“Don’t look at me like you’re sympathetic! Just tell me I am an absolute whore with zero self-control who lies to everyone and deserves to die alone in a ditch dug by Sidney’s father and shoveled over by Max and Kris.”
Cara just stared at me, that vaguely understanding look still on her face.
“Hell Kahlan,” she said. “Is that the whole story?”
I had run from the house without a word, barely back in my pajamas, and pounded on her door in the middle of the night. I had a long scarf around my neck that I continually used to hide my face every time I revealed something.
“No,” I buried my face again. “It’s worse.”
“If you want me to hate you, I’m going to need to know why,” she prompted. “Full disclosure.”
I took a deep breath. “Way back in November, Sidney tried to kiss me. Then Max kissed me, then Kris kissed me. Then Sidney and I had sex in his room. Max and I had sex in the kitchen. Kris and I had a fight. Then Kris had his way with me – no sex, but it was spontaneous-combustion-amazing anyway. Kris kissed me in front of everyone, then another huge fight. Sidney kissed me in the airport and we were famous. Nothing happened in Nova Scotia though. Kris took me to his parents’ house in Montreal, then I think he was ready to go all the way at the hotel. I sent him away. Max did the same, only he sent me away. So I literally ran to Sidney and begged him to have sex with me. Max asked me to stop seeing Sidney. Sidney kissed me at midnight and we were famous again. Then we broke up. Kris got upset and said he wants to marry me. Then I had a fight with Max and when we got home, I fucked him in our laundry room, with the machine on and Kris three rooms away.”
Cara’s mouth was hanging open.
“I have bruises in the shape of his hands, Cara.” I disappeared into my scarf again. Out loud it sounded even worse than it felt.
“I hate myself. I have ruined everything.”
Cara put a hand on my arm. “You know that’s not true. Guys are different – especially Max. Kay, they’ve all done things they shouldn’t have. Without exception every one of these guys has done something they are secretly ashamed of. Even if they’ve bragged about it. Even Kris, I’m willing to bet. So when you do something crazy or horrible, they see it differently than you see yourself.”
“Cara, that doesn’t matter! It’s all the more reason I should not have done any of these things. Whatever it is they see in me, whatever it is they’re in love with – it is not this. This is not me.”
Cara sat back into her chair. Her gaze was leveled at me, like she was considering options. She started to speak, stopped, then started again.
I slept. Cara went to class, came home, ate, worked, went out. I slept. It was like post-traumatic stress disorder – I had experienced something horrible and my mind shut down. My phone was off. There was not a single person I wanted to speak to. I assumed that if anyone left on Earth gave the slightest crap about where I was, Cara would eventually get a call.
When I was awake, I mostly cried. I lay in Cara’s guest room, thanking God that Pittsburgh’s rent allowed her to have a second bedroom. I couldn’t do this in front of someone. I stayed in that room for 2 days. I’d come to and find that Cara had left me a sandwich or an apple.
Around 10:30 the second night, I heard Cara open the front door. Another set of footsteps came in – heavier, masculine. Then hers went off down the hall. The door to my room cracked open, spilling a sliver of light into the darkness. I was on my back and didn’t turn my head. My eyes were open.
“Hey.” Sidney sat down on the edge of the bed. He smelled clean, like he’d come right from the arena. He lay down next to me in his suit, not touching. He stared at the ceiling too.
“Why…” I cleared my throat. “Why is it always you chasing me when I run away?”
I felt him smile. “I am your knight in shining armor.”
I stifled a breath and tears started to flow. Apparently 40 hours of crying was not enough. Sidney reached under the covers, down my side, and took my hand.
“Kris ran too – I think he went to a hotel. Max freaked out, called me and we called everyone looking for him. No one saw him till this morning and he did not say a single word
all day.” I breathed through my mouth, around the tears filling my throat.
“Max was furious. He barely got through practice and he had a fight tonight. No misconduct, but it was close.”
“What do I do?”
He shrugged. “I don’t think Kris went home, so you won’t be able to find him. Unless he called you?”
I shook my head. “Phone’s off.”
“You probably have 80 voicemails. Maybe he’s one of them. But I think you should talk to Max first. I am the only one who knows what Kris saw. You need to sort out what is going on with Max so you have something to tell Kris.”
“Do I have to do it now?” It was late and I was destroyed.
Sidney rolled onto his side, facing me. “The longer you wait, the worse it gets.”
Kris’ car was not in the driveway when I turned the key in the front door.
Max must have been listening for me. I wondered if Sidney had called ahead. He came from the hallway before I was inside. Pain was all over his face – literally and figuratively. He had a black eye forming, and swollen cheekbone. I sagged back against the door and sank to the floor.
“I’m glad you are okay,” he said quietly.
“This is not okay, Max.”
He dropped onto the couch. “Fuck.” After a minute, “Kris?”
“Don’t know,” I said.
“Me neither. He hasn’t looked at me, hasn’t spoken to anyone. Practiced, played and ran from the Mellon.”
“Same reaction I had, then.”
Max looked at me over the arm of the sofa. He hadn’t shaved, and with the bruising on his face he looked like he’d lost a fight. Or maybe he’d won. He rubbed a hand hard across his head.
“I was so scared that night, Kay. You ran and Kris ran and I didn’t know if something really bad might happen. Kris might have killed himself for all I knew. And you… I thought that was it. I’d never see you again.” He came over to the floor and sank down in front of me. “I have done it again. Spectacular disaster, courtesy of Max Talbot. Whatever happens here this is the end of the line.
