Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chapter 31

“How many schools allow you to major in exercise science?” Evanne asked me as I sat in front of my laptop at her apartment.

“This says that there are 406 in the country,” I groaned, covering my face with my hands.

“Okay, well, there’s got to be a way to eliminate a fair amount of those. Do you want a big school or a small school?” she asked. I thought about it for a moment.

“I don’t know. I mean, I went to a big school before and loved it, but I can see how having a smaller school would be an advantage. Smaller class sizes, knowing everyone, and all that.”

I looked back at the computer screen in front of me. I’d delayed far too long in beginning to search for a school for the start of the following year. Applications were going to start being due soon, so I had to figure things out and figure them out quickly. I glanced at page 1 of 41 on the list of schools and groaned again.

“Are there any in Pittsburgh?” Evie asked.

I turned my attention to her and narrowed my eyes. I didn’t want her to know that I was literally just about to check the state of Pennsylvania. That was a bad idea though. A really bad idea. You gave your life up once for a guy, Misty, don’t do it again, I warned myself.

“I don’t know,” I told her nonchalantly with a shrug. I wasn’t going to look. I was not going to look.

“Yeah, right. Okay, fine. Let’s start with states you don’t want to go to,” she suggested.

“Well, I think I can eliminate the south. Way too hot down there for me. I like having seasons, ya know? Also, I can do without the weather we had in Minnesota when I went to school there. We’ll stick with the middle third of the country.”

I continued to peruse the list of schools and eliminated some more mentally just based on not having a clue about the school itself. I wanted it to at least be well known if I wanted a chance to get a good job when I graduated. I stopped clicking through when I reached the schools in Pennsylvania. Evie noticed my hesitation and made her way over to me to look over my shoulder.

“I wonder how close each of those places are to Pittsburgh,” she started. I closed my laptop and glared at her.

“I’m not going to school in Pittsburgh simply because Sidney is there. I’m going to go to a school with a good program, no matter where it is,” I explained. She let out a derisive snort.

“Whatever you say.”

“I have to get to work. I’ll talk to you later.”

I packed up my laptop and headed out to my car. I hadn’t been lying when I told her that I wanted to go to a school with a good program. I just hated to admit that if that program happened to me near Pittsburgh, I’d hardly be complaining. I mean, how could it be bad to be close to your best friend?

I walked into work a little while later and clocked in. I went through the usual, setting up for the dinner shift and such. When the restaurant opened I sucked up my thoughts of how much I hated being a waitress and went over to my first table with a smile on my face. The night ended without much of a hassle thankfully and I helped with the clean up.

“Okay everyone, it’s going to be a long time before I see you again, so I wanted to say thanks and have a good vacation!” my boss, Jake called out. The restaurant was closing for renovations for a month, putting me out of work for a while. I wasn’t at all complaining about that. “Misty, hold on!”

“What’s up, Jake?” I asked.

“Just curious to see what your plans were while you didn’t have any work,” he said. Jake was a close family friend and I’d known him for years.

“Not sure. I’m probably going to start looking at new schools for next year,” I told him truthfully. He nodded and smiled.

“About time you decided to go back.” I rolled my eyes at him. He was just like my parents.

“I’ll see you soon, I’m sure,” I called to him with a wave as I walked out the door. I drove home and settled down in front of the TV in my room.

What was I going to do with the next month? It was almost December, so it was too cold to really spend much time outside doing anything. You could only ski so many times, especially by yourself since everyone else I knew would be working. I opened my laptop up to the list of schools I’d started and let out a sigh. Now was not the time. Thankfully my phone rang, distracting me.

“How was your last day of work for a while?” Sidney asked when I picked up.

“Actually not too bad. No one was annoying. I’m not sure if that’s because people were generally in good moods, or I just was because I don’t have to go back for a while,” I joked.

We talked for a while about what was going on with us and about his upcoming games. He told me that for pretty much the entire month of December they were at home with hardly any road games and an idea started to form in my head. We hung up not long after and I immediately went online to check his schedule.

