Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chapter Fifty-Five

Dear Readers,

I suck, I know. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for not posting since February. I honestly don't know where the time went. I promise, I haven't given up on this story; I've put way too much time and energy in it to quit now. For those of you that have not give up on me, I thank you. I hope you enjoy the much needed chapter fifty-five.

Thanks again,
Sam. (:

Coasting Down Memory Lane;
Chapter Fifty-five

Riley somehow managed to keep her mind off the family drama for the rest of that afternoon. She had walked calmly into the grocery store on her way home and had kept up the casual conversations with the women there as she bought and bagged the items for the meal she would be putting together that evening.

She had tried dozens of times throughout the afternoon to contact Sidney, but since he was in the middle of a hockey game, he hadn’t picked up. Riley hadn’t left him a message either; it wasn’t something she could just tell him via voicemail.
So he would find out by surprise, she thought as she pulled into her parking space at the apartment. She only hoped that Sidney got home before Troy arrived.

As soon as she walked in the door, Riley headed straight to the kitchen to start on dinner. She planned to make a chicken stir-fry because it was quick, simple and healthy. She kept her mind on miscellaneous things as she washed, chopped and sorted out the various vegetables in her mise en place.

With her favourite radio station turned on low, Riley hummed along to the songs that came on as she got set to cut up the chicken. It occurred to Riley half way through that these were the things that she treasured the most. She loved coming home from a busy day at work, changing into comfy clothes and making dinner for her man.

As Riley dumped the chopped up cauliflower, broccoli and onions in the heated and oiled wok, the front door of the apartment opened. Sidney strolled in, already smelling the appetizing aroma of the sizzling vegetables in the small kitchen. With a few more steps ahead, he spotted his beautiful fiancée standing in front of the stove with a wooden spoon in her hand, humming.

He threw his jacket down on the couch and slowly crept towards Riley. Once up close behind her, Sidney wrapped his arms around her waist and rested her head on her shoulder, kissing the side of her neck once.

Riley, who had been lost in her own thoughts, jolted at his touch. “I didn’t hear you come in,” she said and turned her face so her lips could meet his.

“I wanted to surprise you,” he told her, his hands just barely sliding under the hem of her shirt.

“Well you did,” she laughed. She flashed him a smile and said, “Can you get me that bottle of soy sauce? I don’t want to leave this alone.”

“Sure,” he said as he turned to the fridge. “What are we having anyway, babe?”

“Chicken stir-fry, it will be ready in a few minutes so go get changed.”

Sidney came back moments later, just as Riley was scooping out their portions onto their plates. As she placed the steaming plates of food on the table, Sidney took out a bottle of red wine from the fridge. Riley looked over at him, raising her right eyebrow, he just winked back with a sly smile.

There was a knock on the door just as Sidney and Riley were about to sit down. Sidney looked annoyed and Riley looked nervous. Sidney’s arrival had caused her to forget about that evening’s plans.

“I’ll get it,” Riley said as she hurried to the door.

Curious about the look on her face, Sidney followed her to the front of the apartment. Riley opened the door with Sidney right behind her. She smiled when she saw Troy Crosby standing less than a foot away from her. But she didn’t get to look at him for long; Sidney, out of pure reflex, pulled Riley back and stood in front of her, like a lion protecting his lioness.

“Sidney,” Troy said in a weary voice.

“Dad,” Sidney said through clenched teeth.

“Sid, move.” Riley fought hard to squirm out of Sidney’s tight grasp.

“Hello again, Riley,” Troy said, still standing out in the building’s hall.

“Again?” Sidney questioned; his anger still not on a simmer.

Riley sighed; she knew this was going to happen. “Troy come on in, we were just about to have dinner, I’ll get you a plate.” She gave Sidney a glare that told him to bite his tongue.

“Yeah, I’ll help you with that, Rye. Dad, go ahead and make yourself at home.”

Riley was aware of Sidney hot on her trail as she strolled into the kitchen. She could also sense the strong emotions that were practically rolling off of her fiancé. She knew it was wrong to just spring a visit from his father on him, but they wouldn’t get anything sorted out otherwise.

As soon as she stepped foot in the kitchen, she bit her lip. Riley also made sure to keep her back to Sidney as long as she possibly could. She had to give up when he cornered her between the fridge and counter.

“When were you going to tell me?”

She was silent.

“Riley,” he said in a firm voice. “When were you going to tell me that my father was coming over? I thought we agreed to cut the crap and stop the secrets?”

“We did,” she said quietly.

“Really? Then did I just find out that you’ve been speaking with my father now? When he showed up at our front door?”

He was angry, she could see that. “Look, he showed up to my office today and—let me finish,” she said as he was about to interrupt, “—he wanted to talk and make up so we had lunch and I invited him to come here. Then when I got back to my office I caught your voicemail and tried to call you back, but I didn’t get an answer.”

“Are you blaming this one me?” He looked annoyed, and quickly brushed his hand through his dark, curly hair.

“No,” she said, “not at all, Sid. Your father came here to clear the air, and I don’t want to go any farther if we’re not all on fair ground. We all screwed up so now we all have to fix it.”

He looked at her with those dark eyes full of emotion, and sighed. “Alright,” he said. “But if he says anything rude or offensive, he’s out.”

“You know,” Riley said as she pulled a plate out of the cupboard, “he’s actually a really nice man once you get past his protective wall. Which I don’t think I have yet…”

“Rye, I know how he is, I’ve lived my whole life with him. Normally, I could get past his protective side because I could see where he was coming from. But not this time,” he told her. “I won’t tolerate his snide comments and casual insults towards the woman who I love. I won’t tolerate that from anyone, Riley, because you don’t deserve that.”

She smiled and touched his cheek gently with her hand, “That’s really sweet.”

They made their way back into the dining area where Troy was seated. The conversation started off friendly, with all three of them catching up. Troy was letting both Riley and Sidney know the Trina and Taylor were doing well back in Nova Scotia. Sidney filled Troy in on how hockey had been, and how close the Penguins were to top spot in the east.

The conversation started to get into the deeper topics once dinner was finished. Riley had quickly placed all the dishes in the kitchen sink while Sidney led his father over to the couch in the living room. When Riley came back, she sat next to Sidney; he put his arm around her shoulders.

“Now that you’re both here, I suppose it’s time to clear things up,” Troy said from the chair. “I owe both of you an apology for both my actions and my words.”
Riley felt Sidney tense up, but she nodded politely at her soon-to-be father-in-law. “Words hurt more than any action ever could. But I accept your apology and I’m willing to start over.”

“Why did you say it, Dad?”

Troy looked first at his son and then his eyes traveled towards Riley. “At the time, what I thought was completely wrong.”

“What did you think?” Riley asked.

“Riley, I thought that you were only with Sid because of his money. I had noticed that since you had been in a relationship with him, your position in your career had skyrocketed. I thought that you were going to use him for fame and money.” Troy glanced quickly at his son who had somehow pulled Riley closer to him. “But what I didn’t know was that what I thought was completely wrong. I did a little research on you, Riley. I was surprised to find out that you weren’t with Sidney for money, because you already came from it.”

Sidney, having heard this for the first time, turned to Riley. “What’s he talking about, Rye?”
Her heart started to pound. “Ah…” Her ears rang as Sidney stared daggers at her. “I’m not wealthy, but my family is.”

“What do you mean?”

“My dad is a very powerful man in a very well-known company; his salary is a high number. My mom used to be a lawyer but quit her job after the twins were born. Both of them got paid well. It’s really not important though.”

“All the years I’ve known you, I never knew that you were rich,” Sidney said, his father nodding in agreement.

“Because I’m not; it’s not my money.”

Just then Sidney’s cell phone rang, he pulled it out of his pocket, looked at the number and sighed as he got up to answer it. This gave Riley and Troy time to talk.

“Is everything cool between us now, no more secrets?” Riley said, brushing her hand through her hair—the only sign of annoyance she had shown during the entire time Troy had been there.

“Yes,” he answered. “I just wanted to clear the air, to get everything out.” He sipped his drink then said, “How come you never told us about your family? You really only talk about your brother Ben, your parents don’t come up often.”

“Ben and I are close, we always have been. There’s an age gap between the twins and I and we were never really close when we were younger. My mom is so into herself that I’ve learned to keep distance between us and when she’s here, I usually tune her out. And my dad and I are close; we talk through email a lot. But with them in Rimouski and me here in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to see everyone often. Besides,” she said with a smile, “it’s my life now and I’m living it the way I want to. And having Sid here is all the family I need here.”

Maybe it was the way she had said it or maybe it was just what she said that warmed Troy’s heart and showed him that Riley really did love Sidney for who he was, not what was he was. And that’s all he had come to Pittsburgh for.

Minutes later, Sidney had sauntered back into the living room area where his father and fiancée sat, talking casually. He noted on how Riley had moved closer to Troy and she sat with her hand on his knee, a gesture he knew that meant she was completely comfortable around him.

Troy looked up to see his son standing by the couch, watching. “It’s getting late and I’ve disrupted you two enough. I’d better get going,” he said as he stood.

Riley smiled, knowing exactly what he was doing. He was giving them time to themselves since it didn’t come often, not now with the Penguins being in the playoffs. “It was nice seeing you again, Troy. Feel free to stop by any time.”

As Troy left the apartment, Sidney wrapped his arm around his beautiful fiancée. “I was talking to my agent on the phone and we’re playing the LA in the next round, how do you feel about spending a few days in sunny California with me?”

