“Eric, Eric,” her voice called across the room to the man who sat on the bed in just his boxers.
“Huh?” he was pulled back into reality.
“That’s it; you never pay attention to me. WE’RE DONE!” She screamed the last part causing him to flinch.
Cat, Cathryne, was Eric’s girlfriend of about a year and this was what always happened. She would go on and on about herself causing Eric to slip into daydreams. Eric had just woken up to get ready for morning skate and apparently Cat had asked him a question concerning what she had to do that day.
After screaming at him she went on, speaking too fast for him to pick up everything that she was saying in his still half-asleep state. It would have been hard for anyone, even if they were wide awake to comprehend all that she was babbling on about.
“I should have listened to my friends when they said that you weren’t good enough for me. You’ve never treated me well enough, always with your friends and going on road trips.”
“Those friends just so happen to be my teammates, and those road trips, they’re so I can get paid so you can have all of that shit you’re throwing in my hockey bag!” He was still confused as to how all of this had happened, and all in a matter of seconds.
When Cat had thrown the last of her things into Eric’s hockey bag she screamed one last thing, “GOOD-BYE!” before leaving the room and Eric.
He sat on the bed; sleep still in his eyes, confused. When he went to take a shower to wake himself up is when it really hit him. “Did that really just happen?” He asked himself.
He loved her, how could everything have gone so wrong? This couldn’t all have been his fault, could it?
Before leaving for morning skate he just sat in his truck, in the driveway, thinking. Some many things were going through his mind, most of which involving Cat. After a few long minutes he forced himself to push those thoughts to the back of his mind and he placed the key in the ignition. Revving the engine of the truck he took a sip of his of his coffee and started off towards the arena.
Normally he was one who liked to drive fast, just like all hockey players, but today he drove abnormally slow. His speedometer matching the speed listed on the white sign on the side of the road. He couldn’t help but drive slow; he needed time to himself, to think.
Arriving at arena he signed for the few fans that were there, though he was in a bad mood he wouldn’t make his fans suffer. Pulling in to his spot he put the truck in park and turned the engine off but sat for a few more minutes, trying to get himself out of this funk, at least for practice.
“Let’s go Brooks,” he said without looking up from his phone and cup of Starbucks coffee that he had stopped for on the way there.
Brooks stood just inside the players’ entrance flirting with a girl that he was too afraid to ask out, Sam. She was sports journalist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette who had been a Pens fan for her entire life. She didn’t have work today but she still liked to hang out with the arena, and the guys.
“Hey Eric,” she said to her best friend.
Eric, not in much of a talking mood said hello weakly before another one of the guys joined them. “Hey guys, whose pumped?!” Kuni practically yelled.
Eric was upset by the happiness, something that was understandable for what had happened to him less than an hour ago. He mumbled something along the lines of, “Dude it’s morning skate,” to himself.
After discussing how the only way that Kuni could be this excited was that he had gotten some the night before Sam asked, “You need a hug Big Ric?” Eric nodded, what he really needed was a punching bag, but for now he could settle for a hug, especially one from Sam. “I love you sweetheart,” she hugged him tightly and got up on her tip toes to place a kiss on his cheek.
“He better knock down the chipper or the chipper gets chipped,” Eric grumbled again once they had made it to the locker room. He was suiting up quickly today; he needed to hit the ice.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Sam asked handing him his gloves.
“I’m angry,” he said getting up from his stall, grabbing a stick on the way to the ice.
Sam stood there, shocked. “I can see that,” she said to herself. She followed him to the ice, grabbing a hold of his jersey causing him to stop.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she asked sympathetically as she saw the puffiness around his bloodshot eyes. Eric briefly told her of the happenings of earlier in the morning. With each detail his grip on his stick got tighter, it almost snapped in his hand.
“I’m sorry,” she hugged him tightly. “You are the greatest guy that any girl could ever ask for. Cat didn’t deserve you and you’ll find someone better, someone who loves you for you.” Part of her hoped that he would be able to see that the someone she was referring to was her, but another part of her tried to hide it.
Eric asked a few questions but soon couldn’t take it anymore. His eyes started to well up, tears gathering, and he skated away, trying to hide his emotions from Sam. “Later,” he said in reply to Sam’s request to come back and talk.
Sam was very happy that she didn’t have work that day; she could really take the game in for the first time in a long time. She didn’t have to take her notebook as she would have no article due by the end of the night, something she was glad to admit that she was excited about. As much as she loved being a sports writer she would rather watch the game from a fans’ perspective than a reporters. And this was one night that she was definitely glad that she was wearing the shoes of a normal fan and not a journalist.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Sam said angrily. “Worst officiating I’ve EVER seen! Seriously, Jordan you were high-sticked, you were bleeding, and nothing. Bill you were high-sticked too, I mean you ended up needing stitches. And Geno getting the instigator, that’s complete bullshit. Douche bag Avery started it all! And for you to actually drop the gloves,” she turned to Geno. “Obviously you were pissed, and you had a right to be.”
“Sam, calm down,” Eric said, in full uniform except his jersey and chest protector, so in other words he was shirtless. He wrapped his arms around her from behind. “It’s okay, it’s one game.”
Eric was upset about the officiating as well as the events from that morning, but it hurt him to see Sam this upset. When he took the ice for the game he had brought all of the thoughts of Cat back to the foreground of his mind and went on a rampage, hitting everything that moved on the ice. This had made him feel a bit better and he used this happiness, however small of an amount it was, to help cheer up his best friend.
He tightened his grip around her and breathed in her scent, it was a thousand times better than the smell of the locker room. Being friends the way they were they often hugged so this was nothing out of the ordinary.
Sam felt comfortable in his arms and was calmed, at least the slightest bit by his embrace. “I know, thanks Ric.”
“Let me get showered and I’ll give you a ride home, okay?”
Sam nodded. Eric didn’t want to let go but he did so reluctantly. As much as he enjoyed just being friends with Sam he had feelings for and he had for a while. Although he had been with Cat for a long time, even since he played in Calgary he had a special place in his heart for Sam.
