This the second to last chapter, we’ve jumped ahead in time and while the other stories were written chronologically this one is written in flashbacks. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it. If you would be interested… I am considering writing the first chapter again from Owen’s perspective (only the first chapter). Let me know if you are into this idea. Artie
January in Buffalo is the worst. I don’t hate the snow; I’ve been known to make a pretty awe-inspiring snowman. I like how pretty the untrodden, blanketing snow looks, the wonderment of kids as they discover they get to stay home and drink hot cocoa for a day. I like snowboarding, skiing and of course ice hockey. What I don’t like is the cold. Walking outside it’s so cold your dick tries to climb back into your body. The snow melts into my boots and I imagine my toes going purple and then falling off.
Owen loves the winter. He claims that Minnesota was colder than Buffalo so he’s fine; I don’t believe him. As far as I am concerned it has never been this cold and it never should be this cold again. Owen liked to joke that of course Jake Summers would hate the winter; I couldn’t even roll my eyes it was so cold. He kept me warm though so I couldn’t hate it as much as I had in the past.
Owen and I had been dating for around four months. It had been the best four months of my life. I was in better shape than ever, in combination with a successful cross country season and in the midst of a run at a state title in swimming, Owen and I got in a lot of exercise on our own.
While I wasn’t going to be nominated for prom king, I was no longer a pariah. Sure I heard snide remarks sometimes as I walked down the hallway but I was accepted like I never had been before. Teenagers are assholes who follow the attractive, popular people once they saw me and Owen being friends they figured that I couldn’t be the literal anti-Christ. Of course there were people who figured that Owen and I were a couple or at least having sex.
One particularly brave junior who was wearing a watch that cost more than some peoples’ cars and clearly trying to show off to his friends called out to Owen as we walked past, “Don’t you ever get tired of him sucking your dick?”
The kid clearly didn’t think Owen was going to say something back; he really didn’t know Owen. I watched as his eyes grew wider as Owen stalked toward him. I sighed and leaned against the wall waiting on him. Owen’s eyes flicked up and down the kid’s body and then smirked at him, “Are you offering to suck it instead?” I didn’t know I would find a seventeen year-old douche bag almost pissing themselves hilarious but I sure know it now.
Behind me, I heard a deep base voice call out, “Sup Holtsy?” For years that voice had engendered nothing by night terrors, no longer. Kyle Johnson had made a remarkable turnaround. Boys are stupid, I’ve often found. Owen punching Kyle and then Kyle’s subsequent apology had been the foundation of a friendship that I still find baffling.
The juniors head swiveled back and forth from Owen to Kyle who was approaching, he visibly blanched realizing that no amount of money could get him out of a fight with two huge hockey players. Kyle’s reputation as being a violent kid was well established; I was only proud to have been a part of his turn away from bullying. He now kept to scuffles with rival schools and on the ice. Owen grinned at his massive friend, “Just getting casual offers of oral sex, man.” Owen said this extremely loudly and several twittering girls walked by and snickered. The juniors face was flush with embarrassment as Kyle appraised him.
“Really? Unless you’re going to blow both of us: scram; we have better shit to do.” The moment Kyle dismissed him the terrified junior ran off with his tail between his legs and his friends cackling at his misfortune.
Them walking over to me was so similar to the first time Kyle and I had a conversation. It hadn’t been long after Owen and I had gotten back together. The last tinges of Kyle’s black eye were lingering as he strode up to me and Owen. Owen immediately went still, his body tense, looking like he was ready to throw himself in front of me.
The massive defenseman studied his feet for a moment, “Hey Holt…Jake.” While it might have not been the warmest greeting, I couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t referred to me by a slur so I was over the moon.
Owen didn’t seem inclined to answer him, too busy flexing his pecs and traps to make him appear even bigger. In any other situation, I would have laughed at him; this didn’t seem like the time. Owen remained silent, not quite glaring but his stoic face was intimidating as I answered him, “Kyle.”
“Can I talk to you?” He asked me, but his eyes flicked to Owen like it was his decision.
Indignant, Owen didn’t get to dictate who I talked to I responded, “Sure.” I turned to Owen, “Can you give us a second?” I phrased it like a question but it wasn’t one.
