Fortunes were looking up in the world of Minnesota hockey. The Wild had now won three games in a row, and they were going for a third. The team was hoping to gain momentum going into a five game road stretch before returning home for while. It was an exciting time for almost everyone. Trevor was trying to put in good effort, but he was continually distracted by Heather. They had not seen each other much lately, but she was constantly invading his mind.
He was thinking about her before the game on Saturday when Justin approached him. It had been only two days since they had last spoken. The Minnesotan was smiling gleefully. Trevor had a feeling he knew what this was about. “Hey, buddy,” Justin said. “I just wanted to thank you for telling me about Heather. We went out last night and had a great time.”
Trevor forced a smile. “Fantastic. Where did you go?”
“A small Italian restaurant that’s pretty good,” Justin said. “We had a great time talking and getting to know each other better.”
“Great,” Trevor mumbled.
Justin smiled. “It was. She’s an amazing gal. You’re lucky to have known her for so long.”
“Yeah,” Trevor murmured. He was very lucky; he loved every moment he had gotten to spend with her.
“Hey, is there anything else about her that I should know?” Justin asked.
Trevor shrugged. “Not really. She lays everything out right from the beginning.” He paused, suddenly remembering something that could be important. “Oh, you might want to know that she was previously engaged with a guy she met in grad school. It died a year ago.”
Justin’s eyes widened in shock. “Really? Oh, wow. That’s terrible. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll try to take it slow.”
Trevor nodded. “Good.” He was not worried about Justin overstepping his boundaries. It seemed like he would know exactly how to handle a situation like this. He would have all the right things to say. He could be the kind-hearted hero she needed.
Justin clasped him on the shoulder. “Good luck tonight.” With another smile, he was gone.
Trevor let out a heavy sigh before he resumed getting ready for the game. He had to focus. Both Heather and Liam were going to be fine. With Justin and without Trevor, they made a great trio; there was no need to worry. Trevor could not bother too much with them, for all of their sakes; he had to focus on what he did best: play hockey. He still had to make those Wild fans love him.
Trevor invited Heather over on Sunday. This time, he made it clear that the visit was about Liam. The three of them planned to have an evening of bonding with the kid. Trevor wanted to make sure he got enough time and attention, and he did not think he could do that on his own, so he was grateful for Heather’s presence.
The trio begun by playing board games. Heather and Liam were laughing and chatting the whole time, while Trevor simply smiled and nodded when appropriate. He could not help the growing feeling of isolation from the two. They seemed to get along so well. He did for them what they could. They enjoyed another one of his meals. Then Heather popped in a Disney movie she had brought over.
They dimmed the lights and snuggled up with a blanket on the couch. Trevor made sure Liam sat in the middle, for more than one reason. He was not really paying attention to the movie; he could not even recall the title. He was looking at the screen, but he was not really seeing what was going on. His mind was elsewhere. It switched between hockey, Chicago, and the two people on the couch beside him. All of those things could never be compatible. Choices would have to be made. He knew the direction he had to go, but getting there was what pained him. Sometimes it was hard to do the right thing.
Trevor was startled when he felt a warm body leaning against him. He blinked down at Liam, who had fallen asleep against him. He looked at Heather for help.
Heather just laughed. “Good thing the movie is over. He didn’t miss anything.”
Trevor frowned. “Can you help me out here?” He was not exactly sure what to do.
Heather smirked. “Alright.” She stood up and walked over to the other side of the couch. She then picked up Liam, hoisting him over her shoulder. She left in the direction of his room.
Trevor stood up himself, deciding it was time to clean up. He turned on the lights and turned off the movie. He had just gotten everything the way he liked it when he Heather returned. He looked at her calmly, but inside he was tense. He hoped she would not stay for long; there was nothing he could say to her. None of it would make any difference.
“Are you getting used to Minnesota yet?” Heather finally asked, breaking the silence.
Trevor shrugged. “I liked the weather, but that’s about it. How have you been?”
“Good,” Heather said with a small smile. “Your friend Justin asked me out.”
“He told me,” Trevor found himself saying. His throat felt dry and rough. He forced himself to continue. “How did it go?”
“Good,” Heather said with a small smile. “I had a nice time. He’s a good guy.”
“I know,” Trevor said, glancing down at the floor. “One of the best on the team.” He was not sure what made the guy so different from all the other players. There was just something about him that was annoying and yet compelling at the same time. He was not sure what to think of him personally; he just knew he was a good fit for Heather.
“I’m not sure if anything is going to come out of it, though,” Heather said casually.
Trevor’s head shot up. He looked at her, alarmed. “What?”
