Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chapter 4- Outstretched Hand

Okay, so I know it's been a month..but try not to hate me? Hope you guys enjoy the chapter!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

3- Initial Impressions

Bear with me guys. The week before Thanksgiving is monstrously busy for college students and I've been writing papers like crazy. Tonight I decided to translate some of my typing prowess into my stories but I sort of lost inspiration along the way. It's not my best chapter but hey, it's at least something right?

As always, thanks for reading and for commenting ;)

This time I was prepared. After being assaulted by the smell of the locker room the first time that morning, there was no way that I was making the mistake of breathing in again the second time around. The room seemed smaller now with all of the guys inside wearing their hockey padding and celebrating their win. I didn't have time to feel out of place before David materialized at my side and briefed me on what was about to happen.

"Now, Geno's always a hot commodity when it comes to post-game interviews. Everyone wants him to say something for their article but after this morning, it's probably best if he doesn't give an interview. If you could just do what you did this morning, that would be great."

Oh no. I didn't like where David was going with this. It seemed like he wanted to lock this guy away and never have him give an interview which he was going to have to do eventually. Besides, I was not going to babysit this guy and protect him from the big bad local news all of the time- I wasn't his stupid puppet master.

"With respect David, it's best if he does give an interview tonight after this morning's disaster. You can't just hide him away." For a second I thought that maybe I had overstepped my boundaries by interrupting him and basically telling him the opposite of what he had told me to do. But still, what good was it to hide the guy away like he was a fugitive? He was a hockey player, a popular one at that.

"Just give me 10 minutes with him, I'll brief him on something general to say, he can say it, and they they'll leave him alone and hopefully he'll have more confidence for the next time."

He looked at me for another minute before sighing and shooing me along. "Okay. You handled it this morning so I'm going to let you do it again."

I nodded and started to turn to find my client when David stopped me again. But Ava, keep it general" he ordered before walking off to handle something else.

I let out the breath I hadn't realized I had been holding and scanned the room looking for the big russian. He wasn't hard to miss considering he was one of the taller ones in the room and also already staring at me. What did those dark eyes of his see that he felt the need to keep looking at me so much? It was starting to get creepy. I lifted a hand and motioned for him to follow me out of the locker room and into an adjoining room with medical type tables in it.

A moment later he appeared taking up almost all of the space in the doorway with his body. He had stripped out of his jersey and put a different, plain t-shirt on leaving only his lower body still dressed in hockey padding.

"Sit" I instructed gesturing to one of the many tables. Maybe if he sat he wouldn't tower over me so much. It was bad enough that there was this language barrier between us but it was going to be even harder for me to communicate to him if I had to crane my neck back to even look at him. He crossed the room to sit down and I realized that it still didn't make him any shorter. Damn it.

"We're going to have you give another brief interview in a few minutes so we need to practice what you're going to say" I instructed sliding back into work mode.

"You going to help me?" he asked looking at me with an expression I couldn't decipher. I blinked almost surprised that what he had said came out in intelligible english. Maybe he wasn't really that bad with his english.

"Yes" I said nodding. "I'm going to help you." He smiled at me and I felt like I had missed something important here. Not to be paranoid, but his grinning was making me paranoid. He was sitting on the table looking at me expectantly like a child waiting for a command from his mother. How could one incredibly large man look that innocent?

I ignored his smile and propped myself up on the table facing him and pulled out the notebook that I always kept in my purse. I should have prepared basic statements just in case a situation like this happened so that we would already have something prepared to say.

"Okay" I said pulling my dress farther down on my legs and getting comfortable. "I think that you should say something very- what are you doing?" I asked noticing that he was now standing in front of me and trying to read what I had scribbled down on the pad.

"How I remember if you don't show it?" He asked trying to pull the pad away from me.

What the hell? This guy was starting to really piss me off just by not sitting and doing as he was told. And trying to pull my pad away from me!

"What are you doing?" I snapped pulling the pad out of his big hands. Was nothing about this man normal? He was weird, huge and imposing. And apparently stole things. He grinned down at me again like I was making a joke and I didn't like that he was the one looking down on me. I had made him sit for a reason.

