Geno texted him ten days out from training camp and said Anna was moving to Pittsburgh. Sid was in Vail, out for lunch with Nate and some of the other guys, and he read the text twice and then put his phone back in his pocket and didn’t think about it. He knew Geno was serious about her. Having her move to the States was the logical next step. Sid was happy for them.
He called his mom that evening for advice. She had never been work-married, but she knew everything about etiquette, including all the stuff nobody cared about anymore, like which fork to use for salad. He needed to know what to do.
“I don’t think you need to do anything in particular,” his mom said, which wasn’t what he wanted to hear. “Why don’t you have them over for dinner?”
“Don’t I need to, like. Take her a gift?” Sid said.
“That’s so old-fashioned, sweetheart,” his mom said. “Nobody expects that.”
“Flowers?” Sid said. “Wine?”
“If you’re worried about this, you could always call Geno and see what he thinks,” Sid’s mom said. “But you’ve already met her, haven’t you? I don’t think you need to do a formal greeting.”
Sid had met her twice, first when she came to Pittsburgh last season for the holidays, and again in the spring for the playoffs. Geno had introduced them, as puffed up with pride as Sid had ever seen him, his hand at Anna’s waist. She was beautiful and spoke just enough English to make awkward small talk for a minute or two while Geno beamed at them. Sid was determined to like her. He always wanted what was best for Geno.
“I want to do it right,” he said. “I want her to feel welcome.”
“The customs might be different in Russia anyway,” his mom said, deflating Sid even further. He hadn’t thought of that. “Having them over for dinner would be a lovely gesture. You know Geno can’t cook worth a bean.”
That was the truth. “He’s gotten better,” Sid said loyally.
“I’ll believe it when I eat it,” his mom said.
+ + +
“Well, sure,” Jen said, re-opening the folder with her notes.
“No, not—it’s not about work,” Sid said. “I mean, it kind of is. It’s—Geno told me his girlfriend’s moving to Pittsburgh. So I was wondering if you had any advice about that.” Jen had been work-married to Dan Bylsma for years, a happy marriage that ended only because Bylsma got fired and left.
Jen leaned back in her desk chair and rocked a few times. “You mean, how to get along with the home spouse?”
“Yeah,” Sid said. “He’s had girlfriends before. But I think this is the real deal.”
“Sid, I frankly can’t imagine you having any problems,” Jen said. “Is there anyone you don’t get along with? I doubt you’ll even see her that much. I saw Dan’s home wife maybe four or five times a year. We made a little small talk about their son and that was it. You don’t have to be friends with her.”
“Suppose not,” Sid said. He was over at Geno’s way more than four or five times a year.
“I know you and Geno have a little bit of an unusual marriage,” Jen said, like she was reading his mind, and Sid did his best not to wince. “You spend a lot of your home lives with each other. But I think just be friendly, maybe have them over for dinner soon, and everything will work itself out.”
“My mom also suggested dinner,” Sid said. “Guess I have to do it now for sure.”
“You’re surrounded by many smart women,” Jen said, smiling.
“Not sure I’d go that far,” Sid said, mostly to make her laugh.
He texted Geno on his way out to his car. When are you back in town?
Geno replied right away, which was a little unexpected, because it was late in Moscow. Sid didn’t know the exact time difference. Twelve hours or something. But when he opened the message, it was a picture of Geno’s familiar legs on a beach towel, skinny and hairy, and the pink scar at his right knee. in miami)))) back in p sun see u soon)))
Sid was glad he had years of experience with interpreting Geno’s text messaging shorthand. Back in Pittsburgh on Sunday: okay. Only a few days. And he wouldn’t even be jet-lagged, if he was already in the States. Bring Anna for dinner Monday?
Geno took longer to respond that time. Sid drove home, thinking about the half-baked dinner plans he had made over the summer. Steaks on the grill, a few beers, maybe a dip in the pool, and then Sid would bring it up somehow and Geno would smile at him and say he felt the same way, and then—
It wouldn’t happen like that now. Sid would still cook steaks, and they would sit on the patio to eat. He would serve wine: a little more formal than beer. And Anna would be there, and Sid wouldn’t say what he’d been thinking about all summer, since he and Abigail broke up right before Worlds. Maybe you could home-marry your work spouse if you were willing to put up with the gossip about it, but not if they were already home-married to someone else.
But Geno hadn’t married her yet.
Sid’s phone buzzed in the cup holder, and he checked it at a red light. ok mon 7))) miss u
He pulled a U-turn. He needed to buy three steaks.
+ + +
“How you like Maria?” Geno asked him, a few days after the party, and Sid shrugged and said, without thinking about it, “I don’t think she liked me very much.” She went back to Moscow later that week, and that was the last Sid ever heard about her.
He had felt guilty about it and promised himself he wouldn’t ever interfere again, even though he hadn’t done it deliberately. But he also felt darkly thrilled that Geno had picked him: that Sid mattered more to Geno than a woman he had been dating, seemingly very happily, for more than six months.
When he first met Anna, he thought a little about telling Geno that he didn’t like her. It would have been a lie, though. Anna looked at Geno with as much affection and laughter in her eyes as Sid could ever hope for. There was nothing about her to object to, except for the way Sid’s stomach was heavy as a stone as he watched Geno smile at her and tuck her hair behind her ear. He’d never felt threatened by one of Geno’s girlfriends before.
He had been with Abigail then, and didn’t think too hard about what he was feeling or why. He had told himself he was being stupid and needed to get over it. Anna was great. She made Geno happy. Sid was determined to like her.
+ + +
Sid never called him on it. He liked the company.
