Double Major

By: Catherine Gayle

I knew she’d finished her chemo before we’d been knocked out of the playoffs, but I guess I hadn’t thought about the fact that her hair would be growing back already. It was short, like a pixie cut, and it looked soft to the touch. Thinking that only made me want to touch it, though, and that probably wasn’t the best idea with her dad standing right beside her.

Webs caught my eye and inclined his head in my direction, but I still couldn’t ever determine what the looks he gave me meant. Hi? Come on over? Take one step in this direction and I’ll rip your balls off and stuff them down your throat? I couldn’t be sure. If his wife, Laura, had been paying attention, I might have been able to get a read on him from her, but she was caught up talking to Sara Thomas, our former head coach’s daughter. So Laura was no help to me right now.

Webs had just retired as a player, and this season he was going to be one of the Storm’s assistant coaches. That should work out just great…as long I didn’t misinterpret any of the looks he gave me.

The Storm made it all the way to Game Seven in the second round of the playoffs last season, but the LA Kings had gotten the best of us in the end. We couldn’t really hang our heads over that. Our team hadn’t been to the post-season at all in the previous five years, so getting to the second round was a lot further than anyone had expected us to go. Plus, the Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup, and we’d nearly taken them out in the second round. That was definitely nothing to be ashamed of. We were all hoping to take what we’d done last season and improve on it this coming year—and that meant making the most of the time off we had this summer.

I’d gone home to my family pretty much as soon as I’d finished clearing out my stall. I think I slept for about a week straight once I got there, but then I’d gone back to life as usual. All my brothers played hockey, too, so we were all training together—some of us more seriously than others. But then again, Jack—the youngest—was only eight, and most of the boys really didn’t need to work out like Levi and I had to. It was still fun, us all being together like that. Especially since Levi and I had started using the youngest boys as our weights, bench pressing them, that sort of thing.

Katie and her family had remained in Portland after the season ended because she and her younger brother and sister had to finish out the school year. Now she’d graduated, though, and she’d finished all of her cancer treatments. Webs had let us all know a few weeks ago that her latest tests showed she was cancer free.

That meant she could move forward with her life. I just wasn’t certain if I was part of it.

I’d taken her to her prom, and we’d spent some time together since then…but she had been sick and still in high school, and I had been in the middle of the playoffs for the first time in my career, so we hadn’t really been able to date. Not like I wanted to, at least.

That hadn’t stopped me from sneaking her away from her dad to steal a few kisses every now and then. I hoped to be able to do more of that this weekend—and to find out what she had decided to do next year. Each time we’d talked about it before, she’d been too caught up in trying to get healthy to worry about whether she was going to go to LA to meet with an entertainment agent she’d talked to once about some ideas he had for getting her a career in Hollywood, or if she was going to stick around Portland and her family and maybe go to college, or something else.

The selfish part of me wanted her to stay in Portland.

The part that was already half in love with her wanted her to do whatever would make her happy, even if that meant her leaving.

No matter which of those two voices decided to talk the loudest, I just wanted to know what she’d chosen. I slipped my phone back into my pocket and got up, and she immediately turned her head in my direction. Her whole face lit up when our gazes met. I could make out the sparkle in her eyes even across the distance, and Katie’s smile reeled me in like a fishing line; my feet started moving in her direction before my head could catch up.

“Hey,” she said when I was almost to her.

My tongue got thick, and she’d hardly said a word. I was a fucking wreck over this girl. I shoved my hands in my pockets so I wouldn’t do anything stupid, since Webs was still giving me that look, and I cleared my throat. “Hey. Your hair… It looks nice like that.”

She blushed and ran her fingers through it, just the way I’d been imagining doing myself. It was still that dark brown she’d always had, and her eyebrows were, too. It looked as soft as a kitten’s fur and was just long enough to spike up or play with like that. “Thanks. There’s not a lot I can do with it yet, but it’s coming back in.”

“It looks nice,” I repeated, feeling like an idiot.

Her parents were in the middle of a conversation with Zee and Dana, so that meant Webs wasn’t giving me the evil eye anymore. I had just taken Katie’s hand and was about to pull her off to a corner somewhere so we could talk when Soupy’s dad whistled loudly.

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