"She really left," Brooks Laich asked as the guys sat around the table at the club after a hard fought victory over the Philadelphia Flyers
"I don't know what to do anymore, I give up. Honestly, I fucking do. I brought Danielle out here to look for schools and a doctor. I wasn't going to let her work, I was going to take care of her like we were together but she told me she didn't want to give up her life in Pittsburgh."
"It's your kid though; you deserve to be a part of its life."
"Everything was going great after we got to know each other. I honestly thought she'd stay, I wanted her to. I got so used to her being there after games, cooking for me and hugging me when we had a rough loss."
"You're rambling man," Brooks laughed, "You like her."
"No, I don't. She's my baby's mother, nothing more."
"Then why have you shot down countless pieces of ass tonight. The old Mike would be out of this club in a heartbeat with the first chick that came up to him but tonight, you're in a daze. Now you're rambling about Danielle, you like her."
"I hate that you're right," Mike sighed taking a sip of his drink.
"You need to talk to her again."
"How am I supposed to talk to her when she's ignoring my calls and text messages?"
"We literally have 5 days off between games. That never happens and since we won tonight we won't have practice until morning skate on Friday."
"I don't get it."
"Mike, I'm telling you to fucking go to her. Tell her everything, hell fucking talk to her family if you have to. Just don't leave until you have answers."
"You're right," Mike replied, "I'm going home to call her mom."
"Do what you have to do, let me know how it goes."
"I will, thanks man."
Brooks shook Mike's hand and Mike left the club to head home.
"Hello," Shelley answered.
"Mrs. James," Mike said.
"Who is this?"
"Danielle's friend," Mike replied unsure what he should call himself.
"Oh! Hey honey, sorry it's late and I didn't recognize your voice. Is everything okay?"
"I'm sorry to be bothering you right now but something's been bothering me and I need to ask you about it."
"Has Danielle said anything about moving here?"
"She just told me what I already knew, why what happened?"
"She told me that she refuses to move here with me because she doesn't want to give up her life. I know it's selfish of me but I want her here. I even told her I'd put in for a trade but she told me no and she won't move. Every time I try to talk to her, she changes the subject and then she just sweeps everything under the rug.”
“Do you want me to talk to her,” Shelley asked.
"I'm packing now to come up there to talk to her. I have a couple of days off and I'm not leaving until everything's settled."
"Should I tell her that you are coming?"
"No " Mike replied quickly, "I'm afraid that if she knows I'm coming, she will try to avoid me."
"What time should I expect you here?"
"I'm leaving now, so I should be there at about eight since I'll stop on the way and rest," he said glancing at the clock on the wall that read quarter to one in the morning.
"There's a key in the mailbox, just go to the guestroom and sleep there but keep the door shut."
"Thank you, for everything Mrs. James."
"You better start calling me Shelley or else I'll deny my grandbaby," she joked causing Mike to laugh.
"Have a good night, Shelley."
"Be careful driving her, be safe."
"Will do, bye."
Mike ended the phone call and checked the weather so he knew what car to take. It had become full out winter on the East Coast, therefore, Mike decided that he needed to take the Escalade to Pittsburgh since snow was forecasted for both Arlington and Pittsburgh.
Grabbing a couple of hoodies and t-shirts from the racks in his closet, Mike put them in an overnight bag along with boots and jeans before heading out into the living room. Mike shuffled through the cabinets for his thermal coffee cup before turning on the Keurig coffee maker to brew a cup of coffee in order to keep him awake on the road.
After driving for what felt like hours, Mike finally stopped at a rest stop just outside the Pittsburgh city limits.
He called Shelley and let her know he'd be arriving shortly. The sun was coming up over the city skyline and it slightly disappointed Mike that DC didn't have skyscrapers since no building was allowed to be taller than the Washington Monument.
Mike parked on the side street where Shelley told him to so Danielle wouldn't see the luxurious SUV that she had grown used to driving in Arlington.
Mike grabbed his bag from the backseat and made his way over to the house. He reached into the mailbox and found the keys. He noticed that the purple Pontiac sunfire was gone which meant Danielle was at work.
"Hello," Mike called out down the hall, "Anyone home."
"In here," Shelley's voice called out from the dining room, "Are you hungry?"
"A little bit," Mike replied, "I couldn't eat, I'm kind of nervous."
"Everything will be okay, honey," she replied, "How about you go take your things upstairs and get settled and I'll make you some breakfast?"
"You don't have to do that. I'm okay until lunch."
"Shut up and let me cook."
Mike laughed thinking about how much Shelley sounded like his mom, "If you insist," he replied causing her to laugh.
"Dan went to the store down the street to get cigarettes, he'll be back shortly. Make yourself feel at home."
"No need to thank me. You're welcomed in this house anytime."
"Which room is mine?""
"Top of the stairs, first door on the left."
Mike smiled grabbing his bag before heading upstairs to the guest bedroom. He placed his bag on the bed before taking his shoes off, suddenly realizing he hadn't removed them at the door like his mother taught him growing up. Making a mental note to apologize to Shelley later, he walked across the hall to use the bathroom.
On his way back to his room, he noticed the room right next to his must have been Danielle's. He remembered that she told him she liked the color pink, which made the only pink door in a sea of white stand out.
