Soundtrack Song - Ne-Yo, Go On Girl
Charlotte lets go, her arm falling limply at her side. She doesn't say anything further, and neither do I. I head for the elevator, and when I step in and turn around to press the ground floor button, Tanger trots in after me, and I watch as Staalsy and Charlotte embrace and comfort each other as the doors close.
"You're an idiot," he says.
I glare at him. "Shut your mouth before I shut it for you."
"I can't believe you're walking away and leaving her at at time like this."
"You don't know the circumstances," I mutter. He doesn't know that John isn't Charlotte's friend. He doesn't know how I've been competing with him to win first place in her heart, and especially that nothing I do will ever make me her top priority. I don't like coming in second.
"I know more than you think. I told you, I overhead your conversation with Marc. I know who John is. I know all about the situation." I give him a puzzled look as he shakes his head. "Just because you speak in French doesn't mean everyone won't understand. You two aren't the only French-Canadians on the team."
"Then you know everything I've had to tolerate. I let her set the terms and the pace, and I was patient and understanding and always tried to be sweet and do the right thing for her. To show her that I'm not her ex, that I care about her more than anything or anyone else. At some point, though, she needs to return the favor. She needs to show me that she cares about me."
"She said she loves you. Doesn't that count for anything?"
"She says a lot of things. Like how she's over him. But she's still willing to put her life on hold for him, despite everything he's put her through. She doesn't want to be happy with me. She wants to be miserable with him."
"Charlotte needs you right now. She doesn't want this, Max, but she doesn't see an alternative."
"They have her phone number. They can call if they need anything. She doesn't need to be here. And what about what I need? I need my girlfriend to act like my girlfriend and not someone else's."
"She isn't acting like his girlfriend. She's his medical proxy! She needs to be here! You're acting like a selfish ass right now, Max."
"Well, apparently Charlotte responds to that. Maybe now she might pay some attention to me and care about how I feel."
"He might die!"
"He might live!" I yell back. "And then what? If he wakes up and asks her to stay, what will she do?"
"I don't know. And neither do you. That's what has you so worried. You should go back up there and talk to her."
"He should have just died on impact," I grumble, wiping my face with my hand. I don't like that I feel this way and I'm not proud of it, but if John had just died, none of this would be happening. If he were dead, this would be over.
"What? You would have preferred if Staal had killed him? If he had to live with that for the rest of his life?"
"No! But if anyone deserves to die, it's John."
The doors to the elevator open, and Tanger steps out ahead of me. "You're unbelievable. No one ever deserves to die. Life is precious."
I realize my error. "This isn't like Luc, Kris—"
"You're right. And this isn't about John. It's about you and Charlotte, and the big mistake you're about to make, if you leave now."
Holding my hands out at my sides, I look down at myself before looking him in the eyes again. "What have you been telling me this whole time? I was just going to fuck this up. Well, I guess you were right!"
"You idiot!" He hollers back. Neither of us pay any mind to the fact that we're in the lobby of the hospital. "I didn't mean any of that! You needed a kick in the pants so you wouldn't screw it up."
"That is ridiculous and asinine," I tell him, rolling my eyes. "You never helped. All you did was piss me off."
"But it worked, didn't it?"
I pause. "I didn't need your mind games then, and I don't need them now."
"Apparently, you do, because you're about to screw it all up. You're blind. This isn't easy for her. She doesn't like this any more than you do, and she needs you to support her."
"Well, I can't. I can't support her when the simplest solution is for her to tell them 'no' and leave, but she just won't do that."
"It's not as easy as that."
"Well, it should be." I jingle my keys in my hand. "You can walk home, for all I care."
"Real mature, Max. Just because I disagree with you, you'd leave me here. Nice. Well, you don't have to worry about me, because I'm not leaving. But go ahead and run away when things get hard. Way to be a man. If you can't be here when Charlotte needs you, if you're going to quit on her, then you don't deserve her."
I don't answer as I walk away and head for the door. He's wrong. This isn't about being strong. This is about recognizing when the situation is hopeless. I can't do it anymore; I keep giving her my everything, thinking that it's going to be enough. But it isn't, so it's time to learn my lesson. Insanity is defined as performing the same action repeatedly and expecting different results. It's about time that I realize that all my loving isn't going to make a difference.
At some point during the game against the Rangers, I have a breakthrough. It's funny how I had chastised myself lately for not trying the "relationship" thing sooner, because I had been enjoying the perks so much. Looks like I was playing the fool, though, because I had it right the first time around. Relationships aren't worth it. Why risk your heart, when it's just going to get broken?
No, the single life is the way to be. If you don't give away your heart, it won't get hurt. I am hurting. It feels like my heart was run over with a car, too.
Even though we lose the game, we're going out. "Where's the party at tonight, boys?" I ask, lifting my shoulder pads over my head.
Flower gives me a funny look. "Why do you want to go out? You hardly ever go out anymore."
"Why do I need a reason? I swear, everyone's a psychiatrist nowadays. I'm just looking for a good time. Are you guys going out to Diesel, or what?"
Geno nods. "Yes, come out! These guys lame. You, Max. You party."
"That's what I like to hear!"
The media pours into the dressing room, and the Kid, of course, gets mauled in the stall next to mine. I'm used to how the reporters encroach into my space, but it's even worse today when Tim Benz starts asking him about Staal and Letang, what happened, and when they're going to return and play again. At that point, I shed the rest of my pads and head for the showers, and I stay there until I know every last one of the cameras and microphones is gone.
The rest of the guys are gone at this point—even the Kid. I enjoy the silence as I slip into my boxers and dress pants; that is, until I begin to hear noises behind me. "What are you doing here?" I ask as I pull on my dress shirt.
"I promised you bodily harm if you hurt my friend," Gina says, holding one of Sid's hockey sticks in her hand. Her threat doesn't scare me, but what really strikes me as hilarious is that the Kid would flip out if he knew someone was touching his taped stick. Flip out. "Char's hurting, and now you are going to, too."
"Gina, you've got it all wrong. She may be hurting, but it was not of my doing."
"You're being a fucking douche bag. I know better than most people how frustrating she can be. I don't like that she's spending the night at the hospital, but telling her that it's wrong isn't helping anything. She's trying to be the bigger person here and do the right thing."
"It's not the right thing. Not after the way he's treated her. Not after all the times he's made her cry. She should not be doing anything to help him out. I don't care if he's seconds from death!"
"It's not a black-and-white thing, where you can say what's right and what's wrong. What she should do or what she shouldn't do. Life is full of these shitty situations. If you cared at all about Char, you would just let her make her own decisions and love her through them."
"Even though I know it's a mistake?"
"Especially when you know it's a mistake. Charlotte is far from perfect. She's never going to be the person you want her to be or do the things you want her to do. But if you truly love her, Max, you will let her do what she thinks she needs to."
"I love her, Gina," I admit, shaking my head as I fumble with my tie. "Never doubt that. But I can't be a part of this."
"Well, I hope you change your mind, because she needs you even more than ever now. Now she's acting all proud like she can handle it on her own. But once her mother and John's sister show up tomorrow, she's going to be a wreck. You can think about it while you ice your knee," she adds, raising the stick in her hand over her head.
I catch it easily as she brings it down, and neither of us are any worse for wear when I rip it out of her hands. "Gina, no offense, but I'm a hockey player. I'm tougher than you think. Hitting me with a stick isn't going to hurt me."
"Then I'll think of something else," she assures me as she heads for the door. "You have no idea what you've done, and if you don't fix it, I will make you pay."