Chapter 46: Unzipping the Dress

Sorry it took so long. But here's the next chapter

I heard some people sniff as the woman continued her story. I couldn't imagine going through all this, how could she bear so much? Then I heard her say that her daughter was three.

'Oh my God, Caitlin!' I realize. Thinking back to her breakdown at my house (it's all in chp 29).

Sure enough I look over to Caitlin, tears spilling down her face. Her eyes looking in a far away place, before focusing on me. She nods her head, and that's all I need to confirm it. I sigh and take her shaking hand in mine. I look up to see that nobody has noticed she is about to fall apart.

"Do you want to leave?" I ask her quietly.

She shakes her head, no.

"Well, then, how bout we go stand over there," I say pointing to a secluded corner.

She nods her head and I pull her out of her chair gently. Colby opens his mouth to say something, but I shake my head and continue to lead her over, Bran right by her side. She stands limply as I pull her into me, her head was resting on my chest as she continues to look and listen to the speaker, tears slipping down her cheeks. How could she do it? How could she be so strong?

The speaker talks about finding her frozen daughter and I swear, there was not one dry eye in the place. Tears even threaten to break from my eyes, but I have to be strong for Caitlin, I need to be strong when she couldn't. I need to prove to her that I was there for her, would always be there for her. So I bite my lip, willing the tears not to fall.

I feel Caitlin stiffen in my arms and I look down at her. I could see all of those memories, coming back to her. She inhales sharply as her eyes widen. She lets out a shaky breath and a quiet sob.

"Shhhhh... it's ok. It's going to be okay, I'm not going to leave you,"I say quietly as she buries her head in my chest. I tighten my hold on her, never wanting to let her go. Her body shakes in my arms as I place kisses in her sweet smelling hair. I feel her press into me more, telling me that Bran was doing his job as well. She managed to compose herself a bit more just as the speaker went on.

"I looked outside the tent, the tears puring down my face. I spotted a young woman, in a red parka and a green hat with 3 dogs next to her. I don't remember much about two of her dogs, but i remember the one. He looked like a wolf, all black with eery blue eyes," she says as if struggling to remember.

The whole Penguins organization looks over at us in shock. I had never told them what Caitlin had really done when she went to Newfoundland, only that she was there on search and rescue. I knew she wouldn't have wanted any sympathy from the others.

Tears were rolling down Alexis Malone's cheeks as her eyes widen in shock, like the others. Ryan sat next to her and I see him mouth, "Did she?"

I nod my head solemnly. He shakes his head in disbelief, as Alexis's hands flew to her mouth in shock.

After the announcer thanks the woman for her story, I feel Caitlin take a deep breath and look up at me. Her make up was in black streaks down her cheeks and her nose was red from crying. I bite my lip, how could she handle this? And how could she still manage to be sexy after crying?

"Are you ok?" I ask, wiping some of the wet tears still falling down her cheeks.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just going to go to the restroom to wipe the make up off my face, will you keep an eye on Bran?” she says.

Her voice still shaky from her upset, and making me question if she's really ok, but I don't want to push. Had we been at home, I would have immediately scooped her up in my arms, taken her to bed, and laid with her in my arms until she was ok again.

"Of course," I smile, looking at her in wonder. I pull her into me and I feel her tense at first but instantly relax. "I love you," I whisper in her ear, before brushing my lips against her cheek sticky from tears.

"Love you too," she replies with a pathetic attempt at a smile.

I watch her walk away to the bathroom, the green silk moving around would make any man go crazy. A few wisps of hair had started rebelling and coming out of the loose bun, licking the nape of her neck. I take a deep breath as I watch her disappear behind the corner, before I walk back to the table.

"Where is she?" Jordan asks with a concerned look on his face.

"She went to fix her make up in the bathroom. She should be out in a minute," I respond, pulling my chair in.

"Sid, did you know that happened?" Anya asks, tears present on her cheeks.

I take a deep breath, remembering her brake down in my bathroom, "Yeah, she broke down the day after came to my house. I've never seen her so vulnerable, it was almost unreal, because she is always so strong."

"I can't even imagine going through that," I hear Marc whisper.

Caitlin walks back out in a matter of minutes, the streaks of black on her cheeks were gone, and she looked like she normally did. Beautiful. Although I loved seeing her all glamed up, the girl with the minimum makeup and rebellious hair standing in front of me, was the girl I fell in love with.

I move to get up and pull her chair out for her, but she puts a hand up stopping me. Although she looks like she normally does, there is still something different about her. The air is thick with the silence of the others, and I know she is beginning to feel uncomfortable under their stares.

“Caitlin, we had no idea that’s what happened,” Colby whispers, finally breaking the silence.

She just nods in reply, I know that she doesn't trust her voice quite yet.

“Not to pry, but…” Sara hesitates, “Did you really find that girl?”

She takes in a deep shaky breath, and lets it out slowly, before lifting her eyes. That's when I realize what's different. Her eyes have no shine in them like they usually do, the dark brown is almost dull in appearance, at least from what it usually is.