I decided I was going to go visit him in Pittsburgh at some point, I’d just have to figure out when the best time was. I missed him, a lot. It was pretty ridiculous actually how much I missed the guy. I thought time would alleviate it a bit, but it had only gotten worse. Not really wanting to waste energy on it now, I put the computer away and got into bed. I’d sleep on it and then figure it out later.

A few days later I was already bored out of my mind. I needed to get out of New York and I needed to do it now. The more I thought about it, the more I decided to just show up and surprise Sidney. He’d probably kill me for not telling him, but I knew it wouldn’t be a big deal. He’d be happy to see me and I was going to be really happy to see him. After all, I was in love with the guy.

I packed up a small suitcase with enough clothes to last a couple of days and got to sleep that night. It’d been hard not to tell him that I was coming when we talked on the phone. I’d been grinning like a fool through the entire conversation and everything he said made me want to blurt out the news.

I woke up early the next morning and grabbed a travel mug filled with coffee. Then I said goodbye to my parents and Bauer, who was staying home this time. I got into my car and started the almost 9 hour drive to Pittsburgh. I’d booked a hotel room in downtown Pittsburgh near the rink the night before. The Pens were playing that night, and while I couldn’t go to the game, I could wait for him outside after.

I stopped once on the trip for food and a bathroom break, but I made the stop as quick as possible. I just wanted to be there. Even if I still had to wait for the game to end, I’d be there, that much closer to Sidney. Finally I drove into the city and then found the hotel and checked in. I had a bit of time to kill before the game started and set out to explore the city a bit.

Of course the first thing I looked for was a coffee shop. No matter how much coffee they serve at hotels, it’s still always brutal. I found one just a couple blocks from both the hotel and the rink that was open late. I got a cup to make sure it was okay, and on first sip I knew I’d found my place. As it got closer to game time I made my way back to the hotel and ordered room service.

After I finished dinner I got to work getting ready while the game played in the background. I let out a loud cheer when Sidney scored the Pens first goal against Colorado before getting back to getting ready. Sidney sealed the game with an empty net goal at the end and the Penguins won 4-1.

I finished getting ready and then threw on a coat, a knit hat, and a pair of gloves to go along with my boots. It wasn’t like I had gotten completely made up to stand outside and wait, but I’d wanted to look good. Then I left and walked over to the rink. I wasn’t sure exactly where the guys came out, but found a group of fans standing in the cold, looking like they were waiting.

“Excuse me, is this where the guys will come out?” I asked a girl in a Penguins jersey over a sweatshirt.

“Yeah, it is,” she responded.

I smiled and waited. I stood outside with the fans, my heart speeding up every minute that went by. I giggled to myself as I thought about his reaction to seeing me standing in the crowd. I could picture his face and the slow spreading of his grin as realization struck him.

Thankfully it wasn’t terribly cold outside that night because I felt like it was taking forever for anyone to come out. My anticipation was heightened when the first few guys started making their way out of the rink to the cheers of the fans. Any minute now Sidney was going to walk out that door. I bit my lip as I waited and then I saw him. He stepped out the door and my eyes lit up and I grinned. Then I saw her.

A gorgeous brunette stepped out behind him. My grin fell as he held the door open for her and she smiled and thanked him. I felt like someone was tearing my heart out as the brunette linked her arm with Sidney’s as they made their way to his car. The girl smiled up at him and laughed at something he said. She responded and he laughed back as he whispered something into her ear.

Tears stung my eyes and I felt like I was going to be sick. Why hadn’t he told me that he’d met someone? I thought I was his best friend. Wasn’t that what he told me? He should have mentioned that he’d met someone. Except that was only part of why I felt the way I did right now.

Sidney was with another girl. I know that I had only recently realized the extent of my feelings towards him, but it still hurt. Badly. I knew that he didn’t feel the same way about me, that he only saw me as a friend, but having to find out about it this way just made it hurt more. I’d come to surprise him, hoping maybe…..but that wasn’t going to happen now.

