Earlier this month, I gave my readers a sneak peek into my story, "A Valuable Trade" for the cancer charity anthology, Seduced by the Game. Since the anthology will be released on April 10th, I'm going to give you another, second excerpt of my story. Enjoy!
I may not be a hockey player, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know how hard trades are. When I said goodbye to winger Tim Fletcher, it was like I was losing a brother. I may not be a player on the Comets, but the players have always made me feel like I was a part of the team. Like I was one of them. I care about them, and I try to make sure they’re all taken care of. Sure, it’s a part of my job, but Lord knows I don’t just do it because I’m paid to do it; I do it because I want to. I’m like a mother hen keeping her chicks in check. I’m polite and kind, but I can get feisty and sassy if I need to in order to get things done.
So when I meet our newest star at the airport, Bryan Comstock, I can immediately tell that he’s wary about this new city and his new team. I can see it in his slumped posture. He’s a big man—or at least that’s what his bio says. He’s six feet tall and 195 pounds, but he looks smaller as he walks toward me. Of course I’m sad to see Tim go, but he’s not under my wing anymore—so my allegiance stays with the Comets. Now, everything in me is telling me to take care of Bryan and help him adjust to Dallas. My maternal side comes out, and I want to fix whatever’s wrong. After all, I’m a problem solver. I make things better.
Bryan never smiles at me, even though I try my best to make him feel as welcome as he should. We’re all hoping that he’ll lift us out of the slump caused by injuries and fatigue, as well as by a little bit of complacency. As I drive him into the city, I do what I can to break through to him, always by talking about Dallas and the promise of the future of the team as well as his bright potential here—and never talking about the past or Carolina. None of those things matters anymore. I do most of the talking as we cruise down the highway with the windows down; it’s hotter than a goat’s behind in a pepper patch. Before coming to the airport, I had been making sure everything was set up and ready for Bryan’s temporary housing, until he is able to find something of his own, and I am hot, sweaty, and dehydrated from working in this heat.
I really didn’t know who this guy was before the trade. We played the Tornadoes months ago and won, but I don’t remember much out of that game. Especially Bryan Comstock, who I wouldn’t have recognized if I hadn’t been shown his picture before being sent to the airport by management to pick him up. Physically, there’s not much that makes him stand out. He has brownish hair cropped close to his head, brown eyes, and thin pink lips. He’d be handsome if he smiled, but he doesn’t look like he does much of that.
Bryan looks stoic but also a little queasy, I think. It had been a big day for him, with getting the news and all. I know that Tim was taken aback, too. It’s hard to start over in a new city alone, but that’s why I’m helping: to ease the transition. When we get to the small townhouse where he’ll be staying—bought by the Comets for instances just like this, conveniently complete with a car in the driveway for him to use—I help him bring his bag inside and give him a brief tour before telling him that directions to the American Airlines Center are printed out and on the passenger seat of the car.
“And the keys are on the counter. So you’re all set,” I tell him. “Coach said not to worry about trying to figure out our system yet—we’re just gonna let you play your game, and we’ll see what you’ve got. I know I’m excited to see how it goes.”
He nods, but he doesn’t look excited. I wish I could make him see that this is going to be good for him. I want to tell him that he’s going to fit in well here. I want to tell him that he’s a top-four defenseman, and that’s where he’ll be put here in Dallas. He was on the third pairing in Carolina, always held back by the bigger names on the Tornadoes’ roster. He wouldn’t have been able to show off his skills like he can here in Dallas. He’ll get more minutes, he’ll get more chances, and he’ll make a bigger splash.
But I feel like even if I tell him all that, he won’t believe me. So I don’t bother to say those things. Instead, I reach out and touch his arm. I make sure he has my card so he can call if he has any questions about the team’s routine or about Dallas in general, but he doesn’t even glance at it before he shoves it in his pocket and just nods at me. So I then tell him that I’ll see him around the rink and leave him there for the afternoon to get acclimated to his new, albeit temporary, home in Texas.
Lord knows I’ve got my hands full of stuff to do back at the arena, so I leave Bryan and head back home so I can shower and change into appropriate work attire before going back into the office. It’s a lot of work, taking care of my Comets, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.