Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chapter Two


Jon stood in the kitchen, his mom and dad hovered over him as he peeled open a manila envelope. The size was a giveaway, it must have weighed two pounds, but he was still nervous. With shaking hands he slid out the packet, letter on top.

We are pleased to accept you into the program at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. His parents cheered and hugged him – Jon sagged into them, more relieved that he’d been willing to admit to himself. Shattuck was his dream – full-time boarding school where he could finally devote his complete attention to hockey.

“Going off by yourself, Jon. That’s a big step and we’re really proud of you,” his father said. He gave his wife a knowing look. “You’ better go tell Callie, I think.”

Jon’s feet were stuck to the floor. He was going. He was going! But that meant he was leaving, and he’d been thinking about that too. “Do you think Callie could go to Shattuck?”

Andree paused. “I… hadn’t thought of that. I think Callie wants to graduate from here. Her friends are here, her whole life. I don’t know what the applications are like for regular school, and it costs a lot.”

“Let me ask her. Let me try.” He ran across the yard, through the door without a hello and right into her bedroom. She was sitting on the bed, laptop balanced on her knees.

“I got into Shattuck,” he blurted out. “And I want you to come with me.”

“What?!”

He kneeled right down next to the bed and grabbed her hand. “Callie, come to school with me.”

She shook her head. “Jon, you are crazy. Shattuck is so expensive – you’re only in with the hockey money and you know it. There’s no way we could afford that, I can’t do anything special. But I’m so happy for you!”

“Maybe they’d give you a scholarship. You are a nerd.”

“Stop, Jon. This is all you, you earned this! You deserve it.”

Jon moved onto the bed. “What if I told them I wouldn’t go without you?”

Callie put the computer aside and leaned her head back. She knew Jon was scared of going off alone for the first time, of all the pressure and the other stuff he couldn’t predict. “Jon, you can’t do that. You are going to be a star there, sign a zillion dollar NHL contract and be the youngest team captain to ever win a Stanley Cup. I know it.”

He got mad. It was a little irrational, he knew, but he couldn’t help it. “So you don’t even want to try? Just ask them, Callie.” He knew it was futile. Her reasons were sound and the answer would be no. But he was sixteen and feeling bratty.

She just shook her head. “You have to go. But I can’t.”
____

When the time finally came, Callie was less sure. “I can’t believe you’re leaving me.” She flopped onto the bed while Jon stuffed unpaired socks into his bag.

“It’s not that far. I’m never home anyway with so much hockey – you won’t even miss me.”

She rolled onto her back and stretched out, 16 years old and fairly unaware of the effect her blossoming form had on her best friend. “You’re right, I’ll just hang out with Katie McKenna all year!”

It wasn’t a real goodbye, it wasn’t like Jon was really leaving. He wouldn’t be around every day but this was still his home. Callie felt better knowing that as she tried to act like it was cool her best friend was taking off for the big, exciting real world. She’d be stuck in the same old place with the same old people, only minus the one who really mattered.

Jon had also been thinking a lot about leaving – they’d always known he would, they just hadn’t expected it to come up so quickly. Jon was excited and nervous by turns – this was his big chance. Sidney Crosby had left Shattuck the year before and already been offered a $7.5 million contract to skip junior hockey. Jon had dreams about that so real he woke up panting. But he was leaving everything else behind. All his friends and everything that had always been important to him would go on as if he never really mattered. He flopped down next to her on the bed.

“Don’t forget about me, okay?” He meant it to come out as a joke, but his voice was small and sad.

Callie pulled his arm out and put her head on the inside of his shoulder. For a moment they were still, both thinking about the fact they were lying in bed together and wondering if the other was thinking the same thing. Probably not, they wrongly agreed without knowing.

“Don’t forget about me,” Callie answered.
____

Callie had her head down on a chemistry text book; she’d been doing cellular chains for hours. She shook cramped fingers and stared ruefully at the graph paper littered with equations she was only half-sure she understood. The phone rang.

“Saved by the bell,” she laughed.

“I knew you’d be doing homework.” Jon was in his room, doing the same. There was almost no time at Shattuck that wasn’t devoted to hockey, but he still had to keep his grades up. Especially now. “I have something to tell you. You’re not going to like it.”

“You got a girlfriend,” Callie said too quickly, too sharp. “I mean… you like a girl.” Shut up, shut up, she pleaded with her brain as she bit her lips to keep them closed. Why was that my first thought? And why couldn’t I keep it to myself?

“Woah, Cal are you jealous? Hmmmm, I never knew you were home alone dreaming about me…,” he was teasing, but only as a reflex. What the hell? “It’s not a girl. It’s… there’s a program here, you can do two years of high school in one. They only offer it after you start playing – if they think you’re good enough to go junior or college after one year.”