She tilted her head up so her nose touched his chin and smiled. “Sounds great, I’ll just them know at the station when I’ll be off.” And, she thought, she’d make sure Vero came along. This way she could watch her fiancée play the game he loved and do some shopping for the dress she’d wear on the day they vowed to spend forever together.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chapter Fifty-Four

Coasting Down Memory Lane;
Chapter Fifty-Four

Everything was going good; the start of the wedding planning had gone great, there were so many ideas for one wedding and Riley’s mother hadn’t caused much of a problem. She has insisted on an expensive, lavish wedding though, something Riley didn’t know if she was comfortable with. But other than that, things were moving along smoothly.

The issue about space had also been solved quite easily. Both Riley’s mother and sister opted to stay in a hotel near the apartment rather than be crammed in it. Riley also knew of her mother’s love of being pampered and waited on, something she would not get at the apartment. Eliza had left Riley alone for most of Sunday, giving her time to relax and think everything over.

So she was a little surprised Monday morning when one of her coworkers told her that there was someone out front wishing to speak with her, claiming that it was urgent. She didn’t normally get visitors but when she did it was usually Brett, and he would just walk in to her office.

Riley was buried in work and wanted to stay near her office phone because she was waiting for an important call. So she said for whoever wished to see her, to just come on back. Shock and confusion passed quickly over her face when she saw who was standing in her office threshold. But when she stood, her face was once again blank.

“Good morning,” she greeted politely, but her tone was carefully cool. “I didn’t expect to see you around here, Troy.”

“Riley,” he said with a quick nod. “I was hoping to find you at your home but word is you no longer live there.”

The townhouse, she thought, she had failed to inform him of her relocation… and so had Sidney, she realized. “Yet you still managed to find me.” She smiled but there was nothing friendly about it.

“You’re not a difficult person to find, Riley. In fact, you are quite the popular young woman here.” Troy Crosby leaned on the door frame, his eyes, just like Sidney’s, stared directly into hers.

Riley was still standing behind her desk, in the position of power, with her fingers gently grazing the polished oak surface. “I’m quite busy today and a little pressed for time… so I’ll just tell you up front: If you tracked me down to tell me that I’m no good for your son then I’m sorry to say that you wasted your time because I don’t care.

“I don’t care, Tory, if you think that I’m stupid and selfish or if you think that I’m a worthless puck bunny trying to trap your son for money and fame. And do you know why? Because I know that I’m not, I know who I am and what I’m doing, and most importantly,” she added, “I know that I’m in love with Sidney. So if you came here to tell me your opinion of me, then, Mr. Crosby, you can turn right around and walk out those doors you came in because I don’t care.”

Troy stood motionless in the doorway of her office, arms crossed, brows knit. “Powerful,” he mused, “but, Riley, I didn’t come here for that.” He took three steps into her office and looked around. “I came here to talk, to clear things up,” he sighed heavily and looked her right in the eye, “to apologize.”

Riley, taken back, cleared her throat and said in a calm, clear voice, “Well, this is a shock.”

“I have a lot to explain,” he told her.

Still not entirely convinced, Riley treaded carefully around him. “And if I’m not interested?”

Troy’s expression was pained. “Riley, please. I owe you more than just an apology. It’s almost noon; can you at least have lunch with me?”

She thought about it, long and hard. What more could he do to her? she asked herself. If it all ended badly, it wouldn’t matter because she wouldn’t care. But they were about to become family in the coming months, so giving Troy another shot could benefit everyone.
“Okay,” she said. “We can do lunch, but only for an hour—today has been crazy.”

“Great. Are we taking your car or mine?”

This time she smiled for real. “Mine, I know a great place.” Plus, she thought, if things did go badly, she could just leave him there.

Fifteen minutes later, as they were being seated, Riley cleared her throat. “Does Sid know you’re here?”

Troy, who had been intently reading the menu, looked up. “No. I’m not his favourite person at the moment.”

“Sneaky,” Riley said before placing her order.

“So I guess I don’t need to ask if you and Sid have made up, seeing from the recent announcement,” Troy began, making Riley think that she would indeed be leaving him at the restaurant.

“It hasn’t been made public yet; only close friends and family know.”

“No one has seen the rock on your finger? Wouldn’t that be all over the headlines by now?”

Riley smiled slowly, amused. “I’ve been lucky that it has been cold lately,” she said evenly, motioning towards her black gloves. “No one notices.”

“Sneaky,” Troy said, echoing her earlier words.

She laughed. “I don’t like a lot of attention, and I receive more than my fair share when I’m out with Sid, wearing his ring would only make it intensify.”

“You think that once you’re married it’s all going to go away?”

“No, but I think that it will be easier to deal with. Right now we’re keeping it quiet because we just got everything back on track. I don’t want to mess it all up again,” she told him. “We want to get the general outline of the wedding handled before we tell the world.”

“And you want to make sure that it’s for real this time, that you two will spend forever together.”

She nodded. “That’s the plan.”

Troy smiled. “I have more to discuss with you but I think I’ve taken up enough of your time already.”

Careful, she warned herself. “Why don’t you swing by the apartment later today, when I’m off work?”

“That sounds good,” he said.

Riley gave him directions to the apartment and an approximate time to arrive as she drove them both back to the studio. Riley walked into the building as Troy walked off to get to his rental car. Once inside, she sat down heavily in her leather chair. That wasn’t so bad, she mused. Maybe they could work things out later that night, just the two of them.

Just then, Riley noticed a red light blinking on her office phone. She had one new voicemail.

“Hey babe, I don’t know where you are right now but I just wanted to tell you that they rescheduled our game to three instead of seven, which means that I’ll be home for dinner tonight! I miss you tons, talk to you later. I love you, Rye.”

Or maybe they wouldn’t.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chapter Fifty-Three

Riley rubbed her gloved hands together in a pitiful attempt to keep warm. Now he’s gone, she mused, the voice in her head bitter. Sidney had left early that morning, before the snowfall, for his two game road trip. That night they would be playing Tampa Bay, and the next night the Panthers. Both teams, she thought, were in the warm state of Florida. She was envious.

As her fiancé would be soaking up the sun, she would be in the beginning stages of planning her wedding. And if that wasn’t stressful enough, in a few hours Riley would be telling her mother for the first time that she would be marrying a professional hockey player. Eliza Jacobs was never someone who enjoyed the sport of hockey, and she was definitely not someone who took to being told important news near last. So Riley had prepared herself for her mother’s angry wrath once she found out that she would be hearing the news of her daughter’s engagement after her future son-in-law’s hockey team did. There was one thing to be grateful for though, Riley thought, the news of hers and Sidney’s engagement was kept under wraps, with only close friends and family aware.

She took two deep breaths as she walked up the beautiful stone steps of the Lemieux mansion. She and Nathalie, Mario’s wife, had planned to get together a few hours before the scheduled affair to get everything ready. Nathalie and Mario had insisted that it be at their estate instead of the apartment Riley and Sidney shared. Not wanting to seem too defiant, and after realizing that the apartment could not comfortably hold a dozen women at one time, Riley agreed that it be held outside of her home.

She cleared her throat and knocked on the large wooden doors. Moments later it opened, Mario’s eldest daughter, Lauren, greeted Riley with a bright smile.

“Hey Rye,” she said in a bubbly tone. “Come on in.”

“Thanks.” Feeling the need to make conversation, Riley smiled at Lauren and said: “How are you?”

Lauren returned the smile. “I’m good, congrats on the engagement by the way; you and Sid are great together. Oh, and my mom is in the kitchen, if you’re wondering.”

“Thank you. Are you going to join in on the wedding planning, by any chance?”

“Probably,” she answered. “This is going to be the most talked about wedding here for the next few months.”

“Don’t remind me,” Riley said before making her way into the kitchen to greet Nathalie.

The back wall of the kitchen was the main focal point of the whole room. It was all windows and displayed the gorgeous backyard that was now covered with a few feet of white snow. It was an interesting contrast in the winter months. The kitchen countertops were a solid black made from granite that coincided perfectly with the light-coloured wooden cupboards.

She spotted Nathalie instantly; the woman was hard to miss. She stood with her back to Riley, cutting up some vegetables. She was dressed in dark jeans and a light grey sweater; simple, easy, comfortable. That was one thing that Riley really looked at Nathalie for: simplicity. Yes, the woman could doll herself up to look like Barbie, but on most days she looked like an average woman, a woman who could relate to anyone and everyone. She had it all—and Riley wanted to be just like her, with a few minor differences, Riley added with a smile to herself.

“Good morning, Nathalie,” Riley said in her sweet voice.

Nathalie turned around to face Riley quickly, delighted to hear her. “Riley! It’s good to see you again.” She smiled brightly and handed Riley a celery stick. “I’m so excited!”

A laugh bubbled out of Riley’s mouth. “I’m a mix of emotions; excitement, nervousness, bewilderment.” She crunched down on the vegetable. “Everything is going by so fast; everyone is growing up.”

“Oh, tell me about it!” Nathalie exclaimed. “I’ve got a sixteen-year-old daughter who is quickly approaching seventeen and three other growing kids.”

Riley laughed, grabbed a carrot stick and smiled when the man of the house wandered in. “Good morning, Mario,” she greeted.

Nathalie quickly turned around to face her husband. “You’re still here?”

“What, you don’t want me anymore?” Mario joked.

“No! Get out of here. It’s a girl’s day,” Nathalie told him.

