Ice skaters of all ages glided across the large piece of ice. There was a rink off to the side with goals for practicing hockey. Several people were there practicing shots. They were indoors, so most only wore sweatshirts, including Trevor, Heather, and Justin. Liam, on the other hand, was dressed in a warm hat, gloves, and winter coat.
“You are such a Texan,” Trevor said, shaking his head in mock disappointment. “Now let’s put your skates on.”
“I don’t want to skate!” Liam cried. “I’m scared! I don’t know how.”
“You’ve watched us plenty of times, haven’t you?” Justin asked gently.
“Yes, but that was never me!”
Heather bent down to look at him. “We’ll be right beside you. We won’t let you fall.”
Liam looked at her with big eyes. “Really?”
Heather smiled at him. “Of course.” She patted his head and stood up.
“Liam, if you try, I’ll buy you any authentic Wild jersey you want,” Trevor said.
Liam looked at him, his eyes widening. “Awesome! I like the Wild. Watching hockey is cool.”
Trevor smiled slightly. “Good.” That was one Texan converted. Too bad the Stars couldn’t have done more.
“I want your jersey,” Liam declared.
Trevor blinked in surprise. “What?” For a second, he had forgotten he was a player the kid could choose. It felt like he was in a different world when he was with him.
Liam smiled. “You’re my favorite player,” he said happily.
Trevor was not sure how to respond. He had never heard anyone say that to him before. He glanced at Heather and she smiled at him. Looking back at Liam, he felt an odd feeling he could not place.
“What about me?” Justin teased.
Liam frowned for a second before smiling again and saying, “You’re my second favorite!”
Justin laughed. “Great. Now let’s get your skates on so you can get out on the ice.”
Liam nodded. He sat down on a bench and began taking off his boots. Heather knelt down and helped him lace up his skates once he had them on. The adults were already ready to go. When Liam was finished, Heather took his hand and stood up with him. She then glanced at Trevor and said, “Get on his other side.”
Trevor quickly did as he was told. Liam smiled up at him when he held onto his other hand. Trevor looked away, feeling awkward. “Ok, let’s go,” Heather said brightly.
The three of them walked until they stood at the edge of the ice. Liam took a cautious step forward. Trevor and Heather held onto him as he wobbled. A second later, both of the boy’s feet were on the ice. “Take it slow,” Heather said.
“Don’t pick your feet up,” Trevor added. “Move your legs forward.”
Liam slowly began to move forward. His two companions were there to keep his balance. Soon, the kid was gliding along the ice. “This isn’t so bad,” he said.
“Let us know when you want us to let go,” Heather said. “We’ll still skate beside you to catch you if you start to fall.”
“Ok,” he murmured. After a minute more of skating with help, he said, “You can let go now.”
“You sure?” Heather said.
Trevor and Heather let go of his hands. The boy moved forward on his own. He started to wobble, but he caught himself and continued on. “You’re doing great,” Trevor sad encouragingly. He skated by his side to be there in case he needed him.
“He’s a future pro,” Justin said from behind them.
Trevor glanced back at him for a second and saw that he was grinning. “We’ll get a stick in his hand next time.”
Heather chuckled. “What’s wrong with skating for the pleasure of it? Does it always have to be about hockey?”
Trevor and Justin exchanged glances and then looked at her and said, “Yes.”
Heather smirked and rolled her eyes. She looked back at Liam and smiled. “Good job, honey. Keep it up.”
Trevor let her stay with the kid while he skated behind with Justin. His mind wandered to the game the next day. It would be the second Sunday game of the year. He could not believe it was already December. Minnesota was showing it too. It was cold, and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. The Chicagoan grew excited at the prospect of more of it. He knew it would come soon.
What was also exciting was how the Wild’s season was turning around. They were one of the best teams in November, losing only four games, and December looked promising as well. Their record was now 16 to 10. Trevor was amazed at the turn of events. Could they make the playoffs? It was still too early predict, but that was the goal. Trevor was growing more confident with each game. He was going to make himself known in this state. With a smile, he thought Heather’s work ethic was rubbing off on him. He just hoped the influence was not working the other way as well.
Trevor’s thoughts snapped back to the present when he saw Liam fall. He immediately rushed out to him, skating like a professional. Heather was already by the boy’s side, helping him up. “Are you ok?” she asked gently.
Liam sniffed and nodded. “I think so.” When Trevor reached him, the kid turned to him and hugged him.
Trevor blinked in surprise and awkwardly hugged him back. “It’s ok,” he said quietly.
Heather gently stroked the boy’s hair. She was sitting on the ice. “We’re here for you.”
“Everyone falls at first,” Trevor said. “I did.”
Liam pulled away from him and looked up at him with big, round eyes. “Really?”
Trevor nodded. “Sure. Do you want to try again?”
Liam smiled slightly. “Ok.”
Heather stood up and put a hand on his shoulder. “Come on.” She and Trevor held onto his hands again to get him started.
“Let go,” Liam said after a minute. “I want to skate on my own now.”
“Ok,” Heather said with a soft smile. She stayed behind with Trevor as he boy skated off. “He’s a got a great spirit.”
“Yes,” Trevor agreed. “It’s a good thing too. He’ll be fine.” The kid would be strong enough to face life’s trials.
Heather smiled at him and touched his arm. “You’ve helped a lot with that.”
Trevor frowned. “I just did what I had to do.” He had not seen much of a choice; he had been persuaded into it.
“And how many people would even do that?”
