Man. Man oh man. I actually finished this. Like, completely finished it. This is the second time I've ever finished a story that people actually read (well, with the exception of a Harry Potter fanfiction that you can even find online anymore. Trust me, you don't want to). Okay. So, I'll save the big, rambling thank-you note for the end of the story, and just address the review:
Jolena: Yeah, I actually didn't intend for Leslie to come out as being such a little bitch, but that's just how it worked out. She knew what she wanted, was basically what happened, and she didn't care what she had to do to get that. I'm also glad that you're not mad at me for not having Vic end up with Mark. I actually considered writing an alternate ending for it where they did get back together, but in the end I think everyone who had a problem with it sort of got over it, and I decided not to. Yeah, in retrospect, I should have thrown in a few more clues of a possible turn-around with Vic and Perry together, so it wouldn't had been such an awful thing when it did happen. Oh well, I suppose. An OC/OC is something basically (as far as I've seen) unexplored territory in Miracle fanfiction (but for very good reason-why would it need to be? You have all those cute hockey players!), and I thought I'd give it a try to see how people liked it. Lastly, I'd say that I had it in the back of my mind that Vic wouldn't end up with Mark from the very beginning, but I just needed to figure out who that other person would be. So I guess what I said before about the idea coming to me at Chapter 2 or whatever was kind of inaccurate. I had actually thought that it would be Bah to begin with, but in the end I decided to go with Perry because I liked him better. Anyway. This is so long. I hope you enjoy this last chapter! :)
Lance Perry and I were married on September 3rd, 1984. After that night when Perry kissed me for the first (well, second, I suppose) time, there was no more rigmarole. We made the transition from best friends to devoted couple at almost an uncomfortable pace, but I didn't mind because it felt right. You know how in the movies, when the couple fights for the entire film, but then at the end sort out their differences and decide that being together is the best idea ever, and the entire audience just assumes that they broke up moments after the credits rolled? It was like that, except I knew it would last. It wasn't logical, but I didn't really need it to be.
Then, two years later, completely drained from his divorce, Rusty informed us that he was going to sell the store. Perry and I were both (still) working there at this time while we went to university—him in business and me working on an English degree, having given up on the Journalism program. With a decisiveness that made me shudder, Perry announced that he was going to buy the store from Rusty, to keep the business running. Naturally, Rusty agreed, but he made Perry promise that he would keep the name of the store the same, and he did.
In January of 1988, Perry (or Lance as he insisted on being called post-1986, because he was an adult; a business owner) and I had our first kid—a son, Joseph. By this time, we were both out of school and running the store to pay off ridiculous amounts of student loans, but we were happy. The three of us—me, Lance, and Joey.
It became four in March of 1990, when Allie was born, and then five in October, 1991 when Carter arrived. We had it all—a family business, run by a big, happy family, and I didn't think that I could have been more pleased with how my life had played out.
Wade ended up getting a hockey scholarship to NYU, and he stayed in New York to marry a girl (who he had met while shopping at Ralph Lauren one day) in 1989. He and Lance actually ended up being really good friends, considering their questionable first impression of each other.
As for Mark Johnson, we did meet up again for that beer, but our valiant attempt at a friendship fizzled out sometime after we both got married. I thought that was a fairly acceptable amount of time to remain friends with someone who you cared about that much and I knew that if I ever did see him again, it wouldn't be weird. We were adults, and the very least we could do was act like it.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, May, 2009
The bell above the door jingled, and I looked up, startled out of a rousing game of solitaire on the computer. A pretty blonde girl entered the store, looking around at the merchandise appreciatively. She looked to be about fifteen or so, and was carrying a small blue duffel bag. I hope she isn't going to rob the place, I thought to myself as she approached the counter. "Hey," she said confidently, and I took a closer look at her. She seemed familiar somehow but I couldn't place her face. In the end, I decided that she probably went to school with Carter or something.
"Hi there," I replied, smiling at her and getting off the chair to stand in front of the counter. "Can I help you with anything?"
"Maybe," she told me, shifting the duffel bag onto the counter. "Would you like to buy some chocolate-covered almonds or peanuts to help support my hockey team's trip to Boston this summer?"
