I walked into the lounge where everyone gathered to watch the game and felt all eyes on me. Word must have traveled fast that I was Max’s girlfriend, thanks to Clarissa. I spotted her sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV and she patted the spot next to her, prompting me to sit down. “Is it true? Are you really Talbot’s girlfriend?” The guy in the chair next to me asked and I looked over at him and slowly nodded my head. “So he hasn’t played because of what happened to you?” I sighed deeply and looked down at my hands. “Yeah, I was in the hospital for a few days, and he wouldn’t exactly leave my side,” I explained even though I felt like he didn’t need an explanation. No one needs an explanation for what I do, or what Max does for that matter. I turned my attention back to the TV and drowned out the whispers that were occurring around me. “Well Dan, Maxime Talbot is expected to be back in the lineup tonight, no one knows why he’s missed the last two games.” I wanted to scream it was because of me. Just get it out there already. I didn’t know it was such a big deal that he had missed two games.
Watching him skate out on the ice, I wasn’t exactly feeling those things I hoped I would. Sure I got a few butterflies when they showed him up close, but he didn’t look like my Max. He didn’t look like any man I knew. All of the emotions in his eyes were gone, It looked like he hadn’t taken a shower in days. Who was this man? On top of it all, every time they showed him, he looked frustrated, like he could rip someone's head off. After the second period finished, I excused myself. I didn't want to see Max like that. I never wanted to see him like that. This was all my fault, of course it was. Why can't Max just come out and say that he has an irresponsible girlfriend that has caused him to miss two games and then barely play in the next?
Laying in bed, starring at the ceiling, all I could think about was how good things were, and how I royally fucked them up. Then my mind began to wander back to the drugs, and how much easier it would be on me if I just had a single line. Just one. Stupid? Yeah, drugs are what put me in this hell. Yet it seemed like drugs were the only thing that could get me out. I felt my legs begin to twitch, and I was in that state of mind where I would do anything to get my hands on some coke. I shot up from the bed and ran out my room, straight for the sauna. Sweat it out, that’s all I needed to do. That’s what Mark told me to do anyways. Drugs or Max, those were my options. I wasn’t stupid enough to go back to the drugs, but I couldn’t keep my body from craving them. I cranked the heat up and discarded my shirt, sitting on the wood bench in my bra and sweat pants. All I wanted to do was cry, but I couldn’t. No matter what I thought about, I couldn’t lure the tears to fall out.
“Lillianah?” I looked up from picking at my hands to see Mark step into the sauna. “Are you okay?” He asked cautiously as he sat down on the bench across from me. “No, I’m not okay. And I don’t think I ever will be. Why did I do this? Why do I still want to do drugs? Why is he still with me?” “Woah, slow down. Take a deep breath for me okay?” My deep breath in was shaky, and as I let it out, my tears began to fall. Finally, a release of some sort. “What brought this on? Was it seeing Max on TV?” I looked back down at my torn up hands and thought deeply about his question. “Just everything. That wasn’t the Max I know. He looked so angry, he’s not an angry person. I want to be there for him, I want to find out what’s wrong, but how I am suppose to be there for someone when I can’t even be there for myself? How am I suppose to love someone, when I can’t even love myself? How can I take care of him for the rest of my life when I can’t take care of myself? It makes no fucking sense.” He got up from the bench and walked the small distance toward me and sat down next to me. “You currently have this mind set where you tell yourself you are in the wrong all the time, but I want you to try something else. Instead of always saying ‘I’m stupid’ or ‘I can’t do anything right’, try saying ‘we learn from our mistakes’ and ‘I’ll be smarter next time’.” I tossed my head back taking his words in as sweat poured from my skull. “Once you get into a place where you’re happy and can do things without the need of drugs, you’ll fall into a grove that just fits your life perfectly. I think if you start to play the piano again-“ ”I’ll never play the piano again.” I heard him sigh faintly and he leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees. “Why not?” I didn’t feel like talking about. Not tonight anyways. I looked over at Mark, and looked straight into his eyes. I wish he had some power that he could just look in my eyes and understand. I knew he wouldn’t though, so I gave him a sad smile and left the sauna. The itch for the drugs somewhere in the far distance. Tonight, I could only hope, I'll sleep a full eight hours.