“Kahlan, Kris knows right now that he wants you forever. Even after this. He’ll ask and he’ll do it, I know he will.” He paused. “I love you. More than I’ve ever loved anyone. We could work, I know it. But I have made so many mistakes that I have scared myself. I can’t give you forever right now. Someday, maybe soon. But right now, all I can promise you is that we would try.”
He sat up straight. I scooted across the hardwood, into his arms. I sighed against him as my tears soaked into his shirt.
“If you want forever now, you should go to Kris.”
“I’m asking for everything, Max, when I don’t even know what I can promise in return,” I whispered.
He laughed softly. “That’s part of why I love you. You are as messy as I am.” He drew me in tighter, squeezing me hard. There were tears in his eyes.
“Find him,” he said.
I paged through my phone. 42 missed calls, 27 text messages, 16 voicemails. Zero from Kris. But there was one missed call from a number I didn’t recognize. I said a little prayer and hit send.
“Doubletree Suites, how may I connect your call?”
I pulled up to the hotel wearing the same clothes from my run to Cara’s house, carrying an overnight bag. It was nearly midnight. My only option was to beg.
“Can I help you?” the concierge asked.
I hoped I looked as bad as I felt. “Hi. I just landed. My boyfriend has checked in, but he’s not picking up his cell or the room phone. Sleeps like the dead! Any chance you’d tell me what room he’s in?”
The man contemplated me for a second. His eyes checked the time on his monitor. I leaned on the counter, not having to feign exhaustion. Please let this guy know nothing about hockey.
“The name is Letang. Kris Letang, with a K.”
He gave a small nod and tapped his keyboard. “814, miss.”
I knocked and closed my eyes. The door opened but I didn’t lift my eyelids. I didn’t want to see the look on his face if he was just going to slam it in mine.
I heard him sigh. “You can open your eyes.”
I did, slowly. He was in sweats, hair a mess with dark circles under his eyes. They were red, either from lack of sleep or crying. He turned back into the room and I shut the door behind me. There were 2 beds. I sat on the one still made – neutral territory – and folded my feet underneath me.
“I have nothing to say for myself, Kris, except that I had to make sure you were okay,” I started. “I am sorry that you ever met me and that you ever had to suffer because of me. I am sorry that I am selfish and stupid. I betrayed your trust. I was never worthy of your love. I was never good enough for you.”
I finally looked up at him. He was across the room in an armchair, staring at me from under the fringe of his hair. His body was slack, his posture defeated.
“Have you been sleeping with Max this whole time?” His voice was gravely.
A tear slipped onto my cheek. “No. Just the time I told you about, and last night.”
“Did Max start it?”
“Does it matter? I still did it.”
He leaned forward in his seat. “It matters to me.”
“Well it shouldn’t, Kris. You forgive me for everything too easily. I deserve to be hated.”
“I’m not forgiving you, Kahlan.”
“Oh,” I said, involuntarily. He put both hands to his face and wrenched the hair from his eyes. He looked as tired, beaten and frustrated as I felt.
“I can’t trust you, Kay. I can’t be a gentleman, I can’t be myself. I try to make a move and we have a fight. I try to give you space and you have sex with Max. Anything I do is the wrong thing.”
I just sat there. My face was hot and my eyes filling.
“You’ve made a fool of yourself by whoring around with Max and Sidney. You’ve made a fool of me in the process. The guys don’t care – they all love you, and sex means nothing to them. Overexposure, I guess. It’s just another locker room story. Even I have a much higher threshold for this shit than I should. So you get away with things you could never do in the real world. In the real world, I would have walked away long ago.”
I deserve this. I need to hear this.
“You can’t apologize for what happened last night. If you keep making the same mistake, on purpose, then you are not sorry for it. You are only sorry that you got caught.
“I feel sick, Kay. Somehow the sight of you still makes me happy. I still want to touch you, to be in love with you. I want to forgive you and forget all of this ever happened. But I can’t be sure you won’t do this again. We go back to that house and every second you’re out of my sight, I will be worried that you’re with him.”
I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes.
“I can only think of one way out of this,” he said.
This is it, it’s over. I love him desperately and I have destroyed him.
I heard him move from the chair. I took my hands down. Kris was kneeling in front of me.
“Marry me, Kahlan.”
My blood pressure bottomed out. I put a hand to the bed to keep from collapsing.
“I don’t have a ring but I am serious. If you can make me this promise, I know you will keep it. You are not a bad person, just scared. We will move out of the house. I will do this over, when all this horrible stuff has passed, and I will do it right.
“I want to be with you, Kay. I hate you right now, I am disgusted with you and I still want this. That means something. I want to trust you and love you for the rest of my life. But I need you to give me something I can believe in. I deserve that.”
He was looking into my eyes, absolute dead-end, nowhere-to-run desperation on his face. I’d asked myself before, during one of my many colossal screw-ups, how Kris could break my heart by telling me he still loved me. Now I knew.
Kris believed. He trusted. He had lost someone before, someone so important, and that made every moment of every day important to him in a way I could barely fathom. His tattoo was a testament to that. For all the times I’d messed up, all the bad days I would love to forget or do over, Kris would never, ever give back a single second. Because in the end, there is never enough time. Even when it’s slipping away, you fight for what is important. It was a revelation – suddenly things seemed so obvious. I saw it in his eyes: He was ready.
“Will you marry me, Kahlan?”
“Yes,” I said. Because now I was ready too.
4 years ago