When Matt was at work next, Denise asked how it went with Aidan but never made a comment or mention of Seamus. Matt didn’t want to test his good luck and did everything in his power to make sure there was no reason to bring Aidan to work, even for fifteen minutes.
It worked for about a week before Victoria showed up at the end of shift one day. She had somewhere to be and Matt had thirty minutes left on the clock. Everyone welcomed the chubby potato with open arms. Luckily, Seamus wasn’t there. In fact, he hadn't been there since he’d spent the day watching Aidan.
Which is why, as if on cue, Seamus walked through the front door. Matt quickly turned his back on the door and looked at Hilary and Kase with wide eyes. Aidan was still sleeping in his car seat, tucked in the corner. Matt shuffled over and moved the car seat deeper into the corner with his foot. It was still visible if you knew what you were looking for but not nearly as noticeable.
His friends watched him.
“I’m just—” he glanced over his shoulder. Seamus was talking to a customer. “He makes me nervous, okay? I’m having a hard enough time managing my life without being fired.”
“We’re not judging,” Kase soothed. “We got your back.”
And they did. Everytime Seamus got close to the corner where Aidan was tucked away, either Hilary or Kase would casually block him as best they could. The plan would’ve worked perfectly if Aidan hadn’t woken up.
Ten minutes left. Ten stupid minutes.
The three of them froze at the first baby noises.
“Oh shit,” Hilary glanced around and, when she didn’t see Seamus she continued. “I’ll take my break real quick. When I’m don’t, you’ll be off.”
Matt nodded and they quickly got Aidan and his stuff from the corner. Hillary left out the front door seconds before Seamus came through the back door. Seamus looked around the café then at Matt and Kase, who looked anything but innocent. Matt quickly got to work, anything to stop the overwhelming anxiety he was feeling.
At the end of her break, Hilary carefully peaked inside but the coast wasn’t clear, Seamus hadn’t gone back to the office.
“Alright, need anything else before I take off?” Matt asked Kase loud enough that Seamus knew he was leaving.
“Nah, I got it. Grab Hillbilly on your way out. She’s probably on her phone and lost track of time.”
Matt took off his apron and lipped thank you. He didn’t acknowledge Seamus on his way out nor did Seamus acknowledge him.
Hilary was holding Aidan when he rounded the corner outside. He wasn’t crying but he didn’t exactly have his life together, either.
“I think he’s hungry.”
“He’s always hungry. You don’t get a body like his without eating twice the recommended servings.”
“Lucky bastard,” she cooed in Aidan’s face before handing him off. “How’d everything go on the inside?”
“Besides Seamus staying up front for the last ten minutes? Perfect. And thank you, seriously, thank you!”
“It was kind of exciting, you know? Can’t wait to do it again!”
“I can,” he laughed. “Better hurry. Kase covered for you, made it seem like you lost track of time because you were on your phone.”
“Would you look at that,” she smiled. “He’s not a dumb jock after all.”
Hilary kissed Aidan’s head then rushed back to work. Matt fed Aidan the rest of the bottle then walked home. Half way, Aidan decided he wanted to be held so Matt carried the car seat in one hand and Aidan in the other.
He was positively dying by the time they got to the apartment. Because his new life didn’t involve a moment of rest, he went straight to making dinner, playing with Aidan, homework, bath time, feeding, and bedtime.
When Aidan was fast asleep and the apartment was quiet, Matt took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. He’d done community college for the first two years to save money. He was finally at a University. This wasn’t what college was supposed to be like for him. He was supposed to rush to class because he woke up late, make friends, go to parties, hook up with boys, go to class the next day wearing sunglasses and drinking the blended green drink from work that was secretly the best cure for hangovers, or so he heard.
He allowed himself a minute to feel sorry for himself. He didn’t want the life he was currently living but it was the one he was given. He didn’t regret or resent any of it. He was just sad. It was okay to feel sad. Matt had been a champ since the night his mom died, handling things no one should have to do. He was allowed to be sad.
He cleaned up the living room and got all the laundry ready to wash the next day. He was missing the days when he could pop on down to the laundry room on a whim. He studied for a while longer then he went to bed. Gone were the days when he didn’t have to sneak around in his own bedroom for fear of waking a baby.
Despite it all, it was hard for him to look at Aidan and feel anything but love and hope and all the cliché emotions that kept one trucking forward. It would get better.
