"Cross him off the list, that kid doesn't have a chance in hell at making this team."
Nothing could compare to the chill he felt when he stepped foot onto the rink. The moment he realizes that you have to believe that something matters in everyone's life, and that he's found it - he's found a dream.
He sat on the bleachers among hockey players from across the country – hockey players who wafnted this too. He held his breath and waited hopefully as the man called out names.
With every name that was called he could feel himself losing hope. He looked around at the other hopefuls -the other boys who have overcome their own personal struggles and experienced a chain of events that brought them here just like him. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and inhaled deeply. He wasn't aware of it, but his knee was bouncing excitedly with anticipation. He sat, nervously awaiting, with his face cupped in the palms of his hands.
He looked up, suddenly aware of the reality that just sat in. He breathed a sigh of relief and couldn't help but disbelieve. Had he heard right? He must have. A small smile crept onto his face. This was the beginning of an unknown.
"You give me 99% and you'll make my job very, very easy."
He had every intention of making this guy's job very, very difficult.
"Mmm…" he inhaled. "Cami, you always smell like cake!" the hockey player said, releasing his friend from a hug.
She gave a shy smile. "Thank you. I brought some cupcakes. It's the vanilla-coconut you like!" She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and handed the boy the box. She was all smiles. The pair hadn't gotten to see each other for months, and it was a warm reunion. She examined her friend. Dave Silk she thought. My have you've grown! She remembered a brown –eyed boy running around the neighborhood wreaking havoc. There wasn't a time she could recall that he didn't have a dozen bruises and scratches … or combed hair!
"You're the best!" Dave exclaimed. "I knew you'd be a good cook ever since we were five and you made that delicious mud pie." He couldn't help but laugh. Camilla may have grown up a lot since then, but he could still see traces of the little girl he knew years ago. She still had her mother's dark hair and Brazilian eyes, but she'd inherited fair Irish skin from her father. He could still see the little girl who smelled of coconut sunscreen and wore her hair up in bows.
She gave a mock frown. "That was some of my best work. Be glad I didn't ask you to eat it!"
"I probably wouldn't be able to say no if you gave that look you always gave your parents." He joked. "Cami, you realize you could have made me eat dirt?"
"Hmm don't tempt me." She teased.
"Well…" he began with a chuckle. He knew she wasn't capable of making anyone eat dirt.
"Dave!" she exclaimed. "I forgot to ask you about hockey! Did you make it!" Her eyes grew wide as she anticipated the answer.
"I did." he said with a pretend shrug. "No big deal…"
She wrapped her arms around him in a big hug. "That is so great Dave, I'm so proud! I'll make you a celebratory mud pie!"
"That's really not necessary." He laughed.
The first practice was done with and everyone seemed to be in agreement that the next few months wouldn't be a cake walk. Cox sat down next to Silk and began packing his gym bag to head home.
"What on earth are you eating?" Cox asked. He looked over to see Silk eating something that smelled like it was homemade – a rarity among the usual hockey player's diet.
"A cupcake, here have one." He replied.
He accepted without hesitation – he couldn't refuse food.
"You made this?" he asked with much doubt.
"No way, my friend Camilla moved out here about a month ago. She owns a bakery, so I talk her into some food every now and again. Not bad huh?"
"It's delightful." He laughed. Cox knew Dave was friends with a Camilla but hadn't really paid much attention to the friendship. After tasting her cooking, he figured he'd be a better listener from now on.
A very angry hockey player sat down next to Cox, fuming.
"Hey I got just what you need OC, have one." Silk said, offering him a cupcake. Things had gotten pretty heated during practice. Personally, he thought OC got a pretty good hit on Mac, but it didn't help anything.
OC just scowled at Dave and looked away, clenching his fists.
"You know, he has a point." Rizzo chimed in.
"Who has a point?" OC snapped.
"Herb does -we really don't have time to settle old scores." He said softly with a sincere look.
OC shook his head and got up to leave in a hurry, slamming the door behind him.
"So…are we still on for tonight?" Dave asked awkwardly to break the tension.
"Definitely," Rizzo replied. "He'll come around too. Don't worry about it!" he said with a reassuring smile. He wanted to keep the peace. He had known OC long enough to be confident he'd come around to doing the right thing.
