Water Under the Bridge
The press finish their interviews with the stars of the game, Gostisbehere, Steve, Wayne, and of course Claude. With a huge smile on his face, Wayne pulls out his phone and plugs it into the mini Bose stereo- despite its size, the thing could really blare music. A familiar tune starts, causing an involuntary grin to spread across my face. "Da-dada DAdadadada DA-dada dadadadada," the guys chant in unison along to their victory song 'Knock Knock," - I can't help but to join in as I take some videos to post to Instagram and Snapchat. Soon enough once the chorus starts all the guys are dancing around the locker room, flinging their jerseys, practically screaming along with Mac's words.
With my camera strapped to my back, Brayden pulls me into the group of all the guys where they're all dancing; I let out a yelp and a laugh- their smiles and laughs are all so contagious. They yell "yeah!" once they see me in the group of them. Sean's the first to pull me from Bray, and we rap the words in each other's faces seeing who knows the words better- which I'm pretty sure is a tie. We all throw our hands up and knock in unison with the song- as cheesy as it may sound, my heart started to warm up feeling like one of the guys. Suddenly, a jersey is thrown around my waist and I'm being pulled in by the captain. The sight of the devilish smirk displayed on his face makes my heart stop and my mouth go completely dry. We all dance and sing along to the song until it sadly ends and everyone yells and claps once it does.
"Enjoy the game tonight?" Claude asks me, both of us breathless from the song still.
"Yeah- what a way to end the road trip," I grin- it really was an amazing game. The Bruins putup a good fight, but the Flyers had forced the 2-3 game into OT (thanks to Claude) and Ghost had scored the game winning goal with a beautiful pass from Wayne.
"Get it all on camera?"
"Come on G, you know I did," I boast with a smirk. He chuckles and puts a hand on my shoulder before placing it on his hip.
"You'll have to show them all to me later," he smiles sweetly and my heart flutters in response.
"Sure thing- well- uhm- I better go- I can't really be in here while you guys our changing," I turn to leave but Claude grabs my hand, making me stop and turn around. He releases my fingers quickly, after realizing what he did, "so uhm, before you go- all of us were thinking about going downtown to this carnival type thing to celebrate the road trip ending- you should totally come it'll be a ton of fun," he informs me.
"Kat- you NEED to come," Delly practically yells nearly jumping on Claude's back, "there's no way we're letting you miss this."
"Yeah- don't try getting out of hanging out with us- we know what room number you are," Jakub chuckles and Brayden joins in.
"Relax guys! I wasn't even going to attempt to get out of this- it sounds like a lot of fun," I put my hands up in an act of surrender, "But I do have to go get changed out of these clothes and get out of here so you guys can do the same."
"Sounds good- we'll meet in the lobby of the hotel in 30 minutes?" Claude proposes and everyone agrees. I nod bye to Claude before heading out of the locker room; I call a cab and it quickly arrives to the now empty stadium.
Once I get to the hotel I get out of my staff uniform and pull on a long sleeve shirt and put my comfy tie-dye sweatshirt over top. It wasn't too cold out for a night in November so I'm not too worried about grabbing a coat. I slip out of my heels and tie a pair of black vans to my feet. I double-check my make-up to reassure that it's still holding up-thankfully it is. Unfortunately, for my eyes, my contacts were starting to bother them so I decide to take them out and put on a pair of glasses. I don't always have to wear contacts/glasses but I've been wearing them more and more. "Claude is definitely going to make fun of these," I murmur to myself as I inspect how the large squarish frames fit my face. (Kat's Outfit)
My phone buzzes from across the room and I rush over to check who it is; "hey, we're all meeting down at the lobby now- want us to swing by?" the text from Brayden reads- "us" probably meaning him and Sean. Just as I'm about to send a quick text back to him saying sure, I hear a knock at my door. I put my purse over my head and lay the strap across my body, and walk over to the entrance just after turning off the lamp next to my bed. "You guys didn't even give me the chance to-" I start to say as I open the door, but stop as soon as I see who's standing in front of me.
"So the beauty is a geek, eh?" Claude asks with a panty-melting smile, referring to my glasses.
"I knew you were gonna say something," I roll my eyes at him and shake my head, "I'm only wearing them because my contacts were hurting my eyes and I-"
"They look good, I really like them," he cuts me off. He offers another sweet smile. I quickly change the subject, hoping he didn't notice my cheeks turning a shade of pink, "I didn't think it was going to be you at the door," as I pull my door closed behind me.
"Expecting someone different?" he asks as we make our way towards the elevator.
"I thought you were Bray and Sean," I answer truthfully and I see Claude slightly wince when he hears me say 'Bray.'
