The weekend went by way too fast, and the next thing I knew, it was Monday morning. Sid was on a plane and heading back up to Nova Scotia so he could focus on training again, and I was sitting in my office at Consol Energy Center. My computer was on, but I tried not to get tempted into checking my e-mail or even looking at the Pens website. I hadn't talked to anyone in the offices that morning, preferring to keep my head down. And I definitely didn't show anyone the giant rock on my left-hand ring finger to belie my change in relationship status. I hadn't even changed my Facebook page yet from in a relationship to engaged.
I couldn't avoid the media forever, though. When I headed to the restroom at about ten, I saw a coworker with a newspaper open at her cubicle. Immediately, I saw a picture of Sid and me, and I knew that she was reading about the announcement. I tried to hurry by, hoping that she didn't see me, but it was too late.
"Noelle!" she cried out, much too loudly for my liking. I froze in place and reddened as she also yelled out, "Congratulations on your engagement!"
At that word, the atmosphere of the entire office changed. I could feel everyone's eyes on me as they all stopped what they were doing and turned. This certainly wasn't how I wanted everyone to find out, but I should have known that I wouldn't be able to keep this a secret—especially not when I worked for the Penguins organization. But I hated having my business spread everywhere. Sid and I were private people.
I said the only thing I could: "Thanks."
She kept talking to me so I couldn't escape. "Can I see the ring?"
It would have been rude of me to brush her off or say no, but I was feeling embarrassed and self-conscious about showing off; I hated being the center of attention when it wasn't because of my own merits. If I had done something well, then I wouldn't mind a congratulations or something like that, but I didn't like the attention because of something Sidney gave me. Instead of saying something in response, I merely held out my left hand for her to see.
Several of the other girls in the office huddled around her cubicle, oohing and aahing as they grabbed my hand and held it up to the light. The large diamond sparkled and shone, shooting rainbows onto the nearby wall. They all began to ask me questions at once, wanting to know about carats and cuts and how much it cost and how far along I was in making the wedding plans. I didn't even hear half of the things they asked. All I could do was shrug and smile nervously as they chattered amongst themselves.
They made me feel like I was a celebutante, someone who publicly famous for no good reason at all. The only reason why they were fawning all over me like this was because I was engaged to Sidney Crosby. If I were engaged to anyone else, it wouldn't be a big deal to them. They might have checked out the rock, said something nice, and left it at that; they wouldn't be gushing and swooning like I was the luckiest girl in the world. It made me feel isolated and different, like they were all looking at me through special glasses.
When Ray Shero walked into the room, the girls quickly dispersed and tried their best to appear like busy little bees, buzzing around the office and working hard. I jumped on the chance to finally go to the restroom like I had originally planned. It felt like my bladder was about to explode.
I took my lunch break in my office, closing my door, opening my tuna salad sandwich, turning off my computer screen so I wouldn't be tempted to look up anything on the on-line Post-Gazette, and putting my feet up on the desk. I munched on my sandwich before I called Sid, feeling like I needed to talk to him in order to gain my sense of equilibrium back. I needed reassurance, and I knew that his plane would have touched down in Nova Scotia by then.
"Hey, Nelly," he said, picking up my call after the second ring. "Lunch break?"
"Yeah," I sighed, wiggling my toes and stretching my feet now that they were out of my heels. What I missed most about the summer was having Sid around to massage my feet after a long day of work. That is, as long as he wasn't away on a road trip, didn't have a home game, or was without another obligation, whether for the team or for something individual.
"Whatcha eating?" Sometimes, Sid would ask me that just because he was so strict with his training, diet, exercise routine in the summer that he would deprive himself of anything remotely decadent and would therefore live vicariously through me.
"Tuna sandwich." I decided not to tell him about the Twinkie I had packed, too. This morning, I had been having a serious Hostess hankering, so much so that I stopped by Sheetz and bought the snack cake to sate the craving. Without realizing I was doing it, I sighed again.
He picked up on my distress. "You sound down."
"Did you see the press release?"
"Yeah. It was actually really nice, I really liked it. I think Pat did a great job with it. What did you think?"
"I don't know, I didn't read it yet."
"Then what's up? What's bugging you?"
I made sure my voice was low so no would be able to hear me through the walls. "I didn't see it, but everyone in the office did. Seriously, there are no secrets here. They practically ripped my arm out of place trying to get a look at the ring." I twirled the piece of jewelry around my finger absentmindedly as I recalled the morning's events. "I love you, Sid, and I can't wait 'til we get married, but I don't like having them all in my business like this. They asked about dresses and flowers and all that already like this is some sort of social event and not a special ceremony between two people in love."
"Yeah, but don't girls get all mushy-gushy when it comes to wedding stuff? They're probably just happy for you."
"But I don't even know half of their names. I only know them to see them, because we pass each other in the hallway. I'm telling you, it's not because I'm getting married... it's because I'm getting married to you."
"I don't know, Nelly, I see what you're saying, but they're your coworkers. These aren't girls out in the street in Pittsburgh who are going to give you death glares. I mean, they're being nice and inquisitive, not jealous and petty."
"I guess. That's a better alternative, anyway, than catty." Taking another deep breath, I added, "You're right. I think I'm going to try to think of it like that from here on out. I'd rather they be friendly."