My legs bounced nervously as I sat in an uncomfortable chair off to the side of the stage. The stage that was set up for me to give my ‘statement’. It was all typed up, nice and pretty for me to read off of. A dozen or so reporters were waiting for me, waiting for my excuse. I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and my first instinct was to ignore it, but some greater power told me to answer it. When I looked down to see it was the rehab facility calling I couldn’t help but smile. “Allo mon cheri!” The voice on the other end cleared their throat. “Max?” It was some guy, it wasn’t Lillianah, I instantly went into panic mode. “Yes, this is Max. Is everything okay?” “Yes, everything is fine. My name is Mark and I’m Lillianah’s counselor out here and I was just wondering if you had a moment to discuss something.” I looked around me and noticed I still had about ten minutes before I was to go on stage. “Yes, of course, how is she?” When I heard him take a deep breath I knew it was as bad as I thought it would be. Lillianah has this way about her, and I’m sure she was being stubborn as hell in there. “We’re slowly but surely getting her to where she needs to be. Now this is why I called. Legally I can’t discuss our sessions together with you, but I have a suggestion for you when she transitions back into her sober life at home.” “Okay?” I scratched the back of my head and looked over to see Mario sit down next to me. He held up his hand to signal to me that I had five minutes. “Do you or anyone you know own a piano?” “A piano? What?” “Lillianah use to play piano, and I like to believe she was very, very good at it. I think if she started to play again, it would keep her mind and hands busy. It could be very good for her.” Lillianah played piano? How come she never told me? “Mario, do you own a piano?” He gave me a confused look before nodding his head. “Yeah, my boss owns a piano. So you really think her playing will help her?” “I do, but the hard part is getting her to play. She said she’ll never play again, but she didn’t tell me why.”
“Max, it’s time,” Mario whispered to me and I finished up my conversation with Mark. He sounded like a good guy, I knew she was in good hands. I still couldn’t believe the fact that she played piano and I didn’t know. I guess there are still a lot of things about her that I didn’t know. I almost felt like I was blind when it came to her life. What else was there that I didn’t know about? That I was too blind to see? I stopped at the base of the two steps on to stage and took a deep breath. With my speech in hand I prepared myself the best I could and walked up on stage. There were a hell of a lot more reporters than I originally thought. The small conference room was packed wall to wall. Camera’s, video camera’s, tape recorders, the whole works. I set my statement down on the podium and took another deep breath. Why was I doing this again? I looked out and all the reporters were looking at me impatiently. Waiting for the words to leave my mouth. What could possibly be going through their minds right now? I knew word on the street was that Lillianah and I broke up, causing my foul mood, thanks to the dozen or so spectators who were lucky enough to see her denial of my marriage proposal. I looked down at the words on the white piece of paper and shook my head. Pat was right, I always do things my way, this was going to be no different. I folded the paper in half and took one last deep breath before setting my eyes on the crowd in front of me.
“Thank you everyone for being here today. As you know I have missed the last two games, and managed to play below par in my return to the game last night. I have heard the rumors that are floating around town, and I must say, they are partially true. The love of my life, Lillianah Jenkins, turned down my marriage proposal a week and a half ago. The part where you are wrong though, is that we are still together, and I still love her just as much as I always have. She made a few poor decisions that night and ultimately ended up in the hospital. I’m not going to stand up here and apologize for what happened. I am not going to apologize for my poor playing nor my missed attendance of two home games late in the season. There comes a time in every man’s life when we realize there are more important things in life than a game. As grateful as I am to be playing for the Penguins, in this amazing town, I had to take a step back and look at my life. Lillianah is my everything, and she needed me more than my team did at that moment in time. I can only hope that the fans, my teammates and the Penguins organization can understand my need to step away from the game for a moment. Lillianah is on the long road to recovery, but she will be okay, and having that on my conscience is allowing me to focus one-hundred percent on hockey once again. I just ask for not only my privacy but as well as Lillianah’s and her family’s in this trying time. Thank you.”
I rushed off the stage before I could hear any of their questions. It was out there, and I hoped to never talk of it again. "You did good," Mario smiled at me as we walked through the hallways out toward the parking lot. I smiled weakly at him and continued through the hallways, trying to keep up with his long strides. "So tell me about this piano thing." I was still confused, why didn't she tell me? "I guess Lil plays piano, and I guess she's really good at it. Or at least use to be. That was her counselor I was talking to, he said it might be good for her to start playing again." He nodded his head, slowing down his pace. "Well our door is always open for you, feel free to bring her by and allow her to play on our piano." That's when the idea popped in to my head. That spare room downstairs in the house, the one I was going to turn into a man cave. "I think I should go buy one. I have the room for it. It'll be a welcome home gift." He stopped walking and placed his hand on my shoulder. "Whatever you need to do Max, you should do. Nathalie knows a bit about pianos, if you want I can give her a call and you two can meet somewhere to go look at some?" I smiled up to him, "really?" "Of course." I pondered for a big what I had to do for the rest of the day. Oh that's right, nothing. "Yeah, that'd be awesome. Thanks Mario." He simply nodded his head and pulled out his phone to put in a call to his wife.