Part Twenty Nine
Chapter Twenty Nine
Bo had watched Natasha walk away from him and groaned, another thing he was fucking up. But he was so angry, so frustrated, he just needed some time, some space, not a fix, he wasn't curable. Then she'd been there seeing the darkness in him, yet again, and he knew he'd retaliated, lashed out. But she was too close, and he couldn't deal with that. Not whilst this rage, this resentment was still so real in him,
He glanced out to the ice, to the kids gathered, they glanced at him occasionally, and he knew that as the only actual NHL player in the squad other than the coach, he should be out there, being a part of this team, part of the sport. Natasha was right about one thing, he was still involved in the game, he still got to pull pads and skates on regularly. But the gratitude at that didn't seem to levy against his regret at losing so much more.
Coop skated over to him, skidding to a stop and spraying ice on him, which made him roll his eyes.
"Cool now?" When he shrugged, Coop groaned, "get your ass out there and show the owners why they are paying you so much, yeah?"
When he scoffed at that comment, it was Coop's turn to roll his eyes, "so it's not the Blackhawks or the fucking Yankees, you have got to get over that, Pen. Get over it, or you'll blow all that you have left."
Coop had been honest with him since he had arrived, he was the only one who was, other than Natasha. But he'd never been this blunt. He gawped for a moment, taking it all in. Coop was studying him, waiting for a response.
"It's not that fucking easy. You don't know what it's like."
Laughing, Coop leaned over the bench, "yes I do. I walked away from the game, at the height of my career because my head was screwed, sorting that out, coming back...every game I play is a bonus, one I never thought I would have. That is the way I look at it, this is my second bite of the cherry, something I never thought I would have. My glass is half full."
Bo shook his head, "but you walked away, it was your choice. This isn't my choice."
Coop raised an eyebrow, then came around the boards to sit beside him. "And do you know why I walked away?" When Bo was silent, he sighed, "I didn't appreciate what I had, I took life for granted and by the time I realised that outside of the ice I had a lot to both be grateful for, it was too late. My obsession with hockey meant that I didn't protect my family, my son died..." Bo gasped, but Coop carried on, "I lost everything because I was so obsessed with being the best, with playing a fucking game. My girlfriend at the time killed our son, she was destroyed by post natal depression, but it was my fault for being so egocentric that I couldn't fucking see it."
"Fuck, Coop. That's horrendous."
He nodded, "and it took me years, and the love of a good woman to face up to it all. I didn't play for four years, sitting in my pity-fest life. This is a great game, at any level, but it is that, a game. I love every minute on the ice now, but if it ends tomorrow, then I'm good with it. I have a life, great friends, amazing kids and the best wife a man could ask for. And that, Holding, that is what makes this game great, coming home to them, loving my life and my sport. We are privileged to be able to make a living doing what we love. You're doing this Masters, you want to be an agent?"
"It will keep me in the sport..."
Coop clapped him on the back with his gloved hand, "so you'd rather arrange contracts and endorsements for the elite players than play yourself? Because you know you ain't getting back to the NHL. That means you want to be involved with the drama and craziness of the NHL more than you actually want to play ice hockey."
As his coach skated back on to the ice, to organise a game with two teams mixed juniors and seniors, Bo had to try and digest those both harsh, and truthful words.
He played in the game, and the kids loved it, squeaks and squeals emerging from them as the professional players cheated and play fought, it ended with a thirty player pile-on in the centre of the ice and everyone in the whole rink was laughing.
As he showered and changed, the banter continued, and he could see in all honesty what a great team building event this had been. Other than the puck to the ass from Vaughn, everyone had got along, conspired, cheated and laughed as one huge unit. Coop was a great people manager. And he was pretty wise too.
As he was gathering his belongings, Coop reappeared from his office, and he rushed over to him,
"Thanks for the pep talk. I think I needed that."
He nodded, graciously, "not all that I told you is public knowledge, but sometimes, things need to be said."
Bo had no intention of sharing all that he'd told him, and he held out a hand, and Coop shook it, "thanks."
"Make things right from now on?"
He drove home, and couldn't control the swirling and battling thoughts in his suddenly crowded mind. Coop unwittingly had mirrored all that Natasha had said. He thought of his life in two parts, pre and post injury. Everything he did was an attempt to get back to his life pre injury. Even though he knew in his heart of hearts he'd never get back to it. But he'd closed everything down too. He barely spoke to his parents, he had cut himself off from every friend, every contact from his sporting life. He'd cut off everything, yet he was hankering after going back to it. The life that had dealt him such shit cards, that saw him betrayed, used and ignored as soon as he couldn't be part of it any more.
There was an element of superficiality in that life, it was all one big game, striving for the best endorsements, the best cars, the best gadgets, the game almost took a back seat. He could completely understand what Coop said, about becoming obsessive. The involvement with his team had taken up ninety percent of his life, yet he hadn't spoken to any of those teammates since his injury.