"That's the spirit," Sid replied. "I'd much rather deal with people who were excited for me and happy for me rather than turning this into something negative or something bad for me...."
When his voice trailed away into silence, I could pick up on the fact that someone was doing just that. Since Pat had already prepared and released our engagement announcement, I couldn't fathom who it could be—since it had to be someone influential in his life to cause him this much angst. "Who?" He didn't say anything at first, so I pressed him for the information. "Come on, Sidney, tell me. Who?"
His voice was so quiet that I could barely hear him. "My dad."
My breath hitched in my throat, my entire body freezing in disbelief. "What?"
"He's not exactly full of approval over this."
"But why?" I felt so hurt. "I thought he liked me? He's never had a problem with me in the past. Has he?"
"No, I swear. He likes you, Nelly. He thought you were good for me."
"Then, what...? Why?" I thought I was going to start to cry. "He doesn't want us to get married? What's his problem with me all of a sudden?"
"It's not that I'm marrying you, it's that I'm getting married at all. He thinks I'm too young, that's all. Dad thinks that I should just worry about hockey and focus on that while I'm still in my prime, that I can think about marrying and starting a family a ways down the road from now, when hockey's not my primary concern."
"Geez, does your dad even know you?" I scoffed. "Hockey's always going to be a part of your life. Some guys, they don't grow out of hockey or get too old for it. Look at Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman—those guys are still involved! And so will you. You're so passionate about the sport, and that doesn't just go away."
"So it doesn't matter when you get married or do any of this stuff, because if you wait until after you're finished with hockey, well, that's going to be never."
"It's not like I'm going to tell you that you have to give up hockey once we're married! First of all, I'm not like that. And second of all, I know how important the game and the team is to you, and I would never ask anyone I cared about to give up something that meant so much to them! I'd be heartless if I were like that."
"I know, Nelly, I know," he chuckled lightly. "You don't need to convince me of this. He'll come around to the idea. He's just being moody and stuff about it right now."
"But didn't he know? I thought that your mom was all excited because she knew you were going to pop the question."
"Yeah, she knew, but I didn't talk to him about it. I didn't think he'd be like this, but I did think that he'd be all 'be sure this is what you really want, son' or maybe tell me to wait a little longer, like another year or something." Sidney sighed. "He's not in full disapproval mode. That would almost be easier to deal with. He's just... not one hundred percent behind me either. His suggestion was a long engagement."
"Like, five years or something."
"Ughhh." I rested my head against the back of my office chair and leaned as far back as the recliner would go, pressing my free arm against my eyes. This wasn't what I had wanted to hear; I wanted reassurance and comfort, not to deal with more crap. "So what does this mean?"
"It doesn't mean anything. Not anything important, anyway. It's not like I changed my mind or that anything he could potentially say would ever make me change my mind. It's my life, not his. And like I said, he's not dramatically opposed to this, just less gung-ho than I am. It's fine, I promise."
I really wanted to believe him. "If you say so."
"Yeah, I say so. So no more thinking about this. Don't you have work you should be doing anyway?"
"Hmm, yes." I glanced at my calendar, checking my meeting schedule. "My afternoon's busy. I've got Després coming in at two, and Pechurskiy at three thirty."
"Oh God," he laughed, emitting that high-pitched laugh that hadn't deepened over the past two years. "That poor Russian. You'd think Geno would have warned him to stay away from you."
"Hey," I whined, trying to stifle my giggles. "Evgeni's English is so good now! He doesn't run away from interviews anymore. And he was my first, well, client I guess you'd call him, so to be successful right off the bat is amazing."
"It's not amazing. It just goes to show how good you are."
I smiled at his compliment. "Then why are you feeling bad for Alexander?"
"Because he has no idea what you're about to put him through. He's gonna start thinking that NHL practices are easy compared to all the work you're gonna give him."
"Oh, ha ha. I'm just doing my job. Speaking of which, I'd better go. I only have five minutes of my break left."
We said our I love yous and hung up. It was my routine to check my e-mail after I ate my lunch, and I had a bunch of notifications from Facebook. I logged into my account and scrolled down my profile. So many people—a lot of people who I didn't even talk to much anymore—had congratulated me on my wall.
Eva, my best friend outside of my hockey world, had sent me a message complete with a link to the announcement. I wasn't so worried about the release because Sid had said that it was nice and that he had liked it. It was cute and simple:
Sidney Crosby and girlfriend Noelle Lambert would like to announce their recent engagement. Crosby marked his two-year anniversary by getting down on one knee and presenting a six and one-third carat diamond ring—
I gasped when I got to that part of the story. I had no idea that the ring he had gave me was that big and no doubt crazy expensive!
—to which Noelle quickly accepted. "Sid and I couldn't be happier," says the twenty-six-year-old Director of Player Communications and Media Relations of the Penguins organization.
Wow, that was funny. I couldn't remember saying that. Pat no doubt made it up to fill out the announcement. It was true, though, I couldn't deny that. We were happy.
I wasn't thinking when I kept scrolling down the page and wound up in the comments section. There was absolutely nothing positive written their by anyone. By the third comment down, I had been called everything I ever could have thought of: fat, ugly, money-grubbing, gold-digger.... I X'ed out the window and tried to close my eyes to block out those horrible words, but they were written in neon on the back of my eyelids. I didn't have a lot of time to contemplate or process that because I had to prepare for my afternoon meetings.
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