It was snowing. The world seemed at peace. Today had, in actuality, not been so bad. He had skated for the fun of it on the pond earlier in the day and he had enjoyed it. Later afternoon he had received a phone call from the Metropolitan League. He had made it past the first set of tryouts. The next round would be held the following weekend.
I’ve still got it, he thought to himself.
Jamie stood in the kitchen, making himself a sandwich. Skating had left him hungry for food for the first time in months. As he sat down, his stepfather walked into the kitchen. He pulled the chair opposite Jamie’s away from the table and sat down. He sat quietly, finishing his sandwich, then picked up his plate and rinsed it in the sink. As he walked into the hallway a hand gripped his arm.
Jamie turned slowly, unfamiliar with the tone of his stepfather’s voice. “What?”
“I want to talk to you?” It was a question, rather than a statement.
Jamie looked into John’s face, searching for traces of anger. He found none. But he did find emotion; it reflected the same expressions in his own eyes. “Okay.”
The two men sat together on the dock, their breath rising in plumes around their mouths. Neither had said anything for several minutes. Jamie reached into his sweatshirt pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He didn’t often smoke, and usually kept his habit hidden, but didn’t care at the moment. This was one of the times specially reserved for nicotine.
John stared at his stepson while he lit a cigarette, but didn’t say anything. He hadn’t known that Jamie was a smoker, but kept his surprise to himself. He didn’t want to rock the boat any more than he had to.
“How did your tryouts go?,” he asked gently.
Jamie looked up in surprise, not knowing that John knew he was playing again. Possibly playing again. “How did you know about that?”
John smiled shyly, “Coach O’dell told me.”
Jamie looked out over the water, taking the new information in. “When did you talk to O’dell?”
“We’ve always talked on and off. He called when you quit the ducks. Actually, I received several phone calls about that one. From O’dell, Principal Charleston, your grandparents.” He paused. “Danny.”
Jamie was silent for a moment. “Why do they all care so much?,” he asked himself quietly.
“Why wouldn’t they?”
Jamie looked up quickly, not realizing he said anything out loud.
He looks so sad, John thought. He didn’t do anything to deserve this. “More people than you realize care about you, Jamie.”
Jamie stood up, taking one last draw of his smoke and threw the butt into the water. Turning, he faced John and looked into his eyes. “What do you want from me?,” he sighed.
“I want to re-get to know you; we haven’t talked in so long.”
“You stopped talking to me.”
John stood there in disbelief. All he had wanted to do for months is have a conversation with his stepson, but Jamie had been so cold. How did this get so confused?
“Jay,” said John, “I didn’t stop talking to you. I wanted to give you some space. What I said.. I, you must have been so angry.”
“I was… now I just don’t know what to think.”