Immortally Bound

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Chapter 7

Coach let me play without any questions which I was thankful for. No one asked about the bruises, the scratch above my eye, or the swollen lip. Not many of my teammates spoke to me as I milled around the locker room, though they were surprised that I planned on playing. The only person who neglected to acknowledge my presence was Justin. He completely ignored me post this afternoon’s events.

I didn’t see Drew until it was time for the game to begin. He arrived later than usual, nodded upon greeting me, but didn’t say anything concerning my face which worried me. I chose not to look in the mirror in case I would be frightened by what I saw. So far from Ella and Drew’s facial expressions, I knew the marks were ugly. That’s why I figured Drew tried acting casual and not bring any unwanted attention to the colorfulness, which I silently thanked him for. The last thing I needed was to sit out in the game against West Fork. I still couldn’t remember Wednesday’s match against Marshbrough High, but I had so much pent up anger left in me from the afternoon’s events that I needed a physical outlet.

The first period of the game went by without any fights or goals scored. During that time, I didn’t feel any dizzier or closer to passing out at any moment. Coach didn’t let me get out onto the ice as much as I was used to; that left Justin and Drew pulling double shifts in my place. I figured that Coach wanted to keep me in play but restricted my actions in case I blacked out or had an episode again.

We headed for the locker room during our first break without any major incidents. Once we were seated on the benches, I caught Justin furiously texting someone on his cell phone. Drew and I both stared at his erratic behavior while the rest of the team tried sneaking a look at the recipient. But Justin always veered his phone away from their prying eyes and he never spoke a word about who he communicated with. I only hoped he’d use his apparent frustration out on the ice, but I wondered what caused him to act so bitterly. Soon we were on our way back up to the rink; Justin’s mysterious conversationalist forgotten.

During the second period we tied with West Fork. Their team hit a shot on our goalie and scored. We rebounded with a goal of our own, during an odd incident when Justin body checked me after I passed the puck to Toby. Toby used the confusion caused by my own teammate to score the goal, but the ref threw Justin in the penalty box, regardless that he was on our team and that action left us shorthanded for two minutes. I was thankful that no goals were scored during West Fork’s power play because they had an advantage over us.

Once the buzzer rang, and Justin was freed from the box, we all trudged back down below the rink to our locker room. The journey was short, but once the door was closed, Justin rounded on me and started another fight by throwing several punches into my body. Drew and Toby both intervened and pulled him off me, but the struggle didn’t go unnoticed by Coach. He spotted the conflict at once and intervened.

“Justin!” he yelled at my friend as Drew and Toby hung onto him, afraid that if they let go he would come after me again. “Why are you attacking your own teammates?” I understood then that he had seen the body check against me earlier and knew something was wrong.

Justin didn’t answer him but stared and practically snarled at me with fury lighting up his eyes. “Kyle told me what you did to Ella!” he shouted. “You shouldn’t be allowed to play any games!”

The entire team stopped what they were doing and turned towards me.

Of course, he would think he knew the truth of things, but whomever he texted was playing him like a flute. I rolled my eyes. “You attacked me, for something Jacelyn started, that you witnessed?” I stressed. He was there for the first part of that fight; surely, he wasn’t a complete idiot in this situation. I know he witnessed me get between the two girls, keeping them from permanently harming the other, and separate Ella from Jacelyn. So how could he believe anything Kyle told him, already knowing that it was a lie?

Coach glanced between the two of us. “Are you both fighting over a girl?” His voice was strangely calm for someone who just witnessed the odd behavior and actions that Justin portrayed.

But my friend’s face fell. “This isn’t about that!”

But Coach just smiled and shook his head. “Garrett didn’t do anything wrong if he likes the same girl you do. Get over it, Justin.”

But that wasn’t why his anger was directed at me. Before I could explain Justin marched over to him. “How can you believe Garrett is such a good person, Coach? He doesn’t even have a scratch on him when he should after what happened this afternoon! Kyle witnessed him manhandling Ella in a provocative fashion!”

Not this again. This was not how I wanted to spend my break; explaining what occurred this afternoon. The entire team looked hungry for information on this gossip. No one spoke a word or moved.

Drew laughed suddenly from where he stood. “I’m sorry, I know the situation isn’t funny, but ‘manhandling Ella!’” he laughed out loud, apologizing. “Please, that girl can handle herself. She tried to fix Gar’s busted lip and swollen eye earlier in the field house; shiners that Kyle gave him when he supposedly ‘manhandled’ his ex.”

