Soundtrack song - Ludacris, Pimpin' All Over the World
Doc tells me I'm progressing just fine. He doesn't notice any marked improvement since the last time I was here, and I shrug my shirt back on feeling discouraged.
"It takes time, Max. You can't be impatient."
I nod but don't really listen. I've been quick to heal, and I fully expect to be back on the ice sooner rather than later. As I start for the door, I see that the place is still pretty empty. I guess no one really comes here on a Friday. Hank's sitting again and watching television. Doesn't hurt to ask, does it?
"Hey Hank," I begin, hoping he can give me any information. "Do you know that girl that was here earlier?"
Slowly, he turns around and looks at me, as if he's seeing me for the first time and he's not liking what he's seeing. He answers shortly. "Yes."
He's being weirdly protective of her. "I mean do you know her know her? Or just know her from her coming here?"
Hank shakes his head. "I'm a friend of the family, Mr. Talbot." He doesn't say anymore. He doesn't have to. He won't be of any help to me on my quest to even learn the chick's name.
"I told you, it's Max," I say with a smile, before adding, "I was just wondering, because she didn't look like she's hurt or anything."
"She's not," he admits, never giving me any more info than he needs to.
"Oh, well, doesn't seem fair then," I reply. He gives me a funny look. "I mean, it just makes us injured people feel bad about our handicaps!" I joke.
Laughing, Hank says, "You'll make a full recovery. And you'll be back on the ice scoring goals in no time."
"Here's hoping. I'll see you next time around, Hank," I say with a wave, heading for the door.
Tanger's excited beyond belief to see All About Steve, and I think he's going to piss himself. It's not that Sandra Bullock is unattractive; I just don't get his fascination with her. But I haven't seen this movie yet, and it's an excuse to hang out with the guys, so that's why I'm here.
"No way I'm sitting up front. It'll hurt my neck," Tanger says.
"Let's go all the way to the back," Staalsy suggests.
The place isn't as full as I expected it to be, and I look around the room. And see that girl. For a second, I think she's stalking me, but that's not quite right. I'd be the one technically stalking her. I catch her gaze, and she's willing me with her eyes to stay away from her. I can't resist. I jog up the stairs til I'm at her row. "Let's sit here, guys," I say, walking over to her and sitting right beside her, noticing her baggy clothes and that her hair's pulled away from her pretty face. "Hey, Gym Girl."
For a second, the thought passes through my mind that she's waiting for someone. She's not really dressed up, so I doubt she's on a date, but maybe she's here with a friend. Maybe that friend is getting popcorn or something. If she tells me to move, I'll move. But she doesn't tell me that the seat's taken. Instead, she scrunches up her face and retorts, "Hey, Crippled Guy."
I laugh at her lame attempt to be rude. She's trying to put me off, but little does she know that it won't work. "Isn't that the point of physical therapy?" The guys start to fill in around us, Gronk to my left and Geno beside her. I can see she's annoyed, and I like seeing her all riled up. It's funny. I don't know this girl, but harassing her is fun. She hasn't said anything about us taking anyone's seat, so now I know for sure she's alone. "So, do you always come to see movies by yourself?"
"I'm not by myself anymore." Geno's broad shoulders are encroaching into her space, and she leans toward me slightly.
"I find it's best to see movies with someone else, so you can talk about them later. You'll thank me later for keeping you company." Before I could think about it, I winked at her. I hope she'll be thanking me by the end of the night, back at her place in bed.
She squirms. So it wasn't exactly a smooth move, and now she looks uncomfortable and angry. I want to tell her that I'm just having some fun with her, but she scowls and spits, "I doubt that."
The lights start to dim, and I stop trying to talk to her, settling in to watch the movie. Geno's still prattling, but I'm used to that with him. He never stops. He couldn't even stop sending texts for ten minutes while we met the President. But Gym Girl is shifting awkwardly. Instead of yelling at him directly, she turns to me. "Yo, Cripple, can you get your friends to shut the hell up? I'm trying to watch the movie."
The fact that she's asking me to shut him up, rather than doing it herself, makes me happy. She's warming up to me, even if it's just a little. I reach over behind her and whack the Russian's head. "Shut up, Geno."
I don't pull my arm back. I don't put it around her, even though I'd love to see the way she reacts, so I just leave it around the back of her chair. I know I'm laying it on thick, and touching her I'm sure would cross the line. I mean, I do have some sense of boundaries. This is more comfortable anyway, because Gronk takes up half of my chair as well as his.