It was getting better.
“Okay...” Matt drawled and took a deep breath in. He didn’t know what to say. There wasn’t much he could say. Victoria had dropped a bomb, a big bomb.
She wasn’t doing daycare anymore, effective immediately. No two-week notice, no heads up. Bam, out of childcare.
He grabbed the car seat and left. “Thank you” was on the tip of his tongue, out of habit really, but he held it back. He wasn’t feeling very thankful as he walked toward the cafe. The bus wouldn’t be by for a while and sitting at the bus stop was the last thing he needed. Walking would help keep his mind busy. He needed a plan. He needed his dad.
“Hey Matthew, I was just thinking about you. I was going reach out and see how things were going,” his dad said in a way of greeting.
His dad sighed. “I never thought it would be, not for a while anyway. What’s going on?”
“I went to drop Aidan off at the sitter and she told me she’s not doing it anymore.”
“Okay, well...how long until she’s done? Two weeks? A month? You’ll be able to find a replacement by then.”
“No Dad, she’s done. As in, I’m walking to work right now with Aidan in tow.”
“Oh Matt—” his dad’s sympathy made Matt’s eyes water. He hadn’t cried in years, not even when his mom died. His dad must’ve heard his sniffling even though he was trying to hide it. “It’s okay to feel sad and overwhelmed. Even parents that spend years planning for parenthood have moments when they can’t keep it together.”
“Did you ever have a breakdown when I was little?”
“More than once. You were not an easy baby. You were colicky and cried all the time. I was positive we were doing something wrong and the lack of sleep didn’t help. Then you were two and kind of an asshole. It was so bad sometimes that I didn’t want to be around you and that made me cry. I felt so guilty because I didn’t like you very much. That lasted for two years. I cried once because I genuinely wished you hadn’t been born. You must have sensed it because ten minutes later you crawled on the couch with me and offered me your candy. Well, it was my candy that you stole from the not-so-secret stash I hid in an old shoebox. You were so proud of yourself for sharing your stolen loot. That was the last time I let you watch Robin Hood.”
Matt wiped his cheek and smiled. “I don’t resent Aidan or wish he wasn’t born.”
“I didn’t say you did. Those were my tears. You’ll have your own,” he said. “So, what are we going do? What’s the plan?”
“I don’t know. I love my job and Denise has been great but I feel like I’ve been such a burden lately. I’m terrified of seeing her today. I think I need to take some time off and focus on Aidan. I’m just worried I won’t have a job to come back to and I’ll never find another job like the one I have that’s so flexible for school.”
“I could take a week off work and come help out or I can send you money to help tide you over. Whatever you need, I’m here. I’m here for you like Grandma and Papa were there for me.”
“Yeah, but Aidan’s not my son, he’s your ex-wife's kid. It’s not the same.”
“Semantics,” he laughed. “How I see it, Aidan’s my grandson. It wasn’t how I saw it happening but the best things in life come from your blind spots.”
Matt felt another wave of emotion roll over him. He couldn’t stop the tears if he’d wanted. “Thank you, Dad. I really appreciate you. I'll talk to Denise and see what she says, then I’ll call you back. I have the life insurance money mom left. I’m using it to pay for school and as an emergency fund for Aidan. If need be, I think this counts as an emergency.”
“Sounds like a good starting point. Call me when you’re done. I’m here.”
“Love you Dad.”
“Love you too, Maytoe.”
Maytoe Potato. It’s what his dad had called him growing up.
Matt felt better after talking to his dad. He always did. He’d be a total wreck if his dad ever died. That made him feel even more guilty. Sure, he was sad his mom died but not as much as he should’ve been. Not as much as he would’ve been if it was his dad.
Everyone looked relieved when he walked in the front door. Matt was twenty minutes late. Yes, he should’ve called.
“I was about to call the hospitals,” Denise said with a smile as she wiped down the dirty surface.
“Yeah, I’m sorry,” he said. “I was wondering if we could talk? Privately?” The last part was said in a hushed tone. He didn’t want more attention.
Denise stared for a moment, concern written on her face, then blinked. “Yeah, c’mon.” She wiped her hands on the rag then tossed it to the side. Matt used the short walk to gather his courage and to remember the bullet points of conversation.
