“So, Cheyenne, tell us more about you,” Linda said as the family all sat around the picnic table in the Staal’s backyard.
Cheyenne shifted in her seat and Marc wrapped rubbed her back for reassurance earning a curious glance from Eric and Jordan.
“You don’t have to tell them everything,” Marc whispered and Cheyenne nodded her head.
“I’m from New York City, my dad is a scout for the Rangers. I met Marc while waiting for my dad inside Madison Square Garden one night after a game.”
“A scout, really,” Hank asked.
“Yeah,” Cheyenne replied trying to force a smile. It was clear to Marc that Cheyenne was scared around Hank and his brothers. It took a while for her to warm-up to the guys on the team so he could only imagine how long it would take for her to warm up to his family.
“What about your mom,” Linda asked.
“She’s a nurse at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City. We moved here from Kelowna, British Columbia when I was fourteen.”
“You never told me you were Canadian,” Marc said smiling.
“Well, you learn something new every day, don’t you,” Eric replied earning a laugh from his brothers.
“Cheyenne, honey, want to come in the house and help me get more food,” Linda asked.
“Sure,” Cheyenne said smiling as she stood up and followed Linda into the house.
“Dude, what’s wrong with her?”
“Drop it Jordan,” Marc warned.
“Are you sure you’re not dating because you are awfully protective of her,” Jordan asked.
“God damn it Jordan,” Marc snapped, “No, we are not dating. I have a reason to be protective over her, once you get to know her and she tells you why then you will understand, until then just sit there and shut the fuck up, got it?”
“Cool it guys,” Eric said.
“Watch it boys, your mother won’t be too happy with how you’re talking to each other.”
“Who wants more food,” Linda announced coming out of house and the boys cheered.
“You okay,” Marc asked Cheyenne.
“Yeah, I’m fine, thank you,” Cheyenne said kissing his cheek.
Jordan, Eric, and Jared were too busy stuffing their faces to notice so Marc gave her a hug and kissed her forehead.
“Cheyenne, why haven’t you eaten everything on your plate,” Hank asked.
“I’m not very hungry. Marc and I ate before we got here.”
“Oh for Christ sakes, will you eat everything on your plate. I hate when people don’t finish their food,” Eric began, “DUDE, WHAT THE FUCK,” he shouted as Marc kicked him under the table.
“ERIC, WATCH YOUR MOUTH,” Linda warned, “Marc is still a baby and there’s a lady in this house.”
“Baby my ass,” Eric laughed and Cheyenne excused herself from the table and went into the house.
“Congratulations, you scared the poor girl away,” Linda said.
“You’re a real douchebag,” Marc said, “I told you not to say or do anything that would make her uncomfortable but you of course went and did it anyways.”
“Maybe you should go apologize,” Jared suggested.
“Eric, go apologize to her, please,” Hank asked.
“Fine,” Eric growled and Marc stood up to go with him.
“Marc, let your brother do it alone,” Linda said.
“But mom,” Marc began before he was cut off by Hank.
“Don’t argue with me, Marc.”
“Fine,” Marc said sighing in defeat as Eric walked into the house.
Cheyenne was standing at the kitchen sink doing the dishes that were in the sink and didn’t notice Eric walk in the house since her back was to the door.
“Cheyenne,” he began and she dropped the glass that she was drying causing it to shatter all over the floor.
“Oh my God, I’m so so sorry,” she said immediately dropping to her knees and cleaning up the chards on the floor.
“It’s okay, here let me help you,” Eric said walking towards her and she tried to hide the fear that overcame her.
“It’s fi-fine, I got it,” she stuttered.
“I’m sorry for scaring you but I came in here to apologize to you for yelling at you out there,” Eric said squatting down in front of her and gathering the glass chards in his paw like hand. Cheyenne flinched when she felt a shock as Eric accidentally touched his hand with her own. They both stopped and looked at each other before they began cleaning up the mess.
“Thank you,” Cheyenne said trying to force a smile. She attempted to stand up when she slipped and lost her footing on the kitchen rug and fell into Eric.
Immediately tears sprang to her eyes and she wiped them away, “Cheyenne, are you okay,” Eric asked genuinely concerned.
“I’m fine, I promise,” she lied as he let her go and she went back to doing the dishes in the sink.
“Are you coming back outside, once my mom and dad go out…Marc, Eric, and I are going to light a bonfire down by the lake and you’re more than welcomed to come.”
“Thank you but it’s been a long day and I think I am going to get some sleep. Marc said something about going ice skating at the rink where he used to play hockey tomorrow.”
“Oh, okay, goodnight,” Eric said walking towards the door. He turned around when he opened the door and smiled at Cheyenne, “I’m really sorry and I didn’t mean to scare you. You don’t have to be afraid of me or anyone in this house for that matter.”
With that being said he shut the door behind him and made his way back over to his family, “Is she okay,” Marc said asking as soon as Eric sat down.
“Yeah she’s fine, she broke a glass while doing dishes and I helped her clean it up.”
“She’s a guest in this house, she doesn’t need to be doing our dishes,” Linda said standing up collecting the uneaten food and the dirty plates before she made her way into the house.
“I broke a glass,” Cheyenne said tying up the garbage that was in the corner, “I thought I’d take the garbage out so no one got cut.”
“You put that trash bag down, that’s why I have four sons. They are more than capable of doing dishes and taking out the trash. You are a guest in this house, let them do it.”
“I’m sorry,” Cheyenne turning around to put a plate in the cabinet above the stove, “Natural instinct, I guess.”
Linda faked a smile as she let her eyes travel down the bruises that were on Cheyenne’s abdomen when her shirt rode up from her reaching for the cabinet. Linda knew Marc knew something that he was hiding for Cheyenne’s sake. It all made sense to her now why he was being so overprotective of Cheyenne, someone was abusing her.