"Sit" I ordered again needing him to step off and give me space to think. I didn't like having to order him around like he was a dog but if he wasn't going to cooperate and take this serious, as all of his stupid grin were indicating, then I was going to have to be stern.

He sighed muttering something in russian and the man working across the room from us laughed at what he had said and shouted something back, also in russian. I glared at him and he gave me an innocent expression as if to say "what?"

"Can you sit? Please?" I asked a little nicer this time hoping that would get him to step off. I couldn't concentrate with someone reading over my shoulder. He backed off and sat chatting with the other guy in the room while I scribbled down something for him to say.
"Okay, let's practice this" I said adding a period to what I had just written. He leaned next to me against the table I was sitting on and peered over my shoulder again, his eyebrows furrowed in thought.

I didn't know how to start. Did I have him repeat after me and that was how we rehearsed? Normally my clients just parrotted what I wrote down and then remembered to say it correctly- should I do that with him too?

"How you say this?" he asked gesturing to my notebook and looking frustrated. Frustrated was definitely not going to get either of us anywhere.

"Okay well, let's practice. If someone asks you how you think the game went tonight, you say this" I said tapping my pen on the page to where I had written down what he should say.

He shifted uncomfortably and glanced back down at the page then back at me in confusion. Now that I was realizing just how much of a lost cause this was turning out to be, I was also starting to feel bad. He really didn't have a good grasp on his english and I was probably making him more self-conscious about it by not helping him out.

"Okay, well what would you say to the reporter?" I asked trying out a different approach. It seemed like he could muddle his way through english somewhat so maybe he just got nervous. Plus, itt was obvious that he wasn't going to be able to read what I had written.

He shrugged again, his eyes focused intently on mine and I took that as my cue to continue. "Come on, Geno" I said pressing him for some kind of a response. "What do you think about tonight's game?"

"Game was good." He said looking down at his hands. "Guys played good, guys skated good. I happy we win against other good team."

I nodded thinking about how we could make this work for us. When he relaxed a little bit like he was now, his english wasn't as bad as I had orignally thought. Sure, he misplaced and eliminated some articles here and there but you could understand him. Plus, like it or not, there was a certain level of charm to how his thick accent made words sound. It was almost like a gimick for him and if I had learned anything while working in PR, it was that people loved gimicks.

"Okay, see that wasn't so bad was it?" I asked trying my best to be encouraging. I didn't have to normally be this patient with clients but he seemed to be responding to my encouragement. We practiced what he had said two more times before I made him go back out into the locker room. I didn't want to hover too much so I walked back over to the outskirts of the room where I could still observe but not be in the way too much.

It didn't take long for a reporter to find him and I watched as he calmly spoke to the reporter. While it looked like everything was going well, they were talking for a little bit longer than I was comfortable with. I held myself back from going over to make sure that he still had the situation under control when my view was obstructed by a butt.

A very naked butt. I cursed under my breath snapping my eyes shut in case the owner of the butt turned and showed me something else I didn't want to see. How could I have forgotten that this was a locker room? While I stood there berating myself but too afraid to open my eyes so that I could actually move, I heard the deep rumble of a chuckle in front of me.

"You safe now" the owner of the chuckle spoke and I recognized it as Geno's voice. When I opened my eyes, he was right in front of me and smiling down at me like before. "I tell him to put clothes on."

He yelled something out in russian to the player that I recognized as the same guy from the other room.

"Feds say sorry" he added still laughing down at me. I blushed partly feeling embarrassed and annoyed at the same time because of how I had reacted. If I was going to be around these guys, I had to get used to the locker room environment and that would partly involve maybe seeing a naked butt or two. I took a deep breath willing the blush to go away on my cheeks. As a rule, I did not blush.

"How did it go?" I asked trying to divert his attention. He was getting entirely too much enjoyment out of my embarrassing moment for me to not feel at least a little bit defensive.

"Good" he said, his grin widening even more. What was so funny to him? Behind him, I spotted David giving me an enthusiastic thumbs up and I took that as my cue that tonight really had gone well. Glancing down at my watch, I realized that it was close to midnight making me feel like the whole day had spanned out over a week rather than less than 12 hours. Was every day going to be like this at this job? I was utterly exhausted and ready to get away from this locker room and the giant standing before me.