Heather shrugged her shoulders. “I haven’t dated since Jacob died and I’m not sure now is the time to start.” She hesitated. “I know I need to move on, but I’m so busy right now. I need to be there for you and Liam. I don’t want anything to take away from that. I don’t want to make things awkward with you.” She was looking at him with genuine concern.
Trevor felt moved. This was why he loved her so much. But because of that, he had to help her see the right path. “Nothing will be awkward,” he was quick to say. “You can spend plenty time with Liam and Justin. Heck, take the kid with you if you want. Don’t worry about me.”
Heather raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? I mean, he’s your teammate and all.”
Trevor shook his head. “I’m sure. It was my idea for him to ask you out in the first place.”
Heather’s mouth fell open in surprise. A few seconds later, her eyebrows knitted together in a confused yet thoughtful expression. “What are you talking about?’ she asked in a harder tone than she had previously been using.
Trevor opened his mouth but then quickly shut it again. He had a feeling he had said the wrong thing. “I just – It seemed like you and Justin were getting along well, so I encouraged him to take you on a date. I thought you would make a good match.” Why was that so bad? He was just trying to do a good deed for both of them; he thought it would make them happy.
Heather frowned. “You don’t think I can get a guy myself?” She placed her hands on her hips in indignation. “I bet you told him about Jacob, right? I don’t need a pity date, Trevor.”
Trevor gritted his teeth. “That is not what I meant.” Why could he never say the right thing? He did not understand women at all. “I thought it would be good for you to get out. Justin seemed to like you anyway.”
“Then you should have let him decide to ask me out on his own,” Heather retorted.
“Why does it matter anyway? You like him, don’t you? It doesn’t matter how it was initiated. Just take what you can get.” Really, what was the big deal?
Heather scoffed. “Oh, that’s very reassuring. I suppose I’m supposed to thank you, right?”
Trevor shrugged and looked away, his hands in his pockets. “It would be nice.” Rethinking the situation, this was a good way to get her to stay away from him. He should have been trying to mess up in the first place; he was going to keep it up.
“I can’t believe you,” Heather said. “I don’t see your motive. I thought I didn’t mean anything to you except as a babysitter for Liam.”
Trevor faltered for a moment but was able to recover and retain his cool. “Sure, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you out. Give you something else to do.” He shrugged. “I thought you would appreciate it.”
Heather crossed her arms and shot him an angry look. “Well, you thought wrong. Are you trying to get rid of me, Trevor Clifton?”
Yes, Trevor thought. But not for the reasons you think. “So what if I am? It’ll get Justin off my back too. He’s always hanging around me.” That was another truth. He was getting good at this.
Heather dropped her arms and stared at him in disbelief. “Really? You’re going to push away the only two adults you know in this city? In this state? Do you want to be more alone than you were in high school?”
Her statement struck him; it hurt because it was true. He had to fight hard to keep the pain from showing. High school… His past… He had been lonely. More than she could know. Maybe if he had met someone like her earlier… But he couldn’t change that now. He could survive on his own. He had to. “I don’t need anyone,” he said in a low growl.
Heather huffed before shaking her head. “You’re wrong. I saw your father the last time I was in Chicago. He said you even cut off ties with him and your mother. Really! I-”
Trevor’s eyes widened. He could hear nothing else after the mention of his father. Uncontrollable anger came over him and he rushed at Heather. Surprised, she back away from him until she was up against the wall. He placed his hands on either side of her head and fixed her with a deadly glare. “Do not talk to me about my father again. I don’t care what he thinks. He’s a traitor. He and my mother both. I’m glad to be rid of them.” But only physically. He still carried their genes. He was still cursed.
Heather looked at him with wide, frightened eyes. “What’s gotten into you?” she whispered.
Trevor’s anger ebbed enough for him to step back. This was Heather; she meant no harm. He clenched his fists at his side, gritted his teeth, and stared at the ground. He had to get her out of there for both of their sakes. “Go,” he said thickly. He could not look at her. He had to remain under control. He could not hurt her. She did not deserve to be in this situation; she needed to just leave.
Thankfully, he heard her gather her things and leave. He only relaxed when he heard the door close. Then he left himself, heading out to the balcony. He leaned against the railing and stared out, ignoring the cold air blowing on his skin.
He took deep breaths to try to calm himself. He could not believe he had lost his temper in front of Heather like that. He should have never been in a position to potentially hurt her. On the positive side, she would most likely stay away from him now. Hopefully, he had scared her away. She would be safe.
But her words kept haunting his mind. Yes, he was pushing everyone away, but he had good reason. They were all better off without him. Liam was the sole exception because he had nowhere else to go. But he, too, would have to leave once better arrangements were made. Trevor wondered if hockey could ever be enough to fill the deep longing for personal connection that he felt in the depths of his soul.