Coasting Down Memory Lane;
“Rye, I don’t know what to do.” Sidney sighed as he reached toward her.
The Penguins were playing their first game of the 2008-2009 playoffs the next day against Montreal. Over the past several weeks people had gone to extremes to criticize Sidney. He had taken it all in stride and blown off insults and the comments people made when picking apart his playing.
But everyone had their breaking points.
“What do you mean?” She knew exactly but wanted him to talk it out.
She’d comforted him every time someone criticized him. Because, she thought, people were just cruel sometimes. Riley thought that Sidney was receiving way too much negativity from people, and the media especially.
“They expect me to do everything. Like, if we don’t win the Stanley Cup, it’s my fault. If we lose a game, it’s automatically my fault. I can’t do everything. I already have a lot to stress about now with being in the playoffs; I don’t need the media up my ass for not smiling enough or not doing enough commercials or photo shoots – how the hell am I supposed to do everything they ask of me? It’s not humanly possible. So what if I don’t smile enough? We finished fifth in the Eastern Conference overall and are fighting for the Cup again this year – the year after losing in Game 6 of the finals – and they’re miffed because I don’t smile enough? Christ.”
He stalked the bright living room as the fury and frustration seemed to melt away. “I just don’t get it. I mean, I know I’m supposed to portray this image of the face of the NHL – I get that. It’s the whole deal of me having to give away my personal life so I can answer the same boring questions by some reporter who doesn’t know the slightest thing about hockey.” He sat down with a huff. “I just don’t get it,” he repeated, quietly.
Riley sat next to him on the leather couch and put her arm around his shoulders. She rested her head against him. “Do you want to know what I think?” She asked in a loving tone.
He looked at her and after a few seconds, smiled. “Sure.”
“I think that you’re doing an unbelievable job with handling the media, the fans, the criticism, and the intense schedule you live by. Sometimes, though – and I say this with love – you need to learn how to say no. Now, with being in the playoffs, you need to focus on your game. Who cares what the media says. Who cares what people say? You don’t know them personally. All that matters is what you think. You just need to go out there, put on a smile, and do what you do best – dominate at hockey.” She stood and pulled him up with her. “Although, you could shoot a little more often.”
He stood there, holding her, for a few moments. That was exactly what he needed to hear. He needed, he mused, to know that his girlfriend was on his side. Riley was always on his side, he thought with a smile. “Thank you.” He kissed her. “And I’m more of a playmaker than shooter.”
“No you’re not. You’re an all-round player. Plus, I’ve seen your shot; it’s good, so use it.”
How had she turned a serious conversation into a laughing matter? He couldn’t figure it out. It was just another one of her qualities, he thought lovingly. “God, I love you.”
“I know. Now, come on, you’re going to be late for practice.” She pulled him towards the front door.
“Wait, you’re coming to practice?” He stared at her, curiously.
“Yeah, I don’t have to go in today. The new intern, Brian, is going to fill in for me all this week.” She smiled; thinking of how much potential Brian had showed when she’d first met him.
“Wow. Do they usually let interns take over for a week?”
“Well, he’s very good at reporting but he’s not doing the whole show on his own, Brett will be there to assist him.”
“Sharpe. Brett Sharpe. He’s one of our top reporters – and one of my closest friends, too.”
“Ah. I see.” Sidney nodded and pulled out both their jackets from the closet. “We’d better get going then.”
As they walked down the steps from the front door and to Sidney’s silver Range Rover they heard someone holler something at them. Riley looked over first and her smile vanished when she saw Cooper walking towards them.
Sidney looked over when he felt Riley tense. He placed his hand on the small of her back and nudged her toward the car.
“Get in.” He unlocked the doors. “I’ll deal with him.”
“Don’t.” Her eyes were pleading as she got in his Range Rover.
“Hey, can I speak with her?” Cooper stood there looking at Riley who was sitting in Sidney’s car, her attention on picking her nails.
Sidney stepped in front of Cooper, blocking his view of Riley. “No,” he spat. “You’ve got a lot of nerve to even ask that.”
“Look, dude, I just want to talk to her.”
“Well that’s just too bad. Now, I suggest you get off this property.” Sidney’s voice was laced with hate and disgust.
“What’s your problem? You’re so damn protective of her. I think Rye can take care of herself, she doesn’t need her superstar boyfriend to fight her battles.” He shut his mouth when he saw the glimmering hate in Sidney’s eyes.
“My problem is you, you slug. And yes, I am very protective of my girlfriend. I know she can fight her own battles – I’ve seen her do it. But this is one I choose to fight for her. So, I’m going to warn you right now, stay very far away from Riley or there will be a problem. And, you don’t want to piss me off.”
“Whatever you say, dude. But you can’t tell me to stay away from Riley – I’ll go near her whenever I want.”
That did it. “I doubt that she’ll appreciate that. But you could always try. And let me tell you this, if I hear that you’re bothering my girlfriend – I’ll deal with you myself. If that’s not enough, I know that there is an entire NHL team that adores her and like to think of themselves as her older brothers – not to mention that her older brother is now living in Pittsburgh. I’m sure that they would love to beat you’re face in.” And Sidney smiled.
“Is that a threat?”
“No. I’m simply informing you of what would happen if you harass Riley.”
“You know what, fine. I’ll leave her alone. But don’t think for one second that I won’t be reporting on you – and you’re relationship with her. You’re what got me this career—”
“No, you copying Riley’s work is what got you your career.”
He went silent. His eyes went blank. His entire face went blank. He swallowed hard. “I’ll stay away from her.” He whispered it because he was too scared to find all of his voice.
“Good.” Sidney turned and got into his Range Rover.