Hot water ran down the back of my neck, curling around and dripping down my chest. I was taking deep breaths, water slowly filling my lungs. She was coming home today, but was I ready? Was I ready to tackle what we still had ahead of us? This was no question if she was worth it or not, she was. It was a question if I was mentally and physically prepared to go where my life was taking me. I could only hope that rehab would work, and that she would go with no questions asked. She didn’t exactly have a choice. I had to be tough. Tough love is what everyone told me I needed to give her. I was still very much pissed off that she did this, and even brought it in to my home. It wasn’t until I raided the whole house, and found her ‘stash’ in her makeup bag that I pounded my hand to bone particles. The media was going crazy, wondering why I had missed two games now, and word that I had a meltdown in the hospital got out. Media stuff was for Sidney, not for me. I was suppose to be the happy-go-lucky Penguin. Now with all of the questions and inquires about what happened, I’m about ready to lose it. My agent, Pat, would talk in one ear, but it would go straight out the other. I couldn’t exactly talk to anyone about what happened, that was anyone except for my teammates. My family still didn’t know, and I’m sure I was making my mother worried sick with all of the missed calls I have from her. It was just so easy dealing with my teammates because they know, they know not to bring it up. I just wanted to erase everything. “Hey Max! We gotta get going buddy! She was released five minutes ago!” Sid shouted in to the bathroom and I groaned, shutting the water off. All I did for the last twenty minutes was stand under the water, my hair still a dirty mess, still unshaven, smelling like crap I’m sure. How could one care for themselves when all of their energy was put in to someone else?
When we pulled up to the hospital, she was sitting in a wheel chair outside with a nurse by her side. I jumped out and walked up to her. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t excited about her coming home. I was numb. I leaned down and kissed her as the nurse gave discharge papers and such to Sid. “Ready to go home?” I asked and she eagerly nodded her head. She stood up from the wheelchair and climbed in to the back seat of Sid’s SUV. I shut the door behind her and climbed in to the passenger’s seat. “Are my parents still in town?” She asked once we pulled back out in to traffic. “Yeah, they go back home tomorrow.” After you leave for rehab. I didn’t know how I was going to bring it up. How I was going to tell her. How she was going to react. I had to be prepared to put my foot down if needed. she was going, she had no choice. I made that decision earlier. I had already called and set it up. She’d be gone through the end of the season. Two weeks without her. Before I knew it, we were back at the house. I looked over at Sid and thanked him for coming with me to get her. Sure I could have done it on my own, but the guys have prevented me from driving since Tuesday morning. I held her hand tight as we walked in to the house and we were immediately greeted by King, it was as if he knew she would be home today.
When we walked up to the bedroom she stopped upon seeing her suitcase packed. “You leave for a two week rehab stay tomorrow,” I answered the millions of question I’m sure were floating through her head. “I don’t need rehab though, I sobered up the first time by myself,” she stated as she turned and looked at me. “And look where you ended up. You’re going Lil, you either go and come home to me, or I can book you on the same flight to Philadelphia tomorrow with your parents.” It hurt my heart, a lot, to say those words. I had to find all the strength inside of me to continue standing. I was feeling lightheaded, hoping and praying she would go to rehab and not give up on this life of ours so easily. She sat down on the bed and unzipped the suitcase. “Do I have enough clothes in here for two weeks?” She asked not bringing her eyes up to mine. Relief washed over me and I sat down next to her. “There should be, but if not they have a washer and dryer there. I plan on visiting you every chance I get.” She turned her head and forced her best smile on her face. “What about work?” She asked and I inhaled sharply, dropping my chin to my chest. “You don’t work there anymore.” “WHAT?” I took her hand in mine and looked in her eyes. “You honestly think I would allow you to keep working in that environment?” She bit her bottom lip and slowly nodded her head. “I guess you’re right. I just really loved that job.” “I know,” I smiled sadly and got up from the bed and headed downstairs. I figured she needed a few moments to take everything in.
