“Could you not wear pink please?” Brooks sighed as he watched Mike come around the corner, in the process of popping his collar up.
They were getting ready for their weekly trip to the grocery store, and Brooks was not looking forward to it.
Cosmo was never in a good mood, having to stay in the cold, metal cart the whole time, and Mike always wanted everything he saw.
“Why? There’s nothing wrong with wearing a pink dress shirt… lots of guys do, it’s the cool thing now.” He explained as he walked into the living room to meet Brooks and Cosmo.
Brooks rolled his eyes and motioned for Mike to grab Cosmo’s bag off the counter. “Fine. Whatever. Let’s just get this over with.” Mike nodded in agreement as he slung the black diaper bag over his shoulder and followed his room-mate out the door.
The Whole Foods was only a few blocks away, but even so, they drove there. One, they were too lazy to walk and two, even though they were only buying groceries for 2 men and a child, they always ended up with way more then they came for.
They had just parked the SUV and were heading in towards the store when Brooks cellphone went off.
Glancing down Brooks felt himself go ridged as he saw the caller ID: Scott Walker. “Umm… hey Scott, what’s up?”
“Hey Brooks! I was just thinking yesterday after I got home that I was a total moron yesterday, I forgot to invite you and Mike to the bachelor party! This Saturday at the Cat’s Scratch… right after the game.”
“For Knuble… remember? Dude’s getting married in a couple weeks?”
Brooks nodded to himself as he glanced over at Mike. “Oh yah, I guess we forgot… no that’s cool, we’ll see you there.”
“What was that about?” Mike asked, before Brooks had even stowed his phone back in his pocket.
Sighing, Brooks motioned for Mike to keep moving towards the store. “Bachelor party tomorrow night, apparently in the whole ‘telling me he was sleeping with a prostitute’ thing, Walker forgot to mention it.
Mike made a face at him, raising his eyebrows and trying to keep Brooks talking, but he refused, just giving Mike a shake of his head before he pulled out a shopping cart and began to strap Cosmo in. “Are you sure that you wanna go? I mean, is it gonna be weird hanging out with him?”
“Does it matter?” Brooks interjected quickly as he began to push the cart down one of the outer isles. “I play on the same team with him, I’m gonna have to get over it at some point. Might as well be now.”
Mike didn’t argue with him, or say anything at all as they began to fill the cart with food.
It wasn’t until they were rounding the last corner in the frozen section, that Mike started trying to reason with Brooks again. “I don’t see why you couldn’t just go talk with her, you know? Like just get an answer from her, figure out what’s going on.”
“Mike please, I don’t need advice on this from someone, especially not you.”
Trying to ignore the tone of the comment Mike continued. “Ok so, maybe I don’t have the best relationship but I mean, I’m in one. I know that you need to communicate with someone or it doesn’t work…”
“You and Dennis don’t communicate.”
“And that’s why I know it doesn’t work!” He said, louder then he had intended to. He glanced around and saw a few people watching them, so he lowered his voice and leaned closer to Brooks. “I’m just trying to help you… I know I’m not the best person for that but… I’d be nice if you could at least pretend to respect me once in a while.”
“I do respect you!” Brooks snapped back, not caring at all if he was being loud. He’d been trying to pent up his emotions for so long he was positive he’d boil over if he didn’t let his walls down.
Mike didn’t want to start fighting with Brook, especially not after everything else he was going through, but Mike wasn’t exactly in a peachy mood either, so he didn’t hold back. “No… no I don’t think you do! I cooked yesterday and you didn’t even-”
“You’re a horrible cook.”
“-well, I also cleaned up the-”
“You can’t work the dishwasher.”
“I am always there for you when you need me! I deserve respect!!”
“I don’t want to talk about this now Mike.” Brooks said finally, looking away and trying to change the conversation.
“No? Well when’s good for you?! I’m sick of having to work around your schedule. I know that I’m not perfect, but you need someone to talk to and I am trying to be that person for you!
I’m just, I’m annoyed and I’m kind of feeling like you’re leaving me out in left field right now. I don’t know what I’m suppose to do and you won’t even talk to me!” Mike finished with a sigh, folding his arms over his chest and walking a few steps away from where Brooks was standing; his hands still on the cart as Cosmo sucked her thumb.
“Mike, I’m sorry I didn’t-“ Brooks began to say, but he cut off when he saw a woman approach him.
