The pool deck at the Palms Hotel was packed. It looked like the set of a music video – drinks being pass around, waitresses in bikinis stepping over bronzed bodies. The speakers played R&B and a few people were dancing on a platform in the middle of the pool.
“Yikes, it looks like the Real World,” Erin said. She stopped a waitress whose tray was only slightly larger than her bust. “Excuse me, where do we find cabana #93?”
Erin led them in the direction the waitress had pointed. They were rounding a corner bar when they heard, “Maddie!”
Kris was waving from the bar, a plastic cup in each hand. He looked down at the bar, where a few more cups were waiting. Maddie stepped across a barrier of bamboo and went over.
“Need a hand?” she picked up the other three cups deftly. “Guess you were never a waitress.”
Kris laughed, “I was always the ‘one for you, two for me’ type.” He lead her back over the bamboo. “You must be Maddie’s friends.”
“Deanne and Erin, meet Kris Letang,” Maddie said. “Kris, meet the ladies. We have a fourth, but she’s off spending her inheritance at the craps table.”
“Then we’ll save the bar tab till she gets back.” He moved toward the cabanas.
Deanne and Erin gave Maddie a simultaneous look that said Exclamation point! Kris was wearing green swim trunks and no shirt. He was muscular in a feline way – every muscle in his body was tuned to perfection. They followed him closely.
They passed #90, and Maddie started to feel giddy. What am I walking into? Maddie had been nursing an enormous crush on Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for two seasons. He was the face of the team, the face of the NHL. Maddie half-figured that when the British Queen died, Canada would put Crosby's face on their money. During her recent breakup from a long-term relationship, Maddie’s imagination had run a little wild with the idea of Sid. It had helped her to stop thinking about what had happened, and eventually she’s gotten past the worst of it. Some girls love Brad Pitt, she thought. Some girls don’t. Kris’s voice snapped her back to the moment.
“Ta da! As promised, I have brought friends,” he announced.
Before she could think to be nervous, Maddie smiled. “And we have brought drinks.” The cabana filled with hooting and clapping as Maddie set the drinks on the low table. A hand reached out under her, she followed the arm up.
Tall and blonde, Jordan Staal was draped over a chair with his feet hanging over the armrest. He swung his feet down and stood.
“Thanks!” He smiled broadly and grabbed Maddie’s hand. “I’m Jordan.” Maddie introduced herself, making sure to look only at Jordan for the moment. His goofy grin steadied her a bit – he was not intimidating, he seemed really friendly. She smiled back.
“This is Marc-Andre,” Jordan said, swinging his arm around behind the dark-haired guy next to him. “Call him Flower, everybody does. Flower, Maddie.” Maddie shook Marc’s hand too.
“Nice to meet you,” he said in a French-Canadian accent. “Sorry Kris made you carry drinks.”
“No problem,” Maddie laughed, “But I guess we’ll have to go back for our own.”
“No!” said the voice next to Marc. Maddie looked over, then up. Evgeni Malkin stood over her, his lankiness making 6’ 3” seem gigantic. “I am Geno,” he shook Maddie’s hand. “I will get the drinks. What you like?” His Russian accent made him sound more innocent than he looked.
Maddie turned back to Marc and Jordan, who were still standing. “What are you drinking?”
“Beer, it would seem." He smacked his lips. "Tastes like Sam Adams,” Jordan said.
”I’ll have a Sam Adams,” Maddie said, turning. She saw the girls were introducing themselves around, Erin to Kris and Deanne to Max Talbot. They both ordered the same and Malkin stepped easily over the table and out of the cabana.
Malkin’s frame left a gap, and Maddie saw there was someone else in the cabana. His back was to her, as Kris introduced him to Erin. Maddie knew instantly.
“Hi,” he said, turning toward her. “I’m Sid.”
Maddie’s brain said, Ndskjhiriohjojdsnhfkjnt.
Maddie’s mouth (thankfully) said, “Hi, I’m Maddie.”
It seemed to take an age for her to reach his outstretched hand. Instead of obliviating her to dust, the contact actually calmed her. His hand was warm, his grip firm. His skin was a little rough, like someone who worked with his hands. She looked up.
Good thing she was holding his hand. She might have swooned. He was smiling – the same smile he gave when someone made him laugh in an interview. Not a standard issue smile, but a genuine, happy one. Even in the shade of the cabana, his eyes were liquid brown and sparkling. They were smiling too.
“Your hair is short,” came out of Maddie’s mouth.
He let go of her hand, and ran it through his hair.
“Yeah, I always cut it after the season ends.” He said. “Do you like it?”
Maddie smiled. “I do. For the off season. But you’ll need a mullet come October.”
He laughed. She had survived.
4 years ago