Coasting Down Memory Lane;
Riley Jacobs sat with her legs dangling over the edge of the deck, the water barely touching her toes. She’d come out here to try and reach some serenity. Her head had been pounding, her brain fuzzy for the past two days. Not to mentions she’d been in a sour mood since Troy Crosby had brought up the topic of her career.
At what was intended to be a fun family gathering, Troy had told Riley that he believed that she was only successful in her career as a broadcasting journalist because of the man whom she’d fallen deeply in love with, Sidney Crosby.
Sidney, being the captain of the city’s much loved hockey team, was always a topic in the media. The media, the field Riley had chosen to be employed in. In September she’d be working for a well-known news station and had had her doubts when offered a position at KDKA. At twenty-two – almost twenty-three – years of age, Riley was considered and known as one of the city’s top reporters. She was young and fresh, determined and competitive. She also had the looks and the skills to work TV.
But even with all of that she still questioned her sudden popularity in the city. Would she have made it this far if she wasn’t dating a hockey superstar? She didn’t know and never really thought about it – until someone who she was close with brought it up. Now, two days later, the question was still buzzing around in her brain.
Sidney had been careful around her. He was almost positive that his dad and Riley had gotten into an acrimonious dispute. He had come to this conclusion at their gathering when his dad had come back with an angry expression and Riley with a distant one. Not wanting to make things worse, Sidney had kept quiet about it.
But now he’d had enough. He and Riley had fought continually since then. He would try to be kind to her – he always was – but she would brush him off. When he’d comment about her attitude, she’s send him an acidic glare. Underneath it all, he was jealous. He was jealous because he knew that when she brushed him off she went and emailed Brett Sharpe. He didn’t like the fact that Riley, his own girlfriend, told Brett more than she told him. He couldn’t say anything, though, because every single time he did she rushed to Brett’s side, defending him immensely.
Riley felt safe with Brett. She felt as if she could tell him anything and know he wouldn’t judge her. He would only listen and give advice when he knew she needed it. She felt that she needed him. One of the first friends she had ever made in Pittsburgh was moving away. Kaylan Penton was moving to Berlin with her fiancé that summer. They had promised to stay in touch but Riley could tell they were drifting.
After all, she’d done something similar five years ago, hadn’t she? She had left the place she had grown up in to move to Australia for four years to get an education. She had left Sidney all those years ago so she could start a life for herself.
Maybe that’s what she needed to do now; she needed to find herself. But she couldn’t just pick up her things and travel the world. No, she had her family and friends to think about now. She had a career now.
But what if it was based on a false talent? Did she really have a journalistic talent, or were people just tuning in to get a good look at Sidney Crosby’s girlfriend?
Just thinking about it had her blood boiling. She thought rancorously about the comments Troy had made, but still couldn’t put them out of her mind. No, she couldn’t put them away until she proved to him, to herself that they were untrue.
With her mind made up, Riley strolled into the house. She made it all the way upstairs without running into Sidney. Satisfied with her sneakiness, she blew out the breath she’d been holding as she walked into the master bedroom. She sucked it back in as a surprised gasp when she nearly ran head-on into Sidney.
“Where were you?” He studied her face and noticed that she had calmed down a bit.
“Outside, I needed a minute to think by myself.” She walked past him and to her closet.
“Rye,” he began. “We need to talk.”
Without turning to face him, she responded. “Yeah, we do.”
“Look, we’ve been arguing a lot since—” he broke off when she pulled out her suitcase. “What are you doing?”
“I’m packing up my things.” This time she turned to him. “Sid, when I was sitting outside I thought it all over. I need some space, some time to… find myself. I don’t want us to break up, and it pains me to say this, but I think it would be best if we did take a little break from our relationship.”
“No.” He crossed to her, held her. “No, I need you. Riley, no, you are everything to me.”
She ordered her voice not to quiver, for her heart not to break. “Sidney, I’m sorry but it’s for the best. I love you, you know that. And you know I hate this but I need it, we need it.”
While he stood there silently, she packed. She fought back the tears that threatened to spill over and ignored the burn in her throat that felt like an untamed fire. When her suitcase was full she turned to him.
“Should I call a cab?”
“No,” he said, swallowed hard. “I’ll drive you.”
“I’ll be in the car,” she said as she walked past him.
He couldn’t believe what was happening, didn’t want to believe it. He was letting the only girl he’d ever loved walk right out of his life without an explanation. He would get one, he’d damn well get one if it killed him.
He sat in the driver’s seat next to Riley who was picking at her nails. A sign of nervousness, he thought as he stuck the key in the ignition.
They rode in silence. The only things that they could hear were internally. The rapid beating of their hearts was drowned out by the sound of their hearts breaking.
“Why are you doing this, Rye?” Sidney asked as he pulled up in front of the airport.
“It’s just something I need to do.” She pulled her suitcase out of the back seat. “I need to find myself.”
“This is a mistake.” His voice broke.
“Then it’s one I need to make on my own. Goodbye, Sidney. I love you more than anything.” She kissed him once, lightly on the cheek.
“Take care of yourself,” he said as he watched her walk into the airport. And out of his life.