As they bantered back and forth, Riley thought of how cute they were together. After years of marriage, four kids, and a retirement they still acted like a young who were foolishly in love. But then again, Riley thought, that’s exactly what they were.

Was her relationship with Sidney like that? Of course it was, she mused after a moment of deep thought. He was her best friend. He knew things about her that she didn’t know about herself. He knew what each tone meant, what each action symbolized. He understood her reasons for focusing so much on her work, for wanting to be the best. He understood her moments of happiness and spurts of doubt. But most of all, she thought, he got her.

But did she understand him? Riley had come to the conclusion long ago that she would never understand why he chose a sport as his career—but she accepted it. She also recognized his need for privacy; all his life he had been in the spotlight of the hockey world. Riley knew Sidney as the quiet, genuine guy he was, not the hockey god he was portrayed as.

And that was it, Riley concluded. It was the fact that they knew each other for who they were not what they are that would benefit them in the long run. Sidney would always be a hockey legend and she would be known for her journalistic talents, but at the end of every day, he was just Sidney Crosby and she was Riley Jacobs—without the titles.

“I’ll see you later, Riley.” Mario smiled at her when she looked up, then left the room.

Nathalie sighed but Riley could tell it was in a loving way. “He takes so long to do anything.”

An hour later, Riley sat in her Jeep in complete silence as she cruised the roads of Pittsburgh. The drive to the airport took her no longer than 30 minutes but she used the time wisely; she basked in the serene silence. It wouldn’t last much longer, she thought as she approached the airport.

Her mother was not going to get a warm welcoming. Let the games begin, Riley thought as she got out of her car and walked the fair distance to the crowded building. As soon as she got to gate 5 the loud voice boomed over the speakers. Riley listened carefully to the announcement of the Montreal flight arrival. Minutes later, she spotted her mother and sister. Riley noted that her mother walked in brisk strides and that her sister walked nonchalantly.

“Rye!” Storm, Riley’s younger and only sister shouted when she spotted her.

“Stormy!” Riley hugged her sister tightly, then turned to her mother. “Bonjour maman.”
“Riley, vous regardez bien.” Eliza hugged her daughter quickly, then made her way to the airport exit.

Here we go, Riley mused and sighed. She turned to her sister, who was now only an inch or two shorter than she, and smiled. “Comment allez-vous?”

Storm smiled, showing offer her white, perfectly straight teeth. “Je suis bon, vous-même?”

“Je suis bon,” Riley replied but thought, not for long. She watched her mother, who was a few strides ahead of her, shove her way through a crowd. Riley then thought of how a few months ago her sister had been telling her of the English lessons she was taking and decided to ask her about them. “Parlez-vous anglais?”

Storm looked at Riley, smiled, and said: “Yes.”

Riley laughed at her sister’s strong accent. “You’re getting there,” she told her.

When they reached Riley’s green Jeep, she saw how many bags her mother had brought with her. She didn’t think there would be enough room in her apartment for all of it. But with Sidney gone, they would have some extra room.

“Mom,” she said in quick French, “how much did you bring?”

“Enough for the week,” she quipped.

“Week?” Riley echoed. “I thought you were only coming down for three days?”

“Your sister and I wanted to check out the city and some stores around here, so we extended the trip. We also thought we’d give Ben a little visit.”

And, Riley thought, that little extension was going to throw her whole schedule off. She had only planned for a simple three day visit from her mother, not seven. Riley had timed it so that she could entertain family while Sidney was away. Now she’d have to call him, she thought darkly.

“So, Riley,” Eliza started in her sharp tone. Riley thought it sounded even worse in French. “Why all of a sudden did you want to catch up with us? We haven’t heard from you since your break up with that hockey player.”

Riley knew that her mother never accepted the fact that Sidney played hockey for a living. Telling her that she was about to marry him would only make things worse. “About that,” Riley returned in her native language. “Sid and I talked it out—”

“You went back to him?” Eliza cut in, astonished with a hint of rising anger.

“We both agreed to give it another go—”

“You went back to him.” This time, Riley knew, it wasn’t a question—it was an accusation. And she didn’t appreciate it.

“Maman!” She was going to get it out now before they arrived to the Lemieux place. “I love Sidney. I’m in love with him. I asked you to come down here because I wanted to tell you in person that Sid and I are getting married.”

There, she thought, it was out. She felt weightless now, the truth was out there whether or not Eliza Jacobs liked it or not.

“What?!” Eliza screeched. “You’re what?” She gripped the strap on her purse tightly; trapping it between the perfectly manicured claws that she called nails. “What?” she said one more time.

Riley took a deep breath, let it out threw her teeth. “Sid and I are getting married.”


“It hasn’t been decided yet.”

“When did he propose to you, Riley?” The tone of her mother’s voice, the authority in it brought the fangs out in Riley.

“It wasn’t really a proposal, it was more of an ultimatum, but it was about a month ago.”

“A month? You waited a month to tell your own mother that you’re engaged? Riley Jacqueline Jacobs, have you no—”

“Goddamn it, mother—”

“Don’t you swear at me, don’t you dare.”

Riley had to take another deep breath to calm herself or she would end up saying something that she would later regret. “Mother,” she said, this time in calm French. “I didn’t tell you because I thought it would be better to wait and tell you face to face. Wait,” she said when she noticed Eliza getting ready to interrupt. “I also held back in telling you because I knew, I knew, Mom, that you would cause a scene just like you are now.”

There was a moment of silence and Riley thought that she had finally gotten through to her mother, finally made her see if from her point of view.

Eliza sighed, closed her eyes and then spoke. “I’m happy for you, Riley. Even though I don’t understand his lifestyle one bit, I can learn to accept it because I want to be happy that my daughter has found what’s right for her.” She paused and turned to Riley, opening her eyes into tiny slits. “Who have you told before me?”

“Mom, don’t do this.”

"Come on, Riley, who else knows?”

She sighed. “Not many; we wanted to keep it as secretive as possible. Only close friends and family know.”

“But I was the last to know?”

Even though Eliza’s tone had softened, Riley didn’t trust it. “Yes.” She glanced quickly at her mother as she pulled into the Lemieux driveway. “Please, Mom, just leave it at that.”

“Fine,” she sniffed and stepped out of the Jeep.

“Well I’m happy about your engagement,” Storm said from the backseat.

“Merci,” Riley said as she, too, stepped out.

When they stepped inside the warm house, Riley noticed that a few of the other women had arrived and were already helping themselves to the delicious display of fruits and vegetables. She spotted Nathalie and gave her a look that screamed: Help me!

Sure enough, Nathalie sauntered over, arms open, to the three Jacobs’ women. “Eliza, Storm,” she greeted in an excited voice, “vous deux semblez merveilleux!”

With her mother and sister off on a tour of the house, Riley wandered over into the large living room where several women were scattered about chatting with each other. Vero approached her by linking her arm through Riley’s and showed off her bright smile.

“Rye,” Vero said, “Where have you been?” She brushed the question off quickly. “It doesn’t matter. Now I know that there are a few women who you probably have never met or just don’t remember, so I’ll introduce you to everyone.”

She led Riley off towards the group of unfamiliar women, chatting the whole way. The only thought in Riley’s mind, however, was how in the hell she was going to get everything back into a calm order. Hopefully, she thought, without anymore unwanted surprises.

But she couldn’t have been more wrong.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chapter Fifty-Two

Coasting Down Memory Lane;
Chapter Fifty-Two

The days passed quickly for Riley and Sidney over the next few weeks. They spent most of their free time looking for places to live and getting their relationship back on track. But of course their own lives were beginning to get busy again. Riley caught up on a lot of work during the week Sidney was in Calgary at the Team Canada tryouts.

Most people found that things fell better into place during the summer, but not Riley and Sidney. Now eight games into the regular NHL season, both careers in full throttle, they were even more in sync than ever. Riley had been making an effort to attend more Penguins games and it had been paying off in Sidney’s opinion. Even though she had only been to a few, Sidney had played exceptionally well on those days. He found that her presence at a game brought a whole different aura to the locker room. The guys had more energy, more excitement on the nights she sat in the stands and cheered them on; he was looking forward to this season.

He thought of that as he dressed and found himself buzzing with anticipation for their game that night against the Toronto Maple Leafs—a team they struggled to defeat. He pushed the statistics out of his mind; tonight would be different, tonight Riley would be in the crowd.

Sidney was smiling as he sauntered out of the bathroom looking oh so professional in his suit for the game. He spotted Riley sitting on the couch with her long legs folded under her. Unlike him, Riley was dressed casually in jeans and a plaid shirt. He noted that she had added a necklace, a bracelet and flats that matched her shirt. Riley rarely wore heels because she felt too tall in them, she was 5’7” and stuck mainly with flats or running shoes.

Sidney walked around the couch so he could stand directly in front of Riley. He placed his hands on her shoulders, leaned in and kissed her right on the mouth. Then he grabbed her hands and pulled her of the couch.

“Well aren’t you chipper today,” Riley commented with a short, bubbling laugh.

He dragged her to the door and handed her her jacket. “I’m excited.”

Oh, was he ever, Riley thought as they pulled into the parking space at the beloved Mellon Arena. Then entire drive there Sidney had been practically bouncing in his seat. As they got out of his silver Range Rover, Sidney pulled her close and the two of them walked hand in hand into the building.