“Yeah, Bran found her," she whispers looking down as Bran puts his head on her lap. I take her hand and squeeze it gently. Not knowing what else I could do, or what else she would even let me do.

“Alright ladies and gentlemen if I could have your attention please. We would like to recognize some people for their efforts and work in SAR,” the announcer says from his podium.

Many awards are given out to various members of the SAR, dogs and humans, living and dead. I now feel anxious for this event to be over. Caitlin is silent by my side, her face showing hardly any emotion.

"Finally," the fat announcer sums up, "we have decided to present an award to the rescue team who found the most people in the Newfoundland Avalanche. Miss Donaldson will present the award.”

The little girl's mother walks on stage with a smile and reads off a small card.

“The person I’m about to name found the most victims of any rescue team, at a staggering 14. She and her 3-dog team have also demonstrated what the definition of a true rescuer is in the SAR’s eyes at only 24. If Caitlin Shaw, could please come up,” she smiles into the audience.

I smile, knowing that she deserves this, even if she thinks she doesn't. She sighs heavily, before putting on a smile. However, the smile just isn't real, it doesn't reach her eyes like it normally would. I get up when she does, and gently pull her into a hug.

“I’m proud of you, my little warrior," I whisper in her ear, quickly kissing her cheek. She smiles and walks up to the stage to accept her award. Bran fallowing her, as always.

I watch as she walks on stage. The woman sees Bran, and immediately pales, tears forming in her eyes as she hands the small crystal statue over to Caitlin in shock. Her hand flies to her mouth as a sob quietly escapes.

“Wow. Umm… thank you for this; it’s really quite an honor. If you haven’t figured out already by Ms. Donaldson’s reaction, I was the one who found Hannah; actually it was Bran who found Hannah. Umm… I won’t waste your time with a big long speak so, I guess I would like to just thank everyone who has been there to support me, especially after the avalanche, just because it took such a toll on me both emotionally and physically. But most importantly I want to thank my pack of dogs, for being there for me always. And Bran, Hawkeye, and Flash because without them, you wouldn’t see me standing up here today. Thank you,” she finishes her quick speech.

Ms. Donaldson, immediately wraps her in a hug, and she says something to Caitlin. From her weak smile, I can tell that Caitlin is about to break down again, but she is holding it in. The woman smiles and bends down to hug Bran before they all walk off the stage.

"And with that note, we won't hold you wonderful people any longer with our speeches. So please enjoy yourself and on behalf of SAR, I thank you all for supporting us," the announcer finishes.

Caitlin walks over to the table, Bran beside her and tears present on her cheeks. I open my arms for her and she walks into my embrace without hesitation.

"How bout we get you back? I think we've had enough for tonight, eh?" I ask softly. The tables around us are silently watching us, the rest are getting up to either end or begin their evening.

She nods in response, not trusting her voice, if she even had one at this point in time.
The guys wave as we leave the table and head back out into the crisp Montreal air.

The ride back to the hotel is silent, and I can tell that this night has totally exhausted her. As we get into the hotel, I direct her to the elevator, knowing that it will take forever to get up those stairs. She doesn't even protest to the idea, even though she hates elevators and always ops for the stairs.

I open the hotel room door and fallow her and Bran inside. She walks to the suitcases, taking out a tank top and a pair of boxers.

"Sid, can you..." she asks quietly pointing to the back of her dress.

"Sure babe," I whisper back, going over to her to pull the zipper on her dress down. I slip the thin straps over her shoulders and let the green silk fall to the floor, before I need to walk away.
When I first saw her walking down those steps, I pictured me unzipping her dress having a different consequence, but that wasn't going to happen. I wasn't going to take advantage of her. I wanted to do this right, and that story just killed the night.

I watch as she pulls the tank top over her head, and slip on a pair of my boxers. She sits on the edge of the bed as I loosen my tie and unbutton my shirt. She carefully takes out the pins in her hair and lets it fall in a wavy tumble down her back, with a small sigh. Bran lays on the couch, with his head down, watching over her, until he is sure she is in bed. She slips gently under the covers with a heavy sigh, her back turned away from me. I finish stripping down to only my boxers, before walking over to the other side of the bed. I slip into the cool sheets next to her, turning to look at her face.

She is staring blankly off into space as tears slip down her cheeks.

"Sid, thanks for being there for me. I'm sorry that this evening..." she begins to say.

"Shhhh... no, babe. There is nothing to be sorry for," I murmur scooting closer to her and wrapping her in my arms. Her body is limp as I pull her against me. She finally presses herself into me, burying her head in my chest as quiet sobs rack through her body.

"I just... I can't get that face out of my head," she whimpers softly into my chest.

"I know, I know. It's gonna be ok," I say smoothing her hair as she continues to cry.

A little later, she quiets down and I listen to her breath go back to an even pace, signaling that she has finally allowed herself to fall asleep.

"I love you," I whisper, kissing her forehead before I also give into sleep.

January 30, 2009 at Friday, January 30, 2009 , 3 Comments

Chapter 45: Flashback

Bran lays at my feet asleep as I try to suppress a yawn, without much success. These speakers were killing me. It was one after another speaking about how great the SAR organization was and what they did. They all spoke in a monotone voice, lacking all emotion, and reminding me of my Biology teacher from my freshman year of high school. The schedule said that these people would talk before the dinner, and then after the dinner came the more personal stories and awards/ recognitions commenced. So here I sit, starving and listening to this guy who I swear has been talking for 3 years, Thank GOD he was the last one to speak before dinner.

“Of course there was the time when… but I suppose that is a story for another time. With out any further time spent on you listening to these eloquent speakers. I encourage you to eat heartily, before the next set of speakers come up,” the red faced man at the podium says.

“Oh thank the Lord!” I sigh causing all the players at my table to laugh.

“Hungry there Ace?!” Ryan Whitney laughs.

“Starved! I haven’t eaten anything all day!” I sigh.

Soon, but not soon enough for me, the food comes. You had the choice between chicken, steak, a salad, plus different sides. I was so hungry I could have eaten an elephant so I went for the next best thing… a cow. They even had a dog menu for the rescue dogs that were there, which I was grateful for, other wise I would have had to share my steak with Bran.

After eating, we had time to mingle with others before the speakers started. Oh, how I love to mingle. Everyone was standing up with champagne in their hands, talking to someone, about something.

Sid gets up from his chair and whispers in my ear, “Are you ready to go meet them?”

‘Oh my god, I totally forgot about the Lemieux’s!’ I thought in a panic.
The panicked look on my face made Sidney chuckle.

“They will love you, I promise,” He smiles giving me a reassuring peck on the lips.

With a forced smile I got up and followed him. His hand holding mine as we crossed the room to another table.

“Mario, Natalie, this is the girl I was telling you about,” he said calmly, moving his arm around my waist.

They both turn in their seats to look at us, smiling. I was frozen; in front of me was the man that I had watched on the screen of our TV, sitting in my dad’s lap. It was one of my earliest memories, watching the great Mario Lemieux play. I quickly snap out of it as they stood up, Mario towering over me.

“It’s very nice to meet you Miss Shaw,” he says holding out his hand for me to shake.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Lemieux, and you can call me Caitlin,” I smile taking his firm handshake.

“Only if you call me Mario,” he says with a laugh.

“Alright,” I smile back, his laugh breaking some of the tension. I turn to his wife and hold out my hand for her to shake but she takes me into a hug instead.

“And before you say anything, you can call me Nat,” she says hugging me tightly.

“Ha, okay,” I say laughing into her shoulder. She pulls me back at arms length and looks at me.

“Sidney’s told us so much about you. You look gorgeous tonight,” she smiles at me, Mario puts his hand on her shoulder and smiles at me too.

“You did well with this one Sid. How did you get so lucky, to get her?” he laughs smiling at me, making me blush.

“I have no idea,” I hear Sid say quietly; I look to see him smile at me, his eyes shinning.

After engaging in some small talk for a little while, they finally let us go back to their table, only after we promised to have lunch at their house as soon as we could.

“See I told you they would love you,” he says leaning down to whisper in my ear as we walk away.

“I really like them, they’re really nice,” I smile up at him, “Thanks for introducing me to them.” I say giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks for letting me,” he smiles back.

“Caitlin, Bran!!” I hear someone shout from the other table as Sid and I approach ours. I turn to see a woman in her mid 30s and a man in his early 30s come running up to me, two dogs behind them.
”Oh my gosh it’s so good to see you two,” I say wrapping each in a hug, feeling the eyes of the players on me.

“My dear you look gorgeous, and very handsome Bran,” the woman smiles at me. She has curly brown hair and blue eyes, with a medium frame all coupled with a huge smile on her face. She had a large German Shepard sitting next to her, waiting to see Bran.

“Did you bring Flash and Hawk?” the man asks. Even though he was in his early 30s he already had a little gray around his temples, but he had a very muscular build and his face had been roughened by cold mountain weather. Next to him stood a black lab, shaking with excitement and waiting for his cue to come see Bran and I.

“No, they stayed at home with my other dogs,” I say with a smile, “Alright Bran go see them.”

Bran gets up from his place his tail wagging as he greats the other dogs and their handlers. I crouch down to pet the lab and Shepard. The Shepard greets me briefly before turning back to Bran and staying by his side. The lab on the other hand is extremely excited to see me and can’t resist giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you Smokey, I missed you too,” I laugh scratching him behind the ears. I hear someone clear their throat behind me.

“Oh, right. I’m sorry,” I laugh as the players look at me expectantly, “Guys this is Maureen Fritz and Al Pine, they were part of my bigger team in Newfoundland. Al, Maureen these are my friend and Penguins Players, Jordan Staal and his girlfriend Anya, Ryan and Alexis Malone, Colby and Sara Armstrong, Marc Andre and Laura Fleury, and my boyfriend Sidney Crosby.” I say pointing everyone out, “Oh and that’s Maureen’s rescue dog Lily and Al’s Rescue dog Smokey.”

