Caribou Coffee was a Minneapolis-based coffee shopped that rivaled Starbucks in the Midwest. There was a wilderness feel to the store with trees and caribous decorating the place. Minnesotans kept warm with hot coffee and tea. Trevor sat alone at a two-person table, a foam mug in his hand and a weary expression on his face.
The warm mocha felt good going down his throat, but it did not erase the stress that persisted in his body. He was worn out. It was Friday morning. He had had to rush Liam to school after a road game in Columbus the previous night. He knew his coach was right. This could not go on; he had to find a babysitter. But who could he trust in Minnesota?
He crossed his arms at the table. At least this place was familiar; a Midwestern establishment. It made him feel better. His White Sox hat sat upon his head for additional comfort. He let out a heavy sigh.
“Now look who’s in enemy territory,” said a familiar female voice.
Trevor’s head instantly shot up. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. Standing there in a Caribou employee outfit, smirking at him was Heather. Her blond hair was pulled up into a bun, she wore a Caribou apron, and her blue eyes sparkled at him; she was just as beautiful as ever. He realized he must have looked like an idiot sitting there gaping at her, but he could not help it. The shock was too great for him to know how to react. He could not even process what she was referring to.
Heather nodded at his hat. “Minnesotans aren’t too fond of the White Sox, but they don’t mind the Cubs.” She grinned.
Trevor blinked. Thinking processes were slowly returning to him. He frowned. “I’m not too fond of them either.” His words were slow and careful. He was not sure how he should talk to her. He had never planned for this occasion. He had had no reason to suspect it would ever happen.
Heather shook her head. “That’s no way to talk about your new fans.”
“I don’t want them to be my fans,” Trevor said through gritted teeth. She had brought up the topic that had been bugging him ever since he had gotten there. He tried to calm himself. This was Heather. She was not supposed to be in Minnesota. She was supposed to be back in Chicago.
“I thought that was your dream,” Heather said.
Trevor refused to look at her. “My dream was to play for the Blackhawks, not the team of a state I hate.” She could never understand; how could she? His life seemed great to anyone not living it.
“At least it’s not Wisconsin,” Heather commented.
Trevor made a face; they both hated the state. “Wisconsin doesn’t even have a hockey team.”
“Which is why Minnesota is better,” Heather said.
Trevor shrugged. Sure, he could concede that point; it was not worth it to keep up the discussion. Finally, he was able to ask the question that had been going through his mind since she had spoken, “What are you doing here?” He looked up at her as he spoke.
“I own this place,” Heather said with a smile.
Trevor blinked. “You own Caribou?”
“Not the franchise; just this store. It’s kind of cool, though. The Twin Cities is where this place started.”
“Well, they’ve done one thing right,” Trevor mumbled as he glanced down at his cup. His old bitterness was returning.
“I see you’ve been doing well since we last saw each other,” Heather said as she sat down in the chair across from him at the table. “You don’t want to play for the Wild.”
Trevor grimaced. “Why should I? Even if I could learn to like this state and these people, what could I ever meant to them? They’re too hung up on the North Stars to take much notice of the Wild. Maybe if the Wild were actually good…” He trailed off and looked away.
“Trevor, you’ve actually made it to the NHL,” Heather stated in a matter of fact way. “Isn’t that enough?” She looked at him earnestly, her hands on the table.
Trevor sighed and shook his head. “Maybe it should be, but-” He looked up at her with pained eyes. “I did not like Dallas. Texas is no place for hockey. And aside from what I’ve already mentioned, I’ve hated Minnesota my whole life. It’s hard to get over that.”
“Are you sure you’re just not making excuses because you want to play for the Blackhawks?”
Trevor shrugged and looked away. Maybe it was true. He did not really know. He had always seemed so eerily perceptive and matter-of-fact, which was not always good; he did not need her figuring him out.
“I think that if you were good enough, the Blackhawks would be happy to sign you,” Heather said more softly. “There aren’t many Chicago players, and everyone loves a hometown hero, so I think they would jump at the chance. You just have to prove that you’re worth it. Work hard to excel in the team you’re given so that you may one day play for the team you want. Isn’t that the way professional sports usually works?”
