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Written by JWolfman

For three years now, it has been a ritual. Every January 1st, a lone figure in a dark blue hoodie and winter pants would arrive at the doorstep of 1460 45 Street amid the New York borough of Brooklyn, carrying a large stuffed duffel bag. Although the times vary, it was always between 10 PM to midnight, under the cover of darkness and within the chill of winter. The lone figure would ring the doorbell, drop the duffel bag on the steps leading up to the door, and then turn to leave silently to disappear amid the urban shadows. The building’s owner, a young female linsang by the name of Beth Samel, would open the door, pick up the duffel bag, and retreat back into her home. No words spoken, no contact, and the young linsang receive another hundred and fifty thousand dollars, in cash.

On January 1st, 2019 however the ritual changed. The same lone figure arrived as scheduled with his usual fur dyed to become incognito. He carried a duffel bag as usual, with the usual tribute of cash in American paper bills. He had the same unassuming winter attire, and he pressed the doorbell as he should be. But instead of dropping the duffel bag and turning to leave, he stood in his place. He stood on the building’s porch and waited, far longer than he did in previous years. He braved the cold as he lingered, and finally the female linsang opened the door and looked up at the lone figure’s eyes for the first time in three years.

“What do you want, Adam?”

Adam Tevela opened his mouth as if to speak, but for the first few moments, nothing came out except for steam. He stared at her, wondering how she could maintain her beauty as he remembered her from the college days at UFLA. For a brief, fleeting flick of a moment, a thought surfaced that he should compliment her but he dismissed it. He blinked and then cleared his throat. “Can I go inside?”

Bethany frowned slightly, surprised but even a little frustrated that this man decided to stick around longer than he should. “No,” she replied and one of her hands slowly reach for the duffel bag. Again to her surprise, Adam leaned the bag away from her.

“Please. I want to see him,” Adam demanded with a slightly higher pitch on his voice.

Bethany paused, and her eyes gaze back at his own. She noticed the seriousness of his expression and realized that if she simply slammed the door on him, he would continue to insist in the future even if he gave up tonight. She didn’t want to face that scenario even later, and so with a sigh she stepped back and opened the door wider. She hoped that if he could just see him tonight, he would be satisfied and then leave him alone for another three years or more.

“He’s asleep,” she said as Adam walked inside her house. Her tone suddenly became as cold as the outside air, as she detested the man who ruined her sports career potential with a single night fling at some hotel during a UFLA road game. She still held onto her basketball past, evident by the shelf of trophies from her glory high school years, and a basketball jersey hung and framed on a living room wall which was a present from her team during her high school senior year. She nodded her head directing him toward a hallway. “Down there, last door on the left.”

While she sat on the living room couch, Adam silently nodded and walked down the hallway toward his son’s bedroom, leaving the duffel bag on the floor. He stood within the doorway of his son’s room, casting his own shadow into the dark bedroom as he looked at his son’s silent form on the bed. The sight of him remained his priority of focus but he still spotted a Queens Pride promotional poster on the bedroom wall. The featured player on it was Valencia Zeraus, the Queen of the Pride before her retirement, but the sheer sight of a Pride poster made him glance at it in surprise. Still his gaze went back on his sleeping son, and finally what seemed to be minutes later of silence, he turned to walk back to the living room.

He paused upon seeing Bethany looking at him from her couch and he stared back at her. “How old is he now? Five?”

She shook her head. “He’s six… his birthday was just last month.”

Adam simply nodded, and then walked toward her. Bethany tensed up, remembering the last time they were this close together when he grabbed her in a chokehold amid his rage, but he sat down next to her and then leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, covering his face with his hands. “I… don’t know if I want to keep this going, Beth.”

Bethany scooted and inched away from him until her couch has no more room to give. “Keep what going?”

“Everything…” He sat back up and then gestured with one arm stretched out in the direction toward his son’s room. “Everything. I assume you know about what happened with me and those girls in Aruba.”

“Hrmph,” Bethany replied and rolled her eyes. “You don’t learn from your mistakes.”

“I’m trying, damnit…” Adam curtly spat back, but with a restrained low tone.

“Apparently not hard enough,” she said coldly, lacking any sympathy. She crossed her arms, looking back at him with a frown. Adam stood quickly and paced to the center of the room with his hands clutching onto the sides of his head and then paused.

“I want to make amends.”

Bethany blinked in surprise and leaned back on her seat. “Amends?”

“I don’t want to do this anymore… no more of this… goddamn secrecy shit.” He turned to look back at her. “But I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if my career can handle yet another… scandal.” He sighed loudly.

“Just keep going with the payments.”

Adam huffed. “Right, you want to keep milking me dry… I don’t know why I’m still here, talking to someone that’s using our son as a fucking cloud over my goddamn head.”

“Wow…” Bethany kept her arms crossed but her eyes widened almost in a mock surprise. “Took you what, three years, but you finally admit that Gregory exists to you as a son?”

“It was a mistake-” Adam tensed up, resisting every urge within his body to scream, as doing so would wake Gregory. He curtly inhales a deep breath to calm down and then shook his head. “It was a mistake that I made. I regret it, okay? I’m sorry… but I want to make amends with you.”

Bethany paused for a few moments, pursing her lips “Why now?”

“Because…” He massaged his forehead. “I’ve been seriously trying to set new priorities. Lying to my team and the public about Aruba was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, and it backfired on me a lot. I’ve been more careful now, and with you, I really want to start over.”

“Start… over? Adam, we can’t just start over. You know better than that,” Bethany replied and then stood up. Braving herself, she walked up to him and stood within arm’s reach “If you want to make amends with me… then confess.”

Adam’s ears pin down. “I don’t know if I can this time… this is deeper than what happened with Aruba.”

“Then nothing will change. You have to make this first step, not me.”

“I know… I know.” He shook his head and finally walked to the main door. However as he gripped the door knob, he paused again. “I saw that Pride poster in his bedroom.”

Bethany finally smiled, even though it only lasted a few seconds. “It’s our local team afterall.”

“Did… you and Gregory attend any of the home games?”

Bethany paused and then nodded. “Once, last season. It was against the Taproots.”

Adam clenched his jaws slightly tighter. He tried to remember the Taproot games in Queens last season, but he had played in the FBA already for so long that the games became just a blur in his memory, except for the playoff ones. Gregory, his own son, has seen him playing on the basketball court, and he was completely unaware about it. Without another word, he opened the door and walked out of the house. There wasn’t anything more he could say. As much as he spoke about wanting to change, he was too afraid of change. So the annual tribute to maintain her silence must continue...

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