Sunday, July 22, 2012


Danny was dressed in jeans and a sweater, toweling off his hair, contemplating the fear of losing Sara when he’d barely even gotten her.  Claude came in from the trainer’s room.

“What are you going to do?” Giroux asked, flexing the wrist he’d been rehabbing.

“I have to go there.”  Danny could barely wait the hour and a half for practice.  He’d never make it through the rest of the day.  By then, if not by now, Sara’s entire school would know about them.  It felt dirty and underhanded, as if he or she or they were something to be kept secret.  Something to be ashamed of.  “I want to be with her.  I want everyone to know that, not see some pictures like I’m sneaking around.”

“You sure that’s okay with school?” Claude looked genuinely concerned.  Danny shrugged, swung up his bag, and left.

It seemed right, as he drove through town.  Danny turned up the radio to keep from talking himself out of it.  He looked quickly in the visor mirror and pushed his hair back.  It wouldn’t do to wear a hat when you wanted everyone to notice your face.  

Judging by the number of kids in the hallway without books, it was lunch time.  He turned one corner, then another into her classroom.  Empty.  So was her office at the back.  Danny reversed course and joined the flow of students headed for the cafeteria.  He didn’t meet any of the eyes that turned toward him, though not many people noticed.  One advantage of being on the small side.  No teachers eating with the students, so he retraced his steps.

Sara walked into the teacher’s lounge with her lunch in hand and her brain full of competing thoughts.   Where did they get all that information?  How did they even know about me?

She’s been around the rink though, so often with the boys.  If other WAGs had noticed her perhaps the press had too.  It wouldn’t be a hard puzzle to put together.  But to find those photos, and the school... she was completely lost in thought as she sat at an empty table,  opened the lid on her pasta salad and began to eat without tasting.  


She didn’t react.  Her brain was showing an image of Danny because that’s what she was thinking about.  He wasn’t there in the school, in front of everyone, just in case there was a soul left who didn’t know.  No one else was looking.  Right.

“You okay?” he dropped into the seat next to her.  He seemed awfully heavy for a figment of her imagination.  “Sara?”

Danny held his breath and stared into her eyes, willing her to hear his thoughts.  Please don’t give up on me yet.

“Hi,” she finally managed.  Of course he was real, and there, and damn it if he didn’t look so fucking sweet she wanted to cry.  His hair was wet, he’d come right from the rink.  That sweater looked soft enough to hide in.  The embarrassment of being called into her boss’s office to see her love life splashed across the internet suddenly coalesced in the pit of her stomach.  Hold it together! she admonished herself.  His hand closed on her forearm.

“I’m so sorry,” Danny said in a low voice.

Sara’s senses all clicked on at once, like the power returning after a blackout.  Everyone was watching.  She would have been too.  This was not the place for anything but a smile that said it was bound to happen sometime.  A quick glance around the room confirmed her thought.

“Everyone,” she said on autopilot, getting to her feet, “this is Danny.  Most of you know him.  Most of you know now that we’re dating too.”  She was relieved to see some of her closest co-workers among the twelve or so people in the room.  They’d have her back.

“It’s, uh, nice to see you all again,” Danny gave them a little wave.

With a nod, Sara said, “Excuse us.”

Outside the hallway was still full of kids.  It was the most anonymous Danny could ever be in a Philly-area crowd.  He followed Sara’s quick steps toward her classroom, then her office at the back.  She shut the door.

“I’m so sorry,” Danny repeated.  The corners of his eyes creased with worry, his lips pinched.  

“That was so fast,” Sara said at the same time, “how did they....”

Danny grabbed Sara’s shoulders and kissed her.  She was stiff as a board.  He held her still until, bit by bit, her frantic composure began to crack.  He needed to have this conversation with his girlfriend, not a crisis-control robot.  Sara’s mouth eventually softened beneath his and her posture relaxed.  She even returned his kiss a little, which he let her carry on doing as long as she would.  Finally their lips parted and he leaned his forehead to hers.

“Are you in trouble?”

“No,” her voice was thick with tears.

Inside, rage flowed through his veins.  They could hurt him all they wanted.  He’d long ago stopped caring if they hurt Sylvie, back when she started courting the attention.  But Sara was his responsibility.  “I’m so sorry, ma belle.”

“I knew,” she said in a quivering tone.  “It’s not... I just didn’t expect... God.”  She sighed, fighting back the knot in her chest.  “I knew, Danny.  I guess I wasn’t ready to see it though.”

He kissed her lips softly, for  this time she was right there with him.  “I’m so selfish.  Even when I knew what would happen.”  Danny was working himself up even as he tried to calm her.  “I wanted to be with you so much.”

“Danny, I...,” but she couldn’t get a word in.

“Like I’m worth it.  I made you do this.  I convinced myself it wouldn’t that bad because I wanted you, Sara.  But I lied to you.  I knew.”  He shook his head again all the bad memories, the worst of the lies almost as bad as the worst of the truth.  It came tumbling out of some dark corner where he’d shoved it away.  “I’m sorry.”

Sara was taken aback by the outpouring of emotion.  Where she’d felt exposed and ambushed, Danny clearly felt a more personal blow had been dealt.  She brushed his face but he shied away, her hand falling.  He’d never resisted her touch before.  Those dark brown eyes finally settled on hers.

“Please don’t leave,” he said.

She was kissing him before she knew it.  Tears spilled from her brimming eyes, wetting her cheeks and his.  Danny didn’t flinch this time when she cupped his cheeks and held him fast. Sara could taste her heart breaking in the salt that reached their lips.

“I wouldn’t, Danny.  No,” she whispered.

He took her hands and held them, as if waiting for permission to feel her touch again.  “It will happen again.  Even when they have nothing to say, Sara.  Especially then.”

The thought of seeing herself splashed across another blog  churned bile in her stomach.  Those pictures were meant for her, those stories for people that she knew.  Not strangers.  But so many of the players had girlfriends or wives - even Claude, and people seemed to care far more about the Flyers’ young stud than their veteran guys.  Still, the scent of scandal lingered on Danny and gossip writers followed it like bloodhounds.  Sara could only think of one thing to do.

“Then we’ll have to give them something to talk about.”

Danny went home and straight to bed.  He fell into a dreamless, heavy sleep and woke battered and slow.  His heart was bruised, like he’d taken a jab to the chest.  But it was still beating since Sara had said the words and kissed his lips and promised that she wouldn’t leave - not now, not for this.

