“I can’t believe you didn’t say anything!” Max pulls Sid’s wife into a hug and she makes a face at me over his shoulder.
“I just get finished telling you it’s a risky pregnancy and you’re trying to crush my ribs,” she groans, giving his back a firm pat. Unperturbed, Max turns to Sid who quickly back peddles, laughing and holding up his hands defensively.
“We didn’t want to say anything until she got past the first trimester,” Sid explains hastily, using his wife as a shield, effectively hiding behind her.
“So what is it this time?” Jordan asks as he adds another brightly wrapped present to the growing pile of baby shower gifts.
“I hope it’s a girl,” Sid replies with this hopeful smile on his face that makes all the guys stare at him, open mouthed.
“Really?” Flower asks, only to be punched in the arm by Vero. “What? I thought we were putting a team together.”
“We? Oh so I can get pregnant now?” Vero argues back and Flower shakes his head vehemently.
“And who says a girl can’t play hockey with the big boys? By the time this girl gets to be old enough…,” Tabby’s hand flies up to her mouth and her eyes get wide as she turns to look at Sid who’s staring back at her with a giant goofy grin on his face.
“It’s a girl? It’s really a girl?” Risky pregnancy or not, he swings his wife into the air and let’s out an ecstatic war whoop while she laughs.
I watch it all from the corner of the room. Not that I’m not happy for them, because I am. Sid’s one of my best friends in the world, but other than maybe winning The Cup again, there just doesn’t seem to be anything that can put a smile on my face. Especially not being around other couples who are happy and in love and more specifically when I have to watch Max put his arms around Becky’s waist and kiss her neck.
I dig my fingers into my palms and try my best to smile while I’m dying inside. They look happy, or at least Max does. Becky’s smiling, but she’s hating this. She’s doing her dutiful WAG duty, but I can see the tightness in the way she’s holding her mouth, how her teeth don’t show when she smiles. She knows what the other WAGs think of her but she’s doing her best to be the new Rebecca she’s trying so hard to be.
I want to tell her I’d never ask her to do that but that wouldn’t really be fair to Max. I doubt he’s even aware she’s doing it, much less asking her to do it which I guess means he’s not asking her to avoid me, even though it’s obvious that’s exactly what she’s doing. Even now as I edge my way towards the spread that Mel and Vero and some of the other WAGs have put together, she unwinds Max’s arms from around her and heads in the opposite direction. I tell myself not to watch her go but when I turn back to pick up an oatmeal and raison cookie from the table, I find Mel and Tabby’s gazes both locked on me and both women are wearing the same expression of warning.
As if I need to be told.
“You still haven’t told her how you feel, have you?” Tabby hisses at me accusingly. Now how do I answer that question?
“Let’s put it this way,” I reply, glancing over at where she’s bouncing one of the twins on her knee, “she knows. She just…doesn’t want to know.”
“Then why are you still staring after her like some kind of love sick jersey cow?” Tabby asks, slapping my hand away from a pile of cheese cubes which she and Mel seem to think is exclusively for them. Pregnant women and their cravings, I find it’s safest not to get in their way.
“She doesn’t love him,” I explain with a shrug.
“And you know that because?” Mel asks, wincing and rubbing at her swollen mid-section. I glance at Johnny who’s watching her like a hawk from the other side of the room. It’s common knowledge that she’s due to burst at any second. I’d heard him say earlier that her emergency bag is in the car, just in case.
“I just know. It’s Max,” I shrug. It’s all I’m willing to say. I don’t have the right to tell anyone any more than that. That’s between Becky and I. I’ll never tell. Not unless, one day she….
“He loves her you know.” We all turn to find Jordan’s squeeze and Mel’s best friend Trina walking towards us, or rather, stalking, like a panther. She always walks that way. It drives Jordan crazy and she knows it and when I look over her shoulder I’m not at all surprised to see him watching her, his gaze fixated on her ass. It makes me wonder if I look that pathetic when I’m watching Rebecca.