As he went about taking his gear off he tried to remind himself that he had just ended a relationship and that he needed space, at least for a little while. Also that there was no way that Sam would ever like him, at least not as more than a friend.
‘But how great would it be to hold her like that; whenever I wanted, and not have to have a reason.’ He thought as he walked into the showers.
“You okay now Sammy girl?” Eric asked as they pulled out of the players’ lot after he had signed for all of the fans who were waiting.
“Only you Ric,” she smiled.
Eric knew what she was talking about and smiled. She hated when people called her Sammy but for some reason Eric could get away with it. “Yeah, I’m okay now.” She smiled. “The question now becomes, are you okay?”
Eric was glad that he was stopped at a red light because at this question memories of that morning came flooding back. He could clearly see Cat pulling things from her drawers and throwing them in his bag. He took a deep breath in attempt to push those memories away. Along with the memories he choked back a few tears.
“No, you’re not okay,” Sam answered for herself. “Pull over.”
“No, I’m fine.” He tried to be strong, but Sam could see right through him.
He pulled to the shoulder and walked around to the passenger side where Sam was waiting for him. She wrapped her arms tightly around him and felt his breath catch, he was crying.
“You really loved her?” Sam asked although she knew the answer. “You deserve better.”
“We should get you home,” Eric said finally pulling away from Sam’s comforting arms.
“And you’re coming with me. You’re in no condition to be by yourself, at least not tonight, okay?”
Eric forced a smile and when to get back into the drivers’ seat. “No, give me your keys Eric; you’re in no condition to drive.”
Eric took the keys from his pocket, reluctantly, and placed them in Sam’s hand. She went around to the drivers’ seat after placing a kiss on his cheek and they were off to Sam’s house.
“I’m gonna get changed,” Sam said when they arrived at her house. “You can make yourself comfortable,” she smiled and turned to go to her room.
Eric sat down on the couch and sighed. It had been a long day for him and all he really wanted was for it all to be a dream. He wanted to wake up the next morning and have it all be different. He knew that this couldn’t happen and that he really shouldn’t even be wishing for this. Cat was only in it for the money really. She treated Eric like dirt and turned around to say that he treated her wrongly. Eric had never done anything to hurt her, he did tend to ignore her a bit, but it was only because all she ever talked about was herself.
“You okay?” Sam asked coming back into the living room with a pile of clothes in her hands. Eric nodded. Sam knew that right now he was the furthest thing from okay, but he was fighting for himself and that was a start.
“I think these are yours,” she handed the clothes to him. “I’m pretty sure you left them here when you stayed after your last--” She stopped herself. “But yeah, you left them here.”
Eric knew why Sam had stopped herself from finishing her statement. This wasn’t the first time that he and Cat had “fought” and the last time Eric sought refuge at Sam’s house. He had left the clothes there after that fight, but this time it wasn’t a fight, they were done.
“Thanks, Sammy.” He got up and headed to the bathroom to change.
He returned to the living room a few moments later and sat down on the couch next to Sam. She rested her head on his shoulder and he wrapped his arm around her, bringing her into a hug. “Thank you Sam.”
A week passed and Eric was still really down, but no one blamed him and everyone on the team, including Sam, gave him his space. His anger towards Cat and the hurt she had inflicted upon him was really helping his game though, not that he had needed help on the ice. Other teams had players practically crawling to their benches after big hits along the boards, the Pens’ fans all cheering.
The Pens six game home stand was drawing to an end which meant that they had to go on the road to play Montreal, it was their last game of the regular season and the standings were tight. It had been a week since Cat broke Eric’s heart and he was slowly beginning to piece his life; outside of hockey that is, back together.
The boys were piling onto the bus that was taking them to the airport and their favorite addition was there, their favorite reporter; Sam. She boarded the bus and found the seat that had been saved for her; it was in the middle and on the aisle. Her best friend had his bag their so that no one else could sit there, not that anyone else would, knowing who the seat was saved for. When he saw her face lit up with a bright smile he tried to force himself to smile, but it was something that he was still having trouble with, truly being happy.
He had smiled the night before when he recorded an assist to help his team defeat the New York Islanders on fan appreciation night and also when he gave his jersey away after the game. He wasn’t letting the rut that he was in affect his interaction with his fans, they were the most important part of the game and he knew that.
“Hey Sammy girl,” he said moving his bag.
“Hey Ric,” she sat down and rested her head on his shoulder. “Sorry,” she said quickly lifting it again. “Long day at work.”
It was only two pm, it couldn’t have been that long, or at least Eric thought.
“It’s fine sweetheart, when we get on the plane you can sleep.”
They talked for the bus ride to the airport and continued talking until take off. At that point Sam rested her head back on Eric’s shoulder.
“If you actually wanna get some sleep lift your head up,” Eric said softly, he knew that she really was tired. She lifted her head and looked at him questioningly.
He wrapped his arm around her, in a friendly way and pulled her a bit closer. “Now put your head down.” She did as he said, nestling her head into his chest and she was soon asleep. She was so beautiful sleeping in his arms; though her hat covered most of her face Eric could still see her lips, how he longed to kiss them.
‘Pull yourself together Ric,’ he thought. Then he remembered that this was how his flights with Cat were spent, she would sleep in his arms until just before the plane landed. ‘Now you really have to pull yourself together Eric, come one, she’s gone, MOVE ON!’
After arriving in Montreal the team dropped their things at the hotel and had the rest of the day to themselves. While getting off the bus and grabbing their things Sam and Eric were separated and decided to find their rooms on their own and they would meet in the lobby at a quarter to seven, fifteen minutes later. They both went to their room and tossed their bags on their beds. For some reason on this trip Eric ended up having no roommate. He knew this before arriving in his room and would have asked Sam to stay with him, after all there were two beds, but he knew that the Post-Gazette was paying for Sam’s room and that it would be awkward to ask her to stay with him, even if she would be sleeping in another bed.
Both wanting to make it to the lobby on time they left their rooms and turned only to find each other. “Hey Ric,” Sam smiled. “Whoever made room assignments may have made a huge mistake.”
“They may have,” again he tried to smile. “Let’s get out of this hotel for a while.”