Someday though, Danny couldn’t help predicting.  He’d felt that way about himself since this marriage fell apart - if more than a decade with someone could implode, what good were a few months or a few years?  Just seconds ticking off a bomb.  He lay flat feeling sorry for himself and increasingly more lonely every time he pictured Sara.  He’d have her and lose her and suffer more for that someday.

Downstairs, the door opened.  Numerous feet shuffled into the house - sneakers squeaking, followed by the double click of high-heels.  Danny counted the steps by the noise they made, exactly as many as it took to reach his door.

“Hey,” Sara let herself in.

“They give you any problems?”

“No.”  Across the room she stepped free of the heels and hung her autumn yellow cardigan over a chair.  In just a white tank top and brown trousers, she sat next to him on the bed.  Danny lifted one hand to the center of her back and smoothed the ends of her long hair.

He’d stopped in the main office, then called the other school where Caelan and Carson were students.  Without question, each one added Sara Cardenne to the list of people allowed to retrieve his sons.  None mentioned the website, but Danny wondered.  

Sara lay down heavily alongside Danny, also looking up.  Side by side they were silent awhile.  Sara knew he had something to say, Danny was trying to make the words seem less horrible.

Finally he gave up.  “It was Sylvie.  She told them who you were.”

Without glancing over, he felt Sara close her eyes.  To make something public was one thing, to be found out another.  But for someone to deliberately expose was another form of attack entirely - one Danny had weathered many times.  Sara was a rookie in her first fight.

“That’s horrible,” she said in a small voice.

“She hates me,” Danny sighed.  “I’m sorry.”

“I think she hates that she lost you.  That you two fell out of love.  I’d be furious, Danny.  I know that it happens but I wouldn’t want it to happen to me.”

He rolled onto his side.  In profile Sara looked younger than her 28 years, even if her words sounded much wiser.  It was the worst part of breaking up - not the loss or the pain, but the humiliation.  Finding out you’d been wrong all along, that your words and promises, though honestly said, in the end meant nothing.

But you said them anyway, because you wanted them to be true.

“It won’t,” Danny said.  He felt so sure, despite his past mistakes.  “No one could ever fall out of love with you.”

He turned her face, rising onto an elbow so he could press his mouth down to hers.  It was the only way to stop the next three words from coming to his lips.  Quickly and quietly they shed clothing below the waist.  They looked at each other instead of the doorknob, which was unlocked.  Some risks had to be taken.  Sara wrapped her legs around Danny’s waist and bit down on that tiny gasp when he pushed inside her.  For him it was like falling asleep again - good sleep, and restful.  His body sought the same comfort she had given his heart, as if he were the one most wronged.  Danny resigned to be the best damned boyfriend in the world if only he could take this one time to assure himself that Sara was really his and they were strong enough to try.

Her mouth broke from his as she came, head falling back with a soundless cry.  Danny was right there with her, the orgasm taking so much stress and tension with it that he slumped on top of her prone body, chest heaving.  Sara ran her fingers gently through his hair.

This three words rose again.  Danny told them silently to the pillow beneath her head.

Sara and the boys were halfway through cooking burgers when Danny came downstairs, sleepily rubbing the back of his head.  Caelan was manning the stove, spatula in hand.  Carson set the places while Cameron lined up every condiment from the fridge.  Sara pulled a tray of buns from the oven.

“You guys are awesome,” Danny smiled.

They ate at the kitchen counter, all perched on stools with their elbows on the table.  Without speaking about it, Sara and Danny were both waiting for the same thing.  Eventually it was Caelan who brought it up. “We saw the internet thing,” he said.  Cameron and Carson looked at each other.

“And?” Danny prompted.  

“Is that how come you picked us up today?” Carson said.

“Can Sara come to my hockey game?” Caelan asked.

“They were mean to Mom,” Cameron reminded everyone in a sad voice.   Sara winced.  No kid should have to read that.  She ruffled his hair and he leaned against her.  

“I’m sorry they said that.  They’ll probably say mean things about me too, and your dad.  But we don’t have to read them.”

“You should get someone to say good things,” Carson suggested.  Danny lifted an eyebrow at the surprisingly astute observation from his son, but Sara was one step ahead of him.

“Just what I was thinking,” she smiled.

At ten o’clock the next morning, Sara was standing on the stage in an elementary school - but not her school.  Danny and Claude were at center, leaning on their sticks in their orange jerseys, talking to sixty assembled students.  Adults ringed the room, riveted themselves on the two Flyers stars.  Nora whispered from next to her, “Danny has a big ass for a little guy.”

Sara snort-laughed so loud she had to turn her back.  Smacking Nora’s arm was useless, the short-haired girl was already three steps away, trying not to crack up.  When she was done giggling, Sara was going to hug her.

It had taken three phone calls.  After dinner, Sara called Mr. Hargrove and laid out her plan.  He gave her the next day off.  Then she called Claude, who rang Kevin in Communications and then called her back.  Just like that, they had usurped a hockey school appearance designated to Matt Carle and JVR.  The guys had not complained.

“It’s not something the WAGs usually do,” Claude pointed out.

“All the more reason to write about it,” Sara said.

Sara and Nora helped divide the kids into squads and set their teams in rotation.  Danny always played on one, Claude on the other.  Each team had colored mesh pullover jerseys and played to three goals.  Danny was patient and kind, showing kids how to hold the stick and how to aim a pass.  Rambunctious Claude picked up a little girl and ran her and the ball right into the goal to win the game.  From the sidelines, Nora and Sara whooped.

“Okay, this time we have goalies!” Danny waved the girls out, but Nora ran down the be on Danny’s team.  Sara gave Claude a fist-bump, then everyone on her team.  Danny sized them up.

“She’s a teacher, that’s cheating!” Danny shouted.  It was easy to play his part in this - he just had to have fun and look crazy about his girlfriend.  Done and done.

Sara called back, “Afterward, I’m doing everyone’s homework!”  The kids all cheered.

Team Giroux won a few games, Team Briere a few others.  In the end, the kids lined up to have photos signed by the players.  Throughout the event, the Flyers team photographer and at least one other shot endless pictures.  

“I like this,” Kevin sidled up next to them, arms crossed over his chest.  “This was a good idea.”

