Monday, June 28, 2010

Chapter 16 - Consequence

At 7 AM, I ducked into Max’s room and climbed on his bed. I put my face right to his and kissed his sleeping cheek. He woke halfway, which is all Max needs. Without cracking any eyelid he pulled me in and kissed me on the mouth.

“Ugh, morning breath,” I said.

He smiled, eyes still closed. “Less noticeable when I’m naked.”

I shut his door and opened Kris'. He was propped up on an elbow, waiting for me.

“Sorry I woke you,” I made my way in and lay down next to him.

“Sorry you’re not coming home with me.” He leaned down kissed my cheek. I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a bear hug. He laughed.

“Miss you, Tanger.” And I left.

A town car glided to a stop at the end of our driveway. Sid hopped out of the backseat and took my suitcase.

“It gets a little weird at the airport,” he said, climbing in beside me. “Better if I don’t drive us.”

“Do we go in the regular way?” I asked. It was easy for me to forget that Sidney was incredibly famous in the right places. Of course, Pittsburgh was such a place. But I was used to being with a lot of the team, or seeing them at Pens functions where it was all officially sanctioned. And girls in a club didn’t count, I was used to that too. We were careful where we went in public and were pretty good at avoiding a scene.

“We do. Someone will meet us at the curb and take us through security, to the airline lounge. Once we’re in there we should be okay.” He paused. “It’s just tough at the holidays, because the airports are so crowded. One person can turn into a hundred people very quickly. So let’s try not to get scoped, okay?”

I nodded. “Luckily, I am incognito. They’d all assume you’d be with someone much hotter.” I held up my hands, in Max’s Canada mittens. “Will these give me away?”

He snickered. “Kay, if they see us together, you are dead meat.”

A United Airlines greeter opened my door curbside and our bags were whisked away. Sid pulled the collar of his jacket up and his baseball cap down low. He was wearing jeans and sneakers, like most other travelers. Still, with his amazing size and shape, the powerful way he walked, I thought he looked like neon sign flashing #87.

“If you wanted to hide, you should have worn something to cover that ass,” I said under my breath.

Sidney snorted a laugh, hurrying past the check-in desks. “I’m told, by some girls, that some other girls somewhere like my ass.”

I slapped his arm. “That’s my point. Every girl everywhere likes your ass.”

He turned, slowing, a sarcastic grin on his face. “I’m only interested in one girl,” he said.

We were partway across the packed terminal when I saw the TV camera crew. Sid saw them at the same moment. We were totally in the open, our airport rep twenty paces ahead of us. Sid stopped and looked quickly around. A solid wall of people were between us and security. He stepped into me, backing me up. We moved quickly into a corner where the outside wall of a bookstore met the concourse. There were people absolutely everywhere. The camera crew moved to the middle of the terminal, between us and security, looking for the best place to set up a shot and film the hundreds of travelers before them.

Turning his back to them, Sidney shielded both himself and me from the lens. People poured past, shopping and wandering. If they spotted him it would be chaos. He looked unfazed. In fact, he was staring right down into my eyes. I could see, behind him, the camera crew moving in our direction. They would pass right by us.

“Don’t turn,” I said quietly.

He just smiled. “I’ve always wanted to try this.” And he kissed me.

Hat, collar and turned back hid his face from view, and his body totally hid mine. He pressed into me, holding me against the wall. His mouth was soft and warm. He put a hand high on my waist, almost on my stomach, careful to keep his back to the outside. My brain sputtered and buzzed, but refused to start. I got a little dizzy from the insistent pressure of his lips against mine. It hardly took a second for me to give in and give up to the kiss. I opened my mouth and that was it. Sidney Crosby was kissing me in public. Dimly, my brain wondered what happened to that camera crew.

Thirty seconds later, he stopped. But he didn’t move. I didn’t look anywhere but in his eyes. And I said, “Shit.”

That cracked his face into a smile. “Gotcha,” he whispered. “That always works in the movies.”

I stood on my toes. He dropped his shoulder so I could peek over. The crew had set up on the other side and swiveled the camera away from us.

“All clear.” I met his gaze again. Sid was still against me, not having moved. He didn’t turn, just looked at me.

“Bummer,” he said.

