Obscene Gestures

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Chapter 16

These past weeks with Tess had been beyond his wildest dreams. He never imagined he could be so happy, so…content. Now he understood what his father meant about loving beyond all reason. It was the way Damon had loved Diana. It is the way Apollo will be loving Tess. He couldn’t think of loving her any less than with everything he had. They spent almost every night together and every spare moment in between. He didn’t care if he was suffocating her. He had a shit ton of time to make up for and he was determined to do it.

It was Tess’s bright idea to gain momentum with the Fury’s debut and garner fan support for the new women’s team to hold a charity game. The game would pit the Fury against the Sounders, showcasing the talented female athletes who would represent Detroit in the upcoming season. All the money raised from the sale of the tickets and concessions would go to the city’s youth hockey program. Both teams felt very strongly about giving the city’s youngsters something to do besides get in trouble. Hockey had saved many of them from a disparaging future and they wanted to pay their good fortune forward.

The money would help provide scholarships for those who couldn’t afford it. Skills camps would be run by the players throughout the year as well as special coaching sessions during youth league season. Several of the players volunteered to become mentors for troubled kids. Meda’s foundation, Dominant Divas, was working hard on a program to foster young girls and women in not only hockey but any sport. The partnerships were flooding in with area female athletes and talks were finishing on getting the program up and running.

Tess was currently holding a press conference with the coaches of both teams. As the PR director for the foundation, she was instrumental in working with everyone. She was a natural. How her old boss thought she was no good blew his mind. But Winslow’s loss was the Sounders gain. And the Fury’s. And Dominant Divas. The entire Sounders organization was going to benefit from her expertise and buoyancy. She was speaking animatedly to the press, her whole body participating in the conversation and the reporters were eating it up.

The whole front of the podium was covered in brand new youth hockey equipment. Two of the largest retail suppliers of sporting goods decided to get in on the action. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Academy Sports got together and donated over a million dollars in equipment to ensure every child got a full set of gear. It was incredible to see the two retail giants working together to bring the thrill of the game to so many children. They were not concerned about bottom lines and profit margins. They simply wanted to be a part of such a worthy cause. It was refreshing. Of course, Tess was behind their enthusiasm.

The reporters were vying for her attention and she was doing a bang up job fielding their questions. Any inappropriate comments meant to stir up trouble she glossed over. She gave no quarter to the troublemakers and let it be known she would not tolerate their behavior. At the end of the conference, current youth league players poured through the doors to surround the podium excitedly cheering over the new equipment.

“This, ladies and gentlemen is what this is all about. Look at those sweet faces! How could you not want to be a part of such a beautiful site!” She motioned to a little boy about eleven years old with shaggy blond hair and wary blue eyes. She gave him her microphone and urged him forward.

“My name is Jordan Clifton. I come from Franklin Park. It’s just me and my little brother, Jake. We got a mom and dad but they gotta work all the time. They can barely afford the stuff we need so forget about anything extra. We fine with that.” He stood straight and tall, his slim shoulders pulled back and his chin in the air. “My mom and dad are great. They give up everything to make sure me and Jake are taken care of. But I was still getting in trouble. I was fighting a lot which made my mom sad. Then I got expelled from my school because I couldn’t control my temper.” The room was deathly quiet as Jordan spoke.

“I was on my way to juvey. I ain’t gonna lie. Probably wouldn’t be much longer before I joined a gang or did something so stupid my whole life got screwed up. It’s not my parents’ fault. They try. So hard.” Jordan stopped, blinking rapidly. Tess placed her hand on his shoulder. Her touch giving him strength, he kept on. “This lady right here came to my neighborhood. She came to our rundown broke ass community center…oops, sorry Tess!... and played with us. She’s killer in street hockey!” The crowd laughed, bolstering Jordan’s confidence. “It was what she did after that changed my life. She introduced me to ice hockey. She brought me a pair of skates. She laced up with me and we hit the ice together.

“She took the time to really see me. She saw a little boy, cuz I’m still young,” he chuckled, along with the room of reporters, “she saw a little boy who needed something more. She talked to my parents and before I knew it, I was signed up with the youth hockey team in my neighborhood. I am now a proud member of the Franklin Park Predators!” He waited until the applause died down before speaking again. “I’m not getting in trouble no more. I’m not fighting either. I got something better to do and that’s play hockey. There are tons more kids like me. Thanks to Tess, I got me a future. But really, I’d follow her anywhere cuz she’s really pretty.”

“You little stinker!” Tess giggled and hugged Jordan tight. Apollo shouldn’t feel the small stab of jealousy from an eleven year old but little dude had game. With a smirk, he shook his head and clapped with the crowd. A few more kids spoke but Jordan stuck with him. He hadn’t picked any kids to mentor yet although he had full intentions of doing that. He was thinking Jordan and his little brother Jake would be a good fit.

After the conference was over, everyone was milling about. Apollo walked up to Jordan. He pinned him with an arched eyebrow and folded arms. Jordan wasn’t a bit intimidated. The little shit smirked and tilted his chin up in defiance. “Yeah I know she’s your woman but a man has to do what a man has to do.” That was all it took for Apollo to break out in loud raucous laughter. He shook Jordan’s hand.

“Well I guess I got competition then,” he chuckled. “Your parents get to come today?” Jordan sighed and his shoulders slumped slightly.

“Nah, they had to work but Tess promised she would get them a recording so they could see my big speech.” Apollo felt his heart give toward the boy.

“Listen, little man I have no idea what it’s like. My mom died giving birth to me and my twin sister so I never got to meet her. My dad is pretty awesome and so are all my siblings. We had it made. I know that makes me lucky and I’m grateful for everything I’ve been given.” He looked Jordan straight in the eye. “That includes Tess.” Jordan rolled his eyes and tried his best to curb a smile. “I won’t feed you a bunch of bull by telling you I can relate because I can’t. But, I will tell you that I think you and I can be great friends. How about you hang out with me and teach me how to be strong?”

Jordan’s brown eyes went wide as dinner plates. “Me? Teach you?!” The boy was flabbergasted. “Pfft I don’t know, Mr. Dakiedes. We ain’t got nothing in common. You really think it would work?”

“Hey, no Mr. Dakiedes, ok? That’s my Pop. Call me Apollo.” Jordan nodded his head, his hand shoved in the pockets of his worn jeans. “We got two things, dude – hockey and my girlfriend.” Jordan laughed, his shoulders shaking with mirth. Then he cut Apollo a serious look.

“You gotta take Jake too. We come as a package deal.”

“Wouldn’t think of separating you,” Apollo said with a smile.

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