“Wanna talk about it?” Sid said.
“Ugh.” I was still in bed. It was 12 PM – the guys would be back from the morning skate soon. I heard background music and knew Sid was driving home.
He laughed. “I have no right to know. But the curiosity is killing me, kittykat. Max looked manic last night. You go to the bar for like a hundred years, come back empty-handed and smiling. This morning, he seemed fine. What have I let you get yourself into?”
“I like this,” I groaned. “I like where this is all your fault and I’m a bystander.”
“If it’s going to be my fault, I should do something wrong. Again. Come over for pre-game meal.”
I rolled over. “Nice try, Cros.”
“Come on, Kay! Everyone knows that do-overs don’t count.” He was kidding. Unless I said yes, I knew.
“Quit it, Kid. I’ve got problems of my own.” I sat up against the pillows. Since finishing school, I had been sleeping in daily.
Sidney turned serious. “You can talk to me. I know how you get all in your head, and that’s not good for you. Come over. We can sit in the living room the entire time and I promise not to… well, not to do anything fun.” He paused, but I didn’t answer.
“Don’t make me ask Max about it,” he threatened.
I was out of bed in a minute. “Okay, okay. Don’t get hysterical. I’ll be over at 4.”
So now I’m going to tell Sidney, who I slept with, about Max, who I also slept with, and somehow this is going to fix everything, I thought. I’ve lost my mind and I cannot keep my pants on.
Sid was waiting for me on the front step. “Walk? Public place?” I put my arm through his.
“So…,” he prompted.
“So I may have accidentally, with no premeditation… had sex with Max.”
Sidney stopped and turned, his mouth gaping. Then he shut it and took my arm back.
“I knew it! First guess.” He saw that I wasn’t laughing. “Sorry, but it was bound to happen. I mean, he’s Max. And you are… well, I wasn’t sure before we… but you are…”
“A horrible person? The Whore of Babylon?” I offered.
“I was going to say that you are as sexy as Max is. I mean, it’s the first thing people think of with Max. With you, it’s more hidden. But it’s there. You’ve got it, baby.” He bumped against me.
“Ha ha. That doesn’t give me the right to hurt people,” I said. He didn’t reply, didn’t try to make me feel better. He knew as well as I that Kris would be devastated. And really, why was I talking about it when Kris didn’t even know? I veered us aside and sat down on a bus stop bench.
“I should even be telling you! Now Kris will be the last to know, and it will look like we were all laughing at him. But I really needed someone to talk to, someone who knows them.” I put my head in my hands. I could have cried. “You won’t say anything will you?”
Sid put his hand on my back, rubbing a small circle. “Of course not, Kay. Does Kris have to know?” he asked, though he knew the answer.
I nodded. Kris had to know. I couldn’t let him be the only one who didn’t. Level playing field, Max kept joking. But it wasn’t a joke. Kris was my friend – more than my friend. I loved him. I had to be honest with him, even if it was too late to do the right thing. I couldn’t bear the thought of him believing in me, of him still waiting for me when I wasn’t worth it. Even if it meant losing him.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuuck,” I said softly. “It’s so different with Kris. Max, you could sleep with and probably move past it. Even he and I, even with everything. He has disassociated sex from emotion so many times, I don’t think it would kill him to do it one more time. But Kris…”
Sidney interrupted me. “I don’t want to make this worse for you, but… do you want to hear this?” I threw my hands up a little, a move that said, ‘what could possibly be worse?’
“You are not giving Max enough credit, Kay. He loves you. He is in love with you. He may act like he’s distancing himself from the sex, but he’s not. I could tell today, even before I knew what happened. Something is different about him. If the sex needs to mean less to you, he will pretend. But it meant a lot to him.” He paused, thinking. “Do you know that in the last six weeks, I don’t think I’ve seen him talk to a single other girl? Not on the road, in a club… I didn’t realize it till now. Maybe I thought it was the injury. But it’s not, is it? It’s you.”