Nevertheless, Owen declined my request, “Last time he was around you, you looked like you had gone through a blender. I’m gonna stay right casino şirketleri here, thanks.”
I sighed internally, this was true, “Just give us a minute to talk, stay where you can see us: everyone wins.”
Owen’s lips pursed into a slight frown at me but sighed and turned to Kyle, “If I see you so much as touch him Johnson, I swear to God—”, Owen didn’t finish his threat, just glowered at Kyle and stalked maybe fifty feet away and leaned against the wall. He crossed his arms over his chest and began his vigil.
There was an awkward moment where neither Kyle nor I spoke, he was staring back at Owen. “Holt told us that you were off limits, you know.”
“I gathered.” I still wasn’t entirely sure how I felt that he had staked a claim or at least some sort of responsibility over me despite me telling him not to. I understood his protector thing but also it made me feel like a bitch. I doubted that Owen would really appreciate me being pissed off about that in lieu of us recently getting back together.
“He made good on his promise to hurt anyone that hurt you. He’s got a new threat now; he told us that he would quit the team if we hurt you.” Kyle still wasn’t looking at me.
“So you’re currying favor with him by deigning to talk to me?” Fucking figures that all he’s doing is making sure that Owen would still play for them. Not that he had anything to worry about, Owen’s dad was making him play in both the junior league and for the school.
Kyle turned to me his face scrunched as if he couldn’t find the right words, “No. I’m talking to you because I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry? Great. I’ll just forget everything you’ve done to me because your apology makes up for it.” My sarcastic side came out as I remembered the pain of having to relocate my shoulder sophomore year.
He actually blushed but then fisted his hands. All my bravado shrank and I could see Owen start to edge forward. Kyle heaved a sigh and opened his hands, “Look, I can’t make you forgive me. I know that. So I want to say thank you, Owen told us that you considered going to the police and you didn’t.”
He took a deep stuttering breath, “When you were on the ground and Lewis was kicking you I thought you were going to die. You looked like you were about to pass out and I thought maybe… I pulled him away from you and tried to go find help. I found a security guard but when we came back you were gone. I was so scared man. So I promise, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it up to you. If anyone does anything to mess with you: they’re going through me first. Holt can have the leftovers.”
It had been a start; I didn’t really know what to say. Over the months Owen had warmed up to Kyle and so had I. It hadn’t been an easy road, for a long time all I could do when I saw him was flinch but he had stayed true to his word and had redeemed himself in my eyes.
But months had made us friends so I smiled easily as they approached me, still chuckling over the junior’s face. Kyle reached out and we bumped knuckles, “Sup Summers?”
“Oh you know, just watching you two scare the living shit out of underclassmen,” I lifted an eyebrow at them enjoying the fear they inspired.
Kyle smiled, “Oh please, Kevin Stuart is a little cocky bitch who thinks that having money makes him hot shit. I love taking him down a few notches.”
I rolled my eyes but agreed with him, Kevin was a dick. “Want to come over and shoot hoops? I’m sure if both you and Owen played together could at least be competition for me.”
Owen scoffed, though I was pretty useless as a player, Owen was pretty good, “We can’t, going over to dinner with Jake’s parents.” Kyle knew that we were a couple, everyone on the basketball team assumed but only Kyle knew for sure. He looked uncomfortable when we did anything too affectionate but usually sprung back fast. Not all of Owen’s teammates were as accepting, Gregory and Liam glowered at me but with Kyle and Owen as a combined front there was nothing they could do.
My parents would never be featured in a family lifestyle magazine but since I had come out they had started paying more attention to me. My dad had even made it out to one of my swim meets, he had seem baffled that I was actually good.
It was the first time I had ever seen Owen look uncomfortable. The room was nearly silent as my mother brought out dinner. My father apparently had been studying old movies because he was only missing the shotgun to complete the image of over-protective father. In a way, it was sweet but it was also incredibly false and over-the-top.
“So Owen,” my father began, “Where do you plan on attending college?” Christ, we were starting off on a bad note. My father believed that everyone should attend college if they could go.
Owen cleared his throat, a pained look dashing over his face, “I actually am not going. I’m going to hopefully be playing in the NHL next year.”
“You couldn’t go to college for a few years and then get drafted out?” My father asked archly.
“I could, Sir, but I could get hurt while playing in college and then my professional casino firmaları career would be ruined.” My father harrumphed slightly.
