6:24. I had exactly 36 minutes to get ready before Sid got here. I jumped into the shower, managed to blow-dry and loosely curl my hair and put on some make-up with 15 minutes to spare to decide what to wear on this date. This date where I had absolutely no idea what we were doing. I picked out a pair of black skinny jeans, a silky cream-coloured camisole, a navy blue cardigan, and my leather jacket. It would have to suffice, and if it turns out that it wasn't appropriate attire for where we were going, I'd just have to grin and bear it.
I was grabbing my bag when the buzzer sounded. "Hello?"
"Hey, it's Sid", his garbled voice announced through my busted intercom.
"Hey, I'll be right down". I fidgeted nervously on the elevator ride down to the lobby, repeatedly checking my hair in the mirror. This wasn't fair. I was supposed to be the more experienced one here. I shouldn't be nervous.
It turns out I wasn't alone. As the elevator doors opened, I could see him pacing slowly around the building's lobby. He gave me a little wave as I made my way over to him, and again offered up that irresistible smile.
"You look beautiful", he said as I reached him, giving me a loose hug, the smell of his expensive cologne invading my senses. He smelled incredible and looked even better.
"Thanks, you too. Handsome, I mean!"
"Either or, I guess", he joked as he led me to his black Range Rover parked on the sidewalk right outside my building. He opened the door for me before crossing over the driver's side. He really did look amazing. He'd trimmed his hair and wasn't wearing his baseball cap, so his curls were slightly messy, with little to no product in them at all, something I decided I loved. I hated when a guy's hair was crunchy or stiff. It took all of my restraint not to reach out and run my fingers through it. He was dressed casually in a pair of perfectly fitted dark-wash jeans, a grey t-shirt, and a black jacket. For some reason I was surprised at just how built he was. He had large, strong legs and a perfect, round ass- a part of his body that would prove to be incredibly distracting as the night progressed. I couldn't help but wonder what that body would like sans clothes.
I tried several times during the drive to squeeze some information out of him as to where we were headed, but to no avail. He remained tight-lipped on the subject, but the conversation between us about everything else never knew a second of awkwardness. He told me about his friends from back home, the summer home he'd purchased there last year, and his friends in the city. Friends I can only assume were teammates. The fact that we hadn't discussed his job seemed glaringly obvious to me, maybe given the fact that I knew he'd been avoiding it.
"Okay, here we are", he said as we pulled up to what I knew was Mellon Arena. Maybe he was planning on telling me after all. I decided not to press the issue, as he would clearly have no choice but to explain why we have access to Mellon Arena after hours. As pulled into a restricted side door his question about my shoe size suddenly made sense.
"Mellon Arena, huh? Are you planning on making me skate?" I asked with a smile.
"Guilty as charged", he laughed as he got out of the car, crossing over to open my door and offering his hand to help me out. We passed through a long, brightly lit corridor and into what I gathered to be the Penguins locker room. He directed me to the bench and motioned for me to have a seat as he disappeared into the next room, returning with a pair of women's hockey skates.
"These are for you", he said, handing me the skates. "You've skated before, right?"
"Shouldn't you have asked me that in advance?", I laughed, smiling up at his grinning face. "Let's just say it's been awhile."
"We'll get you comfortable out there", he said as he sat down next to me, putting on and doing up his own skates in what seemed like a heartbeat. Once he was finished he kneeled in front of me, gently taking each ankle in his hands and one by one, finished lacing and tying my skates. I don't know if it's a sad commentary on my past dating experience, but it was all very sweet and left me feeling very warm.
Once we were ready he led me out to the rink and I was immediately in awe of the size of it. He hopped out on the ice so confidently and comfortably that you would think he lived on it. On second thought, he practically did.
"You should really get this on camera, you know. You could release it as a comedy. Or a horror, depending on how bad the damage is after I face-plant", I joked.
He laughed and held his hands out for me to grab on to. "Don't worry. I won't let you fall."