Mostly Sara thought he was relieved not to be putting out another potential fire.  Good publicity was good business.  Bad publicity - well, Kevin had seen enough of that.

“Let’s hope it works,” Sara said.

“Darling, they love you,” Nora purred dramatically.  She was watching the guys, and Danny looked over to where Sara was standing.  “And they are not the only ones.”

Danny grabbed Sara around the waist and spun her.  She shrieked in surprise and nearly toppled into a row of metal lockers in the school hallway.  The hockey clinic had been a success, and some very favorable photos would be appearing online in hours.  It was easy, effective and best of all, it had been Sara’s idea.  The same way he’d been upset the day before, like being buried alive, he felt now like he might burst into sunshine and rainbows.  Such highs and lows were terrifying.  They bid Nora and Claude goodbye and climbed into Danny’s SUV with nothing to do for a long, glorious day.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” he said.  

It was clear and cold outside, and as expected the parking lot near the Japanese Garden in Fairmount Park was empty because the museum was closed in winter.  Sara took Danny’s hand and let him lead her across the expanse of grass to a stone monument that sat divided by the roadway.  On either side it reached high above the street, with an archway in each wall.

“Please let me you’ve never been here,” he said.  Sara shook her head no and Danny smiled.  Surprise would be on his side.  Passing through one arch he stopped in front of a long, low bench, made of stone and curved into a semicircle.  The back of the bench ran unbroken along it’s length, so no matter where you sat you could lean against the stone support that extended overhead.  Danny sat Sara down at one end, then walked across the semi-circle and sat down at the far end, forty feet away.

“What are you doing?” she called.

“Talking to you.”

The voice was so close and quiet that Sara jumped right out of her seat.  She spun but of course there was nothing to see.  Danny laughed and again she heard it as clearly as if he were next to her.

“What the hell?” she said, sitting back down.  “How is....”

“Turn and talk against the wall,” his disembodied voice said.  “It’s a whispering wall.”

She matched how Danny was sitting and spoke so that he couldn’t hear her naturally across the distance.   “This is crazy!  How does it work?”

“The shape carries the sound.  In summer there are tons of tourists here.”  

Sure enough, but it was weird to see him so far away and hear him so closely.  She laughed again.  “I guess no one else is skipping work today.”

“Thank you for doing that,” Danny’s voice said.  “You were incredible today.  I wouldn’t have thought you’d want to do something public.”

“Danny,” Sara sighed.  She wanted to say this to his face, but more than that she wanted not to have to say it at all.  He had so many doubts.  “I should have handled the blog thing better, it just surprised me.  That won’t happen again.  And we can do things like today, we can do it our way.”

Forty feet away, Danny smiled.  He had brought Sara there because it was cool and unique, and also romantic.  Plus he thought it would be easier to be brave from a distance, knowing the effect she had on him.  “You’re incredible,” he said.  

“I want to be with you.”  Sara sent it off like a message in a bottle, trusting the stone to carry them to Danny’s ears.  Even at the distance she could feel his hurt.  “Please don’t be afraid of me, Danny,” her voice was so soft the words might not make it.  But a sound came back, strong and true.

“I’m not just afraid of you,” he said.  “I’m in love with you.”

A/N: The Whispering Bench is a real place, though there's not a great website for it. See info here and photos here. There are a number of whispering galleries around the world - list.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Claude pushed one big hand back through his mop of hair then back down over his face.  “Fuck.”

Danny loosened the lace on his skate, easing the flex his muscle had been holding for the last hour of practice.  As the blood flowed warmly into his ties, he felt a little better for the first time all morning.

He’d practiced in near silence, grateful for the drills and whistles.  It had taken half that time for the rage in his blood to boil down to thick paste.  Sylvie.  It was times like this he wondered how he could have loved her for so long.

“Right there in the living room.  She knows that house.  She knew Sara could hear every word.”  Danny sighed.  “I did it to myself. I should’ve told her, told Sara.  Remembered the date.”

Claude clapped his friend on the shoulder.  He’d been on the receiving end of more than one Sylvie tirade, always involving the kids and the house and his place amongst them.  She thought the worst of Danny and even less of his teammates.  In her eyes, Claude was just as bad as any puckbunny Danny could have brought home.

“Now what?”

Danny’s shoulders rose and fell.  “What can I do? She’ll have to get used to it, hopefully I can keep her away from Sara, and...”  he caught Claude looking pointedly at him.  “What?”

“You don’t think she’ll tell the school?”

“No, I’m their point of contact.  It’s not against the rules, she has nothing to gain.  No reason.”

“Since when does Sophie need a reason?”

It had been in Danny’s head all morning - fear.  Nothing about him and Sara was wrong, but it could be made to look that way.  Any story could be twisted.  And Sylvie had beaten Danny to the punch in the past, sharing information in ways she knew would get out.  Things he’d done, things she claimed he did - they were the same once they were printed.  Sylvie held information like a leaky boat.

“What should I do?”  Danny felt he was in no place to ask Sara for a favor now, despite her graceful handling of the situation.

At that moment Hartnell came into the locker room.  His helmet went one way, his gloves another.  That matted afro of hair was soaked, dripping sweat.  He dumped onto a bench, breathing heavily.
“Do we have to do media after every fucking practice?” the huge forward groaned.  “I’m out of shit to say to these people.”

On cue the door opened and the usual press corps trooped into the room.  Unlike post-game interviews, where they talked to whoever had the best night, post-practice was divided up between guys with stories - recent injuries, streaks - and the third and fourth line guys who didn’t always get microphones shoved up their noses.  Danny wasn’t on today’s list, Claude always was.  Their conversation went on hold as Danny slid down the bench to let reporters crowd around his teammate.  Soon he had both legs bare down to his shorts.

“Hey, Danny.”

The voice belonged to Scott Parker, a local blogger.  During the divorce gossip, he and Danny had a run-in when he published something that he’d heard third-hand.  The information - involving custody of the kids and alimony - was only between Danny, Sylvie and the lawyers.  It turned out the story came from a friend of Sylvie’s, who was big-mouthed with other people’s complaints.  Scott hadn’t known that, or at least claimed not to.  Danny was skeptical -  a blog wasn’t a newspaper, it didn’t have to fact check or print the truth with any real legal requirement - but he let it slide.  Still Scott was not someone he trusted.

