He didn't want to let go. His arms were tightly wound around Carey's waist. He felt comforted, protected. He smelled good, kind of like sea air. With his ear pressed against his chest, Connor could hear Carey's heart thumping away. Without really knowing him, Connor felt as if he knew him. Bonding. Big brother? Boy friend? Father figure? His young mind struggled to even understand those words. At the moment, he just felt…nothing.
"I gotta go," Connor mumbled softly.
Afraid to look up into Carey's eyes for fear his feelings might give him away, he pulled away. Picking up his hockey bag and stick, he dragged himself out of the arena.
When he got home Connor dropped the bag and stick in the middle of the kitchen floor. Hearing his mom on the phone talking in her work voice, he went to his bedroom and flopped face down onto the bed.
As he grabbed his last remaining stuffed animal a white, now dirty white, dog with black button eyes, a black button nose, and floppy ears named Arf Arf, Connor snuggled him in is arms and fell fast asleep.
Dreamland. Carey captained a luxury cabin cruiser Connor and he owned together. They used it to travel up and down the Florida coast. Connor worked as first mate alongside Carey to keep the boat clean, waxed, and stocked with lots of food, especially candy. When it was just the two of them, they shared the boat's luxurious state room, snuggling together as they fell asleep each night.
They frequently hired out as a charter, usually to families who had kids the same age as Connor. He often spent the days on the boat entertaining the kids with games and showing them how everything on the boat worked. At night, they drifted in calm ocean waters, their only light from the moon. With their passengers occupying the cabins below, Connor and Carey slept on the rooftop of the boat. Arms around each other, they lay back and tried to count all the stars in the universe.
Connor looked up at the night sky and let out an audible sigh of contentment. It wasn't a sigh; more like a yawn. He realized his eyes were open. He was gazing up at the ceiling in his bedroom. It was dim. He must have been asleep for hours because it was getting dark outside. Rubbing his eyes, he could feel a damp ring around the neck of his shirt where he'd been sweating. Shaking the rest of the sleep from his body, he rolled off the bed. Hungry, he went to see if his mom had made supper.
Watching Connor go out the arena door and disappear around the corner, Carey realized all eyes in the lobby were still on him. Blushing, he quickly left the building. Another nice summer day, perfect for a walk around the neighborhood. Time to either collect his thoughts or, better yet, not think any thoughts at all.
As he walked along the street, he passed the woman's clothing store, D.A.J.K.O.T.A. Such a strange name. What did it mean? Why was there a period after each letter? On a whim, he decided to go in.
The clothing displayed on racks and laid out neatly on tables was all natural unbleached cotton and linen, mostly neutral shades of beige and gray. Loose flowing tops and long skirts, wide legged pants and shorts. The labels inside the clothing and on hang tags read, "Dani Cohen." A large sign behind the cash register read, "The Collection," and in smaller letters underneath, "Dani Cohen."
A young woman approached him with a bright, "How are ya?"
"How can I help ya?"
"Can I ask you a question?"
A slight nod, still smiling.
"What do the letters stand for?" As Carey pointed to the front window.
"Uh-uh-uh!" She growled in frustration. "I get that same question at least a dozen times a day!" Exasperated, she rolled her eyes, "It stands for, 'Dani Always Just Keeps On Trucking Along.'"
Carey just stared at her, confused.
With a tired sigh of exasperation, she said, "It just means whatever happens to Dani to throw a wrench in her plans, she just keeps going."
Carey threw back his head and laughed.
"That," with a pause for emphasis, "Is positively amazing." With a big smile and the shake of his head he finished with, "Well, thank you very much!"
He turned and almost danced out the door.
In less than a minute, Carey felt the weight of a terrible burden had been lifted. Whatever had happened between Connor and him, he decided he wasn't going to judge it. Just keep trucking along. Everything would turn out all right.
With a spring in his step, Carey walked up and down a couple of blocks just to enjoy the feeling and the warm August air. At one point, he walked past the old man he'd seen lurking around the arena. He was standing just inside the wrought iron fence bordering an old house. The man had his hand on the shoulder of one of the other boys on Connor's hockey team. He stood obediently listening to the old man speak to him in soft tones. Jordy, Carey thought to himself. He recalled the other boys calling him by that name during the hockey game. As Carey walked by, the man brought his hand up and softly caressed the boy's cheek. Dirty old man, Carey said to himself. He kept walking.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead