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The Gift that Changed Everything
My day is the same every morning: wake up, run, eat, shower, get mike and ruby, my 9 year old twin sister and brother, out of bed and go to school. This has been my routine for as long as I can remember. It is the only way things have ever been done. Dad has to get up before every one to get to his work site on time and Mom can always use the extra hand. This is the sixth house we have lived in since I was eight and Dad lost his job. He always says this is going to be the house we keep forever, but it never is. There is something about this house, yeah it’s on the one dirt road in town and is cramped with the twins, but I actually want to stay here.
A voice interrupts my reverie. “Your mom find a job yet?” It was Madison, my best friend. On my first day of school she came up to me and introduced herself. You can’t imagine how great it was to see a friendly face on my first day. I don’t remember ever being separated from her at school since.
“No. She is finding more interviews, but without a college degree no one will hire her. It’s hard for me and the twins to keep moving because we are about to get evicted but it’s impossible for her to find a job when her resume says “quit job due to move”. I sigh; it would be nice to have money to spare. “The funny thing is that mom has been going to interviews every day now. Only a month ago she had one a week. I’m glad she has been putting in more effort but something just seems fishy. I don’t know, I guess I should be grateful that she is trying to support us.”
We sit there pondering what might be going on. Well I guess I was the only one thinking because she started asking questions that had to do with what I was thinking about. “If you had money to spare, what would you buy”? she asks me. This is the thing about Madison. She always knows how to cheer me up and keep me in a good mood. “If you say hockey I’ll kill you, Sara.” She reads my mind, hockey is my life. “I don’t know what you see in that sport”.
I look out the bus window not really listening. It’s been one of those days when all I want to do is be home. It doesn’t help that it seems like I always have the same conversation with Madison about how there are much better things for me that I could try than hockey. I look out the window at the autumn leaves slowly falling, twisting and turning before they hit the ground. It was starting to get crisp out and feel more like November. My mind keeps going back to the conversation I had with my mom before she was always gone with interviews.
It was a Wednesday, the day Ryan has hockey right after school. I had just been given a lab report that I was supposed to finish in class. So when I got home I headed straight to the kitchen table and started working on my homework. Mom had gotten home early today and grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down with me. At first she just watched me work on my lab report, which was kind of weird because she never is silent and she always has something to say. When she doesn’t have anything to say it is normally usually because she is happy about something. Of course, I started thinking about hockey. Now everyone, even people who don’t know me, know how much I love hockey. They either know that from watching me stick handle every day after school, seeing me skate on the neighborhood pond or just listing to me talk (I talk about hockey a lot). The one place I don’t talk about hockey is home. My parents know how much hockey means to me and it upsets them that they cannot afford to have me play. So when my mom brought it up, I was surprised. I didn’t get my hopes up and I’m glad I didn’t. She told me that with dad’s last raise, if she got a job, I would be able to play.
I don’t think she will find a job but Madison says there is still hope, (I wish I could think that). While we are on the topic of wishes, I wish it were the summer. It is so much better when I have nothing to do and I can spend all my time hanging out with Ryan.
I met Ryan last spring when I first moved here. While I was out for my morning run I saw him shooting a hockey puck in his driveway. I didn’t really think about him until later that same day while I was shooting a hockey puck against the brick wall and he ran by me. After that day, he would run when he got back from high school, then shoot pucks with me when I got home.
“You are thinking about Ryan, aren’t you?” Madison inquires. Madison’s question brought me back to the jostling bus ride. She seems to think Ryan likes me, but it will never work out. He is in 9th grade and I am in 8th. He lives in one of the richest neighborhoods in town. He knows I live on a dirt road and that my family has to keep moving because of money troubles. His dad is the manager of his own huge company, my dad works at a construction site.
“Yeah, that’s all stuff I’m so proud of,” I think sarcastically. “Madison, you know that can’t happen. Look at his house, his dad’s job and he is in high school. I’m only a little middle schooler.” It was my secret wish to call him my boyfriend one day, but I know that will never happen. “Plus, I’ll end up moving again”.
