Alright Wegmans is a big grocery store. I was in a hurry though, so for once, the size was working against me. I needed that ice cream. I had to be there before Haley went in and five was approaching fast.
As I ran through the store, literally, I saw swarms of “we are Buffalo” shirts and my mood was immediately lightened. I didn’t know if all these people were going to the game later, but, it was wonderful to see the city unity.
“Over here,” a cashier called to me and I ran to the checkout. I normally wasn’t the person to do something like that, but I wanted to have some time with Haley before the procedure.
The cashier had just opened up and I was grateful of my good fortune. We were running a little late because Mr. Green had called Maddie and needed the latest prospect files before we came over, so we had stopped to do that. Then once we were back on the road he called again and said he needed some more stuff.
If the man wasn’t such a good boss I would have told him to shove it. I had planned on spending all day with Haley, but now it was getting closer and closer to her procedure time. I had called her Mom, and she said Haley was in good spirits and was looking forward to seeing us both, so I ran through a grocery store with a tub of ice cream wrapped in my arms.
“Thank you for opening,” I said skidding to a stop.
“No problem,” she said taking the ice cream and scanning it, “eight ninety-five please.”
I handed her a ten, and waited for my change. “Aren’t you Jack Crabb?”
Crap, I didn’t have time for a hockey fan. “I am,” I said waiting for the whole can I have your autograph question. I usually wasn’t like this, but I had Haley on my mind, and Mr. Green had set us way back.
“How is Haley doing,” the cashier asked me.
Holy shit. “She is doing pretty well. In fact her last treatment is today, so that is who the ice cream is for. We are going to have an ice cream party.” I said actually smiling at the thought.
“Tell her everyone at Wegmans is with her.” She said handing me my change.
“I will, and thank you.” I said smiling and hurrying away. I did here some words as I was leaving and I could have sworn the words were “no, thank you Jack.”
We got to the hospital and we only had a little while to spare. I was so mad at Mr. Green that I could have screamed. Maddie kept me calm, but I was still mad. We got into the room and Haley was sitting up in a chair, with her Mom and her Dad, beside her. She was smiling. Oh bless her little heart.
“Maddie, Jack,” she screamed when she saw us. She held her arms out to Maddie. I guess I should get used to being second fiddle. If we ever had children of our own, it would probably be the same way. Holy crap, I was thinking about children, ok maybe a little early for that.
I shook her dad’s hand and then I gave a polite hug to her mom. I needed to do something with this ice cream until after the procedure.
“Jack, you remembered the ice cream.” Haley was so excited.
“Of course I did princess, how are you feeling? Ready for this to be over?” I said walking over and gingerly hugging her.
“I am,” she said with a smile.
“That a girl. Let me put this ice cream somewhere, so it doesn’t melt.” I said getting ready to go find a nurse.
“We can eat it now,” she said and I knew she couldn’t.
“Nope, that’s your reward for finishing all your treatments.” I said still going toward the door.
“Then let’s eat it, I’m all done.” She said giggling.
I turned so fast I almost hurt myself. Haley was smiling. Her parents were smiling. Maddie just started crying. What the hell was going on?
“Haley,” I said setting the ice cream down on a chair and I was before her in a second. “What do you mean?” I was praying that the doctors didn’t tell her there was no use continuing. Please Lord; don’t let that be the case.
“Um, promise you won’t yell at me.” She begged me.
“I would never yell at you princess.” I said but I was upset. I was thinking she told the doctor she couldn’t do this again. Oh the poor baby.
“I did my treatment this morning, I am all done.”
I just stared at her. Then I looked at her parents and they were both smiling and tearing up, they both nodded. I looked back at Haley and I was speechless.
“Oh sweetie, I should have been here sooner. I promised to be here with you.” I hated myself for being late now. I knew it wasn’t scheduled for this morning, but someone should have told me. Damn it.
“Then why would I have done it? Eric was here and Mr. Green too. He brought me that teddy bear,” she said indicating some big carnival size bear in the corner.
I was upset. I thought she wanted me here with her, or at least Maddie. Maybe she didn’t need me like I thought she did.
“Haley, tell Jack the whole story before he thinks you don’t like him.” Her dad admonished.
