Peachy65: Thanks for the review! Hope you like the end.
NellieBly413672: Thanks for the review! Glad you liked it, sorry it's over but I hope you enjoy the chapter!
A/N: Okay, first off, I'm soooo sorry it took me over a month to post this. I've been studying so much for my boards and I haven't had much time to write. The good news is my boards were today. Seven hours of testing and I'm finally done! So I got home and decided I had to finish this chapter! Bad news is that this is the last chapter of the story. I'm sort of sad this is the end, but I'm excited to start working on my new story. I wanted to post a preview for it, but needless to say I didn't have time to write anything. I do have a lot of ideas though. Don't expect it to be up until late this summer though. Okay, without further adieu, here it is. Please read and review!
Chapter 40: A Sunny Day
I'm waitin', waitin' on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin' on a sunny day
Two months after the games, Rammer and Mac were finally settled in Buffalo, enjoying their time playing with the Sabres in the NHL. Since they moved to Buffalo late in the season and neither knew what would happen after the season ended, they decided to get an apartment together at least until they figured out what was going on.
One afternoon, their last free afternoon before playoffs began, Rammer went shopping because he and Mac were almost out of food. As he pulled his credit card out of his wallet, getting ready for his turn at the register, a piece of paper floated to ground. Rammer didn't notice dropping anything, but the girl behind him did and picked it up.
"Excuse me," the girl said, tapping Rammer on the shoulder. "I think you dropped this."
Rammer turned around and saw a semi-familiar looking girl holding out a small piece of paper. He didn't even look at the paper at first, because he was too focused on the girl. It almost seemed like he knew her from somewhere.
Rammer snapped out of his trance, thanked the girl, and took a look at the paper. Seeing a phone number with the name Sara written above it jogged his memory. This was from the girl he met in Minnesota just before leaving for the Olympics.
Rammer stuffed the paper back in his wallet, knowing he'd probably never call the girl, because even though he had liked her, he knew almost two months after they initially met she'd probably no longer be interested, if she ever even was in the first place.
"That looked important," the girl sort of joked, trying to make conversation with Rammer as he waited for his turn in the checkout line.
"It was just someone I met in Minnesota a few months ago," Rammer said, trying not to sound too disappointed at the thought that he'd most likely never see her again. He didn't even know why he actually told this stranger that, but he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Can I ask you a question?" the girl asked, just after Rammer turned away from her.
"Sure," he replied, trying to sound as pleasant as possible. He sort of wished he could just be left alone.
"Okay, this might sound sort of weird but… by any chance are you on the Sabres?"
Rammer was shocked that this girl knew he played for the Sabres. He really didn't think he was that recognizable.
"I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have asked," the girl apologized, seeing the look on Rammer's face.
"No, that's okay. It's just that I've never really been recognized before." Rammer was also confused. He still couldn't shake that the girl looked sort of familiar - Is she stalking me? Rammer wondered, thinking maybe that was why he'd seen her before. He'd heard guys on his team telling horror stories, but thought that they must have been exaggerating.
"Well, then this is about to get weirder," the girl said. Oh no, Rammer thought thinking the worst. She then explained, "I think my sister's phone number was on that piece of paper."
"Excuse me?" Rammer asked, now very confused.
"I couldn't help but notice it when I picked it up. I saw the name and first three numbers. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but then you said you met the girl in Minnesota… my sister said she met a really cute guy that was going to play for the Sabres there." Now it made sense. If they were sisters, it would explain why she looked so familiar. She looked like a couple years older version of Sara.
Instead of a shock or surprise sort of response for having run into Sara's sister, Rammer instead asked, "She said that?" wondering if Sara really described him as cute.
"Yeah. Are you going to call her?"
"Ummm," Rammer replied.
"She's been hoping you would."
"Did she say that?" Rammer wondered, smiling at the thought.
"Well, no. But I know her as well as anyone does. She'd definitely love it if you called."
"Then I'll call," Rammer stated.
Rammer did end up calling Sara, just as he promised, and when he did, she answered the phone as if expecting his call. Rammer was then sure her sister must have told her about the grocery store incident. Since he was going to be busy with playoffs, and she was busy with final exams for college, they decided to wait a few weeks to go on an official date.
When they did get to go out though, they both not only felt like they knew each other for years because they spent so much time getting to know each other on the phone over the previous weeks, but they also both felt a huge connection. They both really wanted their relationship to last.
Late in the season, the same time as Buffalo was eliminated in the semi-final round of the NHL playoffs, Bah was playing in Rochester for Buffalo's American League affiliate team when he took a bad check from behind. He ended up in the hospital with a concussion, a fractured jaw, missing teeth, and a broken nose.
Kristen took the first flight out of Minnesota, where she still was at the time, to be with him. Not only was she terrified, but so was Bah. His injuries were already bad enough, but they could have been even worse.
He was talking to Kristen about how he could have played in Europe, where they were known for having a cleaner game.
"Then you should do it," Kristen said, fully supporting her boyfriend.
"I don't know, Kris," he said. Bah actually did want to give playing in Europe a try, but at the same time, he didn't want Kristen to feel like she had to move out of the country. She was already planning on moving across the country for him. He didn't want to push it by asking her to move across the Atlantic.
"I'll go with you," Kristen said. "I just want you to be happy, and I want to be with you. I don't care where that is."
"Your parents will flip," Bah pointed out. Her parents weren't all that thrilled when she told them she was leaving Minnesota to be with her boyfriend.
"So what?" Kristen said. "I'm a big girl. If I wanted to move to the Moon to be with my amazingly wonderful boyfriend, they wouldn't be able to stop me," she said with a big smile. Kristen rubbed Bah's arm from her seat right next to his hospital bed.
