Jamie pulled his jersey over his head and hung it up in his locker. Young men were all around, being loud in the way teenage boys are. Laughter echoed off the walls, yet he remained silent. Jamie was never one to willingly make conversation with anyone, and he wasn’t about to start now. These were his teammates, and nothing else.
Farther down the row of lockers was number twenty three, Jamie realized. He hadn’t forgotten that Dan made it through; he just hadn’t resigned himself to the fact yet. He had seen his brother two other times, and both had been on the ice. He played well, Jamie had to admit that, but he still wished he wasn’t there. It was going to take a lot of effort to accept his position on the team.
“Want a ride?”
Jamie looked up from the book he was looking at, finding himself face to face with the Jeep he almost walked into. His stepdad’s face peered from the drivers’ side window.
“I’m on my way home from work; I thought we’d ride together.”
Jamie sighed, and gripped the door handle. He sat down, and pulled the seat belt tightly around him. He wore it religiously ever since the accident. “Thank you,” he said quietly.
John looked at the boy, now a young man, and then turned to face the front window. He pulled cautiously into traffic.
“Why did you come for me?”
John looked up, surprised; he hadn’t heard anyone come down the stone steps. “What?”
“After practice, why did you come for me?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I was curious. I wanted to know how it went. I didn’t think you had an interest in hockey anymore.”
Jamie continued to look at him in silence.
“When O’dell called asking for permission, and later telling me that you were actually playing, I almost fell over. I wasn’t expecting you to play again.”
“Did you not think I’d be any good?”
“You know that’s not what I thought.”
“Then why else would you be surprised?”
“You stopped playing. I really didn’t think you’d play again after…”
Jamie waited a couple of beats. He’d known this was coming. They’d avoided it for too long.
“You didn’t think I’d play again after my surgery. You thought I’d be too messed up for that.”
Jamie sighed, and sat down next to John. “I didn’t think I would, either.”
“Jay, I never really apologized for that night- ”
“Don’t. I don’t want to get into it.”
“We should, though. A lot happened that night that I’m not proud of; a lot has happened since then that I’m not proud of. Everything’s changed. I want to make things better.”
Jamie thought about that. “Why did Stanley move in with us? And his kids?”
“He’s my brother. He was having trouble, and I wanted to help him out. I didn’t think they would be here this long.”
“He doesn’t like me much.”
John chose not to answer, continuing to stare out at the frozen water.
“It went well.”
John looked up, then. “What?”
“Practice. It went well.”
He smiled. “Tell me more.”