When Geno came over with Anna for dinner, he called Sid from the gate, even though he knew the code. He parked at the front door instead of around the side of the house like he usually did, and he rang the doorbell and waited for Sid to come to the door. Sid couldn’t help wondering why, and couldn’t help wondering if Geno didn’t want Anna to know how much time he spent at Sid’s house. Work spouses were for work, but Sid and Geno had been blurring those lines for years.
“Hi, Sid,” Geno said, tall and tan on the front stoop. Sid’s heart lurched and stuck, a big glottal stop of emotion, stronger than he had expected. He was always glad to see Geno at the start of the season, but it had never felt quite like this.
Anna was stiff and formal in a black dress and heels. She hung back in the doorway as Geno gave Sid a hug. He smelled great and looked even better, with a fresh haircut and his sunglasses hooked in the V of his T-shirt, dragging down the neckline to show off his soft tuft of chest hair. Sid shouldn’t have noticed any of those things and pretended he hadn’t. He slapped Geno’s back a few times and stepped away.
Anna was holding a white cardboard box. “Dessert,” she said in her low voice. He recognized the resolve he saw in her expression. She was determined to like him.
“Thank you,” Sid said. He took the box. Geno was beaming. Sid didn’t want to look at him, but looking at Anna was almost as bad. She intimidated the hell out of him. She was possibly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in real life, and she had a way of looking at you like a dubious chef taking the lid off a pot to inspect the contents. He’d seen Geno’s pictures of Anna gloating over a fish she had reeled in or laughing at the camera as she ate a hamburger, mayo smeared on her face, but he had a hard time believing that playful woman was the same person gazing at him coolly over a cake box.
“What you cook?” Geno asked, taking Anna’s hand. “Steak?”
“Yeah,” Sid said. Geno knew him too well.
He had already fired up the grill outside. Geno opened the bottle of white wine Sid had put in an ice bucket on the patio table and started talking about what they had done in Miami. Anna said nothing, and Sid wasn’t even sure she was able to follow the conversation. He poked at the steaks and watched Geno tell a story about someone he knew in Miami, laughing at his own jokes and gesturing with his wine glass, funny and expansive the way he could get when he was with people he knew well. The familiar shapes of his face were softened by the patio lights. Every time Sid glanced at Anna, their eyes met. She was watching him.
Dinner had probably been a mistake. He hadn’t seen Geno since Worlds, and the fantasies he had tended so well over the summer were fresh in his mind. He should have reunited with Geno in private, without Anna there to witness. He couldn’t really bring himself to regret it, though. He had missed Geno a lot, and he kind of didn’t care what Anna thought. Like, what was she going to do about it?
The thought stabbed at his conscience as soon as he had it. He didn’t actually want to sabotage her. He didn’t even have any evidence that Geno was interested in men. Saying anything now would screw up all three of their lives.
The steaks needed to sit for a few minutes after they were done cooking. Geno excused himself and went into the house, leaving Sid and Anna to consider each other from across the table. He didn’t have a clue what to say to her.
“Your home is so nice,” she said. Her English was better than it had been in the spring. Probably she’d been following the conversation just fine.
“Thank you,” Sid said. “You’re, uh—how are you settling in at Geno’s?”
She shrugged. “It’s fine.” She smiled then, and it transformed her face. “I like his, uh. Big fish, how you say?” She gestured with her hands.
“Shark,” Sid said. He liked the shark, too. He remembered when Geno had caught it, and the mysteriously lengthy process of having it stuffed for mounting. Geno had called him when it finally got delivered, almost too excited to speak, and they spent the whole afternoon deciding where to hang it. He didn’t want to talk about the shark. He said, “I did the steaks medium rare. I should have asked you how you like yours cooked.”
Anna smiled again. “Mooing.”
Sid’s laughter burst from him in a harsh wheeze, as sudden as air escaping from a punctured tire. That was one of Geno’s favorite jokes, one of the first jokes he had learned in English. He didn’t use it so much anymore, but Sid had spent years listening to Geno proudly telling servers at restaurants that he wanted his steak mooing. When had Anna heard him say it? Maybe he had taught her.
Anna’s smile dimmed. “I didn’t say good?”
“No, that’s. You said it right,” Sid said.
Anna didn’t seem reassured. A line appeared between her eyebrows as they drew together. “I like steak how you cook. It’s fine. I think it’s good.”
Sid was an asshole. Whatever she could read in his expression, it wasn’t concern that she wouldn’t like his cooking. He smiled and hoped it would look genuine. “Next time I’ll cook it really rare. Still bloody.”
“Okay, rare,” she said. The worried line smoothed out. The sky behind her was the deepest, darkest blue, the final shade of color before full night fell. She didn’t look so carved from marble now as she played with the ends of her hair. She said, “You and Zhenya are married for long time.”
Sid wanted to talk about that even less than he wanted to talk about the shark. “He’s been a good husband.” Saying it like that, without modifying ‘husband’ with ‘work,’ gave him a small thrill of pleasure every time, and maybe that should have clued him in years ago. Better late than never, except it was too late, and he wished now that he’d never figured out his feelings.
He heard the door open behind him as Geno came back out into the yard. Anna sat up straighter, her attention shifting immediately and completely. Geno came over to her and put his hand on her shoulder and bent to kiss her. She lifted her face to meet him. They broke apart and smiled at each other, oblivious to Sid’s presence or anything else in the world.
Sid got up to serve the steaks. Geno was happy. Sid had missed his chance.
+ + +
He didn’t even get the guy’s name. They went back to Sid’s hotel room—reckless, but he was beyond caring. The sex was rough and messy and Sid didn’t really know what he was doing, but he faked it well enough, he thought. It was good: fun, sexy. Then afterward he started thinking about Geno.
