“Okay,” Brody said slowly as he took a couple of steps and leaned his shoulder against the wall. “Any particular reason?”

“Why own it if I’m not gonna ride it, ya know? There’s a lot of things I don’t do anymore that I want to start doing again.” I picked the rag back up and gently rubbed circles into my once shiny chrome tailpipe. “And I’ve been thinking about it, since I’m going to be off for a while, what if I start the ball rolling on this bar thing? You said you’d be open.”

“I did say I’d be open,” Brody agreed with a nod.

“So I figure, instead of sitting on the couch doing nothing, I’ll work on that. Then when you’re home from road trips, I can fill you in. We can go to The Bumper and hang out like we used to.”

“Sure. We can do that. But before you go off on your motorcycle opening bars, can we talk about something real quick?” He grabbed an empty five-gallon bucket from the corner, flipped it upside down, and sat down on it next to me. “Can we talk about what’s going on with you and Michelle?”

I tried not to let it show that every muscle in my body tensed up. “How do you know about that?”

He tilted his head to the side and pursed his lips together. “Really?”

Duh. Kacie.

“There’s nothing really to tell. She’s pregnant. I’m not happy about it. We fought. End of story.”

“Sounds like you did more than fought. You guys haven’t talked in over a week now.”

“Yep. She told me to leave, so I did.” I glared at him out of the corner of my eye. “What was I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know . . . stay? Talk? Act like a grown-up for once?”

I turned my head toward him and narrowed my eyes. “I don’t need this shit from you, Murphy. If you came here just to bitch at me, get the fuck out.”

He let out a heavy sigh. “I didn’t come here to bitch at you, Viper, but I am worried about you. This isn’t you.”

“Maybe it is me!” I exclaimed. “Maybe that nice, wholesome family man bullshit I was doing for the last year wasn’t me.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Believe whatever the hell you want!” I stood up quickly, flipping the bucket over behind me. “Honestly, I don’t really care who you think I am. I don’t even know who the fuck I am. I am hockey. Hockey is me. That’s gone, and now I have to find myself all over again, so I’m getting back to basics.”

Brody stood up and gave me a hard glare. “You’re more than hockey and we both know that, but if you’re going to sit here and wallow around in some bullshit pity party, have at it. I’m out.” He climbed the wood steps and opened the door, but turned back around. “I’m also gonna say this, since I have no idea when you’re going to pull your head out of your ass and talk to me again. Last time you lost your mind, that doctor—Dr. Shawn—she helped you find it. Maybe it’s time to give her another call.”

The slam of the garage door shook the whole garage, followed by another slam from the front door a minute later.

Anger swirled around in my chest, gaining momentum with each rotation. I picked up the bottle of chrome polish that was next to me and hurled it against the wall as hard as I could. It exploded, sending streams of liquid down my wall and across my bike.

My chest heaved.

My nostrils flared.

My head throbbed.

Who the fuck did Brody think he was coming into my house, lecturing me on how to be a man? Maybe he was happy over there with Kacie and their house full of kids, mini van, and white picket fence, but that wasn’t me. That would never fucking be me.

 

I spent the next few hours cussing out Brody, Michelle, my knee, Kat, and just about everything else as I lost myself in the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Unlike Gam, I hated whiskey. It tasted like shit, but it was what I deserved. My eyes felt like they were hopping all over the room. I couldn’t control them no matter how hard I tried and suddenly, I remembered why I hated drinking.

Pulling my T-shirt over my head and kicking my shorts off, I crossed my room and sat down on the edge of my bed, setting my phone on my nightstand. I stared at it.

I stared at it like I was mad at it. Like I wanted to throw it.

Why did you have to answer her phone?

I grabbed my phone and squeezed it hard in my hand. When it didn’t break like I was hoping, I took a deep breath and swiped at the screen.

A picture of me, Michelle, Matthew, and Maura standing by the lake at Brody’s house was my wallpaper.

“No man ever lay on his death bed pissed off that he’d apologized too many times throughout his life, but plenty wish they’d apologized more.” Sherman’s words whirled around in my head for the ten millionth time. My head spun as I focused really hard to find Michelle’s name in my text messages. Before I knew it, I started typing.

Hey. I should have called sooner and probably should have done this in person, but I’m sorry for the way I reacted in the kitchen. I was a dick and you were right to smack me. My head is in a weird place right now and this baby thing is making it worse. I need to figure some shit out. I’m sorry again. Kiss the kids for me.

 

I dropped my phone on my nightstand and crashed against my pillow, snoring before the text probably even reached her phone.

 

The next morning, I tried to sit up but my head weighed three hundred pounds. As I looked around the room, mentally clearing the cobwebs from my brain, everything from the night before came rushing back. My fight with Brody, the bottle of whiskey, the text I’d sent Michelle.

Holy shit!

I forgot that I’d texted Michelle. I rolled toward my nightstand too fast and my temples throbbed like my head was in a vice being tightened by King Kong. Pinching my eyes shut tight, I sat up slower and took a deep breath. Once the stars disappeared from my eyes and the puke in the back of my throat went away, I picked up my phone and saw that I had an unread text. I quickly re-read the text I’d sent Michelle and looked under it for a response.

Nothing.

I don’t know what I wanted her to say back, but I would’ve rather had her tell me “fuck you” than not respond at all.

I hit the back button to go to my my main text screen and saw my unread text . . . from a number that was no longer stored in my phone, but that I recognized from a long time ago.