My dad was a big hockey fan though, so I knew I could get him, “He’s a first round pick Dad; he plays with the Sabres sometimes. He knows them all pretty well. Owen, tell him that Ennis story.” Owen launched into the story about the center and their weekend in Atlantic City. And just like that Owen had won him over, they discussed the league and the Sabres. Owen relaying insider information about some of my dad’s favorite players as my dad listened in delight.
My mother didn’t say much to Owen; she left the table abruptly without a word. Owen and my dad barely noted her absence too busy discussing the strengths of the Oilers’ defense.
Quietly excusing myself, I went in search of my mother. She was standing in the kitchen drinking wine in long smooth pulls, “What’s wrong mom?”
She drained her glass, “Is he the reason you got beaten up?”
Aghast, “No mom, it had been happening for years. You know that.”
She nodded, pouring herself another glass, “I know that it got worse.”
“Owen took care of it Mom. He’s a solution to my problems mom, but he’s more than that, I love him.” The weight of my mom’s disapproval had loosened my filter. I hadn’t even told him that but it was true. I loved Owen Holt. He had said it to me when we had gotten back together but I hadn’t. I’d lay the guilt on the contusions to my body but I still hadn’t said anything. Maybe it was fear, saying that I loved him would heighten our relationship and then if it didn’t work out I would be even more heartbroken. It was stupid though, not saying the words didn’t mean it wasn’t true.
With that in mind, my mother and I returned to table. I was mostly quiet letting my mother volley questions at Owen: about everything and anything. I was still aghast that I hadn’t told Owen how I felt. Since hearing myself say the words, I felt consumed by the need to tell him. He had told me he loved me, but was that still true? Was he angry with me for not telling him?
As dinner ended, I was thrown into tumult. Owen cast a sidelong gaze at me, quirking an eyebrow at my silence. My parents didn’t think I was being quiet, this was normal for us but Owen knew me. I, of course, wanted Owen to stay over for the night but while my parents were okay with me being gay and seemed to accept my choice in boyfriends pretty easily, I doubted they would be alright with us having wild, torrid sex two doors down from them.
So I walked Owen out to his truck, brimming with the need to tell him. He kissed me briefly, knowing that eyes were everywhere but I held his face to mine. “I love you Owen. I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you earlier but I do. I love you so much.” I pressed my lips to his, hopefully showing him the intensity of my feelings for him. Owen let out a delighted chuckle before hauling me to him. His hands were all over my ass whereas one of was cupping him through his nice pants when a loud clearing of throat came from behind us.
We sprang apart, a deep flush cover my face as Owen quickly adjusted his bulge. My dad looked embarrassed and uncomfortable and I felt the exact same way, “Time to say goodnight, Jake.” He turned around to give us a little privacy but didn’t fully walk away. He needn’t have been worried, I was so uncomfortable that my cock might have inverted.
Owen leaned down and kissed me on the cheek, “I love you too. I’ll text you when I get home.” He got into his truck and raised his hand in acknowledgement of my dad and drove away. All in all, not the most comfortable time with my parents but nowhere near the shit storm that was having dinner at Owen’s house with his dad.
In the center of the table totally untouched was a dish of grilled chicken, long stem rice, and sautéed bell peppers. To say it was tense would be a massive, critical understatement. Owen was glaring at his dad, still pissed for his meddling; his dad was pissed at me for not doing what he wanted and at Owen for not understanding why he did it. I sat not really pissed at anyone. I understood why his dad was being cautious about his son coming out.
I also wasn’t about to be the one to break the silence as Owen and his father glared each other down from across the table. I wondered if I should put the food in the oven to keep it warm because it seemed like whoever would grab food first lost. The Holt men were not about to lose, even to each other.
They continued their silent show down and I marveled at how similar they were, both Owen was still in his prime but it was easy to see where his looks had come from. With a touch of gray around his temples and a few wrinkles wizening his face, Owen’s dad just looked like an elder statesman but, though the idea made me immediately uncomfortable after thinking it, a hot one. Eventually the wait took its toll on me and I had to speak up otherwise they might have waited until one of them keeled over. “The food looks good,” I murmured which was true, if a little lukewarm at this point.