She's more entertaining than the movie, that's for sure. I mean, what's her deal? Who eats M&Ms one-by-one, in color order? So I take some, and it pisses her off like I knew it would. She grunts and purses her lips. I don't look at her because I'm trying not to laugh, waiting for her to finally flip and let me have it. But she doesn't; she stays silent the rest of the movie. I try to focus on the screen, but I haven't been paying attention so I feel like I miss some of the jokes. I wonder if Tanger's shot a load in his pants yet.
When the movie finishes, I stretch out my legs as Staalsy announces to the guys, "It's only nine. On a Friday. What do you boys say we stop out for a drink?"
Tanger says, a smile on his face, "Physicals at eight, Gronk."
"So?" he asks. He turns to me with pleading eyes. "Talbo, you don't have to go. Please tell me you're up for a nightcap, eh?"
Normally, I'd be all over that like a fat kid on cake. Tonight? I've got other plans. "No. I'm rehabbing tomorrow. Another time, Staalsy." Some of the guys start to leave, and so does Gym Girl. Not so fast. "So, what did you think of the movie?" I ask her, trying to spark a conversation. She looks at me like she doesn't understand why I'm talking to her. "Come on, I told you that talking about movies is the best part about watching them. Did you think it was funny?"
"To be honest, I was kind of distracted by the brutes around me to really appreciate the cinematic value of Sandra Bullock's Oscar-worthy performance." She crosses her arms across her chest and juts out her lower lip.
Gronk looks over as if noticing her for the first time. He notices her defensive posture and hears her caustic remark, and then lets out a low laugh as he hits my shoulder. "Only you, Talbo. Good luck with that." I know he means it as a lighthearted gesture, since I seemingly picked one of the few girls in the whole fucking city who's unimpressed with me, but the sting of the pain washing over me makes me wanna lash out at him.
"Oh, are you okay?" The Ice Queen is melting. I hear a modicum of sympathy in her voice. I got her.
"Oui." The pain distracts me as I roll my shoulder, and I accidentally slip back into French. I'm usually pretty good about staying in one language, except when my mind is tired or I'm distracted, in this instance by shooting pain. But I try to play it off. I'm a tough guy; I can handle it. "The guy doesn't know his own strength."
And then she's heading for the door again. Can't she see I was trying to have a conversation with her? Now that's just rude. I follow her outside, hoping to think of something to say, when she stops and reaches to put on her sweatshirt. So yeah, maybe I was checking out her tits, but that's how I notice the emblem on her shirt. Hockey. That's my in. "Are you a Blackhawks fan?"
"No. I just wear their logo because I like to make fun of the plight of Native Americans."
I shrug, trying to look nonchalant but I like her spark. "You could just be a Kane or Toews fan." I search her face as she responds.
"No. I'm from Chicago." That explains it. I'm excited by her answer. I like that she's not a fan of any of the young stars, but she's cheering for her hometown team.
"Oh. So you're visiting Pittsburgh?" I ask, still probing for information.
"No, I live here now."
I grin at her. If she's rooting for her town's team, then she's gotta make a change. "Then you need to become a Pens fan."
"I don't really watch hockey anymore," she says and then hesitates. I'm about to invite her to next week's preseason game, but then she adds, "Not since my dad died."
"Oh. I'm sorry." Now I feel like a complete and utter douche. But I feel better that she doesn't seem to know I'm a Penguin, and even better that I didn't ask her to a game yet.
"Don't worry about it. You didn't know." She dismisses it quickly and heads for the main drag on the South Side.
"Um, would you like a ride?" I ask, not liking the idea of her walking down the street in the dark by herself. She's not a tiny girl, but I doubt she could defend herself if something happened. It's not like East Carson Street is a bad part of the city, but it's not the best either.
"And how do I know you're not some creeper that is going to attack me once we get into my neighborhood?" she asks, spinning around and facing me a few feet away.
I think about telling her that I have good intentions, but I don't have good intentions at all. I have dirty, nasty intentions. "Sometimes, you just have to have a little faith in people."
She lets out a noise of indignation. "I'm nearby. I'll risk the drunks, thank you very much."
So she'd rather walk down the street alone, fight the growing throngs of people, and risk getting hit by the crazy drivers than get into a car with me. I'm not the least bit put off. "Can I at least get your name?"
"No," she hollers, heading back toward the street. Gym Girl pulls her sweatshirt around her tightly, trying to keep warm. She's wearing baggy clothes to hide her curvaceous figure, but when she does that, I see exactly what she tried to conceal.
She's giving me every reason to forget about her and move on. I could walk into any bar on along East Carson Street and find a girl to keep me warm tonight. But right now, that doesn't even feel like an option. I watch her walk away from me until she turns the corner and she's gone.