“So you wanna go to a hockey game?” Kris asked.
“Do you even have to ask?” Luc asked. “Think about how you met this girl.”
Nikki laughed at what Luc said before answering Kris’ question. “I would love to go to a hockey game, who are you guys playing?”
“The Halifax Mooseheads, you’ve probably never heard of them. But the game is tomorrow at seven,” Luc said before Kris could open his mouth.
“Yeah, what he said,” he laughed.
The next afternoon Nikki hung her Foreurs jersey over her arm before going out to the kitchen where she would be having a light dinner with Kris and Luc. After finishing her pasta she pulled her jersey over her Penguins’ t-shirt and waited for Kris and Luc to be ready to leave. When the two men finally emerged from their bedrooms dressed in suits Nikki smiled and grabbed her cell phone from the table before heading out to the car with them.
“You gonna be cold?” Kris asked as they walked down the hall to the elevator.
“I’ll be fine, you have to remember that I live in Pittsburgh and hardly ever wear a coat, my jersey will keep me warm,” she smiled.
“At least put this on,” Kris said removing the hat from his head.
“I have my Penguins’ hat,” she grabbed the brim of her Crosby hat.
“Just put this on,” he placed the black winter hat in Nikki’s hand just as they walked out the front door of the apartment building.
Walking outside Nikki removed the baseball cap from her head, placing her hand on the curved brim that was behind her head and pulling it forwards. The chill of the Canadian air hit her and she quickly pulled the winter hat over her head. Kris smiled seeing this but said nothing more.
Arriving at Centre Air Crebec Luc, Kris, and Nikki all made their way to the locker room, they didn’t want to make Nikki have to wait out in the cold for the doors to open. She got to know some of the players a little better than she had the last time that she was there and didn’t want to leave the locker room to go to her seat when the coach told her that fans were allowed to enter the arena. She stood from where she sat between Luc and Kris, wishing her two friends along with the rest of the team luck, and making her way to her seat.
She sat where she had a few nights before, three rows behind the bench and again she had her camera and took pictures during both the pre-game skate and the game. Cheering and chanting along with everyone else in the arena Nikki was feeling like she was part of the Foreurs’ family, if only she could stay longer, see them play more games. There was no way that it could happen though; she was going home in two days.
Leaving Canada was not a happy thought and since “her” team was winning she pushed all thoughts of leaving to the back of her mind and enjoyed the remainder of the game.
The Foreurs dropped the game four-three, but it was lost in overtime and both Kris and Luc played well. “You can’t win them all,” Kris said after Nikki told them that they both played well and that it was okay that they lost.
When they arrived back at the apartment Kris and Luc went to change into more comfortable clothing and Nikki went to put her jersey in her room. She returned to the living room before the guys, as expected, and had the winter had with her.
A few moments later Luc returned and a few moments after him Kris returned. “Here,” Nikki said holding the hat out. “Thanks.”
“Keep it, I have another one,” Kris said with a smile.
“Thanks Kris,” she placed the hat on her lap. When Kris looked away from her to answer a question that Luc asked Nikki smiled and ran her hand along the soft hat.
“Yeah, that’s a great idea. What do you think Nikki?”
“Huh? Sorry I zoned out for a second.”
“Since tomorrow is your last day here instead of just packing and sitting around the apartment would you want to go ice skating?”
“Sure, I’m glad I brought my skates.”
“You brought your skates?” Luc asked a confused look on her face.
“Kris told me to bring them because there was a chance that we might go skating.”
The next morning Nikki sat down with Luc and Kris for breakfast and soon the three were off to the rink. They had all been there the night before but Nikki sat in the stands while she watched the others enjoy themselves on the ice and today she would get to skate; she would get to take the ice that so many hockey players had been on. It wasn’t Mellon Arena but she was probably never going to be able to set foot on that sacred ice, she had skated on the same ice that the Penguins had at RMU.
Nikki smiled as she pulled her skates onto her feet and the excitement only grew as she pulled the laces tight. If it were at all possible her smile grew when she stepped onto the ice. As soon as she was on the ice she started off for her first lap of the rink. The cold air stung her face, the speed she was going at made it worse, but she didn’t mind. It had been almost a year since she had skated and she missed it. She had always wanted to play ice hockey when she was younger, and she still did, but there was no way that her family could afford it so she only took the ice when she could get a group of people together willing to go.