“Actually, the swollen eye was the result from Jacelyn’s nails, not Kyle’s fist,” I retorted.

Drew shook his head as his laughter died. “Either way, you looked awful earlier. Justin’s right about one thing, you hardly have a scratch on you.”

Coach followed the conversation with ease. He looked right at Drew and caught his attention. “You know something about this?”

Drew nodded. “Kyle punched Garrett because he thought Garrett was harming Ella, but Ella tried attacking Jacelyn, who fought back, which is how Garrett got harmed. Supposedly he put himself in between the two and pulled Ella away from Jacelyn. I wasn’t there, but that’s all the info I got from Ella earlier in the field house when she was patching him up. I have no clue what the fight was about or who started it.”

Justin jumped to his feet. “But Kyle told me that… you…” he didn’t finish his sentence, losing what ground he already gained from this accusation.

He couldn’t wrap his mind around the truth, spoken by not only me but someone else that was a friend with him as well. I faced him. “What?” I shouted. “Are you going to believe I ‘harmed’ Ella after you saw me pull her away from Jacelyn? Or after you pulled Jacelyn away from Ella? Is this some sort of punishment that Jacelyn is inflicting on me for driving Lynna Ashford home?!” I raised my tone an octave every time I questioned his motives.

“You did what?” Aston sputtered out from beside Toby on the bench, spraying anyone nearby with the water from his mouth. He had been drinking from one of the provided water bottles when I announced my last statement, but now he squeezed the liquid straight onto the floor, completely unaware of what he was doing because he was so shocked by my words.

“Enough!” Coach interjected suddenly. We all turned towards him. “Justin, restrict your body checking to the opposing team. If I see anymore fighting among your own teammates, you’re suspended. And Garrett, please no more getting in the middle of girl fights. I can’t have you bruised or battered. You were lucky this time around. Two minutes, then back on the ice!” With those last words he left the locker room.

Justin grumbled and slammed the locker door shut before he sauntered out of the room. I finished drinking my water then made my way back up to the rink but only after Justin had left, giving him time to get up there.

Toby caught up to me in the hall. “Lynna?” he questioned me with complete shock. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” I grunted. Did the kid not hear what I confessed earlier?

“You picked her over Jacelyn?” he asked again, shock dripping off his words like he wanted to make double sure I said what I did.

“What about it?” I mumbled, buckling my helmet into place. Why did the kid want to clarify something like this anyway?

“Wow man,” he whistled. “Though I’m not all that surprised as the rest of them.”

I glanced over at his small face, mostly because I figured he was shocked by my actions, but it turned out that he was more interested in clarification rather than what I thought. “What do you mean by that?”

The smile that was plastered there grew wider from my question. “Dude, that girl has the hots for you. She’s been staring at you since last week!”

“Oh. Did you see that too?” Drew joined the conversation. He had come up behind me while I got ready to enter the rink, though I figured he wasn’t interested in talking about Lynna like Toby seemed to be. I flicked my head over to him, just so I could see what he was talking about. He caught my questioning eyes and grinned at Toby. “She hasn’t stared at anyone else all night besides Garrett. Her eyes follow him all over the rink since she sat down in second period.”

“What?” I gasped aloud. I hadn’t even realized that she was here, let alone watching me. I immediately scanned the crowd for her. She wasn’t too far from my sight, though she wasn’t in a good viewing spot. Lynna was perched in the nosebleed section of the opposing team’s seats, straight across from where our team sat. Ella sat beside her, gazing at her cell phone rather than paying attention to us. The corner of Lynna’s mouth turned up a little for a split second before it reset itself. I hadn’t noticed her at all tonight though I had spotted most of the student body present within the stands at some point. I usually tried not caring who was watching me. But even from this great a distance I found I could spot her again if she moved to sit somewhere else. Her skin glowed slightly, like she sat on a pillar of light. Two younger aged kids sat one bench below her. They both looked vaguely familiar; the small black child I had seen in the park, though the mocha colored girl wasn’t present then. The pair was engrossed in a magazine, too far advanced for their age which I found to be odd.

“Are those kids hers?” Justin asked us.

I hadn’t realized he had been watching us, but he followed our gazes up to the benches because it wasn’t just me who stared at Lynna; Drew and Toby watched my actions and followed suit. We all drew our attention back onto the boy who moments earlier accused me of molesting Ella.

“She’s far too young to have kids that are that age,” Drew informed him. “Get over it, Justin. You have Jacelyn now anyway.”

