated on whether or not I wanted to go through with writing this story, even though I had promised to write it—and I like to keep my promises.

I want to be able to proud of the stories I write, so I put a lot of work and time into them. When people don't comment, I feel like that effort becomes wasted. And I'm not someone who's going to whine and moan about it, because every other story I've written has been something that I wanted to do. They have all been projects that I used to try and develop as a writer. But I'll admit it's discouraging to be so proud of a story when it feels like no one's reading it.

However, this is a story just for fun, written for all the people who begged and asked for NWW to keep going. I'm going to write it when I have spare time, instead of devoting my time to it. I have a bigger project in mind which will command the majority of my attention, so this will be what I write when I need a break from that. I plan on posting an update at least once a week. If I know some of you as well as I think I do, this may disappoint you because that's not what you were expecting. And if that's the case, I'm sorry.

Now that that's all said and done, I do have plans for this story. I have a basic plot line all figured out for Sid and Nelly, and I have the first post and a half already written, and the first post is scheduled to go up tomorrow at seven. However, if there's any suggestions you have or things you'd like to see, let me know and I'll do by best to work it into the story. It'll make things easier on me to write if I don't have to plan out all the details myself. This is a story for you, so this is your chance to give your input.

If none of that has put you off, I'll see you tomorrow at seven.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Author's Note

I'm always happy when I hear from my readers who tell me how excited they are for this story to begin.

And I am going to write it... eventually. I created the blog to show my commitment to the readers who asked that, yes, I would write it, but right now, I'm focusing all my writing time on the story I've got going: Immediate Danger. It's my baby, my favorite thing I've ever written, and I've come to the sad conclusion that it'll probably be the best thing I'll ever write. It uses up all my time because the characters and emotions are complex and involved, which is why it's taking me so long to write. ID will continue to take up all my time until I've written the period of the very last sentence, however long that may take.

So I'm not going to put a timeline when this one will start, but I just don't know. If you're a Crosby fan just waiting for another Crosby story to read, I understand because we all have our favorite players. But please be patient. And please appreciate the fact that I'm not just a hockey fan, but a writer trying to expand my repertoire and abilities. There's nothing more discouraging than to hear people say that they can't wait for something *else* to read.

I'm excited to know you're excited. I am, too. But leave those comments, thoughts, and suggestions in an appropriate place, like here. If you want, let me know the unanswered questions you have so I can get an idea of what you want to read or expect to see happen. I'll meet you guys over here soon... just not yet.