1.) I detest shameless self-promotion, but... A Sharp Contrast, which may or may not interest you. PP is still my priority, but I had to get the idea out before my head exploded.
2.) For the sake of simplicity, it should be understood that he obviously is speaking in French when his speech is totally in italics.
My first real American Thanksgiving turned out to be quite an experience. It was filled with drama and lust. The food was mediocre at best, but the company during dinner was stellar.
After we ate, we curled up on the couch with large slices of pumpkin pie topped with humongous dollops of Lite Cool Whip and mugs of hot chocolate. The first hockey game of the night isn't scheduled to come on until seven thirty, so we lie together and end up watching a horribly cheesy movie on ABC Family.
Well, I'm not really watching the movie. Charlotte is; meanwhile, I'm lost in my thoughts about the position in which I find myself. Not so much about the position. We've been here before, sitting on the couch together watching television with her head propped up against my shoulder and her hand on my knee as I run my hand through her still-damp hair. No, this situation is familiar, but the way I'm feeling in it is different.
I'm... comfortable. Content. Satisfied with sitting still with my arm around the woman I love. It seems hard to believe and difficult to explain. Am I a reformed ladies' man?
Has Charlotte changed me? I don't think so. I think I'm the same person: my personality hasn't altered, but what I want from life, I think, has. I still like to party and have fun, but I want to do it with Charlotte. And if having fun means staying in her apartment watching television instead of going out, well, then, so be it.
I think this is what a psychologist would call a "break through." I think it would make my mother proud. Speaking of which, I should call her. It's been a while since we've spoken.
By her deep, steady breaths, I know Charlotte's sleeping. It must be the tryptophan in the turkey that's conked her out. Or maybe it was our earlier activities. Either way, I slide my hand into my pocket and pull out my phone. She answers on the second ring. "Maxime!"
"Bonjour, Maman. How are you?"
"Much better now that I've heard from you. If I hadn't have watched you play yesterday, I would have thought you were dead! You used to call every few days. But you haven't called since Sunday."
"Je suis désolé. I've been busy lately, and I've forgotten."
"Just remember that your mother worries about you, Maxime. My baby, so far away in another country."
"You have two other sons at home in Montréal. Francis's wife is about to pop with child, and you're worried about me?"
"Francis and Juliette are surrounded by family. You are out there all by yourself."
"Maman. I'm not by myself. There's Marc-André and Véronique, and the rest of the team. I'm not alone," I tell her, looking down at the top of Charlotte's head while she sleeps. I kiss her temple quietly, but somehow my mother knows. I guess it's mother's intuition.
"Maxime, is there something you're not telling me?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," I blatantly lie. This isn't how I want my family to find out about Charlotte.
"You are my son, my baby. I know when you're not being honest with me. Now I'm going to ask you again, Maxime: is there something you're not telling me?"
I clear my throat. "Maman...." I begin, trying to find the words. I pause, and she stays silent and waits for me to continue. "I met a girl."
The line is silent for a moment. "And you were planning on telling me when?!"
I chuckle a little. "I was going to tell you, but it's only been a few months—"
"A few months?! It's been months and you haven't told me about this girl?"
For a moment, I think that my mother's shrill voice has woken Charlotte, but instead she nestles even more against me in her sleep. "Maman, when things calm and settle down, I promise I will introduce her to you."
"Well, is it serious? What does she look like? How did you meet? Maxime, I want to know everything."
"Well, it's complicated. But, oui, it's serious. I'm serious. And I can't wait for you to know her, Maman, but things need to quiet down around here first. Maybe Christmas?"
"I can't wait to tell your father. Serge!" she yells into the phone, even though she's not talking to me. I pull the phone away from my ear as I hear her continue to yell. "Your son has finally met a girl."
Now I listen as my father speaks to my mother in the background. "I'm sure he's met plenty of girls, Lucie."
"Serge, you are not listening to me. Maxime, what is her name?"
"Charlotte," I say into the mouthpiece of my cell, and that causes her to stir beside me. "Maman, I have to go."
"Oh no you don't. We have a lot to talk about and catch up on, too."
"I promise I will call you later, but I can't talk now. Je t'aime, Maman." I end the call and turn my attention to the groggy woman next to me on the couch. "Hello there, sleepy head."
"Who were you talking to?" she yawns, rubbing her eyes underneath her glasses with the back of her hand.
"My mother," I answer, putting my phone back in my pocket and wrapping my arms around her to pull her against me.
"You should have let me talk to her," Charlotte says.
She shrugs and whispers her response. "I would love to talk to the mother that gave me such a wonderful man. I figure I owe her big time."
I clear my throat and think about how to put this gently. After everything that's happened, I can understand if and why Charlotte doesn't want to make this move, but she should know the next step that I'm willing to take. "Well, you can do it in person. My mother wants to meet you."
For a moment, I don't get any response and I wonder if she's fallen back asleep. "She wants to meet me? You told her about me?"
