Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chapter 6

thanks for waiting thru the Holidays (or the busiest time anyway). I promise things will heat up for everyone soon!

My parents say nothing when my taxi pulls up in front of their house. My dad takes my bag and walks silently behind me up to the house. My mom just smiles in that tight sort of way that lets me know that she knows something is wrong but isn’t going to ask. They both just watch me climb up to my room and I can feel them watching me as I turn the corner of the stairs, leaning heavily on the banister and I know I’m going to have to tell them, eventually, just not yet.

As soon as I open the door to my room, to the lilac walls and the deep purple bedspread, it feels like a mistake and I find myself half in and half out of the room, afraid of stepping into the past. It feels like I’m walking into the scene of the crime.

This is where it happened, one summer night, one of those nights when it was too hot to sleep when the parents were all somewhere else, a block party, barn dance, something like that, somewhere we were supposed to be.

As I stand there, in the darkened room, I can see us both sitting cross legged on my bed talking like friends do and I can feel the sticky heat in the air even though there’s snow on the ground outside and the sky is grey with the threat of more of the white stuff. It had been one of those nights when a tank top had seemed like too much. I’d understood when Jordan had wanted to peel off his t-shirt. Looking back on it now, his underdeveloped but tanned teenage boy chest probably wasn’t anything to write home about but to a teenage girl whose hormones were all over the place, whose brain was probably a little addled by the heat and whose boyfriend was off at some hockey camp in L.A. making a name for himself, it was breathtaking.

I find my hand reaching out to touch air, the way my hand had instinctively reached out to touch his smooth skin that night. I can still remember how warm he was, sticky with the heat, his adolescent temperature running almost feverishly hot.

Truth be told, it was always Jordan. Oh I’d idol worshipped Eric first and I know if I asked that my mother could pull out photo albums to prove how a little pigtailed girl barely out of diapers had followed the freckle faced oldest Staal boy around with wide eyed astonishment. But that hadn’t even been puppy love. That had just been, well, whatever it is that makes little girls look up to blue eyed boys. But from the time we’d sat together in mud puddles and teamed up to make snow forts, it had always been Jordan even though something in me, something in my brain had told me that as much as he’d always have my heart, Jordy was the wild boy who couldn’t, wouldn’t be tied down.

And so I’d settled for my red haired Staal boy. Marc was a little older, a little steadier and a lot more serious. Marc didn’t laugh with the other girls and make me feel jealous. Marc didn’t treat me like one of his brothers the way Jordy did, like I didn’t have feelings, like whatever he did or said would just be forgiven and forgotten the way boys can do, no matter what.

Marc had been surprised when I’d kissed him and asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. I can still see the shock on his face, the colour of his cheeks matching his hair as I’d slid my hand into his bigger one. He hadn’t known then that I’d been making a choice.

He did when he came back from hockey camp out in the land of Hollywood starlettes to find a strange new tension in the room, to find Jordan and I carefully but intentionally avoiding each other. It had taken every ounce of courage I had to tell him that I’d given something to his younger sibling that I’d been making him wait for. I can still remember the pain and resentment in his eyes when I’d admitted that one hot, sticky night while he’d been missing me I’d lay down in this room, in this bed, with Jordan and shared that special moment with him.

I’d felt guilty then and I still do, standing at the end of my bed remembering how it had started so innocently with just the brush of my fingertips down his washboard stomach and ended up with sweat slicked bodies carefully, slowly joining as Jordan anxiously asked, over and over, if I was okay and asking how much did it hurt.

I can’t remember if I’d consciously been that desperate to lose my virginity. I clearly remember all of the times, out in the middle of one of his father’s fields on a blanket, how close Marc and I had come and every single time it had been me that had put a stop to it. Something hadn’t felt right. I’d convinced myself that I wanted the things I’d heard other girls talking about, candlelight or maybe a motel room for the first time. None of those things had mattered with Jordan and to this very moment, I still can’t say exactly why.

But as I sit on the foot of my bed and run my hand over the slightly thread bare quilt what I remember most is the look of wonder on Jordan’s face as he held me afterwards. I’d always just thought he was happy that he’d finally done ‘it’. Now…well, now everything is different.

“No man, I swear. I didn’t talk to her yesterday at all.”

“What’s that about?” Sid asks in a whisper as he glances over at where Jordan’s pacing in the hallway on his phone. Shaking my head I shrug.

“I just know it’s Marc,” I reply, going back to pulling on my socks. Sid watches our teammate pace up and down the hall with narrowed eyes. Jordy should know better than to do something different anywhere near our superstitious captain, especially when he’s on a hot streak.

