So… what's for dinner tonight `cuz?"
Mel looked up from the table in the dining room. It was Saturday night and instead of going out with some of the girls or getting to talk to Sid she was grading papers… again… Maybe I shouldn't give them so much work. With all of the planning that she and Erin had been doing, it was amazing that she could even remember her name.
"Mel, you okay?"
"What? Oh yeah, I'm good. Are you enjoying your new living space and life as a Pittsburgher?"
Victoria, Tori as Mel had always called her, had come back to the states after graduating from a top chef school in Japan. She had been Mel's favorite cousin since she could talk. Growing up as an only child, cousins were more like siblings for her and Tori, only two years older, was like the sister she'd never had.
When she's received the call last month from her roaming cousin Mel had jumped at the chance to spend some time with her. Then one thing had led to another and since the middle of October Tori had been calling the third bedroom home. She was speaking native Pittsburghese and got along with all of the guys. Hell, they'd seen the purple hair and been intrigued from the get go. Mel smiled.
Now it was the weekend before Thanksgiving and Tori had decided that, if it was alright with Mel and Lexie, she was going to take up a permanent residence here. They had introduced her to hockey and she'd fallen hook, line and sinker. She'd fallen for one of the guys too, much to Mel's surprise.
It always seemed like Tori would marry into the military. She'd been raised an Army brat and her parents had always believed that she would find a career soldier and settle down with a couple babies of her own. Shacking up with a married man, that would probably give her aunt a heart attack.
"Don't start Melany…"
"I'm not judging you. He's a great guy. But--"
"But nothing. I realize he's married. But not for long. And he was in the process of getting a divorce before I even showed up."
"What if you're like his rebound or something though? I don't want to see you get hurt."
"I'm not thinking that far ahead Mel. I'm enjoying what we have now. He's such a nice man. And he's going through something that he never thought he would. And he likes me, crazy colored hair, tattoos and all. I need you to just be happy for me. I'm falling for him regardless, but I think that we have something. Just… be there for me, okay?"
She came over and stood beside Mel, who could do nothing but pull her into the circle of her arms.
"Always," she whispered to Tori. "Besides, if he hurts you, I'll bust his damn knee cap… of have Sid get him traded to Edmonton!"
The two of them were laughing when the doorbell rang. Tori headed into the kitchen to mix up some drinks and Mel started cleaning up the table. Lexie yelled as she came jogging down the stairs that she'd grab the door.
Tonight it was their night to host a group of WAGs for a game day get-together. And it was also a special night for a certain wife. Kelsey was bringing the baby over for the first time. Jackson was the spitting image of Tyler's baby pictures, much to Kelsey's grief. He'd been born at the end of October.
She'd gone into labor before the Montreal game and TK had been the antsiest person on the ice… EVER. Kelsey had threatened to hurt him if he missed the game. `It's the beginning stages you tard. He's not going to come out before the end of the game! Go play!' With a huge lead going into the third, Disco had quietly ushered a very nervous father-to-be out of the arena.
A group of the girls had waited at the hospital and the guys were all at Geno's. Bylsma had said no morning practice, but to be at the airport by 3p.m. the next day. Little Jackson was born at 3:13a.m. And had been the center of attention ever since.
"Mel, come get this giant paperweight out of his car seat! I want to nose around the house! Someone give me a tour!!"
Finishing up her tidying, Mel slid the final set of ungraded papers into the `to-be-graded' bin before getting over to the new mom and taking the squirmy little angel out.
"Dear god he's so frickin' cute! This is what Tyler looked like as a baby?? What the hell happened to him?!"
Kelsey burst into a fit of giggles before handing over the diaper bag. She took a bottle out and shoved it in Mel's hands.
"He likes rocking chairs. If you have one, sit down and rock while he eats. He'll love you forever!"
"Pfft! He's going to love me regardless! Go search the house til your heart's content. We'll be in the living room getting to know one another."
Tori started showing Kels around and for the next twenty minutes there was a constant stream of people coming into the house, going in and out of the living room, grabbing drinks and stuff. Mel sat there feeding little Jack and smiling. This is what she'd wanted. A nice place to call home, a place that people would enjoy coming to.
Before the puck dropped they were making plans for an early Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday since the boys would be in New York for the actual holiday. Everyone had one thing to bring and the ladies agreed to all meet at the house nice and early to get everything cooked that couldn't be made the night before.
"What do you think Max? Wednesday a good day to come back?"
