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It took your mother sixteen years to realize she didn’t want you and sometimes, on days like today, you wonder how long it’s going to take your father to realize the same.

He’s tying his shoes and you’re buttoning up the thickest jacket you own - because you’ve never understood his love for the cold air of the hockey arena brushing against his skin and that’s where you’re headed today – when he reaches over and ruffles your hair.

“Big game today.” He says. “Championship.”

You try not to shrink away from his touch, but it’s difficult and you end up shrugging your shoulders awkwardly and grabbing for the toque that you were planning to wear anyway, but is now completely necessary to your outfit.

“I know, Dad.” You pull gloves on too because why not at this point. “We’ve gone over this.”

“I know.” He smiles and nods. “I’m just worried about the other team’s offence, but – “

“- it’s pointless because you have Carmilla.” You finish for him. “I know all that too.”

“Kid if you were on the team, I’d brag about having you instead.” He takes one last look at himself in the hall mirror and adjusts his tie. “You run a mean five kilometer. Of course anyone who runs and trains as much as you do can probably match it.”

Yeah, that doesn’t really make you feel better.

The drive to the rink kind of sucks because all your Dad can talk about is how much he’s looking forward to Carmilla Karnstein exploiting the other team’s defence and it makes you feel like you’re in highschool all over again, winning championships and getting into universities, but always being passed over by your own father in favor of the jackass of a girl he loves to coach.

You try not to listen to him too much, opting instead to text Perry and LaFontaine about whether or not they were coming to the game. Last game, you had sat next to the goon who is an even bigger Karnstein fan boy than your father and you’d like to not replay the experience.

At some point during the drive, though, you can’t help but point out that you too excel at a sport and he has the decency to at least look embarrassed.

“I know that, Laura.” He keeps his eyes on the road instead of looking at you, though. “And you understand why I haven’t been making it to your soccer matches, right? Since your Mom left – “

“I know.” You practically spit  out. “I know it’s been difficult since she left.”

“That’s right.” He looks over at you, a forced smile on his face and changes the subject. “You look fancy for a hockey game. What ever happened to the nerdy t-shirts?”

They reminded me too much of her just like the sofa you threw away two months ago, you want to say, but you refrain. He had only started mentioning her again in conversation, over three full years later, and you think bringing the past back might be a bad idea.

“You trying to nab yourself a hockey girl?” He laughs and you reward him with a small laugh of your own.

“Just looking good for myself, Dad.”

“Atta girl.” He pulls into the parking lot and the look on his face reminds you of a little kid on Christmas morning. “Kiss for good luck, pumpkin.”

You kiss his cheek and try to shake off the thought that you’d like to see his team lose every aspect of the game tonight.

 


 

Championship finals aren’t really a new thing for you.

You started playing back in middle school, after your father died and your stepmother became too much for you to handle, with her crazy obsessions and often creepy behavior. Back then, you’d figured hitting a small, black rubber disc as hard as you could against the net - and sometimes other people - might prove to be a good way to deal with your losses.

As you sit down on the locker room bench, however many years later, you can’t help but be glad for that decision.

“Hey,” Danny plops down next to you, letting her gear bag fall beside her feet with a small thud. “You nervous?”

It’s your first college final, so you think maybe you should be. Playing in middle school had been fun; in high school had been brutal. But college is real. You got a full scholarship to Silas U because you’re good, but it all rides on this moment.

And yet, strangely enough, the only thing you feel is excitement.

“Not really,” you shrug, pulling tighter on the strings and tying the knot on your favorite pair of skates. “I’m just ready to do some damage.”

Danny laughs as she buckles her pads in place, shaking her head at you, “You’re so full of yourself, aren’t you?”

You kick your skate against hers and rolls your eyes. It’s not like she has any right to be talking, when she often refers to herself as Danny ‘The Wall’ Lawrence. But she’s a whole six feet of impressive goal defense and you can’t really blame her for being so confident about her skills. You are too, and that had made for difficult times back when you’d first joined the team, but, somewhere along the way, it seemed that you two had reached some sort of understanding.

“Like you’re any different,” you say, and it might not sound like a compliment, but you both know it is.

She trusts you to score the goals, just as you trust her to stop them.

Coach Hollis slips into the locker room just as you’re fixing your shoulder pads, and he looks like someone who ate too much candy and is riding a crazy sugar high, but you don’t pay much attention to it. He’s a good coach, you can’t deny that, but there’s something that just doesn’t sit quite right with you, even if you can’t point out exactly what that is.

It might be that you’ve always seen him at every hockey game back in high school, but he didn’t seem to give two shits that his daughter was basically a football prodigy.

Or maybe you just don’t like him because Laura Hollis is a jerk and you’d rather keep yourself away from anyone that’s connected to her.

Not that it matters, in the end. You stop paying attention to him as he starts on his speech, instead slipping on your headphones and retracting to your own world. It’s not likely that he’s changed his inspirational words, and you already did him the favor of paying attention to it when you first joined the team. You miss all of the shots you don’t take, he’ll say.

Yeah, you don’t need to pay attention anymore.

You listen to three songs before Danny nudges you. “Come on.” She says. She’s slipping on her jersey and you do the same, the red and yellow a stark contrast against your black hair and pale skin.

