Sweet Confections – Chapter Five

“SO, HOCKEY CAMP, HUH?” Rachel said, glancing over at her nephew, Jordan, who was practically bouncing on the passenger side of the car.

“It’s gonna be so cool, Aunt Rachel! I can’t wait to meet DG. He’s the coolest! I have a list of moves I want him to teach me.”

“I hope none of those moves involve body slams,” she said, wincing at the thought of her nephew being shoved against the rink walls.

“They’re called body checks, and no, we’re not allowed to do that yet.”

“Yet?” She repeated, pulling the car into the arena parking lot.

“Yeah. They make us wait until we’re twelve before we can do any of the really fun stuff.”

She gulped and tried not to give into the desire to turn the car around and take her nephew as far away from the camp as possible. “I don’t suppose you’d rather come to the bakery with me today? I’ll make anything you want.”

“No way! Your cooking’s awesome, Aunt Rachel, but there’s no way I’d ever miss DG’s camp.”

“Not even for triple chocolate chunk cookies?” she asked, knowing they were Jordan’s all-time favorite treat. He didn’t even miss a beat before shaking his head and reaching for the car door. She sighed, exited the car and accompanied her nephew inside.

The arena lobby was full with kids of all ages. She dodged hockey sticks, hoping to make it to the registration table without getting a concussion.

“Name please?” asked the man behind the table. He was a bit taller than her with curly black hair and wore a long-sleeved hockey shirt with the DG Foundation logo across the chest.

“Jordan Marconi.” She glanced over at her nephew, who appeared to be frozen in awe. She looked back to the man in front of her, not sure who he was, but assumed he must be important. She smiled. Oh, the emotions his little hero-worshipping heart must feel.

“Here’s your packet. It has more details about the program each day, what skills Jordan’s group will work on, and the game schedule for the last day of camp.” The man handed her a thick manila envelope. “Now, if I could have you sign Jordan in here, Mrs. Marconi, then he can go meet his group.”

She didn’t bother to correct his assumption. It wasn’t the first time she had taken a nephew somewhere and been mistaken for his mother. She leaned over and signed the form.

“Thank you,” he said. “Don’t forget pick-up is at 5:30.” Then he looked down at her nephew. “See you on the ice.” He winked. Rachel took hold of her still-frozen nephew’s arm and pulled him off to the side where they could talk.

“Do you know who he was?”

“I have no clue,” she said, smiling at Jordan’s wonder.

“That was Amelio Masorti from the Kansas City Coyotes. He’s one of the awesomest hockey players ever! Not as awesome as DG, but still . . . Wow! I can’t believe he’s here!”

“I’m glad you’re excited. Now, listen, I have to go. Should we put this packet in your back pack? That way it won’t get lost.” He turned around so she could put the packet inside, then re-zip it. “Alright, buddy. I guess that’s about it. Do me a favor and don’t get hurt, okay?”

He rolled his eyes when she ruffled his hair.

“Okay.” He shuffled his feet, anxious to get started.

“Have a great time. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Hey, there’s Mike from my team. Bye!” Jordan said, then turned and hurried over to his friend. She shook her head, chuckling at her nephew’s excitement, then turned to leave and start her work day.

 *****

Graydon blinked his eyes. Was that really Rachel from the restaurant? What was she doing at his hockey camp? And who was that kid she was with? Her son? He watched as she weaved through the crowd, making her way toward the door. He lost sight of her at one point, but then saw her appear again just before pushing through the arena doors.

“Graydon, did you hear what I said?”

He reluctantly turned his attention away from Rachel back to his PR manager, Sheila. “I’m sorry, I thought I saw someone I knew and got distracted.”

She pushed her dark bangs out of her eyes, then smoothed out her DG Foundation shirt over her jeans which hugged her curvy Hispanic body. “Well, if it was someone here for camp, you’ll see them again later.”

Graydon felt a spark of hope. He’d have to figure out a way to see Rachel during pick up. Maybe even get a chance to talk to her.

“Now, let’s get back to the schedule for today.” Sheila consulted the clipboard in her hands. “Channel 5 and Fox News are coming at 3 pm to get footage of the kids practicing their skills. They both plan to interview you. Channel 5 will be first, while Fox News gets their footage shots. Then we’ll swap.”

“Good. Hopefully that will keep Tobyn and Lisa from sparring,” he said, speaking of the two competitive sports anchors.

“I already gave the security team instructions to let me know when they arrive so I can set them up on opposite sides of the rink.”

“It sounds like you have everything under control.” He rested his hand on her shoulder. “Thanks for all your hard work, Sheila. I couldn’t have put this camp together without your help.”

A faint pink tinged her light brown cheeks. “You’re welcome, Graydon.”

He squeezed her shoulder, then let go. “I’m lucky to have such great friends working at the DG Foundation. I better head over to the rink and get everything started. I’ll see you later this afternoon.”

He nodded to Sheila, then turned in the direction of the rink. He thought about the speech he prepared for the camp attendees and reviewed the points he wanted to address before camp officially started. He also made a mental note to watch for the boy who came with Rachel. Maybe he could get an opportunity to talk with him and figure out a way to ask about her.

He walked to the box where his cousin, Zack, waited. When Graydon saw his hair, he couldn’t help but laugh.

“I hope your new do isn’t permanent or your mom is going to skin my hide.” He picked up his skates from the bench, then sat and began the process of switching sneakers for skates.