“If I could have everyone’s attention please, we will start the stories,” the fat red-faced man said at the podium, giving everyone the cue to take their seats.

Two victims had already told their stories, one was a flood victim the other and earthquake victim, there was one speaker left and I knew it had to be an avalanche victim, I just hoped to God that it wasn’t the disaster I had been at.

“Last but not least, we have Kerry Donaldson from the recent Newfoundland Avalanche that occurred this January. Kerry.” The fat speaker reads off a card before pointing to a woman in the middle of the stage.

The spotlight shines on the tall blonde woman who was in a strapless black dress, a box of tissues beside her, just like the rest of the victims telling their stories. I inhale quickly, her face was one that I would probably never forget, and if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t have forgotten her daughter’s.

Luckily, everyone at my table, except for Bran, seems unaware that I’m having a mild break down. I was already swallowing tears as I could feel them well up, the vivid pictures of that trip, the cold dead faces coming back to me again. Bran immediately puts his head in my laps and nuzzles my hand.

“Hello everyone, and thank you for sticking around to hear my story. The memories of this past January are very real, being that it has happened so recently. Umm… I haven’t really written anything, so I’m just going to go at it… and I’m sorry if I break down, but you are just going to have to bear with me,” she begins taking a shaky breath in.

“My day started on a beautiful day. The sun was shining and my husband and daughter wanted to go skiing again. I however was feeling a little sore from our skiing adventure the day before, and I felt a cold coming on. So I stayed in the lodge with my hot chocolate wrapped in a warm blanket, while my husband and daughter went out and hit the slopes. I remember tying my little girl’s blue hat tightly under her neck and kissing her cheek before she left.” Her tears were beginning to fall now, making my tears threaten to break loose too.

“About an hour later, I heard this sound like a train, actually louder than a train. I looked out the window and saw just this huge menacing cloud of white quickly rumbling toward the lodge. There was lots of screaming going on and I remember hiding under a table with some strange man that I didn’t know. I remember it rumbling closer until it was on us. The rumble was deafing like nothing I had ever heard before, had it not been so loud I probably would have heard glass breaking and wood snapping. Before I could think again, I was swept up and was rolling with the snow.

It went black and I couldn’t see anything. Snow was pushing me around from all sides, I didn’t know what was up, and what was down. After watching a TV show I remembered to stay calm, that way I wouldn’t waste my oxygen if I was breathing normally. I stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity, and I remember think, I’m going to die today. I was starting to lose air and consciousness when I heard shouting from my right, and then a dog bark.

‘I’m here! I’m here!’ I remember shouting as loud as I possibly could. The voices came closer and the barking became louder. Suddenly it wasn’t pitch black anymore and light was coming through the snow. The first thing that came in contact with me was a wet black nose. I knew I had been found then and that’s when I lost all consciousness.

I woke up to find my self in a hospital bed. I looked around in a panic wondering why I was there when the avalanche came rushing back to me. And then it clicked, I was alive! I had survived an avalanche! However my joy was short lived.

The nurse and doctor walked in saying they were glad I was awake, but I shook my head.
I asked them where my husband and daughter were. They looked at each other, and said that they didn’t know, making warm tears fall down my cheeks.

As soon as they would allow me, which was not until a day later, I was back at the lodge, or rather where the lodge once stood, with nothing but a few stitches on my cheek. I had learned that the avalanche had decimated everything, and no one knew anything about my daughter or husband.

One of the paramedics said that they thought they had found my husband, and showed me into a large tent. In that tent, was the most horrifying things I had ever seen. Table after table of frozen bodies. Some were clothed, others weren’t, some had a look of horror on their faces, their eyes still open in shock. Others had died peacefully. Some looked like they were sleeping, while others had objects sticking out of them. My breath quickened, and I could see it infront of my face, coming out like a train, as one man led me over to a body with the description that matched my husband. I looked at the face and immediately started to cry, his face was one that I dreaded seeing most, but it was him. His eyes were still slightly open and he hand his hands across his chest as if he was trying to keep warm. But his lips were a bluish-purple, his skin a little frosty.

They guided me back to a hotel where all the survivors were staying, said they would contact me on any word about my daughter. And so I waited. You know how I said that waiting under that snow felt like an eternity, well compared to waiting to find out what happened to your three year old daughter, that only takes a second,” she said shaking her head gravely, a tear slid down my cheek. I was losing my battle.

At her saying about her three-year-old daughter, Sidney’s eyes suddenly opened wide and he snaps his head around to look at me. All I could do was nod my head, he knew. He sighs and grabs my hand, he leans over and whispers, “Do you want to leave?”
I shook my head.
“Well then, how bout we go stand over there,” he says pointing to a secluded corner.