Sid heard the trainer ask the question and then heard Max's triumphant yell echo throughout the bowels of Atlanta's arena. They had just beaten the Thrashers and were getting ready to hop a plane to Florida. He sent Mel a text response to her dinner plans.
That sounds like a perfect idea. I'll see who all can make it.
p.s. Tell Tori to bake a cake.
Why a cake?
`The Superstar' is returning to the ice Wednesday night.
Ahhh! Give him a kiss from me!
Sid chuckled at her last response and went in search of his friend. He found him doing some weird ass happy dance in the showers.
"Max! Mel says congrats and told me to kiss you! Seeing you now… I'm definitely not doing that. I'll let her kiss you Tuesday."
"Tuesday? What happens Tuesday?"
"Mel wants to have a Thanksgiving dinner. An American Thanksgiving dinner."
"Is she cooking?"
"I'll be there at 10a.m.!"
"It's a dinner dude. That means afternoon/evening."
"But if I'm there early, I'll get to taste test!"
Sid laughed as he turned and went back to the locker room to finish changing into his suit. They boarded the plane and were in Florida in no time at all. He dropped his bag on the floor and before he could change he was flopping backward onto the bed and dialing Mel's number. A very sleepy voice answered the phone.
"Sorry, wrong number. I don't need calls from a 900-number."
"Wouldn't you be the one calling them actually?"
"Oh yeah… shut up. I was sleeping, I can't think straight. Are you at the hotel?"
"Yep, just fell onto the bed. I miss you."
"I miss you too" He heard the smile in her voice. "Are you coming over here after you guys get back, or are you going straight to Mario's?
"Mario's. We get in late Monday night and I don't want to make you crabby for your students on Tuesday. The last thing they need before their holiday break is a crabby Miss Huston," he chuckled.
He heard her laugh echo his and grabbed one of the pillows, curling himself around it and imagining her here with him. Fucking road trips. They suck.They talked for a few more minutes and then he promised to call when they left for home after the game.
The next day, after a relaxed morning skate, he went out with Flower and Tanger. They were walking down a boardwalk-like row of shops and just enjoying the nice weather when he spotted a jewelry store among the dozens of cheap souvenir shops.
"Hey guys, let's go in there." They both shrugged and followed him in. He was perusing the many stands when he saw the perfect gift.
It was a pearl necklace. But it wasn't the normal white, cultured pearls. These ones were black. Not midnight black, but a purplish, shiny darkened color. The case was filled with different pieces dealing with these `black' pearls and Sid was reminded of Mel's favorite Johnny Depp movies, the one where he was a pirate.
She had that ship tattoo on her side and said it was based off of the Black Pearl. This would be great for her. And the little pearls looked like another necklace she had from her mom. He was pretty much rubbing his hands together when a sales lady with bright red hair sidled up in front of him. Holy Ginger! Oh god, I sound like Mel!
"See something you like sugar?"
"I want that one," he said while pointing to the necklace.
"Ah, very nice. Is this for a special lady?"
"Are you sure you wouldn't want one of the other ones though? These aren't cultured; they're not as big or anything."
"No, no. Trust me ma'am. It's the perfect choice. Can you even gift wrap it? I'll be less tempted to give it to her now if it looks like a Christmas present!"
The woman smiled and nodded her head as she took the piece of jewelry out of the case and over to the checkout counter. Marc came over and laughed when he saw it.
"That is so her mon ami."
"I know. She's going to love it."
"She must be a one of a kind woman to like the color and design," the lady said as she rang up the total. Sid didn't even look, he just handed her his card.
"You have no idea madam. Thank god there is only one of her!"
Sid laughed along with the boys and they bid the lady adieu before heading back to the hotel. He spent some time looking up differences in cars. He didn't need a new one. He liked his car. But he was thinking that Mel should be driving something other than the little car she currently had. Who drives a Ford escort in Pittsburgh, in winter? She would fight him tooth and nail about him buying her a new car but… He'd cross that bridge when he came to it.
Monday morning came quickly and he was packing up his bag and getting ready to run to Geno's room and talk about the Acadia that he'd gotten Erin when his phone buzzed.
John's in town! We're going to watch the game together and they'll be here for dinner. I'm forcing him and Jess to stay at the house! Hotel shmotel*
He typed a quick response, checked his room once more and then grabbed his bag and stopped across the hall to Geno's. They discussed cars there and on the way to the arena. Duper and Max were adding their input, Max mainly making sure there would be room for some in-car fun when necessary. In that case, a Ranger Rover would be fine. He smiled to himself at the thought.
