One of the benefits of dating a professional hockey player—specifically, a top-notch player with indefatigable focus and determination—is that I was in the best shape of my life. I had a personal gym at my disposal in the basement of our house, and I also had access to the Pens' equipment in Consol if I wanted to use it. I never did, but it was a perk of the job. As long as the guys weren't having a team training session and there was a machine open, I had free reign of the huge room.
Not only was I working out with consistency, but I was also eating very healthily. When Sid and I cooked dinner at home, it was always something nutritious and healthy. Sid was crazy strict about what he ate, and even when we went out to eat, it was something limited to what the team nutritionist suggested. Protein, complex carbs, veggies, and hardly any sweets. He had a dessert schedule: he allowed himself one treat a week, but that was only if he was playing well and the team was winning. When we would go out to eat, I would feel bad if I splurged on ice cream or cake, so I stopped eating a lot of my favorite, sugary foods when he was around.
That being said, the girls and I would get together when the team was on a road trip and have girls' nights in. We'd binge on Cheetos and Ben & Jerry's and brownies and anything else we'd want to eat. However, those occasions were few and far between, so I was in great shape. My endurance was up, I had lost a dress size, and I had a lot more tone to my body. It was the best I had ever physically felt in my life, and, if I do say so myself, I looked pretty good, too.
The weekend of our engagement was great. We made more calls that following Sunday, and so many people gushed about how happy they were for us. They were happy that Sidney had found someone who was willing to put up with the negative aspects of his career and who could see past that to his good parts and that he was worth it; they were happy for me because Sid was a great boyfriend, and he would make a great husband, too—one that I deserved.
Mario and Nathalie invited us over for brunch on Sunday to celebrate. They, too, congratulated us, but it wasn't long before they started asking us the big questions. People were excited for us, but it seemed like our big news was never enough. They always wanted to know when we set the date for, if we were planning for a long engagement, whether we were going to get married here in Pittsburgh or up in Canada, a big or a small wedding, a big or a small reception, color schemes, and tons of other questions about stuff that I hadn't even begun to consider yet. I just wanted to be able enjoy the fact that we were going to make this big next step.
Sidney gave them the response that we had been giving to everyone: "We haven't even thought about any of that stuff yet. We're just enjoying the weekend. And I'm going to let myself be happy that she said yes for a little while longer before we start looking forward to that." And I nodded to show them my solidarity behind that move. After all, I couldn't wait to start planning everything out, but I knew how stressful that would be; I just wanted to enjoy the moment before things got crazy.
Perhaps the biggest question that had been posed to us, which just so happened to be by Mario, was: "So, are you planning to make a formal announcement about your engagement to the media?"
Sid and I both just looked at each other when he had asked us that. He was the first to answer, but he responded with another question. "Do we have to?"
Nathalie looked at us wisely and smiled. "It's probably for the best. It won't be long before someone, most probably a photographer, spots that ring on your finger, Noelle. Then the cat will be out of the bag, and you two will have to do major damage control. Take it from someone who's been there: full disclosure is the way to go."
"But isn't this a part of our personal life? Isn't this one of those things that we should be able to expect some privacy over?" I asked, hoping that they would tell me what I wanted to hear. There was a twinge of desperation in my voice, and Sid heard it and put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me fully against his side, comforting me.
"Should this be a part of your personal life? Yes," Mario sighed. "But we do have to be realistic in this situation. The news will get out, and if you aren't the ones to disclose it, then people will dig for information. You don't have to go into details, but an announcement in the Post-Gazette or something like that might be enough to sate the public."
"Might be?" I groaned. "I don't like the sound of 'might be.' If it won't be good enough anyway, then I don't think we should bother."
Sid pulled a face and disagreed with me. "I think that if there's even a remote possibility that putting an announcement out will satisfy people, then I think we should do it." I pursed my lips and squinted my eyes when he said that. The whole thing felt like an invasion of privacy—and while I was used to relinquishing some control over my public image, I didn't like the idea of this. Sid added, "At least it won't hurt, right?"
I thought about it for a little while before I acquiesced. "Okay. I guess it would be best to have some say in what gets out before everybody and their mother starts scrutinizing our relationship." I sighed. "We'll do it."
Sidney smiled and gave me a little squeeze. "I'll call Pat tonight and I'm sure he'll have something for the Monday edition of the paper."
While Pat and I hadn't had the best of starts—after all, he tried to break us up—but he did a great job as Sid's agent so I put up with him. He probably wouldn't be too pleased to hear about our big news because Sid would lose some of his appeal and marketability, but I knew that he would put together a great announcement on our behalf for the paper. There was a picture of Sid and me at our first Christmas that we spent together, up in Cole Harbour, and I knew that it would be perfect to accompany the engagement announcement.
