Practice had finished for the day and the cacophony of jokes and banter accompanied by infectious laughter sounded from the other side of the Trainers’ room door as the team entered the locker room. Claire’s head perked up at the sound, looking over to Jim who had just recently finished running through the layout of supplies with her.
Earlier that day, he had walked with her through the Skate Zone’s layout to test her memory from the previous day’s tour, quizzing her on procedures and the like. She passed with flying colours, barely forgetting a thing from the day before. He was impressed to say the least, only giving a rare correction here and there. It was clear that she was a quick study and he was quickly reminded of why Alan had recommended her in the first place.
The two were currently replenishing medical supplies, which in turn helped Claire to really become acquainted with the room she would be spending copious amounts of time in.
The moment she had been anticipating for the entirety of the day drew nearer as they finished up. She could feel the nerves slowly begin to build with each passing second. Both Jim and Peter had reassured her that if any of the team gave her a hard time, the two of them would be sure to put them in their place and call them out on it.
The thing was, it wasn’t the guys giving her a hard time that worried her. She knew she could handle them just fine on her own. What worried her was the huge possibility that she wouldn’t gain their respect. She was young, almost a year and a half out of school and now here she was on their training staff. The last thing she wanted was for them to look down on her and see her as incapable of performing her job.
“You ready kid?” Jim asked, his voice breaking her from her nerve-induced daze. She looked over to him with a small smile, “As I’ll ever be.” He chuckled, beckoning for her to follow as he opened the door and made his way to the locker room with her close behind.
Laviolette already stood in the centre of the room by the white board awaiting their arrival. Upon seeing Claire and Jim walk in he called for the team’s attention. They quieted down fairly quickly, all sitting and standing at their respective stalls, eyes trained intently on their coach. Claire took in the group of men before her, noticing many had changed out of their gear and sat in their Under Armour, t-shirts, shorts, etc.
“As you all know, we lost Pete to the head trainer’s position for the Caps at the end of this past season,” Lavy began, earning a grunted response from the men lining the room. Claude felt his gaze wander as his coach continued talking, his eyes drifting from Lavy to Jim, finally landing on the young woman who stood beside the team’s head trainer. He felt his breath hitch as he recognized her as the pretty girl who had walked in on their practice the day before.
“Over the break, the organization was scouting out potentials for his replacement and about a month ago, we were given a good recommendation from a good friend of Jim’s in New York. We’re lucky enough to have beaten out the offers given from other teams to get them. So, everyone give a warm welcome to the newest addition to our Flyers family, Claire Dubois.” Lavy gestured to the young woman who stood quietly beside Jim.
There was an evident feeling of shock that passed over the room, although they still managed to give her a somewhat collective response of hellos. They all had known that they had been looking for a new assistant athletic trainer, they just didn’t expect them to be a woman, especially one so young and, dare they think, attractive.
“Why don’t you say a few things about yourself, Claire? Then we can go around the room for introductions and if there’s a question any of you want to ask her, you can do it then,” Peter said before quickly adding, “Just one [b]appropriate[/b] question per person.” He looked pointedly at Richards and Carter, earning a chuckle from the team.
With that, Lavy and Jim stepped back, giving Claire the floor. “Hey everyone, I’m Claire, in case you didn’t pick up on that already,” she began with a confident smile, surprising herself at how well she managed to maintain a calm and composed façade, “I’ll get the age thing out of the way first because I know one of you is probably gonna ask me eventually.” She smirked at the telltale groans sounding from different places in the room, knowing her guess had indeed been correct, “I’m 21. I graduated at the top of my class from Columbia University for athletic training. I was an intern and an employee for a physical therapy practice in Manhattan from my juniour year of college until last month and I speak French and basic Russian.”
She could feel her nerves slowly calm themselves down as she gave them the basic list of her credentials. Instead of the judgmental looks she had expected, she was met with ones of admiration of her age and well-sized list of accomplishments. She had worked hard to get to where she was now, and in a way very much like they had, she had basically been drafted into the NHL.
Mike Richards was the first to speak up, beginning the line of introductions, “I’m Mike, team captain. The boys call me Richie or Richards, but you can call me whatever you like gorgeous.” He gave her one of his signature smirks that in most cases easily wrapped girls around his finger. She, instead, just gave him a small smile in return, “Alright Richards. Keep that up and we stay on a last name basis.” Her response earned a rumble of chuckles from around the room. He was taken aback by the sarcastically sweet tone of her voice and the relative ease with which she had ignored his charm. His smirk faltered slightly as the guys laughed at her bluntness.
