“We’re back!” Liam exclaimed as the two of them stepped into the locker room.
All eyes were on them. The looks were a mix of hostility, defensiveness, and confusion. Justin’s expression was unreadable, though he seemed almost weary. Liam glanced at each one of them with a smile on his face.
Trevor faced them calmly. He could do this. It was time to prove himself to his teammates. He looked down at the boy. “You should go find your seat.”
“Ok!” Liam said. “Good luck at the game!” Then he trotted out of the room.
Trevor returned his faze to the players. Some had crossed their arms. Others had narrowed their eyes at him.
“What makes you think you’re welcome back?” David retorted while glaring at him with his arms crossed.
“Because I was wrong,” Trevor said. “I never wanted to be here. I never thought I could be happy with the Wild. But I was not even trying. I’m sorry. I was a terrible teammate. But I’m willing to try now if you will give me another chance.”
David snorted. “Not likely.”
Justin stepped forward. “Will you play your hardest and work with us as a team?”
Trevor dipped his head. “I will do whatever you need me to do. I’ll be the best player I can be in whatever position I am in.” He raised his head and looked at him with sad eyes. “I’m sorry, Justin. I never even gave you – or this team – a chance. Can you forgive me?”
A wide smile spread across Justin’s face. “Of course I can. What are friend’s for? Welcome back.” He held up his hand.
Trevor smiled in relief as he clasped his hand. It felt good to have someone on his side. He wondered if he could get his other teammates on board as well. He had a feeling he would have to prove himself to them first. Fine. He could do that.
Justin turned around to face the team. “Well, what do you guys say? I know he’s from Chicago, but can we give him a chance anyway?”
The players exchanged glances. They seemed less sure than they had been several minutes earlier. David was still giving him a hostile look, but he did not say anything against him. Finally, Ethan said, “Ok, Clifton. But you have to show us that you can work with us. You’re still part of this team, and we need to play as one if we want to win.”
Trevor dipped his head. “I understand that now. I will do my best.”
“You better,” David mumbled.
The captain nodded at Trevor. “Good. Let’s start with this game!”
Trevor looked at Justin. The Minnesotan smiled at him, and he smiled back. It was a start, and he would take it.
Trevor played that game with more heart than he had ever before, but the Wild still lost to the Ducks two to one. He tried not to be disheartened. They would not get to the playoffs this year, but they could work towards building momentum for the next season. They just had to start working together as a team. They had to find their groove.
“Good try,” Trevor said to David as he passed him, trying to finally patch things up with him. “We’ll get them next time.”
His teammate nodded and turned away, leaving Trevor wondering even more about him. He soon shook it off.
Trevor tried to talk to other members of his team, but it was awkward and he was not used to being encouraging. He hoped it would become easier as he practiced. He really wanted to get along with these guys. And he did not want them to get down like he had in the past. He was now aware of how powerful the human mind could be. They had to stay positive.
“Good game,” Liam said to him outside of the locker room. “Too bad you didn’t win.”
“We will,” Trevor said. He shook his head. “The fans didn’t seem too happy though. I think they’ve given up on us.”
Liam frowned. “Maybe you should get them excited.” His eyes lit up. “You could have an autograph party or something?”
Trevor looked at him thoughtfully. “That may not be a bad idea. I can’t do it on my own though.”
“Get someone else to help you,” Liam said.
Trevor looked up and saw Justin walking his way. Perfect. “Hey,” Trevor said, stopping him. “Can you help me out with something?”
Justin blinked. “Sure, what is it?”
“We need to connect with the fans more,” Trevor said. “They need to feel that this team is theirs. How about we start with you and me?”
Justin nodded, a small smile on his face. “I’m in I’ve been thinking the same thing for awhile too.”
“Yes!” Liam exclaimed. “Let’s go have some fun!”
Fan HQ was a small sports store at Ridgedale Mall in Minnetonka, a suburb of Minneapolis. The store specialized in autographed memorabilia, and they often had players come in for signings and a chance for the fans to meet them. Trevor thought it was a pretty neat idea. He and Justin got the store to allow them to come in on Friday at last minute.
There were no customers in the store when they got there at 10:30 am. The store was organized by sport; they even had Packers merchandise. The manager greeted them and told them how the event would go. It seemed simple enough. It would start at eleven. Until then, they were free to look around. There were left in the main area with a young, blond girl who was the cashier. She kept looking at them in interest.