They made their way outside and eventually found their way to an overlook. The sun was setting and the lights from the city made for an amazing view. Sam had her elbows up on the railing, her chin resting on her arms, and a smile on her face. “This city is so beautiful.”
“It really is,” Eric said, forcing himself not to put his arm around his best friend. Scanning the skyline Eric let his mind wander, and just as they had earlier in the day, his thought found their way to Cat. The year before the Flames had had a road trip to Montreal on which Eric had brought Cat. They had been dating for a few months, six to be exact and that’s why Eric had brought her along.
They had come to this exact spot on the night before his game and he gave her a beautiful diamond necklace, something that he was sure that she took when she left. He had told her that he loved her and placed the necklace around her neck. Their lips then came together, and that’s where Eric stopped the memory.
“You okay?” Sam asked. She obviously knew that something was wrong. “Something about Cat?” She knew by the look of pain in his eyes.
“Yeah, it’s getting better though.” He tried to smile. “It’s only the second time today.”
“Good sweetheart,” she wrapped her arms around him. “And you’re allowed to still be hurting, it was only a week ago, and you were together for a long time.” As she said this Eric’s grip around her tightened and she knew that he had struck a nerve with what she had said.
“We should head back; you have skate in the morning.”
The walk back to the hotel took about ten minutes, a bit longer than was to be expected. Eric was walking slower than normal, dragging his feet. The last memory of Cat had really hurt him. Sam grabbed his hand, an attempt to comfort him, squeezing it to assure him that she was there for him. He had gotten better at hiding his emotions around the team lately, but for some reason he felt that he didn’t have to mask his feelings around Sam. He hadn’t cried today and only once yesterday, a step toward recovery.
“Can you come in for a bit?” Eric asked when they arrived at his room, he still hadn’t let go of Sam’s hand.
“Let me get changed and I’ll be back over, okay?”
Eric nodded and just as every other time he let go of this girl, he reluctantly let go of her hand.
A few minutes later she was back at his door and he wrapped his arm around her. “Thanks again, Sammy.”
“Anything for you Ric,” It was true; she would do anything for him. Still wrapped in his arms she crawled onto the bed and hugged him tightly. “I hate seeing you like this.”
“I hate being like this, but I can’t help it.”
“I know sweetheart,” she tightened her grip and rested her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat.
She loved being there for Eric, helping him out, but she wished that there could maybe be something more between them. When Eric had come to Pittsburgh at the beginning of the season it was Sam’s job to interview him, get to know him so that the fans could do the same. Get his thoughts on the team’s chances, not her favorite question, as well as what he thought of the city and they guys that he would now be playing beside. Since that first interview there was a connection between the two of them, they were closer than Sam was to anyone on the team, even the guys that she had known for years.
Eric moved so that he was leaning back against the headboard, leaving Sam in the middle of the bed. “What are you doing over there? It’s movie time, come here.”
He pulled Sam back to him and again wrapped his arms around her. She leaned back, nestling her head against his bare chest, and waited until they found a decent movie on TV.
“I’ll stay until the end of the movie and then I really should get back to my room, okay?”
“Mhm,” he rested his head on her shoulder before whispering, “I love you, best friend.”
“I love you too Big Ric,” she smiled and went to watching the movie.
‘If only he know how much I really did love him,’ she thought, as her mind moved from the movie to the man who was holding her. She felt safe in his arms, she didn’t want to ever leave them, and if she didn’t that would be completely fine with her.
Eric was thinking along the same lines, he was comfortable holding her, he never wanted to let go of her. “The movie’s over Sammy, Sammy?”
Sam was sleeping soundly in his arms; this caused his lips to form a slight smile. He turned the TV off and gently laid her on the other side of the bed. “Goodnight Sam, I really do love you.” He placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. He crawled out of bed and went to the bed on the other side of the room.
He lay down, thinking of how much he would have loved to have held her all night. But he was a gentleman and did the right thing. Pulling the pillow from the other side of the bed he wrapped his arms around it, he had gotten so used to falling asleep with someone in his arms and a pillow was the next best thing. He looked over to Sam one more time, and watched her sleep until he himself fell asleep.
Sam woke the next morning and for a moment was confused about where she was. Then all of the sudden it hit her, she had fallen asleep in Eric’s arms. ‘Shit,’ she thought to herself. ‘I wonder what Eric thought about this whole thing?’ She turned to the other bed so see him sleeping peacefully, apparently he was okay with it, or he would have woken her up the night before and made her go to her own room.
She glanced at the clock on the table between the two beds, seven-thirty. The boys were instructed to be in the lobby by nine so she figured that she could let him sleep a little longer. She lay her head back on the pillow and did just as Eric had done the night before, she lie there and watched him sleep. Although unlike he had done the night before, Sam didn’t fall asleep. The sun was so bright that it came through the curtains, warming Sam’s back and casting a glow on Eric’s face, making him somehow even more adorable as he slept.
“Hey sweetheart, time to get up.”
“Huh?” he was still half asleep until he realized who was waking him up. “Oh, Sam.” He practically shot up in bed, making sure that they had slept in separate beds.
“Calm down Ric, anyone should be freaking out that we’re in the same room it’s me.”
“I’m sorry Sam, you were asleep and I didn’t want to wake you. So I did the next best thing, I slept over here.”He slowed down when he realized that she was smiling.
“It’s fine Eric, it would have been okay if you slept over here with me.” She hoped that she wasn’t giving herself away too much.
“Oh, I’ll remember that next time,” normally he would have chuckled here, but he was still quite down in the dumps so nothing about his facial expression changed. “That is if there is a next time.”
The Pens won the game in Montreal and three days later started the first round against their rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Game one and two were to be played at Mellon Arena as the Pens miraculous got home ice advantage. Game one was won by a score of four to one. Eric was scratched making room for Craig Adams in the line-up. He didn’t seem to be too affected by it, after all he had been in the line-up most nights since Craig arrived at the trade deadline and he deserved his chance to play.
Thursday morning the team had practice for which Sam was present, as always. She was working that day and spent practice taking notes while the boys ran drills and plays to prepare for the next day’s game. Eric would be giving her a ride downtown so that she didn’t have to walk about to work, but he would also be taking her out to lunch, something that the two of them did regularly when the team practiced and she worked.
“Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?” Brooks asked catching Sam after practice as she made her way to the lot to wait for Eric.
“Yeah sure, what’s up?”
Brooks took a deep breath, “So uh, I uh.”
“Sweetheart, what are you trying to say?” Sam smiled.
“I’m pretty sure that I’m in love with you.”
Sam smiled; she was flattered by this but took a deep breath, preparing for what she had to tell Brooks. “Aw Brooks, I’m sorry. You’re handsome, and sweet, and caring, and I love you, just not like that.”
“Oh,” he said, obviously crushed. He had finally worked up the courage to tell this girl that he loved her only to be turned down.
“I’m so sorry Brooks; I hope that everything can still be okay between us.”
“Of course, is there uh…someone else?”
“I actually think that there is, I think I’m in love Brooks.” Sam looked down the hall to just outside the locker room and there stood Eric talking to Jordan.
“Mhm, I’m sorry Brooks.” She wrapped his arms around her.
“Don’t worry about it, you can’t help who you fall for,” he forced a smile. “Ric’s lucky to have a girl like you, even if you are just friends right now, that may change.”
“Hey Brooks,” Eric said as he passed him in the hall on his way to meet up with Sam.
“Hey,” Brooks said just above a mumble.
Normally Eric would ask what was wrong but he could tell that Brooks wasn’t in a talking mood. “What’s with him?” he asked when he had finally made it to Sam.
“Long or short version?” Sam asked, attempting to smile. She felt bad for hurting Brooks the way that she did, but all she did was tell the truth.
“Which ever.” He really didn’t care; he liked hearing Sam’s voice so he would listen to whatever she had to say. After all they had time to kill, there was no set time for Sam to be back at work so she would go back whenever she was done spending so quality time with her best friend, the man who just so happened to be her love interest.
“Short version,” she said, smiling as they walked out of the player’s entrance and into the unusually hot weather for a Pittsburgh, April day.
“Okay, before you start,” Eric said. “Do you mind walking to lunch, it’s so nice out.”
“I would love to go for a walk, by the way good practice today.”
“Thanks kid,” he said putting his arm around her. When she didn’t do anything to remove herself from his grasp he tightened it, now a one armed hug. “Love you.”
“You too Ric, so about Brooks.” She could tell that she was about to tell Eric that she really did love him and needed to change the subject to keep herself from doing so.
“Yeah,” he said loosening his grip a bit, somehow sensing that she was uncomfortable for some reason. He was almost positive that it wasn’t because his arm was around her. If it was because of him she would have told him, wouldn’t she?
“So he caught up with me and confessed his love for me.” She still felt bad for the poor guy, he had probably sat in front of the mirror rehearsing what he was going to say to her.
“And?” Eric asked anxiously.
“I told him that I loved him, just not like that.”
“Damn kid, he looked like someone tore his heart out, threw it on the floor and stomped on it.” Eric, of all people knew how this felt, it was still less than two weeks ago that Cat had done the exact same thing to him.
“I know and I feel bad,” she nestled her head into his chest.
‘Definitely not me that she’s uncomfortable with.’ He thought.
At this point they were arriving at Qdoba; he removed his arm from around her not wanting anyone to make false assumptions. He opened the door for her and followed her in, trailing behind in line a bit as his eyes trailed up and down her body.
“Everything okay, Ric?”
“Huh, yeah everything’s fine,” he shook his head and caught up with her.
A good while passed and as time went by Eric seemed to be getting over Cat. The hurt was disappearing, even if it was only the tiniest bit each and every day. The Pens were in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers in game six. The Pens had the lead in the series three games to two but the Flyers had taken the last game in Pittsburgh, shutting the Guins out.
The Wachovia Center was packed, Sam sitting in the press box and Eric in another box just down the hall with the rest of the players that the Penguins’ had scratched that afternoon. The Guins took the ice for the three pm face-off and the Flyers still had the momentum from two days earlier. They scored two goals in the first and the Pens looked as though things were going to end the way that they had back at Mellon Arena. Four minutes into the second period the Flyers stuck again and just like that the Pens were down three nothing.
The Pens needed this win, they needed to take the series by embarrassing their cross state rivals and move on to the semi-finals. Max Talbot stepped in when he needed to just after the Flyers’ third goal was scored. Squaring off with Daniel Carcillo seemed like the right thing to do, causing the home crowd to cheer for their man. On his way to the box Max shushed the crowd and the rest of the Penguins’ team soon did the same.
Ruslan Fedotenko notched a goal with a stab at Marty Biron’s pads fourteen seconds after the two combatants had been send to the box. Mark Eaton, Sidney Crosby, and Sergei Gonchar also scored goals to take the lead and Crosby tapped a wrap-around into an empty net to top the game off.
As was expected the Flyers and their fans were upset, the season was over and they had every right to be. The Penguins though, and their fans back in Pittsburgh were ecstatic; beating their rival was something that all Pittsburghers cherished no matter what sport it was in.
“Eric, you guys did it,” Sam said excited when she made her way to the locker room after cheering loudly in the press box. She wasn’t allowed to show how much she loved these boys in her writing, but when she was at the game she display her feelings after goals and wins.
“I know,” he said, smiling. He was smiling, a real smile for the first time in weeks.
“I’ll talk to you in a little bit, okay?” She said looking down at her phone. The guys would be showering soon and she needed to get some information for her article that was due that night. “I’ve gotta catch the end of a least two interviews.”
“It’s fine, I’ll wait for you here.”
Sam smiled and she entered the locker room where the rest of the team, just as Eric displayed wide smiles on their still sweaty faces.
Back in the hall Eric waited anxiously, trying to decided if he was going to go through with it.
“Hey Ric, sorry about that,” Sam said finding him where she had left him.
“It’s fine it’s your job,” he said pulling her into a hug. “Can I ask you something?”
“Technically you just did,” she smiled and sat down on the floor leaning against the wall. “But yeah, anything.” She looked up at him and waited for what he had to say, he sat down as well.
The look in his eyes had changed, only the slightest bit but Sam could tell. “Everything okay, sweetheart?”