"Well, I think they were mainly upset since you're moving and we're only dating," Bah said. He didn't think, he knew. They were waiting for an engagement announcement since Kristen told them she was moving to be with Bah.
"Like I said, I'm a big girl. Besides, whether we'd been dating for a month, dating for three years, engaged, or married, I would only move with the man I love if I was absolutely sure it was what I wanted. And I want this," she stated. "And someday we can make them happy with the news we're getting married. But until then, I'm just fine with them being a little upset."
"I love you," Bah told Kristen sincerely. "That's the first thing I thought when I was laying there on the ice, before I lost consciousness. I was afraid I might never get to tell you again. I don't want to wait anymore."
"Wait for what, babe?" Kristen asked.
"I love you. You've just offered to move across the ocean for me! I want to show you that I'd do the same someday, when you want me to. We're going to be together forever anyway, so why wait any longer? Kristen, will you marry me?"
Kristen's eyes went wide. She knew it would happen eventually, but she didn't expect it tonight. "Oh my God," she finally said.
"I'm sorry," Bah said, feeling like a complete idiot. "You must think I'm crazy," he said, realizing how dumb he must look. "Talk about spur of the moment. I don't even have a ring. Can we forget I asked?" He hoped Kristen would because he felt so bad. This was as far from romantic as it could have been - him with a broken face in a hospital bed, without a ring or anything.
"No," Kristen told him. Now she was crying. "We can't forget. I don't care that you don't have a ring. I want to marry you!" she said, throwing her arms around Bah. "I love you!"
"I love you too," Bah said. Now he started laughing. "But we really can forget about this until I ask you appropriately. Like, with a ring and somewhere a little more romantic…"
"Don't be silly," Kristen said. "This was the perfect proposal. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way."
A few months later Bah and Kristen were enjoying their time in Switzerland with Bah playing for Lugano. They traveled together around to different cities when they could although it wasn't often. Kristen didn't mind not having much time with Bah though, because she kept herself occupied. Since Buzz was playing in Switzerland as well, Kristen and Gayle often hung out – Bern was only about an hour and a half away from Lugano, so sometimes they even met to take short trips together. One game early in the season actually had Buzz and Bah playing against each other. After the game the group of four went out for dinner.
"How about a bottle of wine?" Bah asked the group.
"None for me," Gayle said, trying to hide the huge smile growing on her face.
Kristen glanced between the married couple. She noticed that Gayle was just glowing. Buzz looked really happy too. Are they? she wondered.
"Sure?" Bah asked, about the wine. "It's on me."
"No, I can't," Gayle said, and this time there was no hiding that smile. She looked right at Kristen, knowing exactly what the blonde was thinking. "Yes, what you're thinking is correct," Gayle told her.
"Oh my gosh! Congratulations!"
"What's going on?" Bah asked, with a totally clueless grin.
Gayle looked at her husband and nodded for him to give his friend the news.
"We're pregnant," Buzz said, already looking like a proud father.
"Oh my God – congratulations man!" Bah said, getting up to give his friend a 'man hug'. Since the girls were on the inside of the booth they were at, they didn't get up to hug each other.
"Wow, congratulations," Bah said again.
The rest of the night was present talking about the baby. Buzz and Gayle didn't know the sex yet, but she was due in April, so she still had about six months to go. Bah noticed how excited Kristen was at talk about the baby, and although he and Kristen had discussed kids and decided to wait a couple years until Bah was more settled down and a little closer to the end of his playing career, Bah found himself even more excited to marry her and have kids of their own.
When Riley began school that fall, she instantly decided coming back to Chicago was the best decision she could have made. She loved almost everything about college, and it was even better than she got to hang out with OC occasionally. It wasn't until the spring of her freshman year that her world almost came crashing down on her once again.
OC was relaxing in his apartment in downtown Chicago one night after a home game when he heard an unexpected knock at the door. He reluctantly got up to answer, thinking it was probably someone he didn't want to see. I'll have to remind that new doorman not to just anyone up here, OC thought to himself, walking to the door. He was shocked when he saw Riley standing outside his apartment. He hadn't seen her for a few weeks now because they both had been really busy. His face must have shown the surprise because Riley immediately apologized for bothering him and offered to leave.
"No, no, don't be silly – you just got here. Come on in," OC said, opening the door far enough to let Riley inside. OC now noticed Riley looked a mess and that, along with it being well past midnight, he knew something was wrong.
"I'm so glad you're here," Riley said quickly, pushing past him to get inside. "I don't know what I would have done if you weren't here. Do you have something to drink?" Riley asked, still speaking a mile a minute. OC was lucky he could even understand her. "Something strong," Riley added. "I need something strong," she repeated, half to herself. "I know that's what I would have done if you weren't here. I passed that bar on the corner on my way here, but decided to see if you were home first. Not that I really wanted to go to the bar, but I would have needed to. I just need to forget this day ever happened because…oh my God," Riley said, now breaking down into tears. She slid onto the floor with her back against the wall. A very concerned OC immediately ran to her side to sit down next to her. OC wrapped his arms around her in a hug.
He held her for a few minutes in silence before asking, "Riley, what's going on?"
Riley wiped her eyes, and then attempted a laugh. "I'm sorry. I'm being overdramatic. I should go," she said, starting to stand up.
"Hey, hey, hey, hold it!" OC said, grabbing Riley's arm to pull her back down. "You are not going anywhere. Not until you tell me what's going on with you." OC knew Riley was just trying to fake being strong and tough, and that she was still a mess on the inside.
Riley sat back down but said, "I'll really be okay, Jack. I'm sorry I bothered you. I know Melody…Melanie…Marissa…" Riley tried to remember the hockey player's girlfriend's name, but wasn't having much luck. "I know she'd be mad if she saw me here."
