It was always busy in the mornings at Coffee|Bar but Matt felt more pressure than usual as he busied himself between taking orders and making orders. He'd only been working there a few months and was feeling bad about requesting the weekend off to go see his mom. The least he could do was prove to Denise that she hadn't made a mistake hiring him.
Hilary elbowed him after he fumbled and then saved a stack of cups. “Dude, calm down. What’s got you wound so tight? This isn’t like you.”
“I think Denise is irritated that I asked for the weekend off. What if she fires me?” He paused and blew out a deep breath. “Maybe Mom could find someone to babysit.”
“You think Denise really gives a fuck?” she asked. “The deal with having a business that relies on college students to stay afloat is having a million time off requests at any given moment. Weekend requests are the easiest to fill because no one has classes. There’s a dozen people wanting those hours, Matt. You’re fine.”
“I know,” he groaned. “I just don’t want to lose my shifts. I have good shifts, great shifts even.” He had managed to have a great schedule that gave him premium hours, a little time off, and no conflict with his classes. It was a college wet dream.
“You have great shifts because you slay the job. Now finish your damn shift without wrecking the place and go watch your cute-as-a-button late-in-life...I mean, lil brother,” she winked.
Matt rolled his eyes but laughed anyway. The acronym was damn funny because it was true. Where Matt had been the product of high school lust on steroids, his lil brother couldn’t say the same. Matt couldn’t say what Aidan was the product of. His mom was nearing forty and dating a guy ten years her junior. Matt had done the math and they’d only been “dating” a week before she got pregnant. That was a generous calculation by the way. He wasn’t entirely convinced they’d done anything that was classified as a date unless they’d bypassed the classic dating rules and jumped straight to the post third date activities.
He guessed that meant Aidan was a product of post third date activities. Poor kid.
Hilary’s assurance helped Matt finish his shift without the nagging guilt on his shoulders. Still, he handed Denise a thank you card with a gift card to the movie theatre. Yeah, it was lame but he was still a broke college student and she’d mentioned how annoyed she was with the price of movie tickets these days. He really thought she’d appreciate the gesture.
He walked home, showered, and grabbed the backpack he’d packed the previous night. The bus ride was just under four hours. Going home was always bittersweet. He felt bad because there was no reason he should dread it. He didn’t have a terrible childhood by any means.
His parents hadn’t made their lusty high school affair work in the long term. Shocking. They’d split custody the best way they knew how, which wasn’t easy since his dad lived an hour west.
If he’d been going home to his dad’s, things might’ve been different. Having a kid so young had calmed him down and made him mature real quick. His dad was a rock and they got along great. But it was his mom who’d been a majority shareholder when it came to parenting time and being a teen mom hadn’t induced the same growth rate in her as it has in his dad. No doubt a contributing factor as to why he had a kid brother twenty years his junior whose father was only nine years Matt’s senior.
When the bus arrived, his mom was waiting. She smiled and waved when he stepped off the bus, clearly happy to see her firstborn. Matt smiled, then saw Aidan and really smiled. At three months old Aidan was too small to give a fuck about his older brother but that didn’t stop Matt from raising his voice and saying stupid things that no respectable man would say to another man but were socially acceptable when it involved the cutest sack of potatoes you ever saw.
He carefully plucked Aidan from his mother’s arms and cooed into the most uninterested blue eyes. The fact he hung lifelessly in Matt’s hands didn’t stop him from making a fool of himself. Just when it looked like Aidan was having enough of the assault, Matt cradled him on his shoulder and swayed him back and forth.
“Hi Mom,” he said, leaning in and kissing her on the cheek while giving the kind of awkward half-hug that can only be achieved when you’re holding an infant.
“Hey you,” she squeezed him then quickly let go. “Thank you for coming. Todd and I needed a night out and Aidan missed his brother.”
Matt looked down and smiled. “I’m sure he did. I bet he’s been begging for days to see me. I’m the only friend he’s got in this world.”
“Yeah, he doesn’t get out much. Kinda keeps to himself.”
“The introvert to my extrovert,” Matt joked as he laid his brother in the car seat and buckled him in. When he got in the front seat he turned to his mom, “Where are you guys going tonight? Any place nice?”
Matt whistled. “Wow, what’s the occasion?”
His mom sat up straighter and got a proud look on her face. “Well, I got promoted to head nurse.”
“H-B-I-C,” Matt said, impressed. His mom might make questionable decisions in her personal life but she was a great nurse.
“H-B-I-C. Head bitch in charge.”
His mom started laughing but was clearly pleased with the reference. “Can I get that on a plaque? It’s perfect. H-B-I-C,” she chuckled to herself. “That’s awesome.”
“Seriously, Mom, congratulations. You deserve it.”
“I do don’t I? I’ve worked hard for this. I’m excited. And Todd is getting a promotion, too.”
“Look at you two getting shit done. Good thing I already filled out my FAFSA or your ballin’ status would really screw me over.”
His mom swatted his knee but preened at the compliment.
She’d always had a good job but she’d never been great at managing her means. Matt had a feeling she and Todd were already experiencing the lifestyle creep even though they hadn’t gotten paid yet. Matt knew the reality wouldn’t be as much as they were expecting but that was their bed, not his.
They got to the house and Matt went to his childhood room and settled in. It was already late and his mom and Todd were quick to get going. He stood at the door and waved as they left to celebrate their big money status.
When they pulled away Matt picked Aidan up from the vibrating saucer bed and took him to the couch. They watched a movie, ate, burped, and settled into PJ’s. Matt loved his brother. It made him excited to have a kid of his own some day. He’d always been good with kids and Aidan confirmed what a kick ass dad he’d be. Even at twenty, it was quite easy to spend time with the little nugget.
He fell asleep on the couch with Aidan on his chest. Matt didn’t see a reason to put him down since they’d be up in a few hours to eat again.
When he woke again it wasn’t because of Aidan, it was a knock on the door. He slowly got up, assuming it was just his mom and Todd wanting in. Probably too drunk to worry about their house keys.
Aidan didn’t rouse even when Matt opened the front door, letting a breeze of frigid early morning air into the house.
On the porch stood a police officer. This wasn’t Matt’s first rodeo.
“How can I help you, officer?” He asked, pulling the blanket a little tighter to shield him from the cold.
“Hi, I’m Officer Whistler. What’s your relation to Brenda Andrews?”
“She’s my mother.”
“And what’s your name?”
“Matt, Matthew Kessler.”
Officer Whistler jotted the notes in his book then looked Matt in the eyes. It was that moment Matt knew it was more than just a minor infraction or a DUI like his mom had had in the past.
“Your mom and Michael Getler have been in an accident.”
Matt wasn’t thinking of worst case scenarios, yet. “Were they drinking?”
“That’s undetermined at this time.”
“It looks like they were on their way home on Highway 72 when a boulder fell on the road.”
Matt’s gut coiled. He’d always hated that road. The whole side of the mountain was held together with a metal blanket of chain link to keep rocks from falling. There were signs every mile or so letting drivers know of the pending danger. To his knowledge, no one had ever been killed.
“Holy shit,” he breathed. His body began shaking so he started swaying Aidan, more for his benefit than his brother’s. “How bad is it? Are they—
The officer shook his head.
Matt was on autopilot after that, doing things he thought were fifty-plus years in his future. He had to process and sort out the vast misfortune that was his mother’s life all while caring for Aidan. If it hadn’t been for his naturally organized nature and future as an accountant or business equivalent, he would have drowned trying to navigate the mess she left.
Todd’s only family was an aunt in poor health. Lucky for her because as far as Matt could tell, Todd had nothing to his name except whatever was in his bank, which he could only assume wasn’t much. It wasn’t as if his mom had a lot to liquidate. She’d never gotten to a place where she was able to buy a house but she did have retirement and a small life insurance policy through her job at the hospital.
Matt had to go through her house and decide what to keep and what to sell. The sell pile was a lot bigger than the keep. He never got emotionally attached to things the way his mom did. He had no problem discarding most of her stuff which made him feel incredibly guilty. But he lived in an apartment. What was he supposed to do? Pay for storage until x amount of time passed and then toss it? Nah, he’d rather get it over with.
It wasn’t until Aidan’s stuff was cluttering his one-bedroom apartment that the weight of it all hit him. He went from a college junior studying numbers to a single parent in the literal blink of an eye. He was hardly the first young, single parent getting a college degree but it was all so new to him.