They spoke with a few of the guys until it was time for them to suit up. Before going in, Sidney had pulled Riley aside, and after making sure no one else was near, kissed her deeply. He kissed her once more quickly and said, “Oh, you’re sitting with Mario tonight.”

Eyes wide, Riley responded, confounded. “I am?” This was news to her.

“Yeah, he told me the other day that he had an extra seat available in the box tonight, and wanted you to fill it if you were coming. Anyway,” he said as he glanced at his watch, “you should start making your way up there.” And he kissed her one more time before disappearing behind the large doors.

She sighed and made her way up to Mario Lemieux’s private box. Riley was aware of the sly glances that people shot at her as she walked through the crowded corridors. She smiled when she ran into Veronique, Marc-Andre Fleury’s long-time girlfriend. Riley liked to think of her as the five-star general of the Penguins’ girlfriends/wives.

“Rye!” Vero had rushed up to Riley and enveloped her in a friendly hug.

“How’ve you been, Vee?” Riley asked in a warm tone. Sometimes, depending on the situation, they would speak only in French together. They liked to think that thay way less people knew what they were saying because it’s always hard to pick out key words in a fast-talking foreign language. Plus, it was both their native language.

“I’ve been good; I missed you like crazy though.”

“Well, you know that I missed you too. We’ll see a lot of each other now with the hockey season started.”

Vero smiled. “More since you’ve decided to attend games.”

“Yeah, well, I’m making an attempt to learn what Sid does for a living,” Riley said with a laugh. “Anyway, I’ll see you later.”

“You’re not sitting with us?”

“Not tonight. Apparently I’m sitting with Mario this evening,” she told her.

“Oh okay, but after the game meet me in the lounge. We have to talk about things,” Vero said just before they parted.

Riley made it up to Mario’s box in one piece, fighting her way through the hoard of people in record time. When she got up there, she instantly spotted the man in charge. Mario stood in the doorway looking important in his dark suit.

When he saw her, a smile instantly grew on his face. “How are you, Riley?”

“I’m doing well.” She hugged him. “How are you?”

He motioned for her to walk in. “I’m good. It’s nice to have the season start up again, isn’t it?”

“Oh it is, Sid is both eager and nervous.”

“He laughed. “Aren’t we all?” Mario walked over to a fridge. “Would you like something to drink? Water, wine, a soft drink?”

She looked around the room, noticed it was empty; only her and Mario. “Water’s fine,” she replied with a quick smile. “Who else is joining us up here?”

“No one, it’s just us tonight.” He handed her a bottle of cool water. “Besides,” he said as he took a seat next to the one she chose, “I wanted to speak with you.”

Riley controlled her face and most of her voice before responding, “Oh.” She hadn’t a clue what about so she waited for him to speak.

“You’re back with Sid, I see.” He sipped his own bottle of water. “Things are going good?”

Riley smiled. “Better than ever.”

“But you’re currently living at a friend’s apartment?”

“It’s only temporary until Sid and I find a place,” she told him as the game began. “And it’s not too cramped since Brett so graciously offered us the place while he’s spending some time with Jamie.”

“You know,” Mario began, “the two of you are more than welcome to stay with my family until you get settled into a permanent place.”

Riley tore her attention away from the game to stare at Mario with bafflement. “Oh Mario, we wouldn’t want to put you out.”

He actually started to laugh. “You wouldn’t; Heaven knows the house is big enough. Besides, the kids miss having Sid around, and Nathalie is forever talking about having another pair of helping hands.” He flashed a grin at her and said, “But I just think that she wants another woman around.” He paused and turned his attention to the game just in time to see Marc-Andre shut the door on a Leafs’ player. “We love both of you, and since you and Sidney are planning on tying the knot, you are now a part of our family.”

She was warmed by his words but couldn’t think of anything to say, so she mumbled, “Mario, that’s…”

“Just an option,” he reminded her casually.

“I’ll mention it to Sidney.” With that, Riley directed her attention back to the game just in time to see her fiancé racing down the ice and flipping the puck past Toskala.

She spoke with Mario throughout the game but mostly watched the game down below. The Penguins had dominated the entire game, only letting the Leafs get off four shots; Marc-Andre Fleury successfully stacked the pads and flashed the leather all four times. As the final buzzer sounded, Riley stood with a smile; they had finally put Toronto in their place, defeating them 6-0.

Riley made her way to the locker room with Mario. She noted that walking with him got her to and from places faster and easier than it was when she was just on her own.

“They did really well tonight,” she commented as they passed a few fans exiting the arena.

“They did,” he agreed. “The team seems to have an extra jump to them this year, Sidney especially.” He held the door for her and smiled. “Even though I have probably said this a thousand times in the past few weeks, I’ll say it again. Congratulations on the engagement; you and Sid are perfect for each other.”

Riley thanked him just seconds before Vero found her and led her away to the lounge area.

“Okay,” she began, seating Riley down in front of her. “This weekend when the boys are away on their road trip we are planning the planning your wedding. It’ll be you, me, and the rest of the girls, your brother’s fiancée, and my friend Amelia Burke.”

Riley had to refrain from laughing at Vero’s total seriousness. “I think my mom and sister said they’d be flying down this weekend.”

Vero let out a little squeal. “Even better; more ladies, more ideas.”

Soon after, the room began to empty when the players left with their significant others and when the press had started to file out. Riley sat quietly on the couch looking at all the pictures on the walls. One picture caught her attention though and she got up to take a closer look at it; it was one from the previous year which showed Sidney celebrating a hat trick with his team mates. It was then that she realized how much of his life she had been missing out on.

Just then she felt arms snake around her and caught the thrilling scent of male. She spun around in his arms and smiled wide at him. Sidney dipped his head and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Great game,” she whispered in his ear.

He lifted her and pressed his mouth to hers again when she wrapped her long legs around his waist. “Thanks. So how did it go with Mario up there?”

“It was good; very luxurious.”

“Yeah, well, that’s Mario for you.”

Coach Dan Bylsma walked by just in time to see the two of them in an intimate embrace in the lounge. “Hey, none of that here—lounge rules,” he joked.

“Sorry coach,” the both muttered as Sidney put Riley down, he took her hand instead and they both strolled out of the room.

Sidney signed a few autographs for the dedicated fans who had waited out in the chilly weather. Riley stepped aside and let him brighten the day for a dozen people. She watched him squat down and chat with a child who she estimated to be around five or six. Her heart melted when she saw him talk with the little boy’s parents and hear him faintly say, “It’s past your bedtime, bud.” The boy smiled, showing off his two missing front teeth.

Yes, she thought as she rubbed her arms to keep warm, she missed huge parts of his life when she didn’t attend his games, didn’t ask about them, didn’t read the articles written on him. Well, that would change. They were in it till the end now. From now on, she’d get more involved in his world.

She grinned at him as he walked towards her. “You’re something else.”

He raised a brow. “I am? Something good, I hope.”

She shook her head as he pulled her to his Range Rover that now sat nearly alone in the parking lot. It was dark out now that it was past eleven o’clock. Riley sat down in the cold seats of his car, hoping that the heat he had turned on would kick in soon. “So, Mario was telling me something tonight,” she began in an almost dreamy tone.

Sidney started up the engine and pulled away from the Mellon Arena. “Oh yeah? And what would it be?”

“Yeah,” she said as she settled back into the seat. “He was telling me of how much his kids adore you and how they all miss having you around.” She turned her head to look out the window at the city’s lights passing by. “He mentioned how he and the family were more than willing to have us stay with them until we find a permanent place.”

Sidney was quiet for a moment. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him that I’d swing it by you. How do you feel about it?”

He pulled into the parking space at Brett’s apartment. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chapter Fifty-One

Coasting Down Memory Lane;
Chapter Fifty-One

After hours of laughing and drinking with friends, Riley and Sidney got back to Brett’s apartment dead tired and a little drunk at one o’clock in the morning. They had tried to be as quiet as they could in the halls but they both let out giggles when Riley fumbled for the keys.

“You know,” Sidney began, stepping out of his shoes, “this is the part where we’re supposed to have really hot, really passionate make-up sex.”

Riley slanted him a look caught between amusement and annoyance. “As tempting as that sounds, I’m way too tired for wild sex. And besides,” she added as she stripped on her way to the bedroom. “I may fall asleep and damage your ego.”

It was only the two of them in the apartment, Brett had decided to spend the night at Jamie’s since Sidney would be coming back with Riley and he had a hunch of their activities for the next little while. So to spare them all an awkward moment, he would spend the next few days with his fiancé.

“I don’t mind if you fall asleep…” Sidney trailed off.

Now dressed in grey sweatpants and a red tank top, Riley slid into the bed. “Pervert.”

“You love it.” He pulled her back against him and drifted off into a much needed sleep, her scent leading him to blissful dreams.

She woke to the arousing feel of his lips on hers, his hands stroking possessively over her lean body. She smiled into the kiss as her body quickly shook off sleep. He murmured a sound of pleasure when she climbed on top of him. She ran her hands up and down his toned, bare chest, and shuddered in delight at the feel of his strong muscles and hard abs.

The mood changed, the pace quickened as he rolled her under him and hastily lifted off her shirt.

“Oh God,” he groaned, kissing every inch of skin on her torso.

Her world was spinning, her breath hitching and her heart was pounding. How had she gone without this for an entire month? He did things to her that no other could; he drove her insane. With her eyes locked on his, Riley pulled down his boxers. She needed to feel the hard length of him.

