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Chapter song: "Know You Now"- Amy Winehouse
You're just a little boy underneath that hat
You need your nerve to hide your ego - don't come with that
You think everything is handed to you free
But it's not that easy, no
I gotta know you now
We may never meet again
I gotta know you now
Maybe Amy Winehouse wasn't exactly a beacon of hope and knowledge considering the track record on her love life but I couldn't help myself as I got into the car and pulled out of my apartment building's parking garage. Despite the song's intent, I found myself drawn to it as my thumb traced through my iTunes library and selected something to listen to in the car. I needed Amy's attitude about love and life to carry on through to me right now.
Following my eventful and confusing weekend, I drove to the airport listening to the words of the song and allowing them to relax me before what was surely to be a stressful and chaotic weekend. After spending time apart from work all day Saturday and Sunday, especially Geno, I had cleared my head and was now feeling a little bit more steady on my own two feet. Not that I was ready to fully admit that he may have un-steadied me.
After finishing our dinner that night, he had driven me back to my car, uncharacteristically silent the entire way back. If he wasn't going to talk, then I didn't plan on it either- especially since I had no idea what to say or what he wanted me to say. Had he been expecting something from me? I had no idea.
I followed the directions I had been given by David of where to park and go at the airport. It was nice receiving VIP treatment at the airport because I was with the team but that didn't make me any more excited to be going on this trip.
I had been dreading the trip so much that I hadn't packed until last minute and now I wasn't sure if I even had outfits that coordinated correctly. At least I wasn't the one who was going to be on camera though- the big show was going to be the media circus planned around the Crosby vs. Ovechkin rivalry and the press junket's goal to cash in off of that.
Crosby was, for lack of better words, a pain in the ass to deal with press wise. Not that he didn't know exactly what to do or how to handle himself, just that he required so much work. That combined with all of the time I had to devote to a certain, other Penguin plus my other clients, could make anyone's head spin.
I parked my car and cut the engine, getting out of the driver's seat and adjusting the black dress and sweater set I was wearing. Instantly my knees wobbled in the black high heels I was wearing and I regretted my choice of outfit that day. I didn't have the luxury of of wearing jeans and a sweatshirt while we traveled because it was for business. It didn't help that I had a suitcase and briefcase to lug around with me either.
In the airport I spotted David waiting for me right before security.
"You made it" he said handing me my ticket and guiding me along past where other people were waiting in line. "Most of the players are already at the gate" he commented, both of us taking off our shoes and putting them on the security monitor belt.
He filled me in on the rest of the day's itinerary and continued to brief me on the next two days worth of travel. As much as I liked David, I was happy when we reached the gate so that I could sit down with my laptop under the guise of working. Most of the players had arrived already and were already listening to iPods or watching movies on their laptops too.
I slipped mine out of my briefcase and settled in, plugging my earphones into the side and selecting some more Amy to listen to. Anything to buzz out the roar of the airport crowd and the boys being loud and obnoxious around me. I was so distracted that I hardly noticed someone settling down in the seat next to me until I felt eyes watching me.
I didn't have to look over to realize who it was. Who else would have the balls to sit close enough to me so that his thigh pressed snugly against mine? I made no qualms about my displeasure as I shifted crossing my legs in the opposite direction so that we were no longer touching. It would be beyond unprofessional if David saw the way that we were acting. It wouldn't even matter that I wasn't encouraging his actions- it would just be enough for David to see it and misinterpret the situation completely. Goodbye, salary- hello unemployment.
Geno didn't seem to be getting the memo as he stretched his long legs out in front of him and nudged my briefcase over in the process. I wasn't naive enough to believe that it was actually an accident and didn't hold back an annoyed huff as I righted it and went back to the email from a friend I had been reading.
I had almost fooled myself into believing that he was going to give up and leave me alone when I felt a rush of warm air pooling on my neck and giving my body a sudden bout of goosebumps.
"What is wrong with you?" I questioned trying to keep my voice down and minimizing the window. He had actually been reading over my shoulder! If it had actually been a work related email for another player, I would have been violating several confidentiality agreements. "What were you doing?"