Regardless, he wasn’t gonna let it get him down. He was his father’s son, and if his dad could do it and cross the other side like a boss, then so could Matt.
“I’m torn between being glad and feeling bad that you’re back to work already. Are you sure it’s not too soon?” Hilary asked as she and Matt quickly prepped the incoming drink orders. Matt pumped chocolate into the cup and shrugged.
“Well, I’m torn between not wanting to work but knowing that money is the root of all evil and I must have it if I want to finish school and not kill a small helpless child.”
“Well,” she laughed. “When you put it like that, welcome back. Where is Aidan anyway? When are you gonna bring him in? I want to hold a baby so bad.”
Hilary and Matt moved around each other as they worked the line, her reaching in the minifridge below Matt and him grabbing the flavoring from her side of the bar.
“He’s with a woman named Victoria who lives over on 117th. I found her on Craigslist and, before you judge me, know that I’m totally freaking out about it. But I didn’t think about getting him in daycare until it was too late and they don’t have drop-off services. I’m just trying to figure it out. On top of that, daycare is so damn expensive,” he stepped back so Hilary could cross him, when she moved back, he resumed crafting the perfect mocha breve. “Like seriously, how do people afford to raise kids?”
Hilary looked at Matt with sympathy. “I don’t know but they do. I think the college offers some daycare assistance during classes and the state offers daycare assistance based on income.”
Matt put the finished drinks on the counter then called out the names for pick up. “I know and, I’m not trying to sound finicky, but the state-assisted daycares are terrifying.”
“I’m not sure I can do much but you have my number. If it works around my schedule, I’ll do what I can.”
“I appreciate it. Even if it doesn’t work out, the offer means so much. It’s all the small things that are overwhelming me. There are so many things I’m not aware of, you know? I don’t know what I don’t know. I just wish I knew what to plan for. I feel like I’m in a stranger’s house, trying to find my way to the bathroom in the dark.”
“You’ll find the light switch soon enough my friend.”
Matt was thankful for Hilary, if for no other reason than being a compassionate sounding board. Just talking about it made him feel better. By the time he clocked out, he had more confidence than he’d woken up with.
When he picked Aidan up from his first day of daycare and there hadn’t been any issues, he was relieved. He never thought he’d be so anxious about leaving a child but Aidan was tiny and helpless and was relying on Matt to keep him safe. It was enough pressure to make him second guess his every move.
If Matt thought daycare was his biggest issue then he considered himself royally punked. The college had a daycare and was able to take Aidan during his class hours and Victoria was pretty flexible when it came to his shifts at Coffee|Bar. The bigger issue was trying to get anything done with a three-month-old. Laundry? No longer a quick trip to the laundry room. Now he had to figure out how to take Aidan plus his laundry and he couldn’t take separate trips as leaving a baby unattended was frowned upon.
Grocery shopping was no longer a quick in/out situation. He either had to strap the kid to his chest or sacrifice the majority of the shopping cart to house him. And for such a small human, he made everyday chores almost impossible. Aidan was an easy baby but it seemed like Matt couldn’t get more than ten minutes into something before Aidan needed something. Feeding, diaper, attention. Matt wondered if there was any chance he could pass his classes without studying. Lord knew Aidan wasn’t going to give him the chance.
Despite the hardships, things were moving forward. Two weeks with Aidan and it was starting to feel smoother.
Just like every Thursday, Matt carried Aidan to campus, dropped him off at the daycare, went to class, picked Aidan up, took the bus to Victoria’s and dropped Aidan off again, then walked to work.
He was dead on his feet when he entered the back door and put his stuff in his cubby before putting on his apron. He checked the schedule like he did every day, just in case something changed, then went to the front of the house. It was busy, of course. It was a popular and trendy coffee house close to campus. It was always teeming with people needing a caffeine fix or a place to take selfies just to prove they studied.
Hilary wasn’t working but he hadn’t met a coworker he didn’t like. Example; Kase. He was on the football team and he and Matt got along pretty well. Kase saw him and raised his chin, his hand busy prepping food.
“Matt,” Denise said as she came up from behind. “How are things settling? How’s that chunky monkey?”
