At ten to midnight, the DJ announced a champagne toast would be poured. We filed back to our tables. A projector came to life, showing Times Square on the back wall. The giant disco ball hung still in the wintry air.
I was in trouble and I knew it. Enough people here had seen me with Sidney. Someone was bound to try to photograph us kissing at midnight. Even if we didn’t kiss, I couldn’t very well give Max or Kris a real kiss that could be snapped instead. That would make news too – under a week and I’m already cheating on The Kid.
Short, quick kisses, I told myself. Like everyone will be giving everyone else.
Warning, said my brain. Drunk meter approaching “cannot stop kiss” levels. I smiled at my own inner monologue and took a sip of champagne.
Jordan appeared beside me with Cara under his arm. “Six o’clock. We’ve got a couple of bogeys approaching your target.” He was looking over my head. I turned to see about ten very attractive girls had slowly approached till they were standing just beyond our little area. They were advancing in Sidney’s direction. I almost laughed.
“It looks like the Discovery Channel – the lionesses all waiting to pounce on their prey,” Cara said. “Jordo, can’t you help him?”
“I’m not kissing him at midnight! And I’m not kissing those girls either,” he leaned down and got an advance edition from Cara’s lips.
The DJ announced two minutes till midnight. We rearranged ourselves, standing closest to certain people. I moved in next to Sid, who was already standing with Max. Only two of the lionesses shied away when they saw me.
“If you turn around at midnight, you’re going to get jumped,” I said without looking at him.
He smiled, “Not turning around.”
Max came around Sid’s back and stood next to me. Kris came from the other side of the table, running his hand through his hair. With a smile, he sidled right up to us.
Kahlan, control yourself. We are all drunk, I thought. You have to be in charge. Oh this should be interesting.
The DJ began his one minute countdown. At thirty seconds, the crowd started shouting along. Sidney took my champagne and put it down on the table. He leaned behind me and said something to Max that I couldn’t hear.
Boom! Confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling. Everyone cheered. Before I could see anyone else, Sidney’s arms were around me.
In full view of a thousand people, Sidney tipped me back slightly and kissed me. I tried to release after a moment. He was not having it. Locked in his embrace, he gave me a real kiss. His lips were soft and persistent. I fought the urge to open my mouth, to grab his hair, to wrap my legs around him. He bent one elbow and put that hand to my head, holding me tightly as he moved his mouth over mine. I had an arm around his shoulders.
“Happy New Year,” he said when he finally broke apart. He tipped me flat onto my feet.
At least there was no tongue. I almost stumbled.
I turned, and Max was standing next to me, waiting. My hands went to Max’s pockets and I curled my fingers inside. I planted a solid smack to his mouth and quickly pulled away. “Later,” I whispered.
“Happy New Year, cherie.”
I ducked around him. Another girl had turned Kris away and given him a kiss. He was spinning back in my direction when I stepped into him. I put my hands on the side of his face and gave him our ‘good game’ kiss. Maybe a little harder than usual. “Later,” I said to him too.
“Bonne année!” he smiled and leaned in. “And again later.”
By 1 AM, we were toast. At least some of us. My head lolled to my chest on the ride home – drunk, sleepy, worried. Sidney had laughed off the kiss, as if it were just like every other kiss in the room. But a thousand flash bulbs had gone off at midnight. Even he agreed that some of them had to have been pointed at us.
I went to my room, looked at my makeup and thought of the effort required to remove it. Before I could do that, I kicked off my shoes and went down the hall.
Max opened his door on the second knock, his shirt was unbuttoned over a t-shirt. TK had elected to stay at the party. Max let me in first and before I could even turn he was already kissing me. No time wasted. His mouth was open and he was going for it, and I kissed him back. His hands moved down from my shoulders, palms lightly grazing my breasts, ribs, stomach, hips and finally moving over my ass before coming to rest of the outside of my thighs.
He sighed and I pulled away. “Wanted to do that all night,” he said.
“Happy New Year, Max.” I practically ran from the room.
Eight doors down, I knocked again. Kris had already changed into a clean t-shirt. He opened his arms and folded them around me, backing up into the room. Without my heels, I fit into his body in a totally different way. I felt less powerful. He looked into my eyes and I could tell he was drunk. He licked his slightly parted lips then touched his mouth to mine.
He smelled like he had on the dance floor – expensive scent with a real smell, muskier and sleepier, underneath. I ran a hand up through his hair as he rolled his tongue into mine. He kissed me hard, then soft, then hard again. When he was done, he kept his face so close our lips were nearly touching.
“Happy New Year,” I said, and fled.
The next morning, I woke up to Jordan sitting on my bed. He put a Gatorade on the nightstand and a paper on my chest.