"Did you invite Mac?" Cox asked.
"Uh well…yeah." Rizzo said sheepishly.
"Have a nice day!" she smiled as the last customer for the day left. She had been there since the shop opened. Even though it was her business, she invested so much time into it she hardly had need for employees. She'd moved out to Minnesota a month ago to be closer to family who had just bought a house in Falcon Heights near the campus. Growing up, she'd always felt invested to the people that walked into her life: friends, teachers, Wal-mart greeters –anyone, but particularly her family. She'd gone to college in Boston and majored in Psychology. Her plan was to become a high school counselor, but she found herself drawn to a kitchen.
"Camilla, will you give me a hand with this?" a muffled voice from the back asked.
"I'll be right there!" She replied and rushed to help Karen her petite coworker, but most importantly, her good friend. Camilla had always been reserved, so she was grateful to meet Karen. It was sort of scary being in a new city. Luckily her childhood friend, Dave, was now in Minnesota too. They went to high school together and remained near each other throughout college. She became so comfortable with Dave, they could really lean on each other.
"You gonna' drop these off tonight?" Karen asked while holding up a box of assorted cupcakes.
Camilla looked at her watch. "Yeah, I think he should be in by now. He mentioned there wasn't a team curfew, so hopefully he's not out!"
"Do you want me to come?" Karen asked eagerly. "To help carry them, you know?" she added, blushing.
"That would be lovely." Camilla replied with a knowing smile. She had shown Karen photographs of Dave and knew Karen was more than a little curious to meet him in person. Karen was a sweetie, so Camilla had no hesitance to introduce the two – it would be Dave she had to worry about. Growing up, Dave and Camilla were inseparable, with the exception of the many dates Dave went on – he was charming, perhaps too charming for his own good.
Rizzo had just taken a sip from his beer when there was a knock at the door. So far, a couple guys had already shown up. OC, surprisingly, was in good spirits. A nice game of poker was going on between some of the Minnesota guys and even OC seemed interested.
"I'll get it!" he volunteered. "Mac! How's it going? Come on in." He stepped aside and handed him a beer. He wasn't sure what would amount in the next couple of seconds, but he knew it wouldn't go smoothly. He ran a finger through his hair and took a deep breath.
"What the hell is he doing here?" OC demanded.
"Relax…" Rizzo began, placing his arms out in front of him as if to say calm down. He knew OC could forgive Mac. They had met back in college and OC was always a tough case, but a good guy nonetheless.
"Screw this." He snapped. Without a second to waste, OC stormed out.
Rizzo let out a sigh and shook his head. "Just give him more time. Let's have some fun, alright?"
"So…" Cox began. "You have any more of those cupcakes Silky?"
"Alright, so we're looking for room 331." Cami informed her friend. "Keep your eyes peeled!" It was a colder evening, just another indication that autumn was beginning. Camilla actually preferred colder seasons with winter being her very favorite. She was an only child, so she spent her winters playing in the snow with Dave and her huskie named Bosco. They would wake up really early to build 'the most durable' fort in the neighborhood so that they would be ready for a snowball fight with the other children. She used to insist on only making a pile of snowballs so she wouldn't have to hit anybody during the game.
"Ay, ay captain!" Karen said with a giggle. Just after she had said this, a boy came storming through the door and stomped down the stairwell.
"Karen, wait here. He might know where room 331 is. Plus, he looks like he could use a cupcake." Camilla ran down the stairs to catch up with the angry man. She wasn't particularly bold, but couldn't deny a chance to make someone feel better.
"Hey!" she called out. "Wait up!" He whipped his head around to confront the yelling stranger. She was nervous, she hadn't exactly planned what to say. To make matters worse, the boy was intimidating. He wore his emotions so apparently that she could see the anger all over his face.
"Whaddya want?" he snapped. In realizing it was a girl, he calmed down – slightly.
"Uh…are you okay?" she asked shyly. She nervously twiddled her thumbs as she awaited his response. Upon looking at him further, she could see a trace of betrayal in his eyes.
He eyed the brunette stranger curiously. She had light skin that contrasted with her dark hair and eyes. She was striking, but not a conventional beauty."I've never been better." He said sarcastically.
"What's wrong?" she asked earnestly.