He had been telling everyone that his breakup with Abigail was mutual, because he thought that would make both of them look better. He’d been the one to initiate it, though: the end product of months of nagging uncertainty. Abigail was great and smart and laid-back and funny, and Sid had felt like garbage as she cried when he broke up with her. But as soon as it was done, he experienced a huge sense of relief. It was over, and now he could—
Could what? He didn’t know. He went to Worlds and had a great time playing hockey and hanging out with the team and sightseeing in Prague, right up until the moment he met Geno in the handshake line and Geno went in for a hug. Geno had untucked his pendants from inside his jersey, and Sid’s eyes went right to the familiar shape of his wedding ring, half-hidden behind one of his saint medals.
“You played great,” he said, kind of desperately, because Geno looked miserable, and he was Sid’s favorite person in the whole world.
Geno’s mouth slid sideways into a failed attempt at a smile. “Have good summer,” he said, and then Sid had to move down along the line. He went to Geno’s hotel room later, in the middle of the night, drunk from celebrating, but Geno didn’t come to the door. He was probably asleep.
Everything came into focus for him that summer. He fucked a second guy in Paris, but after that he didn’t sleep with anyone else for the rest of the summer. He talked to Geno a few times a week, although Geno was busy and seemed distracted—breaking up and getting back together with Anna, it turned out. But Sid didn’t know that at the time, and mostly what he noticed when they talked was Geno’s smile and the way he plucked at his lower lip when he was listening.
Geno wasn’t the backup plan; he was the long-term plan, the end game, and maybe had been for many years without Sid ever consciously acknowledging it. Sid wasn’t really surprised by the shift in his feelings. It was more like: well, sure, that makes sense. His affection and admiration were actually love. Not exactly a shock to the system.
It was a problem that they were already married, but Sid didn’t want to think about that. People did it. His cousin had home-married her work wife. It would cause problems, but they could figure it out. He would grill steaks and break out a six-pack. They would get in the pool, and Sid would drift closer and smile. He wouldn’t have to say anything. Geno would just know.
+ + +
He hadn’t accounted for Geno, though. Sid knew there were things Geno didn’t talk to him about, but he communicated with Geno on a daily basis and heard about everything from his surreal nightmares to his mom’s book club. He was happy and excited about Anna, and of course he wanted to talk about her. It wasn’t his fault that Sid didn’t want to hear it.
They went to Toronto with Jen to do some pre-season media stuff, and Geno talked about Anna during the entire flight there: Anna’s thoughts on Pittsburgh, Anna’s attempts to reorganize his kitchen, which Sid privately approved of, because nothing in Geno’s kitchen was in any logical place. He didn’t want to approve. He wished he could hate her. He didn’t actually want to hate her.
Anna was having trouble getting a driver’s license. “It’s so much papers,” Geno complained, scowling. “I think we have, but they say no, we need more. So now we go back.”
“I can take her,” Sid said. Geno’s English was fine, but the DMV was confusing even for a native speaker.
Geno lit up, and his expression of gratitude and relief was the entire reason that Sid had made the offer in the first place. “You don’t mind?”
“No, it’s no big deal,” Sid said, even though it kind of was, not in terms of the time expenditure but just like, being around her, beautiful and wry and unfortunately very likeable. “Happy to do it.”
“Thanks, Sid,” Geno said, and knocked their knees together. Sid had vowed to support him in every endeavor, and over time that had come to mean more than just hockey. He would support Geno in this endeavor, too, no matter how personally painful it was for him. He had promised.
He took Anna a couple of days after he and Geno got back from Toronto. The DMV was out near the mall, a solid half hour from Geno’s house, and Sid wished right away that he had told Geno to come with them, because what the fuck were he and Anna supposed to talk about? But Geno was on the phone when Sid arrived to pick Anna up, and he only waved at Sid absently from the stoop as Anna came down the stairs into the driveway.
Anna was wearing a baseball cap and aviators, like the female version of Geno’s douchey frat look. Sid liked it on Geno, and he liked it on Anna, too, a realization that made him feel like he was on a speedboat and going fast, the hull jarring rhythmically against the water. What the fuck was he doing?
Anna settled in the passenger seat and took off her hat. Her cut-off shorts bared at least 95% of her legs. Sid looked away as she started running her hands through her hair, smoothing the strands back into place. “Thank you, Sid,” she said.
“No problem,” Sid said, and reversed the car to pull out of the driveway.
He had expected the ride to be silent and awkward, but instead Anna asked him about Toronto, and he found himself going on at probably greater length than she wanted. He told her all about the stuff they had filmed, and the World Cup presser, and how whiny Geno got toward the end of the day, and then fumbled to a stop as he heard the fondness in his own voice. He needed to keep a lid on it.
“Sorry, uh. Probably more detail than you needed,” he said. He kept both hands on the steering wheel and looked straight ahead.
“No, I like to hear,” Anna said. In his peripheral vision, Sid could see her turning her hat around in her lap. “Zhenya only say, it’s fine, it’s too much talk…” She trailed off, and then made a gesture like someone holding out a microphone.
“Too much talking to reporters,” Sid said, grinning. “He’s gotten way better about it. He’ll even volunteer to do press now sometimes. But his first few years on the team—jeez.”
“Tell me,” Anna said, and so Sid told her about how Geno had spent a long time pretending to understand far less English than he actually did, and about some of his early fumbles with the language, like when he told reporters after a game, very earnestly, “We shoot everybody.”
Predictably, although it was early afternoon on a weekday, the DMV was packed. Sid took a number and sat down with Anna near the door, and felt himself immediately settle into a dispirited waiting room slump. The collective DMV misery stifled conversation. Everyone just sat there and waited for their turn.
Sid found himself absently watching over Anna’s shoulder as she scrolled through pictures on her phone. She was on Instagram, he realized after a minute. There were a lot of pictures of smiling, dressed-up people.
She glanced up and caught him looking. “Sorry,” he said, and averted his gaze.