"Melissa," OC finished for her. "We broke up, so don't worry about her."
"I'm sorry, Jack," Riley said. "Here I am, going on about my problems and you and Melissa broke up!"
Jack smiled. "Riley, Riley, Riley… one, you haven't told me about 'your problems' yet, and two, you hated Melissa."
"I'm still sorry though. You liked her," Riley reminded him. The truth was, Riley hated Melissa. She could see right through the girl that was just with OC because he was a star hockey player. Riley did take pleasure in knowing that Melissa was jealous of Riley though. OC complained to Riley a number of times that Melissa didn't like them hanging out. According to OC, Melissa didn't think the two of them hanging out was "appropriate".
"Eh, not really," OC replied to Riley's comment that he liked Melissa. "I guess I did at one point…" which was only for certain, specific reasons, "but I took into consideration what you had to say about her and realized you were totally right. She wasn't good for me. So don't feel bad about me breaking up with her. Now I want to know what's going on with you."
"I had rough day."
"A rough day?" OC asked, not buying it. Riley was definitely underplaying that. "Riley, you can talk to me," OC said, gently massaging Riley's shoulders. "Tell me what's going on."
Riley turned to face OC and let out a long sigh. "Well, it all started when I talked to my mom this afternoon…it's about Eric."
OC was a little worried with where this was going. He remembered Riley telling him a few months before that her mother met this guy, Eric, at a group for people that lost their spouses to cancer. Riley was really upset because she didn't want her mom hanging out with a guy, and since she pushed her mom to join the group, she felt it was her fault because they would have never met otherwise.
OC thought back to the night Riley came over with that news. Melissa was pissed because OC had to help a very intoxicated Riley and "ignored" Melissa. After OC calmed Riley down and talked to her, he thought she was okay. But now, it seemed like something happened because Riley was nowhere near okay.
"What happened, Ri?" OC asked, his arm still wrapped around his friend.
"My mom dropped the bomb on me that they're getting married! I didn't even know they were fucking dating and now I find out they're getting married!" Riley said the word married like it was the plague. "My dad hasn't even been dead two years and she's already trying to replace him!"
"Riley," Jack began. "I'm sure that's not what your mom is trying to do."
"And then – as if things weren't bad enough already," Riley continued, almost as if she didn't hear OC's last comment, "I decide to go talk to my roommate about it. Her parents are divorced and she has this absolutely horrible stepmother. I figured she'd know what I'm going through, right?" OC nodded to show he was paying attention. Riley continued. "I walk in my room to find her with Scott!"
"Scott as in your boyfriend, Scott?" OC asked. Then, "With, with? As in, having sex with?"
Riley nodded, though embarrassed and unable to admit it out loud. She looked down, not even wanting to make eye contact with OC. OC hugged Riley tight, feeling so bad for her.
"I'm so sorry," he finally said with his face pressed into her hair.
Riley finally pulled away, her face soaked with tears. "How could they do this to me? I thought Scott loved me. I thought Nicky was my friend. I thought I could trust them both."
A few minutes later, Riley spoke up again. "The worst part is that this is my fault."
"How is it your fault?"
Riley guiltily looked up at OC. "I wouldn't sleep with him."
For a few seconds, OC didn't know how to respond. He was shocked Riley thought that. He was also pleasantly surprised she didn't sleep with him. It wasn't that OC didn't like Scott, because the hockey player barely knew him. OC just didn't want to ever think about them having sex. Finally, OC said, "That doesn't make it your fault."
"If I would have, he wouldn't have slept with Nicky," Riley said, in a voice that sounded so childlike and naïve.
"Riley," OC said with a sigh. "It is not your fault! Don't even think that for a second. Scott's a jerk. You know what?" OC asked, but didn't wait for an answer. "He would have slept with Nicky anyway if he wanted to, and then it just would have hurt even more if you had slept with him." After they sat in silence for a few minutes, OC asked the question he wanted to before but didn't. "Why didn't you want to have sex with him?"
Riley looked at OC, knowing that she could tell him without any judgment. Anyone else, Riley wouldn't have felt so sure, but she knew she could trust OC. No matter how stupid it sounded. "My reasons are probably dumb," Riley began. Then she added, "A couple weeks ago, Nicky actually told me I was just making excuses, but I'll tell you anyway… First, he refused to wear a condom. I mean, I am on the pill…ya know, just in case… but I wanted to be extra careful - he could have an STD. I don't want to get anything. Besides that, I don't want to have sex with just anyone. I wanted to make sure we really loved each other. Unfortunately Scott knew about my past and how I lost my virginity and inferred sex wasn't a big deal to me."
"I'm so sorry Riley," OC said, not knowing what else to say.
"I know I'm not perfect," Riley admitted. "But I'm trying to be a better person. I learned from my mistakes, and I don't want to go down that road again." Riley meant 'that road' as in the multiple people she hooked up with from the Olympic team.
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to wait to have sex," OC told her.
"Says the famous hockey player that can have any girl he wants," Riley joked.
"That's not fair," OC said. "You know I'm not like that."
Riley raised her eyebrows, silently saying, "Could have fooled me."
"Okay," OC conceded, reading Riley's expression. "I'm not perfect either. But if a girl I loved told me she wanted to wait, I would. And believe me, if Scott wanted to have sex with you that bad, he wouldn't have had a problem wearing a condom."
Riley smiled. She knew OC was right. "Thanks, Jack."
Riley was still upset about Scott, but OC made her feel a lot better. They continued talking about the wedding too. OC explained that maybe finding a nice guy, like Eric was a really good thing. Riley was already gone, and after Kyle and Erin grew up, their mom would be alone. He told Riley not to think of Eric and his kids as a replacement. Riley appreciated OC's efforts, but she didn't completely agree with him at this point.