I watched him hold the car door open for her and take her hand to help her in. I couldn’t watch this anymore. As he got into his car I turned my back on the scene and made my way through the crowd. I needed to get out of there. There was only one thing I wanted right now, and that was to get away.

After pushing my way through the throng of people I turned back. Sidney was leaning out of the window signing autographs while the girl in his car texted away on her phone. I allowed myself that one last glance before turning back to the street. I needed a cup of coffee now and tomorrow I was going home.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chapter 30

Sidney walked into the third house he’d looked at this week. He’d made the decision to move out of Mario’s and get his own place. He was 23 and it was about time. The realtor began talking about the house, pointing out some of its advantages and quirks. He took in the foyer and the tile floor they were standing on like he was told. So far it looked like the others. Then they walked into the living room.

He was struck immediately by how bright the room was with the sunlight. It wasn’t that there were more windows than normal, but they just happened to be situated so that every inch of the room was covered in light. Then he noticed that there was a window seat under a window that overlooked a pretty great view. Misty would love this room and that window seat. He could practically see her sitting there reading a book. She loved sunlight.

He was surprised by the thought because it had caught him completely off-guard. He hadn’t thought of her in either of the other two houses he had seen, so why this time? He walked over to the window seat and sat down for a moment. It was perfect. This room was perfect.

He then followed the realtor into the dining room. She told him some more about the house and the room before leading him into the kitchen. He was surprised for a second time when he could see Misty baking brownies at the stove or eating Chinese food out of the containers at the island. That hadn’t happened in either of the other kitchens either.

He tried a second time to push her out of his mind as he looked around the rest of the house. They finished off the first floor and made their way upstairs to look at all the bedrooms. He was pleased with himself when the only thought he had was that it was a perfect number for if his friends or family came in for a weekend.

The last stop was the master bedroom. Well, it was more a suite than a bedroom. It was enormous and full of sunlight just like the living room had been. He walked over to the window and saw that it held the same view as the window with the seat. There’d be no negatives to waking up to that every morning.

When the closet was opened he saw that there was way more room than he could possibly use. Of course, there was plenty of room for Misty’s stuff. He shook his head at himself when she popped into his head again. Why was he even considering her when thinking about this house? She wasn’t moving in here with him, and it wasn't even an option. He had to forget about her and make this decision on his own.

The bathroom proved to be a problem in that resolution when he saw that there were separate sinks and the shower door was clear and contained two showerheads and a seat. God damn, that shower. He had other thoughts about Misty right now that had nothing to do with her living there with him.

He forced himself to listen to the realtor instead of thinking about Misty naked in the shower with him and followed her back downstairs. They stood again in the living room as she gave him the last few bits of information on the place. Really, the only negative to it was that it was obviously not made for just one person, and he told the realtor that.

Just then his phone rang and he glanced down at the caller ID. He smiled just at the sight of her name. He felt like thinking about her so much this afternoon had almost conjured up this phone call. If it had been anyone else he would have hit ‘ignore’, but he wouldn’t do that to her.

“Excuse me for a moment,” he said to the realtor before picking up.

“I just had a table eat all but like two bites of their lunch and then tell me it was the worst thing they’ve ever eaten and they didn’t think they should have to pay for it. If it was so awful, why did you eat it instead of ordering something else?!” she exclaimed. He laughed.

“Bad day at work?” he asked.

“I swear, someday I’m going to invent a machine that will automatically eliminate every person in the world that I wouldn’t get along with,” she replied. He laughed again. Misty cracked him up when she was in one of these moods. “Anyway, what are you up to?”

“I’m actually looking at a house right now,” he told her.

“Oh yeah? Is it nice?” she questioned.

“Yeah, it is. Big kitchen, plenty of guest rooms, tons of sunlight everywhere,” he explained.

“If you’re dumb enough to get a place without tons of sunlight, we will no longer be friends,” she joked.

“Don’t worry, I would never dream of doing such a thing.”

“Which bedroom is mine when I come to visit?” she asked.

“Any one you want,” he replied.