"Practicing" he stated keeping a straight face. I knew he was lying thanks in part to the way he was staring back at me with a twinkle in his eyes.
I was about to ask what he was 'practicing' when the stewardess began boarding the plane giving me the chance to pack up and hopefully ignore him as much as possible for the rest of the trip. Since I knew that staff sat in the very front of the plane with the players in the back, I didn't worry about getting stuck near him on the flight. With any luck, I could sit next to David and get to watch movies for the rest of the trip.
"Ava, would you mind sitting with Geno to prep him for his interview tonight?" David plopped his briefcase and coat down across the seat where my butt should have been, clearly not giving me an option. I nodded my agreement and braced myself for the next hour and a half, straightening my shoulders to head to the back where the players were sitting. All eyes focused on me out of curiosity as I looked for an available seat on the crowded plane.
My eyes landed on Geno who was watching me with a self-satisfied grin on his face. What he was feeling so satisfied about, I didn't know. I watched his eyes take in my form and give me the once over- internally I shuddered knowing already how this plane ride was about to go down. If he thought that today was going to be a repeat of this weekend then he was in for a surprise. I still needed time to think and he needed to back off for the sake of our professional relationship. All of these reasons were things that I had told myself before but now I meant it. Besides, I was going to slap the look off his face if he was going to act like that for the full flight.
Crosby, being the sweetheart that he is, greeted me as well as a few other players that I worked with in particular. Only Gonchar, who had never been particularly friendly to me, remained silent giving me the same guarded look he always did. Frankly, his imposing and obvious attitude towards me bothered me a bit, but I was also too scared of him to ask anyone about it. Besides, what would I do? It wasn't as if I could go off whining to David or other players on the team and ask why Gonchar didn't like me.
I didn't greet Geno when I finally reached him, I only took the available seat behind him and slid my coat and purse into the seat. "I need to prep you for the interview you're giving this afternoon" I stated feeling unsure of myself in his presence- especially when I was so obviously in an environment I wasn't supposed to be in. Plus Gonchar's steely looks.
Geno raised his eyebrow and nodded getting up to join me and take the seat next to me. I stood up too expecting to move out of the way so that he could take the window seat since I didn't like feeling that close to the atmosphere. Instead he didn't budge, putting our bodies within brushing contact of each other. That mischievious look in his eyes reappeared and he started to move closer to me instead of stepping back to let me move into the aisle and make him take the window seat. Our bodies brushed against each other and I quickly stepped backwards, ducking my head and plopping down next to the window. Being that close to him had made me remember our night two days ago. Fan-fucking-tastic.
He settled in beside me and tried to stretch out his long legs like he had before we boarded the plane. His knee pressed into the side of my leg and I realized that I had nowhere to go this time since I was limited by the window seat in my escape options.
Instead I forced myself to try to relax and twisted my leg beneath me so that I could cross my legs and tuck them beneath me. "So," I began trying to pull the material of my dress down farther over my stocking-exposed leg. "Your interview is at 1pm so that doesn't give you that much time to get to your room, drop your things, and be back down in the hotel lobby to meet the reporter."
He nodded indicating that he was listening to me and sighed crossing his arms over his chest like he had something to say about it. "What?" I asked unable to ignore the annoyed look on his face.
"Who said I give interview?"
I blinked at his suddenly, very moody tone. "David- my boss" I said emphasizing the words. He didn't have an option in this because not only did my boss want this to go smoothly as some a PR schtick for the team, but his agent was also on board for this. He didn't have to like it but he didn't have the option of fucking up either just because he didn't feel like giving an interview today.
"Okay, so lets run through some basic questions and try to think about how you would answer them" I started, determined to move past both of our evidently pissy moods. "Remember to try to think about grammar as you're speaking."
I busied myself with pulling my notes out of my bag instead of looking at him for an answer.
"How was rest of weekend?" He asked suddenly, the randomness of the question causing me to look up at him. He was the epitome of genuine interest but somehow I wasn't buying his innocent, foreigner act. He just wanted to change the subject away from work.