Riley stayed in OC's spare room that night, and the next night, and soon it turned into two and half weeks. Before Riley knew it, she had totally moved in with OC. She couldn't bear to live with Nicky anymore, and she didn't really want to face anyone else in her hallway either. She wasn't sure what Nicky told anyone, but figured it was probably stretching the truth in favor of what she did with Scott.
A few months later, it was summer and both school and hockey season ended. Bah and Kristen were back in the US after Bah finished his one and only season in Europe. They were in full force wedding planning mode, although they weren't getting married until the following summer. Bah was also getting everything together for his future playing plans. At the start of next season, he was playing on the US National team. As nice as it was playing in Europe, Bah really missed home, so he was excited for next season. Besides that, he was starting a family with Kristen now and wanted to be near the rest of their families.
Riley enjoyed her summer vacation as well, spending most of her time in Minnesota because that's where her mom was, but she missed Chicago. If she was honest with herself, there was one thing about Chicago in particular that she missed, and that one thing was OC. She had thought that spending some time away from him would be a good thing, but it was anything but. Riley knew she was falling for him, but she also did everything she could to ignore her feelings.
Instead of thinking about how much she missed Chicago, she tried to fill her time helping her mom plan her wedding. The more she got to know Eric, the more Riley realized that he wasn't such a bad guy.
The first few weeks at home were hard because Eric kept trying to involve Riley in things. He had two kids of his own, both a few years younger than Kyle and Erin, and Riley's siblings were already meshing well with their soon to be step-family and looking forward to having little kids in the house. Riley didn't want to be a part of any of it at first.
It took Riley a lot of thinking, as well as talking to her mom and close friends, including phone calls to OC, to realize that no one was trying to replace her dad. Eric had been taking the kids to parks, the zoo, and baseball games all summer, and Riley finally agreed to go along with everyone. Riley even went to a baseball with just Eric one night. It was a little awkward at first, but she found that Eric was a really good guy and he was really easy to get along with.
"Riley, I can understand it if you're not exactly okay with the idea of me and your mom getting married," Eric said while they watched the game from what Riley admitted were really generous seats. She knew what the face value of the tickets right behind the dugout was, and she almost felt a little bad that Eric felt he needed to impress her or buy her affection – whatever it was that he was trying to do.
Before Riley could respond, Eric continued. "I love your mom, and I promise that I'm not trying to replace your dad." Riley looked at Eric, knowing he was telling the truth but still having doubts she couldn't explain. She had been told no one was trying to replace her dad several times now. There was something else that made Riley uncomfortable though.
"You know, when Ann died," he said, speaking about his late wife, "I really wondered how I could go on. Especially with the kids. They were only four and two at the time. I could barely parent with my wife, let alone be a single parent." Riley did quick math to realize that his wife died about two years ago. About the same time as her dad. "It was so hard. I went to the support group because my brother talked me into it. He saw that I was heading in a downward spiral. I needed to make sure I didn't fall completely apart."
A two base hit by a player on the other team broke the conversation for a minute, but then Eric spoke up again. "Then your mom started coming to the group, and by that time, I was doing a lot better. Your mom seemed so strong and I couldn't believe it. She was clearly the opposite from me. When she introduced herself to the group, she said that her oldest daughter talked her into coming. I remember her saying that she was so proud of you and you're the biggest thing reason that she didn't fall apart."
"But I was terrible to her at first!" Riley said. She didn't mean to say it out loud, but she was so shocked at what she heard, it slipped out.
"Well, she didn't say that," Eric said. "She said that you took it the hardest at first, and for good reason, but that you came so far in just a few months. Your mom wanted things to go back to normal too."
"How did you start talking?" Riley asked, never having heard the details before. She was never interested in the details before.
Eric smiled. "Well, one day I was talking about my daughter and how I didn't know how to deal with her tantrums. My wife was the one that was the expert with that. She didn't have many tantrums, but after Ann died, she started to have more. After the meeting your mom stopped me and said she might be able to help. We ended up grabbing some dinner and she gave me advice. That dinner turned into one after almost every meeting. Neither one of us was looking for anything, but our relationship sort of evolved."
The inning was over and the Twins were now running off the field to take their turn batting. "Your mom talked about all three of you, but I think she talked about you the most. She's really proud of you, Riley."
"Thanks," Riley said, thanking him for telling her all of this. Her mom always told her she was proud of her and stuff, but to hear it from someone else made Riley feel great.
"You know, I was really nervous to meet you."
"You were?" Riley asked.
"Well, yeah. I knew how important you are to your mom, and I was worried about making a good impression. I knew there were a million reasons for you to hate me."
"I don't hate you," Riley said. "You're a nice guy. I know you love my mom, and Kyle and Erin. It's just…I don't know." Riley still couldn't put a finger on what exactly was making her uneasy.
"It honestly never occurred to me that I could love another person as much as Ann. I knew that the day I married her. Then the kids came along, and I loved them just as much as Ann. When she died, I never thought that I would ever get married again. It didn't even cross my mind," Eric said. "Then I fell in love with your mom. I met your brother and sister, and soon realized I loved them too. Now I know there's always room in your heart for more love. Just because you love someone new, doesn't mean you have to stop loving anyone you've lost. I'll never forget Ann, and I'll always love her, just like your family will never forget and always love your dad. But now I love your family too. And it's good to know we can remember and cherish the past but try to move on too."
Eric's words really got to Riley, who was now trying to hold back tears. She now knew what she was uneasy about. She knew Eric wasn't going to replace her dad, but she was afraid her mom would love Eric more. Her reservations about Eric were vanishing now that she realized nothing was going to change past. Her dad would always be her dad and her mom's first husband. It wasn't so much about having a new family and a new husband to love as it was extending the family and having a second husband to love.