At that moment, our airport rep reappeared. He cleared his throat. “Security line is clear, sir, they’ll let you right through.”

Sid detached his body from mine, grabbed my hand and turned to follow. I heard it like a crack of lightning.

SNAP. A camera shutter. An ice cold flash of adrenaline slammed through my system. He clamped painfully hard onto my fingers.

“Sid! Sid!” Someone close by us called. A voice or two joined in. He didn’t stop, just pulled me into the first class security line behind him. The officer at the podium took one look at Sidney’s face and waved him through. He barely glanced at my passport before letting me past.

Once inside the security area, whoever had called his name couldn’t get to us. They kept shouting, hoping he’d turn around. But the only people turning were all the others in the regular security line.

The airport rep stood behind us, shielding us as much as possible. We threw our shoes and bags onto the conveyer belt. Sid wrestled his laptop out of his bag. The x-ray screener was looking at Sid when our bags went through – he didn’t look at the screen once.

Shoes on and laptop collected, the greeter steered us quickly left. People past security hadn’t heard Sid’s name called, so we anonymously climbed a flight of stairs into the United Airlines lounge. Sid held my hand every possible second. Pittsburgh isn’t a big city, but the small lounge was nicely appointed. The rep steered us to a table near the window, partially hidden from the room by the circular shape of the bar. Sid dropped into a chair.

“Shit, Kay.” Still holding my hand. I had barely processed what happened.

“Do you think they got us?”

“They got something,” he leaned back. “I didn’t hear the camera before the greeter came back. With any luck, they didn’t see us kissing. Kissing! What was I doing?! I am so, so sorry.” He turned his whole body to face me, our knees touching. “Kay, I am sorry. What am I playing at?”

I put my hands on the outsides of his legs. “Sid, stop. I thought it was funny too. Well, funny and I almost fainted.”

He barked a laugh. “I am in big trouble if they got us kissing. Huge. Either way we’ll be in the paper tomorrow.” He dug out his phone. “I have to call my dad and Mario. You should call them.”

Uuuggghhhh. I was so surprised and worried about Sid and cameras and his image that I hadn’t even thought of Kris and Max. Fuck fuck fuck.

“Wait,” Sid said. “Don’t. I will call them first.” He thumbed through his contacts and pressed Send. Voicemail picked right up.

“Max, it’s Sid. I was an asshole and goofing around in the airport and I kissed Kahlan. And I think someone got a photo of it. I did it all, she didn’t do anything and now I might have caused an enormous problem. You will probably see it in the paper. Please don’t be mad at her – I did it all and she wants to kill me. Sorry bro. I’ll call you later.” He left the same message for Kris, then hung up.

He actually smiled. “I think that was worse than having to tell my dad.”

I wrung my hands. “Sidney, are your parents going to freak? Should I go home right now?” We were still in Pittsburgh, after all.

“No. Well, yes. They will freak out. But you cannot leave. I did this and I will fix it.” He stopped. “Or my dad will make us get married tomorrow. Much easier if you’re actually there.” Sid took his phone around the other side of the bar.

I closed my eyes, but I had to laugh. I’d met Sidney’s parents before. His mother was an absolute sweetheart. His father, a bear of a man, was a bit brusque at our first meeting, but eventually warmed up and I’d liked him. Sid later told me that Mario had vouched for me, assuring Mr. Crosby that I presented no threat to his son’s reputation. So much for that.

The airport greeter came back first, waving our boarding passes. Our flight was taking off in 25 minutes. Sidney wrapped up his call.

He looked at me. “Marriage it is.”

I was sweating by the time the plane reached cruising altitude. We were in the second row of first class, Sid against the window. I still thought everyone was looking at him, at me – was I someone? Was I the Kid’s girl? If they remembered my face, they’d know by morning. Sid scrolled through the movies on our individual TVs, frowned and fished out his laptop. “You said you missed these,” he brought up a few episodes of Doctor Who that he’d bought from iTunes.

“My favorite!” We had to sit with our heads touching to share the earphones.

As the show’s main titles played, he turned toward me. “I’m so sorry, Kay.”

I didn’t turn, I couldn’t turn without putting my face right to his. I didn’t want anyone to think we were kissing on the plane. I just shook his apology away. Underneath the tray, he took my hand in his.