“I wanted... that girl who’s been here the last few games, the one with your kids?” he started.

Danny brow furrowed and his eyes got black with barely checked malice.

“I’m not gonna write it,” Scott held up a hand.  “Not from this person.  But I heard some stuff about her and I wanted you to know, after last time, that people are talking about it.  Starting to talk, at least.”

“What did you hear?”  It was almost a growl.

“Just that she’s your new girlfriend.  And stuff.”

“Stuff?” Danny asked pointedly.

“Just gossip.  And I’m not posting it.  But if I heard it, then other people will too.”  Scott looked almost apologetic for admitting his sources were so backhanded and gossipy that he heard things first, before other writers; so soon he couldn’t verify them.  Danny knew that if Scott had an ounce of anything he could back up, he’d run it without hesitation.  

It’s just fucking hockey, Danny thought.  But he usually didn’t get a say, and Scott was doing at least that.

“I have nothing to say,” Danny told him.

“I know, man.  But you might and when you do... remember I’m trying to be cool, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Danny waved him off before he had to stand on the bench to punch him.  The nice guy routine was always looking for a favor.  He headed for the shower eagerly.

When he came back, Claude was out of his gear, milling around.  Some of the guys had already left.

“What did that douchebag want?”  Claude was no friend of Scott, who’d written more than a few things alluding to the unnatural relationship of Claude living with Danny’s family.  If Giroux’s hot-head temper ever showed off the ice it would be because they ran into Scott in a bar.

“He heard something about Sara.  Everybody will now, I guess.”

Claude chewed his lip quietly for a moment, like he was considering a plan.  Danny knew that look too well.  “You should do something, you know, put it out that about you guys.  Before someone else does.”

Danny immediately shook his head.  “I don’t want to do that, then I’m just asking for it.”

Behind them, Hartnell came back into the room in a towel that wasn’t fit to be a washcloth.  They both had the same thought - Hartnell’s marriage had also ended very publicly, and even more pyrotechnically than Danny’s.  The story was that Scott’s wife had cheated on him with his teammate Jeff Carter.  It got so much press that both guys and the Flyers issues official statements of denial.  They just fueled the fire.  Scott had moped around for the better part of a year, saying he wished he’d gotten the first word in that fight.  Claude gave Danny a pointed look.

“Ugh.  What?  How?” Danny asked.

“I have an idea. ”

Sara didn’t mean to, but she made a face.

“We don’t have to do it!  Forget it!” Danny said.

“No, no no,” Sara cut in.  “I’m sorry.  Maybe we should.  It might be a good idea.”

“What about school?” he asked.

That was the big sticking point.  Sara wanted to keep her relationship with Danny quiet for a million reasons, not the least of which was setting parents talking about their most famous counterpart and the woman who taught their kids to read.  But it was bound to come out eventually, and when it did it should be from her.  Not the internet.

Claude cleared his throat from across the table.  “Sar, I know you’re nervous but... look around.  Fifty people have seen us.  One day it’s going to be someone you know.”

“Or someone with a camera,” Nora added.  She was tucked in between the cafe wall and her boyfriend, looking so cozy and sure that Sara was a little jealous.  Danny didn’t have his arm around her like that.

Which is precisely what I’m worried about people seeing! she thought.  “This is stupid. GIve me that again.”  Claude handed her the phone and she examined the snapshot of the four of them.  Someone on the street had stopped Claude and Danny for a photo, Claude asked him take one for them as well.  The guy looked thrilled - and definitely gave the girls a double-take as if to remember them.  A lot of people had done that since she started standing next to Danny.  The picture was cute - they were all smiling, happy.  Claude had a beanie on and his trademark grin, Nora looked perfect in a bright patterned scarf.  Danny was zipped into a black coat,  and Sara was happy to at least be wearing her favorite jacket with an asymmetrical turn-down collar.

“Post it,” she said.

“You sure?” Danny did not sound like he was.  She wondered if it was for his own sake or hers.

“Claude’s right...,” Sara said, but Nora cleared her throat.  Claude elbowed her.  Sara corrected herself.  “Okay, Nora is right.  People are going to see us together, so let them see us.”  She titled the phone toward him.  “You look great in this picture.”

While he blushed, a poking and grabbing scuffle broke out between Nora and Claude, attracting even more attention.  Nora batted his ginger hair and he stopped, straightening his shirt.

“Last chance,” Claude took the phone, punched a few keys.  “Oops, too late.”  

There it went, via Claude’s Twitter account.  Giroux stuffed the iPhone into his pocket and lifted his glass.  “To Sara, and the one hundred eighty thousand people who are now jealous of her.”

Sara gave Danny a half-smile and said, “Fuck.”

For the first time since they started spending the night, Danny and Sara didn’t.  He took her home, took her upstairs an half and hour later, Danny took his leave.  She hadn’t really protested - they both needed some time to think.  The idea was that she’d tell her principal about Danny in the morning.  It was time to say something official.  After that,  if other people found out, so be it.  But she did stand on her tiptoes to kiss Danny, so perfectly that he almost changed his mind.  When he got home, he texted her.

Danny: Miss you.

Sara: Wish me luck.

The next morning, Danny walked into the rink for practice and made it halfway to the locker room.

“Hey, Danny.  I need to see you,” Kevin Beck, the team’s head of communications said.

Danny’s stomach clenched.  He’d gotten to know Kevin well during the divorce shitstorm.  On a normal day, a meeting with Kevin meant a big TV interview, an award, an event.  But today Danny had a feeling it was something to do with that photo Claude had posted last night.  

Around the world in 28 seconds, he thought.

He took a seat in front of Kevin’s desk, feeling like a troublesome school kid.  Kevin reached for the computer monitor and turned it to face them both. “Oh shit,” Danny said instantly.

Daniel Briere is Hot for Teacher

Daniel Briere has been doing some homework, and it’s not the kind with pencils and books.  His new girlfriend is Sara Cardenne, 28-year old hottie and fifth grade teacher - to Briere’s son Cameron.

Claude Giroux tweeted a photo of himself, his girlfriend Nora, Briere and Cardenne last night from the Lily Cafe in Old Philly.  This confirmed what we had already heard - Briere is finally moving on from his divorce, this time with a woman we can’t see on the $10.99 after dark movie channel.