Once the school year started back up again, Riley was back in Chicago, living at OC's apartment once again. Riley could have dormed with a friend on campus but since OC liked her company and Riley liked living with him, they decided it was best for her to save some money and continue living with OC.
One night, a month after hockey season began, Riley and OC were hanging out like they did a number of other nights, this time watching a movie. Riley's mind was far from the movie though. Over the past week, she had been trying to find a new place to live. She did like living with OC - he was easy to get along with and nice company when he wasn't on the road, but Riley realized she was developing a huge crush on the hockey player. Riley wanted to leave before she ended up doing something stupid. If he ever found out her feelings, she knew things wouldn't be the same between them. She'd rather keep things the way they were, even if it meant hiding her feelings, because she didn't want to lose the friendship they had.
"Well, you might be happy to know that I might have found someone on campus to live with," Riley said, not caring that she was interrupting the movie.
"What?" OC asked, very surprised. He had no idea she was planning on moving out. "Why?"
"Well, I just thought it'd be easier."
"Oh," was OC's response. He was a little hurt that she wanted to live somewhere else. OC thought she liked living with him. He really liked having her around too, and he was sure she knew it. She always had so much energy and enthusiasm for what she was doing in school, for him and his hockey career, and just life in general. Riley could always cheer him up after a bad game, he loved her cooking, even if she messed up more often than not, and at times he almost thought he loved Riley in general. He knew they were friends, but sometimes he wondered if there could ever be something else there – something more to their relationship. Who am I kidding? OC thought. I'm totally crazy. She doesn't like me like that. Maybe her moving out would be a good thing…for my sanity.
"Are you okay?" Riley asked, sensing something was wrong with OC. He seemed funny all of sudden.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he answered, though not very convincingly.
"Come on, Jack…" Riley walked her first two fingers close to him and then up his arm. "I'm gonna tickle you if you don't tell me," Riley threatened.
"I like having you here. I don't want you to move," he said, with an unattached like tone, staring at the TV.
"Why not?" Riley asked curiously. Sometimes she thought there were signs that OC liked her as more than just a friend and roommate, but she couldn't be sure.
"Because," OC said. He now looked into Riley's eyes, knowing as soon as he saw those beautiful seas of green, he'd be a lost cause, but he did it anyway. As Riley looked into OC's eyes, she felt exactly what he was feeling. They leaned toward each other and shared a kiss. It wasn't overly passionate, but left both breathless as they pulled away.
"Because?" Riley asked, repeating OC's last word. Then, "You wouldn't be able to do that whenever you wanted?" Riley smiled, trying to make light of a somewhat awkward situation.
Riley was relieved when OC smiled back, though a somewhat nervous looking smile.
"I love you, Riley," OC said, taking a huge chance with the words he'd been denying though wanting to say for quite a while.
"I think I love you too, Jack," Riley said back.
"You think you love me?" OC tried to joke. He was still half nervous and now almost regretted saying it.
Riley shook her head. "No, I know I love you. I'm just trying to determine when I started loving you as more than a friend."
The next spring, soon after Riley finished school for the summer, was Riley's mom's wedding. It was also the offseason for OC at this point, the Blackhawks lost in the semi-final round of the playoffs, so they made the trip to Minnesota together. They were dating and stronger than ever at this point. It was weird how they went from hating each other when they first met to being head over heels in love with each other. After the wedding, the couple took a trip to Boston to visit OC's family and friends.
They got to see Rizzo and Pam, who were now happily married and expecting their first baby in few months. They also got to see Silky and Jimmy, who were visiting Boston during their time off as well.
As expected, Silky gave the couple a hard time. He wasn't nasty or mean about them getting together, he just joked about how he always knew it would happen. Silky didn't bring up the fact that he slept with Riley a long time ago. Whether that was because Silky knew it was inappropriate or because his girlfriend was with them, they weren't sure. Not that Silky and Riley's escapade wasn't common knowledge, but as far as OC and Riley were concerned, they wanted that part of the past to stay there, so they were glad Silky didn't bring it up.
As much as Silky acted like his good old self, both OC and Riley did notice that Silky had changed a lot. They were assuming the reason was Shannon - Silky's latest girlfriend. When Shannon excused herself at lunch to use the restroom, Silky told the two that she was 'different'. He couldn't explain it, but both OC and Riley were really happy for him and hoped that he indeed did find 'the one'.
On the fourth of July, OC and Riley spent the afternoon with OC's family at a big picnic. Riley had never met OC's whole family before, and she didn't realize how big it was. Both his mom and dad had several siblings, so OC had tons of cousins. OC was actually the oldest cousin, and the youngest was just two years old so the age range was huge.
That night, they went to see fireworks by Boston Harbor together. It was just the two of them, everyone else was watching the fireworks somewhere else.
OC and Riley laid on a blanket together, waiting for the show to begin.
"Did you have fun today?" OC asked, holding his girlfriend close.
"Yeah. Your family is great."
"You were having lots of fun with Emily," OC said, smiling.
"She's adorable," Riley said. Emily was the two year old.
"Makes you want one, doesn't it," OC half joked.
"I hope my kids are as cute as her."
"If they're at all like you, I know they will be," OC told her.
Riley turned her body so she was sort facing OC. She looked into his eyes and said, "I love you."
OC kissed her forehead, then her nose, then planted a peck on her lips. "I love you too," he told her. "Riley?" OC said, after she had settled back into her comfortable position, half laying and half sitting with her back against his chest.
"Yeah?" she asked and turned around again because OC was trying move from behind her.
"I love you."
Riley laughed a little because he just told her that a few seconds before. "I love you too," she responded.
OC reached into his pocket and pulled out a little black box, making the red head gasp.