"Do you have free time later this week? We need to set a time to practice your english" I asked him pulling out my Blackberry to pencil in a time. We agreed on a time for Thursday, another home game day, after his morning skate and I reminded him not to be late.

Whether he understood the directions I gave him on how to find my office or not, I separated myself from Geno and his stupid grin and signalled to David to tell him that I was leaving.

Later as my head hit the pillow, I realized that one perk of this job was going to be that it would tire me to the point of exhaustion and dreamless sleep.  At least then I wouldn't have to think about anything else.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2- Hello/Goodbye

Thanks for the feedback on the first chapter! Comments are always appreciated for anyone that writes because they are motivation to keep going! So thanks again. I don't say it enough but I appreciate all of you guys : )

A new chapter for "The Dumbing Down" will be coming soon, I promise. I'm having a hard time making sure that it's perfect. And my life is hectic.

Ava's POV:

Immediately after my realization, I was dragged off to the side and away from the russian giant by the same girl who had been talking to me before.

"Oh my god, that was awesome" she said still chatting to me animatedly. "Seriously, you showed that bitch who was boss! And poor Geno, you really saved his life back there. Those interviews stress him out so much when he's caught off guard."

At this point, I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. Who was she and who was this person named Geno? She must be referring to the guy who I had just saved from PR hell but what kind of name was Geno? It sounded like a sandwich that the vendors sold off Broadway near the subway entrance.

The woman noticed how discouraged I looked from all of her chatter and finally paused to introduce herself. "I'm sorry, I've been talking your ear off. I'm Eliza, I'm a lawyer for the Pens and married to one of the players. I didn't get your name?"

I smiled a little bit as everything started to make sense. "Ava" I said holding my hand out for her to shake. She squeezed it back in a confident grip and I found myself liking her instantly. Anyone that had a strong handshake was okay in my book- I hated people with weak handshakes since it generally signified that they were weak people.

"I'm new to the PR staff" I told her still eyeing the russian giant who had yet to take his eyes off of my face. It was starting to annoy me that he didn't stop staring. It was impolite and though I hated to admit it, his stare was unnerving me.

"Well if that's how you're going to handle business around here, everyone will love you. The reporters here, except for the familiar newspaper reporters, are really pushy and usually the guys hate being grilled. If you're around to have their backs though you won't have any problems."

I nodded trying to look as though this really relieved me even though truthfully, I didn't care all that much. I wasn't here to make friends with these hockey players, we just had to respect each other and be able to have a working relationship- I didn't need buddy-buddy with them.

"Ava!" I heard my name being called and turned to see David waving me over next to another man in a suit. If he was in a suit in the locker room, then he was part of the management. "A word please?"

I walked over trying my best to look like the epitome of calm when inside I was a little nervous. I really hoped that I hadn't overstepped my bounds too much already this morning. It wasn't even lunch yet and I could be getting in trouble.

"Ava, this is Mario Lemieux." I reached out to offer my hand which he gripped back firmly. Thank God. "He's part owner of the team and used to play for the Penguins."

"Nice to meet you Mr. Lemieux" I smiled instantly liking the man in front of me. You could just tell that he was a no-bullshit type of guy and I could definitely respect that attitude around here.

"I was pretty impressed by the way you just stepped in and handled things back there" he told me looking between David and I.

"I know that you just came aboard the team today but I like your style and I think it would be beneficial to have you working with the players right away, specifically some of our non-native english speakers."

Great, so I was going to have to work with more than one guy with language barrier issues? How the hell was this going to work? I didn't speak Russian or any other language besides my high school level french and even that was painful for me despite my aunt's continued efforts to try to sophisticate me through the 'elegant french language.'

Instead of telling him what I really wanted to say which was "hell to the no," I nodded and contributed to the conversation with a "Great! I look forward to working directly with the team."

"Geno is pretty central to the team but hasn't been conditioned in english and in press skills enough to feel comfortable with reporters yet. He's getting better but still needs to work on what to say. He'll be your primary focus just because he probably needs the most attention right now" David told me scanning through a few pages on his iPhone.