“It’s okay,” she said. She tipped the screen so he could see it better and tapped a few times. “Here, I show.”
She had pulled up Geno’s private Instagram account, which Sid vaguely knew about but had never investigated. Anna scrolled down slowly, giving Sid time to examine each picture. Geno’s public account was more curated, but this one was a haphazard combination of weird Russian memes, shots of Geno’s feet as he watched TV, and a thorough documentation of his daily activities.
There were a lot of pictures of Sid. He hadn’t realized Geno took so many. There he was in the locker room the other day, chatting with Phil after their informal practice. Geno had taken a picture of him sleeping on the plane on the way home from Toronto, his eye mask on as he leaned against the bulkhead, and Geno’s hand making the peace sign in front of Sid’s face. And there was a shot of Sid standing at the grill on his patio, his back turned to the camera, that Geno must have taken when he and Anna were over for dinner. Geno had captioned that one with a pink heart.
Sid glanced at Anna. He felt like he ought to say something, but he didn’t know what.
She was looking at him already. “When I tell Zhenya I move, I think, I hope Sid like me.”
“I do like you,” Sid said. He was surprised to find that he meant it.
+ + +
He didn’t get over it. Geno was so happy, and he talked about Anna all the time. The start of the season was packed with team events, like every single guy with a house wanted to hold a cookout to show off his interior decorating skills or whatever. Anna attended all of them. She mostly hung out with the Plotnikovs and Gonch, who was in town for training camp, and Sid felt bad about it, because he knew it was hard for her. All of it: moving, settling in, making new friends. He ended up talking to her for a while every time, which sucked because of the way she smiled at him and cracked tentative jokes, and also because of how grateful Geno was.
“Anna say you nice to her,” Geno said, at practice the day after a party at Duper’s during which Sid had spent an actually really enjoyable half hour chatting with Anna and Gonch. Geno squeezed Sid’s shoulder, so grateful and sincere that Sid wanted to disintegrate into nothingness. “Thank you, Sid.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” Sid said. He was happy to do it, and he was, but he also wasn’t. His heart took a nosedive every time he saw Geno and Anna together. Their love and happiness was painfully apparent in the way they looked at and touched each other, constant thoughtless casual touches, checking in.
Sid had been in love and knew what it felt like, but he wanted to know what it felt like with Geno. He wanted to be the first person in Geno’s thoughts, the way Geno was in his.
The worst part was how nothing changed. Geno was the same as ever. He hung out with Sid at the rink and texted him dumb selfies from the grocery store. He referred to Sid as his husband, without modifying ‘husband’ with ‘work.’ “I don’t know, ask my husband,” he liked to tell reporters when they asked a question he didn’t want to answer, because it made them laugh and move on.
Sid had always loved to hear him say it, but now he hated it. All of the signs he had found encouraging when he considered them over the summer didn’t actually mean anything. Geno loved him, but not the way Sid wanted him to. The way he continued to unselfconsciously post pictures of Sid and stand with an arm draped around Sid’s shoulders was undeniable proof that he saw his actions as completely normal and appropriate. He didn’t stop because everything about his relationship with Sid was above-board. Geno’s behavior had been meaningful only in Sid’s head.
Geno had picked Sid over Maria, but he wouldn’t pick him this time. If Sid forced him to choose, he would choose Anna. It was too late.
He needed to get over it, but he couldn’t figure out how to give himself the space he needed to let his feelings wither. He couldn’t tell Geno to stop coming over unannounced, because Geno would be hurt and nosy and want to know why. He couldn’t distance himself from Geno at the rink, because the entire purpose of their marriage was to have a rock-solid work relationship and set the tone for the rest of the team. And also he was just fucking weak and loved spending time with Geno and wanted to be around him as much as possible.
Geno started inviting him over for dinner once a week, and Sid was weak and never turned him down. Being around him and Anna was torture, especially as Sid got to know Anna better and saw all the ways she and Geno were perfect for each other. He had kind of expected that Anna would make Geno get rid of some of the tackier shit in his house, or at least upgrade the kitchen chairs to something less hideously floral. Instead, she not only left the existing tacky shit in place but also added new shit, like huge cut crystal flower vases and a weird statue of a bulldog dressed as a butler. She stopped dressing up for dinner as the weeks went on, and once he came over to find her wearing sweats, no makeup, and puffy slippers with bear faces and ears. He decided on his drive him that night that he needed to do something. He couldn’t go on like this, mired in his wishful thinking.
He thought about getting advice from someone. Most of his friends were home-married, and a few of the guys he’d grown up with were work-married, too. He didn’t know anyone who’d ever been in his exact position, though, and he didn’t think anyone’s advice would influence his decision. He needed to be able to put this behind him.
“My place after practice?” he said to Geno, early November, when everything with the team fucking sucked and Sid’s heart ached at all times, battered daily and never given time to recover. “I’ll make lunch.”
Geno had Anna to cook for him now, but he perked up anyway. Sid had eaten Anna’s cooking a few times, and she was no slouch, but she was no Sid, either. “What you make?”
“Chicken pesto pasta,” Sid said. “The bowtie kind.” Geno’s favorite, and he wasn’t ashamed of tugging Geno’s strings.
Geno came over. Sid fed him lunch and tried to soak it in: maybe the last time Geno would be in his kitchen, sitting at his breakfast bar and telling a long story about Max, gesturing with his fork and talking with his mouth full. Sid would miss him ferociously forever, but he knew a clean break would be the best for him in the long run.
“So, uh,” he said, taking the coward’s way out and putting the leftovers away so he wouldn’t have to make eye contact while he said it. “You and Anna are gonna get home-married, eh?”