I was in the kitchen making some sandwiches when I heard Lillianah yelling for me. I headed up to the bedroom and found her in the bathroom, starring at herself in the mirror. Without moving her eyes she picked up my electric razor and handed it to me. “Are you sure?” I asked with a shaky voice and she only nodded her head. She pulled the stool out from under the vanity and sat down, closed her eyes and took a deep breath in. It was just hair right? It grows back. Yet when I went to turn the razor on, my hands shook. She was already missing half a head of hair, shaving the rest shouldn’t be a big deal. It was a big deal though. It was the cleansing of a past life. Shaving her hair was like her way of becoming pure again. In my eyes this was her first step back to a healthy life. I turned the razor on, and ran it over her head, watching her hair fall to the ground. When I looked at her face in the mirror, her eyes were still closed, but tears were creeping out from under her lashes.
Maxime Talbot. Five foot eleven, dark brown hair, blue eyes that can often be fooled to be brown. Two hundred pounds of pure sunshine, love and above all hope.
Hope. That’s all I had left to cling on to in this minuscule life of mine. And Max was my hope. He believed in me when even I didn’t. I sob just thinking about where my life would be if it wasn’t for him. If it wasn’t for Max.
I starred at my near lifeless body in the mirror and couldn’t recognize myself. Sure I had gained a few pounds in the hospital from the amount of food they were feeding me, but I looked lifeless. There was no color in my face. Stitches graced the shaved side of my head. Heavy bags laid under my eyes. My green eyes looked a dull grey. My nose was bright red. What did I do to myself? What the hell was I thinking? Now I had two weeks to sit in a room and think about all the times I fucked up in my life, and find it somewhere deep within to forgive myself. Was it that easy though? Would it take only two weeks? Fourteen days, and with the snap of some fingers I’d be ‘healed’? “Max!” I screamed a little more urgently than I meant to. I didn’t even look at him when he walked in. I picked up his electric razor in front of me and handed it to him. “Are you sure?” he asked and all I could do was nod my head and close my eyes. This was something I had to do. I couldn’t think about what I would look like, I could care less, I just had to free myself. The images of my hair falling in my face as I leaned over to take a line. I was angry as hell at my hair, for no reason whatsoever, I just wanted it gone. When I heard it power on, I felt a few tears fall but gathered myself when I felt air hit my skull.
I locked myself in the bathroom. It was my last night with Max for two weeks and I locked myself away from him. I pushed him out before he finished shaving my head. I didn’t want him to see me so naked, so pure. I finished shaving my head myself and then crawled in to the bathtub where I pulled my knees up to my chest. I knew he was sitting on the other side of the door. I could see his shadow and I could hear King’s heavy breathing under the door. “Lil, let me in.” I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I couldn’t hide anymore. Even though I never considered my hair a shield, it was, and it was no longer there for me to hide under. All of my emotions were now right there on top for everyone to see. I heard a click and a moment later the door slowly opened. Maxime Talbot. I shook in the tub as our eyes met. What was Maxime Talbot to me? I studied his eyes as he walked in to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. He was my soul. My big deep in the south type of soul. Powerful and vibrant. When he was around I wanted to stand on church pews and shout and sing how truly wonderful life is. Maxime Talbot.
Our legs wrapped around each other’s as he sat across from me in the dry tub. He held my hand and rubbed small circles with his thumb on my wrist. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. He allowed me to sit there and cry. I wanted to say something to him, just anything, to show him how grateful I was for having him. But I couldn’t find the right words. He knows I love him. He knows I’m sorry. What else could I say? What else was left to say? “I’m doing this for you,” I sobbed out and wiped my eyes on my sleeve of my free arm. “No, you’re doing this for yourself,” he corrected me, squeezing my hand just a tiny bit. “But if it wasn’t for you, I’d be dead.” He hung his head, and this was the first time I had ever seen Max become emotional. Sure I’ve seen him angry, but I’ve never seen him cry. “You can’t talk like that Lil. Please, don’t talk like that.” He scooted forward in the tub and wrapped his arms around me, as if he was never going to let me go. “Don’t talk like that,” he whispered as I felt his tears fall on my neck. I threaded my fingers through his hair and cried with him. He abruptly pulled away from me and looked in to my eyes. I reached up and wiped away his tears with the pads of my thumbs and lost it all together. I never wanted to make him cry. The last thing I wanted to do was make my baby cry. He pressed his forehead to mine and tried to steady his breathing. “I hope I die before you, because I won’t be able to handle a day without you in my life,” he cried, having to take a few deep breaths between words.
Maxime Talbot. The soul reason worth living this life.