I walked in to Mellon arena, only to turn on my heal and walk back out. “Max!” Pat yelled after me. I stopped once the door shut behind me and squinted my eyes in the bright spring sun. The door opened behind me, and I soon felt his presence standing next to me. “Can’t ignore me Max, we have to settle this.” I turned to him and looked in him the eye. “Write this down, you’re going to tell them that I am a fucking wreck and I don’t want to talk about it. We have a Stanley Cup to win and I have a fucked up shoulder, and-“ ”Wait. What’s this about your shoulder?” My eyes went wide and I quickly looked away. I grabbed on to the handle of the door and walked back in to the Mellon, Pat hot on my trail. “Max?” “My shoulder’s fucked up alright? But I’m good. It’s no biggie, I have bigger problems on my plate right now. It feels fine . . . most of the time.” I stopped walking and tossed my arm about, showing him it was nothing and that I should have just kept my mouth shut. My shoulder was just something else I pushed in to the back of my mind. With everything that has happened this season, meeting Lillianah, her breaking her ankle, my concussion, moving in to a house, and then well . . . now, my shoulder was nothing. “You’re getting it checked out.” “IT’S FINE!” I cried out to him as I began my trek back to the locker room. I walked in, only to be greeted by Disco Dan. “Hey Danny,” I smiled to him as I went to walk past him, but he stopped me. “Trainer’s room, now. What were you thinking Max? That I wouldn’t hear you yelling in the hallway?” I sighed deeply and walked into the trainers room.
“It looks like a torn labrum, but I won’t know for sure without x-rays,” Doc stated as he rested my arm at my side. I don’t think he meant to pull my shoulder out of its socket, but that’s exactly what he did. I put up my best act, trying to make it look like it didn’t hurt, when really I wanted to scream and kick him. “Damnit guys! I have too much shit going on right now to worry about a small tear! I’m playing fine and you know that. It’s two fucking weeks! Two weeks until playoffs!” I argued as Danny, Pat, Chris and Doc gathered around me, mumbling back and forth with each other. “X-rays first thing tomorrow. This isn’t a joke, if it’s really bad you can’t play. We can’t let you risk the rest of your career because of it.” I gave a curt nod and jumped off the table and headed in to the locker room. “After the game Max, we’re talking,” Pat pointed to me as he walked out of the room. I rubbed my hands over my face a few times and took a deep breath. I was defiantly going out for a beer after the game, win or lose.
The game was a beautiful win for us, and I knew I was going to be swamped by the media after the game considering I returned from my mysterious disappearance. I needed to calm down first though, the last thing I wanted to do was talk crap about my coach in to a camera. I was pissed. All of a sudden he finds out about a possible tear in my shoulder, and he feels like he can cut down my ice time in half. I averaged twelve to thirteen minutes a night, now all of a sudden I’m only getting six. “I’m not talking to the media,” I groaned to Pat as I passed by him and headed to the showers. I couldn’t talk to them. There was no way I wouldn’t say something I would regret later. I stood under the steaming hot water and shut my eyes. I was on the verge of a complete meltdown. The pressure was just too much. Shoulder. Stanley Cup. Ice time. Media. Girlfriend. Rumors. What the fuck was I supposed to do? I’m the guy that’s suppose to tell life to fuck off and get drunk off of whiskey, not the guy with problems. “Hey Talbo, wanna come with us to the bre-“ ”Yes.” I answered Tyler before he could even finish asking me. After a long shower, I headed back into the locker room and avoided all microphones in my face. They could speculate just a little bit longer, I just wanted to get out of there. I got dressed quickly and slipped out the door where Pat was standing. “I’ll be at the Thunderbird Public House, if you don’t know where it’s at ask Sid,” I told him as I walked past him and straight out to the parking lot. I felt bad ignoring the fans, but I just needed to get away before I did something stupid. I jumped into my BMW and sped off toward the Strip District. I needed a few beers before the boys got there. I needed to get out of this funk, I needed to put a smile on my face and act like absolutely nothing was fucking wrong. Yet it was tearing me apart. Everything was wrong. Everything in my life was wrong as this certain point in time.
I played a game of billiards by myself as the guys began to file up the stairs of the brewery. Another beer came my way and I sipped on it, not wanting to get drunk quite yet. I knew I still needed to talk to Pat and I wanted to be mostly sober when I did so. It was hard though, and I was almost tired of waiting on him. As I bent over to hit the cue ball and hopefully sink the eight ball, someone picked the ball up. I stayed in my stance and my eyes wandered up to Pat. “That’s fucked up Pat, and even you know that,” I groaned as I tossed my stick on the table, grabbed my beer and headed to the corner of the room. I sat down in the booth and Pat took the seat across from me. “So, how do you want to do this?” He asked as he pulled some files out of his briefcase. I shrugged my shoulders, sipping on my beer. “The organization is going crazy with this right now, you have to release something soon.” “Why can’t they just write something for me and I can stand in front of a few people and just read it?” He went through a few papers and handed one over to me, obviously they already had something written up. “Mario wanted you to do this your way, but if you don’t have a way, then we can just go with the statement.” “What do you mean my way?” I looked around the bar, before making eye contact with the bartender and signaled for another beer. “You’re Maxime Talbot, you usually always have your own way with something.” “Yeah, but I’m not going to tell people that my girlfriend overdosed on cocaine and is now in treatment for drug abuse. I couldn’t even tell my own mother for a week, how do you expect me to tell complete strangers? Why does my absence from the rink have to have a reason? Am I not allowed to take a few days off without being under a microscope?” When my beer arrived, I quickly downed half of it and looked at Pat for answers. “When your team makes one of the greatest comebacks this late in the season under a rookie coach, and you’re considered the heart of this team, everyone wants to know everything about you. This city needs you as much as the team does. They don’t call you ‘clutch’ because it’s a cute nickname. Just read the statement.”
