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," 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."
"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... 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.
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