Because he'd closed everything down, social media etc, but he also knew that Nathan was the only person who had tried to contact him. Even Brady, his agent hadn't been in touch, though he hadn't wanted to speak to anyone, there were hardly dozens of unanswered messages. It hadn't taken much for him to disappear from that world.
Entering his apartment, he sat for a long moment, then reached for his phone.
His mother answered on the second ring, delight in her voice at speaking to him twice in a day.
"Can you guys come out next month? We are home three of four weekends. I'd love for you to come and meet my friends, my team."
"Oh, Bo. We would love to!"
Slumping back in his chair, he digested his mother's delight at the thought of visiting. He hadn't expected that, thought they were genuinely happy to be kept at distance, but he knew that was his control, based on his thoughts and expectations, his presumptions. Maybe that had to change, maybe they were right, Natasha and Coop. He had to accept him own fate, take stock of where his life is, because only he could change the spiral he was stuck in.
Going to see Natasha seemed like the only thing he could do at this moment, he had to try and explain. Had to make it right, he'd hurt her, pushed her away, been so fucking selfish, and he had no idea whether she'd understand, whether she'd forgive him, all he knew was that he had to try.
He wasn't sure she'd let him in, but after her sad, 'hello', and his attempt at an apology, the door buzzed letting him in. More than he deserved.
Bo climbed the stairs to Natasha's home, and it felt as though she had the world on his shoulders. The front door was unlocked, and when he walked into her lounge, he spotted her, in the kitchen, hands braced on the sink, head dropped. She looked so sad.
"Natasha?" He offered, stopping at the doorway to the kitchen, waiting for her to move.
Keeping her head dropped she turned in his direction, "I accept your apology."
He stepped closer, sadness was oozing off her in waves., "shit, are you OK?"
When she finally lifted her face, her red, puffy eyes met his, "this isn't about you...I just have some stuff I'm dealing with."
"Can I help?" He reached out and held her upper arms. But she shrugged free.
"No. Look. You made it perfectly clear at the rink, I'm interfering and trying to fix things, I get it. But please don't come here asking me to share stuff with you, when you repeatedly hold me at arm's length."
He sighed, running his hands through his hair, he wanted to help her, he really did. He wanted to know what made her so sad, he wanted to know what made her happy. He wanted to be that to her. But, he'd pushed her away when she'd tried to help him out. Pushed her away angrily, almost aggressively. He was such a bastard, wanting to take without giving anything back. That was him.
It was the same with his family, with his team...like a light bulb, suddenly it all made sense. People were there for him, helping him, trying to make him feel that he belonged, that he was part of the team, of a family, of a friendship...and he'd treated everyone with contempt, using his illustrious past as a bench mark for everything, a past where no one was genuine and he'd been abandoned .
What a fool he'd been.
"I'm sorry, I really want to make this up to you."
She hook her head, "no. I can't do this, Bo. I don't get involved, I told you that when we first met, and I was right. This isn't what I need in my life."
That stunned him, everything was fixable, surely? Then he almost laughed at the irony in that statement.
"Natasha, please. You are the only real friend I have here, I can't lose that."
She shrugged, those sad, swollen eyes staring at him, "you should've thought about that when you were pushing me away, I don't need your anger, your resentment. You've made it perfectly obvious that this place, me...all of us are temporary, so I'm getting out. Whilst I still can."
He was panicking, because suddenly the thought of losing her was too much. He needed her, more than he thought possible.
"How can I make this right? I need to."
Sadness wafted off her, "you have brought back such bad memories, you've made me go places I don't want to go. This was wrong, this between us. It shouldn't have happened."
He shook his head, pulling her to him, "you're wrong, I know you are. This is good, it's right...it's what I want."
Shaking her head, she stepped back, and he hated it.
"Natasha," he was pleading, he knew that. But he'd never felt so desperate. "Don't do this, don't end things."
Stepping away from him again, she stared at him, "I cannot let another man break me, you will not break me. This is over."
His eyes prickled with tears, he couldn't cry, he hadn't throughout his injury. He couldn't now. Blinking them back, he reached for her hand.
"Please, give ma another chance, I'm sorry, I find it hard to let people in, I find it hard to give things up, I don't share me." He punched his chest.
"As much as I'd like to believe you, I know that it's just words." When he made to protest, she held up a hand, "you'll be gone in six months, out of here, and I'm not about to have my heart broken, tore out of my chest and trampled on."
She cur him off, "tell me, tell me you're up for sticking around, that come the end of the season you'll hang around."
He opened his mouth, but highpoint came out, she was asking him to give up everything, to end his dreams, his plans, his recovery.
With a whimper, she rushed out of the room and he heard a door somewhere deep in the apartment slam, on him. Ending it all.