“Okay,” he took a deep breath and looked straight into her eyes. “Samantha, I love you. I may be way out of line saying this, but it’s true I love you.”
“Eric, I love you too,” she smiled.
Eric ran his hand along Sam’s cheek and brought her face just inches from his. He began to lean in to kiss her but stopped himself to say, “This is where the sappy music would start.” He smiled.
Sam laughed and Eric ran his hand along her cheek again, finally kissing her. It was a short, sweet kiss and both Eric and Sam pulled away smiling.
“So Sam, will you be my girlfriend?” Eric asked shyly.
“I would love to,” she smiled and kissed his lips gently.
Soon they made their way to the bus. There were only a few people on the bus when they reached the top of the steps and most of them were trainers, so no one noticed that they were holding hands. Once they made it to their seat, Eric in the window seat and Sam on the aisle, Sam rested her head on Eric’s shoulder and smiled. “I love you Eric.”
“And I love you Sam,” he was about to kiss her but heard voices, the guys, and stopped.
“Hey guys,” Cookie said.
The rest of the guys said hello as well until it came to Kuni. He stepped onto the bus looking down at his phone, obviously reading text. “Alright you two, there’s something going on.”
He hadn’t even been on the bus a minute yet and already he was questioning them? One of the guys if not more had obviously texted him and told him that he was the one who had to ask.
“What is it?” He asked smiling.
Sam and Eric looked to each other, smiles on their faces and Sam nodded signaling that Eric would be the one to talk. “Sam and I are together.”
“See I told you Sam,” Brooks said from two rows behind her.
“Yes you did Brooks,” she smiled and sat back down and turning to Eric. Eric pressed his lips to hers, not caring at all that the entire team was watching. Smiles remained on their faces as the kiss continued, a new beginning for both of them.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
"My flight lands at two tomorrow afternoon, don't forget to pick me up like last time."
"Yeah, sorry about that Drew. I'll try my best to get out there by two but I don’t know what time practice will be over."
"Look man I'm using my winter break to come see you so you better pick me up."
"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow." He hung up with his brother and clicked on the blinking IM window.
'So is that a no for hanging out after your practice tomorrow?'
'No,' he typed. 'You want to meet my brother?'
'Wait, Brooks Orpik has a brother?' She typed.
'I thought I told you that,' he quickly replied.
'You did, of course I want to meet your brother.'
The next day Brooks walked out from practice to find his best friend leaning against the passenger door of his white BMW. As always, she was dressed in jeans and a hoodie which Brooks guessed was covering a Penguins’ t-shirt, a black Penguins’ winter hat covered her head as well. “So what’s the plan?” She asked.
Lily was also on winter break from school. She attended Robert Morris University as a communications major, and had lived in Pittsburgh all of her life.
“We’ve gotta go to the airport to pick my brother up, other than that no plans.”
Lily smiled and punched Brooks in the shoulder, their normal hello. Even with the eight year ago difference they were the best of friends and had been since Brooks first came to Pittsburgh.
The ride to the airport was spent with the two of them singing along to whatever came on the radio, which was usually what happened when the two of them were in the car together. As they got closer to the airport Brooks glanced down at this watch, one forty-five. He had fifteen minutes before his brother’s flight landed.
Pulling up to one of the exits Brooks but the flashers on and waited for his brother. Around two thirty a tall man who looked a lot like Brooks walked out of the automatic doors and to the white BMW. Seeing that someone was in the front seat he opened the back door and threw his bags to the other side of the back seat before he got in.
“Hey Drew, this is Lily. Lily this is my brother Andrew.”
Lil turned to the backseat and from what she could see he looked exactly like the man she was sitting next to. His dark brown hair was a bit longer than Brooks’, but not gelled, so that she could see the curl to it. His eyes were a bright blue and held her attention for a moment before he spoke.
“It’s nice to meet you, Brooks talks about you all the time.”
She quickly looked to Brooks and back to Andrew. “It’s nice to meet you too.”
Lily turned so that she was facing the road in front of them and they started back towards Pittsburgh. She noticed that Andrew was a lot like Brooks. He was sweet, had the same smile as his big brother and didn’t bother to wear a coat; a hoodie was all that he needed.
“So, you go to Boston College?” Lily asked noticing the maroon hoodie.
“Yeah, Robert Morris, right?”
The three of them hung out for a while before Brooks took Lily home, walking her to the door and giving her a hug, just as every time he drove her home. When Lily sat down on the couch in her parent’s family room her pulled her phone from her pocket to text her best friend.
‘Hey Liz, are you ever y too old to have a crush?’
‘No Lil, why do you ask? Is this one of your ‘I saw a guy on the street who was really attractive’ crushes?’
‘No, I hung out with Brooks today and met his brother. I’m pretty sure I like him.’
Lily continued to text her best friend while in the car Andrew and Brooks were talking, catching up on things.
“So Lily is great!” Andrew said when we walked in the front door of Brooks’ house.
“I’m glad you like her.” Brooks grabbed two cans of Pepsi from the fridge and tossed one to Andrew before sitting down in his chair.
“I mean I know I just met her today, but she’s amazing. She’s beautiful, and plays hockey, and she’s really sweet,” he said excitedly before realizing that the smile on Brooks’ face had disappeared to be replaced by a slight frown. “You like her too, don’t you?”
“No, what makes you think that?” Brooks asked reaching for his can of pop.
“Brooks, I’m your brother can you tell me. And your expression changed so quickly, you like her.”
He froze; placing the can back on the table before the cold liquid even hit his lips. He took a deep breath, sunk down in his chair a bit, and somehow found his voice. Brooks told his brother that he had fallen for Lily two years ago, after they had been friends for about four and a half years. As much as he would love to be more than just friends with her he knew that she didn’t feel the same about him. Being her best friend was enough for him and he didn’t want to do anything to compromise their strong, seemingly unbreakable friendship.
“The fact that she’s eight years younger than me has some influence on the decision too.”
“So do you mind if I get to know her better?” Andrew asked weakly.
“I can’t stop you from getting to know someone,” Brooks laughed. “Besides it’s just a crush anyway.”
