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I’d given the Chicago Tigers the best thirteen years of my playing career, and this was how they rewarded me? They left me unprotected in the expansion draft, which means I was available to be chosen by the new team. That hurt worse than a knife to the gut.

Even worse, I didn’t hear about the news from my agent or the team GM, I saw it on social media while I was ordering a cup of coffee in my favorite coffee shop where everyone knew me by name. Only today they cast sympathetic glances my way and gave me a wide berth.

I slumped down at a table and scrolled through my phone. Every post was similar to this one:

SPORTS NOW—The Portland Icehawks have indicated they will select aging star center Dashel Bates in the expansion draft tomorrow.

Aging star? WTF?

I was only thirty-five, for fuck’s sake. I didn’t give a shit that in the game of professional hockey once a guy hit his mid-thirties his body had taken a beating, and retirement loomed on the horizon. I had a lot of gas left in my tank, and I wasn’t ready to hang up my skates. I sure as hell wasn’t ready to leave the Tigers. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a vote in this matter.

My phone blew up with texts from teammates, family, and my agent. The only person I hadn’t heard from was my wife. Yeah, my wife. She was oddly silent. She should be the first person to reach out to me as we planned this next step in my future. And what does it say that she wasn’t the first person I thought to call either? Janet and I had been growing apart for a while now, and I had my suspicions there was someone else, and that someone was a teammate.

Pushing aside worries of Janet, I refocused on my most immediate problem and called my agent. He answered on the second ring with a blatantly obvious huff.

“Harrison, is it true?” I asked.

“Dash, do you ever answer your phone?” His annoyance was palpable. Harrison Stein was one of the best, most ruthless agents in the business, and he was a busy man. He hated anyone messing with his schedule or wasting his time, no matter how big a client that person was.

“Just answer me. What are you hearing?” I prodded with undisguised impatience.

“Say hello to Portland.”

My heart sank. This wasn’t just an unfounded rumor. It was happening. I’d never played for another team but the team who’d drafted me, first on their farm team, then in the bigs. I’d been the captain for five years. We’d wallowed in mediocrity most of those years, but I still hadn’t wanted to play anywhere else, even if that meant never making it to the cup finals. The irony was that we looked like we might be a cup contender this upcoming season.

As soon as I ended the call with my agent, the phone rang again. The Tigers GM.

I considered not answering it, but I wasn’t that guy. I was the good guy on the team, the captain, the sterling example, the one management and coaches loved for my dedication and clean lifestyle. I’d never given them an ounce of problems, and I wouldn’t now. Being a dick had never been my style.

“Hey, Bill,” I said, forcing myself to sound upbeat.

“Dash, I tried—”

“I know. I heard the news. It’s all over social media.”

“Damn, I was hoping to get to you first, but I had a couple other pressing matters to take care of first.”

Bitterness slid through me. What could be more urgent than letting your team captain and longtime first-line center know he was being chosen by the new expansion team tomorrow? And not because I wasn’t still a good player, but because of my age. I swallowed the anger rising like bile in my throat. Age meant everything in pro sports. I knew it, the coaches knew it, the team knew it.

“I tried to cut a deal with the Icehawks, but Brian Werkle drives a hard bargain.”

In other words, the only team I’d ever played for wasn’t putting enough value on me to meet the Icehawks’ price. That stung.

“It’s all good,” I lied, forever the amiable team-first player. And look where that’d gotten me.

“Dash, the GM of the Icehawks will be calling you shortly. They’ll want you in Portland tomorrow morning for the expansion draft.”

Portland? Tomorrow? I blinked a few times at the impossibility of such a request. Hopefully, Bill was mistaken, or I’d be able to talk them out of a last-minute journey. I needed time to digest this news, not be dropped in the middle of a media circus during an expansion draft.

We chatted for a few more minutes before I found a polite excuse to end the call. I wasn’t in the mood to make small talk when the world as I knew it had just exploded in my face. I threw my coffee cup in the garbage, waved goodbye to the staff, and reluctantly made my way home.

When I walked in the front door, Janet was waiting for me. We’d been married ten years and didn’t have any children. Janet hadn’t wanted them, and I’d always assumed she’d change her mind eventually.

Without a word, she handed me a beer and walked into the living room. I followed her.

“Thanks. I guess you heard?”

She stopped in front of the marble fireplace and pivoted on one expensive heel. Her expression was hooded, and I couldn’t read her. She’d been more distant than usual lately, and I didn’t know what to make of it. We’d never had the best relationship, often going our own ways, but we’d managed to hold our marriage together for ten years. Being with her was comfortable, and we’d fallen into a routine that appeared to work for both of us.

