Party for Two [Thursday, January 26th, 2012 11:30 PM]
“Tessa! Omigod, so glad you could make it!” Harper rounded the bar top and quickly gave Tessa a squeeze. “Where are Isaac and Dayna?”
“Hi Harper! And I have no idea, they were supposed to be here half an hour ago, but they never showed up. I can’t exactly be sure, but...I think Isaac might be cheating on me with her.”
Harper gasped. “No way! What makes you think that?”
“They were together when he called me outside, and they were, like...giggling.”
Harper gaped at Tessa mutely. “Giggling? You mean like how friends and normal people do?”
Tessa shook her head scathingly. “Nooo, it wasn’t that kind of giggling. It was, like....giggling.”
Harper’s silent pause was even longer the second time around. “Okay, Tessa, I think you need a drink. On me.” Harper floated gracefully around to the other side of the bar and quickly whipped up a Jack and Coke for Tessa. As Tessa waited, she scanned the bar, looking for a familiar face – or more specifically, a famous face. She felt a whir of excitement in her stomach when she noticed Claude Giroux on the other side of the bar, only ten feet from Harper. He was making drinks and handing them off, but his focus – and conversation – lied with one girl. The girl leaned in towards him, and he approached her, looking like he could drool at any moment. She whispered something in his ear, and they both headed off towards a door that read “ROOF ACCESS – STAFF ONLY”.
She looked over to the side of the bar, where James Neal stood with his beer in hand, talking to a few guys in plaid, who were clearly excited to be speaking with him. Mid-conversation, James’s gaze shifted towards the bar. More specifically, it shifted towards Harper. He was watching her make Tessa’s drink, with the desire in his eyes visible even from twenty feet away. She could practically see his boner through the wooden bar. Tessa snorted a laugh.
Harper slammed Tessa’s drink down in front of her, the liquid inside dancing to the Zac Brown Band song that boomed. “Harper, don’t look now, but James Neal is totally checking you out.”
Harper’s dark defined brows rose gently, but she didn’t look entirely surprised. “Good thing Brady didn’t notice.”
“It’d be pretty hard for him not to. I mean, he’s not exactly hiding it.” Harper looked over, and James gave her a smile, tipping his beer to her. “So? Are you gonna talk to him, or what?”
“Don’t know,” Harper replied coolly, absent-mindedly pouring a line of tequila shots, sliding one over to Tessa.
“Okay, well be careful. You don’t want a repeat of, um...last time.”
Harper’s upper lip curled in disgust. “Don’t remind me. And you need to relax. Just because Isaac and Dayna are both laughing at the same thing doesn’t mean they’re fucking each other.”
Tessa’s body wriggled in disgust at the thought. “Don’t even say that, Harper!”
“Plus, it’s not like you’re accusing him of cheating with some random girl. She’s your best friend. Do you really think she’d do that to you?”
Tessa stared into her drink. Harper was right. She’d been friends with Dayna ever since Atom hockey, and it wasn’t going to end now over Isaac, who Dayna knew Tessa loved from the bottom of her heart. “Wow, you’ve really got this bartender therapy stuff down pat don’t you?”
“I’d like to think so,” Harper replied, looking skyward with a gleam in her eye. Something caught that gleam when James held up his empty cup. “Jesus, that was fast,” Harper said, mostly to herself.
“Guess he’s thirsty for some of your lovin’!” Tessa replied, jiggling in place to the music.
Harper glared at her, her cowboy boots already clacking towards James. “We can still be friends as long as you never do or say any of that ever again,” she called over her shoulder.
“Deal!” Tessa shouted back. She turned around quickly when she heard an uproar behind her. There were a bunch of people circled around someone on the floor, who was down on one knee and chugging a Smirnoff Ice. When she poked her head between two skinny girls, she couldn’t believe whose flawless blonde Swedish head she saw, slowly gulping down the tangy drink.