“You wanna give me her number?” Andrew asked anxiously only to have his spirits crushed by his big brother.
“If you want this girl you’re going to have to work to get her. You can ask her for her number,” Brooks said smiling widely.
The next day both Lily and Andrew saw at morning skate, watching the players skillfully skate up and down the ice. Lily liked to be close to the players and was sitting only two rows behind the bench. Andrew however was a few rows behind her, contemplating whether or not he should go talk to her. After a ten minute internal argument he decided that it would be best, this was his chance to get to know her better.
“Hey,” he said sitting down in the seat next to her.
“Hey, so what do you think about Pittsburgh so far?”
“It’s nice,” he smiled. ‘Wow,’ he thought to himself. ‘It’s nice? You’re such a lame.’
“So I was wondering if maybe we could get some lunch, ya know, get to know each other.”
“I would love too,” Lily said with a smile. “But I can’t today.” Andrew tried to hide his disappointment. “I have a dentist appointment. How about tomorrow?”
“Sure, sounds good to me.” He said a bit more excitedly than he had intended. “Um, can I have your number so we can make plans?”
“Of course,” Lily smiled. She waited for Andrew to take his phone from his pocket before she said her number aloud.
As soon as morning skate ended Lily headed out to her car and straight to the dentist’s office. Brooks walked out of the shower to find his younger brother sitting at his stall, a wide smile plastered on his face.
“You’re rather happy?” Brooks questioned.
Andrew didn’t say anything. He smiled and held up his phone to show his accomplishment.
“Oh?” Brooks asked. “How’d you pull that one off?”
“I asked her if she wanted to get lunch today, to which replied no, she has a dentist appointment. So then I asked for her number so that we can make plans for tomorrow.”
“Good job kid,” he said tussling his hair like he would a small child after they had achieved something. Andrew had forgotten his hat that morning, making this easy for Brooks.
“So where should I take her?” Andrew asked on the ride home after Brooks was dressed and ready to leave.
“Anywhere will be fine I’m sure.”Brooks said looking at the road ahead of him. “Although there is this Japanese place that she likes, or at least I think she likes.”
Brooks told Andrew about the Japanese restaurant and how he should take to the buffet instead of the Hibachi grill. “That girl likes her food, its better if you take her to the buffet. Maybe you can get her to eat sushi.”
“Does she not like it or something?”
“She’s just never tried it,” Brooks said turning into his driveway. “Maybe you can use your charm,” he said somewhat awkwardly, “to get her to eat it.”
“Well I’m hoping that I can use my charm to get her to like me.”
“Drew, I’m sure you can get her to like you. You’re a good kid, and I’m told you look a lot like me so you shouldn’t have a problem.” He said smiling confidently.
That night Andrew sat at Mellon Arena watching his brother and the rest of the Penguins take on the Islanders. While the Pens were dominating Andrew spent every free moment during commercials and intermission wondering when he should text Lily to make plans.
After forty minutes of play the Pens were up eight to one over the Isles. Petr Sykora had recorded his first NHL hat-trick causing the crowd to go insane. Pascal Dupuis had two goals on the night, only one away from his first NHL HT.
During the seventeen minute intermission Andrew left his seat briefly to get a souvenir Coke and when he returned to his seat he pulled his phone from his pocket. Scrolling through his contacts he finally came to Lily’s name and thought hard about what he wanted to type, he didn’t want to sound stupid.
‘Hey Lily, its Andrew. So I was thinking the Tokyo buffet for tomorrow?’
‘Sounds great,’ she quickly replied. ‘Just let me know on a time and I’ll meet you there.’
‘She’ll meet me there,’ he thought. ‘I really have turn the “charm” up if I want to score this girl. Whoa Brooks moment.’
‘Well Brooks has afternoon practice and I’m not quite sure where this place is, could I maybe pick you up and then you can help get me there. I’m not really good with navigation.’
Andrew was a bit worried after sending this text but was relieved when his phone buzzed less than a minute later to show a text from Lily. ‘Sure, if you can convince Brooks to let you drive his precious Beamer. Meet me at my house at say, noon?’
The third period ended with the Pens winning nine to two and not a head was covered with a hat as Dupuis finished off the hat-trick. Andrew made his way to the home locker room and waited for Brooks to be ready to leave. While he waited he chatted with some of the other players, one of those being Jordan Staal.
“So I saw you talking to Lily this morning,” Gronk said.
“Yeah, I’m going to lunch with her tomorrow.”
“Damn, in town for two days and he already has a date,” Jordan directed this at Sidney. “You should take notes Darryl. “
“It’s not like that guys. She’s a friend of Brooks’ and I just want to get to know her.”
“Whatever you say,” Jordan said punching in the shoulder. “But she’s hot.”
Soon Brooks returned to his stall and began putting his suit back on. When his dress pants were to his knees Andrew tapped his shoulder, like a little brother would.
“When you’re at practice tomorrow afternoon can I borrow your car?”
Still extremely happy from the beat down his team had put on the Islanders Brooks smiled and buckled his belt. “To hang out with Lily?” Andrew nodded. “Sure, why not. I’ll see if Scuds is coming in his car and can give me a ride home.”
“Really?” Andrew asked shocked that his brother had said yes.
“As long as you don’t hurt the car and you promise that if you end up in a relationship with her you will never hurt my best friend. You may be my brother but I will still hurt you if you hurt her.”
“I promise!” Andrew said excitedly, and his excitement could be seen in his wide smile.
Penguins’ practice began at eleven which meant that the players had to be at the Mellon by ten o’clock. Andrew hung around for a while leaving at eleven forty-five, allowing himself enough time to get to Lily’s house.
Lily was sitting in her Penguins’ themed room when her phone buzzed on the table next to her. ‘Hey it’s Andrew and I’m in your driveway, well at least I think it’s your driveway.’
Saying good-bye to Liz, Lily closed her laptop after switching her wireless connection off and grabbed her winter hat from the floor by the door. Exiting through the basement door Lily could see down to the driveway where a white BMW was parked.
“Definitely your driveway,” Andrew said with a smile.