“Oh.” She wasn’t sure she really heard, still reeling from jumping to conclusions.

“They offered it to me. I said yes.” He waited.

Callie’s heart was pounding. “So you’ll be done in May? Done with high school?”

“Yeah. Apply to colleges now and see if someone will take me early.”

“Wow,” she said. This was not supposed to be happening. Jon moving away was one thing, but leaving her behind entirely for college and all the things she couldn’t do yet… this is not supposed to be happening. She was too quiet for too long.

“Cal?” he asked.

She was surprised by the tears in her eyes. “That’s awesome, Jon. I’m really proud of you.”

He could hear her trying not to cry, which made him fight back tears of his own. “Maybe you could finish too, take summer school and come with me?”

“If only I’d played goalie all those times you wanted me to, maybe someone would take me too.”
_____

“Dude. Please tell me you have a plan for prom night,” Dex said over the phone. Samuel Dexter, as he was officially known, was the Casanova of their high school hockey team and he imagined Shattuck as a something like the Playboy Mansion. He could not understand Jon.

Jon was due back in Winnipeg in two days, officially done with school though he wouldn’t technically graduate until he completed some online classes over the summer. Already he’d been accepted to the University of North Dakota to start in the fall as freshman. He’d just turned 17 and would be home in time for Callie’s high school prom.

“No. No plan, nothing is happening. I am taking Callie and if you want to get laid, you have to talk your own date out of her dress.”

“You are never going to seal the deal with that girl.”

“Are you retarded? Callie is not my girlfriend. Hell, I’ve barely even seen her in months… I’m lucky she’s going with me at all. Besides, what kind of stupid school has a junior prom?”

Dex dropped the puck and shot it in one motion. “Planning on being around here next year, Johnny? When the rest of us are at senior prom, you’ll be off scoring goals for NHL scouts and college chicks at North Dakota.”

Jon lined up a shot of his own. “Hockey, hockey and more hockey.”

Dex laughed. “And you’re the only guy who doesn’t get laid.”
____

Never in his life had Jon rung the doorbell at Callie’s house, certainly not with his mother right behind him giggling like a schoolgirl. Callie’s mom opened the door and the giggling doubled. After a few awkward moments standing around a room that he’d practically lived in, Callie came down the stairs in her prom dress. Their parents went crazy, gushing and complimenting and touching her. Everything they said, Jon was thinking. Her dark hair was pinned up with pieces falling around her face and neck, grazing her skin gently. Her dark blue dress, made of something shiny that caught the light like water, was strapless and cut into a V on her back, ending just above her knees in a little bubble shape.

Wow, Jon thought.

Jon wore a black tux with a black bow tie. Callie smiled – it made him look like a little boy. His hair was perfectly gelled, it had grown out a little longer at Shattuck. He smiled at her and she immediately stopped feeling like an overdone turkey in her dress. Yay, she smiled. This will be fun.

They were arranged and photographed, again and again. Callie’s face started to hurt from all the smiling. Jon slid a white rose corsage on her wrist, helped her into her coat and they mercifully fled the house, both sets of parents waving wildly from the porch.

“Awkward!” Callie laughed when they were around the corner. Jon’s face cracked into a smile. Her hand came up and lightly brushed a cut on his cheekbone. “My prom date looks like Rocky,” she said.

“Sorry, I tried to be careful! It was just practice and I didn’t have my cage on…”

“It suits you. It’s the Jon I know.”
____

Dex took a swig from the flask in his pocket, offering it to Jon over the bathroom counter. Jon declined, giving his friend a chuck on the shoulder. “Wait for the party,” he said.

“At the rate I’m going with Allison, she’ll be home before the party and I’ll be cuddling up to you, Jonny.”

Jon straightened his bow tie. “My dream come true.”
____

Callie came into the living room carrying two beer cans the same color as her dress. “No!” she shouted over her shoulder. “Still no, Dex!” She dropped onto the couch next to Jon. “Your friend is a pervert. A relentless and very creative pervert.”

“He’s just jealous because his date left.”

“His date is probably having her stomach pumped,” she lifted her beer in cheers. “Thank you, Jon, for not being drunk and trying to feel me up in the kitchen.”

“He did what?!” Jon started to get up. I’ll kill him. His friends knew that Callie was off limits for their stupid wannabe frat boy behavior. Callie stuck her arm out, holding him in place.

“No no no, I poured beer on his pants so it looks like he peed himself.”

Jon laughed. “I love you, Callie.”

