The Good Luck Charm Page 52

I drop into the chair. “I have tickets for tonight’s game. Row two, center ice.”

He lets out a low whistle. “Pays to have someone on the inside, doesn’t it? It’s going to be a good one.”

“I hope so.” I tap on the arm of the chair, restless. I wish I had the same faith in myself as everyone else seems to. “I got benched during practice yesterday.” Okay, now I’m being a little overdramatic.

He raises a brow. “What’d you do?”

I chuckle. “I rolled my ankle.”

He nods knowingly. “Pushing too hard, like you’ve got something to prove.”

“I do have something to prove.”

He gives me a wry smile. “I think you’ve already proven it, son. You’ll be fine. You know what you’re doing out there on the ice. Just keep your head in the game and stay focused on the goal.” He takes another sip of his coffee and grimaces. “Lilah stopped by this morning on her way to work.”

I glance over at him, aware the segue is meant to throw me off.

“Give her some time. This is hard on her in ways you can’t understand, Ethan.”

“I don’t know what’s going on with us,” I admit.

“She’s scared. This year has been full of struggle, for both of you, but mostly for Delilah. She ended a marriage that wasn’t right for her, and I had a stroke and we had no idea if I was going to be okay. Those two things alone would’ve been difficult for her.”

“And then I came back into her life.”

He nods. “You did, and without warning, at a time when she was vulnerable.”

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad, considering how things are right now.”

My dad smiles with a serenity I don’t share. “You two fought against what you have for a long time, and then when you finally figured it out, there was no separating you. Your mom and I worried about what that would be like with you being a year ahead and going away to college while she was still here.”

“That first semester wasn’t easy.”

His expression turns somber. “I remember.”

“My marks were shit.”

“Well, Delilah was the one who kept you focused on school, wasn’t she? She was always the level head between the two of you. You’d go off half-cocked with these ideas of what things were going to be like, and she’d be over there planning things out.”

“She was a drill sergeant with the studying.” And the rewards for correct answers were a real incentive to do well, not that I’m going to mention that to my dad.

He sets his coffee down and shifts a little so he’s facing me more than the view. “You two can be a good balance for each other. Delilah is grounded and logical, and you’re an idealist.” He raises a hand when I open my mouth. “Now, before you take that as an insult, hear me out. That idealism is exactly why you’re where you are in your career, so it’s not a bad thing. Delilah made safe, strategic choices, and you made the ones you felt were right, at least most of the time, when I wasn’t interfering.”

“You were right, though, about us breaking up when I was drafted—whether you meant it or not. That was the right thing to do. I just should’ve found a better way to do it.” I look at the lake, watching the waves lap against the shore. In little more than a month it’ll be warm enough to swim. Eight more weeks and it’ll be perfect. I wonder if Lilah and I will be together by then, if this break will be enough time for her to figure out what she wants. I hope so. I hope I don’t fuck my career without her.

“Maybe. But you were kids. You both need to let that go. I told her the same thing this morning. That we make decisions based on what we think is right at the time, and those consequences can follow us, but they don’t govern the path we’re on forever. It’s what we take from that experience and how we allow it to impact the choices we make as we move forward that mean the most.”

“I’m worried I’ve screwed things up and pushed her away again.”

“You two were never good at moderation. She’s trying to find a way to piece herself back together and fit you back in at the same time.”

That makes sense. “The interview didn’t help. She said the pressure is too much.”

“For her it is. Imagine if you’d been the one to lose her.”

“I did lose her.”

“But you had time to prepare for that loss. You had weeks, Ethan. We had those conversations where you’d idealized how things would go. You had your future all mapped out, but there were too many uncertain variables. Just like Delilah can’t handle the pressure now, she was less prepared to handle it then, but she would’ve tried for you.”

He’s right. She would’ve followed me wherever I went, and if I’d failed, she would’ve owned it, internalized it. As much as I hate it, she was right to ask for space. I’ve dominated her life these past months, forced myself into every spare moment I could, and pushed down all the boundaries she tried to set for me, for herself. When I really think about it, I’ve kind of been an asshole.

“She needs to be your equal, not a charm you stick in your pocket and carry around with you. She’s not the reason you’re playing the way you are, Ethan. You’ve always had the skills and the drive. You just needed the variables to line up.”

“But Lilah’s a big part of that.”

“She doesn’t have anything to do with your ability to play hockey. You’ve always been an excellent player. I remember the first year you played professionally. You were amazing to watch, all that anger channeled into the game. Professionally it was a great season for you, but emotionally, you struggled. And the further you got from the things that made you comfortable, the more your game suffered. You have all the things that make you comfortable right here.”

“Not Lilah, though.”

“She’s nervous about the trade talks. She’s afraid to lose herself again, especially when she’s finally on the path she set for herself.”

“I want her to come with me this time if I get traded.”

“Have you talked about that with her? Does she know that’s what you want? Is it what she wants?”

“I haven’t brought it up because I don’t know what next year is going to look like.” I know exactly what I want, but I honestly don’t know if she’ll want the same, which is why I’ve avoided the conversation, and maybe that wasn’t a great idea.

“Well, if it’s what you want, then you need to fight for that, son. For her. I think her biggest fear is that you want her for the wrong reasons. Her needing this time apart is as much about what she thinks you want as it is about her trying to put herself ahead of you. She was never good at that, just like your mother was never good at putting herself in front of me. They’re caretakers, sometimes to a fault. That’s something you’ll need to be mindful of in the future. It’ll be up to you to make sure you’re not always the first priority.”

I consider this for a moment, the dynamics of my parents’ relationship, how my mother’s world has always revolved around my dad, and his around her. I see now what he’s talking about. For eight years Lilah learned to live without me, and I her. But since I’ve returned to Minnesota, I’ve made my world revolve around Lilah and hockey. What I failed to consider is the life she built without me in it. In trying to make her mine again, I’ve upset her balance and her life, pulling her away from the things she loves outside of me.

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