Ignoring my young, annoying teammate, I walked up behind Brody and slapped my hands down hard on his shoulders, shaking them slightly. “Why not be in a good mood, Mr. Murphy? Life is amazing!”
Brody chuckled and shook his head as he bent down to buckle up his leg pad. “Yep. He definitely got laid.”
“I did,” I admitted proudly. “Last night I had amazing, mind-blowing sex with the hottest woman in the world, and I’ll probably do it again tonight, so fuck all of you.”
Louie rolled his eyes and headed out of the locker room toward the ice. Once he was out of earshot, I bent down close to Brody. “That’s not the only reason I’m in a good mood though.”
Brody jumped up from the bench and whipped around. “Let’s agree never to whisper something like that that close to my ear ever again. Deal?”
“Shut up, asshole,” I snapped back, wadding up a towel and throwing it at him.
He caught it as it bounced off his face.
“I had a dream,” I said excitedly. “About you and me—“
He held a hand up in the air. “Seriously, dude. Stop. I don’t want to hear any more.”
“Listen! I had a dream that we opened a bar. Together. And it was fucking awesome.”
“A bar?” He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Like a drinking bar?”
“No,”—I rolled my eyes—“a sleeping bar. Yes, you idiot, a drinking bar.”
He shrugged his shoulders and tossed the towel into a big bin in the corner of the room. “Why would we do that? What’s the point?”
“We’re not getting any younger, man. Let’s strike while the iron’s hot. Why wait until we’re old and no one gives a shit about us anymore?” I set my bag in my locker and started pulling practice clothes out of it.
“Wait a minute.” He straightened up and blinked a couple times. “Are you being serious right now? I thought this was just a dream.”
“It was a dream, but it made me think. Let’s do it! Let’s open a bar together.”
“Holy shit, you really aren’t kidding.”
“I’m not! Think about it—it would be a badass sports bar with sports memorabilia and signed shit all over the place.”
“And while that sounds awesome, a lot more goes into owning a bar than cases of beer and signed hockey sticks, Viper.”
“I know, but I just have this gut feeling.”
He stared at me for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. “Last time you had a gut feeling, I ended up in Buckingham Fountain and you had to bail me out of jail, remember?”
“This is a different gut feeling. A good one. That whole fountain thing was . . . fucking stupid. I don’t know why you ever listened to me on that.”
He pressed his lips into a hard line and glared at me as he pulled his practice jersey over his head. “Let’s just go practice.”
“Think about it. Promise me you’ll at least think about it,” I called after him.
Without turning around, he lifted one glove in the air. “I know you can’t tell, but I’m flipping you off in here.”
“That means you’re gonna think about it!” I shouted as he disappeared around the corner.
I spent the entire three hours of practice skating close to Brody every chance I got, calling out, “Sports bar,” until finally he stuck his stick out and tripped me, making me fall flat on my face.
“Thanks for tripping me with your stick, asshole. That was a little uncalled for,” I complained playfully as we walked back to the locker room.
“So was you annoying the shit out of me for three hours.”
“I wouldn’t call it annoying. I would call it being persuasive.”
He shot me a hard glare but said nothing.
“Did you think about it?”
“No, but if you’ll shut up for five minutes, I will.”
I grabbed my phone from my bag. “Deal.”
He grimaced as he took his skate off. “My knee is bothering me. I’m gonna go sit in the hot tub for a while. You stickin’ around?”
“Yeah, I probably—“ I looked down at my phone and froze at the series of texts from Michelle.
M: Are you on the ice?
M: Call me ASAP.
M: I’m meeting the ambulance at the hospital with Gam.
M: Viper, please call me NOW!
Fear shot through my body as every other noise drifted away. I hit the call button on my phone and started ripping my uniform off.
Michelle’s phone went straight to voicemail.
“Fuck!” I yelled out, silencing the whole locker room.
“What’s going on?” Brody asked.
I ignored him, my hands shaking as I tried to send Michelle a coherent text.
What’s going on? I’m leaving now. Call me.
“Yo! What is it?” Brody called out, panic lacing his tone.
“It’s Gam. I gotta go.” I finished taking my clothes off and tossed them into my bag, throwing my regular clothes on as fast as I could.
I turned and jogged toward the door. “I have no idea. I’ll call you later.”
My hands wrapped around the steering wheel, squeezing it so tight I worried I was going to pull it right off. I didn’t have much family, and Gam was without a doubt the one I cared about most. The thought of something serious happening to her made my throat close up and my eyes sting.
My tires screeched against the blacktop as I pulled into the hospital parking lot. I yanked the wheel, turning into the first parking space I found, and broke into a full sprint for the main entrance. As I rushed through the automatic doors, I froze, frantically looking left to right as I tried to figure out where to go.
“May I help you?” A woman’s voice caught my attention. I turned to my right and saw her smiling at me from behind a desk.
“Yeah, I’m looking for the emergency room—I think,” I stuttered, realizing that I wasn’t even sure where Gam would be. “Well, maybe not. I’m trying to find my grandma. Gam—uh, Elizabeth—Finkle.”
“Just one second. Let me see what I can find out,” she said with an annoying grin as she typed into her computer. She squinted and leaned in closer to the screen. “Okay, here she is. Looks like she’s still in the ER. You’re going to head through those doors over there—“