They sat there, watching people while Jon caught up with friends he hadn’t seen all year. Callie stayed close, having missed him every day. They’d been friends for so long that they couldn’t be anything else, they didn’t know how to be different with each other. And changing such a long-standing friendship would require nothing short of an act of nature.

It’s going to be so different, he thought as the beer made him a little nostalgic. The inside of Dex’s house was a mess of high school kids binge drinking and groping their dates. Well, not this part, he almost laughed. I’m pretty sure college looks just like this. But all my friends will be here, doing this, without me.

Callie had always known Jon would go away, and since he’d been at Shattuck she’d come to terms with what she’d always known: he was something really special. Everyone played hockey, all the little boys nursed delusions of their NHL careers. But Jon was going somewhere and Callie was proud of him. Over the last few years, hockey had taken up more and more of his life. Callie watered his mom’s plants when they went on the road and listened to endless stories when they came home. Boarding school had given him that final edge, the full-time focus that he needed.

“I’m going to miss you, Jon,” she said out of nowhere.

“You say that like I’m already gone.”

“Well while you’re gone, get me another beer.”
____

Summer flew past. Jon did school work on top of training and having fun. Most of the parties looked like the prom – crumpled beer cans in someone’s living room, campouts and drive-ins. He relished it, always the last one to leave as he tried to soak up everything he’d miss in the coming year. His friends talked about senior year and their futures uncertainly, but Jon knew exactly where he was going.

“You know the drinking age is 21 in the States,” Callie said, sitting next to him around a fire at the local campsites. “You’ll only be 17 when you start… gonna be awfully boring! You could stay here and sneak Labatts with us instead.”

The flickering fire made her soft skin glow. She’d definitely come of age while Jon was at Shattuck – he’d felt self-conscious around her all summer. Suddenly her long legs had slimmed out, slender waist becoming defined below a bra Jon couldn’t help but realize was at least a size bigger than when he’d left. Her dark hair seemed thicker with length – it fell halfway down her back down, shining in the firelight. She was 17 now and looked 20.  Jon knew his friends were idiots, but he couldn’t believe none of them had tried to date her.

Good thing, he thought. I’d have to kick their asses. Not that he wanted Callie for himself, of course, certainly not, he told himself. But she was his best friend and these guys were all clowns.

“I wish you could come with me,” he said.

Callie examined him for signs of becoming an adult. He had grown a bit, getting broader as well as taller, but otherwise she found none. His dark eyes were still innocent and his thin smile still had aw-shucks written all over it. He was the same kid unwrapping a new hockey stick in the yard or getting hurt by someone like Katie McKenna. Callie worried that he was too good for college, that it would change him into something other than the Jon she’d always known.

“If you need me, just call. I’ll find North Dakota on the map and be right down.”
____

It seemed like three weeks, not three months later, that Jon stood in his room before a mountain of belongings – gear and clothes, computer equipment, school supplies. It was taller than he was, and he was over 6 feet now. His dad came tromping in, another batch of hockey stuff dragging behind.

“With all this, they’ll never notice if you stick Callie in there. She weighs less than your hockey bag.”

Jon laughed, “The only thing she’d never do for me. Hold my gear.”

It was all packed and loaded. Jon stuffed a few pictures and things into the front pocket of his backpack and laid out all the things he’d need for a next few days before they left for the drive to Minnesota. He heard the front door open and his mom talking downstairs. Two minutes later she called him down and when he arrived, she had a strange look on her face.

“What?”

“That was Callie’s mom. Her father’s job is being transferred to Singapore in November. If he wants to keep it, he was to go with it.”

“What?!”

“Her mom wants to go. Callie doesn’t want to, but she’s only got a year left then she’s off to college anyhow. I wanted to ask you if it would be okay with you if Callie lived here, while you were away. Then she could graduate here.”

Jon was about to say of course, don’t be stupid, Callie couldn’t leave, that was insane. Instead he just beat feet through her front door and right into her room. He could tell she’d been crying. “I heard,” he said, throwing himself into a chair and rolling right up to her bedside. “Don’t leave.”

“Your mom said I could stay with them. If that’s okay with you.” She sounded sad, like she wasn’t sure what he would say. As if he would take everything away from her.

“Well you can’t move in till I leave,” he smiled. “That would be weird.”

“You sure, Jon? Last chance before you go…” she slid one foot down the length of her other leg, the way she’d seen on TV, the way she assumed was sexy.

Jon gulped – it was sexy. “Ha ha. Just keep teasing me until I’m out the door. Girls at Shattuck are going to love me. Can’t keep ‘em off me. And you’ll be here, sleeping in my bed, waiting for me to come home. Wait… what happens when I come home?”

“You can sleep on the couch.”

