The Good Luck Charm Page 5

“I’m glad that didn’t change.” I run my hands down my thighs. My jeans are still damp from running into the lake to pull my dad’s boat in to shore. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase the memory of finding him like that, disoriented and afraid, my own panic merging with his. And on top of what’s happening with my dad, now I have to face the woman I left behind. “She’s still very angry with me.”

“She has a lot going on, Ethan. Give her some time. This is hard on her, too.” She roots around in her overnight bag and finds the blanket from the living room couch, shaking it out.

“She said I abandoned her.” My mom pauses to look at me, deep sadness making her eyes glassy. “I think she’s right. That’s not what I meant to do, but that’s exactly what happened, wasn’t it?”

“You did what you thought was best.”

“I did what Dad thought was best.” I close my eyes and let my head drop against the back of the chair. “Sorry. This isn’t a good time to talk about this. I just didn’t expect to see DJ, or for any of this to happen.” I gesture toward my father.

She sighs. “I know you and your father haven’t always seen eye to eye on things, Ethan, especially where your career and Delilah are concerned, but he’s only ever wanted what’s best for you.”

I glance at my father, hooked up to machines, his future as uncertain as my own, and I worry that this animosity I feel toward him will never be resolved. It’s selfish and unfair, but I don’t know where else to put my anger.

My phone rings and I check the screen. It’s Josh Cooper, one of my former teammates from LA who was traded to Minnesota a few years ago. I told him I’d be in town tonight, and we’d talked about getting together while I was here.

“It’s a teammate. I’ll be right back,” I tell my mom, then leave the room so I can take the call.

“Hey, man, how’s it going?” I say to Josh.

“Good! Me and some of the guys were thinking about heading out for a few beers. You wanna join us? I talked to Coach this morning; he thinks he can get us some ice time on Sunday.”

“That sounds great, but uh, I’ve got a family thing going on right now.”

“Oh no—is everything okay? You’ve only been in town for a few hours. You and the old man have one of your pissing matches already?”

I wish it were that simple. I fill him in on the situation with my dad.

“Fuck, Kase. I’m sorry. What a shit thing to come home to. We’ll put off ice time until you know what’s doing with your dad, yeah? And if you decide you just need to gear up and get out some frustration, you let me know.”

“Thanks for that. I’d like to be on the ice before practices start.”

“They’re not mandatory for a couple of weeks, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

“I’d like some time to get comfortable with the team, you know?”

“Yeah. I hear you. They’re good guys, though; you’ll mesh easy.”

I sure as hell hope so. It’s hard to get my head around any one thing right now. “Thanks, Josh. I’ll keep you updated.”

“Just call if you need anything.”


The next morning two nurses come to take my dad for more tests, but unfortunately DJ isn’t one of them. My dad is disoriented and a little aggressive until he realizes where he is. His speech appears to be affected by the stroke, sounds rather than words the only thing he seems to be able to manage so far. We can only hope it’s not permanent.

We follow the nurses until they wheel him into a restricted area. I’m about to suggest we get coffee before we go back to the room to wait, when DJ comes around the corner. She’s carrying a bag and a tray of coffees. Her hair is pulled back in a smooth ponytail. She looks tired but she smiles, eyes sliding over me and coming to rest on my mother. “Is Martin already in for tests?”

“They’ve just started.” My mom pulls her in for a quick hug.

“I tried to get here before he went in but there was a line at the coffee shop. I brought you breakfast so you wouldn’t have to endure the crap they try to pass off as food here.” She looks around to make sure no one has overheard her slam on the health-care system’s subpar food options.

“That was very sweet of you, Delilah—wasn’t it, Ethan?”

“Very sweet,” I agree. DJ doesn’t seem to be able to look at me for more than a second or two.

“It’s nothing really. I left your coffee black, Ethan. I wasn’t sure if you still took it with a pound of sugar and cream or if your taste buds had matured since high school.”

“Apparently my taste buds are still as immature now as they were back then,” I reply with a wry grin.

Her cheeks flush and she turns her attention to my mom. “I have to start my shift, but I’m around if you need anything. All you have to do is ask for me and someone will find me.”

“Thank you, Delilah, but I don’t want to interfere with your job.”

“It’s not interfering. I’m here to help.”

My mother hugs her again and then she’s off, ponytail swinging as she walks down the hall.

My mom and I take a seat in the waiting room and she unpacks the bag. Inside is the pie from last night, a little dark around the edges, but it smells delicious. Neither of us had dinner, and the last time I stopped for food was around noon yesterday. A small container of whipped cream and another of sharp cheddar slices accompany the pie. The cheese is for me. DJ used to make fun of me when we were younger for liking cheddar with apple pie.

My mom sniffs. “She’s such a lovely, thoughtful girl.”

I put an arm around her. “She always has been.” I hope one day she can forgive me and maybe I’ll get to know her again.

It takes more than two hours for them to complete the tests for my dad. His recovery is going to be long and challenging, but possible. My father’s stubbornness is both a blessing and a curse.

We’ll be looking at months of appointments, therapists, and assessments, and my mom is already overwhelmed, as am I. Returning to Forest Lake isn’t just going to be about a new team anymore.

Once my dad is settled in his room again, I suggest that my mother and I go back to the house, shower, and grab some lunch. She doesn’t want to leave my father alone, even though he’s asleep, so she sends me with a list of things to pick up.

As I’m on the way down the hall, my phone rings; it’s Selene. I utter a quiet curse and debate whether to answer it. I have no idea what I’m going to tell her. We’ve only been seeing each other for a month.

None of our conversations have revolved around family or the details of my personal life. Mostly it’s been fun and sex, with some nice dinners as a precursor to the fun sex. Typically, I’d assume I’m not a high enough profile player to be much of a concern for the media. My trade from Chicago won’t be announced until Tuesday, so I have some time to figure out how to approach this conversation, but I don’t know if waiting is the best idea. It might be better to rip off the Band-Aid.

Before I pussy out and the call goes to voicemail, I answer. “Hey.” I push through the front door and head for the nearest empty bench.

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