When she didn’t respond, I continued. “I guess we’d better start packing the house and looking for somewhere to live in Portland.”

Her beautiful face turned hard as stone, like an untouchable and beautiful ice princess. I frowned and shifted my weight from one foot to the other as this uncomfortable tension spread between us.

“I know living in Oregon isn’t on your top ten places.”

“It’s not that,” she said stiffly.

“Janet, what is it?” I’d disregarded my suspicions for a very long time, but I had the distinct impression they were about to become impossible to ignore.

She met my gaze. What flashed in her eyes set me back on my heels. Resentment, dislike, and irritation. WTF was going on? I’d never seen her glare at me like that. Or I’d never allowed myself to see it.

“I’m not going,” she said in a voice devoid of emotion, as if she were ordering an espresso.

“What?” I’d half expected this, yet her words didn’t have any less impact.

“I’m. Not. Going.” She squared her shoulders and looked down her nose at me. No one could reduce a person to nothing with one look the way she could.

“I’m an unsigned free agent at the end of the year. Is it that you don’t want to uproot yourself until you know where I’ll end up after the upcoming season?” I asked, needing clarification, even as I knew what she meant.

She shook her head. “I’m not going now or ever.”

“Are you saying—?” I stopped. My parents had been together since their college days and were still in love, as were my grandparents. I’d always thought when I married, it’d be for life. I’d struggled for a very long time that the breakup of my marriage was inevitable. And now it was coming.

“I want a divorce.”

“Are you sure?” I was emotionless on the outside. On the inside, I vacillated between numbness, regret, and relief.

“You can’t fix what’s broken. I don’t love you anymore.”

I blinked a few times as her words sank in and the reality of my own feelings rose to the surface. I wasn’t in love with her, either.

“I have to know. Is there someone else?” I knew the answer. I’d been in denial for months, but all the signs had been there.

She nodded.

“Is he a teammate?”

Again, she nodded.

All of a sudden getting the hell out of this town and moving to the west coast didn’t look so bad after all. A fresh start, a new city, and a brand-spanking-new team. That’s what I needed.

“Is it Kyle Whitmore?” I held my breath, praying he hadn’t betrayed me in the worst way possible.

She didn’t respond, but I saw the truth in her eyes.

There’d been that time at the Christmas party when she’d disappeared for an hour and so had he. Another time when I’d come home from going out with the guys, she’d been gone and didn’t get back until late the next morning with no explanation. Not to mention the guilt I’d seen on many occasions when I caught Kyle staring at me. So many other red flags, too numerous to mention.

Kyle wasn’t just a teammate, he was a linemate, and a guy who’d had my back for close to a decade. One of my oldest and dearest friends.

And he’d been fucking my wife. That hurt as much if not more than her asking for a divorce.

“How long?” I demanded to know. “How long has this been going on?”

“You figure it out,” she spat back defiantly. “You never pay attention to me. You’re complacent. We have nothing in common. I deserve better.”

Janet was high maintenance. She needed flowers, dinners out, expensive vacations, and to be treated like a princess. I’d done that for the first five years, but the last five, not so much.

“Enjoy Portland,” she said with a toss of her long blond hair. “You’ll be hearing from my attorney.”

Only then did I notice a couple bags by the door.

“I’m sorry. I hope you find someone who suits you better than I do.” She picked up her bags and left. Just like that. Ten years of marriage walked out the door on the eve thirteen years with my only NHL team came to an end.

I stared at the door.

This was on me as much as it was on her. We’d grown apart, gotten stale, and never bothered to resurrect what we’d felt when we’d first met.

I started to call Kyle and stopped myself. I had nothing good to say to him. He’d betrayed our longtime friendship in the worst possible way. I distracted myself by scrolling through all the text messages wishing me well. There was one from Kyle. In spite of myself, I fisted my hands, and anger boiled to the surface.

Kyle: Hey, buddy, just heard the news. I’m gonna miss you big-time.

I tapped out fuck you, asshole. Deleted it and tried again: I know what you’ve been doing, fucker. Rot in hell.


May you get a hockey stick shoved up your ass.


I hope your balls get wound up in a hockey net.


I sighed. Being nasty wasn’t me, even when it was deserved.

I stared at the phone for a long while. I was leaving this life and starting another. They no longer played a part in my future or my present.

Let it go. Just let it go.

I typed out: Thanks.