I woke up in a thick sweat, taking deep breaths trying to keep myself from screaming. This was one thing that I was not looking forward to, and that was the nightmares. I couldn’t even begin to describe what was happening, but the pounding in my chest was what eventually woke me from my dreaded dream. I crawled out of bed and slipped on some flip flops, making my way toward the bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror and looked at myself. Who was I anymore? I plashed some water on my face and just allowed myself to cry into the sink. I thought I heard someone walk into the bathroom and quickly looked over at the door to see it was still shut. I shook my head and stood up straight, running a hand over my prickly head. “You can do this Lil. Do it for Max.” By the time I made it back to my room, it was already 8 AM, and I had thirty minutes to get ready and be in Mark's office. After a quick change and brush of my teeth I walked down the windy hallways and stood outside of his office. His door was open so I knocked on the door fame and he looked up and motioned for me to come in. I took a seat on the big leather couch and curled up my left leg underneath me. “You look tired,” he commented as he pulled out what I assumed was my chart. “Didn’t get much sleep. Had a nightmare,” I answered him picking at my cuticles. “About what?” “I don’t remember. I just woke up sweating and breathing hard. I hate nightmares.”
“So tell me about the ring around your neck.” My hand gravitated up to my necklace and I began to play with the ring. “This is what will be my engagement ring some day. I asked Max if I could bring it with me, and he told me I had to wear it on a necklace.” “Has he asked you to marry him?” I dropped my chin down to my chest and let go of the ring. “The day I overdosed, he asked me, and I told him no.” He nods his head as he writes on his clipboard. “Is that where the responsibility comes in to play? You said marriage screams responsibility. Why are you so scared of it?” I rolled the question around in my mind a few times trying to think of an answer. Why am I so scared of it? “I guess I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but I think it’s too late for that.” He nodded his head as he studied me. “Do you believe with responsibility comes failure?” I slowly began to nod my head the more I thought about it, “I do.” He wrote a little bit more. “Aside from the drugs what have you failed at?” I linked my hands together in my lap, and looked down at them, trying my damn hardest to think of something to say. “I failed as a daughter.” “How?” How did I fail as a daughter? Where do I begin? “I’m not my sister.” I knew the next question before he even had to ask it so I took a deep breath and cut him off. "She's blond hair, blue eyes, married with two kids, has a beautiful home. She's the white picket fence. Me? Black dyed hair, green eyes, I'm everything my sister didn't screw up on." As he wrote, he nodded his head, as if he was understanding. But I doubted he did. No one can exactly understand the way I think. "So you went against what you thought was their image of the perfect daughter?" I nodded my head. "And now you feel like you've failed them because of it?" I nod again.
"Failure. An act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success. Nonperformance of something due, required or expected. A subnormal quantity or quality." He closed the dictionary on his lap and looked up at me. "Is that it? A subnormal quality? You don't think you're as good as your sister?" I held my hand out for the dictionary, and he freely handed it over. I flipped through some pages before landing upon the word I was looking for. “An idle, worthless person; a person who is ineffectual, unsuccessful, or completely lacking in merit. Good. For. Nothing. That’s me. In my family, I’m the ‘ne’er-do-well’. I got no attention at home, and even less when I moved away. Why did they even bother having another daughter?” I asked becoming angry, tears forming along my bottom eyelid. “I fell in love with music at a very young age. I preferred to listen to music than go to cheer practice. They enrolled me in soccer, softball, basketball. I was miserable growing up. All I wanted to do was listen to music. Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson. All of the albums my father played in the house while I was growing up. I fell in love with it, but because I wouldn’t lace up damn soccer cleats, I wasn’t worth the attention they put into my sister and her cheer routines.” He nodded his head, writing a few things down, a hint of a faint smile on his face. “What else?” My mind was racing now, all of these feelings I had been holding in about my childhood were coming out and I didn’t know if it was a good thing or not. I would never accuse my mother of doing a terrible job raising me, but I guess she could have done a little bit better. “I felt isolated. No one wants to celebrate the fact that Lily learned how to play the piano, everyone wants to celebrate the fact that Lizzy just became cheer captain. It wasn’t right growing up seeing my sister being rewarded for the same level of accomplishment I was achieving. I was able to play Beethoven’s 5th symphony by my 10th birthday. Did anyone turn their neck? Of course not. I just didn’t fit in.”
“Do you still play piano?” I looked down at my fingers, picking at my cuticles once again. “No.” “Why not?” I moved around on the couch, switching my legs, pulling my right one up underneath me. I was almost tempted to lay down on the black couch. Isn’t that what you’re suppose to do in ‘therapy’ anyways? “What’s the point in playing for yourself?” “You have Max though.” I shook my head, it’d been years since I laid my fingers on the ivory keys of a classic piano. It was a secret of mine I was hoping to take with me to my grave. Those memories of being alone needed to be left in the past, why was he bringing them to the surface? “Max doesn’t have the attention span to sit and listen to me play something on the piano.” “Does he know you use to play?” I shook my head from side to side quickly, looking back down at my shredded fingers. “Lillianah, I highly suggest you start playing again. For yourself more than anything. Even if you don’t receive the attention you hope it would, playing might be very good for you. It’s something you can do with your hands and occupy your mind while you’re recovering from your addiction. Please take it into consideration?” I nodded my head, allowing all of his words to sink in. “So I think that’s enough for today. We’ll be watching the game tonight in the main lounge if you want to come.” “The Penguins game?” I asked suddenly very alert, and very excited. He nodded his head and stashed some papers away in my chart. “Yup, the Penguins game.”