It all went out the window when he saw Seamus sitting in the office. He’d only expected to talk to Denise, who looked concerned and not at all perturbed that her boss was there. He guessed it wasn’t weird for her, he was the owner after all. Whatever Matt had to say was technically Seamus’ business.
Seamus looked up from the computer when they walked in, then looked down at Aidan, then at Denise, then back at Matt. Matt couldn’t tell what he was thinking. But when Denise asked Matt what he needed to talk about and Seamus got a whole lot more interested. He pushed away from the computer enough to show his attention was committed to them. That made Matt nervous.
“I’m sorry, I um—” whatever confidence Matt had gained from his walk over, fell away. Suddenly he was on verge of tears. That was not where he wanted to be in front of his bosses.
“Matt, is everything okay?” Denise squeezed his shoulder and gestured for him to take a seat. Matt followed her direction and set Aidan on the floor next to him.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. It’s been a long morning,” he nervously wringed his fingers in his lap. “I think I need to be taken off the schedule—”
“At least for a couple of weeks,” he finished. “My sitter just quit this morning, no warning. I haven’t been able to find openings with anyone reputable. I’m on a few waiting lists. I don’t have a car so it really narrows down how far I can go. I’m stressed trying to figure it all out. The only option I have is to take a few weeks off until I can find someone reliable to watch Aidan.”
Denise looked like she wanted to wrap Matt in a big hug and Matt was afraid she just might do it. He wasn’t sure he could handle that.
“Whatever you need, Matt. You take as much time as you need. Call when you’re ready to be put on the schedule.”
“Just bring Aidan.” Denise and Matt looked at Seamus, who, until that moment, had been quiet. When the silence dragged on because no one knew what to say, he continued. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
“It kind of is,” Matt said. “He’s almost four months old and requires a lot of attention.”
“Yeah, it’s one thing when it’s once in a while or for a few minutes, but every day?” Denise shook her head. “That’s a lot.”
“Then I’ll watch him. Unless you have a problem with that?” Seamus looked at Denise, He wasn’t challenging. He was simply asking out of respect.
“Not at all. How do you feel about it?” She asked Matt.
Not great. He didn’t really know Seamus and what he did know made him nervous. “I can take a few weeks off, it’s not a big deal.”
“You don’t trust me?”
“I don’t know you.”
“Did you know your last sitter? The one who just bailed? Did you know her before you dropped Aidan off for the first time?” Matt shook his head. “Unlike them, I’ll be right here the whole time.”
Matt looked at Denise, who shrugged as if saying well, the man has a point.
“Yeah, okay,” he resigned. “But if he becomes too much, let me know.”
“Fair enough. If the four-month-old baby overpowers me and I can no longer defend myself, I will come get you.”
Matt wanted to roll his eyes. It was hard enough letting this man watch Aidan, the last thing he needed was attitude. Denise on the other hand found the comment very funny.
“Well,” Matt grabbed the diaper backpack and opened it. “The formula is in here and his diaper and wipes are—”
“Matt,” Seamus cut him off with a raised brows. “The bag is small, I’m sure I can find my way around. If not, I know where to find you.”
Matt was about to say something else but decided against it. Seamus quickly got Aidan out of the car seat and settled in his arms. Matt knew the man had it handled, he just felt guilty. Then again, Seamus didn’t seem like the type of man to offer something if he didn’t want to do it. Matt needed to put his faith in that.
“I can’t handle this anymore,” Hilary groaned from behind the counter. Seamus was walking around the cafe with Aidan cradled in a semi sitting position so he could see what they were doing.
“A week of watching your hunky Irish boss with a baby finally getting to you?” Kase teased.
“Yes. My ovaries are ready to burst. C’mon Matt, you get it, right?”
Matt was busy prepping coffee cups and usually stayed quiet while his two friends bantered back and forth. He paused and looked at the dining room where Seamus was greeting a man with one hand while holding Aidan with the other. Judging by the binder and a notebook on the table, they were getting ready for a meeting.
“Yes,” Matt deadpanned. “My ovaries are practically bursting. If I’m not careful, my insides will be scrambled eggs by noon. Free brunch for everyone.”
Kase almost fell to the floor laughing. It was so loud most of the café was looking at him strangely.
Hilary elbowed Matt in the arm, making him smile. “You’re telling me that you don’t think he’s hot when he’s caring for your brother like that? He’s such a natural! Every day you come in and he just plucks Aidan from your arms like it’s no big deal. Like it’s just another day.”
