The Wild beat the Redwings one nothing. Considering their overall record, Trevor thought he should not be so happy, but he could not help it. It felt great to have a shutout against a team he hated. Now on Tuesday they were playing them again in Detroit this time. He felt more confident about the game than he had in weeks.
He invited Heather over Sunday afternoon. She appeared with a smile and a plate of cookies in her hand. “Hello, Trevor,” she said lightly.
His eyes were focused on her Cubs cap. “You can’t come in here with that,” he said flatly. She just rolled her eyes.
“Heather!” Liam cried, rushing into the room. “What did you bring?”
Heather smiled down at him. “Chocolate chip cookies.”
Liam’s eyes grew wide. “Can I have one?”
“Of course.” Heather picked up a cookie and handed it to the boy. Liam took a bite, seeming elated.
“Nice,” Trevor said.
Heather smirked at him. “Do you want one too? You have to let me come in, though.”
Trevor raised his eyebrows. “Are they homemade?”
“Yes. I made them myself.”
“You have time to bake?”
“Yes, actually,” Heather said. She pushed past him, walked into the kitchen, and placed the cookies on the counter before taking two, handing one to Trevor.
“These are amazing!” Liam called from the living room. “Thank you, Heather!”
Heather chuckled. “You’re welcome, Liam?”
Trevor took a bite into his own cookie. He had not had bake goods in years. The kid was right; it was really good. On the outside, his face was nonchalant as he shrugged. “Not bad for a beginner.”
Heather rolled her eyes and lightly shoved his shoulder.
Trevor laughed, feeling light. Then he remembered the reason she was there, and his smile faded. “When do you want to talk to Liam?”
Heather frowned slightly before saying, “How about after we get some milk to go with these cookies?”
Trevor nodded. “Alright.” He pointed to the cupboard with the cups and she went to fetch them. He was watching her, but he was not really seeing her. He was thinking about Liam and what they were going to say to him. He had not planned anything. He had been hoping Heather had come up with something.
The three of them were soon settled on the couch with milk and cookies. Liam sat in between the adults, smiling happily. Trevor was tense as he watched the boy. He felt like there was a heavy weight on his shoulders. He had felt like this in the past, but it had never been for another person.
“Liam,” Heather began calmly after a minute of silence, save for the sound of eating and drinking. “There is something Trevor and I want to talk to you about.”
Liam looked at her curiously. “What is it?”
Heather nodded at Trevor and the kid turned to him. Trevor froze, not expecting to have to begin. He frowned. He supposed he should just start speaking; Heather was there to fix any mistake he made. “It’s about how you got into trouble in Texas two years ago,” he began slowly.
Liam’s face fell. “I’m sorry,” he babbled. Tears were forming in his eyes. “I didn’t know it was wrong.”
Heather gazed at him in compassion. “Oh, honey, we’re not blaming you.”
Liam wiped his eyes with his sleeve and sniffled. “You’re not?”
“Of course not,” Trevor said firmly. “The system was at fault here.”
Liam looked at him blankly. “What?”
Heather lightly touched his shoulder. “What he means is that sometimes grownups make mistakes. We’re not perfect. The police and the judge handled the situation the wrong way. They thought they were doing their jobs.”
“It’s their job to punish bad people,” Liam said miserably.
Trevor shook his head. “It’s their job to follow the law. This time, the law was wrong.”
“How can the law be wrong?”
“Sometimes, those who make the law think they’re doing the right thing to protect everyone, but they’re really going too far and hurting those who don’t deserve to be hurt,” Heather said softly.
Liam looked up at him with big eyes. “Really? They were wrong?”
Trevor nodded. “Yes. They should have left the situation to your parents. The law did not need to be involved. What you did was not a crime. Your mom recognized this, which is why she sent you here to Minnesota where the law is more just.”
“So I’m not bad?” Liam’s face was now more hopeful.
“Of course not,” Heather said sympathetically. “You’re good. Continue to try hard to make the right choices. If you do make a mistake, there are people like Trevor and me who will be here for you.”
A huge smile spread across Liam’s face. “Thank you.” He wrapped his arms around Heather, who smiled and hugged him back. Trevor was surprised when the boy turned and hugged him next.