Philly fans can’t forget Briere’s colorful divorce in 2009, with all sorts of allegations from porn stars to naked photos.  At the time, we figured Danny was just getting the hag out of his system. Today we know these new rumors are true - Crossing Broad has it from a source close to Briere that he’s “very serious” about this woman.

And let’s be honest, we would be too after leaving this:

[old Halloween photo of Danny and Sylvie]

According to the Westerly School website, Ms. Cardenne teaches English.  By the time Briere’s done with her, let’s hope she’s bilingual.  She might need it, because when we were in school detention never looked so good.

Danny’s mouth was dry before he finished reading.  The bold black type seemed to tremble on the glaring white screen.  Besides the admittedly terrible photo of him and Sylvie in party costumes, there were the picture from Claude’s phone and three that Danny had never seen before.   Sara’s official school photo was buttoned up and polished, like a homecoming queen.  The next was her in a very fitted purple dress, in a club, looking ready to toss a few back and tear it up.   The last was the best - her in shorts and a short-sleeved button down plaid shirt, hair tossed down her back, sitting on the edge of a picnic table.  Her legs looked a mile long and baby-smooth, it was sexy summer casual perfection.  Despite the adrenaline racing through his veins, Danny had the sense to think she looked gorgeous in each picture.  But what he said was, “Fuck.”

Kevin shrugged.  “I saw her here the other night, thought it might be a thing.”

“Fuck,” Danny repeated.  “And they had to drag Sylvie up.”

Turning the screen back in his direction, “Well, what did she think they were going to write?”

Danny was shaking his head and stopped at once.  “What? Who?”


Kevin’s tone said it should be obvious, but Danny stared at him dumbfounded for a full five seconds before his brain turned over and caught like an engine.  “You think they talked to Sylvie?”

“I know they did.  I called them,” Kevin said.  “They have no loyalty to her, and this is the last thing she’ll ever have to give them.  Why she would, I don’t know.  They hate her, they eviscerate her every time her name comes up.”  Danny was still frozen, with his mouth open.  “Danny, how many people did you tell you were ‘very serious’ about Sara?  Two, three?  I bet all of them wear Flyers sweaters.  They sure as shit aren’t the source here.  Who else knew she was a teacher at Cameron’s school?”

It was as obvious as a punch to the face.  “But Sylvie never talked to them before.”

“Not directly,” Kevin corrected.  “She made sure she talked to people with big mouths though, she made sure what she said would get out.  Now she doesn’t have that line, they’re not listening unless she tells them there’s something to hear.  And this,” he pointed to the screen, “is something.”

A knot had formed in the pit of Danny’s stomach and it twisted, as if to secure itself and never dislodge.  It weighed a thousand pounds, Danny felt rooted to the chair.  There was a reason that Kevin had not considered.  “She wants to get Sara in trouble at school.  That’s why she did this.  She’s not the primary guardian, she can’t just waltz in there complaining.  But she can do this.”

It was Kevin’s turn to look surprised.  “They don’t know?  Her work? Well they fucking do now.  You’d better call her.”  He got up and walked out, giving Danny the privacy of his office.

Sara smoothed her dress, wishing she’d had Danny around that morning to tell her she looked right for a confession-slash-informational meeting with her boss.  Mr. Hargrove was behind his desk when she went in.

“Good morning, Sara,” he motioned to a seat where students only wound up after being in trouble with everyone else in the chain of command.  “You wanted to see me.”

“Yes, I wanted to....”

He turned his computer screen to face her.  She gasped.

Daniel Briere is Hot for Teacher

“Shit,” she said without thinking, moving her chair closer.  She forgot all about Mr. Hargrove for as long as it took her to read the first paragraph.  Beneath it was the photo Claude had Tweeted.  Then she ran out of screen.

“Allow me,” her boss said, scrolling down.  

She didn’t react, just keep reading to the end.  The photos - one from the school website.  The others must have been on friends’ Facebook walls, friends who didn’t protect their profiles.  She hadn’t thought of that.  There must be more - lots more - and she didn’t control who could see them.  They knew about Cameron.  They were so mean to Sylvie that Sara almost felt bad for the woman.  They knew everything.

“Oh my God,” she mumbled.

Mr. Hargrove angled the monitor away and clicked to the top of the page.  “I’m correct in assuming that’s why you wanted to see me?”


“Well these folks only beat you to it by a few hours.  It seems this went up at nine o’clock this morning.  Bloggers don’t keep teacher hours.  It took about an hour for someone to call me about it.”

Sara was too dazed to be prim.  She slumped back in her chair and looked at the ceiling.  Right at that moment people were looking at her photo, judging her and Danny, finding more about her.  Some of her friends would find out this way.  She pictured the guys from her gym, they were probably hockey fans.  Would they recognize her from the stair climber?  Hey, that girl’s gold-digging with Danny Biere?

“There’s no rule against it,” she said out of nowhere.

“No, no there’s not,” Mr. Hargrove chuckled indulgently and Sara realized she’d spoken out of turn.  He had barely said anything at all.  “Sorry,” she sighed, pushing a hand back through her hair.  “I... we knew this would happen eventually.  I didn’t mean for you to find out this way.”

He shrugged.  “It’s not ideal.  And I won’t be the only one - by lunch, the entire faculty will have heard.  Damned smart phones in classrooms.  Are you going to be okay with that?”

Sara nodded, hoping she looked convincing.  Now would be as good as tomorrow - she’d never really be ready.

“Just be careful here.  Teachers are permitted to date students’ parents.  But unbecoming conduct is still against policy, so no pictures of you partying or anything.  If people recognize you, they’ll definitely recognize you when you’re at your worst.  And Sara?”  He paused.  “Go Flyers.”

She left the office laughing in nervous hysteria and to keep from crying.  Even her boss could make a joke at a time when she felt like she’d been cut open and the operating table wheeled along in a parade.  Ducking back into her empty classroom, she went to the office and her phone.  Already a message from Danny.

“Hey.  I’m in practice.”  Pause.  “Fuck.  Babe, the press found out who you are, everything.  It’s on Crossing Broad.  I’m so, so sorry.  I thought we could beat this.  Call me later, or I’ll call you.  I’m sorry, Sara.”  Another pause, as if he were hanging up.  Then Danny’s voice back on the line.  “You’re beautiful in those photos.  Thank God you’re so beautiful.”

Sara hit the call button, knowing he wouldn’t answer.  She didn’t leave a message.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


“Wow,” Danny said.

