They hadn’t had taken long to make the right choice. Katie had been released from twenty-three years of drudgery and falsehood, and Jimmy, after years of being stuck sticking boots onto the unappreciative and sweaty feet of the youth of America – finally had enough money. He asked her on bended knee during the closing ceremony, while Chazz cried in the background and Coach gave them one of his too-rare grins. It was like a fairytale – only their Fairy Godfather was so doped to the gills on pain medication that he swore he’d flown to the moon during the previous week’s medal ceremony and the Royal Business was in danger because he needed to stay on his duff for the next six weeks.
It was Chazz’s idea that Katie take over the business end of their joint venture (“The little lady knows all of our tricks”, he said, on yet another flight of medicated fancy. “Which makes her our pretty shady Katie lady.”) She and Jimmy cocooned together at the cabin with tried to monetize Jimmy and Chazz’s celebrity into endorsements and autograph signings. There was no question of Chazz joining them while his ankle healed.
He also immediately took over the planning of their wedding.
“No hockey hair,” Katie had ordered one afternoon while. Chazz had frowned and returned to the pile of wedding magazines. The man had never been so focused in his entire life.
“He just gets like that sometimes,” Jimmy had said.
On the afternoon of the wedding, Chazz burst into the bride’s quarters and held forth a small black enamel broach encircled with tiny diamonds. “It was my mom’s,” Chazz explained. “The nuns said so. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever have just one special lady of my own…”
“…Oh, don’t say that…”
“I want you to keep it instead. ‘Cause you’re not a slut, shady Katie lady.” He embraced her and then whispered against her ear in his best drive-time DJ voice, “you’re not a slut.”
Katie’s fingers closed around the broach gingerly. She had nothing from her parents’ lives together – Stranz and Fairchild had made sure of that – and poor Jimmy was coming to their marriage in just the same state.
She held on to it tightly as Coach took her down the aisle.
Coach had figured it out before either of them. He caught Katie puking (“Sure it wasn’t that Stoyko tribute to The Boss?”), brought her a test, and sent her to the tour’s doctor.
“Surprised you and Jimmy know how to,” he gruffed when it came back positive.
She and Jimmy had a long, tiresome talk between Akron and Minneapolis about who would tell Chazz. Instead, it slipped out during a practice all-skate before the 2012 nationals.
“Okay – ground rules,” Chazz declared, pointing at the unified couple standing before him. “One: No yelling when I’m in the zone…”
“’In the zone?” Katie asked Jimmy.
“What he calls meditating. And you meditate while you listen to Supertramp,” Jimmy pointed out.
“Your FACE meditates while listening to Supertramp!”
“…I’m sorry, Katie, I take my eastern mysticism very seriously. I had a guru when I did the nationals seven years ago, and he said ‘Lotus Flower, the way to enlightenment is to break fast with Breakfast in America every morning.” He bit his lip. “I miss that man…” Chazz barreled right through Jimmy’s point and counted off another. “Two: I get to name the baby.”
“No,” Jimmy said immediately.
“Why don’t we give him a chance?” Katie asked, her nervous little voice breaking through.
Jimmy shot her a pleading look, but she was so earnest that he sighed and pivoted on his skate point. “If she’s a girl…”
“…Angelyna Exxstacy McElroy-Michael Michaels the second.”
Jimmy and Katie gaped at him.
“With two x’s,” Chazz concluded proudly.
“Well, Angelina’s a nice name…”
Chazz pirouetted around them. “As long as you spell it with a y. We don’t want her getting beaten up in school.”
“How about Jimmy Junior?” Jimmy suggested. “That’s a nice…STRONG name! Right?” he looked to Katie for support.
Chazz paused in mid-step, then grinned. “James Katherine McElroy Michaels. I love how you both think.”
Jimmy glanced at Katie. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders.
“This is gonna be the coolest family ever,” declared Chazz with a huge grin, yanking them both into a bear hug.
Katie stared at the small row of empty dishes as Jimmy set them on the table. It was their first real Christmas as a complete family and every button had been buttoned, every piece of crystal gleaming. Coach was chopping wood out back with Jesse, and Hector was twelve feet from the front gate, re-interpreting Jimmy’s Swan Lake routine from ten nationals prior on the ice of their walkway.
“Wow. It looks great,” Jimmy admitted.
Katie’s words were choked off as Jimmy K’s cry brought her running to the nursery, the first two buttons on her top popped open. What sat in the rocking chair made her bite back a laugh.
“And then, the fire goblin and the ice elf took Princess Katie away to the happy land of Colorado, where she schedules interviews and does press junkets. The end.” Chazz sighed. “Oh hi, Katie.”
Katie swiftly turned away to button her blouse, and when she turned around Chazz held out her recently diapered son. “Junior here wanted to learn how happy families were made, so I thought I’d give him the truth.”
“Thanks…Chazz.” He kissed her forehead, and she sighed and tucked little Jimmy closer to her collarbone.
Jimmy waited at the foot of the stairs, and “Dude, you were eye-porking my wife!”
“Katie is like a sister to me!” A pause. “Maybe I was eye-baconing her. Just for a second. They’re such delicious-looking sides of meat…”
“SASHA IS IN TRAINING AND WE’RE RESPECTING EACH OTHER’S BOUNDARIES. GOD DUDE LET ME LIVE A LITTLE!”
A fourth voice rescued her. “Both of you shut it!” Coach turned to Katie. “It’s your table, darlin’; say grace.”
And there they all were; coach still wearing his quilted hockey jacket, his cheeks rosy from the cold; her husband, his curls unfettered, arguing with Chazz, who had worn his Steven Sagal Brand Give Peace a Chance In Our Lifetime fringed jacket to the table. And her son, his plastic Yo Gabba Gabba spoon hovering two inches from his pink lips, permanent confusion etched into his expression. It was a mess, but it was HER mess.
Katie smiled, filling with the sort of joy she’d never felt as the unnoticed, spare sibling.
They really WERE the coolest family ever.
When the Van Waldenberg twins were released from prison, Katie began receiving postcards from her siblings. The last one – written in Stranz’ heavily-smudged hand – sported a bright logo from the Grublets on Ice tour.
It went right into the trash.