The day after the college visit hadn’t been a big deal. Sidney had gone to practice and there hadn’t been any sort of questions about what he was doing on Pitt’s campus or who the mystery girl hanging out with two of the girlfriends was. We both felt relief that things just weren’t as bad as we thought they would be. Maybe they had bought Max’s excuse and thought I was just someone’s friend in for a visit.
The following day things started to change. Heather sent me an email with a link to a website. I recognized the address almost immediately. I gritted my teeth in irritation at that damn board. I’d remembered it from my time with Mason. Anything goes on that professional athletes’ gossip board.
I’d only learned about it from Mason. Apparently at the beginning of each season when going over security issues during camp a lawyer always comes in and mentions that board. They suggest for some of the more high profile guys to keep an eye on the content in case something gets written that needs legal action. Most guys blow off the suggestion and don’t give a shit. It’s always the girls who care.
Some girls read it almost never because they could care less. Others check it more often because it amuses them to see what’s written about them and any other girls and guys they know. I’ve even heard of a couple of girls who will post pictures of themselves and say things about themselves just to get a rise out of the posters. Then there are the girls with the thin skin who check it regularly because they’re either insecure about their significant other or about what others think of them. I was in the first group.
To me it was all just a stupid place to gossip about players and their personal lives. I had the same feeling about sites that did the same thing to celebrities. I just wasn’t interested. People can do, read, and say what they want. I’d never want to put somebody down for caring about anything like that, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
I’d checked it out a couple of times to see what people were saying about Mason, me, his teammates and their wives and girlfriends. I’d realized quickly that it didn’t matter what was said on there at all. Most of it was lies, some of it was truth, none of it was anything I wanted in my head. I knew myself, I knew the others, and that was enough for me. It was unnecessary for me to care what others who didn’t know us thought. That was the end of it.
Now I was sitting on Sidney’s couch while he was at practice, my finger hovering over the button that would click the link and take me to where Heather was sending me. Did I really want to see this? I doubted it, but I felt like maybe I should just so I could be prepared for what might come. I held my breath as the computer loaded the page.
My eyes were met with a collage of pictures of the guys on Pitt’s campus. At first it was just them, but then there were pictures of Vero, Heather, and I. It ended with two pictures of us leaving campus. The first showed the group separating and the fact that Sidney and I were heading in the same direction as Marc and Vero, and the opposite direction of everyone else, as if that didn’t already scream that we were a couple. The second had my hand in Sidney’s, and he was kissing the back of it. Oh shit.
I didn’t bother to read any of the comments. I didn’t need to. It was probably a long list of people discussing who I was, what I looked like, if I was good enough for him, and how long we’d been together. I was irritated that there had been someone out there who had followed us just to take pictures behind our backs, but I realized that was what life would be like with Sidney.
When he came home that afternoon he knew about the pictures being online. He sat down quietly on the couch next to me and we just looked at each other for a while, neither really knowing what to say. After a while he put his arm around me and pulled me into him. I wrapped my arms around his waist as I curled onto his lap.
“Are you ready for this?” he asked after a while.
“Do I have a choice?” I returned. He pulled his head back and looked straight into my eyes.
“There’s always a choice,” he said, his tone and the look in his eyes saying what his words didn’t. I leaned in and pressed my lips to his long and hard so he’d get that I wasn’t going anywhere.
“I never should have let you come,” I whispered.
“You should stop saying that. It was my choice. I did it, not you,” he assured me. I nodded my head and then we dropped it. For then, anyway.
The third day after the visit to campus was when shit really hit the fan. It was game day. I woke up that morning to Sidney’s alarm and got out of bed with him when I normally wouldn’t. Usually I stayed in bed a little longer, but right now I couldn’t sleep. I knew what tonight was. Tonight I was going to be at the arena watching Sidney play with a large part of the city now knowing I existed. Part of me just wanted to get it over with and part of me never wanted it to come.
As soon as Sidney was out the door I got changed, put on gloves and a toque and walked outside. After giving my body a little time to adjust to the cold I began to run. I pushed myself hard enough that my brain didn’t even have the ability to think about tonight. I wanted some time today just for myself, to not have to think.
An hour later I walked back into Sidney’s house and grabbed some water out of the refrigerator. My body ached, and I didn’t feel great after running on an empty stomach. I grabbed some crackers, peanut butter, and a banana and sat at the island in the kitchen to eat. Just as I was finishing and looking forward to a shower I heard my phone ringing from the other room. I jogged in so I wouldn’t miss the call and looked in surprise at the name on my call ID.
Andrea Kesler. I hadn’t talked to Andrea in months. The last time I’d talked to her had been over the summer after Mason had shown up at my door. We’d been close when I’d been out in Vancouver, but after I found out that Andrea had told Mason where I was we’d had a falling out. Our last conversation hadn’t been all that pleasant and had ended with me telling her when she was ready to stop meddling in my life and apologize she was free to call me. Until then she needed to leave me alone. I found myself smiling, glad that it was finally happening.