“I’ll take the master bedroom then.”

He smiled when she said that. Despite figuring she meant she just wanted the biggest room when she came to visit, he liked to think maybe she’d meant she’d share it with him instead of taking her own room. They only talked another minute with a promise to talk again later. He turned back to the realtor who was looking at him with a smile on her face.

“Girlfriend?” she asked. He wasn’t sure if she was simply curious, or liked knowing more about his personal life than the rest of the general public.

“No, my best friend,” he told her. She nodded and asked him what he thought of the house. He told her he’d take it.

I got home from work that night and hung out with my parents in the living room watching TV for a little while before they went up to bed. Nick was back at school for the year, and I was left alone with Bauer. Like every other night I made my way into my bedroom because I didn’t want to disturb my parents while they were trying to sleep.
It was depressing being back home. I’d give just about anything to be back in Cole Harbour and have it be summer again. I’d been home for about a week, and there was no sign of it getting better. I’d grown up wanting out of this town, and here I was, not any closer to getting out for good. The summer away had only shown me how badly I needed out.

I thought back to the summer once again, like I had been over and over again since I’d been back. I smiled to myself at all the good memories I had and looked up at the pictures I’d put on my wall of everyone back there that I knew I’d keep in touch with. There were pictures of me and the girls posing and goofing off in front of the camera. There were pictures of the guys messing around. Then there were pictures of Sidney and I.

We had pictures that had been taken when we weren’t aware of it. There were pictures taken of us laughing together over something, pictures of us fishing, pictures of us competing over something stupid I’m sure. There were also the pictures of us posing for the camera, our arms around each other, grinning crazily. Lastly there was my personal favorite, the one where I’d planted a kiss on his cheek last second, and the shocked expression on his face, mid-giggle, was priceless.

When I left Cole Harbour I felt like I was leaving a piece of me behind so I’d printed out these pictures to never forget what I’d had that summer. I’d been on my own, with only myself and Bauer to rely on. I’d done it. I’d proven to myself that I could live on my own and not be dependent on anyone else. And I’d met some of the best people ever in the process.

I’d spent every day the week after Sidney left with at least one of the girls or the guys, or some combination of them. They’d wanted to make sure I was okay with him gone, and I’d wanted to spend as much time with them as I could before I left. The night before I headed home they’d taken me out for dinner and drinks. It was supposed to be an early night so I could get plenty of sleep, but we closed down the bars that night, just having too much fun to part. I’d paid dearly for it the next morning when I woke up to make the drive.

My head had hurt when I woke up and I downed a couple of painkillers with my coffee before starting out. Bauer and I stood out in the front yard for a while looking back at the house that had been our home for the summer. A tear had slid down my cheek when I turned to get into my car. I’d fully intended on getting right on the road, but I found myself heading somewhere else instead.

I’d pulled up to Sidney’s house and sat in the car for a moment, wondering what the hell I was doing there. I eventually got out of the car and walked out to the back, Bauer on my heels. I walked to the end of the dock and looked out over the lake for a while. When I turned to head back to my car I took one long last look at his house.

“Goodbye,” I’d said aloud, a few more tears escaping my eyes. Then I’d gotten back into my car and began the journey home.

The sound of my phone ringing jolted me out of my memories and I had half a mind to just hit ignore and retreat back into them. Deciding that wasn’t the healthiest option I glanced at the screen. I was glad I’d changed my mind when I saw a picture of Sidney had popped up onto it.

“Are you a homeowner yet?” I asked when I answered. He chuckled.

“I am.”

“Which house?”

“The one I was in when you called earlier. The one with all the sunlight,” he told me. I grinned even though he couldn’t see it.

“Then we can still be friends,” I joked.

“Oh good, I was worried,” he responded sarcastically. I laughed along with him. “There’s a window seat with an amazing view, right where all that sunlight comes in.” My grin grew when he told me.

“Sounds like the place you’ll have to tear me away from when I come to visit.”

“Yeah, I figured that would be the case.”

