It didn’t matter how old I was going to get. I had missed my family, and I had missed this, our tradition.
They picked me up after the game.
We would go to the same restaurant that we’d been going to for four years. We’d sit in the back room, eating and laughing for the next three hours. And even though Pine Valley wasn’t a far drive, my family opted to stay close to cut down on the time driving. We’d been going to the same hotel for the same four years. We’d all stay in the presidential penthouse suite, with two rooms attached on both sides. And even though I’d try to pay for the rooms, Alice would blackmail the front desk clerks to make sure she paid for the ensuite and all the rooms attached and not me.
In the morning, we’d have breakfast on the hotel suite’s balcony.
After breakfast, we’d lounge around and do whatever until my flight later in the day.
The team would have flown back in the morning.
My family would pack up from the hotel, give me a ride to the airport, and I’d fly back home later.
All this to spend a few extra hours with my family.
Always worth it.
It was the next morning.
Dylan and Jamison went to get coffee from the coffee place around the corner. The hotel was exclusive so they wouldn’t be hitting the coffee place in the hotel lobby. Not enough girls their age there, so yeah. They’d be gone for an hour because I’ve seen that line. It was always the same, out the door.
I was sitting on the patio with my mom.
David had gone to the gym, which Alice said was really code for the spa.
It was then when I asked, “You remember in high school when Chad came to stay with us?”
She was thumbing through a paperback, but lifted her head, frowning at me. “Yeah. Why?”
“What did they say was the reason for him coming over and staying so long?”
“Uh.” She put her book down and tilted her head up, her forehead marring. “It was because Deek needed to house his daughter for a bit. Something about her mother was going on. Why are you asking? Is everything okay with Chad?”
I didn’t answer that question. “They ever say anything about the daughter? Any specific reason Chad had to not be at the house when she was there?”
She was chewing on the inside of her lip, staring at me. Studying me. Another dip of her eyebrows, and she answered, but she answered slowly, “Well. I think they were just being cautious. Natalie was concerned about the boys because the girl’s mother wasn’t a good influence. I’d be cautious, too, to be honest. If a kid’s coming from a bad environment, you never know what behaviors might be coming into your home.”
That made sense, except I couldn’t see Cheyenne being like that.
“What’s going on, Cut? It’s not like you to ask a question like that out of the blue.”
I shook my head. “It’s nothing. I just don’t remember hearing about Deek’s daughter, that’s all.”
“You know, I don’t remember Chad mentioning her much. He spent a lot of time at our house anyway. It might’ve just felt normal for him. Something come up with Deek’s daughter now? Now, Deek and Natalie divorced so she wouldn’t be any relation to Chad anymore, would she? Well. Wait again. There’s Hunter…”
It wasn’t sitting with me right. None of it was.
“It’s too bad that Natalie moved out there. I mean, not for Chad’s sake. He gets to see his mom and brother, but I suppose I’m talking out of order here. I always thought Hunter and Jamison would be best friends like you and Chad. Didn’t turn out that way, though.”
She yawned before standing up. “I can’t wait for those boys to get back with our coffee. I’m going to make a pot in the room. You want a cup?”
“Nah. I’m good. I’ve got my water.”
“Yes. You keep hydrated. I know those games are so hard on you players.” She moved around me, patting my shoulder as she went inside.
I pulled out my phone, pulling up the old text conversation I had with Chad.
Chad: The fuck? That chick you banged is Deek’s daughter.
Chad: Cheyenne, right? Did she use the right name? What alias did she say to you?
Me: She didn’t. We didn’t exchange names, but what are you talking about?
Chad: You sent me to those seats because you wanted to grab the number from your Friday bang. It’s Deek’s daughter. You remember. She’s vile, man. Stay away from her. There’s a reason I basically lived with you guys our junior year. It was her. She was at my house instead. Mom and Deek didn’t want us around her, she’s that bad. Just stay away from her. Trust me.
I never responded to his last text, and I deleted the whole conversation now.
It didn’t feel right having that in my phone.
Actually, none of this felt right.
Cut wanted to do dinner on Thursday.
Cut wanted an explanation.
Cut was going to look at me like I was crazy, because well…technically speaking, I was. And boy, that was going to be a depressing conversation, so yeah. Not looking forward to dinner or the date, but I really was—but wasn’t at the same time.
I went to work the next day and I was a ball of nerves. That was really not a good thing for me.
That was my go-to startled reaction/scream. Do not make fun of me for it, and I rounded on Dean, giving him the stink eye because I hadn’t even taken two steps inside Come Our Way before he popped out of his office.
He was used to my heehaw by now, and he frowned for a split second before his entire body joined him in the hallway. It’d just been his head, and now I was the one frowning at his tie. He was wearing a Mustangs logo tie with his little hockey sticks cufflinks.
I made no comment, because this was the adorable five-year-old side of Dean. He truly was a fanboy of the team.
“So, we’re down a volunteer.”
I sighed. Dean was carrying a whole file of paperwork. And he was waiting for me, that meant he was going to follow me into my office, sit there, and not move until we’d talked about everything he needed us to talk about.
I changed courses, heading into the kitchen first. I was going to need coffee for this, a lot of coffee.
“Cheyenne-the-eye-of-the-tiger!” came from behind the grill, and our main chef lifted up one of his beefy hands, booming his normal greeting to me. He told us to call him Boomer, and well, judging by his greeting, you can see why. He kicked his head back and flashed me some pearly whites. “How’s it hanging with my especially fabulous-looking girl today?”
I gave him a smile back, but I didn’t try to keep anything from Boomer. He had the inherent ability of seeing everything, and I mean everything. If you had been anxious about something three days ago, he’d ask how that was going. Boomer and I shared something that Dean never would. We had both shared time on the streets, and there was a vibe we got from the other.
I thought those days were long behind me, like way, way behind me, but one look from Boomer and he understood. I wish I could look at him and know what he was feeling, but Boomer liked to remind everyone that he was our All-Knowing, All-Wise, All-Black Maestro. His words. I overheard him introduce himself that way to the new volunteer last week, and even she seemed transfixed with him.