Sidney kissed her neck and her face as she touched him in places that always seemed to ache for her. The blood was pulsating in his head but he continued to keep himself in check. He wanted to give Riley everything.

“Don’t hold back,” she panted, still looking into his eyes. In them, she saw the wild need and the restraint that somehow miraculously overpowered it. She would have none of that. If she was going to lose her mind and all feeling in her body, so was he. “Don’t you dare hold back.”

He took her advice, ripped off her pants, and plunged himself deep inside her.

When she was almost certain that she had the energy to, Riley spoke. “Wow.” Her admiring tone made Sidney smile.

“I’ll say.” He let his hand rub up and down her back in lazy strokes. She was resting her head and hand on his chest, still catching her breath. “Rye?”

She stretched and curled into him like a cat preparing for a nice nap. “Hmm?”

He was sure that she couldn’t see his face but still tried to conceal the smirk. “When did you get that tattoo?”

Her green eyes popped open. She had completely forgotten about her newest piece of artwork. But instead of coming clean with it, Riley went with the knee-jerk response. “What?”

“The tattoo,” he repeated, “on your—”

“I was drunk,” she exclaimed, cutting off his amused clarification.

“Go on.”

She sighed and sat up. “It was on my birthday,” Riley said and began to tell him the story.

“Come on, Rye, have some fun!” Kaylan Penton shouted as she dragged Riley into the crowded bar.

“I don’t feel like having fun,” Riley protested.

Kaylan led her to a table, sat her down and then focused her bright eyes on Riley. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“You already know about Sid and me.”

Kaylan rested her hand on Riley’s. “I know that you and Sid are no longer together. What I don’t know is why.”

Riley sighed. “I needed some space.”

Kaylan’s brows drew together in confusion. “What are you talking about? Why, Riley, would you leave your loving boyfriend when everything was going so perfectly?”

“I don’t know…”

Kaylan took a sip of the frothy drink that was placed in front of her. “What happened that you’re not telling me?”

Taking a deep breath, Riley decided it was time she open up about it all. “Sidney’s parents were over and I was in the house doing whatever while he spoke with his mom and sister. That was when I came face to face with Troy. He had been acting sour around me so I decided that it was time to finally ask him about it. Well, Troy isn’t one to shy away from letting out his thoughts. He mentioned things about my career and how I was only as far in it because of the man I was dating.” Riley let out a long sigh and closed her eyes. “That got me thinking, you know? What if I was only acknowledged because of Sid?

“At first I didn’t care but then I wondered if Troy was the only one who thought that. I focus so much on my career, so much on who I am and not enough on my boyfriend’s life. I don’t understand the sport he plays, I don’t see how it can be made as a career, I never go to his games. I mean, I ask him how everything went when he gets home because I don’t even watch. And even when he’s explaining it all to me in his hockey-speak, I’m not even paying attention. I let him ramble for a good twenty minutes while I think about my duties for the day. That makes me a—what do they call it—puck bunny, doesn’t it? I left Sid because he deserves better than that.”

Riley’s jaw dropped when Kaylan started to laugh. “What is so funny?”

“You, a puck bunny?” Kaylan’s face and tone sobered. “Sweetheart, you are the polar opposite of puck bunny. Sid knows that too. Hell, everyone does! Sure, you don’t go to his games, but that’s better than you going and being bored out of your mind. It also creates less media attention, which is something you know Sid appreciates. You focus so much on your career because it’s something you love, and something you’re good at. Rye, you are one of the most hard-working, independent, intelligent women—no, people—that I know. You couldn’t come anywhere near puck bunny if you tried.”

“Kay, I work in the media, I know how cruel it can be. If Troy decides to spread his thoughts around it’s only going to put more stress on Sid. Not to mention everyone will think that it’s true.” Riley took a sip of her drink.

Kaylan looked at her with sympathetic eyes. “Who cares what people think? Your relationship is between you and Sid only. Let everyone else believe what they want, even if it isn’t true,” Kaylan told her honestly. “Now,” she said as she straightened, “let’s finish these drinks, and the next round, and go get matching tattoos.”

With her mind being covered with an alcoholic haze, Riley responded happily. “Sounds like a plan.”


Riley kept her eyes closed even after she finished speaking. The room was silent, and she didn’t know if that was good or bad. Sidney hadn’t said a word while she told him of the night of her 23rd birthday. In fact, she realized, he had moved away from her.

Sidney had pulled on a pair of boxers and stalked over to the window while Riley was talking. He ran a hand through his hair as he watched the cars whiz by on their way to wherever. He kept quiet for a few moments once Riley finished. He had to gather all of his thoughts because right now they were buzzing around everywhere.

“You left me because of my dad?” He didn’t know how to feel about that.

“What are you… oh.” It occurred to Riley that she had never told Sidney the real reason why she left.

He turned around when she walked up behind him. Then he rested his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. “We’re getting married sometime next year, but I want to start a new chapter now. That new chapter is that there will be no more secrets between us anymore. We tell each other everything, okay? I’ll deal with my dad later, but right now I want for us to be 100% made up.”

She stood on her tip of her toes and kissed him. “We are.”

“Good. Now, what are we going to do for the day?”

Riley bit her lip and looked at him mischievously. “I’ve got an idea, but it would require you to lose these,” she said as she tugged on the waistband of his boxers.

“Funny,” he said with a smile, “I was thinking the same thing.”

“It looks like we’re back in synch,” Riley said a second before he lifted her and carried her back into bed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chapter Fifty

Coasting Down Memory Lane;
Chapter Fifty

As far as day offs went, Riley mused, this one was pretty damn good. She had spent the day lounging around in sweats, eating popcorn and drinking fine wine with the man she considered her own personal hero. Brett Sharpe had kept her from leaping off the edge of sanity.

Now they stood dressed formally for their dinner date that was scheduled for seven at a new French restaurant. Well, it was quarter after seven and Riley was in a little black dress, with flaming red heels, pacing the apartment’s living room. Brett was in the bathroom fixing his hair.

“Brett,” Riley called out, “could you at least try to hurry?”

“Give me five more minutes. I’m having a bad hair day.” His voice was a little muffled because of the door, but Riley heard him loud and clear. She had ears like a cat.

“You said that ten minutes ago, when you all ready know that your hair is naturally perfect.”

“Five minutes, Riley. Oh, and get the door,” he added when it rang.

She muttered a suggestion under her breath that would have appalled him if he’d heard it while she stalked to the door. Even Riley couldn’t mask the surprise that came to her pretty face when she swung the door open.

“Jack.” She hadn’t seen, or spoken to him since she left Rimouski for Australia, five years back.

“Hey, Rye.” His smile was as easy as his tone. “Gonna invite me in?”

“Right.” She started to move aside, then stopped. “You’ve caught me at a bad time, Jack. I was just on my way out.”

He studied her up and down and then grinned. “So I see. Lookin’ good, Rye.”

She flushed slightly, which had only added to her beauty. The last time he had seen her she’d been in jeans and a t-shirt with her hair tied in a loose ponytail. Now she was dressed in a sleek and sexy black little dress, red heels, red lipstick, and a little red handbag. Her hair was up in a bun with what he took as chopsticks in her hair.

The years had been very generous to her.

“Thanks, I—” She broke off when Brett walked into the living room.

“Riley, who’s at the— Oh. Hello,” Brett said in a charming tone.

“You look perfect,” Riley muttered under her breath, looking at Brett. “Ah, Brett, Jack Johnson. Jack, Brett Sharpe.”

“Nice to meet you.” Find somewhere else to be, Brett told himself. “I’ll just go get my jacket.”

As he walked off, Jack looked around the apartment. It was clean, he noted, except for the glassed of wine on the table. And spacious, even with all the stylish furniture there was still a lot of empty space. He thought the place suited Riley just fine.

“He seems nice,” Jack commented.

Riley smiled. “Brett’s a great guy. So, what brings you to Pittsburgh, Jack? As I recall it isn’t hockey season just yet.”

You always did have good taste, he mused. “No, it’s not that time of year. However, I was just passing through and thought I’d pay an old friend a visit. But I see you’re busy so we’ll have to reschedule our little rendezvous.”

“How long are you in town?”

“It depends, really,” he told her.

She pursed her lips, and drew her brows together, in thought. “Well tomorrow I work from nine to five. Do you want to do a dinner thing?”

After a moment’s thought and careful calculation, Jack responded. “Yeah, I think I can manage a dinner thing. It’ll have to be a later one, though.”

Riley smiled. “No problem. Does seven work for you? Or shall we make it seven-thirty?”

“Seven’s fine,” he assured her. “I’ll need your cell number.”

“Right,” she muttered. It occurred to Riley now that she had left her phone in the bedroom. “Let me just go get that,” she said, and then turned down the hallway. She appeared seconds later with her phone held tightly in her hand. “Add your number in and I’ll do the same.”

They exchanged numbers and goodbyes as Jack left for the evening. Brett returned to the living room just as Riley closed the door. He looked perfect, she thought enviously. He had probably spent the last hour in the bathroom staring at himself instead of fixing his hair. The man always looked perfect.

“Ready?” She asked with a quick glance at her watch. They were now half an hour late.

“Yes,” Brett answered. After he locked the door, he and Riley made their way down to the parking garage, his arm wrapped companionably around her waist. “How convenient of him to stop by,” he commented on the drive to the restaurant.

“He was in town, and decided to drop by,” she said with a shrug.