Not being an asshole did make me feel better. Just because Kyle was one didn’t mean I had to stoop to his level. I felt smug in the belief I was the better person in this friendship…make that former friendship.

My wife had traded me in for a different model. My team had let me go to protect the younger guys on the team. Some guys would be defeated by such rejection, but I swore to funnel the negative into something positive. I’d prove to all of them that I wasn’t washed up and was worthy of playing on a team that wanted me with people who wanted me.

The Portland Icehawks.


I’d been laid off. No notice. I went to work this morning at Pumpkin Rose Roasters in downtown Portland. I was told they couldn’t afford my services as a barista since sales were down.

Being a barista had never been my idea of a long-term career, but I’d enjoyed my regulars and loved good coffee. Now I was at loose ends. If my family got wind of this, they’d bulldoze me into taking a job in a profession I had zero aptitude for or interest in. Story of my life. I loved my family, but they believed they knew what I needed better than I did.

I was a member of one of the wealthiest families in Portland, but you wouldn’t know it looking at me. I was proud to say that I’d paid my own way the past few years.

Feeling out of sorts, I headed for the one spot where I felt useful.          I pulled my compact car into an empty spot and got out. Looking left and right, I hurried down the cracked sidewalk to a sad-looking two-story building on the corner.

I rapped on the locked door, keeping an ever-vigilant eye on my surroundings. A single woman couldn’t be too careful in this seedy area of Portland. If my mother knew I was here, she’d have a heart attack.

My friend Desmond opened the door, and I slipped inside. He locked multiple dead bolts behind me.

“What are you doing here at this time of day?”

“I was laid off.”

He nodded and didn’t ask for details. I loved that about him. He didn’t push but waited for me to volunteer whatever personal information I chose to volunteer.

“I never planned on staying there for long, so I guess fate took care of that for me.”

“Most likely, but I’m glad you’re here. I have a full house today. I could use your help.”

I followed him through the dimly lit maze of broken-down shelving and precariously stacked boxes, everything coated in layers of dust as if nothing in this large building had been touched in years. We entered a back room where the lighting was bright. Several people I recognized waved or spoke.

I went right to work, wandering around the room, offering advice and praising their efforts. I sucked at painting and drawing myself, but I knew how to blend paint to make different colors and apply various paint techniques due to several art classes and failed attempts to be an artist. Unfortunately, my desire didn’t match my talent. Instead, I contented myself with volunteering when I could.

These were street people. They had very little to look forward to other than the few hours they spent in this makeshift studio creating masterpieces that would astound even the snobbiest art critic.

Desmond ran this place. He’d started this program a few years ago. So many homeless organizations and charities had put down his idea as ridiculous. When a person is in survival mode, they aren’t going to be in a creative state of mind, or so they said. Turns out they were wrong.

I paused to look over the shoulder of one of our newest students, Lakita. I didn’t know much about her background, but I surmised a lot. She was young, barely eighteen if you could believe her. She worked at the strip club a few blocks away. She had an abusive boyfriend who pimped her out. None of this I knew for a fact, but I’d been around long enough, and I’d seen her expressive artwork. Lakita had talent. The kind of talent I’d have killed for. She sneaked here a few hours every week when she needed an escape from her tumultuous life.

Today she was working on a charcoal drawing of a rainy street corner. Darkness clung to the shadows. A homeless old man lay under the eaves of a building bundled in a ratty sleeping bag. A barely clad girl with her arms wrapped around her stood near the curb looking out into the street. Her long hair was plastered to her face and body. The entire effect of this realistic portrait hit me so hard I stumbled back a few steps. This work was darker than I’d seen Lakita do in the past.

“What do you call this one?” I asked.

She looked up at me with sad eyes. “Self-portrait.”

I choked back my emotions, feeling angry that I’d led such a privileged life and someone like her had nothing through no fault of her own.

At that very moment, I vowed to do something to make a difference.

Chapter 1–The Wrong Jersey


Every one of those poor guys looked like a deer in the headlights just before a truck rams into them on a rainy, winding country road. They might have smiles plastered on their faces, but I saw through the fake happiness to the real shock beneath.

I felt for them.

One day they were playing for a familiar team with familiar teammates. The next day they were uprooted and thrust into this brave new world where no one knew anyone else, not the coaches, not their teammates, not even the staff.

I could relate to a point. I’d been forced into a place I didn’t want to be but had little choice in the matter. My grandfather was the majority owner of the Portland Icehawks. As I was the only family member without gainful employment, he’d drafted me to work in the organization. No one had filled me in on my role yet, but it was sure to be something simple and demeaning commensurate with my education and experience.