"Oui. And she is, to put it mildly, very excited about you." She smiles and reddens, and then bites in the inside of her cheek. I will never figure out this girl. "Why are you feeling so shy all of a sudden? You just said you wanted to talk to her."
"Saying I wanted to talk to her, and then hearing you say that, I mean.... It just makes it so real, ya know?"
I laugh. "No."
She smiles and kisses me. "You wouldn't understand, Mr. Carefree."
"No? Like I'm not going to meet your mother."
That puts a frown across her face. "I don't think you want to."
"Of course I want to. Charlotte, what is that supposed to mean?"
Sighing, she answers, "She won't like you. I can tell you that right now." I open my mouth to say that Charlotte can't possibly know that, because her mother hasn't met me, but she keeps talking. "She won't give you a chance. You're not John, and that's all that she cares about."
"I am a great guy, and she will see that. She'll see that I love you, and I won't ever treat you like that. And that's all that matters."
She shakes her head and leans her forehead against my chest. "Max, I wish it were that simple. My mother is... particular. She wants things the way she wants them, in a certain way. And she has very high expectations. He was everything she wanted for me: he was successful and charming and she loved him. On paper, we were the perfect couple. She still can't understand why I wanted to leave, so there's no way she's going to drop it all of a sudden."
"And why can't we be that perfect couple? I think we could be."
"Mmm," she quietly groans. I wait for her explanation. "With my mother, it doesn't matter what I want. What does matter is what she wants for me. The way you make me feel is the way she wants me to feel. But...." Charlotte sighs, searching for how to express adequately what she's thinking. "Appearance-wise, you would embarrass her."
I don't know what to say to that. I'm shocked. "What do you mean?"
"Don't be mad. I'm just trying to warn you about what you'd be getting into. She wants an investment banker or a district attorney. Someone who makes up for her failure of a daughter, who wouldn't—no, couldn't—live up to her expectations."
I grab her chin and make her look me in the eyes. "You know you're not a failure, right?" She tentatively nods. "She's your mother. She'll love you always."
"I'm a disappointment in her eyes, Max. I've screwed up too much and too often. I don't want to bring you into that. My old life is not a happy place. It's not like what I have here in Pittsburgh. There's a reason why I left it behind and came here. When I'd spend my summers here with my grandparents, over in Penn Hills, those were the best times of my life. You saw what it was like when my old life clashed with my new life. Can you blame me for not wanting that to happen again?"
Charlotte presses her face back into my chest. I rub her arms and think. "I love you, baby. I love all of you. Good, bad. Past, present, future. I'm not saying it has to happen tomorrow. I am saying that it will happen eventually.
"And," I continue, as she looks back up at my face, giving me a little smile, "your mother will adore me. No one can resist the Talbot charm, and besides, appearance-wise, she'll love me. Who wouldn't, with guns like these?" I lift my right arm in the arm and kiss my bicep.
"You're such a dork," she giggles, kissing my chin.
I'm about to bring her mouth to mine when the door opens, and Gina enters with her boyfriend. "Hey," Charlotte greets as they walk into the living room.
"Hey there," Gina smiles, taking in the scene of us on the couch together.
"Did you have a good time?" my girlfriend asks them, looking between Gina and Kevin.
"Yeah, it went well. They liked him, at least," she laughs. "What about you guys? What did you do?"
Charlotte rolls her eyes. "I don't want to talk about it." Gina raises her eyebrows at her roommate's answer. "I'll tell you about it later. I don't feel like reliving it now."
"Ugh. You can't say things like that and not tell me!"
"I promise I will. Just later, k?" Charlotte pauses. "Are you okay, Kev?"
He's standing in the space between the hallway and the living room, starting at us. At me, specifically. "Max Talbot?"
"It's nice to meet you," I say. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't mind this so much. But after today, I'm in the right mood to meet and converse with a fan. "I think I'm gonna head home, baby. I've got to get up early for the flight to New York."
"Okay," she pouts. I kiss that bottom lip that's jutted out. She smiles at me and pushes away so I can get up. "I'll walk you out."
I nod at Gina, and shake Kevin's hand as he thanks me for last year's finals, which makes me laugh. "You're welcome, I guess. But we won the Cup for you, for the fans."
"Good luck this year, man. You guys got off to a great start, and you'll beat this slump."
Nodding at him, I somehow prevent the grimace that wants to break out across my face. You lose a couple games, and suddenly you're in a slump? "Thanks. We're hoping to play well into the summer, so—"
"Okay, enough hockey talk," Charlotte interrupts, grabbing my hand and pulling me into the hallway. "Mind if I steal my boyfriend back?"
Kevin smiles and nods, saying his goodbye. "Thank you," I whisper.
"No problem. Have a good game tomorrow. You're back on Saturday, right?"
"Yeah. Home game on Saturday. You'll be there, right?"
"As long as you supply the ticket," she replies. We kiss and say our final goodnights, and I head out of the apartment and back to my cold, lonely house.