“He doesn’t,” I argue, smirking at the very idea that Max has suddenly grown a heart.
“He does actually,” she replies firmly, grabbing a fistful of grapes and tossing one up and catching it in her mouth. “He told me himself. Ask Jordan, he was there.”
“Well she doesn’t love him,” I insist, feeling secure about that fact at least, still sure that I’m right about Max’s feelings as well.
“Sure about that?” she asks, glancing across the room with a raised eyebrow. I follow her gaze to find Max sitting with his thigh pressed alongside hers’, their heads close together, matching smiles on their faces as he curls her hair around his finger. My stomach begins to ache and the air in the room becomes thick, like clotted cream and my head starts to spin but then she looks up at me from beneath her bangs and the barely disguised look of longing in her eyes makes my heart swell.
“What are you doing?”
I nearly drop the finger sandwich I’m about to bite into as I look up to find four of the other WAGs bearing down on me. Blinking at them I try and think of what I’ve done. I haven’t dropped one of the twins, or even taken Max up on the offer of having sex on the pool table in Sid and Tabby’s games room, so I’m left unsure what it is I’m about to catch holy shit for, except for maybe eating the cucumber and mayo sandwich, which I quickly put down.
“I’m…not sure?” I look at all their faces in turn, that voice in the back of my head telling me ‘see, they hate you’ over and over again.
“With Max and Kris, what are you doing?” Sid’s wife, Tabby backs me into the substantial and vaguely intimidating professional kitchen.
“Nothing?” My voice sounds too high and squeaky for my answer to be even remotely taken as sincere. Fuck me. I can’t lie to save my life.
“So you have the two of them on their knees and you’re going to say you’re not playing games with them?” I look towards one of the goaltender’s very pregnant girlfriend and shake my head.
“I don’t know where you get that idea,” I begin but am cut off by catty laughter.
“They’re both in love with you,” Trina sighs and gives me that look that you see in cop shows when the detective is sitting across the table from a suspect in the interrogation room that says ‘stop shitting me’. “That doesn’t happen without some kind of encouragement.”
“Like you and Jordan?” It comes out of my mouth before I have time to edit my thoughts, before my brain can tell my tongue that it’s only asking for trouble by opening that particular can of worms. As Trina rolls her eyes and shakes her head at me I silently curse Max for telling me things I shouldn’t know.
“Jordan knew the rules before he got into it,” she replies simply. “I’m not into commitment. I’m also not into gold digging,” she adds raising her eyebrows and tilting her head to one side. The accusation, though left unsaid, is crystal clear.
“It’s not like that,” I mumble, hating how they make me feel like my mom or my sister often does, shitty and insignificant. “Look I know you guys hate me for whatever reason…,” I begin, taking a deep breath as I try and think how I’m going to explain this.
“We don’t hate you,” Tabby says quickly and in a voice that doesn’t have any of the critical tone that Jordan’s girlfriend used. “On the other hand, we’re not sure we like you either,” she adds as she leans back against the counter and rests her hand on her just visible baby bump.
“What we really don’t like is what you’re doing to Kris,” Mel continues more quietly and when I look over at the backup’s pregnant girlfriend her expression isn’t at all threatening, but more contemplative. “He’s probably the biggest catch left,” she explains with a meaningful glance towards the living room where the boys are trying to put together some kind of mechanical swing contraption for the twins. “He’s also probably the most sensitive guy on the team, aside from Flower,” she adds quickly, leaning over to squeeze the number one goalie’s long time girlfriend’s hand.
“We don’t want to see him get hurt,” Veronique puts the cherry on top, and then they’re all standing there, staring at me, waiting for my explanation.
“Neither do I,” I tell them honestly, clenching my jaw against the tears that I can feel building in my chest and behind my eyes. “I’ve told him…I said we can’t…,” my voice breaks and I feel the first of what seems like it will be a deluge of tears slide down my cheek. I wipe it away and take a deep breath and lift my chin. “I really like Max. He’s amazing. I know I’m lucky for him to want me,” I add quickly, forcing myself to smile as I promise myself I will not cry in front of these vultures. “You don’t need to tell me that.”