He went to get something out of the car and come back to an empty house.  The kids had gone to bed and Sara was nowhere in sight.  He walked past closed bedroom doors until he got to his own.  A little glow of light bled out from underneath.  Danny opened it a sliver and slipped inside, hoping there was something worth hiding  behind the door.

Sara lay on her side, wearing Danny’s jersey.  He assumed there was nothing underneath.  For all the cheesy puckbunny-ness of it, both his chest and pants got tighter at the sight of her bare thighs disappearing underneath the sweater.  His #48 was clearly visible on the arm.  She moved across the bed and got to her knees, the jersey ending just south of her hopefully bare backside.  He threw off his jacket on his way to the bed.  She pawed at his tie and Danny pulled his shirt and all over his head.  His pants were next.  When he leaned over to ditch his shorts, the temperature in the room went up twenty degrees.  Danny kicked his last piece of clothing away and slid his hands up under the jersey.  No panties as he crossed her hips.  She tugged at his bottom lip like a plea and Danny moved his fingers right down between her legs.

“Yes,” she said softly as he hit her soft spot.  Finding her wet made Danny’s cock twitch, and his impulse to be gentle disappeared with that word.  He delved two fingers right up inside her.

Sara’s heart was racing.  Being with Danny, officially, gave her a heady and almost drunk feeling.  The way he’d looked at her in the jersey - gratitude mixed with lust - was a feeling she wanted to return, and right now.  The sweater was like a costume and this version of her did what it wanted.  There was no point in her panties anyway, she’d been wet since he kissed her.  His thumb grazed her clit and she gasped his name.

He followed up the bed, with the intention of climbing on top.  She stroked his growing erection brazenly.  Their eyes met and Sara bit her lip to hide a smile, then guided him down onto his back.  She kissed his mouth, then moved down his body without ever stopping her hand.  Her lips met his chest, stomach and then Danny let his eyes roll back as she licked a tiny trail just inside his hip.

“Baby,” he said.  He wanted to tell her she didn’t have to, but he was dizzy with desire to feel her mouth.  Schoolteacher Sara, so smart and polite, in his bed and wearing his jersey, halfway to giving him a....  “Oh God.”

Her lips touched him and Danny groaned.  The velvety surface of her tongue swirled around, then she quickly moved along his shaft.  He lifted his hips to meet her.  Sara looked up through her bangs as she took him deep.  All he could see was playful desire in her eyes and his number on her arm.  Danny swore, she pulled free and used her hand to tease him out to full hard.  It was dirty hot and his blood boiled.

Sara went for it.  She could have been embarrassed at the show she was putting on, but it was a private performance and she wanted to make him happy.  He’d probably been with a lot of women - she couldn’t fault a grown man for that.  But she would have to outdo the competition and she was more than willing.

Danny wrapped his fingers in her hair and she let him steer.  He never pushed, ever the gentleman, but his breathing did get short.   His abs and thighs flexed taut as she bobbed along his length, her grip hard to get the most from every stroke.  A drop of salty moisture spilled onto her tongue.

“Sara,” he said, and something in French she assumed meant don’t ever stop.  She had no intention of it.  It was too sexy to have him at her mercy, to feel this closely how badly he wanted her.  Sara worked her mouth on Danny until he came.

“Fuck,” he grunted as his body locked.  There were few things on Earth as incredible as a blowjob from a beautiful woman, and Sara was more than that.  Spasms of pleasure rocked him several times before he lay spent.  It was all he could to do keep his eyes open and watch Sara wipe her lip.  Danny her down next to him.  “You’re so fucking sexy.”

She giggled.  “You’re not the only one who can score in this sweater.”

It reminded Danny that Sara had innocently done something really sweet for him, and it had been the last innocent or sweet thing of the night.  She didn’t even know why it mattered so much to him.  There were a number of topics he’d been putting off talking about.  Now he just wanted to lie still long enough to get hard again and give Sara a fraction of the ride she’d given him.  But soon, they’d talk.

He rolled to face her.  “You were perfect tonight.”  

“It was really nice to be able to kiss you.  You play so hard, you deserve to be kissed.”

“And you deserve something else for your hard work,” he rolled on top of her playfully, ready to deliver.

Danny was in the kitchen getting cereal bowls from the cabinet when he heard it: the crunch of tires in the driveway.  Everything happened at once.  His brain popped into gear - what day was it?  What time?

Oh shit.  Carson had broken his arm a few months back, spent weeks in a cast.  Sylvie had scheduled his last doctor’s appointment during Danny’s practice.  it was the kind of thing she did to try to catch him slacking.

Fuck.  He tossed the bowls onto the counter almost hard enough to shatter.  Voices from elsewhere in the house sounded crystal clear: Carson in the fridge, looking for juice.  Cameron in the living room.  Sara in the...

“Hey Cam, you should bring this for class.  I’ve got copies, we can compare it to....”

Danny turned the corner to see Sara holding out a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in French that Danny had bought so the kids wouldn’t lose their bilingual abilities.  Which is exactly what his ex-wife saw as she opened the front door.

“Bonjo... hello.”  Her tone snapped like a rope breaking.  The smile disappeared from her face.  Sara froze, eyes wide, and Danny tried to shorten his stride and cover his hurry.

“Mom!” Cameron hugged his mother happily.  It wasn’t until he turned around that he realized that Sara was there... and Sara was there.  

“Cam, go get your bag,” Danny said.  Sara was still locked in place.  She wore a long-sleeved boat neck dress in navy blue with a yellow belt around her shapely waist.  Her hair hung loose, her makeup fresh.  She was young and gorgeous and had clearly woken up in this very house.

“Sylvie, hi.  This is Sara,” Danny croaked.  “Sara, the boys’ mother, Sylvie.”  

He hated the term ex-wife, but that’s what Sylvie felt like.  The woman he’d once loved was achingly familiar - older, a little rounder than the image Danny held in his mind.  But she was still beautiful to him, even if other people couldn’t see it.  It mirrored how Danny felt about himself.  But Sylvie had been so angry when their marriage fallen apart, and had taken every opportunity to rake him over the coals.  The good things he held onto were tarnished by every real-life experience.

“Sara is my... girlfriend,” he stuttered.  Danny had never called Sara that out loud, and the first time he said it sounded like a defense in court.  “My girlfriend.  She’s also Cam’s teacher.”