"I'll email you his basic contact information in case you don't have the player's on file yet anywhere."

"Geno!" Mario called out looking beyond me in the locker room. "Come here a minute" he said waving the giant over. I felt him walk over before I saw him and once again his eyes were focused on mine making me shift slightly. It annoyed me that I was already aware of his presence before I even knew anything about him.

"Geno, this is Ava Weston, she's going to be one of the new PR reps and help you with interviews."

He repeated my name and I tried to ignore how thick my name sounded rolling off of his lips. It sounded like each letter in my three letter long name was stretched out abnormally. I couldn't decide if this was a good thing or a bad thing but I was leaning towards bad thing.

"You going to help with interview?" he asked addressing me again and I nodded.

"Yep, we can schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience to talk about how you can strengthen your thoughts and ideas during an interview. That will help with your confidence." I noticed that his eyes seemed to be trained on my lips the entire time that I was speaking and I internally rolled my eyes knowing that this was a bad sign. If he was so hopeless at english that he had to read lips, then I definitely had my work cut out for me.

"Great, great. I really think that this will help Geno a lot" David said looking between the two of us and then back at Mario. This felt like a weird game of social ping pong and frankly, David was starting to tire me out and I hadn't even known him that long.

"Well unless you need anything else, Ava and I have to return upstairs for a meeting in 10 minutes" David added glancing at everyone before we said our goodbyes and left the locker room. Since I had forgotten what fresh, clean air smelled like, the hallway was a welcome relief to my protesting nose. So far the morning had been so eventful that I had momentarily forgotten that I was even in Pittsburgh instead of New York.

On our way back upstairs David started to brief me on the meeting we were going into and I feigned interest wondering if this was how my life was going to be from now on. Smelly locker rooms, David talking endlessly and illiterate russian giants.

Well technically he wasn't illiterate. He just couldn't- My thought was interrupted as we walked back into the offices where the meeting was taking place. "Ready?" he questioned holding the door open for me.

When had I ever been ready for anything that Pittsburgh had to offer me so far?

I didn't get out of the office until 6 and I had to run back home, shower and make it back to the arena by the time that the puck dropped at 7:30. The woman from the locker room, Eliza, had stopped into my office earlier in the afternoon while I was still trying to get my office in order and invited me to sit with her and "the girls" that night at the game and I accepted. If I had to go to the game and wait around for the press stuff afterwards, I might as well try to enjoy myself and meet some people.

I had absolutely no idea what to wear to a hockey game especially since this was work related and not in the 'fun' category of my life. While I was digging around in my closet, I heard my phone buzzing busily on top of an unpacked moving box that was currently serving the purpose of a dresser.

"Hello?" I answered trying to decide if I should wear jeans or a suit? Was a suit too formal for this kind of thing? What if I was accidentally in one of the camera shots? It would look stupid to have a staff member looking too casual.

"Ava? It's Peter." My heart sank at the sound of his voice and my grip tightened instantly on the phone I was holding.

"What do you want?" I asked unable to hold back th venom in my voice. "Did you call to apologize for fucking with me again?"

He was an idiot if he thought that I was ever going to let his cheating ass near me again.

"Don't act like a child, Ava" he said almost sounding bored with me. It was the same tone he had always adopted when he thought that I was stupid for not listening to his 'reasonable' excuses. "I'm just calling to see how you're doing and ask when you're coming home."

"I'm not 'coming home,' Peter" I repeated mocking him. "My home isn't in New York anymore, it's here."

He sighed heavily and I could picture him sitting in our apartment in his study twirling his drink around as if he had the weight of the world's problems resting on his shoulders. "I wish that you would stop this childishness and just come home. How many times do I need to tell you that what you walked in on was a mistake?"

"You were fucking her, Peter." I said beginning to lose hold on the slippery reins of my temper. "You were fucking Andrea on our bed, Peter. That's what I walked in on. Though you are right, it was a mistake." I was so angry at him that I could feel the tears wetting my cheeks before I registered the sadness. No matter how he had treated me in the end, I had still loved him. He was the first man that I gave my heart to and consequently, he was also going to be the last.

