The door opened and a wiry black man in a blue plaid flannel shirt and jeans stepped back to admit them. “Eric, good to see you,” he said. “Your stuff came in Friday afternoon.”
“Glad to hear it, but that’s not why I called. Sam, I’d like you to meet Emily Jordan and her son, Robbie.”
Sam smiled in welcome. “Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Jordan. Robbie. I was just making some coffee.” He turned and checked the pot. “It’s almost done. Anyone care for a cup?”
Emily declined, but Eric accepted. After a brief pow-wow with Eric about the Saints’ chances for making the playoffs while the coffee finished brewing, Sam turned to Emily with a warm smile. “What can we do for you today, Ms.
“Meaningless?” From the sound of it they’d been discussing the team’s chances as intently as she’d consult with Augustus about a critically ill patient.
“Absolutely. Because no matter what the sports gurus say, the Saints are going all the way...and this guy right here is the one who’s going to take them.” He clapped Eric on the back, nearly sloshing the coffee Eric was staring into all over his front. “Yes ma’am, you’ve hooked up with a real champion here. Captain Cameron to the rescue.”
The light in the storefront was dim, but Emily would have sworn she saw Eric’s ears redden. “Emily doesn’t really follow the sport, Sam,” he said quietly.
Sam looked at her in startled surprise, then back at Eric. “She doesn’t?” As if such a thing was inconceivable.
“No, but Robbie does, and he’s joining the Mites League. I’d like you to set him up with the works.”
“Sure. No problem. Got everything he needs right here. Top of the line.”
Within minutes Robbie looked like a miniature gladiator. Emily felt a sharp pinch in her purse as the two men outfitted her son with layer upon layer of padding, the three of them conversing in a sports jargon she couldn’t begin to comprehend. Secure in the knowledge her son was in the hands of experts, she changed her mind about Sam’s offer of coffee and poured herself some.
She cradled the styrofoam cup in her hands and strolled over to the window. Peering through the dusty horizontal blinds, she studied the Suburban. Five years old already when she’d bought it last year, it desperately needed a tune-up and new tires. That might have to wait again, now with Robbie’s newest expenses. Between paying off her school loans, Robbie’s tuition and helping out her family, she was pushing her financial limits to the wall. And with the cost of gas these days...
She sighed. There were times when she wished she didn’t have to drive such a big vehicle, but that was one phobia she couldn’t seem to get rid of.
She turned away from the window and found Sam gone and Eric crouched before Robbie, testing the fit of his equipment. She sipped her coffee and felt the sting of tears as Robbie solemnly answered Eric’s quiet questions. What she wouldn’t give to have her family see Robbie right now. But home wasn’t somewhere she could ever go again. Not as long as her father was alive. She wondered how her mother was doing, if her health was holding up. It was times like this, when she felt closest to Robbie, that she missed her own mother the most.
Sam reappeared with a fistful of hockey sticks, a pair of black leather skates and a huge white jersey. As her son stood there in a pair of black padded pants that looked five sizes too big but apparently fit perfectly, Eric slid the suspenders up over Robbie’s shoulder pads, then dropped the huge jersey over his head. He asked Robbie to sit, then laced his skates. Only her son’s face and hands resembled anything close to an eight year old’s, and even that changed once Eric settled a hard red plastic helmet with a grid mask on Robbie’s head.
Eric adjusted the chinstrap, while Sam handed Robbie a huge pair of padded black gloves to try on.
“So, what do you think, Ms.
Eric and Robbie looked her way, Robbie more still than Emily could remember him being while awake.
“I think you look wonderful,” she told her son, her voice catching. “I can’t wait to see you in action.”
Robbie let out a whoop of joy. Emily lifted her eyes to Eric’s, not caring that he saw the emotion in them. “Thank you,” she mouthed, as Robbie waddled over to Sam to select a stick.Eric’s answering smile touched her mother’s heart. “If that doesn’t keep him safe, nothing will.”