“Morning, princess. You’d think with a photo like this, you could get free Gatorade.”
“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck,” I said, hauling myself into a sitting position. I put my head back, refusing to pick up the paper.
“If I didn’t know you, Kay,” Cara said, “I would be super insanely jealous of you right now. Go on, look.”
Jordan moved the paper to my face. I lifted it and tried to focus. The cover said “Happy 2010” at the top. Below that, in color of course, was another fantastic photo of Sidney Crosby kissing his not-girlfriend. It was the midnight kiss. It was obviously Sidney, and anyone who’d seen the first round of photos would recognize me as the same girl. Confetti was dropping all around us, Sid was bending me slightly backward and kissing me. It looked passionate. It looked like an ad for a movie.
‘Sidney and Cinderella’ was the headline.
Sidney Crosby played Prince Charming at midnight on New Year’s Eve, kissing Kahlan Bennett at the annual event at Berkeley Church. Crosby and Bennett, first photographed in the Pittsburgh airport on Christmas Eve, made their official debut as a couple last night, ringing in 2010 with Crosby’s Penguin teammates.
A knock pushed the door open. Max came in and sat opposite Jordan. He was smiling. “I told him to do that. And now I hate having to look at him kissing you!” He was laughing, and I could see in his eyes that he genuinely found this funny. “His dad is going to fucking kill you.”
“Har har,” I said. “Troy is probably driving here now, sharpening his axe at every red light.”
Kris didn’t even knock, he just walked into the room and flopped down on Cara’s bed.
“So Kay, now you are famous,” his smile was less sure than Max’s. “They have your name and everything.”
Jordan took a sip from my drink. “Then they’ll know what to put on her tombstone.”
Sidney shuffled in next, looking sheepish. “Is it okay to laugh at this?” he asked, climbing onto the bed next to me and reaching for the paper. “Am I deranged for thinking this is hilarious?”
Max chimed in. “I hear people often laugh at their own executions.”
The hotel room phone rang, and everyone stared at it. Cara sucked in a breath. “Your name is on the room, Kay.”
Jordan went to the window and peeked through the blinds. “Uh oh, bad news.” At least three news vans and five photographers were outside the hotel. Kris went to the door and stuck his head into the hall, then backed up as Coach strode into the room. Dan pulled out the desk chair and sat down.
“Last night, I watched this happen and thought it was cute. I mean, midnight on New Year’s, everybody gets a kiss. Someone even kissed TK for Christ’s sake.” He stopped smiling. “Now Kahlan and I will be sharing an unmarked grave somewhere in Nova Scotia.”
Max laughed, which set Jordan and Sidney off. I was still in bed, in my pajamas, with a room full of people.
“Did you look inside?” Bylsma nodded at the paper in Sid’s hand.
He turned to page 3. There was a full-length color photo of me and Sid, standing at the table. How the photographer had gotten a clear shot with all those people and chairs was a miracle. I was facing Sid, turned partially away from the camera, and the picture managed to get my face and upper body, plus part of my butt and the back of my legs. Sidney was in front of me, smiling as he spoke. We were not touching.
Sid whistled. “That’s a great picture,” he said, holding it up.
Bylsma stood. “At least you are registered to your own room, Kahlan. That helps a little. But there are quite a few media outside. I’m asking both of you to stay in the hotel today. All day.”
“Ooooh, grounded,” Jordan taunted.
Dan nodded. “And now, I’m going to call Mario.”
I put my head back theatrically, but then I had to smile. Without looking over I punched Sidney as hard as I could in the arm. He laughed and hit me on the head with the paper.
Sidney jogged a few steps to catch up with Kris in the hall. “Sorry, Tanger,” he said, stopping.
Kris stopped a few steps on. “I don’t like it. I don’t like this joke.” Then he turned. “You said you were taking yourself out of this one.”
“I did. Sort of. I mean, I am. I just… once the photos from Christmas were out, I didn’t want to stop. I don’t want it to be a fucking front page story every time I kiss someone. Now I’m already past the worst of it, I think, and I feel relieved. It’s just so easy to be with her.” He took a deep breath. “I am sorry. We were drunk and it seemed funny. Hell, it was Max’s idea!”
Narrowing his eyes, Kris said something. Something Sidney had not once thought of in this entire chain of events.
“Max would rather compete with you than me. He thinks he can beat you.”
Kris doesn’t know about me and Kahlan in Toronto. Only Max does. And Max asked me to stop being with her. He’s using me to edge Kris out of the competition, Sid realized.
“It’s worse than you know,” he said.
Sidney: Kris is mad. Are you mad?
Me: No. But you’re messing me up here.
Sidney: Are you revoking my date for tonight?
Me: What time?