"You know that it didn't mean anything!" he protested. I could detect the hint of anger in his voice and it wasn't at himself for what he did, it was at me just because I wouldn't forgive him this time. The bastard was going to twist it so that somehow all of this was my fault.

"Peter, listen to me" I said interrupting his protests and general bitching. "You've cheated on me twice now. I thought that you were serious when you proposed but then you went and fucked my partner at the firm. You made me the laughing stock of the office and all of our friends just because you couldn't man up and keep your dick in your pants."

"Ava, there's no need to be crude." He said obviously frowning on my choice of language.

"Shut up" I said interrupting him again. "She was my partner Peter. She was my friend" I said struggling not to let him hear how much this was hurting me. Why didn't he just understand that he was wrong? "I'm not coming back" I repeated not even sure if he was still on the line at this point.

"Can you understand all of that and stay out of my life from now on?" I asked waiting for a response. Any kind of response would do at this point- even grunting.

"We'll talk when you're ready to have a mature discussion about this. Goodbye, Ava" he said hanging up before I could tell him where to shove his ignorant head. I screamed throwing the cell phone against the wall before instantly regretting my actions and running over to save my Blackberry from sudden death.

I didn't have time to feel angry or sad about this since my conversation with Peter had already taken up so much of my time and if I didn't get out the door in 15 minutes, I was going to be incredibly late for the game.

I decided on a black sweater dress and boots that would keep me warm and opted to leave my long brown hair down for once for sake of taking the time to twist it up into something professional looking. Everyone at the arena seemed like pretty laidback individuals and so I figured what I had on would be acceptable to wear.

Quickly scanning my still bare apartment for anything that I might need that night, I locked up and ran to catch the elevator and get down to my car as quickly as possible before battling my way through the evening traffic to get to the arena with 5 minutes to spare. Thank god the badge I had been given got me through any and all security ahead of the fans pushing to get in and get to their seats on time.

I glanced down at the post-it that I had hastily written directions down on to navigate me to the owner's box where I would be watching the game with Eliza and a few of the big wigs. As soon as I found the box, I was relieved to note that there was a fully stocked bar within the vicinity. After talking to Peter, I needed a strong enough drink to make watching hockey for the next three hours bearable but also remain sober enough to function like the professional that I was.

"You made it!" Eliza said spotting me almost as quickly as I had spotted the bar. I smiled to everyone who had turned to see who had entered the box and walked to where she was holding a seat for me right against the railing between three other women. Each of them were eyeing me and I could feel myself being sized up in that analytical way that only women know how to do.

"Hi, I'm Ava" I said introducing myself to the group. I spotted Mario over in the corner with a few of the suits and he caught my eye giving me a friendly wink in greeting.  I knew there was a reason that I liked that man.

The other three introduced themselves as Vero, Emma and Nathalie Lemieux. Vero was apparently the long-time girlfriend of Marc, the team's goalie and Emma worked in PR too but mostly with the team's charity committments. The woman introduced as Nathalie was the last to shake my hand and had a warm, motherly aura around her.

"I heard the story about what happened this morning and was very impressed" she said smiling at me as I took my seat in between all of them. Eliza, bless her heart, had run off to get drinks for all of us and I looked forward to the calming powers of Mr. Jack Daniels.

"Is he always that flustered during interviews?" I asked wondering if I had my work cut out for me or not.

"He's not that bad" Emma said defending the russian while everyone else giggled over some of the funny things he had mistakenly said in the past during interviews.

"Oh come on, Emma!" Vero said still giggling. "He's pretty bad." She turned to me to add, "there's a website that designs t-shirts with funny things that he's said written on them. Marc bought one as a joke last year" she said still laughing. 

While they thought that this was the most hilarious thing ever, internally I was sweating bullets. This was not what my job description had entailed. In New York I kept people in line and made sure that they were darlings of the press. I didn't have to coach anyone on what to say in interviews when they barely spoke english! Still, this job, interesting as it was turning out to be, was still a better alternative than staying in New York where I could barely go outside and not run into to someone giving me sympathetic looks about how the prodigal son of New York City had cheated on me. It was pretty hard to escape the horrible reality that your fiancé had been dicking around behind your back when he was the mayor's son and anything he did was splashed all over Page 6.

