“Morning,” Tucker’s deep voice rattles off the cabinets. It’s his morning voice, deeper, throatier—if that makes sense—and I hate to admit it, because he’s just my friend, but sexier.
Once my pupils adjust to the light, I take Tucker in. He’s standing in front of the stove, rubber spatula in hand, wearing a white long-sleeve Henley shirt, the top two buttons undone, a pair of worn jeans with a few paint stains on them, and tan work boots. Sweet Jesus, he makes construction look good. Strap a tool belt around his waist and stick him in front of a camera for the benefit of all womankind.
“Morning,” I say in reply, using the counter to help hold up my tired body. “You’re up early. What time do you have to go into work?”
“Around seven thirty. I like to get an early start before the boys come in.” He looks me up and down, a small smile at the corner of his lips. “You look good.” He motions around his head with his hand. “I really like what you did with your hair.”
I turn toward the window in the kitchen and check out my reflection. Sure enough, my long brown hair looks like a lion’s mane poofed out and framing my face with an abundance of volume. Beautiful.
There is no use in taming it, so I leave my hair as is and turn back toward Tucker. “Not many people can get this kind of height while sleeping.” I pretend to fluff my hair.
“Impressive.” He chuckles and then points to the coffee maker with the spatula. “Coffee is done, mugs are above in the cabinet. Grab me a cup, will ya? Eggs will be done shortly, bacon is warming in the oven.”
I do as directed, thinking it’s kind of cute how he’s including me in on his little morning breakfast. “I didn’t even know you had eggs. I was expecting to hit up Dunkin’ Donuts or Tim Horton’s this morning.”
He turns off the stove and reaches for two plates from the dish rack. “I went to Walmart this morning. Picked up a few things.”
“This morning?” I pour two cups of coffee and turn toward him. “What time did you wake up?”
“Four thirty,” he answers casually. “Got a quick run in, did some weights, took a shower and then went to Walmart.” He fills our plates with bacon and eggs and then nods toward the dining room, plates and silverware in hand. “I have a surprise.”
I follow him to the dining room where he flips on the light and reveals a card table fold-out dining set.
“You got a table.” I chuckle, loving that it’s a fold-out card table with matching chairs. Anything is better than the floor.
“And placemats,” he adds, as he lifts two plastic placemats from one of the chairs. “The options were bleak so I went with dinosaurs for me and Trolls for you. Given the look of your morning hair, Trolls was the right choice.” Clever bastard. He sets them on the table and then puts our plates on top of them.
God, it’s too freaking cute. Chuckling, I take a seat and hand him his coffee. “Look at you getting all domestic. I never thought you would be a placemat kind of man, I stand corrected.”
He rests a napkin on his legs, which are spread drastically, almost the length of the table and leans over to fork some eggs into his mouth. “Didn’t want our food to damage the plastic of this high-class table.” I love the humor in his voice, it reminds me of all the good times we had, before the end of his relationship with Sadie.
“Smart man, you want this table to last.”
“Of course, you don’t see fine furniture like this in houses anymore. Everything has to be so sturdy. What ever happened to rickety furniture and living through a meal with the threat of your food possibly kissing the floor at any point in time?”
“The horror,” I joke.
He looks up at me. Some of his hair is still wet from his shower. Pointing his fork at me he says, “Are you ready to be schooled?”
“Schooled on what?” I take a bite of bacon and my stomach jumps in excitement for finally rewarding it for waking up early. All right, I will admit it, getting out of bed was a smart idea.
“It’s Monday, babe. DJ Hot Cock has his song picked and ready to show you what real music is.”
“When was my music taste ever questioned? I like good music.”
“We’ll see.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. I watch as he flips through it until he lands on the song he wants to introduce me to. He presses play and sets his phone on the table. The light pickings of a guitar fill the small dining room. I don’t recognize the song, but I like the sound of it so far.
Just as I’m settling in to the sweet pickings of a guitar, the distinct voice of Zac Brown chimes in. I’ve known Tucker for loving EMO growing up, so his choice in a country song is very surprising to me, but when I look up at him, pure hometown country boy sitting across from me, it makes perfect sense.
And then the lyrics hit me. My Old Man. Zac sings about his father, hoping he’s proud of the man he’s become. I’m transported back to a dreary day in Whitney Point, where we grew up, when Sadie called me one Saturday morning. I was getting ready for the day. We were in middle school. Tucker’s dad was killed by a head-on collision, the dad Tucker just reconnected with, the dad Tucker had plans on moving in with to get away from his neglectful mom. Those next few days—and weeks—were a whirlwind of sorrow. Attending his funeral, my first ever funeral, seeing the look of devastation on Tucker’s face, wondering what he might be feeling, trying to channel his hurt, it was so much to take on as a teenager.
Glancing up, I take in Tucker’s expression. He’s lost in the music, in the words, just like me. When the song ends, I lean over and place my hand on his, our eyes meet and there is an unspoken understanding between us. I don’t have to say anything about his dad, about the tragedy we went through so many years ago together as friends. It’s all said between this silent exchange.