Sidney knocked on my door at 6 PM. He wore a wool hat and an overly large jacket that I recognized as Jordan’s. I was in comfy clothes, not having planned on leaving the hotel for our date.
“Why are you wearing that?”
He smiled. “You said if I wanted to be incognito I needed to cover my ass! Let’s sneak out. I got the concierge to agree to let us out the back way.” He leaned in and whispered, “And I’m afraid of what I’ll do if we’re alone near a bed.”
I had to smile. “You get away with some crazy shit, Crosby. Let me get dressed.”
I closed myself into the bathroom so Sid wouldn’t see me putting on makeup, then I threw on jeans and a sweater. We swore Cara to secrecy and took the stairs to the lobby. The concierge led us into a service door, through the kitchen and out the loading dock. We jogged to the end of the driveway and turned right.
We walked for a while, talking about nothing. After ten minutes, we came to a coffee shop. I ordered for us as Sidney took a table in the way back, away from the windows. He sat with his back to the room.
“You’re like the opposite of a mobster,” I said, setting down his coffee and my hot chocolate. “Instead of seeing the room, you don’t want anyone to see you.”
“I thought you should face the room, in case my dad comes in with a shotgun.” He sipped, then looked at me. “How do you know how I take my coffee?”
I shrugged. “It’s what you always order.”
“You make this tough, Kay. You really do.” I wagged my head a little, encouraging him to continue. I knew we needed to talk, and I could tell Sidney had a few things he was dying to say. “You make it hard not to like you. You put up with my shit, you don’t crack under pressure, you remember how I like my coffee.” He shook his head. “You come to me for help. That’s the killer. I love it when you need me.”
“Sid,” I said quietly.
“Wait, let me finish,” he held out his hand. “I think we should stop fooling around. Max is right – it’s too much. It’s too much for them, and it’s definitely too much for me. I’m still in a place where I can hold it together about us. But if we keep doing this, I will fall in love with you. We are past the worst of the media stuff and that makes me really want to fall in love with you. But I know that won’t help anything. So please, let’s stop before that happens.”
I was speechless. Thank God, I thought. I liked Sid, liked him a lot, but after last night I could see this was going in a dangerous direction. Max was up to something – telling us to stop seeing each other, but then pushing me toward Sidney in public. And Kris – I didn’t think Kris could take much more of us having fun while he watched.
“You don’t make this easy either. You understand me, especially when I don’t understand myself. And every time I make a mistake, you just say ‘okay’ and help me get past it. I could fall in love with you too, Sid, if me falling in love means anything to anyone anymore. You are always there for me. Please say that won’t go away.”
He shook his head. “Never, Kay. I’ve told you a million times that I’m not going anywhere.”
We both sipped and thought. The spark between us was getting a little out of control. Add a few drinks and you have front page news! I needed to get back to myself, to the decision I was still hoping to make before everyone realized they hated me and ran for the hills.
Sid finally tried a joke. “This means no more secret meetings. I don’t want to hear you’re kicking someone else’s roommate out.” He laughed. “Unless it’s for Max or Tanger, of course. Something’s gotta break there. And soon.”
I laughed and put my forehead down on the table. I pretended to cry. “That’s a tough one. If people knew how good you are in bed….”
“I think that was you, sweetheart. But I’m willing to take the credit if it makes you feel better.”
We left the coffee shop and walked next door to a Thai restaurant. At a table near the back, Sid and I slipped back into our usual routine – laughing and teasing each other. When we finished, the waitress recommended a gelato place around the corner. It was pretty empty, since it was freezing outside. Again we took the most hidden seating available.
Sid spooned out some raspberry sorbet and savored it. “So, I finally get a date with you and we break up.”
“You already had all the fun, without even buying me dinner. What else was left?”
“I was kind of hoping you’d beg me not to go and offer to marry me. Then I could at least pickup the phone when my dad calls. He’s probably planned out fifty ways to kill us both.”
“Tell him we had sex. He’ll have to wait at least a month to be sure I’m not carrying your child.”
He laughed at that. “What are you going to do now?”
I shrugged. “Max has a plan. I realized when you said he asked you to stop seeing me…”
“Uhhh, he didn’t say ‘seeing’,” Sid interrupted.
“... well, he asked me the same thing. But then he was pushing me toward you all night. I think he’s trying to distract me from Kris.”
Sidney nodded around another spoonful of gelato. “It won’t work. Kris saw right through it. That’s why he was mad today.”
I ate the last bite of dessert. “Guess that’s my next order of business then.”
We took the loading dock entrance and climbed the stairs all the way to our floor. Sid reached for the door knob then stopped. Instead he turned, put a hand to my cheek and gave a single, brief kiss to my lips. Then he smiled.
“I don’t want to be the worst date you’ve ever had!” he laughed, opening the door.
4 years ago