"Are you okay?" Eliza whispered noticing that I had suddenly gone quiet.

"Yeah, I'm fine" I said trying to focus my attention on the game that had just started in front of us. My eyes scanned the ice looking for anyone that I might recognize from all of the brief introductions this morning.

"Number 71 is Geno. He's over there" Eliza said gesturing to a tall individual circling one end of the rink like a hawk. "My husband Max is number 25" she said pointing to one of the guys on the bench.

"Why didn't you bring little JT with you?" Nathalie asked leaning back so that she could see Eliza.

"He's with my Mom for the night. The games are still a little bit too loud for him yet" she replied. "JT's the name of our son" she clarified for me. "He was only born last year and though Max would love it, I don't think he's old enough for the craziness of Mellon Arena on a game night just yet."

"Do you have a picture?" I asked wanting to see what their child would look like. Eliza was beautiful in a classical sort of way and I was curious to see how these genes matched up combined with a hockey player's.
She pulled out her phone and showed me a few goofy ones of Max and the baby wearing matching Pens t-shirts and hats which was cute in a cheesy way. She was glowing with happiness though so who was I to point out that it was a little cliché for matching father-son outfits.

"Oh this one is my favorite" she said opening up a picture of what I assumed was going to be their christmas card photo.

"It's really sweet. He's beautiful" I said complimenting how cute a family they actually were. It was hard not to like them even though I didn't know them well at all. Suddenly a roar went up from the crowds and everyone jumped up to see who had scored.

Since I had little to no knowledge of hockey, I was completely baffled when all of the girls began to hug each other and me in excitement.

"What happened?" I asked looking for anyone that could explain how a goal had gone in that quickly.

"Geno tipped it in and scored" Vero said looking at me strangely. Of course she would be baffled at my lack of hockey knowledge. It seemed that I was a fish out of water in every aspect here in Pittsburgh.

"Have you ever watched hockey before?" Emma questioned catching on to my confusion.

"Not really" I replied shrugging like it was no big deal. To them it obviously was a big deal.

"Sweetie you've got a lot to learn" Nathalie said smiling understandingly. "Don't worry we'll teach you" she said and the four of them began to point out aspects of the game as it went along.

Before I knew it, the game was over with the Pens winning 2-1 against the Avalanche and as I made my way back downstairs to get to work overseeing interviews with players, it occurred to me that I hadn't thought of Peter again once since the start of the game. Maybe hockey wasn't so terrible afterall.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

1- First Impressions

I don't think I'm going to preface this chapter with anything else other than: Enjoy!

And as always, thank you for reading :)

Ava's POV:

I drummed my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel growing increasingly more agitated with every passing minute.

Why did traffic have to be unbearably slow on my first day of work in a city that I was unfamiliar with? Sure, I was used to seeing traffic but not exactly used to being stuck in it. Public transportation had its perks when you lived in a major metropolis like New York City, but Pittsburgh? Apparently people still drove here- crazy as the idea actually seemed.

The radio switched to a commercial advertising half-price specials on turkeys for Thanksgiving and I remembered, almost painfully, that I wouldn't get to see the Macy's Day parade in person this year. Also, instead of buying my turkey from a butcher in Brooklyn, I would be just another person buying a turkey from some place called Giant Eagle.


I wasn't in New York anymore. An unfortunate fact that I had to keep reminding myself of. What had my mother always told me? "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  Since everything seemed to be coming up lemons lately, I had no joice but to salvage what I could of my wrecked professional and personal life and try to start anew.
After what seemed like forever, I located the street I was supposed to take, thanks to my lovely GPS system, and pulled into a hugely crowded parking lot. As I stared up at the Mellon Arena, my heart clenched at the fact that I would be working here, in sports, rather than at the shiny office building that had been my home for the past year and a half since graduating from NYU.