Even more than before, Tessa wished Dayna could have been there. Dayna could have possibly been Gabriel’s number one fan. Owning every piece of Gabriel Landeskog memorabilia in existence, pictures lining her wall from ceiling to floor, and constantly referring to him as “a human Ken doll crafted by Jesus,” Dayna would have likely given her left arm to meet him. Giggling at the crowd rooting him on, Tessa whipped out her phone and quickly dialed Dayna’s number. Tessa continued to peer through the prominent bones of the two thin girls in front of her, the dial tone matching the rhythm of Gabe’s gulps in half-time. There was no answer.
Gabe stood up, stumbling slightly, and presented the empty bottle to the crowd. They cheered, and he threw his arms up in the air triumphantly. “Fuck yeah! I am the King of the ICE!” Gabe shouted, his hands hanging loosely above his head in fists.
One of Tyler’s friends put a hand on Gabe’s shoulder. “Dude, are you wasted already? Who are you, Jeff Skinner?”
“Hey, Jeff is a lovely human being. And I’m not drunk, I’m just a little bit...buzzed.”
“You only started drinking twenty minutes ago. Bro, you are in for a long night.”
“So we need to make the most of it!” Gabe scanned the crowd in search of Tyler. “Where’s Seguin?”
“Dancing with an absolute rocket.” Gabe rolled his eyes. Tyler couldn’t keep his hands off a female for more than ten seconds at a time. “Landy, if you committed a robbery it would be hilarious. You’d be our hero forever.”
“I...I don’t know...” Gabe’s judgment wasn’t blurred, even though the room was already beginning to.
“Come on, the only person in this place who could have as many chicks as Segs does crawling all over them is you. It’d definitely shake him up a little.”
For a moment, Gabe thought about it. But he’d seen the girl Tyler had sauntered off with – she was certainly gorgeous. Even though Tyler wasn’t exactly his best friend, there was something about the whole thing that felt...slimy. Even if it was Seguin, and even though it was just a girl, he couldn’t. “Nah, man, it’s just not me.”
“Whatever, bro. I’m gonna go find a broad, you should do the same. You don’t plan on being wasted around a bunch of dudes for the rest of the night, do you? Do like you said, make the most of it.” In a matter of seconds, Seguin’s friend took off.
Gabe tried to focus on a face in the throng of bodies that surrounded him. Any face. A female face. Okay Gabe, you can do this. Just talk to a girl. Just talk –
“Dayna! It’s Tessa! Call me when you get this, you’ll never guess who’s here! Gabriel Landeskog!”
“Hey, that’s me!”
When Tessa looked up, she looked like she’d seen a ghost. Her blue eyes with flecks of lavender went wide when they met his, and wisps of her tousled brown fringe fell in her eyes. Without saying a word, Tessa dropped the phone from her ear.
“So it’s Tessa?”
She was frozen in place. Gabe waited for her response and his brows raised keenly. He noticed the full drink in her hand, and his eyes followed it as she brought it to her mouth and downed it in a matter of seconds. After she lowered the glass from her ruby-red lips, she contorted her face. “Whoof, Harper did not hesitate with the Jack.”
“Who’s Harper? Like the Prime Minister?”
“The bartender. She’s my friend. She’s trying to get me drunk because she thinks it’ll make me forget about the fact that my boyfriend is cheating on me.”
Tessa looked from the clinking ice cubes in her drink below her and up at Gabe. When she finally registered his cornflower blue eyes, his square chin, and his touchable blonde hair, she forgot what she was going to say, and it made her wonder why the hell she had brought any of it up. When she looked down at her empty drink, she remembered.
“I’m sorry, forget you ever met me and anything I just said.”
When Tessa turned to run away and find a hole in which to forever hibernate, Gabe’s warm hand encircled her wrist. “W-wait!”