“Mm-hmm. Whatever makes you happy, my dear,” he said easily as he pulled into a parking space. “So you’ll read the menu to me, right? I don’t happen to speak French.”

Riley laughed as they walked into the building. Lumiere was an expensive, fine dining French restaurant that had opened only months before. She’d been dying to try it out.

A man in a suit opened the door for them as they entered. “Bonjour, madam et monsieur.” He gave them the once-over coolly, nodded in approval. “Table for two?”

“We have reservations for Jacobs,” Riley told him kindly.

“Ah yes, follow me.”

He led them to a table in the back where only candles lit the room, and soft music played. There Riley spotted her brother, Ben and his fiancée, Kim. They looked to be in an intense conversation but looked up as the man in the suit delicately cleared his throat.

“Your guests have arrived,” he stated then left.

Brett pulled Riley’s chair out for her, then sat beside her. He had met Ben and Kim before and found that he enjoyed their company very much. He could see a lot of Riley in her older brother.

“So, how have you two been?” Ben asked once the waiter, Pierre, brought out the glasses of water.

“Good,” Riley said. “Busy with work, you know?”

“Much of the same for me,” Brett said pleasantly. “And what about you two?”

Ben and Kim looked at each other and grinned. “Work and wedding plans,” Kim said.

They continued to talk throughout the evening with only a few disturbances. Several people had walked by their table and said hello to Riley, saying how they enjoyed her articles and wished to see more of her on TV. She would reply with a smile and thank them for their support in her charming way.

When it was nearing the end of their dinner, a man had approached their table wishing to speak with Brett.

“If you’ll excuse me,” he said then got up to talk with the man.

Recognizing the look in Riley’s eyes, Kim also excused herself. “I need to go touch up my makeup,” she told them before scurrying off to the ladies’ room.

Both Ben and Riley watched her in silence. “You sure know how to clear a table,” Ben joked.

“Brett wasn’t my fault,” she said.

“I know. So what did you want to talk to me about?”

Riley stared at his face. “I never said that I wanted to speak to you about anything.”

“You didn’t, no. But there is a look in your eye that says differently.”

She sighed. “Okay, so maybe I did want to talk to you about something.” Riley took a long sip of water. “I’m having second thoughts.”

“About what in particular, Rye?”

“About everything. Did I make the right decision? Or did I blow it all out of proportion? Am I happy? God, Ben, I broke his heart again. On the same goddamn day too.”

“Irony,” Ben said softly. “I can’t answer those questions for you. Although I will tell you this: I don’t think you’ll do yourself any good dwelling on the past. Five years ago you left Rimouski to make a name for yourself; that was probably your smartest decision ever. A month ago you left Nova Scotia to prove to yourself that the name you have was created by you and your talents only; that was probably your stupidest decision ever.”

Riley sat there staring at her brother. She had always admired him, had always trusted him, but she had no idea that he would say something like that to her. Over the past month dozens of people had offered their advice—none had gotten through to her like this.

She opened her mouth to speak, but shut it firmly when she saw Brett and Kim walking back to the table.

“Are we ready to head out?” Brett asked, his eyes focused on Riley.

“Yeah,” she said. “It’s getting late and I’ve got work in the morning.” She put fifty dollars on the table and then turned to her brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law. “Bye,” she said to each of them and kissed them on the cheek.

The drive back to the apartment was quiet. Brett had the car windows open a bit, letting in the warm summer night air. When they got back to the apartment, he turned to her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she replied.

“Then why is there sadness lingering in your eyes?” At her silence he pulled her in for a comforting hug. “You miss him, don’t you?”

She looked up at him. “Yeah, I’m just starting to realize it now, too.”

“No, you’re finally starting to admit it,” he corrected, tilting her face up even more with his finger. Then he leaned down and laid his lips lightly over hers, a gesture made to soothe. “Go change into something comfy, and then get some sleep.”

She nodded and pulled away from him slowly. She turned to grab her handbag off the couch and that’s when she spotted a pair of pink Converse laying by the front door. They were hers, no doubt about it, but they hadn’t been there that morning, she was sure of that. When she realized how they got there, the red handbag that she adored fell to the floor.

She had left those shoes at Sidney’s summer home in Nova Scotia in her rush to leave. And the only person who had visited the apartment the entire day was one person who she knew would have been there. Jack. The name rang through her head a thousand times, it was overwhelming. She sat on the arm of the couch, a dazed expression masking her face.

Riley was only in the apartment physically. Every other part of her was in Nova Scotia. She didn’t even notice Brett standing in front of her, didn’t feel his hands on her shoulders. Was he keeping her upright? She couldn’t feel anything.

“Riley,” she heard Brett say. “Riley? Earth to Riley? Anyone there?” He shook her slightly; she didn’t feel it. The only thing she could feel was the broken pieces of her heart aching. “Riley, damn it, say something.”

She opened her mouth, moved her lips like she was speaking, but no sound escaped. She could hear a dull buzzing in her ears and behind that was Brett’s voice telling her to say something, anything. “The shoes,” she whispered. When he only continued to look at her with worried eyes, she pointed. “The shoes, Brett.” Her voice was coming stronger. “The shoes,” she repeated in a voice that shook with hysteria. “They weren’t there this morning, or yesterday, or the day before. But they’re there now. I left them at—” She took a deep breath, so deep it hurt. “I left those shoes at Sid’s.”

Brett turned and looked at the shoes. Something jumped in his stomach. “You left them in Nova Scotia, and now they’re here. Now you’re thinking that…” It all made sense now.

“Jack. Jack wasn’t just in town. The bastard lied to me. He was in Nova Scotia with Sid, then he was here. Why? To check up on me? I wouldn’t put it past Sid to keep tabs on me. But why him? His whole bloody team is right here. Why?”

He didn’t have the answers to that questions she kept asking herself. He knew she wouldn’t want them anyway. Riley was a person who liked to figure things out herself. Brett respected that, and that’s why he said no more for the rest of the night.

This was something Riley needed to do on her own. But he’d be there for her if she needed him.


Jack didn’t mind planes. He had gotten used to them over the years; especially with all the traveling from city to city he had to do with hockey. He actually enjoyed those plane rides with his teammates, his friends, his brothers. They gave him time to goof around and times to think and times to sulk.

But this time he had an unusual feeling in the pit of his stomach. That feeling, he realized, was a mix of nervousness and fear. And it wasn’t because of the planes.

How would he do it? How could he? How did a man tell his friend that the girl he loved was with another man? Well, he would just have to find a way.

Jack walked up to the door and took a deep breath before knocking. He tried to compose himself in those gruelling seconds it took Sidney to open the door. Then he’d have to break his friend’s heart.

The door swung open and Jack was met with Sidney’s smiling face. The smile wavered as Sidney racked his brain for reasons his pal would be on his doorstep looking so guilty.

“Jack, what are you doing here? I thought you had to go back to L.A.” Sidney moved aside to let Jack in.

“Yeah, I lied.” He felt horrible, worse than horrible. “Sid, I—” He broke off, cursed. How would he do this? God, he hated what he had to say. Just then a thought came to mind. It could work, maybe. “Sid, pack up some clothes. The plane leaves in ten minutes.”


After two hours of sleep and four of tossing and turning, Riley sat with a thud at the kitchen table for breakfast. She wasn’t really hungry but decided to eat the bacon and eggs Brett had prepared for her. She decided it was best to forget about yesterday’s events.

“I’m testing out my cooking skills,” he told her after minutes of silence.

She stopped stabbing her eggs to look up at him. “These aren’t lethal or anything, are they?”

He snorted. “Jamie’s been giving me pointers on cooking.”

“Oh, well then.” She said no more and continued to eat. Jamie Crawford was not only Brett’s main squeeze, but the top chef in Pittsburgh.

“Aren’t women supposed to eat delicately?” Brett asked after a few seconds.

This time it was Riley’s turn to snort. “I’m not delicate when I eat, especially when the food is pretty spectacular.”

Brett grinned at her. “Why, darling, you just called my cooking pretty spectacular. I’m flattered.”

She chuckled as she placed her dishes in the dishwasher. “I’ve got to head out. I should be back around five-thirty,” she informed him. “Then I have to kill Jack at seven.”

He laughed. “I should be back around three.”

“Tootles.” She grabbed her purse and was out the door fifteen minutes before nine.


The day seemed to crawl by for Riley. She’d had a boring assignment and spent most of the day wishing she had gotten more than two hours of sleep. It didn’t reflect in her work though. She was among the top journalists in the city for a reason, and that reason was that she would never allow anything to affect her writing negatively.

She was relieved when Brett’s apartment came into view. Here she could relax for an hour or so before her scheduled dinner date with Jack. She frowned at the thought of it. She’d have to ask him, right?

Riley shook her head hoping that her doubts would tumble out of her mind. She had too much to worry about already; she didn’t need more on her plate. Who was she kidding? Riley all ready had much more than she could handle. It amazed her how she hadn’t leapt over to the world of insanity yet.

She stepped out of her Jeep only to come face to face with Marc-Andre Fleury. A smile instantly came to her lips. She and Marc had become what could be considered instant friends. Maybe it was the French-Canadian blood they both shared, but then again, she reminded herself, practically half the team was French-Canadian.

So it was his good-natured personality then, and even that was enough reasoning for Riley.

“Hello, Rye.” The arousing accent of his melted her heart.

“Hey, Marc.” Her accent wasn’t as strong as his, but Riley was a person who adapted very well to new surroundings and had a secret passion in imitating accents. After all, her American accent was coming along very well. “What brings you here?”