Zack ran his hand through his shaggy light brown hair which was streaked with the Kansas City team colors. “Not to worry,” he said. “They’re some hair chalk thing. Laura came up with the idea. She thought the kids would like it. There’s no way I want to spark Mom’s wrath on my wedding day.”

“Well, if it was Laura’s idea, then you must be safe. You definitely landed a great girl there. Are you ready for Saturday?” He finished tying his skates and stood, testing the tightness around his ankles.

“Definitely.” Zack handed him the microphone. “We’ll have to talk more later. You ready to start this shing-dig?”

He nodded, then stepped out onto the ice. The voices of over one hundred kids echoed around him. Part of him was awed so many came to his camp. Each year the numbers got bigger and the kids weren’t just from Kansas City, but from all around the country. He looked into the sea of faces and felt the weight of responsibility settle on his broad shoulders.

Hockey had always been something he loved. As a young kid, gliding onto the ice was like magic and the first time he picked up a hockey stick and pushed a puck around had been like coming home. While he dreamed of becoming a professional player someday, he didn’t think he’d ever actually make the dream a reality until his high school team won states. Following that came college scholarships, which led to being scouted out by the pros.

While the money was nice, he felt a strong responsibility to be a good role model, especially for the younger fans dreaming of going pro as he did at their age. After he blew his knee out, he had been sad to leave the sport he loved so much, but another part was ready to move on. Working with kids and giving back to the community gave him an extra burst of energy to get out of bed each morning.

He held up his hand to quiet the chants of ‘DG, DG, DG’. He raised the mic, ready to dive into camp. After welcoming the kids, laying out the house rules, and going over the schedule for the day, he released the participants to join their team coaches.

Graydon spent the morning working with the various junior camp kids who were in elementary school. Each group had been divided up by age, with the youngest kids learning better skate skills and basic hockey techniques up to the older kids who focused on more advanced play techniques. During their non-ice time, each group worked on team building activities, good sportsmanship and just some good old fun.

And he finally met the mystery boy. He discovered his name was Jordan Marconi and he played a mean game of hockey for a nine-year-old. Graydon enjoyed challenging him on the ice and gave him a few extra tips to polish his turns and puck control. He wasn’t able to find out anything more about Rachel. He just couldn’t figure out a good way to ask, “Hey, you know that woman you came to camp with? Is she your mom or what?” Even a nine-year-old would see through a question like that. No, he’d just have to wait until pick-up and hope for a chance to chat with her again.

He’d wondered about her ever since that night at Brisket and Noodles. He told himself it was because he’d worry about anyone in that kind of situation. But he couldn’t explain why he spent more time thinking about how cute she looked when she was flustered or how she caught him off-guard. After the brief glimpse of her this morning, he admitted that if she really was single, he’d like to see her again, talk to her. Maybe explore if there was enough interest to ask her out on a date.

Who was he kidding? Of course he wanted to ask her out on a date.

But he was also confused. After saying how much she disliked violent sports, why would she let her son attend the camp? And why his camp? She didn’t seem to know who he was that night, but was it just a ploy? It wouldn’t be the first time a woman had been less than honest with him.

Similar thoughts swirled through his mind throughout the remainder of the day. He shoved them aside to concentrate on the TV interviews and working with the kids. But now that it was time to let the kids go for the day, he searched the stands for Jordan while Amelio gave the attendees some final instructions and thoughts for the night. He located the boy just before the kids were let loose to find their parents. Graydon left his place in the box and met Jordan partway up the stands.

“Hey, Jordan. Did you enjoy your first day of camp?” Graydon asked, walking beside him toward the lobby.

“It was awesome, Mr. Green. I worked real hard on how you told me to make my turns better.”

“I noticed that. You’ve made a lot of improvement in just one day. And hey, you can call me Graydon or DG, if you’d like.”

“Really? That would be cool, but my parents say I should always call adults Mr. or Mrs. So I’ll have to ask them. Hey! There’s my dad!” Jordan hurried over to a tall, dark-haired man. Graydon pushed down the disappointment that it wasn’t Rachel.

“Hi, I’m Graydon Green. You must be Jordan’s father.” They clasped hands. Good grip, he thought, then rested his hands on his hips.

“Adam Marconi,” Jordan’s father replied.

“Jordan is doing great with his hockey skills. I was very impressed with him today.”

A huge smile spread across Adam’s face. He ruffled Jordan’s hair, similar to how Rachel had earlier, Graydon noticed. Then he pulled his son close to his side. “Really? Good job, buddy!”

“Camp was awesome! Mr. Green taught me a few tricks and I’m on the same team as Mike, too!”

Graydon needed to figure out how to ask about Rachel and had decided to ask straight out when Sheila appeared at his side.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but you have a phone call and another interview to prepare for.” She gave him an apologetic smile.

“Oh, okay. Well, I guess that means I better go. I’ll see you tomorrow, Jordan. Will I see you at drop off, too?”

“No. Rachel will bring him in the morning, but I’ll be here to pick him up after work.”

“Great! I’ll see you tomorrow then. It was nice to meet you, Adam.”

“Let’s go, buddy.” Adam and Jordan turned and walked away, the father’s arm draped over his son’s shoulders.

Sheila touched his arm, pulling his attention back to her. “You can take the call in the office. I’ll meet you in thirty minutes to drive you to the radio station for your interview there.”

Graydon made his way back through the crowd to the office. He still didn’t know how Rachel fit into Jordan’s life, but he couldn’t help plotting a way to meet up with her tomorrow.