Mike let curiosity get the best of him and he slowly opened the pink door. He couldn't help but laugh as he saw the single red t-shirt among a sea of Pens jerseys with his name and number on the back. He looked around and saw pictures of Danielle and Kristi laying poolside with the girl he had been introduced to at Christmas as Jamie.
He gulped as he saw the Famous Stars and Straps bikini Danielle was wearing. He only saw her in jeans and t-shirts, he wished he remembered them sleeping together.
"Mike," Shelley said, "Food's ready."
Mike snapped back to reality and shut the door to Danielle's behind him.
"What a surprise," Dan said shaking Mike's hand as he entered the dining room, "What are you doing here?"
"I needed to come convince Danielle to move to Arlington since she refuses to."
"Why? She really has no reason to stay here, we already told her it was okay."
"Something about school, you guys, and work."
"I do not understand that girl sometimes," Dan said as Shelley placed a plate of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast in front of them.
"Coffee or orange juice," she asked Mike.
"Orange juice, please?"
Shelley poured him a glass and went back into the kitchen to clean up while Dan and Mike made small talk.
"What time does Danielle get off of work," Mike asked.
"I think five o'clock," Dan replied, "I'm not sure, why?"
"I was thinking you guys could go away for the weekend while Danielle and I settle this. I think it'd be better if you two weren't here that way she has no way out of this."
"Dan, Carol and Tony were just talking about going to Seven Springs for the weekend, why don't you give Tony a call and see if they left yet?"
"We could use the break," Dan said smiling, "You and Danielle are more than welcomed to come up after you get everything settled."
"I plan on not leaving here without her."
Dan smiled while grabbing his phone out of his pocket to call his brother and sister-in-law to tell them they'd be joining them after all. Mike sat five, one hundred dollar bills on the table.
Dan handed them back to him but after Mike insisted he foot the bill after everything he and Shelley were doing for him, Dan gratefully accepted the money; thanking Mike more than once.
Shelley and Dan were packed and ready to go by two o'clock. Mike was in the game room shooting pool to keep him occupied until Danielle got home.
Mike was ready to head up the steps to the kitchen when he heard the front door open and Danielle's voice calling out to her parent's that she was home.
Mike decided to make his presence known as he quietly ascended up the stairs. The door to the hall closet was open and Mike stood behind it while Danielle hung up her coat.
"MIKE, HOLY SHIT! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE," Danielle yelled startled as she clutched her chest.
If this was any other day but today, Mike would laugh at the shock but he was here to take care of business and that is just what he planned to do.
"Well, since you won't return any of my phone calls," he began, "I called your mom and explained everything to her, so she invited me here to talk some sense into you."
"Fuck you," Danielle spat, "I don't owe you shit."
"You're right, you don't owe me anything but you do owe my child a father and me no excuses as to why you won't move to Arlington. Your parents are okay with it; Kristi agreed to move down to keep you company so she could get closer to Nicky and you could have a friend and a piece of your life there, but you keep giving me bullshit reasons as to why you won't move. I like you, Danielle. I like you a lot, not just because you're pregnant with my baby but you treat me like a normal guy and not Mike Green the hockey player. You make me laugh and I smile all day long thinking of you, I invited you to DC over New Years to get to know the real you, the same way you broke down the real me by walking into my life. I can be myself around you, I don't have to throw my money around or flash my cars because none of it matters to you. I don't want to live alone in that house knowing you aren't there because I'm just as scared as you are. I'm not letting you walk out of my life, Danielle."
Danielle stood there too shocked to move as Mike stepped forward and took her hand in his, "Please come back with me, we'll teach each other not to be scared. You're not alone in this situation, I'm here and I want it to stay that way but Dani you got to meet me half way."
Danielle pulled her hand away and wrapped her arms around Mike's waist, "I'm so sorry," she cried as he wrapped his arms around her.
"Shh," Mike said running his hands down her back soothingly, "It's okay, don't cry. I didn't mean to make you cry. God, I'm so sorry."
Danielle squeezed him tighter and Mike lifted her up as he walked towards the living room and sat down on the couch. Danielle curled herself into his chest and Mike held her to him not letting go.
"Mike," Danielle whispered.
"What," he asked placing his cheek on her head as he traced her arm with his fingers.
"I'll move to DC on one condition."
"You promise me I never have to wear a hideous red jersey."
"I can't promise you that after seeing my jersey hanging in your closet," he joked and Danielle smacked his chest, "I'm being serious Danielle, please come back with me."
"Okay," Danielle agreed pulling away from Mike. She slowly leaned her head down towards his and Mike met her half way quickly claiming her lips with his.
It was nothing like New Years Eve when they had no choice but to do it at midnight. This kiss was soft and sweet and it left them both wanting more but if this new direction in both of their lives was going work, they needed to move things slow with no excuses.
"Go get changed," Mike said breaking the kiss.
"Why? Where are we going?"
"Your parents rented a cabin this weekend at some place called Seven Springs and they invited us to go as well but we weren't allowed to come up until we reached an agreement."
"I'd rather stay here," Danielle replied, "I've had enough of my parents for a while."
"Snowboarding isn't a good idea. for me right now anyways but come on go get dressed anyways, I'll take you out to dinner."
"Are you asking me out?"
"Obviously," Mike laughed.
"Don't laugh at me or else I won't move anywhere."
"No excuses, Danielle, no excuses," he said and that's exactly what he meant.