“I wish,” he spat out and shot a look over at pair of bodies entangled in the stands. It was obvious who they were from this distance. The two got up suddenly and walked out of the rink. “Kyle took her back once Ella officially dumped him. He’s upset over loosing Ella and she’s consoling him.”

I rolled my eyes. I knew well what Justin meant by that statement. Jacelyn’s idea of consoling someone was not crying with them, but having fun, in a sexual sense of the term. “He made his decision.”

The third period began shortly after we all arrived. Justin and I were usually paired as defensemen together, but after what happened during the second period and in the locker room during break, Coach divided us and paired me with Drew. Justin played on the ice first.

Drew nudged me as we watched the first few minutes play out. “By the way, what did you use on your eye to decrease the swelling?”

“Why?” I said without looking at his face. We never once took our eyes off the playing field; there was a lot we could miss.

“It’s almost completely healed,” he chuckled.

I shot him a look from the corner of my eye. Justin and Mack raced past us with the West Fork forwards trailing behind them. “I used a steak.”

“At Ella’s house or yours?” he asked without meeting my gaze.

“Ella’s,” I replied wondering where this questioning was headed.

“Must’ve been a good steak,” he mused, taking Toby’s place on the ice.

Toby hurled himself down onto the bench beside me and broke out his water bottle. “Man, you need to watch out for that big dude, War something.”

“Why?” I questioned him while observing the game.

“He keeps dangling. Not to mention I have several bruises from him already. He’s packing some serious muscle.” He pulled his arm up and winced as he stretched it.

I trained my eyes on this so call ‘War’. The name on his jersey was Warren, number 52, and he currently crosschecked into one of my teammates. His body slammed into Drew, propelling him into the wall, but before he pushed my friend further into the plastic he skated away going after the puck that slid across the ice unhindered. He highsticked the puck into the wall that was nearest to our goalie. It ricocheted off the plastic barrier and into the back of Justin, who whirled around and hit one of the boys in the vicinity. Justin was taken off the ice for starting a fight. I now had to take his place as Justin wasn’t allowed to play anymore; especially after his first action last period. Toby, Drew, and I pulled multiple shifts now, but Coach kept me on the ice longer than Drew and Toby, which I didn’t mind.

For a while I watched the puck as I always did and noticed that it always got pushed into Warren’s field of play whenever it wasn’t in their team’s hands, but ours. Currently the pack of players was nearest our goalie, and the puck bounced from our team to theirs like I had surmised. They tried taking shots on the goal, multiple times. I waited for the perfect moment to check Warren and keep him from getting a hold of the puck. I took my one shot and slammed into him, pushing his body up against the boards. He fell to the ice, clutching his nose. When he came back up, blood dripped from it. I was placed into the penalty box for five minutes while their team’s trainer patched him up. But despite my efforts to keep him from playing for a while, he was back on the ice in under a minute, playing with his new wound.

We neared the end of the period when their coach called for a time out. Their team gathered near the wall to discuss a strategy. The West Fork goalie came in as another forward took his place. I sat alone in the penalty box still in time out from my actions. The opposing team had a power play going already, so why did they feel the need to put another forward on the ice? Their goal was completely defenseless, and our team was short a player; me.

“We’ve got this won,” I heard their coach speak. How was I able to hear this? I shouldn’t be able to hear anything through the plastic and massive amount of bodies surrounding their coach.

“Their defensive men are the strongest on the team and two of them are out of play,” he said once more. He was right; Justin was forced off the ice while I sat in the penalty box. Their huddle broke apart then. The timeout was over, and the play resumed.

I stood up and pressed myself against the door, waiting for the timer to end. Ten seconds until I was free to block whatever they planned. There were only thirty seconds left before the period ended. Already they pushed towards our goalie, all six of them. Warren feinted. Matt fell for the feint and went to block a shot that was aimed at the right lower side of the net. The puck appeared in number 39’s range suddenly and the guy aimed for a shot on the upper left side. Matt wouldn’t block the puck in time to save the goal!

The ten seconds were up, and I was out of the box racing towards Matt and the others, hoping that I reached them in time to block the shot. I only needed to go a little faster than I already was. My body flew across the ice, gliding; I felt like I was speeding while lightning struck me. My muscles ached and swelled with the movement, but it was pleasing and not painful. Somehow Warren noticed I was free from confinement and he tried blocking me with his body as I moved past him. He was knocked aside like a rag doll when my elbow brushed up against his chest. I heard him curse as he hit the sideboards. But he was no longer in my way right as his teammate, Higgins, took the shot.