When she turned around, Gabe gazed down at the cute girl who stood in front of him, who was clearly mortified. She looked sad and alone, two characteristics that he himself had experienced that night, sitting around the table with Tyler and his pack of goons. If he hung out with her, maybe the boys would leave him be. Even if he’d never been heckled, he still would have wanted to wipe away the morose look in her lavender eyes and put a smile on her face – it seemed like she needed an escape much more than he did. “Let me get you another drink, it sounds like you’re having a rough night. Don’t worry about holding back any of the details. I’ve had a few too many myself, so I’ll find just about anything entertaining.”
Tessa giggled, but as he signaled her to go to the bar with him, she sighed glumly. He’s just being nice. Despite her thoughts, and despite the fact that Dayna would absolutely kill her, Tessa eyed her empty glass. What’s one drink? And she ditched me. What do I owe her?
“Alright, well...thank you!” Tessa replied as daintily as she could without slurring her words.
“What did you have there?”
“Jack and Coke.”
“Is it any good?”
Tessa’s eyes bulged. “You’ve never had a Jack and Coke?!”
Gabe rolled his eyes and smiled. “Is it any good or not?”
“Alright then.” Gabe grabbed her hand fervently, yet gently. He guided her to the bar, parking in front of Brady, who was pouring a line of tequila shots. “Two Jack and Cokes, please.”
“Two Jack and Cokes, comin’ up!”
Brady placed a line of tequila shots in front of an animated group of blonde girls, then quickly poured their drinks. After he placed them in front of them andgrabbed the change from the bar, he spotted Logan. “Yo Coots!”
Logan’s head shot over, and he practically galloped to the bar. “Hey, just in time, man. That girl was really sweet, but – ”
“About that – I just wanted to say thank you.”
Logan’s brow twisted. “Thank you? For what?”
“Well first of all, to you and the boys for coming out and helping draw a crowd like this. It’s normally pretty packed on Thursdays, but never like this.”
Logan beamed. “It’s our pleasure. You can get us to go just about anywhere when there’s free booze involved,” he added with a chuckle.
Brady’s face was stern and unchanged. “Really though, I wanted to thank you for talking to my sister.”
“Y...your sister? She’s your sister?”
“Yeah. Just don’t tell anyone she’s underage, okay? I mean, she’s probably your number one fan, and we’re not serving her alcohol or anything. Plus, after everything she’s been through this past year and since I knew you’d be here tonight, it was the least I could do for her.”
“...Okay, now I’m confused,” Logan replied, rubbing the back of his neck.
“I guess she didn’t tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
- - -
Claude and Amelie sat on the ledge of the roof, their feet firmly planted on the snow-covered gravel beneath them, their short words sending puffs of white vapour into the night air. They were facing each other, sitting right in the corner of the building, perpendicular to each other. “What have you been up to?” Claude asked quietly, his head slightly down as he looked over at Amelie.
“The usual. But I...I’m married now.”
Claude’s face was unchanged. “Shut the fuck up, you’re not married.” Amelie’s face was stern and solid as a rock, which caused Claude’s upper lip to twitch. “Are you?”
“Ok, I’m not,” she replied, an amused smile on her face. “But I do have a son. His name is Max, he’s two years old.”
For a moment, Claude paused. But just as quickly, his classic crooked smile spread across his face. “You need to cut the bullshit, Ame.”
“Alright fine,” she answered with a defeated smile. “You got me. But in all seriousness, I have a job now.”
“Okay, that is by far the least believable of the three scenarios,” Claude quipped, a curly lock of red hair tumbling on his forehead as he titled his head.
“Hey!” she responded sharply. “I’m a ski and snowboard instructor.”
“So what do you do in the summer?”
“What do you do in the summer, Claude?”
He smiled. She knew how to chirp, one of the many things he missed about her. “Anything else new?” Like a boyfriend? he thought to himself apprehensively.
“Not a lot of things change here, Claude. You should know that by now.”
“Some things change,” he retorted silently, looking at the snowy ground beneath his shoes. When silence fell, the two of them listened to the sound of the chilled air whisking through the buildings.
“Pis toi?” Amelie finally asked. “Any wives or sons I should know about?”
He let out a chuckle. “Absolutely not.”