I was the reluctant black sheep of a very wealthy and successful longtime Portland family. We go back to the early days of Portland, timber barons, land developers, and newspaper publishers. At one time, we essentially “owned” Portland. As one of the wealthiest families in the city, some would claim we still did.

I was the kid who barely graduated from high school, didn’t go to college, and jumped from job to job, staggering through life like a drunken sailor back in Portland’s pioneer days. I was still discovering what I wanted to do with my life. I was so close. I’d narrowed things down to something in the art field, like owning a gallery specializing in my favorite quirky artists and something that’d benefit more than just me. Maybe, just maybe…but I needed that trust fund money so I could do what I wanted to do, not what my family thought I should do. Since I’d never be a financial wiz like my brother or a marketing genius like my sister, my special talents would have to lie elsewhere.

“Everly, pay attention,” one of the team employees snapped at me. “I need Jarrett Bolton’s jersey, right now.”

I’d had everything organized and stacked in the order the players would be introduced until one of the camera guys ran into my pile and sent it flying a minute before the first player took the stage. Everything had gone downhill since then. I’d so wanted to prove my worth today, and nothing had gone right. Story of my life. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

I fumbled through the haphazard pile until I found one with “Bolton” emblazoned on the back. I handed it to him and received a scathing glare in return. I had one job today: have jerseys ready as each new player on the Icehawks was introduced. I couldn’t even do that right.

I didn’t mean to be a screwup, but misfortune followed me everywhere. I couldn’t seem to get past it. As my Great-Aunt Matilda liked to say, I had bad juju.

I dug around for the piece of paper listing the order each player would be introduced and couldn’t find it.


I guess I’d better pay closer attention.

Not every guy being chosen in this expansion draft would be here today, just a handful of the biggest names that my grandfather flew in early this morning or late last night. The entire roster had been leaked hours ahead of time, but the league went ahead with the big “reveal,” an extravaganza at a park on the Columbia River complete with local celebrities announcing each draftee and a who’s who of Portland in attendance with that unique Portland weirdness thrown in. The sun shone brightly and the temps were in the low seventies, not bad for a mid-June day.

My family basked in the attention at the center of it all. My father’s and grandfather’s ten-year quest to bring hockey to Portland had culminated in this day. My mother and grandmother, who couldn’t care less about sports, were also here. Everyone was dressed in the sharp new Portland jerseys, even me.

I didn’t like hockey. Had never watched it and no desire to do so. No one in my family was a hockey fan, but you wouldn’t know that looking at us right now. We were the ultimate Portland supporters, and hockey had been a logical next step.

I stayed in the wings of the makeshift stage out of the limelight, just where I liked to be.

I glanced up as a guy came toward me, obviously one of the hockey players based on his size and magnificent build. He wore the same shell-shocked look as the rest of the poor dudes.

When he caught me staring at him, he managed a lopsided smile. Holy mother of all sexy and naughty, that guy was not just hot, he was blistering hot, like a blowtorch turned on high hot.

His hair was dark with a nice cut. He was tall, but then anyone was tall compared to me. In a family of tall people, I was the runt of the litter at five foot two. When he swung his gaze toward me, I gasped. Light turquoise eyes stared back at me, set off by a tanned face and a nice short beard. When our eyes met, my stomach did the same kind of tumble I felt on the Oaks Park roller coaster.

He might not be my type, but I had had a high-school crush on the quarterback. Of course, he never gave me the time of day, but he did conjure up some great daydreams, naughty short stories, and fun fantasies. My real boyfriends had all been starving artists, but what girl doesn’t secretly fantasize about the hot guy in school falling for the nerdy or weird girl? That was me—the weird girl.

“Hey,” Blue Eyes said in a friendly tone.

“Hi.” I ducked my head. Shyness had never been my problem, and I don’t know why I was putting on the coy act right now. Not that what I was doing was an act. An act I could control. This vibe I got from him was uncontrollable.

We stood next to each other in awkward discomfort as he waited to be introduced on stage. The GM had chosen to do the honors himself rather than letting one of the minor celebrities do it.

“From the Chicago Tigers, the Icehawks select Dashel Bates.”

Mr. Bates winked at me. “That’s my cue.”

I nodded, dumbstruck in his presence. He strode out to the stage amid the loudest applause I’d heard so far this afternoon. The GM rattled off an impressive list of accomplishments, none of which meant anything to me, other than this guy was a big deal. By the huge smile on the GM’s face and my grandfather’s giddiness, they were happy to have him.

