Trevor stared out the window at the neighborhood. He was sitting on a chair in the kitchen, leaning against a ledge under the window. The room was petite and smelled like cinnamon. His mother stood behind him gazing at him. It was his third day in Chicago, and yet time seemed to stretch on and on. It felt like it had been years ago that he had been in Minnesota. In a way, it had been. He wished he had gone searching for answers much sooner. Maybe then he would not have found himself in such a big of a mess.
“When are you going home?”
Trevor turned around to face his mother, struck by the word “home.” The only place he had ever given that title to was Chicago, and certainly never a place like Minnesota. He frowned as he realized that the implication did not sound all that crazy. “Tomorrow morning,” he said slowly. “I have a game on Tuesday.” He paused, thinking of something. “You can come sometime if you want. I’ll get you a ticket.”
smiled slightly. “That would be nice. Thank you, dear. Would you like some hot
Trevor nodded. He followed her into the kitchen.
“So, how do you like Minnesota?” she asked as she opened a cupboard.
Trevor shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not bad.”
Ashley filled two mugs with water before placing them in the microwave. “Will you come back here soon?”
Trevor hesitated. “I’ll visit sometime. I don’t know when.” He paused. “I hear Minnesota is pretty nice in the summer.” He let the meaning of his own words sink in, taking it calmly.
“You’re living in St. Paul, right?”
“Right,” Trevor said. “Besides the Wild and the capitol, there’s not much there. Everything else in the Twin Cities is in Minneapolis. But don’t tell anyone from St. Paul that Minneapolis is better. They have a rivalry going on, like with the two sides of Chicago.” A small smile formed on his face.
“That sounds like something you would enjoy,” his mother said as she continued to prepare their drinks.
Trevor nodded. “It’s amusing. And familiar. Minnesotans hate Wisconsin too, so I can connect with them on that.” Not that the Vikings were that much better than the Packers.
Ashley took the mugs out of the microwave. “How is the weather?”
Trevor smiled. “It’s great. It’s colder than Chicago, but I enjoy it. There’s tons of snow. It sure beats Texas. It’s not a bad place to play hockey either. Everyone there is obsessed with the sport on all levels. High school hockey is huge. Minnesotans know how to get excited about the sport. They even got a Texan to love it – something the Stars couldn’t do. When not talking sports, the people are pretty friendly. Hockey seems to bring them together. When they’re doing anything with hockey, it doesn’t matter their differences. It’s almost like a big family.”
Trevor had not really realized what he was saying until he had said it. But it was true. Minnesota was not a bad place to play hockey at all. And the community feel around the sport was something he could have only dreamed of as a child. He was beginning to think that his father was not the only one he had severely misjudged.
“That’s great,” Ashley said, handing him a mug. “Are they big Wild fans, though? I heard they were still mourning the North Stars.”
Trevor shook his head, taking the mug. “No, it’s not like that. They care about the Wild. They’ve moved on. I can see that now. They just know that the past is too important to forget about it and act like it never happened.” He took a sip of the chocolate, enjoying the rich taste. “They don’t want to forget something that was important to them, but it doesn’t seem to be holding them back. Remembering helps them move on.”
His mother was watching him curiously. “Interesting,” she murmured.
Trevor nodded and looked down at his hot chocolate. He was not sure when he had come to that conclusion either. Everything seemed to be much clearer now, like he was seeing everything for the first time. It was easy to think. He looked back up at his mother calmly and said, “I’m going to go walk around the city one last time.”
“Ok,” his mother said, smiling at him faintly. “I’ll get dinner started.”
The words were familiar, reminding him of his childhood. He felt a tightening in his chest. He shook his head and walked out; he had to figure this out. He had to feel whole again.
Trevor passed by the city on foot. It was cold, but the sun was out, and when its rays hit him directly, it warmed his skin. He was almost numb to either feeling. He was too busy gazing at everything in sight. He did not know when he would be back. He did not know if he could ever come back for good. He was wrestling with a startling realization: perhaps this place was not meant for him.
Something made him stop by a mechanic’s shop. He recognized the man who came out. It was Scott, one of his friends from high school.
“Trevor?” Scott said in surprise as he walked up to him. “Is that you?”
Trevor smiled slightly. “It’s me. I’m just visiting.” He had mixed feelings about seeing his friend again; he thought he had left him in his past.
Scott grinned. “It’s great to see you. You made it to the NHL, right?”
Trevor nodded. “That’s right.”
“That’s so cool!”