We talked for a while longer and the smile remained on my face the entire time. Even though I was stuck here with my parents instead of in the town I’d fallen in love with this summer, it hurt a little less when I talked to Sidney. Everything hurt less when I heard his voice.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chapter 29

I stood half naked in front of my closet, agonizing over what to wear. I’d have a much easier time deciding what to wear on a first date than to dinner with Sidney’s parents. I eventually decided on something and changed before waiting for Sidney to pick me up. Bauer gave me a look like ‘what are you doing?’ and I had no answer.

When he’d called me to tell me that they wanted me to come over to dinner with him the night before he left, I’d been stunned. It was their last night with their son, so why did they want me there? His father didn’t even like me. Sidney had said something about his father suddenly seeming to have a change in heart as far as I was concerned, but I didn’t believe it. What could have possibly changed his mind?

I saw Sidney’s Range Rover pull into my driveway and I walked outside, locking the door behind me. I asked him for probably the thousandth time to tell me why his parents wanted me at dinner. For probably the thousandth time, he didn’t have an answer. Thankfully, he seemed as surprised as I was.

“Sid! Misty!” Taylor called out when we pulled up and got out of the car. I smiled and waved to her.

“Hey, kid,” Sidney greeted her. She rolled her eyes and was about to retort when I punched him in the shoulder.

“Would you stop treating her like she’s 5?” I asked him. Taylor beamed over at me.

“Thank you,” she said. Then she gave him a punch in the shoulder of her own. He gave us both dirty looks as we walked in the house.

“Hey Mom, Dad!” Sidney called out. They came around a corner from the kitchen with smiles on their faces.

“Hi you two. Come on back and grab something to drink,” Trina told us cheerfully.

“Can I help with anything?” I offered after taking a glass of wine that Troy handed me.

“No, no. Everything’s done and cooking. Go on outside with everyone else. I’ll be out in a moment,” she declined.

Wishing that she’d wanted help, I reluctantly stepped outside where Sidney was with Troy and Taylor. I joined in the conversation with the three of them, and strangely never felt the vibe from Troy I’d always gotten from him. Trina was out shortly and we all just sat and talked until dinner was ready.

Once food was on plates, the conversation changed over to the upcoming season. I got quiet like I always did when there was talk about Pittsburgh. Even though Sidney was leaving tomorrow, I still wasn’t ready for him to go. I probably never would have been. The subject dominated the conversation for the rest of the night.

At one point I thought that I was going to lose it, and excused myself to go inside under the guise of getting another glass of wine. I walked into the kitchen and poured myself another glass while fighting back the tears that had started to build. I’d just gotten myself under control when I heard footsteps come in behind me. I turned to see Troy standing behind me.

“Are you okay?” he asked. I put a fake smile on my face and nodded.

“Yeah, good, thanks,” I lied. He smiled over at me and sighed.

“You have feelings for my son, don’t you?” He said it more as a statement than as a question, and it took me by surprise. It took me a while to be able to form any sentence that wouldn’t have sounded ridiculous.

“He’s become my best friend,” I told him.

“That’s not what I meant.” I averted my eyes from his gaze and took a deep breath.

“I care for him, yes.” There was no point in lying to him now. After tonight, I might never see him again.

“Does he know?” I shrugged.

“Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never told him, but other people have figured it out. I don’t think they’ve said anything, but I can’t be sure.” Troy nodded and leaned back against the counter.

“He has the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Troy sighed. I could tell that the pressure on his son pained him as much as it did Sidney.

“I know that. It’s part of the reason I’ve never told him.” Troy smiled over at me.

“I think I may have misjudged you when we first met. I apologize if I was ever rude.” His apology surprised me, and I’m sure that he could tell.

“Thank you. I’m sorry that you have to be so guarded with everyone that comes into your son’s life. It shouldn’t have to be that way.” He nodded and sighed.

“You’re right. He doesn’t deserve that.” Sidney walked into the kitchen just then and looked at us both oddly.

“You two have been gone a while. Everything okay?” he asked.

