May 23, 2010

Chapter 22

“Let’s see a show,” Jordan suggested. He looked at Deanne. “A topless one.”

She kicked him in the leg. “And here I was hoping you’d suggest The Thunder From Down Under Australian male strippers. Typical.”

“You want a lap dance?” he asked, getting up from his chair.

They were lounging by the pool. Maddie and Sid were in the water, elbows propped on the edge of the deck. Kris paddled over on an inflatable raft he’d borrowed. It even had a little holder for his drink.

“I have a better idea,” Cynthia said. “How about the jousting show at Excalibur? It has horses and sword fighting and food, all stuff guys like.” She turned. “I offer this for Maddie, because she loves that renaissance faire, knights and chivalry stuff.”

Sid looked at her, “You do?”

She threw her head back. “Yes,” she said sheepishly. “Remember when I told you I like sci-fi books you’d associate with people who speak Elvish?”

He laughed. “Yes, but I have no idea what that means. I don’t speak nerd.” She splashed him in the face, and he shoved her under the water.

Max adjusted the paper crown on his head, tilting it rakishly and winking at himself in the mirror. He could see Maddie watching him.

“Does this do it for you?” he asked. “Do I need tights and doublet or something?

“Sir Superstar. It’s more about the horseback riding. You know – thighs straining against leather, that kind of thing.” She straightened his crown, then his collar. They linked elbows and headed into the arena.

The jousting ring was in the middle of the sunken floor. Rows of seats lined the sides of the arena, and each had a counter running in front of it as a table. Maddie sat next to Sid, with Max on the other side. Sid grinned at her – he too was wearing a paper crown. He reached up and took hers off.

“I got you something better,” he reached under the table. From a bag, he pulled a silver plastic tiara with small colored plastic jewels in it. He pulled off the gift shop tag and placed it on her head. Brushing a hair from her face, he pulled her in and kissed her softly on the lips. “My princess.”

They roared and clapped their way through dinner. The Green Knight, assigned to their section, jousted well. They ate with their hands – chicken pieces, broccoli, brownies for desert. A waitress filled their pewter beer mugs every time she passed.

How does she do that in the dark? Maddie wondered.

The story was something about a princess doomed to wed a bad guy. In the end, the Green Knight did win. They cheered to bring the house down. When they finally left, they were all pretty drunk. Jordan was lifting Deanne into the air every few steps. Kris nuzzled Cynthia’s neck. Geno and Max pretended to charge each other in a joust, and Erin waved a tissue like a favor for her favorite knight.

Sid grabbed Maddie’s arm. He pulled her aside, toward a display board.

"Look, you can get married here!" He pointed. "Well… I mean… not…” Sid stuttered. He turned to her, his face a little pale. "Sorry, that was awkward!"

They both laughed and Maddie kissed his cheek.

“That would really do Mario in,” she said.

They crossed the footbridge to the New York New York hotel and filed into the Nine Fine Irishmen bar. They claimed a table upstairs, on the balcony overlooking the Vegas Strip. A waitress followed them up.

“Two rounds for everyone,” Jordan said. “Drink ‘em before they’re warm.”

An Irish band came on, fiddling and shouting and playing songs the whole bar knew. Fantastically drunk by now, everyone piled downstairs onto the small, crowded dance floor. Jordan and Geno stomped to the jig, swinging the girls around. They were like a pair of step-dancing dinosaurs. Kris bought Cynthia and Max Irish car bombs at the bar.

“I am drunk,” Sid called into Maddie’s ear.

“Me too!” she giggled. She still wore her tiara from the joust.

He pulled her hand and led her out into the casino. Even with lights flashing and machines warbling, it seemed silent compared to the bar. Maddie laughed really loud and Sid pulled her around the corner, shushing her. It was Thursday night, and the casino and bars were getting pretty full. He tugged her right out the front door onto the fake Brooklyn Bridge.

She took a deep breath. The heat of the day had broken, as it does in the desert, and the air was crisp and cool. Sid rubbed his hands up and down her arms as they took a table on the outside of the quieter bar next door.

“Having fun?” She pulled her chair right up to his and plopped down. “Sidney Crosby, face of the NHL, Stanley Cup champion and captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are you enjoying yourself in Sin City?” She spoke into her hand like a microphone. Sid looked at the menu on the table and saw they were at ESPN Sportszone.

“Well, Barry Melrose,” he started. Maddie pulled a face – a huge, shocked expression. She quickly puffed the front of her hair and pulled two sides over her shoulders imitating a mullet. In a tiara.

“Barry, I am having such a good time that I don’t want it to end,” he answered, pushing her hand down. “I am quite honestly having the time of my life.”