After a few times around the ice she came to a stop along the boards and just took it all in. She was pulled from her blissful thoughts when Kris spoke. ‘How long had he been there? How long had she been staring off into space?’ She wondered.
“You’re a pretty good skater.”
“Thanks,” she smiled. “I still can’t do cross-overs without almost falling on my face.”
“Want me to help you?” Kris asked with a smile.
Nikki nodded and pushed away from the wall, just as a little kid would. “It’s pretty simple,” Luc said, still standing against the boards.
“Push off with your right foot and let your left foot glide. Good now cross your right foot over your left and just do it again.” She stumbled a bit but Kris caught her and helped gather her balance again. “Not bad,” he smiled. “Don’t worry you’ll get it. If you don’t get it today you’ll get it eventually.
Nikki smiled and pushed off again. After a few minutes she had made her way to the opposite side of the ice than Luc and Kris when she yelled, “Look guys I can do it!”
The two men turned around and sure enough she was doing it.
They skated for a few more hours but soon hunger overcame them all and they made their way back to the locker room to shed their skates. After arriving back at the apartment and grabbing a quick lunch to settle their rumbling stomachs Nikki decided that she would start packing so that she could just sit around with her friends and watch movies that night.
All of her clothes except for what she would be wearing the next day had been packed; her jersey included, and when it came time for dinner she walked into the kitchen wearing her Penguin pajama pants.
“You look ready for movie night,” Luc said sitting down next to her.
“Yep, I’m guessing these movies will be in French?”
“You guessed it,” Kris smiled. “They don’t sell a lot of movies in English here in French Canada.”
Her phone buzzed the next morning, but the last thing Nikki wanted to do was leave Canada. She had only been there for five days but she had fallen in love with the little town and their hockey team. She quickly showered; she was never one for long showers, before pulling on a pair of jeans and a Pens t-shirt. Making sure that everything was packed she lugged her bags to the living room and sat down in the kitchen one last time.
The apartment was empty, Kris and Luc had practice, and she just sat down to eat breakfast alone. As she ate her cereal she looked around and thought of how much she was going to miss the apartment, and more importantly; the people who lived there. Spending time with Kris only made her remember how much she cared for him and saying good-bye would be even harder than it had been the last time. Then she had known when she would see him again, now would she have to wait until summer? Would he make the ‘big squad’ for real next year? And Luc, although she had only known him for as long as she had been in Canada but they bad become friends and she wanted them to remain friends with him. Was that really practical, staying friends with either of them? How often would they see each other? How often would they talk?
‘Happy thoughts, Nicolette,” she told herself, taking another bite of cereal.
“You ready to go?” Kris asked when he and Luc returned home from practice.
“Yes and no,” she said causing both boys to smile.
“Yes because you can’t wait to get away from Kris and no because you can’t stand to be away from me, right?” Luc asked his voice full of sarcasm.
“Yeah something like that,” Nikki said just as sarcastically. “But really I’m gonna miss you two.”
“We’re gonna miss you too,” he cleared his throat. “Alright let’s get going.” He grabbed Nikki’s bags although she assured him that she could get them herself.
After the long drive to Montreal Nikki was walked into the airport by Luc and Kris. She checked her bag and was about to say good-bye when Luc spoke up. “I forgot to give this to you,” he pulled a picture from his pocket. It was the one that he had taken on Christmas day of Nikki and Kris.
“Thanks Luc,” she smiled as she look the picture from his hand. Looking at the picture she smiled but then realized that it was time for her to leave. “Thank you both so much for this week,” she placed the picture in her wallet before hugging both men.
“Bye Nikki,” Luc said releasing her from a hug. “Hope I can see you again.”
“You too, good-bye Luc.” She moved to Kris who had waited patiently for turn to say good-bye.
“Good-bye Nicolette,” he said still holding her. “Text me when you get home.”
“You too, bye Kristopher.” When he released her she picked up her bag and started off towards security.