I reached for a key hanging under the counter, which unlocked the drawer where my purse was. "Sure," I told her. "I'll take a box of each. How much do I owe you?"
Before she could answer, Carter sidled up, a pair of headphones hanging by the back of his neck. I had completely forgotten that he had been unpacking boxes in the back. He was ignoring me, though, having noticed the pretty girl standing at the counter. "Hey," he said cavalierly, holding out a hand for her to shake. "Carter Perry. What's up?" I shook my head discreetly, pulling my purse from the drawer. Just like his father. It's not just his personality, either. His dark blond hair and blue eyes make him look exactly like Lance did when he and I first met.
"Mikayla," she offered, shaking his hand daintily. "They're three bucks for a box," she told me, discarding his hand after holding onto it for the proper length of time.
Carter refused to give up, though. "What are you selling? Girl Scout Cookies?" he tried again, and winked at me as I gave him a patronizing look. Exactly like his father.
Mikayla shook her head. "No, it's almonds and peanuts. I'm fundraising," she added, and then I noticed that she looked almost furious with herself for allowing him some other conversation topic to pursue.
Carter refrained, however, and dug in his pocket for his wallet. "Really? Three bucks a piece, huh? I'll take five of the peanuts, please." I gave Carter another incredulous look. He had been, as he had put to me a few nights previous at dinner, "on the strictest diet you can ever imagine", to help himself get in shape for the upcoming hockey season. Five boxes of chocolate-covered peanuts were hardly strict.
"Uhh…" She looked a bit at a loss. "I only brought in three of each," she explained, and then pulled out a cell phone. "Let me just text my dad to bring more in." She seemed to think that if she left we would change our minds about buying.
"Cool," Carter said, grinning. "What are you fundraising for?"
Mikayla looked up from her phone and slid it back into the pocket of her jeans. "A trip that my hockey team is taking in August," she told him. "We're going to Boston." She seemed to be a bit more eager to talk now, probably because Carter was buying fifteen dollars worth of her candy.
Whatever Brownie Points this girl had earned before because of her looks, they tripled in Carter's eyes when she mentioned that she played hockey. Girls who played hockey, in his opinion, were "the mintest of the mint, Mom". He leaned against the counter, propping his elbows up against it and flexing slightly. "Oh yeah? That's so cool. I was just in Boston last month to check out Northwestern. Are you from around here?" He wasn't telling her a boat-load of lies, but he was really laying it on thick, and I wondered if he realized that this girl was probably about four years younger than him, by the looks of her.
"No, I'm actually from Wisconsin, but I'm helping my dad move here this weekend."
"Well, maybe you should come visit him this summer, and we can hang or something."
I was actually sincerely hoping at that point that my son wasn't coming off as being supremely creepy. He had always possessed that certain, Ferris Bueller-esque charisma that somehow allowed him to do things and speak to people without worrying about what they would think of him. When he was fifteen, he did a highly popular rendition of "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins in front of about three-hundred people at a school fundraiser. Somehow I had ended up with a charming kid. This bravery made him almost shameless, which explained why he was attempting to pick this girl up right in front of his mother. These qualities had made him strangely popular with girls. I'd been getting calls from disgruntled mothers of girls who Carter had upset (as if it was my fault) since he started Junior High.
But Mikayla seemed more interested, which was odd to me. Maybe it was because Carter had mentioned the fact that he was checking out universities, alluding to the fact that he was older and perhaps cooler. It had been a while since I was fifteen. Mikayla brushed a bit of hair behind her ear and quickly checked her phone again. "Maybe," she said, smiling at him.
The bell above the door jingled again and a man, presumably the girl's father, walked in carrying more chocolate. It took me a minute to recognize him. After all, I hadn't seen Mark Johnson for over thirty years. When I did recognize him, I started to laugh out loud. Carter shot me a disgusted look, probably thinking that I was laughing at his technique.
Mark did a double-take. A comical one, and for a second I was fairly sure that he was kidding. "Vic?" he asked in a mystified kind of voice.