I had never done sports-related PR before so the 'Stanley Cup Champions' banners practically dripping from the walls of the arena were almost intimidating. Too bad I already knew what celebrities and corporate executives were like and none of those people were usually intelligent enough to intimidate me. My job was just to keep them in line and make sure that the public loved them. It was business- they didn't have to like me and I didn't have to like them. We just had to have a functioning working relationship.

After taking a quick look around at the the banners inside the long stretch of hallway inside the arena, I spotted the same office where I had gone to for an interview and walked inside hoping to find anyone that could direct me where to go. I spotted a receptionist who was busy smacking her gum and talking to someone named "Frankie" on the phone. Judging by the amount of butterfly clips in her hair and the cat dressed as a turkey on her sweater, I guessed that they weren't really big on being formal around here.

"Hi, I'm Ava Weston" I said holding out my hand to introduce myself. "I'll be working in PR but I wasn't quite sure where to go."

She looked at me in confusion and stared down at our joined hands. I let go when I realized that her hand had gone limp in mine. What? Were handshakes foreign here?

"Nice to meet you Ava. Why don't you just take a seat and I'll let someone know you've arrived." She gestured to a row of seats in a waiting area and I sighed taking a seat and setting my bag down beside me. There were pictures everywhere of the so-called 'Stanley Cup Champions.' My eyes lingered on one photo in particular of one of the players holding a trophy and giving the camera a sweaty smile. He looked exactly what I imagined all hockey players to look like: big, sweaty and missing more than a few brain cells.

Better get used to it. They're your new clients.

I smiled my best 'nice to meet you' smile when a man approached me with his hand outstretched. Finally something I understand!

"Ava? I'm David Pierce, head of the PR department here for the Penguins."

"It's nice to meet you." I said assessing the man in front of me whom I had only spoken to on the phone once.

"We're happy to have you here, and on such short notice too."

I continued to nod and exchange pleasantries with him while he led me out of the office and down Wethe hall to where the rest of the PR offices were. Everything about this place was just so completely out of my comfort level that it was hard to keep a check on my confident composure. My parents had died when I was 8 leaving me to live with my aunt in New York City. Given my aunt's strict rules of behavior and my city upbringing, I had never been around sports much. Plays, opera, art galleries? Yes. Sports and cities where people still drive? No.

He introduced me to a few other people working in the office and pointed out where things were located.

"This is your office" he said opening the door to a clean but essentially bland office space with one window overlooking a parking lot. "I'll give you time to settle in but I'd like to take you downstairs in a half an hour to introduce you to the players and allow you to watch the pre-game media interviews."

"There's a game tonight?" I asked feeling slightly embarrassed that I hadn't known this detail beforehand.

David nodded. "Don't worry about it. We know you just moved here. You'll learn all about the schedule as you work here. Remember, half an hour. I'll meet you in the main hallway."

I nodded and he left my office allowing me to take a second to breathe and sit down in the swivel chair behind my desk. Even though I was completely out of my element right now, things could be worse. I could have a really terrible boss.

I wasted a half an hour setting up my computer and willing myself not to check my emails to read the latest shitty apology he had sent me. Since I had allowed him to fuck up both my personal and professional life in New York, I had to keep him from doing the same thing here and that meant focusing on my new job and not what I had run away from there. After doing a quick google search, I found out that the Penguins were playing another team called the Avalanche tonight and that both teams were supposedly having good seasons.

With my new found knowledge, I ventured out into the hallway ignoring the curious looks I was getting from the other office dwellers. I could tell automatically that these people were the gossipy office types. Also, I had apparently missed the memo to dress up for the Thanksgiving theme in the office right now.

Luckily, I was saved from staring at more banners in the hallway as David showed up as soon as I did and we began to walk down the hall to where security could let us into another hallway lined with a few elevators.

"So right now, the players will be arriving for their morning skate before the game tonight. Usually press floats in and out at this time but it's nowhere near as crazy as it is after a game. Some of the guys will be asked for interviews, that sort of thing, and that's where you'll come in. We need someone with your media experience to help coach the players on how to give better  media responses, etc."

"Great, that's what I did at my old firm except that I've never worked with athletes before."

