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Takes Me Back

Maybe I Do, Maybe I Don't.

Thunder Bay was caught in one of the biggest snow storms on record the year Leah and I were 16. Almost 54 inches had come from the sky over the course of two days and by late Christmas Day, it was still dusting.

I had been determined all day to get over to Leah’s house to give her the gift I had bought her, but my mom had said it was much too cold and much too snowy to make the short trek down to the Emerlee’s. It was probably a stupid idea to go out into sub-zero temperatures at 10 p.m. in late December, but I didn’t care. To me, Leah was more important.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Eric’s voice sounded from behind me. He was home from Carolina for the holidays.

I cringed. Would he rat me out?

“Uh,” I scrambled to find an excuse. “Going out?”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Eric smirked. “Are you seriously going to try to get to Leah’s?”

I nodded. “Don’t tell my mom and dad.”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because I’m your younger brother that’s just trying to go see a friend on Christmas,” I said. “C’mon, E, help me out here.”

Eric seemed to teeter back and forth between turning around and getting our parents and helping his younger brother.

“Alright,” he sighed. “But don’t be stupid. Go, give her your gift, and come back. Mom and Dad just went to bed and I’ll wait up until you get back. But if I have to send out a search party to find your ass, I’ll unfreeze you, and then kill you myself.”

I grinned. “Thanks, E. I owe ‘ya one.”

He waved me off and I saw him stand at the door for a minute before disappearing into the living room.


The walk that would usually take less than five minutes took me nearly twenty that night. I had wrapped myself up in a pair of long underwear, two pairs of sweatpants, two shirts, and a hoodie. I had tossed on a knit had and scarf that Leah had made me nearly three years ago and a pair of gloves my dad used when he had to work on the farm in the winter. It was freezing.

I stood in Leah’s yard for a moment to catch my breath. I had walked as fast as I could so that I didn’t get too cold. All the lights downstairs were off and the only light upstairs was just being turned off in Mr. Emerlee’s office. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I had hoped.

Standing at the bottom of the trellis that travelled up past Leah’s bedroom window all the way up to the roof, I nearly considered going home. But no, I had come this far and Leah deserved her gift on Christmas. Besides, I had climbed the trellis before at night. Just not in December, while it was snowing, with a layer of ice on the trellis. This was going to be fun.

“Jordan?” Leah asked groggily. “What the fuck?”

“Merry Christmas to you too,” I smirked. “I brought your gift.”

“Jordy,” her voice softened as she opened the window more. “You could have waited.”

“Everyone deserves to get their gifts on Christmas,” I reasoned.

She began to smile but was caught off by a yawn.

“Uh,” I started. “Can I come in? I’m really cold.”

“Oh!” she jumped. “Of course. Give me two seconds.”

She darted out of the room and came back in with a towel. She set it on the ground and instructed me to sit on the window sill. Leah untied my boots and set them on the towel. I took my gloves, hat, and scarf off. I took Leah’s wrapped gift out of the pocket of my sweatshirt before shedding it as well. I shut the window as Leah took the quilt off her bed and motioned for me to join her by the radiator.

Wrapped in the quilt, I extended the wrapped rectangle to my friend.

She smiled at me. “I have yours too.” Leaning over to her desk, Leah grabbed another wrapped rectangle.

“On three?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I want to see your reaction.”

I laughed quietly. “Alright. You first.”

She obliged and began to peel away the wrapping paper. I had asked my mom to do it for me after my third attempt at wrapping.

“Aw, Jordy,” she smiled. “It’s so pretty.”

I couldn’t help but smile back. I had evidently done a good job at picking her gift. Jewelry had seemed too intimate so I had decided on something that was much more Leah.

In early December, my mom had dragged Jared and me to some arts festival to ‘enrich us culturally’. Leah had told me that was a nice way of saying we were a bunch of dumb hockey players. I don’t know why that didn’t include Marc. At one of the booths, I found a lady selling these old fashioned looking journals. The paper was thick and beige and the cover brown leather.

“I wrote on the inside cover,” I said quietly.

She flipped open the front flap and read my messy scrawl.

“To my Lee-Lee, what is a friend? A single soul in two bodies. From, your Jordy,” Leah read aloud. “You even got the quote right.”

I couldn’t help but let my smirk grow.

She rolled her eyes with a smile. “There goes the famous Staal Boy Smirk.”

Leah loved calling my brothers and me out on our famous mouth expression.

“Now you,” she urged.

I began to rip off the wrapping paper that Leah had probably done herself. Underneath it all, I found a black picture frame. Inside it, there were individual squares and rectangles, almost all of them filled with pictures. Around the edges of the frame, I recognized Leah’s careful writing in silver paint. She had painted the words ‘son, brother, best friend, hockey player’ over and over again.

“You can take it with you wherever you go to play,” she explained. “You can fill the rest of the slots with pictures of you and your hockey player lifestyle.”

“You’ll be in every single picture,” I assured her.

A blush spread across her cheeks and she buried her head in her arms.

“I should be getting back,” I said. “Eric’s waiting up.”

She nodded and I helped her up from her spot on the ground.

“Do you want to use the front door?” she asked.

I shook my head. “Naw. What fun would that be?”

She laughed lightly before watching me begin to climb out the window with the frame tucked under my arm.

“Jordan,” she said my name urgently.

I looked up. “Yeah?”

She took a deep breath and leaned out the window. I felt her lips against my already cold cheek.

“Thank you,” she breathed out. “Call me in the morning so I know you got home safe.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded.


Getting home longer than twenty minutes later, I stumbled into the house. Eric jerked upward from the couch.

“Fuck, Jordan,” he grumbled. “Be quiet.”

“Sorry,” I muttered.

“So she kiss you?” Eric asked.

“What?” I stopped in my tracks.

“Did she kiss you?” he repeated.

“I- uh- yeah,” I nodded. “On the cheek.”

“You like her, bro,” he stated simply.

“I do not,” I said firmly.

“Bull shit,” Eric laughed.

“Maybe I do,” I shrugged. “Maybe I don’t.”

I did.


This is so stinking adorable! I absolutely love the flashbacks!
StaalRoar StaalRoar