I nod and he pulls me out of my chair to the corner. Once there he put his arm around my waist and we stood and listened. Bran sat next to me as another tear slipped down my cheek.

“Day after day seemed to crawl by. I went to the scene again and really took it in. Nothing was left, and I mean nothing. It was a wide vast blanket of white. Tents were put up, and searchers and dogs were dotted along the snow,” she continues, “Then after 5 days of waiting there was a knock on my hotel door. They lead me to the tent like they had done before and straight over to the smallest body in there. Her blond hair was curled out of her little blue hat, her pink snowsuit still on her. Besides her off color skin she looked like she was sleeping.” Kerry says with a small smile, her eyes clouded and looking off into the past, “As soon as I saw her I was silent. My eyes welled up with tears and then I began to cry hysterically. I kissed her little frozen face and cried, ‘My baby, my little angel.’ I found out later that she was the youngest victim at only three years old,” she cries softly on stage. She took a moment to compose herself, there was not one dry eye in that place. I look around to see even tough guy Eric Godard from the Calgary Flames was sniffling.

I immediately saw her face again, the memories rushing back to me like the avalanche had rushed down the mountain. Tears were now falling freely and with out meaning to a sob tore free. Sid immediately has his arms around me his lips in my hair murmuring comforting things as Bran presses himself against my leg. I manage to regain my composure just as she as she began to speak of how she looked outside.

“I looked outside the tent, the tears pouring down my face. I spotted a young woman, in a red parka and a green hat with three dogs next to her. She looked absolutely exaughsted, her shoulders were slumped and she was talking to some guy about something. For some reason I couldn’t tear my eyes off of her. I don’t remember much about two of her dogs, but I remember the one. He looked like a wolf all black with eerily blue eyes,” she says as if struggling to remember.

Suddenly, I swear every one involved with the Penguins looks over to me in the corner. I’m still leaning on Sid, tears sliding down my cheeks, my free hand petting Bran. I look back to the speaker.

“ She looked into the tent and right at me. She stared at me a moment, with the tears flooding down my face as the man continued to talk with her. A tear spilled down her cheek as she nodded, breaking eye contact with me and looking away. That’s when I knew that she had found Hannah. The man walked away and she glanced back at me with a sigh before calling her dogs and walking away.”

Sid’s hands moved up and down my back, trying to comfort me.

“I lost my whole reason for existence that day, or at least so I thought. After spending the following weeks in bed, something clicked in me and told me that I needed to stop. I thought back to the woman in the red coat and her three dogs. She has inspired me to become a rescuer myself and I’m currently in training. I’m sorry if I messed anyone’s makeup, but I had to explain what this organization has done for me. It has offered me a sense of peace, by finding my loved ones. I didn’t have to leave them there, buried in the snow because of these people and dogs. I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she finishes managing a watery smile.

Everyone clapped, as she walked off stage to go sit with what I assumed was her mom and dad, who were patting her back.

“Thank you, Kerry. Now we will take a short break before we start the recognition ceremony, giving everyone a chance to fix their make up,” the announcer says.

I sigh into Sid’s shoulder looking up at him.

“You ok?” he asks, wiping tears off my cheeks.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just going to go to the restroom to wipe the make up off my face, will you keep an eye on Bran?” I say in a shaky voice.

“Yes of course,” he smiles giving me a hug, “I love you.”

“Love you too,” I smile at him as he kisses my cheek.

I walk away into the bathroom, which is flooded by other ladies trying to redue their make up. I sigh as I come across a free sink and mirror. I look at my reflection, even though they used water proof makeup on me, it only did so much. There were still black streaks down my cheeks, which were sticky with dried tears. I sighed and blew my nose.

The only thing I could do was take all of this make up off. I took some soap from the dispenser and washed my face in the sink. I dried off and looked at my sparkling clean face. The night had struck 12 for me, it had begun to lose it’s magic after that story. The little girl’s face was in my mind again. I pulled out some simple makeup I had stashed in Bran’s orange vest rescue dog vest that I had take off at dinner. I put on a light foundation/ lotion mix, some blush, and some mascara. My everyday look at the red carpet, oh well. I just didn’t have the energy to do more. I was completely drained. That was the thing about crying; it just took everything out of me.

After I had freshened up, I walk back to the table and sit down. All eyes were on me, but no one spoke.

“Caitlin, we had no idea that’s what happened,” Colby whispers breaking the silence. He hasn’t used my real name since before he gave me the nickname. All I can do is nod in reply.
“Not to pry, but…” Sara hesitates, “Did you really find that girl?”

I take a shaky breath in and look up at their faces, concern written on each one.

“Yeah, Bran found her.” I whisper looking down as Bran puts his head on my lap, allowing me to pet him. Sid taking one of my hands in his, and squeezing it gently.

“Alright ladies and gentlemen if I could have your attention please. We would like to recognize some people for their efforts and work in SAR,” the fat man speaks from his podium.

Some awards went to rescuers who had died, some went to those living, some went to dogs.