He waved my comment off and told me not to worry about it. "Believe me, we know that you had a great reputation back at your old firm and we feel that you're more than prepared for this job."

I gave him a small smile and tried not to dwell on the word 'had' in his statement and focus on the present. I knew that he hadn't meant anything by it but the word had still dug at me a little bit. What I had. That phrase held so many disappointing connotations especially since I used to have a lot.

We entered a series of rooms where some guys dressed in work out clothes were hanging out still  half dressed in their hockey gear. David waved to a few but kept walking, leading me back deeper into what I assumed was the locker room after making the mistake of breathing in.

The room smelled worse than a fish market on a hot day and I struggled not to let my disgust show on my face. I was about to ask David a question just to keep my mind off of the smell when he muttered "Jesus Christ" under his breath and abruptly left me to walk to where a player was being interviewed by a camera crew.

What had just happened? I recognized the player from the picture I had looked at earlier while I waited for David that morning, and it looked like he was struggling with the journalist. If I hadn't been so confused, I probably would have laughed at the distressed look on his face. If possible, it made him look dopier than I had already assumed he was.

Whoever the player was, he was starting to look angry and I wished that I was close so that I could hear more of the conversation. David was watching the scene unfold anxiously but not stepping in to do anything.

"Oh shit. They're letting Geno do an interview by himself?" I stared at the woman who had appeared by my side as she watched the scene in horror.

What was so terrible about the guy giving an interview anyway? And if it was so bad, why was David just standing there?

"What's the big deal?" I asked the woman curiously.

"Trust me, it's just not good. He confuses things and Gonchar's not playing tonight."

What the hell did that mean? We both continued to watch and I wondered how no one was stepping in to save what I assumed was quickly becoming a mini-PR disaster.

"Where are you going?" The strange woman asked and I realized that I had started to move towards where the big, confused looking guy was still trying to give answers. I ignored her, not entirely sure what I was about to do either.

As I approached the scene, I couldn't help but give David a dirty look. Was he seriously just not going to do anything? He was my boss but that didn't mean that he couldn't be an idiot.

"Excuse me" I said stepping into the line of fire next to the player that towered over me by almost a foot. "I'm afraid that my client will have to decline interviews at this time."

Everyone was looking at me like I was crazy, including the sweaty giant next to me but I had leapt into the situation without thinking. The journalist tried to protest me interfering but I cut her off with a well-practiced 'don't fuck with me' smile. "I'm sorry, but this athlete needs time to prepare for the game tonight. Thank you."

She stared at me for another second trying to make me back down. Obviously she doesn't know how good I am at this.

"Stop rolling tape" she bit off to the camera guy who cut the video immediately. She gave me another bitchy look and I knew that if I saw her again in this awful locker room, we would not be friends.

"Go sit down" I ordered to the giant who was staring at me and almost looking grateful.

Instead of going away like I hoped he would, he grabbed my arm in a firm hold and spoke. "What is name?"

At first I didn't catch it and I was almost convinced that I had imagined this entire scenario. His hand was also searing down on my arm which I didn't appreciate. No doubt there would be a sweaty handprint left when he let go.

"What is name?" he persisted looking frustrated now at my lack of a response.

I noticed for the first time how thick and deep his voice was preventing clear communication. He also wasn't using articles and it dawned on me. I had lived long enough in New York to understand the accents of various ethnicities. 

"You're russian" I stated not bothering to conceal my irritation. He understood that much and nodded still not letting go of my arm.

Damn it. Why didn't they tell me that I would have to work with people who didn't speak english?!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Introduction Note

Hey guys! Since "Legal Assistance" will be ending soon, I have a gap to fill in my life. That was my first story and will probably always be my favorite so I'm sad that it has to end.

However, it allows me to start a new one since I always like to write two at the same time.  This time I'm writing about Geno since I don't think he is appreciated as much as he should be.

Also, that dopey face of his really gets to me. In case you are wondering where the title of this new story comes from, start listening to Joni Mitchell and fall in love with her music. The title comes from one of my favorite songs and I'll be listening to her a lot as I write.

I'll have a chapter for this up soon, I promise. : )