We had a layover in New York. Sid could be pretty anonymous here, at least until it was time to board the plane to Halifax. We took a booth at TGI Fridays. At 10 AM, we both ordered beers. Sid listened to his phone, then held it out to me.

Max’s voice came on: “You are fucking killing me, Kid. If I see tongue in this picture I really will kill you.”

I closed his phone and showed him mine. Max: Try to keep your pants on.

“So, my dad is furious. We are staying at my house, not theirs, which is better. Still, I should go talk to them before you come over. Is that okay?” He asked. I nodded, scared of ruining their whole Christmas.

“Don’t worry, he’ll get over it. He’s mad at me, not at you,” he smiled. “Well, maybe a little bit at you. But just for being so hot that I can’t control myself.”

I rolled my eyes at him. “He thinks I can’t control myself, you mean.”

“My mom knows about Max and Kris and you, and all that. Well, a little of it. I had to tell her when I invited you up, or there really would have been a wedding waiting for us. So she’s talking my dad down.”

“Jesus, Sid! If your mom tells him that, your dad will think I’m getting it on with the whole damned team! For fuck’s sake, I practically am! Oh my God.”

He touched his beer glass to mine. “Billy G has never looked at you twice. I’ll call him if I need backup.”

Sid opened the door to his house. I was on the couch, flipping through a magazine.

“Well, that could have gone worse,” he said, taking the recliner next to me. “Mario got a call – the photographer was from the Post-Gazette. He did in fact get us kissing. Mario is trying to kill that photo and get them to run just us standing close or holding hands or whatever else they got. Honestly, he doesn’t think it’ll work.” I groaned. “The editor told Mario the photo is ‘electric,’ whatever that means. Apparently if I were a bad kisser, they’d bury it.” He tried to laugh.

“And the pictures are up on their wire service, so even if they killed the kissing photo in the ‘Burgh, it’ll definitely run up here.”

“So what exactly could have gone worse?” I asked.

“My mom was pretty good with my dad. And I explained that the whole thing was my fault, just fooling around. He was really upset, but he knows there’s nothing he can do about it. He even pointed out that you’ve been around forever, so it’s not like the papers can I say I picked up some puckbunny.”

Sid turned to me. “Mario was surprised. He knows you’ve stayed over a few times. He mercifully did not mention that to my parents.”

“We didn’t even do anything when I slept over!” I threw my hands up. “Thank God they don’t know about pre-game meal!”

We parked Sid’s ‘Canada car’ and walked up his parents’ front steps. I took a very deep breath as he opened the front door.

“Kahlan!” Sid’s younger sister Taylor ran into the foyer and hugged me. “You guys are SO busted! I’m gonna buy a hundred copies of the paper tomorrow.”

“Taylor!” Sid swatted at her.

“Your fault, stupid,” she stuck her tongue out and pulled me into the kitchen.

Sid’s mom was stirring something on the stove. The house smelled like turkey and gravy. The kitchen was big and square, with a large island in the middle and one wall of windows with the shutters all open. Natural light poured in, reflecting off the copper pots and pans hanging above.

“Hello Kahlan, Merry Christmas!” Trina put down her spoon and hugged me. Into my ear she said, “Don’t worry about anything.” She squeezed my shoulders.

I heard footsteps as Sid’s father, Troy, came into the room. It was a moment before a smile came to his face, like he needed to remind himself not to be upset. He dutifully came over and gave me a hug.

“Nice to see you Kahlan,” he said.

“You too. And I am really sorry about today.” I had to say something. I felt Sid tense up across the island.

Troy nodded. “Not the best situation, but we’ll work it out.” I could feel the effort it took for him to say that, instead of whatever he was really thinking. “At least Sidney has good taste.” That sounded more genuine. The elephant was at least smaller, if not completely out of the room.

Just before dinner, I snuck upstairs to with my phone.

“Belle,” Kris said. “What happened?”

“We were hiding from a TV camera, and Sid was clowning around, and he kissed me. There was a photographer from the Pittsburgh paper. They got the picture, and they’re running it tomorrow. Mario tried but he couldn’t stop them. They’ve also sold it to other papers.”

He let out a big breath. “It will run here in Quebec, for sure.”

“Kris, I am sorry.” I wished I could see him.