“Probably,” Geno said. Sid heard him open the cookie tin where Sid kept his candy stash, mini-size everything so he could eat four or five and not have to think about it. “Where’s Snickers?”
“I ate all of them,” Sid said, and then, drawing a breath, bracing himself, “I think—since you and Anna are gonna get married. I think you and me should get a divorce.”
“What?” Geno said, after a moment.
Sid put the tupperware in the fridge and forced himself to turn toward Geno. Geno was holding a mini Mars bar in one hand, the wrapper open, but he looked like he had forgotten about it completely. The raw shock on his face made Sid want to immediately retract what he had said.
He couldn’t. “Sorry,” he said.
Geno looked at the candy in his hand and then put it back in the tin. “Why you say?”
All the blood in Sid’s body was in his head, pounding in his temples and roaring in his ears. “Because I’ve got feelings for you. Like, romantic feelings,” because he didn’t want to leave any room for misinterpretation. “And I know you don’t feel the same way, and you’ve got Anna now. So.” He stopped, not sure how to go on.
He wanted to ask Geno if there had ever been any chance—if Geno had ever had a stray thought, if it could have worked out if the timing were better. But something in Geno’s expression made him swallow the words. It didn’t matter now. Better not to know.
“You—feel?” Geno said. “Like. How?”
He looked so uncertain, slumped there with his sweats hiked up toward his knees. Sid wanted to kiss him, just once, just to try it, and to make his meaning perfectly clear. But he thought of Anna in her bear slippers and knew he couldn’t cross that line.
He leaned back against the counter to steady himself. “Like I spent all summer thinking about marrying you again. So I can’t keep, like. It’s killing me to be your husband but not in the way I really want.”
“Divorce,” Geno said.
“Yeah.” Sid felt a little light-headed. He gripped the edge of the counter with both hands. “I think it’s for the best.”
Geno said something low and fast in Russian and leaned forward to cover his face with his hands, his elbows braced on the countertop. “Why you say now?”
“I only just figured it out,” Sid said. “I think I’ve felt this way for a long time, but I didn’t realize.” He had an actual pain in his chest, like his bruised heart had progressed to active internal bleeding. “I’m sorry.”
Geno groaned loudly. His hands slid up into his hair, digging in, tugging at the damp curls at the front. The heels of his hands pressed into his eye sockets. His mouth stretched into a grimace.
“I think it’s for the best,” Sid said again, because Geno wasn’t giving him any help, and he didn’t know what else to say.
Geno sat up. The skin around his eyes was pink from being pressed on. “I need talk to Anna.”
“Don’t tell her,” Sid said at once, a little panicked at the thought of Geno sharing this news. “I mean. I guess you’ll have to tell her you’re getting divorced.”
Geno said something else in Russian that Sid recognized as an insult. He slid off his chair and crossed the room to box Sid in against the counter, looming close enough that Sid had to crane his neck back to look up at him, a dirty trick that Geno liked to pull to make Sid feel short. There was nothing playful in his expression now, though. He cupped Sid’s face in his hands and gazed down at him, sober and intent.
Sid’s heart was racing like he was overdue for a shift change. He couldn’t get enough air. “What are you, uh.”
Geno bent and pressed his lips to Sid’s cheek. “Sid,” he said, his mouth against Sid’s skin. “Let me talk to Anna.”
+ + +
“I told him he needs to quit turning over the puck so much,” Sid said. “So now he’s mad at me.”
Flower sucked his teeth. “It’s the truth, but.”
“I’ll take him out for sushi,” Sid said. “He’ll get over it.”
Lying to Flower was easy, but waiting to hear from Geno was hard and awful. The only thing that kept him from totally losing his mind was the picture Geno sent him a couple of days in, his steamed-up bathroom mirror with a smiley face drawn in it, and Geno’s own smile visible in the curving line of clear glass.
He finally got a text message from Anna after almost a week. He was at practice, and the message was waiting for him when he checked his phone after his shower: We get lunch?
He stared at the screen, trying to decide what this meant. Geno had already left, so there would be no help from those quarters. Today? I’m free
OK 1:30, Anna replied, and sent him an address.
Sid pulled it up on the map. It was a restaurant downtown, one of the places Geno liked. A little fancier than Sid would have picked, especially in the jeans and T-shirt he had worn to the rink, but whatever. Sure, see you soon. Then he added a smiley face emoji, because why the hell not.
Anna was waiting for him in the restaurant, sitting in the padded booth beside the hostess stand. Sid’s heart and stomach dropped in tandem as he saw her. She was wearing a full face of makeup and a dress, high heels, dangly earrings: back to the Anna who was suspicious of him and used her appearance as armor.
“Didn’t know I was supposed to dress up,” Sid said to her, a weak joke that she ignored. She rose to her feet and nodded to the hostess, who led them to a table right by the window, which was more exposed than Sid would have liked. He could tell that this wasn’t going to be an armistice or a negotiation, and he wouldn’t come out of it with what he wanted. Anna had brought him here to tell him to fuck off.
They studied their menus in silence. Sid thought about ordering a beer, but Anna asked for only water, and maybe it would be weird to drink alone. When the server had come and gone, Anna rested her folded hands on the table and studied Sid. Her spine was perfectly straight. Her right hand bore a new ring: a big, sparkly diamond Sid hadn’t noticed before.
His heart cratered out. “Uh, congratulations,” he said, gesturing awkwardly at the ring.
“Thank you,” Anna said. Her face gave nothing away. He had watched a documentary about glaciers a few weeks ago, and her eyes were the same color as the ice deep in a crevasse, exactly that clear and cold.
Why was he even here? What was the point? Maybe she just wanted to see him squirm. “I’m not sure what Geno told you—”
“He tell me,” she said. Her gaze dropped, and her fingertips nudged the fat gem of her ring. “I wish you don’t tell him.”