Owen’s dad cut a glare güvenilir casino at me, which only reminded me of when his son got surly with me, “Thank you, I’m glad someone is grateful.” I winced at his barb and Owen loudly scoffed. I doubted that Owen would ever grow the ability to back down from a challenge, he certainly didn’t then.
“I’m sorry, I’m supposed to be grateful that you fucking sabotaged my relationship behind my back? You intimidated my boyfriend into breaking up with me, that’s so cowardly.” Owen was leaned forward palms pressed against the table, his biceps flexing with each word almost threatening patricide.
“I didn’t intimidate him, Owen. I told him the facts and bet that he would be smarter than you and do the right thing which he did. If you were half as smart as him you would see that I am doing things for you.” They were perfect mirrors of testosterone fueled angry men, Owen’s dad bit off the end of words and scowled at his son.
“You told him your version. The facts might have been true but not your interpretation and because of it I almost lost him. He’s important to me dad. I love him. Is hockey so goddamn important that you want me to lose love? Are you really so fucking heartless?”
“Me, heartless? Are you kidding me? I just want you to be able to live your dream. All I have is heart kid. I don’t want to see you regret all the things that could have been. Being a parent is about helping them make decisions, and steering them away from bad ideas. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”
“My dream is more than hockey dad. I want to have a cheering section when I play. What’s the point of being successful without someone to share it with? I’m not hiding Dad. I’m not going to be closeted. I promised Jake that I would until I get drafted and I will but no longer. It’s not fair to Jake, to me, or to other people that want to come out.” I blinked back tears, I had already heard his speech but hearing him so emphatic about his beliefs and to be a role model was so moving.
His dad sighed, running his hand through his hair and I smiled at their similar affectations, “You know I want you to have it all, kid.” His voice faltered, “I wish this would be easy for you; it won’t be. If this is what you want, I’m behind you all the way.” He broke off and look to me for a moment before looking at Owen, “I’m sorry for going behind your back; I have nothing against Jake.”
“Means a lot Dad,” Owen murmured, spearing himself a piece of chicken. I didn’t think that was the end of it, but they to my knowledge never discussed it again. They just began eating and the tension lessened: though it didn’t fully dissipate. They did have many conversations on Owen coming out and the timing of that but they didn’t talk about the break up once. I couldn’t tell if I thought that was amazing: the power of forgiveness, or ridiculous.
Hockey became the only focus of everyone’s lives. None of Owen’s teammates were going for the draft this year, most electing to not go to college immediately and play in Junior’s for the next year. I followed hockey more closely than ever before. Watching the Sabres whenever I could catch a game was nothing compared to the monopoly of time I now spent on it now. I knew the names of people in the OHL, in Sweden, I followed collegiate hockey; if someone had even picked up a stick I knew their names.
While I was so entrenched in Owen’s world, we almost never saw each other. With Owen on two teams that practiced back to back and travelled extensively, we no longer could ride together to school. I was managing college applications and the swim team; our schedules just never seemed to meet. We did the best we could, seeing each other during English and if we could for lunch, some Sunday afternoons: it wasn’t as much as I would like but we made do with the time that we had.
When the midseason ranking for the draft class came out: Owen was ranked second behind a Canadian. By all accounts Owen was pleased with this: he had overtaken two players in the rankings and he was younger than the first ranked guy.
As the season wore on and teams started to see that the playoffs would be a longshot, the hockey world began to pay more and more attention to the draft. Owen was featured in articles and reports. His first big interview took place in February: ESPN, the big one.
The special was on the top players going into the draft, the cameramen had filmed b-shots of Owen skating with his Juniors’ team and then they asked him to shoot pucks directly at the camera. All in all it didn’t seem like they were doing anything remotely new. I was pretty sure I had caught the same special dozens of times on TSN.
I was sure Owen had seen them too and didn’t need any help to answer their softball questions: this wasn’t gotcha journalism. Nevertheless, in the midst of him playing for two teams and my swimming schedule we were desperate to find ways to see each other. We had English still, which was not really a place for us to connect and when he could manage it lunch. I was even driving myself to school because Owen and I’s schedules couldn’t mesh after school. Even weekends were difficult because Owen was always having away games. So when Owen asked me to soothe his nerves before the interview stating: “I’d feel more relaxed if you were there”, I jumped at the opportunity.