“It’s okay, Kay. Sid told me about it. I’m sorry you were photographed, and now it’s a big deal.”

I sat down on the bed. “Kris, you will see in the photo that I am kissing him back. I was so surprised, I didn’t even know what was going on.”

“Belle, I said don’t worry. I know what it’s like to kiss you, I can’t blame him. I am not mad. What about Sid’s father?”

I groaned. “He hates me, obviously, but he is being nice. Sid’s mom made him. He’ll probably sneak into Sid’s house and kill me in my sleep.”

Kris was quiet, and I knew he was thinking about me sleeping in Sid’s house. After this, after kissing, after causing a scandal. I couldn’t think of anything to say that might not be rendered a lie by the next insane turn of whatever was happening to us. In the aftermath of the airport, I knew deep down that Sid had not only been goofing around. We hadn’t been alone together 30 minutes – if you can call an airport at Christmas alone – and he was all over me. Sure, ending up in the tabloids might dampen his spirit, but whatever reason he had for kissing me still existed. Especially alone together, 1200 miles from home.

A horrible part of me also knew that I really liked kissing Sidney. Yes I loved Kris and Max. Yes I felt more strongly for them than for Sidney. Which is exactly why kissing Sidney felt so good – it wasn’t an overwhelming tangle of emotion and jealousy and guilt. It was sexy, fun and somehow seemed to always exist beyond my control. But now, now it was an epic disaster. I hoped we could get through the holiday without anymore carnage.

A snippet of song came to mind, something I’d never really understood before. From Darren Hayes’ “I Like the Way”:

The decadence of giving in to desire
Creates such entropy within

It’s why you don’t do what Sidney and I had done. Why you don’t give in. Don’t fall off the wagon. Because the first time makes the second time so much easier.

“Kris, I didn’t mean for this to happen,” I whisper. “I don’t want you to see this, to be hurt by this.”

“I will be fine. And I have our date to look forward to,” he said.

I can do this. I can hold out, I can wait. He has waited for me. “I’m looking forward to it too,” I said honestly.

I disconnected and dialed Max. Max was always easier. He had made a joke replying to Sid’s message, and one to me. Just like he’d made a joke about our first kiss, then our kiss before his road trip and about me being with Sid. He put me at ease, even when neither of us felt anything of the sort.

“Kissing Factory, Monsieur Talbot speaking,” he answered. “Ah, Kahlan. Our best customer. I believe you have several orders on layaway with us.”

I laughed, and Max continued. “There are a few of our models you haven’t tried, if you’re interested in something new. We have one very tall, one Russian. But I think you have already selected your favorites. Now mademoiselle, forgive me for saying, but you are not meant to test drive everything without buying anything.”

“Ouch, Talbs,” I shook my head. “You got me.”

“It looks like Sid’s got you, actually. Day one of four and he’s got you right where he wants you.”

“And where is that? His father hates me and wants to kill us both. His mother had to intervene to even get me invited to Christmas Eve dinner. I may not live to see Montreal.”

“Shall I ride in and rescue you? I could call the papers on the way, have them photograph our daring escape?”

Another laugh. “Great Max, then Canada would never let me back in.”

“Fine, cherie. You can fend for yourself.” His tone turned serious. “Are you really okay there for three more days?”

I started to speak, but he kept going. “Kahlan, I want to tell you something. You are the first time in a long time that I have felt involved with someone. I know the difference between lust and love, and I know how good it can feel to do something easy. I am worried that’s where you are now. You’re with easy, and from over there we look very difficult.”

I flopped back onto the bed. “Max, how come you always know everything?”

He chuckled. “There is nothing you could do that I did not invent.”

“So what do I do?” I asked.

“Are you asking for my advice or my permission?” he said seriously.

I didn’t know. I couldn’t have seen what would happen today, and God knows what could happen tomorrow. Or tonight.

“Both, I think.”

He sighed. “Just be careful. Sid is probably scared shitless and trying to hide it. He will likely stay miles away from you. But he doesn’t want to.”

“Max. I wish I were more like you,” I admitted. “I wish I saw myself clearly, wish I could recognize and admit what I want, even when I’m not proud of it.”

I thought I could hear him smile. “One Superstar is enough for this world. We just need more of you.”

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