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.
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.
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.