Sylvie’s expression was carefully, precisely blank - the kind of restraint that came with practice.  Her dark hair was cut in a bob, her jeans tending toward mom-ish.  Sara offered a smile but got nothing in return.  Her pulse was racing.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” she crossed the room, hand extended formally.  For a horrible second she thought Sylvie might decline to touch her.  But the older woman reached out, albeit stiffly.

“Cam’s teacher?”

“Homeroom and English,” Sara jumped to reply.  “Just this year.”

“Hmm.”  Sylvie did not look impressed.  

“I’ll go check on the boys.”  With a forced smile, Sara slipped into the hallway before like racing before an avalanche.  Just out of sight, she was still within earshot when the whispered argument started.

“How old is she?!” Sylvie hissed.

“Stop it,” Danny said.  He assumed Sara could still hear them, and he was glad.  She should know Danny was capable of sticking up for them, so he continued in English.  “She is my decision and she’s wonderful.  The boys adore her.”

“My sons.  My sons adore your live-in girlfriend?!”

“She doesn’t live here.  She stayed over after the game.”  Danny fell silent, waiting for Sylvie’s reaction.  The house had always been a sticking point - it was expected that Danny keep his pro athlete calibre extracurriculars away from their kids.  Their home was off-limits.  The same would have gone for Sylvie, but she had left Danny for another man and remained serious with him.  It was their house the boys went to for weeks at a time while the Flyers were on the road.  Danny had always supported that agreement thought he knew Sylvie doubted his conviction.

“You’re bringing them home now,” Sylvie said in a voice full of venom.  As if Danny were traipsing girls through his house, a different one - or more - every night.

“I’m only seeing Sara.  And yes, she’s started staying over.”  Danny felt sure Sara was listening.  He would have been.  “I met her at....”

Sylvie cut him off.  “At least she looks nice, this one.  You had some cheap whores going there for a while.”

“Stop it.  This is serious, Sylvie.  I am serious,” it was the first time he’d said it out loud, “about her.”

“Serious,” Sylvie scoffed.  “Serious like the nights you didn’t come home, Danny?  Serious like the pucksluts I had to hear about at the rink?  The last thing you were serious about was me, and look how you fucked that up.”

Sara stifled a gasp.  She leaned against the wall, out of sight, trying to be silent as she eavesdropped on her new boyfriend and the woman he’d once meant to spend forever with.  It was a trove of emotions and ideas she had never considered before this morning.  So many things with Danny were new and uncomfortable.

“Remember the agreement, Danny.  Keep your flings away from my children.  I don’t care what they do in the daylight.”  Sylvie’s voice was ice cold.  “She’ll trade you in for a teammate soon enough anyway.”

Every hair on Sara’s body stood on end against the tension in the next room.  She wanted to barge back in and punch this woman who presumed to know her, to paint her with the same brush that supposedly ended their marriage.  Sara had read about Danny’s conquests online, and questioned most of them.  The same lies were slipping from his ex-wife’s lips now.  It was so easy to disparage someone, and not know an ounce of truth.  If anything, Sylvie’s wrath made Sara more confident in Danny’s honestly.  But maybe not his fight.

“You don’t get to make rules here,” he said in a low, thick voice of surprising sureness.  “You lost that right when you walked out on your family.”

A moment later, Sylvie’s heels clicked angrily on the hardwood floor.  Sara bolted into the kitchen, the boys loud conversation and slurping of milk covering her arrival.  She went for the fridge, acting natural.  Sylvie was only a few steps behind her.

“Carson, ready for the doctor?  Last visit for your arm.”  Sylvie hugged her eldest son from behind as the middle one dumped his breakfast in the sink.

“Oh yeah, I forgot!  Dad, you forgot!”

“I know, buddy,” Danny answered from the doorway, but he was looking at Sara.  “Sorry.”

They stayed awkwardly on opposite sides of the island as Sylvie collected Carson and kissed the other boys goodbye.  “Nice to meet you,” she tossed over her shoulder as if Sara was hardly worth it when she obviously wouldn’t be around long.  Then to Carson, “Let’s go.”

The four of them were still until the front door closed, the boys fully aware of the storm raging around them.  Danny pushed a hand through his hair, mortified.  He hadn’t even talked to Sara about his ex, forget mention anything to Sylvie.  What an shitty, unfair thing to do to both of them - except he really only cared about Sara.  Anyway he presented his new girlfriend, his ex-wife wasn’t going to like it.  Sara motioned with a nod and the two of them retreated to the living room.

“I’m so sorry, Sara, I....”  She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tight.  Danny was so surprised he lost his train of thought.  “I’m sorry,” he said again, words falling out of his mouth.  “She hates me.  She hasn’t gotten over anything that happened.  I can’t believe I let that happen to you.”

“Stop.  Whatever happened, you don’t have to explain yourself to me.  I want things to get better for you, Danny, not be the same.  I don’t care what happened,” Sara protested.

“You should.  I did some stupid things, Sara.  I would never, ever do them again. I would never do them to you.”

Sara wanted to cry.  Honest as she knew Danny’s words were, they were awful coming from his perfect lips.  She kissed him to shut him up.  He was so tense she barely made a dent.   It took a  moment before he relaxed, letting his hands meet at the small of her back.

“I meant what I said.  I’m serious about you.”  A tiny crack was spreading through Danny’s voice.  He wanted to plug the holes Sylvie had just shot in their boat, but knew these things needed to be said.  This was his punishment for not saying them sooner.  

“I’m serious about you too, Danny.  I thought I was going crazy.”

He shook his head.  “I should have warned you.”

“Let me warn you about something then, since we’re being all serious.  Come home at night.  Don’t let me hear about pucksluts at the rink.  I’ll try not to look cheap.”  That got a weak laugh.  Sara tucked her fingers into the collar of Danny’s shirt and gently brushed her nails against his chest.  “And let’s try not to fuck this up, okay?  I really like you, Danny.  I really like this.”

Danny wanted to take Sara upstairs and hold her hostage all day, maybe all week, just laying together.  Encounters with his ex-wife always left his heart feeling broken and kicked.  Sara soothed the worst of the wounds.  If she could get through this... there would be more to come.  Danny silently promised himself they’d talk about it all, as soon as possible.

“Can I stay at your place tonight?”  Danny asked.  He had never even been there.  