And he didn't, although there were several close calls. We exchanged stories of embarrassing childhood injuries, school dates, our first significant others- everything but the gigantic elephant in the room. He must have anticipated that I'd be curious as to how we able to be here, but he never mentioned it and though I didn't want to be the one to initiate that conversation, this was getting ridiculous. I was shocked when he'd confided that while he had dated casually throughout high school, he had always been too busy for anything serious. Everything flowed so naturally that neither one of us realized that over an hour had passed with him slowly skating backwards and pulling me after him, my bare hands warm in his. "You have small hands", he said thoughtfully after awhile, rubbing the pad of his thumb over the back of my left hand. It was more of a voiced thought on his part than it was a comment.
"Yeah, I do", I said agreeing. "But don't let them fool you. They didn't stop me from playing guitar, and they won't stop me from beating your ass if you let me fall!", I threatened jokingly, giving him my best warning look.
"You play guitar?", he asked with an impressed look on his face. "You didn't tell me that."
"Well you didn't tell me you were a big-shot hockey star, so I guess we're even, then?", I said carefully, giving him a warm smile. Just like ripping off a band-aid. It had to be done.
He looked at me then with an almost disappointed look on his face. He silently studied my face for a long moment before he spoke, as if trying to decipher my thoughts and intentions."Yeah, sorry about that...I was obviously gonna bring it up tonight", he said quietly, looking around the vast arena. "It was just really refreshing to meet someone who had no idea who the hell I was, and to get to know each other on an equal playing field was a nice change. It's kind of cool to meet someone who sees you as a person and not as an image on a magazine cover, a team logo, or a dollar sign", he said bluntly. I could definitely understand where he was coming from, and wondered why it hadn't occurred to me earlier. "So how did you find out? Or did you know right from the start?", he asked, sounding almost defeated.
"No, I didn't know right from the start. I'm not that good an actress, I can assure you", I chuckled incredulously.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you--"
"Don't apologize. It's okay, I get it. But, no, I wasn't any the wiser until you made the mistake of texting my friends who do know who you are. Bitches gave you up!" I laughed. "Plus, I might be a bit dense every now and then, but the private access to Mellon arena probably would have tipped me off even if they hadn't". He laughed and I paused for a moment before asking, "Does that kind of stuff the other night happen to you all the time? The people gawking and all that?"
"Uh, yeah", he said, looking at our intertwined hands. "All the time, actually. Sometimes it's a bit much. I mean, I'm just a hockey player, you know? People treat you like you're this...shit, I don't even know what I'm trying to say. You've got me all flustered again", he grinned. "Don't get me wrong--I don't mean to sound pompous or whiney, cause that's not what I mean...But that's why it was so great to talk to you the other night. I could tell you weren't trying to be someone you weren't. Well, that and you're hot", he laughed. "Then when you didn't know who I was or what I did, I knew you were talking to me cause you wanted to talk to me, not because of what I do or who I know, or whatever...", he trailed off.
"I talked to you because you're freaking adorable", I blurted out before I could stop myself. I had intended it to be a joke, but I immediately felt a twinge of embarrassment and felt the blush begin to rise to my cheeks. Real smooth, Jen. Real smooth. The poor guy was trying to tell me how stoked he was that I genuinely wanted to get to know him, and then I go and tell him that I really just wanted to jump him. Class act, I am. "Shit. Can we stop? I want to take this skate off before I stick my foot in my mouth", I said wryly.
He was slowing down now. I looked up at him intending to apologize, but the amused smirk on his face and the softness in his eyes stopped me. He gently pulled me towards him and released my hands, replacing one of his own solidly on the small of my back and the other on my left cheek. Hmm. Not what I was expecting, but I sure as hell was not about to argue.
"Can we try this?" he asked quietly as he looked at me, mere inches separating us.
"Absolutely. And hurry up" I said quickly, not wanting to wait two more seconds without his lips on mine. I had been thinking of doing nothing but this for the last 4 days, and wanted to turn those thoughts to reality, STAT.
