I know, I know. This took forever. I get sidetracked easily, kind of like some kind of story magpie. But this seems like a perfect way to tie this one up.
“I’m not going to get through tonight,” I sigh, wiping at my eyes and reaching for the loose powder for about the third time.
“Here, let me, your hands are shaking.” Looking at Daze with her barely there baby bump makes my eyes fill again and she rolls her eyes and tips her head to the side, waiting for me to get my emotions under control.
“You’re going to be fine. This is just one more concert, no big deal.”
“You’re going to be fine. This is just one more concert, no big deal.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I sniff, reaching for a tissue and dabbing at my eyes with it. “I can’t believe you’re really doing this. That you’re really going to abandon me.” Daze shakes her head again and I know what she’s going to say before she actually says it out loud. We’ve been over this a dozen times or more over the last few months and we both know she isn’t going to change her mind. Especially not now that she’s pregnant. Still her maternal instincts are already kicking in and I sit still while she fusses over me.
“You’re doing a duet with Lauri Ylönen next week and the label is putting a band together for you and you’re still going to have Duncs. You don’t need me wobbling around, getting in the way. You definitely don’t need a little sprog throwing up on your sexy outfits,” she adds, running her fingers over the leather edging on my crushed velvet deep purple and black corset. “This would so not stand up to spoiled milk upchuck.”
“And how do you think Max is going to stand up to a little barf?” I ask and this soft expression comes over her face and suddenly her gaze is far away and I know she’s thinking about him. Her eyes do that every time she thinks about him. “Do I do that?” I ask, watching her reflection in the mirror. She blinks twice and then stares at me like she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. “When I think about Jordan...do I look like that? Do I get all...I don’t know what you’d call it...all fucking doe eyed.”
“Not all the time,” she replies, refocusing on me and then leaning her chin in the middle of the top of my head, “but yeah, sometimes you do.”
“It’s why you’re doing it isn’t it?” I ask, looking at reflection, at how calm she looks. “This is why you’re quitting isn’t it? You don’t want to be away from Max like I am with Jordan.” Daze wrinkles her nose and looks back at me like I’ve just spoken in gibberish.
“If anything we’re making up for lost time. Not like you and Jay boy. You guys have all that history, all that time behind you. I mean, when you two are together it’s like, “ she tips her head to the side and looks thoughtful, “I don’t know how to explain it but you’re so...so comfortable with him, like you don’t have to talk, even though you practically finish each other’s sentences.”
“We do?” Since Jordan got back on the ice, it feels like I’ve hardly seen him, especially in comparison to the amount of time that Max and Daze have been sneaking off to meet each other. Not that I begrudge her any of the time. I’m just jealous. Hey, at least I’m honest.
“Puhleeeze,” she rolls her eyes at me again and goes back to fixing my make-up. “You two settle in together right away. Max and I are still getting used to each other, figuring things out, adjusting to each other. You two don’t have to do that,” she adds, carefully pressing the powder puff to my cheeks, covering up the tracks of my tears, “you have this emotional short hand. I bet you know what he’s thinking most of the time without him having to tell you, right?” I don’t even have to think about that. Of course I do and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for him.
“Just because we ‘get each other’,” I flash the bunny ears around those words because they seem cliché and because I’m not sure if those are the words to actually describe what I have with Jordan, “doesn’t mean that we can be the tiny percentage of people that can make a long distance relationship work.”
“So that’s what this is about,” Daze stands back to survey her handiwork, this compassionate sort of maternal look on her face. I’m not ever going to get used to her being like that. What the hell did Max do to my best friend? “You’re worried that now you’ve finally given in and admitted that you’re all moooshy for one another that you’re going to fuck it up.” There isn’t much point in denying it and I’ve never kept anything from Daze anyways.
“He says he’s a one woman man now but you know what they say, while the cat’s away.... I mean...your boy isn’t exactly an angel either is he?” It’s a spiteful thing to say and I’m sorry I do the minute I let the words escape my lips but it’s too late to take them back. Fortunately she isn’t phased by my bitchy comment.
“Whatchadoin?” I don’t have to look up to know that our fearless leader is leaning over my shoulder. I also don’t try and shut down the web page I’m on either. In fact, I’m kind of glad to get his input.
“I’m trying to figure out what to say to Kens tonight,” I admit, looking down at the notes I’ve scribbled on the hotel note pad and then back up at the screen and sigh. “It all sounds so fucking fake. I don’t want to sound like a loser but...I don’t know what to say that won’t sound like it’s someone else’s idea. What did you say to Tabby?”
“Doesn’t matter what I said. You have to say whatever feels right to you,” he tells me and then reaches around and grabs the note pad. I watch him read it, watch him raise and lower his eyebrows, purse his lips, nod and then finally shrug. “Yeah, I guess any of this is good but...why don’t you just tell her why you want to marry her instead of all this romantic shit which, I mean c’mon let’s be honest, isn’t really your thing is it?”
