Thanks for the feedback on the last chapter guys, I feel like a lot was going on in the last chapter so I was pleased that you guys liked it and didn't think that it was too much! I didn't proof it because my battery's about to die so just ignore typos :) Thanks, ladies!!!!
It had taken nearly all of my willpower and self-control not to flee my office at various points in the day to tell anyone about everything that Geno had sprung on me that morning. My head was still spinning later in the evening as I got ready in my apartment for the game later that night. I had worked through my lunch hour like a maniac just so I could get out of my office on time at 5, run home and change into something nice for his parents then speed back to the arena and prep players for pre-game media.
To say that my heart was pumping at this point was an understatement. Max of course noticed my distress as soon as I walked into the locker room. I was so used to walking in and out of the locker room that the various states of undress among the guys no longer fazed me.
"What's up with the outfit?" Max charmingly pointed out, a smile plastered on his face at the sight of me.
"I hope you're not such a smooth talker with your wife, Talbot. I'm sure you just love sleeping on the couch night after night."
He laughed and held up his hands as if to defend himself. "Easy, tiger. I didn't mean anything by it, I was just wondering why you're so dressy tonight? In case you forgot, this is a hockey game."
"Don't you have a game to get ready for?" I asked him ignoring his question and trying not to worry about what I had decided to wear. After much deliberation, I had decided to wear something that I would wear to work any other day. If I wore jeans, I risked looking too casual- what would they think of a woman who wore jeans to her place of employment? Especially when I was technically working on the nights that I was supposed to come to games and advise interviews with the media. Eventually I had gotten so stressed out standing in front of my closet that it had been easier to dress in my work clothes and be done with it.
"Okay, I get it. You're not going to tell me why you're acting weird so I'll leave you alone." Of course this was Max's way of trying to coax the information out of me but I continued to ignore him and glance down at my clipboard.
Both Jordan Staal and Alex Goligoski had been tapped for pre-game interviews with FSN. Jordan's interview was going to be before warmups and Alex's would take place right as they came off the ice from warmups. Since both of them were pretty seasoned standing in front of a mike and knew all the sportscasters well, I didn't worry.
After reminding both players when they were being interviewed and where to stand, I used the remaining time I had to myself to run to the bathroom and primp before Geno and his parents found me. Geno himself had been conspicuously absent all day and had been impossible to get ahold of by phone. Numerous times I had tried to call him just to yell at him for springing such a big event on me last minute and to my frustration, I only had the voicemail to yell at.
Ruthlessly I examined my reflection in the mirror and pinched my cheeks to try to add more color to my pale complexion. It certainly didn't help that winter on the east coast was the best way to make a naturally fair skinned girl look like a ghost. I took a final glance and smoothed my crisp, light blue oxford blouse into my black pencil skirt. I realized that I looked like an uptight bitch and tried to fight back tears as I panicked silently in the bathroom.
Since I hadn't planned for this emotional breakdown, I was left without a backup outfit and would unfortunately have to leave the bathroom eventually.
God. What did I even say when I did meet them??? From what I did know about his parents, they were very Russian and pretty religious. In other words, they sounded like the type to judge us if we ended up living in sin together unmarried. Plus, would they see me as just another woman out to get their son's money? The insecurities running through my mind were boundless. As crazy as it was, a small voice in the back of my mind reminded me that I wouldn't be freaking out like this if Geno wasn't important to me.
I checked the watch on my wrist and noted that it was 6:35 and Geno had told me to meet him and his parents in the lounge at 6:30. I really hoped that on top of everything else, they weren't sticklers for punctuality.
As it turned out, it seemed like the Malkins and Geno were sticklers for time that night. As soon as I walked into the lounge, Geno snatched me from the doorway as if he had been waiting right there for me to enter.
"You're late" he whispered brushing a kiss against my temple and taking my hand firmly in his grasp. "I had to wait too long."
