I was suddenly dizzy.
Margo was—Margo was amazing.
A lump was forming in my throat. “I’d like that.” A lot, a lot, a lot. I refrained from sharing that. I needed to be cool. I didn’t want to scare her away.
A gentle chuckle came from her and she squeezed my hand again. “I’m looking forward to it, and also, Decking with the Tomcats is now listened to by everyone on the Mustang staff. I don’t know if Cutler’s told you, but the three of you are hilarious.”
Well, yeah. We were some awesomesauce type of chicks.
“I see that Alice is here. I’ll let you have your time with Cutler’s mother now.” Margo gave me another one of those soft smiles before she went over to greet them. David was coming in right behind Alice, and Dylan and Jamison, too.
It was the head that came in after Jamison that had me gasping.
I had to take a second.
The air suddenly swooshed around me.
I knew Chad was coming to the game. He’d reached out to apologize. He apologized quite a few times, and he promised to steer clear at the game. I was fine with it. He moved out and he’d not been an asshole, trying to give me space ever since the police station.
So that Not-Brother was really a not-issue anymore.
And back to the real-brother. The very true-brother.
He was here. I couldn’t believe he was here.
I was definitely weaving on my feet. Swaying.
A feather could’ve knocked me over, but then Hunter was looking, scanning, and he found me.
A matching smile came over him and he ignored everyone.
He came right for me.
The air was in slow motion, moving around me, and at that movement from him, it all hit me at once and I jerked forward.
I couldn’t let my little brother be the one coming to me. I had to meet him halfway. Fuck that. I was rushing to meet him, and we almost collided in the middle of the box.
My arms were around him.
He was trying to hug the life out of me.
He picked me up, and whoa—my brother was strong.
His head was buried in my neck.
I couldn’t decide where to hug him best. Around his arms. Under his arms. I wound them around his neck instead and man, oh man, oh man.
This had been too long coming.
Way too long.
Hunter and I had kept in contact, but because of my new media attention and because of Deek’s charges, Natalie wanted to wait until things died down a bit before Hunter and I started our visits.
Visits. That’s what she said, too.
And she followed through on her dinner invitation from the Come Our Way event. She sent me an invitation two days ago for their Sunday family dinner. I thought the whole thing was ticklish to my insides. I was now the one being invited to Sunday family dinner. So not the outcast anymore.
I was hugging him, and I pulled back once he set me on my feet. “You’ve grown two inches since I last saw you.”
My little brother was blushing. “Not quite. Just an inch and three quarters.”
Right. An inch and three quarters. I needed to get it correct next time, but I was laughing because this was all filling me up with gooey chocolate warmth inside.
Loving life. Yes, I was.
“Can I just say it’s about fucking time you and I are hanging out? The emails were fine and all. Texting, too, but enough is enough. I want to see my sister. And you can tell my mom I swore. I don’t care. This has been ridiculous.” He nodded toward where Jamison and Dylan were standing. Margo was introducing them to Otis, Maisie, and JJ. “But it’s been cool seeing Jamison again. I haven’t seen him since like middle school. Mom is infatuated with Alice. And a little scared of her, too, but that’s between you and me.” Then he stopped talking and he stared at me, and he had to blink a couple times, too. It was the theme for the night. “Too long, Sis. Too fucking long.”
That lump was back and it just doubled in size.
I was nodding and blinking my own eyes. “I know.”
“Not again. You and me, we stick together from now on.”
“Got it. You and me.” And a memory came back to me, so I held up my pinkie. “We’re gonna hang, right?”
He was all serious and he wrapped his pinkie around mine. He nodded. “Hell yeah, we’re gonna hang.”
We had a little hugdle.
Afterwards, Alice came over and we had our own hugdle, too.
And even more after that, I hung out with my Little Dude for the whole game.
Mustangs won two to one.
Cut scored both goals.
I’d like to say that we had a happily ever after, but that wasn’t true.
We were happy. Then things were rough. Then things smoothed out again. Then they were rough, hard. There were struggles. Then smooth again. Happy. Joyous. Back to struggles. This was my life. This was our life, Cut’s and mine, because that’s how it goes with someone who has what I have.
Every day is a struggle.
But I can say that we laughed. We laughed a lot.
I can say that we loved. We loved so hard.
I can say that we were passionate. Fuck yes. Pun intended.
So all in all, there were good times and there were bad, but the good overshadowed the bad. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Whatever struggles a person has, going forward, what is imperative is that they have love and support. Anyone can get through anything, or it can be less frightening, less suffering, if they have a hand in theirs. Somedays that hand will need to be held tight and some days, it’ll need to be clung to.
Other days, a light graze was all that was needed.
I found that. So in that way, I got my happily ever after.
It’s been ten years. Cut’s still playing hockey. My podcast grew until it was so popular that we were having regular celebrities as guests. The highest ratings were always when it was just the three of us: Melanie, Sasha, and myself.
Life was good.
Cut and I married two years after he won the Stanley Cup.
Two more years after and we fostered our first little boy. Next a little girl.
We fostered a family of five children, ages ranging from seventeen to seven. There was a nineteen-year-old. He wasn’t a foster, but he lived with us. He was the sixth in that family.
We adopted four children over the years: Rain, Emily, Brian, and Lewis.
We adopted four dogs as well: Cutter, Chadwick, Clitty, and Sucker. Rain named Clitty. (She wants to be a medical doctor.) Emily named Sucker. (She just wants to hit things. She’ll probably go into construction.) Cutter and Chadwick came together and got their names because Cutter wouldn’t stop humping Cut’s leg. Chadwick because he was kind of a douche dog. I never thought dogs could be douches, but he was. That was the phrase around the house, ‘Don’t be a Chad.’ It was the PG version of the other one, ‘fucking Chad.’
Come Our Way was going strong.
Reba, Boomer, and Gail doted on all the kids and animals. Dean was still around, but I had no idea how that happened. He did another few events that weren’t cleared by everyone, and the board hadn’t been happy when I notified them about it. He got reprimanded, was asked to take a leave of absence. He came back three months later with a more ‘teamwork’ attitude. We never had an issue after that.