Trevor did not have a chance to talk to Justin until the next home game the next Tuesday. He was not in a mood for peaceful conversation. He stormed through the locker room filled with hockey players until he got to Justin’s locker. He roughly placed his hand on his teammate’s shoulder to make him turn around.
Justin looked at him in surprise. “Hello, Trevor. May I help you?”
Trevor had no time for pleasantries. “What did you say to Heather?” he growled.
A puzzled look crossed Justin’s face. “What are you talking about?”
“You broke up with her,” Trevor said, seething. “You’re supposed to be together. You’re perfect together.”
“We disagree,” Justin said slowly. “And I’m sorry, but it’s not really your concern.”
“Heather is my concern! She’s been my concern since high school!”
Justin frowned. “I see. And you’re just a caring friend?”
Trevor crossed his arms. “What else would I be?”
Justin shrugged. “I thought you would be happy. Don’t you want to be with her?” He raised his eyebrows expectantly.
This caused Trevor’s anger to ebb a little. He backed away and was silent for a moment. “It does not matter what I want,” he said slowly. “I’m only thinking about her.”
Something flickered in Justin’s eyes. “We should talk about this some other time.”
Why did everyone want to talk? Then again, perhaps it was not such a bad idea. They had issues to settle. “Fine. Thursday in Chicago,” he snapped. He was not as optimistic about the game against the Blackhawks as he once had been. His team had only won two games since they played them in December. Something had gone terribly wrong.
Justin shrugged. “Ok. Works for me. I’ve never gotten to see much of Chicago.”
“I’ll show you what you need to know,” Justin said before turning and departing.
“What’s there to see in Chicago?” David’s voice sneered. “Destruction and violence? Oh, wait, that’s just the Southside.”
Trevor rolled his eyes, suppressing a groan. “There’s a lot more in Chicago than that barren land you come from. When is the last time Canada has ever done something important? I don’t think ever.”
David crossed his arms and glared at him. “Where do you think hockey started? There’s a reason why the NHL is made up of mostly Canadians.”
“Don’t forget the Minnesotans,” Trevor said.
“I thought you didn’t like them.”
Trevor shrugged. “I like them better than you.”
David growled but did not say anything else. Trevor was glad.
The wind was strong when the team reached Chicago, blowing fresh snow up into the air and hitting people’s faces. Trevor ignored the snow and chilly temperature as he walked down the street with his hands in his coat pockets, Justin by his side. His black scarf shielded most of his face from the elements.
They had been walking silently for several minutes. Being back in the Southside brought a swarm of memories to the front of Trevor’s mind. He viewed each one passively, and then let it go to view the next. This is how he passed the time until Justin decided to speak:
“This place isn’t too bad.”
“It’s home.” Trevor looked straight ahead, his hands in his jean pockets. He saw Justin glance at him out of the corner of his eye.
“You really want to play here, don’t you?”
Trevor turned his head to look at him. “Of course. It’s been my dream since I was a child.”
“You never wanted anything else?”
Trevor shrugged. Once in high school he had wanted Heather, but he could not tell his teammate this. “Nothing else seemed to matter.” Nothing else was achievable. He was good at hockey; it was safe. It was his best option.
“So, hockey’s all you care about? Is that why you don’t have time for Heather?”
Trevor’s eyes narrowed and his muscles tensed. “I care about her more than you can imagine,” he said darkly. “That’s why I can’t be with her.” He looked away.
“I don’t understand.”
“She didn’t either,” Trevor said casually as he kept walking.
“Will you explain it to me?”
Trevor stopped. He turned around to face his teammate. “You know me. You’ve seen me at games. You should know how I am. I’m not good with people. I don’t think most are worth knowing. The ones who are are better off not knowing me. I wanted you to be with Heather because I thought you would be good for her. A whole lot better than me. All I’ll ever be good at is hockey. I could never be a good enough person for someone like Heather.” He turned and began walking again.
“I still don’t get it,” Justin said, jogging to keep up with him. “If you don’t think you’re good enough, why don’t you try to become better?”
“It’s impossible.” Trevor kept his focus straight ahead.
“Well, how do you know if you don’t try?”
“If I try and fail, Heather will end up getting hurt.”
“But what if you succeed?”
Trevor stopped walking. He was silent for a minute before responding, not looking at Justin. “It’s not worth the risk.”