“Finally, we have decided to present an award to the rescue team who found the most people in the Newfoundland Avalanche. Miss Donaldson will present the award.”

Kerry came on stage with a smile and read off a small card.

“The person I’m about to name found the most victims of any rescue team, at a staggering 14. She and her 3-dog team have also demonstrated what the definition of a true rescuer is in the SAR’s eyes at only 24. If Caitlin Shaw, could please come up,” she smiles into the audience.

I sigh and get up. Sid hugs me and whispers in my ear, “I’m proud of you, my little warrior.”
I smile at him and call Bran up with me.
“Come on Bran, this is just as much your as it is mine,” I smile, as a spot light shines on me.

I approach the stage and walk up the steps. Kerry watches me and spots Bran, her eyes widen in surprise and her mouth hangs open, as she hands me the crystal plaque. I smile at her as her hands come to her mouth and tears fall down her cheeks.

“Wow. Umm… thank you for this; it’s really quite an honor. If you haven’t figured out already by Ms. Donaldson’s reaction, I was the one who found Hannah; actually it was Bran who found Hannah. Umm… I won’t waste your time with a big long speak so, I guess I would like to just thank everyone who has been there to support me, especially after the avalanche, just because it took such a toll on me both emotionally and physically. But most importantly I want to thank my pack of dogs, for being there for me always. And Bran, Hawkeye, and Flash because without them, you wouldn’t see me standing up here today. Thank you,” I finish with a smile stepping out of the hot spotlight.

I step away and Kerry pulls me into a hug and begins to cry on my shoulder.

“Thank you, thank you so much for finding my little Hannah,” She whispers.

I feel a tear slip down my cheek as she pulls away and pets Bran. She looks at me and I nod, saying that it’s ok. She bends down and puts her arms around him, her face in his furry shoulder. He sits there patiently and knowingly.Before she pulls away I hear her whisper, a Thank you to him.

January 06, 2009 at Tuesday, January 06, 2009 , 7 Comments

Chapter 44: Take My Breath Away

Sid's POV

'Where is she? She should be here by now.' "Sara do you know where Caitlin is?"

"Nope, sorry Sid. She left us to come back here and change. I haven't seen her since."

I was starting to get nervous, where was she? I looked at my watch she should have been here 5 minutes ago. Colby looks over at me and notices my anxiousness. He leaves Sara's side after kissing her cheek, to come over to me.

"Stop worrying about her, Sid. You know Ace is always late,” he smiles at me.

"I know, I know. This just isn't her element and I'm afraid she is going to run," I sigh, finally telling someone the truth.

"If I know Caitlin, I know that once she says she's going to do something she does it. Just calm down."

I sigh, looking at my reflection in my shoes as he talks to me some more, trying to put my mind at ease.

Suddenly the room grows quiet.

"Sid," Colby whispers nudging me.

"Hmm?" I ask looking up at him.

He looks at the stairs with a shocked look on his face. I look around to see that everyone else has a similar look on their face. I follow everyone's gaze to the top of the steps.She stands there looking more beautiful than I had ever seen her, or anyone for that matter, absolutely taking my breath away.

The first thing I notice looking at her are those gorgeous chocolate eyes, they seem to stand out even more than usual. My gaze goes to her hair, pulled back loosely with a few stray wisps framing her face. In the light you can see her auburn highlights in the chestnut hair.Over every curve falls loose fitting green silk. The looseness masks how perfect those curve actually are, making her insanely attractive. The green seems to make her glow, and it was the perfect color for her. Hell the whole ensemble was her. She blows my mind.

I look back to her face and see the uneasiness. Now that I really look at her, I see that she is tense, questioning her presence here. I'm about to run after her, knowing that she may run. But Bran beats me to it and leans against her. She immediately calms, and smiles at him while she whispers something causing him to wag his tail. She looks out into the lobby again searching. Her eyes fall on my and a smile comes on her face. She walks down the steps and over to me, her hips with an extra swing in them probably from the heels she was wearing. I can't seem to find the oxygen to breathe as she comes before me.

"Hi," she replies with a smile.

“Hi,” I reply but it comes out as a whisper.

”Ready to go?” she asks, a grin on her face, she knew what she was doing to me.

"Um...yeah…yeah, let's go," I manage to get out. I put my hand on the small of her back as she leads me through the crowd and to the door. She stops and looks at me with a smile, I gaze back into eyes getting lost in their molten chocolate color.

"Umm…Sid, do you think I could have my coat?" she smiles at me.

'Coat?' I think. She grins at the confused look on my face before lightly touching the long coat draped over my left arm.

"Oh! Right sorry," I stammer quickly handing it over as I feel a blush creep into my cheeks. It surprised me that she actually made me blush, I haven't blushed when I was with a girl since... I don't even remember when. I grin as she fixes the collar on her coat, brushing some loose hair out of her face.

"You took my breath away tonight, you look so beautiful," I whisper in her ear before softly planting a kiss below it. She looks up at me and back down as I notice her cheeks turn a soft pink.

