The clouds had returned, and with them came more snow. Trevor ignored the wind as he walked down the street. He did not know where he was going, and he did not particularly care. It was the first of February. Nothing had gone well for him the past week. His relationship with Liam was tense, and he ignored Heather and Justin.
He knew he needed to talk to them. He needed to talk to them all. Heather had been right; this could not go on. He knew what he had to do. None of them would like it, but it was necessary if he wanted to preserve his sanity.
He stopped when he reached a lake frozen over with ice. It was much larger than anything he had seen in Dallas, but the locals still called it small. Skaters of all ages glided across the ice. In a corner, someone had set up wooden hockey goals. Young players practiced their skills against each other. Trevor remembered when that had been him. All he had wanted to do was make it to the pros. Why did life seem so much harder and more complicated than it had back then?
“Are you Trevor Clifton?”
Trevor looked down at a young boy wearing a Wild jersey in surprise. No fan had ever recognized him. It took him a moment to respond. “Yes.”
The boy beamed up at him. “Will you sign my jersey?” He held up a pen and turned around.
“Sure,” Trevor said awkwardly. He took the pen and scribbled his signature across the top of the jersey. It was a weird feeling. He had not signed many autographs in his career, and none like this.
The boy turned around and grinned at him, taking back the pen. “Thanks!” Then he dashed off.
Trevor watched him leave calmly, curiosity pricking him. It felt good to be recognized and to know he had a fan; it reminded him of his dream. A second later, he shook his head. That was just one kid. No one else cared about him.
He gazed back at the ice. He had to tell them the next time he could. He had to focus on hockey. Things had to go back to the way they were when he was with the Stars. His career had to matter above all else. He had to let everything and everyone else go.
Trevor had wanted to make an impression his first time back at the American Airlines Center. It should have been easy to win in Texas. They knew nothing about hockey. And yet, the Wild lost to the Stars two to one. It was a close, defensive game, but the home team won out in the end. To make matters worse, it was a perfectly warm, beautiful day outside. There was not even a chill in the air.
Trevor was seething has he walked with his teammates to the away team’s locker room. Mechanically, he almost went into the Stars room. He had to remind himself that he was no longer part of their team. Maybe that was why he had messed up so much during the game; it felt weird to be playing against Dallas in that stadium.
When Trevor entered the room, he banged his fists against one of the lockers. “How did we lose?” he growled to his team.
His teammates looked over at him and shrugged. They seemed tired and worn out, like they did not really care about the answer to the question.
“It’s Texas!” Trevor went on. “This should have been easy.”
“Hey, we tried our best,” said Ethan.
Trevor ignored him. “Do you know how humiliating it is to lose to a southern team, and the team that we replaced? This is unacceptable!”
“We’re not the problem!” David said angrily, pushing his way through the players to stand by Ethan. “You’re the one who hasn’t been playing to his potential all season. The rest of us have been picking up your slack!”
Trevor turned on him, his anger rising. “I’ve been trying but nothing works! Just because you’re form Canada doesn’t mean you know everything about hockey. No one here appreciates me.”
“You have to earn respect,” Ethan said calmly. “We’ll give you a chance is you give us one.”
David snorted. “Like that would ever happen. He’s from Chicago.”
“Chicago is a whole lot better than here!” Trevor nearly yelled at him. He was no longer speaking before he was speaking; his anger was controlling his actions and words.
“Hey, calm down buddy,” Justin said. He reached out his hand to touch Trevor’s shoulder, but Trevor jerked away from him.
“Will you stay away from me?” he growled.
“What?” Justin said in confusion.
“I am not your friend and I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want anything to do with you aside from when we’re on the ice.”
Justin looked hurt. “Where is this coming from, Trevor?” he asked in a soft voice. “I thought we were getting along.”
“Well, you thought wrong,” Trevor snarled. He felt guilty for hurting him, but it was better this way. “Just stay out of my life.” Because you’re better off without me.
“That’s not cool, man,” a Wild player said.
Justin shook his head and sighed. “Fine,” he said wearily. “If that’s the way you want to be. I hope you realize you’ll have nothing when you’re alone.”
Trevor’s face softened when he saw that the Wild players had begun murmuring amongst each other. Had he just cut himself off from them as well? This was going to be great for career advancement. But perhaps they were better off without him as well. Maybe he was good for nothing, not even hockey. If that was true, he wondered what was the point of his life.
Dark grey clouds in the distance threatened a blizzard. The wind violently tore snow from trees. Trevor was oblivious to the weather as he stood in his apartment. Liam sat on the couch, watching him curiously. They were waiting for Heather, though the boy did not know why. Trevor’s heart felt like lead as he went over in his head what it was that he must do.
Heather flung the door open without even knocking’ Trevor had left it unlocked before. Her eyes were almost wild as she stormed into the living room. “Trevor! What is this about?” She looked at Liam in surprise, as if seeing him for the first time.
“We need to talk,” Trevor said. He looked down at Liam and said, “All of us.” His heart felt heavy; he tried to push his feelings back. This was a choice he had made with his head, not his heard. He knew it was the right one.
