There was only one thing that Trevor Clifton cared about: hockey. Ice hockey, to be precise. Roller hockey would do when there was no ice available, but the sport was meant to be played on ice. Hockey was his life. He had been playing for as long as he could walk. His father, who had been a player in high school, had taught him. He had enjoyed the bonding experience while it had lasted.
He loved watching hockey – any hockey – but the Chicago Blackhawks were his favorite team. He had been in awe of the team as a youngster. Before they left Minnesota, he had learned to hate the North Stars; they had always been Chicago’s rival. He attended at least one Backhawk game a year. He enjoyed other sports as well. He was particularly fond of the White Sox, and he usually tried to keep up with the Bears, but he ignored both when it conflicted with anything related to hockey. He did not think there was anything he could care about more.
Then he met Heather.
She was a pretty girl who moved to the Southside of Chicago from the other part of the city freshman year of high school. She had long, flowing red hair and eyes that were the same color as Trevor’s but a much deeper blue. She was a Cubs fan. Everyone chided her because of it, but she was confident and strong. She stuck to her opinions and would not back down from a challenge. Trevor admired her for this, though he would never admit it. He had no business with people like her.
Trevor made the varsity hockey team his freshman year. He had felt a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Unfortunately, some of the upperclassmen who had tried out and had not made it were not very happy with him. One day, they found him walking home from school alone. They did not exactly beat him up, but they did rough him up a bit, causing him to hurt all over. Heather happened to ride by on her bike. She stopped in front of him.
“Are you alright?” she had asked with a hint of concern in her voice.
Trevor had shrugged her off. “I’m fine.”
Heather frowned. She seemed to be contemplating something. She finally said, “Do you want to come over to my house and clean up?”
“I’ve got to get home and study history,” he mumbled. He made a disgusted face.
“I love history!” Heather said brightly. “If you want, I could tutor you.”
Trevor looked her up and down. “What’s in it for you?”
She shrugged. “Are you any good at geometry?”
Trevor nodded slowly.
Heather smiled. “Well, you could help me with that. Come on.” She motioned to her bike.
Trevor hesitated before walking over and climbing on the bike behind her. They rode off to her house together.
The two of them proceeded to meet twice a month to study together. Trevor was very cautious and reserved at first, but as he got to know Heather, he found he really liked her, and he did not typically like a lot of people. Not like this. Behind her tough exterior, she was passionate, motivated, and also caring. She was a very virtuous person. She came from a loving family who raised her to have good values.
By the end of the year, Trevor realized she was too good for him. They were at a point where they were comfortable enough with each other to really become friends. Part of him wanted this more than anything, but the other part knew that he was no good for her. She was better off without him. Still, he did not want to hurt her, so he decided to just lose contact with her instead of initiating a formal break.
He got a job at Taco Bell that summer, which helped him keep his mind off of Heather. He worked full-time. He would need the money for college in case he did not get a scholarship. He did not want to think about that, though. He was going to play hockey for an NCAA Division I college. It was his current goal. Nothing else mattered.
He saw Heather a few times that school year. When she waved to him and said hello, he would nod politely and move on. He did not let her get close enough to initiate a conversation. Eventually, she seemed to back off. He thought that settled the issue. He was wrong.
That summer, Heather became his coworker at Taco Bell. For a few days, he did not know what to do. He contemplated transferring to a different store, but that would have been too much of a hassle. He decided he could handle it.
Trevor began to treat Heather like anyone else who he was not close to: elusive and sarcastic. His chiding was almost playful, but the minute she started to get too close, he backed off and acted more coldly. She put up with it all impressively well. She was good at coming up with quick responses and often teased him back. He knew that he and their relationship was a mystery to her. He made it his goal to not be able to figure it out.
The one thing, above all, that he could not let her know was how he had fallen in love with her. To be safe, he did not even tell his closest friends. He went out with girls to cover up this fact and also to satisfy his desires. But Heather was the only girl who had ever meant anything to him. He made a vow to himself to do whatever it took to protect her and make sure she was happy. This started with protecting her from himself. That was why she could never know. And as long as he stayed distant enough from her, he could be sure she would never feel the same way about him. Besides, what was there about him to love? Besides his hockey skills, of course, but that was not a real reason to love someone.