He should have ordered a beer. “I was trying to—I had to explain it to him. Why I want a divorce.”
“I wish you don’t,” Anna said. “Now he think about. Like, wonder. Like, what if you say one year ago?” Her eyes were focused on her ring. “Now you take him from me.”
Sid flinched like she had slapped him. “I’m not. I’m not trying to.”
“Please,” Anna said. She looked up, and to Sid’s absolute shock and horror, her eyes were filled with tears. “I love him. Please let me keep him.”
Sid didn’t know what to do. He was the worst person in the world. He started to reach for her and then changed his mind, because she probably didn’t want comfort from him right now or ever. “I’m sorry. Anna, I’m really sorry, I was—I’m trying to do the right thing. I don’t want to take him from you.” He swallowed. “He wouldn’t be happy now without you.”
She looked up toward the ceiling and carefully blotted her tears with the back of her index finger, one eye and then the other. “He’s not happy without you.”
Sid hated the thrill he got from hearing her say that. “Anna, I don’t know what to do. I’ll divorce him and stay away from him forever if that’s what you want.”
“I don’t know,” she said. She shook herself and sighed. “Zhenya is—when he tell me. I see he’s hope I say, okay, it’s no problem. It’s okay if you want Sid. Let’s share.”
“He wants me?” Sid said, unable to stop himself, and then his brain caught up with the rest of what she’d said. “Um. Share?”
People did that. Nobody Sid knew, but he read about it and saw it on TV sometimes. Someone sleeping with both of their spouses, and everyone involved knew about it and it wasn’t cheating. It was a subplot on “Friends” once.
Would Anna want that? Would Sid?
Anna shrugged. “I tell Zhenya, what if I say get divorce, don’t go to Sid’s house, don’t see him. And he say okay. He will do it. He tell me he has ring, let’s get marry.” Her mouth pulled to one side. “But I wonder what he say if you tell him, leave her, be with me.”
“I didn’t,” Sid said—guiltily, because he had thought about it for sure. “I wouldn’t. He loves you.”
“Yeah,” Anna said. She touched her ring again. Her fingers kept going back to it, rubbing over the gem. She wasn’t used to the weight of it yet. “Maybe he loves us both.”
Sid had to look out the window for a minute before he could manage a response. A woman walked by pushing a stroller. He watched the wheels turning and turning. He said, “We got married really young. I had just turned twenty-one. I wasn’t thinking about home-marriage at all. Maybe if I had been… I don’t know.” He glanced at Anna. She was watching him closely. “I’m not trying to take him away from you. I don’t want to do that.”
“I think you do already,” she said, and began tearing up again. “I leave Moscow for him. My friends, my family, my work wife. I quit my job. I give up so much. And now…”
Sid reached for Anna and didn’t stop himself that time. He cupped his hand around her folded hands and squeezed gently. Her mouth trembled. “I’m sorry,” Sid said. He felt like shit. He had thought mostly of what he wanted, and too little of how it would affect Anna. He should never have said anything to Geno at all. “I don’t know what to do.”
“He always think of you now,” Anna said. She blinked a few times and got herself back under control. Sid pulled away and sat back, and gave her a few moments to sip her water and blot at her eyes with her napkin. She sighed and straightened her shoulders.
Sid said, “How long, uh. How long were you married?”
“Two years,” Anna said. “I miss her. I miss my job. More than I think I miss.”
Sid tried to imagine how he would have felt if Abigail had moved away for work and asked Sid to go with her. To leave Geno and Pittsburgh and stop playing hockey. Well, he wouldn’t have done it, and his imagination could only take him so far. But Anna had done it, because she loved Geno and wanted to spend her life with him. She’d traded everything in for this chance to have something good with Geno, and now she thought Sid had ruined it for her. Maybe he had.
Maybe he hadn’t totally thought of her as a person. An obstacle, at first. Then he had wanted to make her happy so that Geno would be pleased with him. He knew so little about her and hadn’t bothered to learn. He hadn’t even known she’d been work married.
“I’ll do whatever you want,” he said. “Whatever you think is best. I’ll stay away from him, or—whatever you want.” That was stupid, though, wasn’t it? The horse was already out of the barn, like his dad always said. Sid couldn’t take it back. He couldn’t make Geno un-know.
Anna’s eyes were sharp on his face. “You love him.”
“Yeah,” Sid said. Admitting it was both good and painful. “I do.”
She nodded. “I talk with Zhenya. About what it’s like, if…” She trailed off, flushing, as telling an emotional display as her tears had been.
“If we shared?” Sid said, not certain he was reading Anna’s hesitation correctly but willing to take the risk of humiliating himself.
Her flush deepened. “I come here to tell you, he’s mine. I’m jealous. I look up this word so I know it’s right, so I can tell you. You can’t have him. But…”
“But?” Sid said. Hope sprouted in his heart. He hadn’t even known a seed was there.
She looked at him from across the table, her gaze direct, her entire presence flawless and perfectly controlled. If he hadn’t seen her tears with his own eyes, he never would have believed she had been crying only a few minutes ago. She said, “You like women, Sid?”
Was this a trick question? “Uh, yes. I do.”
Her mouth quirked at one corner, a little sly. “Zhenya say I should tell you, I don’t kick you out of bed.”
“You—oh,” Sid said. Was that what she meant by sharing? His stomach lurched like coming over the top of a roller coaster, about to drop.
They looked at each other from across the table. Sid thought again about her bear slippers, and the way Geno looked when he kissed her, and also some of the pictures he’d encountered when he searched her name online and immediately decided to pretend he hadn’t seen. He was open to the idea. He was willing to consider it.
“Yes?” Anna said, tossing her hair over her shoulder, cool as midwinter. Sid didn’t buy it now, though. He’d seen her blushing. He knew she wasn’t unaffected.
