If you keep track, you know it's late. I'm out of posts, and although I have plans for these two, I'm still trying to figure out how to get them there. So I can't guarantee regular posts for a while. Stay tuned; I'm going to try to figure this all out soon.
Relaxed. I can't remember the last time I woke up next a girl feeling this relaxed. Usually I'm trying to figure out the best way to get out of bed without waking up the stranger so I can sneak back out into the night. Today, however, I'm thinking that I don't want to get up, even though I've got to piss and my stomach is growling.
Charlotte's face is burrowed into my chest. I run a hand through her hair, and the scent of her shampoo floats into my nostrils. This is the way things are supposed to be. Last time I found myself in this position, after the first night we had made love, I'd had so many questions about what that meant circling in my head like vultures ready to prey on my happiness.
Not this time. Now I know where we are. I suppose I'm a little disappointed that we're forgoing the official titles. I may not know how to be a great boyfriend, so it may be best for us to take things slow, but I hate knowing I've put so much effort in this and still not being able to call her my girlfriend. Maybe that's just me being selfish. I know all about her baggage now, so a lot more of her past actions make sense. At least now, I have some claim to her, which will make being patient a little easier.
But I have to celebrate the little victories. Like, getting drafted. That was exciting, even though I was picked 234th overall. Then again, look where I am now. So you can never tell how things are going to turn out. Anything could happen. Anything can happen.
When I finally decide that I can't put this off any longer and I have to get up, I place my hand on Charlotte's waist as I try to move around her without disturbing her. Although she doesn't wake up, the gesture affects her and she moves closer to me, which I didn't think possible. She curls up and snuggles closer. Now I know why most of the guys on the team have steady girls. Fucking around is fun, and there are some great perks that go along with that, but this... this feels good, too.
I leave her in bed as I put on my glasses and use the bathroom, and then head into the kitchen for something to eat. Just as Charlotte is comfortable in my home, I am in hers, too. I have no qualms about raiding her fridge and foraging for myself while she sleeps.
As I search for something of hers that I want to eat, which is hard because she has all this crappy diet food that's disgusting, I hear a scream behind me. I drop the container of yogurt in my hand, which pops open and splatters on the floor. I turn around and see Gina in the living room, and she's very startled to see me here. "Max!" she yells, then clutches her chest. "You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"Sorry?" I say, not quite sure I should be apologizing.
"But why are you here? Where's Char?"
Before I can say anything, Charlotte comes skidding into the kitchen. She assesses the situation, looking between Gina, me, and the exploded container of yogurt on the floor before saying, "Is everything okay?"
"Well," Gina says, "I was a little surprised by the half-naked man in our kitchen."
"That would explain the blood-curdling scream that woke me up," she replies. "I thought you were being murdered."
"I thought he was a murderer," Gina laughs, pointing at me. "I mean, I was not expecting to see a guy in our kitchen. And the fridge door was open, and I couldn't see who it was...." She sinks onto the couch. "I'm all freaked out now."
"You're freaked out? Gina, I thought I was going to have to find the baseball bat in the closet and come to your rescue," she laughs, walking toward me. She tears a paper towel from the roll and kneels by my feet to clean up the mess I made. As I watch her mop up the vanilla yogurt, on her knees with no pants on, dirty thoughts start to roll through my mind. Not before a game, Maxime....
"So, are you going to give me the low-down now, or are you going to wait until Max leaves," Gina huffs, pouting out her bottom lip. "Because I'm just dying to know."
Charlotte pushes up from the floor and tosses out the mess I had created. She looks at me and then down at herself, and I watch as her face turns red as she realizes that we're both half-naked. "Well, we're um, dating now," she announces. "And I'm going to put pants on."
I laugh as she runs out of the room, tugging the shirt down to cover more of her legs. It's not like the shirt wasn't already big enough that it came down to her mid-thighs. She's so self-conscious. It's kind of cute, actually. Opening the flatware drawer, I pull out a spoon and scrape out the remaining yogurt from the plastic container. Since when did fat-free have to mean flavor free? I can't believe she eats this stuff.
