When their coach pulled them aside after practice one day, they knew what was coming.
Shannon Hurley, captain of the Seattle Schooners Womens’ Hockey Team and her partner in all things, Raven Sloane, were escorted through the halls of the Starbucks Center by some young blood intern, past the locker room and straight to the General Manager’s office.
“What’s up Junebug?” Sloane asked as she flopped onto the plush seat in front of the desk, piled with papers set in front of a straight-faced woman in a sharp suit.
“Feet off the table, Sloane.”
With a sigh and a roll of her eyes, Sloane pushed herself up on the chair to sit properly. Happy now? She seemed to say with an unamused eyebrow raise aimed at her boss.
Hurley took a seat on the empty chair beside her assistant captain. Her jersey stuck uncomfortably to her back with sweat. She was a bit irked at being taken away from the team during practice, but they had to keep the big-bosses happy. The happier they were, the more she could lead her girls to the Cup. “’Morning June,” she greeted. “Is something the matter?”
“Hello Shannon.” June Douglas was a severe woman. She cared about the women on the team like her own children, despite not being more than a few years older than them. But if there was business to take care of, then she would make sure it would get done. “I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here.”
Not really. It was the right season, and it was the right year. They knew what was coming.
“I’ve received calls from both the American and Canadian Olympic teams. They would like to extend an offer to have you two play for your respective teams in this coming Winter Olympic Games.”
The two women sat silently. They’d been picked before. They’d been picked once before since they got together. It didn’t matter that this was the third time they’d been picked for their respective national teams. Getting picked for the Olympics was always an excuse to leave the baby with a sitter and throw the party of the year.
“Will you accept the offer?” June asked, but continued without answer, “We’ll have to shuffle the lines a bit, and call up a few players. But should you decide to go,” she turned to Hurley, raising a sharp eyebrow and locking eyes with her fellow American, “you won’t have to worry about leaving the team.”
Hurley broke contact with June. No matter how many years they’ve worked together, the glint she got in her eye when she wanted something still sent shivers down her back. She turned to Sloane, who was already looking at her with a grin that showed off the gap where she lost a tooth in a fight with Julia Burnsides on the Portland Pioneers (who was almost certainly going to be playing for Russia during the games).
Without taking her eyes off of her partner, she nodded. “Of course we will. How else are we gonna take the Canadians down this year?”
Sloane rolled her eyes and punched Hurley in the shoulder. It barely felt like a tap beneath all the pads she was wearing. “You mean Canada’s going for a three-peat this year.”
“Did that hit from Old Lady Miller rattle your brain a bit? Because you definitely heard wrong.”
“Oh really?” Sloane asked as she tightened her grip on the jersey fabric above Hurley’s shoulder.
“Yeah,” Hurley goaded, reaching out to grab Sloane’s jersey. She was about to pull her in for a noogie when-
“Ladies!” June interrupted. “You two are the top athletes in this organization. Please act like the adults you are, and not like teenagers pulling on each other’s hair.”
The two women immediately let each other go and turned their faces down in shame. Despite being over thirty years old, they always felt like scolded children when June used that tone.
They heard the older woman sigh, “Go back to practice. I know the rest of them turn into little girls when their Captain and Lieutenant aren’t there to keep them in line.”
Hurley snickered, “They’re probably better-behaved when Sloane isn’t there.”
An affronted “Hey!” came from Sloane, but Hurley was already standing from her seat and making her way to the door.
When the two women were alone, standing in the hallway outside of June’s office, Hurley bumped her shoulder against Sloane’s. “No hard feelings?”
Sloane shrugged. “Of course. It’s just a game, y’know?” They’d played against each other before. It wasn’t until their twenties that Sloane got traded to the Schooners. They’d been to the Olympics before, too. But this was the first time they would do this as wives. Theoretically it shouldn’t be any different from when they were just dating four years ago and got chosen for the Olympics, but Hurley couldn’t help but feel worried anyway.
Sloane could feel the anxiety coming off of Hurley in waves, and bumped her back. “You’ll just have to suck it up when we beat you.”
Of course that did it. Hurley might have to play the part of a level-headed captain, but she could never resist a bit of healthy competition between wives. She turned to Sloane, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, whoever gets farther in wins the bet.” Hook.
“What bet?” Line.
“Loser changes all of Mavis’s diapers for the month.” That was an offer neither of them could refuse. As much as they loved their daughter, they did not love her diapers. Or her almost daily diaper blow-outs. If they didn’t have the salary they had, Sloane was sure they’d have gone bankrupt from all the poop-stained baby clothes they had to replace.
“And clean out Fisher’s litter box?”
The two women sized each other up for a moment, looking for any hint of hesitation. Sloane raised her eyebrow trying to make Hurley crack, but she didn’t.
After a moment, Sloane reaches out her hand, “You’ve got a deal.”
Both women removed the gloves they were still wearing from when they were rushed from the rink to June’s office, and spit on their exposed palms. They locked hands and shook, automatically pulling each other in for a quick peck on the lips to seal the deal.
“You drive a hard bargain, America.” Sloane teased as they finally began to make their way to back to the rink.
“It’ll all be worth it when we win.”