“Good, he’s doing real good. We’re both doing good.” And that was the truth. Denise had been a godsend from the beginning, letting Matt know she had his back and if he needed anything, all he had to do was ask.
“I’m glad to hear it. Mind taking tubs today? Dishes are way backed up.”
“Absolutely,” he responded.
Most of the crew groaned about doing dishes but Matt was happy to contribute wherever he was needed. He grabbed a tub from the floor and headed toward the back.
“Holy shit,” he muttered to himself. Denise wasn’t joking when she said dishes were backed up. The entire stainless-steel counter was stacked full. It was so full he wasn’t even sure where to start. He threw on the full length, thick plastic apron and got to work. Besides how hot and muggy it got from the commercial spray hose and giant sanitation machine, dishes weren’t that bad.
As each load came out of the washer, he quickly put them away and started the next. Rinse and repeat. Literally.
Matt had a stack of dishes and was heading to the front to put them away when someone came through the wrong door, running face-first into Matt and making him drop the dishes on the floor, shattering everything.
“Holy shit,” Matt swore as the sound of ceramic shattering echoed in the kitchen. No doubt the entire place heard the damage.
“I’m sorry,” the guy said. Matt could only assume he was a new hire. “I didn’t see you coming.” He bent over and started putting broken pieces in the tub.
“For future reference, that door is marked exit only and the other one is to enter...to prevent this from happening.” Matt tried to keep his voice calm even though he was irritated to no end by such reckless behavior.
The guy stilled and looked at Matt, then at the door, then at Matt again. He looked like he wanted to feel guilty but mostly found Matt annoying for pointing out his wrongdoing. “Fair enough.”
Denise busted through the door—the correct door—and looked around the kitchen. “Whoa. What happened here?”
Matt didn’t volunteer anything, opting to wait for the other guy to sing.
“We got our wires crossed, no big deal.” He looked at Matt. “Go ahead to the front. I’ll clean this up.”
Matt stared at him for a moment. He’d never seen this guy a day in his life and suddenly he was dismissing Matt? Matt wasn’t one who thought he was above anyone else and always respected authority but he couldn’t help wonder who the fool was.
Instead of leaving, he looked to Denise for instructions. She nodded toward the front, confirming his dismissal, then bent down to help clean the mess up. Matt removed the washing apron and left without a word.
“What the hell happened back there? Sounded like a sonic boom or something,” Kase asked as Matt jumped in to help on the line.
“Some dumbass came barging in the wrong door as I was trying to bring a stack of plates to the front of the house.”
“Some dumbass, huh?” Kase laughed.
Matt gestured to the door with a pretty little sign. “The doors are clearly marked, so you tell me.”
“Is said dumbass about yay-high,” Kase’s hand stopped just short of his own height, just under six foot or so. “A dark red headed Irishman, late twenties, possibly could choke you out with his mind power?”
Matt rolled his eyes. “Yes on the height and hair, no clue on the ethnicity, probable theory on the telekinesis.”
Kase thought the whole exchange was funny as shit because he was laughing pretty loudly as he put the two paninis in the press. “Dude, this is awesome. That dumbass is Seamus Ryan.”
“And he’s, what? A friend of yours from the football team?”
Kase clapped his hands and laughed. “No, more like the guy who signs our paychecks, man. As in, Seamus Ryan, the owner.”
Fuck me Matt laughed to himself. What are the odds?
“It changes nothing except my anxiety level. He still should’ve used the correct door, it’s not that hard. I’m not getting written up for his error.”
“Fight the power, man,” Kase fisted the air. “Fight the power.”
Denise and Seamus came up front together. Neither of them acknowledged Matt, who kept his head down and worked, prepping food for Kase on the line. When it looked like the dish bins were getting full, he excused himself and took the tub to the back to get caught up on the washing.
Denise and Seamus came and went throughout the day. Spending a little while out front before disappearing to the back again.
Matt didn’t really care what Seamus thought, but Denise, she’d been so kind and accommodating since his mom died. He wasn’t confident he could find another job with a boss like her and wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize it.
Luckily, Seamus left before his shift was over and he was able to talk to Denise in private.
“I just wanted to apologize for earlier. The guy startled me when he came the wrong way through the door and everything happened so fast. I’ll be more careful in the future.”