The drive to do things for her was constant. The problem was that acting on this drive would let too much show. It would give her the wrong impression about him, and it could get her to like him. So he had to find a way to not let her know that it was him who was doing things for her. He would find inconspicuous ways to get notes and candy in her lockers. He would use freshmen who did not know either of them to do the job.
It became easier when he was promoted at work. He had power as a shift leader. He could influence the schedule and who got let off early. He sometimes had to pass off the responsibility to others, of course. It worked extremely well, and he was satisfied with the results.
There was one striking example. Trevor remembered Heather coming into work the day after prom being exceptionally sad. When prodded, it was revealed that her prom date had stood her up. Enraged, Trevor made her tell him the name of the guy. He wondered how anyone could ever want to hurt her. After work, he got some of his hockey teammates to confront the guy. The next time he saw Heather, she was telling him about the elaborate apology she had received. Trevor hid his smirk. His work had been done.
Then suddenly it was the summer of their senior year. Trevor had accepted a hockey scholarship from Ohio State University. From there, he would have a chance at the NHL. His dream was one step closer to become true. Heather, on the other hand, had received an academic scholarship to the University of Chicago. It was a really good school, but it did not have a Division I hockey team. No college in Illinois did, actually, which was a shame. Trevor supposed it made some sense. There were only a handful of Illinoisans, let alone Chicagoans, in the NHL. Most players were from Canada, and those that were form the United States were usually from Minnesota. It made Trevor proud to think that he would one day be representing his state and his city.
It was probably better that they were now parting ways. Maybe forever. Trevor did not know where he would be in a few years. If he did get drafted by an NHL team, it could be anywhere, most likely somewhere in the north or Canada. He was confident that Heather would be just fine. She had a good life ahead of her. She would get a great job, meet a nice guy, and have a wonderful family. He did not need to worry about her anymore.
Still, on their last day at work together, he felt even more rigid and tense than normal. He was dreading the end of the night. He scolded himself for all but ignoring Heather, but he did not know what to say to her. He was afraid that, if he allowed himself to talk, he would spill everything. He did not know how well he could control himself. When he did speak to her, it was short and to the point, and it was usually to tell her to do something.
A few times, he let his eyes linger on her back when he was sure she was not looking. He was distinctly aware that he was looking at all he ever wanted and all that he could never have. He thought he might have even given up hockey for her. He would have if he had been a better man. As it was, hockey was the only place he could succeed and do something close to good. It would keep him out of trouble; it kept his mind focused. Without it, he knew he would have taken a dark path where there would have been no return. That he hadn’t was no testament of virtue on his part. Hockey was what kept him moving in a decent direction. It was the only place where he could ever hope to achieve anything.
The moment came sooner than he wished. It was closing time. Heather had finished all of her duties. He had to let her go. He watched her as she grabbed her purse from the back. Then she turned to him with a small smile on her face.
“It’s been great working for you, Trevor,” she said politely.
Trevor nodded slowly. His arms were crossed and he was leaning against a desk. “I’ll miss bothering you.”
Heather smirked and rolled her eyes. “Thanks. I’ll miss you too.”
Trevor’s stomach tightened but his face remained nonchalant. “Good luck at the University of Chicago.”
Heather’s smile was back. “Thanks. Good luck with hockey.”
Trevor nodded. “When I become a huge NHL star, you can tell all your friends that you worked for me.” He grinned broadly. “Not that they’d ever believe you.”
Heather rolled her eyes dramatically this time. “Oh, I’m sure.” She smirked at him again. “I’ll expect free tickets to every game.”
“You haven’t been nice enough to me for that,” Trevor stated emphatically.
Heather raised her eyebrows, her lips pursed. “I’ve tried.”
Trevor shrugged and looked away. “You should go. It’s getting late.” He risked a quick glance at her.
Heather bit her lip and nodded. “Ok. Well, goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Trevor stated with little emotion.
Heather gave him one last smile before turning and walking out of his life.
Trevor suddenly had a great urge to rush after her and tell her that he loved her. He was able to hold back for a little bit, but after a minute he found himself running out the door.It was too late; her car was driving away. Trevor’s heart sank as he watched the car leave the parking. It was for the better. She would have thought he was crazy. He would be fine; he had hockey. His destiny was awaiting him, and he was determined to achieve his ultimate dream. Not only would he become an amazing professional player, but he would play for his beloved Blackhawks. It was this vision that gave him the strength to turn back around and walk inside.