Then that would most likely be drinks, not dinner. I guess he ate late, probably needing the calories after his game.
I already knew what I was going to say, hence the sweaty palms and the hitch that turned into a wheeze in my breathing, and I could’ve pulled my own hair out from the nerves. So. Many. Feelings! It was almost too much and this was just over texting. Hence, why I rolled and ran that morning.
Cut: You’ll be at the game? Or that last game was a fluke?
Me: Yes. I’ll be there. Same seats.
Cut: Get a ride there. I’ll drive us after.
Just like that, I had a date.
My hands were now shaking and sweaty.
I had something extra in me at our away game.
Feeling the chill from the ice, how it felt fucking flying over it, easing in and around my opponents, all of that and more. There was just more happening tonight.
The smack talk wasn’t affecting me one bit. I was in a zone.
My stick was a part of me. The puck too.
Hendrix lined up, but I knew his read. It was in our play, and I skated up into place. His wrist moved. The puck came to me, and I was there, ready for it, and it flicked past two opponents, past the goalie, and swish. I went Top Shelf. The puck hit the net.
This shit never got old. Ever.
I completed the turn, rounding past the goalie, and Hendrix was on the other side to meet me.
More to go.
This would not be a one and done. Not for damn sure.
Then, the call came, and we switched up. Second line was out, and we were on the bench. I got some pats on my pads, my helmet. The coach gave me a nod, and Franklin banged against the box. He was still doing some time. We’d all been there before, it was just part of the play.
Sitting, taking a breather, I got a water and towel handed to me. That felt good, but I wanted back out there.
“Your family came tonight?”
It took a second for the question from Hendrix to penetrate.
We weren’t far from where I first grew up.
“Yeah. My brothers too. We’re doing dinner after. You want to come?”
He nodded. “You know it. I like Mama Alice.”
I smirked. Everyone liked Mama Alice, and all hockey fans loved Killer Mama Alice at our games.
I looked at Coach. He motioned to the ice. “Get out there.”
It wasn’t unusual to switch up the lines, but hell yeah, I was ready.
We waited, then made the switch. Alex skated in and I jumped off, moving into position.
I pushed forward, meeting up against the other team’s defender, and it was then that I got it. He was fast. I knew he was fast. Everyone knew he was fast, but going against him, Alex wasn’t as fast.
Thirty seconds later, Hendrix moved next to me.
We changed lines.
It was the end of the first period when we got the puck back, when I faked at shooting, gave it to Hendrix, and he got it in.
Lines changed up. I got a breather, and like last time, Coach sent me out for Alex once more.
This guy on the other team was good. He was winding up, but I moved in.
He slapped it to his teammate. Franklin was moving in. He intersected and we weaved around each other, then back into position.
We were holding it.
The other team was good. They’d held us off for most of the first period, but we had two goals in.
I should’ve been ready. A part of me was ready, but Franklin hit the puck to me.
I got it and bam!
I was shoved down, blindsided and looking up—their fucking enforcer.
His check was legal, barely, and he flew past me with a smirk on his face. “Two more to go, Ryder.”
I glared, feeling a spike in my blood. The magical spell of the game had been interrupted, but I knew that was why he was targeting me. He wanted in my head. Well, welcome to the shitshow and walk your ass right in. Enforcers didn’t work on me how they worked on most players. They brought an edge to the game, knowing you’re targeted, and I welcomed that edge. I used that edge to up my speed, up my adrenaline, up everything, and the more aggressive he got against me, the more aggressive I got against his teammates.
He just didn’t know that yet.
It was in the second period when he made his move.
He swung in.
I saw him coming, moved the puck to Franklin, and I turned to meet him.
He read me and veered back.
He was bluffing, but I read him right and I nodded to Franklin.
I pushed forward, veering right past their enforcer as he was swinging back around. He wasn’t ready for that. Franklin shot to me and I moved forward with the puck, Franklin swung in against their enforcer. No contact was made, but Hendrix was skating with me.
I passed to Hendrix.
Hendrix passed to Franklin.
Franklin moved in, got cut off, and the puck came back to me.
I lined up, did a tight circle, and tapped it to Hendrix.
Hendrix got it in.
Then their enforcer came at me.
There was no bluffing this time.
Two games in a row.
My jaw hurt. My hands hurt. Everything hurt.
I was tired.
The mind games had me tired by the end of this game.
We were up three to one. Alex let one in, and I was hurting, so Coach kept me for my breather.
He signaled the line change, but I was held back.
Alex stayed on.
Another thirty seconds.
The third line went out.
Alex came back in and his gaze found mine. I read the apology there and dipped my head. There was nothing else to say. This was the game.
“You good?” From the assistant coach.
I nodded. I wasn’t but I gritted my teeth. That was all strategy from their team. Their defender was better than Alex. I was out there. I had the stamina to meet him, best him at times, and then they sent their head-fuck guy in and it worked. I fought him off, but that beast was raging in me, simmering underneath. He wanted out to play.
I hit the ice, felt that ‘home’ feeling, and I smiled.
I was letting the beast out.
There was no way they’d see him coming.
At the end of our last period, I heard from the stands, “WAY TO KILL ’EM, CUT! I NAMED YOU THAT FOR A REASON!”
There was a roar from the stands.
Yeah. Everyone loved Killer Mama Alice.
The team headed for the hotel, but I had it worked out to stay the night with my family. It was on my dime to fly back the next day, not with the team. It was worth it, especially now walking out from the arena, my entire body tired from our post-game workout and my mom was waiting for me.
“Hey, big guy.”
Same greeting after every game, with a wide smile, and she held her tiny arms out for me.
I bent down, hugging her back and she embraced me, squeezing tight. Another reminder never to underestimate Killer Mama Alice. She had the grip of a bear, and once she was done hugging me, she let me go and patted my arms. “You’re looking dapper.”
I raised an eyebrow.