Major (capital “M”) angst and have tissues at the ready for this story.
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Apologies for the lateness of today’s FFF – Grace was quite sick yesterday and spent most of the day in bed.
Ian was just finishing up the last of his physics homework when his mom humphed from the general direction of the refrigerator. He’d had to struggle through quite a bit of it, having not been able to pay enough attention in class like he should have the last couple of months, so he was grateful to put it down. “Something wrong, Mom?”
She looked over her shoulder at the table. Kane and Kenji had also looked up from their books. “Oh, um, we’re just out of milk. Can’t make the potatoes without it.”
“I can go get some for you,” Ian offered, flipping his book closed.
“I’ll go,” Kane quickly put in, looking over Ian.
Ian met his gaze for a moment then glanced at Kenji, who was also watching him. “No, it’s okay. I… I want to. I can make a quick trip for milk.”
“I’d appreciate it, honey,” his mom said a little too casually. He tried to ignore her tone as he put his stuff back together and shoved it into his backpack.
“Kane, do you have the keys?” Ian asked, turning to the other two.
“They’re in our room,” Kane said, getting up. He disappeared down the hall and returned a moment later with them, handing them to Ian and using the excuse to pull his friend aside. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
“Yeah. I… I need to get used to it, Kane. It’s okay. It really is a short trip.” Ian forced a smile and took the keys from his friend.
“If you’re sure.” Kane paused. “Do you want us to go with you?”
Ian shook his head. “Really, it’s fine.”
Kane looked him over another few seconds then finally nodded. “Okay. Well, then, see you in a bit.”
It annoyed Ian no small amount that it was even an issue. It was annoyance at himself, more than anything, because he didn’t like what he was right then, didn’t like that he was a ticking damned time bomb. He marched out of the house, determined to be adult about it and just go and do what he had to do.
His first step faltered at the end of the sidewalk. He blinked at the Jeep, but then he shook his head and kept going. He managed to unlock the driver’s side door, but paused again when he went to climb in. It was only because he was standing in the street and a car came down the road at that point that he was spurred into moving.
Finally, once he was in the driver’s seat and moving, it wasn’t so bad. He could concentrate on the driving itself, shifting gears and navigating traffic so that he didn’t have time to be upset by anything. The trip to the store was relatively short, and traffic at that point was nice and light.
Milk jug in hand, he approached the checkout and saw a small bucket of flowers by the register. On impulse, he paused and considered them then, after some deliberation, picked up a bunch for his mom. It was the least he could do for all he’d put her through the last couple of months. He’d figure out a way to make it up to Kane too, though his friend wasn’t exactly a flower kind of guy. He certainly deserved it after all he’d done for Ian.
The clerk was nice, but impersonal and Ian was rather glad of it. He didn’t really want to try to answer the typical “how are you today” question that was always asked, because he was afraid he’d end up giving an honest answer. And he really didn’t want to do that because he didn’t think she really wanted to hear it. On top of that, he wasn’t sure he could keep a neutral expression and the last thing he wanted to do was break down in the middle of the damned grocery store.
Ian slowed again when he approached the Jeep, but took a deep breath, dropped the milk on the floor by the passenger seat and flowers on the seat itself and started it up again. But this time when he approached the street, the traffic was awful. He leaned forward around a sign next to him to see a line of people streaming out of the church across the street. Right. Sunday.
He sighed and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He tried to keep his gaze on the people flooding the street, but it didn’t hold his attention. He blew out a breath and looked around at the other traffic. Despite himself, he caught a glimpse of the picture under the radio, but refused to let it draw his attention and managed to ignore it.
But the silence and waiting were starting to get to him. He drummed his fingers again and cursed his timing. If he’d been just a couple of minutes faster, he might have missed the people and traffic altogether. If he hadn’t stopped for the flowers… he shook his head. It didn’t matter, he was here now and he could put up with a little waiting for something as simple as flowers for his mom.
He finally gave in and twisted the dial on the radio, turning the power on. The static hit first then it settled into music.