Free Stay by Jennifer Sucevic

Book: Stay by Jennifer Sucevic Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer Sucevic
Staring sightlessly at the ice, my mind tumbles back as I try to recall a time when I’d been off skates for more than four or five days, let alone almost an entire year.  This is the first time since leaving school last year that I’ve dared to step foot back inside an ice rink.
    My gaze travels around the arena.  The sights and sounds- even the smell, are all the same.  My breathing actually hitches as I fight to suck in air.
    Up until last fall, I’d played hockey my entire life.  House teams, travel teams all of which had led me to a scholarship playing at a Division I college.  But last year I’d imploded under the intense stress and pressure and had been forced to leave in disgrace before the first semester even ended.
    And watching Westerns men’s hockey team out on the ice has it all rushing back at me.  Old wounds are made surprisingly fresh once again.  Not wanting to dwell on the past, because I’ve already done too much of that, I try shaking off the web of memories that are trying to tangle themselves around me.
    Finally picking up the thread of our conversation, I say, “No problem.”  But at the moment, it does feel like a problem.  One that’s eating me up from the inside out.
    Once again I focus my attention on the guys as they run through their warm up routine of stretching, passing drills, and taking shots on goal.  It’s like a well-choreographed dance.  One I miss.  The ache in my heart suddenly intensifies until it’s almost overwhelmingly tender.  It’s almost difficult to believe just how agonizing it feels to sit here watching them.
    After the bottom fell out last December, I completely shut down and refused to think about hockey.  And for a long time, it worked.
    Thankfully the horn blows and the scrimmage begins.  The puck is dropped at center ice and the action starts.  Because the game is so fast paced, I’m able to forget about the past and just focus on watching the players move the puck up and down the ice with a ridiculous amount of speed.  The game ends up being an exciting one with the score only separated by a goal or two.  Our school team is the Western Timber Wolves and the visitors are the Capitals.  There are so many times that both Brooklyn and I are jumping to our feet and screaming at the top of our lungs.  And we’re not the only ones either.  Apparently Western fans are rabidly loyal.
    And I love it.
    I love a fanatic crowd.  It ups the energy level in the arena.  What I love most is that I’m able to lose myself in the fast paced action of the game.  I don’t have to think about the past or how I crumbled under the pressure.
    Brooklyn doesn’t know jack shit about hockey but she is, as usual, her exuberant self.  I seriously love that about her.
    “Go the other way!”  Then she screams at the top of her voice, “Hurry!  Faster!”
    I almost laugh at how silly she sounds.  A couple of people in the seats surrounding us turn their heads as well but she looks like she’s having so much fun that they end up smiling before turning back to the game.
    Every time a whistle blows, Brooklyn looks at me for a quick explanation.
    “Off sides,” I say.  Then I explain exactly what that means.
    Another whistle.
    Her intense gaze shoots to mine.
    “Penalty for high sticking,” I mutter with a roll of my eyes.  Because at this point, they really should know better.
    Whistle.  Brooklyn slides a brow up waiting for an explanation as to why the action has stopped.
    “Icing.”  Again, should know better than to slap it all the way across the ice.  Dumb.

    “Penalty for holding.”  I grumble before bellowing, “That was a crap call, ref, open your eyes for a change!  Here, I think I’ve got a spare pair of glasses for you!”
    Brooklyn bursts into peals of laughter before yelling, “Yeah, crap call, ref!  Totally crappy call!”
    We grin at each other before we both plunk down onto our seats and reach for our shared box of

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