May 10, 2010

Chapter 14

Brunch flew past as Maddie started to get a little nervous about what she’d agreed to do. They piled into the buffet at the Palms, where the boys really pressed the meaning of ‘all-you-can-eat.’

Over his third plate of pancakes and shrimp cocktail, Jordan said, “So Maddie. We heard you’re having your coming out party today.”

“We’ll see what Mario says,” she answered.

“Oh please,” Jordan replied. “You picked the wrong shield. Mario lifted the ‘no girls’ rule from his house for Sid months ago. He’s pretty desperate for The Kid to get some so everyone can stop worrying about what will happen when he finally does.”

Sidney covered his face with his hands. “Jordo, I will kick your ass if you don’t shutup.”

Jordan shrugged, “Hey man, I’m just saying. You waited long enough to pick someone, Maddie must be pretty special.” He winked at her. “Must have shown you just how special last night…”

Sid laughed and pushed Jordan off the bench. He landed on the floor, but didn’t move to get up. “I can see up D’s dress from down here!”

“You okay?” Sid said behind Maddie as they were leaving the restaurant.

She turned to face him. “Don’t worry about me.”

Sid looked at his watch. He had to be at the show an hour before everyone else for some pre-arranged sponsor interviews.

“I have two hours. Want to go for a walk?”

“I have to start getting ready if I’m going to pull this off.”

“Will you come down with me to meet Mario before I start?” She nodded. “Then you can come back with everyone at 3 and I’ll meet you by the top of the red carpet?” He put his hand protectively on her arm. “There’s still time to back out if you want to.” He leaned in, and whispered, “I really hope you don’t want to.”

Maddie touched his face. In the back of her mind, she wondered if it was a good idea to be touching him in public. The hotel must be crawling with press, fans, NHL employees and guests. She knew there was no mistaking what was passing between them now.

“I’ll be there,” she whispered. She turned to walk away.

“Hey Maddie,” Sid called after her. “Change your shoes.” She was still wearing his flip flops.

Maddie went straight for the hotel directory.

“Already done!” Erica said, pulling it from her. “They’re ready for you in 15 minutes.”

“What? Who?”

“The salon downstairs, fool,” Cynthia said. “We’re not going to let you become Queen of Canada wearing eyeliner from Target.”

“We got you the works – hair and nails and makeup. But you’ll need at least 90 minutes, and we mustn’t keep Mario waiting.” Erin handed her a bag. “Go.”

The salon was gorgeous. Stone waterfall fountains flanked the room. Vaguely Celtic music played softly. Maddie could almost have relaxed except for the team of ninja assassin-like employees swarming around her.

“Curls!” the hairdresser had gasped when he let down her clip. “I love curls.”

And he did. He seemed to go through each curl individually, smoothing them into perfect waves and spirals. He pushed a little bouffant into the top of her hair and pinned it. He carefully selected each curl to join it, fastening them up. When he was done, her hair was a soft cascade of curls catching the light. Maddie thought she looked like a Shakespearean heroine. Like Juliet.

The makeup artist worked quickly, using so many brushes and pots that Maddie gave up trying to guess what she was doing. She concentrated on not letting her eyes water as she looked up, down, up again around the mascara brush. Maddie had asked for “not too much” on her face, so she was thrilled when the artist stepped away. She looked defined and slightly dramatic, but she still looked like herself.

When her nails were dry, she dug into her purse for her wallet. The receptionist stopped her.

“It’s been taken care of, miss,” she smiled. Damn it, girls, Maddie thought. But she couldn’t stay mad as she floated out of the salon on a chorus of “Good luck!” and “Have fun!”

Crossing into the casino, she nearly crashed into Sidney.

“Oooff, sorry! What are you doing here?” She stepped back to look at him. He was wearing a sleek black suit with a slight shine on the lapels. A crisp white shirt peeked out from behind a Nordiques-blue tie. His short hair was gelled slightly, giving it a permanently ‘just ran a hand through it’ look. Maddie drew in a deep breath – he was stunning. Sidney looked like a strapping, Canadian James Bond.

He blushed under her stare. “Shy, sugar?”

“The most beautiful girl in Las Vegas just undressed me with her eyes,” he laughed. “I do feel a little intimidated.”

She swatted his shoulder. “Pssshhht. If you can handle playoffs, I think you’ll live.”

They were standing just a little too far apart – an inch, maybe more, than she would have naturally done. She could see he felt nervous too, about what they might be getting into.

“You look… you look like a fairy tale,” he stammered.

She put her arm through his in what could be considered a formal gesture, then leaned her head in. “Wait till you see my dress.”

She led him in the direction of the theater. They had a few minutes before meeting Mario. Maddie was lost in thinking about what he might say, when she suddenly stopped.

“Sidney Crosby,” she said. “Did you pay the salon?”

He smiled a straight line. “Busted.” He put his hands up, not knowing how she would react. “I felt bad. You’re doing this for me. And wow,” he took her in, “you are really doing it for me.” He smiled, trying. “Please let me.”

Maddie sighed. He looked so cute, making puppy dog eyes and willing her not to be mad. She felt the same insecurity as she had the night before – his insecurity. Like he worried that people only ever wanted him for his money. And he might have overstepped by paying for her.

She smiled, “Thank you, Sidney.”

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