I skated in front of the goal just in time to have the puck hit me in the side and bounce off back to the ice. Warren was slowly getting up out of the corner of my eye; his ricochet seemed worse than the nosebleed I gave him, but red drops dripped from his nose again. It seemed he hit his face on the wall, reopening the wound. The refs didn’t blow the whistle, so I knew we had some time left. I charged after the puck, pushing aside the forwards who closed in on me. They fell back easily as they lacked the strength to dislodge me from my goal. I got possession of the puck and propelled it to the end of the rink.

Warren skated to intercept me, finally upright once more. I heard, more than I saw, the others following behind, grunting with the effort. They were nowhere near us. Warren positioned himself in front of their goal, attempting to be the goalie they had replaced, but the kid didn’t wear the gear the goalie did even though his physique made up for the extra padding, and there was a small opening despite his cunning position in front of me. I quickly calculated the necessary force it would take to make sure the puck went into the hole and didn’t ricochet off any part of Warren or the net. It was now or never; the clock was sure to be out of time by now. I took the shot. The buzzer went off just as the puck flew. It went into the hole and it only took a second before the crowd cheered.

“Lynna! Did you see that goal?!” Ella screamed from up in the stands.

I glanced up at the two of them three stories away from me. Lynna seemed troubled by something, but Ella jumped up and down from happiness beside her.

My vision was clouded as several black and white jerseys flooded my vicinity. My teammates congratulated me with pats, hugs, bumps, and hoorah’s.

“Awesome shot!”

“We won!”

“Good job, Garrett!”

Even Justin was among the fray. He shot me a grin before he went below to change back to our normal clothes. Drew grabbed me in a bear hug, wrestling my head between his arm and his body. He seriously needed to use some deodorant. I struggled back upright, gasping for air. I glanced back into the stands searching for Ella and Lynna, but they were nowhere to be seen. They had already disappeared, probably anxious to get away before the crowd stampeded out.

Warren and his teammates approached us for the aftergame handshake. We went down the row, touching each team members hand briefly and saying things like ‘good game’ and ‘nice moves’ to each other. When I got to Higgins, he complimented, “Nice block!” to me before moving on. Warren was the last guy I met. He grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly, nearly cutting off my circulation from his grasp, but I didn’t lose any feeling, nor did it really hurt much; it was just a strong grip. He suddenly pulled me close and whispered in my ear with barely any sound coming out of his mouth. “Try that again sometime,” he grunted. He pulled back and stared at my face. His nose wasn’t all black and blue like I thought it would be from the hits he took. In fact, all traces of the nosebleed from earlier had ceased to exist as well as his brush with my body and the sideboards. He let go of my hand and skated off.

I had no words to say to him. Before the handshake I would’ve congratulated him on his ability to skate particularly well, but after this little incident all I wanted to do was have a rematch or a one on one tournament with him. There was something odd and disturbing about the kid, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I thought again about what Toby mentioned to me about him. I had watched every trick he pulled and noticed that the puck wasn’t being concealed as Toby thought it was. It looked like the kid knew how to dek successfully, but that wasn’t what occurred. Warren somehow actually made the puck disappear and reappear at will, but I couldn’t figure out how he did it. Even the refs hadn’t caught on to what really happened.

Drew grabbed my shoulders from behind and propelled me towards the gate. “Victory party tonight!” he cheered. “My house!” He announced this to whoever was left on the ice.

I glanced over at the West Fork Wolverines. They packed up and made their way to the locker rooms on the opposite side of the building, leaving through the door on the rink. Warren and Higgins were no where in sight.

I turned back towards Drew who yearned for my attention for some odd reason.

He frowned slightly. “Who are you looking for?”

I shook my head. “It’s nothing.” I really didn’t want to discuss it.

Ella met me in the hall after we changed. She practically danced up and down with joy. “Garrett!” she squealed then froze. “Oh, your face…”

I paused. All this time had passed, and I had yet to look in a mirror to see what it looked like. Judging from Coach’s expression and my teammates I had concluded that it wasn’t as bad as earlier, even Drew commented on this fact. But Ella’s facial expressions had me changing my mind. “Is it worse?”

“No, it’s…well it’s healed. Completely,” she added with awe.

Drew emerged from the locker room. His bag was slung over one shoulder. “Hey Ella!” he greeted. “Party at my house!”

“I’ll be there!” she chimed. She glanced back at me. “You’re going right?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll go for an hour or two.”