“If you answer one question.  What exactly is a puckslut?”

Danny laughed, feeling better already.  “I wish you would never find out, but you will soon enough.”

Sara made a simple dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.  Sean agreed to watch the boys and Danny arrived at Sara’s front door around seven in the evening.  He buzzed her apartment and climbed the three flights to her door.


She was impossibly beautiful.  It didn’t seem fair to Danny that she should have to look at him all night.  But the way she kissed him before he even got across the threshold said that she wanted nothing else.  The smell of sauce on the stove was almost as warm as her lips on his.

“Make yourself at home!”

Her living room was a combination dining room.  A low, overstuffed bright blue couch divided the space, facing a flat screen TV.  Beneath it, a white and blue striped bookcase held DVDs and the cable box.  The coffee table was dark wood, second-hand and heavy.  Against the wall, another bookshelf was stuffed full and a few pictures displayed at the front.   Behind the couch, a small dining room table was set for two.  Above it a completely random array of mirrors and photo frames in all shapes and sizes hung in no apparent pattern.  The effect was surprisingly comfortable.  Danny inspected some of the photos, and a few times caught his own reflection.  The space was more comfortable than his own, minus the kids and dogs.

“It’s so homey,” he said, entering the kitchen.  An assortment of mismatched appliances lined the poured concrete countertop.  The cabinets were white with red knobs, and Sara had put red fleur-de-lis wall decals along the dasher.  She wore a purple sweater with jeans and slippers, her hair tied back and an apron on.  Danny approached from and pressed a kiss to her neck.  “It smells incredible.”

Sara held the spoon out and offered Danny a taste.  His black pullover was cashmere, so soft in her fingers that she had to kiss him.  The sauce tasted good but he tasted better.  Already Sara knew this was going to be a really important night.  

Danny opened a bottle of Malbec he’d brought, and poured her a glass.  She pushed garlic bread onto a platter than they carried everything to the dining room table.  Before sitting down, she hit the iPod speakers and Frank Sinatra started to play at a low volume.

“Very Italian, right?” she laughed.

Dinner was delicious, but Danny’s mind was wandering.  After the events with Sylvie, he wanted to tell Sara a hundred things and get them all out of the way.  Some of them were not pretty though, and he hated to ruin something she’d gone to trouble to create.


He looked up, realizing she’d been talking to him.  “Sorry, sorry.  I feel so bad about this morning.”

“I told you not to.  You could have a fight with one of my crazy ex-boyfriends if it’ll make you feel better.”

“Maybe.  Are they big guys?”  Danny laughed, but he felt the opportunity to press on.  “There are some things I should tell you, though.  Is that okay?  Do you want to wait?”

Sara motioned that he should go ahead.  Danny took a deep breath and did just that.

“I cheated on Sylvie.  We were seperated already, but not divorced.  I thought it would make me feel better, because she was already seeing someone new, but it didn’t.  And the media was pretty sure, so they printed it anyway.  It was pretty ugly.”  Danny stopped.  “Did you read any of this online?”

Sara bit her lip, feeling guilty.  “I kinda looked it up.”

“Then you know about the girl, the actress.”  He didn’t say porn.  He didn’t have to.  Sara shrugged like she had read one thing and would love to hear another.  “I did talk to her, but I never slept with her.  We met them at some club in a casino.  She knew I was separated and was just golddigging.  I certainly never sent her pictures of... anything.  I’m not stupid.”

“I know, Danny,” Sara cut in.  “You don’t even do locker room interviews with your shirt off!”  

He blushed.  “The guys make fun of me for being shy.  I... I hear Claude ran in and hugged Nora the other night.  I’m sorry I didn’t do that for you.  I will, if you want.”

“Stop.”  Sara put down her wine glass and reached for his hand.  “I like that you’re shy, Danny.  No one’s shy anymore.  I think it’s the sweetest, most genuine thing.  It makes me feel special that it’s just between us.  And the kids,” she smiled.

“And G and Hartsy and...,” Danny added.

“You don’t tell them everything,” she said.  “Wait.  Do you tell them everything?”


Sara held up her butter knife as menacingly as possible.  “Did you tell them about the jersey the other night?!”

“No!” He waves his hands in surrender.  “God no.”

“Good,” she put the knife down.  “Because Scott would just be disappointed.  His jersey’s so big it would cover everything, and potato sacks are not sexy.”

They laughed and Danny let the conversation drift to other things.  It was easy to talk to Sara, but not to keep his hands off her.  When the food was gone, he turned serious again. “Now that we’re dating, the media will want to write about you.  At first they’ll probably try to take your picture and stuff, and dig around about you online.”

“I already made my Facebook private and took down any incriminating photos,” she said to his surprise.  “I’m not stupid either, Danny.  Plus, with school, there isn’t much up that could be considered objectionable, and it was under my first and middle name, not my last name.  Fifth graders can find that stuff too.”

“Good, I feel better.  They were horrible to Sylvie, and to a few other girls I was... seeing.”

Sara chuckled.  “Seeing.  You’re so cute.  Just call it your slut phase, Danny.  Everyone has one.”

“Did you?”

She gave him a wicked grin, then it broke and she shook her head.  “No.  But all the more reason for you to behave.  Don’t want me working my way through your teammates and posting it all on Crossing Broad.”  Danny went pale.  Sara put a hand on his arm.  “I would never, ever do that, Danny.  If I wanted to get famous, I’d go after Max.”

“They’ll wonder why you don’t,” Danny’s voice dropped to a sullen note.  This was the worst part for him, all the more because it was so true.  “They’ll wonder why you’re with me, and say it could only be for the money.  Because you’re perfect.”

She’d tried to keep this conversation light but if Danny needed to say this part then she would do the same.  The pain in his dark brown eyes made her angry.  Who were these people to judge him, when they didn’t have a fraction of his talent?  On top of that, it solidified Sara’s opinion that they were all stupid.  “Have you ever been in a fight?”

“Yes, why?”

“You’re not that much bigger than I am.  I want to know how I’d do if I had to to knock somebody out.”

Danny made a face.  “You’d do okay, I think.  You’re scrappy.”

“Good.  Because the first person who says that to my face is getting punched.”

He laughed, but Sara pushed the point.  

“Danny, you’re amazing.  And I don’t need you or anyone else to believe me to know that I’m right.”