“Yeah but...I mean that’s why I’m doing this,” I say indicating the screen of my lap top. “Shouldn’t I try to be, at least for this?”
“I dunno man. I think you’re already planning a pretty big gesture and I don’t really get that ring you got her but...I’m pretty sure she’ll be happy no matter what you do. I mean, you said yourself, this is a pretty rough night for her so you’re gonna make it better. I mean, if you really think she’ll say yes that is.” Sid’s quick reflexes have him dancing out of my reach before I can lay a punch on him. Not that I’d hurt him, much. Not this close to the season ending. If we’re going to get back on top, we’re going to need him in the playoffs.
“What’d I miss?” Max stands in the doorway smiling at both of us, looking from one to the other like an eager puppy waiting for someone to throw a Frisbee.
“Jordan’s popping the question,” Sid explains.
“Old news,” Max sighs and then throws himself on the bed. “Anyone wanna watch porn?”
“Seriously, what’s wrong with you? You have a perfectly good wife at home.” Sid laughs and then launches himself onto Max like he’s a pile of freshly raked fall leaves.
“She’s pregnant and bitchy. I thought you’d be sympathetic,” Max groans and tries to wriggle free from the head lock Sid has him in.
“Try rubbing her feet, they like that,” Sid suggests, letting Max get free, which is a mistake. Max wrestled in high school and it only takes the blink of an eye for him to turn the tables and have Sid trying to tap out.
“Every time I rub her feet it ends up in us having sex and I want a kid, not a litter of puppies,” Max laughs, digging his knuckle into the top of Sid’s head.
“That’s not how it works!” Sid groans and elbows Max in the stomach.
“How can you be so sure mon ami? I apparently have super sperm, they got through a condom and she takes birth control and I still knocked her up. Sacre bleu! I should be charging for stud service!” Like he’s just come up with a brilliant idea, he lets Sid go and stands up, looking thoughtful. Bad idea. Sid and I both pounce on him and drive him back onto the bed.
“Go near Kens with your super sperm and I’ll rip your dick off!” I growl, pulling my hand back, fist curled, ready to fly.
“How can I be your best man if you kill me?” he asks, trying to look innocent which is something he can never actually pull off and digging in his pocket like he’s got the ring, like I’d trust him with it.
“Some of you know that this is Daze’s last night with us,” I announce, tears stinging in my eyes as I turn to send a half hearted glare at her while she raises her sticks in salute to the fans who are booing her leaving. No matter what she says, she’ll be missed. “We’ve pretty much been the dynamic duo since we were in diapers, so having her leave is like having one of my arms cut off. I honestly don’t know how I’m gonna do this without you babe,” I add directly to her. She blows me a kiss. “But, what you don’t know is that Max Talbot from the Pittsburgh Penguins...,” the ‘boo birds’ come out and drown me out. I laugh and shake my head and hold the mic out for New York to have its say. “That’s right Islanders fans, Talbot knocked her up. This is all his fault.” Just to add fuel to the fire our techs put up the video of Max fighting Matt Martin on the giant screen behind Daze and the arena erupts as they watch him skating in front of the Islander players in the box, taunting them. Laughing, Daze gets up, puts her sticks down on the snare drum and then gives the crowd the signal that she’s willing to take them all on. My eyes fill with tears. I’m gonna miss her like crazy. “Okay, okay,” I hold up my hands for a little quiet. “One last drum solo?” I ask her, expecting the lights to go down, the spot light to go on her and her kit. The lights do go down, but I’m still standing in a spot light while a mic appears in her hand.
“I’ll bring the place down in a minute but first, I just want to say that you’ve been the best friend a girl could ask for,” she tells me, still standing behind her drum kit. I wipe at my eyes with the back of my hand, smearing mascara and eyeliner in the process. “I’ll miss you like crazy but it’s gonna get a little hard for me to be back here,” she adds rubbing her stomach and smiling. “I’ll miss you, you crazy bitch,” she grins at me and then blows another kiss. Tears are streaming down my face now.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, enough of this kissy mushy shit.” Daze gets a funny look on her face and I turn at the sound of a familiar voice behind me to see Max strutting out onto the stage in his white, black and gold home jersey. He grins as the crowd boos like crazy, turning to wave to them which only makes them boo louder. “Yeah, I love you too,” he grins at them like he’s enjoying it. I turn to look up at Daze and she’s got this little smile on her face and I wonder if I ever look at Jordy like that, or if he ever looks at me like that, like that’s the only thing in the world that I need. “I’m very sorry I’m taking your friend away from you,” he says as he reaches the middle of the stage where I’m standing. He reaches for my hand and I let him take it. Just for a second I flash back to that hotel room, a year ago, and feel my entire face get warm. “Well, not that sorry, eh ma petite?” he adds with a glance back at Daze, the same sort of tender, adoring expression on his face. “But we both wish you nothing but the best, most success, n’est-ce pas mon amour?” Daze nods and holds her hands over her heart. I return the gesture. “But we don’t want you to think that we’re leaving you alone, comprends?” I stare at him and shake my head. “You will,” he whispers just for me and then leans in to kiss my cheek before walking away, leaving me alone in the middle of the stage. All of the lights go off and then, with a dramatic drum roll, one spot light goes on with an audible clicking sound, illuminating Jordan’s golden hair and sky blue eyes.