"Well sorry if I disappointed you," he teases.
"Oh shut up Roo," I laugh and playfully hit his arm as the elevator doors open to reveal Sean, Bray, Wayne, and Steve in front of us.
"Oh boy G what were you doing with Kat here? Having fun before the fun begins?" Wayne chirps jokingly but my face flushes bright red. All of us stay quiet for a quick second but then choke out some fake, nervous laughs.
"Good one Simmer," Claude comments sarcastically and shakes his head as we step into the elevator.
Wayne starts talking to Claude about something when Sean nudges my shoulder, making me look back at him. He shoots me a look that says "is that really what happened?" and I mouth no way silently to him and turn back around just in time for the elevator to open up to the ground floor. Most of the guys are already waiting for us to arrive, occupying all of the chairs available. From across the room a see a handsome figure waving to me, "Kat!"
"Oh you've got to be kidding me," I hear Claude mumble under his breath.
I grin and wave back as the figure approaches me, "Parker, hey! You're coming?"
"Yeah of course! Shayne and Delly invited me to come along," he informs me, flashing a brilliant smirk- he was just one of those people that looked effortlessly handsome- or so it seems.
"They invited you?" I hear Claude ask from behind me, poorly masking his annoyance.
"The more the merrier right Claude?" I say aloud, putting a fake pleasant smile on my face as I thrust my elbow back into Claude's stomach. He lets out an "oooof" as the air leaves his chest, "y-yeah right," he grumbles.
"Well I'm leaving with Shayne- see you there Kat?" Parker asks as he walks towards the exit where Delly was waiting for him.
"Yeah we'll see ya there buddy," Claude answers before I can.
I turn to face him once I wave goodbye once again to Parker, "what is your deal Giroux?!"
"The kid is obviously trying to get some from you," he lets out, "and besides he's a real jerk Kat," Claude adds in a rush.
"He doesn't seem like a jerk to me," I say matter-of-factly; was Claude Giroux actually getting jealous?
"Kat, G, let's go!" Sean yells over to us before Claude can answer me. Bray, Sean, Claude, Steve, and I pile into a taxi. Steve and Sean take the seats up front, just after Brayden, Claude and I smush into the back three seats, with me in the middle of the two hockey players. Well I never thought in my life I'd ever be in this situation, I think to myself as we pull away from the hotel. Claude shoots Brayden a harsh look as he takes his right arm and lays it across the back of my seat. "What, man? I'm just trying to give Kat enough room- it's not like we're small guys," Brayden laughs, trying to ease tension.
"Well I mean I wouldn't call Claude a big guy," I tease, causing us all to laugh. New conversations start before Claude can think of something to say back to me. Before too long we arrive to the carnival, which reminded me a lot of a boardwalk full of side games and arcade games like in Wildwood or Ocean City. The place was packed and decorated with bright colorful lights, with fun music blasting through the speaker system.
We round all of the guys together in a huge group before we split up into groups naturally. Parker, Ghost, and Delly join our group filled with Claude, Sean, Brayden, Steve, Raffl, Nuevy and I. As we stroll down the walkway, I hear a loud boisterous voice calling out for Raffl, Delly, and Claude.
"Yo! Rinny! You made it!" Del Zotto says as he and Zac Rinaldo do a special "bro" handshake. Raffl and Zac fist bump just before he turns to everyone else to say hi.
"And who's this?" Zac devilishly grins at me with his villainous looking eyebrows raised.
"Kat, nice to meet you Zac," I smile and stick out my hand to shake his- I used to be a huge Zac Rinaldo fan when he was new and fresh in Philadelphia.
"Pleasure is all mine," he remarks smoothly, his hand still holding onto mine.
"Alright that's enough," Claude says, clearing his throat and gives Zac a hug, asking him questions about living in Boston.
"Looks like you've got a new guard dog now," Sean whispers to me, making me laugh.
After everyone says hi to Zac, we decide to stop at shack with a water gun game; tons of stuffed animals hang from the sides and roof of the little shelter. "What do you want? I'll be happy to win it for you," Parker smiles as he lines up to play basketball.
"Win first- then I'll tell you," I tease with a laugh.
Of course Claude sees this and lines right up next to Parker to play and a couple of the other guys line up as well. "Oh no this is not going to be good," Sean chuckles as he steps next to me, watching them start their game. The alarm dings, letting the guys know to start shooting their water guns into a certain target.
"Claude's too competitive for his own good," I shake my head. I silently cheer for Parker to win- someone just needed to beat Claude. An alarm goes off signaling that someone won, Sean and I scan the row of guys to see who won. Suddenly Parker jumps up, "yes! Katina!" he says and turns around to face me, "I won- what would you like?" As I walk up to him, and point out a cute cow stuffed animal, Claude grumbles something inaudible and walks away from the game. The young 16 year-old attendant hands me the cow and I thank him.