“SCHREECH”. That should be my stop. The bus driver slams on the brakes only at my stop. I descend down the steps of the bus and before I can take more than 10 steps, it rushes away. I find the hockey player gnome in our garden, open the puck and get the key out from the hiding place inside. I unlock the door and go inside. I go grab my hockey stick and I see a note.
“Happy Birthday Sara
I smile, put the note in my pocket, and walk over to the park.
It is always crowded at the park after school. All the basketball courts are being used by the Varsity and the JV basketball teams. They are sprinting back and forth between one line to another. At one of my old houses we had a basketball hoop and I got pretty good. My skills are nothing compared to theirs. It is like second nature to them. Catch, Dribble, Pass, Catch, Shoot. It’s kind of like me and hockey: my second nature.
I walk on the brick path past the basketball courts until I am behind the tennis courts. The brick path ends, and I am on the concrete. It is shaded in by all the trees, one tree even grows through the middle of the cement. I drop my bag down, unlock the hockey net that is locked to the tree, and drag it to one end of the concrete against the brick wall. I put the key back in its hiding spot, a knot in the tree, and head over to my bag and get out the pucks. They were my birthday present last year when I turned 13.
I start shooting the pucks into the net, listening to the swish of the puck hitting the netting in the goal. It was rhythmic, the thwap of my stick hitting the puck followed by the swish. Thwap, swish, thwap, swish. Finally, I relax from my long day at school and let my mind wander. Hockey is the one thing that calms me and lets out my anger and frustration. I remember the day I first played hockey. I was eight years old and we lived near a small pond. I had my own hockey skates. Even though they were second hand, I loved them. I was skating when my friends came out and asked if I wanted to play pond hockey with them. I said yes and played with them. That was before we moved, I haven’t played hockey on ice since, because I can’t afford the gear I would need to play.
I miss the net and hear a huge thunk as the puck hits the brick wall behind the goal. “Nice one” said a voice coming from behind me. I jump, I didn’t realized anyone was watching me.
“Surprise!” Ryan envelopes me in a big birthday hug. “How’s the 14 year old?” Ryan has the brown eyes that sparkle right at me. A mop of brown hair he is always flipping out of his eyes, and soft, to die for, lips. He is not one of those crazy guys who wears shorts all year. He is already in his trademark jeans and Boston Bruins sweatshirt. “Now I know this isn’t a big gift, but you have got to come see it.” If there is one thing you should know about me it is that I hate being blindfolded. When Ryan does it, I don’t seem to mind. I stand there listening to him. I’m trying to decide what he is getting from his bag that I have to be blindfolded so that I can’t see it. I hear his footsteps come back and he un-blindfolds me. He gently places a card in my hand. Ughh, I guess I need to stop getting my expectations so high. I open it and read it slowly.
I know this isn’t very big but,
I convinced my dad last month to hire your mom as his assistant.
Because of this your Mom can afford for you to play hockey.
The team roster says you’re going to be on the Blades this winter.
P.S. Will you go out with me?
I look up, and say the one word that sums up everything: “Yes”.
The next morning as I climb on the bus I am attacked with questions by Madison. “Tell me what happened. What did your parents get you for your Birthday?” O gosh, here she goes. Instead of fighting all her questions like normal, I sigh and decide I am just going to spill.
“Well…my Mom got a job!” I cover my ears just in time to hear her squeal with excitement in my ear. “I hate to admit it, but you were right about Ryan liking me, he got his Dad to hire my Mom so…I GET TO PLAY HOCKEY!!! Yesterday was the best day ever!” That ‘s it, Madison takes off with questions. That’s when it hit me, I get to stay here, I’m not going to have to move. I smile. “Madison, I guess you were right, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or what house you live in. What matters is that I have friends…”
“…and Ryan.” she says, finishing my sentence. Of course she brings it up, but it’s true and we both know it.