“Good,” she replied silently. At the sound of that single word, Claude shot up, gazing at her. She was sitting on her hands, her brown leather boots crossed over one another. Her thin hair gently floated in the wind, her cheeks rosy and eyes heavy. She was so beautiful that it pained Claude to look at her without being able to take her in his arms again. He would have given anything to gather her up and keep her warm in the frigid Canadian air. Why do things have to be this way? he thought. Why can’t I have her?
“Fuck it, I’m just going to say it. Amelie...I miss you.”
Amelie looked up, her gaze upset. “Claude, I – ”
“Just let me finish. The only reason you ended things with me is because I wanted to marry you. But just tell me what you want. Whatever it is, I’ll do it. If you want to keep things casual, we’ll keep it casual. Hell, if you want me to run down the streets of Ottawa naked, I will do it!”
Amelie giggled at the thought. She shook her head, but straightened up and smiled devilishly, as if a lightbulb had switched on in her head. “Okay.”
“Run down the streets naked.”
Claude gaped at her. “T’es pas sérieuse.”
Amelie challenged him with a look. “Ben vas-y!”
“So you’re saying you’d take me back if I ran down the street naked.”
She raised a brow with a sly smile. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
“Then forget it. I’m not taking off all my clothes in below-freezing weather for a maybe.”
Amelie eyed him from her spot five feet away, then stood and sat down on the ledge right next to him. Claude’s heartbeat quickened when he felt her hot breath on his face and her hand rest on his leg. “I feel like all this hockey and NHL business made you a little too...serious. Prove to me that you’re the Claude I used to know, and I will reconsider.”
Claude’s eyes rested on hers. He remembered how her eyes were a shade of hazel, but in the winter night, they were dark and consuming. He tried not to let his gaze falter, let his eyes fall to her full lips or her caramel waves. He couldn’t let her know how truly weak she made him. Finally, he smirked, flashing her his fake tooth. “Oh chérie, but I have changed.” He leaned in close, bringing his lips to her ear in a near whisper. “In ways you couldn’t even imagine.”
With that, he was up on his feet and already at the door to return back downstairs. “You coming?” he asked, his smirk widening, as he held out his hand for her.
“You think I’d miss this?” Amelie replied with a smirk of her own.
- - -
“You really are a dancer!” Tyler said into Violet’s ear, his body pressed up against hers.
“After fifteen years of training, I’d better fucking be,” she chirped back, slowly separating herself from Tyler as the song transitioned.
He took her wrist with a sleepy smile. “No way you’re leaving me now.”
Violet held up her free hand. “Look, I’m not entirely sure what kind of girl you think I am, but if what my friends tell me is true, then I’m not the girl you’re looking for.” When she turned to walk away, Tyler held her small wrist a little tighter. When she looked at him with confusion and slight anxiety, he couldn’t help but feel the same way. In any other situation, he would have let the girl walk away. No girl who wouldn’t give him more than just a dance was worth his time and effort. But the way simply looking at this girl, let alone touching her, somehow managed to twist, tangle and swirl his insides all at the same time, made her something he wasn’t willing to let go of just yet. It was something about how sure she was about herself; all the girls he normally chased buckled within minutes, but she made it clear where she stood and that she was not budging. Despite everything, the fact that she opened the door just a crack with that one dance gave him hope he could still slide his foot in before it slammed shut. “Please Tyler?”
“Okay, fine. Your loss,” he said dejectedly, holding up his hands in defense. Violet eyed him cautiously as she turned around and walked away. Tyler quickly turned on his heels and dashed towards the DJ booth. He smiled triumphantly when he saw a microphone sitting on the table next to the DJ’s equipment. “Hey man, can I borrow this?” Before the startled DJ could answer, he flipped the microphone up into his hand and switched it on.
While Tyler had a quick word with the DJ, Violet and her two friends eyed him from across the bar. When he looked over at Violet, her friends leaned in.
“What do you think he’s up to?” Courtney asked.