"So, congratulations on finally hooking up," Gina says, looking at me. "Who's the one that manned up first? Did you tell her you liked her, or did she spill the beans?"
I chuckle. Gina's very direct, so much like one of the guys. "She did, actually. Although in my own defense, I thought I was being pretty obvious."
"Char's clueless, Max. You can't beat around the bush and drop hints with her. If you need her to know something, you've got to straight out tell her."
"I'm learning that. And now I see why you two make such good friends."
She shrugs. "I'm not gonna lie. She can be incredibly exasperating and mind-boggling frustrating. There have been so many times I've wanted to literally knock some sense into her. She doesn't listen, and getting her to admit anything is like pulling teeth. But she's also an amazing friend. She'd do anything for me, and chances are she'd do the same for you, too. So this is where I get to be the good friend and threaten bodily harm if you take advantage of her. Namely, I'll cut your balls off and shove them so far down your throat that you'll think you regrew them. Capice?"
"Whoa. I promise, Gina, I will never give you any reason to come near my balls," I tell her, raising my hands in surrender.
"Good. Because as much as I don't want Char to be hurt again, I cannot go through this whole thing again."
Charlotte walks back into the room, now fully clothed. Damn. She interrupts our conversation. "So, are you happy now, Gina? I took your advice. Are you proud of me?"
"Absolutely! And Max told me that you were the one who opened up first. I am very proud of you," she says, and Charlotte blushes and rolls her eyes.
"Okay, no need to get condescending."
"I'm not. Honestly, Char, I know it wasn't easy for you."
"Well, the night kind of started out as a complete disaster, but definitely made a turn for the better," she giggles, walking over beside me, dipping a finger into the yogurt container, and then licking her finger. I know Charlotte; she would never consciously do something like that to get under my skin. Maybe my imagination's running away with me, but the way I can see her tongue rolling over her finger in her mouth, licking it clean.... Merde.
"So, how did it happen?" Gina says, clapping her hands in excitement. "You know I want all the juicy details! Come on!"
"You girls can share the 'juicy details' after I leave," I laugh. "I don't want to be here to hear all this girl talk."
"Then I hope you plan to leave soon, Max, because I'm going to die if I don't find out!"
"Okay, I can take a hint. I'll go, I'll go," I surrender, shaking my head. I walk into Charlotte's room for my sweater and pull it over my head.
Charlotte follows me. "You don't have to leave if you don't want to," she says. "Gina can wait."
"It's okay," I tell her, grabbing her and giving her a kiss. I move to back up, but she has a hold on my sweater and doesn't let me pull back. "I need to go anyway. Grab some real food. Honestly, I don't know how you can eat that crap. And I need to get to the arena early and warm up since I didn't go to the skate this morning."
"If you have to," she sighs, letting me go and smoothing out the fabric on my chest.
"I do. I'll have a ticket waiting for you at the will call window. You'll stay after? Go out with us tonight?"
She shrugs. "Sure. I mean, I'll know some of the people going, right?"
"Yeah. A lot of people go out, so you'll know someone, for sure. Besides me, of course," I tell her with a smile. We walk out of her room and head into the hallway. I call over my shoulder and tell Gina goodbye.
"No sex while I'm here!"
"Wait. What?" I say, returning into the living room. That is completely off topic.
"House rules. In case Char didn't tell you. The walls in this building are thin. If you guys wanna have sex here, not while I'm home."
"No problem, Gina," I say. "Don't be surprised if that means you don't see a lot of Charlotte anymore, because I have a feeling she'll be over my place a lot, then."
Charlotte blushes beside me, and Gina laughs. "I'd say you picked a real winner this time, Char. He's a lot more fun than John."
"Gina!" Charlotte yells, reddening with anger now. "Don't."
"Wait. Did you tell him?" Gina asks, thumbing in my direction. "You explained everything, right?"
"If you mean to ask if I told Max about John, then yes, Gina, I did. Way to be subtle. There's just no need to bring him into this."