“It’s not a big deal and it is just another day.”
“C’mon, tell me you don’t think he’s hot as hell.”
Matt let out a loud, very inconvenienced sigh then made a big production of stopping his work to look at Seamus. “I don’t know what you want from me. Yes, by all rights he’s an attractive man. I’m not usually into facial hair. I find it gross when food gets stuck in it but he keeps it pretty short. He clearly works out so that’s a bonus, I guess,” he shrugged and turned back to the pending orders.
“You’re the worst gay guy ever and I hope you never write a fantasy novel. Seamus is literally a walking daydream. The way he runs his fingers through those thick, auburn locks,” she moaned. “And that tight, black shirt pulled against all those muscles? I can’t help but feel safe in his arms.”
“But you’re not in his arms,” Kase pointed out. “And he’s short.”
“He’s not short. Not everyone is over six-foot. He’s perfectly tall, taller than Matt even.”
“I’m five-ten by the way,’ Matt interjected. “Glad I’m considered perfectly tall. I feel so confirmed in my manhood.”
“It wasn’t a dig,” Hilary whined. “Anyway, I would feel safe in his arms if he ever gave me a chance.” Hilary carried a couple of drinks to the counter, called their names. When she returned, she was still watching Seamus. “See the way he looks at Aidan? I wish he’d look at me that way.”
“Like a chubby four-month-old who just shat himself?”
“After throwing up all over himself?” Kase added.
Matt smirked at Hilary. “Wow, your standards have lowered considerably.”
“I hate you both. I don’t know why we’re friends.”
“Because we work the same shifts and you find everyone else boring.”
“And you’re hoping I invite you to a football party,” Kase added all smug like because it was true.
Matt and Kase high fived each other when Hilary threw her hands up and walked away. Always happy to rile their friend up.
“You know you’re gonna have to invite her one day.”
“To a football party? Yeah, totally, but I can’t give in too soon or she’ll get more demanding than she already is. You know—” Kase’s voice inflected slightly and he wouldn’t make eye contact, “you’re invited too. There’s a guy on the team, erm, his name is Jay—”
Matt laughed. “Are you trying to set me up?”
“Whatever. I’m trying to be a friend here.”
“Are you gonna babysit while we go out?” Matt asked then laughed at the terrified look on his friends face. Evidently carrying Aidan around the cafe was different than actually caring for him. “That’s what I thought.”
Kase composed himself. “I would, you know. He could come hangout at the house.”
“The frat house?” Seamus snorted from behind them. “Not likely.”
Matt and Kase froze then slowly turned around.
“I wouldn’t do it on a party night,” Kase defended.
Seamus stared down Kase longer than considered nice before looking at Matt. “Do you mind if we run a few errands? We’ll be back before your shift is over.”
Matt was so stunned that he couldn’t do anything but nod. Seamus looked between the two for a minute, shifted Aidan to his other arm, and walked away.
“I wouldn’t have him over on a party night,” Kase reiterated, annoyed that Seamus thought so little of him.
Matt consoled his friend with a pat on his shoulder and went back to work. Hilary returned from wiping down tables and the three went back to working side by side. There was no sign of Seamus or Aidan when his shift ended. He could’ve been nervous and/or upset but he knew Aidan was safe. He made himself a drink and sat at the table with his books.
Matt must’ve sat there and studied for an hour with nothing but chatter, cups clinking, and the scream of milk steaming in the background.
“Reading something interesting?”
Matt looked up. Seamus was standing with a smiling Aidan in his arms. “Yeah, actually. I’m taking an auditing theory and practices class. It has a bit of forensic auditing in it and I find that very fascinating.”
Seamus sat down. “Forensic accounting? Is that like—”
“Accounting investigators. Mostly they search for fraud but they can do a lot of things.”
“Is that what you want to do?” He asked.
Matt shrugged. “It could be fun. I’m not sure I want to spend my whole career doing it but I think it would be fun to incorporate at some level.” When Seamus didn’t respond, Matt continued. “I’d like to work for a company doing whatever financials are needed; budgeting, tax preparation, etc. If it’s a smaller company, maybe payroll.”
Seamus sat there holding Aidan and watching Matt but not saying anything. Matt internally rolled his eyes at the lack of conversation and put his work away. “Thanks again for watching Aidan. Are we on for Monday?”