“In my own house?! Bullshit. I’m sleeping in my bed. Your choice if you leave of not.”

Callie’s laugh shook her whole body. “Fine, I’ll sleep on the couch, even when you’re famous. I’ll always be the one goal you can’t score, Jon.”
____

Callie was in the kitchen when Jon came down on his last morning at home. She wore a ponytail and a hooded sweatshirt with shorts - she looked like Jon’s idea of a college girl. But that was still one year away for her, one year they wouldn’t be spending together. She blew on her mug of tea before she smiled at him.

“Ready?”

He could only nod, throat dry from the nerves. There was excitement too, but that would take over only when he got to Dakota, got on the ice. First he had to do the hard part. Callie followed to his room and helped carry load after load of stuff into the driveway where Jon’s dad stowed it into the car. When they were done, Callie stood in Jon’s room with the last bag in her hand. She surveyed what was left.

“You’ve taken everything,” she said.

“More room for you.”

“It’s going to be really weird here without you.” Callie’s shoulders started to round a little. Jon couldn’t have her crying - if she cried, he would cry and they’d never get out of the house. He watched as her posture collapsed a little more. She had hoped to last until he was gone.

Jon did the only thing he could think of: he pulled Callie in and kissed her. It was like an engine rolling over, it caught suddenly and roared to life. He parted his lips and she did the same - her tongue was soft beneath his, the taste of tea still warm in her mouth. Callie wrapped herself around him as if the added weight could make him stay. He melted against her, close as could be but not close enough. His fingers pulled at the hem of her bulky sweatshirt.

“I can’t...,” he tried to explain himself, wanted to ask nicely but Callie just lifted her arms and let him pull the hoodie over her head. Underneath a black tank top fit her tanned body like a second skin. Jon collected Callie into his chest and held on: now he was close enough to feel her heart beating the same frantic pace as his.

This is what it feels like to lose your mind, Callie thought. Her hands slipped into the back pockets of Jon’s jeans, as if it were perfectly normal to feel up your best friend in the whole world. She needed new sensations to keep the tears at bay. His lips were soft from 17 years of borrowed Chapstick and Callie physically remembered what it had been like, 3 years ago, the last and only other time they’d kissed. It had been like this, she was sure of it.

“Jon,” she panted. He kissed her cheek, her neck, her ear.

“I love you, Callie,” his dark brown eyes were almost black with resolution. He held her cheeks and repeated himself, like she might have misunderstood. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Jon. I always have.” She kissed him again, pawing at the burgeoning muscles of widening back, where the promise of his size had started to fill in. His hands slid to her waist and held, thumbs pressed along the inside of her last rib.

I can’t leave. I can’t go. Jon’s pulse hammered, flooding his system with panic. How can I leave this? He crossed his arms at her lower back, hugging her for all he was worth. The velvety touch of her tongue made goosebumps break out all over his body.

“JON! Gotta go, guys,” his father yelled from downstairs.

“Oh my God,” Callie said, her lips barely parted from Jon’s.

At the same moment he said, “I can’t leave.”

He brushed her hair back from her face, his hand trembling and clumsy. Why had he not been holding her for years? How could he discover that her hair felt like silk and smelled like sunshine only at their very last moment together?

Callie closed her eyes and pressed her closed lips to his one more time. “Go. Go so you can come home already.”

“JON!”

They stood for a moment looking at each other - their expressions were mirrored: confusion, surprise, lust, fear - and they both felt better for sharing that. That, and their kiss.

For the first time in his life, Jon felt like a man. Not because he was going away to school, following his dream, pursuing a career. Because when he walked down the stairs in the house he’d grown up in, he was holding Callie’s hand.

The car was loaded, passenger side door hanging open. Jon hugged his mom, who was on the verge of tears herself. Then he moved back to Callie. He buried his face in her dark hair and squeezed her tight. He had no idea what to say, even if he could have gotten any words out. Instead of speaking, he pressed his forehead to hers. Dark green eyes filled with tears as they started back at him.

“Go get ‘em, Jon.”

He kissed her forehead and ran for the car. She raised a wave as they pulled from the drive and when the house was out of view, Jon stared out the window at nothing for hours.

Callie watched her best friend leave, unable to grasp the idea of what had just happened. Everything had been the same for 17 years and everything had changed in minutes. She didn’t ask permission to go to his room, since it strangely belonged to her now. Callie lay on the bed and cried.
____

5 comments:

  1. Ok I know this makes me sound like a idoit, but you had me at tears.Bawling like a baby. The kiss was so good, I have reread it so many times. I love it. More soon. dont make us wait so long. lol

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  2. Great, great job!

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  3. I genuinely love your writing. Can't wait for an update.

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