“So what’s Tabby thinking of the ‘stache now?” I ask, changing the subject and bringing Sid's attention back to getting ready for the game.
“She’s hating it,” he chuckles, running his fingers across the thickest growth I’ve ever seen the kid get. “She doesn’t want the streak to end, but she really hates it,” he adds with a grin.

“But you’re not sleeping on the couch?” I ask and he actually snorts before losing himself in a fit of giggles.

“Well yeah but only because she’s taking up the whole bed right now what with swollen ankles and man…she has like…the worst gas ever,” he adds, making a face. I know he’s not really complaining. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy so twisted around a woman’s finger as Sid is around Tabby’s.

“She’s got to be ready to pop,” Tanger sticks his oar in and for once I don’t feel like ramming my fist down his throat for doing it. I must be getting over that whole thing.

“Overdue in fact,” Sid sighs, pulling on his skate, his smile disappearing all of a sudden. “So it could be any time. Doc says if she hasn’t gone into labor by Friday she’s got to get induced but…well you know Tabs can be pretty fucking stubborn.”

“Yeah, yeah, stubborn, right.” I don’t mean to be rude and Tabs and Sid are good friends so I do care about what’s being said but this girl’s appeared in the hall and I watch her poke Gronk who’s still pacing and arguing with his brother and I have this feeling I’ve seen her before but I just can’t stop looking at her, especially her cute little bootie all packed into this pair of cut-offs over ripped black tights with these crazy pink and purple striped knee high socks. It’s kind of a crazy look, and one we don’t see with the puck fucks who wait around in the halls of arena for us. But then the way she’s staring daggers at Gronk, I’m guessing that’s not exactly who she is. “Who is that?” I’m mostly talking to myself but Sid and Tanger both crane their necks to follow my gaze and then both of them laugh.

“That’s your girlfriend…oh no wait, sorry, Jordy’s brother’s girlfriend’s drummer,” Tanger points out, thinking he’s amusing, obviously. I do shoot him a dirty look this time but my attention is quickly drawn back to the hallway where Jordy’s suddenly looking perplexed by the fact that the little bundle of energy has his phone and he doesn’t.

“Daze, yeah,” I mumble her name and it makes me smile. Funny, I’ve looked at tons of pictures of her, even talked to her and never thought anything about her until right this minute, maybe because she suddenly isn’t in Kensey’s shadow.

I find myself on my feet, walking towards them like I’m being tugged by some invisible rope and I’m helpless to do anything else, even though I know I’m about to walk into some sort of private conversation which is something, as a teammate, I should try not to do.

“Why did you tell her?” Jordy is groaning, looking like a kicked puppy: a giant, Marmaduke type of puppy.

“Why didn’t you?” she asks, his phone still in her outstretched hand. “We have to go on tour in a few days Jordan. Call her…fix it.” She tries to force his phone back into his hand but he just looks down at it like she’s holding out a handful of squirming snakes instead of a normal blackberry.

“I can’t,” he mutters, still staring down at the phone like it might bite him.

“She broke it off with him for a reason Jordan, think about it,” she’s insisting but the big doof is shaking his head and I really want to ask if they’re talking about what I think they’re talking about but instead I stay just out of their sight lines, trying not to interrupt. “Call her Jordan, before she has time to talk herself into going back to him, again.” The big galoot stares down at the phone as she takes his hand and forcibly puts the phone in it, closing his fingers around it. “Do it for both of you. Fuck Jordan. Do you love her or not?” He looks at her and then down at his hand and then wanders off and I’m left watching her watch him and something in the way she watches him makes me wonder….

“Are you sure you didn’t want him to say that to you?” I ask out loud and her partly exasperated and partly worried expression suddenly changes into a crooked smile.

“I haven’t got the Staal sickness,” she says, still watching him shuffle down the hallway. “I had the Pyatt flu once upon a time,” she adds, turning to me and giving me a long look from my feet all the way up to my eyes. “I’m beginning to lose faith in hockey players altogether though,” she adds with a raised eyebrow that leaves me with my mouth hanging open, knowing I’ve been challenged and that for the first time in a long time, I actually want to rise to that challenge. Tilting her head to one side, Daze smiles at me and as she walks forward towards me and then this predatory look comes over her face that makes me want to follow her anywhere. “I kind of hate New Jersey,” she whispers, pulling a card from her jean pocket and sliding it just inside the waist band of my under armor leggings. “So if you’re over yourself…find me.” I shiver as she walks her fingers up my chest and then she playfully slaps my cheek before she turns on her heel and leaves me there, watching her go.

“Does this mean you’re over Becky?” Dupers whispers in my ear and then laughs as he walks by me into the room. I’d answer him…if I could talk.