"Thank you," she whispers back with a smile, unable to meet my gaze.I laugh softly and gently pull her chin up so that she will meet my eyes.

"You really do look beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen the guys so stunned or silent," I smirk as I brush my lips against hers, "Let's go!"

We walk out to the waiting car, along with the rest of the team. While in the car she plays with the bracelet on her wrist nervously. Bran sits next to her doing his best to calm her down. A few minutes later the driver pulls up to where we are supposed to get out. Luckily the red carpet was inside a heated area so that we wouldn't turn to Popsicles in the freezing temperatures.

"Ready?" I ask her.

Caitlin's POV

"Ready?" I hear Sidney ask.

I look up to him, and I know he can see the fear on my face. I was scared as hell, of what I wasn't quite sure. It could of course be the possibility of falling, or the people not liking me, or the fans hating me for stealing the once single Sidney Crosby away. I couldn't pin point exactly what I was nervous about, but I was nervous.

Sidney pulled me close to him,

"You’re going to be great. Everyone is going to think you are beautiful, if they are still breathing," he whispers in my ear.

I smile meekly and nod my head, I was ready.Sid opens the door and helps me out with Bran following me. We walk the 2-yard distance to the red carpet where we hand our coats to some man dressed in uniform.

I take a deep breath as Sid grabs my hand kissing it before we begin our journey down the red carpet, Bran never leaving my side, thank God.

Flashes of light start to go off and I hear people yelling out Sid's name.

"Sidney, over here Sidney!"
"Sidney what will you do when you play the Flyers?"
"Sid who is the girl?"
"Sid are you two an item?"
"How are you handling life with out Victoria?"

‘Oh, Lord. Here we go,’ I think to myself, holding back an eye roll.
Sid keeps walking a little ways before a reporter calls him over.

“Sidney, how do you feel about attending this benefit, assuming that you have quite the busy schedule?” A reporter asks in a way that just rubbed me wrong.

“It’s quite an honor to be here!”

“How do you feel about the whole NHL being here?” the reporter continues. I seem him blatantly check me out, basically undressing me with his eyes. He was probably late 20s. I shift uncomfortably under his gaze, had there not been a camera on me, I might have glared at him, but I knew I had to smile.

“I think it’s great. But we all have to remember that it’s not really about us, it’s about the rescue workers. Kids look up to their favorite NHL stars, and I think that some of those stars end up getting lost in the spotlight and forgetting who they should be admiring. These rescuers put their lives on the line to save others, and I think that’s one of the most admirable qualities. I feel honored to be in their presence,” he replies, perfect as always. As he says the last part he gives my hand a gentle reassuring squeeze.

“Was this comment directed at any NHL star in particular? ”The reporter presses. Looking over at me yet again. ‘Just ask the damn question you want to ask!’ I think to myself.


“Could you tell us who the girl is?” he asks finally. I suppress myself from rolling my eyes skyward and letting out an annoyed snort.

“This is Caitlin Shaw and the dog next to her is Bran. They are part of a search and rescue team.” Sid smiles at me. More reporters swarm around us to pick up the conversation.

“Are you two romantically involved?” he presses with a grin.

‘Wow, this guy really gets to the point.’ I think

“Ha, yeah. I guess you could say we are,” Sidney grins at me.

“How did you two meet, Miss Shaw, was it?” the reporter asks, with a smug smirk, as if challenging me to speak.

“Please, call me Caitlin. We met about 5 years ago at the beach on vacation, and lost contact for those 5 years. I moved to Pittsburgh to start my business and was asked to put on a show for the Children’s Hospital. Sid and the players just happened to be there, and we’re all pretty good friends now.”

“Would you agree with Sidney that you are romantically involved?” another reporter chimes in.

“Yeah, after a while we decided to try the whole dating thing again and it’s been working out really well so far.”

“Sidney what did Victoria think of you two being friends? Is that what pushed you apart?” the snobbish report asks with a grin. Ugh, I knew that question was coming.

“Victoria and I simply realized we didn’t want the same things in life, and I thought it was best to see other people. Caitlin has nothing to do with my relationship with Victoria,” he replies a little darkly. I wait for the wave of questions about Victoria to start now that she is brought up.

“Caitlin, you said that you started a business in the ‘burgh, what exactly is that?” I hear a familiar voice ask.

I look up to see Dan Potash, coming to our rescue once again.

“I own a dog training business.”

“Sidney said you are an SAR. Have you recently done any work?” another reporter asks.

‘THANK YOU DAN!’ I mentally praise him in my head.

“Yes, I work with 3 of my dogs, including Bran. Our most resent case was up in Newfoundland over New Years.”

“You said three of your dogs. How many do you have?”

“I own 5, and I am currently fostering another,” I smile. After all I love talking about dogs, especially mine. I glance over to see Sid talking to some hockey players down the carpet almost into the building. However, I can’t follow him because I’m being grilled with questions ranging from my hometown to work. Bran waits patiently at my feet, but I don’t want him to be near the flashing camera’s for too long. A reporter begins to ask a question but I stop her.

