As per their usual morning routine, Mitch rinsed the blender so the dregs of their smoothie wouldn’t crust and left it in the sink for Cody to wash.

With eleven minutes left to make the four-minute drive to the rink for practice, Mitch finished off his own toast and Cheese Whiz in three bites, then collected his equipment bag from the dining room they never used. He found the keys to the car they shared on a side table, secured the spill-proof lid on his to-go cup, and slipped into his hoodie and running shoes.

See you after practice?” Cody asked.

Yup.”

He was out the door thirty seconds later.

***

Alex had no idea what he was doing at the GH hockey rink at seven thirty in the morning, sitting anonymously in dark jeans and a black hoodie in the stands, hidden in the shadows. Reliving his college hockey days? Regretting the broken arm that prevented him from playing for the next six to eight weeks?

Occupying his mind until his visit with Grandpa Forest this afternoon?

It wasn’t uncommon for players on the injured reserve list to continue to travel with their team and even participate in practice sessions. Alex’s broken arm, however, made it impossible for him to hold a hockey stick, which meant his attendance at practice would be limited to cardio conditioning and strength training, exercises he could do on his own anyway. And, as much as he would’ve liked to travel with his team, Alex had been given a temporary leave of absence because of Grandpa Forest’s deteriorating condition.

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