Coasting Down Memory Lane;
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.”