"Thanks for winning this for me- you really didn't have to give your prize to me," I half laugh.
"Well who else would I give it to?" he asks rhetorically with a heart stopping smile.
"Alright, who's up for this game?!" Claude yells to the group before I can say something back to Parker; he runs up to the game involving rubber ducks to play against Claude, Zac, Ghost, and Steve. Just as we're about to the game and I start to take photos of the guy lining up at the game, I hear a woman yell, "oh my gosh, Claude! Is that you?" she jumps into the frame of my picture next to Claude. I groan and put my phone back in my pocket- who was this girl anyways? She runs up to him and wraps her arms tightly around his torso making my heart twist in jealousy; I try to look away but my eyes are frozen on them. Get over it Kat he's Claude Giroux get used to seeing him with girls, my subconscious remarks.
"Oh hey! What are you doing here?" Claude says with a fake smile, causing me to snicker and my jealousy to fade a tad.
"Just here with my girls- looking to have a fun night," she says, winking, practically throwing herself at Claude.
"Oh nice- well- uhm- it was nice to see you again," he lets out awkwardly, trying to give the poor girl the signal that he wasn't going to sleep with her tonight. I can't help but to snicker again as she comes to this realization before she waves bye to him. The rest of the guys laugh quietly at the encounter as Claude turns around in his seat to play the game.
Through the night, we play a ton of games and of course Claude wins almost all of them. I keep myself occupied by joining in on some of the games, taking pictures and uploading videos of us on snapchat. By the end of the night, Claude's arms are full of stuffed animal prizes- his face has a constant white smile spread across it. Even though I'm bitter from losing so many time to him, I pull out my phone and snap a couple pictures of him with his stuffed animal filled arms. I scan through the pictures and can't help but to laugh at how perfectly the picture captured Claude's persona.
Just before we're about to leave, Claude stops me, "hey will you keep the guys waiting for me- I gotta do something with these real quick," he says and motions to the stuffed animals he's holding.
"What do you want to do? See if you beat the record for most prizes?" I ask sarcastically.
"No," he chuckles, "just wait there and hold the cab for me!" Claude quickly disappears into the crowd; what the hell is he doing?
I tell Sean to wait for me and jog to catch up with Claude. Suddenly I stop as I see him handing a minion toy to a young boy who couldn't be any happier, causing me to "awwww" out loud- as cheesy as that sounds. With the plushies all tucked under his arm, he hands them out one by one to kids. A few steps away from the boy, he hands a little girl a purple dragon-fairy plush and within the next few minutes he's given all the stuffed animals away except for one. He walks back towards me, quickly noticing I had seen his act of kindness.
Walking back towards our group together, we keep silent, acting like he hadn't just done the sweetest and nicest thing for those little kids. Claude really was a sweet guy underneath all of that competitive tough hockey exterior- watching the kids faces light up as he handed them a prize- anyone could see how happy he was to hand them out. We pile into the cab- no one surprisingly asking where all of Claude's prizes had went. During the taxi ride, even though it was late and the guys had an exhausting game, it didn't keep us from having some good laughs in the car. When we arrive back to the hotel Claude pulls me aside, "wanna take the other elevator?"
"Uh- yeah sure," I smile as we approach a different elevator.
"I think fatigue is starting to take it toll on me," I admit with a laugh as we step into the elevator. Claude pushes the button for the fourth floor and the door close.
"Yeah? Me too," he agrees with a soft chuckle, "so how'd you like your first long road trip?"
"It wasn't too bad surprisingly," I confess truthfully, "I was dreading it at first but it actually turned out to have a good end," I look up at him and smile.
"Good I'm glad," he grins, "sorry about being a jerk to you though Kat."
"It's okay- I'm just glad we're friends now," I say even though I hate using the word friend when I'm talking about the two of us. The doors open, and Claude waits for me to exit first before following me to my room.
"Yeah- friends," he repeats. We walk in silence until we reach my door, the air filled with awkward tension.
"That was so sweet of you Claude," I let out abruptly referring to when he gave away his prizes to random kids, and I point to his lone stuffed animal in his hands behind his back.
"Uh- well I wasn't going to keep all of them," he admits with a soft laugh, staying humble about the event.
"Keeping one for yourself?" I ask with a smile.
"Actually- uh- no this one- I thought you would like it," he stutters nervously, taking off his hat, running his hand through his hair and placing it back on his head. He hands me the cute penguin from behind him with a small smirk, making my heart flutter. Why did he have to be so sweet?