“Oh right, Ok so I had a thought. I thought why wasn’t Jack playing hockey? He wasn’t playing because he promised to be here for me. So I got this idea and called Mister Green. He’s a nice man.” She said taking a breath finally.
“I asked Mr. Green if I did my treatment early if he could let you play tonight. It’s “we are Buffalo” night. He told me he wanted you to play right along. So I made up my mind to get my treatment done early. I wanted you to play hockey.”
“Mr. Green and Eric came and sat with me while I had it done, and Mr. Green called you a couple times to make sure you didn’t get here early and catch me. I wanted it to be a surprise.”
“That was why he asked for those files,” Maddie said from spot next to Haley.
“Yeah, stupid Eric started laughing and I thought he was going to ruin the surprise.” Haley said and I was still kind of lost.
“Haley I don’t care about hockey as much as I do you. I wanted to be here for you.” I said meaning every word and I saw her mom lose it and break down in tears, and well, Maddie was already balling so I continued on. “Haley, I will always be here for you.”
“I know that Jack, but I wanted to be here for you to. Eric is terrible, he needs you. The whole team is terrible right now, they miss you. I wanted to do this for you and everyone in Buffalo, they all need you Jack, just not me.” She said and she began crying too.
Damn women and girls were making me cry too.
“Doing this gave me the strength to finish. I want to see you play hockey again. The doctor said I have a real good chance now Jack, but I love watching you play hockey with Eric, that was my wish, to see you two play again.” Haley finished and she was balling, hell everyone was balling.
It was a while before we all got control of ourselves. Finally I stood back up and said “well, I better get some bowels before that ice cream melts, especially if I have a game to get to.”
I left to find a nurse and get the bowels and some spoons. That little girl just did something for me, and I would not let her down.
“Alright gang, if I am going to make it to the arena in time, I have to go. I still don’t know if they will let me play?” I said standing up.
“They will Jack, Mr. Green said he had a plan.” Haley said watching me hopefully,
“Well then, I better get going. Maddie, are you coming?”
“Actually, I am going to stay here with Haley and watch you on television. Can you come pick me up when you are done tonight?”
“Sure, of course,” I said a little disappointed. I understood though. Haley just had her last treatemnet and Maddie didn’t want to leave her, I didn’t either, but Haley had set this all up, so I wouldn’t ruin it for her.
“Um, can I at least see you in the hall for a second so I can kiss your face off before I leave?”
Haley giggled and screamed “gross.” Her parents both smiled.
Maddie followed me out. “I will miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too.” Maddie said kissing me. We maybe took a few extra kisses before we broke. “I wanted to stay with her, I hope you understand.”
“Of course I do, if it was up to me I would stay to.” I responded.
She smiled knowingly. We knew each other well enough to know we didn’t need to say anything else. I kissed her one last time and then turned and headed for the door and to get to the arena.
“I watched him leave,” I said coming back into the room. Haley’s mom was holding her while she cried. “What can I do?”
“Nothing, the doctor said this would be the worst after spell. She got through most of it earlier, but she wanted to be tough in front of Jack, she said if she didn’t, he might not leave.” Haley’s mom explained.
“Well you were probably right. We didn’t have to eat the ice cream tonight.” I said sitting on the bed with both of them while Haley’s dad walked out to make a call.
“Yes we did,” Haley said still wiping tears away. “Jack wouldn’t have left if we didn’t. He wouldn’t have understood, you told me that before.”
I had after one of her other treatments. Jack was a typical guy, well, a typical good guy; he would never leave while a girl was in pain. I and Haley were in agreement that what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. But I knew, and I knew that I couldn’t have left her for nothing.
“So Eric was here huh,” I asked trying to give her something else to think about beside the pain.
“Yeah, he almost ruined the plan. I yelled at him.” She said like it was something she would be doing for a long time. I smiled at that. I was glad Eric was thinking about someone other than himself, even if it was my sick little Princess.
“So you like my brother huh,” I said nudging her when she was quiet again.
“He is a stupid boy,” she said but she was smiling.
I remembered having crushes too. I hope hers turned out better than all of mine.
“Maddie, tell me some more stories, will you, till the game starts.”
“You bet baby,” I said crawling in bed next to her. I let her snuggle into my arms and I began talking. I knew when she fell asleep but I kept talking and talking not to interrupt the pattern.