“Do you have everything packed?” 

“Yes, Mom,” Flynn Slater said. He was on his way to med school at the University of Maryland. He would have loved to go to Duke since he lived close by in Raleigh, but it didn’t happen. This was his second choice and he’d take it. With any luck, he could get back to the area for his residency if not a fellowship.

He hated to leave his mother, but in order for him to give them both a better life, he had to do what needed to be done today. 

That was what his mother did her whole life. Focused on today, worked for tomorrow and planned for nothing. It seemed like planning didn’t get her too far in life, she’d said often.

He didn’t believe that but had long since given up trying to tell her otherwise.

“I’m going to miss you,” she said. She never showed a ton of emotions. Not the sad kind. Humor, yeah, he was pretty sure he got his joking personality from her.

Probably because she was so bone tired from working multiple jobs that if she gave in to the sadness it’d suck her in. It was better to laugh at yourself she’d told him. Her low-paying jobs were the only ones she was able to get with her high school diploma after getting pregnant at nineteen and dropping out of college.

His father hadn’t been around much that he could remember. His mother worked her ass off putting the father of her child through college for his degree, then when he got a good job, rather than put a ring on her finger, he split for a better life and never paid support after the first few years.

Where Allen Martin was now was anyone’s guess. At least Flynn didn’t have the guy’s last name. He never asked his mother why that was either. He supposed it didn’t matter much at this point.

“You know I’ll miss you too. But I’ve only been home a few months. You were used to me being gone more often than not the past four years.”

He’d wanted to stay close to home for his bachelor’s, but he went where it was the cheapest. His brains and lack of family income got him a full ride in Ohio so that was his destination. 

He lived on campus because it was paid for, but he worked more than part time to have some money. He didn’t want his mother sending him money from another job she’d have to take on. He’d rather she could start to relax some in life.

He hated her working nights now, but she said it was easier and allowed her to get some more cleaning jobs during the day but not have it fill too much of her time.

Again, working herself to the bone and killing him to see it. 

“But you’ve been home for the summer,” she said. “I know I haven’t been home at night, but you’re sleeping. And during the day you’ve been working. We had dinners together and that I will miss.”

“Not as much as me,” he said. “Thanks again for teaching me to cook.”

College food wasn’t always the best and he ate what came with his meal plan. He’d do the same in med school, but he wanted to learn to take care of himself better. 

Or maybe he just wanted his mother to know he could. That she did right by him.

Too many times in his life he’d been embarrassed by what she did for money. By the little they had. He thought he hid it well, but he was sure she noticed. His mother saw everything.

It was his problem he had to outgrow. He couldn’t change where he came from, but he was damn well going to make sure the hard work stopped soon for his mother.

“You need to know how to do it. You can’t expect a woman to always take care of you.”

He grinned. “No one will ever be able to take as good care of me as you.”

“That’s a mother’s job,” she said, patting his hand. “Now finish packing and hit the road.”

He leaned down and gave her a kiss, then went back to putting his clothes in boxes that he’d stuff into his secondhand car, praying it got him to Maryland. 

He looked around his small room in the cramped two-bedroom apartment. They’d never lived in a house. Not even a rented one. Small apartments his entire life. They didn’t move often like a lot of people that rented, but enough.

It always bothered him to tell friends he was moving too, let alone have them at his place to hang out.

Growing up, he didn’t want to hang out with other kids in the complexes where he lived. Not those in the same situation as him. Many weren’t going to college and were going to work right out of high school, if they didn’t find some illegal way to make their money.

When they’d heard he was going to be a doctor, they shunned him and told him he thought he was better than the rest of them.

Well, he kind of did. 

But then those that were better than him in school shunned him for his upbringing too. So he found that he ended up being more of a loner growing up than he wanted.

He was able to recreate himself in college. No one knew where he came from or how his life was. They weren’t privy to his full ride because he didn’t share.

Having a job gave him money and allowed him to go out and do normal things that other kids did. To not be looked at as the one who didn’t have a lot.

He liked the feeling and he was going to keep it up at the University of Maryland. 

He was going to be Dr. Flynn Slater soon, not poor Flynn whose mother was a house cleaner people felt sorry for and gave her hand me downs when he was younger so she wouldn’t have to worry about buying clothes he was outgrowing so fast.

Thirty minutes later, he had everything packed up and the last box in his car. He knew his mother hadn’t been to bed yet and the sooner he left, the sooner she could get some sleep.

“I’ll call you later when I’m there,” he said.

She pulled an envelope out of her pocket and he shook his head.

“Don’t tell me no. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than you’ve got without it.” She said that a lot to him in life. She was right.

“I don’t want your money,” he said. “I’ve been putting money away all summer and even paying you rent.”

“Which I didn’t want. So here it is back.”

His shoulders dropped. He should have figured she’d do that. He was trying to give her a cushion so she didn’t have to work so many jobs. His full-time job this summer doing landscaping paid well, even if he busted his ass and got a shitload of blisters along with sunburn.

“Why take it then?” he asked.

She grabbed his hand and put the envelope in it. “Because I didn’t want to argue with you. Consider it an extra savings account for you. Run to the bank and deposit it now if you want.”

He was going to. It was a few thousand dollars he didn’t want to be carrying around and he knew if he left it in the apartment and she found it, she’d drive it to him.

“Thanks for everything, Mom. I’m going to get us out of this situation soon. You’re going to have your own place and you are going to stop being a slave to everyone else.”

She laughed like she always did. “It’s nice to have goals, but I just want you to be happy. That’s good enough for me.”

But to Flynn it wasn’t good enough for the woman who never dated again and dedicated her life to caring for him. He’d make her proud and he’d give her a better life because there was no one else who cared enough to do it for them.

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