Sequel: Stronger
Status: Finished.

Tongue Tied


The headaches had returned with even more ferociousness the next morning.

“Sidney--” I put my hand up, signaling to Dr. Roberts that I didn’t want to hear what exactly he was about to say. After spending nearly two hours in my neurologist’s offices being run through a plethora of tests, pokes, and prods I was finally going to be told the bad news and I didn’t want to hear it.

I didn’t want to hear it because I had pushed myself to this point.

The physical therapy with Caroline yesterday left me frustrated, and upset that I wasn’t able to push through these stupid headaches and fogginess, and move onto the game I loved.

When I got home after lunch with a couple of the guys, I immediately went downstairs to the home gym I had in my basement, and pushed myself further than I knew I should have. Actually, I shouldn’t have pushed myself at all; but I was a stubborn son of a bitch, and missed hockey with deep-rooted passion, and I thought it wouldn’t be a dumbass idea to push myself to my brink.

After spending almost forty-five minutes on the treadmill- the point I should have realized I was beginning to feel like crap- I hopped on the stationary bike and went for another hour; by the time I got off I was spending the next two hours between praying to the porcelain gods, and sitting in a pitch black room protected from bright lights and loud noises.

I had pushed myself way past my brink and was currently paying the price for it.

“I don’t think it’s best for you to be going to your physical therapy today,” He spoke in his monotone doctor voice. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and counted to ten.

One -step forward, ten steps back; and this time it was all my fault.

“When do you think I’ll be back playing again?” I had asked this question every time I went in to visit Doc, and every time I got the same answer- one I hoped, prayed, and wished that it would change.

“I don’t know, Sidney.” He finally sighed, taking off his glasses and setting them down on the counter. I was almost sure of it that after he was done treating me he would probably try and retire. Treating me wasn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world. “Like I told you before this is going to be a process. Physical therapy being the bottom block, working up to light exercises, and then drills without contact, then practice without contact, then contact, and then you might be cleared for contact… But if you keep on this cycle of doing stupid things, and bringing yourself back to square one again, you’re never going to play hockey again. So be careful.”

I guess that statement must have meant that he knew what kind of dumb shenanigans I was up to last night. But I would never admit them to him.

“I want you to come back in two days, and then I’ll retest you to see if you’re cleared to go back to PT, until then I want you at home… Resting. I’ll call Caroline and let her know your status. Go home, sleep, watch TV, and eat… Do something but exercise, hockey or thinking about either one of those two. You’re going to make yourself go insane.” But I already was. Fucking insane if I wanted to put a tag on it.

“It’s fine. I run by the aquatics center on my way home, I’ll just swing by and let her know. I’m sure she’s already there.” Lies. All lies I was telling to him, but I was going to sneak past all the doctors and specialists, and go to PT instead. So what I had a headache so bad that a six-day alcohol binge hangover couldn’t compare too? So what if I could barely talk coherently enough to answer questions about my damn brain? I was going to go to PT and nobody- especially some hoity; toitey doctor- was going to stop me.


“Caroline?” She was walking out to her car—a beat up red Honda Civic. Putting my car into park, and hoping out, I tucked my keys into my pocket and shoved my hands into the front of my hoodie; it was colder than typical Pittsburgh weather.


“Aren’t we working out today?” I asked quickly as she opened her car door and threw her duffel bag into the passenger seat. She raised her eyebrows towards me and shook her head.

“Dr. Roberts called me a bit ago. Said you weren’t allowed back in the water for at least two days, your noggin is a little messed up.” She pursed a small smile and closed her door. I frowned because I knew I should have assured Dr. Roberts that I didn’t need him to call her and baby me, I was a grown ass man and I wanted to work out.

“Oh, he said I could.” Again she raised her eyebrows and shook her head.

“Pretty sure not. You’re a stubborn person, you know that?” I nodded. “Well I’m stubborn too, and I’m putting my foot down at this one. I don’t want you to get your head any further worsened, and I don’t want to lose my job. Apparently I’m not completely allergic to this aquatic center.” She smiled and put her hand on my shoulder, patting my broad muscles reassuringly. “It’s a process. Eventually you’ll be back here, and then back on the ice, and back to kicking ass. But you can’t mess yourself up by doing stupid things.” She knew too. Doc must’ve told her. God, I was stupid. If I hadn’t been so fucking dumb, I would be sitting in that disgusting smelling pool being yelled at by a fiery, little red head, and being told how I didn’t know how to float properly.

“But I don’t want to wait.” I was impatient, and sometimes could act like a petulant three -year old.

“Tomorrow you go back to the doctor anyways, if your tests come back all clear, you’re right back out here with the drill sergeant in two days. Believe me when I say you’ll want a couple of days off, the worse is about to come.” I shook my head and let out a childish laugh. If I was able to handle this concussion, albeit not very well, I was able to handle anything.