Denise squeezed his shoulder and smiled. “Oh Matt, I hope you haven’t been gnawing on this all day. Seamus knew better. He’s always in a damn hurry.”
“Okay,” he relaxed. “I just really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. I don’t want to be more of a headache than necessary.”
“You’re hardly a headache. If anything, you make my life easier. You’re the only person who doesn’t complain when I ask them for something, like the dishes. You’re a big picture person. You see what needs to be done no matter how big or small and then you do it. I appreciate you and the least I can do is help where I can. You’re too valuable to lose. Never be afraid to ask for anything.”
“Does that mean Aidan can hang out for fifteen minutes or so on Thursday?” he asked, hopeful.
She winked and gave him a thumbs up. Matt tossed a silent thanks to the god above then changed out of his work stuff and left to pick up Aidan.
“Okay Aido-Potato, what do you want for dinner? Similac sensitive or...Similac sensitive?” He watched as his brother wiggled on his back, cooing and smiling as Matt held a bottle in one hand and formula in the other. “Similac sensitive it is. You’re a tough negotiator lil brother.”
Matt watched Aidan from the corner of his eye as he prepped the bottle then sat on the couch and fed him.
It was weird, Matt looked just like his dad yet Aidan looked a lot like Matt. Having light brown hair and blue eyes wasn’t exactly a scientific anomaly. Heck, who knew, maybe they’d look nothing alike as Aidan got older.
After a bath, where Matt tried not to gag as he cleaned the sour milk from Aidan’s fat rolls, the ones on his neck being the most pungent thanks to formula drip, Matt did homework. Like every night, it was slow going. Normally he could get so lost that hours would pass in the blink of an eye, now it seemed like he couldn’t get ten minutes in before Aidan distracted him.
Matt rolled his eyes when Aidan squawked for the tenth time, demanding attention, and flopped back on the couch. He used his foot to jiggle the small human that was laying on the floor. “Are you sleepy yet? I could read you my textbook? Do you think tax law will put you to sleep? It does for most people.”
He got Aidan ready for bed then turned down the lights and snuggled into the couch. It took fifteen minutes of reading before Aidan was passed out. Matt carefully carried him to the crib that sat beside his bed in the small room they shared.
“Being a single parent at twenty wasn’t supposed to be in the cards. Not being a dad by accident is literally the one thing a gay man can count on,” he whispered in the darkened room as he leaned against the crib. “I miss Mom. Probably for the wrong reasons,” he laughed. “But I miss her. And I can’t even be mad at her. Sometimes I wish she’d been reckless so I could blame her for all this, but she wasn’t. Neither of them had much alcohol. Now it’s just you and me. I can’t say I’d pick this outcome if I had a choice but here I am, terrified. I have no clue what I’m doing. What if I can’t juggle it all? It’s not like I have Mom to help me out. I do have Dad, he’s awesome and knows exactly what I’m going through, but how weird would it be for him to help raise his dead ex-wife’s child that she had with another man. That’s some prime daytime television shit right there.”
Matt rubbed Aidan’s belly and left the door cracked as he left.
Matt stayed up and did homework until Aidan woke again, then they both went to sleep. Aidan was getting better at sleeping and that made the next day easier. A good thing because everything was taking longer. He couldn’t jump out of bed and rush to class anymore. Ten minutes for Matt to get ready and twenty-five minutes for Aidan.
Victoria was a good sitter but he wished he could find something closer. There was a daycare that would be perfect but they had a waiting list and he wasn’t sure how many kids were before them. He had a feeling he wouldn’t get that call until next semester if he was lucky. It meant having Aidan at work more frequently than he wanted. It was only for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time but he still felt guilty.
No one seemed to mind, they loved it even and took turns holding him.
Today, however, wouldn't be fifteen minutes. Victoria was sick. He’d already taken Aidan to class earlier, which he slept through most of it. Matt knew he could call into work but decided to stop by anyway. If it was busy then he’d hang out for a few minutes. If it wasn’t, he’d take Aidan and go home.
Two people had called out so, not only was it busy, they were short-handed.
He found Denise in the back, grabbing supplies. “Hey, my sitter is sick. I was going to see about going home but I can totally stay, I just have a little issue—” Matt lifted the car seat and the obvious hiccup strapped inside.