My head went back into my hands. “Sidney, I have really messed up. What do I do?”
“Tell Kris. Don’t wait. It’s only been a day, tell him while it’s still raw. Then he’ll know that you’re sorry,” Sid paused. “Kay, are you sorry?”
I blew out a huge breath, as if I could push everything from my body. “I have never been so sorry about anything in my life. Not about Max, not that. It was out of control but it wasn’t wrong, by definition. I am sorry to have broken Kris’ trust, and that I have become some person I don’t even recognize. I love Kris, I really do. It’s not different from the way I love Max. Kris makes me feel… you said it, people see Max as sexy. Well Kris has it too – he is…” I trailed off because I didn’t know what I was saying anymore. How could I describe Kris?
“This might not make any sense to you, but Kris makes me feel safe. There’s a little bit of darkness in him that makes me want to know more … to protect him and be there for him. I worked so hard to become his friend. When it finally happened, it felt like a gift. And all along he’s wanted something more and I have been blind. I have been blundering away in his life for so long, breaking things and teasing him and acting like nothing matters. And he still loves me.”
There were tears on my cheeks. Sid had his head down too, like what I’d said had piled a weight on his neck.
“Tell him that, Kay. Tell Kris exactly that. I don’t know if he’ll forgive you, but I would.”
Me: Could you go out for a while?
Max: Yes. Call when it’s over.
Nice choice of words, I thought sarcastically. Over is what it might well and truly be after I got done with this. Over for everything.
Kris was on the couch when I came in. He was reading something in French, a crime novel by the look of the dagger dripping blood on the cover. He looked up at me and smiled – that guileless, charming smile of his that traveled all the way to his eyes. I smiled back tightly, and then burst into tears. He was on his feet in a second, arm around my back, steering me toward the couch. He held me as we sat down and didn’t let go.
Stop being selfish, I scolded myself. You owe him his. And you deserve it if he never wants to see your face again. You made this mess, you have to clean it up.
“Cherie, Cherie, shhhhh. What is wrong?” he whispered. I steeled myself and shifted an inch away from him.
“Kris,” I took a deep breath. Out with it. “Kris, I am so sorry. I slept with Max.”
Time stood still. I actually felt the nanoseconds pass that it took my words to reach his ears, his brain, probably translate into French, and then course through his veins like poison. The arm around my back grew stiffer fiber by fiber. He blinked in slow motion.
Snap – back to real time. He put his hands over his face. The side of his body was still close to mine, almost touching, and I could feel the heat from his skin rising.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
He didn’t look at me and he didn’t speak. A whole day might have gone by while I sat barely breathing, waiting. The blood was rushing in my ears like a waterfall. When he said something, it came out so softly I almost didn’t hear.
“I was waiting for you.”
My heart was on the floor, outside my body, leaking blood all over the carpet. Tears cried themselves, rolling down my face.
“I was waiting for you,” he repeated.
Imagine the sound of glass shattering on the floor, that’s what I thought I heard. The silent boom of an implosion and the rain of tiny crashes in its aftermath. Kris dropped his hands. His face was red and there were tears in his eyes too.
He finally turned to look at me. “But Max couldn’t wait. You couldn’t wait,” he practically spat. “You couldn’t wait for me.”
He got up and fled the room. I heard his door close. I didn’t move, couldn’t move. Two minutes later, he came out carrying a duffle bag and went right through the front door without a word.
I was still sitting there when Max came in. It must have been an hour later. I hadn’t realized any time had passed. Max closed the front door and leaned his back against it.
“He’s at Jordan’s,” he said.
I exhaled. I was glad to know where he was, and to know he wasn’t at Sidney’s.
“Jordan said he hasn’t said a word, just came in and went right upstairs to the guest room. Hasn’t come out.” Max looked at his watch. “We have to be at the Mellon in an hour. Jordan will make sure he gets there.”