“Jersey!” barked the obnoxious employee, shaking me out of my hero worship. I picked up the first jersey off the pile, and he grabbed it from my hands before I was able to verify whose jersey it was.

He handed it to the GM, who handed it to the player. Dashel pulled it over his head. At first, there was a stunned silence, followed by laughter from the crowd. I cringed. It was the wrong jersey. Blue Eyes, uh, Dashel laughed nervously. I dug quickly through the pile and located Bates number 11. I hurried onto the stage and shoved the correct jersey at him. He shrugged out of the other one and quickly donned his number 11.

“Sorry, folks,” the GM said, as Dashel played along and modeled his jersey to a resounding roar. All was forgotten, but not forgiven. The family screwup had done it again. I couldn’t even get a small thing like the correct jersey for the correct player right.

I paid attention for the rest of the draft, knowing I was already in hot water over the Bates incident. My perfect younger sister, Addison, slid up to me and shook her head. “Everly,  what were you thinking?”

“I, uh, I…” I sought to come up with the words that didn’t make me sound like I was making excuses and couldn’t find any. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

As the middle child in a family of overachievers, I’d always danced to a different drummer, actually several. In fact, I changed drummers so often, I never knew where I was going and with whom. I wore the title as the family screwup like a badge of honor. No one expected anything of me, and as a result, I didn’t expect much of myself.

Addison’s expression was a combination of sympathetic and frustrated. She’d graduated with honors in marketing and took her new marketing position with the team seriously. I got that. She was worried everyone would assume she wasn’t qualified and only got the job because of family. I knew my sister. She’d work her ass off to prove them all wrong, and she’d succeed. Sometimes, I found it hard to believe I was twenty-nine and she was only twenty-seven. Addison had always played the part of the big sister.

“I’m in trouble, aren’t I?” I asked her.

Addison turned her gaze back on me. We’d never been the best of friends, but we loved each other, even if it was hard to see on the surface. “No more than usual.”

I was the topic of conversation that evening at our family dinner, unfortunately. I tried to avoid this confrontation, but the fam was stronger than I was when it came to outright pushiness.

“What are we going to do with her?” My father, Stan Jr., ran his fingers through his thick head of hair and rubbed his eyes, as if dealing with me made him weary. I was sure it did.

“I don’t know.” Stanley, my grandfather and the team majority owner, sighed deeply. “I thought I’d given her such a simple task no one could screw it up.”

“Everly just got a little confused.” Addison tried to defend me, but I think she made things worse.

“Where do we place her in the organization so she does the least amount of financial damage?” My father was always working the money angle. Nothing else really mattered to him.

“She’s not qualified for any job with the team,” inserted my brother Steve. He glanced at me. “Sorry, sis.”

“Hey, I’m right here. I hear all of you talking smack about me.” I waved my hands to get their attention. Several sets of eyes turned briefly in my direction, then dismissed me, just as they always did. Nothing unusual there. I loved my family, and they loved me, but years ago they’d labeled me as the family screwup who needed constant rescuing. I’d never been able to shake off their low opinion of my abilities, not that I’d done a lot to convince them otherwise.

“I’ve got it.” My sister grinned at me, and I knew I wasn’t going to like this. “She can manage the team coffee shop.”

“The one at the practice facility?” Grandfather rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“It’s perfect, and she has experience as a barista. How long have you been there?” Steve asked me.

“Under a year. Their business took a dive, and they had to lay me off,” I said sliding down in my chair in a futile attempt to make myself invisible.

Every career I tried ended in disaster, mostly through no fault of my own. Disaster and bad luck followed me everywhere, except for my job as a barista at a local coffee roasting company, the Pumpkin Rose Roasters. My family didn’t own the shop, and therefore, I wasn’t under their scrutiny. The company was owned by the parents of Michella, one-third of the hip chicks, as we called ourselves. The other member of our trio was Inez, my grandfather’s assistant and all-around girl Friday. Michella and I were the artsy, free-spirit types, though Michella’s outfits were designed to attract attention, and they did. She didn’t walk to the apartment mailboxes without full makeup. I never knew from one day to the next what creative hairstyle she’d come up with for her curly, waist-length hair. She was stunning and a head-turner, but she was also one of the kindest, funniest, and most loyal friends a girl could ever have.

Inez was the uptight, put-together one, who dressed in impeccable business suits during the day and sweats and T-shirts at night. Regardless of what she wore, she never had a hair out of place or a wrinkle on her clothes. I envied her commonsense approach to life, something I lacked.