"Thanks so much Roo," I say and he blushes at the use of his nickname. I tuck the penguin under my arm along with the cow to rip my focus from Claude's attractive face.
"Personally I think this penguin is better than that small cow you got from Parker, but that's just me," he teases.
"Of course you do," I laugh, shaking my head at his evident competitiveness he has with Parker.
"Well- uh- I guess I'll see you tomorrow morning on the bus ride home," Claude says, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. Staring at him acting so flustered in front of me, made my heart sing. I just wanted nothing more but to feel the sweatshirt fitted onto his frame, feel the curls that escaped the hem of his hat, smell the natural addictive scent that hangs all over him - he just looks so warm. Realizing how fondly I was looking at him in that moment only caused my heart to break little more- friends, we are friends- and if I want to keep this job I can never act on how Claude really makes me feel and it's absolute torture. Being friends is better than not having him around at all- or at least that's what I keep on telling myself.
"Yeah- I wouldn't be missing the only bus home," I laugh gently, "see you tomorrow."
"see ya," he responds in a whisper. I expect him to leave me to myself and already be on his way to his room but he doesn't move his feet.
As we stare at one another, silent, each of us not wanting to walk away, I feel the air surrounding us, getting thicker with every second. With every moment our eyes stayed locked, my stomach dropped from the way he was looking at me. This wasn't how friends were supposed to look at one another, right? And if he's still standing here looking at me with those soft green eyes after saying goodbye, telling me that he didn't want to leave me alone tonight, that he remembers that one amazing night we spent together weeks ago, without any words, was I supposed to give in to my feelings? I stand before him, paralyzed, telling him that I didn't want him to leave with my eyes, hoping he wouldn't understand because I don't think I could handle being with him for another night and just go on being friends again, acting like these undeniable feelings for him had disappeared overnight.
My heart swells with emotion as he moves closer, looking at me in the way you don't look at a friend, what we were pretending to be. He inches closer every second but it feels like decades to my heart, just yearning for him to do something already. He opens up his arms and wraps his arms around my torso as I wrap mine around his neck. We stand there for what feels like years in each other's embrace before he rubs one hand up and down my back slowly, moving his fingertips, making my heart flutter crazily in my chest; I feel like I can barely breathe. Claude inhales deeply and serenely exhales giving me chills. I take in his scent as my fingers travel up the back of his neck to feel his wild curls.
He keeps his embrace on me snug, as I let myself relax against his body. It made my heart swell up knowing that he needed to be this close to me as much as I wanted to be, even though we weren't saying it out loud; it would make the feelings all too established- harder to turn our backs to them later when this was all over. Hearing his shallow breathing in my ear numbed my mind and my heart. Involuntarily, I moved my face from his hair to his sideburns; the feeling of his face slightly against mine only set my heart on fire with longing. Claude adjusts his neck so that our cheeks were now touching, inches away from turning my face to place my lips on his. For a second I think he's about to move his face to press his lips to mine but he stops slowly, building more suspense in my chest. "Goodnight, Katina" he whispers, his words burning my ears.
"Goodnight," I breathlessly say in response. He slowly steps back, placing his arms at his sides as I do the same. My heart slowly breaks as I feel his warmth leave my skin; he gives me one last soft smile before leaving me at my doorway, paralyzed, listening to his footsteps fade in the distance.
It's not until I hear the door of the stair well door slam before I'm woken from the haze I was in. I slowly pick up the two stuffed animals from the floor and search apathetically for the hotel room key in my disheveled purse. Once I swipe in, I drag my feet across the room to the bed and fall on top using the soft penguin as a pillow. I debate whether I should change out of my clothes or not but the replay of what just happened distracts me from making a decision. I slowly fall asleep with the vision of Claude holding me in his arms; the gloom in my heart grows with every moment I don't feel his warmth.
NotesHey guys! Thank you so so so much for reading, rating and commenting! I love reading feedback- you guys make my day! I'm going to try to post another chapter before Christmas- I wish I could give you guys so many updates- they just take me forever to write lol. (Holy crap this one is around 4,000 words!) FYI there may be some bad typos in the chapter and previous ones and I deeply apologize for that- I try to fix them as soon as I see them when I reread. Some of them are so crazy bad its embarrassing lol. Flyers are doing pretty good so thank goodness- hopefully they win tomorrow before their break!
ANYWAYS If I don't update before Christmas (which I probably will update before then) then MERRY CHRISTMAS! and if you don't celebrate Christmas then enjoy the holiday season/week, watch good movies and drink hot chocolate!! Thank you so much! (Congrats if you actually read all of this lol)