It was the fall again, a season for change. This year would be their fourth at Eden Hall Academy. The previous three years they had taken home state championships. Of course, the player roster had changed somewhat over that time. New players came, old players left for one reason or another. They were a much bigger team now, at any rate. The traditional summer games of street hockey between the local players seemed to have changed into a novelty for the city’s younger kids. They loved to play with some of the famous ducks. Surprisingly enough for Charlie, Fulton, Guy and Adam, the next generation was good at hockey.
The four boys were all that remained of the original team, but Julie, Portman and Dwayne, the almost originals, were also still playing. Averman and Goldberg were still around, but they were mostly into computers. They had their own successful computer repair business and were planning on running it full time after graduation. They came to a lot of the games. Ken had gone back to figure skating, Luis went into speed skating and no one quite knew what happened to Russ. This year, they were getting three new players. Rumor had it one was a girl.
The first morning of practice, everyone clamored into the locker room, eager to see old friends and size up new players. It was a Saturday and that Monday they would all be starting classes at Eden Hall. Everyone was nervous - today would determine their position and line for the year. There was a great deal of excitement and the locker room was filled with chatter. Julie went over to the new girl.
“Hi! I’m Julie,?she introduced herself.
“Yeah, I know,?the red-haired seventeen year old replied shyly, “I’ve been following this team for quite a while. I’m Kristen.?
“It’s good to have another girl around; there hasn’t been one on the team for a while.? As if on cue, a slender, long haired brunette sauntered into the locker room. She wore a pink waitress’s uniform. On her right shoulder hung a diaper bag, and on her left hip she held a sandy haired toddler. She spotted Julie and walked over. “Connie!?Julie greeted her old friend warmly. “Hi Colby!?she addressed the toddler, “you sure grew over the summer.? She turned back to Kristen. “Kristen, this is Connie Moreau, Connie, this is Kristen.?
“Oh right,?said Kristen, recognizing the name, “you used to play.?
“I did, didn’t I??Connie joked as if she could barely remember.
“Oh,?added Julie, “and this is Colby.? He buried his face in Connie’s shoulder.
“He’s yours??Kristen stated as much as asked. “How old is he??
“How old are you??Connie asked the mass in her arms.
“Two!?he little boy shouted. Connie laughed.
“You’re not really shy, are you??The boy shook his head no. “I didn’t think so.? Fulton approached.
“Colby, dude, give me five!?he held out his hand and the little boy playfully slapped it with his own. “Alright!?
“Take him,?Connie handed her child over, “see if you can find his father.? The girls continued to talk as Fulton pushed his was through the crowded locker room with the baby in his arms. He spotted Guy Germaine by his locker, talking to one of the newest players. “Hey Guy,?Fulton called, “here’s your kid.?At the same time, Colby spotted his father and called out
“Dada!?He stretched his arms out toward his father. Guy turned, shocked.
“Connie’s here??he asked as he took his son from Fulton. “Shit, I don’t have her money!?He sighed. Fulton shrugged and walked away. “Colby,?he introduced, “this is my new friend Bradley,?he gestured toward the tall, dark haired hockey player. “Bradley, this is my son, Colby.?Guy looked slightly embarrassed. Bradley looked them up and down, processing this new information.
“He looks like you,?he finally said.
“Yeah, everyone says that,?Guy replied. Colby laughed as his father lifted him up onto his shoulders.
Meanwhile, Connie, Julie and Kristen had gotten better acquainted. “So how are you doing, Connie??Julie asked. Connie sighed.
“Better, I guess. I don’t know, I’m just taking everything as it comes.?Julie nodded and gave her friend a hug.
“I’m back now, so you call me if you need a night off, ok??Connie nodded. She glanced at her watch.
“Well, I better find Colby and get to work. It’s good to meet you, Kristen.?
“Yeah, good to meet you,?Kristen replied. As soon as Connie walked off, Kristen turned to Julie. “I don’t mean to pry, but did she quit playing because she had a baby??
“No,?Julie answered a little too quickly, “she quit playing because she got pregnant.?
“That’s what I meant. Who’s the father??