"I mean I really, really love you. A few years ago, I never thought that was possible," OC said, pausing for a few seconds before continuing. "I didn't know if I could love anyone enough to know it would be forever, but I definitely didn't see myself loving you that much." OC looked down at the box he was holding, then looked up at his teary-eyed girlfriend. "But somehow, I fell in love. We've been through so much together - happy, sad, exciting things. . . and I want to go through the rest of our lives together too. OO paused and opened the ring box, revealing a beautiful diamond ring. "Riley Nicole Brennan," OC he started and paused again, beaming while Riley was crying, "Will you make me the happiest man on earth and marry me?"
"Yes! Yes!" Riley said, vigorously shaking her head, then wiping a tear that was rolling down her cheek. OC slipped the ring on Riley's finger. "I love you," she said, hugging him tight and then kissing him.
"I love you," OC said, for the third time in three minutes.
Between the two of them, at least fifty more "I love you"s were said over the remaining part of their night. They enjoyed the fireworks in each other's arms, and then celebrated with some more fireworks of their own back in the privacy of their hotel room.
In late August, OC and Riley were back in Minnesota once again, this time for Bah and Kristen's wedding. Riley was especially excited now because she was starting to think about her own wedding.
"Jack! Riley!" Kristen said when she got a chance to see them at the reception. "I'm so glad you could make it!"
"You look gorgeous, Kristen," Riley told her.
"Thank you so much. I heard you have some pretty exciting news yourself."
"Who told you?" Riley asked.
"Gayle. I think Buzz told her. He probably heard it from Mac, who heard it from someone else. You know the guys and their gossip," Kristen said.
"Yeah," Bah said. "We're almost as bad as you girls, right?" he joked.
"Hey Jack, hey Riley," Emma said, coming u to greet them.
Riley didn't really know what to say to make conversation. She and Emma never really got along, and she didn't see a friendship beginning tonight either. As long as they were civil, things would be fine.
"Great job Maid-of-Honoring," Riley said. Emma laughed.
"Thanks," she said nicely and with a smile, leaving Riley almost wondering if Emma was drunk already. The newlyweds, Emma, Riley, and OC talked a few minutes before Bah and Kristen excused themselves to say hi to more guests.
"Well, I have to go too," Emma said. "My partner in crime is somewhere around here," she added as she looked around the crowd.
They both knew she was talking about Pav, the best man. There were a couple rumors going around that they were an item now, but no knew for sure. Bah didn't even know and Emma and Pav were two of his best friends, with Emma usually telling him even more than he wanted to know, so no one was sure.
As the night went on, a lot of the guys were hitting up the dance floor with their significant others. It was amazing how much had changed in a couple years. Guys like Silky and Verchota, who no one ever thought would settle down, actually seemed tamed. They both had girlfriends with them. Even more guys on the team were engaged. At one point, Buzz and Gayle were passing around pictures of their son Billy, who was now sixteen months old. He was walking, talking a little, and already playing hockey.
"He's going to grow up to be just like you, Buzz," everyone had been saying.
OC and Riley were married two summers later in Chicago. They waited two years because Riley wanted to finish school first and this timing put her college graduation a couple months before the big day. It would have also made more sense to get married in either Boston or St. Paul because of where their families were, but Riley always dreamed of her wedding at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.
When they were in the beginning stages of planning the wedding, Riley was going to concede and have it in Boston because as she told OC "she loved Boston" when she was there. OC knew the real reason for her quick succession though. OC's family was very big and Riley didn't want her mom to have to pay for his whole family to fly anyplace and Riley couldn't afford it by herself either. The hockey player also knew how much his fiancée truly wanted the wedding in Chicago, so he told her he'd take care of getting his family to Chicago.
The day was perfect with all of their loved ones with them. The only thing that was missing was Riley's dad. Before walking down the aisle, Riley was in the dressing room at the church, doing last minute touch ups. Riley pulled out the note she'd read so many times before, and read it again.
I hope you never get this letter, but if you're reading this, it means I've lost my battle. I know it's hard, it's hard for me to write this, but you'll make it through. Take care of things for me - your mom will need help with Kyle and Erin. I know things will be hard at first. Just remember to always go for your dreams and never give up. Live everyday to the fullest and never live with regrets. I'll always be watching over you, so you better make me proud. Even though I won't physically be there to see your graduation, I won't be able to walk you down the aisle, and I'll never meet your kids, I'll be there. I know you think you're strong, but remember, it's okay to cry. I love you so much and you'll always be my little girl.
Riley was strong for most of it, but began crying when she got to the past about her dad not being around to see her get married.
"Oh dad," she whispered. "I wish you were here."
Just then, her sister walked back in the room. "Well, it's almost that time. Jack looks so nervous but not nervous enough to run away or anything. Although I think-" Erin stopped mid sentence, noticing her big sister was crying.
"Riley, it's okay," Erin said, rushing to her sister's side to give her a hug. Erin knew why Riley was crying. "Dad's here today you know." the twelve-year-old told Riley. "He's looking down thinking you look so beautiful, and he's so proud of you. I know, because I think you look beautiful and I'm proud of you." Erin kissed Riley on her cheek. "And dad would also tell you that you look beautiful even with your Rudolph nose that's a tell tale sign you've been crying."
Riley laughed now and hugged her sister. Her nose always got really red when she cried. "Thanks Erin. You always know what to say to make me feel better."
"That's what sisters are for," Erin said. "It's a good thing you're wearing waterproof mascara."
"I know. So how's it look out there. Other than Jack being nervous."
"It's packed. You two have a lot of friends."
"They're mostly Jack's friends. We invited his whole team plus the guys from the Olympics team."
"Well, those guys are all your friends too," Erin said. "I remember you hung out with them all the time."
