Todd wasn’t happy about my decision to relocate, but I think he understood. While we’ve been attempting to make a go of this long-distance relationship, the stresses that are piling on top of me do nothing more than push Todd to the bottom of my priority list, and that just adds more guilt on top of what I already suffer on any given day.
“…and I could probably swing next weekend,” I hear Todd say.
I push up from the bed, scrub my hand over my face. “I’m sorry…next weekend?”
“To come visit,” he says with hurt in his voice. “Were you even listening to me?”
“Yes, of course,” I lie, feeling another slice of guilt. “Next weekend would be good. It’s the last free weekend I’ll have before we start into preseason games, so things will get really hectic.”
“Look…Vale,” Todd says, and I can hear resignation in his voice. “If this isn’t working for you…”
“No,” I exclaim quickly, and then soften my voice. “It is. It will. We’ll make it work. I just…it’s been stressful starting with the Cold Fury. But it will settle down, I promise.”
A slight clearing of his throat.
Finally, with some relief in his voice, “Okay, then…I’ll fly in next Friday night and we’ll make a weekend of it.”
“I can’t wait,” I say, and I hate how I have to force enthusiasm in my voice.
“And maybe we could get a hotel…so we could have some privacy,” he says in a low voice. “I really miss you.”
I wonder if Hawke is still here. Perhaps sitting back in the living room with Dad, large frame stretched out on the couch. Those jeans fitting a little too perfectly…
I give a vigorous shake to my head and scream internally at myself to stop thinking about Hawke. I focus…make myself think of Todd with his light blond hair and kind brown eyes. The sweet way he kisses, and the gentle way he…
Hawke wasn’t often gentle. He could be, but he liked it rough and tumble…just like me.
My hand goes to my hair and I pull hard on a lock of it, trying to force my thoughts to settle down.
“Yes,” I say quickly and with total focus on Todd and his sweet, romantic ways. “A hotel room would be nice. Just me and you and a lot of catching up together.”
“Awesome,” he says, and the relief in his voice is almost painful to me.
“Okay, I’m going to grab a shower and get to bed. Five o’clock rolls around pretty early for me,” I say softly.
“All right, sweetie. Take care of yourself. Talk tomorrow?”
“Yes, tomorrow,” I tell him, and then say, “Good night.”
I know my first move should be to get my ass in the shower so I could indeed get some much-needed sleep, but instead, I head back out to the living room. I immediately see Dad still sitting in his recliner and I can tell just from the lack of tense vibes in the air that Hawke is gone.
Dad angles his head and looks at me with a censuring smile. “Why were you so rotten to Hawke?”
I walk around the couch and plop down on one end. Swinging my legs up so I’m facing my dad, I say with a shrug, “I don’t know. It’s just awkward.”
“You two have some air to clear,” he says as his eyes slide back to the TV where a baseball game is on.
I study my dad intently. His face is still puffy from the last dose of steroids he took to control the brain swelling. There are dark circles under his eyes because he’s not sleeping well, but otherwise, he’s doing relatively well.
All things considered.
Almost four years ago, Dad went to a doctor because of unrelenting headaches and blurred vision. What we thought might be a result of stress turned out to be from a golf-ball-size glioblastoma in his head. Most of the tumor was removed with surgery, the remainder blasted with chemo and radiation. He recovered and went back to work.
But we waited for it to come back, because it was most likely coming back.
Borrowed time, lots of praying and living under a shroud of dread.
It came back less than two months ago.
And I quit my job in Columbus and moved with my dad so he could enter a clinical trial at Duke.
Hoping beyond hope…against all odds…for a cure.
It’s a standard power-play drill, me stationed point at the blue line.
The puck gets passed back and forth. Garrett to me. Back to Garrett. He eyes the net, tapping the biscuit back and forth. Winds up…reconsiders, passes back to me.
My stick reaches out to connect, and the puck slides right under it, crosses the blue line, and kills the play.
Coach blows his whistle and I slam the blade of my stick on the ice in frustration.
“You’re out, Therrien,” he says. “Camden…take his place.”
I skate off the ice, ripping my helmet off. The minute I hit the bench, I sit my ass down and slouch back.
Been off my game all fucking day and can’t seem to get my shit together. It’s a good thing this is only the second full day of practice, or else I’d be worried as shit about my ability to make the first line. Everyone deserves an off day, right?
Poor goddamned soul, Dave Campbell, lives in a perpetual off day now, and I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that he could be dying very soon.
When he opened the door yesterday to the apartment he and Vale share, I knew in one glance that something was seriously wrong. His face was swollen, his skin pale.