“Hey, Andrea,” I greeted as I picked up.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” she exclaimed choosing to immediately yell at me instead of even exchanging pleasantries before we got into whatever we were about to.
“I’m sorry?” For a moment I couldn’t figure out why she was calling me to yell at me. I hadn’t done anything to her.
“I thought you were different, Misty. I didn’t think you were that kind of girl,” she chastised. My defenses immediately went up even though I didn’t quite know what I was going to be defending myself against.
“Andrea, sorry, but you’re going to have to clarify here. What kind of girl are you accusing me of being?”
“Some stupid fucking rink rat,” she spat out as if she had no idea who I was. My mouth dropped open as things became very clear.
“Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to? You know I’m not that kind of girl. Come on,” I defended myself angrily. She didn’t give me a chance to explain anything before she really got down to why she was calling.
“What about Mason, huh? The guy’s in love with you. He proposed to you just to have you turn him down for Sidney fucking Crosby!” she accused.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” I told her through gritted teeth.
“Don’t I? Mason told me you two were together when he got there, but I convinced him it meant nothing. He’s been trying to work up courage to talk to you again, until now. Bitch move, Misty. Bitch move.”
“Listen to me. I wasn’t in love with Mason. I thought I was, but I wasn’t. And Sidney and I weren’t together then. We weren’t until recently. I wasn’t trying to get him, it just happened. You should know me better than that! Don’t call me out of the blue and start accusing me of things you know nothing about.”
“I don’t believe a word coming out of your mouth. I never will. You aren’t the person I thought I knew and I don’t know how I wasted any time being your friend. Go ahead, live the life since that’s all you were ever after. Just know you’ve lost any friends out here.”
Andrea hung up the phone without giving me a chance to respond. I stared at the phone long after the call was disconnected, tears filling my eyes and spilling over onto my cheeks. How could she have possibly called me and spewed such unnecessary hatred towards me like that? I wasn’t the person she was claiming I was. She should know that. Everyone in Vancouver should know that.
I was still lost in my thoughts wondering how things could have gone so horribly wrong so quickly when Sidney came home. I heard him call out my name when he walked in the door, but I was too upset to talk. He found me in the living room and looked at me worriedly. Then he saw that I had the computer on, the pictures of us on the screen.
“Oh, Misty,” he said sitting down next to me. “It’ll be okay.” Tears filled my eyes again as I shook my head.
“It’s not those. Andrea Kesler called. She said some really hurtful things.”
He pulled me into him and let me cry before asking me to tell him about it. When I was finished and had pulled away I could see his jaw clenched in anger and he was looking off out the window. I knew he didn’t need this right now with a game tonight, so I wiped the tears away and pretended I felt better.
“You need to get upstairs for your nap,” I told him. He stood up and began walking towards the stairs.
“I’m glad I’ve already played them. I’d kill someone,” he said over his shoulder.
“I’m fine. Really. You don’t have to worry,” I lied, still reeling from the phone call. He nodded and walked upstairs without another word.
I did my best to distract myself the rest of the afternoon while Sidney was sleeping. I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I knew that I wasn’t with Sidney for his fame and money, and that had to be good enough for now. Eventually people would see, I told myself, they’d see that we actually loved each other.
Vero picked me up later for the game and I told her about everything that happened. She assured me that no one in Pittsburgh felt like that about me and I managed to relax, at least a little. When we got to the game I went straight to my seat, tried to make myself small, and didn’t move again until the game was over.
We stayed in our seats as long as we could after the game ended, but I was still getting looks from people as we made our way downstairs. I knew I was going to have to get used to this, and eventually the excitement of Sidney Crosby’s new girlfriend would die down, but right now I just wanted to be home and in bed.
I sat on a couch in the family room as I waited for Sidney, not really joining into any conversation. I just wasn’t in the mood. When Sid finally came out he took my hand and led me out the door. Immediately upon the door opening, flashes began to go off. I felt like they were coming from every direction, and put a hand up to block out the brightness of them.
I felt Sidney begin pulling me, and I nearly tripped over my own feet as I struggled to see where I was going. I also did everything in my power to block out what everyone was saying. It may have been all nice things, but I just didn’t have it in me to listen right now. One negative thing after Andrea’s phone call today could just cause me to break down.
I saw Sidney open the car door for me and I got in. I immediately put my head down and started acting like I was on my phone. Truth was, I didn’t want to look into anyone’s faces and see the judgment in their eyes either. A moment later the car started up and Sidney pulled out of the parking lot and began to drive home. Bed was calling my name. I just hoped I could sleep.