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.
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