“There’s no need to be sorry, honey,” Linda said smiling when Hank entered the kitchen.
“Cheyenne, I hate to steal Linda away but we are going to visit some family in town and we’ll be back later tonight. Are you going to be okay all alone with the boys?”
“I’ll be fine,” Cheyenne said smiling as Linda hugged her and followed Hank out of the house.
“Are you alright,” Marc said later on that night as Cheyenne was getting ready for bed.
“I’m fine, your family seems really nice, especially your mom.”
“She has her moments where she’s annoying,” Marc said laughing, “Sorry about Eric, he just doesn’t think before he speaks sometimes.”
“It’s okay, he apologized, no harm done.”
“I just want you to trust them and not have to worry about saying the wrong thing to set them off.”
“I’m fine Marc,” Cheyenne said wrapping her arms around him giving him a kiss on the cheek, “Now go out there and enjoy the fire with your brothers.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to come,” Marc asked.
“I’m tired and besides I want to call my mom and check on her.”
“Okay, goodnight Cheyenne,” Marc said giving her a kiss on the forehead.
Marc shut the light off and Cheyenne pulled her phone out to call her mom.
“Hey honey,” Diane said greeting her daughter, “How’s Thunder Bay?”
“It’s great, Marc’s family is really nice.”
“I know, I met them when he was drafted.”
“Are you okay,” Cheyenne said, “Where’s dad?”
“He’s still at the office, don’t worry about him Cheyenne. You’re in Thunder Bay, he can’t hurt you.”
“I know he can’t hurt me but he can hurt you mom,” Cheyenne said wiping the tears away from her face.
“Get some sleep honey and call me tomorrow, I love you.”
“I love you too,” Cheyenne said hanging up the phone, “Please promise me you’ll be okay.”
“I’m fine, honey, I promise, get some rest.”
“Bye,” Cheyenne said ending the call when she turned around and saw Eric in the doorway.
“You’re still awake,” Eric asked.
“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep.”
“Well, it’s your first night in a strange house with people you’ve never met in the bedrooms around you.”
Cheyenne laughed and Eric made his way toward the bed, “Who were you talking to on the phone?”
“My mom, just making sure everything was okay back in New York.”
“I was the same way when I moved to Carolina, I think I called at least ten times a day until finally I got used to being away from home.”
“I’m only here for a couple of months, not a lifetime.”
Eric laughed, “Since you can’t sleep, why don’t you come outside with us?”
“Eric, why are you up here?”
“I was worried about you that’s why I came up here, Marc said you weren’t feeling well.”
“I’m fine, just tired.”
“Come on, come outside with us for a little bit. Getting some fresh air may make you feel better.”
Cheyenne smiled and grabbed her flip flops from the side of the bed and followed Eric outside. Marc smiled as he saw Cheyenne following close behind Eric, it was nice to see that she opened up to him a little bit more and didn’t seem as afraid of him as she was.
“Boys, we’re back,” Linda said coming around the side of the house, “Marc, can I talk to you?”
“Yeah sure,” Marc said following his mom into the house.
“Who is beating Cheyenne? I swear to God it better not be that wannabe drag queen teammate of yours.”
“How did you know she’s being beat?”
“Marc, I saw the bruises on her stomach, please tell me who is beating her.”
“I don’t want to tell you about this, it’s her story to tell, not mine.”
“Marc, please tell me so we can assure her that she can trust us, I won’t tell your father or brothers but please tell me what is going on.”
“Her dad beats her, he has been beating her from the time she was ten years old. I try to protect her but when she goes home to get her stuff, he beats her.”
“Oh Marc, it’s not your fault,” Linda said hugging her son, “From now on, she will live with you in New York and here in the summer, that’s final.”
“But mom,” Marc began.
“Don’t ‘but mom’ me Marc, she’s your best friend and that makes her family.”
Later that night, Cheyenne woke up shivering and calling out for Marc. Eric heard her screaming and since he was in the room right next door, he was there first.
“Cheyenne,” Eric said walking over to her, “Shhhhh! It’s okay.”
“Eric,” she cried into his bare chest as he wrapped his arms around her. Marc came into the room and smiled at his brother who rolled his eyes before Marc knelt down in front of Cheyenne.
“What’s wrong, Chey,” he asked.
“I had a nightmare, Marc, it was so real.”
“What happened,” Eric said, “If you’re not comfortable telling Marc in front of me then I’ll leave.”
“You can stay,” Cheyenne said between tears, “Marc, I had a dream he killed her.”
“Oh my God,” Marc said wrapping her up in his arms and placing her in his lap.
“Who killed who,” Eric asked.
“I had a dream my dad came home from work and killed my mom before he chased after me and then he killed you both for trying to protect me.”
“Why would he do that,” Eric questioned.
“Because he beats me and he beats my mom,” Cheyenne said and Eric looked at Marc stunned.
“Oh my God,” Eric began, “Cheyenne, is that why you are afraid of us?”
Cheyenne nodded her head and Eric leaned over and brought her into the middle of him and Marc, “Cheyenne, look at me,” he began and she looked up slowly, “We are not going to hurt you, I promise.”
Cheyenne wrapped her arms around him and Marc rubbed her back, “Do you want me to stay with her and you can get some sleep,” Eric asked.
“No Marc, don’t go,” Cheyenne said reaching for him. Eric let her go and stood up from the bed to go back to his room.
“Thank you,” Marc whispered and Eric nodded his head before he gave Cheyenne a kiss on the cheek and headed back to bed.
Eric laid in bed that night vowing to put his career on the line to protect not only his brother but Cheyenne as well.