Maddie smiled, a little lopsidedly. “Aw, Sid! Me too!” She got up and sat on his lap, kicking her feet out to the side. He moved to catch her legs, but leaned too far back. The plastic chair buckled, and then collapsed. All four legs shot off, flying across the patio and dumping them to the ground. Sid landed on his back, Maddie on top of him. They both sucked in a breath, then burst out laughing. Maddie staggered up and reached for Sid. He got to his feet just as a waitress was making her way over.

“Are you guys…” she said. And they ran.

They ran across the Brooklyn Bridge, past the main entrance and around the side of the building. They stopped halfway up the stairs to the footbridge. Maddie slumped against the wall, wailing laughter. Sid was right behind her, doubled-over.

“My… my….” she gasped. “My mullet was too heavy for that chair!”

They stumbled back into the Irish bar, more worn out from laughing than drinking. Kris and Cynthia were upstairs, unabashedly making out at their balcony table. Max was at the bar with Erin, telling a story with his hands. Geno danced with Deanne as Jordan took a break.

Sid climbed into a booth, out of the balcony’s line of site. He slid and Maddie sat next to him. They were both still giggling when they ordered a couple of beers.

“That would have made the papers,” Maddie said. “I wonder if they have a security camera."

Sid clinked his drink against hers. “I really hope they don’t.”

He sipped and looked at her. Her eyes were shining, wet from laughing and running and drinking. An occasional curl slipped down in front of her face. She’d been smiling for days, but it still caught him in flashes. She was wearing a red tank top with beading on the front, on the straps and down the middle of her back. Dark denim capri pants ended mid-calf, and she wore flat black sandals. She’d apologized for her feet hurting after two days in high heels, but Sid liked it. It made her shorter, so he could better wrap himself around her.

Maddie snuck a peek at Sidney too. He wore a black collared Izod shirt with short sleeves, making his sculpted arms highly visible. The dark color set off his hair and eyes. Dark jeans left just enough to her imagination. Maddie would have bet he was wearing white socks under his black shoes. She still loved the short hair, especially the very straight line it made across the back of his neck. She ran her finger along it and he smiled.

“I like your smile best of all,” she said out loud. He smiled more, and blushed. “I mean it. You’re so serious on TV. Even when you do smile, it never reaches your eyes. I know you have important stuff going on. But the smile, the smile is amazing.”

He put an arm around her waist. “I have smiled more in the last 3 days than all season long. Well, except for winning. And the parade.”

“So I rank third behind the Stanley Cup and the victory parade?” she asked. “I am doing pretty well!”

He kissed her cheek. Pulling her into him, he did it again. With a sigh, he settled against the wall and held her. “I haven’t asked when you’re leaving Vegas,” he said, “because I don’t want to know the answer.”

She didn’t look at him. “We’re supposed to leave tomorrow.”

“What if I asked you to stay? We are here through Sunday, a proper vacation. Tomorrow is Friday, then it’s just the weekend. Would anyone miss you?” He turned her to face him. “Could you stay?”

She tilted her head and smiled. “We’ve already changed our flights.” Then she laughed.

His mouth dropped open for a second, then he collected himself and kissed her hard on the lips. She slipped her tongue into his mouth and made it a real kiss, but short. When she pulled back she was still smiling.

“Jordan did it, actually. I think he paid for it too. He said there was no way he was letting Deanne go, nor did he want to be stuck with you guys for another three days.”

Sid pushed her out of the booth. “It seems I owe Jordan a drink!”

Maddie hit the dance floor with Max as Sid dropped into the seat next to Jordan.

“I owe you one, man,” Sid said.

“Ahh, she told you. You are welcome. You need it, captain.” Jordan tipped his drink toward Sid. “Haven’t seen you let go in a while.”

Sid sat back and watched Maddie. If he didn’t know Max, he’d have started a fight over the way he was dancing with her. The band was playing “One” by U2. Maddie had an arm across Max’s shoulders as he swiveled against her. They were laughing, talking over the music. Sidney loved that she wasn’t glued to his side, that she actually seemed to like everyone, want to know them. He thought that, and those legs, made her the most beautiful girl in the room.

The bar closed at 3 AM. There’s no real last call in Vegas, but when the party starts dying the bars drop off. Happily exhausted and drunk, they piled into the elevator.

Maddie walked into Sid's room and flopped down on the bed. He pulled of his shirt and kicked off his shoes.

“I knew it,” Maddie said. “White socks.”

Sidney unzipped her dress and rolled her out of it. He climbed into bed, pulled the blanket over them and hugged her to sleep.

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