Trevor looked behind him at the shop. “What have you been doing with yourself?”
“I work here,” Scott said, pointing to the shop behind him.
Trevor blinked. He was unimpressed. It did not seem like a great job. “Didn’t you go to college for something?” Surely he could have gotten a better job.
“I did, but I had to drop out to support my son.” Scott shrugged. “I didn’t plan on it, but that’s life, right? I’m just cruising along, enjoying it. A bunch of the other guys are still around here. You should come and hang with us sometime. We could have some real fun.”
Trevor frowned. The idea did not sound too appealing to him. “Maybe,” he mumbled. Had this guy really been one of his best friends? Then again, they had never done anything meaningful together. Except for his goal of the NHL, Trevor had been like them. Carefree and just living life. That did not seem good enough for him anymore. He wanted something better. He wanted to be someone better. “I’m leaving soon and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
Scott’s smile fell. “Oh, ok. Well, whenever you do come by, just drop me a line.”
Trevor nodded. “Will do. See you later, Scott.” He turned and began down the street again, alone again with his thoughts. When he was out of earshot, he let out a heavy sigh. That encounter had been a wakeup call; he did not want to end up like his friend. He could see the truth now. He wanted to be someone better; he could be someone better. He knew what he had to do to achieve it.
Clouds were finally rolling in. Snow was possible, but for now, the air was dry. Trevor stared out the airport window as he waited to board his plane. He could see planes arriving and taking off, knowing he would soon be on one of them. He had an emotion that was hard to place. He had left Chicago many times in the past, but he knew this time was different. This time, he had to say goodbye to his city for real. He had to give it up. It was the only way he could move on.
It was not Chicago itself. The city was great. He still loved it. He had thought it had been where he belonged. Maybe it was, but he could not stay there. Too much of his past was tied with it. He needed to break away so that he could overcome his past and become someone better. He hoped Chicago would understand. It was not good for him to stay.
And somehow, Minnesota had become the home he had never been looking for. It was funny how life turned out sometimes. There was a small smile on his face as he got in line. He was leaving everything he had ever known, but he would be gaining everything he needed. It was a price he was willing to pay.
“Don’t you play for the Wild?” a man behind him said.
Trevor nodded. “I do.”
“And you’re form Chicago, right?”
“Yes,” Trevor said.
The man smiled at him. “Me too. Minnesota is not too bad though. It’s a good place for hockey. I wish you the best there. Make Chicago players everywhere proud.”
A genuine smile came across Trevor’s face. He felt calm and at peace with his decision. “Of course. I will always try.”
Light snow trickled down the streets of St. Paul, but the clouds were dark with more. A wreath still hung around Heather’s door; it was decorated with holly berries. Trevor stood in front of the door taking long, deep breaths. He kept telling himself he could do this. He had to. Whatever the outcome, they deserved to know what had transpired with him the past few days. He was not sure if they would forgive them, but he had to try. He lifted his shaking fist and knocked on the door.
He took a step back right after his skin made contact with the wood. His breathing hitched when he heard the door opening. Heather stood there looking as beautiful as ever. She seemed surprised to see him. She did not speak.
Trevor cleared his throat. “Can I come in?” he asked in as steady a voice as he could manage. “I need to talk to you and Liam.”
A guard look crossed Heather’s face, but she nodded and stepped aside. “Come in.” As he walked into the apartment, she turned and called, “Liam! Someone’s here to see you!”
Liam soon scurried into the room. His face lit up when he saw who was there. “Trevor!” Then his smile fell and he looked around awkwardly. “Uh, what are you doing here?”
Trevor was saddened by the boy’s composure. He wished he had not hurt him. He realized he did care about him deeply, and he was sorry for everything he had done to him. It would never happen again. “I’m sorry about what happened, Liam,” he said softly. “I want you to come back with me.” He just needed one more chance; he could make it right this time.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Heather said. “Haven’t you done enough damage?”
Trevor looked back at her sorrowfully. “Yes. That’s why I have to make everything right.” He turned to Liam. “I’ve been through a lot these past few days. I was in Chicago. I’ve figured a lot out. Will you let me tell you about it?” He wondered if this was how his father had felt when confronting his mother. He was vulnerable and humbled. He hoped his sincerity would shine through.
Heather hesitated. Then she nodded and said, “Alright.” She strode over to the couch and sat down. Liam quickly climbed up bedside her.