I continued to laugh. Of course this girl would be his daughter. Of course. When I actually thought about it, Mikayla did actually look like Leslie a bit. "Oh my God," I said, coming out from behind the counter to give him a hug.
Carter and Mikayla were staring at us, evidently confused. "This is my daughter," Mark explained, placing a hand on her shoulder.
I nodded, gesturing at Carter. "My son."
"So you two've, like, met?" Carter asked.
Mark and I exchanged a look and made a quick decision to not mention anything, um, specific. "Uh, yeah," I said, shaking my head at Mark, still bewildered. "We knew each other in the eighties. Carter, this is Mark Johnson."
Carter banged his hand on the counter, making us all jump. "No way. No way. The Mark Johnson?" It was a rhetorical question, but he paused for Mark to nod before he said again, "No way. That's unreal." He turned to Mikayla. "Why didn't you mention that's who your dad was?" Carter had been fascinated with the whole "Miracle on Ice" spectacle of 1980 ever since the 2004 Disney film came out. It was very amusing to his father that a lot of his admiration was directed at Mark Johnson. He nearly blew a blood vessel when I told him that I actually had known a few of the players.
Mikayla appeared to be at a loss. "I don't know," she admitted, unaware that not immediately telling Carter that your dad was one of his favourite "old-school" hockey players was a severe crime.
"Oh man," Carter gushed, apparently unaware that he was gushing like a little girl, "that's crazy. I can't even believe that. Can I have your autograph?" Yes, I thought, he will certainly not be "hanging" with Mikayla any time soon. She looked completely annoyed with him.
Mark laughed a little, but he apparently couldn't refuse a fan. "Sure," he replied. "Got a pen and paper?" Carter moved behind the counter so fast that it made Mark laugh again.
Once the autograph had been signed, Mark took a step back and looked at me again. "It's been so long," he remarked, shaking his head. "Do you own this place now? You and Mr. Perry?"
"Sure do," I said, nodding. Carter had stopped creeping on Mikayla. A more interesting specimen has arrived. "Since 1986."
Mark let out a low whistle. "That's something else. So how is he?" I supposed he meant Lance. "Is it just the three of you?"
"He's doing good. He's actually in New York right now visiting our oldest, Joey, at university there; he lives with my brother Wade, if you remember him…?" Mark nodded, smiling fondly. "Yeah, he's there, and we have another daughter, Allie, who goes to university here. How about you?"
"We have five, actually," Mark said.
"Oh, wow, five," I replied, shaking my head.
"Did you bring the chocolates in, Dad?" Mikayla cut in, saving us from an awkward silence.
Mark seemed to remember himself. "Oh—right, I did." He set them down on the counter. They were actually bigger boxes of chocolates than you usually saw from fundraising companies, and I guessed that Carter was going to need to share a bit of his, probably with his sister. "Think we should hit the road, kiddo?" he asked his daughter, who shrugged.
"Not if you're visiting."
He looked up at me and we exchanged a look, and he grinned. "Well, if we wanted to actually catch up, you'd be here much longer than you wanted to be, Mick. I think we'd better get going."
I thought to myself that it was odd how little I had in common with Mark now. He actually would rather have left the store than talk. I realized then that it didn't really bother me. Of course it didn't, though. I hadn't talked to him in such a long time.
Mark solemnly shook hands with Carter, who was still looking starry-eyed. "Nice meeting you, Carter," he said.
"Oh, you too, man," Carter said, grasping his hand. "You have no idea… Wow. I can't even…"
I put a hand on my son's shoulder, knocking him out of his little trance. "You owe Mikayla some money, right?"
We paid her and then watched them leave.
"Hey, Mom?" Carter said, popping open a box of his chocolates.
He grinned at me. "You're a lot cooler than I give you credit for."
I elbowed him. "Did I not give you work to do?"
Later that night, I was back at home grilling some chicken for dinner. Allie came into the kitchen and sat at the island, propping her elbows up on it. "So, Carter told me that you had a celebrity in the store today. One of his hockey players." Allie was adamantly anti-hockey players, which I thought was just great, considering that hockey players were much worse than they used to be, and the fact that she was much prettier than I was at her age. With naturally wavy dark brown hair and Lance's blue eyes, she could have dated any hockey player (or anyone else) she wanted, but, in her words, she preferred "intelligent guys".