"Right. No talking about the ex-boyfriend around the new boyfriend. Gotcha."
"I told you, Gina. Max and I are dating. Just dating."
"What do you mean, you're just dating?" she spits out. "No one goes from friends to just dating. I mean, dating is what you do to get to know someone romantically when you didn't know that person before. But you guys have been friends for a long time now. It's time to be together already. Full on together."
"We are," I assure her. "Together, I mean. Just her and I. But if someone can talk her into making it official, only you can, Gina. I'll see you later." I lean down and kiss Charlotte's temple, and then I sneak out the door. I can hear their voices echoing behind me, and I can't help but chuckle a little.
I grab a bite to eat and then head to the arena, lacing up my skates and taking to the ice to loosen up my legs. And I'm thinking all the while about Charlotte and how I feel about her and us. I feel smug with validation that I've won her over. It took long enough, but I did it. I get everything I work towards.
But I can't help but wonder if it's enough. If I'm going to be enough for her. She's been hurt before, and I don't want her to be hurt again, but I'm not sure if I won't do that somehow. The last time I was remotely serious with a girl was Julie, and that was back when I was playing for the Baby Pens. I knew that it was going to be temporary with her (even though maybe she didn't know that), because I wasn't planning on staying with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team for long. I was going to move up to the NHL at some point, so I didn't want to lay down roots on that side of Pennsylvania.
Laying down roots in Pittsburgh is something I'm not sure about either, though. I'm not Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin; I'm not the type of player that a franchise worries about keeping. My contract's only good through next season. Will management renew it? Will they keep me around? I don't know. So maybe it's best for now that Charlotte and I keep this low-key and remain relatively unattached. I won't push her. Whatever happens, happens.
When I'm feeling loose, I skate off the ice and head back toward the dressing room to unlace and stretch. Some of the guys are starting to show up.
"Looks like Sid the Kid is finally becoming a man..." Staalsy hollers as he walks into the dressing room, looking for Sid, who's off getting a massage from a trainer. "Yo, Talbo! You disappeared early last night. What was up with that?"
"Left with my girl," I say, stretching my ham strings.
"You mean, you left with the girl that you wish you could call yours. You can't hide it from us, man. This girl doesn't want to be caught by you."
"You're wrong, She is mine. I caught her last night," I tell him, feeling very proud of myself. I shouldn't be bragging or talking about this, but I've won and I need to tell someone about it.
"That's great, man," Flower says, walking in and hearing. "Congratulations."
"It's about fucking time," Gronk laughs, whooping it up. "I swear, it's like she's one of those, uh, you know, um," he says, snapping his fingers. "Those chicks that lure dudes to their death. Oh shit, I remember learning about them in one of my classes."
"Since when did you ever pay attention in a class?"
"Well, I'm brilliant, if you didn't know. I didn't have to pay attention," he quips.
"Talbo's got a girlfriend," TK says, shaking his head. "The world is coming to an end."
"She's not my girlfriend. We're keeping it simple for now. Just dating."
"Figures," Staalsy says. "I knew it couldn't be for real."
I shake my head. "It is," I say. Even though I decided earlier to keep it lax like Charlotte and I agreed, I hate that no one else is taking this seriously. I knew it would be easier if she had just agreed to be my girlfriend.
"You're serious?" Tanger asks, stripping off his shirt.
"About what?" I bite out through my teeth.
"Her. A relationship. Who are you kidding? It won't last long," he tells me with a smile.
I clench my fists by my sides, but I stay where I am. Everyone's looking at us, wondering what I'm going to do. I keep my cool. "You're wrong." He is wrong. I can do this. I can do a relationship. My mother's been bugging me for years about trying to settle down, that I need to mature. Why does everyone want to doubt me?
"If you say so," Tanger replies, beginning to pull on his Under Armour. "I'll believe it when I see it."
"Well, get ready to believe it," I tell him. "Because she's coming out with us after the game."
"Then a fun time will be had by all," TK cracks.