“I just wanted to come by and see you,” he said and matched his pace with hers. “I got back from Sorel a couple of days ago and have to fly out to Calgary for the Team Canada orientation in a week, so I decided to spend some avec mon ami.”

Riley smiled. She loved when he would throw the odd French term in a purely English sentence. “How sweet. Are you excited for the orientation camp, mon ami?”

He turned to her in the elevator and grinned. “I’m tres excited,” he said with such enthusiasm Riley thought he’d sing the words.

She laughed as she unlocked the door to the apartment. When she opened the door her laughter, smile, and even her overall comfort vanished. Sitting on the living room couch was Kris, Jordan, Ben, Brett and the man her eyes were drawn to, Sidney.

They all looked up when the front door opened and they watched Riley’s eyes dart to Sidney, and his to hers.

The room was silent and Riley was well aware of the six pairs of eyes on her. Only one, she thought, made her want to disappear. All the guilt she had felt a month ago, and thought she’d covered so well, came rushing up and nearly strangled her to death at the sheer look of affliction on Sidney’s face.

She was the reason for that look, Riley reminded herself grudgingly.

“Hello everyone,” she said, her voice cutting through the dreadful silence. Her tone was very cool, very controlled. Only Riley could hear the anger and shock in it.

“Hey, Rye,” Jordan said. He had a faint smile on his face until she aimed an icy glare at him. His smiled vanished almost immediately.

“Brett, can I speak with you for a minute?” Riley didn’t wait for his response and stalked into what was her temporary bedroom. “What did you do?” she demanded the moment he closed the door behind him.

He held his hands up in surrender. “I only opened the door. I swear.”

“And you could just shut it in their faces when you saw him? No,” she said with some thought. “There’s five of them and one of you—they’d just plough over you.”

“It’s nice to know that you believe I can hold my own,” he said dryly. “In any case, you should talk to Sid.”

She turned her back on him and walked over to the window. “Brett, I don’t—”

“Have any other choice,” he said when there was a knock on the door. Sidney stood there looking at Riley.

“Rye, can we talk?”

“She was just coming out to do that.” Brett rushed out the door before Riley could glower at him.

“I’m surprised you’d even want to look at me after…” Riley trailed off.

There was absolute silence for three whole minutes. Sidney didn’t’ know how he was going to phrase the question that had haunted him since Jack stood on his doorstep the previous day.


She turned to face him. His pained tone broke her heart. She found herself wanting to go over and soothe it, to go hug him and tell him everything would be ok but she couldn’t because she didn’t know if it would.

“Riley,” Sidney said again. This was it, his only chance to ask. He took a deep breath and plunged. “Did you leave me for him?”

“What?” Did she hear him correctly?

“Did you leave me for him?” Sidney repeated.


“Brett, who else?”

Riley kept her face impassive as she sat on the bed. “You think Brett and I are together.” Though it wasn’t a question, Sidney nodded his head. “Brett and I are friends.”

He’d heard that line too many times before from past relationships, and hearing it again only brought out his anger. “Like that matters. If you were only friends then why are you two living together? Why did you move out of our place?”

“Cooper. That fucker is the reason for why I left our place. But we’re talking about Brett.” She found she couldn’t sit so she got up to prowl the room like at cat in a cage.

“And I’m supposed to believe that Cooper is the only reason? Riley, I’m not stupid.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “You don’t believe me? Fine, I’ll prove it,” she said bitterly and swung the door open. “Guys, would you care to explain to Sidney that Cooper was indeed the reason I moved in here?”

Kris looked around the room and realized that no one was willing to speak up. So he’d take the chance. “He was, Sid. He got all up in her face one morning demanding personal information.”

“Yeah,” Jordan piped up, “we had to kick his ass for him to finally get the message to leave Rye alone.”

“See? I’m not a bloody liar.” Riley was losing her patience. “Brett is a friend. Just leave it be.”

No. No, he couldn’t do that, not when she seemed so defensive about it. Besides, he hadn’t gotten his answer yet. “Riley, I know that’s not all he is to you.”

“Ah…” Jack looked at both of them and realized that they weren’t anywhere near done solving this.

“We’ll just go to the lobby,” Ben told them.

The men all stood up and walked to the door. Brett stayed behind a minute and walked over to Riley, placed a hand on her shoulder. “Tell him, Rye. He needs to know.”

She turned to face him. “No, Brett, I—”

“Tell him.” He then walked out of the apartment.

Riley let out a sigh then turned back to a seething Sidney. “It’s not what you think,” she told him calmly. Her anger had faded and left her tired.

“Then what is so damn important that I apparently need to know?”

“I meant what I said before. Brett and I are friends—we’re not in a relationship.”

“That wouldn’t stop you from having sex,” he commented.

“It wouldn’t, no. Brett’s engaged.”

“You’re not understanding me here, Riley.” He wanted her to cut the crap and give him a straight answer.

“Brett is engaged to Jamie Crawford,” she continued on, ignoring his frustrated interruption.

“An engagement wouldn’t stop him from— Wait. Jamie Crawford. The famous chef?”

She smiled. “Mm-hmm.”

He was confused, she could see it. “But Jamie Crawford is—”

“A man? Yes.” Riley walked over to him and rested her hands on his shoulders. “Brett’s gay. That was what he meant by ‘he needs to know.’”

He had to sit down. “He’s gay? Are you sure?”

Riley laughed. “I’ve been living here for the past few weeks, I’m positive.”

Sidney let out a breath. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.” Every past encounter he’d had with Brett came flooding back into his mind. “I just don’t see it. I still don’t.”

Suddenly Riley felt warm inside and that’s why, she told herself, she let him pull her down in his lap. “You didn’t see it because you were too blinded by jealousy. And,” she added, wrapping her arms around his neck. “He hides it very well.”


“Why what?”

“Why does he hide it?”

He saw anger and sadness cross her face. She needed to pace while explaining this, so she got off his lap. “It’s sad, really. When will we ever learn to love without judging? Brett hides his sexuality because he works in a very shallow industry. He is the top sports analyst/reporter at Sports Guide. He hides his sexuality because if he didn’t he’d lose his job.”

Sidney hadn’t seen this coming. The man he hadn’t cared for because of jealousy was starting to sound like an okay guy. A guy who had to live a lie to fit in. “That’s horrible,” he said quietly.

“It is, isn’t it? I’ve told him dozens of times not to hide it, but he’s happy with the way things are right now. He’s got a good career, a nice place, good friends, and a wonderful fiancé.”

“I’ve seen him on TV a few times; he’s good at what he does. So why would it matter so much if he were gay?”

“People would stop watching the show. Cheryl would end up getting emails asking why a fag was hosting the show. What would a gay man know about sports? This isn’t fashion, its sports. Not everyone would say that but there would be some jerks that would. Those are the same jerks that don’t agree with women reporting sports. The only reason they put up with women is because they can check her out the entire time. But a gay man? No, never.”

He saw the anger that she was trying to battle back get the best of her face. Hell, it sickened and angered him too. But Riley needed some sort of comfort and he could do that. When she turned her back on him again, he stood up and wrapped his arms around her waist. She stiffened, and then made him smile by relaxing and leaning in to him.

“We still haven’t talked about us,” he murmured in her ear.

Riley liked the feel of his arms around her. “No, I don’t suppose we have. So I’ll start. I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

“Sid, you have nothing to be sorry about. The whole thing was my doing. I’m sorry I left without any explanation, I’m sorry I hurt you, and I’m really sorry about doing it all again on the five year anniversary of the first time I left you.”

He winced at the last one. “I was wondering if you had remembered that.”

She turned to face him, to look at him, regret in her peridot coloured eyes. “Why do you put up with me?”

“Because I love you.” And that was God’s truth, he thought. Even after everything she had done, everything she’d put him through, he was still foolishly in love with Riley Jacobs.

“I don’t deserve you,” she said in a whisper. “You need someone who’ll be there for you when you need her; someone you can depend on, and we both know that’s not—”

“Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare say that’s not you.” He grabbed her hands and his eyes burned into hers. The strong heat in his eyes had nerves dancing under her skin. “I love you, Rye. I love you because you’re not all that. You add… excitement, we’ll say, with your unreliability.”

She frowned. He kissed the tip of her nose. “I said I was sorry.”

“And I forgive you.”

“You really shouldn’t. Like you said, I’m unreliable. I don’t know if I can get back together with you. Just listen,” she said quickly when anger flared in his eyes. “I love you, but I fear that I’ll hurt you again.”

“You won’t,” Sidney said easily. “I love you and you love me. We’re meant to be with each other, Rye. So that’s why I’ll take you back on one condition.”

Her perfectly arched brows shot up in surprise, then furrowed in confusion. “That one condition would be what, that I promise to never leave you again? Sid, you have my word on that, but—”

“That’s part of it, but not all.” Sidney took a step closer to her when she backed up one. “That one condition, Riley, is that you marry me.”

He could have told her to sell a lung and she would have been less surprised. All the oxygen whooshed right out of her. Of course he wasn’t serious, was he? No, he couldn’t be. Marriage? But they weren’t even twenty-five yet.

“Sidney,” she said when she realized she had just left him hanging. But that was all she could manage. Her mind was blank.

“It’s only a legal document, you said so yourself.”

“But… marriage?” She tried to pull her hand free of his but he only tightened his grip. “It just seems so official.”