“Hey, do you want to go to lunch? I haven’t eaten since dinner last night and I could go for a burger and milkshake.” She looked down at her watch and then back up to me, I cut her off before I could respond. “C’mon, you were supposed to be here with me anyways. We’ll just pretend it’s like us being here, but out to lunch.” Okay. That definitely made sense… Not.

“I guess that sounds fine.” She finally spoke, her voice was low and barely audible and before I knew it she jumped into her car and was just about to pull out of the parking lot.

“Where are we going?” I asked quickly, stepping towards my car so I was able to get in too.

“You’ll see! Follow me!” She yelled from the open window as I scooted over the still-warm driver’s seat, and turned the car on.


The place that Caroline had pulled us into fifteen minutes before was a small little diner on the outskirts of Squirrel Hill. Steelers, Pens, and Pirates memorabilia lined the walls, and one of the fry cooks from behind the counter had a Pens jersey with my name plastered across the back—a commodity I still found odd seeing even after all these years in the NHL.

Once being seated in the far corner of the almost empty diner, Caroline and I were quickly waited upon and our burger and milkshake orders were thrown up on the board to get in ASAP. The wait for the food left ample room for the awkward small talk that I undoubtedly knew- and kind of hoped- would happen.

“So you’ve lived in Pittsburgh your entire life?” I asked as soon as Deb, the fifty something year old waitress, walked away after refilling our water cups for the second time. She shook her head as she took a drink from her strawberry milkshake.

“Born and raised here. When I was eighteen I went to school down in Florida because I got a swimming scholarship.”

“Pitt too good for you, eh?” I joked, not meaning anything by it. She shook her head and laughed.

“More like I was too good for Pitt. But no, I wanted to leave Pennsylvania for a little while, and so it was between Georgia and Florida… UF was amazing because I trained under Gregg Troy, and he’s basically one of the best, besides Jack.”

“That’s cool. So Florida?”

“Florida. The land of heat, Disney, alligators, and crazy people…” I laughed. Hadn’t been for the road trips we took to play Tampa Bay and the Panthers, I probably would have never ever been to the Sunshine State; thus why I didn’t know too much on the place.

“Sounds like my kind of party.” I grinned, taking a spoonful of the double chocolate chip milkshake. Fuck diets. I eat what I want, when I want it.

“Oh, I’m sure. So what about you? Obviously didn’t grow up around here.”

“Is it that obvious?” Without taking the spoon out of her mouth, she nodded and smiled. “Yeah, I was born in Nova Scotia. Grew up there, Minnesota and a few other places.” In actuality I had grown up in a lot of places. Hockey was a huge sport in Canada, but living in the Maritimes proved difficulty once getting up in junior high age.

“That’s cool. I’ve always wanted to visit there, and Prince Edward Island. I loved Anne of Green Gables when I was younger.”

“Really? It’s beautiful there. Have you ever been to Canada?” She nodded.

“I spent some time in Vancouver and one summer I visited Mario, Nathalie and the kids up there and babysat for a couple of days… Different place it is.” I nodded. Montreal definitely had some life and color too it.

“You grew up pretty close to Mario and them?” She nodded again.

“Yeah. My family and he moved into our respective houses right around the same time, and my dad was a huge Pens fan and one day walked over, knocked on his door and told him how proud he was to be his neighbor. It’s kind of a funny story. So we’ve always all kept real close over the years. I’ve watched the brats since I was about 12, and they’ve grew up as my own brother and sisters.”

“So you’re a Pens fan too?” For some reason, my heart swelled a little when she talked about them. Deep down, I couldn’t figure out why exactly.

“No. I didn’t have much time to watch them growing up. Any free time I was in the pool. I liked them, but I wasn’t a die-hard fan.” In a way I was a little disappointed.

“That’s too bad. We’ll just have to make you a die-hard fan now won’t we?” I asked with a hint of a smile. She grinned and nodded.

“I guess we will.” She agreed as our food was brought and set down on the table.


By the time we had eaten our food and each paid for our bills, it was time to get back in our cars and head our separate ways. It wasn’t until Caroline was about to step into her car, however, that I noticed something I probably didn’t have any business asking about.

“You’re married?” The question came out more like a statement as both of our eyes flickered to the small ring on her left hand. She stared at it for a good time, and then back up at me.

“Something like that.” She responded, and I should have stopped right there; but I didn’t. I pushed.

“Something like that? You’re either married or you’re not.”

“Something like that,” she grinned before checking her watch with eyes that were being deceitful to her emotions. “Well I better head out. I have to be back at work by 4. I’ll see you in two days.” She replied quickly- and before I could apologize- before getting into her car and speeding off.

I shouldn’t have asked anything about that.

Obviously it was none of my business.
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Okay. Wow. That was a long chapter (I've never written this long before!). Anyways, little more insight. Whatcha think? Don't be a silent reader!! Comment and subscribe!