Trevor shrugged and looked away. He did not want to talk about it. It was duty. Besides, the kid was innocent. What else could he have done? He only had one rational option available to him.
“I’m going to make sure he’s alright,” Heather said.
Trevor nodded. His eyes lingered on her as he watched her go. He let out a small sigh. He was not sure how well this friendship thing was going. Even if they could succeed at it, he would always want more; he would always feel this strong attraction towards her.
“You two are great with him,” Justin said from his side.
Trevor knitted his eyebrows together. “I guess so.” He paused. “Heather certainly is. She knows what she’s doing.”
“And you two work well together,” Justin said wistfully. Trevor did not comment. “You’ve got something there. Some sort of chemistry that she and I could never have.”
Trevor turned to him in surprise. “What are you talking about?”
Justin looked at him sadly. “It’s obvious how you two feel about each other. Why are you trying to deny it?”
Trevor frowned. He did not know his teammate was so perceptive. He sighed. “Because she’s better with you.”
Justin cocked his head to the side. “But what if she wants you?”
Trevor gritted his teeth. “She shouldn’t.”
“I think that’s up to her,” Justin said with a twisted smile. “Why go out with a girl who would be happier with someone else?”
“She wouldn’t,” Trevor mumbled.
“Just keep telling yourself that,” Justin said. “But if she’s persistent enough, you’re eventually going to have to answer a very important question.”
Trevor turned and raised his eyebrows at him. “And what is that?”
“Will you put your desires above her own?”
Trevor could not remember being more nervous before a game. The Wild were playing the Blackhawks at home. Not only did he have a strong desire to beat his hometown team, but he also wanted to impress them. He had to make himself look good in front of them so that they would pay attention to him and perhaps see him as a potential candidate for their team.
The Wild had just returned from a five road game trip, winning four of them, making their record now 20 to 11. Trevor hoped the momentum would help them beat Chicago. There was not a team Trevor wanted to beat more, save for perhaps the Stars, but those games were still a ways away. He stood with each of his hands against his locker, leaning and looking down. His breathing was heavy. He had to concentrate. He flinched when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s going to be fine,” Justin said.
Trevor looked at him but did not say anything. It was annoying how positive his teammate was all the time. How could he possibly know everything was going to be fine? Usually, things just took a turn for the worst.
Justin removed his hand. “Just play hard and whatever happens will happen.”
“That’s very encouraging,” Trevor remarked bitterly. It was true, but it was not very helpful.
Justin shrugged. “Just make sure you’re mentally prepared.” He turned and walked back to his own locker.
Trevor took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His teammate was right about that at least. He had to keep calm and not stress about the game. He was successful at keeping his breathing and heart rate at normal pace as he finished getting ready. Then he headed to the rink.
Chicago’s relatively close proximity to the Twin Cities meant that there were many Blackhawk fans in the stadium. Trevor tried not to look at them. He tried not to think about how he had dreamed of playing in a game like this since he was a child – except he was now playing for the wrong team. He told himself he had to do this. It would further his goals. Nothing else would matter.
Trevor was starting in the front line. This was the first time he had faced off with this team. He was grateful for the opportunity. A big, burly Blackhawk stood in front of him, poised and ready for the signal. “Don’t think we’ll be going easy on you because you’re from Chicago,” the player chided.
“And don’t think I’ll go easy on you because I grew up a fan of your team,” Trevor growled.
The whistle blew. Trevor fought for the puck, but it slipped past his stick. He clenched his teeth in frustration. He turned around to follow the movement of the puck with his eyes. His team’s defenders were already after it. He tried to push negative thoughts form his mind, but it was hard.
Trevor did not do much better the next time the puck was on his side of the rink. At least he did not earn any penalties, which he would have by then when he was with the Stars. Nevertheless, he was soon replaced with another player. He glowered as he sat down on the bench.
He got another chance to play late in the second period. It did not start out well. In an effort to keep down his frustration, weariness was beginning to overcome him. After the puck had been stolen from him on one occasion, he stood leaning against the side, panting.
That was when he decided to look up at the stands. His eyes immediately found Liam and Heather. Liam was wearing Trevor’s jersey. Trevor was surprised to see that Heather was wearing a Wild jersey as well. He had not known she even owned one. He knew she was a Blackhawk fan. For her to wear a Wild jersey at this game spoke volumes about her loyalties.
Trevor turned his attention back to the game. He felt new strength entering his muscles. A look of determination crossed his face. He could do this. He rushed forward with unexpected speed. “Over here!” he called to Justin, who had caught hold of the puck.
Most of the Chicago defenders had left him off to the side near the net. Once his teammate passed him the puck, he skated for the goal. An opposing player tried to ram into him, but he pushed him out of the way. The net was nearing. Trevor quickly raised his stick and slapped it against the puck. The puck flew into the air, passed the goaltender, and hit the back of the net. Trevor felt a surge of triumph as the horn rang out. The score was now two to two. He skated back to his line for another faceoff.
Trevor’s playing improved greatly over the course of the game. Unfortunately, it was not enough. The Blackhawks won four to three. Still, Trevor felt a sense of accomplishment as he walked back to the locker room.
“We’ll get them next time,” Justin said as he passed.
Trevor nodded, actually believing him this time. “Next time. In Chicago.” He would be ready.
“I can see why you want to go to them,” David growled as he walked past him.Trevor frowned slightly. How had he known about that? He must have said it in an interview or something. Or maybe it was just obvious. He shrugged. It was not his problem; he just had to focus on his game and work hard to achieve his dream.