Word Count: 897
Tapping on the door gently it falls open unexpectedly. With the laundry basket balanced on her hip, she hesitantly steps into the room, afraid of what she might find. As the scent of cologne and stale gym shoes sting her nose, the dog lazily lifts his head. With a wide yawn, he plops back down on his large graying paws.
Her eyes quickly scan over his body, the scar on his calf from a treehouse fall when he was eight and the birthmark on the side of his thigh. She smiles at the elastic waistband of his favorite “star wars” boxers, shaking her head. Still like a little kid… The muscles across his back are broad and strong, already showing signs of a light summer tan from mowing the lawn.
He may look like a man, but he will always be her little boy.
Placing the clothes from the basket on top of the desk, she rolls her eyes and picks up a few dirty plates and empty soda cans. Placing them with a muffled clink into the plastic bin, she checks the time on her watch.
“Wake up, sleepyhead!” She loudly shouts. He doesn’t even flinch. “Rise and shine!” Yanking on the cord for the mini-blinds, light fills the room, highlighting the collection of dust on the shelves.
“Go away,” comes the mumbled sound from under the pillow.
“Can’t, dude,” she says, resting on the end of the bed, patting the dog and scratching his favorite spot on his hindquarters. “Graduation practice today. Can’t be late. I thought you and the guys from the team were meeting for breakfast out on Highway 17?”
Head still hidden under the pillow, he hits his hand around on the mattress top, searching for his phone. Peeking from under the pillow, his long lashes rest against his cheeks. One bright blue eye pops open and he looks just like his father did at that age. After looking at the screen, he drops the phone and thumps his head back down on the bed. “Shit, I set it wrong. I’m gonna be late.”
“So why aren’t you moving?” She asks, scratching the dog under his chin, kicking her feet against the side of the bed.
“We might play ball after breakfast before we have to be at school. I can shower in the locker room. Five more minutes,” he promises, pulling the blanket over his head to block out the sunlight.
The dog wiggles around, pushing his body against her hand. Her eyes skate over the trophies, ribbons, books and game cases on the shelves her husband helped him build. Some of the graphic novels of his youth are mixed in with the classics from his honors English classes.
His foot hits her thigh. “Mom, what are you doin’?”
“Nothin’, just sitting here with you; why?
He chuckles. “I’m in my underwear. I’m not getting out of bed till you leave.” Looking at her, he answers her silent stare. “It’s just weird.”
“Who do you think bought you that underwear?” She laughs softly, holding back the lump in her throat. There won’t be many more mornings like this- quiet, just the two of them. Graduation is Saturday and the whole family is coming to town to see him. The entire day is all about him, but she’s made one request of her handsome son- when it comes time for photos, there will be no complaints. She hasn’t said anything to him, in case she can’t follow through, but she’s secretly promised herself for one day she can bury the hatchet and sit with her ex-husband and his new wife. With their son leaving for Boot Camp in less than ten days, she feels this is a sacrifice she can make. She wants him to remember that even with anger and distrust, in any situation you can still choose to work things out and get along, even if it’s a stilted truce for a greater good.
Her son and his happiness is her greater good.
Sitting up, he pulls a tshirt from a dirty pile of clothes beside the bed, scooting down and pulling the comforter tighter over his lap. His strong arms snake around her, holding her close, resting his chin on her shoulder, his patchy scruff against her cheek.
“It’s gonna be okay, Mom. It’s only ten weeks.” His words are choked and she tenderly pats his arm. “I know I don’t know what happens after that, but we can survive anything for seventy days, and you and Dad can come see me for that graduation ceremony too.” His sighs deeply, his breath tickling her neck. “You okay? I can leave you here with Brutus?”
The dog whimpers softly at hearing his name. With her eyes closed, she holds in her tears, simply nodding her head.
Tugging the blanket off the bed, he wraps it around his waist, walking to the door. “Hey, Mom?” he asks, paused at the entry. “We get done around two, after the reading of the senior wills. Wanna meet for lunch? Just you and me?”
As he stands truly at the threshold between being a boy and a man, she knows she raised him right, and the world is a better place for having him in it. Not even bothering to hide her tears, she sniffles and giggles. “Yes. Yes, I’d like that very much.”
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