"Sorry" I whispered back, clinging to his hand like it was my lifeline. He must have been nervous because I couldn't tell whose palm was sweaty: his, mine or both of ours. "I got caught up in stuff."
A throat clearing from the corner alerted my senses to his parents' presence in the room. At first it struck me how short they both were compared to Geno's towering figure over both of them and me. How could such a tall person come from both of their gene pools?
Mrs. Malkin spoke next firing a question at Geno in rapid Russian that I wouldn't have even dreamed of understanding and translating even if I did know Russian. Whatever it was, it didn't sound entirely pleasant and I was suddenly terrified by the possibility of her making snap judgments about me and making sure that Geno knew about them.
"Geno, do your parents know any english?" I leaned over asking him. If I was going to have to sit with them for the next few hours, how were we supposed to communicate and get to know each other?
Instead of answering me, he replied to his Mom and gently pushed me forward to them, all the while holding onto my hand with his other hand possessively resting on my lower back. His subtle support didn't go unnoticed by me or his Mom who was looking down at his hold on me with a raised eyebrow.
Then speaking in English, he introduced us. "Mama, Papa, this is my girlfriend, Ava. She's going to sit with you tonight."
"It's nice to meet you" I spoke up meeting Mr. Malkin's extended hand in a firm handshake. Mrs. Malkin continued to appraise me and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to shake her hand too or not. Regretfully, her rigid composure reminded me how much easier it would be for both of us if I was Russian like Geno's previous girlfriends. Those women would understand the culture and protocol for how to act around his parents and most importantly, they could fully communicate. Here I was struggling to figure out if I should try to shake her hand too or hug her. She didn't really look like the cuddly and warm, hugging type to me. Most importantly, it still wasn't clear to me whether they completely understood English or not.
"Come, we sit and watch game, yes?" Mr. Malkin broke the silence among the group and gave Geno a friendly pat on the back. They spoke again in Russian before Geno turned to pull me aside.
"Don't worry, just act yourself" he said grabbing me by the hips and kissing me on the forehead. The closeness of our bodies made me uncomfortable because of the way his Mother was still watching us. "After game, come back here."
I nodded and tried to open my mouth to ask him what to say or do but he was already leaving me and heading off in the direction of the locker room.
Turning slowly, I faced the Malkins again only this time without support. I was in this all alone and feverishly prayed that Vero would be sitting nearby so that I could have some kind of buffer. Even though I was terrified of his parents, it was also unbelievably important to me that this night went well- for both of our sakes. I knew Geno would be crushed if his parents hated me and frankly, I would be crushed too. Not just because it was important to him but because I knew how important it was to him.
With minimal communication and many awkward smiles, the three of us made it to our seats in the designated friends and family section of the arena. Usually I liked to hide away and sit with other members of the PR team up above the ice in a box but tonight it looked like Geno had wanted his parents to sit closer to the action.
After making sure that both of them were settled in their seats, I offered to go get them drinks and we both tried to understand each other when I gave them drink options. I felt completely out of my head as I tried to make them understand the different options and was thankfully saved when Mrs. Malkin wrinkled her brow and saved me by saying the word "Coke."
For the first time since we had been introduced, we both smiled at each other in relief for successfully communicating something to each other.
Grabbing my wallet, I left the section and ventured out into the main refreshment area closest to where we were sitting. If I could manage it, I wanted to get their drinks and try to figure out if Vero was present at the game or not tonight. I needed an ally and I still needed to talk to her about Geno's offer of me moving in with him. If I didn't talk to someone about it soon I was going to explode and I certainly couldn't pick Mrs. Malkin's brain about it.
After 20 minutes of delaying the inevitable, I gave up realizing that Vero was either sitting somewhere else tonight, or she wasn't here. I couldn't possibly stay away from Geno's parents without being rude and even they probably wouldn't believe that it was taking me this long just to get drinks.
Unfortunately, it looked like I was on my own tonight- for better or for worse.