“It’s the only way I’ll know that I won’t lose you.” He knew it was low, but it was also true. “I can’t bear to lose you again, Rye. You’re everything to me, I love you. But I can’t take this doubt, this uncertainty anymore. I can’t stand wondering what you’re thinking, if you’re going to leave again. I know it hurts, believe me, I do, but, Riley, I want all or I want nothing.”

She was silent a moment. She needed to get rid of the fuzz in her brain. She looked into his beautiful brown eyes and realized that he was serious. This was it, this was what he’d stand by and if she couldn’t give him certainty then he would truly leave. The aching in her heart came back, and so did the fear. This time he would leave, and she knew that he wouldn’t come back.

Could she handle that? Could Riley really handle a life without Sidney? He was her everything, but she had lived without him in her life before. Of course, her memory wasn’t all intact then but she had been able to move on—until she saw him again. That day in September she had felt a spark when she had looked into his eyes, and it wasn’t from the scorching heat.

What he had said was true; they were meant to be together. The past month she had been apart from him and it had been the hardest month of her life. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—lose him again. Sidney Crosby was hers, and she would make damn sure of that.

She sighed and lifted her head. “Okay.”

His heart leapt. “Okay?”


“You’ll marry me?”


He laughed, lifted her into his arms, and kissed her passionately. She smiled into the kiss and knew that they were about to head down a terrifying road. But she’d be going down that road with him, and that was okay.

He pulled the velvet box out of his pocket, opened it, and slid the ring of commitment on her finger. She felt the weight of the diamonds—too many for her liking—on that little finger that would never be bare again.

They were caught in yet another kiss when the front door of Brett’s apartment opened.

“Didn’t take them long,” Jordan commented as he and the rest of the guys walked in.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Ben said easily. He looked at his sister and smiled. “Neither does that rock on her finger.”

That observation had them all lifting their heads and gaping. Sidney and Riley were caught in an intimate embrace with grins on their faces. You couldn’t tell that they had just reunited after a month apart.

“Well,” Brett began, “it looks like we’ve got another wedding to plan.”

Jordan, Marc, Brett, Ben and Kris all congratulated Riley and Sidney not without making the comment that only those two could break up, reunite, break up again, then decide to marry. The idea of a celebratory dinner was brought up, so all seven of them made their way out to eat.

For the first time in weeks Riley was truly happy. Sidney linked his fingers with hers, gently rubbing his thumb over her ring. He leaned down to kiss her on the head and she couldn’t keep the smile off her face for the rest of the night.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chapter Forty-Nine

Hello everyone,

I thought I'd start by saying I'm sorry for the wait. I've been back a full week now and aware that I haven't posted in a month. For those of you wondering, I absolutely loved Pittsburgh. The vacation itself was fun and tiring. I believe that we drove 12 175km - I don't know how much that is in miles, sorry. Thanks for putting up with me though.

Anyway, today seemed like a good day to update because this Sunday is my birthday! Yay!

So here's my present to you... Enjoy!


Coasting Down Memory Lane;
Chapter Forty-Nine

“You can put your things in the guest room,” Sidney told his long time pal, Jack Johnson. “It’s the third door on the left.”

Jack’s flight into Nova Scotia had gotten in that morning and Sidney offered to pick him up at the airport. They had talked non-stop from the minute they spotted each other until they had gotten back to the house. They were old friends and always enjoyed being in the company of the other.

“So, I totally forgot how much I loved this place,” Jack stated from the top of the staircase.

Sidney laughed as Jack slid down the handrail after he’d dumped his suitcase in the spare room. He laughed even harder when his friend failed miserably at it. “You would, Jack.”

“Yeah, yeah. What do you wanna do?”

Sidney shrugged. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “What do you want to do?”

“How about we hit the beach.” Jack gave him a sly grin. “We can swim and check out hot girls. Two birds, one stone.”

Okay, so checking out girls wasn’t exactly number one on Sidney’s list of summer activities, but Jack seemed stoked about it so he obliged. “Yeah, sure.”

They spent a few hours at the beach and even though they had a blast Jack could tell something was up with Sidney. He had noticed it a bit on their drive from the airport to the house, but decided against saying something. But at the beach Sidney hadn’t so much as spared any of the young pretty girls a glance when they flaunted themselves in front of him. Not that Sidney had been the type of guy to check out anything remotely female, Jack rationalized, but he did look every now and then.

He hoped to get to the bottom of his pal’s distraction, and in a subtle manner, he added, before it was time to head back to L.A. Jack walked down the stairs intending on making a beeline for the kitchen, but stopped dead in his tracks when he spotted a pair of pink Converse sitting next to wear he’d carelessly tossed his shoes. Had they been there the whole time?

Jack heard Sidney behind him and spoke without thinking. “Dude, pink is not your colour.”

Sidney gave Jack a baffled expression. “What?”

“And I doubt that’s the right size for you.”

“Jack, what the hell are you talking about?”

“The shoes,” he said, never taking his eyes off them. “I never pictured you as the Converse type.”

Sidney looked down at the shoes and felt like the fist that had been wrapped around his heart for three weeks tighten. “I’m not; they’re not mine.” He hoped that he didn’t have to tell him whose they were.

But he knew his friend better and sighed when Jack’s eyes popped open wide. “You have a chick over? Why didn’t you say so.”

“Because I don’t.” It came out sharper than he had meant it to, but seeing those shoes for the first time in weeks threw him off balance.

“All right,” Jack said at length. He was carefully watching Sidney’s face and noticed all the emotions that passed over it. Bewilderment, shock, anger, sadness, then regret. “Whose are they?”

He didn’t want to say it, really didn’t. He had been trying to forget… and that was bullshit. He thought about her every day, every second of every bloody day. “They are Riley’s.”

Confusion came first for Jack. He watched the expression on Sidney’s face and pieced it together. Why would a summer fling give him this look of remorse? “Riley who? Is she hot? I bet she is. I mean, you’re Sidney Crosby, you could date whoever you…” he trailed off as realization kicked in. It all made sense now. “Jacobs? Riley Jacobs? You’re dating Riley Jacobs from like five years ago?”

Sidney closed his eyes in defeat; there was no way to keep a personal problem personal with Jack. “Yes, Riley Jacobs from five years ago. Yes, she’s hot. And I don’t know if we’re dating.”

Pleased to have gotten to the root of it all, Jack relaxed a bit. They could work from here. “The first brings back memories, the second I knew, but the third shocks me. How do you not know if you’re dating?”

“It’s a long story,” Sidney warned.

Jack sat down in the living room. “I’ve got time.”

“Okay.” Sidney sat down and decided that it would be best if he quickly summarized the beginning. “So we started dating in mid September when she was assigned to write about our season after losing the Cup. Things were great at first, I didn’t recognize her and she didn’t remember me or our previous relationship.”


“Apparently while she was in Australia she went surfing and whacked her head off the board when the wave got too powerful. She spent two weeks in the hospital with a serious concussion and a bit of amnesia.”

Jack actually laughed. “That’s Riley for you, always a glutton for misadventure.”

“Right,” Sidney laughed. “Anyway, we discussed it—my dad made a deal about it—but continued on with our relationship. We had our share of spats and longer-lasting fights, but resolved it in the end.

“A few months ago she received a promotion and was given the summer off. I asked her to come spend the summer here with me and she happily agreed,” he continued. “Everything was going great until this one night. I believe it was Canada Day and my family was over and we were all having a fun time. Then while I’m talking with my mom and sister, Riley was in the house getting a drink. After a while I was a little worried because she’d been in there a while. I was just about to go in and see what was up when she came back outside. She was a bit pale but I didn’t question her on it. I should have because before I know it she’s telling me that she has to leave because she’s got to find herself.”

Jack waited a beat. “You just let her leave?”

A little offended by the way he’d phrased it, Sidney scowled. “It’s not like I had another choice. Once Riley makes her mind up, it’s nearly impossible to go against her.” That thought alone made him smile.

“Okay, so you let her leave, then what?” Jack wanted to know more. He needed to know more to get the whole picture.

“Then that’s it. That brings us here.”

“You didn’t call her? E-mail? Fly out to see her?” His jaw dropped a bit.

“I thought it would be best to give her some space,” Sidney answered after a slight pause.

Jack scoffed. “What little you know.”

Back in Pittsburgh, Riley was rounding the corner of the underground parking of Brett’s apartment when she spotted Kris leaning against her car. The thought to turn right around and go back up to the apartment and wait him out passed through her mind. She dismissed it almost as quickly.

His head shot up, and he let his gaze stare her up and down. “We need to talk,” he said immediately the moment she was within hearing distance, that French-Canadian tone brisk.

“Uh-oh,” Riley said in a sarcastic worrisome tone. “Are we about to have a marital spat, dear?”


She rolled her eyes behind his back. Ever since he had found out about her split with Sidney he’d been on her derrière about it. “Sorry.”

“I want you to call Sid.”

It took every ounce of her strength to keep her face blank. She was a journalist and trained to keep her face from registering any type of emotion, especially shock. “No.”

“You are so damn stubborn on being independent,” he exclaimed in a frustrated tone.

You’re so damn hell-bent on me be dependent,” she retorted. She didn’t have time for this… this altercation. “Kris,” she said, cutting him off before he spoke, “I have work.”

“We’re going to talk about this,” he insisted.

“Yeah, yeah.”

And without another word she drove off.

Beyond frustration, Kris quickly dialled up Sidney’s summer home. He, too, didn’t have time for this anymore.