“I’m not sure, but it can’t be good,” Violet responded, resting one arm slowly on the bar.
Suddenly, the Kellie Pickler song playing faded mid-chorus and another country beat started. When Violet took a sip of her third beer of the night and looked up, she had lost sight of Tyler. He was no longer standing at the DJ booth, and was nowhere to be found. She suddenly realized the song playing was Party for Two by Shania Twain and Billy Currington. “Oh God,” she moaned just as her two friends starting bouncing with excitement. There was a high pitched cheer in the crowd that erupted as a figure shot up on to the bar, microphone in hand. Violet’s jaw dropped “Oh God!”
“I’M HAVIN ME A PAAARTAY!”
Tyler was screeching into the microphone along with Shania Twain.
The female crowd below him started screeching along with him, as if it were Justin Bieber hopping up on the bartop. For the next line, he held out the microphone over the sea of bodies below him. All the females in the room shouted to him the next line, “I don’t think I can come!”
“This ain’t just any kind of paaartay,” he continued, starting to strut down the length of the bar, avoiding all the full glasses beneath his feet. Violet rolled her eyes in disgust as every pair of female eyes in the vicinity was glued to Tyler’s catwalk, belting back the words in return.
“What the hell is he doing?!” Christine shrieked, unable to control her smile.
Violet turned to her friends. “Making a fool of himself. And I’m not going to have any part of it.” Just as she turned to grab her beer and go to the bathroom, or outside for air, or anywhere that was oceans away from Tyler’s thrusting body, the man himself was right in front of her on the bar, crouched down to her level.
“It doesn’t matter what you wear, cause it’s only gonna be...” When the music paused, he swiped his index finger under her chin, and she coiled back in repugnance. “You and me there.”
“WOO!” The bar yelped in time. As the crowd distracted Violet, Tyler took her hand and pulled her up with all his strength. The guys below her, not seeing her look of absolute terror and mortification, helped Tyler bring her up to his level. Despite shouting and resisting the pushes below her, she was standing right there next to Tyler.
Violet’s high-heeled boots felt higher than ever as her knees wobbled in fright. “Come on, it’s a duet. Sing along,” Tyler said into her ear between lines. She was caught off-guard by how softly he spoke into her ear, which made the entire right side of her body tremble even more. Tyler had her cornered; there was no way she could get down with the giant crowd around her. Even if she tried, they’d eat her alive for being a bad sport – but if she gave in to Tyler’s tactics, he’d be one step closer to getting what he wanted. When Violet saw the looks on her friends’ stunned faces and had the microphone held up to her mouth simultaneously, “A party for two?” was but a squeak. It caused the microphone to screech slightly, but the crowd roared in appreciation.
Tyler egged her to continue on. “Inviting nobooody...” Violet sang a little louder.
“Nobody but you!” Tyler crooned, his face dangerously close to Violet’s. This time, he swept his fingers slowly along her jaw, and she couldn’t help but blush. Infuriated with herself by how easy Tyler was slowly but surely winning her over, he reveled in the bashful look on her face. Taking her hand and twirling her around in circles on the bar, the crowd continued to whoop and cheer. Tyler was so busy with the raven-haired goddess dancing only inches away from him on the bar top, he hadn’t even noticed that almost all of his fellow NHL All Stars were nowhere in sight.
- - -
“Can...can I see it?”
Zoe stared at Logan from over six feet away, tears glowing in her eyes. The chilled wind picked up her thick blonde hair, and she looked down at the snow beneath her salt-stained Ugg boots. “Okay,” she squeaked.
Logan swallowed hard as he watched Zoe placed a tiny hand on her scalp, her fingers curling around the roots of her hair. She lifted gently, sliding her hair back and clear from her head. A few seconds later, her wig was in her hand, and her head was bare and white as the snow that was beginning to descend lightly. A hot tear finally tumbled down Zoe’s cheek.
“What is it called?” Logan asked hoarsely.
Zoe looked up at Logan, bringing her wig in both hands to her chest. “Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It’s...cancer.”