I learned to skate pretty early, not long after I could walk. It was necessary, to keep up with the boys. Not that they let me play, exactly. I could use my ski jacket to try and deflect pucks, because none of us had any goalie gear. We didn’t want to be goalies. We wanted to be Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, not Patrick Roy and it was catching and deflecting pucks or standing in the snow, freezing.

Other girls could shiver in their pink gloves and scarves. Not me.

I never had figure skates either. Only hockey skates. I guess that’s changed. Sitting on the edge of a frozen snow bank, I pull on a pair of my mother’s old figure skates and tug on the laces. I came here to clear my head. I’m hoping the cold and a few turns out on the pond will help to do just that.

The sound of a skate blade cutting through fresh ice has always been a soothing sound for me. The moment I push off, the moment I begin to glide, I feel better. I love music but just like the boys, ice runs in my veins. I feel at home here with the cold air nipping at my nose and the wind grabbing at my hair but this too brings back all kinds of memories.

This is where Tom Pyatt kissed Daisy. She laughed and laughed and his whole face turned red. He thought he’d done something wrong. She laughed because she was nervous. She’d had a crush on big, quiet Taylor but he’d only ever had eyes for Carly. Thinking of her makes my chest ache, makes me wonder what he’s doing now, how he is.

This is also the place that Marc kissed me in front of everyone else for the first time. It had felt warm and soft and good, like a brownie right out of the oven. I’d felt warm, right to the core, until Eric had laughed and then I couldn’t get out of my skates fast enough. I’d gone running home, mad, hurt and embarrassed.

Eric and Marc had fought. I think Daze told me that. Jordan had made them break it up.

We’d never talked about it, Jordan and me. He’d left that night, snuck out of my parents house, down the tree outside of my window. I’d worried he’d break something, but as worried as I was, I couldn’t stop smiling at him as I watched him shimmy down the trunk. He’d waved. He’d even blown me a kiss. I’d thought it was going to be me and him after that, but then I’d woken up in the morning and remembered that he was dating Kathy MacIntosh, who was just about the prettiest girl in school.

He was holding her hand at the lake the next day. I thought my heart might actually break. I blew it off. I pretended like it didn’t matter, even when he tried to apologize, to explain. I just smiled and smiled and told myself it didn’t matter.

It did matter. It always has.

“God I’m a bitch,” I snarl at myself, stopping dead in the middle of the pond. I should never have made Marc my second choice. It wasn’t fair. It was mean, evil and undeniably cruel. “But I do love him,” I tell myself, “he’s good to me.” I push off, gliding across the snow covered ice, thinking about his long arms and how safe I feel when he holds me. “You broke his heart though, you know that right?” I add with a grim smile, wrapping my arms around my middle. “You just fucked up the only good thing that’s ever happened to you,” I add bitterly. “Way to Kensey Connor. Way to go.”

“Will he call, do you think?” I sit across the aisle from Sid but we’re all watching Jordan, who’s apparently been staring at his phone for hours. Geno sat beside him on the bikes all during the game and watched him stare at his phone, like he was waiting for it to ring and apparently it didn’t. At least that’s what Geno said.

“So, he’s in love with his brother’s fiancĂ©e?” Sid hisses, his phone also prominently still in his hand. He’s also watching his, waiting for it to ring.

“I don’t know,” I reply honestly. “I think that’s what I heard but…what do I know?” I reply, shrugging and thinking of Kensey’s band mate. She’d know, not that I should ask. It’s none of my business.

“So are you going to ask her out?”

“Huh?” I turn to stare at Tanger and he raises his eyebrow at me.

“Allez vous lui demander de sortir?” he says more slowly, like I’m stupid.

“Who?” I ask, because I am.

“Daze,” Sid says without looking up from staring at his phone. “He’s asking if you’re going to ask out Kensey’s friend. The one who was grilling Gronk.”

“Je pourrais,” I grin, fingering her card in my pocket. “Je viens peut le faire.”

“She’s cute,” he adds, like I have to be told. I have eyes.

“Why don’t you phone Becky and leave me alone?” I growl back at him and he rolls his dark eyes and then puts his headphones back on. Shaking my head, I think about calling her, asking her to meet me at our hotel. I’m still trying to figure out how I managed to miss that when I met her before. “She is cute, right?” I ask and Sid nods.

“Yeah, totally, in a baby Goth kind of way,” he replies, grinning suddenly as a text appears on his phone. “Airport. Turn this bitch around and get me to the airport!” he yells and heads for the front of the bus and the driver.

