“Damn it!” Charlie swore viciously as he went hurtling over the bent form of a Puma defence man. One of the Pumas gained control of the puck and instantly shot off in the other direction towards the goal. He was instantly intercepted by Adam Banks, who had never forgotten the intensive defence training at Eden Hall, and he sped back towards the goal.
Charlie was barely back on his feet before Adam had scored, the fans went wild – of course they would, everyone loved Adam Banks. He was the star, and had quite the cult following of devoted hockey fans, not to mention all the girls that got hot and bothered just looking at him.
They never looked at Charlie that way.
Adam took the face off, an aggressive scramble for the puck ensued but Adam got control, a steady chant of “Go, Banksie! Go!” filled the arena as Adam sped towards the goal, going for the hat-trick. The score was an even 4-4, both Adam and Charlie had scored two of those goals each, with only a few minutes left of game time, only one of them would get the hat-trick.
Adam passed to Charlie, his way blocked by defence men, and Charlie sped towards the goal, trying desperately to imagine that the chant was “Go Conway! Go!” The Puma’s defence now swarmed around Charlie, and over the din of the crow he heard a yell, “Pass it, Conway!”
Charlie ducked around one player, keeping possession of the puck, he wasn’t going to pass it. He would get the hat-trick. He would win the game. He skirted around another player, but as he did so the player’s stick caught his skates and he tumbled down onto the ice. This was exactly the opening the Pumas were waiting for. Adam was knocked over by one player while another grabbed the puck and skated hard towards the goal.
With Banks and Conway down the team didn’t have much chance. The puck slid in the goal, despite the valiant attempts of Robson, their goalie, seconds before the buzzer went off.
“PUMAS WIN! PUMAS WIN 5-4!” yelled the commentator excitedly as the Puma fans went wild.
Charlie got to his feet and skated dejectedly off the ice. As he passed Adam, he reached out and touched his arm.
“What?” Charlie snapped. “He hooked me, ok?”
Adam looked surprised by the vicious tone in Charlie’s voice. “Charlie–”
“Spare me the friggin’ lecture, ok? You’re the star, I’m the spare and you’re all just dying to blame me for that, right?”
“Give me a break,” he spat disgustedly, then continued his trek towards the locker rooms, carefully ignoring the looks and whispers from his team-mates.
“You’re drunk,” Adam observed as he entered the living room of the apartment he shared with Charlie, freshly showered and shrugging on a coat in preparation of leaving.
“So I am!” Charlie agreed in tones of mock cheer. After the game, the Coach had absolutely lambasted him in front of the entire team; accusations of him being a glory seeker and a puck hog were screamed so loudly that even people in Australia had complained about the noise. Charlie had taken it, silently seething. He had been hooked. Why weren’t they seeing that? Why didn’t they care? It hadn’t been his fault. If it had been Adam, he thought resentfully, nobody would be yelling. They’d be patting him on the shoulder sympathetically and saying things like “No hard feelings, man.”
The rest of the team didn’t care for Charlie. They’d never really taken to him. He’d heard several of them ask Adam – when they’d thought Charlie was out of earshot – why he still stuck by him, despite Charlie’s behaviour. He’d hadn’t been able to catch Adam’s reply, but the question had hit him in the gut like one of Fulton’s slapshots. How dare they talk about him that way?
They didn’t understand. He didn’t have a behavioural problem, it was other people. They were always hooking him, starting fights on the ice, trash talking – and the refs were always biased, which is why Charlie wound up in the penalty box, not them. And he didn’t have a drink problem either, but with so many assholes in the world, it was nice to have a drink to unwind.
Adam eyed the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels on the coffee table. “That’s a lot of booze,” he ventured cautiously, knowing that Charlie would snap, crackle and pop at him if he pushed too hard. “But since it’s Christmas Eve, I guess I should catch up. I’m going out drinking with some of the team, do you want to come?”
“Nope,” Charlie replied, necking straight from the bottle.
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Adam coaxed. “It would give you a chance to bond with them, you’ve never really–”
“Jesus, Adam! I don’t want to bond with those assholes! They never see my side!” Charlie snapped.
“They might, if you just talked to them instead of just assuming that they hate you,” Adam pointed out in a measured tone, as if holding on tightly to his temper.
“Of course they would. If I was you,” Charlie sneered. “You’re perfect, you can do no wrong.”
Adam took a deep breath and counted slowly to ten. This was a constant tirade of Charlie’s once he’d had a few shots. Never when sober though. On occasion, Adam tried to talk to him about it the next morning when Charlie had sobered up. Charlie would deny all knowledge, Adam would push, there would be an argument and Charlie would storm out. He would appear about five hours later, drunk as hell – no matter what time of day that was.
“One last chance, Charlie, why don’t you come out with us?”
“Forget it!” Charlie snapped.
“Fine,” Adam replied tightly. “Don’t forget we’ve got some of the Ducks coming over tomorrow for dinner.”
“The Ducks are dead,” Charlie muttered into his bottle.
“Right.” Adam sighed as he opened the front door. “I’m going then.” He paused. “Happy Christmas, Charlie.”
“Fuck Christmas!” Charlie snorted in response.