The sun was still high in the sky when the show ended. Maddie stood on the pool deck at The Palms, watching Sidney made the rounds. He seemed to know every single person at the event. Good thing they hadn’t sent him for drinks, he’d never make it to the bar, she thought.
When Commissioner Bettman had made the ceremonial Stanley Cup presentation to the Penguins, Maddie and Erin had both gotten a little teary-eyed. It happened every season, no matter who won. The absolute, unrestrained happiness on the winners’ faces was one of the most beautiful things about this sport.
Kris made it back with two drinks, so Erin went to help Cynthia at the bar. Geno and Jordan were off talking to Jordan’s brothers, and Deanne had disappeared to make dinner reservations.
Kris handed Maddie a glass and offered her a toast. “Thanks for letting me pick you up in the gym,” he said, smiling. “Good thing you have hot friends, or I might be upset that you ditched me for Sid.”
“I am still your biggest fan, and I still owe you a fandemonium moment,” she acknowledged.
“I will be calling that in,” he looked around the pool. “You’re lucky Ovie got you in front of everyone, or I’d make you do it here.”
“I’m plenty embarrassed already,” she said. People had been nodding or saying hello to her all night. And everyone was looking at her, even when Sid wasn’t around. She stuck close to someone at all times.
The girls made it back with drinks at the same time Sidney returned. He raised his glass.
“To Maddie, for not falling up the stairs to the stage,” he said. Everyone clinked glasses.
The party had the prim atmosphere of a cocktail party, but the Vegas undercurrent count not be denied. The pool bar would be open tonight as part of the NHL event. Maddie looked around and thought, This is a lot of hockey players. They will probably tear this place up later. Pro athletes could party like rock stars, and this was the off-season after all.
“Wonder what this place will look like in the morning,” Erin wondered the same thing aloud.
“I wonder what you look like in the morning,” Max said, sidling up to the group. He had been grinning all day since carrying the Cup down the red carpet.
“Someone steal your date?” Cynthia asked. They could see a line of people waiting to have their pictures taken with The Cup.
Max held up his glass, amber liquid sloshing inside. “New date,” he announced.
By seven o’clock, the cocktail party was winding down. Appetizers had been passed a hundred times, but arrived much slower than drinks. Everyone was slightly glazed over and stomachs were growling.
“It’s time for our dinner reservation,” Deanne rounded everyone up, and herded them into the hotel. They followed her through the casino… and right out the main entrance. A stretch SUV pulled up and stopped in front of her. For a moment, everyone was quiet.
“Are we going to the prom?” Cynthia asked.
“In New Jersey?” Erin added.
The driver came around and opened a door for Deanne. “Have a little faith, people! We are going to dinner,” she said as she climbed in.
Even with the huge vehicle, five hockey players and four grown women was a tight fit. Deanne sat on Jordan’s lap, and they poured drinks from the sidebar like an upper body version of a three-legged race. Max sat on Kris’ lap, so Cynthia sat on Max’s lap in an attempt to move him. They stayed that way the whole ride.
“Where are we going?” Geno asked. He had an arm around Erin, mostly because of the close quarters.
“To the most magical, wonderful place on Earth,” Deanne lifted her glass, and the girls gasped as the car made a left off the highway. The long SUV rolled to a stop in the parking lot of a gleaming, glowing white In-N-Out Burger.
“Oh my God, I love you more than life itself,” Maddie swore, angling to be the first body out of the car.
Obnoxious vehicles, suits and dresses were not out of place in a hamburger stand in Vegas, even before dark. They got a few looks, but luckily it was all due to the car. No one recognized the guys as they piled into the burger place.
Erin grabbed a table. “Order a 2x4 burger, animal style,” She told Geno. “And one for me.”
They were calling so much attention to themselves that Sid was a little uncomfortable. Even though no one seemed to care, it was against his nature. And it always seemed to always happen by itself anyway. He looked at Maddie and his embarrassment faded. She was smiling like she wore formal wear to a fast food restaurant every day. He noticed that she did not look at the menu.
“Come here often?”
“Every chance I get,” she said. “Number 2, no onions with a neopolitan shake.”
“You don’t like onions?”
She reached her hand right into his pocket. He flinched to feel her palm on his thigh, with just the thin lining separating their skin. She pressed against him, then drew her nails up along his leg as she pulled her hand out.
“Nope, no toothbrush. So I suggest no onions for you either,” she smiled. “Unless you’re going home alone tonight.”
He nodded crisply. “Right, no onions. Ever again.”