So much for finding out if she’d meet me at the hotel.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chapter 5

(lyrics borrowed from ‘Honestly” by Dommin
 All about Dommin:

Honestly, I never thought I’d lose myself so deep inside you
I gotta breathe
And I need to burn in love; it’s something more than I’ve been feeling from you
I gotta leave…Honestly

And I’m looking at myself
Feeling the cancer. Living in need
And I know there’s nothing left
There are no answers, and no in-between

“Holy shit when did you get so damn dark and broody?” Duncan asks as I finish playing the song for him on the piano. “Who are you and what ‘ave you done with our Kensey?”

“It’s all that fucking black the label has her and Daze wearing,” Johnny T laughs, reaching for his water bottle and draining it before picking up his bass. “But it’s got that whole fucked up girl done wrong vibe that might just work.” I watch him arrange his fingers on the frets and the next thing I know he and Duncan are picking out chords and even though I’ve seen them do it hundreds of times, it’s still a miraculous thing to watch.

“What is up with you?” Daze asks, her pointed chin digging into my shoulder as she watches our band mates work out the melody. “You and Big Red still not getting along?”

“We’re okay.” It isn’t a lie. It’s just not the entire truth.

“Yeah, ‘cuz those lyrics don’t scream trouble in paradise,” Daze snorts in my ear and then uses my shoulders and head as a drum kit before she swings down and arranges herself on the floor at my feet. “Spill it sister.” I look down into her cat-like green eyes, and I know it’s no good lying to her, if I do she’ll only call me on it and then play twenty questions until she either figures it out or I give up and tell her.

“Alright, fine, if you must know, it’s Jordy,” I sigh and then am forced to watch while Daze’s eyes roll back in her head while she clutches her stomach and groans.

“Oh god, don’t tell me. What has the big dunce done now?”

“And you wonder why I haven’t told you,” I reply, waiting for her to stop rolling around on her back like she’s been gut shot.

“Okay, okay,” she mumbles, sitting back up, picking up her drum sticks and banging out some kind of pattern on the floor. It’s her version of listening. It took her parents a long time to get used to it. It got her sent to the principal’s office more than once.

“He tossed it up in Marc’s face.” I wait while she deciphers what I’m not saying and then I wait while she makes several faces while she tries not to laugh. “Thanks Daze,” I grumble, turning back to the piano on which I start to pound out chopsticks to drown out the sound of her snorting through her nose. It would be better if she just laughed out loud.

“I told you that would bite you in the ass!” she snickers at last, using my thigh, painfully, as a cymbal. “But noooo, you had to lose your v-card before you went to college when Ginger Staal was at…what was that, World Juniors or something?”

“You make it sound sordid,” I hiss, glancing over at Duncan because as much as he’s been my friend since middle school he doesn’t know about this and he wouldn’t be happy if he did, especially after offering to be the one to take on that particular responsibility.

“Sleeping with your best friend is kinda sleazy,” she grins at which point I stop playing chopsticks and start banging my head against the keys. “Oh okay, okay. Why did the big dumb geek throw that particular curve ball at his barely older brother?”

“He said we were flirting, the other night at the bar.” I explain and expect that she’ll be as outraged as I was at the time but she just sits there and stares back at me like she’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. “No, see, this is the part where you’re supposed to say that Marc is out of his mind and Jordan and I have always just been friends and nothing more.”

“Ummmm well I would if that weren’t just about the biggest pile of bullshit ever,” Daze laughs but quickly sobers when I don’t laugh with her. “Oh c’mon…Jordan’s been in love with you since we were five.”

“What? No…no, wait…what?” I stare at her and she just keeps staring back at me like she’s expecting me to say something else but nothing else will come out of my mouth.

“Oh god…Kens…I thought you knew.” 

“Awww, you’re gonna miss me.” His arms wrap around my waist and his lips press softly against the curve of my neck. I close my eyes and lean back against the width of his chest.

“I always do,” I promise, laying my arms along his, but my words feel empty. I’ve been on pins and needles all morning, watching him pack like I have a hundred times before but this time it’s like I can’t wait for him to be gone.

“But this time you won’t be waiting for me when I get back,” he adds, his breath warm against my cheek. “Your first tour. Are you worried?” Not excited, worried. That’s what he says to me.

“It’s not our first tour,” I remind him quietly, peeling his hands away from my stomach and stepping out of the circle of his arms. I glance at his bags waiting silently for him by the door and anxiously wish that he’d join them.

“Yeah but you’ve only played clubs and bars, not real venues where people have actually paid to see you,” he prompts, a fact that does make my gut twist with apprehension.

“I’ll be great,” I tell him, sounding more confident than I feel.