For a minute, I think that it’s going to be enough. I think that they’re going to let me go at that. They share a look and both Veronique and Mel shrug and nod like they’ve accepted what I’ve said and I start to breathe again. And then Sid’s wife, Tabby, tilts her head to one side and gives me that look. It’s the look my mother has always given me when she thinks I’m holding out.
“You love him too, don’t you?” she says quietly and when I open my mouth to deny it, she closes her eyes and shakes her head. “Don’t bother. I don’t know what it is but ever since I had the twins, it’s like I have this sixth sense about shit like this so don’t lie. You love Kris and he loves you, am I right?”
I’m going to lie. I know it before she even gets finished speaking. I’m sure of it when she gives me this sympathetic look that’s really more pity than empathy. She knows I’m not good enough for him but I don’t need her to tell me that, so I’m going to lie. It’s as much for him as it is for me. God knows if Max gossips about his friends and teammates’ lives they must too. So if I tell the truth it will get back to Kristopher and I won’t let that happen.
“No,” I smile, but I put the threat in my eyes; ‘tell him and I’ll deny it’.
“Here you are! Are you girls talking about babies?” I lean back into Max as he wraps his arms around me and presses his scruffy cheek against mine. “I swear that shit is totally catching. Not that I’d mind,” he adds, pressing his lips to my cheek. My stomach clenches.
“You’d make cute babies Maximus,” Mel winks at him and I look back at him to see him grinning. He’d be a good dad. There’s no denying it.
“What do you mean I would? I’m totally going to, n’est-ce pas, mon créateur peu de jolis bébés?” I roll my eyes but the look on all of the women’s faces is less skeptical than shocked.
“I’m not,” I lie, or at least I think it’s a lie because I haven’t had the guts to actually find out if that’s why I’ve missed my period. There could be other reasons, stress for one.
“But you could be,” he continues, squeezing me hard before sliding his hands slide down until they cover the thin strip of skin between the bottom of my sweater and my jeans.
“You wouldn’t like me if I was as big as a house,” I tell him in a stage whisper as I glance towards the backup’s girlfriend who’s rubbing at her swollen belly, a belly that seems to have a mind of it’s own, that moves under her hand.
“I would,” he promises, his teeth closing around my earlobe, his body pressing eagerly against mine, making it all too clear, especially against the small of my back just how much.
“He does have a thing for the preggos,” Jordan gives a shudder as he mimics Max’s position behind his own girlfriend and Trina sneers in derision at the thought.
“All ripe and juicy,” Max whispers in my ear and grinds his growing erection against my ass but when I look back to shoot him a look of warning, his gaze is fixed on Mel and he’s wearing the same obsessive expression Jordan has been wearing all day around Trina.
“You’re disgusting,” Vero sighs and rolls her eyes but when she turns to Mel for support, she only giggles and winks at Max.
“You want a piece of this Frenchie?” she laughs, suggestively rubbing her stomach and rolling her hips. “All plump and ready to burst?” she adds, cupping her overripe breasts and licking her lips. It’s not my imagination, Max’s erection gets longer, harder and he presses it more insistently into the small of my back and his hands begin to slide north.
“Oh no you don’t,” I hiss, grabbing his hands and stopping them from mimicking the way Mel is holding her tits like they’re two ripe melons. “Jeezus, have a little decorum.” I don’t know if I’m saying it to him or to her but as I dig my nails into his hands to remind him that he’s in public he isn’t the only one that winces and hisses in pain.
Mel looks down between her feet and curses and then we all look down at the pool of sticky liquid pooling around her feet.
“Ah damn,” Tabby grabs a tea towel and throws it at Vero. “Brent, call the hospital! Tell them we’re on our way!”