May 10, 2010

Chapter 16

Maddie unzipped the garment bag and stood back. It was her absolute favorite dress of all time. When she’d bought it, she’d had nowhere to wear it. Not until today. Good thing I brought you, she said silently, I’m going to need all the help I can get.

The dress was dark, mauve-y pink. Black piping ran along the top, accentuating the not-too-revealing cut of the dress. It gave the dress the idea of showing more than it really did. The fitted material hugged Maddie’s body in a classic silhouette. It was sexy, but very classy. Maddie slipped into some black peep-toe heels and spun out into the room.

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” the girls screamed.

Erin was in a blue satin Audrey Hepburn number. Deanne wore a strapless black dress with flower patter trailing up one side. Cynthia hooked the clasp at the back of her red halter top.

“Deep breath, everyone,” Deanne said.

Kris was waiting for them at the elevator.

“Merde,” he said under his breath. “Mademoiselles, you are unbelievable.” He reached out for Cynthia and held her at arm’s length. “Wow,” he breathed. She giggled as he slipped his arm around her waist.

“It looks like Sex and the City over here,” Max sidled up to them. He had a big grin on his face.

“Max, I feel bad you don’t have a date. You’re like the best looking guy in this group!” Erin said.

“Oui cherie, everyone knows this,” he kissed her hand. “Do not worry, I do have a date.”

They headed for the theater. People in the casino, wearing shorts and polo shirts and playing blackjack, turned to watch them go by.

Maddie felt a hand on her back.

“Are you ready for this?” Max said softly.

“How can someone ever be ready for this?” she asked back. “But hey, it’s just a date, right? I’m trying to be cool.”

“Whatever you say, cherie. But this is more like a wedding.”

There were people everywhere. Everyone was dressed to the nines. People stood in line for their tickets, others watched as guests trickled down the red carpet. Staff rushed about wearing badges, talking into walkies.

Kris led the way and nodded at a security guard as they passed into the VIP section around the corner from the main entrance. It was packed with people milling about, waiting to hit the red carpet. Alex Ovechkin already had a drink in his hand. One of the Sedin twins spoke Swedish to a blond woman. Chris Drury and Keith Tkachuk swapped Boston University memories.

And then, there he was. Sidney was scanning the crowd, and he started slightly when his eyes met Maddie’s. Max pushed through and made room for him to squeeze in.

“Hi,” she said.

Sidney just stared at her, taking her in. Her shoulders were bare but for thin spaghetti straps. The slightly sweetheart cut of her dress drew his eyes over her curves and down to her waist. The dress flared over her hips and stopped just before her knees.

“Now who’s undressing who with their eyes?” she whispered.

“You should definitely be intimidated by what I’m thinking right now,” he replied. “You look…”

“Damn ladies!” Jordan stomped through the crowd. “I should have kept you all locked upstairs with me this morning!”

As they laughed, Maddie felt Sid slide his hand into hers. In the close quarters, no one could see. She squeezed and he squeezed back.

People started to empty out of the VIP area, players moving down the red carpet giving interviews. The Pens were set to go toward the end. Maddie saw Nathalie and Mario standing outside the stanchion talking to Gary Bettman. Nathalie caught her glance and gave her a big smile.

“Guys ready?” Maddie turned to see Dan Bylsma, the Pens coach. He glanced down to where Sidney was holding her hand. She quickly looked at Sid.

“Wow,” Bylsma said, looking between them. Then to Maddie, “You are a brave girl.” And he led them out. Sid squeezed her hand again.

There was a holdup at the top of the red carpet. Maddie couldn’t really see over the people in front of her, but some ruckus was going on. Max squeezed past them saying, “My date is here.”

Sidney took the momentary pause to lean into her back. “You look spectacular,” he whispered. She smiled.

The crowd in front of them erupted. Maddie caught a glimpse of silver – The Stanley Cup had arrived. She felt a surge of pride for the guys, for their victory. Today was their day. She silently swore to stop worrying about herself.

“Last chance to back out,” said the voice in her ear.

She turned her head to him. “Lights, camera, action.”

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