Burgers and fries were devoured. Jordan and Kris went back for seconds, and Geno drank three milkshakes. Max, with his mouth full, declared Deanne a genius.
Maddie took a stray fry from the bottom of Sid’s tray. “Too much?” she asked quietly. His look said he knew exactly what she meant.
“No, no it’s great. It’s great.” He looked around. “It’s been a long time since I made a scene and absolutely no one cared at all.” She smiled.
As they hoisted themselves back into the truck, Max insisted on standing with his head out the sunroof. “The Palms Hotel, come to the pool bar!” he shouted to girls walking down the Vegas Strip. He ducked back in when he saw a cop car in the traffic, and shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t hang out with The Cup all night.”
Cynthia and Jordan wanted to go another round at the craps table before heading back to the party. They all crowded around to watch. Jordan threw first, and lasted three rounds before rolling craps. Cynthia stayed at the point for 5 rolls on her first turn. Sid reached past Maddie and put a fifty dollar bill on the table. The boxman scooped it up and put two chips in its place.
“Your turn,” Sid said, pushing Maddie toward the head of the table. He handed the chips to Jordan. “Do something with those.”
“What? I don’t know what…” she protested. Cynthia grabbed her arm and pulled her in. Everyone was putting chips on the table, and none of it made any sense to Maddie.
“Just roll,” Cynthia gestured for the dealer to give Maddie the dice. “We’ll tell you if you win.”
Maddie took the dice and looked skeptically at Sid. “Okay Captain, give us some luck.” Sid blew on the dice.
Maddie rolled an 8. The dealer moved the ON button to the 8 in the middle of the table. He didn’t take any chips away, so she looked at Jordan.
“That’s the point number, Maddie. Now roll another one.” Jordan jerked his thumb at Sid. “Don’t roll a 7. Yes, rolling 87 would be very cute. But in this case, you’ll crap out and lose.”
“Just this once, I say it’s okay,” Sid squeezed her waist as she held the dice out to him again.
Maddie shook her fist, closed her eyes and tossed the dice onto the table. One immediately stopped, a three. The other bounced, bounced again… and landed 5-side up.
Their little crowd went crazy. Cynthia hugged Maddie. Sid threw his hands over his head and ran a lap around the table, shouting “We won, we won!”
The boxman dropped chips onto all the stacks on the pass line, including two more on top of the two Sid had bought. Sid picked up his four chips as he circled back. He grabbed Maddie’s hand and spun her out to arm’s length, then wound her back in and kissed her on the mouth.
“You are giddy,” Maddie laughed.
“I’m getting used to this! I feel like I can do whatever I want here and no one cares! This must be what it’s like to be normal,” he was smiling. “I have another idea.” He pulled Maddie from the table, and she waved over her shoulder to everyone.
“Oh no,” Maddie said, stopping.
“Oh yes,” Sid dropped her hand and flipped open a huge binder of karaoke songs. The lounge was mostly empty, with just a few people singing. They all looked like regulars.
Maddie put a hand on the book. “I am the worst singer in the world. Really. It’s a human rights violation.”
Sid kept scanning the page, around her fingers. “Don’t care!” He seemed to find one he liked, and he trotted off to the DJ. Maddie flipped open her phone and texted the girls: Karaoke bar – help now.
No one normal gets this excited about Vegas karaoke. Especially sober people before 10 PM, she told herself. But Sid, he was brimming with energy. No one knew him. No one cared who he was or what he did. He seemed so relieved to drop his guard and act like everyone else. Maddie did a quick sweep of her head, looking for photographers or anyone she recognized from the awards show. She saw no one.
“Sidney and Madeline,” the DJ announced. “You’re up!” Sid grabbed Maddie’s had and pulled her toward the stage.
The monitor read: “Journey – Don’t Stop Believing”. Maddie cracked a smile. At least he picked a classic, and I know all the words.
Sid started singing, and Maddie joined in. She hoped he was drowning out her voice. Jordan and Deanne raced into the bar just as they sang “Born and raised in south Detroit….” Jordan must have coached her, because they both yelled “BOOOO!” at the mention of the Motor City.
Erin arrived, ahead of Geno and Max. Without stopping, Max walked right to the DJ, took a microphone and climbed on stage. They all followed his lead. By the chorus, the seven of them were up there. Six people belted out the lyrics without needing to read the screen. Geno accompanied them on air guitar.
When the song ended, one old lady clapped. No one else seemed to have heard them at all.
“We’ll be here all week,” Max pretended to tip his hat.
3 years ago