Trevor awkwardly wrapped his arms around the boy and patted his back. “Yeah, that’s great.” He was unused to all of this affection; it made him uncomfortable
Liam pulled back and smiled at him. “Thanks for taking care of me.” He glanced at Heather. “Are we done?”
Heather smiled and nodded. “Yes. You can go play.”
Liam grinned and leapt off the couch. Trevor watched him leave, unsure of what to think. Taking care of a kid was a strange new experience for him; he had never had any siblings. When Liam was gone, he stood up and headed to the kitchen to prepare dinner. He did not want to give Heather a chance to talk about what had just transpired. He was not sure what to think about it himself.
Heather ended up staying for dinner. The conversation at the table was light and pleasant. Afterwards, Liam pulled Heather to his room to show her something. Trevor did not mind cleaning up alone. It gave him a chance to be with his thoughts. When he was finished, he made his way to the balcony behind the couch.
It was dark outside, but the stars were only lightly visible because of the lights from the city. It was getting colder because it was almost November. The cool wind blew Trevor’s hair back. He closed his eyes and let himself enjoy the feeling. Winter was growing closer and closer. Soon, there would be snow. He would be able to live the way he was meant to live. He vowed to himself to never accept an offer from a southern team again. He needed to be in the north. It was good for his soul.
Trevor opened his eyes when he heard the door slide open and closed. He remained calm, his hands gripping the railing in front of him as he gazed out at the neighborhood. A few seconds later, he could feel someone beside him. It had to be Heather.
“Hey,” a soft voice said. “What are you doing out here?”
Trevor sucked in a sharp breath. “Just enjoying the weather. And thinking.”
“Liam will be fine. We’ll work it out.”
Trevor looked down at the railing. “I know. It’s just-” He shook his head. “This isn’t right. There are plenty of bad people in the world that the public needs to be protected from, but Liam is definitely not one of them.”
“You speak as if you know personally people who are.”
Trevor shrugged his shoulders. He let go of the railing and turned around, leaning against it. He crossed his arms to make himself more enclosed; having Heather so close made it hard to think. “I’ve seen a lot of things growing up on my side of Chicago. Things I would have preferred not to see.” He paused, unsure as to how much he should reveal. He decided it would be good for her to get a sense of where he was coming from. She was smart; maybe she would stay away from him. He looked up at the roof of his apartment, his eyes glazed and unfocused. “Things like that change you. They make you into someone you’d rather not be, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I don’t want that to happen to Liam. I don’t know much about St. Paul, but so far it seems to be a heck of a lot better than the Southside of Chicago.”
“I don’t know what you’ve been through,” Heather said in a quiet voice, “but I don’t think it’s too late for you either.”
Trevor smiled ruefully and shook his head. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He wanted to believe her, though. He felt a strong pull in her direction that was hard to ignore.
Heather touched his arm, making him turn to look at her. Her face was hard and determined. “Then tell me. Maybe I can help you.”
Trevor took a deep breath. Everything about her was drawing him in, and he found it hard to resist. Part of him wanted nothing more than to accept her offer, but he knew that he could not do that. He had to do something to get her away from him. “No,” he said firmly. “That won’t work.”
“Why would I talk to you about anything?” Trevor said with a slight edge in his voice.
Heather looked at him cautiously, withdrawing her hand. “What do you mean?”
Trevor shrugged. “I appreciate what you’re doing for Liam, but that’s all I need you for. You’re someone I knew in Chicago and Liam’s babysitter. That’s all.”
Heather looked at him incredulously. “Are you serious right now? I thought you could use a friend.”
“Well, you were wrong,” Trevor said with an air of indifference, turning away.
“Fine, be that way,” Heather retorted.
When he heard he go back inside, Trevor let out the breath he had been holding. It hurt him to act like this, but he saw no other way. He needed Heather to help with Liam, but he still had to protect her from himself. He could do both. Everything was going to be fine.
After a minute, he decided to head back into the apartment. As he walked in, he heard Heather saying, “So, Liam, do you like baseball?”
“I love baseball!” Liam said enthusiastically. “I’m a Rangers fan.” The two of them were sitting on the couch when Trevor approached.