"Sid, I need talk to you about important thing," Geno said softly as they were in the hallway later that night. They were both taping their sticks before the game. "I want ask… you be in wedding? Be one of guys with me?"
"A groomsman? Of course man! I'd be honored!"
"Good. No, great! I go text Erin, let her know that you walk down aisle with Mel!"
Sid's mind flashed to a vision of the two of them smiling and walking down the aisle. But it was her in the white dress. They were holding hands and laughing. He shook his head.
"That would be an honor really."
"Good. We talk on plane more. After game, yes?"
"Sure sure, on the plane."
Geno walked away to let his fiancée know the plan but Sid didn't really notice. He couldn't really tell you much of what happened that night. They went to overtime, won the game and were on the plane before he really checked back in mentally.
When they hit the ground Sid flipped open his phone and dialed Mel's number but it just went straight to voicemail. He tried twice more while they were getting to the parking lot. When he started his car and still had no answer he tossed his phone to the passenger seat in disgust and threw the car into drive before speeding out of the lot and heading to her house.
"Mel, c'mon… open the door. We need to talk."
Walking over to the bedroom door Mel placed her head on the wood. She clutched a picture in her hands. The two of them were smiling, their heads pressed together. It had been a spur of the moment photo. She ran her thumb over John's face.
He'd surprised her with a visit. She was still in college and he was on leave. They were going to the movies with some of her friends and the snow had started falling down. She'd taken out her camera and pulled him close before tilting the camera herself and snapping a quick photo. It was the perfect… `couple in love' photo even though nothing had ever come of it.
Now he was standing outside her door, telling her something that damn near broke her heart.
"Please Melany! I don't want to leave with us like this!"
"I don't understand why Johnny! Why now?! Why not a year ago? Hell, why not even six months ago???? I was more prepared for it then… I would've had to adjust, but… Now it's just completely out of left field and I just can't handle it right now…"
"You.. you can't… you can't handle it… Are you ducking kidding me?! How do you think I feel, or Jess for that matter! How do you think she reacted? She'd been crying ever since I told her we were coming up here!"
"Where did she go? She's still here right? She didn't leave did she?"
"No, she didn't leave me. I mean, she's not here right now. But that's because Tori took her out to try and get her to eat something. We've been having a rough couple of days. It's a lot to process at the moment. But I had to come and see you… tell you… in person. You deserve that. Now please, say something…"
"What do you expect me to say??You can't drop a bomb like that and think that I could form an appropriate response so quickly…"
"It's not like I could call you or anything. Didn't seem like something this big should be said over the phone! Can you imagine… Hey Mel listen, I love you and all an--"
She heard the bellow and brought her hand to the doorknob. Sid was probably glaring daggers at John but Mel couldn't make herself open the door.
"What do you mean you love her? Are you fucking kidding me?!"
"Listen man… it's not what you think."
Mel heard Sid literally growl and in her mind she saw the reaction in the Wild game at Halloween. When his emotions blew over… She threw open the door and rushed out between the two men who were sizing one another up.
"Baby, it honestly isn't what you think. John didn't come here to cause problems… He… He…"
The words stuck in her throat and the tears that she'd thought were out of her system came rushing back. As they poured down her cheeks she saw the confused and horrified look on Sid's face. She wanted to tell him but even the thought of it still made her break down. There were two hands on her shoulders, one from each guy.
"Please, tell me how to help you."
Mel looked up at Sid. Saw him look between her and John a couple times. His forehead was furrowed and she knew that he was trying to make sense of everything but was coming up short. She swallowed a couple deep breaths but still couldn't form the words. Nodding at John she listened as he spoke the shocking words once more.
"I'm going overseas. Again. I leave on Friday."
"Oh god… I'm sorry. I didn't realize that you… I shouldn't have freaked out… I just… I'm sorry."
Mel watched the sad smile cross Johnny's face.
"It's better than the last time. I had just come home on leave. I was so excited to be home and I surprised this one here with a visit. They called me in the middle of the night. We had just gotten home from that country bar near campus and were deciding on what to do, stay up and veg out like the old times, or go to bed. I had three hours to repack and get to the airport."
Remembering that night brought a smile to Mel's face. She ran back to her room and grabbed the photo she'd been holding before. He'd packed his duffel and been ready in five minutes. She'd let him walk out of the residence hall but then ran after him, calling his name. He'd dropped his bag and caught her in mid-air.