“Before you ask, if you’ll excuse me for a moment,” I say holding up my hand, “Bran, go with Sidney,” I say pointing to him. Bran looks at me once reluctantly but obeys and trots over to Sid.

“I’m about to go inside so I will only take a few more questions,” I say turning back to the cameras, even though I was ready to go inside, I felt as though I owed some explanation of being with Sid. It’s not like I was giving out my Social Security number.

Sid’s POV (again)

She was really picked up the answering question thing quickly,’ I think as I watch her talking to Dan Potash. ‘She’s the one,’ a voice says in the back of my head, causing a smile to play on my lips.

“Hey Sid!” I hear some one yell. I look to the end of the carpet to see Army with Staalzy, Geno, and Flower.

I give Caitlin’s hand one more squeeze before going over to see them.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I ask, only to receive a punch in the arm by Staalzy, “Ouch, what the hell?” I whisper.

“You lucky bastard,” he says with a grin, “She looks gorgeous and the reporters love her.”

I smile and look over to her, I was one lucky bastard, how did I get so lucky?She looks over at me then down to Bran. I see her hold up her hand to one of the reporters. She says something to Bran and then points to me. Bran looks at her hesitantly before trotting over to me and sitting by my feet. I look up and Caitlin is continuing the questions.
“Sid, she really looks good, tonight,” Flower says.

“Yeah, I know. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you guys so quiet when a woman walked in the
room,” I smirk.

“Oh, come on Sid. It wasn’t that bad,” Staalzy says rolling his eyes.

“Oh please, I thought I was going to have to get you all drool buckets,” I laugh.

“Hey, at least I could form a full sentence when I saw her,” Army shot at me.

I go to open my mouth, but close it. He was right; I couldn’t speak when I saw her. I look up to her again to see her walking toward me, again taking my breath away as she smiles at me.
She walks up to me linking her fingers in mine as she briefly leans against me. Her hand other hand ruffling the Bran’s fur.

“If your going to keep walking toward me like that, I’m going to need an oxygen tank,” I sigh, planting a kiss on her head.

“Sorry, but that’s the only way I know how to walk,” she laughs.

Caitlin’s POV

“Crosby, Malkin,” I hear a deep voice say approaching us. I feel Sid’s grip on my waist tighten and feel the boys suddenly tense up. I look up to find myself staring in a pair of dark blue eyes almost hidden under thick eyebrows and shaggy hair.

“Ovechkin,” Sid replies darkly, shaking his hand, as do the rest of the guys.

“And you are?” he asks, holding his hand out for me to shake.

I sigh inwardly, I was afraid he was going to talk to me. Personally, I didn’t like this guy. My brother always used to twist his nose so it was crooked and tell me he was Ovechkin, ha, good times. However, being where we are, and being that the poor guy didn’t know that I thought he was an arrogant… nevermind… I met his hand and took it in a firm handshake. He seemed surprise at my strength.

“Caitlin Shaw,” I smile, reminding myself to be polite.

“Alex Ovechkin, nice to meet you,” he grins at me.

“You too.” I force myself to say back. Sid’s grip on my waist seems to tighten, his fingertips digging into my hips painfully as Alex discreetly checks me out.

“Honey, sorry I’m late,” I hear an all to familiar voice say as a blond comes running up to Ovechkin, hanging on him and kissing him. I look up to see that as usual she looks very fashionable and stunning. She is dressed in an all white empire waist dress that floats elegantly to the floor. On her ears, neck, and left wrist dripping in diamonds. ‘It’s puck slut Barbie,’ I think to myself trying not to gag at the scene of them eating each other’s faces. She giggles and pulls away, wiping red lipstick off Alex’s mouth.

“Hi,” she grins at us wickedly, “Wow, you really clean up well,” she throws in a comment at me, making it sound like an insult.

“Thanks. You look stunning Victoria,” I say forcing a smile.

“Oh I know. Alex has really been spoiling me with all these diamonds,” She replies with a giggle as she looks over at Sid when she thinks I’m staring at her jewelry, too bad I’m not impressed,

“Oh that’s a cute bracelet you have on,” she smiles pointing to my own wrist.

“Thank you,” I force out.

“Well, we better get going, see you two around,” Sid says walking us all away from the two.

As soon as they are out of sight, Sidney takes me over to a secluded corner and pulls me into a hug.

“You did good,” he whispers in my ear.

“Ugh, do you know how much will power it took not to punch her in the face?!” I groan into his shoulder.

“Probably the same amount it took me not to punch Alex when he was basically undressing you
with his eyes,” he growls back.

“Too bad for him, he’s not the one who gets to help me unzip the dress when this is over,” I grin at Sid with a wink, making him groan quietly.

“Can we go back now?” he asks with a devilish grin.

January 02, 2009 at Friday, January 02, 2009 , 5 Comments

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Discovering...Love? by AS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.