“I’m sure you will babe,” he tells me, finally sounding supportive, for once. “But if you have an off night, just remember we all have them.” Narrowing my eyes at him I grind my teeth together. I know he’s just being Marc, that he’s just being logical and realistic, both traits that drew me to him once upon a time but right now when I want enthusiastic no holds barred encouragement, logical isn’t cutting it.
“I wish you would just be happy for me,” I reply quietly, using every last ounce of resolve I have not to pick a fight with him right before he leaves. I know if we fight now, it won’t end well, for either of us. I just need to get some space and some room to clear my head and then everything will be fine, it will all go back to normal. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

“You know I’m proud of you,” he smiles and reaches to cup my cheek in his hand, making me look up into his sea blue eyes. “I just don’t want you to be too disappointed if you’re not as big as Beiber in a month or so,” he adds with a sly grin that’s meant to tell me he’s kidding but there’s something in his eyes that says maybe he’s not, or maybe that’s just me reading things into it that aren’t really there.

“Don’t worry,” I smile up at him as I lean into his hand, “I don’t think my haircut is going to catch on like his has.”

“Thank goodness for that,” he laughs and then presses his lips lightly against mine. He tastes like mint and as my lips open beneath his, the sting of the mouthwash he’s just used makes my tongue tingle. Slipping my arms around his back, I let myself relax into him. I’m just nervous about the tour and still jangled from what Daze let slip last night. It isn’t his fault. I shouldn’t be taking it out on him. “I just don’t want you to be disappointed if it doesn’t turn out as big as you’re imagining it.” And just like that, I’m back to gnashing my teeth and pushing him away.

“Why? Why do you always belittle this?” I demand, turning away from him so he won’t see the tears glimmering in my eyes that I immediately try to brush away.

“I’m not. You know I’m not doing that. It’s just like when Jordy got to play up in the show before I did. I just want you to be prepared for anything,” he says as his hands slide down my arms, holding me tight as he presses a familial kiss to the top of my head.

“Why do you assume the worst?” I ask in this little voice that sounds nothing like me. This is when I need to channel Kensey Thunder but as much as I reach for her the only thing I feel is good ‘ol Kensey Connor, the pig tailed tomboy who, ever since the scourge of adolescence sent a tidal wave of hormones coursing through my veins and made me fall in love with all four of the Staal brothers.

“I’m just practical, you know that Kens,” he whispers, kissing my cheek.

“Yeah…yeah, I do know that,” I sigh, looking down at the giant sparkler on my hand.

Like it’s happening in slow motion, as if I’m watching someone else do it, I watch as my hand shakes as I slide the ring off of my finger. I look down at it sitting in the centre of my palm and then I curl my hand closed around it.

“Kens?” he whispers as I turn around to face him. “What are you doing?”

“I’m not sure,” I reply honestly, my entire body shaking as I reach for his hand.

“Don’t do this,” he hisses, trying to pull his hand back as I hold my hand, still closed around the ring above his.

“I think I have to,” I sob, opening my hand and dropping the ring into his hand. I stare at the diamond ring, looking so tiny in the palm of his hand and though I want to, I can’t look up at him. Instead, I walk around him and go down the hall to our bedroom and close the door behind me and then I stand there and listen to the overwhelming silence that seems to go on forever and until at last, after a long time, I hear the sound of the front door closing and only then do I allow myself to cry.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chapter 4

“You chose me. Or don’t you remember that?” He hadn’t uttered a single syllable during the entire cab ride, but the minute we’re back in our apartment, I find myself pressed against the back of the door, one hand pinned above my head, the other one Marc now presses to his chest, right over his heart which is currently beating like the thunder of hooves. “You said you never felt it, in here, for him.” Pressing my hand flat to his chest, he holds it there while I listen to the bones in my hand being crushed into a fine powder. 

“Marc you’re hurting me,” I whisper, looking at our clasped hands, at how small my hand looks in his, something I’d normally find comforting, that would normally make me feel safe but now makes me feel vulnerable. Cursing under his breath, he lets go of me all at once and turns and stomps to the centre of the room where he falls into the couch and mutters something under his breath that I don’t need to hear to know that it isn’t good. Rubbing my wrists, I look around the room for somewhere to sit that’s not exactly right by him. Not because I’m scared of him. That’s the largest display of temper I’ve ever seen out of Marc, I just don’t really feel like sharing his space right now. 

So I perch on the edge of one of the dark leather chairs that’s ninety degrees from where he’s sitting but when I reach for the remote, he makes a face and rolls his eyes. 

“What?” I ask, trying my best to keep my voice even and calm. He is my redhead and though it might not be obvious to others, it’s crystal clear to me when sparks are snapping at the end of every single flame coloured hair on his head. 

“So we’re not even going to talk about this?” he snarls, still staring straight ahead as he gnaws at the end of his thumb. Not a good sign. An even worse sign is the way one knee starts bounce up and down in quick, jerky movements; so not a good sign. 