“Excuse me… I hate to interrupt but… you two look great together… whatever is going on, you should try to work it out for this beautiful little girl.” The stranger said, smiling down at Cosmo who was now looking up at the woman.
Exactly, thank you.” Mike said, his outburst already having died down. They watched her walk away and Mike smiled after her, but Brooks stood with his mouth agape. Mortified.
“Fuck. Mike, she thinks we’re together.”
“We are together.”
“No, she thinks we’re gay.”
“No she doesn’t!”
Brooks closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, trying to stay calm. “Damnit! I told you not to wear pink!”
Mike attempted a few more times to get something out of Brooks, but he was unsuccessful at best. Brooks had become unresponsive, playing quietly with Cosmo until she fell asleep and then retreating into his room.
Even when Emily came over for a few minutes to say 'hi', he wouldn't come back out.
Mike felt horrible, like he was the worst friend ever.
All he could do was retreat into his own room and hope that this funk didn't last forever. He wanted to do more but at the same time he was positive that anything he might say was only going to put Brooks into a worse mood.
Mike kicked around his room, playing some xbox, painting and then resorting to calling Denise.
She sounded surprised to hear from him, and Mike was surprised to find that her voice made him feel instantly better. "Hey... I wasn't expecting to hear from you... everything ok?"
"Yah." Mike said, momentarily forgetting why he'd called in the first place. "Actually, no... it's not really." Denise went silent on the other end, waiting for Mike to elaborate, when he didn't she started talking again.
"Is there something I can help you with or... did you just want me to take your mind off it?"
Mike thought about that, not sure what he needed the most right now, sighing he flopped down onto his bed, stretching out on his back. "Just talk about something... non-hockey related right now, please?"
Denise hummed for a second as she finished filing away a few documents. She slipped away past the mayor's office and jogged into the side room, through the empty hall that lead to her office. She closed the door behind her and locked it, hoping that if anyone was left in the building this late, they'd leave her alone for a few minutes. She sighed and flopped down onto her cushy office chair, kicking off her heels and lifting her legs up onto the desk.
Finding something to talk about with Mike was hard enough, finding something totally non-hockey related was going to be almost impossible. He'd been so consumed with hockey since he was a child, even more so after he reached high-school... she was going to have to go back.
Glancing around her office she saw a pic of Mike and her at their grade 10, Winter Formal. It sparked an idea.
"Hey, remember biology class?" She asked softly as a smile spread across her face.
"Biology? No! I only passed biology class because you were my lab partner. Nothing good ever came out of that class."
She stiffled her giggle as she answered, "not even Mr. Bubbles?"
Mike couldn't believe how hard that name caused him to laugh, it had literally been years since he even thought about that dead, stinky frog. "Oh man... the frog disection, how could I forget about that?"
"Hmm probably cause you didn't do it." She quipped back, rolling her eyes as she remembered the lab module that had brought them together in the first place.
They had always known each other, always got along. Growing up in the same neighbourhood and going to school together from kingdergarten right up till high school, there was no way they could have avoided each other totally... but it was that class that created the relationship they still held onto.
"I remember, I stuck a stick in him and Chris Michaels and I were having sword fights... you kept yelling at me cause you're terrifed of frogs."
"I think I was more terrified of the idea of a dead frog getting in my hair somehow..."
"True. You didn't want to touch him though, even when it came the time to dissect him, but you did anyway." Mike added, remembering the day vividly.
"I know, I only did it because we would have failed the class if I let you mutalate him."
Mike snorted, rolling his eyes. "Whatever Ms. Govern General award... there was no way you'd fail that class, you could have skipped the last half of the year and still passed. You did it becaues you didn't want me to fail the class, you told me so."
Denise smiled to herself. "Only because you would have been kicked off the school's hockey team." She added softly. "I didn't want that to happen."
Mike rolled onto his side and looked over at the picture of Denise and him at their grade 10, Winter Formal - the same picture she was currently looking at. He thought about all the times like that, ever since they were kids, where she'd gone out of her way to make sure he was ok. All the times she had made him feel like he was important, like he was loved and respected. "I remember. Thank you."
"That was a long time ago Mike, and I'm pretty sure you already thanked me for it."
"No, not for that... for everything. I can always count on your Denise. I appreciate you, I always have, but I probably don't tell you that enough."
Denise sighed and felt the smile spread even further across her lips. "I know."