“The Rangers lost the World Series two years in a row,” Trevor said, shaking his head. “I hope they’re not doomed to become like the Vikings – so much potential, and yet always letting their fans down.”
Liam frowned. “The Vikings are Minnesota’s football team, right?”
“That’s right,” Heather said. She shrugged. “They’re not that bad.”
“Did you see the bears at the zoo?” Trevor said, sitting down next to Liam.
The boy nodded. “Yeah.”
“They were pretty cool, right?”
Liam smiled. “Bears are awesome!”
“That’s Chicago’s football team’s mascot,” Trevor said proudly. “The Bears are the best.”
“That I can agree with you on,” Heather said with a small smile.
Liam shook his head stubbornly. “I like the Cowboys.”
Trevor grimaced. “I know the Cowboys. There are none of them at the zoo. Or the Vikings, for that matter.”
“Not every mascot has to be an animal,” Heather said, smirking. “What do the White Sox have?”
“Southpaw is an animal!” Trevor declared. Southpaw was the White Sox’s alligator (or whatever he was) mascot.
Heather rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”
“At least these teams have mascots, unlike the Packers,” Trevor said, making a face. “What do they have? Cheese?”
Heather laughed. “I think that’s it.”
“I hate the Packers,” Liam said, mimicking Trevor’s face.
Trevor smirked in amusement. “I think we finally found something we can all agree on.”
“Along with these Minnesotans,” Heather added.
Trevor nodded. “So Justin would be with us on this.”
Liam grinned. “Awesome!”
Trevor glanced at Heather, but the look she gave him caused him to turn away quickly. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He tried to push it away. This was for the best; he had to keep his distance in order to protect her, but he had to keep her around for Liam. He could balance this. It would all be fine in the end.
Trevor had made up his mind by Thursday’s game. He was feeling confident as he walked over to Justin’s locker; all of the players were busy putting on their uniforms and talking to each other. The Wild had beaten the Red Wings in Detroit. That was two in a row. They were playing the Vancouver Canucks at home now. Perhaps the Wild could turn around this season after all.
“Hey, buddy, what’s up?” Justin said in a friendly tone when he saw him, a bright smile on his face.
“I’m good,” Justin said. “Heather and I talked to Liam. Everything is going to be fine.”
“How is she doing, anyway? I haven’t seen her or the kid in awhile.”
Trevor was glad for the question. This was his chance to make his move. “She’s doing great,” he said casually. He paused for effect. “Maybe just you and her could go do something.” He shrugged. “You two seem to like Minnesota so much. I think she would appreciate it.”
Justin blinked. “What are you getting at?”
Trevor sucked in a breath and forced his voice to come out calm, “I think you should ask her out. She seems to like you, and I think you would be good for each other.”
Justin frowned. “Really? I like her too, but… I don’t want to get between you two. You seem to be good friends.”
“You wouldn’t get between us at all,” Trevor said quickly. “It’s fine, really.” He hesitated. “I think it would be good for her to get out with a guy. I just want her to be happy. I think you could do that for her.” Because I can’t. He swallowed the words with bitterness. He would have given anything to be the guy she needed.
Justin titled his head to the side before shrugging. “Well, ok.” He smiled. “Thanks for the tip, Trevor. I’ll make sure she has a good time.”
Trevor nodded. “Good.” His hands felt sweaty as he returned to his own locker. He had to keep reminding himself that he was doing the right thing.
“Hey, good game the other day,” he heard Ethan say to him.
Trevor turned to look at him in surprise; he was not use to hearing words of encouragement from his teammates, at least not anyone except Justin, who was an exception to everything. “Where’s David?” he asked bitterly.
Ethan frowned. “David’s a good guy. You just need to warm up to him.”
“I doubt that will happen,” Trevor muttered. No one who decided they did not like him ever warmed up to him, which was a good thing. Most people were better off away from him, though David was probably not one of them.
Ethan sighed and shook his head. “That’s not a good attitude to have around here. I hope you see the light soon.”Trevor watched him walk away with a frown. What did that guy know anyway? He had no idea who he was. With that in mind, he slung his skates over his shoulders and headed out of the room.