Trevor looked up at her. He had to admit, she had a point. Other people had said similar things to him in the past, but it sounded more attractive when she said it; everything sounded better when she said it. He found it hard not to stare at her. Warm feelings he thought he had lost forever were beginning to resurface. “So, I should get Wild fans to love me and then turn on them by joining their rival?”
Heather chuckled. “You’re form Chicago; they may not like it, but they’ll understand. Like how they wished Mike Modano would have come back to Minnesota but decided on the Redwings instead because he’s from Detroit.”
“I hate the Redwings,” Trevor muttered. “Detroit just sucks.”
Heather looked at him in amusement. “You need to lighten up. No more coffee for you.” She reached her hand out and grabbed his mocha, pulling it to her.
Trevor blinked in surprise. “Hey!” he cried indignantly. “Don’t blame the coffee.”
Heather smirked and pushed the cup back across the table to him. She then smiled at him. “It’s nice to see you, Trevor. It’s great to be around another Chicagoan. We should catch up some time.”
Trevor nodded, the thought making him eager; he shared her sentiments about Chicago, and he loved the way she made him feel. “Sure.”
“Sometime you’re not busy with hockey, of course. I have a flexible schedule because I’m the owner of this store, so I can pretty much do any time.”
Trevor’s eyebrows scrunched together as he thought about his own schedule. “The last preseason game is tonight. Then I have a week off with nothing but light practices. How about we have dinner tomorrow night?”
Heather smiled. “That sounds great.”
Trevor frowned when he thought of something, and it was not the objection he had expected his mind to make. “Wait, the kid,” he said more to himself than to the girl.
Heather gave him a slightly puzzled look. “You have a kid?”
Trevor’s eyes widened. “He’s not mine!” he said quickly. He calmed down a little when he realized he was not quite sure how to explain Liam. “He’s the son of a friend of my mom’s. He came to Texas with me. I’m supposed to watch over him. I’m not exactly sure why.” He shrugged.
A small smile appeared on Heather’s lips. “Aw, that’s sweet. Well, I’d love to meet both of you for dinner.”
Trevor felt relief, and he smiled slightly. “Come to my place and I can make dinner for us.” His desire to do things for her was returning as well. He needed to make sure she was happy.
Heather smirked. “Ok. Just make anything but tacos.” She winked.
Trevor strolled down the street with his hands in the pockets of his windbreaker. It was a little chilly and there was a small breeze. Leaves were falling off trees in shades of red, yellow, and orange. Yet, there was not a cloud in the sky. The sun felt warm when it directly shone on Trevor. He did not mind this time. He knew it would not last. Winter would be on its way before he knew it. The thought made him smile.
Now, he had to figure out what to do about Heather. She sure had messed up his perfectly good plan of leaving her. Now what was he supposed to do? He wondered if he had reacted rightly in the coffee shop. His brain was working better, so it was time to analyze the situation.
He still could not let her get close to him. Nothing had changed on that matter. But would his tactics in high school work here? The circumstances were not exactly the same. He was supposed to be more mature, though he did give her a glimpse of what he was like through his bitterness. Perhaps she would not expect much more. This was good. But then he had invited her over.
After pondering it over, he decided there was nothing wrong with the way he had acted. They had gone to high school and worked together; now they met again in a totally different state. It was only natural that they would want to meet and catch up. It did not mean anything; they did not have to start an elaborate friendship. Besides, she probably had enough friends and a husband or fiancé by now. She would be alright.
And he would be busy with hockey. By the time the season was finished, he would go back to Chicago and not see until the next year. She would likely be too busy with her store to feel like she was being ignored. Yes, this was good. He did not need to do much. Everything would be fine.
But now he had to think about what to cook for her. He could not help the smile that slowly appeared on his face. He felt warmer and lighter than he had in a long time. He was determined to cook Heather the best meal he could. And Liam too, of course. This was going to be great. What had he been so worried about? He turned and headed to his car. Finally, everything seemed well.