"Look, if you want to play 20 questions I'd rather just get going." The hockey player replied. He wasn't sure why this girl even cared, but didn't feel up for the conversation.
"I'm looking for room 331." She blurted out. Camilla hadn't meant for her words to just tumble out, but she wasn't getting anywhere with the stranger.
"Oh really? I know where that is. Why are you going there?"
"To deliver these!" she explained, holding up the cupcakes. "Do you want the first pick?"
He looked at the box hesitantly. "That one." he said pointing to cupcake with red frosting. She opened the lid so he could grab it.
"So any chance you'll tell me what's wrong…and how to get to 331?" She glanced at the stairs to her left. "Here, sit!" she suggested, gesturing to the stairs.
He shook his head in disbelief and reluctantly sat down. "Have you ever just really want to beat the shit out of someone?"
She shook her head.
"Right, well I was really upset by this guy. Now everyone expects me to just suddenly be okay with him – and I'm not." He added. She nodded her head, urging him to continue.
"So, a hockey team is really close. They're like my brothers, but when someone you want to beat the shit out of is on your team, you just want to smack every smile off of his face."
"Well let's forget this guy for a second. What do you want to get out of being on this hockey team?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"I want to win."
"So in order to win, can you do that with a grudge against this guy?"
"Well it looks to me like you're not just letting yourself down by being angry, but you're letting down the other players… who are like your brothers. Right?"
"Yeah…I just wished my brothers weren't in such a hurry to take this guy's side."
"It sounds to me like they don't want to see you angry, not that they don't think you have a reason to be upset." She said with a small smile. He hadn't lifted his gaze from the concrete and she feared she wasn't getting through to him.
"And maybe it's hard to just forget what this guy did, but here are two guys who really want to win and love playing hockey. That doesn't seem so bad. Right?"
"I guess…" he said with a shrug. "Well, how about I just show you where room 331 is?" he said with the slightest hint of a grin. Camilla nodded and accepted defeat.
Buzzy had just finished his second beer when there was another knock at the door.
"Were you expecting anyone else?" Cox asked. The boys looked at each other and shook their heads.
"I'll get it!" Buzzy volunteered. He opened the door to find OC and two girls he didn't recognize. "Hi?" he said with curiosity.
"Who is it?" one of the boys shouted. Camilla and Karen walked in after OC. A collective who are they's and are they on the team too's filled the room.
"Cami!" Dave exclaimed. He engulfed her in a giant hug. "Are these for me?" he asked glancing at the box of cupcakes. He really hoped they were.
"Yes! I'm not here to intrude. Just passing through to give you some cupcakes." She explained. "Oh!" she remembered. "This is Karen, she works with me!" Karen gave an excited wave and extended her hand to shake his.
"Nice to meet you!" he said with a laugh. Karen was a cute girl. She had dirty-blonde hair and green eyes with a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose and a smile that looked like she wore it often.
"It's nice to meet you too!" she chirped. "Camilla has told me all about you!" she added with a nervous giggle. She hadn't imagined Dave would look so good in person.
"Good things I hope." He replied with a charming grin.
Karen found herself nodding like a bobble head before she could let out a clear "Yes!"
"Are you here to stay?" Rizzo asked OC.
"Yeah…" OC shrugged. "I guess."
Rizzo nodded with a smile and handed his friend a beer. The girls left shortly after (reluctantly on Karen's part), and the boys managed to get along – and… even have a good time.
"Ughh." Rizzo groaned. "I wished I could say I can't feel my legs, but I definitely can and it's not a good feeling." He had been working harder than he ever imagined he could. Something about coach Herb really lit a fire under him to do his best. He plopped down on one of the benches in the locker room and began removing his gear.
The boys had just finished another practice with Herb and were really beginning to feel it.
"Yeah, yeah, the legs feed the wolf gentlemen." OC chimed in.
"So was that the Cami we heard about at university?" Rizzo asked, looking at Silk.
"Yeah, she's a doll. Even when we were kids she'd bring home little injured animals to fix up." He laughed. He smiled to himself thinking of the family of opossums she brought home once. She was so excited to show him the house she had made for them out of a shoebox.
"Tell her she can bring us food anytime!" Cox added.