When your blades touch the ice, you feel exhilarated.

As you skate around the rink, you hear someone yelling your name and when you stop next to Danny and turn your head, you see Kirsch sitting just behind the Ravens’ bench, a grin on his lips as he waves at you like a child.

“Idiot.” Danny mutters, and you smirk as you raise your hand to quickly flip off Kirsch, which only makes his grin widen at you.

It’s only when you pull your hand back that you notice the Hollis girl sitting next to him, arms crossed against her chest and a scowl on her lips. She looks like she’d rather be anywhere else, and you’re secretly glad for this. She should feel uncomfortable every now and then, especially when she’s always walking around as if she’s the greatest thing to ever step in the Silas’ halls.

But the referee’s whistle sounds and you quickly snap out of your thoughts, every image of Laura Hollis you’ve ever had for the past five years completely slipping from your head.

Nothing else matters in this moment; you have a championship to win.

 


 

“Go, Karnstein!” You yell, cupping your hands around your mouth so that the sound can carry further than the loud screeches of the group of girls sitting behind you. The coach’s daughter, sat on your right, glares at you, but you don’t care.

Carmilla’s lips curl in a smirk, and you like to think it’s because of you and not because she’s thinking of ditching you after the game and scoring a piece of ass to take home.

You bite your lip; she would kill you if she heard you speaking like that about the girls that she sometimes allow close enough to warm her bed a little. Well, actually, she would kill you if she knew you were even thinking about that, because you know how much she hates talking about her sexual life with you.

And you get it, really. You’re bros, but you’re not like that. Carmilla is, like, crazy complex, but she’s also crazy smart and, more important - crazy loyal. She might not be crazy nice, but in the year that you’ve been friends with her, you came to realize that nice is overrated, anyway.

Carmilla Karnstein is sort of your hero, really.

In the back of your mind, you realize she’s probably Silas U’s hero, as well - if they way the arena is roaring as she slides over the ice is any indication.

“The Silas Ravens lead 3-2,” the narrator’s voice sounds over your head, and you lean forward in your seat as you watch Carmilla take control of the puck as she round the Ravens’ goal post, “and Karnstein speeds towards the Warrior’s defense line once again. This girl is on a roll, tonight!”

You feel as if the whole arena is holding their breath as Carmilla slips right between two players of the Warriors’ defense and still manages to keep her possession of the puck. There’s only a few minutes left and, logically, you know that Silas is gonna take this one. Danny sits at the goal and she’s looking as pissed as you’ve ever seen her - probably due to the fact that the Warriors managed to breach her walls not only once, but twice - and you’re sure she’s not about to make it easier for them to even try and take this to over-time.

Not that it matters, anyway.

Carmilla is about to settle this game for good.

You cup your hands around your mouth gain, “Go, Carmilla!”

In the future, when you look back at this moment, you’ll remember things slowing down in that dramatic way they only seem to do in movies. It’s kind of stupid, really, because the whole thing probably happens in less than twenty seconds.

One second Carmilla is there, sliding towards the Warriors’ goal post with that fierce determination that you’ve just come to associate with her, and in the next second someone is stepping in her way, forcing her to quickly turn around. And then,

Crack.

You don’t hear it, of course. Everything is too loud. Your eyes are trained on her, but the people around you in the arena don’t even seem to notice what is happening. But you do. You see the way her left leg shifts and twists in a way that shouldn’t be normal, but you grew up watching all kinds of sports and you’re well aware of what that sight means.

And then you do hear it. You hear the scream that escapes her lips; one anguishing sound that seems to echo around you, chilling your bones to the core, and you swear everything else is just white noise.

You’re on your feet by the time her stick hits the ice.

Then, as if your heart is not already on the ground, it comes again.

Crack.

The strength of the impact makes her head bounce, and you can’t even help the gasp that leaves your lips as you watch her helmet crack. Bits and pieces of it fall off just as the buzzer sounds, signaling the end of the game.

You don’t even care that you can’t be on the ice, you just have to. You have to, so you push away the stupid player who got in Carmilla’s path and you drop to her side just as Danny’s skates scrape the ice as she stops and falls on her knees, right next to you.

Fuck.” She curses, but you only seem to remember that once everything is said and done.

In that moment, you barely notice she’s there. Because Carmilla is on the ice, her knee bent in a weird way and her helmet cracked around her head and there’s blood sliding down her face and all you can feel is a loud buzzing in your ears as you clench and unclench your hands, trying to think of something to do. Something to shake off this weird image, something to wake you from this nightmare.

Because this has to be a nightmare. This can’t be happening.

Except that it is. It’s happening and you only notice this once her unconscious body is being taken away in a gurney and Danny is pushing you towards the back of an ambulance.

You’re waiting for her to wake up and go on one of her philosophical rants about the beauty of numbers and mathematics - spitting out all of those words that just go over your head, really - but she doesn’t. You’re waiting for this to be a prank of your idiotic best friend - because she does have a dark sense of humor - but it isn’t.

It’s real.

And suddenly, your brain registers two things:

Silas University just won the regional championship for the first time in ten years.

And Carmilla just lost everything.