Nathalie and I headed into the kitchen while Sid and Mario stayed in the living room. I loved the Lemieux's kitchen because it was so big: there were two ovens, two refrigerators, and seemingly endless counter space. They had a pretty big family according to my standard, with four kids, but when you factor in that they also entertained large amounts of people often, they needed all the space they could afford—which was a lot.
She looked at me again with that expression that she had that made her appear to be omniscient. "Are you ready for the whirlwind that's about to begin?"
I leaned against the counter and shook my head. "No, I don't think so. I mean, I love Sid and all, so much, and I love being a part of his life, but let me tell you... I still can never understand this world of his. Always thinking about the media, always on the lookout for what's best for his image. He takes it all in stride, but I don't know how he manages."
"It comes with the territory as far as he's concerned. It's something he's always lived with. Ever since he was a kid, he garnered this kind of attention. But you, well, this is still all relatively new to you. I just want to make sure you're ready. I know you'll stick by his side through it all, but you'd better be prepared."
"Wow, Nat, you're kind of scaring me with this sort of talk," I admitted, popping a grape in my mouth and chewing slowly.
She chuckled, "No. I'm definitely not trying to scare you. That's why I'm trying to tell you that you've got to steel yourself and be ready. Not only are people not going to like the fact that Sid's getting married, but they're also going to be insanely interested in it."
I sighed. "This is definitely not what I imagined when I pictured my wedding day as a little girl." I paused as I thought about the way I had played with my dolls, and I married Barbie and Ken. Things were never this complicated back then. "How did you deal with it when you and Mario got married?"
"It was never like this back in my day." Nathalie pulled the quiche out of one of the ovens and set it on the top of the stove to cool. "Sure, he had his share of crazy-in-love, girlie fans, but this was before the internet and the Twitter and those strangely obsessive girlfriend forums. It was more like girls talking behind my back and throwing themselves at Mario when I wasn't looking. You have that and all the cyber stuff to deal with.
"So I have no idea what you're going to have to deal with when it comes to how the media's going to handle it. But all you have to know is that Sidney is in love with you and that he wants to marry you. If you keep that in mind and follow your heart, you'll get through it."
I smiled, appreciating her advice. Having Nat in my corner was going to help me a lot. Who else better to give me advice than someone who knew exactly what I was going through? I laughed, "I never would have thought it would be this big of a deal. I mean, it's not like I'm Carrie Underwood or Hilary Duff. I'm not a celebrity marrying a hockey player."
"It doesn't matter when the hockey player is Sidney Crosby."
We ate our brunch and stopped talking about the engagement and the inevitable yet unplanned wedding in the not-too-distant or distant future, whenever it would be. It was nice to not have to think about it anymore. I thought about how I was already a little sick of thinking about it, and that didn't sit right with me. I should be ecstatic to be newly engaged, but since I knew how stressful the whole ordeal would be, I was worried about it.
When we left Sewickley and headed east so Sid could take me home, I began to start thinking about what our wedding would be like. Since I was having hesitancy about what how we were going to handle this, I figured we'd need to get on the same page fast. I knew what I wanted, but I asked him, "So, what are you thinking about a wedding? Small, big? Quiet ceremony and celebration, or something lavish and expensive?"
"I don't know. What do you want?"
I couldn't help but laugh. "No, Sid! I asked you first!"
"Well, to be honest, Nelly, it doesn't really matter all that much to me. I want my family and friends there to share the day with, but all I care about is saying 'I do' to you. How we do it doesn't matter."
"That's so sweet," I cooed, my heart swelling with love. I then confessed my thoughts. "I don't want something really big. I want the day to be about you and me and us, and not about the location or cake or the catering, you know? I want something like what Max and Charlotte did, I think. A small ceremony, just with family and really close friends. And then we can have a big reception after the honeymoon and invite the whole world if we want. But as for The Big Day, well, I feel the same way that you do. I just want it to be about marrying you."
"Good then," he replied, smiling and kissing the back of my hand. He never took his eyes off the road. I always felt so safe when he drove.
"Yeah, I'm glad that that's settled. The next big question, then, is when?"
Sidney grinned even wider. "Another easy one. In the summer. I wanna do it when I have time off and we won't have to be so rushed. So, sometime next July? By then for sure the season will be over."
"So soon?" I gasped. "Even with a small ceremony, Sid, it's going to be impossible to plan a summer wedding in just a year. Everything'll be booked!"
"It can't be that hard. If we have to pull a few strings, then we will. I don't usually like to get special treatment or attention because of who I am, but if we have to use it to our advantage, then why don't we?"
"Next summer?" I looked out the window at the passing landscape as I thought about it. "Is this really happening? So fast?"
"All I know is that I wanna get married. I wanna marry you. I would do it tomorrow, next summer, or the summer after that if you wanna wait that long."
"I don't think I want to wait that long, but it's all happening so suddenly." I smiled, allowing the idea to sink in. "But I think next summer is good. Perfect, in fact. I can't wait!"
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