“I wish I knew what you’re talking about,” I reply, aiming the remote at the television again, only to have him pounce, jerking it from my hand and tossing it behind him. I listen to it skid across the hard wood floor and just for a moment I let myself wonder under which piece of furniture I’ll have to go looking for it later. Yeah, it’s a river and it’s called denial, I know. 

“ and Jordan...,” he gnashes his teeth as he leans into my personal space, his sea blue eyes blazing as he searches my expression for some sign that I know where he’s going with this. For the record, I do, I just don’t want to go there. Obviously aggravated by my silence, Marc pushes himself back up to his full, very intimidating height and holds his arms out at his sides and manages to look angry and helpless at the same time. “Fuck Kensey, you were flirting with him like some kind of puck fuck!” He stares at me, waiting for me to argue, and I have every intention of doing so, except I know that he’s not done. Not when he gets that look on his face where his eyes are wide and he looks like he’s just had his favourite hockey stick broken. I’ve seen that look, but usually it’s aimed at Eric or Jared, hardly ever Jordan and never me. “You swore to said it was just a summer thing, an experiment. You swore it meant nothing. You said this meant everything to you, that we meant everything...more than anything, more than the band.” Exasperated he turns his back on me and I’m left curled in the chair, watching his enormous shoulders move up and down as he tries to force himself breathe slowly. 

“Aside from Daze, you know Jordan is my best friend,” I begin but that’s the wrong answer, clearly. 

“No, Kens, I’m your best friend, or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he cries, pivoting on his heel until he’s facing me, leaning in again until his hot breath blasts my face, his big hands with their long fingers gripping the arms of the chair, making me scootch back in it until I feel like a cornered mouse. “Why are we getting married if you don’t think that?” he adds, his aquamarine blue eyes searching mine for an answer to a question I’ve never even contemplated.  

“You said you wouldn’t make me choose,” I whisper back at him, because I don’t know how to answer him and because it’s the only thing that’s important to me and not because I want my cake and to eat it too but because I’ve never wanted this. I’ve never wanted to come in between any of the brothers. I know it’s a battle I’ll never win. 

“And you promised me that what said it didn’t mean anything said...,” he closes his eyes and furrows his brow and then sinks to his knees in front of me, like letting the air out of one of those giant balloons in the Macy’s Day Parade. 

“We’re always like that, you know that,” I tell him, running my fingers through the fine strawberry blonde hair on his head like I’ve seen his mother do a thousand times. She calls it soothing the beast. 

“Not like that, Kens,” he says quietly, his forehead resting on my knee, his voice muffled but strained. “And he’s never brought that up before,” he adds, rolling his head to the side until he’s looking up at me, hurt and fear in his eyes. “Why tonight? Why did that come up tonight?” I shake my head but I know that it’s not answer enough as he shuts his eyes and sighs like I’ve disappointed him. “There has to be a reason Kens. We both know Jordan doesn’t use his ammo unless he has a reason.” 

I nod but I don’t give voice to the first answer that comes to mind, because I’d only been with two men, both Staals and I’ve never compared them. I wouldn’t. It would be like comparing oil and water, chalk and cheese. But now I’ve been with three men and one of them is not his brother but his friend and somehow that’s changed everything, for me, for him, for all of us. 

“You know Jordan is a law unto himself. He gets in a bad mood and everybody pays,” I whisper, brushing my fingers through his hair and doing my best to lie with my eyes. It’s seems as if it’s the lie Marc wants to hear or is at least willing to tolerate for the moment. The briefest shadow of a smile plays at the corner of his lips and he reaches for my other hand and laces his long fingers in mine. 

“Maybe I’m jumping at shadows,” he offers and I know when he says it that he doesn’t believe it any more than I do but I smile encouragingly and let him pull my hand to his lips. “You still choose me, right?” he asks, sounding like the younger, less self assured Marc of the summer before he left for the Big Apple, worried about leaving me behind. 

“You know I do,” I reply and give him my very best ‘ready for my close up’ smile and it’s enough.
“I’m sorry for losing it, for overreacting” he sighs, getting to his feet and pulling me up after him and into his arms. I let myself relax into him and the familiar feel of his long arms wrapping around me. “I just...I think I’d be lost without you.” 

“Yeah you would,” I tell him and close my eyes and try to feel what I felt not so long ago, except those feelings don’t come and I’m starting to wonder if they ever will. 

“You’re pacing. You know I hate it when you do that.” 

Tyler doesn’t so much as glance away from the screen as he races through the channels, not stopping for more than a second or two at each one. Normally that would be reason enough for me to tackle him and take the clicker away but tonight I have other things on my mind, namely Kensey and why Jordy is pacing like a caged tiger.

“I’m worried about Kens,” he mutters, turning on his heel and heading in the opposite direction. 