The three of us had been together since high school and were virtually inseparable. Despite being as opposite as three women could be, we found that our differences complemented one another rather than annoyed one another.

Since we were all currently single, we’d decided four months ago to rent a small apartment in the trendy Alberta Arts District of Portland. The close quarters in our two-bedroom, one-bath home did cause some issues with our love life, but we made do. Michella and I were able to walk to our jobs, and Inez’s drive was short.

Regardless of the convenient location, steaming milk and pouring coffee wasn’t something I’d planned on doing long-term.

“I don’t think being a barista is a good fit for Everly.” Great-Aunt Matilda came to my defense. She had always been my champion, most likely because we both danced to the beat of a different drum. We were the artsy ones in a family of CEOs, land developers, financiers, and attorneys. No one understood us. Aunt Matilda winked at me.

“What is a good fit for Everly?” Grandfather asked his sister.

“She’s still in discovery mode. She’ll figure it out.”

“While she’s figuring it out, she can run our coffee shop.” My grandfather’s relief was palpable, and my fate was sealed. I opened my mouth to protest, but no one was listening to me. They never were.

“She needs ground rules,” my dad said. “Remember the time we bought her a café? She started dating the chef, and they had a very public breakup. He walked out in the middle of his shift, leaving tables full of customers without their meals.”

“I was dating that chef before you guys bought the café, and you stuck me in charge of a restaurant with zero experience.” I had to defend myself, but no one was listening. I sank lower in my seat and crossed my arms over my chest, pretending to scroll through my phone.

“Rule number one. No fraternizing with staff. NONE,” Grandfather declared.

“And players,” my father added.

“Especially players,” Grandfather agreed.

“Like I’d be interested in jocks anyway,” I groused. I was attracted to artsy, free-spirit types, not jocks whose muscles outweighed their brains.

“I don’t think Everly needs ground rules. She’s a good barista. I love her coffee.” My sister came to my defense. Grandfather and Dad ignored her. I wasn’t sure whether to thank her or stick my tongue out at her.

“You’re on your own in the coffee shop. You’ll be a one-woman show and responsible for all aspects of the business, including ordering supplies, cleaning, and customer service. Everything.” My grandfather’s gaze bored into me until I looked up.

“Fine,” I said, slumping lower in my chair and glaring at my plate.

“I’ll give you six months to make a success out of this business if you want your trust fund to kick in when you turn thirty.” Grandfather pounded the final nail in my coffin.

I shot up in my seat, instantly alert. “What?”

“It’s for your own good, honey. You’ve had ample time to settle down and earn a living rather than flitting from one failed venture to another.” My mom reached over and patted my arm, as if she were sympathetic when she wasn’t.

“But that’s not fair. My trust fund shouldn’t be tied to a coffee shop.” I lived frugally without needing my trust fund, but I had plans for that money, and I wasn’t happy about this.

“Really? Why not? Your siblings’ trust funds were dependent on them graduating college and securing gainful employment. You never finished a semester. Nothing is free, and it’s time this family stopped enabling you.”

I didn’t feel enabled. I lived a relatively simple lifestyle in a trendy part of Portland where all the starving artists hung. I pretended to be one myself, even though my attempts at becoming artsy had been failures, like everything else in my life.

I’d trained with one of the most talented painters in Portland, and my art career lasted one month. Every watercolor I did looked like something done by a preschooler. I’d tried my hand at singing and been booed off the karaoke stage. I’d taken up guitar, but I made the neighbors’ dog howl. I was a fake artsy person, but none of the people I hung out with seemed to care as long as I talked the talk.

But managing a coffee shop was not how I saw my future. I attempted one last time to change their minds.

“I’d be much more qualified to run a small gallery.”

“How are you qualified to operate a gallery?” My sister shook her head, and my brother laughed.

“I have this vision of opening a gallery that showcases homeless people’s artwork. The proceeds would go to building tiny homes or renovating old buildings to make affordable housing.” For the first time I voiced an idea that’d been brewing in my head for quite a while. It’d been something I’d toyed with, knowing my trust fund would give me the capital to start such a venture.

“What a sweet thought, dear.” My grandmother patted my arm.

“One more reason for you to make a success out of this coffee shop,” announced Grandfather. Everyone but me held up their wineglasses and clinked them together. I glowered at the table, even as I began to formulate a plan in my head.

If they wanted me to run a fucking coffee shop in their hockey practice facility, then I’d damned well have the best coffee shop ever seen in a hockey rink.