What was it I'd said… `Come back whole or I'll kill you.' He'd thrown his head back and laughed before leaning down and kissing her. Then he'd drove off, leaving her standing in a USMC tee, and old pair of boxers that she'd sewn closed and her teal cowboy boots.
"You know, that was when I realized that I loved you, but I wasn't in love with you." She took one more big breath and showed Sid the picture, telling him the story. "Alrighty gents, I'm done freaking out I think. Let's go downstairs and wait for the others to get back. I'll make us a drink."
Entering the kitchen she sat the boys at the one side bar and pulled out the goods to make some homemade hot chocolate. She was just finishing up when she heard the door and Tori and Jess came into the room. Mel gave a tentative smile and grabbed two more mugs. Jess looked between the three of them.
"So, World War III? Peace treaty?"
" Well, `Switzerland' showed up and we found a neutral ground to lay the foundations for peace," John said as he pointed at Sid. They all smiled.
He pulled his wife into his lap, soothing her much like a small child, running his hand over her back in a circular motion, his lips pressed to her hair. Sid came up behind her and slid his hand in hers.
"Do you mind if I crash her tonight? I'll be a really comfortable pillow for you to hold on to."
"I would love that actually. Tori called the school secretary's cell when I first had my meltdown. Told them a family emergency came up. They weren't too worried about finding someone since we're all just having them watch movies or have parties."
"Good, we'll sleep in and relax."
"Well, you sleep in. I'll be up to start dinner. There's a lot of stuff to do tomorrow."
"Then let's head up to bed and I'll help you fall asleep," he whispered in her ear.
"Sounds perfect," she replied. Then she turned to her friends. "Just turn out the main lights before you head up to bed.
"Good god that's a crap ton of food!"
Sid stood in the doorway with Brooks and just nodded in agreement. It was amazing that all of this food had been prepared today. So much for sleeping in. Tori had come in and jumped in bed with them this morning at like 7a.m. it was worth it though.
And he'd tried to help out a million times. Every time he went near a knife or something though, it was taken out of his hand and he was shoved toward the living room again. `Let us women do this. Go relax.' So he'd grabbed some beers and made his way to where a couple of the guys were already seated. Those who had come over early with the ladies.
He told Brooks to go find Amanda and to tell everyone it was almost time to eat. Taking the stairs two at a time he turned into Mel's bedroom. She had gone up to change and that's where he found her now, standing in front of the floor-length mirror, finishing her make-up.
"You look stunning."
"I'm just in jeans," she replied with a smile.
"People can look stunning in jean. Especially snug jeans like that."
Melany turned and he folded her into his arms. He could feel her tremble slightly and he wished he could say the perfect thing to make her happy for good.
"I love you."
Turning her face up to his, Sid saw her eyes shining with tears. But the smile on her face was genuine when she whispered the words to him and pressed her lips to his. He whispered `be strong' and took her hand, leading her back downstairs to where everyone was waiting for them.
Sid pulled her seat out and took his place next to hers. He'd laughed when she said she wanted a circular or oval table. But this was nice. You could talk to everyone easier. And the size of the thing. When she'd mentioned a table big enough to sit sixteen people he'd thought she was insane. But with hockey players, they took up a little more space. There were thirteen people tonight and with all of the food it was kind of surprising that they could all fit.
He stood and raised his glass in a toast.
"Melany asked me to give a toast before we ate tonight. So I just wanted to thank everyone for coming over tonight. And to the ladies, if this tastes as good as it all looks then we're going to be in food comas by the end of this meal."
There were a few chuckles and fist pounding before he continued.
"I realize that most of us here are Canadian and that we've celebrated our Thanksgiving already. But I have something that I really want to give thanks for and pray for tonight. The military."
Taking Mel's hand in his, he glanced to his right and nodded at John who was holding her other hand.
"I would like us to remember those men and women overseas, and those who have found out recently that they are to be deployed. They make extreme sacrifices and sometimes I think we forget about how hard it must be on them, and their friends and family, to leave and go fight. Good luck, and come back safely John. And thank you."
There was a new round of fist pounding and glasses clinking together. John stood up and cleared his throat.
"I just wanted to say my own thank you. A short one, just to let you all know how nice it's been to just be accepted into this close knit group. You're like my unit only… nicer! I'm glad that Mel has found herself this great set of friends. And when I come home there better be another Cup! It'll be summer and I expect a photo with it! Now, no more serious talk. Let's eat some food!"
