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.
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.