Lily smiled as well and once her seatbelt click Andrew backed out of his spot and they were off towards their destination. Lily was used to hanging out with Brooks regularly and seeing him in the driver’s seat of the rather attractive BMW, but she was almost completely sure that she could get used to this Orpik.
When they arrived at the restaurant Andrew wanted to open the car door Lily but decided not to, he did however hold the door to the restaurant for her. After ordering their drinks they got up from the table simultaneously to browse the buffet. Lily arrived back at the table before Andrew with her plate piled high with delicious looking Japanese food.
“No sushi?” Andrew said putting his place on the table before sitting down.
“No, I’ve never had it, which is weird considering the group of guys I hang out with,” She smiled mentioning the Penguins.
“You should try it, if you want to that is,” Andrew said somewhat shyly.
“I think I will, maybe after I finish this stuff,” she looked down to her plate that was in fact piled very high with food, including at least five different kinds of chicken.
“You can try one of mine,” Andrew said with a smile. “Do you like shrimp?”
Lily nodded and Andrew began to search for a certain piece of sushi. Finally finding it he skillfully picked it up with his chopsticks. “This is a Boston Roll.”
Lily, who was not nearly as skilled as Andrew when it came to using chopsticks, went to reach for the sushi only to watch it fall to the table between their plates.
“Its fine,” Andrew said smiling. “I’ll get another one.” He got up from the table and started towards the buffet only to turn back to the table and say, “And I’ll have to teach you how to use those correctly.”
While Andrew was away from the table Lily tried to make it less noticeable that she was embarrassed by what happened but knew that it was no use; her face was obviously a bright shade of red. She knew by the warmth of her cheeks when she lay her on the table for a few seconds just after Andrew walked away.
Upon returning to the table Andrew instructed Lily to slide over closer to the wall so that he could also sit on that side of the booth. When she did as he has asked he smiled, another step closer to the two of them being together?
Lily tried to hide her smile as he sat down next to her and placed the Boston roll on her plate. “Can I please just use a fork?” She asked.
“Nope, you’re at a Japanese restaurant about to eat sushi for the first time, you should do it the correct way.” Lily picked chopsticks up off the table and attempted to hold them. “Hold them like you would hold a pencil.”
Lily looked up to see the reaction on Andrew’s face after she attempted to position the wood in her hand. “Apparently I don’t know how to hold a pencil correctly.”
“Its okay let me help you,” he reached his arm around her and wrapped his hand around hers to help her get a grip on the chopsticks. As much as Lily tried to fight it a chill ran down her spine. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Lily smiled, trying to brush off the fact that his touch had made her shiver.
After lunch Andrew drove Lily home and most of the time in the car was spent in silence, it was only a five minute drive and they had talked non-stop at the restaurant. There were only three traffic lights along the way but all three were red when they arrived, neither seemed to mind though as wide smiles remained on their faces. The first red light lasted longer than most people would like but Lily and Andrew seemed content as the radio played some Paramore song.
As they waited as the light Andrew casually glanced down to the clock and his hand on the gear shift, or at least that’s what Lily thought. Andrew was really looked at her hand that sat almost lifelessly on the seat next to her. How much he would like to pick her hand up and hold it in his own. ‘Friends,’ he told himself.
“Huh?” he said snapping back to reality when Lily spoke.
“The light’s finally green.”
After having to stop at two more red lights they finally arrived at Lily’s house. Again Andrew went to open the door for Lily but only made it to the front of the car by the time she already had the door open and was stepping out of the car; he hoped that she didn’t notice.
“It was nice getting to know you today.” She went to hug him.
“I was gonna walk you to the door, if that’s okay?”
“Of course,” she smiled as they made their way to the stairs.
“Well I guess I’ll see you at morning skate,” he smiled.
“Mhm,” she said as Andrew pulled her into a hug.
It was the perfect opportunity. He knew that it was most probably wrong; that she may not want to talk to him anymore if he did what is heart was telling him to. His mind was saying no, but for once he did what felt natural. As they were pulling away from the hug she looked up to him and into his bright blue eyes as he looked down into hers. This only lasted for a few brief seconds until Andrew’s soft lips pressed gently against Lily’s causing her eyes to close and she couldn’t help but kiss back.
Andrew pressed her gently against the wall, his arm still around her. His mind finally caught up with his heart and was assured that he had done the right thing. Unsure of how far he would be allowed to go with this he parted his lips just enough for his tongue to graze her lips.
Wanting the same thing Lily parted her lips and their tongues began to battle. Not wanting to draw attention from her family that she knew was somewhere in the house Lily began to pull away, obviously disappointing Andrew. When her lips were fully removed from his she opened her eyes slowly, but enough to the see the look of want on his face. The same look was on her face and caused them both to smile.
“I should uh, I should probably go.” Andrew said, somewhat short of breath.
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Andrew placed a gentle kiss on her cheek before turning to walk to his car.
After watching the BMW drive away Lily leaned back against the wall, the position she had been in just a moment before. This time though there was something missing, Andrew’s arm was no longer around her and his soft lips were no longer pressed against hers. She sighed, a sigh of relief, and licked her lip, his sweet taste still remained.
She smiled and slowly slid down the wall and sat down first step. Unable to think of anything but the handsome man whose embrace she had left she sat and let her thoughts wander a bit. Those thoughts though were soon broken when her phone buzzed in her pocket.
‘How’d it go with Andrew?’ The text from Liz read.
‘If I told you I don’t think you would believe me.’
As Andrew drove off of Lily’s street he turned the radio up and began to sing along with Bilnk-182’s First Date. ‘How appropriate,’ he thought.
He was going faster than he normally would but he wouldn’t wait to get home so that he could tell Brooks about his amazing day. His smile was plastered on his face when he walked in the front door of Brooks’ house to find Brooks sitting in his chair and watching something on TV.
“How was your ‘date’?” Brooks asked putting air quotes around date after turning the TV off.
“It went okay I guess, and it wasn’t a date. It was two friends eating lunch and talking.” He paused before saying excitedly. “I did get her to try sushi though.”
“That’s good; did she use a fork like she normally does?”
“No,” he smiled. “I uh, I thought her how to use chopsticks.”
“Damn. I take it my car’s okay, right?”