Trevor watched them awkwardly. He decided to stay where he was standing in front of them. He clasped his hands together. “I’m sorry for everything I’ve done. I was trying to protect you guys, but it looks like I just hurt you anyway. I had everything all wrong, and I was denying the truth because I was afraid. I was too afraid to confront the part of myself you two were making clear to me. I thought I had everything figured out. I didn’t want anything to change. But I can’t live the life I used to live anymore. It’s not working. It was tearing me apart and I couldn’t see it.” He stopped to steady his breathing. He did not want to become too emotional.
“I went back to Chicago because I did not know what else to do. I found what I was looking for there. I saw who I was and who I could be. I reconciled with my mother, and I have forgiven my father. I wish I could have done so while he was still alive.” He trailed off and looked away.
“I’m sorry,” Heather said gently. She was looking at him in concern. Liam was listening attentively.
Trevor took a deep breath and went on. “I was wrong about my parents. I didn’t want to believe that my father had changed because I didn’t want to change myself. But I have to. I want to be the person I know I am capable of being. But the problem is that I have been focusing on Chicago and the Blackhawks as my goal; I don’t think I can be the person I want to be in Chicago. The environment there is too comfortable.”
Heather’s eyes widened. “Are you saying you don’t want to play for the Blackhawks anymore?”
Trevor shook his head. “That is no longer my goal. Maybe it would be nice to play for them for a year or two before I retire, but I’ll stay with the Wild as long as they’ll take me. Minnesota is my home now. I want to stay here.” He glanced at Liam. “You need to be here too, Liam. If you come back with me, I won’t have to leave you again.”
A small smile formed on Liam’s face. “Awesome!”
“Wow,” Heather said. “I can’t believe it. I thought you hated Minnesota.”
“So did I,” Trevor said. “But what reason did I have other than bias from rivalry? That’s not good enough for me anymore. This is a great state with great people. And what better place to play hockey than the State of Hockey?” he smiled. “I’m investing in Minnesota. I didn’t try my best before, but I will now. In all areas of my life.”
“Ok!” Liam said with a bright smile, hopping off of the couch. He ran up to him and threw his arms around him.
Trevor smiled as he bent down to hug him back. “Thank you,” he whispered, feeling as if a burden had been lifted. He stood up when he let go.
“I’ll go get packed!” With that declaration, Liam dashed down a hallway.
Trevor smiled as he watched him go. His smile faded when he turned to see Heather standing before him with a small frowned on her face. He calmly waited for her to speak.
“What about us, Trevor?” she asked softly.
Trevor looked at her with sad eyes. His heart was longing to be with her, but he did not think he was ready. “I need some time away from you,” he began slowly. “I need to fix my life before I can allow myself to be with you.”
Heather cast her eyes to the ground. “Are you asking me to wait?”
Trevor faltered. “Will you?”
“I don’t know if I can,” Heather said quietly. She lifted her head; her eyes were filled with sorrow. “How do I know you’ll come back? And if you do, will you run away again? I don’t know how long I can keep this up. How do I know it will be different this time?”
Trevor looked away. He should have seen this coming, but it still hurt. “You don’t. You’ll just have to trust me.”
“You need to earn my trust, which will take time,” Heather said. “I can’t make any promises about the future.” There were tears in her eyes as he looked at her. “I want to be with you, I do. I think I need time too.”
Trevor nodded. He could feel tears forming in his own eyes. “Alright,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’ll go. We’ll see what happens later. Will you still babysit Liam?”
Heather gave him a smile that seemed forced. “Of course. And I’ll always be here if you need me.”
Trevor had to look away and close his eyes. His chest felt tight. Why did he have to lose everything to figure out what he should have known all along? Now he was left to put everything back together, and he did not know if he could do it. If he lost Heather…
Trevor opened his eyes and looked at Liam. He sucked in a sharp breath. He had to be strong for him. “Ok, let’s go, buddy.”
Liam happily walked over to him with his bags, and the two of them headed for the door. Heather followed them. “Good luck,” she said as they stepped outside into the winter air.
Trevor stopped and turned to look at her. He stared at her a moment, filled with emotion, before saying, “I love you. I know what that means now.”
Heather dipped her head. “I love you too.”
Trevor’s heart lightened only slightly. He wished this was enough to fix everything. Maybe it would be in time. He tore himself away from her gaze and focused on Liam. This was his future; he had to focus on the kid and his hockey team and hope that the rest would follow. For the first time in years, he did indeed have hope. He looked out at the world with confidence as he walked with the boy. He was back.