Denise drummed her long fingers on her lips as she figured a way to handle the situation. “You’re allowed to call out,” she finally said. The statement was out of obligation because even he could tell she needed the extra help.
“If you don’t have a problem with him being here then I don’t have a problem staying, I swear.”
“Are you sure? It’s just—I have an appointment in an hour that I already rescheduled twice. If I don’t show up they’ll drop me.”
“It’s not a problem for me. I promise.”
Denise looked relieved and thankful.
Since Aidan was sleeping, Matt kept him in the car seat and put him in the corner where he could keep an eye on him while working. When he woke, everyone took turns making sure Aidan, and the customers, were taken care of. It was actually fun. Aidan put everyone in a good mood. Having a baby brought something different to the monotony of work. Not that Matt thought work was boring.
“Dude, it’s my turn.” Kase held his hands out, greedily. Hilary rolled her eyes but relinquished the child. Kase smiled in victory before heading to the floor to wipe off tables.
“This is a bad idea,” she said, though she was smiling as she watched her friend soak up attention from the female patrons. “A football player who's good with babies? He’ll have enough numbers to last him all year.”
“I should be disgusted that he’d use my baby brother—”
“Lil brother,” Hilary corrected.
“Lilbrother, but I’m just thankful to be working. Plus, he is dreamy looking with a baby. I’m tempted to give him my number,” he faux swooned. Matt wasn’t attracted to Kase but yeah, a cute guy with a baby was really sexy. Hilary laughed but the way she watched Kase said she didn’t disagree.
“It’s really not so bad. I don’t think Denise cares. Plus, that is one cute, chubby baby. I just want to bite his legs all day long.”
“They are meal worthy,” he agreed.
Eventually, it was Matt’s turn again. He strapped Aidan to his chest in one of those harness things that was single-handedly making super brotherhood manageable and started putting dishes away.
He was carrying his brother and a tub of cups to the front when someone came in as Matt was going out. Matt let go of the tub in order to protect Aidan, sending the dishes crashing to the ground, again.
Aidan started screaming.
Matt was upset that he’d once again dropped a tub of dishes, more upset his brother was crying, and downright pissed that Seamus hadn't learned his lesson the last time.
“This door is going out of the kitchen. Out,” he said as he bent down. He used one hand to keep his brother's head from dangling and the other to fill the tub with broken shards of glass.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize there was anyone back here.”
“It’s impossible to tell if there’s someone back here, that’s why the doors are labeled. For everyone’s safety.”
The other door opened and a few coworkers popped in. Aidan’s screaming hadn’t gone unnoticed by the front of the house.
“Is he okay?” Hilary rushed in. She semi-relaxed when he realized Aidan was okay. “Want me to take him?”
Matt shook his head, stood up and stepped away from the mess while the two other employees took over. He held Aidan tight and began to sway. Aidan still screamed.
“Are you sure he’s okay?” Hilary asked again.
“Yeah, he just got scared. Plus, he’s hungry and tired. I’m gonna take my fifteen and see if I can get him to sleep.”
Matt had never seen Aidan so upset and the nonstop screaming was stressing him out. He couldn’t get the bottle ready fast enough. Like kids do, ten minutes later he was fast asleep in his arms. Matt carefully put him on his chest and patted his back then laid him in the car seat.
“I can sit in here with him while he sleeps.”
Matt craned his neck. Seamus was standing at the door looking a little guilty.
“It’s fine. He can hang with me out front.”
“I’ve got work to do on the computer anyway so it’s not a big deal.”
“Denise said it was okay for him to be here.” Matt felt the need to clarify that bit of information. The last thing he wanted was for the owner, who never really came around, to get upset because he brought a baby to work. Knowing Denise had approved would probably lesson the fallout.
“I don’t—I’m not worried about that. But I can watch him.”
Matt thought about it for a minute then reached for the car seat. “Yeah, okay. I’ll just—” he tucked Aidan into the car seat. Seamus sat at the desk and Matt paused at the door, “Thanks. Just, eh, let me know if he wakes up.”
Matt was a total ball of nerves for the next two hours. He had to stop himself from checking on Aidan because he didn’t want to inconvenience the owner or have him think less of him. He also worried that Seamus did care that he brought his brother to work and that he’d have a conversation with Denise about it later. He hoped Denise wouldn’t get in trouble too.