“And you think wearing a hole in the carpet is going to fix that?” TK asks, settling on MTV because Katy Perry is on and he has a thing for her. He figures if she’s into a guy that looks like Russell Brand then he might have a chance. 

“So why don’t you call if you’re that worried?” I ask but Jordan only shakes his head. 

“Because if Marc answers...,” he shrugs his broad shoulders and goes back to pacing. TK and I both watch him for a bit, because Katy’s videos over now and we don’t have to watch Coldplay to enjoy them. 

“So there is something going on with you two.” Flower and Tanger both shoot me the kind of dirty look that says don’t go there but I’m still pissed off that she didn’t even give me so much of a glance. I have my pride.
“No.” Gronk looks at me I’ve just said the stupidest thing in the world and out of the corner of my eye I catch Tanger giving me that ‘told you so’ look. 

“Then what’s with the wearing out the carpet thing?” I ask, ignoring the kick that TK aims at my leg. “Oh come on, you want to know too.” 

“Il n’a pas besoin de tu dire quoi que ce soit,” Tanger hisses, not looking up from his blackberry. He’s probably texting Becky about how I’ve been a prick all night.  She’ll give me a disapproving look the minute I pull into the driveway and maybe I’ll deserve it, but if I’m going to get it then I decide I’m going to fucking earn it too. 

“Did you fuck her?” The room goes silent, the kind of silence that makes everyone afraid to look you in the eye so everyone stares at the floor or the TV but not at me and definitely not at Jordan. But Jordan does look at me and he’s wearing the kind of scowl that he usually only wears right before he rides someone head first into the stanchion beside the bench in an obvious attempt to send them to the dentist or better yet directly to emergency.  

“What the fuck did you say?” TK clears his throat in an attempt to either distract the big blonde ape, which I’m guessing that while Ty is fairly brave and not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, or to suggest that I shut my big mouth, which is far more likely. Not to be deterred, I ask again. 

“I asked if you fucked her, because that would explain why you’re acting like a jealous boyfriend right now.” Flower actually gasps. He really is the best of us. Well maybe Johnny too but then they’re both whipped, so they have that in common. 

“Ce qui ne va pas avec tu ce soir?” Flower hisses at me, looking imploringly at me from underneath his bangs like maybe if he looks directly at me he’ll burst into flame or something. 

“I just asked a question,” I reply without taking my eyes off the cleft chinned boy wonder who stares daggers back at me. His silence speaks volumes. “It’s kind of a simple yes or no thing.”

“Max, don’t,” Tanger growls at me, but I really don’t care about his opinion right now. 

“Yeah Max, don’t,” Jordan repeats with no trace of his usual jovial nature. “I almost had a fight with my brother tonight. I really don’t want to fight with you, but I will, if you keep pushing it.” 

“I’ll take that as a yes,” I sigh, sliding off of the bed. “Why’d you let me fuck her if you’re in love with her?” I don’t even wait for his answer. The pain is shining clearly in the big dolt’s blue eyes. “And once again the great Max Talbot totally strikes out, thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week,” I take my bow and then brush past him and head towards the door. “Call her you idiot. If you fucking give a shit then fucking fight for her. You can take your brother. Croyez-moi mon ami, if you don’t you’ll just end up a lonely loser like me.”

 I’m not asleep when my phone lights up and starts vibrating across my nightstand. With a glance toward the sleeping form beside me, I grab my phone and my robe and tip toe out of the bedroom. 

It’s a text from Jordan; simple and to the point: R U OK? Pulling my robe on and leaning against the cool wall, I send him a simple reply: I’M FINE. Not good, not great, just fine. Jordan and I know each other well enough that a few simple words say as much as a mouthful.

His reply comes back predictably quickly: CAN I CALL? I may have a recording contract with Roadrunner but Jordan, at twenty two, is already a millionaire like his two older brothers. None of them will let me spend my money if they can spend their own. Shaking my head, I hit the speed dial that is his cell and head further into the apartment. 

“You’re okay? And I don’t just mean you and Marc.” No ‘hello’. No ‘how are you’ are any of the rest of that pedestrian small talk. We don’t need that. I can’t remember the last time we did. “Are you and Marc okay?” he asks before I even get a chance to address the first question, which is fine by me because I didn’t really have an answer for it anyway and I completely ignore the query that I think I hear behind the question.
“For now,” I reply, curling up on the end of the couch and pulling my robe closer around me. The floor is cold and so is the leather sofa. I pull a cozy dark blue and red Ranger’s throw from the back of the couch and wrap myself up in it. “You probably shouldn’t have thrown that in his face. That definitely didn’t help.” Jordan sighs on the other end of the line and I picture him grimacing, the way he does when he misses a shot or gets nothing but air on it.

