I laughed as I watched Mattie regaining consciousness beside me. “Good night party boy?” I asked, unable to contain my smile as he stifled a groan next to me.
“Ugh… what time is it?” He asked, rolling over onto his back and stretching.
“3... Pm…” I laughed again as he whimpered, throwing his hands over his face.
“I don’t remember anything… how did I get back here?”
“Ah… Geno carried you here, over his shoulder I might add.” I watched as his face squished into disapproval. I could understand why Mattie still didn’t like Geno but, he was lucky Geno showed up; I shuddered to think whether or not Mattie would have gotten back alright without him.
It had been a fairly awkward meeting last night. I had answered the door in a pair of sweats and a Malkin jersey; hair dishevelled. He looked unbelievable, standing there in a pair of fitted jeans and a button down shirt. While he looked like prince charming, Mattie looked like he was about to blow chunks.
I still couldn’t understand why it ended up being Geno that brought him home, but when I pressed him for answers he only shrugged and said: “I find him. Take him home. You happy.”
The next few days flew by as the team readied itself for the first game against Sweden. On the down-side, between skates, practice and interviews I had almost no time to myself; on the plus-side I also had no time to think about Geno.
I never really felt ‘out of place’ when it came to hockey. Guys would be upset about a girl on the team, then they’d play with me, then they’d get over it. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the media outbreak that I caused everywhere I went.
Of course I had expected to get a bit more attention than my team-mates; being the first girl to a play at the world junior level with men, would do that. What I hadn’t expected was the hours of interviews I would be made to sit through, day after day.
Are you excited to be here? What’s it like to be the only girl on Team USA? Do you feel more pressure than your team-mates? Are you afraid of being singled out by the other teams? Are you hoping to win gold?
Most of the questions were ridiculous. By the end of the last day I was ready to blow, and it took all my self restraint to keep from saying what I was really thinking: No I’m not excited to be here, I sure hope that the other teams try to kill me… gold? Pshh, who wants gold when you can loose?
Our game against Sweden was the first game of the World Junior. I sat quietly in the dressing room; glad to be ’just another player’ for once. We were all caught up in our own world, each person dealing with the stress of the situation in their own way.
My way was to stare blanking at the wall ahead of me and pray that I didn’t fall flat on my face on the way out.
The Swedes were fierce, coming out fast and hard. Their main advantage against us was their size; their bodies were so large it felt like we were outnumbered 2 to 1.
The majority of the players on our team, excluding Consti, weren’t sure how to play against such large opponents; for me, there wasn’t much of a difference - I was use to being the smallest.
Catching the puck from Rayner, I dodged a body and turned, bearing down on the Swedish goalie. Experience told me their defence would try to catch me from the side; I was right. A quick turn in perfect balance allowed me to catch him before he was able to react, pushing myself out of the cross-fires and into the crease.
My goal was the only goal scored that game.
Rennie was unstoppable, making amazing save after amazing save; with Mattie and myself creating the majority of our goal chances.
Overall, I was pleased with the victory, but fearful of the next game. Sweden wasn’t suppose to be a medal contender; that honour was meant for USA, Canada and Russia. Tomorrow we played Canada.
Since the night he arrived back to the room with Geno, Mattie had been distant and distracted. I wrote it off to nervousness regarding our first game, but on the bus his mood seemed unchanged. “Everything ok?” I asked as I stared out the window on our way back to the hotel. He didn’t say anything, his only reaction at all was to shrug his shoulders. “Mattie, you played really good.”
“I’m not upset about the game… can we just wait till we’re back in the room?” I nodded my head, worried for the first time. Was he just now, starting to get angry about my kiss with Evgeni?
I sat on the edge of the bed and waited for him to stop pacing. My heart was hammering into my rib cage as I watched him; terrified that this was the end. “Carlie, I cheated on you.”
I watched him, as he watched me; waiting for my reaction. I started to laugh, slowly at first until it boiled over into a fit. “Mattie be real, what is this about?”
He sat down on the bed across from me and continued to watch me; no humour on his face. “I’m not kidding Carlie.” He said after my laughing had ceased.
“But… I don’t- when?”
“The night Geno carried me home.”