“I’ll take a look at your offer sheet,” he said, and then wondered if she would understand the reference. But she laughed, so he thought the message probably got through.
As they ate, he made an effort not to talk about hockey or Geno, which were their usual topics of conversation. He asked a few tentative questions about her work as a newscaster, not sure she would want to talk about it; but she answered, in her halting, careful way, and then Sid got really interested in the particulars of being on the news and forgot to be cautious. He knew a lot about the day-to-day activities of beat reporters, but live TV was a mystery to him aside from like, Hockey Night in Canada.
“Yes, very early,” Anna said, when he asked if she really had to wake up at the crack of dawn. She talked about how much time and effort she had to put into her appearance, which Sid hadn’t ever considered. That the way you looked could be part of your job in such an all-consuming way. Nobody cared what he looked like.
She probably knew what he was doing, and maybe it was too little too late. But she didn’t call him on it, and she answered his questions and ate her salad and smiled at him more than she usually did. He hadn’t blown it yet.
When the meal was finished, he helped Anna into her coat. The sun warmed his face as they exited the restaurant. He said, “Where did you park? I’ll walk you to your car.”
She looked at him for a moment. Then she pointed to the deck at the end of the block and said, “There.”
The deck had a lot of cars but few people. It was late for lunch, and people were mostly still at work. Anna’s heels echoed as they climbed the ramp toward her car—Geno’s Range Rover, which she had inherited. Sid recognized it by the Penguins logo on the rear window. Geno was never subtle.
“So,” she said, as they slowed to a stop by the bumper. She cast a quick glance around the abandoned deck and then took a few steps backward, between her car and the one parked beside it, an equally enormous Suburban. “Sid, come here.”
His pulse picked up. He stepped toward her. She was eye to eye with him in her heels, which he didn’t like but would never admit. She had her keys clutched to her chest. He touched her closed fist, her cold knuckles. “This is what you want?”
“I think maybe,” she said. The smile she gave him then was the sweetest he’d seen yet, warm and open and hopeful and shy. He could fall in love with someone who looked at him like that. She shifted closer, until her hand was pressed to his chest, trapped between their bodies. He held himself perfectly rigid as she leaned in to press her mouth to his.
She drew back after a moment. “Sid,” she said, frowning at him now. “Kiss me.”
“God,” he said. “Okay, yeah.” He could do way better than that.
They kissed each other cautiously, in the cold echoing parking deck. Part of Sid’s attention was on alert for any sound of footsteps. Anna’s keys were digging into his chest. But her mouth was warm and sweet, and she leaned against him and let him bear her weight, and it was good. It was a good kiss. He was sorry when she stepped back, and then fiercely pleased by the pink flush to her cheeks.
“So?” he said.
She wobbled her hand from side to side, the same way Geno did, a tic he had picked up from Staalsy, years back. “Need practice.” Then she grinned.
Sid stuffed his hands in his coat pockets and tried to stifle his own smile. “Got it. Message received. Bye, Anna.”
“Bye, Sid,” she said. She got in her car.
+ + +
They got married the day before training camp started that fall, the two of them at the arena in their game-day suits, with a Russian priest Geno had dug up somewhere to perform the ceremony, and Gonch and Ksenia to serve as witnesses. They stood before the priest with clasped hands and Geno was smiling and Sid meant every word of his vows: to trust and honor, to seek advice and receive it with an open heart, to support Geno in every endeavor.
They threw a wedding-slash-welcome-back party for the team at Mario’s, and Talbo drank too much and threw up in a decorative urn. Geno added a ring to his assortment of pendants. Sid wore a ring for about three days until he decided he hated having something on his finger. He didn’t need a ring to feel married.
+ + +
Everyone had a designated seat for team meetings—not officially, but just the pattern they all settled into after a while. Geno’s chair was already occupied when Sid shuffled in with his post-breakfast banana, and Sid spent a moment thinking about walking back out and waiting until there were more guys in the room. Geno had his back turned; he would never know.
Fuck. God, Sid was so stupid.
He took the chair to Geno’s left, the same place he’d been sitting for years. Geno reached over, the way he always did, and broke the tip from Sid’s peeled banana and stuffed it in his mouth. Chewing noisily, he leaned against Sid.
The deep ache in Sid’s gut eased. Geno’s eyes crinkled at the corners as he chewed. The pressure of his shoulder against Sid’s was tangibly reassuring. “Thanks for banana.”
“You’re killing me,” Sid said. “You really wanna talk about my banana right now?”
“Okay, we talk about banana,” Geno said, dropping one big hand to Sid’s thigh, way too close to his junk to be friendly.
Sid careened through ten different emotions in a split second and finally settled on muddled, baffled hope. Geno’s bluster usually meant he was embarrassed or unsure, and his red ears made Sid think that was the correct diagnosis now. His hand stayed where it was, though, and he leaned in further, awkwardly hunched and twisting his upper body, until his face was pressed to the side of Sid’s. His nose flattened against Sid’s cheek. His lips brushed Sid’s jaw. “Sid,” he said.
“Did you talk to Anna?” Sid asked.
“Yes,” Geno said. He sat up and patted Sid’s thigh a few times before he let go. Someone was hollering cheerfully out in the hallway, and soon they wouldn’t be alone. “We talk later.”
He sat to Sid’s right the way he had at every team meeting for seven years, nodding along as Johnston talked even though Sid knew he wasn’t paying attention. His leg pressed against Sid’s from knee to hip, far more contact than usual, and toward the end of the meeting he pulled his feet out of his slides and hooked one foot around Sid’s ankle, his socked toes prodding at Sid’s instep. Sid kept glancing at him, but Geno was staring straight ahead every time, like Johnston’s bland homilies could keep his attention for more than thirty seconds at a time.