"Fine" I replied finally finding the pen that I had been searching for at the bottom of my bag. "Now back to the interview. I want you in a suit, looking put together-" I looked at him meaningfully for a second. We had talked numerous times about how he should present himself in interviews- i.e. combed hair and a clean dress shirt and sports coat. If there was one thing that drove me crazy about this job, it was how hockey players usually looked in interviews. In other words- like crap. The mussed, un-cut hair and missing tooth thing didn't cut it for me as a PR rep.
"And you need to be downstairs at 12:50 to make sure you're there to meet the reporter on time and get to the correct location in the hotel, sound good?" I glanced over at him again to find him staring intently at me as I spoke, this time without the trace of amusement I was so used to seeing on his face at this point.
"Your eyes change" he spoke startling me with his odd words and leaning forward slightly towards my face.
"What? What's wrong with them?" I pulled my compact out of my purse and flipped it open to see if there was something in my contacts or not. It had always been a weird phobia of mine to think that something could be in my eyes and possibly make my eyesight worse.
"No" he said pushing the hand holding the compact up down towards my lap. "Your eyes go to brown when you work."
That was it? That was what he was paying attention to while I had been speaking to him about work? I felt the familiar tingles of frustration in the back of my mind start to prickle. He must have recognized my look of stress and frustration with him because he sighed and shifted away slightly.
"Okay, we practice" he capitulated quickly and I felt slightly better knowing that we were finally starting to understand each other. Maybe we didn't get along and he liked to overstep his boundaries a bit too much but at least now we were starting to recognize each others limits.
"Okay, so here's what I believe the reporter will probably focus on" I said handing him a sheet I had pre-typed up that morning for him to review. "They're definitely going to ask you about the slump the team is in right now."
"I tell them that it not slump- we just give other teams chance to win a little before end of season."
He surprised both of us by making me laugh out loud at his admittedly charming joke. The earnestness behind the statement was endearing in a way and I knew that it would go over well with the reporter for the article.
"That's perfect" I told him still giggling slightly. "You have to say that, it's great!"
He looked taken aback by my sudden enthusiasm for something that he had said and then pleased with himself. "You laugh at my joke?" I saw the sarcastic smirk on his face and rolled my eyes playfully.
"Yeah, well you were actually funny for once."
"I could be funny more if you let me. I'm funny guy." He shrugged as if he were speaking the absolute truth causing me to snort unnattractively.
"Yeah, okay. So anyway, what you said was great. How else do you think you could answer? Remember to speak more clearly this time and really think about your words as you speak."
"I tell them that how we play now won't be the same as how we play later- in playoffs."
"Okay, so what do you mean by that exactly?" I asked trying to generate a mock discussion that could occur between him and the journalist.
He sighed rubbing his forehead in frustration as he tried to think of what to say from russian to english. I noticed that this was one of his little habits and quirks.
"I mean team now is different. We still have more of season to fix game and get ready to win in playoffs."
"Okay, that makes sense and it's positive" I said complimenting him on his choice of words.
I glanced at my watch noting how much time we had spent talking already and I still had a few other players that I wanted to chat with before we landed in Washington.
"Well good work" I told him slipping my legal pad back into my purse along with my pen. "You can go back to resting before the game." I stood up as best as I could without hitting my head on the low ceiling above the seats. He took the hint and stood up, moving back into the aisle. I stood up and felt my legs protest from being cramped up for so long.
"Will you be there today?" He asked blocking the aisle with his form so that I couldn't move past him yet.
"I don't know yet. There are a lot of things going on today. 12:50" I smiled and reminded him of the time he should be in the hotel lobby. I wasn't sure yet which player David was going to have me following around during the interview times today- especially since Geno wasn't my only assignment.
"12:50. In sweatpants" he grinned obviously still trying to prove that point that he could make real jokes.
His good natured smile in that moment was infectious and I found myself genuinely smiling back at him. "Sure, if you want to die later" I snarked causing his grin to widen.
He finally moved to sit down and allowed me to pass to move on to the next player that I had to bug. I moved forward careful not to disturb any of the sleeping figures still smiling and feeling less annoyed about th fact that I had to come on this trip.
Surpisingly, I couldn't remember who else I had to speak to either.