"Yes, Maam", he laughed, closing the space between us. Those lips of his finally met mine, and it was even better than I'd imagined. First kisses weren't supposed to be this good. They were supposed to be tentative and slightly awkward as you got to know one another. I'd been kissed well before, but this was something entirely different. This literally had me weak in the knees, and there was an undeniable electricity flowing between us. What was happening here only happened in the really awful romantic comedies Amy watches. This did not happen in real life, and certainly not to me. But here I was, experiencing one of the most powerful kisses of my life. What seemed like ages later our kisses had gradually become more heated, more aggressive. Oh, God, what am I doing? This has got to be a new low- devouring his face an hour into our first date. Of course, that brief moment of lucidity vanished as I slipped my tongue along his full lower lip, and he opened his mouth to mine, our tongues colliding as I wrapped my arms around his neck. Without me even realizing, he had backed us up to the edge of the rink, and I moaned when my back hit the ledge. He misinterpreted and broke away. "Did I hurt you?", he asked breathlessly.
"No. Come here", I demanded, pulling him and his perfect mouth back to mine. I have no idea how long we stood there, making out on the ice. It could have been 2 hours for all I knew, or cared for that matter. When I felt him begin to harden against my leg I grudgingly ripped my mouth away from his, knowing that this would end only one way if we continued. And I knew that I didn't want to forever be the girl who fucked Sidney Crosby in the Penguins locker room. On a first date, no less.
"We have to stop", I panted into his neck.
"Fuck", he swore under his breath, his eyes closed. "I'm sorry. Shit, this is really embarrassing", he apologized, referring to his erection that was now quite noticeable through the thick denim of his jeans.
"Stop apologizing", I laughed softly, moving myself away from the edge of the rink. I took a moment to compose myself and looked back to find him looking sheepish and embarrassed. "It's fine", I assured him again. "C'mon Crosby. What kind of hockey star are you just standing there? Get moving!", I ribbed him, taking his hand in mine.
"Jesus, just give me a sec", he laughed. "I don't want to be skating around with a boner on our first date. Not my finest moment."
"Making out with a man I met all of 96 hours ago, an hour into a date? Yeah, mine neither. And yet, you're so sure that there's going to be second", I teased, finally finding my skating legs and pulling him along, albeit on dangerously wobbling feet.
"Oh, most definitely", he responded, a glint in his eye. "If you won't agree to see me again, then I guess I'll just have to strand you out here on the ice. And, given your weak-ass skating skills, you could be stuck out here for weeks. You might die of exposure!", he laughed with that giggle of his.
The man had a point.
We skated along for awhile and he told me more about his friends and family back home, and the homesickness that he felt occasionally while away from them during the season. I could empathize with him, finding myself aching for home more often than I would like to admit.
"I think that's why I feel so comfortable around you", he said. "You kind of remind me of home". And there was that blush again, beginning to tint his cheeks. Well, that does it, I thought to myself. You may as well wave the white flag now, cause you're screwed. It was quite possibly the sweetest thing that anyone had ever said to me.
Thank you", I said softly, not really sure of how to respond. I was again struck by how easy it was for me to talk to him, how comfortable I felt around him, too. I was having a genuinely good time and he seemed to be as well. Maybe it's because you mauled his face at the beginning of the date, and got that awkwardness out of the way early, I mentally scolded myself.
"Wait here", he said suddenly as we stopped at centre ice, leaving me standing alone in the middle of the rink as he skated towards the bench.
"Don't you even think about stranding me out here!!", I yelled after him. "If I find a way to make it off the ice I know where to find you, Crosby!"
"I'll be right back, I promise", he said with a little smirk and a mischievous glint in his eye that could only mean trouble. For me.
I wobbled around for a few moments, slightly embarrassed at my lack of skating ability. After all, I had taken figure skating lessons from ages 6-12. I really had no excuse.
"I come bearing gifts", he said as he returned to the ice, an excited grin on his face.
"Oh, no. Uh-uh. No, way", I said as I surveyed the two hockey sticks and a few pucks he carried in his hands.
"Oh, c'mon", he cajoled . I'll give you a quick lesson, and then we can have a mini game. I'll even let you beat me."
"Let me, eh? This game better be full contact", I said, not immediately registering the double entendre that had him raising his eyebrows and grinning like a cheshire cat. "Down, boy. I meant that I'll play as long as I can slash you with no calls. No refs, no penalties, right?"