“I really think that’s her decision. She would be the one taking the risk.”
Trevor shook his head. “Why should I do something I know will fail? I’m not good for anything except hockey.”
Justin walked around so he was facing him. “You’re believing a lie,” he said, seriousness in his eyes. With his fingers, he held the cross that was around his neck and held it out so Trevor could see. “Do you see this?”
Trevor rolled his eyes and turned to walk away. “Don’t preach to me.”
Justin grabbed his shoulder and turned him back around. “No. You need to hear this. Do you know why Jesus had to die on the Cross? It’s because we’re all sinners. We’re all no good. You’re no more special than anyone else out there. Jesus died and rose so that we could start over and have new life. He gave us hope. We don’t have to be satisfied with our wicked ways. Each and one of us is capable of real change. I would probably be like you if not for my faith. The difference between us is that I don’t let my mistakes and faults get me down. I recognize what I did wrong, but then I get back up and try to do better. You let your errors drag you even deeper into your hole. There is a way out. Take it one step at a time.”
Trevor let out a heavy sigh and ran his hand though his dark hair. “I don’t know if I can believe that,” he murmured. He wanted to, but it was too hard. It went against everything he had ever known and believed. He shook his head. “I just see too much evil in the world to have any hope.”
“Change starts with one person. You can be a light that spreads across the world.”
Trevor smiled ruefully. “That sounds nice, but it’s a lot harder to put it into practice.”
Justin shrugged. “Start with yourself. Be the best you you can be.”
Trevor frowned. “I’m not sure I know who that is.”
Justin smiled. There was a sparkle in his eye. “I bet Heather does.”
Trevor suppressed a groan. “Are we back to that topic again?”
Justin chuckled, and the two of them resumed walking. “You’ll be surprised how much a good woman can change you for the better. That’s what happened to my father. I doubt any guy could ever be good enough for a great woman. But that’s a good thing. It gives us a goal to continually strive for. It becomes our purpose to make ourselves worthy.”
“And if I fail?”
“Are you afraid to fail in hockey?”
Trevor furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “What?”
Justin shrugged. “Are you trying to be the best hockey player you can be?”
Trevor blinked. “Sure, when I think there’s a chance for advancing my goals. Why work hard for a failing team? I try, but it gets you down.”
“Well, the best athletes are the ones who can become great under the worst circumstances. They’re the ones who stand out, and they are the ones who will eventually succeed. You can’t choose your circumstances. You can just make the best of what you’re given. Sometimes, the only way up is to climb.”
Trevor stared at him, letting it all sink in. How did he always wind up in these confusing, philosophical conversations? “We should get back to the hotel,” he mumbled. He was glad when Justin did not argue with him. They need not speak on the way back; Trevor was left alone with his thoughts.
The sun shone brightly over the snow-caked earth. Temperatures dipped below zero as there were no clouds to hold in heat. Kids, dressed in their warmest attire, were sledding down a large hill behind a school while parents called down to them not to get hurt slamming into ice chunks. The kids giggled and ignored their parents’ pleas.
Trevor and Heather stood at the top of the hill looking down. “Tell us when you want hot chocolate!” Heather called down the hill. “We’ve got some in the car!”
“Ok!” Liam called form the bottom of the hill. He grabbed his sled and began the trudge back up.
Heather looked at Trevor and smiled. “Did you do much sledding when you were young?”
Trevor shrugged. “Some. Before things got bad at home.”
Heather’s smile fell. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
Trevor did not respond. He stepped back a few paces before sitting down in the snow. He pulled his legs up to his chest and wrapped his arms around him. Heather soon joined him in a similar position, except she slung her arms over her knees. Trevor glanced at her for a second before looking straight ahead again. He was remembering his talk with Justin a previous week. He did not know how to make much sense of it. How was he supposed to know if it was true? Finally, he could not keep silent anymore. “Do you believe in God?” he asked for a lack of a better way to start.
“Of course,” Heather said automatically. “Don’t you?”
“I don’t know,” Trevor admitted. “It’s not something I’ve thought about much. It didn’t seem to matter. I always thought that, if there was a God, He did not care much about us.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Heather said, shaking her head. “I’ve seen God work great miracles in people’s lives. And those with faith seem to be a lot happier. I’m not perfect in that area. I like to do things on my own. Sometimes I have to step back and remind myself that God is the one in control, not me.”