“Great!” She beamed at me but didn’t say anything more.

“Hey, um, where’s Lynna?” I had more questions for the girl but didn’t want Ella to feel left out by any means. I wondered how she got here in the first place and why she sat next to Ella.

She jumped slightly, distracted by her thoughts. “Hmm?”

“Lynna? She was sitting next to you in the stands,” I reminded her.

“Oh, Lynna,” she remembered. “She had to go home. Her siblings were with her, and it’s past their bedtime.”

I nodded, already knowing of who she spoke of. “So, those children sitting below you two in the stands are her siblings?” I was shocked by this, I don’t know why. The kids looked nothing like Lynna even though I knew they wouldn’t. I don’t know how I knew that piece of information, I just did.

Ella sighed. “Yeah, she mentioned earlier that her mom adopted them before she passed away. Lynna’s the oldest of the three.”

We made our way to the parking lot walking beside one another. There weren’t a lot of cars left; most of the crowd had already gone home. It took us a long time to get out of our hockey gear, jump into the showers, and change back into our street clothes. I would’ve thought Ella had left for home, but she stuck around like so many of our other fans that I didn’t associate with.

Thinking about Lynna and her sudden presence at the arena had me questioning why she was present to begin with. To my knowledge Lynna had never been to any of the games before; not hockey, not football, not baseball, nothing. In fact, she didn’t partake in any of the clubs or other activities around the school. I glanced sideways at her, my interest piqued. “What was Lynna doing at the game?”

Ella blushed deeply red. “That was my fault actually. While I was driving home, after I dropped you off, I thought about how you and Lynna were talking the other day and how everyone in the school would know about it and how shocked they all were and how angry it made Jacelyn feel. So, I called her up and she came at my invitation, but only on the condition that her siblings join us. We sat up high, not because there weren’t any seats left but because Lynna said the view was better from up there. I’d be surprised if you ever saw us sitting up in the musty corner, but Lynna was right about the view. I saw things I don’t normally see rink side. I saw where the puck was going and who had it most of the time. It’s nice to be near the action, but it is a lot warmer at the top of the stands.”

We reached my car and I piled my stuff into the backseat.

“I noticed Jacelyn wasn’t there,” she stated.

I was completely caught off guard by her words. I could’ve sworn I saw her and Kyle kissing each other in the stands, but I wasn’t going to alert Ella anytime soon, knowing that she was still in a fragile state even if she seemed better. There was a possibility that Ella hadn’t even noticed the two of them; I was hoping that she didn’t. “She wasn’t?”

Ella shook her head while staring at the pavement. “I was a little worried that she might show up especially once I saw Justin pummel you on the ice. I knew then she had turned him on you, so I started scanning the crowd searching for her face, but I couldn’t spot her. She’ll drag anyone into this mess.”

I nodded. “That’s probably a good thing.” I turned my head, so she wouldn’t see me look relieved. She needed to stay away from the girl, former best friend or not. Ella hadn’t been looking for her which was a good sign. I hadn’t been paying attention to the girl’s whereabouts in the first period and was glad she removed herself from the stands by the end of the second period. But her face had been completely engrossed in Kyle’s that it was possible Ella didn’t spot her among the throng of people. It was clear as day to me who the tangle of bodies belonged to, but from up high, I don’t think Ella could see them appropriately.

“So…” I began but was cut off by her.

“Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t see her. Lynna was excited to be here, well at least she sounded excited that I called her. Can you believe I kept her phone number from last year when we were paired for a project together? I really didn’t think I had it, but I did.”

No, I couldn’t believe it, but I didn’t have a chance to answer her question. She was rambling again.

“I’m surprised Jacelyn never deleted it. She’s used my phone several times to text and talk with others.” She sighed heavily before glancing up at me. “We should get going. The party’s not going to last forever.”

I nodded once more and waited for Ella to go to her car, but she hung around and an awkward silence settled in.

“Do you need me to walk you to your car?” I offered.

She blushed and looked down at the ground again. “Well, Lynna’s dad, Harrison, dropped us off here. I told them I’d catch a ride back home. They needed to go. Epilepsy runs in her adopted family.”

“Oh.” I opened the door of the passenger’s side, clearly understanding the message. It never bothered me to lend assistance. We had been friends for a long time.

“Thanks, Garrett,” she said as I settled myself into the driver’s seat. “I was going to ask you earlier, but I forgot.”

I smiled. “It’s no problem.”

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