"Yeah she's not bad looking either." OC contributed. Dave shot him a look of death. "We had a nice conversation too." He added with a smirk. Camilla was not bad to look at; she wfas just interesting to look at. He even didn't plan to pursue her; he just wanted to bother Silk.
"Don't even think about it OC." Silk warned. Dave had grown up with Camilla in Massachusetts. He went through his high school years going on many dates while Camilla rarely talked to boys. He was glad, too, because he didn't think any guy was good enough for her. She was the type of girl who just wanted to give the world her best - the kind that smiled at strangers on the street and remembers everybody's name.
"Look, she's all yours!" OC teased. Dave turned bright red and shook his head.
"Alright guys, that's enough." Rizzo joined in. "Let's all just head home, get some rest, and not bother Camilla."
"I'll try not to." OC replied with a grin. Dave looked at OC like he could kill him right there in the locker room.
Camilla had just gotten home from work and it had been a nice day. As a matter of fact, Camilla could probably consider every day in Minnesota a good day so far. She was glad Dave promised to stop by later, she couldn't wait to see how he's been doing! Just as she'd set her bag down and taken off her shoes, there was a knock at her door.
"Cami open up, it's freezing out here!" she heard a familiar voice shout.
"You're in the hallway!" she laughed as she opened the door to see her good friend.
"Hi bud!" he said as he took her into a hug.
"You're squishing me!" she exclaimed. Truthfully, she was used to his bear hugs by now. They sat down on the couch and he updated her about his life lately.
"I'm pretty sure the coach hates me." He added. Camilla shook her head.
"Impossible, he'd have to hate everyone before he singled out his hatred towards you!" she beamed.
"Thaaaanks Cami!" he chuckled. "How have you been? OC hasn't contacted you has he?" he asked hurriedly. He really hoped OC didn't keep his word this time around. They were good friends, him and OC, but he didn't want both friendships to crossover. Camilla gave him a confused look.
"No…" she replied suspiciously. "Is he okay?" she asked, worried. Camilla had wondered if her talk with him had helped. She hoped he was doing better and that the team was at least civil with each other now.
"Yeah he's fine!" Silk replied. "Anyways…" he said, ready to change the subject. "What's new with you?"
"Well, my parents want me to come to dinner this weekend." She said in a disappointed tone.
"Uh-oh, are they still bothering you about the boyfriend thing?" he asked. Camilla's parents constantly bombarded her with questions about her love life and would not be satisfied until she had a boyfriend.
"Yeah, they said I should bring my boyfriend." She frowned.
"I told them I wasn't seeing anyone, but they still insisted I find one to bring!" Dave raised both of his eyebrows and pointed to himself.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"They didn't buy it!" she laughed. One time, she brought Dave to dinner as her 'boyfriend' and her parents knew, right away, it wasn't real.
"But I have an idea!" she grinned. "Wait here!" She ran to bedroom and came back with a stuffed penguin. "This is Cornelius. He's my boyfriend for the dinner this weekend."
"He's dreamy." Dave teased. "I approve." He reached over to shake the penguins wing. "What if I could find a real human for you to bring as your fake boyfriend?" he asked. Camilla shot him a suspicious look.
"What do you mean?" she questioned with a worried look on her face. She could see the gears turning in his head already!
"I mean I know at least twenty-six guys, so one is bound to agree to it!" he replied with a giant smile. Dave began making a mental list of guys that would be perfect for the job.
"I don't know about this…" she said hesitantly.
"Just trust me!" he said with a reassuring grin.
"But hockey players have a bad reputation." She teased.
"Hey, what do you mean!" he asked.
"Well…" she said with a small smile beginning to form. "You're known for being two kinds of players!" she said with a little laugh.
"Take that back!" he said, pretending to be offended. He knew plenty of nice guys who played hockey, but plenty who lived up to that reputation too. "Take it baaaack!" he whined. "… or I'm going to tell the whole world about Cornelius!"
"You wouldn't dare." She exclaimed and placed the back of her hand to her forehead as she leaned her head back dramatically. "I'd be ruined!"
"You know what you have to do."
"Okay." She deflated. "I'm sure not all hockey players are players too." She admitted. A playful smile danced across her face, "Like OC!"
"Camilla!" Dave scolded her as if he were her father.
"Okay, okay, you're the nicest and best hockey player in the entire world!"
To be continued... :)