Trevor looked at her. “Is He really?”
Heather smiled at him sympathetically. “Yes. I have to believe that everything happens for a reason, even if we can’t see it.”
“Then why won’t he help me?” He stopped, wondering why he had just said that; he was letting out too much.
Heather tilted her head to the side slightly. “Because you haven’t asked.”
A sudden emotion came over Trevor. He dropped his arms and turned to Heather. “Would He help me change?”
Heather looked at him in surprise. Her mouth was slightly open, but she did not say anything.
“I don’t want to be like this,” he went on in a shaky voice. “I want to have a better life. I don’t know how.”
Heather looked at him in sympathy. She bent her knees down and opened her arms. “Come here,” she said softly.
Trevor crawled over to her obediently. She wrapped her arms around him and he leaned his head against her shoulder. The closeness filled him with warmth from the cold. His breathing was heavy and labored, but it calmed as he sat there with her. He closed his eyes. He wished that this could be enough to make everything better.
“You can’t do this alone.” Heather said quietly into his ear. “You have to let people help you. Just take it one step at a time.”
“I don’t know how,” Trevor said.
“Stop pushing people away. Take a chance and see who you can be.”
“I’m afraid,” Trevor finally said. This was the first time he had admitted that to anyone, even himself.
“Afraid of failing?”
“Afraid of the truth. I’m afraid that if I search for it, I will find that everything I already think in believe is true. And then there would be no way out because I would know for certain.”
Heather touched his face lightly, causing him to open his eyes to look at her. A mixture of emotions swarmed in her eyes, sadness seeming the most predominant. “Isn’t it better to know the truth than to spend your whole life wondering if you could have had something more?”
Trevor hesitated. “I-” He stopped. He placed his hand on top of Heather’s, reveling in the warmth. “I don’t know if I have the strength to try.” He gazed at her wearily. “I’ve been hurt too much. It’s taken everything out of me.”
Heather dropped her hand; her other arm was still around his back. “Maybe you’ve got to find something worth fighting for,” she said in almost a whisper.
Trevor did not have time to respond. He jerked away from Heather when he heard a thud in front of them. Liam was in his knees, his sled in his hand and a grin on his face. “Y’all should try this,” he said.
Trevor blinked. “No thanks. I’m good.” He was not interested in childish activities; he had much more important problems to tackle.
Liam stood up. He turned to a man who had two sleds by his feet. “Can we borrow those?” he asked, pointing to the sleds.
The man glanced at him and shrugged. “Sure. Just bring them back.”
Liam took hold of the sleds and brought them over to Trevor and Heather. “Let’s have a race.”
Heather chuckled as she stood up, taking hold of Trevor’s hands to help him up as well. “Come on, Trevor. Let’s do it.”
Trevor sighed. He supposed he did not have much of a choice. He took one of the sleds from Liam. It was a swirl of orange and yellow. The three of them got into a line, Heather in the middle.
“Ok, go!” Liam exclaimed.
Trevor had to think quickly to remember how to do this. He pushed off the ground with his feet. The sled tipped over the hill and began to slide down. His eyes widened as the wind rushed past his face. This was actually kind of fun! He found himself smiling a little. The kid really knew what he was talking about. At the end of the hill, he hit an icy rock and went flying off the sled. He landed in a heap of snow.
“Trevor wins,” Liam said with a laugh.
Trevor struggled to get free from the snow. He stood up and shivered. His whole body felt wet and cold. Heather and Liam were grinning at him.
“You look ridiculous,” Heather said.
Trevor was about to roll his eyes, but an idea hit him. He smirked instead. “Oh yeah?” He bent down near the pile of snow and quickly formed a ball with his hands, which knew exactly what to do from his time as a child. Then he pulled his arm back and threw the snowball at Heather.
Heather let out a gasp. “I can’t believe you just did that!”
Liam laughed. “I can. That was funny.”
“Do you want one too?” Trevor said, bending down again.
Liam’s eyes widened. He quickly fell to the ground and began messing with the snow itself.
Heather was doing the same thing. “You asked for it.” Trevor ducked, missing the snowball she threw at him.
“Nice try,” he said. He ran behind the pile of snow for cover. He could see the other two finding similar patches. The war had begun.