Hendrix laughed. “I’d expect nothing less. I’m almost looking forward to that.”
We headed over to the girls, and I drew Cheyenne to my side.
There was a lot of mingling. The donation buckets were brought around, along with drinks and the food they always had at these places. There was press set up by the corner, and Dean came over at one point to ask Cheyenne if she’d go and talk to them.
“No.” Her voice was flat. “Go away, Dean.”
He went, and then Melanie leaned over to whisper to Cheyenne, “You can be a beacon whenever you’d like.”
Cheyenne started laughing.
The Reba lady made a speech, and a few of the volunteers whom I recognized from my stint here yesterday came in, and each took a turn at the microphone. They all talked about their time helping out, and how they’d been touched or inspired by the individuals who ate there, and also the staff. That seemed to be the general consensus.
Each of the volunteers came over to hug Cheyenne, as well as Boomer and Reba.
I had no clue where the Dean guy went, but I also had ceased giving a shit about anyone except my teammates and Cheyenne and her group. It was at this point that I knew we’d done enough time at the event. People looked ready to keep drinking and celebrating, but I bent to Cheyenne’s ear. “Wanna head home?”
Her hand came to my chest and her lips to my ear. “Please.”
“I’ll bring the vehicle up. Want to ask your girls if they want a ride?”
I was just leaving through the back door when I heard from behind me, “Do you know what you’re doing?”
I looked back as the door shut.
Deek was standing there, and he looked like he’d been waiting for me, smoking a cigar. He waved it around, motioning to me. “You and Chad were friends since you were little, and I used to think of you as a son. A long time, Cutler. A long time. Then, you moved on. You joined the NHL and that was around the time the divorce was happening. I thought to myself, “I gotta let him go. He’s Chad’s now.” And you were. You had your own family, good people. Great people. Solid people, but my heart was being ripped out of my chest.”
“Why are you telling me this, Deek?”
“Because of how you’re looking at me right now. You look down on me, and you’ve got no right. You’re a pup still in the world. You think you know what was happening when I let Cheyenne go, but you don’t. I lost everything. I loved Natalie. I loved Chad, and I lost both of them. And Hunter. She took him away from me. I only got to see him every other weekend, but I love those times with him. I look forward to them, and he’s such a good kid. He’ll be a great man someday. He’s going to big places. A big future before him.” His voice broke. “I’m proud of him. He’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
“You’re exactly right.”
He narrowed his eyes.
“You had nothing to do with Cheyenne and the kind of person she is today.”
He started to sneer, taking a long drag of his cigar. “You’re making a mistake with that one. She’ll be just like Donna. I already see it, the beginning. Those two friends she’s hanging out with. They’re into drugs and they’re probably hooking on the side. Same as Donna. She ask for money yet?”
I loved hockey.
Deek kept on, “Because she will. Same thing with Donna. Donna waited until Cheyenne was eleven before telling me I even had a kid. After that it was a phone call every now and then, a nice ‘do you want to see your daughter?’ But then the demands for money came in. She tried blackmailing me, holding Cheyenne over my head.”
I loved the competitiveness of the sport. I loved how ruthless you could be on the ice.
“Then she figured out I didn’t care.” This was the first pause he made, frowning before taking another drag from his cigar. “I should’ve cared. For that, I feel a sort of way, but then I start thinking that maybe I’m not feeling a sort of way for a reason. Like there’s something wrong with the kid, that’s why I don’t care for her. Donna figured that out, and then it got real. That’s when she tried blackmailing me for money. You don’t want to know the lengths she went to find out about me to extort. She said nasty things, really nasty things. All untrue too. I’d about had it with her, then we found out that she was arrested and taken to rehab. Social services called me, told me that they found Cheyenne, and she looked like she hadn’t eaten in a while. Donna locked her out of the house. You believe that shit? What kind of parent would do that? I’d never. Not with Hunter.”
It was a controversial part of the game, but I loved the violence.
I wished I were on the rink right fucking now.
Deek was almost done with his cigar. “I’m not the best father there is, but I tried. Brought her in. Gave her shelter, food, clothing. I tried. I did, and then I found out what happened with Chad, and that was it. That was the final straw. Couldn’t stomach seeing Cheyenne after.”
Violence off the rink was bad.
I needed to keep telling myself that because I was three seconds from snapping. I wanted my stick in hand, skates underneath, and I’d check this guy on the most perfect angle of coming around the goalie’s net.
I was envisioning it.
Deek standing there.
Me coming around.
I’d hit him so hard, his head would— “I did what I had to do, and I wouldn’t take it back.”
I snapped out of my thoughts and I saw Deek was swaying a little.
He wasn’t sober, at all. I hadn’t noticed.
“What are you talking about?” What did he do?
“Stay away from her, Cut. Love you like a son, like Hunter, like Chad. I never thought I had to look after you, but I do. That’s what I’m doing here. I’m looking after you. You stay with her, and your life will be over. She’ll ruin you, just like her mother ruined me. It’s in the blood. It’s between the legs. A cunt. That’s what Donna was, what she did with Chad. She didn’t think I’d find out, but Chad came home that night and I knew right away what she did. She did the same thing to me. She was going to ruin Chad’s life, too.”
I started for him, but checked myself.
He reeked of brandy. A mostly empty bottle was on a chair behind him.
He’d been drinking and waiting for me.
He hadn’t answered. I lifted my head back up. “What did you do, Deek?”
“She was just there, lying in the bathroom.” Deek faltered now, the words starting to slur from him. “I had no clue where Cheyenne was. Donna’s pants were still undone, and there was a needle by her. A full needle, but she’d already taken what she needed. She was gone. Off.” He whistled, waving his hand in the air. “She wanted to go. I could tell. It was in her eyes, how she was looking at me.” Another falter. His gaze grew distant. “I helped her.”
“How did you help her?” I grated out.
I couldn’t believe I was hearing this, but I was.
“I put the other needle in her arm, and I pushed the drugs in…fast.”
Another man had never made me physically sick, until now.
“That was the night she overdosed, wasn’t it?”