Trevor noticed the North Stars merchandise right away, and he found himself drawn to it. He stared at the shirts and hats with an odd curiosity instead of the hatred he was used to feeling.
“We have a North Stars alumni reunion every year,” the cashier said.
Trevor looked back at her. “I think I heard about that while I was with the Stars.”
“You intimidated?” Justin asked with a smile.
Trevor shrugged, looking back at the North Stars products. “Not anymore. It’s in the past. I’ve moved on.”
Justin nodded. “Well, good.”
Trevor glanced at the Twins gear and pointed at it. “That I have a problem with, though. Go White Sox!”
"Hey!” the cashier said indignantly.
Justin laughed. “You better not say that when the fans get here. That’s not the way to get them to like you.” He winked.
Trevor smirked. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He turned to the Vikings stuff. He hesitated before shaking his head. “I won’t even go there.”
“Is there any Minnesota team you don’t hate?” Justin asked.
“The Timberwolves aren’t bad.”
“They’re not any good.”
Trevor grinned. “Exactly.” He felt happy when his friend laughed. He wondered how he actually enjoyed his company now. He had never had a true friend before. It felt good.
Trevor found himself excited when the fans began to pile in. They brought all sorts of memorabilia for him and Justin to sign. They were all excited and happy. They seemed to love the chance to talk to two players, even if they were not the most well-known.
Trevor enjoyed the experience as well. He had never been close to his fans, maybe because he had never particularly liked them. But these were good, hockey-loving people. He liked to talk to them. It felt good to be able to do something for them. Their appreciation and support left him feeling light and warm.
“We’ll have to do something like this again,” Justin said once the session was through.
“Maybe we could hold an ice hockey contest on a lake and give out prizes,” Trevor said. “We could get the whole team involved. We need to give more to the community.”
Justin nodded with a smile. “Sounds good to me.”
Trevor grew excited by the idea. Why had he not thought of this before? If the fans would not go to the team, then the team would go to the fans!
Light snow floated down from the clouds and sprinkled on top of the roofs like in a snow globe. A sudden strong wind swept the wide powder violently to the side. Trevor was all but oblivious to the weather safe inside his apartment. He was watching TV while Liam worked on his homework at the kitchen table.
The Wild had finally won a game since the young hockey player had come back to Minnesota. They beat the Boston Bruins two to zero. It was pretty satisfying. Trevor had even enjoyed the games they lost. He was slowly finding his place in the team. Even his coach seemed to like him better. Justin was as supportive as ever. At home, he went out of his way to bond with Liam, something he had never before seen as a priority. He was getting his life on track.
The TV droned out all background noise. He was not really watching anything; he just needed something to do.
There was a heavy knock on the door. Trevor turned off the TV and stood up. He wondered who it could be. No one he knew knocked like that. Perhaps it was one of his teammates.
His mouth fell open in shock after opening the door to reveal too police officers. He swallowed. “May I help you with something?”
“Yes,” the first officer said. “We’re here for Liam Day.”
A high-pitched scream filled the air. Trevor turned to see Liam running for his room. He looked back at the officers and narrowed his eyes. “What for?” he asked stiffly.
“He has been living here illegitimately,” said the second policeman. “The state of Texas wants him back.”
“Well, the state of Texas can’t have him,” Trevor growled.
“This is none of your business,” said the first man. “We could arrest you too, but we’ll let you go if you give us the boy.”
“His parents sent him here with me! I have permission to look after him!”
“Yes, but Liam is a sex offender. He needs to be in Texas where the proper authorities can keep an eye on him.”
Trevor gaped at him. “He’s a kid! He’s not going to do anything wrong!”
The second officer shook his head. “That’s not for us to decide. The state of Minnesota has to give him back to the state where he came from. We don’t want to have to get the federal government involved. Take it up with Texas if you have a grievance; we’re just following orders.”
Trevor felt his resistance dying out. They were right. They were just doing their job. They probably had no idea the implications of their actions. Against his better judgment, he stepped aside to let them through. He would have to think of a plan, but for now it would do him no good to argue with these police. He could do Liam no good in jail.
The men pulled the boy out of his room kicking and screaming. “Trevor, help!” Liam cried. “Save me!”
Trevor winced in pain. “I’ll come for you,” he said as he followed them to the door. “I won’t let them take you to Texas!”
But as he closed the door, his heart sunk to his feet. What could he do? He felt like his world was spinning out of control once again, just when he thought he had gotten his life back on track. He had lost Liam.