"Yeah," Riley said, though without much enthusiasm. She then thought back to the Olympic journey. At first, she wasn't sure who on the team actually liked her, and she knew even the ones that did were probably pretending. As their time together went on, Riley knew that the guys did start to consider her a friend. But 'friend' was a pretty general term. Riley would have never imagined that they would be attending her wedding. Of course, she and OC hated each other and now they were marrying each other. Riley would have never imagined that either. Even still, she thought the guys were all here for OC, not for her.
When Riley approached the main doors at the back of the church, the butterflies in her stomach started to build. She caught a glimpse of her fiancée at the altar, looking just as nervous as her. They caught each other's eyes and smiled, and that was all either of them needed.
OC thought his bride looked stunning. OC's eyes were glued to Riley as she walked down the aisle with her mom escorting her. His excitement grew - he couldn't wait to marry her. Riley looked on both sides of the aisle to catch glimpses of her family and friends. As she saw the familiar faces of the Olympic team she grew to love, she realized that they were here for her as much as they were here for OC.
Bah, with his arm around his very pregnant wife, Kristen, winked at her as she passed, as if giving her extra encouragement or something. Riley smiled back. After getting halfway up the long aisle of the church, Riley turned her attention to her soon to be husband.
"You look amazing," OC whispered as soon as Riley was within earshot.
"Thanks, Jack," Riley told him. "You look great too," she added. When the Mass was over, the happy couple walked down the aisle, hand in hand, ready to continue their life together.
"Mommy, I'm gonna play on the slide," a little boy with very light brown, somewhat shaggy, hair said before running off.
"I'm goin' too," a little girl in braided pigtails said, also running off from her parents.
"Sometimes I wish they'd never grow up, Kristen said, watching her son play with the little girl.
"I know," Riley agreed. "Rachel's getting so big. I can't believe she'll be five in another month."
"You saw Billy right?" Kristen asked. "I can't believe he's already nine!"
"Don't remind me. It makes me feel old," Gayle said, having had just walked up to where the two women were standing.
"We're still young though," Kristen told her. "You had him early."
"I'm so glad we got to do this," Gayle said. She was talking about the reunion picnic everyone was at. A couple guys on the team had set up a picnic in Minnesota so everyone could see each other again.
"Hey baby," OC said as he walked up to Riley and snaked his arm around her waist. "You wanted orange, right?" he asked, handing her a can of pop.
"Yeah, thanks Jack," Riley said, giving Jack a peck on the lips. As Riley continued talking to the girls, Jack stood behind her and casually rubbed his wife's stomach with one hand as he talked to a couple of his old teammates, who were now also standing nearby.
"It's so nice seeing all the kids playing together," Silky's wife Shannon, said.
"I can't believe almost all of us have kids," OC said.
"A lot can change in ten years," Silky said, smiling at his wife. They had two daughters now, a three year old and a six month old.
"It sure can," Riley agreed, turning her head to smile at OC. OC pulled Riley closer now, her back pressed against his chest. His hands rested comfortably on her stomach.
"How's my little guy doing?" OC asked, bending down to whisper in his wife's ear.
Riley rested her hands over OC's. "He wants to join in the fun. He's been kicking all afternoon."
"We got ourselves a little hockey player in there," OC told her.
"Another you," Riley said. "Just what the world needs," she said half sarcastically.
"Hey, hey!" OC protested, sort of loudly. "Watch it," he told her, attempting to sound serious. He was back to almost whispering now, making it a private conversation.
"I like when you make me pay for things," Riley whispered back, a sly grin on her face.
"I know," OC said, quickly kissing Riley's neck. "I have to work on better punishments," he joked.
"Daddy!" a child screamed, making all the fathers turn to see if it was their child. It was Rammer's son. "Hannah pushed me!"
"That's just 'cause you pushed me first," a little girl yelled over.
"The one thing I hate about being a parent," Rammer sighed, loud enough for his friends to hear. "Taking sides."
"It's even worse with two girls," Silky said.
OC spoke up. "Your kids can't fight! Abby can't even talk."
"He can't wait for her to start though," Shannon joked.
"I'm glad we don't have any daughters," Buzz said. He and Gayle had two sons. "Girls seem like more work."
"But they're so cute!" Kristen said. She and Bah had a year old daughter.
"I'm glad we had a daughter," Bah said. "If not I was afraid Kris was going to start dressing Tommy up in ballet outfits," he teased her.
"Well, I needed to dress someone up in pink."
"I'm glad I have two daughters," Silk said. "Then they can't say I don't treat them fairly."
Shannon elaborated on Silky's comment, because she heard his explanation so often. "Yeah, we won't have to listen to complaining when they can't leave the house, because neither one of them will be leaving," Shannon said, rolling her eyes.
"What?" Silky asked. "I can't help it if I want to protect my little girls."
"Yeah, it's because you know exactly what all those boys want," OC said.
"They're not getting it from my little girls."
"Well, it looks like Mac is going to have a problem with his daughter," Riley said.
"Megan Elaine McClanahan!" Mac yelled.
The people who saw what was going on laughed. Megan, a cute little four year old was under the slide, kissing Emma and Pav's six year old son.
"Ryan!" Pav yelled. "Get over here!" Then he said to Mac, "I'm really sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Mac mumbled. "I bet it was Megan that started it. She kissed some boy in her preschool class on the last day of school."
"They expel her?" Rammer asked, jokingly.
"It was the last day, so no. But I bet they would have. Kissing boys at four years old doesn't go over well in Catholic schools."
"I'm sure kissing boys at four doesn't go over well in any school," Kristen laughed.
"I'm yelling at Ryan anyway," Pav said. "I'm convinced his mother is a bad influence on him."
"Riley, OC, Silky, and a couple other people gave Pav a funny look. Wasn't his mother Emma? they were all silently wondering.