I sighed and looked away. “Because you wanted to hurt me too?”
“No, because… I wanted her.”
My eyes snapped back to his face. “Who?” My face was filling with heat as I felt tears threaten to fall.
He shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know, just some girl at the bar… we kissed but, it would have been more if he didn’t come over and stop me.”
“Why did he have to stop you?” I spat, infuriated.
“I was drunk… I don’t know why I did it, but I know I had no intention of stopping it myself.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I whispered softly as the first of the tears began to pool over my lids.
“You need to know… you need to know what I did.” I looked up at him, he was staring at his lap; refusing to meet my eyes.
I pushed myself off the bed and left the room. I wasn’t sure who was worse. Me; for making out with someone I love, or him; for making out with a girl because of alcohol.
I never would have slept with Evgeni… if he had of tried I would have stopped that; I did stop him as it was. Mattie said he wouldn’t have stopped; he only stopped because Evgeni forced him to.
My thoughts carried me down the hall way, down the stairs and into the lobby. What do I do now? I knew it wasn’t fair to take off on Mattie like this, but I wasn’t sure what else to do.
Even less fair was what I was about to do; as I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket.
I dialled Geno’s number and after a short conversation I was rounding the corner on the nearby bar; he was already waiting out front. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I accused, jabbing my finger into his chest. He shrugged his shoulders and reached for me; at a loss as to what was going on. “You knew that he cheated on me, you were there, and you didn’t tell me.”
“I no understand.” He said pointedly, finally grabbing my arms in his hands and pulling me against him.
“He kissed a girl in that bar Geno.”
Comprehension dawned on his face as he let out a sigh. “I hope he no tell you…”
“You hoped he wouldn’t tell me? Cause I don’t deserve to know?” I screamed, not caring that people were watching us now.
“Carlie, you come.” He grabbed my arm and led me down the street; shaking off his jacket and throwing it around my shoulders. I had walked fifteen minutes in a t-shirt - through Russian winter - without realizing it.
We walked for over a half-hour; the cold-air taking the edge off my anger. Finally stopping at a row of connected, brick houses; Evgeni led me up a set of stairs. He unlocked the door and yelled something in Russian. A woman replied back at him from somewhere in the house.
Evgeni didn’t stop to inform me what was going on; he continued to tug at me, leading me up a set of stairs.
I glanced at the pictures hanging on the wall as we passed; some older, black and white photos, mixed in among pictures of Evgeni. First as a child and then as he was now. Oh my god… I’m in his parents house, I gasped as he lead me to a door at the end of the hall.
I sat down beside him on the bed, while he stared at his door. I listened to the noises going on in the house below; hearing what I assumed was his parents moving around, watching TV.
Once he was satisfied that we wouldn’t be disturbed, he turned and grinned at me. That grin, my grin… that lopsided, crooked-tooth grin that would look terrifying on anyone else; but managed to be charming and contagious on him.
“What?… what?” I sighed as he just kept grinning at me. I let out a disgruntled huff and flopped back down on the bed. Evgeni laid down beside me.
“You stay here. I take you tomorrow.”
“Take me back to the hotel tomorrow.”
“Is what I say.”
“Geno, you’ve lived in the US for a while now… you should probably learn proper English.”
“Is proper English.” I sighed again, why bother? “Carlie…”
“Yes Evgeni?” I smiled even though I tried to sound stern; he had a way of making everything seem so much easier… well… when he wasn’t kissing me…
“I glad you here.”
“Me too.” I rolled my head to the side and looked him straight in the face. He looked completely serious, the childish grin was gone from his face; replaced by a contemplative look. “I know that look… no kissing, Geno.”
He gave me a small grin. “I know. Is hard…” He turned away from me, staring up at the ceiling, “it feel like you mine… is hard to know you not… now.” I sighed, and turned my face away from him; his eyes getting watery. If there was one thing I couldn’t deal with, it was Evgeni crying.
It felt wrong to say, I knew it was wrong, but I needed to say it. “I love you.”
He nodded and looked back at me, “only reason I still ok. I love you.”
We both looked away, lying in our own little worlds; where life is easy and love is uncomplicated.