“I thought you worked Saturday?”
“I do but Dad will watch him this weekend.”
Seamus watched Matt for a moment then nodded and lifted Aidan across the table. “Well then, here you go. See you Monday.”
And like the wind, Seamus was gone. No explanation for being an hour late, no excuses, just awkward small talk and a baby handoff.
The weekend with his dad was long overdue. Brad took them to breakfast and then again to dinner. Admittedly, it had been a while for Matt. Matt worried things would be weird because of the dynamic but his dad was a rockstar with Aidan despite it being his ex-wife’s kid.
He worked with Kase and Hilary on Saturday and, with the baby obligation out of the way, Seamus had no reason to show up, which meant Matt had a great day and a perfect weekend.
The next week was smooth. Seamus was ready and waiting every day when Matt got there before leaving to do whatever it was that he and Aidan did. He took Aidan on errands almost every day. Matt was curious but not enough to fish.
As reserved as he’d been about Seamus watching Aidan, it had turned out to be really helpful. Not going to and from Victoria’s house saved him time each day, especially when he worked the opening shift. Time was precious and sweet and oh so valuable. By the end of the week he felt like a new man.
It was the best week he’d had since his mom died. The only thing that could’ve made it better was if one of the daycares would’ve called with good news. Matt wasn’t about to see if Seamus was willing to keep the arrangement for another week. The last thing he wanted was to be a burden or worse, take advantage of someone’s generosity.
Which is how he ended up alone with Denise after shift while he waited for Seamus to come back.
“What does Seamus say?”
Matt looked at her like she was crazy. “We haven’t talked about it. We haven’t talked about anything.”
Denise dropped her hands in frustration. “He’s not as intimidating as everyone makes him out to be. Underneath all the gruff and scruff he’s nice and—” she pointedly looked at Matt, “quite understanding.”
Before Matt could respond the office door opened and the man of conversation came in holding the babe of conversation. Seamus paused when he realized he’d interrupted something important. He didn’t leave or give them privacy but silently moved around the perimeter of the office.
Denise leaned back against the desk and side eyed Seamus as he changed Aidan’s diaper despite Matt being right there. “Matt hasn’t had any luck finding daycare. He’s still on a few waiting lists but nothing else has popped up. He’s re-requesting a leave of absence while he waits it out.”
Seamus’ hands slowed as he replaced the diaper.
“With finals coming up he could probably use the extra time to study,” she added for Matt’s benefit.
Matt watched nervously. Seamus didn’t say anything as he redressed Aidan and tossed the dirty diaper in the wastebasket. Matt wasn’t sure what he expected or even what he hoped for.
“I don’t think extra study time requires a leave of absence. Take Saturday or Sunday off and I’ll watch Aidan while you study. Everything else stays the same.” Seamus handed Aidan to Matt then left the office, never giving Matt a chance to agree or disagree.
Matt and Denise stared at the door.
Denise smirked. “What will it be? Saturday or Sunday?”
“Saturday will be fine,” Matt grumbled as he got Aidan situated in the car seat.
He double checked that everything was packed away then hooked the car seat under his arm and walked through the cafe. He didn’t make it two feet out the front door when the skies opened up and it started pouring down rain.
As if he needed one more thing to figure out, now he’d have to find a way to get him and Aidan to and from work in the winter. It was just raining now but before long it would be worse.
Seamus was parked out front in a dark grey coupe. The passenger window rolled down. “Need a ride?”
Matt wanted to tell him he had it covered, but that was a lie. He covered the car seat with his jacket and jogged to the car.
“Not exactly a car seat friendly car,” Matt said as he tried to shove Aidan into the back seat with the limited space given.
“We’ve managed just fine for the last two weeks.”
Between the both of them they managed to get Aidan settled. By the time Matt got in the front seat he was soaking wet from standing in the rain.
“Thank you. I really appreciate this—and everything you’re doing for me.”
Seamus nodded then turned his attention to the road.
A few minutes later they were at the apartment. Matt wrangled the car seat out and waved good bye. Besides Matt giving out directions, nothing else had been said. It was strange to Matt that Seamus could watch Aidan almost every weekday with no issue but was incapable of a single conversation that didn’t involve making decisions on Matt’s behalf. Seemed legit.