“I was just pissed. I hate to see him treat you like that, like you’re just a fucking piece of property,” he says and I vaguely hear a thump in the background, a sound I recognize as a tennis ball hitting the wall. It’s not only tennis players and Labrador Retrievers that use them and it’s definitely no accident that professional athletes have excellent hand eye coordination. It’s also something Jordan does when he’s stressing over something. 

“You know that was just an aberration though right? You know Marc is never like that.” I know when I say it that Jordan’s going to make that noise that’s the caveman equivalent of ‘I call bullshit on that’ which makes me wonder if I sound like one of those battered women, defending her man to the limit of credibility.

“The boys know,” he says suddenly and quickly, as if he’s ripping off a band-aid, as though if he says it fast enough it won’t scare me quite so much. I don’t want to ask because I don’t want to know the answer, but I feel like I have to as if, somehow, not having it confirmed would be worse. 

“You told them...about us?” The utter lack of sound on the other end of the line is Jordan’s version of trying to hide. My brain starts to throb in my skull. “Shit, Jordan.” 

“Well it was more like Max guessed,” he added, tossing about half a shaker of salt into the wound. I dropped my forehead onto my knees and groaned. “I know. I mean...I didn’t outright say it, you know? I didn’t say yes or no but....”

“But you didn’t exactly say no, did you?” I mumble, wishing very much that the couch will turn into a sinkhole that sends me tumbling toward the centre of the earth, never to be found again. “Well I guess the silver lining of that will be that Max probably won’t want to sleep with me again,” I add doing my best to turn lemons into lemonade. 

“Yuck,” Jordan laughs and I can almost see his grin from here. “Don’t talk to me about that. I can’t believe you even touched him.” 

“Oh but I had to listen to you go on and on about...what’s her name? That girl who likes to put you in handcuffs?” I shudder as I think of the morning Max had posted a photo on Jordan’s facebook wall of him handcuffed to a bed in a strange hotel room, his chest dotted with red candle wax.  

“Trina.” Jordy says her name in a way that makes me picture him shaking his head and laughing. “I haven’t seen her in...well, I don’t how long but it feels like forever,” he explains light-heartedly, as if he hadn’t told me how she’d turned down his offers to get serious, to be exclusive over and over again. 

“Oh.” It’s all I can come up with and I cringe as I realize how happy it sounds when I say it. “Oh well, now you can get out there and go bunny hunting with Max and TK,” I suggest only to have Jordy snigger at my suggestion. 

“No thanks,” he replies with a sigh. “If I do anything I think I’ll just...I think I might stay single for a while.” I want to tell him not to, that he’s a great catch and that there’s someone out there for him, give him the whole plenty of fish in the sea speech but the creak of a floorboard somewhere behind me makes my heart leap into my throat. 

“I’ve...I have to go back to bed and you should get some sleep too,” I tell him hastily.

“Yeah, I’m actually tired but I wanted to check on you. You sure you’re okay, that everything’s okay?” he asks and I can now hear footsteps behind me. 

“Yeah, all good, totally good. Okay, so, get some rest, talk to you later, luv ya bye bye.” I snap my phone shut just in time to feel Marc’s hands on my shoulders. He digs them into my Trapezius muscles and I close my eyes and let out a groan. 

“Who was that?” he asks, his voice a low rumble in my ear before he presses his lips to my cheek.
“Oh, just Daze,” I lie and then wonder why I did. “I guess we left her at the club without saying goodbye,” I add and I know it’s true because she texted me a while ago to say so. Somehow it makes me feel better to have been truthful about something. 

“Daze can look after herself,” he says simply as he digs his long fingers into my shoulders. 

“She’s our friend Marc. It’s not nice to just take off on her,” I mumble, hanging my head forward so that he doesn’t see how I cringe every time something comes out of my mouth. It’s like I can’t stop myself from picking a fight with him. 

“Are you saying she didn’t go back to the hotel with the Pens boys to continue the party?” he asks, sounding amused. I frown. It’s like he doesn’t know Daisy at all. 

“No, she didn’t and she wouldn’t.” I know what she looks like but I also know her heart and how closely she guards it and the morals and values she has; the ones we used to share. I’m not so sure about my soul anymore. “I’m sorry...I’m tired...I don’t mean to be so bitchy,” I apologize, putting my hand over his. I feel his fingers curl around mine and I automatically feel better. Leaning back I look up into his blue eyes and reach up with my other hand to trace the sharp line of his strong jaw. “Take me to bed and hold me?”
“I’ll do more than that,” he promises with a playful grin as he offers me a hand up. I almost say something about preferring ice cream but instead I keep my mouth shut, smile and let him take me to bed.