Home > Love on the Mat

Love on the Mat
Author: Winter Travers



I hated mornings.

Nothing good ever happened before noon. At least not to me.

In the past six months since my nephew moved in, mornings had become something that I couldn’t avoid. Getting a sixteen-year-old out the door for school was no joke; especially when the sixteen-year-old hated mornings more than I did.

I yanked back the comforter he had pulled over his head and tossed it on the floor. “Ry, get your butt up. You’re going to be late for school, and I don’t feel like explaining to Principal Pey why we aren’t morning people. He doesn’t care.” When I went on a tangent about how mornings should be outlawed and the official work day shouldn’t start until noon, I think I lost what little credibility I had.

Ryker mumbled from under the sheet and slightly stirred. I should have pulled off all of his covers.

“Move it, Ry. We need to be out the door in five minutes. I’ll rustle up a Pop Tart and meet you out in the car.”

Ryker slapped his hands on the mattress and glared at me. Whenever he looked at me like that, I saw Jeri staring back at me, and my heart clenched at the fact that I would never see her again. “It’s Friday.”

I rolled my eyes and headed for the door, “And your point is, Ry?”

“You shouldn’t have to work or go to school on Fridays,” he grumbled.

I couldn’t help but agree with him. “You now have four minutes.” I shuffled down the hallway into the kitchen and grabbed my cup from under the coffeemaker.

Keurig. God’s gift to every person who hated mornings, but was forced to wake up. If I had to take the time to brew a full pot of coffee, I would more than likely kill someone in the time it would take for my cup to fill.

I snapped the lid onto the travel mug and hollered one last time for Ryker. The cold, brisk morning air hit me, just another thing I hated about mornings. By the time noon rolled around, things warmed up to closer to sixty instead of the forty degrees making me shiver in my black yoga pants and mismatched flip flops. My school drop-off attire was another thing that smashed my credibility to hell.

My eyes fell on my car, the crowning, shining turd in my life that made me cringe every time I pulled up to the high school. Sixteen and seventeen-year-olds had nicer cars than my nineteen eighty-one convertible Lebaron. That’s right folks, she was a classic piece of crap, but she managed to get me from point A to point B.

The door slammed shut behind me, and Ryker slogged past me. “Can I drive today?”

I cringed and tried not to look terrified just at the thought of Ryker driving. “Uh, how about on the way home?”

“I have to be at Powerhouse right after school. I told Master Yeck that I would help wash the mats.”

“You have your key to get in, right?”

Ryker scoffed and stood next to the driver’s door. “Yes, and you completely avoided answering me.”

I rubbed my stomach and cringed. “I think I’ll drive today. My stomach is feeling a bit queasy right now.”

He shook his head and trudged over to the passenger door. “You do know one day you are going to have to let me drive, right? Someone has to drive you around when you’re old and gray and don’t know the difference between east and west.”

If the qualification for driving a car was knowing the difference between left and right, I was fucked. I needed to know landmarks like the huge cow statue on the left and then turn right past the greenhouse. North, south, east, and west were Greek to me. “This weekend, before work. I promise, we’ll find an empty parking lot where you can drive around.”

Ryker scoffed and ducked into the car.

I took a sip of my coffee and shook my head. There were days I didn’t know if I was cut out to be someone’s guardian. Especially when I wanted to smack Ryker upside the head every time he rolled his eyes at me. I had been thrown right into the angsty teenage years with no warning and just a good luck from my sister before she died. I had four weeks to accept the fact that I was going to be responsible for someone else before he became my responsibility. Cancer sucked big hairy balls.

I slid into the car and stuck the key into the ignition. “Remember what I said about rolling your eyes, Ry?”

He tossed his book bag on the floor and buckled his seatbelt. “They are not going to get stuck that way. That only works on ten-year-olds.”

I went through the process of starting my shiny turd of a car which included trying to turn it over three times, waiting ten seconds, and then throwing up a Hail Mary as I tried the fourth time. “Yesss,” I purred when she roared to life.

“When are you going to trade this in and get a car that starts on the first try?”

I backed onto the street and headed in the direction of the school. A peek at the clock told me Ry was going to be damn close to being late. Again. “Shit muffins.”

“You do know that adding a bakery item to the end of your cussing doesn’t make it less of a cuss word, right?”

I glanced over at Ry. “And do you know I don’t care?”

Ryker growled, but made the wise choice of not saying anything else.

“Pye Face is going to have a shit fit if you’re late again,” I mumbled as I turned into the school parking lot.

Ryker chuckled and put his hand on the door handle as I pulled up to the front doors. Ryker had mastered the roll and jump in the six months he had been living with me. “You know one day you’re going to end up calling him that to his face, right?”

And if that wasn’t the damn truth. Every time I got a phone call from the man, I had to hold my tongue and think twice before saying his name. I slammed on the brakes and rolled down my window. “Hi, Mr. Pye!” The old goat was sitting on one of the benches by the front door looking like someone had just shit in his chocolate milk.

“Good job, Haddie. You got his name right.” Ryker gave me a quick smile and jumped out of the car. I hated when he called me that. I hated it even more when he called me Aunt Haddie. It made me sound like a ninety-year-old woman instead of thirty-six with a rockin’ body. Okay, maybe not a rockin’ body, more like thirty-six with a body.

“I work until two. I’ll be home right after,” I called. “I love you!”

Ryker waved over his shoulder to me and disappeared into the school.

Mr. Pye unfolded his legs and strode over to my car. Son of a bitch. I had been hoping to avoid a lecture from Pye Face today. “Is it really wise to leave an impressionable teenager alone at all hours of the night?”

I smiled sweetly at him and leaned out my window. “Until I find a job that pays as well as the one I have, then yes, it is wise.”

Pye frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. “Being a stripper is not something to be proud of, Ms. James.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. No matter how many times I told ol’ Pye Face that I wasn’t a stripper, he didn’t listen. “If I were a stripper, Mr. Pye, I would be rolling up to school in a Benz, and Ryker would be wearing Nike from head to toe. I’m a waitress. Granted, I’m a waitress at a strip club, but that doesn’t make me a stripper.”

“There's hardly a difference,” he mumbled under his breath.

I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough at that. The difference was I kept my clothes on. A huge difference in my book. “Is that all you had to tell me, Mr. Pye?” I asked sweetly. “I’m glad you are so concerned about Ryker’s safety while I’m at work.”

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