When the meeting ended, Sid shifted to stand, but Geno’s hand on his thigh stilled him. “Wait,” Geno said, and to Kuni, raising an eyebrow at them as he passed by, “It’s husband business.”
Who could question that? Not Sid. He obediently stayed where he was, with Geno’s long fingers brushing his inseam, until the room had emptied out and Dumo, the last one out, closed the door behind him. Sid turned to Geno and drew a breath, not sure what he was going to say.
“Come to dinner tomorrow,” Geno said. He turned fully toward Sid and slid his hand all the way up Sid’s thigh to his hip. “With me and Anya.” His eyes were so warm. He raised his hand to cup Sid’s face.
“I kissed her,” Sid said. “Yesterday,” because it couldn’t be that easy, you didn’t just—get what you wanted that way, so easily, without putting in any work.
“I know,” Geno said. “You think we don’t talk about?”
“I’m a fucking mess,” Sid said. “Okay? This is a lot for me. I don’t know what’s happening.”
“I don’t know, too,” Geno said. “But we try, okay?” His hand dropped, and he pulled back. “Maybe you don’t want—”
“Stop it, of course I do,” Sid said. He couldn’t sit still. He rose to his feet and paced toward the podium where Johnston delivered his mild lectures. He was on a breakaway, skating as hard as he could and ready to do whatever it took to fake out the goalie and get the puck on net. Was Anna the goalie? He’d lost track of his own metaphor.
“Sid,” Geno said, his voice close at hand, right at Sid’s shoulder, and Sid turned and took the two steps into his arms.
He pushed his face against Geno’s neck and held on. Geno’s arms went around him, tight enough that Sid knew he really meant it. He had hugged Geno so many times, saying hello or goodbye, on the ice and off, happy after a game or comforting each other in defeat, but never quite like this. With Geno’s chest solid against his own and full of beating life.
“Sid,” Geno whispered to him, his head bent toward Sid’s. “Let’s try. Come for dinner. I’m scared, too, okay? I don’t know how it’s work. But let’s try.”
“Okay,” Sid said. He opened his mouth against Geno’s pulse, not really a kiss but like he could draw Geno’s essence into his body and keep him there inside. Even that wouldn’t be close enough.
“I want to suck your dick,” Geno whispered.
Sid groaned. He’d thought about that more than once: Geno’s fat mouth parting around the head of his dick, Geno’s eyes closed in concentration. He felt totally wrung out from experiencing so many different emotions in such a short time, and the sudden flood of lust did him in completely. He was ready for his pre-game nap.
Like he could tell Sid had hit his limit, Geno pressed a smacking kiss to his temple and stepped back. “Time for skate.”
His cheeks were pink, the big faker. He was never as nonchalant as he pretended. “Could always take the option,” Sid said.
Geno made a scandalized noise. “No, I don’t skip.” He visibly wavered for a moment, and then moved close again to kiss the top of Sid’s head. “You come tomorrow, okay?”
“I’ll be there,” Sid said. He was buoyant. Ready to drift up from the ground and float away.
+ + +
After seven years of marriage, he didn’t ring the doorbell when he arrived. He had a key. But he rang the doorbell tonight and waited on the stoop in the dark for someone to let him in.
The door opened: Anna, wearing sweats and—Sid glanced down—her bear slippers. She smiled at him like she was happy to see him, a big sweet smile like she liked him and had been waiting for him to arrive. “Sid! It’s cold, why you don’t come in?” She shivered dramatically as she closed the door behind him.
“You look nice,” he said, not a platitude but the honest-to-God truth. “I brought wine,” and then he bent to kiss her, because she was still smiling at him, and because he wanted to.
When they broke apart, she took his hand. “Zhenya is in kitchen.”
“Okay,” Sid said. Somewhere deep in his chest was a small glowing spark of joy. He kissed her again.
Geno was standing at the oven, peering in at whatever smelled so good. Unlike Anna, he had dressed up, and the sight of his white shirt tucked into his trousers filled Sid with tenderness and longing. He was Sid’s favorite idiot.
Anna said something in Russian, and Geno turned and smiled at them. “Hi, Sid.”
“Hi,” Sid said. He put the wine on the counter and let his feet carry him toward Geno. With Anna watching, he set his hand on Geno’s hip and lifted his chin.
“You hungry?” Geno asked. He stroked his thumb over Sid’s cheekbone. His expression made Sid’s stomach flip over three or four times. He leaned in and gently pressed his mouth to Sid’s: their very first kiss.
His lips were chapped, which Sid loved, because it meant he was kissing specifically Geno. He cupped his hand around the back of Geno’s neck to hold him there, the kiss growing deeper as Geno parted his lips. Sid kept his eyes open the whole time, taking in every detail of Geno’s face, his short straight eyelashes and his messy eyebrows. Every part of him was exactly how it should be.
Geno gave him a firm, final kiss and drew back with a pat to Sid’s hip. “Food is ready.”
“What’s for dinner?” Sid asked. Anna was opening the wine, and she glanced up and smiled at him as she eased the cork from the bottle. Sid felt giddy like he’d already had a glass or three.
“Lamb sh—shenk?” Anna said. She made a cute grimace. “Sorry, I forget word already.”
“That’s my favorite,” Sid said dumbly. His grandmother used to make it every year for Christmas, before she got too sick.
Geno and Anna smiled at each other. “Anya make,” Geno said. “I think it’s good.”
“It smells great,” Sid said. He waited a moment until he trusted his voice not to waver. “Can I help? Can I set the table?”
Anna had moved some things around, but she showed Sid where she had put the cutlery and the napkins. Sid set out three plates and lit the candles. He moved the flowers so they would all be able to see each other. When it was time, they sat down together to eat.