I still hadn’t moved, hadn’t looked up. Max stayed standing.
I blinked. “I told him that I slept with you and I was sorry. That’s it. He said that he was waiting for me. And that I couldn’t wait for him. Then he left.”
Max came over and sat down. He seemed to sense that I was numb, in shock. And that now was not the time to touch or comfort me. I was tormenting myself, playing Kris’ words, his tone of voice, a hundred times over in my head. The look on his face, the scratch on the back of his hand, the title of his book still lying open on the table.
“I will apologize too,” Max said. “You didn’t do this alone and I’m sorry you had to do the hardest part.” He had dark circles around his eyes, like he hadn’t slept. His five o’clock shadow had gone past midnight.
“No, Max. I did this. You may have broken his trust, but I’m the one who broke his heart.”
Max walked into the locker room. Everything seemed normal, expect that Kris wasn’t at his stall. Jordan came in a minute later.
“He’s getting dressed in the equipment room,” Jordan said. “What happened?”
Max just shook his head and left the room. He opened the equipment room door without knocking. Kris was sitting, taping his ankle. He did not look up. Before Max could speak, Kris was hissing at him.
“Did you come in here to gloat? To tell me you won?” Kris threw the tape at the far wall. “Did you come in here to tell me what her skin feels like or how she says your name?”
If he hits me I will not fight back, Max thought. But Kris didn’t. He didn’t stand. He put his head back against the wall and clenched his fists.
“No, Kris. Never. I am sorry,” Max said. He knew this might be his only chance, and it might not last. “I lost my head and I went too far. I broke your trust. I made Kahlan break your trust. Please don’t blame her. She’s confused and scared and I took advantage of that without thinking.” Kris grabbed more tape. “This is some mess and I don’t know how we get out of it. But she loves you.”
“Did she tell you that while she was fucking you, or after?” Kris asked in an even tone.
Max ran a hand through his hair. Everything he said sounded hollow, inadequate.
“Kris, she is better than this. She didn’t want to hurt you. She wanted to hurt herself. She is killing herself over us and went and did something – anything! – because she is scared. She made a mistake, and I made a mistake. I should not have done anything until she decided. Instead… I’m such an asshole. I knew she wouldn’t stop me, I fooled myself into thinking that meant she wanted it too. But she just wanted something to happen, the ice to break, anything that would hurt so she would know how to feel about it. Because she doesn’t have a fucking clue what to do about us.”
“And you do.” Kris finally looked up, his eyes narrow and his voice hard. “It’s exactly what you always do. You fuck your way into a problem and then try to fuck your way out. You treat women like shit, Max. This isn’t fucking Netflix – get one, send it back, another comes in the mail. I know you love her. God knows that I know. I watch you around her and I see that you’re different, that you actually care about her. So why did you do this? Why did you treat her like every other slut you’ve ever met? You turned her into something she’s not.” Kris sagged onto the bench. “You took her from me.”
Max slid down against the door and sat on the floor. “I’m sorry, Kris. I’m so, so sorry. I’m sorry to Kahlan too. I told her exactly the same thing because you’re right. She refuses to see it. She says she never judged me based on other girls, but I don’t know how. I judge myself based on them.”
Kris laughed, small and sad. “She would do that. She would throw all that stupid shit away and just take you as you are.” He took a deep breath, and his shoulders dropped. “She does the same for me – I feel so weak around her. I have been in love with her forever. When she moved in, I thought I might have to leave. Everything I did seemed awkward, I talked too much, my jokes weren’t funny… Christ, I almost died the first time she walked into the bathroom and started brushing her teeth next to me. I stayed up all night thinking about asking her to marry me.”
Max looked at him, and Kris’ expression had softened a bit. “You never told me,” Max said.
“I never told anyone. I didn’t want to ruin everything.”
“I am sorry, man,” Max offered.