“Anything else you want to tell me about the day?” Brooks asked, he obviously noticed the smile that was now permanently on his face and the gleam in his eye.
“No, not that I can think of.” His smile somehow widened at this point.
“Spill, right now!” Brooks said standing from his chair and for the first time in years being taller than his younger brother.
Somehow he got his brother up from the couch and began to fake hockey fight him. Brooks pulled Andrew’s shirt up over his head like he would a jersey in a real hockey fight and soon he dropped his brother to the floor where he pinned him.
“Okay, okay, get off of me first.” Brooks got to his feet and helped Andrew to his. Andrew pulled his shirt back down over his well toned chest and stomach before sitting back down on the couch. “I walked her to the door and I, I uh.”
“You uh what?” Brooks said mocking his brother and smiling.
“I kissed her,” Andrew was obviously relieved to have told someone about this. He still sat smiling and waiting for Brooks’ reaction.
“Well I take it went well. If she pushed you away or punched you in the face or something you wouldn’t be smiling.”
Andrew didn’t know what to say, he just sat on the couch smiling widely.
“Just remember kid, she’s my best friend and if you hurt her she’ll come to me for comfort.” Brooks looked over Andrew’s face; it hadn’t changed since he had walked in the door. He really did have strong feelings for Lily, who just happened to be his, Brooks’, best friend. “So, when you asking her out?”
“Good morning,” Lily said walking into the locker room before morning skate.
“Morning Lils,” most of the guys said in unison.
Andrew sat at Brooks’ stall, a smile still on his face from the day before, but he didn’t answer Lily’s greeting.
Lily went to talk to Max about how his date had gone the day before, surprisingly he had been with the same girl for a few weeks. Brooks noticed that Andrew was staring dreamily at Lily who stood across the room. “Hey,” he said punching his brother in the shoulder and breaking his trance. “Go talk to her.”
“Huh, oh yeah Lily.” He slowly stood from the bench and made his way to Lily. “Hey,” she said weakly, tapping her on the shoulder.
“Hey Andrew,” she smiled, and he brought her close in a hug.
As the players took the ice for practice Lily and Andrew went to sit a few rows behind the bench. Things were different between them than they were the day before, one may say awkward. They talked a little, but it was mostly about what was going on on the ice.
“So, you’re coming to the game tonight, right?” Andrew asked, shyly.
“Yeah, unless you don’t want me to. I mean Brooks normally gets me a ticket for the seat next to you.”
“No that’s fine, I want to be there,” he smiled. “You’re uh; you’re going home after this right and then coming back for the game?”
“Yeah,” she smiled. She wondered why this was so awkward for both of them; after all they had kissed yesterday. That’s it; it was the kiss that made things weird for them. They had both seemed comfortable during the blissful kiss and even afterwards. Maybe it was that neither of them knew what the other was thinking.
“Hey Lils,” Brooks said when she and Andrew entered the locker room following practice.
“Sup?” she responded with a laugh.
“Do you need a ride to the game tonight?”
“That would be great. Isn’t your car gonna be kind of full though?”
“We all love each other,” he said looking around the locker room to all of the guys who normally carpooled with him. Eats and Scuds had obviously heard what he said and nodded in agreement.
When Brooks was showered and dressed Lily and Andrew went out to his car and waited for him to sign autographs before they went to Lily’s house to drop her off. Brooks had decided that he would pick her up before going to the arena at about five o’clock.
Dressed in her Pens gear Lily walked out of her house at five where she was met by Mark, Rob, Brooks, and Andrew. All of the guys said hello, Eats and Brooks turning around before they pulled out of the driveway.
“Hey Lily,” Andrew, who sat next to her in the backseat whispered.
“Hey,” she smiled, she wanted to say more, but didn’t know what.
When they arrived at the arena Lily and Andrew went to the locker room with the ‘Three Musketeers’ and waited for the rest of the guys to get there and suit up. Just before the team took the ice for pre-game skate Lily and Andrew found their seats and Andrew pulled his phone from his pocket.
“Who you texting?” Lily asked.
“The Jumbotron,” he smiled. “I hope it gets on.”
“What’s it say, so I know if it gets on.”
“Believe me, you’ll know which text is mine.
Soon the players took the ice to stretch and warm up. While the zamboni cleaned the ice the Jumbotron displayed texts from fans and Andrew looked up at the screen anxiously awaiting his to appear.
It didn’t come during that time or during the first intermission. When the texts disappeared during the second intermission he grew tense and Lily could tell that something was wrong.
“Everything okay?” she asked picking her drink up.
“Yeah, everything’s fine. My text wasn’t up yet, but I’m sure it’ll go on during the second intermission.” He smiled.
“If did doesn’t will you tell me what it said?”
“Yeah, it would be better if it was up on the screen though,” the last part was mumbled.
The second period went well and the boys on the ice played hard. Not much conversation took place between Andrew and Lily however they both screamed a few profanities at the officials, but that was expected from true hockey fans, and hockey players.
When the second period ended Andrew rubbed his hand together and waited for the Verizon Wireless logo to appear on the screen which meant that the fan texts would be shown on the screen. A few texts were shown and both Lily and Andrew watched intently to see if his appeared.
Andrew tired to hide his excitement when it finally did and turned to see Lily looking directly at him. The text read, ‘Lily, will you please make yesterday be my everyday... Will you go out with me?’
Lily froze for a moment, her eyes locked on Andrew. The row that they sat in and the one behind them knew that the text was theirs and waited for Lily to answer. “I can’t believe you.”
Andrew was now worried. “I can’t believe that you would do something so adorable. Of course I will go out with you Andrew!”
Andrew breathed a sigh of relief, wrapping his arm around and sending one more text to the Jumbotron. His phone was placed in his pocket and he turned to face his new girlfriend. His smiled matched hers and soon their lips were together, their first kiss as boyfriend and girlfriend.
The arena erupted with cheers and the man sitting behind them tapped both Lily and Andrew on the shoulder. They broke apart to see their second text on the Jumbotron, the soul reason for all the cheering in the arena at that moment. ‘Lily said yes, I’m the happiest man alive – Andrew.’