It was freezing and I needed coffee.
My sleepy brain fought against the softened lights of morning peeking through barely opened curtains. It was a losing battle; the call of coffee was stronger than the urge to return to my comfortable bed.
That was why I didn’t notice it until he stepped into the kitchen. In fact, I didn’t really look at it until we’d been standing in the kitchen for more than a mere five minutes. I filled water from the sink into my favorite mug—declaring me to be the #1 Mom In The World—and then thought to spare a glance elsewhere.
Popping the mug in the microwave, I punched a few numbers on the keypad. He shuffled to the top cupboards and fished out a bowl, setting it on the marbled countertop.
My befuddled brain took in the sight of skinny, lanky arms and legs in bleach-streaked designer jeans and a well-worn T-shirt with a faded hem that barely skimmed the top of plaid boxers.
Elastic waistband. Plaid boxers.
I retrieved the cup of steaming water from the microwave and choked down a burning sip of plain water.
Plain. Plaid. Stripes. Many stripes. Red, black, white and yellow.
I took another sip.
The water burned pleasantly down my throat, settling in my stomach as I turned to rummage through the top pantry shelf for instant coffee and instant creamer.
Fake coffee was a staple of my morning.
Real coffee came from coffeemakers.
My stomach growled in protest and something else that I refused to put my finger on. As a mother, I opted for the best option—a distraction.
The bleary-eyed young man snorted, half-amused. “Morning, Mom.”
“Sleep well?” I scooped out an extra spoonful of creamer and watched it dissolve in the caramel colored liquid.
“Yeah.” He rummaged through the pantry, drawing out a shaggy box of cereal. “Are we out of Capt’n Crunch?”
“Top shelf, behind the cans.” I dropped the spoon in the sink and took a cautious sip. It was hot, but bearable.
“We’re hiding it?”
“I’m hiding it.” I corrected, cradling the cup to my chest and turning to watch him reach for the familiar red box. The hem of the faded T-shirt inched up once more and I saw red, black, white and yellow.
It was going to bother me.
No, it was bothering me.
I clamped my jaws on the ceramic lip of the mug and drank the familiar-tasting liquid, unconscious of the temperature. I was seeing plaid, even as the t-shirt fell back into place and my oblivious teenage son shuffled towards the counter and his cereal bowl.
Let it go, let it go, let it go. Let. It. Go!
I was drinking for a minute longer before I realized my cup was empty. The young man in question had moved from the counter to the utensil drawer, a movement that kept that strip of plaid from my eyes.
That was good.
Maybe it wasn’t worth the fuss.
Then he opened the ‘fridge and hunched over the door, looking for the usual carton of milk, his slowly-wakening face illuminated by the golden glow of the doorlight.
I was only seeing the two inches of red, black, white and yellow. Two solid inches of boxer shorts that ought to have been perfectly hidden by his stylish jeans, with the hem of his t-shirt as extra protection.
If my hands weren’t wrapped so tightly around the empty mug, I knew they would’ve found some way to wander over to the ‘fridge and fix the issue myself.
Watching him move through the kitchen was torture. I’d taught my kids to dress better than that.
How dare he parade around the kitchen as if-!
The inner battle waged and raged. It was all out war to keep my mothering instincts from kicking over to smothering. I turned and deliberately set the mug in the sink, running the tap over it as dishwasher prep.
It was a lost cause when I turned around again, because I saw plaid.
“Shane?” I moved to the doorway as he reached across the counter for a piece of paper towel.
He turned, expectant, eyebrows perked.
He paused in mid-reach and smirked.
Then my darling son hooked one thumb in a beltloop and hiked the jeans over the hem of that bothersome strip of red.
Peace. Wonderful, blessed peace.
I smiled, my inner mother-smother satisfied.
I need real coffee.
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