Troy and I looked at each other and I felt like we finally understood one another. I knew that he was only doing what he thought was best for his son, and he knew that I wasn’t trying to cash in on him. We both cared for Sidney deeply. Because of that I knew there wouldn’t be any more problems between us.

“Yeah, we were just trying to sneak a look at what your mother made for dessert,” Troy told him, giving me a small smile when Sidney turned away from him to look at me. I nodded and smiled to assure Sidney that everything was fine.

Troy and I followed Sidney back outside. Any tension I had felt before the talk with Troy had vanished, and I was able to try to enjoy the rest of the night. We left pretty late and Sidney drove me back to my house. He pulled in the driveway and then turned to me.

“Do you just want to go in and get Bauer then stay the night at my place?” he asked. I jumped at the chance to spend as much time as possible with him before he left in the morning.

I packed some stuff, grabbed Bauer and got into my car to follow him. When we got to Sidney’s I went upstairs to drop my stuff off. I automatically put it down in his bedroom instead of a guest room. I couldn’t even remember the last time we’d spent the night in the same place and not slept in the same bed. It just seemed to be assumed that we would.

When I got back downstairs I didn’t see Sidney anywhere. As I searched for him, I glanced out a back window and saw him standing at the end of his dock. I left Bauer and Sam inside and made my way out to where he was standing. He turned at the sound of my footsteps and smiled sadly.

“It never gets easier to leave home, does it?” I asked him as we both looked out over the lake.

“No, it never does.”

I took off my sandals and sat down, letting the water lap at my feet. Sidney followed suit. We sat like that in silence for a while. The reflection of the moon shifted and undulated with the waves coming into shore from the light breeze. The sound of a fish coming to the surface resonated around us in the silence.

“How did you like Cole Harbour?” Sidney asked after a while. I thought about how I wanted to answer that for a bit before responding.

“It feels like home,” I answered truthfully.

A tear slid down my cheek when I told him that. I felt him wipe it away and then put an arm around my shoulders. I leaned into him and rested my head on his shoulder as we continued to look out over the lake. I squeezed my eyes closed, resisting the urge to cry. If there had ever been an appropriate moment to do it though, this was it.

“Cole Harbour will still be here next summer,” Sidney whispered, breaking the silence that had fallen over us again. I turned to look at him when I heard that. The tears began to fall then and there was nothing I could do about it. He took my face in his hands and looked into my eyes. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you, too.”

He rested his forehead against mine. We sat like that, foreheads pressed together for a long time. Neither of us seemed willing to pull away and end the moment. Another splash caused us both to jerk back in surprise. It was like we had forgotten that the world existed for a while.

“I need to get to bed. It’s going to be an early morning,” he said, regret lacing his voice. I nodded and allowed him to help me up.

We went inside and got ready for bed. Sidney pulled back the covers and I crawled in beside him in the bed. He wrapped both of his arms around me and I rested my head on his chest. Despite not wanting to sleep so I could savor the last few hours with him, I felt my lids growing heavy. Just as I was about to fall unconscious I thought I felt Sidney place a kiss on the top of my head.

The alarm went off the following morning and I cringed at the sound. Sidney pulled away from me to turn it off and I realized neither of us had moved all night. We both got up and got dressed. We’d disagreed about it, but I wanted to leave before his family got there to drive him to the airport. They deserved to have some time alone with him to say goodbye.

I collected all of my stuff and got Bauer ready to go. I put everything into my car, including Bauer and took another look at Sidney’s house. My eyes fell on his and I tried to smile at him. He did the same and then walked over to give me a hug. We clung to each other for a long time, until he finally pulled back.

“Have a safe trip. Call me when you get to Pittsburgh,” I told him.

“I will. Enjoy your last week here.”

“I will.”

He hugged me one last time before I turned and got into my car. With one last glance at Sidney, and a wave, I backed out of his driveway and drove home. The second I was inside my temporary summer home I slid down to the floor in front of the door and allowed the tears to come. I let the sobs tear through me as I felt like my heart was shattering into a million pieces.