I turned the burner down and looked at her. "Yeah, it was Mark Johnson. He was a—"
She waved her hand impatiently at me. "Miracle. I know. Carter said. Okay, so, Dad just texted me and said that Joey got Skype set up on his computer. He wanted me to ask you if you wanted to talk to them, like, right away."
I absently checked my cell phone, which was in my pocket. "Why didn't he text me?"
"He hates you."
Somehow all of my children got Lance's insulting sense of humour. "Oh, good. Well, tell him that they can sit in on our dinner if they want. Is Uncle Wade there?"
She shrugged. "Probably. So yes?"
Allie brought her computer downstairs and set it up on the kitchen table. By the time I got dinner cooked, she had already called Carter and they were talking to Lance, Joey and Wade on the computer.
"Smells good," Lance said as I finally sat down. I glared at him and he laughed. "So how was your day? Was the store busy?"
I opened my mouth to answer, but Carter interrupted me. "Jesus, Dad. You won't believe who was in the store today. You won't be able to guess."
"Shut up, Carter," Joey told him. I could only see the tops of his feet on the edge of the desk as he probably leaned his chair back against the wall, something I would have reprimanded him for doing if he had been in front of me.
"What?" Carter said, taken aback by this.
Joey leaned his chair back forward with a bang, bringing his face into focus. If Carter was the spitting image of Lance, then Joey would be my double. Or probably Wade's. He ended up with the dark-haired and eyed looks, and his easy-going nature was very similar to Wade's. "How the hell could he guess who came into the store? How many people come in there every day? It could be literally anyone."
Carter, unfazed by his brother as usual, continued. "It was someone from a movie, Dad."
An odd look passed over Lance's face. "Johnson. Mark Johnson?" Wade looked mildly surprised and glanced over at him.
"Yeah, yeah it was him," Carter says, looking kind of disappointed that he guessed it so easily. "His daughter came in selling candy. It was crazy. Joey, you would have went nuts."
Joey snorted. "I'll bet you went all fan girl on him, didn't you? Did you get his autograph?"
When Carter held up the scrap of paper that had Mark signed, a look of unmistakable jealousy appeared on Joey's face. "That's mine when I get home."
Wade gave a little laugh. "How is old Johnson, Victoria?"
I rolled my eyes. "He's the same. He's exactly the same." I then decide that it's almost time to change the subject. "Where's Celeste, Wade?" Celeste was Wade's wife.
He looked around. "She's around," he concluded. "Not here, but around. Don't change the subject. We were just talking about Carter's idol. Isn't it funny that you knew him all those years ago and now your son just thinks the world of him? That's so funny, isn't it, Perry?"
"Which one of us is Perry?" Allie asked, looking up from her dinner.
"Don't worry about it," Wade, Lance and I said in chorus.
Shit, so that's it. I'm done. That's crazy. Almost two years later. Weird, I was pretty sure that I'd started this story in March. So very wrong, apparently. May, March, whatever, I guess. I'd just like to thank all the people who read and reviewed this story, and were patient with me when I wandered off for months at a time. I really appreciate you guys reading this, and (for those of you who did) giving me support because it motivated me to write more, and sometimes I just needed that little nudge. If anyone has any more questions or anything about the story, it would be a better idea to send them to me directly, because I won't be able to address questions directly from the story anymore. Actually, I thought I'd go through the earlier chapters and kind of re-vamp them to make them better, because I do think that I've gotten better as a writer or changed the tone over these two years. That actually might not happen, depending on how busy I am over the next little bit. OH, and to all you people who read this and don't review, now would be a FANTASTIC time to tell me what you thought of the story, like, overall. Even if you hated it. I know a lot of people say that, and if you actually say something other than something positive, they lose their shit on you. I promise I won't do that. Just tell me what you thought. Anyway, if I still have you reading this, I just wanna say thanks one more time, and have a great summer, everyone! :) 3