With a cheer of agreement they started passing the different plates and bowls around the table. There were a few times when the dishes would run low and someone would make a run to the kitchen to replenish it, or to grab more drinks. Jordan had the table in a tizzy when he asked if there could be team dinners like this once a week.
"You all keep playing well and we'll think about it," Tori said with a laugh.
"So if we suck then we don't get fed?"
"No, if you start sucking real bad you'll start getting pep talks again." There was a chorus of groans and Mel just smiled and air high-fived Erin.
After dinner Sid found himself on dish duty with Tanger and John. They had a pretty good system actually. One to clean the plates, one to rinse and one to place in the dishwasher. They were almost finished when there was a scream. They took off running and found Mel jumping up and down beside Erin.
Erin put her hands on Mel's shoulders to stop her from bouncing and pasted a smile on her face.
"We… were… discussing the wedding… You know, tell her the flowers I've chosen and such. I mean, it's like three weeks away so…"
"Three wee… WHAT?? How do you plan on getting dressed and a place and all of the other things that you need for a wedding???"
Sid stared at them stupidly as the two of them laughed. Erin punched him playfully.
"Silly, silly man. Everything is planned but the seating arrangements. Now… go away. We were in the middle of something."
Sid took off in the direction he'd last seen Geno. He found him talking with Brooks. They were both laughing and Geno was making hand motions by his stomach.
"Geno!! Why didn't you tell me? Not that I'd have been mad or anything, but don't you think that you should've told me what was happening? Erin just told me!"
"Erin tell you?? But she say no tell lots of people. They get wrong idea. I only find out today."
"Today?? How could she not tell you until tod… are we talking about the same thing?"
"I not think so. What you talk about?"
"You're wedding next month! What else would you be thinking about?"
"I… um… Nothing."
"Liar. What, is Erin pregnant or something?" Sid laughed at his own statement. He just wanted to tease the guy. But Geno wasn't laughing. He had a panicked look his face. "Holy shit… she's pregnant!"
"Shhhh, no one really supposed to know! It big surprise! Can you believe… Sid, you not know how happy I feel…"
He took one look at the big guy and was instantly jealous. Geno had just found out that the woman he loved was going to have his baby. He couldn't understand exactly how he felt, but he knew that if it was Mel… he wouldn't be able to keep quiet. And that explains why Geno was talking to Brooks. Brooks would be one of the few guys on the team who would mess up and tell everyone else.
"So no one is supposed to know?"
"She think that everyone think she get pregnant on purpose."
"That's stupid. We all know how you feel about her, and how she feels about you!"
"Exactly," Brooks said. "I've been trying to tell him that no one but brain dead puck bunnies would say that. And Erin never lets anything they say bother her."
He and Brooks spent the next ten minutes talking Geno into asking Erin for permission to just tell the team. Everyone would want to know something like this, and she had obviously told Mel. That explained the scream earlier. It was time for dessert when they had him convinced that he should announce it at the table.
Everyone was sitting and getting ready to dig into their pie when Sid noticed Geno and Erin talking with their heads together. She mouthed `are you sure' and Geno just smiled. She smiled back and nodded. Geno stood up and pulled Erin up as well.
"We have news to tell. You know that we have wedding next month. But there more news. We having a baby," he shouted as he placed one hand on Erin's stomach. The guys all cheered like they had in June and there were a chorus of screams from the girls in attendance. Glasses were lifted in celebration and Mel ran into the kitchen open a bottle of champagne and grab some ginger ale for Erin.
"I was afraid you guys would think badly of me, or something," Erin said when Max asked why she had seemed reluctant to spill the good news.
"That's crazy! Now, come here and let me talk to my future godson," Max chuckled.
There was an instant fight about who was worth and unworthy of being godparents to the unborn child and Sid found himself sitting back in his chair laughing at the comical conversation. Mel was sitting beside him, her hand in his. They looked at one another and Sid saw the envy in her eyes, along with the happiness she felt for her friend. I'll ask her after the wedding. I'll take the ring with me to the reception and ask her to marry me.
p.s. I know there's a new character ladies, and i didn't explain her a lot. But I'm thinking she'll have her own mini story after this is complete!! It's in the works now, and with ten chapters left in this one, I hope to have it finished by then! Along with some other little surprises for you all!!