Flashback…Tess, age 12
“Tess!” Meda whisper yelled at her friend. “Tess!” Now she was hissing through her teeth. Tess shook her head and somehow turned her head to Meda Dakiedes, her best friend.
“Hm? What?” Meda rolled her eyes and skated back to her starting point. Oh yeah, Tess thought. I’m supposed to be practicing. “Ok Ok!” she sighed. She lowered her goalie mask and took position in front of the net. She was the star goalie of Rutherford Middle School’s girls hockey team. She got her skills from her father, Yadkin Pritchard, the legendary goalie of the Michigan Sounders. She was proud of her father. Along with Meda’s father, Damon “The Destroyer” Dakiedes, they had taken the Sounders to the Stanley Cup finals and walked away with the trophy.
“I’m going to shoot a series of shots from the right, then from the left. I’m going to mix up the height. A good goalie can anticipate where the pick will hit. Your job is to catch it.”
“Ready Coach!” she shouted. Meda fired off a series of shots just as she’d described for a total of twenty. Tess only missed two.
“Damn Tess! You’re getting gooooooood!” Tess threw up her mask and grabbed her water bottle from its place on the net. She smiled brightly at Meda.
“Let’s do it again!” she shouted. “I know I can get one hundred percent this time!” Meda grinned and set up again. Tess took position and did just what she set out to do. She stopped all twenty.
“That’s my girl!” Meda shouted, jumping up and down in excitement. “You are on fire, babe!” Tess was so happy. “We need to call your dad! They should be loading the bus for the game right about now.” The girls skated to the side and called Tess’s dad.
“Hey there, baby girl! How’s my favorite redhead?” Her dad’s voice was always happy to hear from her.
“Dad! I did it!” she gushed. “I did it! I blocked all twenty!” The call quickly went to video so Yadkin could see the pride in his only child’s face.
“That’s my girl!” he cheered. “I knew you could do it! Meda, you tested her like I taught you?” Meda nodded.
“Yeah I did. She missed two the first time but not the second time. She caught them up, down, sideways and even on the splits! She was flush with the ice and blocked every single one of them!”
“Hell yeah! That’s my baby! Guys! Guys! My girl got all twenty!” The bus erupted in cheers and the players crowded into the screen.
“Good job, Tess!”
“Way to go, Tess!”
“I knew you could do it!”
“Got you a star goalie there, Barricade!”
The smile on Tess’s face could have lit up Manhattan. Yadkin touched her cheek on the screen. “I’m so damn proud of you, baby girl. You keep practicing and you can show me for real how badass you are when I get home.”
“You got it, Dad!” Tess blew him a kiss and waved at the guys. The call ended and Tess squealed, jumping up and down with Meda. The girls broke out into their signature cheer.
“Oh yeah! Uh huh! We awesome! We awesome!” They flopped into each other’s arms, hugging and laughing. The sound of clapping brought them back to reality.
“What are we celebrating?” Oh no. It was Apollo, Meda’s twin and Tess’ crush. He was the reason she’d lost a bit of focus earlier during practice. She’d been thinking about him. Blushing, she tucked her chin to her chest.
“Oh no you don’t!” Meda said, tipping her chin up. “Tess here got all twenty.” Apollo grinned wide and skated toward Tess.
“Oh my God, Tess that’s amazing!” He grabbed her into a big hug. “I knew you could do it!” She sighed as she melted into his arms.
“Thanks, Pollo,” she said. “Dad was ecstatic! The whole team was proud of me!”
“They should be! You’re a badass, girl!” He playfully chucked her on the shoulder. “You’re even better than our goalie. Thomas ain’t got nothing in your skills, babe.” He winked, making Tess blush. Wow, his smile was amazing. His eyes were amazing. Everything about him was amazing.
“You think so?” she asked shyly.
“You could run circles around him, Tess. Got your dad’s hockey greatness in your veins.” He was smiling at her, flirting with her and she was loving it. Until she heard the whiney high pitched voice of his girlfriend.
“Pollo, sweetie, it’s cold! Can you come keep me warm?” She looked over to the stands and there she stood. Shelly Ambres. Little Miss Perfect. Perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect body. Apollo flashed her his trademark smile and held up his finger. Turning back to Tess, he kissed her cheek.
“Proud of you, Tess. I mean it.” With another wink, he skated over toward his girlfriend.
“God I can’t stand that girl,” Meda huffed. “She’s all whiney and bitchy and too perfect-y.” Tess giggled. She knew Meda was doing this to make her feel better. It was working. “I mean, of course it’s cold in here. It’s a flipping hockey rink chick! Get a clue already!” Tess laughed and hugged her best friend.
“I love you, Meed,” she said. Meda giggled back.
“I love you too, Tee.” The girls skated to the locker room to change. After showering and getting dressed, they left the arena to hit up the pizza joint across the street. It was their Saturday ritual. Tess still had her mind on Apollo and his idiot girlfriend. They ordered their usual and relaxed into their favorite booth. Meda knew all about Tess’s crush on her twin brother but she never made Tess feel bad about it.
When their pizza was demolished and to go cups were in their hands, they stood outside waiting for Meda’s brother Theo to pick them up. Shortly after, they were squeezed into the cab of Theo’s truck singing along with the radio at the top of their lungs. One day, Apollo would be hers, Tess thought to herself. She figured she just had to grow up a bit first, get the things other girls had to catch a guy’s attention and maybe not look so much like a boy. Yeah, once she got her woman’s curves he would finally notice her. Then they would get married and live happily ever after. She sighed. A girl can dream.
Tess sat on her couch surrounded by dozens of photos of her with the Dakiedes twins. Most of them brought amazing memories of all the great times she’d shared with Meda. Those she tucked in a special box with a sweet smile on her face. It was the ones with Apollo that hurt the most. Looking back over the old photos, she saw it plain as day. The love shone right through her eyes, in her smile, in every goofy look. All he had to do was be near and she lit up like the Fourth of July. She caressed the photo in her hand, remembering the fun they’d had at Lake Summit. It was the last trip the Pritchards and the Dakiedes had taken together to their private hideaway up in the Adirondacks. It was the best and the worst summer.
It was the summer before she lost her hero. Her dad succumbed to a massive heart attack three months later. Wiping the tears rolling down her cheeks, she remembered the way Apollo had held her close as she grieved the loss of the most important man in her life. The twins were constants at her side for several months after as she processed through not only her own pain but tried to help her mother Ava as well. Apollo always seemed to show up when she needed to fall apart. He would open his big arms and pull her to him, letting her bury her face in his chest as he rocked her. She would never forget his tender touches and comforting words.
She just wished her stupid heart would forget. Maybe in time, if she kept herself separated from him long enough. She loved Meda too much to separate herself completely from the Dakiedes family but she could still maintain her sisterhood with her best friend without the love of her life hanging around. Couldn’t she? God, she hoped so. Giving up Apollo was proving to be the hardest thing she’d ever done, aside from saying goodbye to her father but she would never survive without Meda.
“Well, Tess girl, get off your ass and let’s get your shit back together.” With that final admonition, she put the photos back in the box and stored them for another day. It was time to begin moving on. “No retreat! No surrender! Óchi ypochórisi óchi parádosi!”