Heather crossed her arms and frowned. “Is this about our discussion the other night?”
Trevor nodded, acknowledging her perceptiveness. “Yes, it is.”
“What discussion?” Liam asked.
Trevor shook his head. “That’s not important.” He sighed, running his hand through his hair. This was hard. He just had to do it. “Look, guys, this can’t go on. Something has to change. I can’t be the man you want or need me to be.”
Liam blinked. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t involve Liam in this,” Heather said softly. “You’ve been good for him.”
“Not as good as I should have been,” Trevor growled. “I never wanted this situation to be permanent. Neither did his mom. It was an emergency. We always meant to work something else out.”
“But I like this situation!” Liam said. “I don’t want to go to anyone else.”
“What about Heather?” Trevor asked to gain control of the conversation.
“What?” Heather said in shock.
Trevor waved his hand at her to get her to be quiet. “Just answer the question, Liam. Would you be fine with living with Heather?”
Liam frowned. He seemed to be contemplating something. Finally, he said, “Yes, but I would still rather live with you.”
“And I would rather he live with you too,” Heather said. “Are you trying to get rid of us?”
“Yes,” Trevor said without blinking.
“Why?” Liam cried.
“You’ll understand when you’re older.”
“I want to understand now!”
“Trevor, stop this!” Heather said. “You need us.”
Trevor looked from Liam two Heather with narrowed eyes. “But you don’t need me.” And that meant everything in the world. He glanced at the kid. “I’m sorry, Liam, but this has been going on long enough. It’s time to move on.”
“Justin said something was going on with you,” Heather said.
Trevor looked at her, startled. “You talked to Justin.” He thought they had stopped talking once they stopped dating.
“Yes. He’s worried about you. He said you’re distancing yourself from the team. And now you’re doing the same to us. Do you want to end up completely alone?”
“Now you’re getting it,” Trevor said with a wry smile.
Heather stamped her foot. “Trevor! This is ridiculous!” She looked at him with narrowed eyes. “You’re unbelievable.”
“Which is why you should get out while you can,” he said calmly. He focused on the words he was saying and nothing else. It was the only way he could get through this.
Liam got up, ran over to Heather, and hugged her leg. She was glaring at Trevor, but she put a comforting hand on the kid’s shoulder. “You’re afraid, Trevor! You’re afraid to try! You’re afraid to find out how good you can be because then you’ll have no excuse for not being that person. Is that why you pushed away your parents?”
“Shut up!” Trevor growled, getting angry. He thought he had made it clear that he did not want to talk about them. He was not sure he could control his temper, even in front of Heather.
Liam closed his eyes and pressed his face against Heather’s leg. “No,” Heather said indignantly. “Your father changed, but you denied it and pushed him away because he was proof that you could change too.”
“Shut up!” Trevor cried. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Then explain it to me,” Heather said, putting her hands on her hips. “Why can’t you forgive your dad? Why can’t you admit that there’s more good in the world than you choose to see?”
“Because there’s not! And because my father did too much damage to take back!”
“But if you think most people do bad stuff all the time, are we supposed to just sit around hating each other?” Heather rolled her eyes. “It seems to me that the world would be a lot better place if instead we all forgive each other and tried to do better next time.”
“I can’t!” There was a look of panic in his eyes. Why was she doing this to him? Why could she not just let him go?
“Can’t or won’t?”
“You don’t know my parents!”
Heather crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re right, I don’t. But neither do you. Why don’t you try talking to them and actually listening to what they have to say?”
“They betrayed me!” Trevor shouted angrily.
Heather shook her head. “If you want to right every wrong, you’ll end up all alone. But apparently, that’s what you want. Or what you say you want.”
Trevor turned away from her. “My parents were glad to be rid of me.”
Heather let out a heavy sigh. “I hope that’s not true, but I’m not the one you should be asking.”
Liam let go of Heather’s leg and stepped forward. His face was tear-stained. “Trevor, don’t you like us anymore?” he said in a trembling voice.
Trevor tried not to let the kid affect his emotions. “Of course,” he said more gently than before. “That’s why you have to get out of here.”
“I don’t get it.”
“His pride is too strong for him to see what is good for him,” Heather said softly, putting her arms around the child. “He can’t accept any mistakes.”
“Just go!” Trevor shouted. “I don’t want you here!” He tried fast to hold onto his anger, for it was a better feeling than what he knew would come to replace it if he let it slip away. Anger held him together. “Everything was better before I ever came to this stupid state!”
Liam broke out crying and turned away from him. Heather picked him up and held him in her arms. Then she glared at Trevor. “Better because you were never challenged to actually live a real life? Have fun with the Blackhawks, if you ever make it that far.” She turned and stormed towards the door.
Trevor had an urge to throw something after them, but he held back; it would not do any good. He stood there glaring at the door long after they had left. He did not want to face the truth of the life he would now have to leave. He did not want to look around his apartment; he knew what he would see. He could not admit the word he felt permeating throughout his being.