"Well, well, well. I've got a chirper on my hands", he laughed. "Alright. Let's see what you've got, Lippy.", he challenged as he placed one of the pucks on the ice.
We knocked the puck back and forth for a bit before Sid decided that it was time for our little shoot-out to commence. He placed a couple of pucks at my feet and came around behind me, adjusting my form.
"Okay, so you--"
"Hit the puck with the stick in the vicinity of the net? Got it!", I winked at him over my shoulder. "I have watched hockey before, what with having three older brothers and being Canadian and all."
"Hmm. They're not bigger than me, are they?", he asked with a concerned look on his face.
"I'm gonna say yes--just to keep you on your toes!", I laughed before redirecting my attention to the task at hand and settling two pucks into the back of the net. Of course it helped that he'd placed the pucks so I was only about 10 feet away, but still. I proceeded to try out a goal celebration as best I could, what with not being able to really skate. "Suck it, Crosby!"
"Pfft", he scoffed. "You know, I would really love to take a couple of shots, but it's our first date and it's bad form to make your date feel bad about themselves", he joked as he made a display of looking at his watch, pretending to be threatened by my less than stellar hockey skills. "Besides, we have dinner reservations, and I am just starving!", he said exaggeratedly as his eyes got wide and his lips began to curl into one of his lop-sided grins.
"Sure, sure. Whatever helps you sleep at night, Bucko", I teased as I pinched his side.
"Bucko?", he laughed, shaking his head. "At least you're switching it up. You've been calling me Crosby all night. You sure you don't work for FSN?", he teased, narrowing his eyes at me.
"Uh-oh, did I strike a nerve? Not used to being beat at your own game, huh?"
His smile broadened as he raised his eyebrows. "Jesus, you're straight up trash talking me!", he laughed as he looked down at me, grabbing my hand and guiding me off the ice. "Two lucky shots and she thinks she's the next Gretzky. I should just start calling you Ovechkin."
"Ove-who-wha?", I asked, confused.
"Never you mind, never you mind", he smiled, shaking his head again and flashing me that lovely grin.
Thankfully I managed (with Sid's help, mind you) to make it out of the rink, to dinner, and back to my apartment in one piece. It continued to stun me how natural everything was between us, with relatively little of the awkwardness that was part and parcel of the 'first date'. I had shocked myself, too. It had been a long while since I'd been able to open up this quickly to anyone, let alone a man I'd met at a bar just days prior. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going to dump all of my baggage on the poor guy straight out of the gate. No, that little gem would have to wait until later. But, for whatever reason, I trusted him implicitly, something that both surprised and scared me, because while it was an amazing feeling to connect with someone so quickly, it was also terrifying to place such power into a virtual stranger's hands. It was something with which I was not entirely comfortable.
The dinner had been what I can only call interesting. From the moment we had walked into the cozy little bistro, I had felt uncomfortable. Not with Sid, but with the curious attention that had immediately been focussed on us. And it did not seem to dissipate in the entire hour that we were there. I recall thinking to myself, after the third person had approached our table for an autograph, that I had no idea how on earth he dealt with this on a daily basis. People were polite when they approached, but he'd had to decline one young man when he approached while we were eating, kindly telling him that he would make sure to come over to sign his hat before we left. It was never ending, and yet it didn't appear to phase him. At this point in his life it must just be like white noise--something that had surrounded him for so long that he no longer even noticed it. I, on the other hand, was having a harder time adjusting to the equally curious (from men) and downright critical (from women) looks I received when I was with him.
By the time we drove up to my apartment block, I was completely bagged. I insisted that Sid stay in the vehicle as the street outside my building was still relatively busy, despite being later in the evening. He asked to kiss me goodnight and I stretched across the console to kiss him softly. No tongue this time, because apparently I like to do things backwards. He teased me about being a prude, and I bid him goodnight, smiling to myself as he waited until I entered the building before pulling away. By the time I reached my front door I had already received a text reading: Next time we're doing something I'm good at! Sleep tight ;)