Everyone else seemed to share Matt’s nervousness. Theirs had more to do with the owner being there than the Aidan situation but Matt felt better knowing he wasn’t alone.
When Seamus came through the door with a wide-awake Aidan in his arms, Matt rushed them. “Here, I can take him.”
Seamus pulled Aidan out of Matt’s reach. “It’s fine. He’s been awake for a while. I just came up to get a drink. Would you mind getting me a grande Americano with two sugars and a splash of cream?”
Matt hesitated before fixing said drink. When he came back a minute later Seamus was smiling at a talkative Aidan.
Matt nervously bit his lip. “I can take him.”
Seamus shook his head. “Nah, we’re good. He’s been telling me all about his week. I apologized for scaring him earlier by changing the big deuce he dropped after he woke up.”
“You don’t have to change him, I can do that,” he said, feeling terrible that his boss changed Aidan’s diaper, something that was hardly a pleasant experience for anyone but Aidan.
“I’m sure you can but so can I. Anyway, we have to go back to work,” Seamus walked toward the back, then stopped. “How much does he usually eat? In case he gets hungry.”
Seamus nodded then left. Matt looked at his coworkers like what the fuck?
“That was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,” Hilary dreamily watched the door as if she’d just fallen in love.
“Excuses me, I didn’t see you gushing over me when I was holding the baby,” Kase pouted.
“Yeah, well you’re not a rich, built Irishman who slightly terrifies me every time he pops up.”
“Exactly how often does he pop up?” Matt asked, wondering if it was safe to bring Aidan back in or if he needed to change things up.
“I don’t know. He used to be here all the time but I haven’t seen him much in the last year. He has a few other businesses. I think he spends his time there. It’s a shame if you ask me.”
“God, keep it in your pants,” Kase rolled his eyes at Hilary’s lusty behavior. “I’m taller than him and a football player. He doesn’t even have an Irish accent. We don’t even know if he’s from Ireland!” You’d think Kase was interested in Hilary but really he just hated sharing the attention.
“Seamus Ryan is a total Irish name and he’s got that gorgeous deep red hair. Even if he wasn’t born there, he’s got Irish blood, that much is obvious.”
Matt left them to bicker themselves to death. He had two hours left on shift and he wanted them to pass quickly. Then he needed to go home and study. An hour later he was cleaning the flavored syrup bottles when he heard Aidan crying. He stood still and listened.
“What is it?” Hilary asked as she watched his strange behavior.
“Do you hear that?” He asked.
Hilary focused on trying to hear whatever Matt was hearing but it was hard with all the normal cafe noise.
“I think Aidan’s crying.”
Hilary half-rolled her eyes. “Yeah, babies do that.”
“Maybe I should see if he needs help.”
“I think he can manage. He’s been doing a pretty good job today. If you want, I can go back and check.” Matt narrowed his eyes at her, on to her little game. “What?” she asked. “Sorry I find a man who’s good daddy material a turn on.”
“What am I? Chopped liver.”
“You’re gay, so yeah, kinda like chopped liver.”
Matt let Aidan cry for a few more minutes. Just when he was about to go back, the crying stopped. Matt didn’t hear another peep until his shift was over.
Seamus was sitting at the desk with Aidan in his lap, one arm securing the child to his broad chest while he worked on the computer. He looked at Matt. “We’re fine. You don’t have to check on us.”
“I’m not. I’m off so—” he pointed to Aidan as he walked across the office. Seamus stood up and handed the baby over. Most people treated Aidan like breakable glass but Seamus handled him like someone who’d been around babies, gentle but not afraid to manhandle him a bit.
“You have a kid?” Matt asked.
“Nah, just nieces and nephews.”
Matt nodded. Seamus put everything in the backpack while Matt secured Aidan in the car seat. Seamus handed him the backpack then sat down at the desk.
“Thanks,” Matt said as he paused by the door. Seamus gave a slight nod then resumed working on the computer, so Matt left.
He had no idea how to handle the situation. He was thankful for the help, yet riddled with anxiety over his boss’s boss watching Aidan. He tried to take it at face value and appreciate it for what it was; a helping hand. He needed to focus on making things more reliable so he could eliminate the unneeded stress.