I stare at him, my brain working overtime to try to make sense of their showing up out of the blue like this. They weren’t supposed to be here until the morning. I wish, just for a second that I was wearing a watch, sure that they should still be playing at MSG. He smiles, that big, boyishly easy grin that tells me he knows what I’m worrying about and he thinks it’s funny that I’m concerned about it because he’s obviously not.
“That’s right, we took a helicopter here right after the game to surprise you,” he says as he begins to walk slowly across the stage in his faded jeans and the Pens baby blue third jersey that intensifies the sunny summer sky colour of his eyes. I’m holding my breath and it’s so quiet that the crowd must be too. I guess Jordy hasn’t pissed the Islanders fans off quite as much as Max has. “So a lot of shit has gone down in the last year,” he says with that wide, tooth filled grin of his that makes his eyes crinkle at the corners. “I know that you had other things in mind for this summer,” he adds with a raise of one of his eyebrows that says what I’m glad he won’t say in front of the crowd, what he won’t remind me of in public, or in private for that matter. We don’t talk about Marc. “But I’m just wondering,” he continues as he comes to a stop just a step away from me, “if I can tempt you into spending the summer with me, on a beach maybe, at sunset, getting married.”
My heart lurches up into my throat as I watch my Jordy boy going down on one knee in front of me, holding his hand out towards me and slowly unfolding his long fingers to reveal a black velvet box sitting in the palm of his hand. He actually laughs when I burst into tears and drop the microphone because my hands are shaking so bad.
“Open it for crying out loud!” I hear Daze calling from somewhere behind me but for some reason her voice sounds disembodied. In fact I don’t hear the crowd either. Maybe it’s my blood buzzing in my ears but it’s like there’s nothing and no one else but my J-boy, that ring and my heart fluttering in my chest like a panicked bird.
“Yeah, go on, open it,” Jordan encourages me quietly, the mic sitting, turned off on the stage by his knee.
“I’m afraid I’ll drop it,” I tell him honestly, wiping my hands down the side of my thighs, which does little to alleviate the sudden case of sweaty palms I’ve developed. Not only are leather pants hot, tight and uncomfortable but they aren’t very absorbent either.
I was so sure what her answer was going to be until I actually ask her to give it to me. Now, I’m on one knee in front of her, in front of hundreds...a thousand people maybe, and I’m shitting my pants waiting for her to say something.
Jesus, you’d think I’d have learned to be patient.
“Look, I almost lost you because I wasn’t willing to give up fucking around and being some kind of immature jackass. I almost let you marry my idiot boring ass brother. I don’t want to lose you Kens. I want everyone to know that you’re mine. So take this fucking ring and put it on and say yes so that I know you’re mine.”
It’s not romantic. It’s not even the big moment I thought it was going to be. It’s just me, asking my best friend if she’ll put up with me and I’m still shitting myself until she finally nods as her big, blue eyes fill up with tears and she grins down at me like I’ve done something super amazing which is so stupid because I’m just doing the only thing I can do. Want her. Want her so much it hurts.
I get up and I open the little box and she sobs out loud, this funny sound that’s happy and scared and sad all at the same time which almost makes me feel better.
“It’s so beautiful.” It’s not as big as the rock my brother had put on her hand but then Kens has never been that kind of girl.
“White gold and a black diamond, for my little Goth princess,” I whisper, pulling the ring out of the box and holding it out towards her. She’s clutching her hands to her chest and alternatively staring at the ring and then up at me. “You gonna let me put this on you or what?” Sniffing, she finally nods and then holds her hand out towards me. Her hand is visibly shaking and then I realize so is mine as I try and slip the ring on her finger. Her hand is so small and the vintage style band with the swoops and bows that frame the diamond look so tiny in my big, clumsy mitts that I’m afraid I’ll drop the ring or crush her finger or something. “Fuck, look at me. I’m supposed to have good hands or something,” I mutter. It makes her laugh, which is good.
“Eric’s the one with the soft hands,” she tells me as the ring finally slips onto her finger.
“Yeah, you always did like him best.” I try and look serious and fail as she turns those big sapphire orbs of hers’ up at me.
“That’s not true,” she sniffs, her eyes still glistening with tears even as she smiles up at me.
“I’m sorry it took me so long,” I whisper, taking both of her hands in mine and leaning in to kiss her.
“Doesn’t matter,” she whispers back just as my lips are about to press against hers’. “You’ve got me now.”