As Pav walked away to talk to Ryan, Bah explained the situation to his friends. "They're separated. Well, sort of. I don't know if you can be officially separated if you were never married to begin with."
"That's too bad," OC said.
"No it's not," Bah said, completely seriously.
Kristen agreed. "They fight all the time. When they talked about getting engaged two years ago, we talked them out of it."
"I had to convince Emma that getting married wouldn't magically stop the arguing," Bah said.
"I can't picture Pav being that confrontational," Silky said.
Kristen and Bah shared a look. "Emma is always the one that starts it," Bah then said.
"It's because she loves him," Kristen reminded her husband.
"She has a funny way of showing her love," Bah said.
"You should know that by now," Kristen said, having had witnessed tons of fights between the best friends over the years. "She starts things with you too."
"I thought of another one," OC whispered to Riley. He was still standing behind her with his arms wrapped protectively around her.
"What's that?" Riley asked.
"I don't think you're going to like it," OC told her.
"Then why'd you mention it?" Riley laughed.
"I don't know. Because it just popped into my head."
"Well, what is it. Even if I won't like it, tell me anyway."
"Come to think of it, I don't like it that much," OC said, stalling.
"Tell me," Riley said.
"As in David, like named after Silky?" Riley wondered. "Absolutely not!"
"Like I said, after thinking about it I realized it wasn't a good idea." A minute later, OC said. "I have another one."
"As long as it's not Robbie, or Mike, or Phil..." Riley said.
"After my dad?" Riley wondered.
"Yeah," OC said, smiling at his beautifully glowing wife.
Riley smiled. "You really want to name our son after my dad?"
"Of course," Jack said. "I think it's great."
"I don't know if it sounds good with O'Callahan though."
"It sounds fine."
"Dan O'Callahan?" Riley asked, making a face. "It almost rhymes."
"We'll call him Daniel then. Or Danny." As Riley thought about the names in her head, OC then said, "Or we could use it as a middle name if that's better."
"We'll talk about it later," Riley said. "Unfortunately well still have a few months to think about it."
"I love you," OC said, smiling at Riley.
"Love you too," Riley responded, also smiling.
Salt Lake City, February 2002
Over the twelve years following the reunion picnic, the guys saw less and less of each other, but it was easy to stay in touch with expanding technology. This year the team was all getting back together again because they were taking part in the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake. They were actually the ones that would be lighting the flame.
Most of them were bringing their families along and making a little vacation out of it. The guy's wives and kids were all excited because most had never seen the Olympics live before. The wives that had been to the 1980 Olympics were all excited as well, because they wanted to see the friends that they made along their boyfriends' Olympic journeys, ones that they hadn't seen in so long.
The night before the opening ceremonies, the guys were all in town already, and Rizzo reserved a banquet hall to have a dinner together.
Kristen and Bah had just walked in, all three of their children in tow, when Kristen heard someone call her name.
She turned around to see Riley standing nearby. She hadn't changed much in twelve years at all. "Riley!" Kristen exclaimed, running over to give her a hug.
"What's this? I don't even get recognized?" Bah joked, faking disappointment.
"Get over here," Riley said, giving him a hug too. The three kids were standing in the background, watching their parents.
"Are these the kids?" Riley asked, though knowing that they must be. "Tommy and Jessica?" she then asked, remembering the oldest two's names as they were at the picnic.
"Tom," he corrected, sticking out his hand to shake Riley's.
"Yeah, he just goes by Tom now," Kristen said. "Gets mad when I call him Tommy, especially if his girlfriend is around," Kristen said, half whispering. Tom rolled his eyes, having had heard his mother.
"Oh my God, I can't believe how big you are now. Last time I saw you, you were this big," Riley said, holding her hand just under her waist.
"And you too," Riley told Jessica. "You're what? Thirteen or so?" Riley asked, remembering she was about a year old at the picnic. The girl nodded.
"And you have another?" Riley said to Bah and Kristen.
"This is Kaitlin," Bah said.
"I'm nine," Kaitlin told Riley.
"Well it's nice to meet you," Riley said. "My kids are somewhere around here. I think Rachel took Aaron to get something to drink, and last I saw, Jack was talking to Rizzo and Silky."
"Was that Silky's daughter we saw in the parking lot on the way in?" Bah asked, knowing Riley would know what they were talking about. The girl was hard to miss.
"Yep, that's his oldest."
"He has his hands full," Bah said.
"Can you believe she's only fifteen?" Riley asked.
"She looks more like eighteen or so," Bah commented. The girl did look much older than her age. She also looked exact like Silky, except a long haired, female version of him.
"Tom thought she was," Kaitlin piped up. "He also thought she was hot," Kaitlin added, matter-of-factly.
"Yuh huh. I saw you checking her out."
"Why don't you kids all find a place to sit?" Kristen suggested. "Go make some new friends. There are lots of people your ages here."
The three kids all left and the adults finished their conversation.
"Girls!" Gayle then exclaimed, walking over with Rizzo's wife, Pam. "It's been way too long," she said, all four girls taking turns with hugs.
The night continued much like this, with everyone getting to see everyone else, meeting the wives and kids they hadn't met yet, reconnecting. As expected, Rizzo being the motivational speaker that he was, there was a short speech after everyone was seated and before dinner was served.
He said how grateful he was that they could all share this together and that it was great to see everyone. He said how no one had changed, even though they had all changed a lot at the same time. As if to prove this point, Verchota made the announcement "Let's eat!" at the end of the speech. Silky then chimed in, "I'm surprised were not eating meatballs."
Everyone that knew the inside joke laughed. They all knew that no matter what changed, whether it was for better or worse, whether they were together or not, some things would always be the same and they would always be a family.