He could tell that this girl was going to be a lot of fun to work with. They continued going around the room, each member greeting her rather warmly and Claire shut down Jeff Carter and a few of the other players’ attempts to flirt by asking borderline inappropriate questions. She did it with ease and through her responses and retorts made it very clear that she was a very fiery and witty young woman. Needless to say, the guys were excited to work with her.
Claude could feel his palms begin to sweat as the number of his teammates before him began to dwindle. She was gorgeous, her chocolate brown curly hair tied back in a ponytail at the center of her head with a few wisps that had managed to free themselves to frame her face. Her fair skin contrasted nicely with her black uniform t-shirt. A light dusting of freckles graced her cheeks and nose. Her slender, 5’4” build was accentuated by clear and fitting curves. Oh yes, he found himself to be very attracted to this young woman.
By the time he finally tuned back into the introductions, she had focused her attention on him and he felt his mouth go dry. He swallowed hard before opening his mouth to speak, his voice reverting back to a rather shy and soft-spoken tone that he hadn’t used since he had first made the team, “I’m Claude. C’est un plasir de vous recontrer.” She gave him a small smile making his heart skip a beat, “Merci Claude. Y at-il quelque chose que vous aimeriez savoir?”
Hearing her speak in his first language brought a small, shy smile to his handsome face, her voice was so sweet and smooth. “Parlez-vous couramment le français?” he asked, a silly question that he could already tell the answer to. “Oui, je parle couramment. Mon père est originaire de Québec et il m’a porté à parler français aussi bien qu’en anglais,” she replied, a soft smile gracing her lips.
“Ah, très bien,” he grinned, the smile never leaving his face. Their gaze lingered a moment before she turned her attention to Danny who introduced himself in a similar fashion to his friend, welcoming her to Philly. When all of the players had introduced themselves, Lavy dismissed them, giving them a few parting words before sending them home for the day. The guys gave her their farewells before getting changed, grabbing their bags, and filtering out of the room.
“Looks like you can hold your own pretty well with the team,” Peter commented when she turned back to face the two older men. “Welcome to the family kid,” Jim added, both giving her a smile before they too bid her goodbye and left her to grab her bag and head home for the day as well. She couldn’t help but smile at their words.
She had managed to hold her own against the two well know party boys on the team as well as pass the mini language tests to see if her multilingual claims were in fact true. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she made her way to the back lot where her car was parked.
She was about halfway to her car when she heard someone calling after her. She quickly turned to see Claude Giroux striding towards her, his duffel slung over his shoulder, his 5’11” frame towering over hers. “Hey,” she greeted him, the small, warm smile she had given him earlier gracing her lips. “Hey,” he replied, momentarily caught up in her sweet smile.
“What’s up?” she asked, tilting her head slightly to the side, biting her lip. “I, uh, I wanted to personally welcome you to the staff,” he said softly, running a hand through his short mess of wavy hair, “You know, without the, uh, formalities from the locker room and all.” She could feel a faint blush creep onto her cheeks, “Thanks, that’s very sweet of you.” He smiled sheepishly at her before adding, “I know you can probably take care of yourself, but if any of the guys give you any trouble let me know. I’ll be happy to straighten them out for you. Danny too, we’ll take care of them.”
Claire’s smile grew to a full out grin, “I’ll have to keep that in mind Claude, it’ll be nice to have some allies here.” He chuckled, “Happy to help.” She laughed lightly along with him, “Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow Mr. Giroux.” Her smile was contagious as a crooked grin made itself present on the handsome young forward’s face, “Oui, à demain Mlle. Dubois.” “Au revoir Claude,” she chuckled before turning and walking to her car.
Claude lingered a moment, watching her walk away. To say he was attracted to his girl was an understatement and he knew that once his teammates figured out his rapidly developing crush he was never going to hear the end of it.
C'est un plaisir de vous rencontrer- It's a pleasure to meet you
Merci Claude. Y at-il quelque chose que vous aimeriez savoir?- Thank you Claude. Is there anything you’d like to know?
Parlez-vous couramment le français?- Do you speak fluent French?
Oui, je le parle couramment. Mon père est originaire de Québec et il m'a porté à parler français aussi bien qu'en anglais- Yes, I speak it fluently. My father is from Quebec and he raised me to speak French as well as English.
Ah, très bien- Ah, very good.
Oui, à demain Mlle. Dubois- Yes, see you tomorrow Miss Dubois.