“Guy Germaine, but don’t say anything to him.? Kristen nodded.
“Are they still together?? “Not really,?said Julie, “It’s complicated.?
“Yeah, I’ll bet.?Julie laughed.
“You got quite the first impression of our team.? Kristen laughed too.
At the other end of the locker room, Connie approached Guy. “Hi,?was all she said to him.
“Hi,?he said back. “Look I don’t have your money, so don’t even ask.?
“I wasn’t going to,?she sneered, “I only came over here to get my son.? Guy realized there was no point in arguing with her.
“Sorry,?he said, trying to be civil. “I’ll have it for you tonight anyway. I’ll come over and drop it off. What time are you off??
“Seven.?Guy looked at his watch. It was quarter to seven in the morning.
“And you’re going to work now??Connie nodded. “You’re leaving him at the sitter’s for twelve hours??
“What am I supposed to do, take him to work??
“You’re working too hard, Connie,?he gently put a hand on her arm.
“I do what I have to Guy, you know that.? His eyes fell to the floor.
“I know,?he whispered. He kissed her softly on the forehead. “I’ll pick Colby up after practice, ok? You can pick him up at my house.?
“Alright,?Connie agreed. She grabbed Colby from off Guy’s shoulders. “Good luck.? He smiled.
“Thanks. Don’t work to hard,?he added. Connie laughed.
“I’ll try.? Suddenly, a large man burst into the dressing room. “Ha, I bet that’s your new coach. He looks mean - I’d better go before he starts yelling.?
“Bye,?he said. She backed away and scurried by the coach out of the dressing room.
“Okay, everyone listen up,?said the large man. The room fell silent. “I’m Coach Fransisco, I’ll be your coach for the year. You will address me as ‘sir.? First of all, I’d like to lay down a few rules about this locker room. No swearing, no food, no horseplay, no socializing, and I don’t care whose child that was, but from now on there will be no children in the dressing room. Is all that clear?? The team nodded. “Is all that clear??he repeated, a bit more loudly.
“Yes, sir!?chorused the team.
“Great,?Guy thought, “I’ve got a drill sergeant for a coach. My life can’t get any worse than this.? The practice was long and difficult. It was almost noon when Coach Fransisco let them leave. Guy was utterly exhausted, but he had made first line. He thought of his son has he showered and dressed. He remembered when Connie first told him she was pregnant. He had been so angry and scared he’d said many things he now wished he hadn’t. Hurtful things that tore them apart for a long time. Only now were the wounds between them beginning to heal. During the summer they’d gotten some things sorted out, and were starting to feel like friends again. They still had a long way to go, and neither was sure exactly where they would end up.
As the other players made plans for that afternoon and night, Guy prepared to go pick up his son. He heard some of the other guys talking about the dates they had lined up for that night. A date. Guy hadn’t been on a date in a long, long, time. After Colby was born and he was constantly fighting with Connie, he’d gone on a couple of meaningless dates with other girls without telling them he had a son. He hadn’t been on a date with Connie since she was pregnant with Colby. “Guy, hello, are you there??
“Huh??Guy looked up to see Charlie and Adam. They laughed at him. “Sorry, guys. My mind was elsewhere.?
“Yeah, we noticed. Wanna come out with us to get some lunch??asked Charlie.
“Nah, I gotta pick up Colby.? He paused. “Can I ask you guys something?? They nodded.
“Don’t laugh,?he warned. “Do you think Connie would go on a date with me?? Adam looked at him quizzically.
“If you don’t know, how should we??Charlie asked. Guy shrugged.
“I think she would,?said Adam, who always knew answers to strange things. “But don’t ask her like you’ve gone out before. You have to ask her like it’s your first date.?Charlie looked at him.
“Adam, have you been watching Oprah??asked Charlie. Guy ignored the comment.
“So you’re saying I have to start all over with her??Guy asked Adam.
“I see. Thanks, Adam.?
“No problem,?said Adam. Charlie rolled his eyes.
“Why don’t we all go pick up Colby and take him with us??Charlie suggested. Guy agreed. As they left together for the babysitter’s, Guy thought about Adam’s words. Slowly, he thought of a way to ask her out.