“I know,” Kris accepted. “But I don’t know what to do here. She tells me she loves me, that she’s IN love with me, but she sleeps with you.” Kris’ eyes shot up. “Do not tell me how it was. Do not make a joke or boast about this. I will rip your fucking throat out if anyone hears a word about how Kahlan is in bed.”
Max held his hands up. “I would never.”
“I know that too,” Kris shook his head. “Asshole. You have to choose this time to be all noble.”
I didn’t go to the game. I wasn’t going to watch it either, but I had to see Kris’ face, just to know he was there. The game was uneven, and during a scrum around the goal, Kris got heated and punched a defenseman in the face. The linesman got between them, but I could tell Kris wanted to fight. He slammed the penalty box door shut behind him.
At 10:15 PM the door opened, and I was surprised to see Kris. Alone. He looked at me, his eyes sad and his expression neutral. I was so relieved I almost ran over and threw myself on him. Instead, tears started to form again. I moved into the corner of the couch, giving him space to sit and still be far away.
“I am surprised you came back,” I admitted. “I thought I might never see you again.”
He took the far side of the couch, against the arm. Four feet of green fabric separated us. He kicked his shoes off and tucked one leg under the other knee. He looked like he’d taken a beating.
“Kahlan, I have been unfair to you,” Kris began. “I have been in love with you for a long time. I have never done or said anything about it, to anyone. I don’t know what I was waiting for. And now… now I am mad at you because I waited so long. I feel like you owe me 18 months of feeling this way, of wanting to do something but being scared to ruin everything.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but he kept going.
“I have been a coward. That was not your fault,” he said. “But sleeping with Max… I don’t know how to get past that.”
I had to break in. “Kris, I owe you more than 18 months of waiting. I owe you 18 months of taking from you and giving nothing back. I owe you 18 months of always knowing you’d be there for me, but never wondering why. 18 months of thinking how amazing you are, how much fun we have, how happy I am with you… without ever wondering what price I should pay for all this.”
Now he tried to talk and I wouldn’t let him.
“You make me feel so safe. I finally gained your trust and when you let me inside I felt so lucky. I wanted to take care of you when you got moody, and to curl up with you after a bad game. I was so proud to be one of the few people who you really relax around. Kris, I knew all of this, knew it forever. I have been careless with your heart for so long. And yesterday… I thought only of myself. I was selfish. And you deserve better than me.”
I looked right into his dark, beautiful eyes. “I hate myself for hurting you, Kris.”
“I hate you for sleeping with Max,” he said softly. “I hate you for giving him something so special, something that I wanted.” He shook his head. “I know it’s just sex, but it’s more to me. I’ve been waiting for you a long time. Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on this because I have been thinking about it for a year and a half.
“I knew Max couldn’t wait. Or at least not wait long,” Kris continued, “without doing something.”
“You trusted me not to do something, and I let you down.” My eyes were stinging again. To my surprise, Kris moved over next to me on the couch. He put his hand on my knee and squeezed.
“You hurt me, Kahlan. My heart broke because I thought you were telling me you chose Max.”
I shook my head. “Kris, I am so confused. I am frustrated and exhausted. I want someone to tell me what to do, because I cannot decide for myself. I am hurting both of you with everything I do, and I thought I deserved to be hurt for it too. So I acted out. And it worked – it hurts. Maybe I thought I’d scare one of you off, force the situation.” I put my hand over his. “Yet here you are, being the same amazing person you always are.”
“I’m angry, Kahlan. I wanted to kill someone on the ice tonight,” he said. “I sit here, looking at your skin, and think of Max touching you and I want to throw up.”
“At least you are sitting here,” I said.
And there we sat, for a while longer, my hand over his hand on my knee. I was lost in my thoughts, wondering how these guys could still surprise me, still be even better than I’d known.
“Max will never give up now, you know that,” Kris said. “He may be a bastard when it comes to women, but he meant what happened with you. He will not be with other girls, he will not stop chasing you. I have to say that for him, the son of a bitch. He is really in love with you.”
3 years ago